And read along. Every day’s going to be a cool story about Nashville. One of those stories will be mine!
I am somewhat expecting that I might be banned from Sumner County after the Isaac Franklin piece comes out, but, in the meantime, I say, let’s live it up!
1. If you’re rich, or if we all chip in, we can buy Isaac Franklin’s dad’s house.
2. Bledsoe’s Fort Colonial Days! In my heart, I am already there.
Last night I went out to OZ, which is this huge artistic event space out by the Tune airport. It used to be a cigar factory. It’s pretty ordinary looking from the outside, but it’s extraordinary inside. Wow.
I was there to see William Tyler’s “Corduroy Roads.” It was fantastic. Ha ha ha. You can tell I’m just writing this for my own blog. Saw this. It was amazing.
But so the deal is that Duke University has opened its library’s special collections to artists and commissions works based on the things in it. Which, damn, man. I wish there was some way to make happen here.
So, Duke has these two old books of Civil War images. And William Tyler is a guitarist who’s worked with Lambchop and Will Oldham who is a Southerner. And the piece was… well, there were two movie screens that showed Duke’s photos and moving images made from Duke’s photos. Tyler moved around the stage playing music and ruminating on what it means to be a white Southern man who feels some great desire to make sense of the Civil War but who isn’t one of the boys Faulkner describes as dreaming it’s… I can’t remember… the second day at Appomattox or whatever.
It was really interesting to hear him talk about how even Shelby Foote seemed to not quite get at what Tyler needed someone to try to get at. He had a great quote from Robert Penn Warren’s “The Legacy of the Civil War, 1961.” But mostly he played music, incredible music, while these pictures moved in the background.
I guess because when scholarship can’t scratch your itch, you turn to art to try to get at it.
The part I found most amazing and moving and discombobulating was that, since so many of the images were old photographs, there were a lot of “ghosts,” people or animals who had moved during the exposure time. And so there was a whole portion of the show devoted to looking at those “ghosts” in the photos. It had this effect of making you feel like you were looking at pictures of dead people.
Which, of course, you are.
It was so amazing and the people at OZ were really lovely.
But, for all my talk of what a small town Nashville is, I only recognized one person there. Which is nice and humbling. Here are all these people with interests similar to mine who do things I might be interested in and I don’t know any of them. Not quite so small-townish after all.
Anyway, I think they said it’s touring, so, if you get a chance to see it, I highly, highly recommend it. I’m glad the Butcher insisted I go.
George Featherstonhaugh is a racist, no doubt. In his book, he warbles at length about the calm and placid nature of untroubled Negroes, who only revert to savagery when provoked. But it’s because he’s so biased and so biased in a way that should be sympathetic to the likes of Isaac Franklin, that his revulsion at the slave coffles stands out. How gross does it have to be if someone like Featherstonhaugh is “What the fuck is this motherfucking bullshit evil?”
Anyway, I had been struggling to figure out how to write about Isaac Franklin, but I decided to just go with him being a villain and the white people of Nashville as willing to overlook his villainy I cannot tell you how much I want there to be the word “villainry” which would have a slightly different meaning than villainy. Villainy, in my perfect world would be the actions taken by a villain–plunder, rape, burning down houses, befriending cats, etc. “Villainry” would be the act of being or becoming a villain, adopting the persona of a villain. A peerson’s first act of villainry would, therefore, be to go out and do acts of villainy. Because what bothers me is not so much Nashville missing out on Franklin’s acts of villainy. I mean, yes, he kept sex slaves at Fairview and yes, his neighbors knew, and yes, it did not go unnoticed that he shipped one of his sex slaves and her child off from Fairview right before he married Adelicia. But the raping and the leaving dead bodies in the swamp, he mostly did on the road or down in Natchez.
What bothers me is that white Nashville completely missed his villainry–his transformation into a villain. Because his victims were slaves, white Nashville could not see Franklin’s villainy for what it was and thus missed that he was, in fact, becoming a villain.
But think about it this way. Isaac Franklin loved to rape women. We know this from his letters in which he discussed it. We know that he especially loved to rape enslaved women who, by his measure, looked “white.”
No matter how racist you are, no matter how sure you are that people of African descent don’t deserve better than the depravities the white South unleashed on them, when you hear that a white man has such unabashed enthusiasm for raping “white” women, would you marry your white daughter to him?
Oliver Hayes did. He put his daughter in bed with this monster.
So, I read the one biography of Isaac Franklin. It was written back in the 30s and purports to be scholarly. But it’s the kind of book where, whenever the guy quotes someone in the 1830s being viscerally disgusted upon seeing what Franklin was up to, he has some footnote about how that person is obviously ignorant and we all these days understand that people are complex. And even this biographer, smoother-overer of all things unseemly about Franklin, says he had “mulatto mistresses” at Fairview, up in Gallatin, before he married Adelicia Hayes.
He had literal sex slaves and it was so well-known that even the guy who’s devoted himself to shining up Franklin’s reputation can’t leave it unmentioned.
Here’s a list of things we have thanks to Isaac Franklin’s money: Belmont University, the University of the South, Beersheeba Springs, Angola Penitentiary, Gallatin Road, Metro Center (yes, a whole fucking neighborhood because Franklin liked horse racing, which made it reasonable to try to keep that part of town from flooding); the Fairview subdivision, Ledbelly… I mean, maybe you could argue we have the Blues and thus most forms of American music because of Franklin, since he moved so many people into Mississippi in bondage.
The Butcher claims that the loop the dog and I did was only a mile and a half and he can’t explain why it took me an hour and a half to walk it. I just don’t think it’s physically possible to walk a mile an hour. I think you could roll that fast. Now, granted, I did have to take pictures and fight with the dog and traverse a huge canyon and a lot of mud, so I guess that built in some time.
But I also think it’s pretty obvious that I fell into some kind of time anomaly. I thought I was taking a forty minute walk, but, bam, sucked into an alternate dimension.
Ha ha ha. You can tell I’ve been listening to Welcome to Nightvale while I crochet. I’m embarrassed at how long it’s taken me to realize that podcasts are the perfect thing to listen to while crocheting. I’ve been putting documentaries on in the background before now.
I’m really pleased with the octagon afghan so far. It seems to be working up fairly quickly. My only concern, and it’s minor, is that I’m using up a ton of the border color and may need to go buy more.
And the walk, I think, knocked loose some things. I think I know what my Grassmere story is going to be. And I think, maybe, I’ve found a historical figure that will take me thought the part of the Nashville book I’ve been stuck on.
So, who knows? Maybe I was sucked someplace where writing ideas happen. Who can complain about that?
Well, it’s been an interesting weekend. Most importantly, I went out to Bells Bend with the dog and walked around. It’s still surprising to me that this is a real place and I get to live here. The especially cool thing about going out there this time of year is that the river is visible, because few things have leaves at the moment.
I kind of feel like I should say something about the mess going on in the comments. The truth is that I don’t really know what to say about it. I appreciate everyone’s concern, though.
I think one trick to being a writer (I don’t know, really, I just have some superstitions) is to have things at various stages. What’s being shopped. What’s just about ready to be shopped. What things are still in some kind of draft form. What’s being mulled over. Oh, yeah, and what’s been sold. Ha ha ha. That’s a thing I’ve learned. Being published can start to seem almost like an afterthought. It happens so much less frequently than submitting things that it’s really easy to come to believe that the cycle of submission and rejection is the end result of all this writing.
A local artist and I are mulling over a children’s book about the sisters who gave the land for the zoo. I was at the TSLA to see what kinds of things I might think about the sisters once I knew a little bit about them. It’s nice to discover that you like the “eccentric sisters” you might come to spend some time with.
But one thing that struck me about their “eccentricities” is that the biggest one is that they tried to run a farm on the land where there’d been a farm for 200 years, even once it was surrounded by the city. And, in order to preserve the farm in the face of urban encroachment, they had to become very, very modern in their own understandings of themselves–they really ran the day-to-day life of the farm–in ways that certainly seemed strange to outsiders. But nowadays, other than having cattle in the middle of town, what’s so weird about a female farmer?
But now I need to go to the zoo and just hang out at the house and get a feel for it at that end. The Butcher and I have been tossing around ideas, but I want to see that house for myself.
Today one of the Vanderbilt rapists testified in his own defense. He apologized to his victim, claimed he didn’t recall what had happened, and his victim vomited.
Who can blame her?
When you know what they did to her, what the fuck good is a “sorry” anyway?
I’m not against apologizing. I think that, if you’ve wronged someone and you do genuinely feel contrition and it wouldn’t bring your victim any more trauma or sorrow to hear from you, then, yes, apologize. But then don’t expect anything in return.
Sometimes, I guess, what I mean, is that futile gestures are all we have–so you make them, because what else is there?
But when you’re trying to be found not guilty of someone’s rape is not the time to apologize for it, you know? It’s not genuine contrition if you’re still trying to slip responsibility.
During the Vandy rape trial, witness after witness has described seeing the victim in some state of distress–the roommate saw her being raped on down to the people who just saw her passed out in the hall, undressed, sick and injured–and doing nothing. Just getting out of the way.
Over and over, the students describe why they didn’t call the police or why they helped in the cover-up. Two words keep coming up–1. “afraid,” which I get. I can imagine being afraid. But 2. “brother.” These guys, these alleged rapists, were their “brothers.” They didn’t want to stand against them.
We joke “bros before hos” and Those Darlins sing all about how they “wanna be your bro.” And most of the time, it is funny. Being your friend is awesome. You seeing me only as something to “stick it in” is not that fun. Ha ha ha.
And then something like this will happen to illuminate just how far the distance between bro and something to stick it in is. What woman doesn’t want to be your bro if it means I get help, even when I’m in the wrong, if it means I get your concern, even to the detriment of the people I’ve hurt? Being your fucking bro is awesome.
I don’t know. I suspect I might have, in college, been the kind of person who would have seen something wrong and not really recognized my obligation to help. But I don’t know. Someone passed out? Someone I knew? I feel like I might not have been the right kind of help, I think I would have tried.
But you don’t know, do you? Not until you’re in those circumstances. Maybe it’s not about identifying with the people doing the terrible things as it is trying to avoid being lumped in with the the kind of people this stuff can happen to.
Sometimes, when I wake up in the middle of the night, the dog is sleeping in the hall, looking to my un-spectacled eyes, like a small cloud taking up most of the hallway, but not yet ambitious enough to become fog. And I have this sense of stumbling into something precious and mysterious and not for me. Like these are the moments that fill most of the house’s time–animals sleeping quietly while we’re not paying attention.
If a house can have memories, this must surely be what it remembers in its bones.
Today, I was walking back from lunch and I passed by the building where the Professor used to live. And I was struck by the notion that women in Nashville must always have walked home from lunch on beautiful days like this, thinking of their friends. I was just taking part in a history that doesn’t matter, that goes unnoticed, but that was always common.
If a city can have memories, women walking away from lunch must seem like the most ordinary of them, like the way you always remember what your grandmother’s kitchen looked like, or how a lightning bug feels in the hollow of your fist.
I’m following the Vandy trial on Twitter. As I mentioned. It’s really, really disturbing.
I want to have some coherent thoughts about it, but I just keep thinking what it would be like to know those guys and to have to reckon with them doing this terrible thing, just using this woman like she’s not even a person to them.
Like I said last week, there are things your loved ones do that, thought terrible, still make a kind of sense with who they are.
But, my god, if this wasn’t a surprise to these guys’ families, what the hell kind of kids must they have been?
I’m following along as best I can with the Vandy rape case. It’s depressing the hell out of me. I can’t help but feel for Batey’s parents. What must it be like to know that your son raped (with his friends) a woman and then peed on her? Everything I’ve read suggests he really was a “good kid.” If there was anything to indicate they’d be sitting in a court room watching video of him doing this horrific thing, I haven’t seen it.
There are some reprehensible actions that, even if they seem improbable, don’t seem implausible, when you know someone. I imagine that, as horrifying as it is to have a relative who kills someone while driving under the influence, you probably know your relative is the kind of person who might drive under the influence. You see how you got from person A to action B.
I don’t know. I’m torn between having a hard time believing that none of them had any experience doing this type of thing before and feeling for their parents. How strange it must be to feel like you’ve so fundamentally misrecognized who your own child is.
It came back last week and I contacted Animal Control through their online form. It came back this morning and I have again contacted Animal Control. My heart cannot handle watching how animals people drop off out here end up.
I feel so helpless, but that dog is just not safe to approach and I don’t want to feed him because he’s not safe to have near the house.
But he’s in really bad shape. The Butcher saw him this morning, though, and said he looked like he’s put on a little weight, so maybe someone’s feeding him? Ugh. Fuck.
The Butcher is in his room puking. The dog is…. I don’t even know. Possibly trying to lick his face. Or at least look with interest at the garbage can he’s puking in.
A one-eyed dog, limping and deaf, has been wandering around the back yard (and other places. Say what you will about out here. There are a lot of other places.). Saying it like that makes it sound quaint. The dog is dying. I tried going up to it, to see if it had a collar, but its behavior was so unnerving that I backed away.
In a story, that dog symbolizes something or is The Old Man come to launch himself over the line one more time.
In real life, that’s just a dog someone should have taken care of, but didn’t, and now it’s not safe to approach.
Here’s the thing. I considered feeding that dog. And I know what I’m about to say is going to seem fucked up, but I decided against it. Because having that dog in my back yard more consistently isn’t safe for the people and animals who regularly are in my back yard because I want the to be.
It’s not less valuable than Sonnyboy or less worthy of a full belly than the cats.
And I know it’s hanging around back there because our neighbor tosses table scraps into his back yard and because our back yard smells like a place where a dog can find some food and water.
I’m just choosing the animals I like and know over it. Even knowing what it means for that dog.
Now we’re in a metaphor. I feel like I should announce that.
But here’s the thing. Over the past couple of months, an unnatural amount of people have told me how nice I am and I never know quite how to take it. I don’t really perceive of myself as being nice nor is nice a trait I’m particularly worried about having. I worry about being mistaken for being nice, because I feel like that leads people to inadvertent and unnecessary hurt when they discover that I’m not. But I don’t really have much interest in being nice. It seems terrifying and unsafe and to put the people you care about at risk.
A nice person would find a way to make that dog more comfortable. Feed it, at least.
I’m choosing the well-being of my household over the well-being of the strange dog lurking about. If it’s still around on Monday, I’m going to call animal control. I figure the death they give it, if they can find it, will be better than whatever’s waiting for it out here.
I don’t speak to my sister-in-law. She still managed to massively disrupt my holiday. My dad tries very hard to be nice and kind to her.
I don’t really see the payoff.
So, I hope she’s praying for his long and continued good health.
That’s what I gathered from the Battle of Nashville stuff. All the women were crocheting. As you may remember, I’m on a quest to try to understand why Nashville doesn’t have a sheep-eating culture, even though we seem to happily eat anything else., since nm pointed it out to me.
So, yesterday, I talked to a Civil War reenactor who raises sheep for wool out in Wilson County and she has a theory I think may be the correct one. Almost all sheep in Middle Tennessee were, first and foremost, for wool. People out in the country who raise sheep, even wool sheep, do eat lamb at Easter. Even now. But it’s got to be a special occasion that you’d be willing to eat something that’s going to make you money for the rest of its life.
If you were eating the sheep from your herd regularly, it meant something had gone really wrong for you–that you were so desperate to eat that you couldn’t wait for wool to sell. So, she thinks that eating sheep, except at Easter, may have become associated with deprivation and hard times, here. And that may be why there’s not a lot of sheep eating here. It had for a long time, the connotation of hard times, and, even when it didn’t have those connotations anymore, we didn’t have the years of recipes and traditions about eating it.
I don’t know. But it seems plausible.
It went really well. A ton of people came and I was really delighted to just see face after face of people I know. It was also cool to see a bunch of people I didn’t know. There was mingling and talking and then I read some from the book and then they showed the book trailer. People bought copies of “Allendale,” which pleased me. And it was just really exciting to see people excited about the book.
Plus, Tom Wood, who so generously agreed to be the last werewolf in the book (I guess spoiler alert!), or to at least have it insinuated that he was, came with fangs! And offered to bite everyone. You know, just in case you wanted to be a werewolf. It made me so happy that he is enthusiastic about his part and willing to play along.
The leather-bound edition looks amazing. It just looks so much like an artifact, like something you might carry around in your pocket, an ancient thing for consulting.
So, that was cool. People high-fived me multiple times, which made me happy. I mean, people liked it (score) and they clearly felt invested in it (double score) so that makes me really happy.
It also clarifies for me that, as much as I like being recognized as a good writer, that’s not really what I want. I want to write good things. I want those things to be of value to people because they love them, not because they love me. Don’t get me wrong. It means a lot to me that my friends like what I do. But I really want my stories to have a life beyond me, to be entertaining to people without me.
I want my friends to love it and tell me I did good, too, don’t get me wrong. I just want that and for the stories to find a life without me. And shouldn’t I have it? Shouldn’t I have it? Shouldn’t I have all of this and passionate kisses. Woo-ooh-ooo.
Ha ha ha.
Anyway, here is the awesome book trailer.
“I mingled with them, and distinctly remember hearing one lady say she had a good-bye kiss from the General, and she should not wash it off for a month. Oh! what a noise there was! A parrot, which had been brought up a democrat, was hurraing for Jackson, and the clapping, shouting, and waving of handkerchiefs have seldom been equaled.”–Life of Andrew Jackson by James Parton
On Arrow, the news is all the time breaking in with coverage of whatever Oliver Queen is doing. “Local billionaire, Oliver Queen, goes to a party.” Just mundane shit. But it got me wishing that our news covered our local billionaires like that. “Local billionaire, Bill Frist, gets coffee.”
Anyone in Belle Meade could be a superhero and we’d never know, because our news sucks.