Sunday, November 05, 2006

northward bound

On the train again. This time going north; somewhere between Lompoc and Guadalupe. It is Sunday evening and the train is perfectly not-crowded.

Anthony is the man who works the Cafe cart. Anthony is nice and very upbeat and does his job very well. If you buy a Corona he makes sure to add a slice of lime. If you need something heated, he is, make no mistake, there to heat it up for you. But, despite the cheer and the fabulous aptitude, the thing that makes Anthony stand out and really shine, is that he is the Cafe Singer. If you are ever so lucky to be on the same train with Anthony, you will know because he will sing to you. You being the collective you of all the Amtrak passengers, as Anthony does his serenading over the loudspeaker. Typically, these are songs you've ever heard of (money has it songs that Anthony has never heard of either), and his lyrics sometimes make sense and typically have to do with
  1. train comfort
  2. beautiful scenery
  3. light blue ocean
  4. april showers
  5. and an open snack car
I love Anthony.

This afternoon, when I first boarded the train, it wasn't un-crowded. In fact, it was the very opposite of un-crowded (which happens to be, well, crowded.). I had to beg to sit next to a college co-ed who was studying for a class while her knitting took up the seat next to her. But she was sweet, put the needles away, and made room for me. But the thing was, I kinda wanted a seat by myself as well. And, I needed an electrical plug because my iPod was low and I was completely set on finishing the Bill Bryson audio book whilst I worked on knitting of my own.

Now here's the thing. I am late to reading Bill Bryson books and I am late to taking up knitting. I know. I didn't mean to be and, in fact, bought a Bryson book that I ended up giving away as a gift years ago. I also bought knitting needles and very cute yarn when my friend Carrie was pregnant with her son, Rainier, with the intention of making a super cute baby beanie for the tot-to-be's sure-to-be very cute head. Rainier is turning three this month. Carrie doesn't know about the knitting, of course, because at the time I didn't even learn how to cast on, much less knit two, pearl two. So, the needles and adorable yarn have spent the last 1000+ days in the back of my closet living a forgotten existence next to the linoleum block, the glue gun, and an assortment of feathers, beads, glitter and acrylic paints.

So, I am late to knitting. I was late to vegetarianism, too. Late to going to college, for getting my nose pierced, and to taking an interest in a career. I still don't have HBO. So, me taking up knitting three years after its peak shouldn't really surprise anyone.

This weekend I finished my first scarf. I don't think anyone wants to wear the damn thing — the yarn is too thick, the width is too thin and the length is too short. But it's a good color (a very nice green) and I'm proud of learning how to do it all on my own (well me and a 8.5 x 11 inch tri-folded instruction booklet with illustrations no bigger than your thumbnail.).

With the first scarf done I was still filled with knitting enthusiasm and, so, ventured into the deepest, darkest, dust-bunniest location of my "where I keep all my crap" closet to resurrect the very cute yarn and the very, very (incredibly, remarkably) tiny knitting needles.

While the yarn was still cute, there was not enough of it to make anything larger than a Barbie-sized beanie, and with ten hours of train ride ahead of me, I knew I was going to require more textiles than that. And that is when I remembered the alpaca wool. The alpaca wool — all 40 skeins of it — has a story in and of itself — which I may recount here in days to come, but it isn't really part of this story. No. This story isn't how I got the alpaca wool (in a fit of luck for $40 while still in college), or what I did with it (crocheted a king-size afghan for an unappreciative recipient), how I got it back or how it came to no longer be a crocheted king-size afghan. No, this bit is about the amalgamation and/or sum and/or consequences of combining very fine, slippery alpaca wool with very fine incredibly eensy teeny tiny eeny weeny even slipperyer knitting needles. And that outcome would be knit and redo; knit and redo. Knit and redo. Knit and redo. Knit and swear. Knit and redo. Knit and kick your neighbor. Knit and redo. In fact, knit and pearl? Meet fit and hurl.

fit and hurl

So after pulling out entire rows and rows and rows of very "homegrown" looking craftwork, I gave in (but not up!) and decided to politely "fuck it" and just let my haphazard, slipped, missing and inconsistent stitches simply "be." And so now I find myself really proud of my 2.5 x 12 inch scarf that took five hours to create (minus stitch ripping out time) and I look forward to doing even more haphazard, homegrown, crafty knitting in future train rides. At this rate I expect to give it to Rainier as a present for his tenth birthday.

However, maybe before it's finished I will show it to Anthony down in the Cafe car. He seems like the type who might appreciate my efforts. And who knows? Maybe I’ll even get a song out of it.

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