Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Things in My Purse

  1. Sunglasses. Crappy, cheap sunglasses, because if I spend more than $10 on sunglasses, I instantly lose them. Less than $10, I can keep them for years.
  2. Keys. To my car and to the house.
  3. The awesome new wallet my mom got me for my birthday. Thanks mom!
  4. A bottle of Tylenol that is almost empty.
  5. One tampon
  6. An invitation to the studio open house of "Twisted Sisters" in Pegram. I have no idea what "Twisted Sisters" is, but thanks for the invite.
  7. A receipt for the Country Music 1/2 marathon.
  8. A Jack in the Box receipt for the Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger I bought the dog after we went to the park.
  9. Bank receipts from the ATM
  10. Oh, another tampon.
  11. Cell phone with a message from the Man from GM on it. He called to tell me a story about some crazy engineering shit, but I already talked to him at the office, so I'm not going to listen to it again.
  12. A shit-load of pseudoephedrine. I hope no meth makers read this blog! I don't want to be mugged.
  13. A bookmark
  14. My work id.
  15. A card for Jensen's Shoes over on Whitebridge.
  16. Chapstick? What the fuck? When was the last time I bought Chapstick? I'm tossing that shit.
  17. Four pens
  18. A note that says "Who is Tom Banks?" The answer, also on the note, "author of Lost Sounds: Blacks and the Birth of the Recording Industry, 1890-1919." This is in my handwriting, and it sounds like a book I'd like to read, but I don't remember writing this down.
  19. A to-do list from months ago. "Buy gas." I'm such a nerd.
  20. More pseudoephedrine. What the fuck with this as well? I can't even remember the last time I had a cold.
  21. A note that says "[a prominent Nashville talking head*] is full of shit." Hee. Like I could ever forget that! Still, she must have said something particularly galling for me to feel the need to make note of it. I need to make better notes for myself, obviously. They need more details.
  22. Pepper spray. Yes, scary dog and pepper spray. Who would ever come near me?
  23. Business cards.
  24. Tarot Cards.
  25. Empty cellphone pseudo-leather case.
  26. Large hair clip.

* I will leave this person unnamed, for I fear her prominence and my relative lack thereof, even after all my bullshitty talk of a need to be more honest. Sorry, if you're looking for a lack of hypocrisy, you're looking in the wrong place.

I am so tired of myself

Honestly, I've started about 18 posts on different things--why are so many Australians popping up on my sitemeter looking for "unsex me"?; why was Bill Monroe's band called "the Blue Sky Boys" if Bessie Lee Maudlin was his bassist?; are women named "Bessie" destined to be kick-ass buckers of tradition? why didn't my mom name me Bessie? etc.--but none of them are interesting enough to me to bring me out of my funk. And why am I in a funk? Because I'm so fucking tired of myself. Other people have huge problems or are stuck in dead-end jobs or loveless marriages to creeps with weird patchy back hair or only have one working nostril or can't afford underwear or whatever. My biggest problem is that I've been putting the yarn on my needle in the wrong direction while purling, thus making the knitting very difficult. But I've straightened that out now and am starting to see why people actually enjoy this activity. But still, I'm all What am I doing with my life? Am I happy? Am I fulfilled? Am I doing what I'm supposed to be doing? How would I know? See, dear reader, what bullshit that is? I don't believe in some kind of fate that stretches out before us, a road we can't help but travel (though I believe in the kind of inevitable momentum of our past acts). There is no supposed. Trying to figure out what you're supposed to be doing is some bullshit mystic nonsense. I'm supposed to be breathing. I'd like some cookies. Neither one of those is inevitable. What else is annoying? I see this as an inherently feminist project--giving voice to this one woman's thoughts and experiences, etc. But in order to do that, I feel like it's important to be honest, to poke around and see what hurts and why. But I'm looking back over recent posts and I realize I'm doing a lot of telling myself fairytales about my family in order to smooth over my anxieties. That won't do. Not that I'm going to stop telling stories about my family any time soon. I just want to be honest with myself about what I'm doing: constructing a way of feeling okay about things because I can't control some things--like the situation with the nephews--and won't do anything about other things--such as the Butcher's lack of paying his fair share of things. Anyway, What if everyone secretly hates me? What if I'm about to be fired without warning? What if our landlord kicks us out right now for no reason? On and on it goes. I'm unsettled for no good reason, just that it's the first day back after a long weekend. And I'm just so tired of my bullshit.

The One Time My Mom Really Got My Dad

[Disclaimer: my family tends to be full of shit and will tell a good story for the sake of the story and not for the sake of the truth. I make no claims as to the veracity of anything I did not actually witness. If you read the following and discover that you are somehow related to me, don't pass any judgment on our ancestors. I have no way of knowing what parts are true.] When we were little, we used to take a month in the summer and travel. Since we were poor, we'd camp. The point of it was that we were just going to go out and see America, see what was out there. One summer, my dad wanted to go to Pennsylvania and check out the ancestral landing point here in America for his dad's mom's part of the family. [Just as an interesting side note, here are the known ways and reasons for the rest of the family to emigrate: From Sweden, father lost farm while gambling drunk, and daughter moved to Chicago. This is why my mother's family doesn't drink. Oddly enough, this does not stop them from gambling and my great uncle even wrote a book on poker strategies. From England, across Canada into Michigan. Odd thing about this, when they left England, they were Jewish and when they arrived in Michigan, they were Methodist. Other branch from England was just seeking adventure. From Germany, beer making and fishing businesses went bust, came to Chicago. Other branch of the family were just roustabouts from someplace, my mom's uncle claimed the Netherlands.] But this is the story of another branch of the family: the Hiesten, Hiestan, Hiestein, Heistein, etc. clan, who started as two brothers who left Germany and settled in Pennsylvania. Each of them got married and their wives had something like twelve kids a piece. Then their wives died and they remarried and had another twelve or fifteen kids a piece. During this time, so the story goes, the other farmers in the community started taking a close look at their own children and the children of the Hiestein, Heistan, whatever brothers and decided that the resemblance was a little too close to be coincidental, and so the brothers were forced to flee Pennsylvania, and settled in central Michigan. We heard this story from a Catholic priest in Pennsylvania who was a distant cousin. You may ask, how can you know you're related when there are so many potential relatives? Luckily, there is, in the family tree, an Abraham Lincoln H... and a George Washington H..., so if both of you are aware of Abe and George, you can be pretty sure that you're related. He knew of another Catholic priest and an Episcopalian priest who were also related. We thought this was interesting, that there were so many men of the cloth in the family. Years later, we're sitting at my grandma's house and my dad is saying how he heard from this cousin, the Catholic priest, that he was leaving the priesthood in order to officially marry the mother of his three children, and that there had been some scandal with the other priest, where it turns out that he had a number of children in the parish, by different women. So, my dad makes some crack about how, say what you want about the H... men, they must really have something that keeps the women coming back for more. And my mom looks up from her cross-stitching and says, matter-of-factly, "Too bad it skipped your side of the family."

Monday, May 30, 2005

Things I Saw on TV Yesterday

1. Some weird movie with Jon Favreau and Boromir. Boromir (Sean Bean) is this very sexy alien cowboy. Jon Favreau is an actor who must deliver a blue suitcase to the desert. Darryl Hannah makes a surprising appearance as a character so interesting and captivating she should immediately be transplanted into a better movie. I give it an "Eh, it could have been worse." 2. Patriot Games. Again with the Boromir. Again with the brooding sexiness. Again with the Butcher watching it even though he watches it once a week, it seems. He still gets pissed off at the same parts and incredulous at others and he still loves the end. I, on the other hand, still giggle when Harrison Ford must tell his wife that their daughter has lost her spleen, because when I went with my cousins to see this in the theater, we thought that was like losing one's appendix as apparently did everyone else in the theater, because when he was all serious, "They had to remove her spleen" and his doctor wife started sobbing, the whole theater erupted into laughter. He might as well have said, "They had to remove her earlobe" for all we knew about anatomy. I give it a "You have to watch it if you come to our house, because the Butcher will search it out and sit entranced whenever it comes on." 3. Empire Falls. Is there any way Paul Newman can be unsexy? Even as a whiskered old balding drunk, he's still hot. But here's the problem with this movie. There are so many characters to whom so little happens that when the central tragedy of the movie finally takes place, you are numbed to it. Who the hell cares? Maybe as a book it works better because you spend more time with everyone, but here? It was just long and kind of a let-down in the end. It did, however, give me terrible nightmares about serial killers, which is strange because there are no serial killers in this movie. Let's call this "Apparently, my subconscious thought it would have been better as a Stephen King flick." 4. The new Shakira video. Here's the plot: Shakira is milling about her apartment while some hot guy watches her from the apartment across the way, despite the fact that he has a beautiful girl in his bed. At first, you're like, why would hot guy be watching Shakira when he has his own beautiful girl? Not that Shakira isn't nice, but you know, better the hot person in your bed than the one across the way. But then, ladies and gentlemen, Shakira is standing there covered in oil, for some reason, and she starts to undulate, and I swear, it's... it's... words fail me. It is the sexiest thing I've ever seen. It transcends sexuality. It transcends commitment. Seriously, if my significant other or spouse was faced with that, I'd forgive anything he might do. Hell, I'd want to hear about it in excruciating detail. I wouldn't be able to resist her if she were undulating like that in front of me. The hot guy doesn't need to fear what the beautiful girl in the bed might think if she caught him looking at Shakira. He needs to be afraid of what will happen when the beautiful girl finds out he's keeping the view from her. I give it an "I might need to be alone for a little bit."

Needed: A Country Music Trope

This morning, the Butcher and I were sitting around watching TV and wishing that Comcast would devise some way for us to reorder our channels so that all of the music video channels would be right together on the dial, when on came Gary Allan, who is this country music singer who's not quite a star. This got me thinking that there are quite a few people like Allan (like Blake Shelton), who aren't megastars, but who you can count on to deliver good song after good song after good song. I told the Butcher that, if country music were like baseball and Allan were on my team, I'd have him batting third. He's not got the explosive speed of, say, a Big & Rich, so you don't want him batting first or second. And he's not a heavy-hitter like Tim McGraw. But you can count on him to consistantly get on base. If he were in professional wresting, he'd be a solid mid-carder, someone you can count on to give consistantly good matches, but just doesn't yet have the size, charisma, or proper persona to be at the top of the card. But there must already be a term for artists like this.

Thanks, Guys!

Here's to my Uncle Bri, for Vietnam. Here's to my Grandpa Bob and his brothers, for World War II. Here's to my Great Grandpa Herb, for World War I. Here's to the family from Indiana, for the Civil War, and to the fiance of my great-aunt, who died just south of Chattanooga. Here's to the family who served quietly and didn't end up with stories passed down to me. Here's to the ghosts of the Civil War, who I hope are making good use of my can opener, which strangely disappeared right after we moved here, who sat along the railroad tracks right out my back door for much of the war. And here's to all the other soldiers who don't have anyone remembering them specifically today.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Nashville, Stop Going to the Chickering Road Side of the Park!

The dog and I got up early and went to the park. We go around to the back side of the park where it's just us, the bikers, and the golfers. Every once in a while I say something brilliant to the Professor and she'll say something about how good therapy should help you to reach those insights and I think, egad, if therapy is just more mulling over crap, I could never go. I'm always already in my head, dragging old hurts out and trying them back on to see if they still fit. I'm replaying conversations from a decade ago. I'm wishing I'd been braver in this situation, less drunk in that one. I'm mulling over the ways my parents ruined me. I'm devising plans to free my brothers from their problems. On and on, I'm always fretting about something or other. It's one of the reasons I love to crochet and I'm excited about my first forays into knitting. You have to concentrate on it just hard enough to make sure things are going right--which calms the fretting--and not hard enough that you can't enjoy the fact that your brain has shut down. And so this is why I love the park, even if it takes us 50 minutes to do the two-mile loop, which makes us just a little slower than molasses. When I get up the first little hill, everything is kind of aching and I'm thinking I should just turn around and pretend like running the dog around me in circles counts as "going to the park." But then I get warmed up and by about the halfway point, I'm not thinking about anything. Nothing at all. I notice that it's beautiful and sometimes I see the owl who lives at the top of the hill and I'm listening for oncoming cars, but everything in my head has just shut down. As much as I hate exercising, I really cherish that half an hour where I'm just a body on a road with another furry, happy body walking next to me. And today, we saw seven other dogs on our usually dog-free side of the park. I was distraught because Mrs. Wigglebottom usually has to bark and lunge and act like a wildebeest. But, to my surprise, today she was visibly curious about the other dogs, but stayed by my side and walked right by them with no problem whatsoever. Still, Nashville, this is our side of the park. We go to great lengths to pee all over it once a week to make sure you know that!

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Why I Don't Visit the Oldest Nephew

So, it's with mixed emotions that I report that I'm not going tomorrow to pick up the littlest nephew. Instead, he's going to spend some time with his mom. I'm very sad, because, though I was anxious about knowing what to do with him alone in the car for four hours, I was looking forward to spending time with him. On the other hand, I'm a little relieved because I'm very uncomfortable around the oldest nephew's family, because they're racist. Not "backpack of privilege" racist, but full blown "white robes of violence" racist and I would have had to go to their house to pick the youngest nephew up. As a side note, Acadamia, this is one thing I think is so cute about you. You're so busy trying to help me uncover and confront all my racist assumptions that you've overlooked helping me learn how to negotiate the fact that my nephew's family is in the Klan, and yet, other than that, seem to be really generous and nice people who have gone above and beyond the call of duty for my brother and the nephew they aren't related to. My solution thus far has been to never visit them. I appreciate from afar what they've done for my brother, but I don't want to be friends with them or interact in any way with them that might be construed as being okay with them. If my parents retire down to Georgia to be near my brother, this will become a bigger problem. I'm not looking forward to it, especially because I don't think they know. When we were growing up in Illinois in the 80s, I had no black friends. I didn't go to school with black kids. No black people lived in the towns we lived in. Most of the kids I went to school with had never even talked to a black person, though we had because some of my dad's other minister friends were black and we played with their kids at ministerial gatherings. We heard the word "nigger" all the time, though, the recalcitrant brother and I. Kids called each other that the way kids call each other "fag" now. In fact, I don't think I heard the word "fag" until my junior year of high school, at a new school. The term we heard kids using to get at each other was "nigger." We never used that word. And I can tell you as sure as I'm sitting here that if we had, and if my dad had caught wind of it, he would have beat us, severely. He might have killed us. Even now, I'm waffling about going back and changing that last paragraph because it's such a shitty word, but I want to talk frankly about my experiences, so that you can understand where I'm coming from, a white population that used that word as if it were the worst thing you could call another white person. My parents didn't really talk a whole lot about race. "People are people," my dad would say and he never made a big deal about his friends' races. So, one day when I was just starting high school, I was driving around the small Michigan city where my grandma A. lived, in the car with my grandma, and we passed by a grade school just as it was letting out and all these black kids were running to the busses or headed home or whatever. My grandma says, "Look at all those brown children, aren't they beautiful?" And listen, I know how stupid that sounds, but what I want you to understand is that this was the first time in my life I had ever heard anyone say that black people were beautiful. And the fact that it was my grandma, who I loved more than anyone? What it said to me is that other people might hate black people, might use that nasty word, but we don't. Our family doesn't. And not because we're afraid our dad might knock the shit out of us, but because it's wrong.* My parents, I think, were trying to teach us by example that race didn't matter, but I just don't think they had any idea how much we were hearing from the rest of our community that it did. They wanted us to be colorblind. My grandma, on the other hand, acknowledged a difference in color and totally undermined my equating that with an inherent difference in value as people. I'm not saying that I'm now without prejudices or that I've completely unpacked my McIntoshian knapsack of privilege. It's impossible to be white and not benefit from institutional racism and, when you're benefiting from something, you come to inherently believe you must deserve it. That's how human nature works. But you know, I try not to be a jackass. So, I have prejudices, but I try to confront them. I benefit from racism, but I try not to be actively racist. And I'm not a white supremacist. I don't think white people are better than anyone else. I'm not even sure what constitutes a white person. I'm a wishy-washy pinko liberal do-gooder and I don't want to hurt anyone. And so, to bring this back to the beginning, I think what I most loathe about my nephew's family is that they're so nice. I knew white supremacists in back in Illinois, angry young white guys who'd hang out in the mall in their brown pants and red suspenders looking for fights. But they were assholes, and so, even if they thought you were "white" like them, you still didn't want to be anywhere near them, because they were assholes always looking to hurt people. But these folks are helping my brother, a lot. They're taking him in and they've loaned him, I suspect, thousands of dollars. They babysit for the youngest nephew when he's with my brother, because they believe it's important for the two boys to have a relationship as brothers. And they're white supremacists. [The funniest part, though, I'm sure you've already noticed: they embody every disparaging thing they believe about minorities.] It's so gross, America. It's just so fucking gross. And the thought that they're corrupting my nephews with that bullshit? Egad, is there any better way to insure that they'll never get out of the messy life circumstances they've inherited from my brother than to give them a set of beliefs that will make them unable to function in the world? It makes me so angry. Hmm. You know, this is the first time I've ever written something here that didn't make me feel better by the end of it. Even when I don't come to any conclusions, I usually feel better for getting it all out there and looking at all the facets. But now, I just feel like I've revealed to you all something very ugly about my life that's going to change how you think of me or that I'm just confirming for you things you already suspected about poor people. And I worry that by talking about how uncomfortable I am about talking about my own experiences with race, I'm actually doing that bullshitty move of trying to make any discussion of racism revolve around my own occasional mild discomfort as a "well meaning" white person. So, all this is just to acknowledge that this whole entry kind of sucks because I don't know how to talk about racism without feeling like some idiot and yet I think it's everyone's responsibility to talk about racism, because it's all our problem. * Yes, even then I was something of a snob against stupid people.

Friday, May 27, 2005

WKRN & Nashville is Talking

I just wanted to point out that, when I watch the local news, I usually watch Channel 4, because it's usually so fantastically bad and I love the funny of bad local news like that. Otherwise, I might watch Channel 5. But, I'm going to admit that Channel 2 has come up with a gimmick that makes it nearly impossible for me not to watch them: they've appealed to my vanity and my love of snarky goodness by hosting the blog, Nashville is Talking. In the vanity column is the fact that every time I post something, Nashville is Talking picks it up and I get a few folks who click over here to see what's going on. They send me readers, how can I not love them? And I like Brittney's persona. She comes across as having a voracious love of information and a light sense of humor. So, I feel invested in the blog, which, I'll admit, has made me tune in to WKRN, even though I'm constantly disappointed that, with call letters like that, they have no one on their staff named Fieldy. So, WKRN, kudos for successfully instilling in me a hint of brand loyalty, but jeers for not thinking farther outside the box in terms of possible synergistic relationships. Most stations would kill for the 18-35 year old demographic and you have an obvious way to reach that market and you've not yet exploited it. For shame.

Back to the Copyright Thing

Though, after this, Prorata will probably not come back here, I do want to think through copyright a little more thoroughly. And, as much as I loathe linking to LiveJournal, I think Mediadrone has a salient David Bowie quote (and listen, folks, I'm not vouching for the ethics of Mediadrone. He's the kind of guy who thinks it's funny to leave drawings of naked cartoon characters in people's bathrooms or take frames from movies and make weird art out of them, so it's entirely possible that he said this and is passing it off as Bowie. What can you do? We live in a world where everyone plays pretend.) and I want to use it.
The absolute transformation of everything that we ever thought about music will take place within ten years, and nothing is going to be able to stop it. I see absolutely no point in pretending that it's not going to happen. I'm fully confident that copyright, for instance, will no longer exist in ten years, and authorship and intellectual property is in for such a bashing. Music itself is going to become like running water or electricity. [. . .] So it's like, just take advantage of these last few years because none of this is ever going to happen again. You'd better be prepared for doing a lot of touring because that's really the only unique situation that's going to be left. It's terribly exciting. But on the other hand, it doesn't matter if you think it's exciting or not; it's what's going to happen... -David Bowie, June 2002
So, copyright applies to a lot of stuff, but the only two things I really give a shit about copyright applying to are books and music. And both are at a kind of crisis point because technology now makes making copies and manipulating those copies very easy. But how both got to this point and what the implications are and how I feel about them are different, maybe. With music, it's easy to see how David Bowie could be right. It's funny, we were talking about this at lunch, from another angle about A.P. Carter copyrighting all these songs that were older than him, and widely sung, in his own name. And it's this heritage that the music industry has never successfully overcome. From the moment commercial recordings of vernacular music started, people have been copyrighting and getting rich off of songs that previously seemed to belong to everyone. We've been over this before, but it's why you have the same melodies and verses popping up in different blues songs--because Robert Johnson could learn a song from Charley Patton and no one thought that Johnson was stealing from Patton. I'm not even sure we could safely say that anyone thought that Johnson was singing Patton's song. At best, we might surmise that they thought that Johnson was singing a song he learned from Patton and if he changed the words a little, who cared? This is less than 100 years ago. But once there was money to be made, not just from your own performance of a song, but from other people performing your song, nailing down just whose song it was became important. And people claimed copyright on whatever they could, whether or not they'd actually written it. This problem has not gone away. Led Zeppelin copyrighted songs they knew they learned from old blues records. But another problem, hand in hand with that one, exists: everyone has this sense that music, after a certain, short time, belongs to everyone. Even P. Diddy got nailed, and hard, because he thought "I'll Fly Away" was one of those songs that just belonged to all of us, when it was still under copyright protection. But who can blame him? If you love a song and you sing it and feel it in your soul, it does feel like it becomes yours, at least partially, in some way. So, I think what Bowie is getting at is that music, the way people experience and perform music, just doesn't seem to work with copyright. For all our existence we've been singing songs and learning those songs by singing them and passing them on to others by teaching them. And through that process, we change the song as much as it changes us. And, as musicologists would tell us, the changes in the song tell us a great deal about who we are as well. Nailing down and copyrighting some official version of a song runs counter to how we've always experienced music. And it's no surprise that the copyright protections extended to music are the first ones to be ignored wholesale by audiences and performers (when they can get away with it). I know this pisses a lot of musicians off, especially because the biggest copyright infringements in the music industry right now are not people artistically using materials, but just folks swapping songs on computers, but the hard truth is that no one promised you a job doing what you love, so, if you go broke, go work at Casey's. They're always hiring. I keep thinking of Gillian Welch's song "Everything is Free," which is basically a complaint about people not paying for music, which is on a great album that contains a song sung to the tune of "John Henry," because even Gillian Welch believes, apparently, that there comes a point when a song belongs to everyone. So, my point is that I suspect Bowie might be right, but not because there's some big revolution--in the sense of a new order overturning the old--but because there's always just the revolution of the seasons and our tendency to want to be able to do what we've always done. So, how can I argue for the acceptance of the fact that keeping music copyrighted for 120 years is bullshit and will not stand and also argue that Google and those university libraries have totally overstepped their bounds? I have two reasons. One, I do think things stay protected by copyright far too long and that we ought to go back to a standard of "the lifetime of the author." I think individuals ought to benefit from their hard work, but we're a community and the community also has a right to benefit from your hard work, even in ways you don't like. So, if university libraries and Google want to scan in and post every book in the public domain, more power to them. I think that'd be awesome and would really give people a deep sense of the benefits to the whole community of having things enter the public domain. But as much as we are a nation of individuals and communities, we are a nation of large corporations. These corporations don't have individuals' or communities' best interests at heart; they have other forces motivating them. So, it often behooves individuals to align themselves to certain corporations--publishers, record companies, etc.--in order to have help with and be protected from other corporations. Even though their relationships with publishers or record companies might fairly be called exploitative, these authors and performers at least have contracts with these companies and thus have a negotiated relationship of rules. So, it seems to me that what's happening in the recording industry is a wide-spread rebellion by individual audience members, who are all using product in a way that more fits their needs. But what's happening in this instance with Google is that a corporation has decided the to circumvent the wishes of the author. Hmm. Which I guess brings me to the other major difference. Being the author of a book means something very different culturally than being a music performer, because books have existed for so much longer than recorded music. People intrinsically get how a book belongs to an author, whereas, obviously they don't exactly get who a song belongs to. I mean, think about it: you could sing the chorus of "Yankee Doodle" in the middle of your song and no one would think anything strange of it, but if you took the whole middle section of Middlemarch and reproduced it in the middle of your book, even if it fit, I think there'd be a lot of discussion about whether that was "right" even if it's perfectly legal. I think that, at heart, I think individuals' assaults on copyright is okay, but that corporations' assaults on it are not. I'm not sure that's a tenable position.

Skipping Work

I'm skipping work this afternoon, sitting at home with the dog and the cats and just enjoying the day. I hope y'all don't mind, but my afternoon is made better by envisioning you all still at work. As the kids say, "Nah, nah, na-nah, na."

Thoughts on Bodies

1. I'd really like to be able to kick folks in the head. I mean, shoot, I could kick folks in the head right now if I tripped them, but I mean, I'd like to be able to get my foot up high enough to kick a person square in the head. It would, seemingly, be easier to learn how to punch someone in the head, but the truth is that I have arms so flabby that they might as well be vestigial. I'm like the Willendorf Venus, but with feet and curly hair. Or like the mighty tyrannosaurus rex, with my weak arms useful only for carrying a purse and waggling at babies. "Aaareen't yaouou sooo cuuute!?!?" I bellow as I stomp around trying to get my weak clutches on small children. 2. Surprisingly, though it's been twelve hours, no one has contacted me about running for John Ford's senate seat. I understand that he hasn't been convicted of anything yet, and so he doesn't even have to give up his seat. But still, you'd have thought I'd have some takers. I was momentarily distraught, but then I reminded myself that I did grow up in Illinois, which means that I still have a few tricks up my sleeve. So, this is just to say, Memphis, that I have the bodies necessary to win any election, for I am polling way ahead of any potential opponents among the victims of the flu epidemic and folks whose undertakers stole their jewelry after the family went to sit down and before locking the coffin. If there's one thing I know, it's how to get out the dead vote. 3. After reading my post on the recalcitrant brother, the Butcher thought that we should look for a house in some crummy neighborhood and take the recalcitrant brother in. Yes, that's right. The Butcher thought, briefly, that it would be a good idea for me to have both of my brothers living with me, working shit jobs they're too smart for, and making it impossible (it's only virtually impossible now) for me to pay off my credit cards or save up any money so that I can ever fulfill my one fucking small-ass dream of having a little house of my own with a fenced-in back yard and a magnolia tree out my bedroom window. Do I want much, America? I've not asked for a rich husband to support me through drumming while I lay around, inexplicably, in bed all day. I've not demanded a recording career that masks my lack of talent through Pro-tools while allowing me all the benefits of fame. I'm not demanding to be the prettiest, pretty princess in the whole world. I just want to be able to get some money in the bank. I just want to be a thousandaire. People say that money doesn't buy you happiness, because people are fuckers. It's better to have money in the bank, to know that, if something happens, you can take care of it, than it is to contemplate becoming The Home for Wayward Brothers. So, suffice to say, we're not taking in the recalcitrant brother. If it comes to the point where he's all out of family members of baby's mammas to take him in, he can go back home to mom and dad. 4. All this talk of shitty jobs has me thinking of the worst job I ever had. It was right after I graduated from college and had moved back home to lay on my parents couch and watch reruns of "In the Heat of the Night" while wrapped in an afghan. Unfortunately, Mom wouldn't let me spend my whole life like that--fantasizing that Bubba Skinner would come rescue me. So, I got a job at Casey's, which is a small chain of convenience stores/gas stations in, at least, Illinois and Iowa. God, I hated it. I was on my feet eight hours a day. I was alone most of the time, so I was always afraid I'd get robbed, because it'd be so easy to rob a place like that, since we never put the money in the safe and we had, maybe, one customer an hour. And I was constantly getting "put on notice" for not keeping the place clean, because, believe me American, there is no bullshit like the bullshit people put each other through when the stakes are so very low. But anyway, we were talking about bodies. And there was this one body that, to this day, makes me wonder what the hell? and laugh. There was this guy who would come in at least once a day who looked very much like a young pink gorilla, with that same big round belly and kind of slouchy way of meandering around the store. Sometimes, I didn't see him come in (because I was busy cleaning, you fuckers!) but I would always hear his bare feet slapping on the linoleum as he made his way back to the milk. He'd never wear a shirt, never had on shoes, and always had on shorts that were tight and short and, here's the weird and funny part, when he'd get up to the counter, he'd lift up on his toes and set himself on the counter, as if carrying around the family jewels was just so taxing that he needed to frequently rest them on the counter. Really, what the fuck? I still don't know what to make of that. Did he think I was going to be like, "Dear Jesus, that's the most attractive thing I've ever seen. Let me fuck you in the beer cooler right now!"? Did he think I was just going to run screaming in fear? Every day this went on, all summer, until I found the job at the newspaper. God, it was something.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Tennessee Politics--Where's my $55,000, Mr. G-man?

State Senator John Ford has threatened construction workers with a gun, neglected to set up either of his simultaneously running households (complete with women and children) in the area he actually was elected to serve, used public funds to pay his child support, used campaign contributions to pay for his daughter's wedding, been to court for shooting at trucks along I-40, threatened an undercover FBI agent with death if he found out he was a narc, and, while all of the other state legislators arrested today were accused of taking bribes in the magnitude of $5,000-$15,000, he got $55,000 before he was carted off to jail. Seriously, America, I can't decide whether to be appalled or awe-struck. This is political corruption raised to an art form. It's so gross and yet so magnificent. Pith in the Wind has the funniest coverage, Brittney over at Nashville is Talking has the most comprehensive, and I recommend y'all peruse those sites for a little over-dinner humor. In the "Sadly Funny" category, you'll notice that just below all the stories on John Ford over at Pith in the Wind, is the announcement that his nephew, Harold Ford, is running for the seat soon to be vacated by our very own Dr. Kitten Killer, who is off on his Quixotic run for President. I've liked Harold Ford ever since I heard him on the r&b station being all smart and funny, so I hope this doesn't hurt his chances to for Senatorial glory. I, on the other hand, have decided to quit my job and move to Memphis (Do I technically have to move to Memphis to run for his seat? If he didn't live in his district, do I have to?) and run for state senate. Shoot, I know I can't approach his mastery of the political system, but I can try to be corrupt beyond all measure in my own way. So, Memphis, here's what I have going for me. 1. I don't know how to shoot a gun. I don't even own one. Your commute will be safe from me. 2. As a woman, there's a physical limit to the amount of children I can have and then scam money from you to support. 3. I also have a cute nephew, though he's not old enough to run for any office yet. 4. I love Memphis and the River and the University of Memphis (though I still call it Memphis State; I'm old school like that). 5. I'm a Democrat. 6. I'm a great cook, so we could have big parties at my house, that would be paid for by campaign contributions. 7. I would not insult your intelligence by pretending to be uncorrupted. I'd use this platform to keep y'all informed of the nefarious things I'm doing. 8. I already live in Nashville, so my commute to work--and the mileage you'd have to pay for--would be a lot less than if I were driving over from Memphis. 9. I often have really cute hair, so, when I'm inevitably arrested, you won't be embarrassed by my mug shots. 10. I grew up in Illinois! Come on! That means I practically went to "corrupt local governments" university. So, if anyone from Memphis wants to start me on my great political career, you can leave me a comment or, if you prefer to contact me privately, my email address is in my profile. I'll be waiting to hear from you.

The Recalcitrant Brother

So, in a fit of insanity, I've volunteered to pick up the littlest nephew from my brother's home and drive him back here where he will be picked up by my parents and taken back to a place where there are meals and bedtimes and regular baths. This is, apparently, not a moment too soon, because my brother is moving this weekend and he's moving in with the sister (and brother-in-law) of the oldest nephew's mother. Straight girls, I want you to ponder that last paragraph. Imagine that you have a fling with some guy you met while you were working at McDonald's. Imagine that you get pregnant and decide to keep the child, but ditch the guy. Would you ever, ever in a million fo-fillion years dream that eight years later he might be weighing the decision whether or not to live on your sister's couch or in your grandma's garage? Could you ponder such insanity? Seriously, if that doesn't instinctively cause your knees to press together, I don't know what will. And, straight fellas, imagine now the horror of having to throw yourself on the mercy of the family of a woman you knocked up and broke up with years and years ago because you owe everyone in the world money and have lost your job. How, how, how did things come to this? I just don't know. Seriously, I hope it's drugs or booze, because the thought that anyone could reach this point stone-cold sober is too depressing to contemplate. So, now I don't want to go. I'm trying to negotiate a way to care about my family and be caring towards them without getting sucked into this shit, without having to take care of them. I'm trying hard to believe that the best thing I can do for everyone is to just get and keep my own self as lucky as possible, and not rescue people or despair because I can't. But, oh god, when I talked to my brother last night and I heard the fear and tired in his voice, I wanted to sell plasma and send the money to him. I wanted to invite him to come live with us until he got back on his feet. And I felt like shit because I didn't, and because I didn't really want to. I want this life--a good job I love and a roof over my head and dog and good friends who love me--and a little more--a house of my own with a fenced-in back yard with a magnolia tree that blooms near the bedroom window. And as much as I feel compelled to help my brothers, I just want some small measure of good, non-insanity for myself. I feel guilty about it, but what can you do? Anyway, today I was thinking about this book, Things Invisible to See by Nancy Willard, which is about love and baseball and World War II and Michigan--where the recalcitrant brother and I were born. It's out of print, I think, so I'm going to spoil the end for you. At the end of the book, the hero, Claire, has to play a game of baseball against all of the best dead baseball players there ever were, in order to win the soul of her lover, whose name escapes me, in a game arranged by the devil. The end makes me cry every time, because, even though these are the best baseball players ever, and even though the devil has cheated a hundred ways, these dead guys throw the game for her so that she can win her true love's life. It's an extraordinary book, with a problematic Christian ethos, because these folks are saved by the love of a woman and the goodness inherent in people. Everyone around my brother keeps trying to save him. I keep waiting for him to realize that he's worth saving. I can't decide which of those things is the right thing to do.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

My Favorite Comfort Food

Ah, it was a long and stupid day today. But I came home, paid my bills, threw a load of laundry in, and made my favorite comfort food for dinner: garlic green beans. I wish I could take credit for inventing these things, but it's actually a restaurant here in town, Patrick's, that introduced me to them. Patrick's's (?) garlic green beans are so awesome we should all go over there right now and eat them. That is, if we're not already full, like me. So, y'all go and ask for the green beans. I'll be right here giving out the recipe for my poor ass version: 1 can of green beans A shit ton of garlic powder A heap of butter Dump the beans in your pot. Cover with garlic powder. Heat until hot (of course). Put the beans on your plate and add butter. After the butter melts a little, eat. Feel better about your life.

Weird Thing

I just had occasion to be walking by this fancy-pants restaurant, The Wild Boar, and coming from inside? The sounds of a large choir singing "Amazing Grace." The restaurant is not open during the day. Does it pay its rent by hosting church services before dinner? I might, just might, go to a church that was held in a bar.

When In Doubt, Review Something

(Proper credit to some Tony Pierce dude.) The Dog (****) Today, the dog stepped on my foot as she was going up the stairs. As far as foot-stomping goes, I'm going to rate this one pretty high. It hurt initially, but not bad enough to make me think she'd broken anything, but here it is lunch and it's still tender, so I'd say it got stomped pretty good. If you're looking for a dog to step on your foot, I highly recommend this one. Breakfast (*) Breakfast today kind of sucked. We were out of orange juice so I tried to make up for the lack of vitamin C by eating a shitload of Apple Jacks. It just didn't give me the same feeling of "complete" that my breakfasts normally give me. The Weather (*****) Could it be any more beautiful? If you are in Nashville and you are not outside right now, you are a loser. For the record, I am not outside. Lunch (***) For lunch I had a turkey and cheese sandwich and some pretzels and some cookies. Almost always, I have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, baby carrots, and an apple, and maybe some cookies if we have them laying around the house. This lunch was okay. If you have to have brown bread on your sandwich, it's good to have turkey to put on it. But I was disappointed to have to deviate from my usual. Me (**) I'm off my game. Usually, I can count on me to be at least amusing, but not so today. Maybe I was thrown off by breakfast or my aching foot, but still, usually by lunch I can rebound. However, today I have already hidden in the bathroom for 20 minutes and shut my door in order to give the impression that I'm doing something IMPORTANT, when really I'm just eating my crappy lunch. Plus, I have to pay bills and do laundry. So, obviously, today is not a good day to hang out with me, the moody, sullen person with chores to do. My Senator (*) Well, in a compromise with no clear winners, he was the clearest loser. I'm curious to see if the Republicans really will run him. He's got some strikes against him. There's the kitten killing thing, the making medical diagnoses by examining edited video tape, and the assertion, despite being a medical doctor, that there is a real danger of getting AIDS from sweat or tears. But I almost think that his more obvious political pandering won't count against him. Everyone who isn't going to vote for him already isn't going to vote for him and folks who are either believe his bullshit or have convinced themselves that it's just what politicians have to say to get elected. What's going to count against him is the way he looks. Take a gander at these two photos and see what I mean. 1. The way he clenches his face when he smiles makes it seem as if he doesn't genuinely know how to smile. 2. He seems to always be looking just to the camera man's left, as if he's receiving smiling advice from someone standing over there. 3. In a lot of the pictures on his site, even when he's smiling, his eyes look scared. I don't know how to fix that, but it's pretty terrible that the most genuine emotion on his face at any given time seems to be a hint of fear in his eyes. But I think he has an even more insurmountable problem, one that is drawn only more sharply into focus by the variety of photos on his website. 4. He's got to have the most amazingly un-eye-catching face of anyone I've ever seen. He's fine looking. I'm not trying to say that he's ugly or plain, because that's not the problem. It's just that his face is so... hmm, I don't know... bland, maybe that I keep finding myself drawn to his ties (and, for the record, he's got some very beautiful ties). If you look at all the folks he's got his photo with, you can see what I'm getting at. All of them have something (Musevini looks stern and proper; Kwasniewski looks intense; Jiabao has an open expression; al-Thani looks genuinely amused; Basescu's got a distinctive nose and some real character to his face; etc.) that makes you linger on their faces and recognize them as fellow human beings. But Frist's face is so indistinct that my eyes slide right over it down to his ties. There's nothing about his face that keeps you looking at it. Maybe he needs a scar or an eye-patch.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005



If I had to pick any Biblical dude to get behind, I'd definitely get behind the Preacher, who knows human nature better than just about anyone. As he says, there is nothing new under the sun, and so this post will be another assortment of different stuff, as usual.

He also says that vanity of vanities, all is vanity, and so I spent a good chunk of time today googling "tiny cat pants" (oh, stop, like you've never googled yourself to see how easy you'd be to find) to see if anyone was linking to me that I ought to be linking to. If you look to your right, you'll see the fruits of my search, as I've added more folks over there.

Not all of them have linked to me, but, of course, now they should.

Ha, I tickle myself.


As you all know, Dan Abrams is my TV boyfriend--smart, cute, smirky--what's not to love? Yes, occasionally, he doesn't love the constitution as much as he should, but, if he were sleeping in my bed, we could stay up late into the night arguing about which was the best amendment. I think y'all know which one I love best.

But today I was thinking about my TV girlfriend, Jackie Guerra. God, I love her. In fact, though I am ashamed to admit it, I must tell you that I try to time the dog's walk in Percy Warner Park to conclude with enough time for us to run any errands that need to be run, grab some lunch, and be sitting on the couch in time for "Jewelry Making" on the DIY network, which is hosted by my darling, Jackie Guerra, and is on at 3 on both Saturday and Sunday.

Do I give a rat's ass about jewelry making? No. But I watch for Jackie. She's this magnificent, confident woman who's cute as all get-out. I love to watch her tease the guests she likes, and make weird faces at the guests she doesn't. It's corny. If you watch, you'll lose all respect for me, but I don't even care. She's so dreamy.


After Jackie, there's this fragile little spunky thing who has a show, "Knitty Gritty," which I also watch religiously, but this is because I want so much to learn to knit.

I can crochet and I make fabulous gaudy eccentric afghans whenever I can, because it relaxes me after work.

But the truth is that there's not much more than making afghans I really care to learn to do with a crochet needle. I want to make sweaters, with cables, and shawls and cute socks. I want to know the difference between knit and pearl and I want to learn to cast off.

The minute I get some extra money, I'm going to get a pair of needles and a good book and get on it.

Stretching Republicans

The Libertarian called me on my birthday, which was very nice, and I got to talk to his son, who felt it was very important to tell me that he was watching Star Wars on TV. I was bowled over at how well he speaks, considering that he's not quite three and English is his second language. America, I could live an amused life if your three year olds called me regularly. And yesterday, I had lunch at the Mediterranean restaurant, which, I think, is just called "Mediterranean Cuisine." It's the one on 21st above Cheeseburger Charley's. I love their food and would eat their shawarma pockets every day, if I could. That is beside the point. The point is that when I was done eating, I saw a very small girl spot her mother from across the way and she was so excited that she threw her hands up over her head and danced around. So, America, let your 20-month-olds dance around all they want; that also makes me happy. One of the reasons the Libertarian called me was to ask what I got out of going to the college that we did. Aside from him and the Shill and the Super Genius? I didn't have an answer for him. But this morning, when I was out with the dog, I was thinking about the social dance class I took, and how this stiff Republican from my Russian class was always my partner, even though I was a pinko liberal. I don't know why he always picked me, but I think it's because he knew I didn't give a shit how awkward he was and we were roughly the same height. But one of the best days of dance class was when we didn't dance at all, but spent the hour and a half stretching and one of the stretches we did was where we sat back to back with our partners and one person would push as hard on the other person as she could so that the pusher's butt came off the ground and she was laying on the back of the stretcher so that he was pushed farther down between his opened legs than he normally could get. Anyway, I wanted him to do me first and he would not pick his butt up off the ground, because he didn't "want to hurt me." and I was like, "Dude, you can't hurt me, I promise. Just do it." So, finally, he put all his weight on me and I was like, "Hurray" and when I did it to him, he said "Wow, that is really nice." I think there's a lesson in there that was worth four years. I should have told that story to the Libertarian.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Libraries Break My Heart.

Libraries and librarians, I love you because you're so radical, believing all information should be freely available to everyone. University presses, German conglomerates, web browsers, professors, students, you love us all equally and fiercely.

Libraries and librarians, I have given you all of my grown-up days. I work to fill your shelves. I can't forget the squeak of the cart wheel, full of books for shelving. I can't forget the bump of spines as I read along to make sure everything was still in order. I can't forget the crack of dried glue and the smell of musty ink, books that haven't been opened in decades. And now, I work to give you books that I hope you will love.

Of course, I knew all along you had other lovers, and I was fine with that. You draw everyone who loves words to you.

But how could you let Google talk you into this? Giving Google all your books to scan and make available for searching?

Libraries and librarians, what happened? Don't you love authors? Don't you love publishers? Don't you love copyright law?

Copyright--literally, the right to make copies. The only person who has that right is the author. She might assign that right to her publisher, give it to the publisher to hold onto for as long as the book's in print, but it's hers. She, or the publisher she's asked to decide for her, is the only person who can say who can make copies of her book.

You don't get to decide that Google can make copies of your books that are still under copyright protection. It doesn't matter how well-meaning Google is, and I believe their intentions are honorable, copyright law isn't just to protect us against bad guys. It's to protect us from the likes of you, who mean well, but are wrong.

But, but, but you say, it'll work to everyone's benefit. Whole libraries' collections will be searchable online, but the copyright protected materials will not be free. Readers will only get a snippet, and have to pay to see the whole thing. There will be links, you say, to publishers' websites, so that readers can purchase the books if they want.

Work to everyone's benefit or not, it's not your decision to make. Who's contacted the copyright holders and asked them if they want to participate? How can you say you love books and knowledge if you have no respect for the people who write those books?

I'm very ashamed of you and Google. Peter Givler at the AAUP has some hard questions for Google, which they have not yet answered, but I wonder how you would respond. When he asks, "How can the libraries claim these copies have been lawfully acquired?" we both know you can't.

It's true, I'm a strong advocate of 'fair use' and I believe scholars have a moral obligation to interpret the boundaries of 'fair use' generously. I'm also a great lover of public domain, and it pisses me off that, for all practical purposes, things have stopped entering the public domain.

And, maybe you also are angry that Disney has successfully stopped the flow of intellectual property into the intellectual commons, and this is your crazy stand, where you liberate all intellectual property and give it to everyone. You haven't said that, though.

Or maybe you think this is "fair use" because you've convinced yourself that it won't hurt the market. But there's never been a case in which reproducing a whole book without permission, let alone the contents of a whole library, have been considered 'fair use.' In fact, it's the unlawful reproduction of whole works that copyright law was first designed to stop.

It's unbelievable to me that a handful of university libraries and Google would decide that they don't have to consider the rights of the author. Who would have thought that we'd ever see a day when two institutions whose whole reason for existence depends on the written word would declare war on the author?

Wild Honyocks

When we were little and acting up, our parents would always tell us to stop acting like a bunch of wild honyocks (the 'o' sounds like the 'o' in Hon--the office furniture makers). For as long as I've been able to talk, I've been calling my brothers wild honyocks and telling the dog to stop acting like a wild honyock and wondering who left the mess in the kitchen, perhaps a band of maurading wild honyocks? I had no idea what a honyock was. I thought it was just some kind of made up word that meant "barbarian" but more on the 'acting like a nincompoop' side and less on the 'actually hurt anyone' side. But, it turns out that honyock is a disparaging term, for whom exactly is unclear, perhaps the Hungarians, perhaps just anyone of Central European extraction. OED has it linked to the word 'hunk' which was a disparaging term for east-central Europeans who came to the US to farm. It seems to have been used to mean east-central Europeans specifically only in the 1910s and then taken on the broader meaning of just 'assorted wild-behaving folks' in the late 30s. Anyway, I like the word. And so I'm torn. I have a loose policy of calling people what they want to be called (sometimes identified as "PC"-ness, but I think of it more as good manners) and not using words that people find hurtful just because I can. But I wonder when, if ever, there comes a point when words that were made up just to disparage people run out of the energy they were imbued with? Is there anyone who hears the term 'honyock' and feels it as an ethnic slur anymore? Even if not, does that mean that it's now okay to use it? Barbarian was an ethnic slur. According to OED, it traces its roots back to the Latin "balbus" or stammering, but according to the History Channel, the Greeks thought the Europeans from farther north sounded like sheep "bah, bah, bah." My point being that, though no one wants to be called a barbarian, no one thinks of it as a slur against non-Greek or -Latin speaking Europeans anymore. It's a tough place for me, who likes to believe that words always carry with them the traces of what they used to mean, and who also likes to scold the dog by calling her a honyock. So, I guess I'm going to retire the term. I'm not sure it's wrong to use it, but I can't quite justify to myself knowing what it was originally intended for and keeping it in my day-to-day vocabulary. Sadly, there will be no more calls of "wild honyocks" heard at my house.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Home again, Home again

Is there anything better than coming down the hill into town from Joelton at 75 miles an hour with no traffic? Just gliding through those curves like you and the road are old dancing partners? Only getting home and finding that your brother has spent the afternoon making you a delicious cake.

Happy Birthday to Me!

I have no exciting plans for my birthday other than to eat lunch with my parents and drive back home to Nashville. My dad made sure to point out that he was my age when I was born and he apologized for the wedding joke he was going to tell at church. He even offered to marry me off to the Man from GM, but I said that, though I adore him, when we're together, all we do is fight. And my dad said, "That's all your mom and I do." Exactly. America, you may get the impression from reading Tiny Cat Pants that my family is extremely loving and close, which is true, and that we have some kind of perfect relationship, which is so not true. Honestly, I feel like I'm annoyed or angry at my folks most of the time, but one of the things I get out of this writing is that, I realize, when I tell stories about my my family, I hardly ever talk about the things they do or have done that piss me off. In fact, though I feel like I'm frequently mad at them, I think my default emotion for them is genuine fondness. Frankly, that's been a revelation. It makes fighting with them easier. For most of my life, I rarely fought with anyone in my family, because I was afraid that once I started, there'd just be this bottomless pit of animosity towards them. (I told the Professor once that I'm convinced that everyone carries around their own little hell inside them and that, with good friends, you can open up the gates a little bit and let them peer in there and them telling you that what they see in there isn't so bad can be healing, but that we owe it to others not to throw the gates wide open and turn that on our loved ones.) But now, I know, at the core, that I adore these crazy, fucked up people. The bickering, the snide comments, the public discussion about how fat I am, the attempts to hook me up with nice Christian men, the assumption that I have nothing better to do with my life than to act as Mary Poppins to the whole damn lot of them, the dragging in of every wayward asshole and expecting me to be hospitable to people who are evil and insane, that's all still true. And it still pisses me off. But that doesn't mean I hate them. At the bottom, once you clear all that stuff away, I love them, a whole lot, and think I'm much better for having them in my life. Is this another benefit of getting older, I wonder? Figuring out the best way for oneself to navigate nearly impossible emotional landscape? If so, then I'm looking forward to next year as well.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Indiana Wants Me; Lord I Can't Go Back There

So, after driving all the way up here yesterday, what did we do today? Drive all over Indiana. Ha, that's just like us. Still, it's good to spend time with my parents and the good thing about being in the van is that they can't put me to work painting porch furniture or spraying the lawn for weeds or anything that's too much like the shit I have waiting for me at my own house. So, I told my mom about Tiny Cat Pants and she and my dad (as you'll recall, the Butcher already told him about it) had all kinds of questions: What do I write about? Do I get paid? Will I get sued? Who reads it? And as much as I tried to explain it to them, they didn't really get it. They came in just a few minutes ago while I was reading the Tennessee Guerilla Women and my dad was like, "That's just the news! Are you writing the news?" And I told him it wasn't my site, but he was still stuck on "It's the news! Is this some underground news network?" So, I guess it kind of is like that, with me playing the part of Andy Rooney. Then they asked me if I was writing right then and I said no and they started in with all the things I should write about. "Tell the blog about all the weird houses we saw in Indiana that seemed to have been pieced together by polygamists trying to keep their wives from finding out about each other." "Tell the blog about the state park that used to be Fort Harrison." "Oh, tell the blog about the restaurant in Danville where we had dinner." "Yeah, don't forget that." Apparently they think that my readers are some kind of collective--The Blog--which makes me laugh because it makes me think of y'all floating through space in a giant metal cube. Who knew their love of Star Trek would resurface in such a funny way?

Friday, May 20, 2005

Six Hours in the Car

So, you might wonder what I think about on the road by myself for six hours. In no particular order, here are the things that came to mind:
  1. Wow, you sure hear a lot of Garth Brooks out here still.
  2. Oh, I didn't know Haggard and Jones recorded together. That makes sense.
  3. Why are the only good drivers on this interstate truckers?
  4. How many of those truckers do you suppose are on amphetamines right now? Should I be scared or impressed that they're still the best drivers on the road?
  5. What could one be talking about on the phone that would be so important that one would fail to notice that she's now going 40 in a 70 mile per hour zone?
  6. Illinois! There appears to be about 20 miles south of Effingham that is not under construction. I'm sure this is just some oversight and that the whole damn state will be clogged with yellow and white barrels very soon.
  7. Why doesn't the dog eat pickles? She eats other vegetables.
  8. Should I pee now?

and 9. I was thinking about MTV's Meet the Barkers, which is a reality show in which a scrawny tattooed dude drums for some band so that his beautiful wife can lounge around in bed all day.

The first thing I thought was how nice it would be to have anyone pay my way so that I could lay around in bed all day.

But then I got to thinking about the episode where it's tattooed guy's birthday and his wife takes him out for this elaborate meal.

On the surface, it seems like this would be the one huge drawback to a really patriarchal bullshit marriage, that it's always the money that you've made pay for this. So, his wife didn't throw him a dinner; she just arranged for his money to provide him a dinner. She's just a conduit for his buying power.

But then, I realized that this is actually one of the greatest benefits of male privilege in a consumer culture. If the money is always all yours--made by you and controlled by you--, you never have to accept a gift from your wife, because your wife is never in a position to buy you a gift. She can only pick out gifts you buy for yourself.

Follow me here. Why wouldn't a patriarchal bullshit man want to accept a gift from his wife?

On the surface, we associate gifts with sacrifice, with going without so that we can give something to someone. We might associate it with currying favor, or kissing up.

But gift-giving is actually more powerful than that. To give a gift is to say, in essence, I have an abundance and I want to share my good fortune with you. Being in a position to give a gift, to be able to be generous, is a position of power.

If you are in a patriarchal bullshit relationship, you don't want your wife to have power independent of what you grant her. So, I think, accepting from her gifts you know you bought yourself is pleasurable because it reaffirms the "proper" power structure--you controlling all the resources.

Then 10. I was thinking about women in combat and how crucially important it is for women to be in combat positions and for us to be registered for the selective service.

Don't get me wrong. I still think this evil administration has lied us into a war against a country that never attacked us while failing to find and bring to justice--either earthly or eternal--the man responsible for 9/11 and that our grandchildren will demand to know why we seemed to shovel into our mouths willingly the shit we're being fed. I haven't softened on that. No one in our armed forces should be being injured or dying in Iraq, when we were lied to again and again about what the reasons to put them there were. It's unacceptable. And we are all accountable for the fact that we've sent them to do this nearly impossible thing without the proper tools and equipment they need to do it. The utter disregard for our uniformed young people makes me sick. We will surely reap what we've sown with these men and women, and I'm sorry about that.

But I want women to be equal citizens in this country. As long as it doesn't cost us the same as it does men, we're not. As long as we're "sheltered" from combat and disregarded as potential draft fodder, we're not.

I don't want to go to war, especially this war, and I don't want to die before I'm good and old. But I want to count.

For us to be both looking around for more and more people to recruit into the armed forces and trying to pass legislation keeping women out of combat zones just shows that women, and our contributions, don't count. That even in the midst of having the vote and some positions of power, we're still not really citizens. The same things aren't required of us. In fact, it's still inconceivable to some people that those same things ought to be required of us.

That's bullshit. It's dangerous bullshit.

Hey, actually, maybe 9 & 10 go together, at least for as long as we have an all-volunteer military. Here we have women saying to us, America, "Here is the gift of my life. I will fight for us." And we're so fucking scared of that kind of powerful statement from a woman that we're constantly trying to dictate the terms under which we'll accept it so that we don't have to recognize the radical paradigm shift it represents.

So, even though we're fighting a war that doesn't have a front, where anyone in a uniform in Iraq might find herself in a firefight at any time, we cling so desperately to the notion that we can just ban women from combat, as if the enemies we now have will suddenly stop firing at them just because we've changed the rules, because we need to diffuse the power of women warriors.

And it will be a powerful change, when women who've fought along side men, come home.

Important Science Thing I Just Learned

If, while walking the dog, you look to the west and see two bright rainbows, nested inside each other, it's important to remember that rainbows form on the edges of storms and to realize that at 6:00 in the morning, in a place where weather come in from the west, a rainbow or two in the west, no matter who beautiful, means that you're about to get rained on, so you'd better convince the dog to shit right now, because you don't want to be in the car with her in the rain, because she'll refuse to get out of the car and you'll be stuck in a confined space with an animal letting the rancid farts of someone who needs desperately to "take care of business" but refuses to because of her fear of falling water. (You'd think with the important resarch I do around here for the public good, there'd be a grant or two from some government agency I could get...)

Thursday, May 19, 2005

My Mysterious Mom

I sometimes feel like I neglect to write much about my mom. The main reason for this is that my mom is my dad's straight-man. He's the character and she's the person the audience identifies with. A side-effect of this is that I'm always learning things about my mom. A couple of years ago, I learned that she had a pet bird when she was a little girl. The coolest surprising thing my mom did when we were little (aside from catching all the bugs that got in the house and releasing them outside, no matter how scary or stingy they were), was to regularly lock the keys in the legendary Caprice Classic. Okay, it wasn't the locking of the keys in the car that was extraordinary, because my mom's just absentminded that way. It was that this didn't matter. No car made before about 1985 could withstand her. She could break into them all in less than 60 seconds. She could even hotwire them, but, since the keys were always inside the car, we never got to witness that skill. This reminds me, in a tangential way which will quickly become obvious, of the rule about cussing in our house: if it was in the Bible, it wasn't a bad word. Unfortunately for my parents, this resulted in us scouring the Bible and then gleefully calling each other "bastard" and "ass." But, my mom said "shit" all the time. I don't remember being told anything specifically about the word "shit" but somehow we all knew that we must never say "shit" because it was a bad word, but that it was fine for Mom (and only Mom, because we'd tattle to her and to Grandma if we heard Dad saying it) to use it. So, where did my quiet, proper, modest, god-fearing, non-drinking, non-smoking, corny-vest-wearing school-teacher mom learn that "shit" was just the seasoning to any lively conversation? From the men who worked on the Rock Island Railroad. Her dad worked for the railroad and when she was in college, she worked in the office, the only woman in a world of men, some of them who went home at the end of the day with hands gray from pencil lead and some who left work with hands shiny black from grease, who taught her useful things like cussing and stealing cars. She told me once about how, when she was little, she would run out and meet her dad when he was coming home from work and the two of them would climb up into the tree in the back yard, she in her school dress and my grandpa in his suit, which would infuriate my grandma. Anyway, I got home from work and ran some water in the kitchen sink and, even though the drain looked clear, it backed up into both sides. We don't have any Drain-o, so I called the folks to ask for advice. Dad suggested the bathroom plunger. So, I took the plunger from the bathroom and gave it a good thwunk in the sink and damned if that drain doesn't work just fine now. But here's what got me thinking of my mom:
  • Use of tools for other than their intended purpose
  • Doing dirty work in my office clothes
  • Absentmindedly neglecting to properly block the drain in the other side of the sink
  • Resulting in a big, unexpected whoosh of water
  • Which lead me to say, under my breath, "Oh, shit!" in that staccato way my mom has

Just to Bring the Present Thing Full Circle

So, I got my birthday present in the mail from my dad and must report that my dad kicks ass. He got me When the Mississippi Ran Backwards : Empire, Intrigue, Murder, and the New Madrid Earthquakes by Jay Feldman. So, why does this present kick so much ass? (1) He heard about it on NPR* and thought the author was very interesting and that the story was weird, which made him (2) think of how much I like weird things and (3) how much I like books and so he thought (4) that I would really like the book. Had I ever heard of it? No. Was it on any of the lists I sent him? No. Instead, he considered the things he finds interesting and the things I find interesting and from that came up with a present. That breaks my heart. Thanks, Dad. *Since when does my dad listen to NPR? Maybe he heard about it on WLS. But he said NPR, so who knows? My parents' ability to surprise me knows no bounds.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Is This a Funny--Ha Ha--or a Funny--Oh god no?

For those of you who are keeping score, I did indeed claim I was bad in bed the very same day that Nashville is Talking (Channel 2's blog) linked to Tiny Cat Pants. If there's any more ingeniously stupid way to taint my dating pool, I can't think of one.

Fine, World, You Win

It's been a grueling week and it's only Wednesday. Or maybe it's been a grueling month and I just now noticed. Anyway, I'm going up to my parents to be babied for the weekend. Let someone else worry about the important shit; I'm going to curl up in a little ball on the single bed in the room set aside for the littlest nephew and hide from the world for a couple of days. At the least, this means that I can have our family's traditional birthday breakfast on Sunday of cake and ice cream. Lest you all be under the mistaken impression that this trip to my parents is not without it's own set of aggravations, let me relate to you the conversation I just had on the phone with my dad [not word for word, but you'll get the gist]. Me: Hey, what's the weather going to be like up there? The Reverend: High 70s, low 80s, why? Me: I'm going to go ahead and take Friday off and come on up. The Reverend: Why? Me: Because I'm burnt out and I hate everyone. The Reverend: What did you say? I couldn't hear you. I'm at the dentist. Me: I'm burnt out. The Reverend: Oh, okay. Well, your mom will write you a check for the gas. Me: No, you don't have to do that. I've got it. The Reverend: No, we want to. Me: Sure, okay, fine. The Reverend: But you're going to have to feed yourself on the road. We can't afford it. Maybe we can pack you a nice sandwich for the ride home, but . . . Me: Dad, it's fine. I can pay for everything. The Reverend: Don't be ridiculous. We've got the gas covered. Me: Okay, then, thanks. The Reverend: Okay, then I need to call your mom so we can cancel our plans. Me: You have plans? The Reverend: Ha, ha, ha. Of course not. Your mom was going to spray the grass, but otherwise I was just trying to make you feel bad. Me: Um, okay, well, then I'll see you on Friday. The Reverend: Friday it is. The dentist must think my dad is nuts.

Lee Ann Womack's Hair

Well, the 40th annual effort to make people say "What the hell? I thought they just had this award show in October" has come and gone and though I am no closer to understanding the difference between the Academy of Country Music awards (the ACMs) and the Country Music Association awards (the CMAs), I thought it was a pretty interesting show. Here's what the three people I've seen since the awards thought: The Butcher: "What's great about Big & Rich is that the way they sing out of tune with each other pretty much encourages the audience to sing along." The Redheaded Kid: "Woo, listen to me, woo-wooo, I can sing just as bad as Rascal Flatts!" The woman in my office building: "Is it just me or was that the most self-righteous two hours on TV this week?" Me: "I think it was three hours." Woman: "Three hours. Three hours of 'Drugs or Jesus' sanctimony? I'm glad I fell asleep." But here's where I confess that I didn't give a shit if it was the largest gathering of self-righteous hypocrites since widow Johnson socked it to the Harper Valley P.T.A., because I am in love with Lee Ann Womack's hair. I can't find a good picture of it on the internet yet, but it was glorious, this paean to big country music hair days of yore. I'm no girly girl and my hair do usually involves rolling down all the windows in the car and hoping that dries my hair enough to make it presentable at work. But I'd get up early to have hair like that, if I knew how to do it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Gender, Sex, and Sexuality--In other words, a post about all the important stuff

I've been wanting to clarify my position on whether there are essential differences between men and women, but I rely so heavily on analogies and I just couldn't come up with one that really worked. Just as an example, the most useful analogy, the one that almost made this post had to do with pork burgers and pulled pork barbecue sandwiches. Be thankful I spared you. So, are men and women inherently different? I think they are. In what ways? I don't know. I know all the bullshit ways we're supposed to be different. You are gruff and out of touch with your feelings and violent and career-oriented and want power. I want kindness and love and children and good relations between everyone. You like cars. I like cuddling on the couch. You're good at wars. I'm good at knitting. And, obviously, I don't believe those dichotomies hold: they're nonsense. For every gentle woman who loves her children more than anything, there's a gentle man who loves his children more than anything. For every man who'd like to spend the afternoon at the shooting range, there's a woman. The saddest thing about the kinds of rigid gender roles we have is that the guy who loves his kids, it might never occur to him that he could stay home with them. The woman above might have never shot a gun; she might not know she'd like to spend the afternoon at the shooting range. Our fucked up attitudes about gender hurt us both, and though clearly women bear more of the pain, to think that men aren't damaged is asinine. So, scholars say perfectly reasonable things, like "gender is performance" and "gender is learned and socially enforced," and I think those things are true as well. It's important that our assumptions are challenged and wondering whether gender is more performance than inherent state is pretty damn challenging. But, I think there's a core difference between men and women, a fundamental difference, not based in the body (which is where I differ from most essentialists), but based in the soul, for lack of a better word. I don't know what that difference is and I don't believe, even if we knew what it was, it should dictate what your opportunities in life are. But I believe it's there. And here's why: I believe transsexuals. I believe that, if someone tells me she was born with the wrong body when she was born a man, or that he knew from the time he was a little girl that he wasn't a girl at all, that they're not bullshitting, that they knew that their gender did not match their physical sex. How can they know that if there's not some essential difference? Which leads me to my last point. I don't believe that there are just two sexes, meaning that there aren't just XY folks with penises and XX folks with ovaries and that all other variations are unfortunate "birth defects." I don't believe there are only two possible sexes. That's as much a construct as gender is (the belief in two sexes). I think that all variations--folks with XXY chromosomes, XY females, folks with ambiguous genitalia--are different sexes. We're just so invested in the heteronormative myth of an individual's primary "purpose" being passing on his or her genes that we view those people as having "birth defects," but that's a value judgment based on a myth, and another myth, another story, could be told that valued all our variety, even the variations that don't produce children. So, I also am not at all certain that there are just two genders. I suspect that "man" and "woman" are too broad categories to sufficiently represent all the variations one finds within those categories. So, it could be that, if we were operating in a different paradigm, one that recognized multiple sexes and multiple genders, transsexuals might find a gender/sex combination that accurately represented who they were without having to resort to surgery, but that's a grand social experiment I don't think most folks are willing to participate it. In the meantime (and even in that eventuality), I choose to believe folks when they tell me the truth about themselves. Whew, okay, we've covered sex and gender. What's left? Ah, sexuality. Here goes: Straight America, we really ought to stop being such pretentious jackasses, acting like the unions we make are so fucking traditional. Please, even 100 years ago, you married who your parents told you to. If you were lucky, you got to marry the person you loved, but no guarantees. Marriages were to solidify community bonds and family social status and not for love. The real, revolutionary paradigm shift--the belief that you should marry only for love--has already happened. You can't go back from something that radical. You can do like most Christians and try to pretend like it wasn't that revolutionary at all, that what we're doing, the unions we're making, are the same thing folks were doing 150 years ago, which was the same thing folks were doing 1000 years ago, but that's an inherently dishonest position. And, seriously, America, once you've so drastically redefined the nature of marriage, from political arrangement to love match, there's no way to justify keeping loving, consenting adults from doing it. America, you're wrong about gay marriage. There's nothing gay folks can do to fundamentally alter marriage any more drastic than what straight folks did at the turn of the last century.

It's the end of the world, as I know it

Earth-shattering things have happened to me before, but never has one left me as rattled as what happened to me today. I fell in love with Toby Keith. I hate Toby Keith. I think he's an arrogant, smug, sanctimonious jackass whose lips annoy me in ways I can't even express. I hate all his music, except "How Do You Like Me Now?" and I hate that dirty, beat-up cowboy hat he always wears and that they now sell replicas of all over town. I hate the casual misogyny of his lyrics and his videos. I hate how he acts like he's the first and only person to truly understand the plight of our troops and I hate how he acts like including them in his videos makes him some hero-by-proxy. Gah. I loathe him. But today, as I was doing research for my bitch about the New York Times, I stumbled across this article in today's Tennessean, about how Toby Keith is going to start his own music label and why. Nothing but good can come of this. As his arch-enemies, The Dixie Chicks, pointed out years ago, the system here in town is deeply flawed and any shake-up is a good shake-up. But it's not just the fact that he's taken a page from rap (Ha, country music, you were so worried about what Tim was doing with Nelly that you failed to account for what Toby might be learning from Dr. Dre.) that's made my hard heart soften to him just a little, it's the reasons he gives for doing it. Toby knows how to speak to my soul. I love people who are loyal to their friends and Keith is pissed that the folks from Dreamworks, who helped him become a star, were all fired when Universal bought Dreamworks. I love people who can understand the broader reasons for problems, and he talks about how stupid it was for his label to release his greatest hits and Shania Twain's greatest hits on the same day: '''It waters the date down. Not everybody's got $40 to lay down on two CDs. Middle America, blue-collar country people have enough trouble buying one CD,' he said." And, oh, he also loves to bitch about the problems of blue-collar people! He's so dreamy. In a perfect world, his first act would be to sign the Dixie Chicks to his label. That would be so great.

Who is the New York Times for?

Starting this fall, the New York Times is going to start charging folks to access the editorial page on-line. It'll be roughly $50. I don't know if it will be $50 a year or a one-time charge or a month, because I'm not going to pay it. For now, everything else will be available for "free" ("free" because you have to register and if you think your demographic information isn't extremely valuable to them and their advertisers, you are wrong) online. In Salon today, Frank Rich says that he believes that people will eventually not read newspapers in print, but online and thus, newspapers have got to figure out how to make money from their online readers. The problem with this is that no newspaper makes money from its readers. They make money from advertising. The main, unspoken, purpose of a subscription list is to prove to advertisers that there are a bunch of people who will be reading the paper and, thus, might see their ads. But ad revenues on the net are notoriously unreliable. All this is to say that I understand that part of the argument: newspapers need to make money if they're going to hire folks to provide the news, and if they can't make money the old way, they need to make it a new way. But here's what bugs me about it. The Times sets itself up as the paper of record, not just for New York, but for the nation. And yet, what are the two biggest problems with the Times? Its coastalphilic attitude that everything important happens in New York, D.C., and L.A. and its insistence on talking about the rest of the nation (and even the working class people in its own city) as if it should obviously have the last word on what our experiences mean. What is the only antidote for those two things? For people from the bottom rungs of the class ladder in NYC and from all walks of life from the rest of the country to read the paper and call them on their bullshit. You see that all the time in the letters to the editor, people from all over writing in to agree or disagree with what they saw in yesterday's paper. I'm certain that most of these folks don't subscribe to the paper. They probably read it online like I do. (I don't pay the $180 it costs to subscribe to my own hometown paper [and won't until Brad About You is gone]; I'm not going to pay $600 to subscribe to the Times.) And why do we read it? Because, for all its flaws, it may not be the paper of record it wants to be, but it certainly is the paper of discussion. People read it and talk about what they've read in it. But here they go, doing exactly the thing you'd expect from a paper that can't decide who it's for, building a little wall to sort out its readership for it. Unfortunately, the very people who can't be bothered to pay $50 for the "privilege" of reading the op/ed page are the very people the Times needs to read it.

People, listen up!

If the women in your life need cookies every day for a week, that week is not the time to get all self-righteously indignant about the amount of cookies you have to buy to satisfy them and thus declare that there will be no more talk of cookies and that you are never buying cookies again. Wait until next week and see if the problem doesn't resolve itself. Otherwise, you may find that all of the animals have been shut in your bedroom at 3 in the morning. And you may find, thanks to the dog's barking, that the cats have been given a three-pack of condoms to bat around to keep themselves occupied until you wake up. Just a word of caution.

Monday, May 16, 2005

For Nashvillians Only! (Well, and for Nashvillains, too)

If you've been pissed off about the death of Oldies 96.3, and I'm guessing by the amount of traffic I'm getting from Google with people wanting to know what the fuck happened last week, you'll be happy to know that I just read on Nashville is Talking that Star 97 has switched formats to the Oldies and hired all the folks from 96.3. So, though we all have to reprogram our car radios, at least we won't be without a place to hear Aretha singing "Chain of Fools." My god. I could make do with just about any song from the 60s--I'd be sad they were gone, but could live--except that one. Rarely do boneheaded radio moves in this town get so promptly fixed. (RIP The Phoenix.) So, happy day!

The Perfect Country and Western Song

Well, not the most perfect country and western song of all times, because David Allan Coe has that covered and I'm not picking a fight with him about it because... well, because he's one bad-ass motherfucker and I'm a little afraid of him. But the most perfect country and western song out right now is "What's a Guy Gotta Do." I can't find who wrote it, but it's performed by... well, that's also tricky because I had been going on all weekend about how Blake Shelton just might be the most solid mid-level artist out there right now, with good songs like "What's a Guy Gotta Do" and "Goodbye Time" just chugging away on my radio, hooking me in. But it turns out Blake Shelton didn't record "What's a Guy Gotta Do," that other long haired handsome man, Joe Nichols, did. (Christ Jesus. All this fuss about stem-cell cloning and someone here in Nashville has perfected a way to clone long haired handsome dudes and no one says a word.) Anyway, back to "What's a Guy Gotta Do." I'm not saying this is the best country song out there at the moment, but just that this song is really the most ordinary country song currently getting airplay. I don't mean that in a bad way, I mean that George Jones could have recorded this in his "The King is Gone (So are You)" period (an awesome song about sitting around pouring liquor out of a bottle shaped like Elvis into a Fred Flintstone cup and bemoaning lost love--"Yabba Dabba Doo, the King is gone and so are you."--it's both unbearably hokey and unbelievably heartbreaking) or maybe Lefty Frizzell before that could have done it. It's just a good, solid, traditional country music song in a way that most folks don't think about when they talk about Country Music Tradition, like that's some monolithic and decided-on designation. Here's what it's got going for it: 1. Like a lot of good country music songs, it seems to be about a guy new to a place, trying to figure out the local ways and how he might fit it. 2. It's about wanting love, but not being sure how to get it. 3. It posits itself as working class and ordinary (with the reference to the produce aisle at the Super Walmart). 4. It's got sophisticated wordplay that passes itself off as corn-pone: "Well, ask anybody, I'm a pretty good guy/ and the 'looks decent' wagon didn't pass me by." 5. It's got sophisticated wordplay that is going to give musicologists fits in thirty years: "So I bumped into a pretty girl's shopping cart/ but all I did was break her eggs and bruise her artichoke hearts." Now, clearly there are two kinds of bruised hearts at play here, which you know is going to lead somebody to wonder whether, since the hearts have significance on two levels, if the eggs do as well, which will lead to someone doing a master's thesis on whether "shopping cart" is a euphemism for a woman's vagina. That's going to be awesome and I can't wait. 6. It's got a timeless quality about it. You hear it and you don't instantly know whether it's a new song or an old one you just didn't know about. 7. It's got a good sense of humor about itself, as far as songs go. So, I like it. It's not my favorite song on the radio right now (I'm kind of hooked on that Old Crow Medicine Show song that makes me want to quit my job and become a carney), but it's solid and has some roots and I appreciate that.

70 and Sunny

Let me set the scene for you. Imagine yesterday, sunny and beautiful, with a cool breeze coming from the west. We're all outside. I'm sitting in the big lawn chair on the concrete in front of the Butcher's car. The dog is laying in the shade of my car. I'm finishing up the work I had to bring home in order to feel okay about taking Friday off. The cats are both sleeping in the dirt under the front bushes and the Butcher is hitting what appear to be tiny wiffle balls around the yard with his one golf club, which is, for some reason, spraypainted green. Occasionally, I say something to the Butcher like, "I told the Shill I was going to taunt her husband about the fact that she will never make those awesome Jello peanut butter cup things for him because he doesn't allow her in the kitchen... You should totally go to the store and get some of those." "Woman, we ate cookies for breakfast!" He says back to me, pretending to be annoyed. And then we're back to our respective silences. All afternoon we spend out in that glorious day. Now, I'm sunburnt and headed back to work. It's just not fair.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Jimmy Martin Called Me a Motherfucker

The King of Bluegrass, Jimmy Martin died today. I met him once, and he was something, dressed from top to bottom in deep red with sequins on all the seams and a big old cowboy hat with beautiful plumage. He was drunk, I think, at least his eyes were shiny and dangerous. It doesn't matter why he called me a motherfucker, but he did, and in a way that felt like I'd lucked out, because something a lot uglier could have happened. But instead, he threw his arm around my waist and pulled me right up next to him and took me around the room and asked people if they'd "met this here motherfucker?" That's how it was with him, you just never knew if it was going to be okay or if he'd be mean, at least when he'd been drinking. But for every story I heard about what a mean cuss he was, I heard another story about how he'd go so far out of his way to help people that you almost couldn't believe it was the same person. He really, really wanted to be a member of the Grand Ole Opry, in a way that nobody feels anymore. I mean, people want to be member, but not enough to fulfill their commitments to the Opry once they get in. But Jimmy was of that generation to whom the Grand Ole Opry was the pinnacle of achievement. Being a member of the Opry meant that you'd made it. They never let him in. And now he's dead. Long before he died, he put up his tombstone right across the drive from Roy Acuff's. See? So, if you're on a tour and you're on the left side of the bus, you can get a good look at Acuff's grave, but if you're on the right and you get bored of staring at other tourists' butts, you can look out your window and see Jimmy's gravestone. And just when you think "What the hell kind of jackass puts up his gravestone years too early, just to enjoy seeing people stare at it*?" you learn that he put his housekeeper in that grave when her family didn't have enough money to bury her. The ego and the big heart, and the talent, oh god, the talent. As Tom Piazza says, bluegrass is country's jazz. To do it well, you have to be a virtuoso, and to do it like Jimmy Martin... well, who could compare? I hope he rests in peace, but I bet there's some folks sweating out to the Grand Ole Opry house right now, because you can keep a man off the stage when he has a body to escort off the premises, but what can you do when he's dead and ornery? *Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn come the closest, I guess. Speaking of Huck, Eric Lott brings up the interesting point that there is still debate over this book. What the fuck? America, yes, Mark Twain uses "the n-word," and, yes, he characterizes Jim as superstitious and, yes, Twain's a man of his times in ways that don't sit so comfortably now days. But the central conceit of the book is that of everyone Huck encounters on his trip down the Mississippi, hell, in his whole life, the only one who never tries to hurt him or constrain him or change him, is Jim. The big joke at the center of the book is that the only real man in the book is the man who's not legally a man at all. See why it pissed folks off when it came out? See why it still pisses folks off?