This weekend, my nephew made a silly face at me. He’s often smiled at me and been delighted when I smiled back. But this was the first time he made a face that was different at me. I didn’t know how to do it back to him, but I loved it.
This weekend, my nephew made a silly face at me. He’s often smiled at me and been delighted when I smiled back. But this was the first time he made a face that was different at me. I didn’t know how to do it back to him, but I loved it.
My cousin and her family are in town! Her kids are just so adorable. Her son is like some kind of Star Wars savant. And he gets so big-eyed and excited when he tells you everything he knows.
I spilled Sprite all over myself at dinner. That was pretty embarrassing. But my cousin’s daughter reassured me that she spills things all the time and it happens to everyone. And my step-niece said I could blame her, if I wanted.
And my nephew is in a new stage! Now, when he’s tired of you holding him, he just puts his arms and lets out and holds his body stiff. He goes from cuddle-bunny to dry starfish.
Which means he can prefer things and people! Like, he can want and unwant things. Well, like, he’s run into stuff he didn’t like before. But this seems like the first time I’ve noticed him being like “Okay, enough of this.”
I also went to lunch. In a way that is going to lead to another lunch. Which really necessitates me getting to the National Archives this summer. So, that’s exciting and a little terrifying.
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.
Slowly it grows. Or, actually, probably pretty quickly. I’m not sure if it’s going to be seven or eight rows tall. A lot of that will depend on how it looks at seven and how much yarn I have. You can see how much better the skulls in the middle of the afghan look. That’s because they’re being pulled on all four sides. I need to put a big enough border on this to help pull the outside squares, and thus the outside skulls, into shape. Which means I need to leave myself enough yarn to do so.
I need to do the third Third Man afghan, a wedding afghan for my cousin, and then a peacock afghan and then I think I’m taking a break from afghans for a second. I want to get that t-shirt rug done. I have this cool pattern for a deer head I want to try.
And I want to be writing. Which, hey, is a nice, weird feeling!
A thing I find really infuriating and heartbreaking is when black people contact me about something I’ve written about that relates to their family because this is the first they’ve heard of someone who knows something about their relatives.
They’ve been told that there’s basically nothing. And there is next to nothing, but not nothing. There are places to dig, things to know. And even when we don’t have specific stories about particular people, we certainly know enough about the circumstances in which people were enslaved to make broad generalizations.
This morning, I was contacted by a black Douglas. I could tell her that, if she wanted to come to Middle Tennessee, she could certainly still see the things her people did–the churches they built, the roads they cleared, the houses, the city.
Denying that to people… it is genocidal. I don’t say that lightly, but stripping people of their ancestors, denying them the stories–for better or for worse–of their people is an ongoing attempt to destroy them.
I don’t think this mess can ever be fixed. I’m a little jealous of people who think we just need to tear everything down and start over, because there is no clean slate. As long as there are people, there’s people, you know? Revolutions presuppose that we can somehow escape that.
But we can’t. There are no fresh starts. Not really. This is what we have. There’s no escaping it.
After a week of not, I’m hoping to get back at the bombing story.
I can’t decide if the skull afghan is going slower than it should or faster. The skulls are pretty quick to make. I just need a lot of them. I think it’s that it’s basically a granny square and I feel like I should be able to pop those off much more quickly than these squares go.
And half my yarn for the third Third Man afghan has arrived!
Anyway, I’m going to go burn a few minutes on the bombings.
My second Third Man afghan is done! Well, not washed yet, but done. I really like it. I’m glad I got to try some new things. I’m glad I wasn’t stuck doing those new things too much if I didn’t enjoy them.
I did that join I promised myself I would only use on baby blankets, because I thought this was a small enough afghan that it would be okay. And it was–just okay. But, holy shit, I took what I’ve learned this past year from some of my more difficult afghans, and look how fucking awesome that border turned out.
Now I’m working on this skull afghan, which I like and am already annoyed by. I think it will lie flatter once washed, but we’ll see.
And fuck it, here’s one of the nephew.
It’s against my long-standing blog policy to correctly name anyone in my house who’s not dead. But the orange cat isn’t in my house and I want you to get the graffiti right.
So, yes, big news. The orange cat is not dead! That motherfucker went to the vet and got blood drawn like a champ and his numbers are, in the vet’s words, “incredible.” No sign of any kidney problems, which is apparently remarkable in a cat his age. The vet was blown away that he’s never had any medical problems in his whole long life. And, indeed, this is the first time the Butcher and I could recall ever taking him to the vet for anything other than maintenance crap.
So, if it’s not physical… well, she’s not sure it’s not physical. She’s testing his blood for thyroid problems and she does think his arthritis probably sucks. But that can all be fixed with medication. Which, get this, you can just rub on the inside of his ear. No trying to shove fucking pills down his throat.
But she thinks he may be getting a little senile, he may just not be adjusting to not having the Butcher around, since he was primarily bonded to the Butcher, and being old and slow, he may be feeling overwhelmed by the other animals, especially the dog.
If only there were a pet-free house where his favorite person lives…
So, the orange cat lives at the Butcher’s house now. And we’re going to see how that goes. But judging by all the adorable Instagram photos, I think it’s going to be good for him.
I can’t tell you how relieved I am that he’s alive and that we could make an easy switch in his life that makes him happy.
This week has just been slow. And very busy. And a lot. I have gotten a lot accomplished at work, including the hard thing I was worried about. But my mind has been on grief. I feel forgetful and scatterbrained. And slow. I’m still working on this afghan. It’s just taking me a long time to get through the join. And I don’t feel like I’m working on it less than usual. I feel like I’m just physically slower than I normally am.
I haven’t gotten any work done on the bombing manuscript this week. I’m just not in the headspace for it.
The thing about having this dying being in my house is that it’s just so sad. Not just because he’ll be gone, but because Sadie is gone and my grandma is gone and my uncle is gone and the people who built this house are gone and the dachshund I grew up with is gone. Everything, eventually, slips away until it’s your turn to be the one that disappears.
The cat’s vet appointment is Friday morning. I don’t have anything profound to say about it. Last night, he went outside and he didn’t come back in and I went looking for him. He was just in the garage, curled up by the back door. But I thought of all the times when Sadie would be standing in the yard, unable to come up with what she should do next, and the cat would walk out there to get her and guide her back to the house. Or all the times, after Sadie died, when he would go for walks with me and then wait for me in the far field to make sure I got home okay. And there I was, going to look for him, making sure he got back to the house okay.
I’ve lived with him his whole life, except the first four weeks of it. If I bought a cat today that lived as long as he’s lived, I’d be 61 when he died.
I hope he haunts me. Because I’m going to miss him. According to my math, I’ve spent 40% of my life with him. The Butcher has spent half his life with him.
Y’all, I have to make three Third Man afghans. The one I’m almost done with? Let’s say “circumstances” and, yeah, the person’s not going to want it. So, it’s going to a poet. And I will be making an afghan with no yellow or black in it for the person who was going to get this.
This is a weird town where the circumstances of some genius you don’t know affects your evenings for the next month or so.
But I find some poetic justice in ending up making three Third Man blankets.
A thing I’m really enjoying, though, is that I’m trying all different kinds of things, different color changes, different techniques, because, if it’s too hard, I just do one of them.
I have a very, very important work meeting this morning. Then this afternoon I need to find my guts and call the vet about the orange cat. The Butcher came by to see him yesterday and he, of course, perked back up. But, sadly, not enough for me to be fooled.
I think part of my dread, if I’m being honest, is I’m afraid that the vet will say, “Well, we can do x and see if he improves” and x will involved me trying every day to shove a pill down his throat so that he and I can both come to hate each other and then he’s still going to die sooner rather than later, because he’s 18. But what kind of monster wouldn’t try shit to see if it helps? It feels cruel to say, no, I’d just rather kill him now.
And, my god, I don’t. I want him to just die peacefully in his sleep or die in a car accident where he’s the driver and we’re all left wondering how the hell that happened.
But I’m having a hard time figuring out how to know what medical interventions are “worth it” even if it makes him unhappy and what’s just saying “let’s be miserable together until we have no other option.”
He’s had a nice, full, long life. I don’t want him to suffer. So, I guess I’m hoping the vet will say something clear like “hey, we can give him this pill and all this will clear right up and he’ll be pissed at you about the pill, but he’ll get another five years easy,” in which case, hell yes. Or he’ll say “everything we can do is going to make him angry and afraid and won’t make him better. It’s just buying you a few more months, but they won’t be good months.” And then it’ll be clear.
But I’m afraid it’s going to be more nebulous, and I won’t know the right thing to do.
But, also, he’s outside right now, and I’m so relieved because it means he isn’t in here peeing on things without me realizing.
A thing that dawned on me this morning as I was walking the dog and thinking about our fucked up society, in which a white kid who bombs black people is just, so sadly, troubled and a black people who get killed weren’t “angels,” as if you have to be an angel to deserve to live, is that a really fucked up thing about racist societies is that racism becomes the tool through which the dominant culture gets positive cultural change.
Like, say, white people are supposedly perfect. We don’t do anything wrong. If we’re doing it, it can’t possibly be bad. Say we beat the shit out of our kids. And everyone is starting to notice that white children are really, really fucked up by it. But you can’t say it, because it would imply that something white parents were doing was really fucked up. And yet, obviously, good people want to stop child abuse.
Well, then, we need strong child abuse laws because those black people are so violent toward their kids. Look how they treat their kids. Where are the fathers in their houses? Etc. Etc. Etc.
And then, because the social good–stopping abuse–is so great, the cost of scapegoating black people seems worth it to the non-black do-gooders.
Which then reinforces the bonds of racism.
I finished one of my Third Man afghans.
I’m hoping the other one will go fairly quick.
I also had two afghans delivered yesterday. One was in person, so I got lots of hugs, and the other was by mail. It was wonderful. I like making beautiful things that people love.
I’m still very busy and stressed at work. But when I talked to my dad about it last night, he was actually supportive and lovely. Is this what him not in pain is like? I guess I forgot.
I’m trying to be mindful of all my therapy lessons, to take time to name my feelings and not just put my head down and power through. I think it’s helping.
I’ve also been trying to fiercely guard my downtime and only agree to things I know are going to be nourishing. I still feel kind of paralyzed by busyness.
Sometimes I read news stories and it makes me feel like there’s some component of being a woman that I just don’t have. Like, I can’t for the life of me understand how someone ends up being a Trump mistress.
Like, I guess the folk wisdom is that women are attracted to money and power, but they just seem like such obvious frauds. If I ran in those social circles, I feel like I’d be “sick” a lot and miss parties they were going to.
Like, how do you not look at them and realize they’re just going to constantly be mean and a pain in your butt?
I had a really lovely weekend hanging out with friends and not fretting about work. I went and hung out with my nephew, who is really working hard on figuring out how he might crawl in the future. He’s kind of got the notion that, if he moves his hands, he might move, but so far he’s just kind of pushing himself backwards.
And he rolls over like a pro, now.
I also think he’s on the verge of understanding that the baby on the screen of my phone is him.
And look at Fort Negley out there being beautiful and free.
So, the dude who led the mob that beat up that couple in Brentwood got arrested for attacking his wife and father-in-law who were pissed at him for having an affair with his father-in-law’s new wife.
Ha ha ha.
But also, I can totally see racist groups in the 50s falling apart in the same way.
A thing I’m curious about–though not curious enough to really dig into it–is how you can behave these ways and still believe yourself to be “supreme.” Like at what point do they think the moral superiority is going to kick in? Or do they think that carrying on like this is better than whatever “they” do.
There are parts of racism I get–really well, too well. I get the woman at the coffee shop who is looking for a place to sit and who demands a black woman whose cup is almost empty get up and give her that spot. I get how tempting it is to believe that some people just aren’t as smart as other people and it’s genetic and race-based. I get the systemic racism. I get the positive feedback loop it instills in white people which makes itself very hard to even recognize, let alone stop. It’s hard to turn away from pleasure.
And I get the “I hate you” racism. The “let’s go beat up some black kids” or “let’s go scare those Asian kids.” Again, it’s the pleasure of the bully.
But “I’m better than you” is a claim that must, I’d think, be constantly tested. It has to be perpetuated by comparison (which is how systemic racism plays into it). But obviously the comparison must often show you that you’re not all that. None of these white supremacists are as good looking as, say, Idris Elba. If they have a superior social structure, why are they beating each other and fucking around on each other? If they’re so great, why do their lives suck?
How do they look at their own lives and convince themselves that this is the evidence that they are superior? I just do not understand it.
Here’s the Times article. “Nashville historian.” Lord. That is awesome and makes me laugh. I don’t know shit about Nashville. Everything I learn is a known fact on a mountain of unknown facts. Well, to me, anyway. But I’ll take it.
In unrelated news, a couple of Sonnyboy’s friends bought him a Kong and I remembered to bring it home yesterday. I put treats in it and put it on his bed and he was so disappointed. He just sniffed at it and sighed dejectedly and then laid down next to it.
I felt so terrible! Who doesn’t like toys?
But finally, he figured out that he could get the treats out of the Kong if he just moved the Kong around. BUT he then just dragged his bed with the Kong on top of it around.
Finally, when I was getting ready for bed, I heard him in the other room finally getting it.
This morning I put more treats in there and he carried it around the house to show me multiple times, so I think he likes it.
But man, I so understand his initial reaction. “Oh no! Something new and unknown?! I hate new and unknown things.” Same, dog. Same.
I just have one square left on this afghan. I had a reason for putting off the borders of all the squares until the end but I can’t remember what it was, but I’m going to trust I had some good reason and keep with it. And I am going to have so many ends to tuck. I weep for the amount of ends I have to tuck.
A reporter for the New York Times interviewed me about Fort Negley last night. I don’t know if I’ll be quoted in his story or if he just wanted someone who could dump a lot of background information on him, but I dumped what I could.
And then I freaked the fuck out. I mean, I’m sorry, but what the fuck? How is this life?
They tell you “Act like you’ve been there,” but I haven’t. I don’t know people who have. I don’t have any idea what you do when the Times wants to talk to you.
For all I know, maybe George W. still looks at his wife in wide-eyed wonder every time someone from the Times wants to talk to him. Maybe freaking the fuck out is what people who’ve been there do.
The gulf is so big. The kind of person I am. The kind of life I’ve been able to lead.
I see why the myth of meritocracy is so important. The reality is nuts. The myth makes sense of a world that makes no sense. This shit just happens and you can kind of draw a line between “I did this” and “this happened” but I know a lot of people who are also doing “this” and “this happened” is not happening for them.
I am so very, very lucky.
And I can’t shake the feeling that I’m getting away with something. Not in this particular instance, but overall. That I was supposed to be a miserable, lonely outsider trying to be okay in some small Midwestern town. And somehow I escaped. And no one ever came to drag me back.
I was in college when I first read Adrienne Rich’s “Song” and I still think about it all the time. It still is deeply meaningful to me.
Today I take the dog to the vet by myself and with him having only a cursory walk.
I don’t know much about lap-sized afghans, but I want to make two of them for the folks at Third Man Books.
I have 4/6 of one done:
Also please note that these are the same squares with the same yarn and that is, indeed, how different that yellow can look. Which is why I had such a tough time–and still believe I might be wrong–matching it to the Third Man yellow.
Remember how I told you I wanted to do a motif from the goth afghan that was the flower from the one and the background of the other? I decided to give it a go for the other lap afghan:
I may do a few with the center being the same color as the petals, just so there’s a little more variety. But we’ll see.
I know it’s not the clinical diagnosis of “introverted,” but man, my life one-hundred percent improved when I read the internet meme definition of introverted as being someone who is drained by group events and recharges by being alone.
Because I had a wonderful time yesterday seeing friends and talking about music and just being a person in the world and I could have easily gone to bed at 7:30.
Anyway, this is the new afghan I’m working on.
I remain somewhat frazzled with work. I wouldn’t call myself an emotional eater, but last night I had a salad and four Reeses’s Eggs for dinner. This morning I wondered if I would have been better off having a salad, one egg, and a Xanax.
It’s a weird thing to adjust to. I’m used to my anxiety being, on a scale of one to ten, at a baseline of five with easy spikes into the 15 range. Now being at a baseline of one or two, with spikes that only go to ten, it’s sometimes hard for me to recognize “Oh, this is a lot of stress and anxiety.” because it’s so much less than how I’ve lived up until now.
So I flounder around in this haze of “something’s not quite right, but I feel okay and functioning so I don’t know what it is. Maybe I’m still hungry? Maybe even if I’m not hungry, it would still be awesome to have candy for dinner?”
Which, don’t get me wrong, I am all for having candy for dinner if that’s what I’m choosing. But doing it because something’s off and I’m just trying to feel better isn’t how I want to do things. At least not without recognizing that’s what I’m doing.
There’s a lot going on in my work life that I’m stressed about, but feel would be not cool to talk about, though it bums me out because the whole point of a blog is to complain about things you don’t quite know how to deal with.
But meanwhile, last night, the dog had the hiccups. Like, big, unpleasant ones. And so he began to do this huff. Not a traditional pant, but like breathing out really really strongly, like huh, huh, huh, huh. And he did this for about thirty seconds and his hiccups stopped.
Now, you hiccup because your diaphragm is spasming. Basically, it’s like a bad cramp in any other muscle. Part of the muscle is contracting while the rest of the muscle isn’t. So, in order to get rid of hiccups, you have to get your diaphragm back to normal. Most of the time, it passes, like any cramp.
But, there are tricks. The tricks that involve swallowing a large amount of something are trying to get the muscles around your diaphragm to work in unison for a common goal–getting the thing down into your stomach–which will hopefully pull your diaphragm out of spasm.
And breathing into a paper bag can work because it fills your lungs with more carbon dioxide, which is supposed to force your diaphragm to relax.
But I have to tell you, now I really, really want to try the dog’s method. Because it seems like it combines both strategies. By doing some really powerful exhales very close together, you’re obviously limiting the amount of oxygen that can get into your lungs. Plus, the very powerful exhales are forcing all your chest muscles into the same job, which hopefully gets your diaphragm on board.
It seems like it might work. I mean, it did for him. But it seems like it might for a person as well.
I have this recurring dream lately where I go to visit a couple of my friends, who live in an apartment complex along the interstate, and are history buffs.
And the husband in the dream is all the time telling me I need to go to the restaurant–sometimes it’s a Hooters, sometimes it’s called a guy’s name–down the street, if I can.
The restaurant is located where the interstate is. Except sometimes the interstate isn’t there and, if I can figure out how to get through the tall grass and the brush, I could go to the restaurant, which I can see through the weeds.
But I never can get there. Even though I know there’s something important, or at least interesting, inside.
I really love how it turned out.
The only thing I’m a tiny bit bummed about is that I can’t get my phone to take a picture of it that really shows how lacy it ended up. If we get a good sunny day between now and the time I wash it, I might see if an outside picture picks up that detail.
This kind of gets at it, though it also shows all the dog hair. Jesus Christ. Yesterday I made the mistake of looking at my couch in the daylight and I had to vow to never have people over until every pet I own is dead and I have all new furniture. I mean, I know it’s spring shedding season, but christ.
For my next afghan, I’m going back to the spiral pattern and I’m hooking my folks at Third Man Books up with something they can use in their freezing office. Though, by the time I get done with it, it might not be so cold in there.
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.