When I was in second grade, my science class did an electricity experiment that went haywire while I was touching the metal end of the apparatus. I looked a smidge odd until my eyebrows grew back; yet on the whole I thought the experience of being briefly connected to a live current was pretty cool.
This may help to explain why I like New York City so much.
I saw it for the first time in the late 1980s, courtesy of a gracious college roommate who invited me to stay with his family in Manhattan during Spring Break. My parents, upon hearing our travel plans, were full of grim foreboding. The words filthy, noisy, crowded, and (above all) dangerous were thrown about. They didn't mean to be wet blankets, truly they didn't; but my great-grandmother got mugged on the street in Brooklyn in 1966 and after that whole place went straight to Hell.
On the afternoon of the first day, I dutifully called home to reassure my mother that I hadn't been kidnapped and sold into white slavery like Mary Tyler Moore in Thoroughly Modern Millie.
"Well?" said Mom, "How is it?"
"I found it!" I sighed. "I finally found the place where everybody walks at the same pace I do!"
That was not the right answer.
Americans who are not New Yorkers are not supposed to like New York. They're allowed to like certain things about it, maybe. A good musical, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or spotting Yoko Ono shopping at Barney's Uptown. But then they're expected to go home to a split-level house with a two-car garage and complain about the rushing, the crowds, the noise, the dirty streets, the overwhelming muchness of it all. Real Americans (as we were repeatedly reminded during the last election) are supposed to live in the suburbs and like it. Real Americans are supposed to prefer placid, empty, quiet, tidy.
But who would want a placid, empty, quiet, tidy New York? Not me. That wouldn't be New York, that would be Pyongyang. You may have it.
I go to New York to plug in. I love the way it wakes me up, even when it's unpleasant. Take, for insance, the smell of the subway underpass at 42nd Street. I'm not saying I savor that aroma, but you must admit it cannot be taken casually.
This month I went to the city to play with the good people at Lion Brand Yarn Studio on West 15th Street in the Union Square/Flatiron neighborhood. I gave a talk (and people came! and they laughed!) and I taught three classes (and people came! and we all laughed!).
The Studio serves as a public face for the company and is completely adorable. I don't care if you've never touched a skein of yarn in your life–you cannot ignore a display window that looks like this.
A closer view of the walrus. They were considering naming him "Franklin." I hope they did.
And the Inuit fisherman.
These folks go way beyond the customary yarn store mode of a-couple-baskets-of-yarn-plus-a-limp-sweater. The Studio interior is punctuated by spolia saved from previous installations, so you never know what you're going to encounter when you turn a corner.
I'm afraid I had only a pocket camera of limited capacity, but here are a few snaps of what I found.
In the larger upstairs classroom, spare materials for students who may have forgot something.
The needles are size US 300. Not sure about the metric conversion. Wouldn't want to take them through airport security.
This guy sits in the window of the smaller classroom, looking out to West 15th.
Hug it? Knit it? Hug it? Knit it?
On the way into the company owner's office, there's a crocheted Empire State Building complete with a couple of sightseeing tourists.
Inside the office, there's a vintage-style postcard (eight feet wide) celebrating the city's icons.
What you can see a little more clearly from this angle (click to embiggen)
is that the letters are three-dimensional and contain knitted and crocheted versions of (partial list!) Patience and Fortitude, the NYC Public Library lions; the giant Cup o' Noodles from Times Square; the Statue of Liberty; a Yankees cap; the Flatiron, Empire State, and Chrysler Buildings; the World Trade Center in memoriam; the Guggenheim Museum; and a hot dog cart that's half the size of the nearby hot dog. Underneath is the Brooklyn Bridge and a street crowded with a police car, a fire truck, a couple of taxi cabs and a tour bus.
At first I thought the little dude on the Brooklyn Bridge was a suicidal jumper, but it turned out to be the Phantom of the Opera consulting a city map. (Yes, he is so a New Yorker. He's been running in Manhattan since 1988.)
In the same room, there's also a chair/trellis hybrid crawling with butterflies and summer flowers.
I was trying to come up with a "country seat" joke here, but it wouldn't gel.
This is a box of something. I don't know what's in it. I was afraid to lift the lid.
Down in the basement, among the yarn storage bins, a friendly bunny keeps the staff company while they sort stock.
A wall map, about five feet across reminds one that there aren't Red States or Blue States, only states that like to play with yarn.
Kind of a nice thing to remember as the political candidates try to convince us otherwise.
While I was there, they caught me on cameras both still and moving:
I'm so happy I remembered to get my hair did. Also, I have a boycrush on Patty Lyons, the maven/doyenne/manager/queen of the LB Studio. She arranged the whole splendid shindig with such mastery that when she told me to stop fussing and relax, I actually did.
It was fun. I woke up. I hated to leave. I can't wait to go back. Hint, hint.