Fort Blount

The Butcher ended up being home yesterday unexpectedly so, even though I had work I was supposed to be doing, we loaded the dog in the car and drove over to Fort Blount, which does not exist any more. But we took the old western road in part to get there, past ancient houses and up and down milder hills than surrounded us. We saw (and barked at like it was our only job in the world) deer, turkeys, cows, goats, trucks, tractors, and circling hawks.

It was marvelous.

But when we got out to the fort, there was NOTHING. Not a marker, not a fence, not even a sign warning you that you were headed toward a dead end. We both had to pee. The Butcher peed on a poached deer carcass. I peed at the front of the car, using the bumper as leverage. I still managed to splash on my pants.

That left me with mixed feelings. But at least it was down low on the legs, so I didn’t have to sit in it on the way home.

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The Trouble with Internet Swarms

It’s always that you don’t know the whole story. Pick on someone for complaining that her Yelp job doesn’t pay her enough to live. Why doesn’t she just move? Why doesn’t she just move in with her parents? Blah blah blah. Why doesn’t she just work really hard and save up and…

Maybe she’s supporting herself because whoa.

The End Tucking Continues

As do the errands from last weekend. I’m enjoying it, but I just feel a level of busy these days that feels unsustainable.

Also, at this point, with all the end tucking, I’m normally pretty emotionally done with an afghan, but I’m excited to see how this one is going to come together. I’m thinking it’s going to have a kind of patchwork vibe.

I’m not an artist, so all the color theory I have, I’ve had to teach myself, but I think the most important thing I’ve learned is that you have to give your eye something to do. Like, if most of your colors are dark, you need one light thing. If most of your colors are, say, reds and purples, you need a green or a yellow thing.Or, if you have a solid color, you need great stitchwork.

My next project is a baby blanket. It should go quickly. Everything is decided, I think. I’m going to do that Tunisian spiral I did on my dad’s afghan in this cool brightly colored baby yarn. It’ll go quickly. Work up cutely.

But I’m mulling over hard the next afghan after that. Its recipient likes dark, rich colors. I have found a really cool square I’m excited to try. But I’m trying to figure out how best to do the afghan colorwise. Like, what will, then, be my non-dark color?

Whew, There’s a Lot of End Tucking

I usually spend Thursday evenings reading or writing, but I’ve just been under a lot of weird, amorphous pressure lately, which has not been conducive to either of those things. I spent the evening mostly end-tucking (and a little trying to salvage a story.)

There are 224 swirls. This is the kind of end-tucking sucktitude where I note that I have tucked the ends of 44 swirls. I just think I’m going to feel every one, you know? But I’m excited to see how it turns out.

“Too Sure It was Loved”

I can’t get over these three paragraphs by Matt Taibbi:

The triumvirate of big media, big donors and big political parties has until now successfully excluded every challenge to its authority. But like every aristocracy, it eventually got lazy and profligate, too sure it was loved by the people. It’s now shocked that voters in depressed ex-factory towns won’t keep pulling the lever for “conservative principles,” or that union members bitten a dozen times over by a trade deal won’t just keep voting Democratic on cue.

Trump isn’t the first rich guy to run for office. But he is the first to realize the weakness in the system, which is that the watchdogs in the political media can’t resist a car wreck. The more he insults the press, the more they cover him: He’s pulling 33 times as much coverage on the major networks as his next-closest GOP competitor, and twice as much as Hillary.

Trump found the flaw in the American Death Star. It doesn’t know how to turn the cameras off, even when it’s filming its own demise.

This, I think, too, is also what Ron Ramsey gets. It’s why he’s working so hard to entrench Republican power. He knows that the powerful are lazy and decadent and that it annoys the less powerful.

I’m worried Trump could win, but I agree with Taibbi that it is, in part, because he understood the system the way a con artist does and exploits the system’s weaknesses like a con artist can. And I’m genuinely not sure that there’s anyone who will learn how to plug the holes from this experience.

Tiny Gloating

I keep forgetting that I wanted to make this point. So, Chris Stapleton remade George Jones’s “Tennessee Whiskey” (well, Jones made it famous, but anyway).

George:

I one-hundred percent recommend just watching George’s face through this whole performance. He just has such great expressions.

And Chris:

Okay, you all know that I had a belief that Gretchen Wilson could have salvaged her career with an album of country standards (I, myself, was especially keen on her doing “I’m Going to Hire a Wino” which I think would have been brilliant).

I thought it was such a good idea I even pitched it to someone who was, at the time, in a position to rip the idea off from me and do something with it. I would not have minded! It would have been worth it just to have the album!

But, boy oh boy, did I get told what a stupid idea that was and that nobody wants to hear artists doing other people’s songs anymore. The fans don’t know old songs so they don’t care about them. Labels, in fact, have forbidden covers on albums unless you’re a “niche” artist.

Years go by. This happens. I laugh.

Approaching Phase Two of the Grateful Dead Afghan

I only have eighteen swirls left to make. Then I have to tuck the ends of all the swirls.

Then Phase Two, were I’ll sew the swirls into larger four-swirl squares. And then tuck those ends.

Then Phase Three where I sew the squares together and put a border on it and…yes, tuck those ends.

For a woman who hates tucking ends, I sure have devised an afghan with a lot of end tucking in it.

Paint Peeling

Yesterday I got to ride around with Josh Rothman showing him the Franklin sites. Fairvue’s gate was open, so we went right up to the front door. All the houses we looked at were in need of a paint job and I don’t remember them being that way when P. took me around, so I wonder if they got hail up there real bad recently or what.

But the two things I wanted to share that I did not know are 1. Ed Baptist’s name is pronounced ‘Baptist,’ like the church and he’s somewhat confused about how the ‘Baptiste’ pronunciation has caught on. 2. HOLY FUCK. John Armfield’s house in Hendersonville is still standing and you can get married there. Just let that sink the fuck in.I mean, though, hell, you can get married in Beersheba Springs and at the University of the South, too, but both of those do a good job of gliding over where the money to make them came from. The man’s house is the man’s house, you know?

Response

I had a bunch of errands to run and I got busy and neglected the old blog here, but also, I was kind of hiding from the thing I wanted to write about.

The response to my Napier piece has been overwhelming. In a good way, mind you. But, usually, when I write something, I feel like it’s me yelling across a canyon and not being sure if anyone heard it (especially since I’m not reading comments). Sometimes, people will email me and tell me that they liked something or tell me in person and that’s super great.

And I really like the Napier piece. Of course, like any writing, seeing it in print, I wish there were things I’d finessed better (like, did you notice one of the Napier kids vanishes? I say William Napier raised his five kids here, but then I only account for four of them? I could have just explicitly said that the fifth kid died.) and things I wish I’d been able to do–like get into the Napier collection at Fisk.

But it seems to me like a pretty okay piece. Not my best, but pretty okay. I’m proud of it.

I would not have guessed at the flood of emotion the piece brought forth in people. I didn’t anticipate how it would move them or how much it means to them.

I’m not sure how to feel about it. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’m deeply honored and grateful. But I wonder, if I had known ahead of time how much this meant to people, if I would have written it differently.

It’s hard to talk about the ways that being white makes you kind of oblivious to the meaning and implications of your actions. From my perspective, there’s just a lot of history out there, a lot of sources, a lot of ways to finagle some kind of understanding about people’s lives.

And, from my perspective, there are a lot of stories of a lot of people that don’t get told, that we have a tradition of overlooking. As big a feminist as I am, if someone came along and told me that we really don’t understand Nashville history because we don’t understand how, say, Charlotte Robertson was really running the show, I wouldn’t be surprised, and I’d be excited to hear how. I’d want this new perspective.

But the truth is that I don’t feel robbed when I discover something about white women or white people that was heretofore unknown to me. I mostly feel like “Oh, those dumbasses trying so hard to sell the future a lie.”

It’s very easy for me to not have to know how black people in Nashville didn’t even get a lie. They got deliberately erased, every step of the way.

I kind of hate the term “privilege” for many reasons, but it is a privilege to assume that your history just lies to you. The truth isn’t gone, just covered up.

Because a lot of history is gone and deliberately so.

I failed to appreciate how powerful saying “Look, here, none of this stuff is lost” would then be.

So, as proud as I am of the piece, I also am kind of embarrassed about that failure.

The Napiers

My cover story on William Napier.And my Pith addendum on Solomon Napier.

I’m also hoping I have time to go to the TSLA and investigate a little further into the attacks on Elias Napier. He mentions one in his will and I saw that there was some court case over another. I’m curious about that.

I found, and still find, Solomon’s story deeply, viscerally upsetting. Trick of the imagination or the past pressing too close, but when I think of him, especially of him coming back to Nashville, the last place he knew to look for his mother, I feel this sadness on her behalf that overwhelms me.

As if her sorrow is still soaked in the streets, just waiting for someone to know of it so that it can come up into a body and work itself out.

And since I know of it, it works through me.

The Durham Situation

I’m talking about this. I’m surprised and confused that he doesn’t already have a lawyer advising him on this stuff. That seems like a strange misstep unless he doesn’t have the money. If he doesn’t have the money, that would suggest someone, somewhere, has turned that spigot off.

But I think he’s right to refuse to turn over his personal computer and personal accounts to the state. They shouldn’t just be able to go digging through everything in his life. They should have to state in a warrant what they’re looking for and get a judge to approve it.

And…and here’s where I feel yucky because I really dislike Durham and I really, truly get why women at Legislative Plaza don’t come forward… but I don’t think a judge should grant that warrant.

I mean, in this regard, Durham is right. There’s no accuser. The State shouldn’t be able to upend your whole life, looking through all your personal belongings, without there being either someone who says “I, yes, me, with this name, saw him doing this specific thing to that person, who also has a name” or someone who says “He did this thing to me” or someone who says “I found this evidence that this thing had happened.”

So, if there’s a witness who saw him sexually harassing someone, fine. If there’s someone who’s saying she sexually harassed him, fine. If someone has some evidence in hand that makes the AG think sexual harassment happened, fine. Give me a victim, a witness, or some proof. Otherwise, no, you can’t go poking around looking for something just because everyone hates him.

I think we should be much more supportive of victims of sexualized violence. I think my track record speaks for itself.

But, at some point, someone has to come forward. And, to me, the idea that grown women just can’t and therefore we should investigate without any complaintant seems like it leads to very bad places.

I mean, that’s the thing that fucking sucks. A bad thing happens to you and, in order to make sure it stops, more bad shit happens.

But I don’t see how we have a justice system that respects the rights of the accused without requiring there to be, you know, an accuser.

What Do I Do With My Hands?

Well, I think “The Four Gardens of Fate” has been a lovely success. People seem to really like it. No one’s been so off-put by the tense change that they’ve complained. And someone on Twitter called me a “national treasure” (granted, it was a person I’ve known online for a while, but still!).

I have all these happy feelings. I don’t know what to do with them. I want to high-five everyone who likes it. I want to hug them. I want to take a bow.

Like, that’s the thing I kind of don’t know what to do about. I do something, people acknowledge it, I… do something. Bow, end-zone dance, leap into the arms of my teammates.

But I don’t think there’s anything for me to do when people like a story.

I find that awkward.

But thank you for liking it.

Nerves

I don’t know why I’m so nervous about everything coming out this week, but I am. I’ve been trying to think of something to type here, but it’s literally just “Doot, doot, doot, hope I didn’t fuck anything up too much.”

Both things I was working on this weekend are, I think, about as done as they’re going to get in my present state of mind, but I’m going to sit on them until this evening before handing them over to the proper authorities, just to look through them one more time.

I also have a buttload of errands to run next weekend and I’m already stressed about how to get them all done.

I’ll be fine. I just want my work to be good. I want people to like it. I want the non-fiction stuff to honor the dead. I want the fiction stuff to entertain the stuffing out of you.

I just want the metaphorical skies to open up. That’s all.

Ha ha ha. Just work that Shackle Island magic again. That’s all I want. Ha ha ha.

Lord, when the most popular thing you’ve ever written is about a wide spot in a creek, you know you have a weird writing career.

Words

she who knocks

I’m pretty excited for this week. Tomorrow you’ll get to read my new Apex story. On Thursday, I’ve got the cover story for the Scene. I’m working on a review of a book for Chapter 16 (So far I have “He rites gud,” so that’s going well.) and I’m up to something which I hope will blossom into something, though I’m still in the “me rite gud” stage of it, too.

Anyway, here’s a picture of New Kitty casting a spell to be let back in the house.

I would ask her to cast a spell to make me an awesome writer, but you know how cats are.

Play

Today the kids came over and took Sonnyboy out in the yard to… I don’t even know how to describe it… kind of play with him. They weren’t sure how to play with him. He wasn’t sure how to play with them. They screamed a lot and threw his bone in the air and ran around. He ran around a lot and jumped in the air (though not anywhere near where the bone was) when they threw the bone.

It looked like some weird dance.

And now he’s wiped out.

I wonder if he’s ever played with kids before? I mean, before we got him.

What a waste of a good dog. Every minute he wasn’t in a house where he was adored, it was such a waste.

Solomon Napier

I found out more about him. More than I think anyone left knows.

He got married in Cincinnati to an Ariel Mitchell, whose family had come from Virginia. He then went to war. He was a private in the 100th infantry, Company E.

He fought here in Nashville. He battled up John Overton’s hill, through his peach orchard.

You can give a boy five hundred dollars and a new family. He will not forget the mother he left here, enslaved.

The Overtons knew the Napiers. Well. They mingled money. They bought a horse together.

Solomon Napier was armed within sight of Traveller’s Rest. Within sight of his father/uncle’s friends. Killing the kinds of men who stole his mother from him.

He lived through the War. He had three daughters that I could find.

In 1870, he lived in Arkansas with his family. He was a farmer. It was a good time to be a black man in Arkansas. By 1875, though, it wasn’t.

His widow and his children are in Minneapolis with her people by 1880.

I find no record of what happened to him. No grave with his name on it.

It could just be shoddy record-keeping, one last indignity, one last effort to erase a person from history.

But you lose a man, a black man who fought for the Union, in Arkansas in the middle of the ’70s with no trace, you start to think you’re looking at the last faint echoes of something really, really bad.

A Review!

Yes, you can read a review of a story you can’t read until next week (unless you’re an Apex subscriber).

I’m very happy with it.

Yesterday my co-worker told me she’s listened to the audio version four times in her car and ended up sitting in the car when she arrived at her destination so that she could sit with the ending.

That also made me feel really awesome.

She also wondered where I learned the divination system in the story. Not the card reading, obviously, but that specific take on it. And i got to tell her that I made it up! She said it seemed very real and plausible.

But the best part, both in the review and in talking her her, is that neither seem to have noticed the tense change. And I was happy when I listened to the podcast to note that I also didn’t think it sounded clunky or weird.

I don’t consider myself a very proficient technician when it comes to writing. But I felt like the story needed a little something when I finished it, something to raise the stakes for the reader in a way they might not be able to put their fingers on. And since I had the four gardens of fate–a grouping of four–in the story, that gave me the idea for the tense change.

So, I guess, for me, that’s a bright red line the whole workings of the story hangs on: past, present, future, ambiguous future (which I’m sure there’s a technical term for, I just don’t know it) and each section needs to work in its own tense.

But for the reader, I need that seem to lay flat and not stand out. Just do the structural work of shaping the story unobtrusively.

I wasn’t sure if that would work or if it would get in the way of people being able to read the story. But so far, no one seems to even have noticed!

So, hurray!

Mr. Splitfoot

I read Samantha Hunt’s Mr. Splitfoot last night. It was pretty amazing. I finished it and I was just like “wow.”

But man, did I really feel like every review or promotional material I read about the book beforehand really kind of missed the mark. I mean, I picked up the book because so many people had said it was great.

But it’s not a story about a woman who talks to the dead. Or at least, not how it was presented in the promotional material. It’s a book about mothers and sisters and aunts. It’s about losing things and trying to find them again. It’s about the kinds of love that aren’t romantic.

It’s really lovely. It’s just not really what I thought I’d been told it was going to be.

The Insult Honor

One thing I wish I’d done a more elegant job of hammering home here is the way Nashville continues to use “honoring” J.C. Napier as a chance to insult him.

You would be hard-pressed to find a more civically engaged Nashvillian of more national prominence who didn’t hold a state or national elected position. Prominent banker, prominent lawyer, name on our money during his time at the Treasury, educational reformer, friends with really prominent and important thinkers.

There are things that happen for men like that in town–they get parks named after them, they get buildings named after them; they get schools named after them. All of which Napier got, but, in usual Nashville fashion when it came to him, in the shittiest way possible. A man who helped fund a huge park gets half a block. A man who owned a downtown building gets public housing. A man who remade Nashville schools faces having his name taken off a Nashville school building.

We so begrudgingly did what we do for men of his stature, in the smallest, miserliest way possible.

Anyway, I know the MOC now says they never planned on taking Napier’s name off the school. So, that’s good. And that’s all I’ll say about that.

In other news, on this week’s episode of Hello From the Magic Tavern, Chunt the talking badger (who’s a shape-shifter) invents a new game “Cats or Doctors” which involves them having to figure out what a penis sounds like. They all came up with kind of either farty noises or whacking off noises. It was pretty hilarious. Don’t know why I thought of that just now, but it’s worth checking the episode out.

Country Radio

At least one country station in rural Tennessee is playing Justin Timberlake’s “Drink You Away,” which I think has to be a result of there still being some local programming people AND his appearance with Chris Stapleton.

I also heard this song as I was driving the backroads of Tennessee and I was like, “Damn, this is going to be stuck in my head.” I’m a sucker for a good sing-along song. I did kind of wonder if someone this young, when she mentions Hank, means Sr. or Jr. Then I wondered where she was hearing either of them on the radio. But anyway, I like this song and I’m sad to learn that it’s getting caught up in the whole “But is it country?” debate. This is a good song. If it’s not country, who’s going to play it?

Panic Attack

You guys, I had a panic attack so bad today I thought I would die. I can’t shake it. I got home okay, but only because a stranger helped me. I don’t even know how to talk about it.

It’s not just the panic attack, out of nowhere on an otherwise lovely day. It’s the way I feel like, for my own safety and the safety of other people, I have to stop doing things I enjoy.

It makes me so sad.

The Veil

I watched The Veil last night on Netflix and it’s kind of terrible, but terrible in a way I really enjoy. Like, you go the whole movie not quite sure if it’s working, some not-good-storytelling stuff happens, and then some really fine story-telling stuff happens and you think, man, if they stick the ending, this movie is going to be amazing.

But, if you paused the movie, say to go to the bathroom right when you had that thought, while you were peeing, you might ponder “What would a stuck ending look like?” And when you realize you can’t come up with one that quite satisfies you, you realize it’s not a good enough movie for the movie makers to have come up with one either.

And, ultimately, than ends up being true.

So, I guess, spoiler alert from here on out.

The movie is basically Jim Morrison/Jim Jones meets The Wicker Man. Except The Veil starts from a position of disgusting you with its occultists and then moves you into a position of kind of sympathizing with them. Except… except I’m not sure everyone working on the movie got that. So, the ending trades a lot on the occultists really being evil instead of just really zealous. And that’s a shame. I think a more unsettling ending would have been if it had just stuck with more ambiguity.

Like maybe if the occultists did everything they did but, instead of killing the daughter of the FBI agent, they let her in on their immortality (and the fact that they killed all her friends to achieve this form of it), she’s then left to know the truth but not be able to do anything about it, because who would believe her?

Then her guilt would parallel her father’s–he came to the cult and it resulted in everyone’s deaths. She came to the compound and it resulted in everyone’s deaths.

I would have liked to have seen them restart their cult.

Killing her just seemed like a kind of weird cop-out and not nearly as horrifying as the revelation of why the occultists died.

Thomas Jane played the head occultist and, if Wikipedia is to be believed, he wrote most of his own lines, to make the character an occultist, not a fundamentalist preacher. Perhaps they should have also given him a go at writing the ending.

But, y’all, he is fantastic. Every time he’s on screen, you wish you were watching just the movie about him. His character, I thought, was a perfect mixture of creepy and really compelling. I mean, watching him on screen, I realized I would be very susceptible to a cult with a guy like that trying to do the things he was trying to do–especially if he was having the kinds of success he was having–at the head.

Which was interesting because I’ve never really understood how people get caught up in cults. I mean, I understand it intellectually, but I haven’t before had the understanding that comes from “Oh, yes, I see how I could get caught up in this.”

Anyway, I think it’s a not-great movie, but it’s totally worth watching for being partially great and Thomas Jane’s character being a revelation.

Please

As you guys know, I am deeply in love with The Black Tapes podcast and its close cousin, Tanis. This week on TBT, Strand, the grouchy, brilliant skeptic whose whole purpose in life, it seems, is to poop on all of the supernatural fun of the show (but who keeps the mysterious, unexplained black tapes in the first place), has returned from some kind of manly breakdown, a scruffy mess in need of help from Alex, our plucky protagonist, in the search for his wife.

He begs her. “Please.”

He says that word, “Please,” in such a way that I’m swooning a little, like some Victorian in a too-tight corset, just thinking about it.

So, a lot of people, people who enjoy TBT, give it some shit for the not-stellar voice acting. I disagree in that I think it’s a deliberate style choice, which either does it for you or doesn’t. I don’t think it’s poor acting. I have lots of reasons for this belief and I’m right.

But my main reason is that there is something going on between Strand and Alex. Well, no, it’s over, whatever there was. That’s obvious both in the text of the show (in that he hangs up on her and then vanishes) and in the way he says that “please,” the way you beg an ex-lover for something, the way you use that quiet voice, that desperate voice, the one that says “Remember how vulnerable we were in private? I am that vulnerable now and I need you.”

But there was something going on between them. I think it started when they went on a trip together and we heard it in the way he asked her if she was going to leave the recorder running.  And we’ve heard it in the way she calls him “Richard” when she’s annoyed with him, like she can’t believe their physical intimacy didn’t buy her a level of trust with him or make him take her more seriously.

i don’t think there’s anything in the context of the show–no words spoken–that confirms the affair. I’ve listened to the whole thing twice now.

The affair, to the extent it does or doesn’t exist, is a story being told in the ways those actors say ordinary words in what passes for mundane conversations.

That’s a remarkable piece of artistry.