Sunday, April 8, 2018

Tennessee Waltz

I have never fully integrated into Nashville and I gave up quite awhile ago.   Today during Acupuncture I asked my tincture dude about an encounter I had in the school his son goes to and the overall arching scandals that are plaguing the district.  His response was, "They don't care about education here and never have."  Truer words have never been more spoken. This state vacillates between 45 and 47 in overall achievement for for the past decade. The current Governor while he spouts education and investment in such they are words.  From Teacher salaries to the free college there is little evidence that any of that has made any inroads into paychecks for Teachers or overall academic success for Students.  But that is Tennessee long on the state line and the bullshit that mirrors it.

The odd thing about the South is the poverty and how it mirrors the same narcissism and arrogance the rich does. The aspiration class is high here and the idea that they are as good as the rich comes out in the ways that enable them to do so and those are largely in sports.  The city of Nashville is filled with major private and public Colleges and Universities and within an hour more schools all acclaimed and noted and seemingly empty of local residents.  And that parallel is the same in Boston Massachusetts an equally challenging State to spell and a region that is dotted with even more famous and acclaimed schools with equal sporting obsession but way more prestige.

 The women here I define as battleaxes. These are Christian torchbearers who in a State where it is number four for deaths by Domestic Violence are truly the Matriarchs in what ostensibly is a Patriarchal society.   When I saw this pic in the Tennessean lauding one of the women as a seventh generation Nashvillian I duly noted she had struggled with the concept of Gay Marriage.  The article was careful to avoid mentioning her position which again told me all I needed to know, she was not in favor.  And oddly she resembled the Lesbian women I knew in my youth which again explains the confusion and the conundrum that defines the Southern personality.

 Today the Tennessean spent what I am sure amounted to a full hour on over analyzing the fall of the former Slattern, Megan Barry.   I am exhausted laughing about her as she to me cements my view of the hypocrisy and desperation that marks Nashville.    The new Mayor is sure to note that he drives himself to and from work and has made no out of town trips since taking office a month or so ago.   Good to know.  The business up the street has since adjusted the camera to no longer focus on the Cemetery across the street where she and her bodyguard would go every morning to do whatever and the city truly has no interest any more but this is a City in desperate search of relevance so let's go over the old dirt and dig.  Good thing they were fucking in a Cemetery then!

And lastly today another young person whom I adore told me he was getting married in December. All of 21 and such a joyous spirit I thought here is another one lost to the odd dynamics here that is a throw back to another era.  His colleague who is the same age and such an adorable boy he too is marrying his girlfriend of college.   These boys both are engaged in religion and confused about sex and faith and of course have little travel or other experiences in which to ensure successful long term professional and personal lives that such allow.  I cannot say that I would feel different if it was anyone of the same age whom I met and knew in Seattle or San Francisco or anywhere I have lived or would live as I feel very strongly that 22 years old is simply too young.  For the first decade of marriage you are trying to get ahead, to get the house, the good job and the cars. The planning of children and trying to get some time in for one another all in the largest period of life when you work more than you should, are trying harder, spending more and all making less as the debt to income ratio is the most challenged thanks to student loans and other debts one takes on as they climb the ladder.  And then suddenly FOMO hits, fear of missing out.  And then you look to the left and right and the reality of marriage and stress and finances hits when the middle years hit and then you want to fuck the shit out of anyone and anything. And that should have been done during one's youth, the mistakes, the insanity, the travel and the experience is gone with one's youth.

I read this essay today in The New York Times and it resonated with me on many levels.  Rather than married men, although I have had my share of those who were entangled be it married or otherwise, my choice of drink was much younger ones.  The ability to disengage and to compartmentalize works when you don't have the freedom to go beyond the rules of engagement.   On my way home I listened to an NPR interview with a writer who discussed the issues of marriage and relationships and how they have changed since the beginning of human interactions  and how we try to fit modern rules into what is largely based on a simple rule of availability, familiarity and community.  In other words we found our partner across the cave/pond/tent and they looked good, their family knew someone we knew and we all lived in the same community so we had natural supports in place to encourage or discourage the match.   We no longer have those elements thanks to online dating, social media and our increasing isolation so we grab onto whoever is in front of us as a life preserver who will save us from drowning.

Psychology Today has an entire issue dedicated to the issue of loneliness.  And there are many kinds and types of loneliness in which we find ourselves. I am in a situational kind that has since escalated into a more serious type where I have a strong sense of distrust in most of my encounters.  Even the kids at the coffee shop I truly love but with restrictions.  Trust is not the issue but actual relevance is and I know that if I stopped going there we would never cross paths again.  And frankly I am not sure how I feel about that but in some ways I have become used to it.  The reality of our transitory nature has led us to move onto the next with the idea social media will somehow enable us to stay connected and remain in contact.

There was a great book by Barbara Gordon called, I'm Dancing As Fast As I Can.  That phrase came to popularity—as a colloquialism for people trying to achieve delicate, and nearly impossible, balancing acts of some kind. The book chronicles her "descent into hell" from her addiction and subsequent recovery, wherein her entire seemingly perfect life fell apart as soon as she quit the drugs her doctor got her hooked on. But they were merely a bandaid for larger, nameless problems lurking beneath the surface.

And that is how I feel living here that I cannot wait to dance out of here.  I am not good a Waltzing and clearly that challenges me and how I view people I meet and the shadows I see in the corner. When I see exchanged glances, smirks and of course  hear the phrase or words "God Bless.. " I want to run screaming into traffic.  I have good years left and I want to live them just not here.  I am dancing and I am exhausted.  I need a rest.

Special report: Inside the final 34 days before Megan Barry resigned
Joey Garrison,Nate Rau and Adam Tamburin,
The Tennessean
 April 7, 2018 |

After five weeks of hell, Mayor Megan Barry and her inner circle convened one more time.

The five longtime friends and aides and three lawyers joined Barry and her husband that Monday evening at the Belmont-area bungalow of the embattled politician whose career they were fighting to save.

They knew it would be different than their other gatherings since the sex scandal erupted.

It was March 5. It was time for a final decision.

Those closest to Barry felt sadness for the leader they loved, frustration about a situation they didn’t expect, and sheer anger at what they describe as an overzealous district attorney and an unfair media that wanted to take down Nashville’s first female mayor.

Barry’s political career once seemed unstoppable. Revered as a rock star and profiled by national press, she was considered a contender for higher office.

Her inner circle thought by publicly admitting to the nearly two-year affair with her former police bodyguard, Sgt. Rob Forrest, Barry could survive the scandal and remain in politics. She even held a prime-time news conference Jan. 31.

But what they perceived to be a serious personal situation unexpectedly turned into a criminal one.

And so they gathered together as she made the biggest decision of her career.

The Tennessean interviewed more than three dozen friends, advisers and city officials, and examined thousands of pages of emails and documents for this story.

Barry declined to comment.

Fallout from the scandal: Former Mayor Megan Barry starts emptying campaign coffers, offers refund to donors

Those at the mayor’s home that evening included Katy Varney, a friend, political adviser and partner at the public relations firm McNeely, Pigott and Fox. Varney took over damage control during the scandal. Also in attendance were Rich Riebeling, Barry’s chief operating officer who helped steer some of the mayor’s biggest projects; Sean Braisted, her press secretary and long-time devotee; Carolyn Schott, a Nashville attorney and close friend; another friend from out of town; and her team of three lawyers led by Jerry Martin, a former U.S. attorney.

And there was Bruce Barry, her husband of 20 years who remains by her side.

The tension was palpable. They knew a resignation was likely.Forrest was ready to plead guilty the next day.

Megan Barry went upstairs with her attorneys to privately discuss her legal options.

The rest of the somber group remained downstairs, pacing from kitchen to living room to dining room. Near the large wooden kitchen table where Barry had hosted so many past campaign and strategy meetings, they ate lamb, rice and other Greek take-out food.

Finally, after about 90 minutes, Barry came downstairs and her attorneys left the house. She gathered herself in a chair at her dining room table with her allies, and told them her plan.

Forrest’s abrupt departure was peculiar

Some had heard whispers of the affair prior to her Jan. 31 public admission, but it was largely dismissed as gossip.

An email from Barry’s Chief of Staff Debby Dale Mason raised eyebrows on Jan. 17 when she notified the mayor’s office staff that Forrest would be retiring in two weeks.

Barry had broken the news to Mason the day before, telling her to “work with Rob” to prepare a retirement announcement.

Most knew that Forrest, a 31-year veteran of the police department, had long-ago circled spring on his calendar for his retirement. But it was January now. And Mason’s email did not give a reason for the expedited departure.

His retirement announcement struck many in the police department as peculiar. Forrest was a well-liked and widely respected officer — the kind of person who normally would get a retirement party after giving months of notice and a detailed plan to transition his duties.

But after brief phone calls with his supervisor and police Chief Steve Anderson, Forrest announced his departure without an explanation.

It took his colleagues by surprise, and spurred some chatter. Word got around that the outgoing and focused cop who earned the nickname “Secret Service” wasn’t himself during his final days on the force.

The first press inquiry came on Friday, Jan. 26 — a records request to the mayor’s office from NewsChannel5 investigative reporter Phil Williams for travel and overtime records of Forrest. It was followed by a similar request from The Tennessean.

Chatter intensified just after 8 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 29, when an attorney representing Forrest’s wife sent a letter to his supervisor asking the department to keep his cell phone and save its contents.

The department put the phone in a plastic evidence bag and locked it in a safe.

But none of the police department’s top leadership suspected the bombshell announcement by the mayor.

‘Felt a need to get it out’

The 54-year-old Barry confided to her closest advisers about the affair on that same Monday.

A series of hush-hush, closed-door meetings the next day made almost everyone in the mayor’s office wonder what was going on.

The mayor and her inner circle debated how to proceed. They discussed the possibility of an immediate resignation.

In the end, they were convinced she could weather the storm by telling the public about her affair.

The plan: complete transparency.

Nashville Mayor Megan Barry speaks to the press in Old Hickory after a ribbon cutting ceremony Michael Schwab

Staff cleared her calendar, which included canceling a Wednesday appearance in Cleveland, Ohio, where Nashville’s federal lawsuit against opioid manufacturers was part of a consolidated case with other cities suing the same companies. Barry's son died of a drug overdose in July.

Instead, she agreed to separate interviews in the late afternoon with The Tennessean and NewsChannel 5. The stories would publish at 5 p.m., then she would have a 7 p.m. press conference.

The admission: Nashville Mayor Megan Barry admits to extramarital relationship with top police security officer

Barry “felt a need to get it out” ahead of potential media stories about the affair, one person close to her said.

A few hours before the news conference, the mayor told her staff about the affair. Barry’s remarks were short, and to some, they came across as hollow, awkward and scripted.

“She was not at her best,” one staff member said.

During her two and a half years in office, Barry earned immense popularity in the community. Polls put her approval rating above 70 percent at its peak.

Attending small business openings, speaking engagements and a wide array of social events during her time as mayor, Barry connected with people.

She galvanized her staff. They were committed to her progressive agenda professionally and extremely loyal to her personally.

So when she revealed her affair with Forrest — a man the staff got to know fairly well — shock reverberated through her office. Some cried as the mayor confessed, tears that continued after they went back to their desks.

There was disappointment over the actions of a leader they thought was truly special.

“Some people were angry. Some people were stunned and not really knowing what to say. Some people were worried, ‘What does this mean for our jobs?’” one staffer said, describing the tumultuous afternoon.

Prior to the dramatic public announcement, Barry meticulously rehearsed for hours what she would say.

During the 16-minute press conference that night, Barry stuck to the script, repeating much of the language in a corresponding news release and calling her affair a case of “two middle-aged people who had feelings for each other.” She was composed, and answered many questions from reporters.

Her team made a strategic decision to remove the podium — no one could accuse her of hiding behind anything.

Nashville Mayor Megan Barry addresses the media on news of her affair Michael Schwab

Mayor’s office staff stunned

The next morning, Mason summoned the mayor’s office employees for another meeting, this one to “connect, talk about our next steps as staff, and your presence out in the community.”

Mason provided Krispy Kreme doughnuts and coffee.

Before and after the meeting, Barry took time to apologize to staffers individually, offering hugs, looking them directly in the eyes and saying “I’m sorry” for the affair.

She eventually looped in her Washington, D.C., campaign consultants to help her strategize.

Not much got done on routine mayoral work in the next few weeks. It was hard to overcome the drumbeat of stories from local news with the scandal prominently displayed on the website and front pages of The Tennessean and leading local television stations' newscasts most days.

There was an effort to have a “business-as-usual” attitude. The mayor didn’t want to look hunkered down, and she said she owed it to the city to continue what she was elected to do.

“The cloud was there, though,” one aide said. “It was hard to do anything.”

Barry kept some public commitments.

But she took a noticeable backseat at a Feb. 10 campaign kick-off for approval of her proposed $5.4 billion transit referendum plan, deferring to other community leaders as speakers instead of taking the podium herself.

Staff organized other events to generate positive publicity, including a Feb. 13 press event at Belmont University where she signed an executive order about planting trees.

“Say ‘trees!’” Barry said in an arranged photo capping the staged event.

She was no longer an influence at the Metro Council.

A Barry aide told one lobbyist that even though the administration supported a bill he was pushing, the lobbyist would be on his own to work it through council.

“We just can’t predict how any of this will play out, so we won’t be able to help you,” the Barry adviser said.

A planned meeting to discuss revising the Bridgestone Arena lease agreement with the Nashville Predators’ top executives and lobbying team was postponed.

Even as Barry’s closest supporters dug in for a protracted fight to salvage her administration, her staff would show up to work unsure of how to spend their time as media scrutiny — now national and even international — reached a fever pitch.

Mayor didn’t see criminal prosecution coming

Barry’s camp did its best handling the media onslaught of interview and open records requests, with Braisted serving as point person and Varney the top behind-the-scenes communications adviser.

But none of them anticipated the criminal investigation that would unfold.

They were caught off guard when District Attorney Glenn Funk called in the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to conduct a criminal probe of Barry’s conduct during the affair.

Barry and her team viewed the affair as a political and public relations challenge.

There was no crime, they thought.

And no reason for her to resign.

Barry said she would cooperate with the TBI. From her perspective, she didn’t have anything to hide.

During the next week, four separate entities launched inquiries into Barry’s affair: the TBI, the city council, the Metro Board of Ethical Conduct andthe state comptroller.

Her closest advisers and senior staff wondered how the affair moved so quickly from a political crisis to a scandal with legal ramifications.

Most of Barry’s closest supporters blamed Funk.  Funk seen by Barry camp as overzealous

Although they acknowledge Barry’s mistakes, her allies point to a rift that had developed between the mayor and Funk in the past year — even though it wasn’t widely being discussed around the courthouse.

It started with the Jocques Clemmons case.

As district attorney, Funk called for the TBI to investigate the 2017 death of Clemmons, a 31-year-old African-American who was killed in a shooting by a white Nashville police officer.

At the time, Anderson, who reports directly to Barry, wanted his department to handle the case.

The district attorney's role: Why Glenn Funk took a lead role in prosecuting former Mayor Megan Barry

Although Funk did not prosecute the officer for the shooting, he did raise questions about racial bias in the police force.

One source said Funk was angry because Barry did not insist that Anderson meet personally with Clemmons’ family.

There was another disagreement when Funk asked Barry's administration in the last budget negotiations for $10,000 pay increases for each of his assistant district attorneys. Barry's administration denied the request, but the council later approved raises.

Barry’s staunchest defenders paint Funk as an erratic, vindictive prosecutor trying to score a high-profile political win, displaying a zealousness to take on the case.

“It just never occurred to anyone that Glenn Funk could do what he did,” one source told The Tennessean. “Or that he would give a progress report on the investigation while it was going on,” referring to unsealed documents that provided an inside view of the TBI’s work.

TBI says it has obtained nude photos of a woman taken on the phone of former Sgt. Rob Forrest, evidence that investigators believe shows Nashville Mayor Megan Barry engaged in an affair with her former bodyguard on duty. Michael Schwab / USA TODAY NETWORK - Tennessee

Funk and his defenders say he was put in an impossible situation: He would be criticized for investigating the activities of an immensely popular politician. But if he avoided a major investigation, he would catch flak for that too.

Funk said in an interview that he asked for an investigation because of questions about impropriety. He said he hoped a thorough investigation would clear the air and "uncover no wrongdoing."

"Our office handled the matter expeditiously in the best interest of Nashville," Funk said.
Case turns ‘out of control’

The investigation exploded Feb. 22 when the TBI asked Nashville Judge Steve Dozier to approve a search warrant granting investigators access to Barry’s cellphone. The TBI filed an affidavit detailing why they wanted her phone: photos of a naked woman, assumed to Barry, had been found in Forrest’s email account.

The TBI believed there could be more information on Barry’s personal cellphone.

A police department employee discovered the images while preparing copies of Forrest’s emails for TBI investigators and media public records requests. Timestamps on the photos suggested Forrest might have been on duty when the images were taken.

Senior police officials alerted both the TBI and Barry about the discovery of photos.

Barry’s attorneys and top advisers said the search warrant was unnecessary because she intended to cooperate. Although when asked for the cellphone's pass code, Barry did not immediately comply.

Barry's team questioned the TBI’s public filing of the search warrant request, saying it should have been sealed and not available to the media and public. They saw the move as an attempt to embarrass her politically and personally.

Funk said the TBI was following its usual protocol.

That same day, NewsChannel 5 aired a story showing video of Barry being driven by Forrest to Nashville City Cemetery in the early morning hours before work. The story implied the two went to the cemetery to have sex.

Braisted said Barry went there for a quiet spot to work, to report vandalism and to pick out her possible burial plot.

He emailed Barry a link to the NewsChannel 5 cemetery story after it aired. Barry told Braisted the reporter needed to correct some information in the story. “And you can add that he’s an asshole,” she wrote.

“It was out of control at that point,” one source said, adding that the media stories had taken a toll on the mayor. “You could see she was slowly dying inside.”

In the days after the search warrant, plea deal negotiations began between Funk and Barry’s attorneys about alleged misuse of public funds based on travel expenses and Forrest’s overtime.

Barry took 10 out-of-town trips on city business during which Forrest was the only city employee to accompany her. Forrest earned more than $170,000 in overtime during her tenure.

More: Mayor Barry routinely traveled without security prior to affair, records show

Criminal defense attorney Aubrey Harwell was among about a dozen prominent Nashvillians to reach out to Funk advocating the situation be resolved as cleanly and amicably as possible for the good of the city.

Funk told Barry's attorneys that he wanted the matter settled early in the week of March 5 because there was a judicial conference at the end of the week that would postpone any court hearings until the following week.

Adding more pressure, Barry and her attorneys knew that Forrest had reached an agreement with prosecutors and would plead guilty on Tuesday, March 6, regardless of what Barry did.
Defense attorneys were confident Barry could beat the charges

Most of Barry’s top advisers, even weeks after her resignation, do not think she committed a crime or stole any money. In order to be found guilty of a theft charge, Funk would need to show Barry intended to steal money from the city, and intent can be hard to prove in court.

Her attorneys thought she could win. The legal team was led by Martin, a politically-aligned veteran of Democratic politics, who was known more as a white-collar prosecutor than a criminal defense attorney.

But multiple factors weighed on Barry’s decision to accept a plea deal.

Nashville Mayor Megan Barry pleads guilty to felony theft of property over $10,000. She will pay restitution back to the city and will be on probation for three years. Shelley Mays/Tennessean

Barry cringed at the prospect of a trial. It would be difficult for her personally, but it would be equally difficult for Nashville.

In her view, sources said, a resignation would be better for the future of the city than a mayoral administration handcuffed by a criminal trial.

She worried about the expense of a legal battle that would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, money that Barry and her husband, a Vanderbilt University professor, did not have at their disposal, according to sources.

One source said that Barry’s husband was a “prince of a human being” during the ordeal. He was “loyal, kind and supportive” of Barry as she decided what to do.

On the evening of Monday, March 5, she was scheduled to be at a Citizen’s Police Academy session. A speech had been prepared and police department leadership was expecting her.

But 30 minutes before she was scheduled to speak, her staff called to cancel.

Instead, her inner circle and attorneys met at her home decorated with paintings from local artists.

Plea deal negotiations between her attorneys and the district attorney's office reached a crescendo that night. Forrest's plea agreement raised the specter of more details about the affair and criminal wrongdoing being revealed in open court.

Talks with Barry continued the next morning, Tuesday, March 6.

They hammered out final details at 7:30 that morning with handwritten notes scribbled on the court document.

Rumors circulated among city hall insiders that a resignation was imminent.

The Tennessean published the breaking news of her impending resignation at 7:56 a.m.

And at 9:26 a.m. in the court courtroom of Judge Monte Watkins, Barry was under oath. She pleaded guilty to felony theft and then shot an icy glare in Funk’s direction before leaving.

Barry publicly announced her resignation at a news conference immediately after her court appearance.

She wrote the short speech herself.

Since I wrote this I found this comment in the local Nashville Scene by one who clearly is from the area and understand the bizarre backroom nonsense that I learned about early on after a few meetings, public hearings and seeing end results that were largely in opposition to the majority of partners and participants wants and needs.   This is the South and clearly we are getting fucked daily just not in a car parked in a graveyard.

What Megan Barry's Downfall Shows Us About 'Prominent' Nashville

A dozen influential citizens reportedly sought to influence the investigation into the former mayor
Betsy Phillips
Apr 9, 2018
Nashville Scene

Joey Garrison, Nate Rau and Adam Tamburin over at The Tennessean have a great story about the last month of the Barry administration. It’s a story you should read, just because it’s a well-written look at a surprising political downfall. But it’s also a story that tells us a lot about what’s wrong with Nashville.

Let’s start here:

Criminal defense attorney Aubrey Harwell was among about a dozen prominent Nashvillians to reach out to Funk advocating the situation be resolved as cleanly and amicably as possible for the good of the city.

What the fuck? I laughed so hard when I read this. In what world of delusion do you have to live to think that the city is well-served by ignoring the potential wrong-doings of its well-liked, personable mayor?

Second, while it might make “prominent” Nashville’s cocktail parties more awkward if they have to choose between inviting Glenn Funk or Megan Barry, in real life, it doesn’t affect the city at all if the DA is investigating the mayor. The thing ordinary Nashvillians will notice is who the mayor is. That affects us. But the mayor isn’t the avatar of the city. The shit that happens to her isn’t actually happening to the city.

Garrison, Rau and Tamburin do a good job of showing the ways that this scandal affected the city — don’t get me wrong. If the mayor has lost influence at the city council and can’t get her agenda through, that matters. That’s a thing people may have noticed, but maybe not quite understood, and kudos to the reporters for spelling it out. But that’s a different thing than the embarrassment of the mayor needing to be soothed “for the good of the city.”

I can imagine a ton of prosecutions Glenn Funk could go easy on that would be better for the city. But are prominent Nashvillians calling him to ask him to resolve pot busts as cleanly and amicably as possible? Do prominent Nashvillians step in and ask Funk to easily and quickly resolve all kinds of minor theft? Or is this yet another case where regular people get treated one way and “prominent” people are treated another?

It’s fitting that the rift between Mayor Barry and Glenn Funk may have come out of the city’s handling of the Jocques Clemmons’ killing. In the wake of that shooting, ordinary Nashvillians have wanted some kind of board or committee made up of regular people to keep an eye on the police and make sure everything’s on the up and up. And that’s been thwarted, again and again.

Regular people don’t get to influence how policing and prosecutions are done.

But “prominent” people get to call the DA and advise him how to do his job and that’s apparently to be expected. It’s shocking and uncomfortable to these “prominent” people when their calls aren’t heeded.

Well, welcome to the reality the rest of us have been living in for quite some time now, “prominent” Nashville. Instead of complaining about being treated like everyone else, maybe work to make things fairer for everyone.

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