Knights of the Round Table

This morning I was thinking about how the fundamental flaw with our country–and granted, it’s a general human flaw, but I write from where I can see–is that, though we live in a capitalist society, which should mean that everything has a price and, if you want the thing, you have to pay the price, we’ve always wanted other people’s stuff for free.

We’ve come up with justifications for why some of us should give free stuff (land, labor, etc.)–black people aren’t as good as white people; Native Americans don’t have souls, God says women are under men and so on–and we have embedded those beliefs in our very core because, when it works for the people it’s supposed to work for, it’s super awesome.

But it’s a theft and it’s a theft that requires a massive amount of violence to maintain. And the ongoing violence is necessary because the theft is ongoing.

(I’m kind of just understanding this on the fly. I haven’t thought it over a lot, but it’s interesting to think of family abuse as the deliberate means by which something of value from the victim is being stolen.)

As are the narratives that excuse the theft. Not just excuse. Justify.

A really core, fundamental desire is being soothed in the thieves–we are getting something. And our greed and covetousness drives us to justify why our theft is okay–hence racism and sexism and so on. We get something really pleasurable in a lizard-brain way out of propagating those oppressions.

My guess, and again, I was just thinking this shit this morning, is that the core subconscious thing that’s being fulfilled is “someone is taking care of me and all my needs and I don’t owe them anything in return.” Like, racism and sexism and so on are the ways through which we are destructively trying to force the world to be our mommies, forcing the world to make us feel safe and cared for and taken care of. (Which might explain why it was so important to whites to report that their slaves loved them.)

Anyway, I was thinking about the violence at the core of this and I was thinking back to how I learned in school that King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table represented this huge change in our understanding of governance because it was a change from “Might makes right” to “Let’s talk this stuff out as equals and try to come to mutually beneficial understandings of what is right.” Like, first we had “an eye for an eye” and then we had King Arthur and then we had democracy.

Motherfuckers, I learned in middle school that King Arthur was a real person on par in importance with Hammurabi. And I never realized until today, January Thirty-First, Two-Thousand and Seventeen, how fucked up that is. Christ. No wonder America is so fucked.

Are kids going to learn in a thousand years that Captain America was a real person?

 

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I Made a Face of Angry Confusion So Long It’s Now Stuck This Way

I need to process what happened tonight, but god, I don’t want to insult anyone. Important Person A invited me to a thing at a ritzy place full of liberals to hear Important Person B and Important Person C talk and then meet B and C because I might run into them again.

So, A, who I don’t really know, was doing me a big, generous favor.

I was the fattest woman there, by far. There were a couple of plump women, but nobody genuinely fat. Which makes sense, I guess, since these were all people who could afford to be affiliated with the ritzy place and if there is one thing I have learned, it’s that fat and class are very closely linked.

Most of the time, I don’t give a shit, because if we’re going to be pulling out intellectual dicks, well, I’m not ashamed of the size of mine.

But it became quickly apparent that the talk was going to be on “them.” The people who voted for Trump. Those mysterious angry white people. Which I felt so dumb about because I should have realized the second I saw that I was the fattest person there, by far, how the talk was going to go.

I have to tell you, though, I now get why the media describes Trump supporters as these blue collar salt-of-the-earthers. Because apparently plastic surgeons who live in the city and have a country house with a pool and diplomat friends are “upper middle class.”

I feel so angry. I’m so angry that people like me are these odd mysterious creatures you have to go out and find and study and work to understand. I’m so angry that people who admit they don’t understand us think that it’s then their job to bring me (angry at Trump voters) together with Trump voters so that we can learn to understand each other.

Bitch, it’s Saturday.

I went to school with Trump voters. I share DNA with Trump voters. I live in a state ruled by Trump voters. Don’t stand there telling me how, because YOU don’t know MY life and the life of my people, I must need to talk more to fucking Trump voters.

But everyone else was just clapping along and nodding and “oh, that’s so smart and insightful”-ing and all I could do is sit there thinking “I hate everyone in this room and I would never willingly choose to be in this room again with these people.”

And, I have to tell you, part of the reason I’m so upset is that I’m not really sure why I felt that kind of visceral hate. They seemed perfectly lovely. And obviously, they’re all great do-gooders who mean well and do good things. They’re on my side. I’m on their side.

They didn’t mention race once. So, no mention of the deep, deep racism fueling this nonsense. And I’m not interested any more in discussions of what’s going on in America, why we’re so fucking divided, that doesn’t admit up-front the A1 problem of racism. Every discussion that ignores racism is bullshit and a waste of time.

They tut-tutted about the Women’s marches not being nicer to anti-abortion people, as if there’s some room for disagreement between whether I have the right to make decisions about my body or whether you should get to dictate what happens to me.

Just, god, I don’t know. Everything about it made me feel really alienated from people I’m supposed to view as my peers. And I’m sad and angry and embarrassed. And I’m mad at myself for sitting there silently, like I was tacitly agreeing with all the liberal do-gooders safe in their ritzy enclave. And jealous, too, frankly. Deeply jealous.

Rage

It’s only been a week, but I swear, the longer it goes on, the more enraged I am that people did this to us. Not just that, but then they’re all hurt that we won’t just make them feel okay about it, that we won’t “let” things get back to normal. They want to have done this shitty thing and have it mean nothing.

And you know, why shouldn’t they get their way? What in American history tells them they won’t? I’ve been thinking how often white people do some dumb evil thing that other white people disagree with and know is evil, but the second group of white people run around American history trying to make the first group understandable and to help us all relate to them and come together with them. Brother against brother, so let’s have a family reunion and keep the power of the country in our family’s hands.

Bah, I’m not being clear. Basically, though, it’s this–we propagate national myths of white tragedy so that white people, even when we have internal disagreements, will try to find ways to be kind to each other, which, since part of the people doing the disagreeing are unabashed white supremacists, means that “good” white people are constantly arguing for kindness toward and understanding of utter shitbirds, on the mistaken belief that this is what makes us “good” people. And all that reinforces white supremacy.

This is obviously familiar to anyone who’s been in an abusive situation. (And I’d argue that you can see Trump’s actions this weekend as the ‘isolating from friends and family’ stage.) Everyone feel sorry for the abuser who just can’t help but be a jackass. Maybe if we’re all kinder to him or her, he or she will see that niceness is awesome and take up the habit.

But it doesn’t work. And it’s cruel to the asshole’s victims.

Talking and Talking

I have gotten nothing done on the afghans since Monday. The Butcher’s been busy in the evenings all week so I’ve been using my time to get ahead on my Post stuff. Transcribing interviews is no-joke time consuming work. I’ve got two written (rough drafts, obviously) and one I feel pretty certain I can knock out fairly easily and one that is more tentative and I’m depending on an old guy with a wife I know has been in poor health (and knock on wood isn’t dead) with a job he works only half the year to check his work email during the half of the year when he isn’t at work. I don’t know if I’m going to be lucky enough to swing it. Fingers crossed, though.

I had lunch with a brilliant acquaintance and I got to show him a map the TSLA recently digitized and he was hugely excited to see it. But talking to him always makes me sad because it makes me realize how much we lose of our past all the time and how unimportant it is to people that we’re losing it.

I’m taking S. out on Saturday to do some exploring based on that map, though, and I’m very excited. I’m going to write it up for Pith, I think.

I have been trying to evaluate whether the drugs are working. I feel like this month has been a good test, since I had to do lots of new things and hear things I maybe didn’t want to hear and such. And I definitely feel a difference. I’m not obsessed with worry that people might shoot me. I don’t have to pee at least five times before any high-stress activity like, say, interviewing a congressperson. I haven’t had any anxiety issues on foot, but I haven’t needed to take the kind of stairs that do it to me or been in a high open space.

There’s still a thing that happens when I’m driving, though, that I dislike and terrifies me. Definitely, on the meds, it doesn’t spiral into “Oh my god. Stop the car. Stop the car. You’re going to die. Stop the fucking car. Okay, the car is stopped. Never get back in that fucking deathtrap.” But instead I’m having these moments more like “Oh shit! You’re going to die. Stop the car or at least move left! Do something. Oh, cool. You didn’t die. Carry on.” And it happens so suddenly that I am instinctively jerking the car or moving my foot toward the brake until a half-second later I get what’s happening and recorrect.

And so far, it’s been fine. Like, I haven’t been a danger to others. I’m not even sure it’s noticeable to others. And I’m able to realize what’s happening and diffuse it. But, okay, this is what it’s like. Say you are driving on a road and your passenger shouts “No! A dog!” You don’t see the dog but your passenger’s obvious distress tells you there is something you need to do. But what, since you don’t see the dog? Maybe at the last second you think you see something right at the right edge of the road. You might both brake and move left.

And that’s fine, if there isn’t a car on your left.

But my brain is still tossing that level of panicked alarm at me over culverts and narrow shoulders which I see coming a long way off (though my brain doesn’t care until we’re right on top of them). And I’m reacting. And someday, if my brain doesn’t immediately kick in with “Oh, wait, just a steep drop-off, no worries” I am worried I could have an accident.

So, when I go back to the doctor for my check-in, I am going to ask her about recommending a shrink who can help rewire my brain so I’m not all “Culvert! Culvert that I totally saw coming but now am anxious about” in the first place.

Strange Days

It’s been a strange couple of days. I’m trying to pull some stuff together for my Washington Post stint, so I’ve been interviewing people and pitching ideas and such. Before I got sick I interviewed a local author and it was really interesting and fun.

Listening to my voice to transcribe the interview, though, ugh. I kind of wonder if I could hire someone from our public radio station to teach me to talk in a less nasally manner? But I do love my laugh and I like the way I can hear the places I’ve lived in my voice.

It’s a weird thing, to be raised to loathe yourself and find everything about yourself falling short of how you “should” be, and also to be raised with people you love so much, who, yes, also loathe themselves. But so many of them are gone now and the most immediate way I have to still see and hear them is in the traits I have that resemble theirs. I’m supposed to hate my fatness because it marks me as lazy and unhealthy. But what other way do I have to feel the soft side of my grandmother I snuggled against as a small child?

There’s something about the pressure society puts on us to all look a certain way–and it’s beyond dieting. Carve up your face. Paint yourself to “minimize” “problem” areas. Try to look like some version of yourself untouched by history and experience–that as I get older feels like pressure to not have a history, to not feel connected to your people.

Anyway, I got to interview the mayor and our congressman and, yes, sure, at some level, they’re politicians and they know how to play those games. But I was asking them about Nashville and I have to tell you, I found it really moving how much they love the city and like to talk about it.

And on the one hand, it’s weird to interview the mayor of Nashville, but on the other hand, it’s weird because I’ve known her for a million years. Not a million, but a long time. And I guess, you live long enough and your acquaintances start running shit, but it’s still weird. I didn’t know if I should call her Megan or Mayor Barry or what. Still, I have a way to make sense of that. I knew a person. She became mayor. Her press secretary is an old Nashville blogger. It’s not weird that I should talk to them.

But sitting in the waiting area of Cooper’s office? It’s surreal. It will never not be surreal.

In my head, no matter what, I’m a nobody from rural Illinois. I have good friends and a happy life, but don’t aim too high. Don’t expect too much. If something really good happens, it’s either a trap or a mistake. Don’t trust good fortune. Maybe, maybe, if you work really hard and endure a lot of hardship, something okay could happen to you. But the big wide world is a scary place and it’s not for you.

And now this? Writing for the Post? Interviewing national politicians? It just feels like I’m getting away with something, like, whoa boy, they don’t let people like me do things like this. I wonder how long it’s going to take them to notice I’m a people like me?

I’m doing it anyway. I’m not going to decline based on the fact that it’s ludicrous on its face that a person like me should be doing these things. Like, I’m going to make them tell me I’m not in the right place. I’m not going to do that work for them. And so, until someone asks me who the fuck do I think I am and tells me to get out, I’m just going to keep going and see where it leads.

Still, weird as fuck. So, so fucking weird. And amazing. Really amazing.

 

The Strange Architecture of Dreams

I think we’ve talked before about this. I dream, sometimes, of a house we lived in when I was in kindergarten, except that, always, in the dream, it has many more floors than it did in real life and staircases that go non-Euclidean places and endless halls and even when I’m dreaming of being in that home, I know that though something is telling me this is that childhood home, I am in the dream-version of that home, not the real version.

Weirdly enough, I sometimes dream of my Grandma Phillips’s house there on Bradley Street and it is architecturally just as it was in life, always. No strange additions. And yet, I sometimes have the knowledge, even in my dream, that this is a dream home.

It’s hard to explain because it’s not quite lucid dreaming. I never make the connection that, if this is the dream version of these houses, it must be because I am dreaming. It’s just the explanation my brain needs for why I don’t recognize aspects of these places I should know in and out. (Though, I think in the case of my grandma’s home, my brain just needs an explanation for how I’m in the home of a woman who’s been dead over a decade that she sold many years before she died.)

The other night, I realized that I now often dream of a neighborhood in Nashville that does not exist in real life. It’s there on the high ground in Metro Center, where the Starbucks and the gas station is and across the street where the Maxwell House hotel is. Instead of all that commercial stuff, there’s a neighborhood full of Victorian row houses and in my dreams, my friends live there and they often invite me over to see how they’ve remodeled and renovated. So, clearly, they don’t just look Victorian. That’s the era in which they were built.

That neighborhood has never existed in real life in Nashville. Not like I dream it. Definitely not in that spot. But I go there, sometimes, anyway.

Walk to the One You Love the Best

I went for a walk this morning, by myself, since the dog was at the park with his real friend. I didn’t go the whole way. I’m not quite 100%.

But I could have gone the whole way. I wasn’t that far from my turn-around spot. But I felt really crappy and just wanted to go home.

And I said something to myself that I realize I say quite often to myself: “This isn’t a punishment.” Like, I am not obliged to go the whole way out of some sense that the misery going the whole way would cause me is what I deserve. I can turn around. I can try again tomorrow. I walk because I like it. It’s okay to not do it.

I get caught up in this sometimes about crocheting, too, that I can’t take an evening off because I have to get this done. And then I have to remind myself that I crochet because I enjoy it, not because it’s a punishment. I don’t have to keep going through unhappiness. It will be fun again tomorrow.

I’m a middle-aged woman, who didn’t decide I deserved to be happy until I was well into adulthood. And I’m only now–now that I’ve decided that wanting a baseline of pleasant comfort with myself and the world is not some decadent sinful evidence of a kind of moral gluttony–realizing just how often I do things–even things I enjoy–to the point that they make me miserable. I am having to develop or perhaps redevelop a sense of “okay, that’s enough for today” that uses the arrival of unpleasantness as a cue that I can stop.

Even now, admitting this, I feel a desire to explain that I’m not suggesting that everything be fun all the time and that one should never have to struggle. Even as I know that, for my own well-being, I have to learn to say, “Okay, that’s enough for now,” even with things I really enjoy, I feel this overwhelming pressure to assure you that I know we all must suffer and that I’m not trying to get out of my share.

I mean, I haven’t even gotten my internal indicator recalibrated to accept that its resting state should be at “let’s do things we like while we feel like doing them” and I’m already worried that I’m a hare’s breath away from “let’s only do things we like, ever and let the world go to shit around us.”

I guess that’s one way to keep myself on the Puritan misery path.

Back to It

I could use one more day on the couch. Alas, I’ve got too much crap to do. Looking back through the archives, I know I get sick every January and yet, every January, it feels like such an insulting surprise.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Dear Leader and I’ve been watching mental health rights advocates admonishing people not to diagnose him from afar. And, on the one hand, I get it. Mental illness is hard enough, adding to the stigma around it causes all kinds of problems for people with mental illness.

But, on the other hand, the problem with Trump isn’t just that he’s a bad president. I thought W. was a bad president. I thought he was thoughtless and incurious and I disagreed a lot with his policies and approaches. I never once doubted that he was trying to be the best president he knew how to be, as woefully inadequate as I found that.

I don’t think Trump even knows what the job of being president entails nor do I think he’s remotely interested in finding out. His interests, judging by his own words, are in being seen as the best and in being adored. He has no interest that I can see in the day-to-day experience of running the country.

If I had to try to explain to a Trump supporter why I think it’s imperative that they change their minds about him, to me the problem isn’t that he supports a bunch of things I disagree with–after all, so did W. So did Obama, for that matter. Or that he’s a terrible administrator. I don’t think Reagan was some genius bureaucrat. It’s not even that he’s a congenital liar. All politicians lie to one extent or another.

The danger to the Republic is that something is wrong with him. He appears to not be able to hold a consistent opinion for longer than it takes for the political winds around him to change. He seems easily bored and distracted. Short-tempered. Dangerously inconsistent and devoted to believing that people much tougher and smarter than him honestly adore him and think of him as their peer.

In other words, how he perceives the world is not how the world is and he acts on those false perceptions in ways that are extremely dangerous for everyone he has power over.

It’s not enough to say this is not normal. After all, Trump voters voted for him to fix a “normal” they don’t like. So, what other words are there to describe the grave situation we find ourselves in that will convey to the people sympathetic to his ideas (or whatever batch of them they glommed onto) the gravity of the situation?

Bah

I still feel bad. And I have a shit-ton to do next week, so I kind of need to get better faster.

The Butcher is in Illinois making another attempt to get a ring. I think this will be successful. I hope, anyway.

We dogsat the black dog all week and he was really easygoing and fun this time. But when his family came to pick him up and he settled right back in with his little girl, I felt like he’d never been truly happy here.

Also, now that he’s less anxious about being here, he didn’t run around and find all Sonnyboy’s bones. He just found the bone he wanted and “buried” it under the dog bed every day.

At least being sick has been good for one thing–I’ve gotten a lot done on these afghans. I just zone out, turn on some podcasts, and count to three a lot. That I can handle.

The Cold Was Not Weird. It Was Terrible.

I’m still sick. Feeling better today, to the extent that I’m at least upright. And my right eye opens again, which I always appreciate.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my folk understanding of colds. Like, I’m experiencing this cold as being both a head cold (in that my symptoms are mostly in my head and the little coughing I do is because of sinus drainage. Other than being tired and having to pee all the time, my body feels fine.) and a cold in my eye (my right eye). The symptoms of a “cold in my eye” are that it’s red and watery and there’s some yellow gloop in it. It might feel hot or itch. The lids are swollen.

You can have a cold in your eye without having any other cold. I also recall my older relatives having colds elsewhere in their bodies. You could have a cold in your back, which I believe I have had once, though I can’t really describe it. It’s like a back pain, but different. Like back pain is pain in a spot and a cold in your back is kind of strange pain on a spot?

And I think I remember my older relatives having colds in their joints, which is different that being cold in your bones. Being cold in your bones is just a kind of way you feel unable to get warm in such a fundamental way that it feels like even your bones are cold. I think you get cold in your bones most frequently when it’s a clammy cold.

But I’m not sure what a cold in your joints might be and I haven’t heard anyone use it since I moved to the South.

Anyway, I don’t know that these even are real colds. I think they’re just folk understandings of something else going on. I’m not sure what my doctor would do if I told her I had a cold in my wrist, for instance. Would she think I just meant that my wrist was an uncomfortable temperature or would she know that I was having some kind of discomfort that was different from the usual discomfort joints have?

Stupid Cold

I have the weirdest cold. On Monday I was kind of spacey and felt like I might get a headache (but then never did). Otherwise, I felt fine. Yesterday, I was a sneezing machine. Otherwise, I felt fine. Today, I feel fine except that I’m all stuffed up.

It’s like I’m having each individual cold symptom one at a time.

I can’t decide if it’s more or less annoying than a regular cold.

SuperGenius Does Me Solid!

The SuperGenius sent me a link to the YouTube Channel of “Wyoming’s Dr. Jackson Crawford” (allow me to introduce myself as the Midwest’s Potluck Phillips) who stands around in beautiful scenery pronouncing Old Norse things.

It is delightful. In one of the other videos he pronounces “Asgard” in a way that made me realize it’s probably the same word as “Oscar.”

These Cats Disgust Me

Man, I had a busy weekend. Went to the TSLA. Wrote a piece. Ran out of time to write another piece. Did a buttload of dishes. Played with the kids. Walked the dog. Worked on these afghans.

Did I mention “did a buttload of dishes”?

Okay, so I know there was no mouse poop in the silverware drawer on Saturday because the silverware drawer was nearly empty until I filled it with all the silverware I washed.

So, it was with great alarm that I learned the Butcher found a ton, literally a metric ton, of mouse poop in the drawer Sunday morning. Was there a mouse orgy in the drawer? Could they not have done that late Friday night when the drawer was mostly empty instead of pooping on all my clean silverware?

But that’s not the only thing that pisses me off. I have two cats, both of whom regularly catch and kill things outside. One of whom likes to bring in the things she’s killed, sing about her kill, and then eat everything but the guts and heads, which she then leaves for me to step on in the middle of the night.

How in the fuck do I have two mousers and mice in the kitchen?

Ow, My Heart

We’re dogsitting Sonnyboy’s neurotic friend while his family is at Disney. So, this morning I slept in while the boys went to the park.

The Butcher told me that there was a point on the walk when the dogs seemed to be awkwardly playing with each other. Has Sonnyboy ever played with another dog before? Certainly not in all the time we’ve had him.

One thing I really respect about Sonnyboy is that he’s not bitter. If I had a boring life for the first four years (or whatever the human equivalent of that was) and then there was pizza and inside and cuddles and peanut butter and butt scratches and car rides, some part of me would feel like I had been up until that point cheated.

But the dog is just like “This is great!” Things were one way. Now they’re another. Just roll with it.

Nerves

I’m sitting here trying to think of something to write, but basically, I’m just nervous. I’m interviewing a person tomorrow and I want to ask him about a hard time in his life and what came of it and I just want to do right and to get an answer that helps me understand it. And I don’t want to make it suck too much for him.

I’m making two afghans right now, just like the one I just finished up. I think I said that already. It’s both going rather quickly and is taking a while. I’m not looking forward to making all those triangles.

We watched Alice Through the Looking Glass last night, which was an interesting movie about a female sea captain going on an adventure with her mom, which we didn’t get to see because instead we had to watch Johnny Depp being weird and Sasha Baron Cohen being unsettled for an hour and a half.

I admit, though, I am amused by Depp’s latest acting strategy where he just plays music icons–he’s Keith Richards in the Pirates movies, Michael Jackson in the Chocolate Factory, and Madonna here. But come on! Weird impressions aren’t something to build an acting career on!

Don’t Piss on My Leg and Tell Me It’s Russian Intelligence

America! What is happening?! Yesterday was the first day I felt like “Oh, hey, if a Trump presidency is this funny the whole way through, I might be okay.” Every time a person who had been at dinner or commuting or somewhere away from the internet got on Twitter and was like “Um, golden showers, what?” I got to delight again in how terrible this is.

Don’t get me wrong. I know the pee thing probably isn’t true. And, even if it is, except for the fact that Trump wanted them to pee where the Obamas had slept, it hardly seems worth getting bothered about (except you’re paying how much for that hotel room and you have to sleep in someone else’s piss?). But all these sanctimonious asshats who voted for Trump to return some dignity to the White House?

This is what you thought was preferable to Clinton? What would put the country back on track after Obama? THIS is the track you want the country on? Ha ha ha ha ha ha.

Run

This morning the dog went to the park, so I was on my own for walking. And I was trying to remember the last time I ran. I have no fucking idea. Possibly years. And since I was alone in the dark, I ran, like a little kid, just full out for as long as it felt fun (which, granted, was not very long) and then I did it again.

And since I was alone in the dark, I didn’t have to think about how slow I was or how stupid I looked. I just felt happy. And not “happy because my body can do this” or “happy because this is good for me” or “happy for some other reason that justifies and excuses my happiness.” Just happy.

And yet, when I sit here to tell you about it, I find it curious how overwhelming the urge to justify it is, to attach some reason to it other than that it seemed like it might be fun and silly and make me happy and it was those things and did that thing.

Barista Parlor

Yesterday, we went to this coffee shop and I was being an asshole making fun of how they were probably going to bring us out fancy mustaches before we’d be allowed to get our coffee.

But then the coffee we had was so good that I kind of wanted to cheer for the coffee shop for sticking it to those jerks who were making fun of them, even though I was that jerk.

I have a couple of private new years resolutions, but one thing I want to do that I’ll say publicly is to just genuinely like things without feeling like I have to qualify it or strike some ironic pose or whatever. I just want to be able to be like “Yeah, this was lovely and I’m going to enjoy how lovely it was.”

In other words, I want to learn to feel about more things the same open happiness I feel when I listen to “Baby, I Love You” by the Ronettes.

The thing I love best about this song–and I love a lot about it, starting with its unabashed happiness and its joyful desire for someone you feel is good for the singer–is how it starts out with these large, loud piano chords. And you think, well, it can’t get any bigger than this and yet, somehow it does.

Taking Stock

–I haven’t read a book of prose since October.

–I haven’t sold a short story in a year.

–I sure haven’t sold this novel.

–I have written a (one) story in the past…um…probably also since October.

–I think I’ve been doing good work at the Scene and the drugs definitely help me feel like I’m not on the verge of getting shot or murdered in some other way by my commenters so I’m going to score that twice.

–I got to write for the Washington Post and they’ve asked me to come back again in February for a few posts.

So, I’m going to be honest. I threw everything I had into that novel. I know I have always had anxiety and I know it increases as you age, but I also suspect that writing the novel and trying and failing to sell it exacerbated the problem. And I feel like I’ve been nursing some wounds and trying to get back to the feeling of why I love fiction in the first place. But it’s taking me longer than I’d like.

But also, if I’m being honest, I sometimes wonder why I want to be a good fiction writer so much when I’m doing pretty okay in the non-fiction department. But also, I suspect, if I wanted it as bad on the non-fiction side, I’d be in just as much agony about where I am there, too. So, I still think that my attitude toward non-fiction, “this is what I do because it is interesting to me and we’ll see what happens” is the right one. And I’d like to get back to that place with fiction.

Kung Fury

At last, a reason to break out my “Scandinavia” category again!

Though, just as a side note, can I say that all season on Arrow, I have been dying for Dolph Lundgren to do the salmon ladder. Do you think he still could? I do. He’s also really tall, though, so possibly he would just reach up and set the bar on the highest rung and do a pull up. But that’s also fine!

I also feel like Dolph Lundgren is more interesting looking now than he was in his younger days. And I would support him showing up in all kinds of pop culture stuff to raise his eyebrows and then beat someone.

Where were we?

Oh, right. On Netflix right now there’s this awesome short film, “Kung Fury,” which is about as perfect a thing as you will ever see. I don’t know anything about Iron Fist, but I think “Kung Fury” has already devastatingly pre-parodied it so well it will be hard for me to take Iron Fist seriously. The movie has a triceratops cop and Thor kills Nazis. And every time they need to do a special effect beyond their budget, the movie just stops and there’s fuzz for a minute, like an old damaged VHS tape. It’s just outstanding.

Why, Scandinavia, why? It’s getting so you know that if a horror movie is made in Australia or New Zealand, it’s worth checking out and if you want to sit around yelling in delight, “What the fuck is this?!” you just look for a Scandinavian movie that is not a drama (which is no knock on Scandinavian dramas, but even an interest in Norse mythology and a love of seeing Mads Mikkelson mostly naked could not get me through Valhalla Rising. In some alternate universe, I am still watching that movie. It still has ten years to go. But in this world, I turned it off after Mikkelson got out of the cage for good. Wikipedia calls Valhalla Rising an “adventure drama,” which leads me to believe that the Danes have some weird ideas about both adventure and drama. In my mind, Denmark is a lovely country where you eat fish, boat places, and generally have a good time, so maybe having to be really bleak and boring for seventeen years is an adventure for them? I don’t know. Just get your shit together, Denmark. If you’re going to have Mads Mikkelson naked and tied up, setting him wandering around America with Christians is not what we want to see happen next.)

I’m off track. But anyway, “Kung Fury.” It has no cocktapusses, but it does have a lot of exploding heads. I highly recommend it.

Guess what? Possum butt

This morning, we were walking and I was steadily watching the curve in the road because all walk, cars were coming around it too fast and seemed to not be seeing us. So, I registered a lump on the pavement but did not look too closely at it.

Then we were right up on it. A dead possum. And Sonnyboy stuck his tongue out and touched his tongue to the possum’s butt. “No!” I shouted and tugged him away. “Don’t eat that.”

But he didn’t seem to be eating it. He seemed just to be tasting it. Which, I admit, made me laugh, because he puts everything in his mouth to see if it might be food–Kleenex, carrots, mail–but not the possum. It he wanted to keep outside of his mouth while he decided if it was worth trying to eat.

And then, when we got back to the grass, I saw him eyeing a plastic bag in the bushes and I dropped the leash and shouted “Get it, get it!” and he ran up on it and was like “Yep, plastic bag. Knew it all the time.” And then I said, “Okay, come back, Rufus,” and he did!

My brother is officially telling people he’s married now, so, also, that’s nice. His oldest son Photoshopped Godzilla into one of the pictures and everyone agrees that it’s the best one.

I like when we can eek out a little happiness.

Do What You Want to

I have been feeling so decadent lately, just sitting around doing what I want to, or not doing what I don’t want to, for a whole week.

This morning the dog ran off on me. I think there’s another animal that’s been up near the houses, maybe the orange cat new kitty has been fighting with, maybe a coyote (though I hope not), and apparently that requires a lot of peeing all over the neighborhood.

I hollered and hollered and finally, when I yelled, exasperated, “Fine, I’ll just go for this walk without you,” who should come loping out of the darkness?

No use in getting mad at him. As much as he’s improved at being a dog over the past year (did I tell you all my theory that this may be due to the thyroid medicine? I mean, that’s the theory–he’s learning to brain because his brain is working in ways it didn’t before.), he still does not understand anger. It doesn’t mean to him, “Oh, shit, I have pushed things too far and should shape up.” It just means, “what the fuck is going on with her and am I going to get hurt out of it?” He just does not make the connection between my anger and his behavior.

Which, I mean, is not surprising. How recently did he finally get that his behavior could delight me?

But I realized, based on Christmas, I come from a loud family that uses a current of anger to shock people into behaving. I have very few skills for motivating someone who doesn’t understand all the yelling.

I think dogs teach you things. This dog is teaching me a hard thing I barely have the skills for.

Exciting Things

–Both short stories I published last year (though not for lack of trying to publish more, just for the sake of honesty about how hard the grind is) appear on Tangent’s list. They gave “Jesus Has Forgiven Me. Why Can’t You?” three stars! That puts me in the same company as Alyssa Wong and Kameron Hurley and a bunch of other people whose work I really admire. So, that’s amazing.

–You can vote for your favorite Apex Magazine story of last year. Cough. Cough. “The Four Gardens of Fate.” Cough. Cough. (Though you would also not be wrong to vote for any of Ursula Vernon’s stories and, my god, I still am not done thinking about “After We Walked Away” by Erica Satifka. I’m just saying, there might be more deserving stories, but this is about self-promotion!)

–I wrote this funny post for Pith, which even made me laugh as I was writing it.

–As you recall, before Christmas we had had kind of a bummer on the “How to get Future Mrs. Butcher a ring” plan. But I had advised the Butcher to talk to my mom alone about this and see what she could shake loose. He did that AND he called my aunt who called my grandma and now there is a Grandma/Aunties conspiracy to find a good ring for the Butcher. AND my dad has given a heartfelt, tearful speech about how he’d love for the Butcher to use the diamond from the ring they gave me for Christmas a few years ago once my dad learned that I had offered that ring to the Butcher. Which, yes, makes me wonder if I was too dense to get that the “women in your family are just sitting on useful rings for you that they will not share; here are all the reasons why” lecture at Christmas was directed at me, but, folks, I told you that I’m on drugs that–though the fog is lifting–massively fuck with my head so…yeah, I’m going to miss out on the lectures only obliquely aimed at me.

But maybe that’s ungenerous. Maybe the generous thing to think is that we’re all fucking broken and messes and we’re all trying and often failing to be the kinds of people we want to be and, if we can, we should give people opportunities to try again and maybe they’ll have their shit together this time.

–We got to watch the video my mom shot of our brother’s wedding and it was lovely, as weddings are, but in the background, my niece was marching…literally marching…around. Like, damn, she heard that weddings had marches and by god, she was going to make sure this wedding was not lacking in marching. Back and forth and back and forth. By the end, the Butcher and I had the giggles so bad.

–Also, we got to see video of my niece doing dangerous train stunts and it further cemented for me that she is my idol. After all, when was the last time any of us climbed out of a moving locomotive and across a coal car and into the passenger area and back? We are not Old-Timey James Bonds. But my niece is, apparently? Also, if you want to talk about how age mellows you, my dad would have thrown a shit-fit if we had climbed all over Santa’s train at the mall like the stunt crew for Captain America, but his granddaughter does it and he’s shooting video of it and showing it to anyone who will look.

–I’m genuinely not sure that “Jesus Has Forgiven Me. Why Can’t You?” is a better story than “The Four Gardens of Fate.” I mean, I trust others’ judgement on these things, but I’m just saying, as the writer, it’s hard for me to say. I like them both. I kind of thought “Four Gardens” was better. But maybe funny counts for more than I thought?

Sister-in-Law, I have one again

Our brother got married yesterday. The one who got engaged last week. We’re not supposed to tell anyone. I’m not really sure on the reasons why and, frankly, I feel too old to keep dramatic secrets any more that don’t appear to have good reasons behind them.

I was thinking about making some resolutions for the year–like to try to be nicer or less painfully weird or to go do more stuff or whatever–but I kind of settled on just trying to be more like my niece who makes faces appropriate to any situation.

Here’s my favorite picture of us:

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And here’s the picture that they sent yesterday:

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So, my theme for 2017 is going to be trying to take over the world and dramatic faces if I have to wait for cake.