Wednesday, September 28, 2005

A Season in Purgatory

So, what kind of knitting does one do while one bides one's time in the flames of purgatory? Ahem, I mean, Austin, Texas? Well, seeing as how it's held steady at about 105 for the past few days, the only thing that might be bearable are pasties. Except that, well, society frowns upon them being worn outside of the strip club. And besides, how would you get them to stick on?

What you do is you compromise, and knit lovely tanks made of cotton. You might try Orangina, for example.

Pattern: Orangina, by Stephanie Japel
Yarn: 4 balls of Karabella Vintage Cotton, color 365
Needles: size 3 Boye interchangeables

My photos are an experiment in impressionism, since my roommate was out and I had to come up with creative ways to get some pictures.

About Orangina--I absolutely love this finished product. It's maybe my most favorite thing I've knitted so far (the other would be a hooded sweater made of Manos del Uruguay yarn and have I told you about the weather?). This fits perfectly. I think I lucked out here, because I've read that others have made adjustments to get it long enough, but I'm short, and I suppose I must have a short waist, because I didn't change a thing in the pattern, except to decrease two stitches when I got to the ribbing because the 3x3 rib wasn't coming out evenly.

Another reason to celebrate: this was my first sucessful blocking attempt! I've tried blocking cotton before, but with no luck. This time, it was like magic! Knitting the lace made the fabric puffy in certain places, but all I did was run the finished piece under the shower for a few seconds, then pinned it out on my bed with a towel, and voila! Perfection!

Update: Y'all! A cold front has hit Austin! We are down to 73 degrees right now as I write! Those of you from northern climes may be snickering at my use of the phrase "cold front." Yes, snicker all you want, as you sip your hot chocolate and wrap your handknit chunky wool sweaters closer around you. Cold front is the precise meteorological phrase being used by our forecasters to describe the gloomy weather that will today rise to 82 degrees. I don't even know what to do with myself...where are my winter jackets?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Autumn, schmautumn

Hi! All you bloggers who are celebrating their Rogue sweaters and fall colors and brisk weather and whatnot? I invite you, for just one moment, to get a sense of what it feels like in Austin right now:

Forgive me for sounding bitter. But in Chicago, which is where I'm from, it's in the lovely 70s and people are shopping for lovely fall tweeds and corduroys.

Not here. If you don't believe me, surf on over to our local news website. Supposedly, officially, it was 102 today, although I would hazard a guess closer to 106. Tomorrow, the same. Those of us who went to the Austin City Limits festival in Zilker Park this weekend may find that their experience mirrored this anima sola image quite literally. Those of us who decided to forego that roasting-in-the-blazing-sun-for-three-full-days-in-a-row happy fun time stayed indoors as much as possible directly underneath or in front of the AC.

Yet we all have to leave our cool interiors sometime, and walking around campus, up and down hills (oh! I yearn for the flat campuses of Illinois and Iowa!) I really felt like UT was my own special little corner of hell. Especially when you walk around and next to the shuttle buses, ya know what I mean?

Here's the definition of purgatory, according to the Houghton Mifflin Co.:

pur·ga·to·ry (pûr'gə-tôr'ē, -tōr'ē)
n., pl. -ries.
1. Roman Catholic Church. A state in which the souls of those who have died in grace must expiate their sins.
2. A place or condition of suffering, expiation, or remorse: a purgatory of drug abuse.

Yep, I would say that numero dos applies pretty well here. Suffering, check. Remorse for having moved to Texas, absolutely. (Yes, yes, I know I heart Austin, but I don't have to love the sizzle my flesh makes every time it makes contact with my car door.)

This may be another reason I don't get the whole sock phenomenon. Sockapalooza this, socktwopalooza that. I love the idea of sock yarn, sure. I even knitted a pair, just to see what the fuss was about. They came out, eh, OK, but I've never worn them because, well, reference again the picture provided above. Flip flops are pretty de rigeur around here, and if I really had the money to spend on sock yarn, a more practical use for the cash would be pedicures. And there ain't nothing wrong with a gooood pedicure.

Y'all. I finished Orangina. Pictures to come tomorrow!!!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

I Heart Austin

I really do, despite what my last post says. Austin is so awesome in so many ways, and last Wednesday was just another reminder of this. I went to the Hurricane Katrina benefit concert, Neighbors in Need, "thrown" together by Willie Nelson. I say "thrown" because I think they were able to get it all done in the scant space of two weeks, but as for the lineup and the execution, it was nothing less than fantastic.

We got to see Eric Johnson, Bob Schneider (my fantasy boyfriend), Patti Griffin, Jimmie Vaughan, The Flatlanders (woo hoo!), Ray Price, the Neville Brothers, and Willie Nelson. Tickets were available from $20 to $500, so even if you didn't have a whole lot of money, you weren't excluded from the show and were still able to contribute a little something for hurricane relief. The Frank Erwin Center donated all the costs of the venue (according to Clifford Antone, of the one and only Antone's, who emcee'd the event), so that all the proceeds went directly to the American Red Cross.

Can I just say, again, how much I love this town? Many of these artists are local musicians, and if they don't live here, they come through town often enough to feel local. There was just such a feeling of comfort and homey-ness--even with Willie, who despite his status as a worldwide music legend, nevertheless puts on an annual 4th of July barbeque for his local fan base. He also happens to put on enough concerts and benefits to have some people calling him Saint Willie.

There was an outpouring of affection and support for the Neville Brothers, who totally rocked the arena. If it hadn't been for the memory of the disaster in the background, it would have been like Mardi Gras in there. And then Lance Armstrong, another hometown hero, introduced Willie Nelson, who played and played, and then when he tried to wrap up his set and the fans wouldn't let him, played some more.

My friend Cristina and I had great seats, but, well, we were finally "evacuated" by b.o. You heard me right. The guy sitting next to Cristina, well...he smelled like ass. There's just no delicate way to put it. Every time he walked past us to get a snack or use the john (which he did many, many times during the evening), the stench almost choked us. At first, I couldn't believe it was emanating from this one guy, so I turned to C., whose eyes were wide and watering, and I whispered, "Does that guy smell like cola?" She nodded furiously, holding her breath. We were able to hold out midway through the performance, but we finally couldn't stand it. Stomachs rolling and lurching, we went to find our other friends who were sitting in the balcony. Where the air was clear.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

What am I doing in Austin???

You Belong in London

A little old fashioned, and a little modern.

A little traditional, and a little bit punk rock.

A unique woman like you needs a city that offers everything.

No wonder you and London will get along so well.

What City Do You Belong in? Take This Quiz :-)

Find the Love of Your Life
(and More Love Quizzes) at Your New Romance.

I see the light!

Woot woot! Check it out, y'all: progress! On the Orangina tank!

I know, I know...I can hardly believe it myself. I know that on the whole, I am a slow knitter, and to top it off, knitting lace doesn't exactly speed you up (even though this lace pattern is easily memorized). But I feel like I've been knitting on this for a gajillion years. I started this at the end of the summer semester. Then I took it to Chicago on vacation (I should have taken knitting-project-goes-sightseeing pix like Stephanie does with her socks, hee hee). By the way, I never got to share the yummy yarn I picked up at We'll Keep You in Stitches in Chicago:

Now we're well into the fall semester, and I'm finally seeing the light at the end of the Orangina tunnel. Sheesh hamaneesh. I wanted to take a progress picture when I started the ribbing to post it, but, well, the grad school thing kinda gets in the way. Although I have to say, I'm being a bit of a crybaby about it, because the way I've been slacking off lately, you would think that I wanted to stay in school forever. (Well, I kinda do, but the money sucks.)

For those of you who know about Ph.D. programs, or care, this is the semester for crunching--I need to get my prelim exams done (here in this little corner of UT the English Dept. calls them 3-area exams). They need to be done firstly so I can go through the soul-crushing experience of writing my diss (and I will never turn "dissertation" into a verb. You have my word.), but secondly so that I can qualify for all the lovely writing fellowships that ship you off to a secluded school in the middle of the forest so that you can write to your little heart's content. And maybe do some knitting and some tea-drinking. Hell, I'll settle for any kind of drankin.' That's the fantasy, anyway.

I'm not the kind of person to toot my own birthday horn, but I have to share with y'all the lovely knitting-related treats that I got last week:

Yay! A copy of AlterKnits from my friend Laura, and a copy of At Knit's End, by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee from Faedah. I also got lots of other beautiful things from my sweet friends, who spoiled me beyond reason. I know that birthdays are supposed to be about the people in your life and the love you get year round. The adult in me knows this.

But, have you met the kid in me? The one that tore off all the wrapping paper with glee? And festooned herself with the ribbon? And left the restaurant with caramel from the birthday flan clinging to her face and the birthday booty in tow? Yes, that girl lives here too. Hi. Nice to meetcha.

I did my annual 10 card woven spread the next night:

I'm a total amateur at this, but I think the reading came out pretty good. (Am I breaking some kind of tarot taboo by posting this online? God knows I don't treat my cards with the respect I am told they need, like making a shrine to them and wrapping them in silk. As you can see, they get laid out on my living room floor and currently reside on a bookcase shelf.) Things I do know for sure: no Death card in my reading, and no scary Tower card. Cards I can certainly live without. For now, anyway.

I'm leaving you with a gratuitous cute kid shot of my niece (everyone else has them. why not me?):

OK, I know, it's more of a cute shoe shot. But I couldn't resist! Who knew that the shoe gene ran in the family?

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Me! Me!

Yay! Laura tagged me for my very first meme. So here goes:

Ten years ago: I was living in New York City, on 58th between First and Second Avenues. I'd been working in publishing for almost a year, which I'd always dreamed of doing (majoring in English, there's very little else you're theoretically cut out to do). I had a job in subsidiary rights, which I didn't like all that much, assisting a manager who sold translation rights for computer books to Latin American publishers. But I dreamed of editing, which I would break into the following year. I'd been married for three years, which were great. The next two years...not so much.

Five years ago: I was starting my second year of graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin. I'd finally left my ex-husband, and decided to pursue my dream of studying Latino literature. (Yeah, I know...I gotta lot of dreams.) I was blessed with the friendships I'd made during my first year of school. I had my own apartment for the very first time ever: a tiny efficiency with one window and, oddly enough, a walk-in closet. It wasn't much, but it was mine. Poor as only a graduate student can be (it's paradoxically the most cash-deprived yet privileged lifestyle I know), I nevertheless was having the best time of my life.

One year ago: I was starting my fourth year of graduate school (funny how these entries are starting to sound more and more alike!). I'd taken off two years and moved back to Chicago to be closer to my parents, but missed school, teaching, and Austin so much that I came trundling right back. I'd just moved out of my one-bedroom apartment ("one-bedroom" being used very euphemistically here), and moved into the lovely apartment that I share with my dear friend Jennifer. It's been a year full of laughs, good times, red wine, and Sex and the City re-runs.

Five snacks: banana royale, World's Finest Continental Almonds, bite-size Snickers bars, apple wedges spread with crunchy peanut butter, my roommate's homemade cookies

Five songs I know all the words to: This is a tough one. I was put to the test recently when the boy I'm dating was playing his guitar for me and asked for requests...turned out that most of the songs I thought I knew, I really only knew halfway. OK: Dress You Up by Madonna, Like a Virgin by Madonna, Lucky Star by Madonna, Rain by Madonna, Deeper and Deeper by Madonna. Can you guess who I listened to over and over? (And sometimes still do.)

Five things I would do with $100 million: Pay off my student loans. Pay off my brother's mortgage, and buy my sister a house. (She lives in L.A.--does that eat up the rest of the money?) Fund a fellowship for Chicana grad students. Buy some yarn.

Five places to run away to: Paris; Tahiti; Grand Cayman; Guanajuato; New York City

Five things I would never wear: anything chartreuse; a jumpsuit (the crotch will always drag); a Brazilian bikini (don't want to cause anyone to go blind); Birkenstocks; Daisy Dukes (see reason #3).

Five favorite TV shows: Sex and the City; Will & Grace; Friends; Seinfeld; Queer Eye for the Straight Guy

Five biggest joys: knitting; calling in sick and playing hooky; hanging out with my niece; learning to do something new; learning to do something well

Five favorite toys: Needles and yarn; my laptop; my Trivial Pursuit game; my camera; my Volkswagen Golf

Five people to pass this on to: Jennifer, my roomie; Heather, my blogging godmother; Elizabeth, a fellow knitting academic (whose blog features the Shakespeare Knitting quote of the week--how does she do it?); Ashley, a talented knitter who first got me interested in this whole blogging business; and Marisa, my good friend and faithful reader (currently blogless but hey, that could change! You already have a Blogger account!).

Friday, September 09, 2005

Who's Playing Games?

What is up with this argument of "let's stop pointing fingers, and do what we can for the hurricane victims"? A recent post on Scott Rosenberg's blog on Salon talks about how the administration has couched the recent criticism of their handling of this disaster as a "blame game."

Ridiculous! I want to know exactly who is standing around, pointing a finger, without also doing what they can to help alleviate the suffering? What a strange image. As if to imply that you can't talk, think critically, and act at the same time. (OK, well, maybe Bush's cadre is incapable of this...that would explain why they're so fond of saying it.)

As Rosenberg says, take responsbility for this! Don't be afraid of accepting the blame! How are we supposed to learn from our mistakes, and prevent history from repeating itself?!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Warning: Lefty Katrina rant to follow. Knitting content at the end.

School's in full swing here, and I've been meaning to post for, oh, maybe a week or so! I hope that I'll be able to write with more frequency even though the semester's started, but those of you in school know what it's like....torn between three lovers, really: reading, knitting and blogging. If I blog, I don't get to knit, but if I don't knit, then I don't have anything to blog about. And yes, there are my candidacy exams looming at the end of the year. But that's boring. Y'all don't want to hear about that.

I also worried about my recent lack of posting because I was finally eligible to sign up for the Knitting web ring (you have to have posted consistently for over a month). Well, right after I applied, I promptly stopped posting for a while. I worried about that for a while, but then I decided it wasn't very important.

Because, honestly, I have been at a complete loss for words, as I'm sure many of you have been, in the wake of the recent catastrophe in our country. Blogging about fashion seemed utterly frivolous, and blogging about knitting felt as though I were avoiding the huge issue that has occupied our attention for the past two weeks. Blogging about New Orleans seemed inadequate. I would be joining my lone little voice to the chorus of thousands decrying the administration's inexcusable response to the hurricane. What was the point? People were already saying what I was thinking, in a million different iterations.

But my roommate pointed out that a blog is good for venting, if nothing else. Even if no one reads it, at least you've had your say. And now that it seems as though the darkest hours of this nightmare have passed, it feels OK to write about my thoughts without feeling utterly self-involved and narcissistic.

Honestly, more than anything, I have been completely stunned that something like this could happen in this country. I've been outraged, of course, and horrified, but also surprised and ashamed, I guess, at my naivete. The night before the hurricane was to hit the coast, I was still in Chicago and talking with some of my closest, oldest friends as we went for Italian lemonades on Taylor Street. We were talking about people evacuating in New Orleans, and I mentioned seeing "This Week with George Stephanopoulous" that morning. I was proud of George for asking about the people who couldn't leave--the people without money, without means. It hadn't crossed my mind that there would be people in this situation. So we talked about the Superdome, and my friend L. worried that they wouldn't be able to get people out of there if they had to.

I was incredulous. Secure in my First World bubble, I dismissed that idea. Why, they'd bring in helicopters, of course. How could they not get people out?

Every day, for the rest of that week, fresh horrors ate away at my complacence. Each morning, I confronted something new that I never could have possibly imagined. The levees were breached. The city was flooded. The haven that the Superdome should have been, was in fact, a hell. People were stranded and dying of thirst. No help arrived for days. Two policemen committed suicide. People were denied access to the buses because they could not produce IDs or proof of citizenship.

These stories, by now, are too familiar to us. Given the immediacy of the Internet, it's not entirely clear which stories are fact and which are rumor. There was a story on Yahoo the other day questioning the veracity of the reports of rapes and death and chaos in the Superdome, because there weren't any witnesses or survivors who would step forward and confirm these stories. What?! People have been scattered to the four corners of the country, as far as Minnesota and perhaps beyond, and are concerned with feeding themselves and trying to regain some shred of dignity and self-respect. I imagine that talking to the authorities about their traumatic experiences in the Superdome may not the foremost thing on their minds. I don't doubt that many will want these stories to be told, but it's possible that some would rather not relive those experiences, simply for the benefit of the country's appetite for information.

I understand now that the "looting" and the lawlessness have come under control. I also understand that there has been debate about the morality of taking tv sets from Wal-Mart. All I can say is, where do we get off, sitting in the comfort of our air-conditioned homes with plenty of running water and refrigerated food, judging the actions of people with very little to begin with and who find themselves in a situation of utter chaos and abandonment? Even that aside, it's nothing new for those of us who are secure in our material comfort to blame the victims of our free market society for their desperate conditions, without recognizing the insitutional racism and classism at work. How many times have we heard that welfare mothers are simply too lazy to work, and would rather freeload off the government's dime? It's too easy when things go wrong to point the finger at the victimized individual for not trying hard enough, rather than critically examine entire historical and societal circumstances that have created the situation we find ourselves in? Yes, it is much easier to do that, than to attempt to address the structural problems that have increased the vast gap between the rich and the poor in this country.

I have to say, though, that it has been heartening to be here in Austin and witness the incredible response from our residents. We have received upwards of 5,000 evacuees and have mobilized as a community to do what we can. I believe that they are turning away volunteers at our convention center, because they have as much as they can handle, but there are dozens of other ways that people are helping as well.

Well, I've said my piece, and now I have to run to class. Despite my inability to blog lately, I have been knitting here and there. Can I just say that I do not understand how people can simply "whip" things out in a day or two (as Wendy regularly does for Girlfriend)? I have been plugging away at Orangina for a few weeks now, and although I have made progress, I am nowhere nearly close to done:

Here's a close-up of the lace:

I can't wait for it to be done. I have birthdays and winter coming up....what am I doing knitting a summer top?! (Granted, here in Austin, it'll be summer at least until November.)