Monday, November 23, 2015

I Heart Philly

My girl's neighborhood in Philadelphia is a study in contrast. There are lovely old brick row houses with potted geraniums and mosaic murals and vintage bicycles painted turquoise parked next to the lamp posts, and across the street is razor wire and emtpy lots full of windblown trash. Gingko trees litter the sidewalks in gold.
This, a corner cafe next to the train station, has fairy-lit patio seating and a dog watering station. Fancy ice cream. A decorative pumpkin on each table. Across the street:
Spray-painted signs and piles of tires. There is beautiful, and there is grim. It's a neighborhood in regeneration, or else maybe this is the way it is in a city? The place is abundant with teensy dogs, being walked two and three at a time. Everyone, everyone is unfailingly friendly. Plastic bags blow around. A little girl wearing glasses kicks a pink ball. On the train, people sleep leaning against the window.
We walked forever, across the city in all directions, in search of one thing for me (soup dumplings, score!) and another for the doctor (vegan pizza!) and yet another for the girl (art). Being lazy in Starbucks on Sunday morning, we were surprised to see what could have been no other than a marathoner, wearing a finisher's medal and a safety blanket marked "Philadelphia Marathon 2015" and carrying a bag full of race swag. He was sprinkling cinnamon on his latte and whistling. More appeared, looking relaxed and pink-cheeked, if also slightly underfed. It was Marathon Day in the city. We walked toward the Museum of Art, through safety checkpoints and around barricades, once accidentally going into the wrong museum (!!) and asking at least four different clutches of uniformed police how we could get from right here to over there [" Go back to the 18th Street checkpoint." "Go up to 22nd and take a left, no more than ten minutes." "Maybe they'll let you through the barrier over there?"] It took forty minutes to hack through the race mobs and barricades to reach the famous steps by which time I could not imagine running up them. If that song had been playing anywhere, though, I would have. You would have, too. Best song in the world, ever.
They danced a little. It is really just the thing to do up there.
Inside, I tried to get a laugh out of the cashier by saying, "Hoo! It's crazy out there. This art better be worth it. These are the good paintings, right?" Which earned me a raised eyebrow and a tiny, indulgent sniff. Under her breath, my girl said, "That gets a laugh, like, 25% of the time," which cracked me up. We tried really hard to behave, quietly dissing the Renoirs ("Why does he have to blend everything into oblivion?") and the Monets ("That bridge over the waterfall is making me feel tense") and marveling at the Manets ("Just the suggestion of a waistcoat!") and the Klimts. A handful of docents saw us tilting our heads in mystification at Duchamp's "Nude Descending a Staircase". One said, "I look at that every day and I still don't see it." Another came over, waved an arm at us all and said, "Stand back, Im'a teach you this painting. Her eyes? [points] Her arm? [gestures] The rest is movement." Click. The other docent was all, "Oh yeaaaaahhh! Now I see it!" The best.
Some parts of Philadelphia look like a movie set.
We walked down to Loop on South Street (oh please, let me live there) and I felt up all the Brooklyn Tweed and Madelinetosh. I couldn't help it with those four skeins of Shelter, dear me, it's divine.
Five minutes from home, it started to pour snow, and we came the last ten miles in a whiteout blizzard. Woke up to this:
And there are leftover soup dumplings in my fridge right now.

Friday, November 20, 2015

In a state


Well, I really have to clean around here. The state of the house is appalling. I started a list of things to do but then I just crossed it all out and wrote "Clean Everything". I can't be bringing a christmas tree in here until I run a mop over this place. Look at that orchid, blooming like a boss. Getting an orchid to bloom always makes me feel like I am fooling somebody important, because it seems like they will find any reason at all to not bloom again, and indeed to rot away in the pot and die. A blooming orchid is a huge and amazing feat of miracle to me, every time.

Speaking of christmas, do you think I can make this dead tree full of fake crows work for the holidays? I hate to take it down, because I love it so much--it is delicious with that Shrunken Head poster from the Mutter Museum behind it. Spooky. I'm having quite an internal debate about this one. What if I put the little paper christmas village around it, with the dead tree and crows hulking malevolently overhead? Okay, now I hear how that sounds...really, I just don't want to clean the house, I'd rather be knitting.

Or sewing. Our local JoAnn's is closing (WAH! I know!) and it's giving me kind of a panicky feeling, so I went in there and bought up a bunch of fabric destined for nothing in particular, just stuff I liked. What should I make? I can't start another quilt, I haven't finished the last three yet. I kind of want to make a skirt [like these] but I'm not sure I can do it without a pattern. Maybe it's time to delve into this, I've always admired that one. Will need more fabric, panic panic...

I need to finish this, too. This is a thrifted cashmere sweater that is moving from turtleneck to cardigan. I don't know why it isn't done already because it should be a snap--a little blanket stitch around all the raw edges, and that's it. More on this to come. First, I have to clean the house. Ugh.


Monday, November 16, 2015


This big, exciting, gray-and-cream-striped blanket in garter stitch (snore) is still growing. I feel like I make progress, and then it turns out that nope, I haven't, because hours and hours of knitting have gone by and I am still working on this same blanket, still toiling at the same cream stripe I was working on when dirt was invented. This came with me on a long road trip, and it was wonderfully warm on my lap in the car, although it is really too big to be a traveling project and I had to clamber out from underneath it, sweating, every time we had to stop, and I totally thought that progress would be made during all those confined hours with nothing to do but knit, but it is not noticeably bigger in any way. It must be bigger! It must! I knit all the way home! Through that traffic jam in Cleveland! Over this bridge and that one and the other one too! I knit after dark, by the glow of the dashboard lights. I was committed, people. How is this thing still on the needles? News flash: blankets are big.

Monday, November 9, 2015



I'm so interested in the light right now. Here at the end of the year, the sun is so low in the southern sky that it seems to come in sideways, and it makes dramatic patterns everywhere. It bathes the catdog in a spotlight. She sat there just like that, without flicking an ear, for several long minutes while first I marveled at the interesting composition, then went to get the camera, fiddled with the settings, clicked away. Still as a stone. What a pro.


I really am enjoying this darkening season. I'm taking the doc's advice, and trying to appreciate its weird and desperate beauty. In any other year, these skeletal trees, black against that threatening sky, would have made my heart plunge, but not this year. It is good medicine, this trying stuff.

I started a sock, knit all the way to the heel flap, blissfully unmindful of the fact that it was turning out as dense and sturdy as a bulletproof vest. Since socks don't need to stand up on their own, I unraveled it all the way back to the beginning. Happily, I love to knit, and socks are right up there among the most fun things of all to knit. Onward.


In the face of that, I betook myself to my happy place (coffee solves a lot of my problems) and brought some Malabrigo with me. Oh Malabrigo! I am moved practically to poetry by that yarn. It has light in it, too, somehow, spun right in.

Monday, November 2, 2015



I am out of love with my sewing machine right now, for no good reason. Cords, noise, machinery, maybe. The simplicity of a needle and thread has so much more appeal. I can't stand anything that requires too much fussing, or even a little bit of fussing. So it's back to these little 1 1/2" squares, stitched together by hand; slow slow slow. Lovely. Honestly, there is so much peace in this kind of work. You all know what I mean.


Marianne and I were talking about kitchen decor. I said, "I'll tell you what I love, and I can't remember where I saw it, but somebody in some book has decorated their kitchen like a doctor's office, with metal cabinets and a dang examining table to sit at for breakfast, but on one wall is an enormous mural photograph of Freddie Mercury doing a backbend." I still think about that because it amazed me; Freddie in white, head thrown back and wailing into a microphone, exploding with star quality, ten feet tall and sweating, as wallpaper in someone's medical-theme kitchen. Honestly, I know nothing about design. Nothing! It must have been in a borrowed book, or I would have torn out the page and pinned it to my wall. If any of ya'll remember that doctor's office kitchen photo, tell me where I saw it, will you? Anyway, Marianne, who is a total rockstar, said, "That's from Queen: Live at Wembley Stadium. I have it at home. Wanna borrow it?" Not only did she know the photo I referred to, but she had it at her fingertips. Friends like that, am I right? Anyway, my weekend viewing of Queen: Live at Wembley Stadium has led to a renewed adoration of Freddie Mercury and of Brian May's lovely curly hair, and to me slightly injuring my neck in a kitchen-dancing Bohemian Rhapsody rhapsody. That song, manoman. The rest of them, too. So great. Also, there's been Hemingway, who I left behind a long time ago, but who bubbled up again circuitously via a documentary about Hunter S. Thompson, and then Patti Smith's new book M Train. Hemingway would hate all the extra words I use. So much culture, people. I am swimming in it.

Home as laboratory. I read that somewhere else [I can't remember things] and it made me feel better about my habit of changing, adding, editing all my furniture, curtains, and stuff all the time. You guys, I know people who leave their rooms alone! I know! They pick a wall color and put their stuff down, and there it all stays, for years and years. I'm serious. I don't even get that for one second. I spend a lot of happy energy kind of rearranging all my stuff, finding a new little thrifty treasure or making new pillow covers, getting rid of what I don't love anymore. I feel with every change and shift that I am getting closer and closer. To something.

Relentlessly good weather these days, that sky! The golden trees! The cedar waxwings are back, on their way out of town, to pick at the crabapple fruit. They gather in that tree and it is alive with them, as the leaves flurry down. I knit and knit and knit, in garter stitch, same same same. This blanket grows with a steady tedium, like a metronome. It is heavy in my lap now, a comfort already.