Jesse Wilson

I spent all my lunch hours last week looking into Jesse Wilson, a guy from the 50s who blew shit up in an anti-government, anti-union tantrum and then I forgot all my research at work, so I have nothing to write up for my book.

But bad ole Jesse got me thinking about how things become legend, what has to happen for them to be passed down.

I don’t have a good answer for it. Everything about Jesse’s story is hilariously bad and no one got killed. And he got freed from prison, in part, because he learned to read.

Like they actually thought “Well, if this man had known how to read, he wouldn’t have tried to blow up the mayor.” I mean, I’m as pro-reading as the next person and I’m not sure that’s how it works.

But how are people still not telling this?

My other favorite part of the story is that, I guess because he couldn’t read and write, his secretary had to help him with all this illegal shit, including trying to kill people.

And in the trial, they kept referring to her as a jezebel who had all these men under her sway and doing Wilson’s bidding, I guess, because of the magic of her feminine wiles.

So, I’m expecting Eartha Kitt or Julie Newmar. I mean, I’m expecting fucking Cat Woman. Old school Cat Woman. Like, the kind of woman with hips that make you forget all reason. Someone capable of using her eyelashes to command you. The kind of woman you’re a tiny bit afraid to fuck, because you know, even if you’ve fucked 10,000 people, she’s still going to know things that will break your mind in two.

And instead, she is the plainest, most ordinary woman you’ve ever seen! It’s delightful. I mean, I still choose to believe that she was wiggling her hips and batting her eyes and based solely on charisma, it worked.

But I also deeply suspect she was a violent psychopath, just like Wilson (in my opinion), and because it was the 1950s, the best she could do with her ambitions to be a bad-ass gangster-acting nightmare was to hook herself to a man with similar ambitions and pretend she was just helping him.

And I kind of want to see a movie about her, but with her being plain-looking. Because that’s my favorite part.



I was digging into Emmett Carr some yesterday, a minor figure in the bombing story, and I’m struck by how much his active racist life–meaning, the time in which he made the papers–seemed to be about trying to be a big man. He was a Klan leader–the Grand Titan of Middle Tennessee–and he was trying to start up a Pro-Southerners group  and then he broke away from the Klan and joined some other Klan. And he ran for State Senate. And he ran to the media every chance he got.

I kind of see him in the vein of Donald Davidson. Davidson and Carr seemed to believe in the front of their minds that white people were superior to black people, in general. But somewhere, in the backs of their minds, because they hadn’t risen to the level of prominence they wanted, in other words, because they were only above average, couldn’t an extraordinary black person, if given a level playing field, surpass them?

So, by god, the playing field must be kept uneven.

But there’s another group of people in this bombing story who are violent scary assholes in many facets of their lives and so also violent scary racists. These folks leave a trail larger and longer than just their racist activism.

So, you have guys like Carr running around screaming, metaphorically, “I’m important! I’m important! Treat me like I’m important!” And then you have these other guys being all, “You’re going to be sorry.”

They feed into each other. The “I’m important!” guys will happily stand at the front of a crowd of “You’re going to be sorry”s. And the “You’re going to be sorry” guys are glad to have someone point them in the direction of some people who need to be sorry.

And I think there are rare cases, like with Stoner, where a person could be both.

But I’m looking for the traces of those “You’re going to be sorry” guys. So, after everything, I felt like I’d wasted a lot of time on Carr.


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.

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.


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.

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.

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.

How Do Single Parents Do It?!

I’m definitely sick. I went to bed at 8:30 and only got up at 7 because the cat was complaining about his lack of breakfast. And you know he’s not opposed to peeing on things if he’s unhappy.

And just getting up and doing that wiped me out. Being sick when you’re a single parent must be hell.

Anyway, yesterday I went to get my stuck earring taken out and I ended up just replacing them all with new, higher quality earrings.


The piercer and I were talking about how she got started and such and she was telling me about the first time she saw a woman covered in tattoos (as the piercer is) and how, when she saw that woman, her very first thought was “I bet nobody messes with her.”

And I keep thinking about the wonder of a woman who doesn’t get messed with.

It was also weird because the dude who ran the counter recognized my name, knew me from the Scene. I still don’t know how to handle that shit gracefully.

I also put a border on my Bauhaus blanket! And now I just have many ends to tuck.

But look how awesome it is!


It’s exactly what I hoped and better. I love the red border.

But I’m not buying any more yarn until those mermaid tails are done.


I’m a little afraid I’m coming down with a cold, and considering how together I need my shit to be for the next couple of weeks, well, let me just say I’m thrilled.

Our mayor had an affair with her bodyguard. I don’t care about the personal moral aspect. If one tall, balding accomplished guy is good, I can see why you’d think two would be better.

But I do care about the civic moral aspect of it. All the stuff. Did he feel free to say no? Did others in his department get denied opportunities they would have otherwise gotten because of his relationship to the mayor? People don’t normally retire with two weeks’ notice. How much of a jam did that put his department in?

And I think a problem the mayor has is that she’s now asking the city to believe that all the trips with him were on the up and up, that she would have taken those trips regardless of whether he was her security detail or if someone else was, and that she used her best judgement in taking those trips. Except that clearly her best judgement can be deeply flawed.

I really like Megan and it sucks to see someone you like and admire fuck up this bad. But it’s not any less fascinating. You have goals and ambitions. You know that you’re going to need extraordinary luck and good-will to accomplish them. Why would you risk that?

I guess that’s mostly rhetorical. We know why people risk that. And yet it’s still baffling every time. To me, at least.

I’ve Liked You for a Thousand Years

The Scene is up for sale. I don’t really have any grave opinions on that. If the current owners aren’t interested in running alternative papers, then by all means, they should get out of it.

But also, of course, the Scene is very dear to me and I want it to be okay. So, I’m hoping that someone who understands the importance of irreverent, smart writing steps up to buy it.

And I hope the people I care about are okay.

Charlotte Pike Unsubstantiated Theory

There are two main explanations for how Charlotte Pike got its name: 1. It ran by Charlotte Robertson’s house; 2. It ran to Charlotte, TN (which was named after Charlotte Robertson).

Both these explanations have the same problem: they’re not true. Charlotte Pike did, yes, kind of run near her old house, but not even close enough to be seen from the house. It didn’t run to her house.

And while it’s easy now to look at a map and assume Charlotte Pike ran vaguely out along what is now 70 and then up 47, the Old Charlotte Pike rambles around in the hills east of Pegram and then hooks up with McCoury Lane. Also, if you look at the names of other pikes spoking out from Nashville and where their namesake villages are, you can see that the villages were fairly far away from Nashville on the east side, the side settlers came from–Gallatin Pike and Lebanon Pike and Murfreesboro Pike, for example–but look how close in Goodlettsville and Whites Creek and Nolensville, Franklin, Ashland City, and Leiper’s Fork (the old Hillsboro) are.

I think you can see a ring of towns around Nashville about a day’s cart ride from town. That’d be like Brentwood, Belle Meade, Antioch, Whites Creek.

And then another ring of towns the next day out. That Franklin, Pasquo, Leiper’s Fork ring. The distance Pegram is from town. So, if you were going to name that pike for where it went, Pegram Pike would seem to  be the most natural name.

But the old Charlotte Pike didn’t go to Pegram. The Old Charlotte Pike, when you’re two easy days or one long day from Nashville, is in the middle of nowhere. Up in the hills east of Pegram.

The Robertsons owned furnaces. One of their earliest ones was the Charlotte Furnace, named for the matriarch of the family. And I think if you followed the Old Charlotte Pike a hard day’s journey from Nashville, and knew how to look, you’d find that old Charlotte Furnace.

Crochet Days!

So, this was how I spent my snow days. I love that the afghan is literally the exact same thing I did for the baby afghan, just in a different size yarn. It’s very heavy, though. Like, when you’re under that afghan, you’re going to feel snuggled.

I’m using the left over yarn to make an afghan in the style of a Bauhaus rug, so like vertical panels of horizontal stripes, and I had been debating whether to do it in the Tunisian stitch or moss stitch, but feeling the weight of it, I think I’m going to go with moss stitch, because the Tunisian is super heavy. I don’t want the person it’s for to get pinned beneath it.

My dad’s having one of his knees replaced tomorrow, so the dog and I have to get up there today. I’m hoping for clear roads.

And they announced that they’re not going to put a neighborhood on top of Fort Negley Park. I kind of think there might have been a slight dig/hat tip to me in the press release, when they mentioned that even critics thought the development was a good idea, just not in that spot, which had long been my argument. But also maybe that’s just my ego talking.

History Thoughts

A thing that strikes me in these FBI files is that once the FBI determined someone was crazy, they disregarded them as a threat. Instead of thinking, “Oh, hey, here’s a troubled, unstable loner. He might be easily goaded into doing something bad.” they were just like “Oh, he’s a troubled, unstable loner. He couldn’t get it together enough to do something bad.”

I’m truly starting to think that a side-motivation the FBI had for also going after Civil Rights activists is that they were smart and together and made plans they could follow through with.

The racists they were looking at were not worthy foes. And because they were not exciting to chase down, the FBI didn’t even try.

Also, if I learned anything at all yesterday, it was that racists really hated integrated basketball.


I went to the eye doctor yesterday and our strategy continues to be me having the most sight I can for the longest time I can and drilling about what to do when my retinas finally tear. It makes me feel a little anxious about how creatively dry I feel lately, to think that there may come a time when I can’t see to do the things I enjoy.

I took the dog for a long walk this morning. We went over to the school and waved at a bunch of neighbors and both struggled up the hill. If you listen to the Another Round podcast, you will appreciate that I always say, “Rufus, we made it,” when we get to the top of the hill.  Now he’s laying on the floor and sleeping. Just a minute ago, he was snoring so hard that I could feel the floor rumbling through my feet.

But man, it’s beautiful out there. The tall grass in the neighbor’s yard is yellowing. There’s some plant right at the edge of the woods that grows these tiny red berries and they’re doing that now. The trees all seem on the verge of turning.

I just love this time of year. Even when I’m out of sorts and feel kind of cut off from the mysterious. Even without ghosts, even without feeling the Universe whispering in my ear, this is still a special time.

The Thing Below

So, yeah, that’s happening. Me on the same bill as Kiini Ibura Salaam and Pinckney Benedict. That distant noise you hear is me laughing for a million years.

Why would Third Man put me on the same bill as those two? I think it’s okay for me to say that there is a reason and that reason is the exciting thing I haven’t yet told you about, but which you may now have enough information to give a good guess at, and which will become public knowledge very soon.

It’s weird to have good things when everything is so shitty. I mean, I know everything is always so shitty, but sometimes we’re able to meet the shittiness with grace and love and sometimes, like now, we stand here looking at each other in horror not sure what to do.

I’d like to get back to feeling like I can act and my actions make a difference. I’m tired of not reading fiction and not writing fiction, because I’m overwhelmed by the need to know facts and state facts loudly and clearly and repeatedly hoping someone will hear them and know what to do with them.

I would like to tell you a story or a bunch of stories, like I do every year in October, but I’m going to be honest with you. I don’t have them.

I’m just here, nodding when people ask me to tell them old stories, hoping that, if I do that, someday, the new stories will come back.

Edited to add: Oh shit! They announce it in the press release. The news is loose.

Harvey Here

I should have left work about a half an hour earlier, but I was an idiot. The drive home was brutal. Everywhere you looked was just a wall of water. It wasn’t flooding yet, but we had to crawl because you just literally couldn’t see anyone until you were within maybe twenty feet of them. Driving over the bridge, I had a tiny panic attack because you couldn’t see the other half of the bridge for all the rain. I had to fight the urge to turn around because I was convinced the rest of the bridge had washed away and people were just driving off into the river.

Luckily, thanks to the medication, it couldn’t resolve itself into a massive anxiety attack. I was able to recognize that it was not true and keep going.

I got home okay and the dog was able to get out and pee. But after that, the yard started flooding. The creek alongside the house was roaring. It was so loud I could hear it everyplace in the house. And the low spot in the yard where the creek should be also was a creek.

And before dinner, the front yard was full of water.

But even after dinner, even though it was still raining, the water in the front yard was down quite a bit. I would bet this is when Whites Creek started flooding.

And this morning, the yard is clear. I’m going to be able to get up to the hospital.

Nothing I Can Do, Total Eclipse of the Sun

You know, when you realize everyone has an outlet to write about what they saw and you’re not going to come up with anything creative, just lean into the cliche, I say.

Anyway, yesterday was the solar eclipse and it was amazing. I’m still stunned by how fast it was. It seemed like it took forever for it to get dark and for the sun to be just a sliver, but then it was completely dark and we all took our glasses off and looked up at it and it was… I don’t even know. Everyone went quiet, except for one guy who would occasionally shout things like “Look at the twilight on every horizon!” or “Look at such and such planet.” But it didn’t seem like there was enough time to look at everything.

We saw the wiggly snake shadows, but luckily, you could see them on the edges of totality. I didn’t see any crescent shadows, but I also didn’t go looking for them.

It was just so fast. Is the moon always hurling itself across the sky at that speed? Of course it must be.

The thing I most remember is how, at the totality ended, this bright sliver of sunlight shot out and we all instinctively reached for our glasses or looked away. Literally, just a tiny slice of sun hurt to look at. But it seemed like a flash. Like literally one second it was dark and the next second the flash of light and the sun was back.

You could see through the glasses that it was still, by far, mostly covered, but you couldn’t look at it with your bare eyes anymore.

It was extraordinary.

New Dress Day

Today I’m wearing one of my new outfits. I’m nerdily excited.

Yesterday at Kroger… well, two things. One, this very old man in overalls yelled out “I’m back and this time Mama’s with me!” which… I don’t know… struck me as equal parts hilarious and sweet. Like, that’s a line and you don’t know if it’s the stinger at the end of a romcom or the opening line of an action movie sequel.

The other is that I went right at noon so there were a bunch of people in their church clothes shopping and there was a young woman in this yellow lace dress and I wanted to take her picture or have someone make art of her. The dress was, I guess, pretty see-through but the way the lace was done, it felt very, very modest. Like instead of you looking at her thinking that the lace was giving you a peek at this woman’s naked form, it was more like she was just providing the most appropriate backdrop for this lace.

I’m not a straight dude, so maybe other people were looking at her and being all “bare skin! Woo!” but I don’t think so. I think the way the dress was made, the intricacy of the lace, that’s what there was to see. The dress is what you looked at.


Cemetery Questions

So, I went out to Calvary Cemetery to make sure that some folks were in there who I thought were in there for my big bombing project, and I ran into a priest who was just a joy to talk to about history stuff.

But one of the things we talked about was the old Catholic cemetery and he had it in a slightly different spot than I know Fort Negley thinks it is. He told me a delightful story about what a problem they had getting the Irish Catholics in town to stop burying their dead in the old cemetery illicitly.

But, if the Catholics are right about where the old Catholic cemetery was, then what was where Fort Negley thinks the old Catholic cemetery was?

My wonder…and I’m not sure how to go about figuring this out, since maps of the cemetery are so hard to find (really old maps, I mean) is whether the cemetery at first stretched on both sides of the tracks. The city cemetery, I mean.

Here, I made a map:

City Cemetery

Okay, so the rectangle made by the red and blue lines, the smallest rectangle, is kind of the obvious looking old boundary of the city cemetery. This also matches up with problems the owner of one of the business I know of has had in the upper northwest corner of having gravestones on his property. The yellow circle is very loosely where Fort Negley has thought the Catholic cemetery was based on old maps and an old picture they have that shows tombstones in that area.

The gray circle is where the Catholic priest at Calvary showed me the old Catholic cemetery was. And you can see clearly why they had to get everyone out of there when the land got eminent domained for the railroad. They believe they moved 700 bodies out of the cemetery (though whether they got all the Irish people who were illicitly putting bodies in it, who knows?

So, if the Catholic cemetery was where the gray circle is, roughly, who was where the yellow circle was? Whose gravestones are in that picture?

I have a guess. It’s a guess of pure speculation, and you should not put any faith in it at this point, since it’s just a guess. But if you look above and to the right of the yellow circle, in the city cemetery, you’ll see a big grassy area full of unmarked graves. Those are, by and large, African American graves. Jack Macon, for instance, is in there someplace.

But pre-Civil War Nashville had a small but vibrant community of free people of color. There was some black wealth. Not a ton. But some. There were some black people who could have afforded headstones. Again, not many, but some. Would those headstones have been separated from the grave markers of wealthy whites? Maybe.

Would they have been easily lost due to racist neglect and the needs of the railroad? Yes.

I mean, you can go in the city cemetery and find markers for white people who died in the 1840s and 1850s. But markers for black people with a little money? Again, I’m not talking very many. Maybe even as few as ten or fifteen families, but the photo doesn’t show that many markers, maybe only as many as ten or fifteen families’ worth.

And if that is the old western edge of the black part of the cemetery, is it so hard to believe that’s where they opened the ground and put the black workers from Fort Negley?

Was the old city cemetery originally the size of the red box?

Old Wounds

Yesterday I went over to the NAACP to see what they might know or have heard about the bombings. I knew it was kind of a long shot, since part of the goal of the bombings was to keep who did it a secret from the people it was done to. But I shared some of what I’d learned and… I don’t know. I felt instantly bad about it.

The head of the NAACP, who everyone told me I should talk to because, if anyone would know anything, he would, grew quieter and quieter. He seemed to withdraw into himself.

I think this story is going to open old wounds and I feel awkward about that. But another thing I think I realized in this meeting is just how much I know about this that most people don’t know. Even people who were alive at the time.

And that’s kind of making me rethink some of how I am presenting the story. I need to make sure that I am very clear about who people are and how they fit into the larger national hate movements. Because people don’t know.

But I am very aware that for me this is interesting and fascinating. But it’s going to be painful for folks.

Sitting at the Wet End of a Hose of Words

Happily, I got invited to Third Man yesterday to sit in the blue room and watch while Abraham Smith read his forthcoming book of poetry out loud. It took three hours. We had multiple breaks and were encouraged to bring our lunches, which I did.

It was a small crowd–me, a professor from Watkins who loves old history stuff, poet Ciona Rouse, Adia Victoria and a friend of hers, two women I didn’t know, but the blond one looked vaguely familiar, and I think there might have been another guy. This is why Methodists fill from the back–so you can see who all was there. But I wanted to sit close, so I may have missed who was behind me. And all the Third Man crew.

I know I’ve talked about this before, but I remain in awe of the way that Chet can set the vibe of a space and hold it. There’s a lot of trust he’s able to invoke almost instantly–“Hey, we’re going to do something cool that, if you agree to just be present for, could be wild.”

Having someone read his poetry to you for three hours is surreal. At first, I listened like I would at any poetry reading, paying attention to phrasing and imagery and trying to decide if there was a narrative to the poem or if it was a collection of images. But you can’t–or I can’t anyway–hold a three hour poem in my head. So, at other times, I was just hearing the repeating sounds of words, not even the words themselves, just the kkkkkkk or the chchchchchch and realizing that other people in the audience might have been struck only by all the sssssses.

Then my mind would kind of loop around to hearing words and phrases and verses again, but other times, I would just hear the rhythm of it.

Like, in listening so long and so intently, I forgot how to listen and had to relearn. It also felt mildly hallucinogenic. Every time we took a break and left the dark room and went out into the bright space of the porch, it felt like we were leaving some place where time had no meaning and entering a smaller, flatter world, which, frankly, was a nice respite.

By the third hour, you could see he was suffering. He would stuff first one hand in his pocket and then the other. Sometimes he would grasp his back. Often, when he moved his arms, sweat would fling off him. They mic-ed the box he was standing on, to pick up the sound of him stomping his boots on wood, but by the end, he was not stomping, just, occasionally tapping. He was wrung out.

And I was on his side. We all were, that small half-dozen or so of us, leaning in and willing him, urging him to make it to the end. And he did. And then he collapsed in a chair and I high-fived him.

He was spent and grateful, but I felt like he had done something for us, and I was grateful, too.

When I got back to the office, my co-worker asked me if it was good and I said, “I don’t know.” It seemed weirdly beside the point. It was extraordinary. And I’m really glad I got to be a part of it.


In researching this story, I found a third racist killed by his kid. I don’t know anything about patricide, really, so I don’t know how common it is, but this feels like a group with a lot more of it than most.

I have two main thoughts about it. One that when we don’t deal with social problems like racism, the suffering is society-wide. The people I’m looking at really harmed black people and Jewish people AND they also really harmed their children. Being white didn’t protect their children from them.

Second, I feel like these kids are often harmed a second time because we tend to dismiss the families of racists as also worthless pieces of shit. As if they can’t be anything other than what their fathers were, which lets us ignore the years of suffering and abuse that the kids endured and then treat what they have to do to escape it as kind of a joke.

Me, too. I mean, I laughed when I saw that this dude had died after a fist-fight with his kid.

But it’s not just funny. It’s also really terrible. And you know the 14 words these yahoos love? What future are they securing? I mean, really. When your kids are abused and terrorized because the only way you know how to go through life is as an abuser and a terrorizer, your kids can’t flourish. And removing everyone who’s not like you from the country or the planet isn’t going to make your kids happy and well-adjusted, because it’s not those outsiders ruining them.

The bogeyman is in the house. Has been there all along.

Hard Work

I just want to reiterate how working on this baby blanket compared to the spiral afghan is…god damn. Like, I’m almost done making squares. On a blanket I started on Thursday. Granted, what I have in mind for the border will take a while, but the spiral afghan was SO HARD!

I’m glad I did it, but I don’t want to forget that it was tough and I probably don’t want to make a thousand of them.

Also, on another subject, can I just say that going grocery shopping on the first day of your period is stupid unless you want to come home with seventeen pounds of pasta and two expensive chocolate and caramel candy bars and some cookies you both want to eat and kind of want to throw up to look at?

I mean, I also got some protein and some vegetables, but I got home and emptied my grocery bags and laughed. And then damn straight ate one of those candy bars.

I’m slowly working on my draft. I’m trying not to freak out by how large it is. I’m already at 1,000 words and nothing’s gotten blown up. But I feel like I just need to vomit out everything I know and then I can work on shaping and trimming it. In other words, I know this draft is supposed to suck, but I’m still worried about it sucking.

I also had this dream that the Butcher told me a secret about one of his friends and I then went on a trip with her and blabbed her secret–which she did not know I knew–to everyone and she found out and was pissed. And all day I was like “Oh man, I really fucked up with so-and-so.” And I felt so bad and then remembered, no, it was just a dream. Everything is fine.

Ah, brain, you sure are fun.


So, today, as I was walking the dog and thinking to myself, if I could be doing anything today, what would I like to be doing? I thought, I’d like to be working on a draft of my project. And then I thought, no, that’s nuts. I don’t have anywhere near enough research done.

And then I thought, fuck that. How do I know what research I still need to do if I don’t start seeing what I know?

Anyway, my feeling at the moment is that this story will be “Why don’t we know?” And maybe that will shake some things loose.