Saturday, June 28, 2008

Knitting Update

There has been precious little knitting in this blog lately, mainly because I've just not been knitting that much. I got a bad case of "startitis" (starting projects before finishing other things), and then I got uninspired. And I'm totally exhausted by the time I get home and it's hard to do anything that requires a modicum of brain function. I also have had a rash of broken wooden sock needles lately, and I must remedy that.

An assessment of the damage:

1) A child-size sock I knitted for my 5-year old niece, out of fabulous Lorna's Laces sock yarn. I didn't realize the yarn would stripe the way it does, which was a nice surprise. While she loved the colors, it was too small for her, and after trying it on she promptly informed me she wants knee-socks anyway. I need to knit another one and see who else's kid they might fit. Despite their size, the pattern requires a certain amount of attention and so it is not ideal for train knitting.

2) This is a close-up of what is intended to be a blanket for my 5-year old niece for Christmas. She likes to nap on the couch, and has asked me to make her a blanket several times (no matter that I have made her and her siblings umpteen quilts that are currently sitting in the bathroom closet being unused. *sigh*). I am using my favorite yarn, Malabrigo, in the "Brisa" colorway. I had some reservations because it has some gray in it, and I wasn't sure how it would look. I love knitting with this yarn, even though I hear it pills...last year I made S. an afghan out of Malabrigo (different colors - not purple and pink!), and I must remember to ask him how it is holding up. I was knitting this on the train, but it is now reaching the point where it is too big to lug around.

3. Finally, a pair of socks for me! These are made out of unknown hand-dyed yarn I bought at Purl in NYC. The pattern is from "A Fine Fleece", and these are hands-down the hardest things I've ever yet knit. And slooooow...using a cable needle is fiddly and time consuming, and it also requires reading a pattern chart that makes train knitting impossible. I also think I managed to screw up the backside of the sock, which is done in moss stitch, because of the way circular knitting is more of a spiral. Or it could be I just screwed it up. I have a sliiiight concern this might be a bit small for me, but I haven't knit enough yet to be able to try it on. I'm not convinced that this variegated yarn was the best to use to show off the cabling pattern, but I like it too much to rip it out.

So, despite all this, I am seriously thinking about starting another simple pair of socks, just to have some productive train time. I have the yarn, so it's not a question of expense. It's just that I hate the idea of throwing another project into the mix. On top of these, I have a little dress to sew up, one scarf to pull apart because I ran out of the yarn and it wasn't really working well anyway, and another scarf that I started and lost one of the knitting needles. And that's only halfway down through the bag...I don't even want to KNOW what's lurking on the bottom.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Urge To Grow Something

S. surfaced last night and I am, as always, amazed by a number of things he has recently accomplished, including planting flowers (which he grew from seeds) around a tree outside his apartment building. Coincidentally, I've had gardening on my own mind lately, and every time I visit my sister's I try to scope out a place where I could grow things that she wouldn't notice (she has already warned me within an inch of my life that I am not to trifle with her expensive landscaping). When I lived in Hallowell, I would often spend a Sunday afternoon visiting Longfellow's and wandering the aisles, checking out the plants. I had some pretty nice flower boxes going last summer (god, that seems like a lifetime ago...), and I miss them. I don't even have my houseplants anymore; my mother killed them good and dead, even my pots of lavender.

My grandfather, Papa, spent every summer in the garden, and all winter planning it. He lived for that garden, and I used to follow him around with my watering can. I generally lost interest after the strawberries were done, and spent the rest of the summer climbing the apple trees. He also grew enormous peonies and glads, and there was a whole table in the dining room covered in his houseplants that I used to marvel at. In all honesty, one of the only reasons that buying a house appeals to me is to be able to have a garden...I have these daydreams of puttering in the dirt outside, and then puttering inside with yarn and fabric, while baking bread and putting up jam. This sounds horribly provincial, rural, and a hell of a lot like retirement which, if I am to believe those letters I get from Social Security every year before my birthday, I won't be able to do until I am 90 (assuming I live that long in the first place). It's so strange, because thirty years ago if you'd told me I'd turn out like this I would have had one big capital-F Fit and huffed off to write in my journal about how I was going to conquer the world.

Now, my idea of conquering the world is having my very own lilac tree. What happened???

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Kinda-Sorta Adventure

Today started with a trip to my sister's to get my Netflix out of her mailbox, except it turns out that she is the sort of person who actually stops the mail when she goes on vacation for a week. *sigh*

After getting lost looking for this (which is not at all the sort of dam I had thought), I got bored and wound up headed north on 140. And since I had to pee, I kept going, and then all of a sudden 140 stopped and then there was a "Welcome to NH" sign. Oops. Given how close I was to RI when I started out, this was something of a surprise to me, but I was still on a mission to pee. Gloriously, a Walmart appeared out of nowhere. I assure you that this is the first time in years that I have actually been delighted to see one, and the fir
st time in months that I've actually been inside one. It's just a whole other world, y'know?

But anyway: I love driving these windy roads and passing through the often quaint little villages. It really is beautiful in spots, and there are lots of places to hike, bike and fish (not that I do any of those things personally). And, because it's Massachusetts, there's a little bit of history tucked away in odd little crevices. On the way home I stopped at this little historic stone church that is located next to the Watchusett Reservoir. It was very lovely, and there were 4 elderly women sitting under the trees gossiping like there was no tomorrow. Unfortunately, this was the only photo that actually came out close to decent, which is too bad because there was sparkly water on three sides:

Happy but Full of Rage

I've noticed that the level of my internal happiness can sometimes be inversely proportionate to what's going on externally. That is not always true, certainly; the externalities of NYC just about did me in emotionally and physically. But yesterday I woke up in a ridiculously good mood, despite the destruction of my cell phone - possibly because I had the day off due to the existence of a floating holiday. And possibly because I'm finally catching my breath, and finally able to focus on some things that I'd been neglecting lately (mainly, myself).

Let me take a brief detour here to say that growing up in Maine, we did not look fondly upon those cars bearing Massachusetts license plates. I learned the word "Masshole" before I ever learned the more common derivation of that expletive. When I lived in Boston back in the '90s, I was constantly on the lookout for a "Native Mainer" bumper sticker to put on my car for a little cover when I came home to Maine on the weekends. I have driven through every state on the eastern seaboard, plus California and Colorado, and in my experience-based opinion driving in Massachusetts should be labeled a contact sport. They should hand out helmets and body armor at the DMV. Aggressive isn't even the right word - it's downright war.

In fact, NOT driving aggressively will get you into trouble, as I learned yesterday when a policeman YELLED AT ME. There was construction going on at a 4-way intersection, and half my lane was blocked by a bucket loader, a big dump truck, and live human beings. I stopped before the bucket loader, instead of pulling up to the light where the cop was, because a) the bucket loader was moving and I thought it was going to scrape my car and b) there was oncoming traffic and, silly me, I didn't want to cross that thing called the center yellow line. But Mr. Policeman insisted I pull up to the light, which involved oncoming traffic having to pull off into the ditch. I'm sure they were all like "look at that idiot woman", but the cop kept waving me on. After that, it was a series of people cutting me off, or pulling out in front of me, or trying to change lanes and occupy the exact same real estate my car was in at that moment. Many of the offenders were elderly, and I swear on the spot: take my license away when I turn 80.

The other drama of the day was getting a new cell phone. It took two visits to two separate Verizon Wireless stores, one of which I stormed out of;* several non-idle threats to cancel my service; and a (futile) visit to a Sprint store. I wound up with exactly the same phone I drowned (same number), but for some complicated and, in my opinion shady, reason wound up paying A LOT more for than I did originally. There's a whole other post brewing about this, related to gender (the woman at the first store was a total witch; the 20-something guy at the other store was sweet as pie and gave me free stuff), but I've got other things to do today. 

* Of course, now I feel guilty about being mad, but really: that woman was awful.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Oh Come ON

Water bottle leaked in my yellow Cole Haan purse. My cell phone is now dead. *sigh* I don't even want to know what else was in there...


Living in a major city guarantees two things: professional sports teams and bureaucrats who don’t think. Occasionally these two forces combine to wreak havoc, like when the Celtics win the NBA title and someone gets the moronic idea to have a big parade at 11 am on a THURSDAY, when school is out for the year. Then they encourage people to take public transportation, which normally I’m all for. But YOU’D THINK it might occur to SOMEONE, especially when gas is $4/gallon, to ADD SOME ADDITIONAL TRAINS. Instead, the MBTA apparently felt it was ok to just post an advisory on their website saying “expect delays due to heavy ridership today”.

What they should have said is:

"The commuter rail parking lots will be completely filled by 7:45 am by cars driven by teenage boys and cooler-toting men with large bellies, all dressed head-to-toe in green and white Celtics gear. They will stand on the train platform pretending to shove each other onto the train tracks, occasionally shoving each other into other people. They will smoke on the platform in defiance of the “No Smoking” signs plastered everywhere. They will pile onto the train and sprawl across the seats, or, because the pack cannot be separated, will sit together on the floor until the conductor yells at them for blocking the aisle. They will not pre-buy their tickets and then throw hissy fits when the conductor tells them they can’t use a credit card on the train. Those in seats will not keep their hands to themselves and occasionally hit innocent bystanders, and they will repeatedly kick the seats in front of them. They will hold loud burping and farting contests, with both the sound and smell reverberating throughout the train car. They will pound on the train windows. They will carry on loudly, using every expletive imaginable and then some. Earplugs and ipods will not effectively drown any of this out, and the offenders will be oblivious to all glares of death directed at them by those of you on your way to work. Eventually the train will be so packed that the conductors will give up trying to get through to collect tickets or deliver reprimands. Have a pleasant trip and thank you for riding the MBTA."

I want to know a couple of things. First, why can’t they do these things on SATURDAY? The commuter lots are vastly underutilized on the weekends, for obvious reasons. And, you don’t risk lowering workplace productivity because people are standing around grumbling about the idiots on the train or *ahem* writing blog entries about it, if they aren’t figuring out a way to sneak out to watch the parade themselves.

Second, why is it ok for people to act like this? I was not the only person beyond annoyed, and yet we collectively sighed, rolled our eyes, and deferred to the train staff to deal with it. The train staff, who probably don’t want “babysitting” in their job description any more than the rest of us, see this for what it is: a losing battle. There’s a segment of America that believes they have the right to do anything they want, and that no one has a right to tell them otherwise. Yes, it’s a free country, but why does the trade-off have to be that we tolerate rude and inappropriate behavior? David Sedaris writes about visiting Japan, where he noticed real plants in subway stations. He remarks that in America they would be defaced or destroyed within ten minutes, and he’s right. Why are we like this?

Third, what is it about professional sports anyway? Why, exactly, do we pay people millions of dollars because they are good at doing something with some sort of ball, and then pay police officers and fire fighters and teachers with the leftovers? I know, I’m a big socialist killjoy because I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t just stay home with a good book. But I’m a big believer in people putting their resources where their mouths are – we put our time and money into things we value, and disregard the rest. So I presume that, as a society, we must place high value on sports because we give private companies huge tax breaks to build stadiums that are used at a fraction of their capacity; we overburden our infrastructure systems; charge $85 a ticket,$5 for a hot dog and $8 for a beer; and spend several hours watch people we don’t know personally run around chasing something (or someone). Meanwhile, towns all over the state are voting down additional school expenditures, resulting in teacher layoffs and cutting extracurricular activities LIKE SPORTS. It’s a little ironic when you think about it – people paying hundreds of dollars to see professionals play but refusing to pay a few extra hundred to see their own kids play. And then the obesity police start yelling about how fat our kids are now because they don’t get enough activity. Surprise, surprise.

Personally, I don’t expect the vast majority of people in the world to understand how I derive fun out of writing, or knitting a sock, or spending an afternoon up to my eyeballs in quilt fabric. I do usually end up with something tangible for my efforts, though, and they usually don’t include a hangover. I also don’t expect the government to subsidize my fun. With rare exceptions, writers and fiber artists are not multi-millionaires (I actually think the terms “multi-millionaire” and “fiber artist” are mutually exclusive). With the possible exception of some of the farmers who raise the sheep and a few paltry NEA-funded grants, there are no public subsidies involved, either. And, perhaps most importantly, I don’t inflict my “fun” on others, unless you happen to live with me and sit on a pin. (Another possible reason that I am single.)

All this to say, I should be in charge of things, dammit.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Where I Go to Maine and Find Some Stuff

Having 80% of my stuff in storage in my parents basement is a pain, but it is also kind of neat because every time I go there it's like shopping. For free. And it's all stuff I like, because at some juncture in time I bought it.

The drive cost:

~$50 in gas
~$10 in tolls
~$10 in junk food
~$40 for father's day gifts, card, etc.
~several ounces of patience

In return, I came home with:
~an entire milk crate full of cd's
~a box of all my summer shoes (9 pairs)
~a box of clothes
~my chaise lounge, which will go to my sister's house and the girls will grab for the pool
~a box of nonperishables that were in the den closet (how spaghetti sauce and soup wound up there, I have no idea.)
~a box of yarn

On the way home, I stopped to see T. and the Chloe dog for a visit. Then I stopped at Target for shampoo, and was delighted to see there is a new Alannis Morissette album out. Despite my moratorium (ha, ha) on nonessentials, it followed me home, mainly because she's always good for a soul-wrenching song or two. Or six, as I've counted thus far. Perfect. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Where I Solve My Own Problem

Oh. Turns out they put the battery in the scale backwards*. Huh. Well. The bad news is, I have gained a few pounds (7) but the good news is, it isn't 20. This I can deal with. I'm still not sure what to attribute it to, although on second thought there was an awful lot of ice cream with my niece G. this weekend. (I swear, she should have been my child: she hates getting up in the morning, she trashes her room, and she lives on ice cream. I am so proud.)

*it's one of those disk-shaped LCD batteries, in case you were wondering how a 9 volt got put in backwards and I didn't immediately notice.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Where Tired and Stinky Meets Cranky and Complicated

This morning I was completely wiped out and barely functioning when I arrived at work, in large part due to the fact that the weather has been in the 90s the past two days and there is no air conditioning in my apartment (how did I miss that?).

Any normal person would just drink coffee and get on with life. The problem is I hate coffee, even coffee ice cream and THAT is saying something. I’m generally not a fan of any bitter tastes…I don’t even like dark chocolate all that much. However, in a real pinch I will drink hazelnut coffee with about a cup of sugar and a lot of milk. This concoction is what got me through the days in NYC when I had to take the commuter train to northern Westchester county, a 3 hour adventure that required leaving my apartment at 7 am, two subway trains, navigating both Times Square and Grand Central during rush hour, the commuter train itself, and a shuttle bus.

This morning I was dragging so badly when I got to work that I caved and bought hazelnut coffee. From the first sip I was back on that Metro North train, silently praying that some freak of the time-space continuum would occur at the White Plains stop that would make the day over before it began. Half asleep, I would imagine Jean-Luc Picard materializing in the aisle of the train and explaining that some complicated theoretical physics problem involving worm holes required us to speed up time by 8 hours. And I’d imagine us all yelling “Make it so!” as the train reversed itself. And, y’know, if that worm hole just happened to land us in “I Get What I Want World”, so much the better.

Obviously, that never happened. I saw a lot of strange things in NYC but a fictitious character from Star Trek materializing on a Metro-North train was not one of them. But what I find so fascinating (other than the depths of my imagination...) is how a taste/smell can fling me so far into a memory that I feel like I am reliving the experience, even an experience that was in large part imagined. Sometimes this is nice, like the smell of lilacs reminding me of being little (5 or 6) and going with my dad to this clearing in the woods out in Lovell where there were probably 50 lilac trees, and we cut a bunch for my mom. I remember riding back to Waterford in my dad's truck with a huge pile of lilacs on my lap. But sometimes it's not so pleasant, or perhaps maybe complicated is the better when a whiff of some man on a train reminds you of someone you love, or that dish soap reminds you of your grandmother who died after a long painful illness. It almost feels like time travel; your body may stay put but the rest of you is completely somewhere else.

Speaking of somewhere else...I called the Maine Dep't of Revenue today because I hadn't received my refund. For those of you who read my old blog, you may remember that filing my taxes this year just about did me in, particularly when the ceiling leaked all over my tax stuff. Maine's forms were just RIDICULOUSLY complicated, and clearly aimed at the state taxing every last red cent they could. And, as it turns out, the state is taxing income I earned while a NY resident, such that instead of them owing me $380 I now owe them $140. I am hoping that this is all some misunderstanding, because I just don't see how this is possible. Grrrr.

And now, I am going to sit in front of a fan and try to think happy thoughts.

Saturday, June 7, 2008


Mostly I don't know what I did before Netflix. Well, actually that's not true: I spent $20 a week on movie rentals from a place where heavily pierced teenage boys scowled at me all through my Woody Allen phase. (Augusta. What can I say.) Now, I am a total convert and happily pay my Visa bill because I see my Netflix subscription on it. I become giddy with anticipation whenever I see one of those red envelopes peeking back out of me. I rent three at a time, and I rotate them in such a way that I usually have two at home and one on the way. I am thinking of upping it to four, but this seems greedy even if I don't subscribe to cable.

Since joining Netflix, though, I have invented a new sport (I use the term loosely): Knitflix, which involves piling onto a couch or into bed with my knitting and whatever movie that turned up in my mailbox that day. Sometimes I'm happier about the knitting and the movie is just background noise, but sometimes I get so into a movie that I can't even knit. To the uninitiated, knitting actually requires math. Usually this is simple counting, and they actually make little tiny plastic round thingies to help you keep track of the counting but mine are all at the bottom of something (couch, knitting bag, purse). Sometimes the math can get a bit more complex, and demands that I focus on the knitting in a way that requires blocking out all dialog and gratuitous car crashes. If the movie is really good, I set the knitting aside unless the knitting is mindless (like plain sock knitting, or an afghan with simple repeats). (On a different note, I often stop to wonder if they had taught me algebra via knitting (and geometry via quilting) I would have been a much better math student. It all makes so much more sense now.)

Equally as puzzling as high school math, Netflix has this tool where it will make recommendations to you based on your ratings of other movies. For example, take "Because you liked the British version of "The Office Vol 1", you'll love this documentary "Boys of Baraka" about inner city boys from Maryland shipped off to boarding school in Kenya". Um, what??? Or, "Because you loved Annie Hall, you'll love this Bob Dylan compilation" (I hate Bob Dylan. I suspect it is the real reason T. and I are not married). Or the obvious: "Because you loved Star Trek The Next Generation Volume One, you'll enjoy Star Trek The Next Generation Volume Two". Really. That took a computer logarithm to figure out?

Once a month or so I scroll through the recommendations for me, and add a few willy-nilly to my queue. And I rarely update my queue. The result of this is that I go through phases where the little red envelopes in my mailbox contain things I have utterl
y no memory of ordering, and occasionally no real interest in watching. This is exactly what happened this week, when the movies "Junebug" and "Greenfingers" turned up. They have compelled me to create a new rating system, based on how long it takes me to put my knitting down.

I'm not entirely sure how I came to get "Junebug", particularly because it has one of the annoying O.C. kids in it (Ben McKenzie) AND Embeth Davidtz, who played Mark Darcy's pinched girlfriend Natasha in the first Bridget Jones movie. There are serious problems with this movie (an autistic artist who hates Jews, a prodigal son who disappears for half the movie, cinematography that aspires to artsy but comes off as just dumb) but it's worth watching because Amy Adams is just insanely great. I put my knitting down halfway I'll give it 3 Knitting Needles since 2 seems weak and 4 seems too strong.

"Greenfingers", though...seriously, now one of my favorite movies ever. This was recommended because I highly rated "Harold and Maude", "Auntie Mame", and "Real Women Have Curves". I really don't see the connections, but "Greenfingers" was soooo good. It's the British version of "Shawshank Redemption", as far as I'm concerned. It isn't as deep and thought-provoking as Shawshank, but it's funnier and the scenery is much better, plus there's Clive Owen to look at. I never even picked up my knitting, so this gets 4 Knitting Needles all the way around.

Tonight, I have a date with "Monarch of the Glen Season 3" and my current socks. I just might need to get out more.


I guess they finally caught on about the senior cruise...and boy does this bring back memories!!!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Random Thursday

1)Paul Newman makes a damned good cookie, is all I'm sayin'.

2)The new Sedaris book is great. I had reservations since I found Augusten Burrough's "Wolf at the Table" a huge disappointment (his other stuff is fantastic, though), but Sedaris didn't let me down. A couple of pieces I had read before, mostly in The New Yorker, but I didn't care; it was still funny the second time around.

3)Work is exhausting me this week. I had a good run going - probably stored up energy from my vacation - but I totally hit a wall this morning. I was so tired when I got off the train that I had a momentary panic attack because I could not remember where I had left my car. Wandering around a football-field sized parking lot in cold rainy drizzle is a FANTASTIC way to cap off the day, let me tell you.

4)Speaking of the train, I've discovered that nobody likes to sit next to someone who cranks their ipod up so loud that you can hear the music. I will probably go deaf before I turn 40, but at least I'll have a seat all to myself.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


I go and make a pledge to not buy stuff, and David Sedaris releases a new book. *sigh*