Monday, October 24, 2011

Stitch by stitch

Last December I decided I wanted to learn to knit. It was during the dead days at the end of the year, and I was feeling flush with Christmas money and gift cards. I bought a book on knitting, and a lot of supplies and I watched a lot of online videos demonstrating various knitting stitches. (It is impossible, by the way, to knit and move the mouse to hit the pause/start button as needed, so those videos are not very useful.)

Now, don't throw things at me, but what I'm working for here is this...knitting is a lot like writing.

1. You're going to screw up a lot before you get it right.
Most of my early scarves had this weird tendency to get wider. I'd cast on 18 stitches and a certain point find myself with 26. When this happens, what do you do? You do what you do in writing. You revise it. You go back to where you went wrong and you pick the bad part out and you start again and try to keep the count right.

2. Follow the rules, even when you don't think you need to.
The knitting book said "some people count stitches," which lead me to think that it was kind of a nerdish thing for uptight people and hey, man, I don't need that kind of headache, man...
Now I count stitches. And my scarves don't get bigger. *crosses fingers.*

3. You keep going because you fall in love.
Early on I went to a small yarn store and saw such beautiful yarns that I spent more money than I'm willing to confess, even now. The first scarf made from one of those yarns, though a shape, has drawn a bunch of compliments mainly for the color. As I drove home I thought, now you've got to make sure it comes out right. And every time I looked at the yarns I was led on to create something. I wanted to try new things, just so I could live up to the yarn.

4. Know your limits.
I joined a new church and someone asked me if I could knit and next thing I knew I was knitting a prayer shawl, in slightly scratchy green acrylic Wal-Mart yarn. (My own fault -- I picked out a shade that looked nice in the sunlight.) The prayer shawl fell victim to the same enlarging phenomenon that the scarves did. But it will be done...someday.
Here's what else I can't do. I can't purl. I can't do circular knitting. I can make scarves. Lots and lots of scarves.

Everyone needs scarves.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Count Marco

Ah, research in the old newspaper archives! An alternate universe, in which Martin Luther King is still alive and Barry Goldwater might be elected president.

Actually, when I'm doing research I don't pay too much attention to really big historical events. I'm looking for the small stuff, the little things that make up ordinary life. Sleazy films at the drive-in ("Child Brides," "Slave Empress"). Fancy downtown stores like Ronzone's and Chic Hecht's vs. Penney's and Kresge's.

And Count Marco's column. I speed up the microfilm machine and try to avoid getting sucked in by Count Marco and somehow I can't.

Count Marco -- supposedly he was Italian -- ran an advice column in the San Francisco Chronicle which was widely syndicated in the 60s and early 70s. (His claim to modern day fame is involvement in the Zodiac killer case.) And basically, he makes Dear Abby seem like a hippie.

Count Marco's sole target is women. Women are lazy. They sit around all day buffing their nails and look like hell when their men come home. They give their husbands tv dinners instead of bothering to cook. They won't date a man unless he has a large pocketbook. They have no sense of responsibility and they teach their daughters to be just like them. Probably most interesting (poignant?) is a column that scolds women for continuing to date men who don't propose right away. "Remember, you can love any man," Count Marco says, "Be open-minded..." (I don't know why, but I hear a hint of wistfulness in that tone.)

At first it kind of startled me that stuff like this could run in newspapers all around the country. But then, if the Time magazine article above is to be believed, Count Marco was something of a joke even in 1959.

As far as research goes, Count Marco, like a lot of forgotten figures, is not very useful. I'd have to explain who he was if I introduced him by name and he's so obscure it just wouldn't be worth it. But as an example of the times he's invaluable.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The In-between Season

So it's dark just about dinnertime now. When I clear the table light from the back door shines in the yard. Pajamas and hot tea have come back in style. The alarm goes off in the morning and I think: must be a mistake, it's too dark. Baseball is always on. I pull the slow cooker out from the back of the pots and pans.
I love in-between seasons. Winter and summer have their virtues but something about the mixed nature of this time of year, the light and the dark dancing with each other, the storms of the equinox, make it come alive for me.