Here Comes the Rain Again

It feels like it’s been a while since we’ve had any kind of tropical storm blow through, but today we’re starting to see Cindy, who I guess will be here through Saturday?

I will never not be awed by the size of these storms, the fact that something that is still churning in the Gulf reaches me, way up here.


There’s some usual idiocy in the comments over at the Scene, which they’re trying to handle by making everyone sign in through social media. I don’t think this will curb all abuse, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will cut down on some.

And I was talking about this a little on Twitter, but I wanted to say it here, too, that there’s a gendered dynamic to how women are treated on the internet that is really hard to get at. Sure, there’s been a lot of analysis, but it all just seems to get at portions.

I think the underlying issue is a cultural assumption that women must “earn” attention through availability–usually sexual, but not always. Like, the default is that we don’t pay attention to women. We don’t value their opinions. We don’t find spending time with them just for the sake of spending time with them worthwhile.

So, if women want attention, they have to give us something to make it worth our while to tolerate them.

Since, obviously, I’m not having sex with everyone at Pith, I think the something some of them feel owed is the opportunity to abuse me. Me tolerating the shitty things they say about me is what “earns” me the opportunity to have their attention.

I think this is what’s fundamentally so upsetting to trolls about women’s participation in things. It feels to them unearned because the woman is not paying in some way for the attention doled out to us. So, they will make us pay.

This Dog

Today I chased the dog through three backyards and then, when I couldn’t catch him and I couldn’t even see him, but I heard him rustling in the bushes ahead of me, and I called out one last time, he came from behind me.

Which leads me to wonder who I was chasing?

And also, is the dog secretly faster than I realized? I lost sight of him for just a second, then started following “him” again, but during that time, he and his stunt double must have switched places.

Or else I am in the dog version of The Prestige. Which means that, though there is a dog sleeping at my feet, somewhere out there he also runs free.

Mouse Wars

I was so busy this weekend that I don’t feel like I really had much of a weekend. I went to war with the mice in the kitchen, which involved emptying three cabinets, washing most of my dishes, washing said cabinets, and then stuffing the holes I think the mice are coming through with steel wool. I also had to run to Target and the grocery store and do a bunch of research at Special Collections and then, as you know, I’m also trying to get a very rough draft of this story together so that I can see where holes are and where I need more research. Plus some out of town friends were in town and I got to see them.

Also, the stupid orange cat bit me on Friday and I yelled so loud that he exploded off my bed and hid from me for two days. Then, on Sunday, when he finally did come out–though let me also be clear that his “hiding” still involved sleeping with me. He just left my bed when he realized I was awake.–and he seemed kind of stiff and sore and wobbly and I was like, Christ, if that dumbass cat hurt himself leaping off the bed, I’m going to feel so damn terrible.

But he wouldn’t let me touch him to feel if he was in any pain.

So, I sent a text to the Butcher asking him to come by when he got off work. That damn cat was fine. “Oh, hi, The Butcher. You want to give me some head rubs? You want to see me scampering across the house? You want I should leap up on your lap?”

And then, after the Butcher left, the cat came and sat on my lap, like now that I saw how things were, we could be friends again.

I’m like, dude, I’m the one who texted the Butcher! You didn’t bring your big mean man over here to put me in my place and teach me a thing or two about loud yelling. I brought my soft-hearted brother here for a second opinion about your squirrelly behavior.

But you can’t convince him of that.


In researching this story, I found a third racist killed by his kid. I don’t know anything about patricide, really, so I don’t know how common it is, but this feels like a group with a lot more of it than most.

I have two main thoughts about it. One that when we don’t deal with social problems like racism, the suffering is society-wide. The people I’m looking at really harmed black people and Jewish people AND they also really harmed their children. Being white didn’t protect their children from them.

Second, I feel like these kids are often harmed a second time because we tend to dismiss the families of racists as also worthless pieces of shit. As if they can’t be anything other than what their fathers were, which lets us ignore the years of suffering and abuse that the kids endured and then treat what they have to do to escape it as kind of a joke.

Me, too. I mean, I laughed when I saw that this dude had died after a fist-fight with his kid.

But it’s not just funny. It’s also really terrible. And you know the 14 words these yahoos love? What future are they securing? I mean, really. When your kids are abused and terrorized because the only way you know how to go through life is as an abuser and a terrorizer, your kids can’t flourish. And removing everyone who’s not like you from the country or the planet isn’t going to make your kids happy and well-adjusted, because it’s not those outsiders ruining them.

The bogeyman is in the house. Has been there all along.


Today as the dog was walking back to me after chasing a bunny, a word popped into my head–flourishing. I think he’s flourishing. I know he misses the Butcher–I do, too–but I feel like we’ve developed some kind of new understanding of what it means to live together without him. And we’re doing okay.

I really love this little baby blanket. The border is going to take a while, I think, but I think it’ll be worth it.

And I’ve decided to just lean into the paranoia of the bombing story in my draft, to just let the weirdness be at the center of it.

Damn You, Math!

So, the reason the lacy join wasn’t working is that in some squares, I was putting eleven stitches and in other squares, I was only putting ten. So, you know, not my best day as a crocheter, but I think I have it figured out now.

I haven’t ever done a flowerdy blanket like this and I am concerned about what happens in the wash. These flower pedals are going to curl, aren’t they?

I like my afghans to be no-fuss, but I think this may require a little fussing with when it comes out of the dryer.


Physics is Failing Me

I’m doing a kind of lacy join on the flowerdy afghan:


And in theory this is easy enough. You do a double crochet in one square and then the other, alternating stitches. So, if you put a stitch in the first square’s corner stitch, you put your next stitch in the other square’s stitch after the corner.

It took me an hour to do this first row. I started the second row and the first squares went easy so I was like, okay, I know what I’m doing. On to the next square. I could never get it to work out right. I could count the stitches. They were correct. I could see where my next stitches were supposed to go, but whenever I got to the end, it was wrong. And yet, I could not see where I fucked up. It was as if I had extra, invisible stitches.

So, for as quick as the squares in this blanket went, the join is going to vex me, I can tell.

Hard Work

I just want to reiterate how working on this baby blanket compared to the spiral afghan is…god damn. Like, I’m almost done making squares. On a blanket I started on Thursday. Granted, what I have in mind for the border will take a while, but the spiral afghan was SO HARD!

I’m glad I did it, but I don’t want to forget that it was tough and I probably don’t want to make a thousand of them.

Also, on another subject, can I just say that going grocery shopping on the first day of your period is stupid unless you want to come home with seventeen pounds of pasta and two expensive chocolate and caramel candy bars and some cookies you both want to eat and kind of want to throw up to look at?

I mean, I also got some protein and some vegetables, but I got home and emptied my grocery bags and laughed. And then damn straight ate one of those candy bars.

I’m slowly working on my draft. I’m trying not to freak out by how large it is. I’m already at 1,000 words and nothing’s gotten blown up. But I feel like I just need to vomit out everything I know and then I can work on shaping and trimming it. In other words, I know this draft is supposed to suck, but I’m still worried about it sucking.

I also had this dream that the Butcher told me a secret about one of his friends and I then went on a trip with her and blabbed her secret–which she did not know I knew–to everyone and she found out and was pissed. And all day I was like “Oh man, I really fucked up with so-and-so.” And I felt so bad and then remembered, no, it was just a dream. Everything is fine.

Ah, brain, you sure are fun.

Slow Day

Yesterday, the dog leaped down the hill into the meadow to chase a rabbit and I could tell when he did it that he landed hard. Then I gave him a bath and the kids came over.

So, today, we just took a short walk. We did get a bunny chase in and, embarrassingly, almost chased our own cat.

I’ve also started a baby blanket and I’m highly amused by just how fucking hard the spiral afghan was, because now I’m just churning out little flowerdy squares like nothing.

I also like this afghan because the baby will live out in the boonies and the main colors in this afghan are a kind of soft green and a soft yellow–like John Deere colors, but for a baby. Also, the flowers went through a brief stage where they looked like ninja throwing stars.

I want to do those cool pedals as the border, but I’ll have to see if I have enough yarn to make it happen.


So, today, as I was walking the dog and thinking to myself, if I could be doing anything today, what would I like to be doing? I thought, I’d like to be working on a draft of my project. And then I thought, no, that’s nuts. I don’t have anywhere near enough research done.

And then I thought, fuck that. How do I know what research I still need to do if I don’t start seeing what I know?

Anyway, my feeling at the moment is that this story will be “Why don’t we know?” And maybe that will shake some things loose.

Bombings, What are They Good For?

I’ve been thinking a lot about Sam’s comment about the “proper” ways violence flows in our society and what purpose our current myth serves.

The current myth, as I think most Nashvillians who even know it know it, is that everything was fine and calm here in Nashville–people knew their places and worked the system as best they could–and then Brown v. Board was announced and Nashville had to desegregate and, oh my goodness! A school was bombed! A black lawyer’s house was bombed! But it was so outrageous, such a shocking anomaly, that, in the wake of it, we desegregated in order to return to our peaceful existence. And it was so awesome that Dr. King came and told us that he got inspiration from the city of Nashville.

The bare bones of this story is that some outside event happened to rile up black people and as long as black people were riled up, there were these bombings, but once black people got their way, the violence stopped. Therefore, white people are awesome, because we moved gracefully out of the way of what black people wanted. So awesome that even Dr. King recognized it.

It’s hard to see with the flesh on that the story as it is told now is racist–at least for me–but stripped down, the racist narrative is easy to see–this violence happened because black people were not behaving. It ended because white people were super awesome and accommodating.

This is, I think, why the JCC bombing gets downplayed or left out all together–it was clearly an anti-integration bombing, both because the caller who took responsibility for it said so and because that strain of extremists believed that Jews were controlling black people, so get rid of the Jews, black people will settle down–but there wasn’t anything black people in Nashville had do that “caused” it. They weren’t trying to go to school or have a big civil rights rally. There was nothing to point to and say, “If you hadn’t done x, this bombing wouldn’t have happened.”

I’m also kind of suspicious this is why the bombers weren’t ever caught. Maybe not the primary reason, but a subconscious reason. You have faces and names and it makes it a lot harder to pretend like white people were on the side of good here and that black people were bringing this upon themselves.

And also, reducing Looby’s status to “lawyer for the sit-ins”–which, yes, is hugely important–elides his decades’ long work for black people as a lawyer AND his role as a city councilman.

I keep thinking about how important it is for me to keep checking my intellectual filters. Like, okay, if our era is just the third wave of the Klan–so roughly ’49 through like ’83–we have four bombings aimed directly at black people–the two early housing bombs, Hattie Cotton, and Looby. We have, though, six bombings directly linked to integration–the two early housing bombs, Hattie Cotton, the JCC, Looby, and the failed attempt on the Temple.

But what if we change our frame to “white men pissed about something the government is doing?” Then we have for sure the early housing bomb that was about a black public housing unit, two truck scales, an ex-mayor’s house, potentially other things I just don’t know about because I haven’t looked into the Wilson situation as much as I should have, Hattie Cotton, and Councilman Looby’s house.

The number of “Fuck you, government” bombings is the same as the “fuck you, integrationists” bombings.

And I feel like I’m almost on the verge of realizing what that means. I suspect it’s something like my realization about the third wave of the Klan–that there was this anti-black violence in Middle Tennessee already happening and the Klan came out of that, gave the white people who wanted to do violence a shape and a structure and a network of likeminded people.

And I also think that something similar is going on here–that racist bombings provide a socially-approved outlet for anti-government sentiment. You bomb a truck scale because you don’t like following the law, they’re going to catch you. You bomb a school because you don’t like following the law, well, now your just a person with a tradition and a way of life.

I hope it’s clear that I’m not trying to downplay how central and important the hatred and oppression of black people is. I’m just trying to peek underneath that layer to see the secondary things going on.

Racism and anti-government sentiment fed each other.

But, in the years since, Nashville as an American city has become an important way for us of viewing ourselves. We have big 4th of July celebrations. We want all the tourist dollars we can. We like it when the whole country likes our music. We love it when important people move here or come to visit.

So, the anti-government sentiment of the times had to be downplayed and forgotten. Which means that, though people living through the ’50s experienced bombings in Nashville as very common-place, we remember the three bombings I’m looking at as if they were jarring anomalies. Something that almost turned us into another Bombingham, but, whew, we escaped that fate because we’re so super awesome and not that racist.

But they weren’t anomalies. We were that racist. And we had another ugly strain of something here that fed into it.



I finished the spiral afghan! I meant to lay it out one more time after I washed it to see if some of the waviness was gone, but I threw it in the car, instead, to bring it to its new owner. I’m very pleased with how it turned out.

And if Third Man wants to commission me to do a black and yellow one, they know where to find me. Ha ha ha. Just saying.


So, the guy I was talking about yesterday is Jesse Wilson. He ran a trucking company and he was running his trucks heavier than legally allowed. The state put in some truck scales along his routes and he blew them up. He also appears to have, maybe, if I’m understanding the story correctly, accidentally almost killed one of his drivers when he was trying, on purpose, to kill another one of his drivers who had been making some pro-union comments.

He also, maybe, though I’m not certain on this, may have been involved with blowing up a ton of construction equipment–maybe owned by the state?–in Old Hickory. And he seems to have bombed the yard of an old mayor and tried to bomb the house of the publisher of the Tennessean, but failed.

For all this, he went to prison for like 28 months. But then in ’61, he had to go back to prison because a gang he organized robbed some people in Carthage.

In spite of all this, the police officer who caught him all the times he got caught seemed to have become genuinely fond of him and reported that, after one of his prison stints, when he learned to read and write, he did seem to be a changed man.

He was out of prison during my bombings and he was desperate for money, because he had lost everything. But his name hasn’t come up in any of the stuff I’m reading about my bombings. He didn’t appear on Kasper’s witness list. The papers made no note of him being at rallies. So, he’s not at the top of my list of suspects.

But I am confused and baffled by how off the radar he has fallen. There’s nothing about this story online, except at, that I could find. This dude waged a years’ long war against the state and local authorities and the media and no one remembers him. I’m kind of surprised he didn’t become a folk hero.

But I’m also surprised that he’s been so completely forgotten. It must have been traumatic and scary for Nashville to have this series of bombings. But we just developed cultural amnesia about it and taught ourselves that we were a peaceful city.


While I’m waiting around for my FOIA requests to be looked at and trying to figure out my next steps, I’ve been trying to understand what a bombing in Nashville would have felt like, psychologically.

In other words, Hattie Cotton gets bombed. Do people think “Oh, no! The racist violence is here to disrupt our tranquil town?” This, it seems to me, is kind of how the bombings are remembered now: everything was peaceful then long-simmering but not fully recognized problems bubbled to the surface and these three anomalies hit.

But what I quickly discovered is that this wasn’t the first racist violence in town in this era (I’m kind of thinking of this as a post-WWII phenomenon for a few reasons that I think are right, but are kind of boring, one being that men returned to town to fight with each other and that black men came home feeling an urgency to achieving if not full equality an end to racial violence). There were two bombings in the early fifties directly linked to trying to keep black people out of white neighborhoods. Those bombings succeeded. There was a constant stream of cross burnings. And there were all of the rumors of the return of the Klan, which, of course, turned out to be true.

I don’t want to get side-tracked, but I also think it’s an important point: in Nashville in this era, racialized violence predates organized groups to do it. In other words, the first bombings and the first cross burnings happened before the Klan was revitalized here. It was basically the fact that people were doing these things that seems to have spurred the revitalization and not as we’re kind of commonly taught that it was the revitalization of the Klan that lead to the uptick in violence.

No, the violence was there and the Klan arose to help organize it and let larger groups of whites participate in it.

But there were also two other types of bombing violence that I didn’t know anything about. One is so bizarre that I don’t know what to make of it and the other I am sure there’s something to be understood about it, I’m just so clueless about it that I’m not yet sure where to start.

Okay, the bizarre thing: throughout the 50s, there were a number of incidents where teenage boys would steal blasting caps (and sometimes dynamite, but most often just the blasting caps) and leave them in elementary schoolyards or near elementary schools, where young boys would find them and, sometimes, blow their fingers off or their eyes out.

This was seen as “pranks.”

And every time dynamite or blasting caps go missing, there’s a hubbub in the paper until it’s determined that the thieves are teens and not adults, even though–with the exception of the thing I’m about to get to–if adults stole dynamite, it seemed to be so they could fish with it and, if teens stole dynamite, it seemed to be so that they could facilitate young children disfiguring themselves.

Like, I genuinely don’t understand how it being in the hands of teens is a relief when this is what the teens are up to!  Also, I’m not understanding why there seems to be this distinction between teen thieves and adult thieves as if they live in two separate, never overlapping worlds. Surely teens stealing dynamite doesn’t mean that dynamite doesn’t end up in the hands of adults, but Nashville sure likes to treat it like it does.

So, that’s weird. Maybe you shouldn’t shrug off your teens trying to maim your children, but what do I know?

Okay, then the second thing, which I need to learn more about but am not yet sure where to start, is that there was a lot of violence surrounding trucking and union activity and, weirdly enough, barbershops and union activity, with the head of one trucking company waging a couple of years’ long bomb-a-thon of things around Middle Tennessee.

I need to read a book on this, because I feel like I’m missing out on a lot just stumbling across old newspaper stories, but I had NO idea. None. And the trucking dude bombed the publisher of the Tennessean and a mayor!

WTF?! How does this story just fade from public memory?? And what were the dynamics at play? In the South would unions have been segregated? Could I find that the people who dynamited the stuff I’m looking at became familiar with the use of dynamite during these activities? If so, should I look for them on the pro-union or anti-union side?

I mean, not to belabor this point, but I grew up in the Midwest where people were in unions and they went on strike and there was just a kind of general agreement that unions were good and I have always been baffled by the anti-union sentiment of the South and chalked it up to a residual belief that people owed you labor for nothing or next to nothing.

But I also had no idea of the extent of labor violence in the South and, while I still retain my pro-union stance, I would like to understand more about the era and specifically what the dynamic was here in Tennessee.


The guys came over to watch the game and I learned that second only to the Red-Headed Kid’s bizarre and openly sincere and heart-felt love of Reba McIntire, is his deep knowledge of hockey. Like people’s minor league stats and obscure rules exceptions and just all kinds of stuff.

It’s fun and nice to realize that people you’ve known forever can still surprise you.

Also, can I tell you how adorable it was when I got home and he was sitting in the porch swing out back just waiting for someone to show up and let him in and then the dog was so excited to see him that he forgot to pee.

The dog was all “Oh, hey! It’s you! Come in my house! Come up my steps like this! Bark! Bark! Bark!” and only once the Red-Headed Kid was moving in the right direction did the dog sprint back down the steps and run out to pee.


I did chores in the morning and then spent the afternoon trying to finish all these spiral squares. I love this afghan, but I’m ready for it to be done. So, I needed a podcast, something to listen to while I worked and I found Mabel, which is this wonderfully spooky, dreamy mix of The Haunting of Hill House and Goblin Market with a little Stranger Things thrown in there.

I consume most of my fiction these days in podcasts. My reading has been spent on the project and I haven’t really felt like watching TV. But man, I have loved me some fiction podcasts. It kind of makes me wonder if I would like audio books?

Anyway, maybe I’ll finish up this afghan this week, and then it’s on to a few smaller projects for kids.


I have mixed feelings about this project. It never fell into a rhythm where I could just zone out and work on it. Also, for some reason, even though it was all Red Heart yarn, the red squares turned out substantially larger than other squares, which, yes, also may shake out a little in the wash, we’ll have to see. And since it’s acrylic yarn, blocking isn’t going to do much good with the crooked sides. I’m just going to have to ask a lot of the seams.

So, I think I’d have been happier making this afghan out of wool or a wool blend, just because you can block wool and have it mean something. But who wants to spend that much on supplies?!

Donald Davidson

The more I work on this story, the more I end up reading Ben Houston’s scholarship and feeling like, damn, maybe he needs to write this, not me. And then I think, too late!

Anyway, I read a piece he did on Donald Davidson and it was just so brilliant I’m still thinking about it. His basic argument is simple–that Davidson’s racism was central to his writing and that scholars who try to treat it like a side matter are missing a lot of what’s going on in his work.

But what’s been sticking with me is the way Houston walks through Davidson’s beliefs about race and regionalism. Basically, Davidson was concerned with a specific, meaningful mythology of the white Southerner as an agrarian deeply connected to the land and traditions borne out of that relationship.

And Houston also shows how Davidson believed that black Southerners–and black Americans in general–did not have a kind of racial mythology because they’d been taken from Africa and stripped of their land, language, customs, religions, and kinship ties. And without this racial mythology to draw from, American blacks were always going to be less accomplished than white Americans who had this kind of racial (and regional) mythology.

So imagine the threat that accomplished black people posed for Davidson philosophically. It didn’t just offend him as a man racist against black people. It threatened his whole belief in what made white people great. After all, if you could be great without the components of this racial/regional mythology, then maybe the racial/regional mythology theory was wrong.

Or worse, what if it’s not wrong? What if there was a southern agrarian mythology that came from a person’s relationship to the land and the traditions borne out of that relationship, but it also worked for Southern blacks? In other words, this is not “my land,” it’s “our land.” Which is practically communism!!!!!!

So, the two components of his life fit together hand in hand. His artistic output is about codifying and strengthening this white Southern agrarian mythology. His racist endeavors were specifically about thwarting black Southern efforts to develop and have recognized as worthwhile their own Southern culture that Southern whites would then also find value in.

In other words, I think, at some level Davidson knew his mythology was false and could be remade and the existential threat posed by black civil rights was that his mythology would be remade. The past could be reexamined to mean something other than what he wanted it to mean.

Anyway, I don’t know how much of this stuff will make it into the final project, but I think it’s very worthwhile to know.

Physician, Heal Thyself

I had a long discussion with my cousin last night and I’m not sure how it went. It’s hard to talk to someone whose baggage is so similar to my own and to tell her the things I also need to figure out how to believe.

I don’t know, often, what would make me happy. But this morning I walked the dog and the breeze was cool and I felt lucky to be there, in that moment.

Yesterday the fire alarm went off at work and I got down the stairs and outside without having a complete meltdown. I still went down them like an awkward child, but it never blew up into a full-on panic attack.

This is better than where I was six months ago.

And I feel like that’s what I have to offer her–this is the way I’m trying to take out. I think it’s working. And yes, it’s been hard and it’s sucked. But it’s been worth it, I think.

I don’t know if it’s the right thing for other people. I don’t want to be in charge of telling people what the right thing for them is. And I know I’ve been very lucky. I found a drug that worked on the first try. I found a therapist who worked on the first try. (And I know I may not continue to be lucky.) And other people will have harder times finding drugs that work for them or therapists who tell them what they need to hear.

I was, metaphorically, drowning. I got lucky and found a ladder that would hold me. I am, however, not very far up the ladder. I can’t say for sure where it leads. I can’t see if there are other ladders that might work for her. I can only say, “I see that you, too, are drowning. Here is the ladder I’m on.”

I don’t know. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s hard giving advice when you’re in the process of learning how to hear those same words said about yourself and you know how hard it is to hear and believe them.


I forgot to say, I saw a mink again! Yesterday. A small one. It crossed the road in front of us and then seemed to realize that this meant we would be coming very near it and so it crossed back again.

The fact that it is small means that I must have three minks, at least, in my neighborhood–two to make a small one.

I know I said this before, but I still find it baffling and delightful that minks are a real wild thing and live in my neighborhood. I guess I assumed they lived in Canada in the wilderness or on fur farms.

But no, they’re in the creeks out back, eating crawdads and frogs, I assume, and crossing the road every once in a while.

The Mean Racist Idiot

Y’all, I get down about the current situation. I hate knowing that we’ve chosen to represent ourselves to the world this way. I am still so mad, every time he does something, that people voted for him and voted for him specifically because they thought it was funny he upsets people like me. People willing to kill us both, as long as it means I’m dead.

And then, and then, they insist I sympathize with them, that I have compassion for them, that I listen to their lies and tell them I believe them. It enrages me.

Obsessive Thoughts

–I have been trying to figure out what the significance of the April 19th date for the Looby bombing is. The Hattie Cotton bombing took place the evening of the first day of school. The JCC bombing was coordinated with a bunch of other bombings of Jewish buildings across the south. But why blow up Looby’s house then? The sit-ins had been going on since February. The school desegregation lawsuits were on-going.

If something had provoked the bombing, it’s hard for me to figure out what.

So, does the date mean something? If a black man’s house were bombed on April 19th, 2017, we sure as fuck would think it did, but I don’t know about then.

–I have a weird rash on my arm, so I spent a great portion of my weekend washing everything in the house I could find to wash–bedding, couch slip covers, clothes, towels. I’m also trying very hard not to scratch it. When it itches I rub it, but I try not to use nails. It kind of works. It also kind of is not fooling me.

–One of the most personally embarrassing things about going to therapy is having to admit to myself how I have these weird, obsessive thoughts, which are sometimes paranoid. A few weeks ago, I woke up and a cat was in my bed and I became overwhelmingly convinced that it was not one of my cats. I get overwhelmed sometimes by the thought that I am fat and ugly and no one will ever love me and the people who like me only like me out of pity. And this shit is hard to talk about  because it’s not low self-esteem. Because low self-esteem would mean I felt bad about myself all the time.

But I’m really proud of the stuff I’ve accomplished and, sure, while not in love with the way I look, I like how I look in pictures and I’m kind of in awe of how, when I smile, I can see that it radiates. Like, okay, it must feel nice to be smiled at by me.

And I have a lot of friends who love me and they have big and interesting lives and they have other stuff to do beside be someone’s friend out of pity.

I say all this to try to make clear that these are obsessive thoughts. They don’t go away because they’re disprovable. They’re not satiated by being true–in the case of me being fat. They come out of nowhere, hit hard, and leave me reeling. There are some things that make them more common–me being tired or stressed or upset about something else but not dealing with it. But it is like being swept up in a storm my brain is having.

So, on the one hand, the medicine helps a lot because it seems to slow down the storm and, if I can recognize what’s happening before it blows up into the emotional hurricane, I can usually dissipate it. Oh, that’s just the anxiety.

But another thing we’ve been working on is that I like to have order and schedules. If I could keep my whole life by calendar, I would. And that’s great when it helps. Setting a recurring task of cleaning the litter boxes on Monday evenings means I get into the habit and the poop goes in the garbage can the day before garbage day. The schedule works for me and makes my life easier. Why wouldn’t I then schedule everything?!

Because I also sometimes, okay, often, then get caught up in the ritual of the schedule. In other words, I do scheduled things because those are the “rules” and I don’t want to break the rules or my life will be infinitely harder, whether or not I need to do the things.

And here I think you can see how close kin anxiety is with OCD. “I have to check the door five times to feel confident that it’s locked” is not the same thing as “I have to go to the grocery store on Sunday morning because… um… that’s when I’m scheduled to go to the grocery store.” But you can see they’re cousins.

So, I’ve been working really hard on separating what I feel compelled to do from what I need to do from what I want to do. So, Sunday, I was reading a book. I didn’t want to go to the grocery store. Did I need to go to the grocery store? Actually, no. I have enough stuff in the house that I can skip a week. But it still felt really weird and like I was going to regret not going to the grocery store.

The thing is that I think I like schedules because it lets me kind of put my life on autopilot. I can zone out through stuff I find boring or unpleasant, trusting on my schedule, my to-do list to keep me productive even while my brain is checked out.

But I think that coping mechanism has soured for me and I have to find ways to be present more in my life.

And a thing I find baffling and funny is that, without the checklist, I often don’t know what I want to do. I’m 43 years old but when faced with a truly empty day, I often don’t know how I’d like to fill it. And I pride myself on being so insightful and shit. And I don’t even know what kinds of small ordinary things bring me pleasure.

But I am having fun figuring it out.


I have been trying to understand the life of Gladys Girgenti. Eventually, I’m going to have to talk to her family and I want to know exactly what questions I need to ask them. I know it’s going to be uncomfortable for them and I want to make it as non-floundering as possible.

I don’t think I suspect Gladys in the earlier bombings, but as of right now, she strikes me as someone who is absolutely well-positioned to know who did do them. I go back and forth on this.

My main question at the moment is whether and how she might be tied in to the guys who were arrested for the Hattie Cotton bombing. I have a sense that I am constantly brushing up against a structure I can’t see–a web of relationships that would make clear how this could happen and how no one has narced, for fifty years. I don’t know what that web is–family, childhood church membership, parents all in the same Klan unit, or ties to the illegal gambling halls on that side of the river, or something that happened in Bells Bend.

But it’s a lot of people who’ve kept their mouths shut for a long time, especially for bombings where no one was killed. There has to be some mechanism by which that silence is enforced, some shared pressure.

Anyway, this requires looking at Gladys’s life, which, frankly, seems pretty fucking brutal. Her two older half-brothers were tried twice for killing a guy in a robbery gone wrong (I think they must have eventually gotten their convictions overturned since they were sentenced to 99 years, but were out and living their lives by 1960). Then, when she was 15, she married her 37 year old neighbor, which you know I’m feeling rather gross about.

By 1960, she’s in Detroit, married to Nick Girgenti, who had a million brothers, not all of whom were scary robbers, but Nick was among them that were. He did quite a bit of time. Nick had a daughter born in 1954, but I don’t know anything about her other than that, in the late 60s, she shot him. (Which parallels what Carroll Crimmons’s son did to him). I suspect she wasn’t Gladys’s child, because her kids with Nick came in the 60s, before he got shot.

Gladys said they left Detroit because her house was firebombed during a race riot in ’71 and then the stress of it killed her husband. As we’ve talked about, there were no race riots in Detroit in ’71, no firebombings, except for the white people rioting about busing and the firebombing of the Pontiac school buses.

She came back here and spent the 70s being a single mom and raising her kids and belonging to the Klan. She then seems to have run into the “Sunday School teacher” equivalent in the Klan, where the smart, capable women are shuttled off into taking care of the children while the men get to have all the fun. Gladys, allegedly, had enough and tried to kill one of the Klan leaders, thus getting herself kicked out of the Klan.

She then formed her own ultraviolent terrorist cell and tried to bomb the Temple.

I don’t know how to describe what I feel about Gladys. I don’t feel sorry for her, exactly. Northwest Davidson County was a rough place when she was growing up. Lots of girls got messed with and saw family members in and out of jail and they didn’t join the Klan and live lives curiously adjacent to many Klan bombings.

But I do see someone whose life was hard and mean and she became hard and mean to survive it. And I wish that her life had not been hard and mean. And that’s how I feel. I wish she had some luckier breaks.

Can I Do This?

I’m having a small moment of existential doubt about my goal of solving the integration-era bombings. Will I be able to do this? I do not fucking know.

One thing I’d like to know is how many bombers you could have expected there to be in Nashville at that time? My understanding from reading about Birmingham–a city so thoroughly bombed that it was known as “Bombingham”–is that most of those bombings were done by the same Klavern (which I believe was #13, but I’m not looking at my notes, so don’t quote me on it), which means that you probably had forty guys willing to plan violence and, even then, maybe only half those who would do it. Birmingham had a sustained campaign of bombing.

We had a sustained campaign of cross-burnings, but we only had the three bombings.

We know that a couple of folks left here and “became” violent bombers.

Should I be focusing on them and whether these were their actual first crimes? Should I be focusing on the men arrested? Is it too late? I don’t know.