Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Disaster Goddess?

I travelled just north of Heather's current location this past weekend. Partially to get away from a really long work week, but mostly to get away from the dirty ______ (fill in the blank - floors, laundry, dishes, drunks). I did not tell Heather I was headed her way because it was a very last minute decision and I don't believe in suprising people.

It was late Friday night. We'd made a stop (or two) on the way and we were tired. We'd reserved a room at a cheap but clean hotel. They are nice people (we've stayed there before), and they'd left a key in a basket on the front porch for us. We hauled our snowshoes and stuff-one-must-have-when-one-leaves-the-house-for-the-weekend up the stairs to our room. Which was fifty five degrees. Even though the thermostat was set at sixty five. Hm. We turned the heat up, and the baseboard heat in the bathroom started to bang and groan and hiss. The copper pipe that led to the baseboard heater was warm... but none of the heating elements anywhere in the room even thought about warming up.

It was late Friday night. We didn't know the area well enough to just choose another place, and we knew some hotels were full. We just couldn't face getting back in the car. Yay snowshoe gear! We put our long unders on underneath p.j.s, and climbed under the covers repeating the mantra "it's just like being at camp". We opened a bottle of mead, and ingesting it in the name of antifreeze, we indulged in cable T.V. (having none at home, this is a guilty pleasure of hotel stays). We fell asleep huddled together like hikers at base camp on Everest.

Saturday morning dawned clear and cold. Our room had dropped to a refreshing fifty degrees. At 7:00 a.m. the Better Half put on jacket and boots over p.j.s and tromped to the front desk. Which wasn't open. I guess I didn't mention that we'd called the front desk (and knocked on the door) the night before. We left messages. We made it clear that because we were tired, we would put up with the cold... but we'd be up early, and please have a warm room ready so we could shower and defrost. BH's second trip to the front desk an hour later rewarded us with a key to a new room and the information that they 1) hadn't listened to voicemail yet and 2) the heat in that room had been fixed the previous week and 3) they have an emergency line on voicemail that stopped working after it was turned on the night before. So we could have gotten a real person on the line, and they would have given us a real room (instead of a glorified campsite)... but we didn't.

The rest of the weekend was lovely. The weather was warm (for Maine in the winter), we had fried pickles for the first time (and they're great!), and we had a higher appreciation for a sixty five degree hotel room. We even cranked it up to seventy because we'd "earned it" (when Vermonters live large, watch out!). Best of all, we did not pay for our camping experience that first night. It did make me consider the radius of a Gourmet Knitting Disaster Goddess' influence. Perhaps, if I'd been smart, I would have thrown a sacrificial skein of yarn in her general direction.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Electromagnetic Anomaly?

I have problems with electrical things. I have so many problems with electrical things that someone suggested to me yesterday that I go get my aura cleansed. Apparently I'm a ticking time-bomb, walking around shorting things out.

I started thinking about the possibility that this was caused by some strange electromagnetic force that is actually coming from me. I don't know if there is any science to support this theory, but I can't come up with any other explanation. In the past ten years, my presence has ruined two water heaters, two refrigerators, a dish washer, a clothes dryer and two furnaces. Computers cower before me and die, sadly beeping. Light bulbs pop and go out as I walk through my house. I can't touch anything metal, anywhere, without getting a shock. I have to put my hand somewhere on my husband before kissing him, or we both get shocked. (No, that is not what I mean!) I once lived in a house that had a light fixture in the laundry room that wouldn't work. We even had an electrician out twice to figure it out. His only suggestion was to run new wiring and get a new fixture. That sounded fairly expensive, so we didn't bother. Shortly after I moved out, the light started working again, and it's been fine ever since. The fluorescent lights in my office at work need to be replaced every couple of months. There are lights in this building that have yet to be replaced after more than two years. The lights in our parking lot don't work. Street lights go out as I drive by them.

My most common victim is cars. My first car had a problem with the wiring that we didn't know about until it spontaneously combusted in our driveway. My second car, which I had for four years, went through two alternators, a starter and three batteries. The next car was okay for most of it's time with me, but the last two years were more of the same kinds of trouble. I'd be driving along and it would just slow down, the lights would dim and it would finally stop. Two more batteries and an alternator later, it finally stopped being my problem. That car ran for years for it's next owner. After that, I had a small truck for about a year. I got rid of that after sparks started shooting out from under the dashboard. If a car is trying to get my attention like that, I figure it must be serious. Then, along came my current car, my wonderful little Honda. This is the longest I've managed to keep a car without it bursting into flames or getting totaled, so I'm very attached to it. It almost caught on fire about three years ago, but that really wasn't my fault. I swear. I had nothing to do with it. Anyway, it is thirteen years old, and I don't even want to consider getting something else. I know the former owner of this car, and she never had a moment of trouble with it. I had it for about a year when the alternator had to be replaced. For the first time. It has been replaced three times in the seven years I've owned it. It has gotten two new starters in four years. I can't even tell you how many batteries it has eaten. She likes batteries. They're like potato chips to her, you can't eat just one!

Yesterday, on my way to work, I noticed a few things going on with my car. The wipers weren't moving very quickly and the windows were barely going up and down. The dash lights seemed dim. Someone asked me how I could tell that the dash lights were dim when it was so bright out. Well, that's another interesting story. My anti-lock brakes don't work, because the electrical pump that sends fluid to the anti-lock braking system has shorted out and I can't afford to replace it. Even if I did, it wouldn't last. So the bright yellow ABS light is always on when I drive. I could tell the lights were dimming because it wasn't it's usual shockingly bright yellow. I got to the store where I usually stop for coffee in the morning, and the battery light came on. What a surprise. I turned around and went back a little way to the Honda dealership, and they took the car for the day. They can't find anything wrong with it. Everything was perfect. Of course its perfect! I'm not in the car! They did suggest that it was probably the alternator getting ready to not be working anymore. Also not surprising. So, they're going to get to keep my car and feed her another new alternator. And I'm considering going to get my aura cleansed.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Oh yeah? Prove it!

When I was in the third grade, my classmate Billy spent most of his time lifting girl’s skirts, talking about underwear, making vulgar comments and chasing down female classmates to kiss and/or grope. Sad, that we had an eight year old class perv, but we did. After only a few weeks, Billy and I had pretty much established our relationship. As one of his favorite targets, I hated him fervently, and he seemed to love being hated. I wouldn’t even remember Valentine’s Day that year if not for the Disney themed card from him. Mickey Mouse leaned forward at the waist, spring flowers in his hand. The text said “My Tulips Are For You”. Forgetting all other cards, sweet or indifferent from my other classmates, I stomped home carrying this evidence of further disrespect for my person. I presented it to my mother with righteous indignation. I know she attempted to explain that he was just an angry, scared little boy looking for friends, but I knew better. I ripped the crafty little perv’s card up into a million pieces and flushed it to the sewers. Gotta love grade school.

Remember being encouraged and often assigned the work of Celebrating Things by an enthusiastic teacher? I realized early on that as kids, we interpreted these social experiments in a variety of ways. Some of us went through the motions (or not) and didn’t seem to care very much about any of it. Others were clearly petrified of the outcome (popular or not) because of what it told them about themselves. Or we participated eagerly, with every faith that our classmates would respond in kind. When it came to Valentine’s Day, I was an odd mix. I didn’t care what I got, but I did care about the message I might give out. I very carefully selected the most appropriate card for each classmate. Not too familiar for some, and just the right amount of warmth for others. Sometimes my mother would help me to make simple homemade cards, and I can honestly say I enjoyed that. But that wasn’t every year, and given the limited and hopelessly cheesy nature of pre-printed Valentine’s Day cards, the mission I set out for myself often put me into a state of plutonic panic. Yes, I still over-think these things as an adult.

I was reminded of all of this as Valentine’s Day 2007 approaches, because I think I was over anxious about the message given (and in the one instance, received). My excuse is that I was just a kid, caught up in the tiny world of my own emotional politics. As a grown up, I find it sad that dating services, restaurants, resorts, jewelers and chocolatiers are counting on that same anxiety. They desperately want to help us prove we are head over heels for one another, or like a potion, promise the magical onset of true love. (And wouldn’t that prove to so-and-so that we are happy without them dammit.) Always be your own darned Valentine (I’ve done it, and it was never disappointing, frogs and princes are overrated). And if you’re with someone (family, friend, lover) who means the world to you, make sure you celebrate that every day, not just the one Hallmark tells you to.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Stash Happiness

I just read Kate's purple post (I know it's been there for days but I've just been easily side-tracked lately), and I have to say that I've been feeling a bit wintery blah-diddy-blah myself. I haven't been to the yarn store recently, but I did take a trip down memory lane with my yarn stash. Just because you buy yarn doesn't necessarily mean you will use it. By that I mean, you might not use it to knit something. Every skein of yarn I have is used well and serves many purposes. Yarn speaks to me and tells me stories.

Some yarn comes in to my house and is used to show my honey just how wonderful the yarn swift and ball winder I had to have for Christmas ($135.00 for the set) really is. "See, look how fast this is! This would have taken me at least two hours! I just saved so much time! This thing has already paid for itself!" Of course, he sees right through me, but he smiles and says he's glad I'm so happy with it.

Some yarn comes in to the house and sits in a beautiful little ball and tells the story of our first anniversary trip last year. It remembers the amazing restaurant we managed to talk our way in to without a reservation, and the campy, silly lounge act playing in our hotel. It even knows about how I slipped down a little hill and twisted my knee and cried, partly because I was so mad because I knew I had the wrong shoes on. I bought that yarn on our trip, and even if I never knit a thing out of it, it was worth it.

Some yarn comes in and gets knit. Like the yarn I bought that made me a gorgeous pair of socks. When faced with the fact that these socks cost $12 a foot (plus all those hours of labor but minus the time saved by the yarn swift) I know it was worth it because when I turned to walk away, I just couldn't leave it there. Whenever I put on those socks (or just sit with them next to me, really, they're that good) I think of the yarn store where I bought the yarn. It's a couple of blocks from my house and it's owned by a wonderful young couple. They have a baby, and the wife sits and knits and the baby plays and the husband goes across the street to Baldface Books and chats with Clyde. They have the perfect life. I tell myself that they deserve to have that kind of life, and I'm helping make that possible by spending $24 on sock yarn.

I have yarn that is left over from the afghan I was knitting when my cat Madison died. I'll keep that yarn forever, because she slept on it and there is fur in every bit and I can't bear to let that go.

I have leftover bits of yarn in the stash that could not ever become something useful. There are little balls of yarn left over from everything I have knit and given away. Non-knitters don't understand about that. The giving away part. Some just look at your gift and say "cool scarf, thanks!" But giving it away to someone who understands what you have done is part of what makes knitting so good. At the end, if you're lucky, you will have a useful thing to give away. Maybe it's now an afghan that started life as a scarf. Maybe it's a hat that went astray but since you accidentally "felted it" it's now a great tote bag. But if you give it to the right person, a person who understands, they will know that there is a little piece of the knitter in this thing. Yarn speaks to me and I use it to speak to other people. So if I walk up to you and give you some misshapen thing, I promise to tell you what it is and what it's story is.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Purple feels like...

I know it's time to leave the store when my Better Half says "Have you touched everything yet?". He's a subtle guy, and then again, he's not. I am a tactile shopper, and nothing makes me happier than being in a store full of color that I can touch.

I'm not a melon smeller (although I will admit to limes - I swear they never touch my nose!), but I do love the seductive glow of a healthy produce department. Flat parsley seems so much more... green to me than curly parsley. Seeing the texture of perky little kumquats (olive sized and orange) next to a dark red pomegranate (that you know will stain your favorite shirt) makes me happy. Did you know there are purple fingerling potatoes? I do pick up produce as a way of checking freshness- raised by gardeners, I like my food to be in a state that acknowledges that it grew somewhere. I once walked behind a woman who tousled each cabbage head and tweaked the carrots as if they were parts of a small child she was quite fond of. It was odd... watching her move from one veggie to the next. I moved on to the next aisle when she got to the turnips. I don't have that kind of relationship with my food.

Fabric stores are okay, but there are few in my area that don't have warehouse fluorescent lighting (thank goodness for quilting stores). Yarn stores are my favorite. They tend to be small and friendly, they smell of fibre and craftiness, and if you're lucky there's a shop animal to pet and the click of needles. When I walk into a yarn store, I feel like I've walked into an artist's brain - bright, textured stacks of potential everywhere. I pick up yarn and sweep my hand over fabric bolts and mutter things to myself like "red. yummy". If suffering Better Half is in tow (and he often is because he is a good and kind man with much patience), I will say something that means zilch to him like "It's very orange but still pink, you know?". He has his own relationship with color, so he will nod and say something reasonable and let me continue with my only half private exclamations.

The winter blahs are definitely starting to get to me. Usually a visit with my craft supplies helps, but sometimes you just gotta go to the source, and mutter weird things to yourself while being up to your wrists in color. Never mind the fact that your mother gave you a bucket of yarn for Christmas, or that you haven't used the stuff you got on vacation this summer. And really, the Better Half is such an understanding guy, he'll probably appreciate a bit more color in his life. Yeah.