Thursday, March 31, 2005

Ode to Spring

After two consecutive days of gentle spring weather, I started getting the urge yesterday to post an entry about the miracle of the seasons.

Only a week ago, I'd wanted to pound the chilly ground like a Morris dancer, exhorting Mother Earth to awake from her winter slumber and put forth her flowery finery.

And lo, on Monday Mother Earth did wake up, and the world began to hum. The daffodils grew taller, darling buds burst on tree branches, and in the air one smelt the sweet fragrance of looming abundance. "A thousand blessings on you, Mother Earth," I thought.

Of course, this is Chicago. So last night, a storm blew in. A big one. It's now about 38 degrees out, the flowers are trashed, the sky is slate gray, and there's a gale-force wind blowing the ice-cold rain around. This weather pattern is expected to persist for some days, right through the weekend.

So I've revised my original idea, and what I'd like to say to Mother Earth this morning is suck my weenie.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Let's Get Anal

Packing for Amsterdam/Holland/Belgium has begun, though I'm not outta here until 5 April. I can't help it - I'm not one of those freewheeling people who can just throw a toothbrush in a bag and buy my underwear en route.

Traveling Camera Bag Checklist
  1. Canon G2 camera body
  2. Adapter attachment thingie
  3. Step-down rings (two)
  4. Wide-angle adapter (Europe is often wide)
  5. Telephoto adapter (Europe is often far away)
  6. Flash unit (stock with new batteries)
  7. Extra set flash batteries (was Boy Scout, so am Always Prepared)
  8. Flash diffuser (to avoid "crime scene photo" shots)
  9. Lens drops (for when lens gets dirty)
  10. Lens tissues (for when lens watches sad movie)
  11. Lens brush (for when lens has bad hair day)
  12. Batteries (three)
  13. Battery charger w/ Euro voltage cable
  14. CF memory cards: 1 GB (one), 512 MB (two), 256 MB (one), 128 MB (two)
  15. Memory card safe (brushed steel so has kind of cool top-secret look to it)
  16. Lens hood (lens is sometimes shy)
  17. Polarizing filter (causes extreme left-right divisions on sensitive issues)
  18. UV filter (protects images from sunburn)
  19. Spare lens cap (for when first falls into river, or is eaten by aggressive farm animal)
  20. Camera electrical cords with plug adapter
  21. Holgas (2), pre-loaded
  22. 400 speed 120 film for Holgas (6 rolls)
  23. Camera tape to plug light leaks and keep backs from falling off Holgas
  24. Notepad and pen (necessary to take notes, especially when day's shooting includes 20 churches, or 10 quaint villages, or 470 cobblestone streets)
  25. Breath mints (not nice to kill friendly natives with dragon breath)
  26. Flat mini-umbrella (Europe is very damp)
This all goes into a neato backpack-style camera case I'll take on the plane. The top-loading walkaround shoulder bag that I'll actually use, and the camera tripod, both go into the big suitcase.

Aren't you glad you knit?

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Too Pretty

Halloween Parade, Chicago, 2003
Originally uploaded by panopticon.

After realizing that my last three posted photos featured a cute kid, a teddy bear, and a flower, I decided to damp down the cuteness just a smidge.

I'm not that kind of photographer, really I'm not.

If you ever see in this blog a picture of an adorable, fuzzy little kitty all cunningly tangled up in a ball of yarn and looking just so absolutely precious, you will know that somebody has hacked my account. And probably killed me.

About the Picture

One of the things I love about my neighborhood is that this Halloween costume parade usually features adults and kids in equal measure. It's not a "gay" event and it's not a "family" event, it's a "neighborhood" event and you get the full cross-section.

I give this queen credit for strutting her stuff that night - Halsted Street is long, and it was a late October night in Chicago. The temperature could not have been above 34 degrees.

Amsterdam Scarf

I'm getting into knitting on the train in a large way. I'm zoomin', man, I'm zoomin'. The scarf is almost long enough that I'll have to pin it to itself to keep it from dragging on the platform. (Don't be too impressed, this happens much faster when you're short.)

I hear that on the "KnitList" (which I haven't joined, though I understand it's wonderful for comic relief) the subject of knitting while in public is a frequent topic of discussion. What's to discuss? Nobody ever says boo to me.

Perhaps, considering what one sees people do on the Chicago trains (masturbate, smoke pot, screw, vomit, fight, urinate, and - on one really memorable morning - go into labor) the sight of "man knitting scarf" simply lacks punch.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Fleur de ma vie

Tulip, Garfield Park Conservatory Flower Show, 2005
Originally uploaded by panopticon.

It's spring, it's spring, and soon color will be back in the landscape and the earth will wake up, and with it, my eyes.

This tulip is blooming indoors. But it won't be long before the outdoors catch up. At least, I hope not.

Of course, leave it to me to spend time photographing tulips in Chicago a week before I go to Holland.

The Portfolio Case

Ethelbert and the Portfolio Case

The exterior is finished, and here it is. To give an idea of scale, the prints next to it are 8 x 10s. The bear (his name's Aethelbert) usually goes to Europe with me and considers himself part of the artistic process, so he insisted on being in the shot.

100 Things About Me, Part the Third

51. Here are the parts I’ve played on stage, in roughly chronological order (excluding that grade-school performance as Tooth Decay): Bobby VanHeusen, The Boy Friend; Lady Bracknell, The Importance of Being Earnest; Andreas Capodistriou, Whodunnit; Kenickie, Grease; Peter Quilpe, The Cocktail Party; Kilroy, Don’t Drink the Water; Argan, The Imaginary Invalid; Gary/George, The Actor’s Nightmare/Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You. (That last one was back in the mid-90s. I don’t perform anymore.)

52. If I were a character from Winnie the Pooh, I would be Eeyore.

53. I own seven working cameras. A Canon G2 digital (aka My Baby), two Holgas, a Soviet-made Lubitel TLR, a Kodak Box Brownie, a Zero Image multi-format pinhole, and a StereoRealist (used for making 3-D images). I also own two vintage Polaroid Land Cameras that look cool, but I don’t use them.

54. I have no yarn stash. Right now, extra money generally goes to photography-related expenses, so when I buy yarn it’s on a per-project basis.

55. Other kids run away from home. I packed a few belongings into a bag and went and sat on the curb in front of our house in Tucson, where I waited for my “real parents” to come and pick me up in their limousine. (Still waiting.)

56. I fell into Web design ass-backwards. I was working as a public relations flack when I was ordered to build a Web site for my employer, and so I did. And it turned out I was good at it. And lo, a career was born.

57. I hate building Web sites. I don’t even really like computers.

58. I am by temperament a pacifist, and I don’t even like the idea of hunting. But when I learned to shoot a rifle, I really enjoyed it.

59. I can wear orange and look good.

60. I collect antique/vintage cookbooks, etiquette books, and domestic manuals. My collection ranges in date from 1749 to the 1950s. I’ve garnered more practical information from these books than you might think possible.

61. These are things I would indulge myself in if the discretionary money were there: engraved stationery (including visiting cards), organic produce, expensive shoes, porcelain, linens, taxis.

62. Most of the time, I would rather make my own breakfast from scratch than go to a restaurant. They never get my eggs the way I want them.

63. I hate Sunday brunch. When I think of the precious Sundays I wasted in Boston, listening to vapid queens drone on about real estate, vacations, and the sex lives of those not present, I want to scream.

64. I tried sex with a woman once. I was in high school. She knew I was gay but thought maybe she could convert me. I figured “Why not?” as it was senior prom night and screwing around was well-nigh expected. It wasn’t dreadful, but on the whole I’d rather read a good book.

65. When my high school graduating class contacted me through one of those online services to see if I was interested in coming to the tenth reunion, I told them they had the wrong guy.

66. All the boys in my graduating class were required to take the military entrance examinations (women were allowed, but not required). Afterwards, I was contacted by three of the four branches of the armed services regarding officer training school. I told the Army and Navy to fuck off (and I quote), but was more polite to the Air Force out of respect to my father. I said I’d consider it if I didn’t have to live in the barracks, but could instead share an apartment with my boyfriend.

67. I like hot weather. I’m perfectly comfortable at temperatures over 100 degrees. On the other hand, being cold makes me miserable. So naturally, I live in Chicago.

68. If I ever visit a warm-climate city I feel I could live in happily, I’ll consider moving. The ones I’ve seen sprawl too much, don’t have decent public transport, and /or lack amenities I consider basic like opera companies, independent bookshops, and genuine street life. I want Chicago with palm trees, that’s what I want.

69. I love good food and truly enjoy cooking, but when I find myself at a table full of people who can’t stop gushing pretentiously about the exquisite cuisine and the transcendental wine, I want to mutter “It’s just food, dammit” and get up and go grab a burger at McDonald’s. Take a lesson from M.F.K. Fisher and Elizabeth David, kids – they defined food writing in our time and their highest accolade was “It’s very good.”

70. I’m considering getting a tattoo of the Cedar of Lebanon at the base of my spine. I have been considering said tattoo for 5+ years, and 20 years hence will probably still be considering it.

71. When I see guys wandering around Boystown with tribal or barbed-wire armband tattoos that they got when these were the height of fashion 10 years ago, I snicker.

72. My parents taught me to be very methodical when assembling kits or learning to use new tools, so I can generally puzzle out a DVD installation or furniture assembly without tears.

73. Given the example set for me by my amazing mother, who never threw her hands up and waited for men help her because she’s a woman, I confess I have zero patience for women who think breasts are an excuse to look with confusion upon power tools, gas pumps, lawn mowers, or anything else that needs to be taken in hand and dealt with. At least give it a try before you give up, for God’s sake.

74. I am always ready to eat peanut M & Ms.

75. I’ve spent most of my adult life expecting to die young (for no particular reason), and when I see the daffodils coming up and realize that I’ve made it through winter again, I am genuinely surprised.


We're having a good weather day here in Chicago. The temperature is tropical (low 40s and rising), the sun is out, and there's no wind to speak of. You'd have to have lived through our winter, and know that it's liable to be 22 and snowing again tomorrow, to understand how that feels.

At the end of last week I cast on for the scarf to match the London beanie, and decided that if it's going to be finished on time for Amsterdam, I'd have to start working on it during my commute.

It's extremely simple - just garter stitch - but I'm changing colors to work in stripes to match the hat. The old British military messenger bag I use to hold the yarn while I knit is working so perfectly that I've found I can even stroll up and down the platform stitching away. So far, so good.

It got even better. I was on the Red Line, chugging north to Evanston, when suddenly every last element fell into place. As stitches began to fly off the needle in time with the rocking of the train, Miss Peggy Lee rotated onto my iPod, crooning "Deed I Do," the sun poured in through the window in great bucketfuls, and the passengers around me for once did not smell like a compost heap.

Perfect. Absolutely perfect.

I hear and read all the time about the power of knitting to calm nerves and to help time otherwise idle time pass, but this was my first experience of it turning a banal and often unpleasant experience into a stolen moment of bliss.

Not a bad way to start the week.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Another Print

Near the Vaci Utca, Budapest, 2005
Originally uploaded by panopticon.

I finished this up two nights ago and just realized I forgot to post it here. This is for the Danube portfolio.

There will be three portfolios, when the project is done: Danube, Rodeo, and Chicago. There may be one more: Children.

The individual mounted prints will go into the portfolio case as needed depending upon the person or organization I'm showing it to.

It's a flexible way to work, recommended to me by an established pro whose experience and judgement I trust.

Per MarQ1's thoughtful request, I'm going to take a picture of the finished case and post it (I hope) this weekend.

And speaking of the weekend, I wish all and sundry a peaceful Easter (if that's your thing) or just plain peace.

And to all persons, regardless of denomination, I wish at least one Cadbury egg.

Q & A

Q: Wait a minute. Wasn't there an item here this morning about the snow falling in Chicago?

A: Yes, there was.

Q: Well, what I happened to it?

A: I deleted it.

Q: No kidding?

A: Do you see it here anywhere?

Q: Why did you delete it?

A: Because it wasn't funny, original, or especially interesting.

Q: Are you suggesting that the rest of your blog entries are?

A: I smell garlic. Did you have salami for lunch?

Q: Stop answering my questions with questions. I am the "Q. " You are the "A."

A: So that means I'm never allowed to ask the questions?

Q: You did it again!

A: Alright, alright. I'm sorry.

Q: I should hope so.

A: Can you ever forgive me?

Q: Gaaaaahhhhhhhh!

(Sounds of a scuffle. Fade to black.)

Thursday, March 24, 2005


London Beanie, completed.

Here it is, kids. The London beanie. And I'll be damned if it doesn't fit me just right.

That's not me in the picture, of course, it's Charlie Brown. But as our heads are strikingly similar, you get the basic idea.

I originally tried photographing it on my bust of Queen Victoria (this being, after all, a London beanie) but she didn't look amused.

On iTunes right this minute: Dixie Chicks, "Truth No. 2"

Giddiyap, Spring

Barrel Rider, Cowtown Rodeo, Ft. Worth, March 2005
Originally uploaded by panopticon.

Okay, I changed my mind.

Even though the calendar says it's spring, the weather outside today is nasty. Foggy, damp, freezing cold, with a wind off the lake that brought tears to my eyes as I left the building.

I need something to warm me up. So, no pictures of skinny runway models.

Herewith, instead, a completely gratuitous hot gay cowboy.

Knitting Notes

The London beanie is 95% of the way there and will leave the needles tonight. Preliminary fittings are very promising - unlike most hats I've bought, it doesn't have two extra feet of fabric at the top.

Now, the question is, can I knit a matching eight foot scarf in time to wear the ensemble to Amsterdam?

On iTunes right this minute: Carole King, "Chicken Soup with Rice" from Really Rosie

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

On Not Being a Runway Model

Hairdressing, DIFFA 2005, Dallas
Originally uploaded by panopticon.

This photo, and some others I think I'll post with the next few of entries, were taken backstage at a charity fashion show in Dallas during my Texas trip at the beginning of the month.

I don't think much of them, but they were a decent first attempt at shooting an unfamiliar situation.

They came to mind after last night's Stitch 'n' Bitch conversation bounced around like a pinball and finally landed on body image and eating disorders.

One of our number is a former model, tall and pretty and notably slender, but even she confessed to feeling intense pressure to be thinner when she was walking the walk.

Startling. One of the chosen few, blessed by nature with an inclination to the shape the media is constantly insisting should be the goal of every woman, and even she's not immune to worry about weight.

When is this going to stop?

Yes, America has a weight problem. When you sit all day, drive everywhere, and eat meals that are too large, it's going to happen.

I've had four close relatives die from complications directly related to morbid obesity, so I know perfectly well how at a certain point body fat becomes a health hazard.

But what about when the amount of fat a person carries isn't really unhealthy, it's just a fact of life?

Why, for example, should a woman who was endowed by her creator with certain unalienable hips feel bad because, from behind, she does not look like a 12-year-old boy?

Granted, it is the nature of a society's ideal of beauty that it will never be wholly embodied by the majority. But how has our own ideal drifted so far towards the utterly unattainable?

Have we become so masochistically involved with media images and mass marketing that we would feel lost if we looked at ourselves in the mirror and appreciated what was there instead of cursing it?

I don't usually like to post rambling entries like this, but the topic keeps turning over in my mind. Maybe leaving the end open will generate discussion, and maybe this will lead to a more carefully-formed piece of writing down the line.

On iTunes right this minute: Joan Sutherland, "O beau pays de La Touraine" from Les Huguenots

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Maybe Tomorrow We Can Watch "Beaches"

When all goes according to plan, I work out on my lunch hour at gym near the office. I have nice little routine that fits into the hour, including a quick shower and the walk there and back. I occasionally get back five minutes late, but as the energy boost allows me to continue to produce while my colleagues doze off, I don't feel guilty about it.

Anyhow, this gym is (like every other damn thing in Evanston) distinctly yuppie in tone. The crowd is usually me, six or so sorority girls, a collection of women who could be extras on Desperate Housewives, and assorted straight businessmen who are generally either teaching or studying at the university's business school.

The businessmen are always outnumbered three to one by everybody else. But as is their way, they still manage to dominate the place. They shout personal conversations from one end of the room to the other, they loll about on machines while others are waiting to use them, they spread their belongings across the floors and benches of the crowded locker room. And although this is a gymnasium and not the offices of Merrill Lynch, they always insist on keeping the television facing the cardiovascular machines tuned to one of the financial channels.

Not today.

I don't know how it happened, but as I was climbing onto the whateverthehell machine (it's good for the glutes), I noticed that the television was showing HGTV or some similar network. A sweetly plump lady in a patterned blouse was planting herbs under a grow-light, assisted by a green queen in bermuda shorts and sandals (nice legs).

So instead of closing my eyes and blasting the "Hi-NRG Opera" playlist on my iPod as usual, I watched the show and I think even learned why my last rosemary plant went buns up on me even though I didn't overwater it. Most pleasant.

But this is really not about me, it's about the businessmen. Their reaction to this unthinkable state of affairs was extremely amusing.

There were three of them (out of about 14 people on the machines) and they were visibly upset and being deprived of their choice of channel for an hour. Two of them appealed directly to the crowd in general.

The first wandered in, looked at the television, and asked, "Are you watching this?" (A peculiar question to ask 11 people whose eyes are trained on the screen.)

We replied in chorus, "Yes."

The second came in about five minutes later. "Would you mind if I changed this?"

Again we replied, "Yes."

He shook his head and heaved himself onto a bicycle next to the first guy. They were near enough that I could hear them grousing. "What the f--k is this?" "Hell if I know."

The third guy came in and just walked over and reached up to change the channel.

"Hey!" shouted a woman on a treadmill, "We're watching that."

He turned around and look blankly at us for a minute, then turned back around and reached for the buttons again.

"I said we are watching that, do not change the channel," said Treadmill Woman, with more than a hint of firmness in her tone.

The guy turned to me - I was on the machine closest to the television - and said conspiratorially, "You believe this s--t? How long until these bitches clear out so we can have the TV back?"

I leaned over and whispered, "Soon, I hope. I want to flip it over to Lifetime so we can catch the Designing Women marathon."

Monday, March 21, 2005


The London beanie, about 70% complete
Originally uploaded by panopticon.

Now, I know all you Knitting Mavens out there are going to snicker at this, but I'm doing a little happy dance tonight because I finished the stripes on my London beanie.

The colors of the photograph are way off, it's really deep blue with a gray stripe. I would adjust the colors and such, but that's what I do all day and, frankly, Daddy is tired.

As an added bonus, the beanie is posing on the lid of the newly finished portfolio case you've all heard too much about.

And yeah, the damn thing's on a circular needle now. The previous attempt on dpn's got frogged (again) when I screwed up the counting (again) and messed up the ribbing (again).

I don't think it was the dpn's, so much as the fact that I was knitting rather late at night, but it's easier to blame the equipment, isn't it?

Soon I'll face the ultimate decision: To mount a propeller on top, or no?

On iTunes right this minute: Bessie Smith, "You Been a Good Ol' Wagon, Daddy, But You Done Broke Down"

But I've Never Been to Me

I can't imagine to whom else this will be of interest, but it's my blog, so there.

the states you've been to, underline the states you've lived in and italicize the state you're in now...

Alabama / Alaska / Arizona / Arkansas / California / Colorado / Connecticut / Delaware / Florida / Georgia / Hawaii / Idaho / Illinois / Indiana / Iowa / Kansas / Kentucky / Louisiana / Maine / Maryland / Massachusetts / Michigan / Minnesota / Mississippi / Missouri / Montana / Nebraska / Nevada / New Hampshire / New Jersey / New Mexico / New York / North Carolina / North Dakota / Ohio / Oklahoma / Oregon / Pennsylvania / Rhode Island / South Carolina / South Dakota / Tennessee / Texas / Utah / Vermont / Virginia / Washington / West Virginia / Wisconsin / Wyoming / Washington D.C /

Go HERE to have a form generate the HTML for you.

100 Things About Me, Part the Second

26. I hate going fast. I don’t like riding in fast cars, don’t like roller coasters, I don’t even go too fast on my bicycle.

27. On a related note, cars themselves bore me. If you put a gun to my head and asked me to pick a certain make or model out of a line-up, I’d be a dead man.

28. I’ve never done drugs. Even my doctor doesn’t believe this, but it’s true. And I feel like the ship has sailed – if I were going to smoke pot, by now I would have smoked pot. People keep predicting that my trip to Amsterdam will somehow change this. I can’t imagine how, unless the customs officials at Schipol Airport greet me by shoving a hash cookie into my mouth.

29. I get drunk faster than anybody I’ve ever met. A half glass of red wine makes me flush and stumble over words. I don’t feel a nice glow or happy buzz, but I do wake up the next day with a killer hangover. So I don’t drink.

30. I once wanted to be a professional chef, and tested the waters by working in the kitchen of a high-end caterer. I met an awful lot of people with prison records, many of whom had a way with puff pastry and sauce bearnaise.

31. I don’t wear sneakers outside the gym. (When I’m not dressed for work, I’m usually wearing boots of one kind or another.)

32. In my personal pantheon of heroes and heroines, women outnumber men 2 to 1.

33. When I lived in Boston, people assumed from my appearance that I was Jewish. In Chicago, the usual assumption is that I am Hispanic. Nobody, to my knowledge, has ever guessed my background correctly without any clues.

34. I don’t do drag.

35. I was so overcome with emotion when I visited the tomb of Queen Elizabeth I in Westminster Abbey that I cried. (Quietly, but persistently.)

36. On my first trip to New York City, at age 18, instead of being scared or overwhelmed, I was instead delighted to finally be in a city where people walk at the same pace I do.

37. The first part I ever performed in a play was Tooth Decay in an elementary school melodrama called The Perils of Pearl White. With a few exceptions, I was typecast as villains ever after.

38. A former partner of mine got me interested in acoustic recordings, which is the reason I now have a 1906 Victrola and 100 lbs of opera 78s in my apartment. (Please do not ask me how much your grandmother’s Carusos are worth. You won’t like the answer: About two bucks each, if you’re lucky. My favorite acoustic era singer is Nellie Melba.)

39. I was a Boy Scout for about a year. Hated it. I’m sure my parents were disappointed that I quit as soon as I possibly could. They might have been less so if I’d been able to tell them about the drinking and smoking that were the chief features of every campout. (The crawling into each others’ sleeping bags at night, I had no problem with.)

40. When I was a kid in Catholic School, I overdosed on Lives of the Saints and spent about a year desperately wanting to see a vision or experience a miracle. Sadly, the Virgin Mary was reluctant to show herself in central Ohio (and I don’t blame her).

41. I loved Latin in high school. Loved it. In a perfect world, I would be able to devote time every day to improving my knowledge of the language, for the sheer joy it gives me. Latin did all the things for my brain that mathematics was supposed to do, and did not. It should be offered as an option to every high school student, in lieu of trig and algebra.

42. The first high school I went to, Damien Memorial High School, a sorry pile of concrete in Honolulu named after Father Damien DeVeuster (a saintly man who worked with lepers on the island of Molokai), was such a horrible place I still have fantasies about bulldozing it. Aside from Latin, I learned nothing except a healthy disrespect for authority. Two wasted years of terror alternating with boredom.

43. Everything I know about comic timing, I learned from “Sesame Street.”

44. I think most parents I’ve met in the past 10 years or so are doing a lousy job of raising their children, mostly by being too permissive.

45. I wish I had a dog. (Pets are verboten under my current lease.)

46. I think Provençal cuisine has been done to death and is largely overrated.

47. Even in years when I know I’m getting a refund, I hate doing my taxes.

48. I am allergic to fish and seafood.

49. I have at various times had lessons in violin, French horn, baritone horn, and piano. I was absolutely dreadful at every one of them.

50. I want a new job.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Back in the Saddle

Flag Rider, Cowtown Rodeo Grand Entry, 2005
Originally uploaded by panopticon.

It's not all better today, but it's better.

I wrote last night's entry to get the feelings out of my system, not to garner sympathy, but let me tell you - the kind words that came in via comments went straight to my heart.

Every single one of you said something that helped me. Something I will use to move forward, and keep going.

To all of you, as one of my dearest old lady friends would say, "A blessing on your smart little head, oytser."

The Portfolio Case

The wax finish was the way to go. It gleams, it has depth, it feels heavenly under the fingers. Excellent. Tonight I plan to re-assemble the pieces and this weekend I want to get the lining material.

Knitting Horizon

Must. Finish. Sweater. For those just tuning in to this action-filled blog, I'm on sleeve #1 of the Skully Sweater from Stitch 'n' Bitch. I've conquered my fear of intarsia, and am now fussing about with the pattern I designed that is intended to replace the skulls.

I need to stop waffling and just finish it, because Colleen waved a smashing men's sweater pattern from Knitty in front of me, and now I feel compelled to try it.

(Thanks a whole lot, Colleen. Like I'm not busy enough.)

Ye Ollde London Beanie continues apace and may actually be ready in order to go with me to Holland & Belgium next month.

(Not as grand as it sounds - I'm shepherding a bunch of university alumni about. But it does mean a free trip on a pretty ship, and I'm going to spend three precious days in Amsterdam on my own beforehand.)

Poetry Corner

Jon says he hasn't read anything in my Book Tag entry (Felicia tagged me) with the exception of one poem by John Donne, to which I reply:

A little Donne
Is better than nonne.

Book Tag

To distract myself from my hideous mood (sleep is not happening right now) I'm going to answer Felicia's tag questions. Thinking about books always makes me feel a little better.

Last Book Read: The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

From Whence Came It: I bought this particular copy (a beaten-up Modern Library hardcover) years ago for a dollar from the Brattle Book Shop in Boston. (That shop, with its wonderful outdoor racks of books for $3 or less, is the only thing I miss about Boston. The only thing.)

Books Read Per Year: If you count re-reading, that would probably be somewhere in the area of 250.

Favorite Genre: Pre-WWII British literature. It can be fiction, it can be non-fiction, it can be cookbooks or diaries or volumes of sermons. For some reason, I can't get enough of it.

Favorite Five Books of All Time:

Agony. This is a non-ordered list and subject to change. (I have commitment issues.)
  1. The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim
  2. Middlemarch by George Eliot
  3. Possession by A.S. Byatt
  4. Swann's Way by Marcel Proust
  5. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Sorry to be so obvious in my choices. Sometimes classics are classics for a reason. These are all books that made me stop and catch my breath as I read not once, but several times, and were wonderful enough for me to go back and re-read them more than once. I have passages from most of them committed to memory.

A few books that didn't make the cut but that you should read before you die are the "Lucia" novels of E. F. Benson; E.M. Delafield's Provincial Lady series; Antonia Fraser's biographies (her Marie Antoinette: The Journey made me sob at the end); Elizabeth Ehrlich's Miriam's Kitchen; the poems of John Donne; the diaries of Dorothy Wordsworth (I like them better than her brother's drippy poetry); and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. On the subject of kid lit, I consider Charlotte's Web to be one of the most perfectly written books ever.

I've just realized I could go on in this vein for, oh, five or six months. But I won't. It's late, I actually feel calm enough to sleep, and Chris will be here soon (thank heaven).


Cri de coeur

So I was applying another coat of wax to the portfolio case, and really it looks quite handsome. It looks like I hoped it would - the hand-applied wax has a depth to it, a lustre that gives the thing far more visual heft than it deserves considering what I paid for it.

So I was rubbing and rubbing, and suddenly had the most unexpected and rather overwhelming feeling of "Why the hell am I doing this?"

Right now I feel like packing up my camera, and the lenses, and the filters, and the batteries, and the brushes and cloths and lens drops and the flash and putting them all in a bag. And then taking the bag downstairs, out into the street, where I will hand it to the first person I encounter on Sheridan Road, and never pick up a camera ever again.

I'm having one of those moments, one of those nasty scary moments, when all I can think is that if I were going to do something with a camera, I ought to have picked it up about, oh, 15 years ago instead of two. It feels like it's too late, the ship sailed, left the dock before I even got there.

What the hell did I do with my twenties, when I should have been living on a shoestring and polishing a craft and gaining experience? I took care of a singer who couldn't sing...and then of a drunk who abused me, used me up, and replaced me. I worked at jobs I hated because the former needed support, and the latter couldn't handle being hitched to somebody without a fancy title.

I should be entering the first phase of my artistic maturity right about now, or even the second. And instead I am still fumbling around with journeyman pieces and shots that right now seem no better to me than lucky snapshots.

I don't know what's wrong with my head. Maybe neverending winter just has me tired out, and work is certainly not helping. I can't stand the thought of facing either tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Wax On, Wax Off

Folk Dance Troupe, Budapest, 2003
Originally uploaded by panopticon.

My portfolio case lies on the dinner table, stripped, splayed open, stained and wet. Next comes...the wax.

Never a dull moment around here.

While it's drying, I've been working on another print for the Danube set. Kids, as you can see. I don't only photograph old ladies, you know. Oh, no. I'm happy to train my lens on anybody I'm sure I can outrun, if necessary.

Don't know if this is going to make the cut, but I have to play with it and live with it a little before I can decide.

On iTunes: "Wayfaring Stranger," Herdman, Hills, and Mangsen.

Oh Dear

Well, with my big mouth it was bound to happen sooner or later.

Mixed in with the warm fuzzy comments, I got my first critique. Anonymous, but quite pointed. A while back, I made an offhand comment about the lack of men's sweater patterns for anyone who was under 65 and not "a dentist, a dork, or a C.P.A."

So I heard from a young C.P.A., married to a dentist, and not dorky, who was not pleased with me at all, and said it spoiled the pleasure she'd gotten out of reading my blog.


What does one do?

I know some bloggers have no-change, no-delete policies, which is well and good for them. I certainly don't. I consider any piece of writing on here subject to revision or correction at my whim at any time. This is a diary, not a newspaper of record.

And of course, some might say, "That's my opinion, I'm sticking by it." I considered it. Were the comment in the nature of a deeply held belief or educated opinion, that would be my response, even if it meant nobody ever read this blog again.

But I pondered, and decided:
  1. I do not, in fact, have deeply held beliefs about the sartorial habits of either dentists or C.P.A.s. The comment was intended to be humorous.

  2. That said remark reads, to those who know me not, as something of a swipe against a group of people against whom I have no grudge or ill-will.

  3. That just as I would prefer that people not classify me as a [sissy, slut, child molester, etc] because I'm gay, I really ought not to lump the dentists and the C.P.A.s into the "dork" category without compelling evidence. (And come to think of it, the woman who does my taxes always wears very kicky hammered jewelry.)
And so, as sole proprietor and custodian of this here blog: I offer the lady who wrote an apology for having written without thinking (not that she will ever see it), and I will be altering the wording of that entry.

And to those of you who fear I'll always sway like a willow in the wind and stop offering opinions in order to never offend again: Just wait a couple minutes.


Aunt Eva

I want to thank everybody who took a moment to read my little tribute to Aunt Eva. Your kind comments gave me a smile on a sad day. She was a social creature to the core, and would find your attention enormously flattering.

Double Pointed Needles

I've also had a spate of helpful suggestions about working on double pointed needles. I realized last night that after working on Web sites since the mid-90s, many of which purported to be "online communities," for the first time I feel like I'm truly experiencing an online community. Thank you all!

Shut Up, I'm Counting

I took the London beanie to Stitch 'n' Bitch last night and royally screwed it up. At this time, talking and counting are mutually exclusive activities for me.

So, back at home I frogged it and started it over again. Once again, as with the sweater neckline, I was surprised to find myself enjoying the process instead of muttering oaths at work lost and time wasted. I swear I turn into a different person when I knit. A kinder, gentler Franklin, less inclined to throw things at people's heads.

So Beanie Version 3.0 is now on the needles, and this is the best go-round yet (thanks largely to the advice I've gotten from comments on this blog).

Picture forthcoming. Honest.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

In Memoriam: Auntie Eva

In Memoriam: Auntie Eva
Originally uploaded by panopticon.

It was one year ago that my Aunt Eva died. She was just shy of 56 years old.

All my life Aunt Eva had a unique place in my heart. She was my Auntie Mame figure.

She had no children of her own to spoil, and from the minute I was born she decided was an angel on earth, if not the actual Second Coming. It's nice to have someone think that of you - even when you know perfectly well it's untrue and undeserved.

In my childhood, I was berated on an almost daily basis for my innate love of reading, drawing, and pretty things, all of which were considered sissified and shameful.

But what others criticized, Aunt Eva encouraged. She surrounded herself with objects of beauty and didn't blame me for wanting to do the same.

In my first memory of her, we're in a gift shop. It smells of eucalyptus. She's holding up a stained glass butterfly to the light and asking me to admire it.

It's fitting. We shopped almost every time I visited her as a child. Marathon trips, starting with a grand restaurant breakfast, pausing for lunch at some place with hushed conversation and nice china, and ending as the stores were closing for the night.

She never bought me a baseball, a hockey stick, or a soccer ball because that was what I, as a boy, "supposed" to want.

Instead, I remember birthday boxes full of goodies of every description, most of which nobody else would have given me. Always lots of books. Beautiful books, my favorite thing in the world (then and now). And every one of them inscribed "With Love from Auntie Eva XOXO" in her clear, almost calligraphic hand.

But it wasn't the presents, really it wasn't. It was the message behind them: You're okay, there's nothing wrong with liking the things you like, and I love you the way you are, no matter what.

Any gay man or woman reading this - or any straight man or woman who didn't fit the description of "normal" as a child - will appreciate how much that means.

I miss you, Auntie Eva. Wherever you are, I hope the stores are open late, your credit is unlimited, and they have your size in every color.

I'll never forget you.

Monday, March 14, 2005


Steer Riding, Cowtown Rodeo, March 2005
Originally uploaded by panopticon.

You Go, Girl

Here's another shot from the Ft. Worth Rodeo, one I feel rather confident the TGRA people will be pleased with.

That is, just so you know, a woman showing the bucking steer who's boss. We at The Panopticon are all about gender equality.

Yarn Store Review

Knitter's Niche (see yesterday's entry if you give a damn) was worth the visit. The shop isn't large, but I like it.

Yarns run the price gamut from modest to yikes, with nothing too cheap (no Lion Brand, no Red Heart). I found exactly what I wanted for my hat and scarf - four skeins of blue and gray in a wool/acrylic blend. (Yeah, I know. But I don't want to have to handwash them, and 100% wool makes my head itch. Bite me.)

They have a small selection of needles, notions, and patterns, but it was more than enough to satisfy my modest needs.

The notoriously scary owner wasn't in. The lady who waited on me was extremely pleasant. After politely asking if she could help me, she left me alone until I was ready to check out.

The atmosphere was cozy, and the scarf class (you need a class to make a scarf?) going on the back sounded like it was having fun. I'm on the mailing list now. I'll be interested to see what sort of classes they offer, even though I'm usually a learn-it-myself sort of person.

So, I survived. However, Jon, do you think I could get a lesson in walking the yarn shop walk when you're in town for Stitches? Pretty please?

Celebrity Knitting

The nice yarn shop lady and I commiserated over that poncho Martha Stewart was wearing in that photograph - you know the one I mean.

She says people have been clamoring for the pattern. Pattern? Please. It doesn't look like it was knitted, it looks like it was regurgitated. Even for a poncho, it's a washout.

Lo, the power of celebrity to sell anything.

On a related note, the scarf class women were also twittering about Keanu Reeves being spotted with a knitted Love Token from some actress around his neck. They all want the pattern.


My First Three-Way

No, not that kind. I've never knitted anything on double-pointed needles, to that was last night's adventure as I progressed on the London beanie.

It wasn't exactly a barrel of fun at first, but I have to say the phobia some people have about them escapes me. Yes, there is a danger of stitches slipping off. So use point protectors. What's the big deal?

Of course, it's not like I've finished a project with them, so perhaps there's a dreadfully tricky passage awaiting me down the line. You sage masters who might be reading this - anything I should be careful about?

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Shaking in My Boots

So, I'm going to this knitting shop in Chicago that I've never been to before, called Knitter's Niche.

I've been to two other places in Chicago, Arcadia Knitting and a place near my office in Evanston.

Arcadia is very nice, but a smidge on the expensive side for a newbie like me (I don't deserve to knit anything with $15/skein yarn yet). Getting there also means walking 5 city blocks through an iffy neighborhood, after a ride on the train.

The place in Evanston is a four-minute walk from my desk, but was so breathtakingly rude I will give up knitting before I ever spend a penny in there again.

Knitter's Niche is pretty close to my building, just a pleasant stroll through Boystown, but the owner has a reputation for being a bit on the gruff side. And that's with women. God only knows how she's going to react to me.

I wish I could morph into Colorado Jon for the afternoon so I could strut in there and ask for something impressive. All I need is supplies for the London beanie, which I started once already and frogged when I realized the yarn was going to make my head itch.

I'll report in later, unless of course I don't make it out alive.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Another Print

Fishermen's Bastion, Budapest.
Originally uploaded by panopticon.

One more for the Danube portfolio.

The blue of the sky, which is rather intense and gives the print its punch, refuses to come through on a computer screen. I'm not going to fuss with it, though.

Now, off to the hardware store to see about getting a can of beeswax for the finish on the portfolio case.

Friday, March 11, 2005


Cowboys, Cowtown Rodeo, March 2005
Originally uploaded by panopticon.

I just got an e-mail from a self-described faithful reader (who knew?) taking me to task for not including a picture of the intarsia swatch.

For heaven's sake - you can see unfinished objects on any old knitting blog. Wouldn't you rather I used that bandwith to post this sort of picture instead?

(I will, however, chart the course of the sweater sleeve with pictures, word of honor. Far be it from me to disappoint my public.)

Night Swatch

Intarsia Practice Continues

Jon and Mark, I thank you again. I sat down with the intarsia swatch in earnest last night for about an hour before bed, and between your sage advice and the pretty drawings in the little Vogue Knitting guidebook I was able to successfully knit my little brown shape into a field of blue.

I did have tiny setbacks, mostly the occasional hole between colors. When that happened I forced myself to stop, take a breath, unknit, and reknit (and reknit and reknit) until finally the stitches formed properly and the gap disappeared.

After about 20 rows, I was changing colors and organizing the individual balls of yarn without sweating or swearing, and I feel confident enough to tackle the first sleeve on the non-skull skull sweater.

Ah, life's little victories.

Reason #853 Why It Sucks to Be a Male Knitter

So, Mark is knitting the Jesse's Flames sweater from Stitch 'n' Bitch Nation, which I've been considering as my next sweater project. The design seems to be freakishly popular - Debbie Stoller and two other people were wearing it during the book signing at Arcadia Knitting, and I've seen it on at least four blogs.

I think that when I knit it, I'm going to change the flame colors to purple and green. It'll be an homage to one of my favorite movie villainesses, Maleficent in the Disney version Sleeping Beauty. My affection for that film has dimmed since kiddiehood, but I still enjoy the scenes in which she flits about like Theda Bara, with the little chorus of goons and that creepy bird.

Of course, if I may soapbox for just a moment, it's no surprise that everybody is knitting that sweater. It's a fun design, for one thing, and it's in a popular book. But more than that - it's a rare example of a men's sweater pattern that a male under the age of 65 who is a not a dork would willingly put on his body.

I keep reading about the Curse of the Love Sweater and I can't help but think that part of the problem comes from the paucity of designs for sweaters a boyfriend would want to wear.

Ladies (for you seem to suffer most from the curse), a tip: Don't make your boyfriend anything (not a mitten, not a scarf, not a sock) that doesn't fit in with the stuff he already owns. A guy who likes to live in faded jeans and beer-stained sweatshirts is not, no matter how much you wish it so, going to jump with joy at the sight of the grandfatherly Aran cardigan you've spent three months creating from handspun whatever-the-hell. Buy him a new sweatshirt and spend the money and time making something for yourself .*

If you are one such lady, you may be thinking, "But I really want to knit him a sweater." Perhaps he has even asked for one. Tough luck. An ugly or unsuitable sweater is no less ugly and no more suitable because you made it. And chances are, you're not going to find a pattern for anything he'd like.

Maybe someday I'll get to a point where I can design things myself. And when I do, I'm going to supplement the 4,456,234 books at Borders that offer patterns for precious lil baby clothes and "fun" felted purses with one volume entitled Sweaters for Young Men Who Live in the City and Are Not Pursuing Careers that Require a Tie and Loafers.

For therein lies the rub. I know from reading (for example) QueerJoe's Knitting Blog that there are wonderful designers like Kaffe Fassett** who are creating men's designs. Problem is, while I love to look at them, I can't wear them. Colorful diamond-patterned cardigans don't go with engineer boots and a biker jacket. I tried the preppy thing for four years at Harvard and discovered that I lack the proper cultural antecedents to carry it off. You could put any of those gorgeous sweaters on me, and I'd make them look dumpy.

The knitting fad has brought out shelves full of pattern books for the young urban female knitter. So how much longer do the guys have to wait, dammit?

*Unless that something is a poncho, in which case if you even think about it I will break your fingers.
** His needlepoint designs make me sticky wet.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

From Martha to Ursula to Me and You

I'm having a bad day, and stumbled across an entry in another blog from someone who seems to be having a rather similar bad day.

This reminded me of one of the most inspiring quotes I've ever come across, and which I keep on a piece of paper in my wallet so it's always there.

I ran across it in Dear Genius, the wonderful collection of the letters of Ursula Nordstrom published by HarperCollins a few years ago. Ursula was the brilliant, brave head of children's books at Harper & Row (in its various permutations) and she coaxed into being (among other books) Where the Wild Things Are; Harriet the Spy; Goodnight, Moon; Harold and the Purple Crayon; and Charlotte's Web. She's one of my personal household goddesses and one of the people I hope to meet in heaven.

Ursula used to provide this Martha Graham quote (which she carried in her purse) to writers who were in crisis, and when I first read it I was so moved had to close the book and sit still for quite a long time to assimilate it.

Anyhow, the quote:

"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action and because there is only one of you in all of time this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly, to keep the channel open."

I'll drink to that. And I don't even drink.

100 Things About Me, Part the First

I keep running across variations of this theme on other blogs. Seems like a fun exercise. Prepare to be fascinated.

1. I’m quite short (5’3”) and I don’t mind it – in fact, I like it. I have noticed that other people seem to consider it a handicap and I don’t understand why.

2. I’m gay, and knew it unambiguously from an early age – 10 years old. I never went through a crisis of conscience about it.

3. I was raised Roman Catholic, and though I am no longer practicing in the sense of attending Mass or receiving the Sacraments regularly, I am still a cultural Catholic. I privately observe Saints’ days, light candles, and say my rosary. While some will see this as naïve, bizarre, or superstitious, I don’t particularly give a damn.

4. Ethnically I am a mix of Lebanese, Slovak, Czech (all on my father’s side), and Italian (on my mother’s side).

4. I grew up in a military family. My father had a distinguished 20-year career in the Air Force and I still feel an affinity to and affection for the USAF. Hearing “Off We Go into the Wild Blue Yonder” inevitably makes my eyes tear up.

5. I love both my parents, and think that especially considering the oddball son they were given, they did their honest best and a very good job. I feel that I can never possibly repay them for the sacrifices they made to ensure that I got what I needed as a child.

6. I was born in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, which I will have you know is the county seat of Fayette County.

7. My earliest memory is pulling a Fisher-Price puppy on a string through the laundry room of an apartment building we were living in. I would have been about a year old.

8. I do not drink coffee and never have. The smell of it makes me gag.

9. I was the second person in my family to get a college degree. My father went back to school part-time in my junior year, and got his diploma a couple of days before I did.

10. My lifelong love affair with British literature started when I was five and read P.L. Travers’ Mary Poppins.

11. I love working out. It makes me feel good and boosts my creativity. In a perfect world, I would be at the gym two hours a day, every day. I get frustrated because work so often interferes with my regimen.

12. I love opera, but a night at the symphony is utter hell for me. Sitting and listening to an orchestra while stuck in the middle of a row of people with nothing to look at or read makes me fidget. Add a singer to the mix, and I’m fine.

13. I’ve been to two pop concerts in my whole life: Donna Summer and Cher. (See Item #2). Cher was fun. Donna sucked. I have no desire to see another.

14. I have managed to make most of my hobbies pay in at least a small way. I’ve been paid to write, to draw, to design Web and print pieces, to embroider, to take photographs, and to direct, and to act. Haven’t been paid to knit. Yet.

15. I love to dance, and can lead most ballroom dances and follow in the two-step, the waltz, and both standard variations of swing.

16. My first movie star crush (age seven) was Gene Kelly in An American in Paris. My second (age eight) was Olivia Newton-John in Xanadu. (See Item #2.) Have not had one since then.

17. By the time I was six I knew most of the songs in Funny Girl from listening to my parents’ LP recording. (See Item #2.)

18. I learned to read, apparently by myself, when I was about a year and a half old. The first book I remember reading was The House That Popeye Built.

19. I have an inexhaustible appetite for chocolate and any form of fried potato.

20. I really, really wish I could sing, but I can’t.

21. In the past 10 years, four close relatives of mine have died from heart failure brought on by obesity.

22. I got into a fist fight once, in high school. He started it, I won.

23. My first three dates were, in order, an Air Force captain, a Marine lieutenant, and a Navy ensign. When I was in high school it was easier to find grown men than guys my own age to go out with. (That rumor you’ve heard about Marines is true.)

24. I can remember obscure points of British history but have to hunt for my glasses every morning.

25. It burns me up that one of my favorite movies, Enchanted April, is not out on DVD while Pootie Tang is easily procured from any rental or retail outlet.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

If I Had a Pony

Pole Bending, Cowtown Rodeo, March 2005
Originally uploaded by panopticon.

I remember this wonderful "Peanuts" cartoon from years ago, in which Sally Brown had to write an essay on the theme "If I Had a Pony."

She began, "If I had a pony, I'd get on it and ride out of here so fast it would make your head spin."

Which perfectly encapsulates my feelings about working for Northwestern University just at this precise moment.

My Dinner with Amy

What a lovely evening. I spent last night having dinner and catching up with Amy, one of my dearest friends from college. She's in town for a few days for a conference, staying not far from me at a hotel in the Loop.

I hadn't seen or spoken to her in ages, as our friendship was one of the many casualties of my ill-fated last relationship. Mr. Ex didn't like me having friends of my own, and was extremely good at driving them away, so when I finally escaped from him after five years I had none left.

Amy, loyal as they come, wrote to me about a month ago to see if I was up to meeting. You betcha.

My heart was beating like mad all the way to the hotel, but the anxiety vanished when I saw her. We fell right into step again. She still makes me laugh like few other people on earth. She looks fantastic, but then she always has.

After dinner we walked over to the Levenger boutique at Marshall Field's. If books are like crack to me, and they are, Levenger is the company that furnishes the pipes. Amy is similarly inclined, but the poor thing has no Levenger shop in Philadelphia and so usually has to content herself with the catalogue. For once, I showed admirable restraint. Bought nothing for myself, but did pick up a little present for Chris, who is finishing up his first article for The Believer.

Do you know The Believer? You should. It's like an extremely hip, younger cousin to The New Yorker, minus the cartoons but full of thoughtful, witty, solid writing - enough that making my way through the whole issue usually takes a few days. (To compare, if I pick up one of Buzz's copies of Vanity Fair I'm generally done with it in 15 minutes or less.) Among the perennial delights is Nick Hornby's column, which (gasp) is about whatever he's reading, even if it's Dickens and therefore not the latest thing off the press.

I consider the magazine to be a bulwark against the rising tide of mediocrity in America, and so I boost it unashamedly. The only thing I don't like is the name. Makes it sound like a socialist periodical from the 1920s.

Tonight, dinner again with Amy before she heads back to Philadelphia. Life is, as they say, good.

I cast on the London beanie last night, my first time using cable cast-on. And I started an intarsia swatch to practice on before working the sweater sleeve. I'm feeling much emboldened about the intarsia thanks to some encouraging advice from Mark and Jon (thanks, fellas!) both of whom write lovely blogs you should read.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Kind Hearts and Cowboy Hats

Cowtown Rodeo, Ft. Worth, 2005
Originally uploaded by panopticon.

Back from Texas. And while it's nice to be home, I did indeed have a mighty fine time.

On Friday morning I tossed off a quick blog entry about the first night, but didn't really get a chance to go through e-mail - and now suddenly I find there's a pile of encouraging and very kind comments in here.

So, this is a thanks to all of you who have taken the time to write after reading and looking. I mean it when I tell you that it makes a difference to me.

The cowboy above is for Felicia, since she made a special request for "hunkalicious" cowboys. "Hunkalicious." Useful word, that.

There's lots more where he came from, too. All told, I shot about 600 frames, of which about 50 are keepers and probably 10 might have portfolio potential. I can live with that.

I'll write more soon about how it all was, and post more of the shots as they're made ready, but right now it's definitely time to crawl under the quilt, hug my teddy bear, and collapse.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Greetings from the Republic of Texas

As usual, the reality of the travel situation was not nearly so bad as I anticipated.

I came to an agreement with my beloved friend and charming host, John that I would have five minutes to change and primp before the party, so I didn't have to worry about mussing travel clothes.

Indulged myself in one of my favorite things, a boot shine, at the airport. Listen, if you are going through the United terminal at O'Hare and your boots or shoes are scuffed, go to the shoe repair shop and ask for Ned. The man is an artist. 50+ years of experience. My boots were so shiny they reflected right up my jeans. I wish I'd remembered to wear underwear.

The party was a scream. People here are so friendly (at least on the surface) that I find it genuinely alarming for about the first 3 hours. When you live in Chicago, you don't often encounter strangers who rush up and say "Hello!" with a big smile unless they're either insane or soliciting for an organization that chants a lot.

Once I get used to it, though, I like it. At least seven people to whom I was introduced said, "We're so happy to have you here." And they said it convincingly.

The party itself was beautifully set up, with the most gorgeous floral arrangements I have ever seen. Masses - I mean masses of roses with yellow freesia and cymbidium orchids. And wonderful subdued lighting that made everybody look 20 years younger.

Of course, the majority of the partygoers were either major donors, creative people, or models. It is somewhat daunting to mix in a room where everyone else is richer, better looking, or more successful than you. Or all three at once.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Fear of Intarsia

I forgot to mention that some knitting progress has been made on The Sweater. I've begun the sleeve (thank you, Maggie Righetti, for your sterling dicussion of picking up stitches in Knitting in Plain English) and knitted the stockinette all the way to the row where the intarsia begins.

(No, I'm not going to show you a picture, because it doesn't look like anything.)

The sweater I'm working on is the one with the skulls from Stitch 'n' Bitch. I'm not really a skull sort of fellow, so I'm replacing the skulls with something I worked out on my own, based on a design motif from a turn-of-the-century building here in Chicago. It's simpler than the skull and, I'll be honest, I like the idea of making something nobody else will be wearing.

I've decided not to start the intarsia until I come back from Texas. I'm entirely too distracted right now.

The how-to descriptions of intarsia that I've found have been less than clear, so I'm going to be pretty nervous until I've done a few rows and (I hope) looking at the actual work-in-progress answers some of my questions about how certain things have to be handled. I have cobbled together everything I can find in books and on the Internet, and since some of them contradict each other I'm going to follow Maggie's advice and use my common sense when I come to forks in the road.

Of course, my common sense is famously lacking, so if worse comes to worse this thing will wind up with plain sleeves.

Or sleeveless. Hey, I don't work on my upper arms for nothing.

I keep telling myself, it's only a sweater. It's only a sweater. It's not cardiac surgery and it's not the bar exam. Fussing over a new technique for a few hours until I get a grip on it beats the hell out of knitting garter-stitch washcloths and ribbed scarves forever and ever.

Cowboy, Take Me Away

Well, I've been packing for two days for my imminent Texas expedition. Lovely long days of shooting at the Cowtown Gay Rodeo in Ft. Worth, and a fashion show in Dallas, and I'm excited as all hell.

But this is a complicated trip.

I have to carry my camera equipment, of course.

And I need rodeo clothes for Saturday, and for Sunday. This means a cowboy hat and boots, jeans and starched shirts.

I don't have a hat box for the cowboy hat, and I can't pack it in a suitcase. This means wearing it, and also storing it under the seat in front of me so it won't be crushed on the ride down.

Wearing a cowboy hat at O'Hare Airport in Chicago is no fun at all for a shy person like me. Anyone you deal with assumes that 1) you are from Texas and that therefore 2) you are stupid. Random strangers call out, "Howdy, pardner." There's also the added fun of watching helplessly as security piles other people's heavy bags on top of the hat, which cost more money than I usually spend on clothes in a month.

The hat and the camera bag effectively constitute my carry-ons, which means I cannot bring my knitting on the plane.

For the fashion show, even though I'm going to be backstage, I have to wear black tie. (Being hideously overdressed is always acceptable, even encouraged, in Dallas.)

And tomorrow night I have to do my least favorite thing in the entire world: Go straight from the airport to a cocktail party, to which (this being Dallas) I cannot wear a cool buttoned-down shirt and hip jeans. Oh, no. I have to have the coat, the tie, the dress pants, the polished shoes. Directly to the party from the plane, looking (as I always do after flying) like a gerbil that fell into a Cuisinart.

Of course, the dress pants mean I have to travel in shoes, not cowboy boots, so I am going to be walking around the airport in a cowboy hat and shoes.

I can't even begin to think how to accessorize that look. The only things that would seem to work would be a chinchilla jacket and one of those electronic ankle bracelets they put on convicted felons.

I had better get some damned good shots out of this trip.