Monday, February 21, 2005

Live and In Person

The Cell Block visit was a non-starter - too crowded and too dark to get a decent shot. (Note to self: Don't go out of your way to photograph things you don't like to look at in the first place. Diane Arbus you are not.)

Sunday was better, though. I got a message early from Leif from the Lakeview Stitch 'n' Bitch, reminding me that Debbie Stoller (aka the Mother - or maybe I ought to say Slightly Older But Still Extremely Young-Looking Sister of Us All) was doing an appearance at Arcadia Knitting and asking if I wanted to go.

Oh, mais oui.

As a rule I'm not a Personal Appearance guy. Prior to this, I once waited in a short line to meet Julia Child, God rest her soul, but that's it. I usually prefer to keep a safe distance between myself and famous people whose work I've enjoyed.

My 40 seconds with Mrs. Child (the memory of which I'm sure she treasured) were lovely. I was starstruck, she was cordial, and she spelled my name correctly in my copy of The Way to Cook.

Aside from that, my only other brush with celebrity was less happy. I once encountered Aretha Franklin during her pit-stop at New England Conservatory, where I spent seven miserable years after college. Aretha dropped by for about 10 minutes to snag an Honorary Doctorate, and my department - the Public Relations team - had to deal with her and her staff of approximately 11,000 very entitled agents, publicists, secretaries, bodyguards, sisters, cousins, and aunts.

In comparison, Queen Elizabeth II and the Pope are a pair of traveling gypsies.

Now, I have always liked Aretha's music. One of the greats of all time, no argument. Unfortunately, I have trouble listening to her now without remembering how, after months of working to meet her incredible list of demands, she was rude to the NEC staff, aloof from the other degree recipients, and sat through the ceremony looking like she was awaiting gum surgery. Queen of Soul, yes. But also a Royal Pain in the Ass.

Now, where was I. Debbie Stoller. Yes. Remember Debbie? This is an entry about Debbie.

Leif and I got to Arcadia pretty early and there was already quite a little crowd there. Nice for the shop, as they've just moved to a new, larger location and this encouraged everyone to scope it out. We got low numbers for the book signing afterwards - mine was 13, which is by coincidence (and I'm not kidding) a lucky number for me.

I was hoping she would talk some about how she came to knitting, and she did. Her story about learning from the example of her late grandmother, her mother, and her female relatives is told in her first book and could stand alone as a fine piece of memoir writing (pretty unusual for a craft book) and it was just as touching hearing it told in her own voice.

She had arrived via Amtrak (poor thing) and had every right to be haggard, aloof, exhausted, brief. However, if she was feeling less than 100%, she didn't let on. Instead, she was just what I'd hoped - as articulate as one would expect the publisher of BUST to be, and as charming as one would expect of the woman who helped to bring back the knitting circle.

Leif and I weren't the only guys there, but as usual we seemed to be the only guy knitters (the other fellows being attached to girlfriends or wives). I had a short chat with one of the owners of Arcadia - I should have remembered to ask her name - telling her how grateful I was that on my first visit the previous week, they had been so cheerful and helpful. Unlike the hateful woman at The Nasty Little Yarn Shop in downtown Evanston, who seemed to think I was going to mug her, or steal a big pile of Lamb's Pride and a pair of US10s at gunpoint. Ms. Arcadia was suitably sympathetic to my tale of woe, and so now I like her store even more.

Debbie did all the right stuff, just like Julia. I mentioned that Chris had been a BUST subscriber and she seemed happy (I may be imagining it) to have somebody comment on something other than her knitting. She spelled my name right. She was cordial, she was smart, she was funny. Well done!

(So if you're reading this, Debbie, thank you. I hope you didn't mind the lousy Chicago weather too much. And since we're such great friends now, may I call you with questions about intarsia?)

No comments: