And Dolores Makes Four
On Saturday morning, I got up early, showered and dressed, and slipped quietly to the front door. Not quietly enough.
"Aren't you forgetting something?" said a voice behind me.
I turned and saw this.
"Well now," I said. "You're all dressed up."
"Yeah," said Dolores. "These are traveling clothes. You know, such as one would wear when travelling."
In the elevator I noticed her brooch had a lock of long blond hair in it. She caught me looking.
"Rod Stewart," she said.
"Why do you–" I started.
"I'm not allowed to tell you under the terms of the settlement," she said.
A Field Trip
We set off to Oak Park, and the charming home of Meg and Jonathan, the Two Sock Knitters. If they were startled to find two guests, instead of one, on the doorstep, they were much too polite to say so.
Our ultimate destination was The Fold, a spinning shop in Marengo, Illinois–about as far west of the city as I think I've ever been. I'd never been there, but Jonathan and Meg had, and from their descriptions it was like Shangri-La, only with a better selection of spinning wheels.
Jonathan drove, Meg worked a frog sock, and Dolores fell asleep. As the city sprawl gradually disappeared we turned into genuine countryside, complete with farm fields and big stands of trees, and even the occasional horse. We turned off the highway on to a smaller road, then an even smaller road, then an itty-bitty road, and we were there.
"Dolores," I said. "Dolores, get up."
She sat up, looked out the car window and frowned. "Where are we?" she said.
"At the Fold."
"The Fold. The spinning shop."
"Spinning shop? What the hell are you, Amish? I thought we were going to a casino. You kept whispering on the phone about fun at the wheel."
"Spinning wheel. Not roulette wheel."
"Fuck. I gotta get my hearing checked."
"Well, look, " I said, "There's a whole flock of sheep over there. You can hang out with them if you don't want to look in the shop."
"Fab," said Dolores, waddling off toward the pen. "This will be some hot time. Hey, girls, what the hell do you do for kicks around here?"
"I'm a little worried," said Meg.
"We'll be fine," I said. "As long as there are no particularly good-looking farmhands in the vicinity."
The Fold lived up to its description. There are two sections to it: a yarn portion, into which I did not allow myself to step (though Meg quite a frolic in there); and a spinning portion, where the wool is stacked literally to the ceiling, and spinning wheels of sizes from teeny to titanic crowd the floor. If you prefer a hand spindle, there's a wall of them. A wall.
I was so dazzled I hardly knew where to start. Happily, I'd made a list beforehand and Toni, the owner, led me gently around to the things I needed. Niddy noddy, oil can, bobbins, tensioned lazy kate, orifice hook. All handsome and sturdy, all at fair prices. Toni herself is the model of what a shop owner ought to be: knowledgeable, patient, enthusiastic, and able to make everybody in the room feel like she's been waiting expectantly all day just for them.
Jonathan, meanwhile, had been exploring the wools. Blue-faced leicester caught his attention, and Toni sat him down to try it out.
I envied his skill. The guy spins like champ. The blue-faced leicester looked dreamy, flowing easily out of the fiber mass. Toni saw me drooling and suggested I try out a wheel.
Now, I'd never spun in front of anybody else who could spin, let along somebody who makes a living at it. I felt my face go red, but before I really knew what was happening Toni had me sitting in front of an Ashford Elizabeth with my own length of leicester. After a couple of deep breaths and a very embarrassing bad start, my nerves relaxed and everything went all spinny - in a good way.
From the Elizabeth, I moved on to a Lendrum Saxony. Toni suggested I try it when she noticed that I draw with my left hand. The model in the shop had a right hand orifice, and she thought it might be more comfortable for me. She was right. The wheel was so much fun to play with it qualifies as a sex toy.
But did she pressure me to buy it? No. Quite the contrary. She told me to stick with my Ashford Traditional for now. "Practice, learn, and shop around for a long time. Try lots of different wheels. Don't rush it. When the time comes for you to get a new wheel, you'll know it."
I could have stayed all day. I think we all could have. But with great reluctance we totalled up our damage and headed for the car. Dolores was still hanging around in the sheep pen.
"Time to go," I called.
"Oh, gee," said Dolores. "What a shame. We were just about to start a game of strip poker."
Back in the car, Jonathan asked Dolores if she'd had a nice time.
"Swell," she said. "I haven't been around such an exciting bunch since the last time I went to a Methodist funeral. Can we stop somewhere for a drink? I'm fresh out."
"We're going to have tea with Meg and Jonathan before we go back into the city."
"Tea? Oh God," she said, closing her eyes and lying back on the seat. "Please tell me that's just a euphemism."
[I'm indebted to Meg for taking these pictures, and to Jonathan for sending them to me. You're the best.]