Monday, November 30, 2009

Just another day in Seattle.

Note 1: With the holidays approaching, many of my current projects will not appear on the pages of the blog until after they’re delivered to their intended recipients. If you’re looking for finished objects, please check back after the holidays. In the interim, I’ll continue to blog about knitting and life in general.

Note 2: This post is based on an interaction I previously described on Ravelry. Should you feel you’ve read this story before, you’re probably not imagining it.

A few weeks back, I found myself having a difficult morning at the office. As occasionally happens, everything I touched seemed quickly to turn bad - kind of like the mythical Midas touch, except that instead of gold everything turns to excrement. The kind of affliction that one suspects may have fallen upon George Lucas when you consider that he remade the original Star Wars Trilogy. Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney were perhaps similarly infected when they went individually from recording Sir Duke and Her Majesty to - collectively - Ebony and Ivory.

Rather than see just how wretched things could turn out, I decided to take a break at lunch and remove myself from my office and the pile of things on my desk, and go find a place to knit. But where to go?

As readers will note from my last post, I’m not yet fully out of the closet with my knitting. There are a few folks at work who know, but most do not. I couldn’t very well just go to our lunch room, and the coffee shop downstairs didn’t seem like a good option either.

After a bit of thinking, I settled on the Seattle Public Library. As knitting Seattleites know, the library was designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, and its architecture was the inspiration for Jared Flood’s Koolhaas Hat. Getting a chance to relax and knit in that kind of environment – what could possibly go wrong?

I walked the three or floor blocks from my office to the library, and made my way up to the 10th floor. This is the highest point in the library that is open to the general public, and the floor has an expansive sitting/reading room. The place was largely deserted, except for a few people sitting on the other side of the room. I picked a chair, put my headphones in my ears, and pulled my knitting from my bag.

Less than five minutes in, it happened. While holding a skein GGH Kid Melange and studying the pattern I was starting, I saw her approach. Appearing slightly over five feet tall and in her mid-50s, she didn’t look particularly menacing. She was carrying a backpack, and wearing a long floral dress with the kind of nondescript white sneakers you might expect of someone working as an orderly in an institution. Although I’d seen her initial approach, I focused on my knitting.
She got to within about 2 feet of me, and bent down in order to eliminate any possibility that we might not make eye contact.

“Are you really knitting?” she asked.

“Yes,” I responded.

“Are you British?” she asks.

At this point, many thoughts poured into my consciousness. Several of them were pleasant. Polite even. Unfortunately, however, most of these thoughts were not.

“No,” I said.

“So you’re American, and you’re knitting. Wow. I thought you were British because they’re so into knitwear. I’m reading this book by this British author and they talk about … … .” she frothed.

This continued on for some time. I tried desperately to be courteous. I tried to push from my brain thoughts of using my circular needles as some kind of craft garotte.

Then, unbelievably, things took a turn for the worse. She sat down in the chair next to me. She told me that she likes to make hats. She explained that she doesn’t knit of course, because knitting is too tedious, but she loves to crochet. And of course she complained that she doesn’t use wool because she was forced to wear wool sweaters as a child and all wool is far too itchy. No, she said, she only uses nylon.

I’d seen her hat when she first sat down. It was a tangled mess of novelty yarn, with slubs here and there, in an unremarkable blue color. The window pane design provided innumerable open spaces for her long, stringy and noticeably greasy hair to escape. By the looks of it, whole sections of her hair were attempting to make a break for it.

She opened her backpack and brought out more hats. Lots and lots more hats. Actually, lots and lots of the same hat over and over again, each in a slightly different color scheme. Each was individually and lovingly wrapped in a plastic grocery bag. With each one, she waived it in front of me and then put it on her head to model it. A few times, she told me that a particular hat was more attractive when under or over another hat, and the two would be paired with her unfortunate coiffure in a kind of ménage a crap for my viewing pleasure. Each time, she asked me what I thought of the finished product.

What I thought? I thought I want to put my earbuds back in and try to concentrate on my knitting before I need to head back to the office. That’s what I thought. But of course it isn’t what I said. I was raised right, and attempt to be courteous at all times – even when confronted with a very sweet lady with questionable sanity and reprehensible hygiene who is wielding hats on my lunch break.

Next, she told me of all the other hats she’s made, where she was when she made them, how long they took to make, and who had each one. There were 42 in all (including the ones she showed me). Apparently more than a few went to massage therapists in payment for services rendered.
This lasted for between 25 and 30 minutes. Then, without so much as a word in parting, she sauntered off. I quickly gathered up my belongings, and left the library to return to my office, wondering if there was a cure for my Ebony and Ivory Touch.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Staying in the closet

Note: With the holidays approaching, many of my current projects will not appear on the pages of the blog until after they're delivered to their intended recipients. If you're looking for finished objects, check back after the holidays. In the interim, I'll continue to blog about knitting and life in general.

When I was in high school, I had a friend named Chad. He and I were in a number of school theater productions together. In my senior year of high school we managed to go to state drama festival with a production of Nice People Dancing to Good Country Music - a fantastic one-act show about (among other things) a former nun with Tourette Syndrome. The climax of that show involved my character pitching Chad's character over the railing on the roof of a bar down to the street below.

Chad was a nice guy. He was also different somehow. In many ways he was more like my female friends than my male friends. He wasn't at all into sports, openly wished he could be on the marching band flag corps, and was generally pretty effeminate.

A few years later, the future Mrs. TSMK ("FMTSMK") and I ran into Chad on our mutual college campus. We hadn't seen each other in quite a while, and we asked Chad what was new.

"Well," he said, "I'm gay."

Without mising a beat, FMTMSK said "I know."

"When did you know?" Chad demanded.

"I've always known" FMTSMK responded.

"Why didn't you tell me?" Chad asked.

Clearly, we occasionally fail to see things within ourselves that others notice quite readily. It's a bit like having garlic at lunch and then returning to the office. You may notice that people around you are uncomfortable, but you may not put two and two together and find yourself some Altoids.

So how is this related to knitting? Well, it isn't really. It's actually related to finding yourself in the proverbial closet, and how comfortable you are with coming out. Please don't misunderstand, I don't for a moment equate clandestine knitting with hiding a sexual preference which could (and in many cases and parts of the world) does result in discrimination and mistreatment. Also, I don't mean to imply that homosexuality is an avocation, or even that it is a choice. From my perspective, it seems fairly far-fetched that Chad, for example, would have knowingly chosen to be gay. He and I grew up in the deep south, in a relatively tolerant university town, but that town was in the deep south - in a part of the world where cross burnings still occur. No, I suspect Chad had about as much choice in his being gay as I have in wanting to join the Bacon of the Month Club. Some things are simply innate.

Knitting is a choice. But my own brand of knitting is still a bit secretive. And in that very limited sense I have an understanding of what Chad must have felt when "coming out" to FMTSMK and me. He wanted to make the announcement. He wanted to be in control of the message.

In the last few weeks, I've now had several people "out" me as a knitter. Once was at the office, when a coworker who is aware of my proclivities mentioned my "Fishbonacci" Hat to another co-worker who was previously unaware of this aspect of my life. On another occasion, I had a very sweet lady (a near stranger) ask me for pointers on Jared Flood's Grove mittens while I was sitting on a crowded ferry. She and I had attended the same circle some days before, and I'd mentioned that I'd started (but not finished) the mittens.

In each case, no harm was done. But my anonymity may be waning. For me, that's worrisome. Not so for Chad, who I believe is now fully in the open. He's part of the DC Cowboys.


Monday, November 9, 2009

K1, P1, H1N1

Fall arrived at the TSMK household, and with it the typical cadre of welcome-back-to-school ailments. This year, however, we were pleased to host an especially exciting visitor: the H1N1 "Swine Flu" virus.

The timing couldn't have been much worse. Mrs. TSMK and my two older sons received the live-virus nasal spray on the Wednesday before Halloween. They probably could have received it earlier, but unfortunately none of them currently work for Goldman Sachs.

The day after Halloween (i.e., four days after receiving the vaccine), my oldest boy complained of feeling cold. The thermometer confirmed what Mrs. TSMK's hand had already detected on the boy's forehead: fever. Fever of 102 degrees, in fact. We had a sick kid on our hands. The following day, he stayed home from school, but all else in the house went about business as usual. That afternoon, however, I developed a headache and some mild nausea.

I didn't think too much about my symptoms at that time. After all, it was a Monday, and I often find Mondays to be slightly unpleasant. I powered (ok, staggered) through the day and went home. We put the kids to bed, with the oldest guy still running a fever.

At precisely 11:37 that night, I awoke suddenly. This by itself wasn't unusual. I often awake abrubtly if I've heard an odd noise, or if I suddenly realize that the dog needs to go out. Often, the dog helps me understand this point.

This time was different, however. This time I had a mouth full of vomit. It's funny what goes through your mind when you wake up with a mouthful of vomit. For me, I immediately found myself thinking about John "Bonzo" Bonham. They say that Bonzo died after choking to death on his own vomit.

But was it my own vomit? As any mockumentary fan will tell you, you can't really dust for vomit.

All these thoughts went through my mind as I raced to the toilet, or at least away from the bedroom carpet.

The next five days passed in a blur of sleep, nausea, fever, aches and, strangely enough, knitting. I'd recently finished a hat for a friend's sister, and had a fair amount of the yarn left over. Probably not quite enough for a scarf, but definitely enough for mittens. After looking through some possible patterns, I decided on Cruiser. After making the first one, however, I didn't much care for the way it turned out. Something about the fact that it was far too long, but with an extremely stubby thumb. So, what's left to do but start again, and by doing so potentially make three of a kind.

Today, a full week after attempting my own Bonzo departure, I'm still coughing and showing odd symptoms. My oldest boy is back in school, but the middle son is still out. The baby is on Tamiflu as a preventative measure, which makes him pleasantly sleepy and snuggly but which he doesn't particularly like.
But at least now we have mittens. Shown below are my version of the Cruiser, as modeled by Mrs. TSMK. They'll be delivered to their new owner soon.