Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Glamorous Life: A Tasteful Vignette

It was only after I reached Portland yesterday that I realized I had passed through four time zones in a little more than twenty-four hours; a new personal record. I was standing, but my body felt as though it had been neatly and expertly de-boned like a turkey galantine.

My brain, which is congenitally befogged on the best of days, was on the verge of shutting down. I woke twice in the night, confused, in a cold sweat. Happily my custom of leaving bedside notes for myself prevented a full-blown panic attack and unmanly screams that might have summoned the police.

The third time I woke, it was to (as Sister Mary Cynthia used delicately to put it) visit the gentlemen's private accommodation. I was perhaps twenty percent awake, the room was dark, and I felt in my head (as I always do on the first night ashore) the delicate rocking that suggested I slept yet in the luxurious bosom of Mother Cunard.

So I padded over to where the bathroom was in my cabin on the Queen Mary 2; and it was only when by happy chance a sleeve brushed my face that I came to full awareness and narrowly avoided having a hearty pee into the shoes on the floor of my closet at the Red Lion Inn.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Advantages of Knitting in the Middle of the Sea

...and other, random notes from aboard the Queen Mary 2, transcribed at LaGuardia Airport in New York while I wait for my flight to Sock Summit.
  1. Leaving England and KnitNation because you have a passage to New York on a Cunard liner takes some of the sting out of leaving England and KnitNation. But not all of it.

  2. Ill-mannered children with overly-indulgent parents are an international phenomenon. The self-centered little darling kicking your shins on the gangway, yelling in the restaurant or spilling expensive drinks in the ship's bar s/he really should not be visiting in the first place is as likely to have come from England, France, Spain, Japan or Germany as from America. This is simultaneously comforting, alarming and depressing.

  3. European families seem to like to go to the spa together. On the one hand, I think that's rather sweet. On the other hand, though I love my mother, I do not wish to sit in a Turkish bath with her.

  4. Speaking of the spa, had my first view in years of bare breasts when I walked into the aromatherapy sauna and surprised a French lady who had forgot to put on her maillot. She hitched up her towel and cheerfully wished me bonjour, but not before I'd taken in the panoramic view of her aureolas and instantly found myself thinking, Yup–still gay.

  5. The sound of the Queen Mary 2's horns as the ship leaves Southampton is one of the strongest aphrodisiacs I know.

  6. You cannot have too much chocolate lava cake at one sitting. You can try, and suspect that you are coming close; but then the waiter will explain that it's time to set up the dining room for the next day's breakfast and graciously shoo you back to your cabin. Happily, you will then find that room service is only too delighted to send up a frozen chocolate bombe as a pre-bedtime digestif. They will even send two, so you can save one for morning.

  7. Regarding point 6, it's a good thing the ship has a gym and that I remembered my running shoes.

  8. If you go to Needlework Circle (every afternoon at 2 pm in the Champagne Bar), you will meet knitters, crocheters, embroiderers and quilters from eleven states and six countries. One of the knitters will turn out to be a colleague of your sister's, from the same tiny school district in rural Maine, and exclaim that "You're the uncle who made the christening shawl!"

  9. I could be a self-made multi-billionaire who only condescended to travel this week with Cunard because my own, larger bespoke liner is still being assembled in France. I could, in addition, be an internationally famous cover model with my own clothing and home accessories lines, a budding film career and a reputation as a humanitarian and philanthropist. I could, in addition, be in possession of so many advanced degrees that Oxford, Harvard and the Sorbonne were trying to come up with new fields of learning just to keep me occupied. And there would still be a couple of bitchy New York queens on the ship who would cut me dead because I live in Chicago instead of Manhattan.

  10. Watching a full-length Royal Opera House production of Carmen in high-definition 3D while you float across the ocean is cool, even if the soprano who sang Micaela was about as convincing as a 17-year-old blonde Navarraise virgin as I would be.

  11. Do not excitedly run to your balcony to photograph the whales without stopping to put on some clothes first, especially when your balcony is directly above the very crowded promenade deck.
Harry is editing his KnitNation videos, and Dolores has asked for space to exhibit her photos from the Victoria and Albert Museum, so mine won't be the last word on the trip. This is just a quick hello. I've missed you all–it's nice to be back in touch.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Hi. I'm sitting at Logan Airport, in Boston, waiting for my flight to London for KnitNation. I saw on Facebook that Clara Parkes is getting ready to leave Dulles for the same, and I know other teachers are on the move as well. Most of us will hit Crumpetsville tomorrow.

I like the idea of mass migrations of knitters. More colorful than migrating wildebeest. Less liable to poop on your head than migrating birds. Far more pleasant than the roving swarms of locusts or beetles or whatever it is that has been eating the damn leaves in my flower bed. (Oy. Don't even ask, seriously.)

My schedule for the next three weeks may be summarized thus:
  1. Fly to London.
  2. Teach in London.
  3. Play in London.
  4. Leave London for Southampton.
  5. Leave Southampton for New York.
  6. Leave New York for Portland.
  7. Teach in Portland.
  8. Leave Portland for Chicago.
Packing took nine hours and six different lists, and I still left the apartment without my #@$%!* phone.

This will be a family event. Tom joins me for numbers 3 through 5; Dolores and Harry will be in attendance for the whole shebang.

(Shebang is, don't you think, an almost too-apt description of an undertaking in which Dolores becomes involved?)

Getting ready for all this has turned me into a terrible blogger, and I beg your indulgence. Will you think more kindly of me if I show you some actual knitting? No kidding, actual knitting. A whole shawl, in fact. I was going to wait until after this trip to post about it, but I can't stand it any more. It's been finished for yonks.

Tell you what, I'll show you some of the test photos; the pattern will be for sale via download come August. If you want to see it in person, I have it with me.

It's another in the series named for women in my family. This one's for my mother, so it'll be called Anna. Anna is Giovannina's daughter, Pauline's daughter-in-law and Sahar's mother.

Anna Shawl

The yarn is Cascade Heritage Silk, about which I do not believe there is yet enough happy screaming. I fell in love with it halfway through Swatch #1; and having completed one project in it I'm already in the mood for another.

Anna Shawl

This piece taught me something interesting, which is that you cannot sum up your mother in a couple of stitch motifs. Or at least I can't sum up my mother in a couple of stitch motifs. So there's less overt symbolism here than in, say, Pauline; and fewer outside references than in Giovannina.

While I was designing the lace patterns, I tried knitting Things That Spoke of Mother; and every time the results fell short. How could they not? A woman goes through very scary labor in order to bring you into the world, then spends decades dealing with your quirky child self and your weird teenage self and your annoying adult self. She never once complains, she never stops loving you. And then you turn around and say, "Hey, I put everything you are and have done into in this bunch of yarnovers that kind of looks like a flock of doves if you squint." Right.

In the end I set the whole idea of symbolism aside. I just played with the yarn until what was on the needles seemed to bear some kinship to my mother's spirit.

Anna Shawl

So almost every time I look at this shawl, I see different things. Once it was honeybees–very suitable for a mother who has uncomplainingly spent her life in near-constant motion, making things for other people. Another time, during the knitting, I realized that the little pair of yarn overs that pop up periodically reminded me of her eyes. Especially since they were all over the place. If there is anything that makes me think of my mother, it's all-seeing eyes. She was and is a modern Argus, only she's a hep chick from Detroit and she can dance better.

Anna Shawl

Mom, I hope you like it. In the end, I admit that I can't sum you up in one shawl. But what the heck. You know the truth. They're all dedicated to you, even when they don't have your name on them.