Thursday, December 31, 2009

Year End Special

Welcome to the last day of 2009...or the first day of 2010, if you're reading this late. It's not only the end of the year but also of the decade, the first of the 21st century. It's kind of a big deal...like me.

Tomorrow, I officially welcome the start to Yarn-Over 2010, my personal stash-busting, budget-balancing non-event of the new year and decade. Why a non-event, you ask? Because all I have to do for it to be a resounding success is simple NOT buy yarn for the next 12 months. Simply do nothing that involves the exchange of monetary currency for spun fiber and I can add this to my list of life accomplishments!

Now, you should know I've been doing a "test run" of the Yarn-Over theory all through the month of December. I experienced a budget flush around Thanksgiving during a visit to Michigan during which one of my favorite yarn shops anywhere was going out of business. I figured after that, I shouldn't/wouldn't/didn't need anything more for the rest of year, so...I started early. Well, all was fine and good for the first three weeks. I took my name off the mailing lists and websites that often feature excellent yarn at excellent prices. What I didn't count on was one of the best indie retailers sending out a 20%-off Year End Sale e-mail to her preferred customers. If I got this e-mail (I did), it means I'm a preferred customer (I am), which, in turn, means I bought a lot of yarn from this woman in the recent past (most definitely).

To those uninitiated, Miss Babs sells wonderful hand-dyed sock yarns. Merino wool, various plies to choose from, I've been a fan of her yarns for as long as I've been knitting. When that e-mail showed up, I fought it, I really, really did, I swear...but the 20% also applied to her already on-sale destash...and who can really turn down a double discount? In all honesty, when I got to the website, though, the destash section was completely empty...but by that time, it was already too late. The hypodermic needle was already poised...

I bought conservatively, though. Thinking more about the Sock Yarn Blanket than any other project (and the 9 other Knit Night goers who have also started their own, thank you very much!), I opted for smaller, less expensive skeins of lovely 2-ply merino. $9 a pop, 10 in total with a 20% discount...you do the math. My last yarn purchase for the next 12 months was under $100, shipping included. I just received it today:

In other unrelated news, I've just come back from seeing "Avatar," that new blockbuster, big-budget CGI extravaganza from James Cameron that everyone is talking about. Personally, I really enjoyed the film...it was entertaining, engrossing, albeit a bit predictable. I saw a matinee and it was well worth the $4 I spent. But more on that later...

The movie and its themes got me to thinking about a story that was circulated all through the St. Louis Metro region toward the end of November. The story involves a deer hunter from Edwardsville, IL, who took down a 25-point buck this season. For those who don't know (for I barely do), that means the buck had a mean, massive rack of antler atop his head, a testament to the long life and years of experience this animal had accrued. Anytime a deer of that stature is taken, it tends to make the news.

In the interest of full disclosure, let me just state for the record that I am not a hunter, never have been. My father was, his brothers were, their father was, too. It was a family thing, learning to use the bow and the gun to take down game. I suppose it was sometimes done for the meat the animal provided but, just as often, it was done for the sport of it. Personally, I've never understood the "sport" aspect of deer hunting: there's no way you can really lose unless you count not killing an animal that day. If you want to hunt lions or, better yet, bears...that makes more sense, especially if there's a very real possibility that you could lose...a leg.

There were several aspects to this particular deer hunting story that made it so extraordinary to me. The first of these was the manner in which the hunt took place. The hunter had been using Google Earth to plot the most likely paths the animal might take. Ingenious really, if you think about it for a moment. Now this, this aspect of hunting I can understand. The accumulation and careful analysis of information pertaining to a quest.

The second aspect, and really the most amazing, is the manner in which the kill went down. The hunter's analysis must have been correct because one night, while the hunter was lying on the ground, the buck came by. The hunter took aim with his bow and let one fly...only to have the arrow deflect off a tree and rip through the buck's ear, which in turn startled the deer, causing it to slip down an embankment and off a cliff, where it fell over a cliff and down 20 feet into the water, where it drowned!

Don't believe it?! You can read about it here, here and some comments others locals have made regarding this story here. I was even able to find a photo of the hunter with his kill here.

My initial feeling when I first heard this story is about the same as it was today when "Avatar" reminded me of it. I may not fully understand the act of going out into the cold woods with a bow or a firearm to sit and watch and wait for an animal to come along so you can take its life...but when an animal as regal and proud as I imagine a 25-point buck must have been comes along, what possesses a hunter to take up arms and cut short a life which has already spanned so long? Is it the taxidermed head mounted to the wall, rack still attached the skull? Is it bragging rights to your buds about your prowess in hunting, which surely wouldn't apply here? What is that urge that seizes you to kill a living thing?

I will concede that under the best of circumstances, there may be some honor to be found in the glory of the kill. This story, however, is far from the best of circumstances. This hunter took a lousy shot that caused this beautiful animal to fall to its death and drown. There is surely no honor in that, none whatsoever. Take a look at the photo, the very existence of which at least implies some sense of pride at having brought this animal down. If this man had wrestled the deer bare-handed to ground, perhaps...just perhaps I could better understand. But, simply put, I don't. I just don't know how someone could do what this man did. It saddens me to think of that buck.
In one final note, a happier note...here's Benson. He, like so many who have come before him, has decided to start hitting the gym for his New Year's Resolution.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Scrooged

Let me be clear: I don't hate Christmas.

Now, let me clarify. This whole story started several weeks before Christmas while I was having a phone conversation with my father, during which I indicated to him that I didn't want us to do a gift exchange this year. I didn't realize when I said it that I was instigating a minor revolution in the family dynamic, but there you have it.

My reasons for this request were quite simple. Last year, I got both my Dad and step-mom lovely, long, plush bathrobes, the kind you often find at high-end spas. I have one at home that I wear ALL the time and thought they might like them, too. I mean they're warm, comfy, cozy, have pockets...what's not to love. Simply put, I don't think they've ever been worn...by anyone. No problem...not really.

Also take into account that I am a knitter...in case you didn't already know. Odds are pretty good that at some point in the next 12 months, both my Dad and my step-mom will get something from me, hand-made with them in mind. I don't yet know what those items might be or when they'll be made...but I wouldn't bet against the House on this one, folks.

But what it all really comes down to is that for many years now, I have been trying to understand why people do what they do around Christmas. I'm not confused about getting together with family, baking and cooking oodles of food, gorging oneself to bursting and taking naps on the living room sofa. The gatherings of people and the parties I understand.

What I don't understand is the money, the spending, the consumerism. Truth be told, I've never really understood it, not at its core. I tend to think of myself as a thoughtful, pensive individual, thorough and methodical in almost everything I do. I don't make a lot of assumptions and tend to pose more questions than many people are really comfortable with or understand themselves. So, it only makes sense that I would start taking a hard look at everything that happens around the holidays.

Every year, we, as a nation and a culture, spend oodles and gobs of money on shit. Many times, we spend money we don't have yet, don't have at all and may never have. We spend it on stuff like televisions and PS3s and kitchen appliances and sport coats; jewelery for the women, dress shirts for the men and inane, flashing, blinking, loud, crazy toys for the kids. En masse, we descend upon the shopping malls with lists of people we feel we must buy for: Mom, Dad, brothers, sisters, uncle, aunts, cousins, grandmas and grandpas. Then there's the second tier: office collegues and secret santas; neighbors and maybe your postman; random donations to Toys For Tots; everyone at Knit Night or everyone at Monday Night Dinner.

People get anxious, too...especially as the big day closes in on them. Realizations about who they have or have not bought for set in and people start to panic. I've noticed that people seem to have subjective evaluations about how much they're supposed to give to the people in their lives and if they don't feel that they've attained those levels, they start buying more and sillier things to make up the difference. Suddenly packs of socks and packs of cigarettes are fair game! Candy bars and Burt's Bees sample packs, even sample bottle of shampoo and deodorant become "stocking stuffers," the holiday equivalent of hot dog filler. People struggle and strive to find more and better things to give to people and all in an effort to do...what?

The commonly held idea is that Christmas is a time to spend with friends and family and to exchange gifts around a lit-up tree to demonstrate the love and caring of the season. But I tend to be of the opinion that, especially for those that are nearest and dearest to me, the love and caring I feel for them is not at all dependent upon a "season" and I give them gift throughout the year and not just towards the end of December. I give them gifts when I happen upon something that makes me think of them or when I set out to make something specifically for them. I buy my parents bathrobes because mine brings me such pleasure and I want to share that pleasure with them. I give über-rare Tori Amos CDs because I know Kort will love them and give them a good home and I like to see her face light up.

A couple years ago, I opened a Christmas gift from a family member who will remain unnamed (although I'm pretty sure they don't read this blog...it's called respect). When I opened the box, I found a casserole baking dish, gorgeously glazed in a deep red. The problem is that I've never made a casserole, I've never talked about casserole and, to this day, I've never, ever felt the desire to make a casserole, even though I could now...because I was given this casserole dish. Please know that my intention is never to appear ungrateful, but I have to ask the question: what made this person think I could really use a casserole dish? Did they see the casserole dish and say to themselves, "Oh, that would be just perfect for Dean!" Better to have given nothing at all, I think.

But we, as a culture, as a nation, often have a problem with that: not giving anything. Which brings me back to my original point of not having a gift exchange this year. When I explained everything to my parents, there was a slight pause on the other end of the phone and then a simple question: "But...what will we put under the tree for you to open?"

Nothing. Nothing at all...and that's kind of the point. I went out to my Dad's to eat dinner with my family, to make them laugh and to laugh with their jokes, to drink copious amounts of coffee, to play with the dog and to see people I don't often get to see. I didn't come out to stock up on stuff I don't need, might not want, but feel obligated to drag home with me anyway. I think what that one question really revealed was my parents' own uncomfortability with the prospect. Everyone else would be opening presents...except me...and they felt bad about that...even though I wouldn't feel the least bit bad about that. They would...

And ultimately that's their issue, not mine and I can't take responsibility for how someone other than myself feels. I can acknowledge it, respect it...but I will not take responsibility for it. In the same vein, I also will not plunge myself into excessive debt to but trinkets for everyone I know simple because it's December 25th. Better, I think, to not have anything to give them on Christmas...but rather, give them something when they're not expecting it...in fact, when they're least expecting it. The pay-off is so much better for both people!

So, Christmas...I neither love it nor hate it. I do, however, hate what it has turned into for too many people. We are knitters and jewelers and print-makers and hand-crafters of everything...there's no reason we should ever be wrapping up a carton of Camels with a pretty, sparkling bow simply because of some societal pressure we feel to give someone something, anything...

...just because it was Jesus' birthday? Hey, it's the Winter Solstice! Here's a Mag-Lite for your car and a coupon for $5 off your next car wash.

Oh, and just to finish the original story, we did not have a gift exchange this year. Other people at our family gathering did, but between my parents and me, we did not. My Dad cheated, though, when he slipped me a $100 bill. "You said not to buy you anything...so we didn't."

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Good-bye Citty Knitting

I made my first trip to City Knitting several years ago. My best friend had just moved back to the Grand Rapids region with her new son and I was going up to visit them and to touch base with my home state, which I hadn't seen in quite some time. During the trip, Courtny and I did an old-fashioned yarn crawl and after several hours and a couple stores later, City Knitting emerged as the winner hands down. I wish I could say it emerged like a victor from the clouds of ware but, truth be told, there wasn't much competition. Simply put, City Knitting rocked my knitting world. After several hundreds of dollars of yarn, I left feeling more exhausted and satiated than any sex I've ever had has ever been able to accomplish...ever. You get the point...

This week marks the closing of City Knitting forever, for always.

Around Thanksgiving, I had the advantageous opportunity to visit them one last time. The same pleasant ladies I've always seen were still there, still looking beautiful and pleasant. I even had the pleasure of running into Lorilee, the owner, during my visit. She was looking plaintively at the wall of sock yarn, slightly diminished and thin. I gave her a hug, the dude knitter from St. Louis, and thanked her for just being there over the past couple years. It was always, always a must-go destination every time I drove up.

To commemorate the closing of the store, Courtny was commissioned to created a piece to be given to Lorilee. As an emerging artisan jeweler and metalsmith, and as the best friend of a knitter, she had no trouble coming up with the perfect piece:

A small, diminutive knitting needle, hand-made from sterling silver. Across the top of the head, stamped into the silver, the word "Joy."


For anyone interested, you can get more information regarding this unique piece, as well as other available pieces, by contacting Courtny directly via WillowSongStudio@hotmail.com or by searching fro her via Facebook.

Much thanks to Lorilee and the staff of City Knitting, one of the best Local Yarn Shops I've ever had the pleasure to frequent. Thanks for selling Yarn Hollow and for winding up those 24oo yards of lace weight Cedarwood & Cinnabar I bought while I was there. I know it took awhile. You all have always been beyond welcoming and, as a dude knitter, I have always appreciated it.

You will be missed.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Social Networking, Microblogging and 1 New Tire

It's Thursday evening and I'm at home, comforting myself after an mini-adventure in the best way I know how: with a fresh pot of coffee and my favorite new mug. You see, tonight I learned, yet again, the value of having really great friends. In this case, it's my work-friend, Trish. She is just amazing...

'Cuz you see what had happened was...it was 5:30p and my work week was over. I left the building, glided through the chilled and brittle air and got into my car. As I was pulling away, I could hear a distinctive thwump, thwump, thwump which, of course, caused me to pull the car over. I thought that perhaps, due to the excessively cold air, the tires had settled a bit, giving themselves a slightly flat side. Although the basis of my theory was soon proven correct, it wasn't so much the cold air that was to blame as it was a total lack thereof, specifically in the front left tire.

Yes, I experienced my first flat tire...ever. And you know this shit never, ever goes down after work on a lovely late April evening, when the flowers are in bloom and all the world seems to be in a good mood. No. This happens on the second day of a particularly bitter cold snap, when most of my co-workers have left long before. But there was Trish, leaving not too long after myself. She drove over and immediately asked, "Okay, what did you do?" Funny lady...

Long story short, she stuck with me while our boss, Barry did what he could and while an super nice guy from second shift first re-inflated the tire (only to discover some odd...bloating...on the tire wall), then changed out the tire of dubious means with my spare. Sir, I neglected to catch your name but please know that I am exceedingly grateful for your kindness. Trish followed me to the nearest Dobbs and left me in their capable hands to meet up with her oh-so-cute boyfriend, Dow, to whom I also extend gracious thanks for allowing me to borrow your girl so impromptu-ly.

So here I am now, back home, with cold feet (literally...I don't know why) and my fresh mug of joe. I just realized I forgot to add sugar...be right back...

And, while I am handing out gratitude to readily at the moment, some thanks must go out to Deborah for gifting to me and the Sock Yarn Blanket the remains of an autumnal Schoppel Wolle Zauberball. Yea, I love sock scraps...

My delay in between blogs is due in large part to my burgeoning exploration of Facebook and Twitter. I'm not totally sold on either...but I am helplessly addicted to the gaming apps. I'm a vampire and a gangster with a fish tank and a farm and I just colonized my second planet. I have no excuse...lock me up now, officer...please.

On to the knitting...

After a 5-month duration, Work Project IV is finally done! Remember, the Work Project pieces are those that I do at work, on lunch hour. I don't work on them at any other time, which explains why it took five months to knit a pair of socks.

During my recent sojourn into the Michigan wild (of Grand Rapids), I was able to get back to the Swallowtail Shawl and make some serious headway into the second motif. I didn't succeed in competing it, but progress was made.

I also just completed 2 pairs of mitts for my good friend, Shivian, and his boyfriend, Kai. They live in the frigid, snowy land known as Chicago.

Originally meant to be a pair of Diamondback Mitts in red & black, I eventually opted for a simpler pattern done twice. Shiv's mitts are knit with Southwest Trading Company "Karaoke Multi," a 50/50 wool & soy silk blend with deep, saturated colors. Unfortunately, the red and black colorway didn't hold throughout the skein, so the second mitt ended up more red and...deep red. It's the beauty of a hand-knit item...I also started knitting Kai's mitts out of the same yarn, hoping for better results for his blue and black color request. As you can see...it was not to be. Not only did the blue and black not go through the entire skein, the colorway actually went lighter, into the robin's egg and turquoise regions. I had to fall back on an old reliable, Plymouth Encore DK in a blue/black twist. I held the yarn double throughout, so Kai's are actually thicker (and probably warmer) than Shivian's.Work Project V will begin on Monday. I'm going to do another Boneyard Shawl, this one using 2 colors of Rowan Classic Cashsoft, a blend of extra fine merino, microfibre and cashmere. I have a new friend, Sarah, who makes this amazing linocut prints. We've arranged a trade: a 2-color Boneyard Shawl for one of her framed prints. It's a deal!

I also have other small projects in the works, though not yet started. Eva needs a hat with a curved brim and a pair of black fingerless mitts; Amber needs mitts and a swanky scarf; her kids (all 4 of them) needs scarves and the newest one needs a lil' baby hat to keep his head warm.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

So Much To See...

Okay, as I write this, I have SO much to include. Don't be surprised if this ends up being a rather photo-heavy post. You have been warned...

Please note: As I write this, I m enjoying a bottle (or several) of Schlafly's Saison Ale, a seasonal brew locally made here in St. Louis. It's part of my bounty from the conclusion of the 6th annual Rock N Roll Craft Show...along with Ferdinand. But you'll read more about him in a bit...

As you may (or may not) know, I am recently returned from a week-long adventure to the northern regions of Michigan where I spent what was the BEST Thanksgiving I've ever had in my thirty-three years' worth of Thanksgivings, probably because MY family was no where to be seen. The drive up was uneventful and easily managed. My best friend Kort and her soon-to-be 5-year old son, Logan, live with Sarah and her daughter, Eleanor, in a wonderful old-ish, two story in Grand Rapids. The days were spent accomplishing a bevy of knitting on the Swallowtail Shawl, as well as a mitered-square pillow sham of my own design. I had the pleasure of sleeping in Sarah's bedroom upstairs, a smallish room with an older bed frame which would creak at the slightest movement. The temperature of said house was also a degree or two on the chilled side of life, all of which lended itself to a wonderfully old-fashioned experience. The knitting contributed, too...
Many thanks to my great friends Kiana and Stacy, who co-operatively took exceptional care of my three cats in my absence. They each garnered a dark-chocolate bar for their efforts. Here's the adorable cat schedule they kept...I love the "S" signifying scoopage.

I, of course, made my usual visit(s) to City Knitting, the local knit shop to see and be seen in during a trip to the west side of the State. Unfortunately, they will soon be closing their doors for good, before the end of the year. Given this development, Lorilee has placed some discounts in place to encourage the everything-must-go mentality... and which of us fiber enthusiasts can really resist a discount of any size.As you might hae already guessed, I completely stocked up as though the harshest winter in St. Louis history was about to set in and snow me in for the next three months...which couldn't be farther from the truth, but there you have it. As such, I must, out of necessity, announce that Yarn-Over 2010 will be starting 1 month early, on December 1st, 2009. As you can already see throughout this post, my bounty was exquisite and exceptional, especially the locally dyed fare from Yarn Hollow that I brought home.


Upon my return to St. Louis, I immediately had to report for duty to the Rock N Roll Craft Show on Saturday morning. This event happens every year for the past 6 years and features the work of a bevy of local crafters and artisans: everything from art and graphic prints to jewelery, knitwear and other textiles. I originally met organizer Nora Vandervort at an event at the 3rd Degree Glass Factory. Long story short, I volunteered my time to help the event and the local, handmade movement. The event was as incredible as I knew it would be. Brilliant people from the St. Louis region and elsewhere displaying some of the most original, charming, cute and, frankly, bizarre works you could imagine.

During my time manning one of their registers, I only had to remind myself a couple times why I was there at all. No pay, very little kick-back, long lines of holiday shoppers and lots of people I didn't know. What the hell was I doing again?!? Oh yes, giving back and helping other hand-crafters get their stuff out there. A firm believer in karma and karmic retribution, I knew it would come back to me one day. And it was fun...a special kind of retail fun...but fun all the same.

Although I expected nothing in exchange for my time, some of that karmic energy came back to me earlier than expected, in the form of a 6-pack of Schlafly Saison Ale and Ferdinand. I'm still laughing about him. Ferdinand, as I have named him, was the last of a quintuplet of sock-beavers submitted in the show, by Erika Rogers. I had had my eye on them all weekend and had made an agreement with myself that if there was still one left at the end, it was coming home with me. Alas, at the end of the show, all of the beavers were gone. Sadness...

Nora and Sarah, two of the organizers, pulled me aside to thank me for the three shifts I had worked. Their thank-you to me: the last beaver of the bunch! I was so excited...and so were they, as they jumped up and down chanting, "We stole your beaver, we stole your beaver!" If you don't get the joke, go to bed now.

Ferdinand immediately began surfing for porn on my computer as soon as he was comfortably at home in my apartment...that tramp.

I was also keeping my fingers crossed about a couple Sarah Wyman prints. Alas, only one of them remained at the end of the show but, appropriately enough, it was the one print I really liked. It's entitled "Jasper," named so, I assume, for the kitty in the piece. It now hangs above my bed...and Benson seems to approve.


It's the end of a long week of vacation and personal time and I must admit that I feel recharged and at ease, for the most part. I took some time for myself and gave back to my community. In turn, some art above my bed and Ferdinand, the beaver. Tomorrow, I return to my office, to my Canadian foam customers and a week's worth of e-mails but for tonight, I'm nursing my fourth bottle of Saison Ale and the kitties are curled up in their beds.

And maybe just for tonight, all is well in my world.

(PS - Do you know how long it takes to put together a blog post like this after 5 bottles of Saison Ale? Hrm...me either!)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

PhotoBooth Fun


PhotoBooth Fun
Originally uploaded by knittaPrince
So last night, while trying to take a simple snapshot of ourselves with a Cubist Literature t-shirt, Sarah and I found the PhotoBooth program on her Mac. Keep in mind, Sarah and the Mac were only recently introduced so there are a lot of things about the Mac that Sarah just isn't in the know about...this was merely one.

We took about a skabillion pictures with it...or maybe just 25 or so but by the end of the experiment, we were ALL laughing so hard. I think I almost gave myself a headache. It was righteous fun for a bunch of thiry-somethings who still haven't lost their juvenile sides.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Good morning, Sunday. Michigan weather is pretty close to that of St. Louis, although it's a little more chilly. Not that I've been outside, mind you...I'm still in my PJs...

As you may have already guessed, I didn't drive to Texas but rather to Michigan. After I got here, I reflected that I did indeed make the right choice. The drive up here was as lovely as a 7-hour drive can be but I'm glad it wasn't any longer. The drive to Texas would have been an additional 6 hours...which probably would have involved a hotel expense at some mid-point. Thinking about it just now, that would have been like the drive to Michigan times two.

Anyway, no point in fixating on what isn't.

Almost immediately after I arrived yesterday, we all went out from dinner and drinks...which sounds so sophisticated. Kort, Eva, Sarah, Mulder and I went out to a tapas restaurant called San Chez. It was less than stellar. I was carded...and didn't have my ID. I wasn't flattered, rather pissed off. The waiter had fucked-up hair anyway...hmph! I'm naming names...and his was Brett.

Today brings fresh coffee and massages all around! Kort's friend Janelle is a massage therapist and, even as I write this, Kort is being twisted and pulled and rolled out like dough...and loving every minute. Later today, who knows? City Knitting isn't open 'til Tuesday and I plan to make my usual ransack of the place, especially since it'll be the last time. Not only is Yarn-Over 2010 coming up but the store is also going out of business before the end of the year. The discounts aren't that great (only 10%) but a discount is a discount.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Death of a Distant Friend

I got a phone call from my Mom this morning. Her ears must have been ringing from last night's blog post. I got the call right as I was walking into work.

My Mom had to have her dog, Cupcake, put down yesterday. They had been best buds for the past 12 years. Cupcake was a little Shitzu and had been my Mom's primary friend through a lot of stuff...a couple marriages, a couple moves...and now, she's gone.

Apparently, Cupcake woke my Mom up the night before last, which was very out of character for her. In the morning, she was largely unresponsive and lethargic. After a trip to the vet, it was determined that she seemed to have had a stroke. The decision was made to put her down.

The really heart-breaking part of this phone call was when my Mom went into detail about what happened after the vet, when the brought Cupcake, now deceased, home and placed her in the box that would be her final resting place. My Mom had cross-stitched a new blanket for her for Christmas and this was placed in the box. There were a couple of her favorite toys and her favorite collar. These were also placed in the box.

Besides herself with grief, my Mom barely knows what to do with herself...and I feel a slight pang of guilt about having written my preceding blog post. Although I am slated to drive to Michigan on Friday to spend the Thanksgiving week with Courtny and Eva in Grand Rapids, I'm toying with the idea of driving to Texas instead, to spend the week with my mother.

But that's a 13-hour drive, over 700 miles one way. And plane tickets are $400+...which is out of the question. Could you do a 13-hour drive in one stint? Me either...which then incurs hotel expenses. This is one of the very rare instances when I wish my Mom were closer than she is.

As so often happens when someone or something very close and dear to us passes away, all the rest of us can do is feel sympathetic and ineffective, given there's absolutely nothing anyone can do to make it hurt any less or be less sad.

Send her some kind thoughts, won't you? She could really use them...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Twittering, knittering...

First, as you may or may not know...I now tweet. You can find me at @knittaprince.

I feel I have been remiss in my blogging duties...and I don't have another French flashback until Thanksgiving, so I can't squeak out it so easily. Neither do I, however, have much of an update in my knitting world. So buckle yourself in, this could be a bumpy ride.

I went out to Hot Shots tonight after work with my colleague, Trish. She's really quite wonderful and seems to enjoy my myriad neurosis, which only serves to endear her to me that much more. For those who don't know (for I certainly didn't before tonight), Hot Shots is a sports and billiards bar, large and spacious with waitresses scantily clad in running shorts and referee tops opened in a wide, sighing V-shape to expose their ample and often overflowing breasts. Trish, on the other hand, is really none of these things and I enjoy her company all the more because of that fact.

But we had had one of those days that is truly deserving of a beer and/or cocktail and thus was born the idea, so sublime in its concept and flawless in our execution of it, it can only be a harbinger of more unwinding after-work sessions to come.

On the drive home, as often happens after a couple pints, I began to think. Okay, in the interest of full disclosure, it doesn't really take a couple pints to make me think. I tend to do admirably well all on my own, thank you very much. Anyway, I get to thinking and on this night my thoughts stray towards the first real boyfriend I ever had, Erik. We were even engaged for a spell, believe it or not. Obviously, not everything in this perfect world of our has a fairytale ending, even when it involves two faeries, but there you have it. Just one of the gross injustices you may have found on your path through life. In any case, I often think back to this relationship as it so closely mirrors so many of my own mother's failed attempts at love.

(Even now I hesitate to write more as anything pertaining to my Mom is usually uber-off-limits.)

My Mom, bless her heart (and yes, I really do mean that) is a fine, upstanding woman who has been dealt a fairly mediocre hand in this life. Whether socialized to believe marriage to be the epitome of a woman's existence or perhaps she merely came to believe it to be true through her own unique experiences, it is a simple fact that this seems to be the driving force in her life, the only one, true thing to which she aspires and, unfortunately, one of many things which has remained painfully aloof and out of reach for her. I love my mother to death, though without the presence of a strong male figure, she tends to flounder or, rather, become sedentary, merely going through the motions of her day-to-day existence but, seems it to me, without much substance, drive or reward. As might well imagine, a true relationship poses somewhat of a trap for her, for where she to discover herself in one, she would almost certainly and immediately relinquish and surrender happily and willingly any and all autonomy to the Man in question. This has occurred more times than I care to count...okay, five times to be precise. There would have been a sixth but I fancy myself as the voice of reason which caused her to seriously reconsider.

In any case, as she has done so many times in the past, so I did with Erik...and, to increasingly lesser degrees, with others I have have the pleasure of spending some of my time with in this life. The difference between my mother and myself is that I seem to have the ability to recognize and self-critique my own behavior, identify and then correct, more or less. She, sadly, does not.

I recently sent out a Tweet
in which I plainly state that one should never regret a relationship or view it as any kind of mistake. Every relationship we have teaches us something valuable and important, not only about other people but more importantly about ourselves, what we look for and need and what we don't. You should really only regret a relationship if you have learned nothing at all from the experience, in which case be absolutely sure to blame only yourself, not the other person. If you have learned nothing, then you haven't been paying attention...now, have you? Mm-hmm...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

French Flashback - 5 years ago today...


Monday November 8th 2004

It’s another day in paradise here in France. Last night, Hans left to return to Germany, leaving Ashleigh in a pretty numb state of mind. I have no idea how those kids are going to do this long-distance relationship thing. She had planned on going to Germany for the holidays, but apparently, she’s flat broke. Yeah, and that’s not at all an exaggeration. She told me last night that she’s actually overdrawn in her account back in the States and she quite literally has no money left, even though she has another 5 weeks left to go. She’ll be getting some money from CIDEF as a reimbursement for her rent, since she moved out of the family’s house and on her own and that reimbursement should cover her rent until she leaves. She still needs to buy her train ticket to Paris and, luckily, the plane ticket is already bought. But, esseintially that leaves her with no money for anything else…no drinks at Cargo, no cups of coffee to study by, no movies on a rainy day, no cigarettes.


Ultimately, it’s none of my concern aside from the fact that she’s a friend, but I also know that it will inevitable place me in the position of having to say no to her. No, I can’t buy you a drink, or give you a cigarette…because she can’t pay me back, period. And I don’t know exactly how much I’m going to need, therefore I can honestly say that I don’t have it. I don’t have enough to money to buy drinks for two, or enough cigarettes for two. Please don’t ask because I don’t want to have to say no.


I think I’m going to see a movie with Max tomorrow night, although I think I said it best when I told Pierre-Edouard this evening that je n’ai plus de sentiments fortes pour lui. It’s just not going to develop into anything more than a friendship. My strong happy feelings for him died, like they always seem to do. It’s sad really and I’ll be the first to admit that I should really start therapy on this issue. It only seems to exacerbate and I can’t see how it would heal itself unless I consciously work on it.


On a similar note, I don’t know why I ever slept with Pierre-Edouard, aside from the fact that he was the first nice guy who expressed interest in me, therefore…yippee, fuck me! But, really…in my opinion, he’s a bit mal-placed. He has a certain bourgeoisie air, but he lives the life of a poor college student, making him appear rather haughty and, well, mal-placed. He’s kind of a dork, actually. But, en meme temps, he’s a good friend, one who really enjoys spending time with me and I with him. Besides, imagine if I didn’t have any French friends here. Then it really would be a sad state of affairs when second semester rolls around and everyone I know is gone.


My classes are going okay at this point, although I still have my doubts about how everything will unfold in the exams. I’m still coasting along in all the littérature/poétique/stylistique classes, wondering where it’s all going and trusting Anne-Sophie when she says that everything will be alright. How, I’m not sure. My translation courses are okay, although the passages I’m translating into French are truly difficult and I wonder how they could ever expect me to be able to do them…then I remember that no one expects me to be able to do them because I’m not a French student. Simply put, I’ll be amazed if I get the minimum grades I need to pass this semester. There’s always the second semester, which I could also fail or also pass. Hard to tell at this point.


I found out today that in order for me to apply for the CAF, Pascal and Valerie have to fill out a certain portion of my application, for which they want me to pay them an additional 20€. However, according to both Max and Pierre-Edouard, they can’t require me to pay them in order to fill out an administrative form. So, what do I do? Do I make a stink, in my limited French and attempt to find out why they want me to pay them to do something they’re apparently supposed to do for free? Or do I pay the 20€, knowing that I’ll be getting a lot more than that from the CAF and let it slide?


The same is true about the heat in the house…I’m truly cold most of the time, especially when I’m sleeping. I’ve asked them to increase the heat twice, with very little results. In my mind, I’m paying them 280€ per month to have a heated room, which it is, although not to my comfort. Where is the line between living like the French do and sacrificing too much in order to do it?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

An Open Letter

An open letter to my neighbors at 2119-A Maury:

Welcome to the neighborhood, neighbors! It's been a couple months, I think, since you moved into that long vacant apartment across the divide between our buildings and I've been meaning to welcome you properly. Actually, I tried to do that a few weeks ago while working in one of my front gardens. I stood up and smiled and said, "Good afternoon" but you only looked at me as if I was speaking a foreign language. And although I do speak a foreign language, I'm fairly certain I wasn't speaking it at that moment. No matter, though...welcome!

I must say, you are a lively bunch, aren't you? For the longest time, I thought it was just one person who had moved into that quaint one-bedroom apartment so similar to my own. Imagine my surprise when I saw your girlfriend/wife/sister cooking naked the other day through my kitchen window into your own. I was cooking spaghetti...she was frying chicken.

Last night, I thought I was only imagining things when I started to hear the yelling coming from your apartment and was surprised to learn, when the pots and pans started to be thrown from your kitchen into your living room, that it wasn't at all a dream, only a truly disturbed reality. It was hard to know how many people were really involved as it seemed a whole pack seemed to pace quickly from one end of the apartment to the other like a herd of cats. Although I didn't need to be told that there were really people in your apartment, one of your guests seemed to think it necessary to remind us all that he was "still here, nigga" over and over and over again. One thing was clear, due to the ever elevating volume of those talking...someone was about to get the "ass whooped on they own proptee." Oh, this can't be good...

I also wanted to thank you for the extremely sporty display of masculine virility last night as you and your bare-chested brother were sparring in the backyard. With the two of you knocking the fuck out of each other, it was very much like an African Spartacus! Two lithe and fit young men, locked in a death-grip dance with each other, occassionally punctuated by the satisfying wet "shunk" sound as a fist came into perfect contact with a face. It was truly inspirational, especially when additional articles of clothing were shed!

Also, I wanted to come clean and admit that yes, I was the one who called the police on you last night. Although I would normally consider 11pm on a weeknight to be fairly early for a "party," I was exceptionally tired from a long day at work that had started at 5am. Plus, the sound of a screen door being kicked in can be rather unsettling, don't you agree? I mean, I understand that someone pissed you off by referring to you as a "fuckin' faggot" and that your brother was acting like a "ho ass nigga" who couldn't "bring it real," but was it really necessary to punctuate your point by wretching over the edge of the balcony into the bushes? I must say, it made for quite the lawn ornament when I left for work this morning.

In short, please take note: we have a very nice neighborhood. We have an exceptionally nice block. It's quiet, peaceful and populated by very nice people, most of whom cause no problems for anyone else and, from time to time, can even be seen engaging in charming conversations on the sidewalks while walking their dogs. As the newest addition to our neghborhood, it's important that you know that last night display of "crazy" was entirely unacceptable. I may have been the one to call the cops last night, but I assure you that I am not the only person on our street who has no reservations about doing so when things get out of hand.

Sincerely,

Dean

Monday, November 2, 2009

Yarn-Over 2010

So, this was what I was originally going to write about yesterday before the blog post morphed into the criticality event that it was. I'm talking about Yarn-Over 2010, which is the name I have opted to use for the hypothetical yet entirely possible trek that I may embark upon wherein I will buy no yarn for an entire year. Get it? Yarn...Over...no yarn all year? Maybe it's just me...

Anyway, it's an idea that I've been hacky-sacking around in my head for a few months now. The impetus for such an insane idea comes from a few places. It started originally as a budget-control device. In many areas of my life, I tend to be an all-or-nothing kind of guy. Pair that with borderline obsessive-addictive personality and you've got the perfect recipe for the ultimate stash builder...which is exactly what I have done. As many of my fellow knitters (though certainly not all), I have acquired more yarn than I could possibly use in my own lifetime. If you think I'm kidding or exaggerating, then allow me to reassure that I am doing neither.

It's a beautiful stash, too. You just have no idea unless you've seen it lately. My total yarn reserve has grown to such a size that I have long been trading out the lower quality acrylics, fluffy faux mohairs and mal-chosen bouclés from my early knitting adventures, giving them away to anyone who would have them and filling in the newly liberated space with the trappings from two visits to the Loopy Ewe, some recent knit night acquisitions and my sizeable booty (giggle) from the Strange Folk Festival, where I made out like a bandit.

The other motivation for Yarn-Over 2010 is as a stash busting exercise, something every knitter has claimed to have done or is in the process of doing or will be doing soon...with very mixed results. Some are very good at it...some knitter's claim to not even have a stash to bust at all! I, however, have only thought of busting said satash and have never been very good at it. I'm not a very fast knitter, although I am diligent and persistent. Unfortunately, that means that I do tend to acquire way more yarn than my output requires.

My yarn income and my financial output have long been at odds and it is time to put myself to the test. Thus was born Yarn-Over 2010. It's still a work in progress but here's that I've come up with thus far:1) Beginning January 1st, 2010, I will no longer be permitted to purchase yarn for a period of 12 months. To be clear, "purchase" is meant to mean any exchange of any monetary unit via cash, credit or check in exchange for any amount of spun fiber in any form including but not limited to skeins and hanks.
2) This does include sock yarn, long believed to not count towards one's stash consideration as it is, well, sock yarn. I've never understood where that distinction came from and it seems rather random and arbitrary. Given that I'm also working on the Sock Yarn Blanket, I've been very happy with this distinction but the truth can no longer be denied...sock yarn does count as stash and will continue to throughout Yarn-Over 2010.

3) Yarn may still be acquired through other means if such means present themselves. This means that I can still accept sock yarn bits and leftovers for the blanket and can take free yarn that people may be giving away, as they sometimes do. I can also acquire new yarn by trading yarn already found in my stash as this does not increase the total amount of yarn, only equalizes it from one form to another.

And that does it! Don't buy any new yarn for all of 2010...simple as that. The hard part has nothing to do with running out of yarn or even worrying that I might, as I know that I currently own enough to keep me going for much longer than that. The challenge lies in simply doing nothing. All I have to do is not buy yarn.

Keep in mind, Yarn-Over 2010 doesn't start until January 1st, which means that any purchases made between now than then don't count. Obviously, it's a bit defeatist if I go out and spend hundreds of dollars in preparation as, in a sense, the preparation has already been done. Besides, I've already put my only credit card into a block of ice in my freezer.

So...anyone crazy enough to join me? If not you, then maybe your other knitting friends and internet buddies? Tell them there's this crazy dude who isn't going to buy yarn for a whole year in effort to reign in his budget and bust his stash. Maybe we could start a Ravelry group...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Criticality Event

I recently wrote an e-mail to a long lost friend with whom I've recently been put back in touch. We were taking turns writing back and forth, offering up missives of digestible length in an effort to bring each other up to speed on the events of our respective lives over the course of the past fifteen years, the approximate length of time hat we've been lost to one another. It's no easy task, as you might well imagine but neither is it particularly difficult. It has caused me to inadvertently put into perspective the "big events" of the past decade and a half. You know and event qualifies as "big" when, as you write your narrative morsel, the event effortlessly sneaks into the prose. Those events that do not, are not.

So, what qualifies as "big" in my corner of the world? The end of my relationship with Erik, to whom I was briefly engaged to marry and the subsequent loss of touch with my own reality; meeting and forging an unbreakable attachment to my best friend Kort; my interstate relocation from Michigan to St. Louis; my doomed-from-the-start relationship to Joshua which led me down the road; my time at Vintage Vinyl; the winding and self-revelatory path of Adam.

And, of course, my sojourn to France.

It was while writing about this latter experience that I realized, after having written the description, a truth that I have long felt but, heretofore, had not been capable of finding the words to express it. So long 'til now, it merely felt like some small, delicate form of insanity teasing at my mind. What it really is...I still am not sure.

What I'm referring to occured upon my return to the States after a 13-month long stay in the land of wine and bread and berets and wine and cold winters and tiny cars and song and dance and...you guessed it, wine. I came back, strongly against my will and only out of a sense of necessity. When I came back, I retook possession of my old car, moved back into my old apartment, resumed my old job and my classes at my old school. I slipped back into a life that, for me, had, in a sense, been put on hold in my absence. Unfortunately, for everyone else, life continued, shit happened, leaves fell, a baby was born, snow melted and flowers bloomed.

Old car, old apartment, old job, old school...and when I slipped back in, like a car on the exressway merging back onto traffic from the roadside rest stop, I was a man one-minute forever out of synch with my own surroundings. Sometimes in advance and sometimes, more often than not, behind...but never quite in tune. In all honesty, this feeling absolutely persists to this day. I have never, ever been the same since my return. Europe changed me, international travel changed me, exposure to everything else that exists in this world and the innumerable possibilties that exist...it has all changed me. Maybe we could call it irreversible jetlag.

I think my return from France was my personal criticality event. I've never come back from it. I think I was unhinged just ever so slightly because of it. I've never been quite as focused, I've never been quite in synch, I've always been slightly outside the event horizon of my own life ever since. I wish I could say that I wouldn't ever change it...but that wouldn't be quite what I mean.

I guess what I mean to say is sometimes, I just wish I had never come back.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Aged Beer, New Trees

Just a quick update due to this awesome picture:


This past Sunday, my knit friend Megan and I participated the the Schlafly Bottleworks "Aged Beer, New Trees" event wherein, for $5, you drink beer and plant trees. It's fairly self-explanatory. Well, I am apparently super-buff when I drink beer and plant trees, as evidenced by this photo taken with Megan's phone. I either need to drink more beer, plant more trees...or get the same phone she has. Damn...

Gridlocked

Have you ever found yourself with so many projects-in-progress that you simply cannot, under any circumstances, make any discernible progress on a single one of them? I'm terming this phenomenon "gridlocked" and I've got it bad. I feel just pressured and pulled in all directions, you understand, towards all projects as if they were little children all demanding all my attention, all at the same time! I feel absolutely squeezed into a tiny corner with respect to my ongoing knits and I've got a plan to break out of it.

My god, I think I'm losing it...I don't think I have that much left to lose. You might be asking yourself at this point (as I often do), "Holy buh-jeez, Knitta...why what ever could possibly have you just so flummoxed?! (I'm amazed I not only used but also correctly spelled 'flummoxed' in a sentence.) Well, let's reap a bit:

1) The Sock Yarn Blanket - Critical Level: LOW

This little ditty of a project is perpetually ongoing and causes me very little anxiety in so far as I knew, I just knew that it would take me a very long time to complete. In fact, this is the bosom I rest my weary needles on when the other children are screaming too loud. She is, however, getting larger (well, duh...) and, as such, takes up more space and weighs more. Trying to keep my cats off the blanket whilst in progress (whilst?!) is proving to be as much of a chore as turning the whole damn thing around when I finish I tiny row on a tiny square.

2) The Three Sisters Scarf #2 - Critical Level: MEDIUM

I am so neurotic...I don't even know who this is for. Seriously, I just wanted to make something with the Lavender Cliffs cone! The problem (and joy) of lace is that you have to pay attention to that you're doing, otherwise the whole damn thing goes to hell in a hand-woven hand basket. One wrong move and suddently you're wondering where that extra stitch came from at the end of the row. But I have so many episodes of television that I want to watch...

3) The Swallowtail Shawl - Critical Level: HIGH

Every damn time I dig into my knitting bag, it's there. Just there...sitting, curled up, one motif finished and waiting to move into the next. It's patient, it doesn't complain...and that's what bugs me! (I told you I was neurotic.) This poor thing has been waiting for so long to move into the next phase of its pattern that I simply must get back to it! I think a trip to the local library might be just thing to jump start back into it. Like its sister above, though...no recipient in mind. Just consider it lace exercise for the brain...

4) Diamondback Mitts test knit - Critical Level: MEDIUM

Even though Stephen West has already published his newest pattern and made it available via Ravelry, which I guess means the "test" portion of test knit has effectively been resolved, I still feel the need to finish the second mitt! Mitts, like gloves and socks, come in twos...you can't have just one. And no, I can't just turn the second one into a cool wristband! So, there it sits...I'm not crazy about the yarn, nor the US 8s...*sigh*...

5) Shivian's Diamondback Mitts - Critical Level: HIGH
These were started just last night...because I'm a masochist. My friend Shivian loved what he saw with the first Diamondback and asked for a pair in red and black. He's a great friend and they are just mitts...right? And surely I must have some red and some black...surely! How about pairing some chunky aran tweed in red with worsted black silk-cashmere blend? I swear I will never make these mitts again. Respect the pattern, yo!

6) Work Project IV - Critical Level: LOW

I knit these on lunch, when I'm not blogging. There's no pressure here, you nut!

None of the above even takes into account the encroaching holiday season, insidious though it is. I have discovered that, since becoming the knitter in the family, people have come to harbor deep-seated though nary expressed expectations that surely there will be a hand-knit item under the tree-menorah-secret-santa-gift-and-cake-table for them...surely. But I'm a deliberate knitter, not known for my speed but rather by the precision and intricacy worthy of a clock maker. Take into account that I have never in my life truly been seized by the Christmas spirit. I resent the pressure put upon me by my family (especially) and society (in general) to wallop my butt into a deep rut of debt in the name of giving my step-mom yet another gift basket of bath stuff and my father a gift certificate to the tobacconist (especially now that I'm a non-smoker). There's less pressure with my mom and it's non-existent between my sister and I...which is really the greatest Christmas present of all! God bless ya, sis!

Ahh, Christmas...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Breast, 2001

The painting you see to the right was meticulously painted in Las Vegas during the summer of 2001 by my best friend, soulmate, confidante and accomplice. Courtny Richter. I have forever loved this work, much as I love its creator. Although the piece is not mine and I do not own it, I hang it proudly in my living room. It's a small piece...only 12" x 12"...but the reactions it illicits and the conversations it has started are priceless.

Courtny is the same woman who recently created my gorgeous, rock star ring from a plain sheet of sterling silver. The ring is merely the most recent incarnation of the creative energy she seems to channel to well. I think the painting was the first example of it that stands out in my memory. She is not a muse for me, but rather more a creative conductor. Like electricity, it often jumps from one of us to the other and back again. When we're together, silence often reigns in the room as we both become lost in our respective crafts.

She is a woman of a most excellent and outstanding character, a phenomenal mother, artist and friend. I am most blessed to have had her in my life for the past 15 years, give or take. I am beyond fortunate to call her my "wife."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Blog Imperative

It's been so long since my last blog entry that I have elected to forgo knitting during my lunch break today so that I might pull everything up to current. As I mentioned before, BK and little LoLo were staying with me all last week, which was awesome...except for a cold that set it around the same time. Lo got some new mitts in red but that was about the extent of the knitting I was able to accomplish. My world becomes very crowded when there are 2 adults, 1 child and 3 cats.

BK turned artisan jeweler a few years ago when she opted to move back to Michigan to raise Lo near her family. She's been working with beads and wire for a long time with great success and has recently moved into the realm of metal smithy. My chosen medium being soft fiber, I know very little about the field, but she's been going hog nutz for it recently with some very impressive results:I have the extreme pleasure of calling this fine piece of metal work mine. Completely wrought from scratch by her nimble and capable hands, the inner ring is a sterling silver spinner, caught by the outer oxidized and hammered ring. I can hardly believe this whole thing started out as nothing more than a small sheet of metal! I think it's very rock star...or Lord of the Rings. I love it either way!

In other knitting news, I was recently approached by the formidable Stephen West, an up and coming knit designer, to test knit one of his new patterns, the Diamondback Mitts. He just released the pattern via Ravelry and I'm pleased to have been one of the first peeps to churn it out!In other knitting news, I came across some close-out cones of Brown Sheep Co.'s Nature Spun Fingering via the DBNY website and snatched 'em up like mad. Two cones, one in lavender, another in sage. They were ridiculously cheap (in my head) and I love them both like a new puppy. I haven't worked with the silvery-sage green one yet, but I did start a lace scarf with the lavender:
This is the Three Sisters Scarves #2 pattern...and yes, there are three patterns that make up the trio. I don't know who the three sisters are, but I'm sure you could find out if you're really dying to know. I haven't been so motivated. I do enjoy this pattern, though...it's a fairly simple collection of YOs and both R and L leaning decreases which gives a nice, neat lace motif.


Let's see...what else? The Swallowtail shawl is stalled in between pattern motifs at the moment. I need to make sure I'm in a space where I'm able to concentrate properly on the change in the chart...and I've been a bit distracted lately.

The Sock Yarn Blanket is, of course, perpetually ongoing. A few more squares have succeeding in their infiltration efforts, but not really enough of them to warrant a new photo.

I'm hoping to make a long weekend trip to the Chicago area before winter really hits...although, being north and being Chicago, winter could really hit at any moment. I have several friends who live there and I have never, ever visited any of them. This includes Jeffer, Shivian and boyfriend, Rachel with new baby Zane...plus I want to yarn crawl a bit. That may not be in the budget, though...

Here's a crazy thought! I have a HUGE...stash of yarn. ;-) Do you think it would be possible for a knitter, any knitter...to make 2010 a year without yarn purchases? Put yourself in my shoes and think about it, really think about it...because I am. Remember, I have a large enough stash to last a whole year...definitely! But could I go a whole 12 months without purchasing any new yarn?