Country Radio

At least one country station in rural Tennessee is playing Justin Timberlake’s “Drink You Away,” which I think has to be a result of there still being some local programming people AND his appearance with Chris Stapleton.

I also heard this song as I was driving the backroads of Tennessee and I was like, “Damn, this is going to be stuck in my head.” I’m a sucker for a good sing-along song. I did kind of wonder if someone this young, when she mentions Hank, means Sr. or Jr. Then I wondered where she was hearing either of them on the radio. But anyway, I like this song and I’m sad to learn that it’s getting caught up in the whole “But is it country?” debate. This is a good song. If it’s not country, who’s going to play it?

The Veil

I watched The Veil last night on Netflix and it’s kind of terrible, but terrible in a way I really enjoy. Like, you go the whole movie not quite sure if it’s working, some not-good-storytelling stuff happens, and then some really fine story-telling stuff happens and you think, man, if they stick the ending, this movie is going to be amazing.

But, if you paused the movie, say to go to the bathroom right when you had that thought, while you were peeing, you might ponder “What would a stuck ending look like?” And when you realize you can’t come up with one that quite satisfies you, you realize it’s not a good enough movie for the movie makers to have come up with one either.

And, ultimately, than ends up being true.

So, I guess, spoiler alert from here on out.

The movie is basically Jim Morrison/Jim Jones meets The Wicker Man. Except The Veil starts from a position of disgusting you with its occultists and then moves you into a position of kind of sympathizing with them. Except… except I’m not sure everyone working on the movie got that. So, the ending trades a lot on the occultists really being evil instead of just really zealous. And that’s a shame. I think a more unsettling ending would have been if it had just stuck with more ambiguity.

Like maybe if the occultists did everything they did but, instead of killing the daughter of the FBI agent, they let her in on their immortality (and the fact that they killed all her friends to achieve this form of it), she’s then left to know the truth but not be able to do anything about it, because who would believe her?

Then her guilt would parallel her father’s–he came to the cult and it resulted in everyone’s deaths. She came to the compound and it resulted in everyone’s deaths.

I would have liked to have seen them restart their cult.

Killing her just seemed like a kind of weird cop-out and not nearly as horrifying as the revelation of why the occultists died.

Thomas Jane played the head occultist and, if Wikipedia is to be believed, he wrote most of his own lines, to make the character an occultist, not a fundamentalist preacher. Perhaps they should have also given him a go at writing the ending.

But, y’all, he is fantastic. Every time he’s on screen, you wish you were watching just the movie about him. His character, I thought, was a perfect mixture of creepy and really compelling. I mean, watching him on screen, I realized I would be very susceptible to a cult with a guy like that trying to do the things he was trying to do–especially if he was having the kinds of success he was having–at the head.

Which was interesting because I’ve never really understood how people get caught up in cults. I mean, I understand it intellectually, but I haven’t before had the understanding that comes from “Oh, yes, I see how I could get caught up in this.”

Anyway, I think it’s a not-great movie, but it’s totally worth watching for being partially great and Thomas Jane’s character being a revelation.

Please

As you guys know, I am deeply in love with The Black Tapes podcast and its close cousin, Tanis. This week on TBT, Strand, the grouchy, brilliant skeptic whose whole purpose in life, it seems, is to poop on all of the supernatural fun of the show (but who keeps the mysterious, unexplained black tapes in the first place), has returned from some kind of manly breakdown, a scruffy mess in need of help from Alex, our plucky protagonist, in the search for his wife.

He begs her. “Please.”

He says that word, “Please,” in such a way that I’m swooning a little, like some Victorian in a too-tight corset, just thinking about it.

So, a lot of people, people who enjoy TBT, give it some shit for the not-stellar voice acting. I disagree in that I think it’s a deliberate style choice, which either does it for you or doesn’t. I don’t think it’s poor acting. I have lots of reasons for this belief and I’m right.

But my main reason is that there is something going on between Strand and Alex. Well, no, it’s over, whatever there was. That’s obvious both in the text of the show (in that he hangs up on her and then vanishes) and in the way he says that “please,” the way you beg an ex-lover for something, the way you use that quiet voice, that desperate voice, the one that says “Remember how vulnerable we were in private? I am that vulnerable now and I need you.”

But there was something going on between them. I think it started when they went on a trip together and we heard it in the way he asked her if she was going to leave the recorder running.  And we’ve heard it in the way she calls him “Richard” when she’s annoyed with him, like she can’t believe their physical intimacy didn’t buy her a level of trust with him or make him take her more seriously.

i don’t think there’s anything in the context of the show–no words spoken–that confirms the affair. I’ve listened to the whole thing twice now.

The affair, to the extent it does or doesn’t exist, is a story being told in the ways those actors say ordinary words in what passes for mundane conversations.

That’s a remarkable piece of artistry.

Trigger Warnings

We were talking about this over on Facebook, but I wanted to talk some about it here, too. I like trigger warnings. I loathe the demand for trigger warnings.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying, “Brace yourselves!” in any situation in which you can reasonably guess someone might like to know he or she should brace themselves. We don’t pick on people for needing handrails to climb steps or make fun of places that put out signs warning you when the floor is wet.

I just can’t and will never see anything wrong with giving people a head’s up about what the content of something is. I mean, no one laughs at people who look at a movie poster and say “Ugh, yuck, I can’t handle horror.” We see that it’s good to know what kind of movie it is so that they can avoid it, so why is it so funny and annoying if professors put content notes on their syllabi? I don’t and will never get it. It seems like a nice courtesy.

But I’ve been around on the internet a long time and I’ve seen the ugly fights that feminists have among themselves. I’ve seen the same old provocateurs reappear over and over. My friend lost her job to an internet shit-storm that could not be stopped, even after the original shitter realized he had shit in the wrong direction. I have seen the ways that people work themselves up into a righteous belief that the asshole thing they’re doing is justified, is deserved.

And that aspect of trigger warnings pisses me off.

Every internet shit storm I have ever seen stir up goes like this: Someone does something or says something. Someone else says, “How dare you? That was so stupid because…” (At this point, though it’s a fight, everything’s fine. But the atmospheric conditions are ripe.) Then someone (maybe the someone else, maybe one of the someone else’s backers) says, “You should have known that was stupid.” And then a group comes to think that, since you knew it was stupid and you did it anyway, you were the aggressor and, as the aggressor, you must be dealt with. (Even now there’s still the potential for it to be okay.) Then the crowd becomes convinced that you should have known they would find it offensive. And then the shit-storm is on.

The fuel of the shit-storm is when the crowd becomes outraged that you did not anticipate its reaction.

Once that dynamic is in play, the monster is loose. You are in trouble because you couldn’t guess ahead of time what some strangers wanted from you. And you will continue to be in trouble because there’s no way to guess what they want from you, what would appease them.

Like I said on Facebook, this is the thought-process of an abuser, the idea that everyone around you should be anticipating your needs and meeting them. And, in that regard, it’s the thought-process of an abused person to believe that you are to blame for the shit-storm in some way because you didn’t.

And I have seen trigger warnings used as a measure of whether the content creator (what a terrible term) has properly anticipated the needs of strangers. I have seen the absence of trigger warnings or a missed trigger warning used as a reason to bring down the shit-storm (like, if a story says, “Trigger warning: rape, incest, child abuse” someone angry because it doesn’t also say “child rape” as if you couldn’t have discerned that from the other trigger warnings).

I will never be okay with this use of trigger warnings. I don’t think anyone is obliged to provide them. I don’t think it’s wrong not to provide them.

I think a lot of people in our culture feel best (safest, most secure) when they are in control of others. I think they go to great lengths to put themselves (or to try to) in control of others because it’s soothing to them–either being in control or punishing others for not letting themselves be controlled.

I find that dynamic really troubling. I don’t think trigger warnings are to blame for it, of course, but I think the rise of the internet shit-storm is a result of it, for sure.

By the Name of Polly Anne

I think so much about this song, all the time. It’s not just the way that women’s suffering and death gets turned into art that gets enjoyed (and by me, too, I’m not letting myself off the hook) with no regard for the women at the center of it. It’s the idea of someone going and getting these women. If I think about it too much, it makes me cry, the idea that there is someone who recognizes that something bad has happened and who goes and gets them. Even though they’re dead. This getter doesn’t let them get lost.

I think a lot about who would go get those girls. Who could see a folk song for what it is, know what it means to have your tragic loss made into someone else’s campfire sing-along. Who is strong enough to go song by song–Delia, the Knoxville Girl, the Wexford Girl, that girl behind you not being able to “forget the day I shot that bad bitch down?” She had a name, you know, that bad bitch, in earlier versions–Sadie. The girl in the willow garden. So very many of them.

I think it’s Polly, who picked up John Henry’s hammer after he died and drove steel like a man. Who else could be up for the job?

I had this idea while I was sick of a cult developing around Polly, who would greet each other when they were doing their cultish deeds with “By the name of Polly Anne.” Maybe they all wear tiny sledgehammer pendants and that’s how they recognize each other.

But I didn’t know what to do with the idea. Or at least, I don’t yet.

Rhythm

I’ve been trying to decide why this song works so well and I think this morning I finally figured it out. The words and the drum part are doing something interesting. The drum is pretty straight forward. But Vile alternates which kinds of sounds he’ll sing on the beat. If you ignore all the other syllables in the song, the syllables that hit on the beat are iambs.

I’m pretty sure, anyway.

Pop Culture Coma

Since we were both sick, we spent a lot of time watching TV this weekend. I tried to watch a “documentary” about how Courtney killed Kurt, but it had this really soothing rain sound it used to signify when we were in Seattle and damn if I didn’t fall asleep through it. I was, however, left with the opinion that, in spite of the “documentary”‘s claims, Courtney did not kill Kurt.

It’s based on one simple fact that comes up over and over again in everything ever written or filmed having to do with grunge. No one likes Courtney Love. So, if she had killed Kurt, why would a conspiracy to keep her from being charged work? People protect powerful people and people they like. Courtney Love wasn’t either of those things.

Second, we watched Jessica Jones. It could have benefited from only being ten episodes long, as a couple of the later episodes were a lot of nothing. But it was pretty good. I had been afraid to watch it, afraid it would hit too close to home, but, for whatever reason, it didn’t.

One thing I was glad they did a really good job of portraying, a thing I remember viscerally, is the way in which you’re to blame for the man’s behavior. Everything happens because you wouldn’t do what he wanted. Not just his reasoning, but the reasoning of so many people you know. Why don’t you just appease him?

And then I loved the way, after all the pressure to appease, when you do appease him, that’s taken as proof of your complicity, of your secret wanting of all of this.

The truth being that, as long as he’s focused on you, a lot of people around you will find ways to believe that you’re the one out of line. And, like they show on Jessica Jones, sometimes you will be. And yet, somehow, his out-of-line-ness is never up for the same kind of discussion. If anything, it’s seen as an equal and appropriate reaction to your craziness.

The impossibility of getting people to see what’s going on. I liked that.

We’re also still watching The X-Files. Last night, we hit one of my favorite episodes, “The Field Where I Died.” I remember watching that in college and being wrecked over it. Crying, reading Robert Browning, thinking it was so fucking brilliant.

It was so stupid. It broke my heart! I was so excited to resee it and, man, it fucking… where was all the magic?

I know things change and we are not the people we were twenty years ago, but man, I felt really estranged from my self from two decades ago.

King Kong

King Kong has been sitting in the back of my mind for a few days. I don’t know why. But I’ve been thinking how King Kong is probably, if someone wants to try to understand the fucked up way America works about race, the perfect movie.

King Kong is racist as shit. The big black ape who wants to possess the beautiful white woman as his own, even though he doesn’t really know what to do with her or, if he did, it would destroy her to have it happen. His abduction of her is a sexual abduction.

So, there you have the deepest white American fear–these animals are coming for our women and they’re dangerous and powerful and scary. Fortunately, we can outsmart and outgun them.

But from the minute audiences started watching King Kong, they started sympathizing with Kong. His death felt like an unjust tragedy. Clearly, it’s supposed to feel like a victory–We’ve defeated the monster and rescued the damsel. But, as evidenced by the fact that they rushed a Son of Kong into theaters also in ’33, people didn’t want Kong dead. They wanted to see more of him.

That, right there, is fucking America. That’s the bitter twist at the heart of minstrelsy, too. The racial stereotype designed to reinforce white America’s worst beliefs about the talents and abilities of black Americans leaves white Americans screaming for more.

The argument we make to ourselves that justifies our treatment of black people ends up encouraging sympathy for black people in some abstract way. But, as complicated as that is, it’s also too easy. Because it’s not sympathy for black people, but sympathy for black people as we imagine them. Which is why our sympathy, throughout American history, doesn’t necessarily result in improvements for black people.

There’s a special effect here, at the heart of American culture, a trick of light and sound, a series of mirrors reflecting back to us a misshapen view of reality. We act as if those misshapes are real. Sometimes our acting on them has devastating consequences. Sometimes they have unexpected good consequences.

You can’t predict how things are going to come through the fun house.

But it’s important to acknowledge that the fun house is there, I think.

Too Close to Home

My favorite thing about TANIS this week was how they dealt with the discomfort of reading history for vast conspiracies. It’s one thing to say that Charlemagne was looking for Tanis. It’s another thing to suggest that Kurt Cobain was killed over it.

But where’s the line? I find it really curious that I saw nothing wrong with giving Jack Parsons over to fiction, but I was uncomfortable with L. Ron Hubbard being used in that way, even though they’re contemporaries and, if anyone would love becoming a legend, I imagine it’s Hubbard.

I can’t say why Hubbard seemed for me “too soon.” But I thought this week’s episode, in which Nick is really uncomfortable with a conspiracy theorist who crosses his “too soon” line, did a good job of making clear that the show isn’t unwittingly pressing these buttons.

The Sound of Things

Yesterday morning, they played this song on the radio:

They were trying to argue that it was a kind of proto-rap, which is not really an argument I find that interesting. But I do think that the song has something in common with rap. Not just the rapid-fire delivery but with the joy taken in the sound of words, the playfulness with the very noise of language. These names of places are just fun to say.

I also like this song, because it reminds me that a lot of Johnny Cash songs have a kind of scary humor to them that may not always be immediately obvious. In this one, it’s only when you listen carefully, when you hear him say “I’m a killer” that you start to be very nervous for the guy who picked him up going to Winnemucca.

There is a tradition of kind of “talking” singing songs. Like, you can hear it in “Hot Rod Lincoln,” which, in my head, is a kind of brother to “I’ve Been Everywhere.”

But, clearly, this is about the noise the instruments can make and the story and the sounds of words is less paramount.

I was kind of thinking that this song, by Nathaniel Rateliff, has that same kind of joy in the sounds of words. Who knows what he’s saying? Who even cares? It just sounds like something.

Tanis

So, I’ve been listening to the Tanis podcast, as you all know. I love The Black Tapes and this scratches that same itch. Plus, I have to say, I think I’ll be less annoyed if this story doesn’t resolve at the end of the season, since it’s hard to imagine how it could resolve.

But, after this episode, I’ve decided the other reason I’m listening with rapt attention and fear is that they’re taking L. Ron Hubbard and moving him into the fictional realm. Like we talked about this morning, they’re making him a legend. And I am a little afraid for them over it. But also in awe. It feels so brave.

As I’ve been working on Ashland, I’ve been thinking that there are two realms we always live in–real and fiction. And, like the realm of the elves is said to lie just next to but often unrecognized in our world, fiction and fact lie together. Two rivers sharing the same bed, passing next to each other, influencing each other, often intermixing in ways that can’t later be separated.

Sometimes, I suspect that religion is an effort to peel away the too-close-for-comfort nature of the Unreal and set it up in Heaven or down in Hell or off in the distance, somewhere where we don’t have to worry about it. But it doesn’t move. It’s still right here, us always slipping into it without realizing it.

As it must be, because how else can you understand a soul or consciousness or this weirdness that makes us think we have a self? It makes no sense. It is the Unrealness at our very core, the story told to us from the beginning, that we have an interior life.

Which is not to say that I don’t believe in myself, my self. I believe in a great deal of Unreal things. I’m just saying that the strangeness is in us, from the start.

Anyway, I hope the Tanis folks stay safe.

Old Friends

Elias pointed out that Furiosa has one arm. Max doesn’t have one eye, but he’s hanged, upside down, is chaotic, and at the end, he wanders off.

Oh, hi!

I was thinking on our walk this morning, both how amazing it is that these formations stick with us for so long–thousands of years–and how cool it is that women can inhabit these roles now. But I did wonder what ancient stories we tell about women, if there are similar age-old stories with women at their centers we could recognize now?

Good Day for Creepy Things

Last night I watched The Haunting, which was every bit as terrifying as I’d been promised. I wish I’d watched it earlier in the evening, as I found it incredibly unsettling. I also thought it handled the arrival of the doctor’s wife better than in the book. Her reason for being there seems to me to make more sense.

It’s also really clear why the remakes have all failed. Hollywood thinks about horror in one way, this movie thinks about it in another. Plus, could you do those kinds of voice-overs these days? I’m not sure. But the core dynamic would be easy enough to replicate. A Dugger-like girl goes to a slightly less-conservative Christian college and a charismatic professor has a Thanksgiving week excursion to Hill House to investigate paranormal claims. So, it’s her, the somewhat closeted, cool lesbian, and a kind of jocky frat kid, plus the charismatic professor. In other words, draw a line between the heavy religious stuff of the daughter to the heavy religious stuff of the students.

I also listened to the first two episodes of Tanis, the new podcast from The Black Tapes people. Or, perhaps, it’s the same podcast coming from a slightly different angle. I can’t tell yet. But I’m enjoying the fuck out of it. It’s got Jack Parsons and a nod to House of Leaves and, most importantly, a strong consideration of Hard Harry. Pump Up the Volume did terribly at the box office. I can’t say that it became a cult hit. It’s never on repeats on cable. For the most part, it was an utter dud.

For a few of us. So few it apparently doesn’t even count as a cult, that movie was something else. Like, you thought your life was going one way and you saw it and your life couldn’t go that way any more.

It’s because of its non-cult status, its importance, but only to a small, inconsequential group of people, that I laughed when it was mentioned on Tanis. If you want to know what Tanis is about, it’s basically about taking those moments that mean everything to almost no one and asking how something so important could remain hidden. (In this case, I suspect because, if you aren’t a 1990s teenager watching Pump Up the Volume in 1990, it might be a terrible movie, which I will never know because I’m not going to let this asshole 41 year old watch it and nitpick it.)

I’m liking it.

Work continues on Ashland. I envisioned its structure all along like a spiral. But it’s a spiral like those funnels you drop a coin into at the mall. The first part takes long loops, circling but slowly. Then we build up tension. And now we’re just about to the part where the coin slips into the mouth of the funnel and is spinning so tightly you can barely see it.

C.S. Lewis in Your Writing Group

We were briefly talking about what it would be like to have C.S. Lewis in your writing group and how that might explain a lot about why Tolkien had songs and histories of various grasses and chapters devoted to wandering around in circles, because Lewis would be all “Today, I have an essay on why there’s so much suffering and whether children deserve pain” and everyone else in the group would be all “Um, we’re still helping Tolkien get through this tricky part about… um…” They all look at Tolkien.

“This song about trees?” He shrugs.

But I was thinking about it on our walk this morning and, lord, could you imagine Lewis’s elevator pitches?

“Okay, it’s an allegory about Christ and the dangers of modern women set in a magical land with lions.”

“Okay it’s an allegory about Christ and the dangers of modern women set in space.”

“Okay, it’s a book of essays about Christ and the dangers of modern women.”

Can you imagine the time he was all “Okay, it’s a book about bureaucratic devils.”

All the other Inklings chime in “and the dangers of moder–wait, what? Just about bureaucratic devils?”

Tolkien’s all whispering to his neighbor “So, I don’t need this song about a sword to distract him?”

Lewis is confused. “Yes, just bureaucratic devils. Why? Do you think it needs some dangerous modern women in there? I could add some.”

“No, no, no. This is great. Much better than our idea.”

Devil Dance Blues by Sippie Wallace

I can’t find any online lyrics for this and I think I might need them. Help me, sharper-eared folks!

I had a dream last night and it filled me full of fright.

I had a dream last night. It filled me full of fright.

I dreamed I was in the dancehall where the Devil dance at night.

I saw the sweet Mrs. Devil standing in her home (? Possibly she’s saying “Sweet Mister Devil” but then I don’t know where he’s standing.)

I saw the sweet Mrs. Devil standing in her home

He was out with the Devil band. He was giving a ball. (This whole verse seems like it might be wrong.)

He had on a robe that was that was made of crow(?)

He had on a robe that was made made of bone(?) (It seems unlikely that he was wearing a robe of crow and bone, but my god, I hope so. A Robe of Crow and Bone is the name of a book, I tell you.)

I never seen no Devil look so sweet before.

It was a dream a dream I never had before.

It was a dream a dream I never had before.

I dream we all was dancing and put on a great big show.

It Never Gets Out of Me

I’ve probably talked about this a million times already, but I love this song. I was listening to it yesterday and not only do I love the guitar part which has a little unexpected swinging kick to it, and I love how she’s like, “what you do to me, baby, it never gets out of me.” Whew. It just blows my mind. It sounds like the truth about certain people.

But it also may be the only song I can think of where a mother-in-law is mentioned positively, as someone who might be on the side of the singer.

This is one of the songs I’m most curious about hearing the original women do it live, because there definitely is something about it that, recorded, seems kind of dour, but I wonder about, in a crowd, if people are dancing real close and slyly.

Oh, Oh

You guys, I love this song so much. Even though it’s not objectively that great. But it makes me happy and the video is adorable.

Dwight Yoakam?

So, the dog and I were walking home across the AT&T yard where George Straight was blaring out of one of the vans. A black guy comes out of the building and, in a joking manner, says “Turn that crap off.” His white co-worker says, “Yeah, the only one of these guys black people like is Dwight Yoakam. We’ll get you some Dwight Yoakam, buddy, and then you’ll like country music.”

I think this may be the strangest stereotype of black people I’ve ever heard a white person spout. Obviously, I don’t like racial stereotyping, but I love imagining Dwight Yoakam as some kind of secret weakness of every American, they just don’t know it yet.

But then, I thought, if this is true, what a strange place Charley Pride’s house would be. He could never listen to his own music with any kind of satisfaction, because the only country artist he would care for is Dwight Yoakam.

George Jones

I watched this video last night and I felt, suddenly, that I knew why George Jones drank. Not all the reasons why. Obviously, a lot of that stuff is genetic and a lot of it is private. But, if you don’t care for country music, just mute it and watch him. I feel like I’m watching a man surfing a wave too large for him or a man on a tightrope over the Grand Canyon. You can learn something about want, about bone-deep want, that men will never tell you about by watching his face–how he wants her, how he’s got such a charge out of wanting her, how it threatens to overwhelm him. This woman makes him feel… what… something, something so private and powerful that it feels like we’re witnessing something we shouldn’t be privy to just by watching them sing.

It can’t be easy to be that open to those kinds of deep emotions. It must feel like a kind of madness. A wonderful kind of madness when you have someone like Tammy, like they were at their best, to be in it with. But when you don’t? When it’s just you and that conduit inside you and the big empty sky?

Welp

I think Alyssa Rosenberg makes a good case that Go Set a Watchman could have been a good book, if it had been developmentally edited, and that, even as it is now, it does some important things.

But I’m unsurprised to see that the reviews coming out now are all about how not good the book is. Which, duh, how could it not be not good? It’s a draft.

And I find it shady as hell that Harper Lee is too deaf to ask about shit, but not too deaf that we shouldn’t take the word of the people who talked to her that she’s cool with everything.

I’m not reading it. I have a pile of good books I haven’t gotten to yet, many written by people who handed them to me so I feel confident that they’re cool with the books’ publication. So, that’s where I’m putting my eyes, assuming I get some spare moments to read.

Tomatos

I’ll tell you one thing about this discussion. It made me listen to Lightning 100 differently on the way home from work. Do they ever play two women back to back? Does any radio station I listen to? I think that dude is a jerk, but I think he may have said out-loud something true a lot of radio programmers believe, across genre.

I’ve been long giving Lightning 100, a radio station I really love, a kind of side-eye because they play very few black artists, which means that both Adia Victoria and Valerie June don’t get played, even though their music–though very different from each other–is exactly the kind of music Lightning 100 plays.

But I keep thinking how studies show that people perceive that crowds look “right” or that women are participating half the time, when women are only a quarter of participants. That feels equal to people–men and women (unless you happen to be one of the women directly shut out because there’s only room for one woman in every four people). How can that kind of conditioned bias no affect what we hear?

I’m sure country music fans perceive that they hear from a lot of women artists. That doesn’t make it okay. It just further shows that, in 150 years, the progress we’ve made in popular culture is to go from almost no presence to 25% presence. Obviously, that’s a pretty big change, but we don’t have the same space in public imagination that we have in real life. Still. Yet.

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.