Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I love the Christmas season.  In fact, I love almost everything about it – from the gaudy decorations to the frequently insipid music.  I love Christmas so much that I’m able to avoid acts of homicide notwithstanding the every-ten-minutes Lexus commercials trying desperately to convince me that unless I get Mrs. TSMK an overpriced Toyota for Christmas I’ll never truly win her affection.

Christmas is, in my opinion, the most wonderful time of the year.  Even if the song, itself, is crap.

One of the things I like the most about Christmas is that it is an excuse to give to others.  I shouldn’t really need an excuse.  None of us should.  But for some reason, having an excuse makes it a bit easier. 

This year, we did something as a family that made Christmas even that much better – some surprise gifting. 

Here’s how it went down.  The entire TSMK family found itself, the weekend before Christmas, at a big box retailer.  This particular retailer had been making a big deal in advertisements about how it had “brought back” layaway for the holidays.  I’d seen those commercials - but didn’t pay much attention until I read an article online about someone back east walking into a different big box retailer and paying off a bunch of layaway balances for complete strangers.  This had gotten me thinking.

We arrived at the store and made our way to the back.  Layaway, it turns out, was being handled in the same area as in-store pickup of online orders.  My oldest son and I waited in the line while Mrs. TSMK walked around with the other boys to do some shopping.

Soon enough, it was our turn in line. 

We’d like to pay-off some layaway.

Ok – do you have an account number?

No.  We don’t have an account.  We’d just like to pay off a balance or two.  How do we do that?

The clerk smiled.  “You’re the second person I’ve talked to this week who has done this.”

After talking about our intentions, the clerk did some digging and found a few accounts with open balances and a combination of either toys or children’s clothes.  A few keystrokes and a transaction later, and we were done.  By law, we apparently weren’t allowed to pay the whole balance on anyone else’s account; each account was left with a balance due of $0.01.  The clerk got on the phone and began to call the account-holders to let them know they should come in and pick up their items.  A quick high-five with my son, and we went off in search of the rest of the family.

But our work wasn’t done.  We had budgeted a particular amount we wanted to give but hadn’t been able to meet our quota in layaway.  So we started looking around. 

I like watching people.  But it turns out I like watching them even more when I’m plotting a gift.  We stalked the aisles of the toy department.  We loitered near the car seats, strollers and onesies.  And then, with what we hoped was an air of confidence but was actually a feeling of tremendous nervousness – we pounced.  A young woman was picking out infant clothes.  A toddler sat in her cart.  An infant was strapped to her chest.  My son and I – hand in hand – approached her.

Excuse me


I wonder if we might give you something.  I extended my hand.  I’d folded up a few bills in what I hoped wasn’t too sweaty a grip.  I placed them in her hand.

Merry Christmas.


Merry Christmas. 

My son and I walked away. 

Our family re-enacted this scene on two more occasions in the days that would follow.  I’m hopeful that each time we did this it helped to make someone’s holiday just a bit brighter.  I know it did mine.

And with that – let me offer a challenge.  In the year ahead make a point to give something to a complete stranger.  Whether anonymously or in person – I suspect you’ll find it exhilarating – and your kindness will help make the world a better place.
Of course, with the holidays you also get knitting.  And I was busy this year.  All told, the breakdown was as follows:

Two sweaters
Five scarves
Two pairs of fingerless gloves
One skirt
One pair of Elf Slippers
One Pakul; and
Six wrestling masks

Rather than describe all in a single mega-post, let me start with the slippers.

As regular readers will know, I put a couple of slots on my Christmas knitting list up for grabs a few months back.  Out of the many responses, I picked two.  Well, actually I picked three but one turned out not to be a Christmas gift but instead a pair of labor & delivery socks - I’m pleased to say that I’ve since heard that the socks were well received and mom & beautiful baby girl are doing well.

But I digress.  One of the entrants was a mother who asked about getting some elf slippers for her infant daughter, Carmen.  This was too good an opportunity to pass up.  I found a pattern, and here they are – made from Lamb’s Pride worsted and then felted.  As recommended by the pattern, I added a bit of nonslip texture on the soles. 

They were a quick knit and I like them very much.  In fact, I think I may need to make Mrs. TSMK a pair.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

On the way to the office this morning, I noticed workers putting white lights around the trunks and in the branches of trees lining the street.  This, of course, is a sign.  A sign of the passing of the seasons.  Soon, our resident bike messengers will change from spandex and t-shirts to skinny jeans and flannel; the truly destitute will once again outnumber those Seattle residents for whom panhandling appears to be merely a seasonal pastime; and Mrs. TSMK will once demonstrate a propensity for using Jimmy Buffet as a means to combat seasonal affective disorder.
And, of course, this is a sign that Christmas is nearly upon us.  Time to take stock of my projects.
This year, I have a outlined a goal of making gifts for seventeen people.  I started early, and have been making good progress.  Nevertheless, the chill in the air seems to be whispering: knit faster… knit faster…
To date, I have completed six and three halves.  On the complete list, a couple of sweaters, two wrestling masks, a pair of elf slippers and a pair of fingerless gloves.  On the not-yet-complete list, a second pair of fingerless gloves, another wrestling mask (mask 3 of a planned 6) and a scarf.  Good progress, but the days seem to be turning shorter.  There are essentially 8 weeks remaining.  Will I make it?  Will I need to spend every weekend in residence at my LYS – trying to keep pace?  Will I spend Christmas Eve huddled downstairs by the Amish Fireplace knitting until my fingers cramp? 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Wrestling with Zen

As the Echidna is my witness, I've been that guy.  The one you see coming down the aisle of the airplane, infant in arms, making the other passengers squirm.  Or the guy constantly raising his arm in class, asking the dumb questions.  Or the guy wandering into the express lane at the supermarket without noticing the incongruity between the "15 items or fewer" sign and the mountain of groceries in his cart.

And yet, I still find myself squirming when it isn't me.  When I see that guy approaching.

It happened again this past week.  I saw it happening, but still didn't manage to get out of my own way.  Stubbornly focused on the apparent differences between us than our natural kinship as living beings.

I was sitting on the ferry.  A later boat than usual, but I would be home by 8:00 or so, and that wasn't too bad.  I was knitting.  And, per my habit, my knitting had a soundtrack.  That night, the soundtrack was classical Indian music: sitar and whatever they call those drums that always seem to play in the background.  I was, as they say, in the zone.

And that's when I saw him.  In fairness, he would have been difficult to overlook.  I'm six foot one, and he was at least a half foot taller.  Wearing a black trench coat.  His closely trimmed beard was accentuated by the gold ring that pierced his septum.  He was wearing a porkpie hat.  And, for good measure, an eye patch.  Like it or not, he had my attention.

He headed straight for me.  And, despite all the empty booths in that part of the boat, he sat down directly across from me.


"yes," I replied.  Trying to be polite but still inexplicably hoping to avoid a full-blown conversation.

"What is it?"

"A wrestling mask."

He raised an eyebrow.

"I'm making a bunch of them as Christmas gifts for my sons and a few of their friends."

"That's cool.  What are you going to use for the second color?"

I looked down at the blue yarn coming off my needles.  "I'm thinking red, or maybe white.  Haven't decided yet."

"You've got boys"?

"Yes.  I have three."

"Dude, you're Fred MacMurray!"

I chuckled.

"I always liked to knit," he said. "Never found it emasculating at all."

And then, before I could respond, he continued.  It turns out he liked to sew.  He started sewing when he found a roll of leopard print fabric wrapped around a palm tree after a storm.  It was an omen.  A sign that he should learn how to sew.  And so he made a pair of leopard print cargo shorts.  And then he moved on to fake fur.  Soon he was making furry shorts and tight pants for all his friends.

Now, though, he mainly makes corsets and bustiers for friends.  He explained in some detail how he goes about making a pattern for a skin tight corset - but honestly he lost me after he started to describe wrapping the person in plastic wrap and duct tape.

Then he started telling me about his friend.  The one who works exclusively in leather and makes a lot of masks and harnesses for people with somewhat unusual private lives.  

And then the boat docked, and we started to walk off together.  He was still talking. Now about how useful it is to know how to sew when you live on a boat.  And then, suddenly, without warning: "have a good night, Sir!". And he was gone.

Wow.  He thinks I'm Fred MacMurray.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

And The Winner Isn't...

Ann from the Midwest.

Nope. Not Ann. Which isn’t to say that she didn’t put in a great entry. In fact, her entry was quite persuasive. But there was a problem with it. A big problem. A problem that, on principle, I’m not prepared to accommodate. For you see, Ann wanted to use her present early. Three days early to be specific. Anyway, before I tell you more about Ann, let me tell you about the second most beautiful woman I’ve ever met.

It was slightly more than nine years ago (nine years and three days, to be exact) – that our destines began to converge. It was night. I was sleeping. I do that sometimes. But on that particular night my sleep was interrupted. The darkness of my room was shattered and there, backlit by a blinding light, stood Mrs. TSMK.

“I think my water just broke”.

To be sure, there are worse ways to wake up. For example, you could wake up to the unexpected smell of smoke. Or perhaps the unexpected smell of cabbage.

But when you’re a soon-to-be-first-time father, and you hear something like that in the middle of the night… boy it wakes you up in a hurry.

Despite all the childbirth classes and books we’d devoured over the last several months, the level of uncertainty in this announcement was something I hadn’t anticipated.

“What do you mean, you think your water just broke?”

A lengthy discussion followed which you, gentlereader, will be spared for reasons of its graphic content.

With trembling digits, we called the obstetrician to inquire of recommended next steps. Mrs. TSMK did not seem to be in active labor and, it being the small hours of the morning, we were recommended to come in on the first ferry from Bainbridge Island to Seattle – where we planned to deliver. That ferry was set to sail at 4:45 a.m. – roughly four hours away.

Satisfied that we’d made a plan – and that we were likely to have a rather eventful day – I asked Mrs. TSMK if there was anything that I might do to make her more comfortable.

“Juice” she said.

And so, dutiful expectant father drove to the grocery store, bleary-eyed but hypervigilant, to acquire the particular brand of juice which had recently become her favorite.

Roughly 30 minutes later, I arrived back home. I turned my key in the lock, opened the door, and noticed something new. Something I’d not heard before: an oddly vigorous chuffing noise coming from upstairs. As if someone was panting. Loudly.

The ferry wasn’t set to depart for three more hours. But apparently, Mrs. TSMK wasn’t prepared to wait to begin the day’s festivities.

Fast forward three hours. We’ve been doing our best to remember every breathing childbirth technique we learned in the class. We’re actually doing reasonably well with them – but things are getting more intense with every contraction. We’re on the ferry, but sitting in the car is too uncomfortable for Mrs. TSMK – so we’re walking around on the car deck. Ferry workers are peering at us from around corners. They’re wondering whether they’re going to begin the second run of the morning already behind schedule due to a medical emergency. I’m wondering the same.

We drive off the ferry in Seattle, and I manage to hit every pothole over the 15 blocks or so to the hospital. Moments after arrival in the triage area of the obstetrics unit, Mrs. TSMK is wisely beginning to believe that better living may be achievable through modern chemistry. Her prior (and in my opinion, unnatural) insistence on natural childbirth is beginning to wane. And that’s when the nurse made the call.

Moments later, it happened. I met the second most beautiful woman in the world. Her name was Betty and she was a leggy redheaded supermodel disguised as a short Asian woman. She strode into the room with an air of confidence and, without hesitation, drove a needle into Mrs. TSMK’s back. Within moments, the sun rose in the sky. Birds began to sing and little children of every race and creed all over the earth began to hold hands and sing. Mrs. TSMK was no longer in pain. The world was a better place.

She rested and slept. And just a few hours later, I was a dad. It was, without question, the scariest and best day of my life.

So what does that have to do with Ann? Well, since that day nine years and three days ago, I’ve had the chance to have similar days on two occasions. And each time I’ve been struck by the kindness and compassion of the people who have been part of those days. Ann? Well, Ann is getting ready to do this for the 7th time! And Ann has developed a penchant for wearing brightly colored socks into the delivery room. She is due on December 22, and asked if she might receive a Christmas present of some such socks.

But I can’t allow Ann to win – because we have a hard and fast rule in our family that no one – for any reason – is permitted to open a single present before Christmas Eve. Now, if she was prepared to delay her delivery until the 24th, I could probably make an exception. But these things aren’t always possible – there could be no guarantee.

And so, Ann can’t win. But I couldn’t just leave her hanging either. And so, Ann, I’ve made you your socks. Here they are – knitted from Noro Kureyon yarn with an entrelac leg. I hope they’re colorful enough for you. And I hope that they give you some measure of comfort as you welcome your child into the world. Give him or her my best.

As for the winners – well, I’ve picked them out as well. I got a lot of wonderful entries and requests and, like with most of these giveaways, it was hard to pick who would win. But someone has to – and there were two entries in particular that grabbed me.

Carmen – you sent me a photo of Emma, who will celebrate her first birthday a few weeks before Christmas – and asked for a pair of hand-knit slippers. Well seeing as I’m the father of three boys, I don’t often get the chance to make things for little girls. I’m seizing the opportunity. Now to pick out a pattern.

Jessy – you sent me a limerick about how you give away everything you make and don’t have much handknit of your own. It was funny and made me laugh. But then I noticed a small tag at the bottom of your email. I followed the link, and it took me to your team page where you raise money for the March of Dimes. Good deeds should be recognized. Thank you for all your hard work. You didn’t tell me what you wanted for Christmas, but I’d like to make you something anyway. I’ll come up with a few ideas and run them past you to get your approval.


Friday, August 12, 2011

You Bet Your Asp

On this day, 2,041 years ago, Cleopatra VII died near Alexandria, Egypt.

And on this day, some 1,993 years later, Anthony Ray was born in Seattle, Washington.

At first blush, you might think these events are unrelated. But dig a bit deeper and I think you’ll agree that they are inextricably linked. For Cleopatra is popularly believed to have died after being bitten by an asp.

And Anthony Ray, better known by his stage name of Sir-Mix-a-Lot, is best known for his anthem to, well, something that sounds an awful lot like asp.

What does all of this mean? Nothing, really. Except that it means today is a particularly auspicious day. The kind of day that makes a person want to announce something.

So, I’m announcing that I’ve started my Christmas knitting. True, I may have mentioned this before. But one of our current presidential hopefuls has announced her candidacy at least three times now – so really I’m just being presidential. Not redundant. Really.

And, since I’m announcing that I’ve started my Christmas knitting – I’d like to announce that I want to add a couple of new names to my Christmas-gift-list. You heard me right. I already plan to make things for family and numerous friends – but I want also to make something for at least one complete (or nearly complete) stranger. So – this seems like an opportunity for a new giveaway. So – I hereby kick off the 2011 TSMK Christmas-Gift-Listapalooza.

Here’s the scoop: You want something – you ask for it.  Maybe a scarf?  Or how about some socks?  Could be anything.  Tell me what you’d like made, and why you think you should be added to my Christmas list.  Make it (the item) memorable.  If it is something intriguing – I’ll be more likely to want to make it. 

And make the request memorable as well. In past events we’ve had fun with poetry, photos and even an adorable video of an infant. All of that is in play with this one as well. In fact, anything you can email can be used as a submission. However, please do not send me anything you wouldn’t want to see posted in this journal or of which you think The Echidna might disapprove.

All entries should be sent to tsmkblog@yahoo.com. If you need to send something through snail mail – shoot me an email and I’ll reply with an address.

I’ll accept entries through the autumnal equinox. Have fun, and I hope to hear from you.


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Good Fortune

Today, I have the good fortune to do something really exciting.

I get to perform the wedding ceremony for a friend. So, I guess I get to help knit two people together, as opposed to pieces of yarn.

Writing the ceremony, I confess I was tempted to say something along the lines of "let no man frog what we have today..." but I resisted the urge. Instead, we're going to talk about the rock, paper, scissors theory of marriage. Should be fun.

On the knitting front, I have begun my Christmas knitting. I recognize that it is a bit early, but I have a lot of things I want to make this year. Stay tuned for updates as things come off the needles in the weeks and months ahead.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Fear and Loathing in the Living Room

I'm a little worried.  I may have done something dreadful.  The trouble is, I don't know for sure if I did.  And, if I did, I'm not sure what it is.  Let me explain.

This morning, Mrs. TSMK and I were having our morning 15 minutes of quasi-uninterrupted conversation on the couch.  We do this every morning (or try to).  We banish the children for just a few minutes so that the two of us can drink a cup of coffee or tea together, talk about what we need to do that day, and generally strategize on how to make it to the kids' bedtime.  War planning, really.  But with an affectionate bent.

And this morning, well into our discussion, I noticed that I wasn't hearing her.  Her lips were moving.  I'm sure they were saying something important.  But I couldn't hear her. 

This is not my fault.  The fact is that her lips were speaking quite a bit more softly than her outfit - which was shouting every inch of her curves at me.  If the yoga pants and clingy white top had been amplifier, they would have gone to 11.  That's one more, isn't it?

So anyway, I have no idea what she was saying.  I just know that I found myself nodding and saying "yes" without comprehension.  And that's what has me worried.  Just what did I agree to?  What if it is something horrible - like going on a weekend trip to Forks to look for sparkly vampires?  Or eating kale?  Or, heaven forbid, eating Kale in Forks?  This could get really ugly.

- Breathe TSMK; this too shall pass -

Ok.  Now that I have my wits about me at least momentarily - let me share the most recently completed item.  This is my version of Kim Hargreaves' Edda.  Luckily, it does not appear to have been unnecessarily fouled by tartar.  Shown here prior to blocking - I'm hoping the cables will be slightly more presentable once I give it a good soak and pinning out.  I did mine in wool, as opposed to the cotton called for by the pattern.  I like it, and Mrs. TSMK does too. 

Wait a minute - you don't suppose she was asking me to make another one?


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Thoughts for a Thursday

After checking in with The Echidna this morning, I found I had a few random thoughts floating around.  I'm not sure they're all mine (although some of them clearly are).  So here they are in no particular order, a kind of lost & found of thoughts.  If you think one of them is yours, please take it and go about your business.

Rap music never got better than Run-DMC.  Match My Adidas or Mary, Mary against any other piece of the genre and the boys from Queens will prevail.

Why hasn't anyone made a combination bagel-doughnut?  You'd get the crunchiness of the outside of the bagel, coupled with the chewiness of the inside and the sweetness of the doughnut.  What's not to love?  Chocolate frosted whole wheat bagel might just be the world's most perfect food.

I've had the hats on the wall for quite a while now.  Should probably change it up and put something else on that particular canvas.  Not sure what, exactly.  Yarn?  Skateboards?  Paisley shirts?

Is there any mammal that doesn't have a nose of some sort?

I miss Douglas Adams.

Tonight is Mrs. TSMK's book club, and she's hosting it at our house.  I must resist the urge to do or say something that might embarrass her.  Although, to be fair, I rather like my overalls.  They're comfy.

When you write out all the multiples of 9 from 1 to 10 in one big line you get a giant palindrome.  How cool is that? 

If I'd never seen and loved the original version of Top Gear, would I still dislike the U.S. version?

Swatching is overrated.  If something doesn't fit, rip it out and change the size.  Knit for the process, not the result.

I need to get more people to join my team for Pawswalk.  Its going to be a great time and the lace-ripper will be there in all his furry glory.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Dresssed to the Eights

I was sitting on the sun deck when I saw her.  Honestly, it sounds more glamorous than it is - the sun deck is just a covered part of the ferry I take to and from work every day. 

But anyway, there I was sitting on the sun deck when she came walking past.  She was dressed, as they say, to the nines.  Or perhaps at least to the eights.  A smart suit in crimson.  Stratospheric heels.  Bobbed hair.  She was, by all appearances, a very attractive young woman of approximately 25.

I was working on a sweater for Mrs. TSMK.  Nothing too fancy - the Edda pattern in Kim Hargreaves' new Whisper collection.  It calls for cotton, but with our climate I was going with wool. 

The sun deck was quite full - and the only open seat was on my bench.  I wondered.  Would she sit down?  Perhaps she'd want to chat about the sweater and I could enjoy an afternoon cruise across the sound talking with a beautiful young stranger. 

She sat, and I kept working on the sweater. 

After a few moments, she began searching for something in her bag.  Finding it, she pulled out a small container of lotion.  Leisurely, she began applying it.  First to her hands, and then to her shapely legs.  A floral scent filled the air.  We weren't chatting, but I wasn't about to complain.

And then, things took something of an ugly turn.  Those stunning heels came off.  The lovely scent of lilacs was immediately impaled on the rusty spike of foot odor.  And not just any foot odor - but the kind of odor you might expect if a teenage boy put his gym socks near your face.  The kind of odor that makes you reevaluate your love of Stilton cheese.  The kind of odor that people emigrate to avoid.  Powerful stuff.

I kept working on the sweater. 

At the halfway point in our voyage, she began again began rustling around in her bag.  The lotion was but a memory.  The heels were still off.  She pulled out toenail clippers.  I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking I'm making this up.  And I wish I were.

Feverishly, I worked on the sweater. 

After performing their assigned task, the toenail clippers went back in the bag.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  The odor was still present - but the personal grooming had stopped.

Or so I thought.  She rustled around in her bag a third time.  I was praying for a hairbrush.  Or perhaps a tube of lipstick.  But it was not to be. 


Wow.  Just wow. 

I turned my body slightly to the right, to try to avoid the plaque-spatter that seemed inevitable from the frenzied flossing to my left. 

I finished the row, gathered my things, and left the sun deck for the main cabin.  I don't know what manner of personal grooming followed the flossing.  I don't want to know.


Thursday, July 21, 2011


Some things simply aren't worth the effort. Fondue, for example. Sure, who doesn't like melted cheese or chocolate? But does that mean that you want to spend four hours trying to fill your stomach one tiny cube of food at a time, all the while wondering whether you'll accidentally set fire to yourself?

And, it must be acknowledged, reading James Joyce is also of dubious utility. Myself, I've been on the same page of Ulysses for the better part of a decade. To be fair, I do get some benefit from the book. Every time I feel confused by my daily existence I simply pick up Ulysses and, in the time it takes me to read a few lines, I realize at my life isn't so incomprehensible after all. At least not in comparison to Joyce's prose. Perspective is key.

Lately, I've been thinking of adding another item to this list: working with patterns containing errors. Let me explain.

Recently, I had a chance to consult with a friend who wanted to make a sweater for her husband. Now, setting aside the issue of the so-called boyfriend sweater curse and the potential application of said curse to the marital relationship, I thought this would be a fine idea. In fact, I thought it would be an excellent idea because she wanted to make the sweater from yarn spun by her mother-in-law. To get a sweater knit by one's wife from yarn spun by one's mother, I thought, would be pretty darn cool.

After some discussion of potential patterns and some estimation of the available yardage of the yarn, she picked out what appeared to be a good project: a sweater vest made in an interrupted rib.

Shortly after casting on the problems began. And they continued through the project. Some instructions seemed to make sense but led the knitter to results that differed from the results shown in the picture. Other instructions simply didn't make sense. My favorite example of the latter? Probably the part where the pattern suggested that the length from cast-on to the left and right shoulders, respectively, should be different by several inches.

[Note: it is possible that the pattern was intended for a Frankensteinian lab assistant, in which case this measurement would be accurate. Please, Igor, put down the pen and do not mail that hate letter.]

After a decent amount of struggle, the project was finished. Well, not quite. Because one error in the pattern had gone unnoticed until the sweater was about half-completed. The interrupted rib pattern was, at least for a small portion of the sweater with increases, more appropriately described as highly interrupted. And we did not have the intestinal fortitude to rip it out (which would have essentially required starting over) and fix the problem.

So is it finished? I don't know. Perfectionism too isn't always worth the effort. And while the knitter might ultimately decide it should be unraveled and begun again, the gift was given - and was received with great appreciation. Who knows, perhaps the flaw, like the rustic hand-spun from which it is made, will ultimately endear itself to the wearer. Not too perfect. Not too polished. But warm, made with care and given with love. And, just possibly, that is enough.


Thursday, July 14, 2011


A few days ago, a reader of this journal asked me about my recent lack of content.
“When are you going to post again? Have you lost interest? Have you given up knitting? What’s going on?”

Well, rest assured that I haven’t stopped knitting. And I haven’t lost interest. And by posting this, I think I answered the first bit. But the last one – well that’s a pretty good question.

Lately, I find I’m thinking quite a bit about authenticity. Not a frenzied, flight-of-ideas kind of thinking, mind you. More of a long pondering, questioning and wondering exercise.

It all started innocently enough. I was complaining this winter. Bending the ear of a woman I know. A woman whose opinion I’ve come to value for her consistently wise counsel. The subject of my complaint was nothing unusual: work/life balance and a general feeling that my particular hamster wheel was starting to turn too quickly. And that’s when she said it.

“It sounds like you don’t feel like you have an authentic life.”

To quote Keanu Reeves: “Whoa.”

This was a serious allegation. But was it true? And if it was true, what should be done about it? Some serious navel-gazing seemed required. Is writing a largely anonymous journal indicative that one lives an inauthentic existence? I put posting on the back burner to consider the question.   How about electronic interaction with complete strangers in Internet forums?  Could be – better ignore Ravelry for a while as I study that one too.  And Facebook? Don’t get me started.

Summoning the strength of The Echidna, I began doing some existential heavy lifting. I doubled-down on a pair of Ms: meditation and mindfulness. And slowly, over several weeks, I began to notice many things I hadn’t before. Like how often during the day my thoughts seem to be occupied with events, past or future, over which I have no control. Like how difficult it was to simply focus on the process brushing my teeth in the morning without letting my thoughts race ahead to the important places I planned to travel on the hamster wheel that day. Frustrating.

And so I began to shake things up. I changed my morning routine. I made jam in vast quantities. But most of all, I tried to focus on being fully present.

Now, speaking as a guy with a bit of an imagination – this has been a challenge. It has meant that I’ve tried to simply take note of the wanderings of my thoughts, and each time to bring them back to the present moment. Not damming up the stream of consciousness, exactly. But trying to prevent it from flooding its banks.

And is any of this helpful? Honestly, I don’t know. But if being more in the present will make me feel more connected to life and those around me, then it will be worth the effort to try.

In the meantime, I have done a fair amount of knitting. And I’m pleased to say that I’ve just donated an item for the upcoming Woodland Park Zoo Jungle Party auction. This is my second year in a row and I’m excited to have the opportunity.

Last year, I did a beaded lace shawl.  This year, I went with something fairly simple. It is a fairly basic scarf, but done with an open net-style lace pattern in some silk recycled from saris as part of a fair trade program. The money from the silk goes to provide incomes to women in India. I love that.  That feels authentic.   And I love the colors in the yarn. If you love it – buy tickets to the upcoming Jungle Party and bid on the scarf.


Monday, May 9, 2011

A World of Yarn and Tight Pants

As you may recall, I was recently abducted and taken to an alien world.  Well, I have now returned to tell the tale.  But I must warn you.  It is not for the faint of heart. 

The ship snatched me from all that I know and find comfortable early Friday morning.  I was not alone.  There were many other abductees on board.  In fact, we seemed to outnumber our captors.  For reasons I cannot explain, however, we could not muster the collective will to overthrow these creatures.  Many will wonder about this failure, and its causes, for years to come.  For myself, I blame the distraction of something called "duty-free spirits".  It being barely 8:00 a.m. my time, I didn't partake of this obviously nefarious activity.  But many of my fellow passengers seemed incapable of resistance.

When the ship finally landed, all was quiet.  Almost too quiet.  I'd been abducted along with the TSMKmobile (similar to the Pope-mobile but with more headroom), and was simply allowed to wander this strange land for several time intervals.  In between these intervals, I was unfortunately subjected to the vilest torture of all: torture in the form of forced attendance at sessions of some form of brainwashing or other indoctrination.  But I will not speak of those horrors here.

So, wander I did.  And my wanderings immediately led me to a startling conclusion - a conclusion that all my years of watching Star Trek, Star Wars and other sci-fi programming could never have prepared me for: apparently, these aliens suffer physical harm if their pants are too loose.  Everywhere I looked, pants were skin tight, or nearly so.  Every alien female I saw wore this outfit - most sporting a highly reflective (and highly stylized) Omega.  Interesting.

Every alien male I saw wore a similar outfit, although not quite so snug.  No, the males seemed exclusively to wear trousers made from something akin to denim, but with fabric so tightly constraining their lower appendages that it appeared they might be unable to comfortably sit.   From these two observations, I surmised that fabric must be extremely difficult to acquire in this alien land. Why else would they use it so sparingly?
After much wandering, I found myself standing in front of an imposing building with additional alien symbols on the side.

View Larger Map

The signs I could read said "Beehive Wool Shop".   You read that right, gentle reader.  In this world yarn comes from bees.  This, of course led me to wonder briefly whether, in this world, you might put something from a sheep into your tea.  I quickly dismissed this thought as being too horrible to have merit.

The HIVE was extraordinary.  Clearly, these bees make wool in many different forms, textures and weights.  These are no ordinary bees.  And the shopkeepers were friendly.  Almost too friendly.  Oh, sure, they chatted along nicely enough.  And if you engaged them in conversation they were quite happy to play along.  But they knew I wasn't of their kind.  If I had to guess, I'd say that their first clue may have been the many extra yards of fabric surrounding my legs.

While there, I happened to inquire whether there was anything that I might acquire in the shop which was available only there. 

"You mean, nowhere else in the universe?" came the reply.

I nodded.  And after a brief conversation the aliens indicated that they did not.  But they referred me to another local shop, some two blocks away.  And so, having procured some of this new bee-spun-yarn to take home and study, I sauntered out of the shop.

I was unable to visit the second destination that day, for I had a busy schedule of dreadful meetings to attend.  But I ventured out into the alien landscape a second time the following day, and found my way to the recommended shop.  In candor, I found myself confused by the name: Naughty by Nature

I have always known this to be the moniker for a particularly dreadful hip-hop band.  But, seeing as how I was a stranger in a strange land, I decided to pretend that I was, indeed, down with O.P.P. and cautiously made my way inside the establishment.  Fahshizzle.

I was greatly relieved to learn that my ear had simply been tricked by the strange speech of these alien creatures.  For the shop was actually named Knotty by Nature - a name which surely better befits its wares if not its clientele.

And that, ladies and gentlemen (but mainly ladies) is when my world came crashing down upon me. 

Occasionally, when you enter a LYS you feel inspired to make something.  Occasionally, you feel nothing.  And, upon occasion, I have felt the urge to use the restroom (note - I don't actually attribute this last one to the shop itself, although you never know).  This was the first time I have entered an LYS and felt absolutely humbled by its contents.  While the HIVE contained many excellent yarns, KbK contained many excellent handspun or hand-dyed (or handspun and hand-dyed) yarns.  And, what's more, the shop was stuffed to the rafters with examples of O.P.P. - that is to say other people's pieces (of work).  Amazing things.  Things that a knitter, or weaver, or felter or spinner might aspire one day to almost approach in terms of quality.  This was not a shop for the faint of heart.  This was a shop for someone who was ready to quit his day job and spend the next 50 years learning how to properly operate one of the stacks of Book Charkhas in the corner, or one of the selection of hand-turned drop spindles with marble weights.  These aliens are serious about their crafting.

I wandered the shop for perhaps an hour.  Which is, by itself, remarkable given that the shop is very small.  Ultimately, I elected to purchase only one item.  A skein of hand dyed 50/50 merino/silk blend.  When I approached the register, I was informed by my cashier that it had been dyed by her husband.  She eyed me with some slight suspicion - as if to question whether my skills were worthy of such a fine length of yarn.  Candidly, I'm not sure that they are.  But no matter.  For I was able to escape the shop, yarn in satchel, and have since returned to my planet, where I am turning the yarn into a scarf for myself.  Something to remind me of my abduction.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Missing Time

Somehow I knew this day would come.

To be sure I’ve expressed this concern before. And every time I did, those around me would scoff.

“You? Why on Earth would they take you?”

Honestly, I didn’t mind them thinking I was mistaken, but from their attitude – as if I wasn’t even worth the effort – not even worth a quick probe or whatnot – my self-esteem was starting to suffer.

But, as it turns out, I was right.

I am being abducted by aliens. And unlike most abductees, who only learn about their abduction as it happens or perhaps after the fact through some sort of recovered memory – I’ve learned of mine in advance. Two weeks in advance.

That’s right. I’m going to be abducted by aliens on April 29, 2011.

And since I knew the day was coming, it doesn’t really much feel like a surprise.

But there is one aspect of it that I wasn’t expecting. I never really expected them to be Canadian.

I don’t know why not. My own shortsightedness, I suppose. But… Canadian? Well, at least they’ll be polite.

I’m told that they’ll be taking me across from Port Angeles over to Victoria on the morning of the 29th. The crossing apparently takes about 90 minutes. And they don’t plan to return me for three whole days. That, ladies and gentlemen (but mainly ladies) is a lot of missing time.

While there, I’ll primarily be cooped up in some mothership called The Empress. From the sound of it, I'm a bit worried.  I hear they serve something called “Afternoon Tea”. Now I grew up on Sweet Tea – but this sounds like something entirely different. Something almost formal.  In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that unlike the tea of my childhood, this tea will not be served in a canning jar.

But, gentle reader, I promise you that I will escape from the foul Empress and explore a bit – if only to bring back my harrowing tales from this otherworldly place. I have been told by a good friend (herself a former abductee) that these particular aliens have a fondness for wool.  I plan to seek out the truth behind this rumor – and try to find some alien wool that I might bring home.

After much thought, I’ve decided that to best escape the Empress I’ll need to try to blend in with my surroundings. And so, I’ve begun preparing my provisions. I don’t know much about these aliens, but I do understand that many of them are originally from some place called the “Ewe-Quay”. And after a bit of research, I learned that the denizens of the Ewe-Quay have a particular fondness for whiskey, bagpipe music and woolen garments. So I’m making my preparations. And I’ll get to wear my newest hat.

This is a variation on a felted beret pattern from my favorite LYS. I toyed with the shaping, and also added built in I-cord of a contrasting color, to give it an extra bit of structure and interest. I like it quite a bit and, I’m flattered to say, so do the good folks at the LYS, who asked me to write up the pattern. Who knows, maybe they’ll see fit to do something with the pattern and my Abduction Hat will ultimately serve as a beacon of hope for all others who may ultimately come to share my fearsome fate during their own alien encounter.


Saturday, April 2, 2011


Spring has definitely arrived here in the water-logged Pacific northwest.  All the tell-tale signs are here.   The robins have returned.  Ostentatious daffodils scream "yellow" from every flowerbed.  Hipster bike couriers have taken scissors to skinny jeans in an effort to pull off some sort of skinny-short-bicycle-jean abomination.  Every so often, the sounds of Django Reinhardt can be heard at high volumes from pasty-complected gentlemen wearing hand-knit berets with the tops down and the heaters turned up in their convertibles.

I love spring.

Spring is also school and charity-auction season around here, and there are no shortage of invitations.  So far, Mrs. TSMK and I have only bought tickets to one such event - the auction for our oldest boy's school.  Like every year, they've asked for parents and local businesses to donate items to the cause.  You can probably see where this is headed.

The last time I donated something to this event, Mrs. TSMK bought it.  This year, I purposefully made something in a color she doesn't typically wear - thinking that perhaps we won't once again engage in what seems like a form of charitable masturbation.  But who knows.  Spring makes you do funny things. 

The pattern is a slight variation on Susan Dittrich's Pinkerton Shawl, found in the current edition of Interweave Knits, and I've done it in Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light.  I love to knit this yarn, and enjoy the feel of the finished fabric.  It is very soft.

For anyone local who feels the need to bid, the auction is this coming Saturday at the Kiana Lodge in Suquamish.  I suspect there are still tickets to the auction available.  Please come, bid early and often (and outbid Mrs. TSMK - who is waffling on whether she'd wear this color).

And now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go find my Django Reinhardt cd.  Spring is calling.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Truth Will Set You Free

This is my one hundredth post.  And in honor of that auspicious occasion, I would like to tell you a story.  It is a true story.  And it is a timely story as the events described occurred this very day. 

I was sitting alone.  The ferry was relatively empty as the yearly tourists, wary of becoming waterlogged, had not yet descended upon Seattle.   They'd guessed wrong.  It was a beautiful sunny day.

I was working on a glove: tipless and the second of the pair to be delivered to the winner of the TSMK-WWIBG.  Although Saturday, I'd spent the day in the office trying to catch up on work and listening to basketball games on Internet radio.  Things were good.

I finished a round on the gloves, and looked up. 

She was coming toward me, down the long hall of the ferry.  A woman, as they say, of a certain age.  Her reddish blond hair was in a loose bun.  She wore a dark green overcoat  and was pulling a rolling suitcase. 

I went back to my work. 

I finished the first needle of this new round.  As I began to position the needles to start on the second, I noticed she was still approaching.  She appeared to be studying me.

Knitting in public has its drawbacks, and occasionally feeling like a curiousity is among them.  But a small price to pay, I thought to myself, for the chance to knit quietly in a sun-drenched booth on the ferry.

Not necessarily wanting to make eye contact, I went back to the glove.

And that's when she said it.

Right as she was passing, and without breaking stride.

"There's nothing sexier than a man who knows how to knit."
For perhaps only the fifth time in my life, I was completely speechless. 

Had I heard her correctly?  Was I hallucinating?  Had the barrista slipped something illicit into my double-tall sugar-free skinny hazelnut latte? 

And then it hit me. 

I had heard her correctly.  And she was speaking the truth.  I'm confident that not even George Clooney shirtlessly clutching a cherub while sipping cognac, reciting French poetry and surrounded by Golden Retriever puppies is a sexier man. 

They say the truth will set you free.  And I assure you, that this truth, this very important truth, will stay with me for a long time to come.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011


The past is a funny thing. I spend a fair amount of time worrying about it, and yet I’m not sure it actually exists. Now exists. But the past? Whatever went before is simply gone. Why perseverate?

At least, that’s what I tell myself when my personal hamster wheel is running at full throttle.
Last week, I gave my “Highly Opinionated Public Tour” at the Seattle Art Museum. It was a lot of fun. I’m glad I participated, and I’m relieved that I was able to muster an opinion or two to share. Mostly, I’m pleased that I had a chance to talk about my favorite thing in the space – which is of course a knit hat.

Like others I’ve discussed here, the hat was created by someone in the Bamileke community of Cameroon. It is a stunning hat in blues and tans, with a feathered crown. This is a hat of substance.

Honestly, I’m not certain what draws me to these hats. It may be the way it obliterates any distinctions between authenticity and theatricality. It may also be that I’m simply a bit odd. But I think the most likely reason is that if appeals to my sense of history and the feeling that something may be missing from my HVAC-coddled, tofu eating, minivan driving, day-to-day life. It reminds me of something gritty, grimy and, just maybe, African.

Let me explain.

A few years back I set out on a genealogy kick. I knew quite a bit about the origins of my mother’s side of the family, but relatively little about my father’s side. But the Internet being what it is, it wasn’t long before I was able to dig up quite a few records. Among those records were census entries from the late 1800s. And in those entries were a few surprises. One, in particular, stood out. Shortly after the Civil War, my family was living in Putnam Hall, Florida.

To most of you, this fact will seem innocuous. But I’ve been to Putnam Hall. Several times in fact. And I’ve spoken with several elderly Floridians and amateur local historians. And my observations seem to jibe with their assessments. White people don’t seem to have ever lived in Putnam Hall.

Let me be clear. I am pale. My father is also. And my children, thanks to the influx of Mrs. TSMK’s genes, bear a striking resemblance to beings sculpted from a melange of Marshmallow Fluff and Liquid Paper. No one would ever mistake any of us for being black.

Yet there it is on the census form. And although it is possible, I’m prepared to dismiss as highly improbable the possibility that Putnam Hall in the late 1800s was a progressive community with members of all races, colors and creeds linking arms and working side-by-side in the fields.

So where does this leave me, a man with a deep love of African art and music? A man who enjoys playing the banjo – which is after all African in origin? A man whose choices in clothing seem often to cause disdain among Caucasian colleagues but almost always draw compliments from friends with a more ample supply of melanin? A man who harbors a not-so-secret desire to moonwalk with wild abandon at every opportunity? 

Was my great-great-great whatever, so many years ago, black?  Did he ultimately pass himself off as white?  And if so, what did he give up in order to make that transformation?  What part of himself did he leave behind?  What part of him is in me, today?  And what part of him am I trying to reclaim for my own?

I'll never know. But after doing the museum tour, I did know that I needed a new hat. Something Bamileke-inspired. So I made one. And I wear it. And when I do, my friends of Swedish and Norwegian descent look down at their shoes and struggle to avoid eye contact. But I don’t care. I’m from Putnam Hall.


Friday, March 11, 2011

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Revolution

Will not be televised.


Friday, March 4, 2011

Hat or Gloves?

There are some things that one simply shouldn’t do. Playing the soprano saxophone, for example. It is for that reason that I suspect The Hague will soon indict Seattle-native Kenneth Gorelick for crimes against humanity.

Then there are other things that one may do sparingly, or with great discretion, such as ogling a stranger at the gym. I suspect that nearly everyone has done this. Those who are truly oblivious ogle with great abandon. The rest of us try not to ogle, but may sneak the occasional surreptitious glance.

Sometimes those glances are to appreciate the natural beauty of our surroundings. Other times, we are guilty of that most heinous crime of comparison. Briefly allowing ourselves a moment to prop up our shaking confidence on the basis of someone else’s flab.

Last, there are things that one probably should do promptly but, for whatever reason, one fails to do. This may be something as simple as wearing a seat belt or flossing. Or finishing one project before starting another.

For Stephanie, of the great Pacific Northwest, making decisions may fit into this last category. Stephanie correctly guessed all ten songs referenced in 14 Days of Safety. What’s more, she was able to channel her inner-TSMK and come up with two additional songs on that playlist as part of an ad hoc tiebreaker between herself, Kathy and Michaela. Kathy and Michaela each guessed one additional song – meaning that Stephanie has the dubious good fortune of being the future recipient of my next finished piece. The trouble is, she is having a bit of trouble making up her mind as to what she wants. Specifically, she’s trying to decide between a pair of half-fingered gloves and a hat. Either way, when she makes her decision and I make the item, I’ll show it here.

In the meantime – thank you all for participating, and look forward to another giveaway shortly. There are several projects on the needles at the moment. One or more of those things might need to find new homes.

Oh, and just so you know, the universe as you know it will change precisely one week from today. Brace yourself for this one, it promises to shake you to your very core.


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Aganist my Better Judgment

In one of my favorite movies, a young Marlon Brando is heard to say: "Daddy, I've got cider in my ear." 

He says this after accepting a sucker bet.  And though I haven't recently agreed to a wager, I'm starting to hear something swishing around near my tympanic membrane.  Against my better judgment, I've agreed to do something rather foolish.  Let me explain.

Several weeks back, I received an email from a fellow who works at the Seattle Art Museum.  They had a new exhibit coming up, and were looking for local people to lead what they refer to as "Highly Opinionated Public Tours."  The email asked me (TSMK, that is, not my day-to-day persona) to consider leading one of those tours.  

To truly grasp the chaos that erupted in my frontal lobes, a bit of armchair psychology is probably in order.

As you may have noticed, I blog.  And, in my opinion, unless blogging is conducted for purposes of communicating important messages or improving humanity, it is an exercise in narcissism.  It is navel-gazing with a microscope and a megaphone.  I've given this some thought, and believe the pantheon of egomaniacal behavior may be delineated as follows:

Now, suppose you're a blogger and a lawyer.  And you've been ordained over the Internet and occasionally refer to yourself not only as "The Reverend" but as "The Right Reverend."  And further suppose that you're the kind of person who will knit lace anywhere and everywhere, including in public.  You're not exactly working in a leper colony, now are you?

Coming from this perspective, its hard to decline when you're asked to do something where you're going to be effectively on a stage.  My first instinct was to jump at the chance.

But shortly after, self-doubt inserted its fingers into the nostrils of my subconscious and began to pull. 

What if I agreed to participate, but I was really boring?  What if I bombed?  What if people noticed that I know essentially nothing about art?  Worse yet, what if nobody bothered to attend?  It is one thing to do something poorly, its another thing entirely to go unnoticed.  Oscar Wilde was right - the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.   

The battle raged. 

I mentioned the opportunity to a few close friends.  Their response was unanimous; this was something I must do.  But then, cracks began to form in their facade.  One suggested I would likely go from piece to piece within the museum, making increasingly negative remarks until my tour culminated with a six-word indictment of one particular work: "That is a piece of [excrement]."   Clearly, my friends were having a laugh at the suggestion that I might be considered highly opinionated.  And they hadn't even seen the PEGB.

Still, the battle raged.

As my psyche cartwheeled from argument to argument, I started to notice something.  I do, on obviously very rare occasions, find myself having thoughts which could be considered highly opinionated.  Of course, this requires one to adopt tremendously strained definitions of both "highly" and "opinionated."  But still, it is conceivable that one might make such an argument.  Of course, if I met that person I would probably try to dissaude him or her from such an obviously flawed worldview, but then again that too might be considered the response of a highly opinionated person.  There was no way out of this conundrum.

And so, I have agreed to do this.  If you're in Seattle on March 11 and looking for something to do in the evening, please give some thought to stopping by SAM and taking in a tour of the new Nick Cave exhibition.  It looks really interesting - and even involves crocheted doilies incorporated into clothing.  If you're there at 8:30, perhaps we'll meet.  If you're patient and I'm extremely lucky, I might even think of something clever to say.  I just hope I can form an opinion.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

What will it be?

BREAKING NEWS UPDATE - The giveaway is now complete.  I will announce the winner shortly.  ~TSMK

I haven't given anything away in a while - and the urge has returned.  But the trouble is - I don't know what I want to give away.  So... I'm going to let the winner decide.  Yes.  That's right.  I hereby announce the start of the TSMK-What-Will-It-Be-Giveaway (TSMK-WWIBG)!

Here's the deal: the winner will get up to 500 yards from my stash.  I'm drawing the line at qiviut or cashmere, but anything else is up for grabs.  And if you win, you can choose whether you want me to send you the yarn or knit you something you select.  Could be a pair of socks.  Could be a pair of mittens or a nice lace scarf.  The choice is yours.  My world is your oyster.

Here is how you win.  In 14 days of Safety, I took you along on a ride accompanied by music from my Charles the Fat Coronation playlists.  You tell me all 10 songs that played during that drive, and you win.  Entries should be sent to tsmkblog@yahoo.com.  The first entry to correctly identify all 10 songs will win. 

Simple, right?  Have at it!


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

14 Days of Safety

Heraclitus supposedly said something that one can never step into the same river twice. 

Bob Dylan made sure we knew that you don't need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows.

Both were in my mind this week, as the whole TSMK clan schlepped across the US to spend a few days in the land of my youth.  Not quite a land of milk and honey - more one of sweet tea and pecan logs.

Most of my family is no longer there.  I have extended relations in the area, but most I probably couldn't pick out of a crowd.  The older ones I was close to have all passed away.  The younger ones have moved away.  But Mrs. TSMK's folks still live in the area.  And so we make something of a regular pilgrimage to see her mom and dad.

Her mom lives on the St. John's river.  You can't quite see the paper mill from her house, but Bob was right; weathermen need not apply. 

We drive past the mill to go and visit her dad, who lives a bit closer to where we grew up.  It is a sprawling complex with a cheerfully morbid sign out front that tells you precisely how long it has been since there was an industrial accident at the facility.  In all the times we've visited, we've never seen it reference more than 21 days.  Think about that the next time you're squeezing your Charmin.

On the last day of our visit, I excused myself from the family to run an errand.  Before we'd left home, I'd done a bit of web-surfing to see if there were any interesting yarn shops nearby.  As it turns out, there was one about 30 miles away that looked fairly interesting. 

I set out for the store with the iPod plugged into the disappointing stereo of the rented minivan, looking forward to an hour or two away from my wonderful, but somewhat loud, sons.  I turned out onto the dirt road leading away from the house and dialed up the playlist we'd recently created for a party at our house: pizza and homebrew in celebration of the anniversary of the coronation of Charles the Fat as King of Italy.

Have you forgot that once we were brought here we were robbed of our names?  Robbed of our language?  We lost our religion, our culture, our God.  And many of us, by the way we act, even lost our minds.

The road stretches in front of me.  On either side, single-wide trailers and stick-built homes on cinderblocks.  In the distance I can see vultures circling.  I hope they're not looking for me.

Yo ye Pharaohs, let us walk through this barren desert, in search of truth, and some pointy boots, and maybe a few snack crackers.

I stop at the flashing red light where the two-lane meets the county road.  Looking to my right, I see an odd sign at the intersection.  My pulse increases slightly and my palms start to sweat.  Am I the only one here without a gun?  Do I need to be packing heat to go to the yarn shop?

Though I might be straight as an arrow, he's busy shaking hands with my monkey.

The county road is flat.  Seriously flat.  Flatter than the water I cross during my work commute.  Almost as flat as the affect of the waitress at lunch yesterday.  The one who looked like she desperately wanted to be Sookie Stackhouse.  Who called us "you'uns" and deftly executed the triple-negative: "y'all don't want no refills neither?"

Left alone with big, fat Fannie.  She was such a naughty nanny.  Big, big woman, you made a bad boy out of me.

The rental is foreign.  I realize this with a start as I sit at a stop light.  I'm surrounded by cars but mine is the only one not sporting a domestic nameplate.  Possibly also the only one without a bumper sticker espousing either family values or a conservative political candidate. 

I don't want no lonely lustful woman's irate husband after me.

I stop at a familiar green logo.  As I walk through the door, I can smell the coffee.  It smells as it does in Seattle.  The decor is the same, only the pastries have been changed.  I place my order.  I place it again.  Failure to communicate.  I'm speaking in Seattle.  He's listening in Green Cove Springs.  I slow down and order a third time.  He chuckles and asks me where I'm from.  What do I tell him?  Am I from here?  I was originally, but now I'm not so sure.  Heraclitus was right.

And did I mention she's a world famous billionaire bikini supermodel astrophysicist?

The coffee is delicious.  My mood is lifting.   

You shouldn't come around here, singing up at people like that.

I arrive at the yarn shop. It is a nice place. The knitting selection isn't huge, but it is tidy and they have some interesting things. They are friendly. Quizzical but friendly.

Another man comes in the shop. An older guy. Does he knit? No - he's just following his wife. The shopkeeper offers him a comfortable chair and a copy of either wine spectator or field and stream.

I pick out a few items - including some very cool sock yarn that I've not seen before. One skein is an astonishing shade of green. I look forward to wearing those socks to the office in an act of sartorial disobedience.

After a brief discussion with the clerk about the merits of knitting socks with circulars or double-points, I get back in the rental and start heading back to the river.

Getting my dinner from a garbage can.

Back on the main road, it seems like everywhere I look I find a warning about trespassing.  Is this really a significant problem?  Are there people lining up to trespass on parcels of sand and scrub pine?  Do people hop over fences to purloin mangy-looking dogs?  I'm confused.

You keep trying.  Ended up in the middle.  Had an enigma - ended up with a riddle.

I pull off the main road and make my way back in through the oaks and spanish moss.  With the wind coming from the north, I lower the windows and enjoy the breeze.  I can't smell the mill. 

First one says she got my child, but it don't look like me.

I pull into the drive.  Refreshed by my errand, but wondering about my place.  Am I still Southern?  Was I ever?  If I'd stayed here, instead of moving west, would I have a concealed weapons permit or a bumpersticker?  Would I work in the paper mill?  Would I still enjoy sashimi?  Would I still knit?

And then I step back, take it all in, and realize that my place is crystal clear.  I am here.  Now.  These oaks aren't going to climb themselves.