Bah

I’m just so grouchy. I know part of it is PMS and part of it is work and part of it is just living in this country right now and feeling helpless to change things.

Twice this week I’ve found dead snakes on our walk. That also makes me mad. There’s just no need to kill a snake on neutral ground. I mean, I’d argue there’s no reason to kill a snake, period, but I accept people have different opinions when feeling trapped by one.

But if you have room to avoid it and it has room to avoid you, don’t fucking kill snakes.

 

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Closer to Done

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In a surprise to me, I’ve ended up loving to doodads, but kind of not liking the wavy side edges. This still feels very, very architectural to me, though, so the parts on the edge that stick out remind me of tiny turrets.

I’m oping it’ll be done by the end of the month. I won’t say I wouldn’t do it again, but I think it’s much more likely you’ll just see the squares and the doodads again.

Shift

I’ve been thinking lately about counterculture. This idea that, if the dominant culture doesn’t fit you, you just make a new and precious room for yourself.

This works pretty well if part of the dominant culture isn’t searching out what’s unique and special and assigning it monetary value and then turning it into a commodity and selling it back to you. But once you have something precious outside this system, it becomes a part of the system.

As the song says, if you go against nature, that’s part of nature, too.

What is outside this exploitative soul-crushing madness that cannot be consumed by it?

Nothing. Because we are the eyes and ears of the system. If we find something or make something or do something or be something, we have alerted the system to it.

I watched the news yesterday. As that other song says, I watched the news today, oh boy.

And my natural impulse, upon seeing all the dead people, is to insist that this is not me, these are not my values, this was not my choice, this is not my America.

But it is, you know? And I don’t know how to change it. This is me, and I don’t like it.

I see why apocalypses are so attractive to people. It’s so much easier, so much more comforting, to believe that there’s an end, a finality, to all this stupid evil.

And much harder to bear to realize that we are in a long, an endless, line of people who woke up one morning and asked, “How can this go on like this?” Only to find that it does. Endlessly.

Paschal Beverly Randolph

Yesterday, as I was working on this afghan, I found a new-to-me podcast, “Occult Confessions.” It’s either the kind of thing you will love or hate. I love it, but with the caveat that it feels very much like the kind of thing that’s going to end in a scandal. If you’ve ever been in academia, I promise you’ll know what I mean by about fifteen minutes into the first episode. The fault lines are clear. I could almost write the Chronicle article we’re all going to read in ten years right now.

That doesn’t have anything to do with the content of the podcast, though. That’s super interesting. And I learned about Paschal Beverly Randolph, who was a 19th century occultist I’d never heard of, who founded his Brotherhood of Eulis here in 1874 and then promptly disbanded it months later.

Here’s an interesting bit, though, His biographer is like “I don’t know why Randolph came to Nashville. Maybe a lingering fondness for J. B. Ferguson?”

But he came to our insane asylum, which, though I can’t remember the dude’s name–not Adelicia’s husband, but the next dude–was run by a Spiritualist. That has to be why he was here and specifically why he was there.

Visit

My nephew came to visit me yesterday! Well, I went up there at lunch and spent a ton of time playing with him, but I had forgotten everything I wanted to bring him, so they stopped by later.

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He was so surprised! And he liked my light fixtures. And the dog, even though he seemed very overwhelmed by all the fur and slobber and loudness.

And I got more done on my afghan. I fucked up majorly. I mean, majorly, because I was so tired. I was trimming a tail and I cut the end of the seam. This should have caused the whole seam to unravel (picture how tugging opens a bag of dog food), but it didn’t. So rather than picking it apart, I just left it. I mean, I picked at it and tugged at it, but I couldn’t get it to come open, so… I don’t know. The nice thing about how these seams are is that it’ll be really easy to fix if it does come apart. But damn.

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Also, this morning, I saw a flock of turkeys in the field and the tom saw me. He puffed himself up real big, as if to tell me I’d better not even try to come near his family. Toms are fearless.

Happenings

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I love how this is coming together. I feel sort of bad giving someone an afghan that is more art that blanket. She can never put this in the dryer. It’s not particularly soft. But it’s so beautiful. I think it’s worth it.

I finished a draft of my manuscript yesterday. I need to have something to send to the editor so he can see what I’m up to and this is it. Or will be after I let it rest a little and look through it.

But I also heard from the National Archives and they have the Hattie Cotton file–200 pages–which they will send me. And the J.B. Stoner file, which needs to be read through by their legal team, but that can be done.

The whole Stoner file is 2,000 pages. Obviously, I’m not doing that. But Jesus Christ, how do you end up with a 2,000 page FBI file and one conviction? Like, what then was the purpose of keeping a file on you?

I just want his early years, and that also seems like a much more manageable two or three hundred pages. The archivist who is helping me even found that a bunch of Stoner’s ’58 file was in another spot, and made sure I would know to ask for it.

I suspect that’s either his Confederate Underground activity or his run-in with Bull Connor. In other words, the stuff they did actively try to get him for.

It’s really weird compared to fiction–the process of writing this. When I write fiction, I agonize over everything and am convinced I suck as a writer. Rereading this, I’m like, oh, hey, this is really good. This is really engaging. This is really funny. Like, I’m finding the writing part really easy (knock on wood).

The parts I’m struggling with are bigger-picture things: Should I interview so-and-so? Is there another investigative avenue I should be pursuing? Is there something I’m missing?

It’s a really nice change of pace. Also, those questions aren’t killing me. They just seem like stuff worth mulling over.

Am I…am I enjoying this?

Magical Thinking

I feel like I have to be careful not to succumb to stupid ideas that make me feel more in control of things. Like, for instance, my belief that life likes equilibrium, so if you have an exceptionally good day or nice time, a bad day or horrible time is quickly to follow. So, try to keep your elation to a minimum, in order to reduce your suffering.

That’s stupid.

But as nice as last week was, yesterday was as awful. I don’t really want to talk about work stuff here–or I do, but I think it would be a bad idea–but at one point yesterday in a discussion with my boss, I started laughing, which turned to crying, which then was just a mixture of laughter and crying I couldn’t control, so I sat there just literally being  hysterical mess. I had a fantasy of just crawling under my desk every time someone tried to talk to me. Not right before, so that they’d think I was in the bathroom or something.

Just, at some point in the conversation, noping right out and hiding under my desk.

I already have a headache, but I’m going to try to get through today.

Doodads

I found my doodad groove and worked up 11 done ones, so I could stick them to the end of the afghan that’s done.

Y’all. Y’all! Look at this.

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I love this so much. I want to put doodads on all my afghans. I’m making a peacock afghan next and I’m kind of already pondering how I can put some doodads on it.

Nightmares

Last night I had my first nightmare about the book. Well, it was about how someone was forcing me to watch The Walking Dead and then I got sucked into the TV show, literally, and had to run from zombies. But I’m not dumb, subconscious. I get it.

I’m very worried that I’m going to miss some obvious fact I need. Or that I’m drawing the wrong conclusions because I don’t have a broad enough knowledge.

I have to keep reminding myself that my primary goal is to give someone better than me a framework from which to work. Someone with more knowledge, who knows these people better than I do, who will look at everything I’ve found and sneer about all I missed and how could I not know that this means that.

Still, you guys, there’s so much that I feel is just… like it’s just laying out right there and no one has put it together.

Sunday

I’m up to the point where I should be fleshing out my Robert Gentry portion, but yesterday I just couldn’t spend that much time with him. Instead, I spent the morning doing chores, then I went to a birthday party, and then I kind of worked on my doodads.

They’re so fussy. But I still really, really like them and think they’re going to be great on the afghan.

Bah, okay, I should make the most of this time. Off to Robert Gentry.

Doodad Work

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I got all twenty-two doo-dad triangles done and I’ve now started on the first round of dangly bits.

It’s not so bad if you can get into a groove.

I got some good work on the manuscript done yesterday, too, and I’ve been thinking about how, even thought it’s obvious how close together horror and comedy sit in our brains–why we sometimes laugh at funerals and scream in delight–we don’t acknowledge that very well in real life.

Once something is funny, it’s not dangerous. Or at least that seems to be our overarching belief. And you can see how this bites us in the butt with a guy like Bill Cosby who joked for years about drugging women to have sex with them, but it was funny, so we took it as harmless, even though people were being harmed by him.

And, y’all, these racist terrorists are hilarious. I mean, there is not a stupid, fucked up thing they won’t do. Fuck each other’s wives, steal from each other, spend decades as FBI informants narcing on their friends, try to kill each other in the stupidest ways possible, etc. Literally standing there with blood on their hands insisting the Klan is a heritage association and not violent.

And they were also a deadly, evil blight.

Sometimes, I feel like making something funny makes it safe for us. So, I’ve been mulling over whether acknowledging the humor in my story is responsible.

But I do think things can be horrific and dangerous and also hilarious. And I think it is okay to laugh at dangerous things as long as we don’t mistake our laughter for an indication that the thing we’re laughing at isn’t that bad after all.

Which, you know, I often think is Mel Brooks’ position, but I’m not sure people really get that in his work, either.

And I’m no Mel Brooks, so I worry.

Never Enough

I’m out of yarn. Not completely but enough that I could either stop and buy yarn now or muddle on making aesthetic decisions I’m not quite satisfied with only to end up still needing to buy yarn, but now less happy with the look of the blanket.

While I’m waiting on yarn, I’m going to be doing the little decorative flourishes on the half of the afghan I have done and, I think, making my doodads. I had kind of decided to leave the doodads off, but I have time now and the odds and ends I have left are perfect for doodad construction. Plus, look at this doodad I made:

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It looks so cute! How am I supposed to resist adding those, even if it is a butt-ton of work?

How Things Went, So I Don’t Forget

As you all know, a year ago the FBI told me they’d destroyed their file on the Looby bombing. I thought this was weird and sucked and I’ve been frustrated since then in my efforts to find anyone who could explain why they would do that–destroy the file on the unsolved assassination attempt of a sitting U.S. politician.

I thought it was weird, but I assumed someone higher up the food chain than me would understand it. On Wednesday, I ran into Keel Hunt, Lamar Alexander’s old chief of staff. The Looby file and its destruction came up. He insisted I call Hal Hardin, a former US Attorney. Hardin is too young for my bombings, but he prosecuted Gladys Girgenti.

So, I did. Hardin seemed outraged and confused by what I was telling him. And I was like, well, Jesus, if this doesn’t make any sense to a US Attorney…

Long story short, I’ve asked for Jim Cooper’s help in discovering whether the file was genuinely destroyed, and if so, why, or if it was just misplaced. So, woo to that!

Then I went to lunch and they want to do the book! There’s still lots of details to work out and it’s all very tentative so let’s not go to the bank on it or anything. But holy shit. Big day.

Welp, Today’s the Day

Yesterday, I ran into a dude whose father was dear friends with Looby. He gave me some advice in case I need to ask my local congressmen to put a little pressure on various government agencies to get me the stuff I need.

As usual, I was able to tell him some stuff he didn’t know. Seeing the surprise on his face was just confirmation to me that this is a story that needs to be told, that people locally need to know.

I’m still nervous. Keep your fingers crossed for me, please.

Hard Stuff

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My other brother’s going through some shit with his son and I basically told him yesterday that it’s okay to fuck up and not know what to do. It’s okay to fail in ways that you know you’re going to have to apologize for later. You can not know what to do so you just don’t do anything. It’s not great and it sucks, but…

I think my ex-sister-in-law always assumed my brother was her back-up plan. If her life didn’t work out, she could always get him to take her back. Him getting married seems to have thrown her for a loop.

It’s more complicated than that, of course. But it’s also not.

Anyway, it’s depressing me to think about. You like to think that there are adults in the room, but you get in the room and you see the adults are you and you don’t know what the fuck you’re doing. And you realize no one ever has.

Crochet Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Social

I think social media is bad for me. Especially Twitter. I don’t think that means I’m going to quit it. I mean, I might make that decision in the future, but for right now, I’m just acknowledging that being this stressed about work and this stressed about my civic life and this stressed about whatever nonsense is going on is addicting but bad for me.

I’ve been listening to the new Janelle Monae and I think one of the points she’s raising throughout the album is that happiness is revolutionary, delight is resistance. Pleasure changes things.

I don’t know how to take that to heart, but I want to take that to heart.

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All my squares are done. I’m now on to triangles. I really like it. I hope it’s not too busy.

I saw a bunch of folks this weekend and did a bunch of stuff. It was good. Now I have to hope I can carry those good feelings throughout the week.

Off Day

I worked on the bombing book. Then I took the dog to the Paradise Ridge Park, which I hadn’t been to since it opened. I did a leisurely 3/4 of a mile. I can’t even begin to approximate how far the dog walked, since he had to run back and forth to each side of the trail, sniffing and peeing everywhere. I have no idea how much distance his exuberant zig-zagging added, but a lot. He also made a friend, which is another nice thing about rural parks. The people who go there tend to have big dogs and are happy to meet another.

We went to McDonalds for lunch.

I yakked on the phone with the other Betsy about a really cool project she’s working on.

And then I spent the rest of the day crocheting.

I’m very torn about the doodads. They’re very fussy to make and a lot of work and I might not even have enough yarn to do them. But my trial one looks so neat I can’t quite bring myself to give them up.

So my new idea is to do the whole afghan and just see if I have enough yarn to do them and, if I run out of yarn before finishing the afghan, then I’ll totally feel justified in buying enough to finish my doodads.

I woke up today in a panic because I thought it was Sunday and I didn’t want to have to go back to work yet. Which I think means I desperately needed a day off.

Defeated

Some things happened at work yesterday. Nothing truly terrible, but the kinds of things that make me sad and tired.

So, I’m taking today off as an emergency mental health day.

So far I got up an hour late and had some breakfast. I’m already feeling like more of a human being than I did all afternoon yesterday.

Delights

This morning when I woke up at 5:45 in the morning, very early in the morning, morning, morning, I learned of the existence of a roll playing game called “Jason Statham’s Big Vacation.”

And I would like some credit for not immediately, before six a.m., calling C. and screaming into the phone “You must take today off work, teach me how to play role playing games, find six other people who would find this as hilarious and awesome as me, and then we must play this game. Today. I’ll buy lunch. Woo!!!!”

Y’all, Wesley Snipes tries to ruin Jason Statham’s holiday. It’s wonderful.

Second, yesterday morning, I went to a women’s breakfast and talked to all these very prominent community members about Fort Negley. I was halfway through my talk when I realized I had been going on and on excitedly about body parts while these women were trying to eat. I was mortified.

They didn’t seem to mind, though.

And the questions and answer session was really fun. I think they had a good time and I had a great time.

Third, though not really delightful, many years ago, a dude gave me this old poster he had found in a barn that was just a bunch of anti-Semitic nonsense. I think he thought it was mysterious, so he framed it and gave it to me. I turned the poster over and used the frame for something else.

Recently, he made noises like he might want the poster back so he could “study it and figure it out.” (Or so he could have an excuse to reinsert himself back into my life, I suspect.)

So, I took it out last night to look at it for the first time in years, and thanks to all this bombing nonsense, it’s utterly clear what it is–a map of the cosmology of Christian Identity, which I don’t think is still called that, but is a weird, racist theology that posits that Cain was a result of Eve fucking the serpent.

And I laughed because it made me feel like I’ve been on the path to writing this book for a long time.

But I tell you what, too. It made me wonder about the owners of that barn. You might have met some run of the mill racists back in the day out west who’d fallen into Christian Identity, but in the South, if you were into Christian Identity, it was a pretty sure indication that you were a violent racist, that you were trying to provoke a race war.

Like I said, made me wonder about the owners of that barn.

The Orangening

I keep saying this is an orange afghan, but so far, it’s not very orange. Here are the representative squares of the last three rows.

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Granted, that middle one isn’t orange, but it’s a variegated yarn that is very orange in parts.

Getting Some Stuff Moving Along

I had a really productive weekend. I got some good writing done. I’m about a third of the way into Wexler & Hancock’s Killing King. I had a lovely dinner with friends and then a lovely brunch with some other friends.

And I got a bunch of this afghan moved from “almost done” into “done.”

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A thing I have been fretting about with this afghan is that it’s got a kind of decorative doodad on the top and bottom and I have been worried that I might not have enough of the same color yarns to do the doodads. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me until right now, but I can finish my squares and then do the doodads. Then I can use the rest of the yarn on the filler triangles.

Also, because of the doodads, the afghan doesn’t have a border. I’m a little nervous about that.

Complaining Helps

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

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

And that has opened things up for me.

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

Ugly

I still hate pictures of myself. I hate that, when I see pictures of myself, I reflexively think “disgusting.” I hate that I don’t even think this about other fat women my size. Or fatter. I still sometimes blame the fat, but it can’t be the fat if I find other big round bodies attractive or neutral.

It’s me.

And I’m really grateful for the drugs that don’t let my mind jump to that and then stick there and worry at it until I hate my life.

And I’m grateful for the therapy that has taught me to demand my brain slow down and articulate how it’s feeling, really.

But I’m also really grateful for a little dude who genuinely delights in seeing me. To him, I just genuinely and value-neutrally look like myself, a person he likes.

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We were both covered in refried beans, because he likes them but can’t quite get them from his hand to his mouth without them ending up everywhere else.

Family Time

I am all familied out. I love these assholes, but lord, I am grateful to come home to my empty house.

I would have been burned at the stake in earlier times. Not because I’m proficient at cool magic or anything, but because I would have lived out in the middle of the woods alone, in a ramshackle hut with a weedy garden and I would have recognized all the local birds.

But look at these two dinguses.

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Hard not to love them.