It Must be America

Yesterday I went over to Coble’s and delivered the peacock afghan. Both she and her husband said that it looked better in person than it had in pictures–“even more beautiful”–and it always did because I could never get the duller green to photograph right. It always looked more brown than it actually is.

I haven’t read a book since September. I haven’t been able to find comfort in it. I have been thinking, though, that maybe now is the time to go back to Song of Myself. We aren’t anywhere Walt Whitman couldn’t have guessed we might go and yet he still found ways to love this place.

But I spent the weekend having good conversations with people I trust and crocheting and napping, glorious napping.

A Person in the World

My friend from high school, the Man from GM, who no longer works at GM, which feels like a testament to how long this blog has been around–the Butcher is no longer a butcher; the Man from GM no longer works for GM–is here on a visit. It’s complicated. Not in a fun way, but just in the “this is the guy your dad thinks you should have married” way and in the “I am really nauseous from the new drugs and can’t really concentrate on anything more than that” way.

I feel incapable of being my best self, I guess is what I’m saying and the situation calls for a kind of relaxed generosity of spirit I’m having a hard time mustering, because I really just want to eat like four thousand Tums and go back to bed.

This, too, shall pass. I adjusted to the metformin. I’ll adjust to this. But damn.

 

Confirmation

I have said this before, that I always expected that I would someday get married to a man who went down to the bar to sit with his friends and complain about how much he hated me while I sat at home on the phone talking to my friends about how much I hated him, and, though I love y’all, I have often felt like the people I’ve said this to have assumed it was just some sad quirk of my head.

I had coffee today with a woman who grew up in the same town I did. I said that to her and her eyes filled with tears.

“Yes,” she said, “that is how it was.”

Which, I mean, I knew. I knew. But to hear someone else say it…

Is My Superpower Tipsy Note Writing?!

A while ago I was at an event and there was a guy there and I was a little tipsy and I had an idea. So, I wrote him a note telling him to do something and I stuffed it in his hand. Then I went home. Many months past until yesterday.

I had lunch with a person who told me a lovely story about the guy doing the awesome thing I had instructed him to do. And the lunch person thanked me profusely, saying she knew it was because of me.

So, that felt super awesome. But it does make me wonder, should I have all along been leaving notes full of good ideas in people’s hands?

Sometimes You Don’t Know What You Need Until You Get It

I had a couple of good long discussions this weekend and a short, but important discussion, and I am feeling like a human being again. Just sometimes it means the world to hear from other people “That is fucked up and I don’t know what to do or make of it either.”

It’s nice sometimes to know that you’re not overlooking some obvious solution.

I watched Spy again last night and I laughed again. One thing that really struck me is that one of the reasons I find Jason Statham so delightful in it is that he’s being funny. Like somehow him being funny doesn’t negate his handsomeness.

But, and I say this as evidence as kind of my own internalized bullshit, Melissa McCarthy is just objectively stunning. Like, she is really beautiful. But, much like Lucille Ball, since she’s sending out “funny” not “cute” cues, I didn’t notice.

I don’t know. I have a lot of thoughts. It pains me to be honest about them. But it means a lot to me to see Melissa McCarthy out in the world being beautiful, making movies, even comedies, where a lot of people want to fuck her. I’m embarrassed at this age to need that, but I do.

I Should be Writing

I need to be working on my short story, but this week, man, this week. I’ve just come home and hidden and worked on my afghan and been an emotional mess and worked on my afghan some more. I am liking the shit out of it, though. It’s going fairly fast and the motifs have an interesting amount of variety and it makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something and no one hates me for doing it.

Yesterday, I went to the funeral for the father of one of my friends. It was sad and lovely. The funeral was in Sue Allen’s old house, which I found myself thinking about before the service and I wonder if she would have found that fitting–that her house became a funeral parlor.

I also thought a lot about the importance of ceremony in times like this, when you’re so flooded with emotion–knowing what to do, where to go, what to say, because you do and go and say the same things every time this happens–I think it’s part of what makes it possible to get through these things.

I hope, anyway, because I love these people.

Anyway, here’s to hoping that the weather breaks and that Fall is kinder to us than Spring and Summer have been.

Up to Stuff

This week, I’ve had coffee, I’ve had lunch, I’ve been to the Adventure Science Center and pointed at planets, I’ve had pizza and today I will celebrate Burrito Thursday, the greatest holiday of my people, with a friend.

There’s a song. For Burrito Thursday.

It goes:

Burrito Thursday. Burrito Thursday.

It is the best day.

Burrito Thursday.

Don’t any of you be stealing my awesome song.

Share your thoughts on cockapusses below (I swear, this is just about to stop being funny to me, but not today.)

Three Funerals

Last night, I arranged to go to Jim’s funeral with a couple of friends. This morning, I found myself at Jim’s funeral, but I realized, I hadn’t come with those friends and I didn’t actually know how I’d gotten to the church. I had the thought that I should pinch myself and see if I was dreaming and I pinched myself and I didn’t feel anything, so I knew that I was dreaming, but I couldn’t wake out of it.

Then, I was at the funeral with my friends and this was right so, for a long time, I accepted that it was real. But I thought, again, that I should touch my arm and make sure I could feel it, but, of course, I couldn’t. Dreaming again.

Finally, I was at Jim’s funeral, next to my friends. Everyone was crying and laughing as the occasion called for. I touched my arm. It was real.

I’ve never had dreams that vivid before. I would not have guessed the first one was a dream had my friends been there. I would not have guessed the second was a dream if the first hadn’t happened.

I think I had to subconsciously steel myself to go. I had to practice it in my head a few times so that I could make it through okay.

Anyway, I love you guys. Always know that.

Fannish Boy

I have a rough draft of my time-traveling Metallica story. It still needs some tweaking, but it makes me happy. It ended up not being so much about the band, but about fans of the band and what we want from artists with long careers and such.

I was telling the Redheaded Boy about it and I realized, though he’s younger than the fans in my story, he is exactly the kind of person I was writing about. He knew every iteration of the band. He has opinions on when and how they’re doing their best work. He is vague acquaintances of Dave Mustaine and told me Mustaine has the presence of an old lion.

I think I’m going to need to read this story to the Redheaded Kid to make sure I have the fannish stuff right. And I am, I find, a little nervous about that.

Jim

Jim Ridley, my editor at the Scene, died yesterday. I am devastated. He was only 50. I was blogging at the Scene shortly before he became editor and…god damn… I will write a post tomorrow. I’ve known his wife and worked with her for a million years. They have young kids.

WTF?

Everything you read about Jim was true. He literally was the nicest, most patient person, almost unnaturally so. He felt big feelings. He was open to enjoyment.

He left everyone who knew him better off for knowing him. That’s an amazing legacy. Everybody has someone who thinks they’re a son-of-a-bitch, but I never heard of such a person who thought that of Jim.

It’s just stupid. The idea that there should be a guy like this in the world in the first place and then that he should die so young.

I hate that stupid “Who’s going to fill their shoes?” song, but it’s been running through my head ever since he went in the hospital because, really, who is?

And that’s the other sad truth. Nobody. Guys like Jim are unique. They make a certain splash in a certain way and when they’re gone, that splash is gone. Someone might come up at some point and make another splash but Jim’s will still be missing. The world will feel a little diminished because of that from here on out.

And that sucks.

Jim

The editor of the Scene is in the hospital. He’s been unconscious for a week. I feel very helpless. I wish there were something to do to fix him. Like, we all pitch in and build a house or paint a room or… you know. Something.

I saw him just the week before. The weather was lovely. I was on my way to a meeting in East Nashville. I’d stopped to get an ice cream cone at McDonald’s and I was crossing the Demonbreun Street bridge. He was walking toward me, out taking a stroll in the beautiful weather. I honked and waved. He smiled and waved back.

It was nice. It felt small-town-ish in a way that’s still possible in Nashville.

Jim is not that old. He has young children. It seems really unfair. Fairness, of course, being a concept like “deserves,” that assumes a kind of justice in the Universe that, in truth, doesn’t seem to exist.

Time is so short. We are so fragile. We’re all very ordinary and yet, irreplaceable.

The Curse of Jacob Tracy

I’m reading it and enjoying the hell out of it. I’m also having fun trying to decide if I should recommend it to nm–“It’s about a guy in St. Louis back in the 1880s who can see ghosts and battle demons!” or if she would hate it.

But I’m side-eyeing St. Martin’s, the publisher, because they did this book a little wrong with its layout–very cramped margins, almost uncomfortably long lines, chapters not page-broken, but just run inline. I know how fast I read and I know I should be on page 210 or so and I’m on page 174.

It’s a good story, but this is the first book in a long time I’ve read where I thought, “You know, this might be easier to read on a Kindle.”

Too Much of a Good Thing

Yesterday, we went to a four-year-old’s birthday party. It was rough. I mean, of course, it was awesome, but she had a bit of a melt-down after the presents, and that was rough.

But it was interesting to see how it worked, because I doubt we as adults are much different. There is some top end to joy. There’s only so much and then the needle is buried. Worse, when good things keep happening, because there’s no more room for happiness, you start to teeter over into “what the hell is happening?!”

There’s a little bit of terror in getting everything you want.

I hadn’t really realized that before. I got the terror in getting what you want and finding out it’s not what you needed. Or finding out that it doesn’t lead to happiness or all the things you might guess.

But what I saw yesterday is that getting what you want is like swinging out over an abyss. It’s awesome when you’re sure you’re going to swing back to solid ground, but it starts to get a little scary when you don’t hit the far arc of the feeling when you expect to.

Bars Upon Thars

Chris Crofton’s advice column hit me right in the gut today. I think this is the part that got me hardest:

When I drank, I felt good. The days I didn’t drink, I felt really low. I decided that I would drink every day. I only allowed myself to drink at night, so during daylight hours I felt awful. All I wanted to do was sleep — and I did. During college I started sleeping until 4 or 5 p.m. I went to see the school psychologist. That was the first time I was advised to quit drinking — the first of hundreds of times to come. I couldn’t imagine quitting. What would I do? Who would I hang out with? Also, I wanted to be an artist. Artists drink, right?

I guess everyone knows someone who only feels good when he drinks. But there’s something about seeing it spelled out.

I’m not opposed to drinking–obviously. I like it. It’s fun. But, man, sometimes you see someone you care about with a beer before noon and you wonder if the temperance people weren’t on to something*.

—-

*Please note that I think prohibitions of most sorts are terrible ideas and ruin lives. But I also know that addiction is terrible and ruins lives. And I have sympathy for the wrong-headed idea of “just making it illegal.”

Atchoo

I best not be getting sick. I’m hoping this sneeze is just an allergy Claritin can’t touch. Tonight, I’m reading ghost stories, which, if you think about it, is pretty wild. Stuff I wrote here half a decade ago is still bringing…whatever…joy/thrills/something other than boredom to people.

My parents were briefly in town twice to go to my niece’s birthday party and then to return from it.

We had dinner last night with the black dog’s family and it’s really wild to see how much the little girl has gone from a baby to a child. And she’s delightfully bossy. She’s already thinking about what she wants to give her mom for Christmas so she was asking her dad to take her to the grocery store. He didn’t get that it was to buy a Christmas present, so he refused, and she was all “Well, I can’t go to the grocery store by myself. I’m just a little girl.”

It killed me.

I tried to sing “Once Upon a Dream” to her in my magical fairy voice, but it was too high a key for me to do very well. I should have gone for sultry.

For Exposure

I finally finished Jason Sizemore’s For Exposure:The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher, which I have been trying to read for the past three weeks. But I’ve literally gotten no reading done in my effort to my writing and my afghan done.

Anyway, the book is a really good overview of what it takes to run a small press and I say that as someone who works at a small press in an entirely different context. Especially relevant, I thought, was the discussion about how your successes can jam you up just as much as your failures. The best part about the book is that, as Sizemore’s telling his stories, the people involved in the story are given room for rebuttal. Sometimes it’s just a snarky footnote, but often they get a chance to tell the story you just read from their perspective.

Which means I got to not only read about Sara Harvey being a literal angel, I then got to read her more modest but also funny take on the same story.

Anyway, good times.

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.

Friends and Acquaintances

I am not the greatest friend. I just like you and flounder at it until you get tired of me. At least, usually. Yesterday, I saw the Professor, and it made me so happy and sad all at once. I need to find a new way to be her friend, but the old way meant so much to me and sustained me in ways that I can’t put into words, but only miss. There’s nothing you can say about the person who just stops by to tell you about something funny that happened to her. Who loves your cats and will watch your dog. The every-day-ness of it.

And now there’s a continent between us.

I was still glad to see her.

I just finished TJ Jarrett’s books, which are every bit as good as Beth told me they’d be and then some more. She’s just an exquisite poet. It’s just breathtaking, poem after poem that is just perfect and overwhelming and… ugh… she lives right here. Somehow she’s able to do this kind of work right here.

I need to do something to up my game. I’m not sure what, but man.

And it’s weird, too, that I don’t know her. She knows Beth. She knows Jessamyn. That’s two entirely different worlds I’m a part of. She and I should be standing in the same small space of people who know both of those women and recognize each other in it.

But we don’t.

Every Damn Year

I feel so low right about now and every damn year I’m surprised by it. I can’t believe it’s only Thursday. This week has been so long. I’m having lunch with a friend of my mom’s tomorrow. I don’t know why. I don’t know her and she doesn’t know me. She knew my mom in grade school.

But I guess she’s in town for some medical tests and who wants to come to a strange city alone for medial tests and have no one to have lunch with? I sure as fuck wouldn’t.

So, that’s why I said yes.

I just feel like this time of year is the time of year when the things we want from each other and the things we’re capable of actually doing for each other stand in stark contrast, bleak contrast, to each other and it makes me sad.

First Correct Use of “First Annual” in History?

I was telling the Professor that I go next week to get my boobs squished for science. It’s my first annual mammogram. (Is there any word that sounds older than “mammogram”? “Ma’am”–woman older than you. “O” starts the word “old.” “Gram,” a pet name for a grandmother. You don’t even have to know what a mammogram is to know it’s for old women.) And then I thought–It is my first annual mammogram. I know many people get annoyed by “First Annual Hot Dog Eating Contest,” but I think “first annual mammogram” is right. It’s like the exception that proves you should normally use inaugural.

Oh, speaking of things that go with “inaugural,” I’m working on my October thing and I was telling the Butcher about it and I was like “And then a buzzard with the head of Abraham Lincoln shows up” and he was like “seen it.”

How is this possible?

Is there anything in pop culture the Butcher hasn’t already encountered?

Taste the Rainbow

Taste the Rainbow

Here’s what each of the squares in my afghan will look like. I’m really pleased. I love this yarn so much. I know I say that. I wish I could get a picture that would capture just how beautiful it is, the way the plies wrap around each other is just about the most pleasing thing to look at. I can’t decide why. I like my cheap-o acrylic yarn, don’t get me wrong, but there’s something about wool that just feels more magical.

I am completely drained from yesterday. My meeting with the artist went great. I worry that I don’t seem excited enough, when really, I’m just kind of overwhelmed that this is even happening at all. Like my needle is buried in “excited.” I can’t really seem more excited, even though I’m really thrilled. When she starts putting the prints together, I’m going to go get to see her studio! And she’s going to make sure that there are crows tucked in the book. We’re hoping to have books ready for the Proto-pulp show in September, but, if not, we’ll at least have some prototypes to show people. And, holy shit, you guys, of course I want you to buy my book, but if she sells the art separately, some of you are going to fall over for the spread that’s poor Tom, just a skeleton entwined with the roots of a tree.

The reading went very well. I think the other guy who was there and I were both kind of on the same page, that we were there to support Sara and to make her day go well. And I think she felt that it did go well and that she was well-loved and I feel like that’s also about all you can ask of a book signing. I did laugh, though, as I was coming home because all of Sara’s people are people I think C. and his wife would really enjoy and I’m was like “maybe my job here is just to try to figure out how to make these people run into each other.” I mean, we had an awesome argument over Hamlet. I can’t remember what about, but people toasted at some points and slammed their fists on the table emphatically at others and what more do you want in a fight about Hamlet?

I said the truth about how I felt about Project X as true and straight-forwardly as I know how to be. I don’t know if it will make any difference, but I have now done everything I know how to do.

Now I need to come up with a grocery list.

Brief Two Dog Days

The Butcher’s friend, the Black Dog, stopped by for a moment this morning because the Butcher had forgotten the keys to the Black Dog’s house and, thus, could not return the Black Dog to said house. The Black Dog and Sonnyboy walk together most mornings, but usually don’t, according to the Butcher, pay much attention to each other. This is the case even when they’re at the house. Sonnyboy is busy following the Butcher around and the Black Dog is sniffing everything and searching for the cats. The Black Dog’s disinterest in Sonnyboy is proportional to his curiosity about the cats.

I don’t know. I can’t quite make sense of Sonnyboy and the Black Dog’s relationship. Most dogs I’ve seen are either really excited about and curious about the presence of another dog or suspicious and wary. But these two dogs are about as completely disinterested in each other as you could possibly be and not violate some law of physics. It makes it really easy to do things with both of them, as there’s not really any competition between them for space or affection–not like when Sonnyboy is all “But why are you petting the cat when my head is right here? Do you need my head to be closer to where the cat is? Would that help you make the better petting choice? Oh, lord, why did the cat scratch me?!”

But it’s still odd to me. I can only assume that they’re just like “Oh, it’s you. Everything cool? Yeah? Cool.” and then they just don’t worry about the other anymore. Like they have each other figured out. It’s everything else that’s so fucking weird.

The Butcher and the Professor

I had a really good talk with the Professor last night about how I’m not exactly bummed or anything about turning 40. I mostly just, if I’m being honest, feel confused by it. Like, oh, okay, so nothing’s going to happen? And the Professor has this theory that we don’t really have realistic role models for how not to be like our parents, because, growing up, we saw our parents and their friends and then, anyone who wasn’t living like that was on TV, somehow changing the world. But here we are, 40, and maybe we don’t want to change the world or we realize that our ability to effect change is really limited, but we still don’t want lives like our parents’ so we have to figure out what it is we want from life instead.

I also was able to talk through with her my feelings of guilt and discomfort with the fact that I live so decadently. Like I do really have this internalized idea that there’s something shameful about deciding to just go ahead and be weird. And yet, what else can I do? I want to be happy and this is what makes me happy. So, I just have to keep on acknowledging that small voice and then ignoring it.

On my way home today, though, when I lamented to the Butcher my fear that I’ll never get a book contract, he told me to shut up because I’d already made more from my art in my lifetime than Van Gogh had made in his, so what more did I fucking want? Which made me laugh.