Social

I think social media is bad for me. Especially Twitter. I don’t think that means I’m going to quit it. I mean, I might make that decision in the future, but for right now, I’m just acknowledging that being this stressed about work and this stressed about my civic life and this stressed about whatever nonsense is going on is addicting but bad for me.

I’ve been listening to the new Janelle Monae and I think one of the points she’s raising throughout the album is that happiness is revolutionary, delight is resistance. Pleasure changes things.

I don’t know how to take that to heart, but I want to take that to heart.

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All my squares are done. I’m now on to triangles. I really like it. I hope it’s not too busy.

I saw a bunch of folks this weekend and did a bunch of stuff. It was good. Now I have to hope I can carry those good feelings throughout the week.

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Off Day

I worked on the bombing book. Then I took the dog to the Paradise Ridge Park, which I hadn’t been to since it opened. I did a leisurely 3/4 of a mile. I can’t even begin to approximate how far the dog walked, since he had to run back and forth to each side of the trail, sniffing and peeing everywhere. I have no idea how much distance his exuberant zig-zagging added, but a lot. He also made a friend, which is another nice thing about rural parks. The people who go there tend to have big dogs and are happy to meet another.

We went to McDonalds for lunch.

I yakked on the phone with the other Betsy about a really cool project she’s working on.

And then I spent the rest of the day crocheting.

I’m very torn about the doodads. They’re very fussy to make and a lot of work and I might not even have enough yarn to do them. But my trial one looks so neat I can’t quite bring myself to give them up.

So my new idea is to do the whole afghan and just see if I have enough yarn to do them and, if I run out of yarn before finishing the afghan, then I’ll totally feel justified in buying enough to finish my doodads.

I woke up today in a panic because I thought it was Sunday and I didn’t want to have to go back to work yet. Which I think means I desperately needed a day off.

Defeated

Some things happened at work yesterday. Nothing truly terrible, but the kinds of things that make me sad and tired.

So, I’m taking today off as an emergency mental health day.

So far I got up an hour late and had some breakfast. I’m already feeling like more of a human being than I did all afternoon yesterday.

Delights

This morning when I woke up at 5:45 in the morning, very early in the morning, morning, morning, I learned of the existence of a roll playing game called “Jason Statham’s Big Vacation.”

And I would like some credit for not immediately, before six a.m., calling C. and screaming into the phone “You must take today off work, teach me how to play role playing games, find six other people who would find this as hilarious and awesome as me, and then we must play this game. Today. I’ll buy lunch. Woo!!!!”

Y’all, Wesley Snipes tries to ruin Jason Statham’s holiday. It’s wonderful.

Second, yesterday morning, I went to a women’s breakfast and talked to all these very prominent community members about Fort Negley. I was halfway through my talk when I realized I had been going on and on excitedly about body parts while these women were trying to eat. I was mortified.

They didn’t seem to mind, though.

And the questions and answer session was really fun. I think they had a good time and I had a great time.

Third, though not really delightful, many years ago, a dude gave me this old poster he had found in a barn that was just a bunch of anti-Semitic nonsense. I think he thought it was mysterious, so he framed it and gave it to me. I turned the poster over and used the frame for something else.

Recently, he made noises like he might want the poster back so he could “study it and figure it out.” (Or so he could have an excuse to reinsert himself back into my life, I suspect.)

So, I took it out last night to look at it for the first time in years, and thanks to all this bombing nonsense, it’s utterly clear what it is–a map of the cosmology of Christian Identity, which I don’t think is still called that, but is a weird, racist theology that posits that Cain was a result of Eve fucking the serpent.

And I laughed because it made me feel like I’ve been on the path to writing this book for a long time.

But I tell you what, too. It made me wonder about the owners of that barn. You might have met some run of the mill racists back in the day out west who’d fallen into Christian Identity, but in the South, if you were into Christian Identity, it was a pretty sure indication that you were a violent racist, that you were trying to provoke a race war.

Like I said, made me wonder about the owners of that barn.

The Orangening

I keep saying this is an orange afghan, but so far, it’s not very orange. Here are the representative squares of the last three rows.

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Granted, that middle one isn’t orange, but it’s a variegated yarn that is very orange in parts.

Getting Some Stuff Moving Along

I had a really productive weekend. I got some good writing done. I’m about a third of the way into Wexler & Hancock’s Killing King. I had a lovely dinner with friends and then a lovely brunch with some other friends.

And I got a bunch of this afghan moved from “almost done” into “done.”

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A thing I have been fretting about with this afghan is that it’s got a kind of decorative doodad on the top and bottom and I have been worried that I might not have enough of the same color yarns to do the doodads. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me until right now, but I can finish my squares and then do the doodads. Then I can use the rest of the yarn on the filler triangles.

Also, because of the doodads, the afghan doesn’t have a border. I’m a little nervous about that.

Complaining Helps

After I complained about the bombing book, I decided that I’m not writing a history paper or a straight-up piece of journalism. After all, I don’t know who did my bombings. I can’t answer the basic who, what, when, where, why, and how questions (though I do have what, when, and where down okay).

So, I thought, just go ahead and muse. Write the things you want to write. Admit your doubts. Say what you wonder.

And that has opened things up for me.

It’s not going to be very long, but maybe I can get some good pictures.

Ugly

I still hate pictures of myself. I hate that, when I see pictures of myself, I reflexively think “disgusting.” I hate that I don’t even think this about other fat women my size. Or fatter. I still sometimes blame the fat, but it can’t be the fat if I find other big round bodies attractive or neutral.

It’s me.

And I’m really grateful for the drugs that don’t let my mind jump to that and then stick there and worry at it until I hate my life.

And I’m grateful for the therapy that has taught me to demand my brain slow down and articulate how it’s feeling, really.

But I’m also really grateful for a little dude who genuinely delights in seeing me. To him, I just genuinely and value-neutrally look like myself, a person he likes.

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We were both covered in refried beans, because he likes them but can’t quite get them from his hand to his mouth without them ending up everywhere else.

Family Time

I am all familied out. I love these assholes, but lord, I am grateful to come home to my empty house.

I would have been burned at the stake in earlier times. Not because I’m proficient at cool magic or anything, but because I would have lived out in the middle of the woods alone, in a ramshackle hut with a weedy garden and I would have recognized all the local birds.

But look at these two dinguses.

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Hard not to love them.

I am a Patient Man. I wait. I wait. I wait. I wait.

If you know me in real life, you know that I’m waiting around for things. I’m waiting around for the FBI to send me files I FOIAed a year ago. I’m waiting around for the National Archives to tell me how much lead time they need to go through JB Stoner’s file before I can see it.

I do internet searches on my lunch hour, trying to think of combinations of words or phrases that might bring some heretofore unknown piece of information to me.

And I work on afghans.

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Can This Dog Count to Five?

Long-time readers of this blog will need a moment, I’m sure, to collect themselves after laughing that this is even a question.

But when it’s too muddy to do our normal walk, we’ve taken to just doing laps up and down the driveway. It’s not perfect, but it gives Sonnyboy a chance to poop.

Today, I said, “Let’s do five.” Meaning, five times up and down the driveway.

And without complaint, he did five times. And then went in the house.

Like he had fucking counted the laps.

I am 100% sure this cannot be. And I am also 100% sure the only explanation for it is that he knew we’d done five laps.

I don’t know how to test this, though.

But clearly, what I mistook for stupidity was this dog’s genius eccentricity. Or something.

Ha.

Hard

Yesterday, I did a reading at Cheekwood. The day before that, I found the grave of KKK leader Emmett Carr. While at Cheekwood, I was talking to C. about life and, anyway, I admitted that I have been crocheting so much because this bombing story is just so fucking hard.

It’s not just that I don’t think I can figure out who exactly did it, it’s that these dudes are terrible. I hadn’t realized how much I cling to the idea that overt racism can be an unfortunate character flaw in an otherwise lovely person. I mean, I think I know better than that, but you really confront your unconscious biases in a situation like this.

I think I’m a racist. No, I mean, I know I’m a racist. I think that’s terrible and I try to overcome it, but I’m not going to, because so much of white society is set up to guide me easily into racist positions and beliefs. I am a habitual racist and, like someone trying to quit smoking in the 70s, it’s hard to give it up because everything is set up to make smoking as easy and convenient as possible.

But I keep thinking of this reflex my mom has, whenever she’s recounting the story of something bad someone we know has done, to say “well, I’m also a sinner.” So, my mom can tell you about how their neighbor ended up being Ted Bundy II, and she’s still going to insist on seeing herself as also fatally flawed. And I find that deeply endearing but also frustrating, because there’s just a world of difference between my mom, who can get lazy and tired and not be her best self, and Ted Bundy, who has set out to be the worst of himself.

And I’ve wanted to believe, because I have to live in this world, that the Ted Bundys are rare and outnumbered by people like my mom.

But in a story that starts for someone “I’ll hurt children,” there are a lot more Ted Bundys than Betty Phillipses.

And they’re terrible all over. Their hatred of black people isn’t their only character flaw. They’re lousy spouses. They’re terrible parents. People flee from them, and rightly so.

It’s made me acutely aware of how much racism is built into the assumption that race terrorists can otherwise be good people–as if a willingness to hurt people doesn’t show a willingness to hurt people, because the people they’re hurting are black (or brown or gay or whatever).

But it’s also tough.

And I realized I’ve been crocheting so much because I need out of my head, out of the space I share with these people.

I keep thinking, why am I doing this? But it’s because the story as it’s been told to us is wrong and lets too many people off the hook. And I just can’t accept that.

Oh, Oh!

Y’all, I just realized on my walk this morning that the people I’m looking for–the thing that separates them from more run-of-the-mill racists–are willing to target white people.

That’s the line they’re willing to cross that even other violent racists aren’t.

And that’s why the “community,” even if I don’t have a sense of the full scope of it, seems so small. Because inside the subset of “I know and work with other racists to achieve our racist goals” is “I’m willing to harm and kill black adults to do it” and inside that is “I’m willing to harm and kill black children” and inside that is “I’m willing to harm and kill white people.” The deeper into the subsets you go, the more people you lose.

And as much as the people in the smallest subset may appear to be loners in their own communities, they knew and knew of each other.

Log Jam

I have too many afghans with deadlines.

But look at how this is going!

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I also watched the trailer for Megalodon a bunch of times. Because I’m only human.

And, you know what? I like Randy Orton. Everything about him is true. It is stupid to wear a hoodie with no sleeves. His tattoos make him look like he has fake arms. He always looks pissed off that he has to be alive in the world.

And yet, I still like him as a wrestler and I always look forward to seeing his matches.

Cooley

I’ve been slowly working my way through the Rhinestones & Cocaine podcast. I’m still haunted by the Spade Cooley episode. Coe does a great job with it and I really appreciate the way he lays everything out and treats it as fucked up how many people knew about this and just let it happen.

But my rage toward those people is an inferno.

Spade Cooley is bad enough. He’s a nightmare of awfulness. And when he died, I was like “good.”

But Spade Cooley was in prison where he belonged. All the motherfuckers trying to get him a pardon? Like, on a scale of one to ten, and Cooley’s a ten, what the people who knew what he was doing and still worked on his behalf did has to be a seven or eight.

And it makes me so angry that those folks just go on with their lives.

Silliness

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This weekend, my nephew made a silly face at me. He’s often smiled at me and been delighted when I smiled back. But this was the first time he made a face that was different at me. I didn’t know how to do it back to him, but I loved it.

Friday Things

My cousin and her family are in town! Her kids are just so adorable. Her son is like some kind of Star Wars savant. And he gets so big-eyed and excited when he tells you everything he knows.

I spilled Sprite all over myself at dinner. That was pretty embarrassing. But my cousin’s daughter reassured me that she spills things all the time and it happens to everyone. And my step-niece said I could blame her, if I wanted.

And my nephew is in a new stage! Now, when he’s tired of you holding him, he just puts his arms and lets out and holds his body stiff. He goes from cuddle-bunny to dry starfish.

Which means he can prefer things and people! Like, he can want and unwant things. Well, like, he’s run into stuff he didn’t like before. But this seems like the first time I’ve noticed him being like “Okay, enough of this.”

I also went to lunch. In a way that is going to lead to another lunch. Which really necessitates me getting to the National Archives this summer. So, that’s exciting and a little terrifying.

King

I spent some time yesterday looking into the death of King, as a part of my consideration of J.B. Stoner. All it told me was that I need to get a hold of the new Wexler book, which basically shows how the Mississippi Klan supported Ray in his efforts to kill King. I think. That’s what I took from the book’s description anyway.

And if the Klan is involved, then I’m curious to know if they were able to find out what Stoner knew when.

I guess I’m slowly coming to the opinion that… well, I guess I’m conspiracy adjacent. I don’t believe Stoner was behind every terrible tragedy of the Civil Rights era, but I do believe that he was supportive of every terrible tragedy of the Civil Rights era. And sometimes that support might have come before hand and sometimes it might have come after.

But I also remain convinced that the number of people willing to plan to do things that could kill people was small. Of course, the number who would support them was larger. But I mean, the number of actual people who would take part in something that required planning and action. That was small. Maybe fifty people, if that many, in each Southern state.

I may be making a distinction without a difference but I see one between bombing someone–which requires planning and acquisition of materials–and heat of the moment violence, like people burning cigarettes on sit-in protesters or even filling their own restaurant with bug spray to try to drive protesters out.

It’s all bad, but one allows the perpetrator to tell him or herself that he or she wasn’t planning on doing that, that they’re not a bad person, that they were provoked. The other doesn’t. The other requires someone at peace with hurting others.

In the era I’m looking at, roughly 1940 to 1980, we know we have probably two guys responsible for the Clinton bombing, probably five guys responsible for Hattie Cotton, one or two for the JCC, and two or so for Looby (unless some of those overlap), a handful of people in Brownsville, a couple of people in Memphis, Gladys Girtenti and her accomplices.

And again, to be clear, these folks had support. It wasn’t like Nashville just had ten problematic people and everyone else was fine. But the people who would plan to do something they knew could kill people, that’s a very small number.

And I just don’t believe they were unknown to each other. I will believe, forever, that Gladys Girgenti could have given you the names of the bombers I’m looking at.

And I think Stoner could have provided a list names of the vast majority of racist terrorists in the South willing to plan to kill someone.

I don’t think he was their boss. He’s not some secret super villain. But he was their ally. That’s for sure.

Working on an Afghan, Going Round, Round, Round

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Slowly it grows. Or, actually, probably pretty quickly. I’m not sure if it’s going to be seven or eight rows tall. A lot of that will depend on how it looks at seven and how much yarn I have. You can see how much better the skulls in the middle of the afghan look. That’s because they’re being pulled on all four sides. I need to put a big enough border on this to help pull the outside squares, and thus the outside skulls, into shape. Which means I need to leave myself enough yarn to do so.

I need to do the third Third Man afghan, a wedding afghan for my cousin, and then a peacock afghan and then I think I’m taking a break from afghans for a second. I want to get that t-shirt rug done. I have this cool pattern for a deer head I want to try.

And I want to be writing. Which, hey, is a nice, weird feeling!

Theft of Ancestors

A thing I find really infuriating and heartbreaking is when black people contact me about something I’ve written about that relates to their family because this is the first they’ve heard of someone who knows something about their relatives.

They’ve been told that there’s basically nothing. And there is next to nothing, but not nothing. There are places to dig, things to know. And even when we don’t have specific stories about particular people, we certainly know enough about the circumstances in which people were enslaved to make broad generalizations.

This morning, I was contacted by a black Douglas. I could tell her that, if she wanted to come to Middle Tennessee, she could certainly still see the things her people did–the churches they built, the roads they cleared, the houses, the city.

Denying that to people… it is genocidal. I don’t say that lightly, but stripping people of their ancestors, denying them the stories–for better or for worse–of their people is an ongoing attempt to destroy them.

I don’t think this mess can ever be fixed. I’m a little jealous of people who think we just need to tear everything down and start over, because there is no clean slate. As long as there are people, there’s people, you know? Revolutions presuppose that we can somehow escape that.

But we can’t. There are no fresh starts. Not really. This is what we have. There’s no escaping it.

Back at It

After a week of not, I’m hoping to get back at the bombing story.

I can’t decide if the skull afghan is going slower than it should or faster. The skulls are pretty quick to make. I just need a lot of them. I think it’s that it’s basically a granny square and I feel like I should be able to pop those off much more quickly than these squares go.

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And half my yarn for the third Third Man afghan has arrived!

Anyway, I’m going to go burn a few minutes on the bombings.

Oh, Hey, I Also Finished that Thing

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My second Third Man afghan is done! Well, not washed yet, but done. I really like it. I’m glad I got to try some new things. I’m glad I wasn’t stuck doing those new things too much if I didn’t enjoy them.

I did that join I promised myself I would only use on baby blankets, because I thought this was a small enough afghan that it would be okay. And it was–just okay. But, holy shit, I took what I’ve learned this past year from some of my more difficult afghans, and look how fucking awesome that border turned out.

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Now I’m working on this skull afghan, which I like and am already annoyed by. I think it will lie flatter once washed, but we’ll see.

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And fuck it, here’s one of the nephew.

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