I was determined to finish the little pink afghan last night, but as is its nature, it both moves very quickly and very slowly. The border has five rounds. Round one is just a single crochet. Fine. Burn through that in twenty minutes. Next round is the round that makes the loops for the ribbon to go through, also burned through that. Third round, straight double crochets.

Two rounds left. How long can that take? Fourth round–put an infinite number of stitches in each stitch. Oh, okay, then, forever.

Anyway, it made me laugh. I don’t know when I’ll be done, but I’m still hoping I can go buy ribbon this weekend because it will be done.

Okay, so on to the main point of my post. I got a lot of stuff for the project done. I had email exchanges with the SPLC, the ADL, and the women who runs the Jewish community archive here in town. I emailed the regional NAACP to find out if I need to talk to my local chapter. I emailed a guy at work to find out if digging into this story in my off-time was going to cause me problems at work. I’m developing a reading list.

I am, I’m sure, eventually going to have to interview people. But I want to have all my ducks in a row. I want to know as much as I can know before I start “Did you do this?” “Did your dad do this?”

But I now have a secondary goal. My primary goal is to say for certain who did this. But my secondary goal, which I think is almost as valuable, is to say for certain why these bombings weren’t solved.

And, as I was walking the dog this morning, a thing struck me. The law enforcement approach and, in fact, the way we still talk about racism is to view white supremacy like a gang. You at some point make a conscious decision to join. There’s some recognizable way you dress and there’s a membership to be verified. Most importantly, there’s a hierarchy that is knowable and orderly leadership which is obeyed. Therefore, if you can cut off the head–i.e. take down the leader–you can end your troubles with white supremacists, at least until a new leader rises up. From this viewpoint, running John Kasper out of town or keeping him in jail and limiting his ability to “lead his troops” makes sense.

But it didn’t stop the bombings.

And I posit that’s because white supremacy isn’t organized crime, it’s a fandom. Specifically, it’s the Confederacy fandom. So, sure, there are groups you can join to organize with fellow fans. But you can also cosplay by yourself. And some folks might want the full-on fan experience where they go to the place and do all the things with their heroes. But for others, they might just go to one thing a year and maybe watch the rest on TV. And there’s no organized hierarchy. I mean, do you know who the president of the official Star Wars fan club is? If you met him and he was like “Yeah, we’re all going to go lay wreaths at Carrie Fisher’s door, you want to come? Her daughter will be there.” you might say yes, even if you’re just a minor fan. But if he came to you and demanded you go to Fisher’s house, you might bristle. Who is he to order you around just because he belongs to an official group and you don’t?

So, if the people in Nashville who did these things are Confederacy fans, as much fun as they might have getting riled up by John Kasper and as much as he might instigate them to decide “tonight is the night!”, how does getting rid of him solve the problem of violence in the Confederacy fandom?

Obviously, it does not.

Where is the Start?

This bombing story is making me so sad, I can’t even begin to tell you. It’s just shit show after shit show.

But where does it start? That’s the problem I’m having trying to understand how this happened and why it remained unsolved. Does it start with Ezra Pound? Does it start with the Southern Agrarians? Does it start with the people of Whites Creek looking out over the fields next to the creek seeing the man they knew was Frank James behind a plow and waving a friendly hello? Does it start with the sound of Nathan Bedford Forrest’s boots thudding down the hall at the Maxwell House hotel as he goes to his first Klan meeting?

When is the first instance of deciding to keep poison right next to your heart for use on your enemies only to realize later that you’ve not escaped injury?

There is a reason, I think, that snake handling and strychnine drinking remain a part of some religious services. A lot of people–a lot of people–have been hanging their hopes for a long time on the belief that God has promised them they can drink the deadly thing and it will not hurt them. That they can make themselves a poison to their enemies and yet not harm their loved ones.

And if the Hattie Cotton portion of this story has taught me anything, it’s that people pay dearly for the self-poisoners’ false hopes.

Big Project

So, I’m going to try to solve the Looby bombing or, barring that, at least better understand why it wasn’t solved. I’ve done my first FBI FOIA request. I’m reading through a redacted file right now.

I may change my mind as my research progresses, but right now, I’m thinking of the three bombings during Nashville’s integration as related–Hattie Cotton elementary school, the JCC, and Looby’s house. So far, for whatever reason, the JCC bombing isn’t always looped in with the other two, but I’m going to look at them as related until proven otherwise, since the guy considered to be the mastermind of the Hattie Cotton bombing was a raging, raging anti-Semite and the FBI seems never to have been unconvinced that he was somehow involved in the bombing of an Atlanta synagogue.

I figure if you have a raging anti-Semite connected to two school bombings and suspected of being connected to a synagogue bombing, when the JCC gets bombed, he should get a hard look at that bombing, too.

But it’s going to be a lot of work and I’m a little intimidated, but I feel like we’re at the last minute for witnesses. I’m not interested in bringing anyone to justice, whatever that might mean, but I do think we need to know the truth. We need to be able to say who did what.

Am I Cool Enough?

There’s kind of a hierarchy of cool in Nashville. At a basic level, it starts with are you cool enough to be on the list to get into places free instead of having to pay? But then, once you’re in, do people recognize you? Are they happy to see that you’re there? And maybe some folks see you and acknowledge you, but are you cool enough to get the good seats? The special treatment? Etc.

I’m not very good at figuring out where in the cool hierarchy I am and there’s nothing more embarrassing than thinking you’re at a higher level than you are and having to find out in public that you’re not. So, I usually go for the cool that is “The list? Pshaw. I paid my way in.” Like I’m too cool for cool. Though I once ended up on a list twice and, I admit, that delighted the shit out of me.

But sometimes shit’s expensive and you just have to try to use your cool cred. So, I was kind of laughing this week because an internet friend is coming to town and she has what would be considered a cool job in nerdy circles.

So, I asked a friend who works at an expensive place people like to visit if he could comp us tickets. I told him who she was and he knew her. So, he tried to push me off on the people in his organization who would be more appropriate for dealing with her, since they would probably want to make contact with her, maybe show us around themselves.

So, the more appropriate contact got a hold of me and told me that the tickets would be there for me. Have fun. No personalized tour. They didn’t need to meet her. In other words, exactly what my friend could have done for me.

Among these young whippersnappers, we did not have the cool cred my friend assumed we had! That made me laugh. But I was also relieved, because I like being the tour guide and this way I can point and sing and tell stories myself without the facts getting in the way. Ha.

Still, I admit, sometimes it’s nice to be cool.

We Have to Legalize Pot and Require Old People to Smoke It

Yesterday I went to the retinologist for my yearly check-up (I am stable and my retinas look slightly better even, though nothing to write home about.) which meant sitting in two waiting rooms with elderly people.

It was alarming. First, they were sitting around talking about how wonderful Trump is and how he’s not a career politician and disparaging politicians who were. Then an old guy told another old guy how he’d missed out on Vietnam due to a terrible car accident caused by his own recklessness. A woman kept interrupting the conversation because she was convinced the accident having old guy was talking to her and she would get pissed and embarrassed when he said he wasn’t. Then more talk about how glorious Trump is.

Then the old ‘I missed Vietnam due to an accident’ guy got called back and as soon as he was out of earshot, they switched to complaining about how anyone could possibly have the time to go to the Trump rally tomorrow and, if they weren’t so busy, they’d be down there handing out job applications to people. And at first I thought they meant the protesters, but no! No, the removal of the biggest Trump supporter allowed them to change their conversation from “fuck the people who don’t like Trump” to “fuck the people who like Trump enough to go see him.” But the exact same snide tone.

And then they launched into complaining about kids today which lead to a conversation about how kids are ruined by third grade. THIRD GRADE! I mean, I’m sure there are some dick third graders out there. I’m not discounting that. But they meant the whole lot. And I can’t help but guess that third grade must be about the time that kids start to get wary of this meanness in these old people.

My dad and I had a conversation recently about Fox News because my dad is really disturbed by how much his friends are affected by it. He said it’s not even that they watch it that bugs him. Like, if they were devoted fans of some show on there the way that he’s a fan of Jeopardy and tries to make time to watch it every day, that wouldn’t concern him. It’s that they leave it on all day, so even when they’re not actively watching it, it’s the noise in the background.

I thought of that yesterday because that’s what struck me listening to these old folks–not the content of what they were saying, though that was weird and alarming (I mean what kind of weird cognitive space do you have to be in to flow right from Hurray Trump! to Fuck those Trump Supporters?), but how, even if you didn’t listen specifically to what they were saying, there was that sharp, snide tone. The same one you would pick up on if you had Fox News on in the background all day.

We spend a lot of time alarmed at how much TV time kids have, but I think my dad is right. Old folks could benefit from turning off the TV and going outside or reading a book or listening to music or, hell, even turning the TV back on but watching something they enjoy instead of something that feeds their worst impulses.

The Presentation

I think the presentation went well. I had too many census records that were too hard to see, but people gasped where I was hoping they’d gasp and they asked such good questions. I think it worked out that I didn’t come up with an answer for where Bud Rogan was buried, because I at least was able to share why and how I failed to come up with an answer and how I’d go about finding an answer, if I were going to.

And then I said that I wasn’t going to because, without the permission of the Rogan family to dig further (hee) into Bud’s burial place, I’d just be what they feared from the time he died–a white person more concerned about finding the body than letting him rest in peace.

There were a handful of TSU faculty there and I said what I normally say, that I consider myself a history buff as opposed to a historian, because historians do stuff that regular people can’t do, but my goal is to do history, publicly, in a way that shows other non-historians that they, too, can do this. That’s why it’s important for me to be wrong sometimes and follow-up sometimes and change my mind about things.

But then afterwards one of the TSU people came up to me and said that I was a historian, not a history buff, because I corroborate my theories and try to be clear when something is just a guess and when I know it. And I have to admit, that felt really nice.

I also had a nice lunch with a historian I admire and she told me that she’s notice that the tour at Belmont has changed since my Isaac Franklin piece and she thought that was directly attributable to my piece.

And I have to tell you, this is a nice but weird turn of events. I’m used to the reactions I learn about to my pieces being negative. It’s weird and nice to think I might be doing something that matters.


So, This is What Nice is Like

My first post for the Post is up!

The reaction to it has been really wonderful. I mean, I’m sure someone someplace is saying something shitty about it, but I didn’t, myself, hear from a single asshole. I heard from a ton of people who loved it.

And it feels pretty wonderful to have written something that found a large audience of happy people. It kind of reminds me of my New Shackle Island piece, but on a much larger scale.

I also got to have this weird experience where I wrote this and then someone at the Tennessean wrote this. And on the one hand, certainly we need to get the park fixed, so I’m all for a higher profile discussion, and also, if the information has been in the Tennessean all along, then hell yes, who is better to comb through their archives and get a definitive answer than the Tennessean?

But come the fuck on! If you’re going to use the piece I wrote as the outline for your piece and just use the quotes I already found instead of finding your own, then use my name.

Ha ha ha. It is super flattering, though. I don’t think I’ve ever written something before that caused the Tennessean to feel compelled to also address it.

And thirdly, last night when I got home, the dog went for a gallivant in the neighbor’s yard and I called for him and he ignored me and then I said, “Come on, buddy. It’s too muddy for me to come get you.”

And he came home!



I have to find a way to stay engaged enough to, oh, you know, do my job for Pith and yet not sit at my real job paralyzed in front of the computer waiting for the next bit of bad news.

Speaking of Pith, this weekend we went out to look at a part of town where the Trail of Tears had gone through and there was an old Indian village. A thing I will never tire of is the moment when I realize “Oh, shit, that’s what this is.”

Like, for instance, when you’re driving up 18th Ave and you’re going up hill but it makes these stair-step jogs, as if you’re crossing a series of terraces, that’s because you’re driving through an old quarry–the old quarry the state capitol and the old state prison came out of.

And so there was a moment when I looked at that old map of the Whites Creek Road when I realized, holy shit, the Trail of Tears could not have gone up the Whites Creek Pike, because the Pike didn’t go in until the 1840s. Here, along the river, this road on this map, is it. Here’s the way it went.

Who had seen this map in recent years? Just whoever digitized it at the TSLA and whoever put it online and then who really looked at it? Let’s say a hundred people looked at the map when the TSLA announced it was online. How many people realized what they were looking at? That number’s hard to guess, but maybe ten, maybe fewer? Of that amount, who would have realized that other people didn’t know this? And of that amount, who would have a platform to say “Oh, hey!”

I can’t tell you how much it blows my mind, how much it delights me–always delights me–to feel like I might know something no one else knows yet.

But I also had another experience with this map, before I went out, where a friend was telling me about the Indian village that was there and he mentioned the mounds and I was like, “you mean these bumps?” and I pointed to them on the map. So, in that moment, I was in a small group of people who had seen the map but didn’t know what they were looking at.

And he was the one person, the first person, to look at that map and realize what he was seeing–the only known rendering of those mounds. Archaeologists have known they were there, but no one’s ever seen a picture of them or a drawing of them or an indication on a map of where they were. Until last Friday.

It was amazing.

But here is the sorrow to go with delight. Those mounds, most of which were burial mounds, were there when the Cherokee were forced through town. The scope of the shitty thing we were doing as a country is hard to realize, hard to focus on, it’s so large. And while I do think that the trauma of the Indian wars was partly the driving force behind walking them through settlements they had tried to stop–look, you didn’t destroy Nashville. You didn’t destroy Clarksville. We’re destroying you.–and I’m not sure we were trying to send any less blunt a message than that, it’s hard not to read into it a message of “look how we live on top of your dead, how we knock down your mounds, how we erase you from the landscape.”

Because that’s the other thing that struck me doing the research–when the Trail of Tears came through, we weren’t certain that those weren’t old villages of tribes we were familiar with. Some folks had begun theorizing that they were not, but that wasn’t widely accepted.

Hell at that point they were still not sure where saltpeter in the caves around here came from. (Hint: batshit).

So, you know, the “empty Eden” story we tell about Nashville when we got here has to be so much bullshit. We arrived at a place full of villages. Creepy, empty villages, but villages. And we didn’t know how old they were or who they belonged to. We just settled in those villages and fought off the people who came to drive us out.


Strange Days

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Strange Architecture of Dreams

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

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

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

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

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

Jemima Clancy?


This is a map of Nashville from 1805. Here’s a link to the original, if you want to compare how the map maker made certain letters. And here’s a later, cleaner version of that 1805 map.

The newer map renders the name you see there on Lot 80 as “Jemima Clancy.” The hitch in that particular interpretation is that, in 1800, there were only three Clancy families living in the USA. None of them in Nashville. Which isn’t to say that by 1805 someone’s widow or daughter couldn’t have been here, but is to say that a land-owning woman named Jemima Clancy anywhere in the country probably would have left more of a trail than her name on one map.

There were Chaucys living in the country, but not many more than Clancys and, though it’s rare to find women on census records that old, no Jemimas and no one living in Nashville.

There were quite a few Cheneys. And I did find two Jeremiah Chaneys. The senior Jeremiah lived at Marsh and Barren Hundred, Washington, Maryland, which is an amazing name for a place. His son, who I’m just digging into, was also Jeremiah Chaney and he served in the Revolutionary War and lived (and died) over in Overton County.

So, my question for you dear readers is, do you think that name could be “Jeremiah Cheney?”

Peopled Out

The Butcher also has tomorrow off and though he’s excited about the two of us hanging out, I’m like “Noo, I had two days of alone time planned!” It will also be nice, but I am not an extrovert. I’m just a very enthusiastic introvert.

It was lovely to see everyone, though. And lovely to sit out in the sunshine all day for two days.

I’ll probably have thoughts when I can think again, but my brain is a little fried.

Weekend Outside

It’s the Southern Festival of Books this weekend. Yesterday was a washout due to the rain, but today should be nice and tomorrow glorious.

I hope to see tons of people I know and to think a lot about books.

It Strikes Me as Victorian

I’m not done putting my bright green row on my peacock motifs. I have exactly half the motifs left and I’m not sure I’m going to have enough green. I’m going to be so mad if I need to buy a whole other skein for like five motifs. Ha ha ha. We’ll see.

But I made myself up a column to see what it will look like with the green that will be the most plentiful green. I think I like it. I don’t think of this kind of dull green as being Victorian, but I think it’s the way it shows off the stitches or something. When I look ati it, it just looks very Victorian. I mean, I guess the peacock motif is very Victorian.

Anyway, I hope it looks okay. I’m nervous that it doesn’t look quite right.


Yesterday I went over to the State Museum to see some artifacts for a “spooky things at the museum” thing I’m doing for the Scene. And, man, the things they have are so…I don’t know. They are really spooky, which is excellent for my story, but they are also these intimate, very personal items created, often, at the saddest moment of people’s lives.

I want to make sure I don’t lose sight of that.

Fake Park?

Yesterday, I went down to Murfreesboro to wander around the wetlands that used to be Black Fox’s camp. I don’t think I’m nuts for trying to do this. I came across a few pictures of the area where it appears people go hiking. I found a brochure someone had done for the city about the area.

But it turns out it’s just a wooded area behind some houses in a subdivision. I couldn’t even figure out if there was a place to park, let alone if there were real marked paths.

I felt so dumb.

I wish there were more ways to learn about Nashville’s, and Tennessee’s, Native American history. I’m just not finding the resources I want. Like, I don’t know what questions I have, but I know the stuff I find doesn’t satisfy them.

I also find it really frustrating that the conventional understanding so clearly makes no sense. Like, if there weren’t people here to trade with, why was Timothy Demonbreun here?

But more than that, when you say Jean (or Charles or whatever his name was) Charleville came from New Orleans before New Orleans existed as a city, how do you explain how a Frenchman coming from the south–Creek territory–was accepted as a trader by their enemies, the Shawnee? Like, we all know the Creek and the Shawnee fought and we all know the French intermarried with everyone. So, wouldn’t a French guy coming up from the south have been seen as Creek or Creek-allied?

I’ll tell you why we don’t. Because we’re so committed to the “no one was here” narrative that we don’t learn basic Native American history (which is also not our faults because finding basic Native American history is not that easy). We don’t think of Nashville being able to become Nashville because of what was going on in the Creek Nation or the Cherokee Nation or with the Shawnee or whatever, so we don’t look.

But it matters.

More of the Same

I have a theory, built on an observation, reinforced over the course of this past week, that women divide men up into two groups–dudes you need to keep an eye on and dudes that are some woman’s project (like, she’s working on transforming him into a “good” guy).

So, say you’re in a place. Let’s not mention any specific places, but a big open public place a woman thinks she should be able to go without issue. She steps off the elevator and turns to the right, to head toward the large room with seats and computers. Three men come out of the room to see who’s coming off the elevator. Two of the men dart back inside. The third man moves around in front of the doors she’d like to go in. She gets the sense they’re doing something in the room they’d rather her not see.

How many women do you think would go into that room? Past that third man? I don’t know. I’m going to say a little less than half. But I’ll also say that I think somewhere closer to 3/4 of women would immediately understand why the women who didn’t go in the room didn’t go in the room.

After all, you have to trust your gut and keep an eye on dudes.

But let’s say that one of those guys is the boyfriend of an acquaintance of yours. You don’t know him. You don’t really know her. You recognize him, but he obviously didn’t immediately recognize you.

Here’s the thing women don’t admit. Now more of us are inclined to go in the room. Not because we feel more safe, but because not going in the room means that we’re saying that this man our friend knows is one of the guys you have to keep an eye on.

And you don’t fucking disrespect some woman and her project that way.

The mistake I made this past week was not in misinterpreting what’s going on. But by the time I stumbled on the third fucking group of angry women talking shit about my “privilege” and how disappointed they are in me, it dawned on me: I’m in trouble because I shit on some women’s project. I saw men they’re “working on” as unsettling and their behavior as cause for caution. I impugned their (the women’s) ability to transform these men.

I have a lot of thoughts about how unhealthy it is for women to take it upon ourselves to try to transform men–just starting with how incredibly icky and disrespectful it is to the men and how women are not the civilizing force of society and it’s weird to assume that is your job AND WEIRDER YET to assume it’s your job and then suck so bad at it–but who cares?

The important thing is that I was complaining to the Butcher about all of this and how women are talking about sitting me down and talking to me about my privilege and he laughed and he said, “You should tell them, ‘Sure. Let’s meet in the 3rd Floor Reading Room at the Library some Saturday morning.'”

And then I laughed, too.

A Friend of Crows

I came home yesterday shaky and excited, the stain of a cherry lime-ade spreading across my “We Get What We Deserve” t-shirt. I took the dowsing rods and my mom out into the back yard, way back to where we’d buried the dog. I showed her how to hold them. I showed her how it worked–how they crossed when I crossed the dog’s grave. I asked her if she wanted to try and of course she did. And she stepped on the dog’s grave and they crossed for her.

My mom has her degree in biology. She’s trained to think things through. She knows about the ideomotor phenomenon. She just looked at me and I said, “I know, right. It makes no sense.” She wandered around the yard a little more. No further crossing. You know it can’t  be real, can’t really work, and yet, there you are.

And then a squabble of crows barked in a nearby tree and we looked up to see them harassing a hoot owl. A big one. A couple of mockingbirds were screaming at the owl, too, and a cardinal hopped from limb to limb nearby, as if eager to see a fight. The owl kept looking back at us as if to check to see whose side we were on.

My mom said, “Crows hate owls. Always have. I’m a friend of crows normally, but I don’t like to see them take after owls like this. In this situation, I’m always on the owl’s side.”

I felt the same, even though I knew I was just watching everyone who’d ever lost a relative to an owl letting the owl know how they felt about it.

We watched the argument for a good ten minutes and once the crows got bored, we went inside.

Nice Things

Yesterday I had to go down to the Hall of Fame for a meeting, to introduce my new co-worker to the person she’ll mostly be working with. After we met, that person took us down to the museum and walked us through the first part of the exhibit, pointing things out to her and telling her behind the scenes stories (even things that I did not know, like the gender of the person that destroyed a certain famous, now reconstructed, mandolin–and let’s just say that there’s one gender it could be that makes you say, “Wow, I guess that person must have been on drugs” and there’s another gender that makes you say, “Oh, oooooohhhh, right.” And the coverage of the destruction at the time made it seem like it was the former, but it was the latter.).

My co-worker is not very familiar with country music, with the exception of the O Brother soundtrack and I admit, I’m kind of envious of the enormous task she has before her to work up a passing familiarity with it. I guess I believe she’s in for a real treat. Ha ha ha. I guess we’ll see.

Anyway, we got to Cindy Walker’s typewriter and our generous guide asked my co-worker if she knew Cindy’s song, “Sweet Dreams,” and she seemed confused, but it’s Roy Orbison! So I figured there was a chance she might have heard the song, even if she didn’t know it, so I started singing it and then our guide joined in.

And you know that fantasy you have when you’re singing in the shower? That you will be called upon to sing in some extraordinary circumstances–like maybe you’re trying to get in a pub in Ireland with, oh, I don’t know, Colin Ferrell, and everyone who enters has to sing an Irish folk song and you’re like, “Yes, I knew those morning I sang ‘Wild Rover’ in the shower were going to come in handy, because I know four fucking verse, so you sing it and Colin Ferrell realizes he’s in love with you, even though you don’t have lavender eyes like Elizabeth Taylor, but kind of ordinary blue ones, and everyone in the pub applauds you–THIS WAS LIKE THAT BUT IN REAL LIFE (and no one fell in love with me, I don’t think).

So, my co-worker didn’t know it, but we sat in the sun and ate and talked about Nashville and I thought, well, shoot, you know, this is also my life, too. Still, I wish someone wanted to publish my book.

Charles du Charleville

So, an early Nashville history might read something like “when the first white settlers arrived in the area, they encountered French fur trader, Timothy Demonbreun, who was not the first Frenchman in the area–that being Charles du Charleville.” You might get stuck scratching your head about how the “Virginians” could be the first white people in the area when Demonbreun was here when they got here.

But what of this Charles du Charleville?

I had been assuming he was a Frenchman from Kaskaskia. There are plenty of Charlevilles in Kaskaskia at the time that Demonbreun is there and one of them is named Charles Charleville, though he seems too young to be our man. But you could imagine a scenario in which Charles Charleville retires from fur trading at French Lick, comes home to Kaskaskia and his kids tell Timothy Demonbreun about the awesome trading spot he found.

But! I found something really interesting. A few family historians and Shawnee history buffs say that the great Shawnee leader, Peter Chartier, whose dad is also a delight, had two brothers–Charles Chartier and Jean Chartier–who were fur traders at French Lick where they were known as Charles du Charleville and Jean du Charleville.

This suggests that the area during their lives may have been known as Charleville.

Anyway, I’m trying to see what kinds of historical sources I can find for these guys being the du Charlevilles. Historians seem pretty united in the belief that Peter Chartier did come (back) to the Cumberland, so the area was known to him. But did he actually have brothers?

We have to see.

The Nations

This morning, while I was walking the dog, I thinking about The Nations some more and I was wondering if there were any things that it could mean–like could it be short for something? “The Nation’s Best Donuts” or “The Domination of Mankind?”

And then I remembered that there is a known thing that “Nation” has been shortened from–Donation. Robert Johnson sings about his woman’s “nation sack.”

The nation sack has been the source of a lot of controversy over the years, but it appears that Memphis prostitutes called their purses their donation sacks as a joke poking fun at the donation sacks of tent-revival preachers, which then got shortened to “nation sack” and sometimes conflated with the hoodoo nature sack.

So, that’s a somewhat nearby usage of the term. But I’m not sure what might have been happening in The Nations. But could it have been prostitution? “I’m going to make my donation to the girls.” becomes “I’m going to the Nations.” Or tent revivals?


We have a new radio station in town that’s the renegades from Vanderbilt’s old community station–WXNA (that’s the new station, not Vandy’s old station). And I’m loving it, so far. It’s like listening to interesting people’s cool record collections.

It makes me really happy to hear people doing interesting, creative things.

But I have to tell you that I think we’re seeing more and more a real split between people who can make a living doing the creative thing they love and creative people who have to find some way to subsidize the cool thing they love. The quality of people stuck in the “I do this for free” is exploding and it’s getting harder and harder to make a living doing what you love.

But it can’t go on, I don’t think. If society stratifies like this, then a lot of us will be happy with the entertainment provided by the people we know, which leaves the upper tier entertainment without the audience they want.


The Nations

I’m doing some research into why the Nashville neighborhood called “The Nations” is called “The Nations” and it’s both really interesting–the research–and not very enlightening. The two main stories are just-so stories, I think, ways of justifying the name after the fact.

I think the truth is kind of racist and kind of harder to get at because of that. I mean, no one comes out and says, “We, who did not live there, called it The Nations, because it was poor and integrated because of its poverty and it’s a knock on that diversity” and I can’t yet find any evidence of anyone saying “We, who lived there, called it The Nations.” At least, not at first.

But that’s my guess. Not that “integrated” meant that integrated. You could still find mostly black people east of 51st and mostly white people west, but there were Hispanics and Asians thrown in there, too.

Books, Stories, Fun

Yesterday, I sat around, ate Thai food, talked about book publishing stuff, and the Metallica-time travel story I’ve been working on. Then I got to tour Third Man!

It was awesome. The Butcher is right. I’ve been too in my head lately. I need to get out and do some stuff even if I feel like I’m too busy to do anything. I feel tremendously better.

I tried to convince the folks at Third Man, after seeing how into old equipment they are, that they should head over to the Masons’ Grand Lodge and see their stage set-up.

I told them they could drop my name if they wanted to, though they wouldn’t need to.

Then they asked me if I was a Mason, and, of course, being a woman and someone who likes hanging out with gay people, I am not. Illuminati all the way, here. But on my drive home, I got the giggles thinking about the fact that literally the only people in town who might be “Oh, Betsy Phillips sent you? Um, okay, sure, come on in.” are the Masons! And possibly the Tennessee State Library and Archives–though, again, obviously, anyone can already go there.

But also, I think that I’ve figured out my discomfort with the Metallica story. The plot of the story is “scientists invent time travel, immediately decide to make young Metallica fight old Metallica over old Metallica’s audacious plan to get old and change.” So, it would seem that the climax of the story would be when the Metallicas confront each other.

That should be where the emotional oomp is.

But I think the emotional oomp of the story comes right before that, when one scientist is remembering the first time he saw the video for “One.”

The plot-dictated climax isn’t the emotional climax. And, on the one hand, I think that’s fine, because it’s a story about nostalgia and how the past is and isn’t connected to the present. It’s supposed to kind of peter out just when you want a brawl.

But man, on the other hand, it feels weird to me every time I read it, like it’s just not shaped right.

The House from Which My House Came


I don’t know what this is growing in the front meadow, but it is amazing. I don’t think this picture begins to do justice to it. If you could look beyond those tall trees, you’d seem my back yard. Once upon a time, my lot was a part of this house’s land. I don’t know anything about this house but I would guess that it’s probably built by some Stump or a Ewing.

Third Man Books

The Third Man Books first anniversary party was incredible. One thing I really admire about Chet’s ability to set a vibe in a room is that the vibe is “Let’s enjoy this.” No nitpicking, no cooler-than-thou ironic stances, no eye-rolling, just show up and be open to things.

I admit, that’s hard for me sometimes. My cousin, A., keeps lecturing me on what I think she sees as the barrier I put up between myself and genuine compliments, but it’s not just genuine compliments. I think I have a hard time openly enjoying things without also wanting to hide a little of myself from it. I’m trying to be better about it.

Rita Bullwinkel was there in the audience and I got to say “hi.” She does such good work. The Parnassus people were there and they’re so giddy about Stephen King coming that it made me happy for them. I got to say “hi” to Robert Gordon, who I haven’t seen in ages, so that was nice.

It was just such nice energy and it was invigorating to be sitting in a room full of really creative people all delighted to see what other creative people are up to.

It was also my first time in the Third Man building and it was very lovely. The women’s bathroom was cold as shit, though. It seemed like an aesthetic point, but I’m not sure what the point was. Again, maybe it was just the vibe of the night, but there was something nice about “oh, here is very cold.” “Oh, here is warm and toasty.” The building is definitely set up to make you feel like everything has been considered for the effect it will have.

Also, apparently, Third Man is going to start publishing some fantasy & science fiction. So, I slipped a note to Chet telling him to publish Bullwinkel, because, whoa, Christ, of course he should!