Tuesday, January 30, 2007

on january

Here January is kissing the wind goodbye and I have yet to post my Snap a Dozen Days entry. Well, here it is:

I took this photo on the 9th. It's the area behind my place of employment. Kind of a nowhere land before downtown Los Angeles if you're traveling east. It's a scrappy, defiant neighborhood, one that has yet to be graced by the requisite hipness of Echo Park or Silverlake. As far as I know, it has no celebratory name -- no Silver, no Echo, no Feliz, no Holly -- and nothing that it's particularly famous for. It just is.

That's kind of January, to me. Once you get past the 1st and set up a few ground rules that you intend to last the year, you can just be. You can engage in living without explanation or justification. And you can do it under the same wondrous blue sky as everything and everyone else.

This has been a good month. Work has gone well. Crafting has felt much less manic now that I've begun to use what I have. It's been a kind space in which to prepare for February, the month in which I have my first (ever) book proposal due.

As the red month of love progresses, I will toast and tell, but for now, a few things I've been running through my fingers:

Friday, January 19, 2007

there goes my baby

My God. I can hardly believe I'm saying this, but Happy 22nd (TWENTY-TWO!) Birthday, Schmin. Look at you. You're a star. And Mama loves you, just like that.

eye candy friday -- abierto

One night I was walking around downtown Portland and the city evoked a particular feeling in me. These typically ordinary signs began sending me a message, and I realized that message captured the emotion of the night and the sense of my journey better than I could in words.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

meet the bensons

The Benson II
Work is busy. There are many students. There are many things I ought to be studying.

"There" = expletive (its sole function is to make the syntax work), "are" = verb, "many" = adjective modifying the noun "things" which is also the subject. "I ought to be studying" is a dependent clause with an elliptical "that" introducing it -- "that I ought to be studying." Because it also modifies the subject "things," it is an adjective clause. As a clause (as opposed to a phrase) it has its own subject and verb, which are "I" and "ought" respectively. "To be studying" = progressive infinitive functioning as a direct object to the verb "ought." "Ought" what? "Ought to be studying."

One simple sentence, so much chaos.

See what blogging at work makes me do?

Anyhow, on to the point of this entry. I am holding fast to my commitment to KFYS and I am not using yarn shopping as a shiny object with which to distract and pacify myself. We're three weeks into the new year and I'm pleased as punch that I haven't caved.

The best thing about KFYS, so far, is that it's an opportunity to honor the promises I've made to myself about the things I would make for people. And to use the yarn I've already purchased for said things. I see now that I'd gone too far into thrill of the kill. In other words, I loved going out and hunting the buffalo. Tracking it. Shooting it. Dragging it home. But I wasn't so much into the skinning and boning and cooking and setting on the table.

And so, from my storage freezer of buffalo carcasses, last week I finished another one of these

The Benson
for my friend V.

The Benson is the scarf I made for my trip to Portland. Goofy as I am, I like to name my scarves, and while I was knitting away and planning my trip, I looked at pictures of The Benson Hotel in downtown Portland after I'd booked my room there (on Priceline) and something about the scarf reminded me of it. I think it was the luxurious feel of the Misti Alpaca Chunky, or maybe the cool refined pop of its Cadillac blue color. The Benson is the kind of scarf that you put on when you want a little instant classic. I could be down to my last cryin' dime, tie it on, and feel like I've got a poodle named FiFi and a chauffeur named Lars whose ass I like to pinch as he lets me into my limo. The pattern, which is actually the super simple "Warm Fuzzies" from Stitch 'n Bitch Nation, is loads of fun. If you look closely at the second photo above (click to enlarge), you'll see that one side is cabled and the other is ribbed. Isn't that just so clever? I love this pattern.

Last year when V admired the scarf, I ran out and bought another skein of Misti Alpaca to make The Benson II for her. (Each scarf took about 1.5 skeins.) I stashed the yarn and, well, you know how it goes. But I'm happy to report that before she left for a trip to NYC last week, I was able to gift her with the scarf.

I have to say one more time what a blast the pattern is. The whole double-sided, double-patterned thing is like sorcery to me. So much so that I'm making a third scarf for another friend, in a different color.

Monday, January 15, 2007

in tribute

While I was on my new city mission last spring, the Bubster and I went to Atlanta. Years ago I used to visit Mr. Stevens when he lived there. Back then I didn't think the place was big enough for me, but on this last visit, I left feeling like it was too big. Not big in terms of area, necessarily, but big in terms of overgrowth. It struck me as a place at odds with itself. Part southern comfort, part metro cold, it has a way of covering you with a warm blanket, only to snatch it away in the coldest part of the night.

Since we were there for nine days, we had a good amount of time to do touristy stuff, and I realized that out of all the times I'd been, I'd never visited The King Center, Auburn Avenue, or done anything related to the appreciation of Dr. King's life.

Martin Luther King, Jr. looks different at various stages in life. When I was a 3rd grader, he seemed to me like a saint. Because of him, I could sit where I wanted in the lunch room, drink from any water fountain, publicly play dolls with whomever I was of a mind to. By 9th grade, Dr. King had become a target for disdain (just like everything and everyone else) and we would suck our teeth and complain that we were tired of hearing about him, and the Civil Rights Movement, year after year. (It didn't help that the extent of what we learned was pretty much "We Shall Overcome" and that Dr. King had dogs set on him.) We reduced him to one speech, with the boys chortling refrains like "I have a dream, that you will one day, rise up... and let me get in your panties."

But somewhere in adulthood, you start hearing the truth about the man. It is not all pretty, but it is noble. When I began reading about his humor, his frailties, the ways in which he was afraid but did not act it, he became human to me. Since I know a little something about human limitation, in his humanness, he became an example. An example of how to hold to a calling; how to hold to what you believe is right, even in the face of great harm, and even when the cost of doing so is unthinkable.

For two days during our Atlanta trip, we ventured up and down Auburn Avenue, which conveniently features the National Historic Site, The King Center, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Fire Station No. 6, and Dr. King's birth home. I am proud of the way so many people, not least among them Coretta Scott King, have worked to keep all that Dr. King stood for alive and visible in the place where it all started. Here's a link to all the sites.


"The Freedom Road"
National Park Service King Visitor Center
450 Auburn Avenue
Our visit started where most do, in the National Park Service's King Visitor Center. The Center has a featured exhibit entitled "Courage To Lead," an audio-visual journey through major moments in Dr. King's life and the Civil Rights Movement. "Freedom Road" is a sculptural installation set in the center of the exhibit. It's an ode to the everyday people who marched, sang, sat-in, and even died in the Movement. It was one thing to pose with the figures, fun even, but I can only imagine the strength it took to participate in reality.

From the Visitor Center, we went to Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church. A new Ebenezer has been built across the street, and Christine King, Dr. King's sister and the only surviving member of his immediate family (excluding his children, of course) still attends. Ebenezer was Dr. King's home church, the place he watched his father lead and preach, the place he where he honed his own minsterial skills. The day we visited, the "Mountaintop" speech played on a loop, and it was surreal to sit in the pews with Dr. King's voice washing over us, especially since we knew it was his last, and perhaps most prescient, speech.

Ebenezer Baptist Church
407-13 Auburn Avenue
What we didn't learn until later is that in 1974, Dr. King's mother, Alberta, was shot and killed right there in the church. Apparently the gunman intended to kill Rev. King, but hit Mrs. King while she sat playing the organ, and a deacon, instead.

The King Center is where Dr. and Coretta King are interred.

King Center 449 Auburn Avenue
The King Family's own labor of love, the Center features displays of Dr. and Mrs. King's clothing (including items worn by Dr. King during marches, and the suit he was wearing when he was stabbed in Harlem) family photographs -- many of which have rarely been shown to the public -- handwritten pages from Dr. King's speeches, and a special room dedicated to Dr. King's spiritual mentor, Mohandas Gandhi. One of the best things about the Center is that it sheds light on Coretta King's background. We think of her as Dr. King's dedicated wife, and she was that, but she was also an accomplished singer, pianist, and scholar by the time they met. After her husband's death, she served as a tireless crusader for human rights as well as the preserver of Dr. King's legacy.

Perhaps my favorite part of the visit was Dr. King's birth home.

Birth Home
501 Auburn Avenue

It is owned by The King Center and maintained by the National Park Service. Tours are free and open to the public (and fill up quickly, which is why we went back a second day). They are led by park rangers, and ours was a very engaging and well-informed young man. The King family moved out when Dr. King was 12, and for years the house was divided into a two-unit rental. It has been restored to the way it was during Dr. King's boyhood, and some of the family's furnishings have been returned. No photography is allowed inside, but there's really nothing like being there. I loved hearing anecdotes about Dr. King and his siblings, how much he loved to play, how hard he tried to avoid piano lessons, and how close his family was. Apparently his parents weren't quite prepared for his arrival and didn't have a crib set up. They improvised and used a dresser drawer. It's amazing to see that dresser, right in the upstairs room where Dr. King was born.

I hope that if you find yourself in Atlanta, you'll take a trip to Auburn Avenue and journey through the life of the great Dr. King.

steven's 41st happy one

Mr. Stevens is in Amsterdam, and I am thinking of him, because today is his birthday. Last year I did a blog tribute (hard to believe it's been a year, even though life seems so different now), so this year I'll just say, Stevie G, I love you madly.

Friday, January 12, 2007

eye candy friday -- portlandia

While I was finding myself last spring, I took a solo trip to Portland. I love traveling alone. Nothing but endless mounds of me time stuffed chockablock with things only I want to do. I devoured Powell's (even better than I'd imagined and I'd imagined great) and took in the peace of the Japanese Garden. Downtown is so wonderful that I could've spent all my time there, but I ventured out to the 'burbs and found them good. I stayed at The Benson Hotel, a pretty swanky place, and wore a scarf named in its honor whenever weather permitted.

Portland had been on my mind so long. I'd been considering it as A Possibly Better Place Where I Won't Rip Out My Hair from Everyday Living. I really enjoyed the city, one where actual thought goes into planning and development. Three things mark a favorable city: good grocery stores, a sexy central library, and healthy appreciation for yarn and crafting. Portland's got all three, but I worried that if I lived there I'd go nuts with the rain and the lack of sun (though neither was a factor during my trip). And do you know how you land some place and feel like you've come home? That happened to me with New York City, San Francisco, and Barbados. But I didn't get that feeling in Portland. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Admired its fundamental intelligence and was wowed by its devotion to making stuff (I could walk to two yarn stores from my hotel). Felt like I wanted to camp out in Powell's forever. Found the people friendly enough. Just didn't feel that I could fold myself into it all. But any time you say Let's take a trip to Portland, I'll go.

Japanese Garden


Monday, January 08, 2007

florida, baby, we're finally getting out of the ghetto

This being the New Year and all, my ambitions are running quite high. That it's the second week of the year and I'm still feeling present and enthusiastic about the things I am resolved to do is very encouraging. Most years my resolutions have faded into darkness by this time. But let's focus on the Good, shall we?

I love all things blog. Other people's blogs. My blog. The act of blogging. The way blogging has changed -- some say rescued from stagnation -- the Internet. So I've decided to get a little more involved with some of the things folks are doing here in blogland, particularly when it comes to two of my favorite things, knitting and photography .

As I mentioned, I'm participating in Knit From Your Stash 2007. These are the rules I am laying down for myself:

1) Knit From Your Stash will run from January 1 through December 31, 2007. Oh yes. The entire year. I'm feeling frisky.

2) I will not buy any yarn during this period, with the following exceptions --
  • If someone loses a limb or a loved one and I just have to knit for that person and don't have the proper yarn, I am allowed to buy it.
  • I am allowed to purchase yarn to complete a project when I find I don't have enough.
  • I get three "Get Out of Jail Free" cards for the entire year -- I can buy to my delight but I'm thinking I'd best not start using them in January.
  • Trips are freebies, up to three times, and do not count against the above. I am only human and cannot give up my love of exploring out-of-town yarn stores (and I might want to discover the joy of a fiber festival or two). However, this does not mean that when I'm out of town I can take the opportunity to order stuff on the Internet. This should go without saying, but I'm a shifty one.
  • Yarn gifts are allowed. Please send right away.
  • I am allowed to trade and barter stash. The whole point is that no money can leave my hands unless it's under one of the above conditions.
3) Needles are exempt. Magazines are exempt. Patterns are exempt. I would put the brakes on craft books, but instead I'll vow to buy no more than 10 this year. Is that a lot?

4) I will not replace crack with heroin. I may buy fabric and such, but I must complete 3 sewing projects for every new project I buy materials for.

I think that covers everything. I feel better already. It's like I've put on protection whereas before I was just freeballin'. I thank the people who started this KAL.

I have also decided to do Eye Candy Friday, started by Sundara over at Purly Whites. I don't go in to work on Fridays, but I do often find myself engaged in heavy procrastination on Friday afternoons. Maybe posting a little eye candy will jolt me into productivity. Ha ha.

I'm a sucker for themes. The idea of visually and verbally pontificating on a theme each month fills me with such grandiosity and self-importance that I've got no choice but to participate in Snap a Dozen Days over at Unwind.

And because I'm trying my best to stay present with the food thing, here's a recent good eat.

How can something so bad be "good"? you wonder. Well. It's from one of my favorite LA eateries, Mani's Bakery. ("Eatery." Talk about words I never used when I was down on the farm in Ohio.) I live walking distance from Mani's so I eat there a lot. The food's great, though the atmosphere can get a little yuppified on some days, a little hipsterfied on others. And it's pretty small, so not the sharpest choice if your stomach is touching your back during lunch or dinner or brunch rush. Oh, yeah, the treats. Fruit juice sweetened and otherwise wholesome (as much as things covered in chocolate and cream cheese can be). What I love about Mani's desserts is that everything tastes like it's supposed to. Ever eaten so-called healthier desserts and found the gingerbread tasting like the sugar cookie tasting like the peanut butter bar tasting like the macaroon? Ick. I don't know how Mani's does it, but I'm glad they do. So glad that I bought waaay too much for girls' night with my friend Carol (the cupcake alone was the size of my head). It was only the two of us watching Devil Wears Prada and tackling all this tastiness. Carol laid back, but me, I showed those treats who was boss.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Watch this.

Maybe it speaks to my maturity level, but I cannot stop laughing at this clip. Justin Timberlake has never been better.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

and a happy new year

Well, well, well. When I went to mail a gift at FedEx Kinko's last night, right before I ran screaming from the building when I found out how much it costs to two-day a box that weighs just over a pound, the woman working behind the counter three hours past the end of her shift declared that 2007 isn't going very well, so far.

For me it is, because I refuse to have it any other way. I see the good moon rising, dammit. I say more warm vibes, makey makey stuff, and sunny times in the mind for everyone this year. By year's end I'll be able to say exactly what's so bad about feeling good, and I got a notion the answer is NOTHING.

One thing that's putting pep in my step is my decision to take part in Knit From Your Stash 2007. The hours I'll save from not combing the Internet for that magical yarn I saw on someone's blog or in someone's knitting bag at SnB -- you know the one, it'll make me endlessly desirable and ever young, it'll turn my gray hairs back to black, it'll slim my fanny and square my shoulders, it'll make everyone... well... like me -- could be used to actually knit. Or read. Or blog. Or play footsies with The Bubba. Or work on the book or the play or the screenplay that nips at my heels every single moment of every single day.

I am going to have to bolster my self-esteem elsewhere. Maybe I'll discover the Endless Well of Authenticity.

Plus, I've already got more yarn than God and three more White men.

I've kicked off the year in grand style, having completed my first UFO, the Heartbreakingly Cute Baby Kimono from Mason-Dixon Knitting.

Lion Cotton - natural, about 3/4 ball & a bit of navy for trim and crochet tie
Size 8 Denise needles

I started it several months ago but put it down when I had to figure out the pattern. That, and some other sassy project strolled by, demanding my flowers and chocolates. Once I picked up the kimono again, it could've been a relatively quick knit, but there's a typo in my book that's apparently not in anyone else's, which lead to considerable ripping. And the seams. Oy. But it's done. And cute. And on its way to a preggers friend in Austin in a FedEx box via the US Postal Service.

Because it wasn't soooo long ago that I had a baby (okay, maybe it was), I realized that the right side of the kimono, crossed under the left, would be flopping out from underneath and messing up some of the heartbreaking cuteness every time someone lifted the little bundle of joy. So I sewed a button inside.

The teeny-tiny wrist openings made me nervous. It frightened me too much to think that Schmin's wrists were ever really that small, so I left little slits in the sleeves. Couldn't hurt.

It feels so good to be using what I already have, finishing the things I started. There's a Buddhist saying, "That which you are seeking is causing you to seek," and that's surely been the case with me and stash acquisition. Sometimes I'd click the order button on Knitpicks or eBay and know it wasn't really the yarn or the needles or the pattern books or the fabric I was looking for, but something else. What I intend for this year isn't necessarily to find out what I was looking for, but to stop looking altogether.

Next post I'll list my personal rules for KFYS '07, which are a bit different from the KAL originators'.

Happy New Year. May the enthusiasm and hope that holds you at this lovely time of year sustain you all year long.