Tuesday, November 06, 2007

South Side Represents

For those from elsewhere, here's a nutshell overview of Chicago's geography.

We gotta North Side, a South Side, and a West Side. Where there might be an East Side, there is instead Lake Michigan. Roughly in the center, where it all began on a spit of mucky, smelly, bug-infested mud that the Native Americans had too much good sense to inhabit, is the Loop.

People from the North, South and West sides tend to mix in the Loop. It is somewhat less common for Northsiders to head into the South or vice versa. We're not talking about a couple of blocks, we're talking about miles and miles and miles separating what might as well be two quite different cities, each with its own major league baseball team. I've lived in Chicago since 2001 and until this October I'd been to the South Side exactly four times, three of those being visits to the Museum of Science and Industry.

So when I got a message from a South Side LWYS (Lady with Yarn Store) suggesting I take 1,000 Knitters down her way, it was a little like National Geographic asking if I'd consider doing a piece on filet crochet in the Amazon rain forest. Would I be able to get there from here? What language do they speak? Where's my passport?

The LWYS refused to coddle me and insisted I was worried over nothing. The journey could be made easily by the commuter rail which had replaced the mule trains some time in the 1970s, and her shop was literally steps from the station. She would take upon herself the task of spreading my name among the native tribes. I wouldn't even have to get shots or buy a pith helmet. I was delighted, except that I really had fancied buying the pith helmet.

So on October 26, 2007 I arrived via the Rock Island line with camera and baggage at My Sister's Knits, and within about five minutes I'd begun to consider sending north for my books and relocating.

0203At right is Carol, the LWYS, and one of her two amiable canine sales associates. I have now been knitting long enough to have some experience of yarn shops, their proprietors and clientele, and I have never met a shop owner with a more fiercely loyal following than Carol.

Her motto is "Come for yarn, leave with a friend," and she means it. Means it, hell. She lives it. Her relationship with more than half the shoppers I met verged on the familial.

The night of the shoot was pissing down rain rather inclement, and in order to make sure I'd have people to photograph she kept calling folks up.

"Hi...it's Carol. Yeah. You busy? Well listen, you need to come over after work. And bring So-and-So. There's somebody here you need to meet. Hey, how's your mother doing? Did you finish that red sweater yet? Well, good. So get over here, got it? And bring the sweater. And your mother. Good. Bye now."

Thus she summoned them, and thus happily they came. I was delighted that Jan, who was such a help with recruiting during the shoot at Stitches Midwest and who first told Carol to invite me down, showed up to act as my lieutenant and did a splendid job of keeping things running.

Carol, for her part, managed to run the shop while also being extremely solicitous of my comfort. She also introduced me to the new joy of chocolate-flavored Chex Mix. [Personal to Carol: Carol, Tom got the idea of using it as a topping for vanilla ice cream. Try it. It works.]

There were some familiar faces I was delighted to see again, including Lynette (0210) and Angie* (0211), and lots of people I know from the comments but had never had the pleasure of meeting before. Blogless Jan, who was such an immense help with recruiting sitters during the Stitches Midwest shoot, did a marvelous job of acting as my lieutenant and keeping all the paperwork in order.

Trio from the 200s

We had a few firsts that night, including (to the best of my knowledge) the first police officer knitter; the youngest knitter yet in the series (age four) and her mother; a baker; and a whole gaggle of nurses and school teachers. There were so many wholesome urban archetypes in the chair it was a little bit like one of those "Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood?" segments from "Sesame Street."
Oh the knitter likes to sit and play
With her needles and her yarn all day.
She can make you anything you need,
'Cause she'll knit until her fingers bleed.

Oh, the knitter is a person in your neighborhood!
In your neighborhood!
In your neigh-bor-hood!

Yes, the knitter is a person in your neighborhood!
A person that you meet each day.
The shoot was so much fun it seemed to rush by in about five minutes. Before I knew it, I had to say good-bye and I did feel like I was leaving with a friend...with many friends, actually.

Thanks, Carol. Thanks, Southsiders. I hope to come back soon. You got it going on down there.

*Angie, I forgot to ask if you blog. Let me know and I'll put up a link.

43 comments:

Elizabeth said...

Love the song!

The photographer's a person in your neighborhood...

I so wish I could have been there. Having been born on the south side of Chicago, I always have this sense that it's home. (My first home was in South Shore.)

Gail said...

Those are some sharp looking people on the south side of Chicago. And what a great write-up for the store!

Glenna C said...

I love reading more and more about this project. Every time you blog about it I get a little choked up, and a little inspired...What a fabulous project altogether and I can't wait to see more about how it turns out.

Sharon Rose said...

Really really really hoping I can get to you before you hit 1000... You are making history, no mistake.

Marin (AntiM) said...

I just keep wishing I lived in Chicago. Just for a moment.

David said...

Of course, your reference to the Rock Island line immediately sent the score of Music Man spinning in my head.

kmkat said...

Franklin, have you seen The Century Project? Your 1,000 Knitters reminds me of it a little bit. Except your subjects are -- so far as you've shown on your blog -- all clothed.

AliP said...

Aaaah Sesame Street nostalgia. LOVE the song. Too funny.

Kristen said...

Number 0210 has a dazzling smile! Next time you visit your family in PA, come up to Pittsburgh and we'll pose nicely for you too. This is going to be a wonderful book!

Knittingand said...

Oh no, now I have that song stuck in my head...

~laurie said...

Now it's stuck in my head gaaahhhh

Here's mine :P

Oh the Panopticon is the ma -an
if he can't knit it no one ca-an
lace and kauni cardies too
He will even take a pic of you!

*off to laugh at myself and ravelry bwhahahahahaaaa

Anonymous said...

awwww, you had me singing just like bob mcgrath there!

thanks for the delightful memory.

PS - your angel ornament arrived today; loverly as always. I now have all 3; are they in the same category as precious moments yet? ;-)

anne marie in philly

Ted said...

Who's Tom?

And why is the Loop called the Loop?

Angie said...

An especially heartwarming post. Thank you!

CynicalGal said...

I love the way you write about our fair city.

I hope to see you at your last Chicago-area shoot, the date and location of which is escaping me at present.

anneonymousone said...

My, oh my, would you look cute in a pith helmet.

I can tell that I like Mystery Tom already.

Anne said...

Is this Tom the one who flew to the middle of the cornfields to visit you at your parents?

My dad has a pith helmet and never wears it anymore, you want I should steal it for you? Hmm?

Laiane said...

Where exactly does one purchase a pith helmet in Chicago? Marshall Fields? A chic Michigan Avenue boutique?

I've only been to the Windy City as a humble visitor, but certainly long enough and often enough to know it has a personality of its own. Your portrait of the LYS confirms it. What a great place!

Windsornot said...

I loved the song too! And perfect alliteration to the tune! I actually was singing the tune while reading, and you had it down pat!

So, when are you coming way east, like the East Coast? Take a few photos of your East Coast pals to include? (Heck, at the rate you are going, I wouldn't be surprised if you passed the 1000 mark eventually!)

Jane said...

Then knitters of Atlanta are waiting for you and your camera to find your way here. We even have the venue - the most perfect LYS in the world! No passport or shots required. Come soon.

Kris Elliott said...

My daughter is a freshman at the University of Chicago. (I live north of Dallas.) When we took her to visit the campus last summer, My Sister's Knits was the only yarn shop we had/took time to visit. It was a lovely experience! I had hoped to see a few more, but did not leave Chicago disappointed after meeting people and fondling the yarn at this one.

I hope to make it back to Chicago for one of your shoots and maybe see my kid too.

Mel said...

My dear, if you really want a pith helmet, whether or not you need it is irrelevant.

Janet said...

This Big Project is taking you to lots of interesting places. I liked your description of your foray to the South Side. Long ago I lived on the North Side and once went to the West Side - what a trek! - by the time I got there I wanted to turn right around and come "home" .

MonicaPDX said...

Ah, more wonderful photos - and adventures thereof. Had to LOL at the geography explanation; sounds like me out here in NE by the airport in PDX taking into consideration the looong bus/MAX ride out to the West Side. Glad you had a most happy expedition!

(And yeah, why not get a pith hat anyway?)

Marlena said...

I wonder if there's any chance you'd ever come to the Northeast (Maine)? Pretty please? We have the best yarn shops, and plenty of ocean, AND Ogunquit! :)

Margene said...

Just had to tell you I'm watching your project with fascination.

datatech57 said...

Franklin,

It was in trying to comment on a post of yours that I found myself with a blog of my own!

Please come to the DC metro area before you finish your project. I would really, really like to be in the book. Maybe you could come to Maryland Sheep and Wool this year? Hmmmm?

Ruth

Anonymous said...

Loved the project from the start; come to Minne.

for Ted: The Loop is da Loop because of the El (as in elevated train)tracks that circle it.

Gerrie in St Paul

dale-harriet said...

Get this: a friend has an apt in Chicago that he only uses during the week, and he said we could STAY there some weekend! So...I'm negotiating for a trip to see the Museums (Science & Industry, Natural History); the requisite stop-in at American Girl; maybe a couple of yarn shops....any chance Dolores would let me cone and stalk you in person? Er...meet politely, that's what I meant.

lynette said...

on behalf of Angie (#211):
Can you post the message that
I had a blast participating in the project and unfortunately I don't
have a blog yet.

thanks again....

Anonymous said...

Chocolate-flavored Chex Mix...is that a product one can purchase, or is there a recipe to make your own?

A :-) said...

Wheeee! Thank you Franklin!

Bethany said...

Thanks for the opportunity to be #200! Some of my friends went that evening too. Your first police officer...my friend from SnB! Most of all, it was great meeting you!

amlahe616 said...

Glad to be the first police officer knitter. And glad you have gotten over the South Side phobia.

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