That Afternoon

I have an official offer on the bombing book! And I got surprise art in the mail!

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And the yarn I need for my cousin’s afghan and to make Venus of Willendorf came in.

And yet, even after all that, I’m not sure fucking up my meds and getting stepped on by the dog was something I’d be willing to do again in order to have another afternoon like that.

Anyway, the book deal is still kind of a secret, but I think my readership here has dwindled down to people I’d tell a secret to anyway, so there you go.

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This Morning

I’ve only been awake an hour and the cat swatted the dog who then stepped on my foot, which caused me to yell at everyone and refuse to give anyone morning pets. We got rained on on our walk. And I forgot to take my medicine last night.

Which… may explain why my morning went how it did.

I’m very frustrated with the FBI. The John Kasper files I got off of archives.org are much, much larger than the files the FBI sent me. The amount of stuff that’s missing is infuriating. A DC couple’s visit with Kasper in which Kasper brags about his violent friends? Gone. Most of the Hattie Cotton material? Gone. Stuff I care much less about, like all the women who were coming to visit him when he was living on Brushy Hill Road? Also gone.

When I realized that, I basically shoved them into a file on my computer and relied on the archives.org files. But last night, I was thinking, maybe the FBI files contain some unredacted names that I might need, so I decided I should browse through them.

And I came across a thing I hadn’t seen before. Either I missed it in the archives.org version or it’s not in there, but it confirms my belief that one person was working with the FBI and that the FBI kept back vital information from the Nashville police.

So, hey, that’s nice to have.

Field Day!

For the first time, I got invited to Field Day for the Scene. I felt like an awkward doofus the whole time, but I also had a blast. And I got bit by so many flies. Yuck.

It was fun to see folks in that context, though. Like Erica is delightfully inclusive. Everyone get out there. Everyone cheer. Everyone have a good time.

And Patrick did a one-person double-play! He caught the ball (batter out) and then stepped on second (runner out). Which I guess happens all the time in professional baseball, but it was fun to see in wiffle ball.

Fort Houston beat us, though, and by the end of the day, I was so tired of their coolness–their friendly attitudes, their awesome shirts, their supportive cheering of children, their cute dogs–that I finally shouted, “You’re not even a fort” after they did one of their cool cheers.

So, you known, not my proudest moment.

The Looby Bombing, cont.

I went back out again to look at the location of the Looby bombing. It wasn’t very helpful other than in making me feel like I need to have printed out pictures from the era to take with me.

Every time I go there, I feel like I’m seeing something important, but I just don’t have the skills or the context to understand or even recognize what the important thing is.

Like something is staring me straight in the face, but I don’t know enough to see it.

It’s Done!

I finished the afghan. I’m very, very pleased with how it turned out.

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This morning, the dog and I met a very elderly neighbor and, you guys, the dog was so gentle with him. He went up politely and sniffed the guy, but did not jump. I was just so proud of him.

I have some addresses of the families of some people from my book. I’m trying to decide how to contact them in a way that’s safe for me and yet not off-putting to them.

I remain confused by the lack of curiosity among local journalists as to who did this. I had thought it was because they knew and just, for whatever reason, couldn’t report it.  But that really doesn’t seem to be the case.

Another weird thing about the Looby bombing I just noticed recently, because of the new historical marker, is that the offices for the sit-in movement were right behind Looby’s house.

This still says to me that the fact that they didn’t use the alley or plant the bomb behind Looby’s house matters. If they had known the area, they would have had to think behind the house was a better spot.

Rest

I’ve been trying to let the bombing story rest for a bit. I sent it off to the editor. I’m contemplating the safest way to contact some of the people I feel like I need to try to contact. But I’m also trying to leave it be for a little bit, so I can come back and see with fresh eyes what it needs.

I am also almost done with a couple of massive, massive things at work.

And I finished the afghan.

I’ve started the peacock afghan. 112 motifs. Hopefully they’ll go fairly quickly. Though I’m still debating whether I should run the motifs on the diagonal instead of up and down. And, also, how to handle the doodads, which would work for up and down, but I’m not sure how they’d work on the diagonal.

Ooo, This Afghan

Okay, so I tried to get a picture of the whole front done, but the cat was having none of it.

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Still, except for a few ends to tuck, it’s done! I think the key for doing an afghan like this in the future would be to figure out how to do it join-as-you-go, because really, the most odious part is all the joining of the small pieces. Anyway, I plan on a loose blocking this weekend.

And you guys! Look at how it looks backlit!

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It’s so beautiful! I can’t even stand it.

Margo Price

Last night, the Butcher and Monty’s grown woman friend took me to the Ryman to see Margo Price. It was wonderful. She sang a song in which she called John Lennon a feminist and an asshole, and she mourned him. She did Proud Mary with a gospel choir. She played drums. She played piano. She smashed a guitar. The lighting was fantastic.

I kept thinking, too, that part of what makes her show so amazing is that she does really belt out songs. It’s like Brittany Howard or Tina Turner or Janice Joplin–let’s take this voice out for a ride and see what she can really do. It’s so much fun to listen to her and watch.

The other thing I really liked about it was that her stage presence isn’t Sexy. Which isn’t to say that she’s not pretty or anything. Of course she is. But her stage presence isn’t “don’t look at me,” but it’s also not “don’t you want to fuck me?” It’s more like the joy of watching an athlete do something well she’s trained for for years.

I kept thinking that her stage presence reminded me a lot of Barbara Mandrell, though I’m not sure how much of my memories of Barbara Mandrell’s shows are real and what’s been warped by time.

And Jack White was her special guest and his hair looked fantastic!

It made me want Jack White to do a whole duets album with women he knows.

Girlfriend

I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I was stalked when I was younger. I tried to get help, but “he said I was his girlfriend.” Apparently, back then, you could do whatever the fuck you wanted to someone if you declared her your girlfriend.

I try to leave that in the past, but things aren’t that different now and it comes back up.

I think of that poor dead girl in Texas, who got described as that asshole’s “ex-girlfriend” until her mom yelled loud enough that he was never her boyfriend.

It’s my birthday on Tuesday. I’ve been thinking a lot about my life, about myself.

We like to think that kids are resilient, that they can bounce back from whatever happens to them. But that really is such bullshit. That poor girl isn’t going to bounce back.

I don’t think I’ve bounced back. Not really. And it wasn’t so much the being stalked thing. It was the discovery that no one in a position of authority would help me. That they, in fact, blamed me.

No, that’s not quite true. That’s not what broke me. It was discovering that people who loved me blamed me and would not help me. And that they would continually put me in situations they had to know were dangerous, because it was easier than standing up to their peers.

Sometimes I just feel so broken.

And a thing that has helped me get through life is the belief that things are better, that this kind of shit doesn’t happen anymore, because at least now people know that girls aren’t responsible for boys’ actions.

But instead, we’re having sincere conversations as a society about whether we can appease these assholes by forcing women to love them. The “give me a woman to abuse or I’ll hurt or kill a bunch of people” gambit is paying off. We are considering sacrificing girls to these assholes.

You can dress it up as much as you want in the Beauty and the Beast myth. You can try to argue that women just have some inherent “something” that enables us, if we try hard enough, to change men. You can say that makes us special.

But no one willingly gives up something they value. We’re expendable. We’re trash.

And yet, even knowing that’s what society thinks of us, we have to go out and be people in it. Frankly, I’m not very good at that.

Butt Stuff

I have diagnosed the dog with a condition I think of as “tender butt.” It’s like when someone goes to brush your hair or put your hair in pig tails and it’s just excruciating, but only located on his back half.

Which means he will let you brush the shit out of the front of his body, happily. But please don’t brush his back end. Or touch it or look at it too interestedly.

And which means that, during his spring blow-out, he looks particularly silly.

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This morning, he did let me gently rub his butt, which did result in a lot of fur coming off, but I think I could have gotten three times as much with a brush.

Also, all week, I’ve been waking up at 5:20. I’ve been able to get back to sleep, but it was freaking me out a little bit. Why that time? This morning I noticed that the last time my email had been checked on my phone was 5:19. So, I think my phone must ding, which wakes me up.

And apparently someone has audio of Jason Statham calling a dude a fucking faggot, though he apologized and said he didn’t remember saying it and… I don’t know. Can’t we just have one nice thing in this world?

Bah

I’m just so grouchy. I know part of it is PMS and part of it is work and part of it is just living in this country right now and feeling helpless to change things.

Twice this week I’ve found dead snakes on our walk. That also makes me mad. There’s just no need to kill a snake on neutral ground. I mean, I’d argue there’s no reason to kill a snake, period, but I accept people have different opinions when feeling trapped by one.

But if you have room to avoid it and it has room to avoid you, don’t fucking kill snakes.

 

Closer to Done

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In a surprise to me, I’ve ended up loving to doodads, but kind of not liking the wavy side edges. This still feels very, very architectural to me, though, so the parts on the edge that stick out remind me of tiny turrets.

I’m oping it’ll be done by the end of the month. I won’t say I wouldn’t do it again, but I think it’s much more likely you’ll just see the squares and the doodads again.

Shift

I’ve been thinking lately about counterculture. This idea that, if the dominant culture doesn’t fit you, you just make a new and precious room for yourself.

This works pretty well if part of the dominant culture isn’t searching out what’s unique and special and assigning it monetary value and then turning it into a commodity and selling it back to you. But once you have something precious outside this system, it becomes a part of the system.

As the song says, if you go against nature, that’s part of nature, too.

What is outside this exploitative soul-crushing madness that cannot be consumed by it?

Nothing. Because we are the eyes and ears of the system. If we find something or make something or do something or be something, we have alerted the system to it.

I watched the news yesterday. As that other song says, I watched the news today, oh boy.

And my natural impulse, upon seeing all the dead people, is to insist that this is not me, these are not my values, this was not my choice, this is not my America.

But it is, you know? And I don’t know how to change it. This is me, and I don’t like it.

I see why apocalypses are so attractive to people. It’s so much easier, so much more comforting, to believe that there’s an end, a finality, to all this stupid evil.

And much harder to bear to realize that we are in a long, an endless, line of people who woke up one morning and asked, “How can this go on like this?” Only to find that it does. Endlessly.

Paschal Beverly Randolph

Yesterday, as I was working on this afghan, I found a new-to-me podcast, “Occult Confessions.” It’s either the kind of thing you will love or hate. I love it, but with the caveat that it feels very much like the kind of thing that’s going to end in a scandal. If you’ve ever been in academia, I promise you’ll know what I mean by about fifteen minutes into the first episode. The fault lines are clear. I could almost write the Chronicle article we’re all going to read in ten years right now.

That doesn’t have anything to do with the content of the podcast, though. That’s super interesting. And I learned about Paschal Beverly Randolph, who was a 19th century occultist I’d never heard of, who founded his Brotherhood of Eulis here in 1874 and then promptly disbanded it months later.

Here’s an interesting bit, though, His biographer is like “I don’t know why Randolph came to Nashville. Maybe a lingering fondness for J. B. Ferguson?”

But he came to our insane asylum, which, though I can’t remember the dude’s name–not Adelicia’s husband, but the next dude–was run by a Spiritualist. That has to be why he was here and specifically why he was there.

Visit

My nephew came to visit me yesterday! Well, I went up there at lunch and spent a ton of time playing with him, but I had forgotten everything I wanted to bring him, so they stopped by later.

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He was so surprised! And he liked my light fixtures. And the dog, even though he seemed very overwhelmed by all the fur and slobber and loudness.

And I got more done on my afghan. I fucked up majorly. I mean, majorly, because I was so tired. I was trimming a tail and I cut the end of the seam. This should have caused the whole seam to unravel (picture how tugging opens a bag of dog food), but it didn’t. So rather than picking it apart, I just left it. I mean, I picked at it and tugged at it, but I couldn’t get it to come open, so… I don’t know. The nice thing about how these seams are is that it’ll be really easy to fix if it does come apart. But damn.

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Also, this morning, I saw a flock of turkeys in the field and the tom saw me. He puffed himself up real big, as if to tell me I’d better not even try to come near his family. Toms are fearless.

Happenings

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I love how this is coming together. I feel sort of bad giving someone an afghan that is more art that blanket. She can never put this in the dryer. It’s not particularly soft. But it’s so beautiful. I think it’s worth it.

I finished a draft of my manuscript yesterday. I need to have something to send to the editor so he can see what I’m up to and this is it. Or will be after I let it rest a little and look through it.

But I also heard from the National Archives and they have the Hattie Cotton file–200 pages–which they will send me. And the J.B. Stoner file, which needs to be read through by their legal team, but that can be done.

The whole Stoner file is 2,000 pages. Obviously, I’m not doing that. But Jesus Christ, how do you end up with a 2,000 page FBI file and one conviction? Like, what then was the purpose of keeping a file on you?

I just want his early years, and that also seems like a much more manageable two or three hundred pages. The archivist who is helping me even found that a bunch of Stoner’s ’58 file was in another spot, and made sure I would know to ask for it.

I suspect that’s either his Confederate Underground activity or his run-in with Bull Connor. In other words, the stuff they did actively try to get him for.

It’s really weird compared to fiction–the process of writing this. When I write fiction, I agonize over everything and am convinced I suck as a writer. Rereading this, I’m like, oh, hey, this is really good. This is really engaging. This is really funny. Like, I’m finding the writing part really easy (knock on wood).

The parts I’m struggling with are bigger-picture things: Should I interview so-and-so? Is there another investigative avenue I should be pursuing? Is there something I’m missing?

It’s a really nice change of pace. Also, those questions aren’t killing me. They just seem like stuff worth mulling over.

Am I…am I enjoying this?

Magical Thinking

I feel like I have to be careful not to succumb to stupid ideas that make me feel more in control of things. Like, for instance, my belief that life likes equilibrium, so if you have an exceptionally good day or nice time, a bad day or horrible time is quickly to follow. So, try to keep your elation to a minimum, in order to reduce your suffering.

That’s stupid.

But as nice as last week was, yesterday was as awful. I don’t really want to talk about work stuff here–or I do, but I think it would be a bad idea–but at one point yesterday in a discussion with my boss, I started laughing, which turned to crying, which then was just a mixture of laughter and crying I couldn’t control, so I sat there just literally being  hysterical mess. I had a fantasy of just crawling under my desk every time someone tried to talk to me. Not right before, so that they’d think I was in the bathroom or something.

Just, at some point in the conversation, noping right out and hiding under my desk.

I already have a headache, but I’m going to try to get through today.

Doodads

I found my doodad groove and worked up 11 done ones, so I could stick them to the end of the afghan that’s done.

Y’all. Y’all! Look at this.

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I love this so much. I want to put doodads on all my afghans. I’m making a peacock afghan next and I’m kind of already pondering how I can put some doodads on it.

Nightmares

Last night I had my first nightmare about the book. Well, it was about how someone was forcing me to watch The Walking Dead and then I got sucked into the TV show, literally, and had to run from zombies. But I’m not dumb, subconscious. I get it.

I’m very worried that I’m going to miss some obvious fact I need. Or that I’m drawing the wrong conclusions because I don’t have a broad enough knowledge.

I have to keep reminding myself that my primary goal is to give someone better than me a framework from which to work. Someone with more knowledge, who knows these people better than I do, who will look at everything I’ve found and sneer about all I missed and how could I not know that this means that.

Still, you guys, there’s so much that I feel is just… like it’s just laying out right there and no one has put it together.

Sunday

I’m up to the point where I should be fleshing out my Robert Gentry portion, but yesterday I just couldn’t spend that much time with him. Instead, I spent the morning doing chores, then I went to a birthday party, and then I kind of worked on my doodads.

They’re so fussy. But I still really, really like them and think they’re going to be great on the afghan.

Bah, okay, I should make the most of this time. Off to Robert Gentry.

Doodad Work

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I got all twenty-two doo-dad triangles done and I’ve now started on the first round of dangly bits.

It’s not so bad if you can get into a groove.

I got some good work on the manuscript done yesterday, too, and I’ve been thinking about how, even thought it’s obvious how close together horror and comedy sit in our brains–why we sometimes laugh at funerals and scream in delight–we don’t acknowledge that very well in real life.

Once something is funny, it’s not dangerous. Or at least that seems to be our overarching belief. And you can see how this bites us in the butt with a guy like Bill Cosby who joked for years about drugging women to have sex with them, but it was funny, so we took it as harmless, even though people were being harmed by him.

And, y’all, these racist terrorists are hilarious. I mean, there is not a stupid, fucked up thing they won’t do. Fuck each other’s wives, steal from each other, spend decades as FBI informants narcing on their friends, try to kill each other in the stupidest ways possible, etc. Literally standing there with blood on their hands insisting the Klan is a heritage association and not violent.

And they were also a deadly, evil blight.

Sometimes, I feel like making something funny makes it safe for us. So, I’ve been mulling over whether acknowledging the humor in my story is responsible.

But I do think things can be horrific and dangerous and also hilarious. And I think it is okay to laugh at dangerous things as long as we don’t mistake our laughter for an indication that the thing we’re laughing at isn’t that bad after all.

Which, you know, I often think is Mel Brooks’ position, but I’m not sure people really get that in his work, either.

And I’m no Mel Brooks, so I worry.

Never Enough

I’m out of yarn. Not completely but enough that I could either stop and buy yarn now or muddle on making aesthetic decisions I’m not quite satisfied with only to end up still needing to buy yarn, but now less happy with the look of the blanket.

While I’m waiting on yarn, I’m going to be doing the little decorative flourishes on the half of the afghan I have done and, I think, making my doodads. I had kind of decided to leave the doodads off, but I have time now and the odds and ends I have left are perfect for doodad construction. Plus, look at this doodad I made:

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It looks so cute! How am I supposed to resist adding those, even if it is a butt-ton of work?

How Things Went, So I Don’t Forget

As you all know, a year ago the FBI told me they’d destroyed their file on the Looby bombing. I thought this was weird and sucked and I’ve been frustrated since then in my efforts to find anyone who could explain why they would do that–destroy the file on the unsolved assassination attempt of a sitting U.S. politician.

I thought it was weird, but I assumed someone higher up the food chain than me would understand it. On Wednesday, I ran into Keel Hunt, Lamar Alexander’s old chief of staff. The Looby file and its destruction came up. He insisted I call Hal Hardin, a former US Attorney. Hardin is too young for my bombings, but he prosecuted Gladys Girgenti.

So, I did. Hardin seemed outraged and confused by what I was telling him. And I was like, well, Jesus, if this doesn’t make any sense to a US Attorney…

Long story short, I’ve asked for Jim Cooper’s help in discovering whether the file was genuinely destroyed, and if so, why, or if it was just misplaced. So, woo to that!

Then I went to lunch and they want to do the book! There’s still lots of details to work out and it’s all very tentative so let’s not go to the bank on it or anything. But holy shit. Big day.