“It was a dark and stormy night — but not so dark that she couldn’t see across the roiling sea to the Land of the Rising Bear, emerging like a mirage in the distant mist, or so stormy that she couldn’t hear the anguished cry of a hundred million tortured souls waiting for the one they called the Rogue Huntress, their hope, their salvation. Armed with God and Truth, she was the leader of the phalanx, the sharp tip of the sword, and she strode out across the barren land, soft-soled and sure-footed.
She smiled in her sleep … it was good to be her.”
My apologies to the much-maligned Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton, who was once the most admired and popular writer in Victorian England — even rivaling the ubiquitous Mr. Charles Dickens. I haven’t read Sarah Palin’s autobiography, but I understand there is a competition on for the best Sarah Palin (or rather, the best Sarah Palin’s ghostwriter) parody. Which brings up the interesting question of whether Palin’s ghostwriter had to use Palin’s words, or whether the bloody mess (“As the soles of my shoes hit the soft ground, I pushed past the tall cottonwood trees in a euphoric cadence, and meandered through willow branches that the moose munched on.”) belongs wholly to the ghostwriter. Given how incoherent Palin sounded on the campaign trail, I suppose it’s actually the ghostwriter who should be made to read Sister Miriam Joseph’s The Trivium. But maybe it’s all intentional, and the ghostwriter is actually quite devious and is trumping everyone on the parody, a sly Tina Fey on paper …
“It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in an obscure northern Colorado town that our scene lies), rattling along the house-tops, and fiercely agitating the flimsy strings of Christmas lights that struggled against the darkness. Through the paper shreds and abandoned hay of one of the obscurest quarters of this obscure Colorado town, a furry critter, evidently of the order Rodentia, genus Cavia, species Cavia porcellus, was wending her solitary way.”
Isn’t it absurd how much people are willing to pay for someone else to make coffee for them? Guilty, guilty, guilty … especially now, but it’s because coffee shops can be really interesting places.
Overheard today: “You know, people think that when someone is murdered, he is gone. Just gone. But he isn’t really, because he’s still around, just somewhere else. And if you think he is really gone, then he continues to be a victim.”
As I listened semi-surreptitiously to this earnest, middle-aged woman, I wondered what her friend thought of this idea of bodily — or is it soul? — displacement, but then I realized that this was not a conversation, it was a monologue, and that perhaps that friend was actually somewhere else. I had my opening sentence for Chapter 3, and it would be of a woman talking to her friend without the friend knowing it.
Yarn: A not-quite-worsted weight merino/silk/alpaca yarn from Lambspun of Colorado. I believe the color is called “cameo,” the close-up picture is closer to the true color. I bought the yarn years ago, this is the third recycled project — and because of the angora (don’t know if that’s the goat or the bunny), it should not be frogged again.
Modifications: This is a lighter weight yarn than the pattern called for, so I knitted this from the top down so I could make adjustments along the way. Because of the row gauge difference, I added a few rows to the yoke pattern, but the nature of the cable motif makes the change not obvious at all. I also added more waist shaping, and put in a couple more increase rows to the ribbing at the bottom to give it a bit more flare. Finally, I knitted the body of the dress and sleeves in stockinette rather than reverse stockinette.
What’s great about it: It’s light-weight but warm, fits really well, and goes beautifully with boots 🙂
Pattern: Folded Scarf, by Lynne Barr, from Reversible Knitting: 50 Brand-New Groundbreaking Stitch Patterns.
Yarn: Same Lambspun of Colorado yarn as the Drops 117-13 dress.
Modifications: The pattern called for Sheep Shop Yarn Company Sheep 3 held double to achieve a gauge of 13 st = 1″. That would have been a really bad idea for a really short woman with short neck. So I resisted the fashion imperative and used a single strand of the light worsted yarn, knitted to ~76″ so that I can wrap it around my neck without looking like the scarf had tried to eat me …
Thoughts on this project: This is one cool scarf, and Lynne Barr is a knitting geek, in a really good way. I won’t be knitting most of the patterns in the book, mainly because they are awfully fiddly and require too many extra needles (and I happen to think double-pointed needles are the work of the devil) … but, they are nevertheless truly innovative. I applaud anyone who can think not just outside the proverbial box, but twirl above and below and all around it!
Writing longhand has its uses: more time to think before putting thoughts down, less inclination to edit, and it’s aesthetically pleasing. When the ideas come, I start writing before the inner voice starts telling me that the ideas are stupid. Which they may very well be, but by then I’m no longer inclined to go back. As an aid to the “no plot, no problem” approach, a good notebook (of the sort that discourages page-tearing) is essential. My favorite is from a Japanese company:
I have been hoarding these notebooks for several years now — and this is clearly the moment. The pages are smooth and substantial enough not to have show-through, and because the pages are 7″ x 10″ (and there are only 34 sheets), I can think I’m making measurable progress. Inspiration apparently comes in many different forms …
The Kid is learning to write, which is of course a good thing — even if the topics are hokey and her choices are even hokier: on the topic of “A Special Place,” she chose “Home is a Special Place.” The current assignment? Write an essay on “Someone Who Inspires You” (and not incidentally, tie it to MLK). I happen to think this a silly assignment for the average 7th grader, because the average 7th grader can’t think outside the Inspirational Person = Famous Person equation. For them — and I suspect for many people who ought to know better — “inspirational person” implies the extraordinary and the heroic, and while we need the big dreams and the big achievements, those should not be all that we celebrate. I think the assignment artificial, directional, and dictatorial for what it expects of the kids. My daughter is writing about Wilma Rudolph (again) because: 1) she knows something of her from a biographical report she had to do in 6th grade; 2) she thinks an inspiring person is/should be someone other people have heard of; and 3) she has no clue what “inspirational” actually means and moreover, has no desire to actually think about the concept. I am pretty sure that whatever The Kid chooses to write about Wilma Rudolph, hers is not a life that has ever affected my daughter in any meaningful way. So The Kid will produce an essay that reproduces the facts of Wilma Rudolph’s life that other people have found inspirational, and these facts will be, for her, as ephemeral as most things are at her age. As for the tie-in to Martin Luther King, Jr. — well, let’s just say that I don’t believe she has a good working understanding of civil rights. Aside from that difficulty, I am also against the hagiographic view of MLK taught in middle school — yes, I know that after all she’s only in 7th grade and how much understanding of the nuances of a lived life can a 7th grader have? Which, of course, is my point.
“Poodle!” I said, proudly displaying the six skeins of kinky, freshly frogged yarn.
“What did you take apart?” DH asked.
“Remember that sweater I wore this morning?”
On 1 January 2009, my New Year resolution was to buy no new clothes for the year, with the corollary that I would also actively pare down the existing wardrobe. I fell off the wagon with a solid thump in late March … It was a frosty morning, and there was melting ice and snow on the sidewalks and streets from a spring storm that had blown through the day before. I had a steaming mug of coffee in one hand, a volume of Henry James short stories in the other, and I was thinking that perhaps a dessert would be in order. Then I saw IT — from across the street, a horizontally pleated black-and-white sheath in the beautifully curved window of a high-end boutique. The store wasn’t open yet, so I thought it was safe to take a closer look — and besides (I told myself), it really was time that I, an architectural historian, had a good look at the restoration work the owners had done on the Art Deco building. Unfortunately, the saleswoman saw me … and she opened the door and assured me that she was indeed open and wouldn’t I like to try on the dress because she was sure she could find one in my size.
I had not been inside the store since its restoration — in its previous incarnation it had been a schlocky costume shop well-known for its Halloween displays of mannequins with hatchets buried in various body parts. The shop (mercifully) relocated, and the building, which had originally been a fine clothing store, returned to its roots. Like all smart business owners, the new tenant understood her target clientele — women of a certain age who valued quality and longevity over ephemeral trends, who appreciated a low-key shopping experience, and who had the money to expend on the services offered. It was a warm and inviting space, a hint of luxury and perhaps of the boudoir. The sales staff were properly mature women — no teenagers or twenty-somethings telling me what would look “so cute!” on me. They sized me up as someone who needed a gentle but firm hand; they knew their business.
My saleswoman didn’t in fact find the dress in my size, but she found an entirely different frock — a black-and-white polka-dotted number with a lovely draped back — in my size. And despite the sports bra and the clogs I was wearing that day, the dress was so unexpectedly chic and sophisticated that I thought I was chic and sophisticated. I bought the dress with the understanding that I would take it with me to London and wear it to some fancy restaurant. Or something along that line.
Eight months later, I still haven’t worn the dress. I just don’t have the right shoes, see. My fashionista GF tells me I need to have some heel-y sling-backs. Well … what do I know?
On the other hand, except for that one fabulous dress, I have stuck to the resolution. The interesting thing is that it has become increasingly easy not to buy, because it has become a habit. There is something soothing about looking in the closet and seeing the essentials, and thinking that perhaps I have gotten to the point that I do indeed dress for myself and not for other women. That is, until I catch a glimpse of the fashion industry.
I admit to liking Ralph Lauren. I once owned a navy blue riding skirt, the kind with a full sweep that should be worn by someone tall and slender, preferably with impeccably groomed hair and shiny black boots. I was of course not tall or slender or of Anglo-Saxon descent, but nevertheless I thought I could be part of his myth-making. And that is what Ralph Lauren does: he is a master at creating a mood and a story that reflects, manipulates, and directs the American psyche and its understanding — and interpretation — of itself. I hate his current “Depression chic” with its ragged jeans and overalls, floral house dresses, newsboy hats — all worn with stiletto shoes, of course, and probably diamonds too. It’s a perverse imagery of economic hardship, then and now, of what poverty looks like, feels like, tastes like. Slumming is weird.
So I keep going into my sweater pile and consigning various projects to the frog pond, as though this would somehow make me less of a consumer. It doesn’t, of course, because most of us are not producers and haven’t been for a century or so. But like Ralph Lauren, I also construct stories, mainly for myself, but also for others. It’s how I know where I am.