Wednesday, June 30, 2010

On the Nature of Desire

Since man first stumbled out of caves and looked up at the night sky, he has spent much of his time in quiet contemplation, and occasionally in quite noisy contemplation, of certain irrefutable facts.

First, that there are certain things that a man wants to possess in abundance. Like comfortable briefs, natural yarn, excellent hats and odd musical instruments, one seems to never have quite enough of things in this category.

Second, that there are some things which although man thinks he might like to possess them in abundance, you really shouldn’t enjoy more than one at a time. Girlfriends and wives fall into this category, as do cigars and Cadbury Kreme-Eggs. You enjoy more than one of any of these in a single sitting, and you’re asking for trouble.

Third, that there are some things which although man thinks he might like to possess them, he should actually stay as far away as possible. Consider, for example, the image of Angelina Jolie, clad in a leather bikini and riding a fine Italian motorcycle with a knife strapped to her bare calf and a machine gun across her back. Now at first thought, this seems intriguing. She is, after all, stunningly beautiful. And provocatively dressed. And riding an object of lust in its own right. But is there any doubt that Ms. Jolie – clad in that fashion and armed to the teeth – is probably only moments away from unleashing some form of mayhem? If you had the opportunity to know her on that afternoon, is there any doubt that you would end up dead or horribly maimed? And is it really worth it? Well?  Ok, maybe that was a bad example.

Fourth, that there are some things that man simply shouldn’t possess or allow to exist. For example, at a local fairgrounds, they’re now serving deep-fried butter. Seriously. Think about that for a moment. Deep. Fried. Butter. Is there any doubt that this is a bad idea?

Most things are relatively easily placed within one of these four categories. Occasionally, you find something that overlaps two or more categories. Thankfully, one man crawled out of his cave in the late 1800s and came up with a way for the rest of us to keep track.

Recently, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about this Venn Diagram of Desirability (“VDD”). Even with this helpful device, it is hard to keep track of exactly what goes where.

Suppose, for example, you had a bunch of wool in your house. Waiting to be spun into yarn. And you didn’t really know how to spin yarn that was worth a damn. And further suppose that you learned of another cache of wool. Partly cleaned. Partly in need of cleaning. All about to be thrown out. Where, exactly, would that fit on the VDD?

Without knowing precisely where to put it (and therefore whether to rescue the wool), I consulted the stars. Or, more properly, I consulted my guide in all such matters of conscience, His Holiness, the All-knowing Echidna Who Sits at the Center of the Universe. He has a name, but it was revealed to me in confidence and so I’m not at liberty to disclose.

In any event, His Holiness explained to me that free wool fits in the upper left quadrant of the VDD. And therefore I should claim it.

Now if His Holiness would only help me get better at spinning.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Christmas in June

This afternoon, I wandered down to my LYS.   After my recent experience at the shop in Seattle, I was longing for comfortable fiber-filled surroundings.  Plus, I wanted to ask a question or two about my work - I've been thinking for some time about trying to find a way to combine my legal practice and my knitting interest, and I thought they might be able to recommend some trade shows or other events I might want to attend in order to meet new potential clients.

While I was there, I couldn't help but walk through the store and note a few new items in the shop.   Then it hit me, the year was half over.  Christmas was a short six months away. 

Last Christmas, I finished my last handknit gift at approximately 2:00 a.m. on Christmas morning.  Needless to say, when our boys awoke a short two hours later to ask (for the first time) if they could go downstairs to see what Santa had left for them I wasn't especially coherent.  When we ultimately did go downstairs (at around 5:30) I needed strong coffee just to stay awake during the present opening extravaganza. 

This year, I would like it to be different.  I would like to be in bed myself well before Santa arrives.  I would even like to be well-rested on Christmas morning - though I must admit I enjoyed getting to meet one of Santa's elves last year. 

And so, I must now begin the process of deciding what handknit items I want to make for people this year.  I have a few ideas. 

My dad got socks last year.  He liked them, but I'll probably want to do something different this year.  Mrs. TSMK got a sweater and a cowl.  She could probably use another sweater - so that's an idea.  The woman previously known as my "unadorned mother" got a lace shawl - but I'm not sure what to do for her this year.  Then there are my sons, brother, sister and many, many nephews and nieces.  Whew!  Lots to do.

I'd better get started.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Of Sock Needles and Snobbery

Looking at my calendar today, I noted that my lunch hour was entirely free. And so, like so many young-ish and lustful men in Seattle, I set about to find something to do. But alas, the Lusty Lady is apparently closing. Seeing as how I’ve taken it upon myself to decrease in stature, heading to the Pike Place Market to sample various delicacies seemed also to be ill-advised.

And so I decided to visit a shop. And not just any shop, but what I’ve been told is a premier yarn shop: Tricoter – located in the picturesque and highbrow neighborhood of Seattle known as Madison Park.

I embarked on this junket not in a search for yarn. No, I was instead searching for needles. But not just any needles. Very special needles with which to craft the socks from Hell. The project is well underway, but as the current needles are very small and made from bamboo (and I tend to hold them with some ahem tenacity) they’re beginning to take on quite a graceful curve. So much so, in fact, that when I view them from a certain angle, I find myself regrettably remembering certain impeachment testimony about the shape of our 42nd President’s . . . needle. Clearly, something needed to be done.

The needles I sought are made by a company called Signature Needle Arts and have what is known as a Stiletto Point. A friend has a set, and I was very impressed by their construction and functionality. I knew that they were not sold at my local (and favorite) shop, and but saw on the SNA website that they were available at Tricoter. I set off.

On arriving at Tricoter, I was immediately struck by the difference between this shop and my local shop. Whereas my local shop is quite welcoming – the atmosphere in Tricoter was somewhat different. I began to browse, trying to get my bearings for the organization of the shop, when I heard a voice behind me:

“Do you need something?”

An odd and somewhat accusatory greeting perhaps, but to the point. I turned around, and explained that I was looking for double-point Signature Needles, and that I understood they carried the brand.

Heavy Sigh. “Well, we have some, but not many. We can’t buy them wholesale and don’t make any money off of them, and they’re expensive, so we really don’t keep many around.”

She showed me to a small container on the desk and pulled out a single set of double-points.

“This is all we’ve got. They’re $60.”

I admired the needles just long enough to note that they were size US 2. Unfortunately, I’m looking for US 1, so I explained that they wouldn’t work for my project.

“I do have one other thing you might try.”

She wandered to the back of the store and pulled out a set of Addi double-points – size US 1. They were the shortest needles I’d ever seen. About 4 inches or so in length.  I love Addi Turbo Lace circular needles, and asked if I could try out these diminutive double-points.

“Sure. Do you know how to knit?”

I honestly wasn’t sure how to respond to this one. After all, I’d already explained to her that I was looking for a particular type of needle. I’d even mentioned it was for a sock project I was working on and that my bamboo needles were starting to bend. I decided not to answer her specific question, and instead answered that I had the project in my bag.

I walked over to an empty table in the front of the store, pulled out the first of the socks from Hell, and began to try the lilliputian needles. Immediately, the buzz that had been present in the store came to an abrupt halt. All eyes were on me. It was as if they’d never seen anyone simultaneously knit and own a penis. In fact, by their expression, you would have thought that I was actually attempting to knit with mine. I looked up and met the curious gaze, and they turned away – seemingly realizing that they were staring.  One other employee said: "It sure is nice to see you knitting over there."

I knit a single row with the Addi needles, before realizing that despite the fact I very much liked their texture, they were simply too short for me. I knit a second row, replacing the Addi needles with my original bamboo set, and placed the Addis back in their case.

I walked up to the clerk, handed her the Addis, and thanked her for the chance to try them out. I explained that they were too small.

“I thought they would be.”

I wandered idly through their yarn, looking for something exceptional. I didn’t find anything, although in fairness there may have been treasures lurking – I didn’t spend a lot of time. Making my way back to the front door, I exited. No one in the shop seemed to notice I’d gone.

So I’m still looking for my Signature Needles – and although I can buy them online (for $15 less than the Tricoter price) I’d really like to try a pair before I buy. Not sure where I’ll find them. But I know this much. I’m probably not going back to Tricoter again. And that’s a shame.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Hell on Earth

As a concept, I think we can all agree that Hell is interesting.

Take, for example, the classical Western construction of devils with pitchforks a la  Dante's Inferno. This is a truly nasty place.  The kind of place you wouldn't want to spend an afternoon, let alone an eternity.

Then there is Palatka, Florida.  For me, Palatka was a perfect example of eternal damnation.  It smells bad.  It is certainly hot and humid enough to qualify for one Dante's circles of hell (although it is unclear which one) - and sufficiently so that one finds one's crotch in a continual state of sweat-stinging discomfort.  There are enormous insects swarming around you at all times.  There is precisely nothing to do unless you're the type of person who enjoys sports with the words "bogging" or "gigging" in the title.  There is no good coffee to be found.  There is decent food, but as everything has been fried beyond recognition or smoked into oblivion, one often finds one's self suffering stomach cramps and longing for green leafy vegetables shortly after a meal.  The only entertainment to speak of is driving past the pulp mill and marveling at how many days have passed since the most recent industrial accident.  As every moment spent in Palatka feels like an eternity, you could actually manage to spend several eternities in one afternoon.  Conceptually - that is fascinating.  In practice, excruciating.

I say that Palakta was my perfect example of hell, because this weekend Palatka was replaced in my own personal pantheon of displeasure.  Hell is dead.  Long live Hell.

The new hell is certainly ritzier than Palatka.  And more populated as well, although as Sartre neatly expressed: "l'enfer c'est les autres"  (or - if you're from Palatka and not familiar with the French - "Hell is other people") so perhaps an increase in population density neatly corresponds to an increase in demonic potential.

The new hell arguably offers more in the way of entertainment than Palakta as well - and to be fair - better coffee. 

But it still smells bad.  It is still hot and steamy - and your skin remains irritated.  But unlike Palatka, your epidermal discomfort is no longer confined to simply your crotch and is neatly amplified by the use of unnatural means.  Better living through chemistry indeed.  Palatka could learn a thing from this place.

In Palatka, the soundtrack by which you spend a typical afternoon is not especially dreadful.  True, you have a choice of either many radio stations which play country music or one radio station which plays essentially nothing other than Lynyrd Skynyrd and Tom Petty.  But still, one can get by.

In this new hell, your ears are treated to a symphony of mayhem.  All around you, children are screaming.  Parents are scolding.  Milk is steaming (note - the better coffee has its drawbacks).  And animatronic animals are repeatedly (and loudly) activated.  This cacophanous melange is not alone, however.  It is neatly accompanied by piped in music of the most nefarious sort: Disney Radio.  I had the opportunity to listen to Disney Radio for a solid 5 hours straight just this afternoon.  I believe I heard a total of 10 songs.  Most were saccharine but tolerable on the first pass.  But since each song lasts no more than three minutes - and I managed to suffer through approximatley 300 minutes?  Well, they say that saccharine causes cancer in laboratory mice.  And I'm here to tell you that saccharine songs cause homicidal thoughts in knitting male lawyers in their 30s. 

There was one exception - Justine Bieber.  I'd heard some people complaining about her work recently, but as far as I can tell she's relatively talented.

[Note: The new hell is not a Disney property.  There are certainly those who have disdain for the house of mouse.  I am not among them.  I have spent many an enjoyable day at one of the company's parks - and bear them no ill will.]

My new hell is the Great Wolf Lodge; it is an indoor water park, resort and convention center.  Conceptually, it could only be more unpleasant if it featured an abattoir.

I was there because today I had the good fortune of addressing a group of executives on legal topics of interest.  The presentation went well; no one fell asleep or ran from the room. 

But in a remarkable feat of poor judgment, Mrs. TSMK and I told the childen in advance that I would speaking in Hell - although we did not know at that time that Hell was its rightful name.  The children, of course, had heard of Hell from their friends and were intrigued.  So much so that our oldest boy began to write of Hell in his classroom journal in March.  Hell made an almost weekly appearance in that periodical until the end of classes last week.  How could we disappoint?

We arrived in Hell yesterday late and Mrs. TSMK bravely planned to take the two older boys to the water park.  Knowing that I am not water-park-friendly, she accepted my offer to take care of the youngest.  But our middle boy arrived without his bathing suit.  And so I walked with the middle child into the very mouth of Hell. 

The swim shop where I learned we might purchase a suit was located within the climate controlled room containing the water park.  A veritable cathedral of heat, humidity, chlorine, screaming, dousing, and shopping opportunity.  Picture if you will a scene out of the Spanish Inquisition, but with chlorine-laden air, a gift kiosk and a Disney soundtrack.  I knew I would not return to our room unscathed - and also that I would not return to the belly of the beast.  There would be no swimming for me.

That evening, and most of today were spent with me sitting in the lodge area of Hell, watching our youngest and trying not to scream.  He managed to sleep.  I couldn't sleep, but did manage to start a new project.  I'm knitting myself some socks to remind me of Hell.  They're Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks that Rock - lightweight.  The colorway, ironically enough, is called Christmas Balls


Friday, June 11, 2010

For Mrs. TSMK on her Birthday

Today is Mrs. TSMK's birthday.

To honor her, my first instinct was to paint her name on an overpass, or perhaps a water tower.  This is, after all, the traditional way for men of southern upbringing, such as myself, to express undying love. 

Not having access to an overpass or water tower, however, I thought I'd write her a poem.  I've done this quite a few times before (again, there's a serious dearth of water towers and overpasses where we live) - but never before put it out in the ether for the world to see.  And so, with some trepidation - Mrs. TSMK's birthday sonnet:

While time may pass, your loveliness it seems
to grow unchecked, as flowers grow in May
when all the world’s awash in raucous streams
of daffodils and roses hard at play.
But those may disappoint and slowly fade
as summer heat to autumn chill does yield.
Your beauty, grace and glory thus displayed
embarrass nature’s fickleness revealed
when first the cruel and deadly winter’s breath
strips bare the leaves of all but lonely pines
and brings to tender grasses naught but death
while ice inscribes on window pane its lines.
We sit. We love. We laugh. We talk. We sing.
Still in your warmth the precious blooms of spring.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Champagne Wishes and Pineapple Dreams

As people who know me well will attest, I’m a sucker for the odd, the unusual and – occasionally – the just plain tacky.

Don’t think for a moment that this flaw has gone unnoticed by my family. Only a few weeks ago, when I was expounding upon the beauty of a passing Citroen 2CV, the long-suffering expressed concern that if I thought the car in question was beautiful, when to her eyes it was clearly an eyesore, then she had concern about my professed admiration of her own features.

More recently, I came home with the new mechanical love of my life – a 1975 Volkswagen Westfalia camper. As I excitedly showed her my find, she shook her head sadly while muttering something about a “tin can."

I know that because of my marital compact I will never have an opportunity to own a Bull or Bedlington Terrier – although I do hold out hopes of one day playing my banjo with a Bloodhound at my feet and two fingers of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon (my personal favorite) in a glass.

And although I do not believe I have endangered my marriage with the Volkswagen, I’m confident that my marriage would not survive the glorious roundness that is the AMC Pacer.

Still, I keep a running mental list of the odd places I’d like to visit. I’ve been to Wall Drug. I’ve eaten lunch in a restaurant shaped like a giant artichoke. I’ve traveled down a slide made out of the world’s largest radio flyer wagon.

I once drove 50 miles out of my way just to get a photo of my dog playing dead on the side of the road with Devil’s Tower looming ominously in the background.

And yes, I have been to Gatorland although I do not have the t-shirt.

For reasons I can’t quite explain, although I’d love to visit the Louvre I’d be probably happier visiting Stonehenge, or Carhenge for that matter.

But now, I find that I’m strangely drawn to another location: an enormous pineapple on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.

Previously, I never even knew such a place existed. But then I got Sandra’s email. She’s received her shawl and, as promised, sent me a couple of photos. First things first, I understand that Sandra’s finished her treatments and is feeling well.  

But the pineapple! Well, Sandra you’ve managed to add to my list of places I need to visit. Now how to get to Queensland. . .?