Monday, January 30, 2006

it's my turn

I've been tagged for a meme. Actually, the same one by both greyhoundchaos and Terri D. I'm ready for my closeup, Mr. DeMille. Here goes:

Four jobs in your life [best to worst]:
1) Writer -- I'm now doing my thing full-time, but have also done freelance entertainment writing, which has its own rewards and pitfalls.

2) Adjunct university professor -- Last year I worked at my alma mater, teaching English and screenwriting. I also taught as a grad student. Ah, the youth of today.

3) Landscaper and house painter -- You know, I actually like this kind of work. I did it back home in Ohio, but imagine the good times I could've had doing it out here in all this sunshine.

4) Coast to coast office temp -- Anyone have a sharp object I can throw myself on?

Four movies you could watch over and over:
1) Carmen Jones -- I just loooves me some Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte together. I so wish they'd been a couple in real life. Or at least that Harry was my dad.

2) Stranger Than Paradise -- Jim Jarmusch at his finest. Years ago when I taught College Comp II: Film, I drove students crazy by using this film, which is hard to categorize and sometimes even hard to know why you're watching. I love it.

3) Angels in America -- A masterpiece. Don't know what Tony Kushner was smoking when he wrote it or what Mike Nichols was drinking when he directed, but this film is the shiznit.

4) What the Bleep Do We Know!? -- A mind-bending exploration of quantum physics and spirituality that demands multiple viewings.

Four TV shows you love to watch:
1) "Sanford and Son"
2) "Mary Tyler Moore"
3) "All in the Family"/"The Jeffersons" -- Since The Js is a spin-off, figure I can list both.
4) "City Confidential"
I also love HGTV to death and will watch whatever comes on.

Four places you have lived:
1) Toledo, Ohio
2) New York, New York
3) Harlem -- it's a separate city, take my word for it.
4) Los Angeles

Four places you have been on vacation:
1) London
2) Toronto
3) Barbados
4) Bahamas

Four websites you visit daily:
1) Mr. Stevens
2) Craftster -- I need an intervention. I really really need an intervention.
3) New York Times
4) craigslist

Four of your favorite foods:
1) Pizza
2) Anything with ginger
3) Peanut butter cookies
4) Banana nut bread
No. I don't have anything against carbs.

Four places you'd rather be right now:
1) With my husband, leaving Nevada and heading for Arizona
2) Knitting on any beach in Barbados
3) Visiting Schmin, my dad, and my grandmother in Toledo
4) Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro -- This would mean I have money, time, and stamina.

Four bloggers you are tagging:
I think I'm supposed to tag new bloggers, so here are some folks I found while traveling the knitting highway. The first is Lori, my buddy from WeHo SnB. Her blog's great. Do check it out.
1) my good friend Lori
2) jemadiknits
3) Elizabeth
4) halfwaynowhere

This meme business is hard work!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

less bitchin', mo stitchin'

(But maybe a kvetch or two.)

Let's get down to brass tacks and take a look at some things I've knitted. Yes, the photos are crappy. I used a disposable, excuse me, one time use, camera. And then there was Lacoste the aforementioned surly photo boy at Walgreens. I like to call him Lacoste the Insolent, as in Ivan the Terrible. He put all the pics on my disc upside down, twice, and told me I could just turn them around on my computer at home. Well, yeah, of course I can. Or, you can do your job and put them on the disc the right way. Anyhow, surly people who look at you like you're pitiful when you try to assert your right to a decent existence scare me. Even if they're only 17. So he won. Which means I lost some of what little resolution I had because I had to reorient the pics. So bear with me.

This little lovely is a feather and fan shawl that I did for my friend Andi's mom. Her mom's name is Flavia, which I find cause enough to bestow a handmade gift, and she's one of the nicest people I've ever met. Salt of the Earth. And funny. Last year she began a heartbreaking battle with a rare form of lung cancer (she's a non-smoker). I'd just learned to knit and figured maybe I could give a bit of comfort, so I offered to make a shawl. All I knew how to do was knit and purl, so off I went to Stitch Cafe to try to find a pattern. The owner, Lisi Grinstein, was making a little feather and fan dealydo herself. Bless her, she took the time to sit down and show me how to do it. I bought the yarn from her store, the wondrous Premiere from Classic Elite, 50/50 pima cotton and tencel (I don't know what tencel is but it knits so nice I could eat it). I chose red because it's happy, and Flavia approved because she is of Chinese descent and we all know that's a culture with enough good sense to deem red a lucky color. The Flavia Shawl turned out beautiful, with a mistake or two here and there, which I've also heard is lucky. Like the incredible person she is, Flavia wrote me a thank-you card so kind and thoughtful that it almost made me cry. I'm happy to be able to say that today she is doing well.

Another view. This photo was provided by my good friend Ellen (aka LA El).

Here, me modeling (picture a woman of style, like Flavia, instead of a chick in twisty pants).

Moving along to birthdays, I tried to cover maybe one too many last year, but I managed to hit a few with my sanity intact. One of them was my good friend Carol's (I know, everybody's a "good friend," but what can I tell you? I know a lot of fantabulous people). Her birthday was in August. It was a landmark birthday that I'm not sure she'd want me blabbing all over the Internet but then that right there probably tells you she didn't turn 21 (Hi, Carol!). For this birthday of a friend I've known and loved for 10 years, I chose silk. Fiesta Yarns' La Luz in Wild Oak. Oh, the pleasure of fondling this stuff. Carol wanted light blue and at first I picked Blue Sky Alpacas' Alpaca Silk in Ice (pale blue). Perfect name because it left me cold. It's a fine and upstanding yarn but not landmark birthday caliber. Plus few colors bore me more than pale blue. Nice to knit with something else, but on its own? I'm sorry but it ain't real excitin'. I tried to knit it in their free Opera Scarf pattern but found it a lot of work with very little payoff. I frogged it and stashed the yarn for another day. Then I found this Fiesta stuff. It reminded me of the ocean surrounding my favorite place on the planet, Barbados. Ahhh. I hoped it would ferry Carol back to happy times in her native home, Jamaica. I used a simple eyelet lace stitch and size 13 needles for a quick 'n dirty knit. Bellissimo! Here it is:

All that beauty. I gave it to Carol on her birthday (I like to sign birthday cards: This gift would've been on time, but it's from me!). She loved it. Wore it proudly. Then something HORRIBLE happened to it, which I will photograph and show you in the near future. Make sure to have a box of tissues handy.

This here's a friendly duo I made for Mr. Stevens, just because. I'd already done the set you see the Bubba wearing several posts ago and since they're two of my favorite menfolk, I like to dress them alike to mark them as my minions. The color of Steven's set isn't as reminiscent of a trip to the twa-lay (French for toilet) as it appears to be. It's Cascade Pastaza and I've got it in a different color to make a third set for a fella who shall remain nameless until I get it done. It'll be a minute because I'm fried on the 2x2 ribbing right now.

This is what happened the night I decided I am an artiste. But doesn't a candle in a photo say "I have vision"? And check the rocks. I collect rocks. By that I mean I pick them up and bring them home from all over the place. Don't ask me why. As an artiste, I thought it would be very powerful to pose two of my favorite things, rocks and knitting. I call it, "Still Life With Rocks." I'll leave you to your admiration.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

sisters are doing it for themselves

Not a song I liked, in spite of the dynamic duo singing it.

Here I was, lazing around after a writing day, thinking, Geez, how hard could it be to post a freakin' link? Why not call in the Big Gun when I know I really need her? Truth be told I hadn't even tried to link. This is a shame, because one of the big lessons I told myself I'd take from knitting is to practice. Have a little patience, maybe a glass of Jim Beam, read instructions carefully, and dive in. Mark Victor Hansen suggests we make it a point to learn one new thing a month. My thing for this month is linking and I believe I've got it licked. Funny how after you learn something you see how much time you wasted being intimidated by it.

be careful what you walk for

Ah. Life. Yesterday I said to Natalie, You never know how the day is gonna turn out when you wake up in the morning, do you? Nope, she said back to me, It's pretty much a surprise.

Yesterday was the day that my car bit the dust. All this talk of walking the neighborhood. For the time being, I don't have much choice.

I went to a motivational seminar after church on Sunday. Mark Victor Hansen, co-author of the endless and everywhere Chicken Soup for the Soul series, gave us listeners a little talk on how to manifest our financial desires. I went through my big self-help phase about ten years ago. That's the phase where you buy and read all these books, attend all the talks and seminars you can afford, subscribe to O-like magazines, and take in as little of it in as possible. Because what you are really addicted to is the seeking. Not the answers. I still, however, firmly believe self-help has its place. And because I didn't have any plans for Sunday after church and am looking to kick hermitude to the curb whenever appropiate, I went. The seminar was free and good. There were hints that we should sign up for some of Mark Victor's paid seminars so we could learn how to become One Minute Millionaires (the title of his new book) et cetera et cetera. But I am sharper than I was ten years ago and I know that if I just follow what he said on Sunday (mostly the kind of common sense that we all struggle to apply because it would make life just too darn simple and we'd be free to embrace the happiness we're not sure we deserve: return phone calls in a timely fashion, never think "I can't," honor your ideas by writing them down along with your goals, practice staying in the moment, join up with people who are doing the things you want to do. In other words, Hey, try taking yourself seriously) I can have all the money I want. Sunday's talk was chicken soup enough for me. Lately, in my own life, I have seen specific examples of many of the things he discussed. Like this:

What we think is meant for our harm is most often meant for our good.

How many times did I think of myself as "suffering through" a walk to The Grove? But now that it's a necessity, I'm already used to doing it. That's handy. And living here at Chez Hotspot, which I wasn't too sure about at first. The building might be hot but so's the neighborhood. I can sneaker pimp all this: Fairfax library, Pan Pacific Park, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Citibank, Washington Mutual, Office Depot, Staples, Ralphs, Rite Aid, Walgreens (don't go to the photo department. There's a surly kid there named Lacoste, yes, like Izod, who will screw up your photo disc and not be the least bit sorry), Koo Koo Roo, Kinko's, K-Mart, Ross, Smart and Final, The El Ray, The Grove, IHOP, Suss, 2 post offices, the LaBrea Tar Pits, Baha Fresh, the SAG office, LACMA, Mani's Bakery, 20/20 DVD, the Goodwill, and Clover Nail Salon. I could go on, but you get it. Everything's here.

And so I am grateful. If my car had broken down while I was living in Hollywood like a fatted calf, walking would've made me feel like I was indeed headed for the slaughter.

I haven't forgotten my promises of talk of WeHo SnB. Mama needs to be able to post links to some of the fabulous people she's met there, and she don't know how to do that. So Mama's good friend Summer is going to help Mama out. When you start seeing links and buttons on this page, you'll know it was Summer to the rescue.

Friday, January 20, 2006

if you get down here earlier fool, you'll see even more ass

Last night was the weekly meeting of the West Hollywood Stitch 'n Bitch group at the Farmer's Market. I missed last week, having found myself unshowered and in full slug mode at 6 o'clock. The group gathers at 7. I prefer to walk rather than drive since a) finding a decent parking space when I get home is a pain in the ass, b) I'd like to show some concern for the environment and not be driving 1/4 mile distances, and c) not only do I live in a room, but I live in a room shrewdly. In other words, I've managed to make everything in my room available within arm's reach of, what else? my bed. So, exercise. Don't get much. Walking the neighborhood rather than driving it is my only hope. But last week I wasn't up to walking. I was up to driving. But I hadn't seen the Vikings (they really are Vikings. Viking Motors on Pico in Santa Monica, where they speak Viking and everything and if you're into Nordic beef I'd say get yourself a 15-year-old Volvo like me and go.) so I was still down to 1 brake light which isn't good with all the maniacs driving around LA, myself included. And you know, if you haven't taken a shower by, say, 4 o'clock, the chance that you will shower, get dressed, and go out someplace optional is pretty much shot.

But yesterday I was bound by honor and determination to make it, walking, no less, to SnB. That I actually went shows I ate my Wheaties, because what a day it was.

Schmin's birthday threw me for a loop. When one has a kid at 18, it does cross one's mind that 36 will be The Golden Age. The Golden Age at which it will be time to release said kid into either college or the streets and maybe one should care which one, and deep down, one does, but mostly one stays busy dreaming of The Golden Age at which one will be free. Now I've gone and shot right past The Golden Age and I do indeed find myself free, but free to what?

Life is what it is, always. At its essence, it's only Breath, isn't it? Just Breath and what happens in between. Sure. We put all this value on things: cars, houses, the caliber of friends we make, money, political beliefs, whatever. But it all comes back to the Breath. Everything else is arbitrary. At Agape, we call it the Breath of God. Without it... well, that's not something I'd like to think about. I'm finally starting to get that the core of any spiritual practice takes you back to the Breath for a reason. If you can get back there, you can get back to what matters, you can do this thing that's always stumped me. I think it's called "staying in the moment."

I don't look back with much regret, but I do see where I could've done more staying in the moment, because now the moment's gone. Me and Schmin and all those people, my mother and nearly all her family, who have now passed. Yesterday I may not have regretted, but I did wish. I wished I'd paid a little more attention. I wished I'd appreciated more. I wished I'd spent a little less time dreaming of The Golden Age and a little more time being present when Schmin was small and the two of us were growing up together.

I took all this business with me to downtown LA, where the peeps and the freaks hang out, day and night. Seems I made a little illegal u-turn one day and a cop stopped me and gave me a citation. Seems on that same day, my tags were expired (What can I say? We moved. I lost the renewal notice. Stuff happens.). It also seems that yesterday was the last day to go down to the Los Angeles Municipal Court Metropolitan Branch and handle the whole affair before the pigs put a warrant out for my arrest. Okay. Maybe not a warrant. But in LA, The Man has a way of tripling and quadrupling traffic fines that'll make you wish you could just go to jail. The LA Municipal Court is on Hill Street. On the way down, I had a moment of pure illumination. I realized the show "Hill Street Blues" could've been based on LA's Hill Street, even though it was set in an unnamed city. Back then I didn't care about Los Angeles. From Toledo, New York City was the only worthy perch. Any big city show not set in New York got transplanted there in the annals of my memory, with the possible exception being "Streets of San Francisco," the title coming right out and making the location too obvious to blur.

So there I was on Hill Street, walking into the courthouse, and the number of folks casually hanging out in front did seem high. Walking on, I heard a clarifying remark. Two young Mexican guys, coming out of the building, one elbowing the other and saying, "If you get down here earlier fool, you'll see even more ass." Hot damn. The LA municipal court is a meatmarket. These are things I need to know. People come from the hinterlands to visit me. Sometimes they want to know where to meet LA's hotties, and since I'm on a budget...

The courthouse, where I didn't have to attend actual court, thank God. Turns out 10 bucks and a smog check will keep me out of the pokey.

With my eye on SnB, I went about the rest of the day's errands. When I got there, I lived the things I had thought of earlier, I stayed in the moment, and had a lovely time.

Next up, WeHo SnB! In the meantime, Let's be careful out there.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

my boy Schmin Posted by Picasa

lookout world, the schminster is 21

Schmin, besides that you are the only fruit my loins will ever bear, here are 13 reasons why I love you (I tried to narrow it down to ten, but considering that I could think of at least 10,000, I figure 13 is pretty good):

13) At a party once, when the dean of one of UCLA's colleges tried to tempt you with the "amazing and innovative programs" his school has to offer, you said to him, Sorry man, that's not my thing. At least you're honest.

12) We have shared the nickname Schmin since you were 7.

11) You made me friends. When we were in grad school at Columbia, living in our Columbia apartment near the campus, I'd see classmates and acquaintances and duck to the other side of the street, as is my way. But you, ever gregarious and ready to buddy up, made a point of busting me by yelling to people, Hey, how you doing? Here's my mom. She says hi!

10) You started your own catering business, Kid in the Kitchen, in 9th grade. You single-handedly served school functions and PTA meetings. You took it in stride when people accused you of passing off your mother's baked ziti and salad (and when you'd come home, we'd get big yuks out of that while me and Steven would hit you up for the leftovers).

9) You've always been generous, offering up your pennies so that I never had to rob your piggy bank for gas money.

8) You illuminated my life with a single question. When I expressed anger over having to return my new Mac because the CD drive didn't work, you said to me, "You didn't want a broken one, did you?"

7) You starred as MLK in a first grade tribute. You delivered one hell of an "I Have a Dream," even though you didn't have any front teeth.

6) You will happily claim anyone as a relative. You have no truck with particulars like who is the daughter of which aunt or the father of what cousin. I could show up with a Ukrainian baby and you would immediately go around telling everyone it's your brother.

5) You didn't gripe when I saddled you with the hokey title "Lad of Honor" at my wedding. And when it was time for you to hold my flowers, you did it without (too much) exaggerated masculinity.

4) You so easily loved the Bubba.

3) The two of us together can ride a joke until the wheels fall off.

2) Your grandmother may have doubted many things, but she never doubted that you adored her.

1) You could have made me a 35-year-old grandma, but you didn't.

Happy 21, Schmin. Right now it's killing me that's it's all gone by so fast.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

the french horn has not gone home to the french

It's a week of sho nuff birthdays. Steven's and MLK's on Sunday. Natalie's (and MLK's recognition) on Monday. Schmin's is Thursday. Then on the 29th I've got my dad.

While I didn't knit for Nat or Dr. King, I made washcloths for Steven and included them in a spa kit and I'm currently working on a k2/p2 ribbed scarf with a matching hat for Schmin. I interrupted Lake Erie to start Schmin's stuff today. Okay. So I'm not the most organized and on-time mother, but it's not my fault that I started Schmin's gift so late. I'd ordered Paton's Up Country from that Mary Maxim website and wouldn't you know it took them almost 2 weeks to write and tell me they didn't have the charcoal color I wanted? Shit. All they had was Silver Mist or whatever the hell color it is. Schmin's favorite colors are black, dark gray, and cream, in that order, and I was not about to pass off any Silver Mist on him for his 21st birthday. That's a big birthday, you know? You should get what you want. Bubba's got the strip club covered. All I wanted was to be on duty with the charcoal gray. So his gift will be late and the bizarre thing is I think he's actually looking forward to having something made by me.

He seems to like me and Steven lately. He's never had beef with the Bubba, who joined the parental shift late and has a level of finesse I haven't seen before or since. But Steven and I, who were dumb enough to go around saying things like, Hey, you have to get out of bed to pass that science test. And, You're 19, is it too much to ask that you think about getting a job? And, What do you mean you're going to take in some TV because you missed the bus? Well, we were the enemy.

But a couple days ago when I expressed awe that Steven is 40, which means that for all intents and purposes, so am I, Schmin said, Yeah, but he's so young. You too, Ma. Both of you do everything and go places, you're having fun. I hope when I'm 40 I'm still young like you guys.

This could be commentary on both my and Steven's level of maturity (or lack thereof). I mean, look who's giving the compliment. A very soon to be 21-year-old who has so far shown himself solely dedicated to finger-popping across the country. But I'd prefer to take it as proof that we still live and dream and savor. Because we do. And finger-popping or no finger-popping, Schmin is an intelligent, intuitive person. Maybe he sees us as we really are.

I can't speak for Steven, but so much of who I am is who I was. Sandra Cisneros wrote it in one of her Woman Hollering Creek stories, what people don't realize about turning 7 or 8 or 9 or 40 is that you're still all the ages you were before you turned the new age.

I thought a lot about this yesterday, when our good friends Dean and Efuru invited my friend V and me to watch LA's King Day Parade at their house. They live right on the parade route, so all we had to do was pitch a few chairs near their lawn. I figured it wasn't too much to stop and acknowledge a man who, when you think about it, definitely deserved to chum around with Jesus, had they walked the earth at the same time. I was watching the parade, having a funky good time, happy to see so much inclusion -- from Japanese business organizations to Black churches to Mexican non-profits to Chinese martial arts groups to the Hari Krishnas -- when the high school marching bands would come by and my attention would trail after them until they were out of sight. Especially the girls. And when there was a drill team, well.

Seeing those groups of young twirling, dancing, golden girls ricocheted me back to 9th grade. Sucky 9th grade. And all the sucky grades after 9th grade. The thing is movement has never been my strong suit. I love to dance but I've got a misfiring synapse. The action between my brain and my hips is broken. When I went out for 9th grade cheerleading, the squad leader took one look at me, pompoms flailing this way and that, and told me to go home. A colored girl with no rhythm is like a fish with a bicycle.

While I kept thanking The God of My Understanding that now at least I can knit, V was on the lookout for the French horn. The French horn was her baby back in high school band. She was the little girl with the big horn. When the first band came by, boy were we excited. It was a pretty good sized band with crisp uniforms and an impressive array of instruments. But no French horn. By the fifth or sixth band, we gave up hope. This made me feel sadder than I usually do that this generation of kids is so different from ours. Things have changed so much that I can hardly begin to relate. My usual solution is to pretend no one under 21 exists. And now America's youth had gone and abandoned the French horn, a perfectly respectable and fine sounding instrument.

After a while I pulled out Lake Erie and attempted a few rows, basked in other aspects of the parade. There was Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who's got to be kicking the hell of out 70 and walks the entire parade route in stilettos. There was the hottie hot hot mayor of Los Angeles, Anthony Villaraigosa, pictured above shaking hands with V and me (right before he reached Efuru, who clobbered him with a kiss). There was a big-butt lady who literally showed her ass, prompting someone in the crowd to remark, She's giving a new meaning to the word "parade." There was even a float from our church, Agape. But none of it was enough to stop me watching the dancing girls, wondering how they do it like that, and V from scoping for the French horn.

Near the parade's end, we declared it good, which it was, and just as we were about ready to fold up our chairs and go home there came the famous Dominquez High School Marching Band, clad, ironically, in black and gold, my high school colors. Born to headline, Dominguez featured dancing girls kicking so high you'd have thought they were trying to send the angels a message, and there, first row third from the left, teasing the remaining sunshine, a French horn.

Monday, January 16, 2006

happy birthday, nat-o-lee

Knit up a poodle outfit and look this cute in it, I dare you.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

15 january 1966

happy appearance day, mr. stevens

Really, it's impossible to adequately celebrate someone who's meant the world to you since way before you knew what the world was. Twenty-five years.

High school. College. Grad school. Adulthood. Birth. Parenthood. Death. Albums. Tapes. CDs. Haircuts. Hair loss. Hair color. Bills. Cars. Groceries. Apartments. Secrets. Lies. Fists thrown. Money shared. Cold wars. Meltdowns. Love fests. Dancing. Singing. Crying. Drowning. Listening. Vowing. Running. Flying. Careening. Company. Parties. Jobs. Foodstamps. Men. Letters. Poems. Phone calls. Visits. Rites. Rituals. Routines. Cities. States. Distance. Closeness.

If anyone should ever write Steven's life story, I'd beg to include the following:

When I was young and fighting with my baby daddy, he kicked me out with nothing but a fine-toothed comb. Steven got his sister to agree to let me live with her in case I couldn't find my own place, took me to JC Penney and bought me panties on his charge card.

Even though he HATES being called Steve and will cut you if you even try it, when my mother called him Steve, he never once blinked.

One day he gave me a thousand dollars and he wasn't even rich.

He lives with grace, gusto and gratitude, never rolling over, when other men would.

If Steven loves you, there's no way you can not know it.

He comforted me through every corndog boyfriend I thought I couldn't live without.

He thought I was cute before I had the good sense to wax my eyebrows.

He got me my first job out of high school, at Pizza Hut, and when our boss wanted to fire me for averaging 20 minutes to wipe down a table, he gently broke the news that I'd better speed it up.

He believes beyond all reason that I can accomplish every dream I've ever had.

We looked for Schmin on Steven's birthday (he came four days later).

Steven can dance like you would not believe.

He remembers my mother with the same love and longing that I do.

He hitched me and the Bubba in wholly matrimony.

He taught me how to be a generous partner, so that the wholly matrimony might stick.

Steven is Schmin's Godfather.

Steven is Schmin's Godfather and he raised him as his own son.

When my asymmetrical department store haircut came out like a sideways mohawk and I went to him crying, he marched me back to the store and demanded my money back. Look at her, he said to the stylist and the manager, Does this look like a good haircut to you?

The kids at his first library job called him Mr. Stevens instead of Mr. Steven. That tickled us. It still does.

He laughed so hard at my Flori Roberts makeover that I couldn't cry about it.

He's the only person who's ever shared my mother.

Women shaped his world and he's not afraid to say it.

He went to more parent/teacher conferences than I ever did.

We lived together most of our adult lives and never ran out of things to talk about.

When we met in 9th grade science class, he had an afro befitting a prince.

He can draw.

He can sing.

We used to dodge the number 30 bus, the one the cool kids rode, to duck into St. Vincent dePaul's to get our wardrobe on.

My God. Steven was there when Schmin took his first steps. He held out his arms and Schmin fought his own legs to get to him. You'd better believe I love this man. You'd better believe it.

Happy 40th birthday, Steven. Your appearance on this earth, at this time, is evidence of grace.

Friday, January 13, 2006

you, sir, are my greatest fear

The Lake Erie Scarf gained me a run-in with Rocker Rod. I'd left the building to go see the Vikings to fix the brake lights on my Volvo when it dawned on me that perhaps I'd left my cable needle upstairs, in my apartment. I searched my knitting bag, didn't see it, and decided to swoop back up. Just as I stepped through the door to the building, even blinded by nearsightedness and not wearing my glasses, I could make out Rocker Rod's skinny figure down at the opposite end of the hallway. It helped that he was wearing the same crochet hat and bell bottoms he usually struts around in. I held up the peace sign because it seemed appropriate, then turned to dash up the stairs. But Rocker Rod is quick and knows how to project his voice and before I could disappear, he called out, Hey, do you have a phone I could use? Hmm. Actually, I have two phones and if that doesn't work, I have the capacity for you to send an e-mail. I can also drive you to whoever it is you need to speak to wherever, and probably stop you by a restaurant and get you something to eat along the way. But I won't. And so I said back to him, No. Sorry. The dejection in his voice was as soft and inviting as velvet. Oh. Okay. Thanks. That did give me pause because I am after all a feeling human being and I like to lend a hand when I can. But, goddamnit, I'm as old as I ever have been. If it's not okay to cut a leech like Rocker Rod off at the knees now, when will it be? I have a feeling I will be tested. These little moments with Rod are just a tease from God to see if I am ready to show up for myself. There will come a Great One. An emergency knock at the door or some hardcore trickery that will require me to think fast. On my feet, up close and personal. Am I ready?

At a place like Chez Hotspot, as we'll call the building in which I dwell, you can't have just one crazy. Only a host of them will do. Rocker Rod. Acid Andy. And Fuck You Joel.

Fuck You Joel is my exact, slam bang, kissin' cousin next door neighbor. There's no avoiding him. Or, at least, his voice.

I will now share with you my greatest fear. From an entire small town of fears, complete with a post-office, general store, and courthouse (it used to be a city of fears with skyscrapers and helicopters flying overhead, but I've been doing some work), my biggest fear of all, my fear among fears, is being left with only One Thing. One Thing to repeat, over and over again. One Thing to grumble about. One Thing to wake up in the middle of the night and moan about. One Thing to shout at passersby on the street. And, if you wanna put a cherry on top of that fear, to have that One Thing be PROFANE.

I am scared of Fuck You Joel. I'd like to think that I could take him. He's pushing sixty and I'm not. I'm taller than he is and I can still stand up straighter. I can also outlast him in terms of waking hours -- he's usually snoring by 10pm and I'm fully awake until at least 10:05. But Fuck You Joel rides a bike, like, almost everyday. He owns a car but that's no matter because all he does is move it from one side of the street to the other on alternate parking days. He straps on a gigantic set of old yellow headphones, straddles that bike with thighs I have noticed are developed, and rides like the mother effing wind. He comes back from wherever it is he goes hardly blowing a breath. I went hiking in Runyan Canyon the other day. I was panting like a suffocating dog just looking at the first hill.

So a physical match-up is out. Fuck You Joel's got it all over me. I'm a sly wench and wouldn't hesitate to fight dirty, but I fear I'd still lose, because FUCK YOU JOEL IS CRAZY.

I'm talking stone out of his cotton-picking mind. I know this because --

Fuck You Joel is down to One Thing.

If you've ever ridden the subway in New York City, or taken any form of public transportation any place on earth, you've likely run into a person who's down to One Thing. You know. The guy with the load in his pants who keeps hollering to women with
strollers --

Suck my dick!

Or the lady wearing hair rollers she put in in 1952, murmuring to herself --

I didn't want no gravy. Never said I wanted no gravy. Didn't want no gravy.

Oh, yeah. We've all seen them. My question has always been, How do they come up with the One Thing? How does it come down to just fellatio or gravy or that Jesus is coming back? And what, God save me, would be my One Thing?

Fuck You Joel's One Thing is boxes in the hallway. Yes, that's right. Boxes. In the hallway. He goes ballistic at the very thought. And the thought is all it takes because 99.9% of the time there are no boxes in the hallway. Boxes in the hallway dog his dreams. Boxes in the hallway haunt his daytime TV hours. Boxes in the hallway probably propel him to pedal faster and faster and faster on his bicycle (which would explain the thighs). I kid you not, as I type this, I hear him crying. Through his tears, the following:

I do not enjoy this. Stop doing that please.
I hurt! I hurt! Don't I hurt? Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!
Take the goddamn boxes out of the hallway and put 'em in the trash!
Do you not know where the trash is?
Fuck you! You cocksucker!
Fuck you! Go home! Go home if you don't know where the trash is!
What is wrong with you?! Fuck you!
You go to hell!
You're not the only one who lives here!
Other people live here, too!
Eat my asshole and die!
Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you! FUCK. YOU!

I am not slow. Just distracted sometimes. And so it took me a month of living here to realize that when Fuck You Joel is screaming like this, he's not on the phone, he doesn't have company. He's talking to himself. I figured it out when he was doing his act one day and his phone rang. He was busy with the boxes, so he let his machine pick up. And there they were. Two Fuck You Joels. One cordial, like the one I see and greet in the hallway, and the other, the demonic screaming box hater.

And he's fast, too. Today I could've sworn I saw him riding away from the building but I wasn't in my apartment more than five minutes when I heard him screaming from next door again.

It's torture, this Fuck You Joel thing. Not for me, because I have resolved to have peace no matter what. When Fuck You Joel gets going at 3am, I fire up my laptop and do a little knit net surfing, or pick up a UFO and get to work, or put on a DVD and watch it until I fall back to sleep. No skin off my nose. Not like I have to get up early to hustle for The Man. But for Fuck You, things must really be hard. He's living my nightmare for crying out loud, and trust me, it's getting to him.

One Thing. It's like the DJ starts scratching your record and forgets to stop. It's what makes Alzheimer's so frightening. I've been around people with Alzheimer's. Usually their caregivers spend a lot of time hoping their charges don't yell anything obscene during high tea. I try not to believe the fact that we're so often left with curse words and foulness, with bitterness over things as tiny and benign as boxes, says something about human nature. But sometimes the thought creeps in.

I take my prayer cues from Anne Lamott, who takes hers from Arthur Ashe, who once said about having AIDS, I have never prayed to win a tennis match, I will not pray to live now. Like Anne, maybe I'd go ahead and pray just a little, especially when it comes to the One Thing. Please, God, if you're listening, don't let me go around shouting about my vagina for the rest of my born days. Amen.

of lakes and fathers and mothers of different sizes

This is the start of what I've named the Lake Erie Scarf. It's actually Here and There Cables from the ubiquitous Scarf Style. I'm knitting it in good ol' Cascade 220 Heathers, a nice affordable merino wool. The pic wasn't taken under optimal lighting, so it's hard to see that the color is a forest green with blue undertones. It's called Spring Night, and it's lovely. It's my first time doing cables and I have to say, I dig it. I've named it Lake Erie because it's a gift for my father's birthday this month and his name is Eric. So naturally we've always called him Erie. I've never known the origin of this nickname, seeing as it was attached to him like an arm before I came along. When I was little I assumed it was because Toledo sits on Lake Erie and we liked that idea so much that we gave my father the name. His other nickname is Sonny, which my grandmother calls him, but to most people he's Erie.

Up until recently, I, too, was on the Erie bandwagon. Calling him Dad, except in jest, never worked for me. When I was born, he was 19. My mother was 15. Once my maternal grandmother got me straight on the fact that she was not my mama and I should reserve that name for my actual mother who I'd called by her nickname, Sister, and call her, my grandmother, Big Mama, I did manage to refer to my mother as Mama. Or, rather, Little Mama. So there was Little Mama and Big Mama but my father, having no one to go to bat for him as "Daddy," was Erie. That is, until about five years ago when one day I thought to stop and ask him, Do you like being called Erie? To which he replied that his name is Eric, and as such that's his preference. Now I go forward, Eric tumbling awkwardly from my mouth when I refer to him in the presence of our family. Or, Hello, Eric, when I call him on the phone, which makes me feel like the tax man. But Eric, Erie, Sonny or Dad, I love my father and for someone who had a kid when he didn't have a clue (I know what that's like), he did alright. Like everyone I love, he's not playing with a full deck, but I wouldn't trade him for the world.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

stop calling me. i look like a punk in front of the guys.

This crazy life, the Bubba once said to me, you never know where it's gonna take you.

Yesterday morning I was minding my own business (which I am always doing, let me tell it) when there came a knock at the door. Any knock at my door when I am minding my own business is ominous, because, I believe I've so far failed to mention, I live in a production studio. When I heard the knock, I was hearkened back to the night before, when:

There I was, minding my own business, doing a little cleaning and a lot of wondering what to do next. Giving some serious thought to going to bed even though it wasn't yet 10pm and I try to hold out until at least that hour so I don't feel so geriatric. So there comes this knock. I move to the door and cautiously open it. In doing so I am faced with Rod, the resident wannabe rock star. Rocker Rod holds out a bowl of cereal and says to me, I was wondering if I could maybe borrow some sugar. And some milk. I look at the cereal and say to Rocker Rod: I don't have sugar (which I don't) and I don't drink milk (also true, though I do drink and did have soy milk). Any normal person I would've gladly shared my soy milk with but we're talking about Rocker Rod. In just a few brief meetings I've pulled his card. What I see is a level of wannabedom so high that he floats along in his Lenny Kravitz cast-offs while people who are practically strangers are expected to provide what sustenance his 120 lb rock star frame needs to keep going. When Rocker Rod knocks on your door and asks for milk and sugar, even if you're standing there holding a bowl with sugar dusting the sides and a milk mustache decorating your upper lip, you still gotta say no. Because Rocker Rod is the gift that keeps on taking. Rocker Rod, I have seen, is an opportunist of the highest order. Anything at all can be an in. How do I know this?

Because three nights ago I was minding my own business. I was sitting at my desk and admiring how cozy the Bubba and I have made the little nest. I was surfing knitting websites, er, I mean earnestly working on one of my writing projects, when there was a knock at the door. I was playing my music pretty loud and I figured perhaps my next door neighbor had ratted me out to the building manager. Although this is hard to imagine because I do live a production studio where meetings, auditions and shoots sometimes spill out of the apartment next door, which a bunch of my neighbors rent and have decked out with the state-of-the-art video and editing equipment, thus making the entire building a part of the effort. What this means is mo' noise than a lil' bit, so who cares if sometimes I be jammin' at night? Plus, did I mention? The building manager is one of the heads of the studio (and a friend of the Bubba's which is how we got back in after a three year hiatus, but more on that another time, maybe). Still, I'm paranoid and figured The Man had come to get me. I opened the door, ready to defend myself, and there was Rocker Rod, who I recognized as crashing with another of the building's colorful characters, Acid Andy. And so Rocker Rod says to me, pointing across the hall, I was going to knock on this door here, but I heard Muddy Waters and thought, who is playing "Mannish Boy"? Rocker Rod knew where to hit me. I was immediately flattered that somebody had the good sense to be impressed with my musical taste, especially someone in cool hip huggers and a crochet hat. I said he was an opportunist, and when he spied my knitting needles and asked about the possibility of me knitting him a Rasta scarf (I kid you not), I was still floating on the Muddy compliment (Rod had, after all, just gotten back from rockin' out with his band in the desert. Is this not a man qualified to judge music?) and straightaway agreed to whip up the scarf. Hot damn, I even contemplated buying the yarn myself. And then I slapped myself and woke up.

When the knock came yesterday morning, I was prepared to offer Rocker Rod a serious tongue lashing, and I don't mean the kind he'd like. I threw on a skirt, marched to the door, flung it open and who was standing there but --

Bubba. The Great.

So not Rocker Rod. And there is God to thank for it.

Because he is my best friend, my solitude, my beauty, my earth, Bubba likes to play tricks on me. I'd called him at least five times yesterday morning, leaving him messages about this and that: my indignation over Rocker Rod and his undressed bowl of cereal, what I'd decided to do for my friend Steven's 40th birthday gift (he's my friend of 25 years), how I missed him and hoped his Macbeth was coming along swell. All the while I'm thinking I'm talking to somebody in Utah. My eyesight is about 220/220, but the whole world became clear when I opened that door and there stood Bubba. I mean, just look at him, swaddled in a hat and scarf made for him by yours truly. He's my favorite person to knit for, because he'll happily wear anything I make, sometimes even things I originally intended for other people.

We had a day of negotiations and love songs. Not good enough, I thought. And when I said this morning that since he was leaving today I wished I could take yesterday back and make it something better, Bubba said to me, Yesterday was everything we are, loving, eating, fighting, laughing, it was perfect.

I miss him when he's gone. The moment he leaves, I try to take my mind off the days and distance between us by knitting. It always goes the same: I knit a few rows and call him up, usually crying. He soothes me, tells me he loves me, I hang up and knit a few more rows. I try not to call back but can never help myself. This afternoon, through a veil of tears and cramps, I called three times while he was heading back to Utah. He wasn't alone, having driven three other guys here, and when he answered he sounded jovial and free. Me, I sounded whiny and bound. Each time, he cooed to me, told me he'd miss me too, talked much love and promised surprises, regarded me like the fragile thing I am.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

from here you can almost see the sea

Did I tell you my husband left? Oh yes, the great Bubba, that thespian of thespians, left the day after the New Year dawned to go to Utah to play Macbeth for Utah Shakespearian's educational touring company. January through April, he'll be running around speaking antiquated language and trying to avoid Mormon beer.

So that leaves me, alone in a room in Hollywood. Okay. So it's not exactly Hollywood, it's Miracle Mile, but Hollywood, with its impressions of dashed hopes and misplaced dreams, sounds more relevant to my tale of faux melancholy. And it's not exactly a room, either. Not by LA technical standards. It's a bachelor apartment, in this case meaning it's a room with a little alcove, sink, bathroom, and, for the gourmand in me, a hotplate. All this finery to the tune of $800 month. Out here we call that a steal. Back home in Toledo, we call it ridiculous.

Before we left our 2bed/2bath $1500-a-month steal in Hollywood, I asked myself, I said, Self, how are you going to feel as a full-grown woman living in a bachelor pad with your full-grown husband and no room for the dog you dream of? So far from the house with the sunroom and the garden that you so righteously deserve? My best friend of 25 years tells of a friend who uses the terms High Mind and Low Mind. Low Mind is the mind of judgment and victimhood, High Mind is where you want to be. Thank God High Mind answered me. It said, You're going to feel just fine, if you remember you're there for a reason and act like it. The reason is, ironically, for me and Bubba to live our best lives. I had Schmin real young and so he is old enough, and young enough, to be finding his own path. We are entering the friendship zone, where I don't tell him to wipe his nose or what time to get up, but instead I ask about his day or tell him how much I'm enjoying knitting or how much I'm missing Bubba. Along with raising the Schminster, I have gotten as much education as I have a mind to get, so there are no more rumblings about whether to fill in the gaps in my life with graduate school -- been there, finished that, twice. And jobs, of the full-time, brain cell maiming nature, are not on my to-do list, though I will likely someday take my aforementioned education and do more teaching at the college level. These days are all about writing, something I've longed to find the space to do forever. (And knitting, 'cause I just can't help myself.)

Funny thing about when life finally opens into what you want it to be. You get scared. Start feeling like people who claim to love you have left you on some strange planet where you must survive by wits you're not sure you've got. You also start feeling guilty, because who are you to be finding a way to live only what you love? Then there's the crazy. You're, like, 50 million years old, aren't you supposed to be living in a house and counting the hours until you can piece together enough years at sundry jobs to retire? Or shouldn't you have enough sense to subvert your own identity to the point where you can take on a corporate one? Should you really be living in a room, excuse me, bachelor apartment, without, as my Big Mama used to say, a pot to piss in or a back door to chunk it out of?

But most days I can put the guilty and the crazy and the fear aside. Agape, my church, is helping me learn to do this. So are my friends, who are walking love and inspiration. The Bubba I love more than I can begin to express and if I ventured on to tell you how he has lifted me, even when I demanded to stay down, you would cry tears and maybe never be able to stop. I look around this place and I see I have everything I need, literally and figuratively. How I use what I've got is up to me.

Today's title is a David Gray song, from Life In Slow Motion, and from here, I can almost see the sea, or at least the ocean.

Friday, January 06, 2006

for the good of all mankind

And so lately I've been thinking about service. I am not a religious person. Even though it's become fairly cliche to say this, my journey is one of Spirit. After hating Los Angeles for more than three years, I decided to instead open myself up and take advantage of the things that are available here. One of them is a wonderful church that traffics in Spirit, rather than the boundaries of a specific religion. I love this church, I really do.

But I am still me. There's no one else I'd rather be, but me can be appallingly self-centered and, let's face it, downright stingy with the me time. Everyone knows a part of any spiritual pursuit centers on the giving of self in the service of others. This is hard when you're a) a hermit, b) utterly preoccupied with the world inside your own head, c) one who measures time in terms of how many hours you'll get to spend at home, being hermity, and d) a person who hasn't fancied herself very reliable when it comes to showing up to do stuff in the flesh.

Right before I started attending church, in my chase for things to love about LA, I started attending Stitch 'n Bitch at the Farmer's Market. For me, this, too, is a spiritual experience because there are people to love and there is creativity to love and the wonder of yarn to admire. It forces me out of myself and into the world in a way that makes me feel so supported, and that allows me to support others. (If God isn't in that, I don't know where She is.) In the time that I've been attending, about 7 months, I've made some good friends. One of them, Natalie, has become my writing buddy -- meaning we meet a few times a week to nosh and kvetch and work on our individual writing projects.

Because church and SnB have been going so well (I'm actually managing regular attendance at both and if you know me, La Hermita, you know that's a big deal) I've started thinking, Hey, maybe I could show up for one more weekly commitment. Maybe I could go ahead and be a volunteer literacy tutor for the public library, like I've been thinking about for the past, oh, ten years. As someone who can solidly say that reading has saved me, time after time, it's a gift I'd like to help others receive. The thought of someone's ability to read hinging on my ability to wrestle myself out of solitary confinement is a little scary, I'll admit, but more and more I'm compelled to do something to contribute to the world.

Which brings me to this: How many ways do we all contribute that we don't count because they seem too easy?

I am NOT a phone person. But when a friend calls and needs to talk, I do.

Even though I'm not exactly clear on how to pray or what's appropriate to pray for, I pray for people when they're suffering, and when they're on a roll and I want them to stay there.

I am generous. I give things away and will take you out for a good meal on payday.

When I lived in New York, I gave countless dollars to strangers who asked for money.

Most of my knitting goes to other people. See the hat? Above? I knit that to donate to victims of Hurricane Katrina. This baby blanket, too:

When the whole debacle happened, I was moved beyond words. I was living in New York during September 11th, and Hurricane Katrina (and the Bush Administration's handling of it -- Hello? Condi? Could you possibly feed the need for rich Corinthian leather soles some other time?) brought on the same feeling of helplessness, of wanting to do something to bring comfort to people who found themselves firmly situated between a hard place and hell. This time, though, I could do more than just ride my bike down to Ground Zero, watch in horror as emergency vehicles revved to and away from the scene, and prisoners who'd been evacuated from nearby jails screamed from bus windows at rifle-wielding guards and passers-by. More than meet a middle-aged Jewish guy named Alan and go with him for Indian food and talk of revolt against the American government (mostly his talk, but a little mine, too). This time, I was armed with needles. I took them up, went to a shop called Edna Hart in Silverlake where kindly Edna was giving away cotton to knit stuff for Katrina babies, and made the items you see here.

And so I am not all bad.

The thing is to expand my vision of what service is. It is any time I do something for someone, whether I know them or not, when part of me would rather be laying on my bed, watching DVDs, reading knitting books, and eating bon bons. It is the little things as much as it is knitting for charity or digging up the rubble of September 11th. It is camaraderie and communion with a stranger over Indian food and under unthinkable world conditions. And I have a feeling that the more of these small things I consciously rack up, the easier and more necessary it will become to do the bigger ones, like leaving my comfort zone and showing up to help someone know the joy of the written word.

One day when I was whining about the tragedy in Darfur, Sudan, and how those poor people need me and what a loss I'm at over what to do for them and how burdened the responsibility to save them made me feel, a friend looked at me and said, You think it's about you saving them. But how do you know they wouldn't be the ones saving you? This is radical in its simplicity, no?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

a little me, a little musing

So I'm starting this blog without a digital camera. But, hell, it's a new year. And so I won't focus on what I don't have. I'll focus on what I do: An undying, never ending, burning desire to talk about knitting and to share the experience of knitting with other people. Because I also do other stuff, like read and write and socialize and dream of a better world, this won't solely be a knitting blog (especially since there won't be many pics for a while!) , but knitting will certainly be the catalyst for talk of other things.

I'll have a camera soon enough. Right now, since I am a writer, I'll paint the pictures with words.

I live in Los Angeles. In the heart of the city. Place called Miracle Mile, to be exact. Next month will mark my 4th anniversary here. I have only just begun to like it. Before here, New York City. Before there, Toledo. Not Spain. Ohio. The knitting's been part of my experience since March, when there I was, minding my own business at the Will and Ariel Durant branch of the public library and before me, in the form of a table tent, was an annoucement for a free knitting class.

The urge to knit wasn't foreign to me. In the fall of 2002, I'd taken a bunch of knitting books out of the library. I had big plans to learn the craft in the solitude of my own home and to emerge with a humble scarf, maybe a hat or two. Then my husband, Alem, hereforth known as Bubba, and I changed homes, moving from a single (aka, a bachelor apartment -- the Southern California equivalent of an efficiency) to a two-bedroom so that our kids, Andre and Michael, aka Schmin and Mike, could have a place to sleep when they either a) visited us or b) decided to live with us upon having grown tired of living with their respective other parents. In the maelstrom of The Great Move of '02, I lost track of the library's knitting books, having put them aside after opening 2 or 3 of them and reading the words "Make a slip knot." Weeks later, to the tune of a $50 library fine, I found them sitting in a box in the new second bedroom and when I returned them, the librarian took pity on me and made me promise never to return so many books so late again and once I did, cut my fine to $25 and a tsk tsk tsk.

And there was the time in childhood when my aunt stepped forth to teach me to crochet. Maybe I was about nine or so. This particular aunt, God rest her, was an alcoholic. Perhaps she hadn't had her gin on the rocks that day, because she had nary a smidgeon of patience for teaching a child the fine art of any form of handcrafting. I left her house believing myself a craft-tard. Naturally I would be thrown by "slip knot."

But on a fateful day in March, the 23rd to be exact, something told me, as my grandmother would say, something told me to go and take that class. I did. It resulted in tears. But by the next week's session I had my head on straight and my stitches on the needle. They were backward, but I was on my way.