Friday

Just to recap for locals making weekend plans:

The launch party is at East Side Story at 6 p.m. I suspect actual doings won’t start until 6:30. You can pre-purchase copies here (and that’s the only way for out of town people to get books that I know of at the moment). You don’t have to pre-purchase copies. Plenty will be available at the event.

But once they’re gone, they’re gone.

How is this Real Life?

I went to lunch over at Two Boots and Muddy Waters came on. People started to whoop. Customers were whooping. And then they started to dance. And, even after that died out, when a new person came in, he or she would start dancing. Even though he or she hadn’t seen the others dancing.

It seemed like magic.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure it was this version of Mannish Boy. I’m going to guess it was the subliminal influence of Mick’s butt shaking that caused all the dancing.

Clowning Around

clown

Yesterday I went back up to Gallatin for the thing they were having out at Bledsoe’s Fort–a bunch of reinactors from the early days. It was all very interesting. I talked dolls with a woman for a long time, Native American tattoos with a couple of Indians who lectured me on how stupid they thought the term Native American was, and weaving with a guy who does the whole nine yards from flax to linen, which was really interesting. I always imagine with things like that, which require multiple steps, or, think about, say, cake making or any kind of baking really, when it’s more than just “Here’s a raw thing. Put it on heat until it’s cooked.” and I think of the people who first figured it out and I wonder a lot about them. All those steps. How long did it take you to figure out how to take them?

I also met this clown, who did not speak, but she blew my mind. She hand-made this outfit. The stitching, which she let me look at, was extraordinary. I tend to find clowns creepy, but I thought she was beautiful. And she was like if a contortionist and a dancer had a happy baby. That was her act, leaping and tumbling and juggling. It didn’t feel so far removed from something sacred.

One part of last week was hard. Not in a bad way hard. Last week was fucking awesome (and I’m fully expecting this week, when it runs in the paper, to be a lot less fun).

But here’s the thing. I think of myself as a blogger, first and foremost, and someone who aspires to write amazing ghost stories. I don’t really consider myself to be a straight up fantasy writer or a straight up horror writer. I just think of myself as writing ghost stories. All my stories are about a past that comes creeping up on you, no matter how buried. And I like it that way.

The non-fiction I write, I normally write because I have learned something interesting that I might want to use in my fiction later that I think other people also might find interesting. Sometimes I don’t end up using it. Sometimes I just find it really interesting and want to share it with other people because I think it helps me make better sense of where I live.

And I have this ghost story I really want to write.

But some of the responses to the Isaac Franklin piece make me wonder if I should go back to the Nashvillains book and let the ghost story sit. And I don’t know.

Right now would be the time to have a plan and goals, but I genuinely am not sure what I should be doing next.

We also went to see Age of Ultron yesterday and, though I thought it was good, I thought the clown was better and I’ve been thinking a lot about why. And I genuinely think it’s because she stood under a tree with a very few props and yet I felt like something transcendent was brushing right up next to me. I marveled at her (if I might be excused for using that word) and I didn’t at the movie. Also, I think I’m becoming some kind of strange old romantic softy in my own way as I get older, but I find “we can’t be together” storylines irritating not compelling.

Anyway, that’s where things are here. Which thing deserves my attention? How do I see myself?

I’m not sure.

The House in Harmony with Fairies

stone house

Oh, you guys! I totally forgot to tell you the awesome, strange thing I learned while in Gallatin. This house, up in the Bledsoe’s Fort park, was built by an Irish guy. The two doors are not the front of the house, but the side. Back in the day, all of the doors, they think, were double-paned–so you could keep livestock shut out and still have a breeze.

And everything about the house is set up to be in harmony with fairies. They have a big book explaining it. But the house is only one room wide–apparently fairies like (or used to like) that. Every window is across from another window or door so that, if a fairy came in one, he or she could easily pass through the house and back out. Apparently, from what I can gather, fairies like (or liked at the time) to be able to flow freely through a place without getting lost or stuck in it. You also enter right in the bedroom of the house. The back of the house was the dining/work room (dude was a weaver). And apparently this was also important, that guests be welcomed into the heart of the home and the front door open onto the hearth.

I immediately texted a picture to local author, Sara Harvey, for reasons.

So, This is What It’s Like

All day long, people complimented me on the Isaac Franklin piece. And it felt wonderful. If anyone didn’t like it, they didn’t tell me. Which was also wonderful.

I feel proud.

And relieved.

I kind of want to cry a little bit, but I can’t articulate why.

Isaac Franklin!

It’s up! Holy shit. The art is incredible.

I worked so hard on this, rewriting it and rejiggering it and reworking it, that my feeling upon seeing it live is almost tears of relief.

I think it’s good. One point that I would make, in retrospect, is that Franklin was considered at the time the epitome of a good slave trader. If you were going to “ethically” buy slaves, Franklin & Armfield was your best option. And this was Isaac Franklin.

There was no firm moral high ground to stand on as a slave owner. But one of the most important points that Ed Baptist makes is that there was no firm moral high ground to stand on throughout the whole cotton industry. An abolitionist wearing cotton shirts was a compromised man.

Anyway, fair warning, it discusses slavery and all that is entailed in that.

Corduroy Roads

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

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.

Isaac Franklin and All His Stuff

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.

Sex slaves.

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 Bowen House in Goodlettsville

The Houses I Looked At

Walking

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?

Letting the Land Work on You

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.

bells bend 4 bells bend 1 bells bend 2 bells bend 3

Keeping Things Moving

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.

TSLA Ghosts

When you come across these in the microfilm, there’s a note that urges you to ask to see the originals, if you need to see what they have to say. I did not need to see what they had to say. Or, anyway, this seemed to be saying enough.

croft--more historical swirls croft--even more but they're cool historical swirls croft--historical swirls croft--holy crap historical swirl croft--more and more historical swirls

Empty Apologies

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.

Those Darlins “Be Your Bro”

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.

Anyway, I wrote about it some more over at Pith.

Memories

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.

Salt the Earth

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?

The Stranger You Bore

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.

Update on that Dog

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.

You are what you are and you make it hard

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.