Nashville has two known home-grown racist terrorist bombers. One was not in town for my bombings.

The other was.

I’m still mostly of the opinion that the guys they arrested for Hattie Cotton probably were the guys. But the other two bombings are not so clear cut. In the JCC bombing, we know it had to be someone J.B. Stoner knew, because J.B. Stoner organized that whole “Confederate Underground” terror plot throughout the Southeast.

We don’t know much at all about the Looby bombing, just that the person who did it needed to be in Nashville to do it, obviously.

So, in the 60s, Robert Pittman Gentry was involved in Klan activities down in Jacksonville (the site of one of the bombings from the Confederate Underground campaign). He probably was one of the people who blew up the home of a first-grader integrating a school in Jacksonville and he admitted to shooting a black man. He also admitted he was in Birmingham (the site of another Confederate Underground bombing) on the day of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, though he wouldn’t say why he was there. He testified before the HUAC. J.B. Stoner was his lawyer at the HUAC hearings AND I think at the Jacksonville first-grader bomb plot trial. At least, Stoner defended some of the men accused.

When John Kasper was first in Nashville, he stayed at the home of Robert and Carrie Wray. Robert worked at Avco, which was what Vultee had become. Avco has morphed into something else by now, but it’s still a defense contractor making things that fly for the government.

Robert Gentry complained to the Tennessean that his connections to the Klan had cost him his job at Avco (Gentry moved back to Tennessee after the Florida first grader bombing). Is that a coincidence? That Stoner’s client and Kasper’s friend both worked at the same place? Or did Wray know Gentry?

A thing I’m beginning to seriously wonder about is whether this world is as large as people have presumed. I mean, right? One of the reasons these bombings are unsolved is that “it could have been anyone!!! Every white person was racist.”

And most white people at the time were hella racist. But how many people could you count on to be violent and silent? Especially for this long?

Another pair of loose ends I can’t quite make tie together, but I can’t stop feeling like they might tie together is that Gentry’s people were Barneses and Colemans.

The Blackwells and the Crimmonses, who were the suspects in the Hattie Cotton bombing, have Barnes and Coleman relatives.

The geography doesn’t work. Gentry’s people are from Rutherford County. The Blackwells and the Crimmonses’ people were from northwest Davidson County. I haven’t found common ancestors. But it’s a huge coincidence that nags at me.

And yet, I don’t want to get mired in false conspiracies. Barnes and Coleman are common enough last names. One of the black kids who integrated Nashville’s first grade in 1957 was a Coleman.

Still, it gives me the impression that this is a smaller world. That the people willing to do violence would have been known in racist circles.


Back to Work

I have been working a little on a draft of a book-length take on the bombing stuff. And I’m enjoying it. It’s actually fun to just sit down and try to spill out everything you know about something.

The dog and I got to go for our normal walk this morning, too, which was nice. Walking the driveway is a nice option for when otherwise it means no walking, but it’s boring.


I’m still not sure how Goth this is, but I love it. Part of working in someone else’s asthetic is that you can get shit right–like I know my colors are right; I studied the fuck out of them–but using the colors correctly is hard. Like, maybe a true goth afghan would go with more purple and less red?

I just have six whole hexagons and eight half hexagons left. Then I need to figure out how to deal with the border. That one motif that’s all bunched up below really need something on all six sides to pull it true, but the pattern just calls for a regular border. I don’t think that’s going to work. I need some triangles in there, I think.IMG_3626

The original pattern calls for DK weight yarn, which is smaller than I work in. This is worsted weight. And I have to say, this is a small afghan. Or will be. I think it will still be fine because it’s fine for draping over you while you’re sitting or wrapping around your shoulders when it’s cold.

I genuinely don’t understand what this afghan in DK would be good for. I’d be so super pissed if I worked up this whole thing and it was too dinky to be of any use.

I’m excited about starting to put this together. I think it’s going to be very cool.



Helen sent me an email about feet the other day, which I haven’t responded to because I keep thinking about it.

The gist is that there are all kinds of benefits to walking barefoot, especially on the ground, because it puts your brain to work in certain ways.

And today I was just feeling so grouchy, so I took my shoes and socks off and after about twenty minutes, I felt so much better.

I also stood out on my front porch in a t-shirt and underpants yelling at the dog to wait a minute and not roll in the mud after his bath, so I’m not claiming it’s a miracle cure for all that ails you. But I am thinking about how it is good for us to touch things, skin to dirt or wood or grass or whathaveyou.


Ahoy There Matey!


Just go ahead and load all your treasures into his boat.



Sometimes I listen to the Rolling Stone podcast, which I then often end up regretting. I listened to an episode where they said that people my age don’t listen to new music, that they listen to the stuff they liked when they were 15.

I have a hard time believing this is true. Who are all these people listening to Americana, then?

I definitely can’t listen to as much music as I did when I was 15, which means, sure, I’m listening to less new music. But I still love it.

Anyway, the new Janelle Monae song “Make Me Feel” both sounds incredibly new to me and, as intended, like a Prince throw-back to when I was 15. So, I love it.

I had a nagging feeling when watching the video, though, that something more than just a Prince tribute/80s lovefest was going on.

I think that, also, at some level, this is a giant rebuke to “Blurred Lines.”

Songwise, you have the callback to someone else’s classic sound. You have the singing over the catchy rhythm track. There’s the way both songs rely on sounds going down the scale when you’d expect them to go up or going into minor chords when you’d expect them to go into major chords.

In the videos, you have girls in cropped shirts, see-through pants (which, yes, is also a shout-out to Prince in Monae’s case, but I think it’s important for Monae to signal her influences hard and the symbolism can be doing two kinds of work at the same time), tons of focus on women’s crotches, lots of women strutting around.

There’s even a concept of line crossing in both–Thicke’s “Blurred lines,” where he knows you want it, even if you haven’t said, and Monae’s “gender bender,” where it’s not clear who is the object of her desire (everyone!).

But I think the critique comes in the difference. “Blurred Lines” is a song and a video about men telling women what we want sexually. “Make Me Feel” is about a woman proudly proclaiming what she wants sexually.

I just can’t listen to Monae’s song without hearing it as her being “Oh, you want a throwback sounding song about sex? ‘Blurred Lines’ is as good as you can do? Well, here’s what happens when a woman puts her mind to it.”

Which, I think, then ties this song in with the other single, “Django Jane,” where she’s basically like, “boys, it’s time for you to shut up and let the women talk.”


Bishop Durick and Other Thoughts

I finally found a Catholic historian who told me that the only bad rumors about Bishop Durick were that he drank too much at the end of his life.

So, I feel uncaveated in saying that I admire Bishop Durick and he’s one of my personal Nashville heroes. Durick, for those of you who don’t know, was one of the white progressive religious leaders King criticized in his letter from Birmingham jail.

And rather than being a defensive asshole about it, Durick let King’s words sink in and then he motherfucking threw his full support behind the Civil Rights movement.

He changed his mind! He heard the criticism and, when it stung, he took it to heart. And then he threw in with the people he had wronged.

I just admire the shit out of that.


My white yarn came yesterday, so I spent my evening making a sample of the two motifs with white in them. I love how stark the white looks.


This is the most complicated motif of the whole afghan and I keep wondering if I’ve done it right. I may find when I go to make the others that I’ve misread the directions on this one somehow. Or it may just be that, until it’s sewn in with the other ones and pulls into shape, it may look funny. But I do like how it looks like a weird Lovecraftian flower on a bed of flames.


And then look at this one (but please ignore all the dog hair)! Look at those cool lacy petals! I am so madly in love with this.

It was too wet to walk this morning, so the dog and I just did laps in the driveway again. In order to try to keep it less boring for him, I dug out an old retractable leash. I know every argument against them and agree. You should not use them any place you actually need to keep your dog from being a bonehead.

But in the driveway, I don’t need him to stay by my side. I just need him to not run off and sit on a neighbor or go inside after he’s pooped. I don’t need to control him. I just need to keep him walking with me.

And, y’all, I am willing to bet 10000000 dollars that, to the extent he was leash trained, he was leash trained on a retractable leash. He completely got it. He knew how long he had until the leash was maxed out. He went fair but not too far. He was a GOOD BOY!!!!!

Which, you know, is wonderful. I like finding things he’s familiar with from his old life.

But man, why would you leash train a dog that size on a retractable leash? He can yank a regular leash out of my hands from a standstill. If he had the length of the retractable leash to get up to speed? He’d snap that thing no problem.

Still, for days when we’re just specifically walking the driveway? I’m glad to have it.


Not a Nice Lady

Well, I had been a group of people. Now I’m “not a nice lady.” I think in the past this would have nagged at me. A little stone in my shoe.

But now I just find it curious. What does it even mean to be nice?

I have been on a tear lately. Fed up with some stuff and finally tired of pretending like I could make it work. I told the Butcher yesterday I feel like I’ve just been a monster bitch, but here’s the thing: it’s working.

And that feels like a hilarious, terrible lesson. Trying to be conciliatory and understanding and “nice” doesn’t get you anywhere if other people aren’t also trying that.

I also, though, feel like “nice” is often “lie to me in ways that make me feel okay.”

And, you know, being nice in that fashion if your friend has a bad haircut is okay. It’s the social lubricant that keeps the world moving. But being nice in that fashion when deadlines or money are on the line is not good.



I think my favorite thing about these motifs is how the outer part looks like dirt and stones.


As predicted, I don’t miss the bullion stitches.

I really like this pattern. It’s just very well constructed and tries hard to mitigate the drawbacks of flowers, which are that they are heavy and tend to pull away from the rest of your motif and can sag. But like here. the flower is firmly anchored to the leaves, which are anchored both where the brown round is and up in the black. It’s just very thoughtful about ways flowers go wrong and I appreciate it.



I think that, in order to move forward on anything else, I have to see this bombing shit through. The article is nice, but it’s been sitting in limbo for months while the Scene sees if it gets to still be a paper.

I know Third Man would take a book.

Last night, I contacted the National Archives to see about how to get to see the FBI files they hold. Thursday, I’m going to talk with a guy who knows a lot about Catholicism here in the 50s.

I just have to do this. It’s important and no one else is doing it.


Weekend Stuff

I went to see my nephew this weekend. He’s finally getting hair all over his head and I’m a tiny bit disappointed that the cinnamon roll swirl is gone. But he is delightful. I just like that whole family a bunch.

I’ve been working some on the latest afghan. I’m just enjoying the shit out of it, at least until this latest flower, which calls for bullion stitches:


Bullion stitches are hard to do with yarn. They don’t look uniform. And I don’t like doing them. But I really really love that pop of yellow, so I think I’m going to pick these out and do an easier stitch.

All these flowers, though, man. I love them.


Oh, shit, and there’s this guy:


This is probably my favorite so far, though we’ll see how I feel when I get the bullion situation straight.



I was driving home from work on Friday and just as I was crossing the bridge, I realized that I have only ever written fiction to save me. And now that I feel saved, I don’t know how to do it.

It gave me chills, that realization.

And I’m still not sure what to make of it.

I was thinking that one of the things I really admire about my friend, S., is that she has a way of strolling into a room and giving people the impression that they were expecting her, that of course she belongs there. Even her writing frustrations are borne from her knowledge that she’s doing good work and belongs in that community.

I have mostly lived places where reading and writing made you an outsider. And I guess, deep down, I still feel that way in some ways.

I don’t know where I’m going with this. I thought maybe writing it out would give me some profound insight into it, but I guess not.

How to live in the world mostly happy? What kind of work to do with this happiness?

I don’t know. Not yet, anyway.


Heels, Toes



I’m just enjoying the shit out of the variety of different motifs in this afghan. But I started in the middle of the pattern and after doing one of the next ones, I realize that the pattern writer had helpfully designed the motifs to teach you some skills and then become more complex, so I am going back to the beginning with the mostly black hexagons.

I have noticed an interesting thing I don’t know how to explain. A while ago I saw this video where a dude demonstrated how medieval white people walked before the wide-spread adoption of hard-soled shoes.  So, rather than putting your heel down first and then rolling forward onto your toes, they put the ball of their foot down first and then the heel. It’s kind of how you walk when you’re stumbling through the house in the dark, trying not to step on a Lego. Feel with your toe, find no Lego, put your whole foot down.

It’s a weird gate, but sometimes I try it out. And here’s a thing that blows my mind and I can’t explain it and I wish I understood it: If I’m walking the dog through mud and I walk normally, I sink into the mud. If I walk ball first, I don’t.

But it makes no sense! I weigh the same. It’s the same feet on the same body. All week, except for the day it was just too muddy to walk and we did the driveway, I’ve been testing it, because it makes no goddamn sense. And every time, same thing. Heel first, sink down. Toe first, no sinking. How is this possible?!

Witchcraft, I assume. Or physics, but really, aren’t they the same thing?


Goth Afghan

I’m trying to make a spooky, but beautiful afghan for one of my Goth friends. I would call her style kind of rockabilly goth? Anyway, so I decided that flowers would be fun. I’m following the Frida’s Flowers pattern, but with more Halloweeny colors.

Here’s what I have so far:


The reds make me so happy. Anyway, I think the original colors are pretty close to goth, anyway. My goal is to get rid of the pink–much too happy–and way, way, way tone down the white. So far so good.



I keep wondering how long we’ll do this. This meaning everything. Stand by while kids at school die. Choose meanness.

It’s hard when you believe in the power of words to say words upon words upon words and find that nothing changes.

Today it was too muddy to walk the dog, so we just went up and down the driveway ten times. I know, just based on how long it took, that had to be a shorter walk than our usual walk and it’s flat, whereas normally we walk up and down a big hill.

But the dog and I are both wiped.


Post Awesome Let-Down

I wrote my last post for the Post and it ran. And now I’m kind of bummed. I like writing for them because I like trying to find things I think are nifty enough to bother them with. I like how saying, “I’m working on this piece for the Post,” gets doors open. I like that there are still editor-editors, and copy editors, and how much better my writing is, I think, for them. And I like seeing my name there.

It was nice and I’m happy I got to do it.

Last night I dreamed I had lunch with an editor from the Scene who had written up a 25 page document about how they weren’t ever going to run my bombing story because they were under too much pressure from a group of businessmen who were bringing the Olympics to Nashville. And in the 25 page document, the editor revealed he knew where John Kasper’s bomb was.

So, what I guess I’m saying is that those two things feel related, though I’m not sure how.


You Can Take the Kids out of the Church, but…

I went to a poetry reading over lunch at Third Man. The boss also attended. Rule one in Nashville is “be cool,” so I tried to be cool.

But I was struck by how much his demeanor was like a minister who’s excited that the youth group meeting is going so well, but also knows they need that room for a board meeting right after.

So, when it was done, I felt this urge to help move chairs. I saw that one of the poets was also folding and moving chairs.

That was 15 seconds before we both learned that our dads were Methodist ministers.

And she also knew that hymn 88 is Amazing Grace, though that was two hymnals ago.


The Dog Had an Adventure. I Did Not.


This is the field out behind my house. I’ve never been in it before, because there’s a wire fence all the way around it and scrub in the fence. But the dog has not been walked in two days because of the rain and he saw six deer come out of this field, so fuck me.

Off he went, into the field, leash dragging behind him.

Which meant I had to get through the scrub and over a wire fence (which is partially on the ground, I think thanks to the deer) and through so much mud. So very much mud. And I went and stood on the highest point in the field and yelled for the dog.

I yelled so loud and so long the neighbor’s dog chimed in. And who should finally come strolling up after a million years? This jerk.

And then I’m faced with how to get home with this doofus misbehaving dog, over a wire fence. Basically, I held it as low as I could get it and then tapped him on the butt until he got the idea he should jump.

He’s now exhausted and just happy as a clam, because he was made to be a farm dog who traipses off across fields after deer and leaps over fences and has adventures.

And, you know, I was pissed. But seeing him so happy and so in his element and, in fact, happy to see that I had shown up in the field to explore with him, I couldn’t stay mad.

But also, I’m glad I’m the type of reader I am because I knew, before taking off into a field I’ve never been in before, that I was going to need to be able to find the spot where the fence was down again. And I can’t tell you how nice it was to see this view once I’d found the stupid dog. Bet Peter, Susan, Lucy, and Edmund wish they’d left a bright orange coat at the back of the wardrobe.



Folk Wisdom

The line between “what you do” and magic is super thin. That line, I would argue, in the South is just what people at church wouldn’t give a second glance to.


If you look right at that boy’s neck, you’ll see he’s wearing an amber teething necklace. Not to chew on. It serves no practical purpose. I tried not to make too big a deal about learning of it, because I want magic in life and I didn’t want to make anyone feel weird. But I was delighted.

Here’s him and the Butcher being cute.




It turns out that, if you have a rash and a persistent cold, they get you in to see a doctor right away. And it also turns out that I have a couple of spider bites, not a rash, and that the cold is actually a bacterial thing that’s probably the same thing that caused my sinus infection earlier this winter.

So, now I’m on antibiotics. And I got in to see the doctor right away and my trip to the pharmacy took literally ten minutes, if that and so I went and got my hair cut, which took no time, and so I went and got my dog’s prescriptions filled.

Which means all the chores I had for myself this morning are done and I can instead go see the Butcher and his family.

Everything worked so smoothly I kind of felt like it was a thank you from old Leander.

Also, you guys, my dad is delightful on pain killers. Funny and quick and smart and thoughtful. I’m a little bummed that I’m not going to get up there for his second surgery. I… wait for it… enjoy talking to him now.

A thing I’m glad about, though, is that it makes me feel less nuts. Why would I continue to let this dude into my life? Oh, right, because this is a facet of him and this used to be much more of who he was.

And I wonder if this is something that we can keep, without insulting him?

I don’t know. It’s just nice to talk to him now. Even if it can’t last.


Leander Woods

I’m only supposed to write two posts for the Post this time–one this week and one next–but I sneaked in one about Leander Woods. Once you read it, you’ll know why I couldn’t just not try to tell the nation about him.

I feel a tiny bit bad about imposing on them. But I also feel like you have to take your shots when they’re lined up perfectly.

I didn’t have room to put in how he had enlisted at the same time as a William Woods, who died in the war, or how I also found a couple of Williams who seemed to fit the bill enslaved by the Cumberland Iron Works, but that’s out there for someone else to also find.

It’s hard to explain what a rush it is to search for someone and find him. Like, knowing Leander was from Georgia, it gave me a big clue about what types of situations he might be enslaved in in Tennessee and finding a “Leander,” no last name, which people born into slavery farther south often didn’t have, working under a guy named Woods. Well, that was amazing.

But the bigger rush was finding this guy who I could find before the war, during the war, and after the war, a guy with a large chunk of traceable history and Googling him to see what other researchers had written about him only to find nothing.

Whatever I was going to write, beyond that brief mention of him in the archaeology report, that was going to be the first thing written about him since he died.

Whatever happens to his story from here will happen because I wrote some shit and imposed upon the Post to run a third thing from me.

That’s fucking awesome and delightful. That’s some heady shit, right there.


The Franklin Story is Live

I think it turned out fantastic. I admit to still being slightly stung that the writer never contacted me. And I have nits to pick. Like, she certainly came closer to Franklin’s net worth when he died than I did, but Franklin had to have owned more than 600 slaves when he died. He had Fairvue, which could have easily kept 600 people busy and five more industrial plantations down in Louisiana. Those Louisiana plantations must have had a thousand people each on them.

I guess the Louisiana plantations could have already “belonged” to his minor children?

I don’t know. But I like the story a lot anyway, even if I wish I’d been a part of it.

Is it ugly to be jealous in public? I guess so, but fuck it. If more people had been ugly in public in the past, I would know how to deal with these feelings, because I would have seen it done.



I read this blind item the other day obviously about Dwight Yoakam, about how other famous guys were befuddled because whenever he showed up for a Hollywood doodad, all the women would gravitate toward him and the other famous dudes would be left talking to each other.

I don’t know what Yoakam has going on in terms of bedroom skills or if he planted that blind item just for fun or what, but I thought of it while getting edited by the Post. Like, oh, lord, yes, I am grateful for the opportunity to experience this and I wish others could also experience this. Come on, girls and boys, let’s go flirt with the Post and see what it can do.

I wrote a thing, as I do, in the way I do. It was about 1000 words long. They took my thing and cut it down to 890 and made me sound smart and engaging and, I mean, I feel like I write like the Mississippi River. I have a lot of power, but I’m going to wander. There are going to be some back channels. I might run backwards for a while. I might leave some parts miles away from where I’m going now.

The Post edits you like the engineers that messed with the Chicago River. You will be navigable. You will run the other way all the time. You will delight people. And most people will not even notice that that’s not how you used to be.

Edited to add: It’s up!


The Tail End of the Cold

I felt better after dinner last night. Not great, but better. And this morning I got up and walked the dog for the first time in three days. That felt tremendous.

I’m still a little stuffy, but damn, I’m glad that’s over with. Now I have to go into work and deal with ridiculous stuff.

But, hey, I wrote a short story about a surprise new species of crawdads and it turns out the world made a surprise new species of crawdads.


How Sick Am I?

I tucked all my ends without complaint. I finished my mermaid tails without complaint.

Today I have to do some dishes without dying.

It feels like a tall order.