Crochet Thoughts

I think I have decided that I like to crochet a lot, but not too much. Ugh, that sentence makes no sense. Okay, there are patterns that are just ‘do nothing but crochet in this direction for this long and then come back.’ Eventually those start to bore me. How many more feet of the same color can I stare at?

But the type of afghan like what I’m working on now, which has a lot of small parts that have to be put together, I also don’t necessarily like. I don’t like when the putting together takes as long as the making of the motifs.

A thing I think I have come to realize about this designer is that, for her, the joy is in the putting together.

And I have to tell you, once I realized this was what she loves about the process, it made me less resentful of how long it’s taking to get everything together.

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Anyway, on Thursday I’m going to talk to some folks about the bombing book. I am nervous as fuck.

I really want my book to strike the sweet spot where it is conversational and accessible to regular people and also I want historians to find it useful. But if ordinary Nashvillians can’t read it then I have failed.

But I haven’t read a lot of history books written like I’m writing this–with snarky asides and long meandering discussions of whether a person’s literary aesthetic informs their racist violence aesthetic.

So, I guess, if you have read a book like that, let me know. I’d like to compare approaches.

Complaining Helps

After I complained about the bombing book, I decided that I’m not writing a history paper or a straight-up piece of journalism. After all, I don’t know who did my bombings. I can’t answer the basic who, what, when, where, why, and how questions (though I do have what, when, and where down okay).

So, I thought, just go ahead and muse. Write the things you want to write. Admit your doubts. Say what you wonder.

And that has opened things up for me.

It’s not going to be very long, but maybe I can get some good pictures.

I am a Patient Man. I wait. I wait. I wait. I wait.

If you know me in real life, you know that I’m waiting around for things. I’m waiting around for the FBI to send me files I FOIAed a year ago. I’m waiting around for the National Archives to tell me how much lead time they need to go through JB Stoner’s file before I can see it.

I do internet searches on my lunch hour, trying to think of combinations of words or phrases that might bring some heretofore unknown piece of information to me.

And I work on afghans.

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Hard

Yesterday, I did a reading at Cheekwood. The day before that, I found the grave of KKK leader Emmett Carr. While at Cheekwood, I was talking to C. about life and, anyway, I admitted that I have been crocheting so much because this bombing story is just so fucking hard.

It’s not just that I don’t think I can figure out who exactly did it, it’s that these dudes are terrible. I hadn’t realized how much I cling to the idea that overt racism can be an unfortunate character flaw in an otherwise lovely person. I mean, I think I know better than that, but you really confront your unconscious biases in a situation like this.

I think I’m a racist. No, I mean, I know I’m a racist. I think that’s terrible and I try to overcome it, but I’m not going to, because so much of white society is set up to guide me easily into racist positions and beliefs. I am a habitual racist and, like someone trying to quit smoking in the 70s, it’s hard to give it up because everything is set up to make smoking as easy and convenient as possible.

But I keep thinking of this reflex my mom has, whenever she’s recounting the story of something bad someone we know has done, to say “well, I’m also a sinner.” So, my mom can tell you about how their neighbor ended up being Ted Bundy II, and she’s still going to insist on seeing herself as also fatally flawed. And I find that deeply endearing but also frustrating, because there’s just a world of difference between my mom, who can get lazy and tired and not be her best self, and Ted Bundy, who has set out to be the worst of himself.

And I’ve wanted to believe, because I have to live in this world, that the Ted Bundys are rare and outnumbered by people like my mom.

But in a story that starts for someone “I’ll hurt children,” there are a lot more Ted Bundys than Betty Phillipses.

And they’re terrible all over. Their hatred of black people isn’t their only character flaw. They’re lousy spouses. They’re terrible parents. People flee from them, and rightly so.

It’s made me acutely aware of how much racism is built into the assumption that race terrorists can otherwise be good people–as if a willingness to hurt people doesn’t show a willingness to hurt people, because the people they’re hurting are black (or brown or gay or whatever).

But it’s also tough.

And I realized I’ve been crocheting so much because I need out of my head, out of the space I share with these people.

I keep thinking, why am I doing this? But it’s because the story as it’s been told to us is wrong and lets too many people off the hook. And I just can’t accept that.

King

I spent some time yesterday looking into the death of King, as a part of my consideration of J.B. Stoner. All it told me was that I need to get a hold of the new Wexler book, which basically shows how the Mississippi Klan supported Ray in his efforts to kill King. I think. That’s what I took from the book’s description anyway.

And if the Klan is involved, then I’m curious to know if they were able to find out what Stoner knew when.

I guess I’m slowly coming to the opinion that… well, I guess I’m conspiracy adjacent. I don’t believe Stoner was behind every terrible tragedy of the Civil Rights era, but I do believe that he was supportive of every terrible tragedy of the Civil Rights era. And sometimes that support might have come before hand and sometimes it might have come after.

But I also remain convinced that the number of people willing to plan to do things that could kill people was small. Of course, the number who would support them was larger. But I mean, the number of actual people who would take part in something that required planning and action. That was small. Maybe fifty people, if that many, in each Southern state.

I may be making a distinction without a difference but I see one between bombing someone–which requires planning and acquisition of materials–and heat of the moment violence, like people burning cigarettes on sit-in protesters or even filling their own restaurant with bug spray to try to drive protesters out.

It’s all bad, but one allows the perpetrator to tell him or herself that he or she wasn’t planning on doing that, that they’re not a bad person, that they were provoked. The other doesn’t. The other requires someone at peace with hurting others.

In the era I’m looking at, roughly 1940 to 1980, we know we have probably two guys responsible for the Clinton bombing, probably five guys responsible for Hattie Cotton, one or two for the JCC, and two or so for Looby (unless some of those overlap), a handful of people in Brownsville, a couple of people in Memphis, Gladys Girtenti and her accomplices.

And again, to be clear, these folks had support. It wasn’t like Nashville just had ten problematic people and everyone else was fine. But the people who would plan to do something they knew could kill people, that’s a very small number.

And I just don’t believe they were unknown to each other. I will believe, forever, that Gladys Girgenti could have given you the names of the bombers I’m looking at.

And I think Stoner could have provided a list names of the vast majority of racist terrorists in the South willing to plan to kill someone.

I don’t think he was their boss. He’s not some secret super villain. But he was their ally. That’s for sure.

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.

Special

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.

Work

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Writing

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.

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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!

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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.

Cold

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.

Seeing

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?