"No," I said. "It's absolutely out of the question."
"I think you're being silly," said Dolores. "You've never taken the project on the road before, and you don't know the terrain out there like I do. I'm practically a native."
"Are you, now? When was the last time you were in Sacramento?"
"Well, it wasn't technically Sacramento but it was very close by. In 1982 my act played an exclusive men's club just up the river–"
"Up the river."
"Yes, and we were quite the hit. Oh, you shoulda seen it. I got this troupe together, Van Hoofen's Hoofin' Honeylambs, four other girls with me as headliner. Oh, it was beautiful. A merino, a corriedale and these twin border leicesters we picked up in Idaho. For our big finish we did this static electricity number where we rubbed up against each other while the band played 'I Can't Get No Satisfaction' and then...well, let's just say the guys ate it up."
"Up the river. From Sacramento."
"They were a very appreciative audience. It took the National Guard three days to restore order."
"We're drifting away from the point. You are not coming to Sacramento and that's final. Besides, if you're there who's going to watch Harry? Mrs. Teitelbaum is with her daughter in Highland Park until Thanksgiving."
"Look everybody," shouted a happy little voice. Harry rolled in from the bedroom and twirled around on the carpet. "Look at me! I'm a California dude! Cowabunga! Pass the tofu! I get to go on a plane! Oh boy oh boy oh boy oh boy!"
"You already told him he could go?" I hissed.
"Don't worry," Dolores whispered. "I'm sure he'll recover from the disappointment. Eventually. With therapy, he may even cease to hate you."
"Cowabunga!" shouted Harry.
A few e-mails to the Sacramento guild sorted out that it would be a party of three, not one, arriving from Chicago. My contact, Cindi, even graciously asked whether Dolores, being a sheep, had any "special needs."
"Yes," I wrote back, "but most of them are illegal, even in California."
Harry was so jazzed at the prospect of his first airplane ride that he packed his suitcase a week in advance. By the night before departure he was bouncing off the walls, singing "Go West" over and over until I was ready to felt him.
Dolores was fretting over her luggage for the fiftieth time. The living room rug was strewn with enough outfits to open a boutique.
"We're only going to be there for one day," I said, digging through a pile of chiffon looking for a missing dpn. "I really don't see why this needs to be so complicated."
"Says the man with five dozen black t-shirts. Listen, nobody cares what you wear. But me, I have a reputation to uphold and I don't want to disappoint my public. How about this one?"
She held up a frothy, flouncy piece of silk with crochet lace insets.
"Mutton dressed as lamb," I said.
"Who asked you?" she said.
Getting There Is Half the Fun
My alarm was set for six in the morning, but I needn't have bothered. At about five a.m. I woke to a gentle tap, tap on my forehead.
"Shouldn't we get up?" asked Harry. "I don't want to miss the plane."
"The plane leaves at ten-thirty, Harry," I yawned. "Go back to sleep for a while."
Five minutes later I felt another tap.
"How about now? Is it time now?"
"No. If you can't sleep, go read a book or something."
"Can I play on the computer?"
"Fine. Sure. Whatever."
He rolled away. I pulled the comforter over my head and tried to pick up my dream (Viggo Mortensen, Sea Silk, cop uniform) where it had been interrupted.
"I checked the Web site! Our flight is on time!"
"Fine," I sighed. "Thanks."
"The current temperature is 42 degrees!"
"A guy named ChiFuzzyStud says good morning and he wants to see the rest of the fourth picture in your profile. Should I send it to him?"
I got out of bed.
Somehow, even with the early start, it was still a bit of a mad dash to catch the train to the airport. At ten minutes to seven, Dolores was still frantically trying on and discarding hats. Harry had finally agreed to leave his longboard at home, but only after I demonstrated via Google Earth that Sacramento, an inland city, is not exactly a surfing mecca.
We arrived at Midway to find the usual slurry of humanity oozing through the security lanes. Given past airport experiences, I was tempted to separate myself from Dolores. Harry seemed a little nervous, though, so I decided to stick close.
"You keep an eye on him," I warned as we merged with the crowd.
"Hey," she said, "Take your pill and chill out. It's under control."
I went first. Dolores followed behind, taking a little more time than is customary because she insisted on being patted down. Twice. We met on the other side of the metal detector as my camera bag slid into view.
"I just gotta get my purse," said Dolores.
"Fine," I said. "Harry should be through next, right?"
"Yeah," said Dolores.
"I don't see him."
"Here he comes," she said, picking up her purse from the conveyor belt. I heard a muffled scream from inside.
"You sent him through the X-ray machine?"
She opened the flap and Harry popped up, still screaming.
"It was less complicated this way," she said. "Harry, pipe down, people are staring."
"I'm sterile!" Harry screamed. "I can never have babies!"
"Oh please," said Dolores. "You heard the man. There's only a forty percent chance. Jesus, I need a drink. That screener had very rough hands."
Around that time my pre-flight Xanax mercifully kicked in and I don't remember much except that Harry finally settled onto the arm of my window seat with his eyes glued to the view, too fascinated by the passing landscape to ponder his potentially childless future. I drifted off to sleep while Dolores, in the middle seat, began chatting with the aging hippie sitting next to her.
I woke up about two hours into the flight and both Dolores and the hippie were gone.
"She'll be back in a couple minutes," Harry said. "She said they had to go to some kind of club meeting."
I took another Xanax.
We touched down right on time in Sacramento. As we rolled across the tarmac, Dolores finished cutting the latest notch in her lipstick case and tucked her new friend's phone number into her bosom. Harry was singing "Hotel California."
"Listen," I said. "We're supposed to meet the guild representatives at baggage claim, so keep your eyes peeled. They'll probably have a little sign that says "HABIT" on it or something so we can recognize them."
I need not have worried. They were easy to spot. See?
In the back row, from left to right you have Lorna (as in Lorna's Laces...could you die?), Cindi, the man who accompanied Dolores Van Hoofen to Sacramento, and Beth. You know the front row.
While we waited for the luggage, Dolores whispered to me, "The signs are cute...but what's with the weird glasses? Is that a California thing?"
First Things First
It was too early to check in at the hotel, so we were offered our choice of yarn or food. Guess which one we picked.
The luggage went into Beth's SUV, and we piled into Lorna's vintage Ford Mustang for a top-down, wind-in-your-face, sun-drenched ride to Babetta's Yarn and Gifts.
We were cordially welcomed at the door by Babetta herself and her daughter Maya. The two of them run the place together, and are obviously the kind of people who were put on earth in order to connect other people with yarn.
I loved the shop. In Chicago, space is at a premium and so our fine establishments are always fighting the battle of elbow room versus display space. At Babetta's, the shelves just seem to go on and on, yet there's still plenty of room for a comfortable sitting/teaching area.
The selection was great, and I was able to get four skeins of [censored] which will be perfect for the [censored] I'm making as a Christmas present for [censored].
(Blogging around the holidays can be such a pain in the ass.)
Later that evening, Dolores disappeared to rendezvous with Humphrey, the hippie from the plane. Harry snuggled happily into bed at the hotel with his sudoku book, and I joined a trés intime knitting session at Laura's house.
Laura's a guild member who knits the most incredible lace as though it were plain stockinette, does bead work that has been featured in galleries, and with her charming husband has raised a teenage daughter who, of her own free will, introduced herself to me clearly and politely before returning to her room to finish her homework.
We will now pause for a moment to admire the wonder that is Laura.
And I got a chance to get acquainted with Emmy, a former Chicagoan who years ago used to live on the same street that I do now–a street which is also a Lorna's Laces colorway. She presented me with two skeins of it. We bonded. It was hard to say good night, but I was getting very sleepy and nearly messed up a very long row of the [censored] I am knitting for [censored] for Christmas.
(Blogging around the holidays can be such a pain in the ass.)
Bright and early, Cindi hauled me and Harry off to the shoot venue (Dolores sent a text message that she and Humphrey had decided to drive to Santa Cruz for couples aromatherapy massages and a Pro-Hemp rally).
I barely had things set up before the first knitter arrived, and then...we were off. Aside from a delicious lunch eaten outdoors (outdoors! in November!) with the guild members who were working hard on a charity knitting project there was a non-stop stream of wonderful people in front of my lens.
Beth, who used to be a school teacher and so knows how to keep things organized, took such great care of the paperwork and introductions that I was able to relax and really enjoy meeting the models.
We were about halfway through the afternoon when somebody announced that a very large van had just pulled up to the building and knitters were pouring out of it. The van contained eight people from San Jose and Monterey, who had driven all the way to Sacramento. I was floored.
This is the ringleader, Jasmin, who asked me to pose with her and her sock. This is perhaps the closest I will ever come to being Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, so needless to say I savored the moment.
Here's the whole San Jose/Monterey group, courtesy of No-Blog Rachel who, ironically, now has a blog.
And I had another surprise. I'd just heard a gorgeous, poetic essay on "Cast On" by a writer named Melanie Hamilton, so gorgeous I'd listened to it five times with undiminished pleasure. And Melanie was the last sitter of the day.
I couldn't believe it was over already. For the chance to meet people like this, I could have kept shooting well into the night.
The trip home was less eventful than the trip out. I had a lovely breakfast with Cindi, Beth, Emmy, and Laura, and then it was time to head back to the airport.
Dolores, who stumbled in at about four a.m. after spending the night with Humphrey at a potluck poetry slam marathon, kept falling asleep. We finally dumped her onto a luggage cart and wheeled her to the gate, where she woke up long enough to send a text to Humphrey the hippie that it had been wonderful, but it was just one of those things.
"It could never have worked out anyway," she mumbled between sips of her Bloody Mary. "I could never commit myself to anything long-term with somebody so bloody sensitive."
"Allergic to wool."