When I was in Boston a couple of weeks ago, I got an idea for a book series about Nashville. Did I tell you all I’m doing a little acquisitions work again? I can’t remember. I’m doing a little acquisitions work again.
Anyway, today I get to find out if I can edit such a series.
I’m so stoked and nervous and delighted. Like, I literally had the idea two weekends ago and today I might get to start working on it.
When in the history of my job has that ever been the case?
Anyway, my idea is to do 25 books, one in honor of each decade of Nashville’s existence, contemplating some aspect of the city’s existence during a particular time and to bring them out for the next decade, leading up to the 250th anniversary of Nashville’s founding.
A thing, too, about handspun yarn is that it felts super easily, which means, when you’re tucking ends that you don’t have to weave them in three or four directions. You just make sure that the ends are in contact with enough of the other yarn that washing and friction can firmly stick them together.
God, Boston was so great. I feel so energized and excited. I’m doing a little acquisitions work now, which is a tiny bit nerve-wracking, but I’m also super excited about it.
I went to a session on New England vampires and it blew my mind. Basically, this dude is able to show that Hessian doctors are to blame. Oh, and also that no one thought it was vampirism until the end of the phenomenon.
And we got to see a picture of a “vampire!” In the grave! With his bones all messed up.
I cannot wait to bore C. and M. to death with all the vampire, er, excuse me “vampire” information I learned. But, basically, it all boils down to “Vampires are a Slavic superstition. How could a specter from the grave even drink your blood? They don’t have bodies. It would just fall right through them. No, this is science. Your undead loved ones suck your lifeforce from the grave.”
But also I had a long discussion with the most interesting of the vampire scholars and he was telling me how German soldiers eventually had encounters with Slavic vampires that utterly convinced them that the vampire phenomena, with the rising corpses and everything, was real, because they went and fought the vampires.
I can’t even tell you. It’s so delightful. He was telling me all about how these German soldiers would go out with the locals to fight vampires and they’d write back these long reports about how they opened the graves and attacked the vampires and the vampires let out these horrible moans and, as they were trying to stake the vampires, they would spew blood or burning liquid at them to get them to back off. And they came away from these encounters deeply shaken and sure vampires were real.
But, really, they’d just caused a decomposing corpse to explode at them.
I’m frustrated that I don’t know what effective thing to do with my anger, but this country, man. The lack of shame. The willingness to pretend as if this is all normal and needs no extraordinary response.
And they’re going to get away with it.
We always move past this shit without dealing with it “for the good of the country.” We found ways to bring Confederates back into the fold without them having to face any real consequences. We let the terrorism of the 50s and 60s go largely unpunished.
And so we have to deal with these flair-ups of an old fire we refuse to put out because some of us don’t mind the warmth of it as it burns others alive.
I’m going to Boston for work, which I’m looking forward to. I’m also having a lot of anxiety about it for reasons that my subconscious is not sharing with the rest of me.
And, like all fun mental health stuff, I can kind of see how I’m pulling back and not properly engaging with the world, but it feels slightly better than having all this anxiety and interacting like a human being with people I care about, so… yeah… it’s not helpful and it’s only making matters worse, but here I am, in my pit of weirdness, just trying to keep my eye on the fact that the pit is shallower than I would have made in the past.
My brother, my sister-in-law, Baby Dahlia looking like a giant, and tiny Baby Liam in the hat. I love that Dahlia has the tiniest double chin.
This is the start of my next afghan. No, I don’t have the ends tucked on the Professor’s afghan. Yes, I do suck goat butts. But I wanted to see how this was going to come together and it’s going to come together real, real hard. But I already am in love.
And I made a yarn with beads! And now that I know what I’m doing, I’m going to make more yarn with beads. It’s fairly simple and, if you use wooden beads, fairly light-weight. I’m fascinated and confused about how it will crochet up, but we shall see.
Also, I wrote some and my bank card got skimmed and it was a whole terrible thing that I’m sure isn’t over, but I just can’t think about it too much.
I’m writing an article. It’s not an important article, but the money’s nice. Anyway, the editor was all “Ooo, you should include something about Draper James and Imogen + Willie!” and I was like, “Okay, fine. Those just aren’t places I know anything about. They’re not places I’d ever go.”
I mean, there’s literally nothing I could buy there, so why would I go there?
Which my editor totally got, but it has me thinking about how different my internal landscape of Nashville looks because I just know there are places that are off-limits to me. Or not off-limits. I’m not banned from them or anything. But we have nothing to do with each other. Those places aren’t for me and I can’t find anything for me in those places.
I don’t really mind that, though. Not in this day and age when the internet makes so many things available.
What I do mind is that there’s no real acknowledgement of their decision to exclude me and whether that’s moral.
Anyway, I guess I’ll learn some about these places.
My brother called me this morning to say that his grandson had been born and so now I am a great aunt. So far it feels awesome, except that the baby blanket I intended for them is still sitting in my dryer.
Y’all, I recorded a podcast episode, wrote an article, organized my photos for the book, cleaned my house, made some yarn, grocery shopped, got caught up on The Magnus Archives and almost finished this afghan.
I love this afghan so much. It’s kind of a mess, I guess, but all the yarn is so beautiful and I love how there’s so much to look at. I really hope the Professor likes it.
Yesterday I had such a good Thinking about America day, full of discussions about the American project and whether it can be salvaged.
I’m also listening to a podcast hosted by a wizard. I haven’t listened to it long enough to decide if I would recommend you listen to the podcast or not, but it’s interesting. His being a wizard is part actual magical belief and part performance art.
But a thing I do like about it is his goal is to move us all into a slightly better reality. He claims he’s not powerful enough to do much more than that, but that, if we all act with intention and verbalize that this is what we want and then make choices we hope will lead there, then, tada, there we’ll be.
Which is one of those things that is simultaneously so stupid and true.
But also maybe feels like what I can do about America that will actually have any effect.
The Professor’s afghan has veered off in a different direction from the other Bauhaus blanket I made. We’re going to get back to the bottom pattern in a little bit, but first, I want some squares.
There’s something happening to me with this afghan that’s hard to explain, but I want to try anyway. Usually, when I make an afghan, I am following a pattern or I want the afghan to look a certain way.
But with this afghan, in part because I trust the Professor to at least appreciate the effort, I want the Professor to look at it certain ways. Look how this yarn I made looks when it’s this wide, next to this other yarn I made. Look at it running in this direction. Now look at it running in this other direction. Feel how the llama yarn is so soft. Feel all the bumps in the weird yarns.
And there is a feeling I have inside me that I can’t really name, but that I want The Professor and whoever else sees her afghan to also feel when they look at it.
I saw Jim Ridley yesterday, on Wedgewood, stumbling into the light from… I don’t know where. He was wearing a black suit and sun-glasses. He looked ovewhelmed. Maybe distressed.
I felt sick, like literally nauseous. I kept looking at him and I kept waiting for his features to resolve into something unfamiliar, the way they do when you’ve mistaken a stranger for a friend. Maybe it was because of the sunglasses, because I couldn’t see his eyes, but he never didn’t look like Jim anymore.
In order to keep from having a panic attack while I was driving, I had to go through all the reasons it couldn’t be Jim: I’ve never in my life seen Jim in a suit, let alone a black suit on a hot July day. But what if he were buried in one? Oh, right, he wasn’t buried. He was cremated.
And that let me go on. But it still unsettled the fuck out of me.
I know–I know–that was a real person. Someone who just weirdly resembled Jim and just happened to be knocking around a neighborhood he spent a lot of time in.
But man, I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve seen something you can’t go back from seeing.
Every time I hear that song on the radio I’m shocked. It’s such a profound and honest question that gets at the heart of what so many of us experience that it just seems impossible that society would let it be so plainly said.
A thing that struck me when I went back to Illinois is just how openly everyone assumes Trump’s an idiot. Like, even in deeply rural red Illinois, everyone seems to share the baseline assumption that dude sucks. This isn’t to say that folks might not still vote for him again–things are stupid and complicated–but you can just openly talk about how much you think he’s a dumbass and everyone nods along. Even if they don’t agree, they don’t object.
The thing that bugged me about that, though, was how I had this discomfort with it–even though I wholly agree–because I thought “You can’t say things like that publicly.”
And I worry that this is a way living in the South has changed me, perhaps made me more timid
But, frankly, I am afraid. In this particular moment, not in general. And I do worry that having the wrong opinions could get you in trouble and that the trouble it could get you in is growing worse.
I always have been kind of a coward, but we have to be great now and I don’t think I can be. Why am I great ’til I have to be great?
I swear, this isn’t going to become me only complaining about my dad. I just need to put this stuff down and have it public so that I resist the urge to tell myself a story where he’s only mostly good and sweet and where I should be able to live with the bad stuff, where “live with the bad stuff” means they come here.
But also, he made comments about me being single and then, when I was holding the baby, made some comment about how I certainly have the right parts to care for a baby, but mine are broken or something.
I keep thinking of my therapist’s advice to name my emotions. Like, when I think about this shit, how does it make me feel? And, in general, I can’t tell what I feel. I feel the emotional equivalent of a scream you hear in the distance and you can’t tell if it’s hurt or rage.
But when I stop to think about it, I feel incredulous. How can you love someone and say this shit about them? Like, what the fuck is wrong with you?
It went great. Both days went great. Everyone behaved themselves. My mom was okay healthwise. I got to meet my new baby niece, Dahlia.
My Aunt B. was so super helpful. She brought ice and helped get the food and basically just made sure everything happened.
Both Dad and Del ended up bleeding. I don’t think they had a knife fight or anything, but babies and old people are delicate and don’t pay a lot of attention to where they are in relation to sharp things.
And it was tough. I saw my best friend from junior high who was as hilarious and cool as ever. She works part-time at a grocery store in the town we grew up in.
I kind of felt like I couldn’t even talk to her about my life, because it would seem like bragging. It was hard. This person who changed my life for the better. I mean, I’m here because we were awkward and funny together and into weird, spooky shit. And I just felt like I didn’t know how to talk to her and that felt shitty.
And though my dad was on his best behavior, he was still a lot. I thought I smelled weird and I wanted to put powder or something in my shoes to see if that would help. I was also concerned because thinking I smell bad is like step one in the anxiety avalanche that leads to a panic attack.
So, I’m both trying to address the fact that I may genuinely smell weird and to sort out whether I’m about to melt down. And he says “Don’t worry, no one is going to smell your shoes. This isn’t Nashville, where everyone kisses your feet.”
And he was so mean about it that I couldn’t even take it seriously.
And, of course, he didn’t say thank you and he accused me of trying to get my mom to guilt him into paying for it (which I didn’t, and he didn’t, so?)
But he had a good time and he was mostly well-behaved and that meant a lot to me. I mean, I think he did as well as he can do.
He doesn’t like me. He loves me. I don’t doubt that. But he doesn’t like women and I’m a woman. And I feel sorry for him. And I think he knows that and resents it.
But also, he doesn’t know how to be happy, because being happy means risking being vulnerable, so I know he was as far out of his comfort zone as he could go.
It’s all complicated and stupid.
I’m glad I did it. But it didn’t fix or change anything. And all the outside validation didn’t really mean as much to me as maybe I was hoping.
But it also told me something I need to know as we move into the next stage of our lives: nothing I do, no matter how great, will be good enough. Everything my brother does, no matter how little, is extraordinary.
If I let them move here, that will grind me down into dust. Especially with the Butcher gone.
They cannot come here. If they have to live with/near someone, one of the boys is going to have to do it, because I won’t survive it.
I feel weirdly free. I tried my hardest. I did something extraordinary. I know it. Everyone there knew it. And it wasn’t enough to fix things.
So, there is nothing I can do that can fix things.
And trying will kill me, so I don’t have to try.
I love them. It’s a small thing, but it’s all I’ve got.
–I hate the Renaissance Center. If you ever have wondered what it feels like to have anxiety, just hang out in that monstrosity. If you have anxiety, bring your Xanax.
–The conference was really good and I came away with a lot of ideas about stuff we could do as a press to improve things.
–I also ate so much churizo at this tapas place that I thought I might burst.
–Everyone in Detroit is so super nice.
–The Third Man up there is so neat. The people are great. My cousin A. and her husband came as my entourage, because I never get an entourage in Nashville. I mean, I live here. I just go do what Third Man asks me to do. I don’t need people to help me with that.
But up there? Hell yes I was going to have some people to keep me company and make me feel less awkward.
Which was lovely while the green room was empty and then… holy shit… when members of P-Funk started showing up.
I don’t even really know how to talk about that night. It was wonderful to watch how my cousin reacted to everyone with such compassion and enthusiasm. Her husband was like a kid at Christmas.
There was just this awesome vibe and it really felt like each reader empowered the next to be deeply awesome.
A member of P-Funk held my hand and my dear friend from high school and his awesome partner were there. And it was just great.
Also, at lunch, so this is kind of out of order, I wandered into this deli around back of Third Man and I asked the dude behind the counter what he recommended and he made me a roast beef sandwich like they serve in Heaven.
At lunch, I sent a long email to Third Man telling them the updates on the book–i.e. Oh, hey, the FBI was apparently running the Klan–and asking them to just sit down and talk over whether they want to be a part of this.
They’ve done so much good for me and given me a lot of mind-blowing opportunities. And I really want to publish this book with them.
But I don’t want to cause them any grief.
Right now my title is Dynamite Nashville: The Plot to Terrorize the City and Thwart the Civil Rights Movement. But I’m kind of wondering about Dynamite Nashville: The FBI, The Ku Klux Klan, and the Terrorists They Couldn’t Control. Or maybe The FBI, the KKK, and Why the City’s Integration-Era Bombings were Never Solved. Oh, or Lord, what about The FBI, the KKK, and the Racist Bombers Who Got Away? Okay, not as good as it sounded in my head.
I have to go to Detroit tomorrow. I really hate flying. No, not flying. Actually being on the plane is fine. I hate the apparatus around flying–having to get there and park and get checked in and finding your way to the hotel and all that. I also feel incredibly guilty about leaving the dog. I trust the cat can take care of herself, but the dog. I just worry.
I’m not going to have any Tennessean photos in my book. They can’t find the Klan picture I wanted and it’s not worth $400 to have the picture of Charles Reed.
I’m also completely wigged out about the anniversary. I want to sit down and figure out what we need still and how to get it, but I can’t let that overwhelm my need to keep all the Detroit things I need to do in the front of my mind.
I am shook. Like the kind of shook I don’t quite know how to put into words. Like, if you tell yourself in the middle of a skid “this is bad, this is bad, this is bad,” but it’s not really until you stop sliding that you can assess how bad it actually is, that you can get used to living in the new reality where your car is totaled and you have to make time in your life to deal with insurance and getting a new car.
As you know, because I’ve been pissing and moaning about it for years, the one part of this bombing book that has been so frustrating to me is the actions of the FBI. They just made no sense to me. Why were they making no effort to solve these bombings?
I mean, yes, racism. But flipping through the files, the main impression of the FBI that you get is arrogance, that they were just so much better and smarter than any of these local dingbats. It just didn’t make any sense to me that the FBI wouldn’t have relished the opportunity to embarrass Nashville by solving these crimes.
On Friday I learned that the FBI was running the UKA strand of the Klan in Tennessee. From their own files. Hoover told the President. Now that I think about it, probably multiple presidents. It started when the Klan started expanding in Tennessee, which is 57 or 58.
I think the FBI halfassed solving our bombings because they didn’t want any investigations leading back to their guys.
The FBI claimed to have control of half the Klans in the nation. During the 60s.
If that’s so, then is it any wonder that so few Civil Rights era crimes were solved? Or successfully prosecuted?
I still don’t know what to make of it. I’ve updated my manuscript with all the relevant quotes, but I also have to take some time just to let it sink into my brain.
The FBI was running half the Klans in America during the worst Klan violence we saw in the postwar era. No one seemed to think that was wrong or fucked up.