Climb every mountain
Wednesday November 20th 2019, 11:31 pm
Filed under: History,Knit

Impeachment hearings, the Democratic debate: given Sondland’s testimony today, we could impeach the entire administration. Think of the knitting time!



Rose
Tuesday November 19th 2019, 11:12 pm
Filed under: Family,History,Life,Politics

Thank you, everybody, for all the notes. So appreciated.

Rose came out of the vertebrae reconstruction surgery talking nonstop. She’s drinking clear liquids and the Rybka Twins (I had to look them up) whose booksigning the injured had been on their way to stopped by her hospital room wearing cheerful neon pink and big smiles.

Which meant her parents posted a photo of Rose with them with a great big grin of her own, holding up her newly signed copy in front of her face.

I think everything’s going to be okay. Time and patience and a lot of medical skill to come (there will be more surgery) and physical therapy and she’ll get there. Maybe even pick up an Australian accent just for fun before she comes home–she’s a singer, she’s got a great musical ear for it.

Today was such a relief.

That, and, I spent ten hours watching the impeachment hearings and at the end of it went, wait–I just need two more days like this and this afghan is actually somehow finally going to be done!

 



History happened today
Friday November 15th 2019, 11:10 pm
Filed under: History,Politics

Did anybody else watch the Yovanovitch hearing? I was riveted.

I grew up around diplomats’ kids and watching her I felt a sense of recognition: that unflappable calm, that ignoring demands that she answer in a way that might be construed as political and thus at fault, that power in simply laying out the truth. Under fire, as the President interrupted the proceedings with tweeted derision.

I found myself remembering my then-nine-year-old neighbor Sandy next door talking about the time, while they were living overseas on a State Department assignment, that armed rebels had come to their door and her mother had told them to go away from her home and her kids and that she expected them to leave–and they did!

We need her mom to go talk to this administration.



Veterans Day
Monday November 11th 2019, 10:13 pm
Filed under: Family,History,Life

All day long I’ve been remembering that Veterans’ Day when I was on my way to Cottage Knits, my route taking me past Golden Gate National Cemetery.

As I waited at the light at the corner that edges two sides of it, there was an elderly man near the end of the row. He was stooped, his head was bowed, his white hair blowing in the wind and chill, his face the picture of grief. I wanted to leap over the fence and hold him up. To somehow ease his unspeakable pain.

This page says more than I ever could.

Love you, Dad. Miss you, Dad. Thank you for offering your life for our ideals and for our whole world’s sake.



It spoke to me
Saturday October 26th 2019, 9:46 pm
Filed under: Friends,History,Life

I was heading into Trader Joe’s this evening as a man and his young son of five or maybe six were leaving.

The dad’s t-shirt had a Star of David and the words “Love, not hate.”

Two steps more and he would have been too far away in his momentum, but I had to: I stopped and told him I liked his shirt.

He turned–both to look back at his son to make sure he was following okay in that narrow space as you pass the outdoor cart cage and at me. I continued, Friends of mine attend the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

He looked me in the eyes. “I’m from Pittsburgh.”

I nodded, grieving with him in the moment.

And then noticed the abject fear in his son’s face, looking up at this stranger who had accosted and stopped them. He had no idea what I was trying to convey and he was terribly afraid that something bad was about to happen to them.

It was devastating. That poor child.

They continued on as I wondered. I certainly wasn’t going to ask his name, not today.

Afton and her husband are dear to me beyond words. Afton of the “Why is there a chocolate shop on my counter” (!???!) text after a melanger and nibs and instruction book showed up on her doorstep via all her KnitTalk friends she’d done so much for. Afton of the annual Aftober campaign to finish some project, new or especially old but any project, while she cheered us on. Afton who drove from New Jersey to Baltimore ten years ago so we could finally meet in person at Stitches East, and then made sure to include Richard and me in their vacation stop in San Francisco a few years ago, where we had a wonderful dinner together.

Afton who flew to Wisconsin to comfort a member of that knitting group she’d never met in person who was dying of cancer.

Afton who emailed to the group last night that they were observing the anniversary of the loss of people they loved and that she was going quiet for awhile. She would be back, but she needed some time first.

I want to somehow make it all better, to take away the pain, to be there with them, all of them, and I can’t.

So I thanked a stranger for his shirt, having no way to know just how connected he was to the people around her. That that was home.

And I wanted to hug his little boy all better forever.



Independence
Thursday July 04th 2019, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Family,History,Politics

I was ignoring the booms. He was busy, too.

It took at least a half hour of background sound before he said what I was thinking and together we headed outside. Because it is the Fourth, and because it is what we always do, and so we watched.

You can see the highest of the fireworks over the Bay from behind the neighbors’ trees. No crowds, no cars.

There was a bright red and green one that suddenly seemed for all the world like a line of Christmas lights–being shattered. The promise of the Christ Child, of compassion and love eternal offered freely to all: America’s leader wants no part of that.

We are shattered at those concentration camps where children are being held. Where the workers will be fired if they comfort and hold a child, where they are instead following orders to deny them adequate food, water, changes of clothes or diapers, warmth, sleep, everything.

Where the teenage prisoners love and tend to the small children who were before this strangers to them, and yet not one of our own people has found it within themselves to yell, with or without cameras running, Then go ahead and fire me! I dare you to tell me I can’t hug this crying baby! What is WRONG with you?!

But they don’t. For what? A paycheck? Thirty pieces of silver is a hard, hard currency.

And so those seeking asylum and comfort from us take those smaller children into their own arms while they are still children themselves and they shame us by their grace.

All they ask is that we honor our own asylum laws, as have they, and offer them a fair hearing.

And their parents back.



One smoking-hot car
Thursday April 18th 2019, 11:13 pm
Filed under: Family,History

Chocolate happened. And the test of Richard’s latest Rube Goldberg: to hold it at this level warmth, then down, then up, then hold for tempering it. It’s currently at 30C, with the molds on a cookie sheet with wires running under it. For our control group we have the extras that didn’t fit on it.

Meantime, the treasure of the day. Cute little car, I said. (Wondering at that odd bit at the top.)

He looked it over. “It’s a cigarette lighter–see?” (Flick. Not that anything came out.)

Okay, *that* was ironic. An intricately detailed toy car for a Detroit radio station’s call name given, I presume, to the chairman of the FCC, a small token that didn’t violate Federal guidelines. (Or maybe Richard’s Grampa bought it. Can’t ask him now.)

It is certainly a historical reference to the fact that most adults smoked when we Baby Boomers were growing up; the cigarette companies provided free smokes to American soldiers, oh so patriotically, so as to snag the Greatest Generation market; they were so much a part of the culture of the day that one of my favorite Halloween candies was candy cigarettes, so little kids could mimic their parents, box and all.

Which my mother found to be an outrageous product and made us give them to her to throw away–so one year I hid mine. I guess you could say I sneaked a smoke in the woods behind the house with Mary Lou next door. (I can just see my parents reading this and going, Ooooh. Mary Lou. That explains it. That kid…)

So. Not only was GrampaH a commissioner of the FCC at one point in his life, he was also the one who got hauled before Congress and grilled mercilessly for saying the law says the airwaves are to be used for the public interest; the Surgeon General has just come out with the (first) official statement that smoking is bad for your health; ergo, the law says smoking ads should not be allowed on the air.

They painted him as corrupt but he had every receipt for every expense he’d ever submitted going all the way back to when he’d helped establish the Federal Radio Commission before TVs existed. His wife sat in the room to cheer him silently on and knitted herself a herringbone coat which she would proudly tell me about when she was 97. They grilled him for days, the southern tobacco-growing-state Senators in particular.

Awhile later they went, he’s right, and passed a law specifically taking smoking ads off the air.

And so here we are, all these decades later, with a little toy car. From a radio station. In Detroit. GrampaH had owned the little roadster, and he was a Mormon. Did he offer it to people who wanted to light up? Would not having an ash tray in a high official’s office have been rude?

Who knows?

We had no idea the thing existed.

But I gotta tell you, the provenance of this one (it’s sitting on what it says is its owners manual) is nonpsychodegradeable.



Notre Dame
Monday April 15th 2019, 10:15 pm
Filed under: Family,History

We talked to the kid whose birthday is today.

Who once did a semester abroad in Paris.

Who stayed in an apartment on the Left Bank.

Who got to see Notre Dame every day.

Who told us, before we saw the latest of today’s news releases, that more had been saved from the fire than they had quite dared to hope.



History on a small scale
Thursday February 07th 2019, 11:15 pm
Filed under: History

I stumbled across an article online that was clearly plagiarized from the original–and they watered it down, which was worse. I went looking. I know people who were there then.

This is the original story. A charismatic young high school history teacher here, trying to answer the question of one of his students in 1967 as to how the Germans could possibly have fallen for what Hitler did, improvised a real-life experiment that spiraled way out of hand to where he and the kids found themselves in a full-blown enforced fascist state–and not just his kids: students were skipping classes at the other two high schools in town to join in.

It was so horrifically successful that Jim Jones, who would later perpetrate the Jonestown massacre where 909 people died, tried to get him to tell him how he’d pulled it off.

And no, that teacher did not keep his job.



It’s for sale
Monday February 04th 2019, 11:37 pm
Filed under: History,Knit,LYS

About ten years ago I was having a conversation online with Tina Newton of Blue Moon Fiber Arts. The knitters here may remember the story told by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee of the yarn dyer whose Sock Yarn of the Month Club got yanked without warning after 9/11 by its bank as being clearly a source of funding terrorists, because the idea that people would sign up to buy yarn! To knit…SOCKS!! was just too outlandish for comprehension. And so without asking the customers if they’d been cheated by her site nor letting her know that they were supposedly on to her, her bank abruptly yanked all funds paid for that club out of her account and refunded everybody so as to stop her diabolical plans in their tracks.

None of her customers had asked to be refunded. She certainly hadn’t planned for that to happen to her company’s finances.

Yeah that was fun.

Anyway, so that’s how I heard of Blue Moon, and at one point she had a colorway named Rock Creek. My husband grew up a block away from Rock Creek near the Maryland/DC line. So out of sheer curiosity I asked if there were any connection to the one there.

Tina laughed that there must be a Rock Creek in every state of the Union–but, yes.

Wait, so…

We ended up putting down the computers and talking on the phone. Turns out she and I had grown up a mile, maybe a mile and a half away from each other and almost certainly knew people in common and definitely places.

And about dead center between our homes and familiar to all was the old Magruder’s blacksmith shop, built by a man who died in 1751. (The real estate listing got the built date very wrong.) The family home was a much larger house up the hill. It was this tiny one where his slaves lived, climbing a ladder to the loft above for a bedroom, a sober reminder of the past. If you scroll down on the county’s historical register page about it, you can see where the road to the right used to be that they wanted to tear down that house for so they could widen it.

The outcry was such that they rerouted the road past the back of the property instead and dead-ended the original going up the hill from the house. (You scroll down to the very bottom of that link and you see the spot where my mom turning right at the bottom of the photo got hit head-on by a school bus that had lost its brakes and gone over the center to try to avoid cars waiting for the light. Mom was fine.)

Someone from my high school is into historical structures and posted those links on Facebook.

And I wanted to go, Mom! Dad! This says that place has a basement! I think that thrilled me to read because it meant the poor souls who had no choice but to live there a very long time ago had more space to themselves than I ever knew, and I’m grateful for that.

But all my life I’ve wanted to see the inside of that house. Now’s my chance. Just a plane ride away, right?


Edited to add, one of my friends back home found a video showing the inside!



Potty like there’s no tomorrow
Thursday January 17th 2019, 11:20 pm
Filed under: Family,History,Life

And on a completely random note, I have a question: did any of you grow up with a Pittsburgh Potty? I didn’t even know there was a name for such a thing, much less that anybody else had one. The house I grew up in had one and it was the weirdest thing. How could you have that and not a sink for washing your hands afterwards? Did the builder’s mother know they got away with that? I think each of us kids clandestinely used it at least once just to prove it really worked (I remember asking Mom first if it did, but I didn’t tell her why I was asking. BYOTP.)

It was inside a built-in bomb shelter in the basement, and I always figured it was part of that particular Cold War trend. Since there were no walls around it, just that big empty room with cinder block walls built into the hillside and always cold in there, it was a good place for storing food and Mom and Dad put shelving in front of the thing and cans and jars to give it everything but a door behind there.

That room had its own part-walled-off hallway to get in, a faint attempt at a maze, to help protect you from, I dunno, nuclear fallout?

Here’s the link to what I’m talking about.

The potty part, anyway. There was actually a reason for them. Who knew?



How the song came to be
Wednesday December 19th 2018, 10:27 pm
Filed under: Family,History

Via my cousin, who writes music in New York City for Broadway.

The lovely Christmas song “Do you hear what I hear?” was written in the middle of and as an answer to, of all things, the Cold War. “The tail as big as a kite” refers to a nuclear missile as well as the heavenly star in the song’s appeal to the people everywhere for peace.

The Atlantic has the story.



Saving
Tuesday December 18th 2018, 10:36 pm
Filed under: Friends,History,Life

Tom Perriello is a good man. The mother could see that in his face in her moment of desperation, he could see how loved that child was when she approached him–ie, no, this wasn’t child trafficking, and wow what a story.

The Washington Post doesn’t say why the mother couldn’t fly home too right then. But in that moment that US citizen had to get her five-year-old daughter out of Sierra Leone. Fifteen years later, due to yet another chance meet-up, the woman found the man who had saved her daughter.

My old high school friend Katherine is in Sierra Leone now, working hard at providing schooling and medical care to girls there. I worry for her safety as she worries for theirs. She found that some were leaving classes because they could not afford food–so she’s got a fundraiser to pay for their lunches, here, if you’re interested. She takes zero overhead.

If you do or don’t I’ll never know and the amount doesn’t matter: every stitch in the sweater keeps it together. And a dollar goes a lot farther there.

How often do we get a chance to directly help girls in Africa who could not otherwise stay in school?



Being particlecular
Friday November 16th 2018, 11:31 pm
Filed under: Family,History,Life

We hit AQI 202, officially Very Unhealthy and purple on the map tonight.

It was about the time of that last big fire down south that he ordered it on a whim: he’s an engineer, he likes to measure things, to quantify. Turn the unknown into a known.

With the Camp Fire burning away, yesterday he remembered he had this thing. He almost apologized to me as he said it had cost about $45; it was a bit more than his usual little toy.

Hey. I’m a yarn enthusiast. Enjoy!

And so he took it to work today.

The construction people working on the building had been leaving the doors propped open: he showed the effects. This AQI reading here, this one here, this one here.

Wow.

Word got around, and people were asking him to read the particulate levels in their offices, too.

One colleague’s office was well above 100 and his boss was not happy.

The HVAC guy said yeah the filters are loading up and we’re having to order new ones.

The cafeteria! The official AQI scale is 0-500 and the machine stops at 500. 500. Could be anything above that. Now they know.

Yonder guy with the meter happened to be emailing the specifics as he went.

I’m wondering what percentage of those co-workers ordered their own meters on the spot.



The AQI is supposed to be worse tomorrow
Thursday November 15th 2018, 10:55 pm
Filed under: Family,History,Knitting a Gift,Life,LYS

Malabrigo Mecha is my favorite for making a quick, warm, densely knit, beautiful hat out of, and my two brothers and the two local daughters of one of those brothers each ended up with one last weekend.

Which (thinking of the relatives we got to see while we were at the reunion) was just the start. But I was out of that yarn again other than a bag of ten dedicated to becoming an afghan.

There is only one local store that sells it and hey, twist my arm, so I headed out today towards Cottage Yarns.

North or south, whichever way you looked getting onto the freeway the instinct for self-preservation did not want to go there: if there’s that much smoke there could be a fire just beyond, and since the wind can pick up embers and toss them twenty miles down the road (but we’re two hundred from Paradise) maybe I should have checked the latest report first?

Stop it, I told the stupid little fear. Just go. You know it’s okay.

All the cars looked like a variant of spring fever: coated in fire pollen.

The air quality index in South San Francisco was even worse than ours at 211; we were at 179. I was told later that San Jose was nine times worse than Beijing today.

The door to the shop was open only just enough to let people know they could come in.

I talked to Kathryn a moment, being in no hurry to go back out into that, and she told me they’d had a sale last weekend and she’d figured it would be a bust because who would want to come out into the smoke.

What had happened instead is that people had shown up, lots of people: since officially nobody’s supposed to be outside they were buying yarn to have something new and happy to do inside and to create something good in the face of the firestorm, so much so that it turned out to be her best sale event ever. People came together before spending their time separated, and it was clear it meant a lot to her.

I headed home the longer way, through the hills rather than the heavier traffic of the valley floor.

There’s that stretched-out bridge with the reservoir below and the Flintstone House off to the left. The vivid orange beamed like a lighthouse against the smokey storm but to the right, you could not tell that there was water below. At 1:45 pm. It was that bad.

One of my nieces had requested an undyed white hat. If I get it done fast enough it’ll still be that color when she gets it. I think I’ll stay home tomorrow and knit.