June 30, 2006
June ain't over yet, eh
I'll admit it. Knitalongs are nothing but a big project killer for me; nothing makes me NOT want to do something more than knowing that I'm supposed to be doing it, with everybody else, on a deadline. I don't know if the Windsor riverfront biking and walking path truly qualifies as a hiking trail (I'm guessing not), but there sure were a lot of people walking down there on fireworks night, and I knit a little on my trek along sock: Pomatomus from Knitty, in Trekking XXL, colour 38.
My June Project Spectrum knitting, Ms Marigold, is painfully close to being finished, just a few rows of neck ribbing to go. Provided the fit isn't disastrous (in the pre-ribbing fitting, my boobs pretty much flew out the front of the sweater), expect modelled photos soon. This weekend, maybe.
June 28, 2006
A drunken frat boy frenzy
It's party time in our backyard right now, and I'm almost afraid to go out there. Even the Old Kitty, who's been around the block a number of times and knows how to fend for himself, didn't show up today for his (now pretty much daily) snack at my back door, preferring to hide out somewhere quieter until the party animals sate themselves and depart the premises. The mulberries in our tree have ripened, and all of the birds and squirrels from miles around are rolling around and squabbling and falling out of trees in gluttonous delerium, and the whole place stinks like a distillery (and no, it's not the distillery up the block I'm smelling. I know the difference).
This afternoon I was standing at the kitchen door, watching the revellers bouncing in and out of our lilies and yarrow, tossing fermenting berries to their buddies amid a good old-fashioned pub singalong (knees up knees up never get the breeze up. . . ) when I noticed a sparrow perched atop one of our two tomato plants, chirping away. Oh good, I thought, I guess that plant's going to live if it can hold his weight like that (the tomatoes have had it rough so far and last week I thought they were goners). Then the little fucker lowered his head and started merrily pecking at the plant. Hey! I shouted and flung the door open, stamping out onto the porch and sending the party flurrying up to the trees and wires (flinging drunken insults behind them). I examined my little tomato plant to find that all of the feeble little blossoms I'd only noticed yesterday had been et. I stood impotent, glaring up into the mulberry branches and muttering, "fucker. . . fucker" (why do we use this as an insult when it's something we all so love to do?). And thinking, maybe Peter's right, we need to cut that damned tree down.
Here's something to make me feel better. The hollyhocks have completely overtaken the area between the deck and the sidewalk, so much so that we now have to lift them out of our way and duck under them to get to the car and back. From behind here I can't even see the destruction that's going on in the rest of the yard.
Also: last day of school today for the neighbourhood kids. Which means I no longer have to listen to the lady from around the block who shouts her way up the side street twice a day and stands across from my house, waiting for the bus to first pick up and later drop off her oldest child, hoarsely bellowing at her kids the whole time like a trained seal who smokes too much. I am trying hard not to be a classist bitch about how crazy this young mother makes me, because I have talked to her on the bus before and I know that she's not very bright, and perhaps her kids are not either and won't have as many chances as other kids will have. But it will be lovely to sit on my porch at four o'clock tomorrow afternoon and not hear her.
June 24, 2006
excerpt from a conversation at milk coffee bar this afternoon: insult or compliment?
me: that time when I was a kid and we went up to Hudson Ontario, you know I'd like to go back there sometime, even though it was kind of awful and I had a bunch of bad, traumatic experiences, all involving fish, of course, like separate events, all traumatic, and also there was this clubhouse or bar or something at the campground we were at and we went there a bunch of times and by the door there was this stuffed real black bear and he had his hand held out like this so you could put your cigarette out in it and I had nightmares about that bear for a long time, well, there was a festival thing-
pete: ah, there it is. I was waiting for the punctuation to happen and the sentence to get around to the beginning again.
me: and dave won a goldfish there and the poor thing didn't stand a chance, its water got changed in every town and a thousand miles in a tupperware container in the back of a volvo station wagon in summer, we finally had to have a roadside ceremony and dump him in a ditch filled with water. He didn't swim away.
pete: you talk like Virginia Woolf writes.
June 21, 2006
more self indulgent diarizing
Here is a picture, from last weekend's bealart year end show, of me and art history teacher Marg Blackie. Marg is the person who taught me to knit, fifteen years ago, when she held a sockknitting workshop in the art annex library. I finally got to say thanks, and brag about my accomplishments to someone who cares, and look! In keeping with the contrivances of the genre, Marg even agreed to pose with my Opal Tiger sock (since completed; just a heel and shank to go on the other, but I'll confess they haven't been warranting too much of my time of late). Because I'm a vain little bitch I had to put the photo most flattering to me here, but here's one where Marg doesn't blur like a bobblehead.
The prints on the wall behind my head (not the ones behind Marg) are by Raven Buckingham, the daughter of some old friends of ours and now a graduating bealart student and printmaking superstar. I haven't seen Raven since she was 13 years old (she's 20 now), and barely recognized her at first, but I think it's so amazing that she grew up to do the same thing I do, and she's damned good at it too! This is what it feels like to get old, isn't it? I should have found out where she's going to university next year.
I also have to tell you all this: the old kitty let me stroke him last night. I felt his skull, his ribs and all of his vertebrae; he even pushed his head against my hand, wanting more. He's got such a sweet, gentle disposition, and if he had had a different life, I know he would have made a really loving pet for someone. However, he is a wild cat, and I will never be able to take him into my home. I am going to keep giving him food though, and Peter says he doesn't mind keeping it up when I'm gone, since Old Kitty is really the only truly wild alley cat we've had around here of late (all the rest have either been scooped up by the city or have not survived). I never dreamed that I could turn him into a domesticated lap cat (although it's happened in my family before, with a 16-year-old tom who was wilder and more savage than Old Kitty could ever be), I only wanted for him to trust me. And I have that. Now all I want to do is get some meat on his old bones before winter.
and all the skies, so brilliant blue, turned suddenly to grey
It's been raining all morning, and since the only umbrella in the house has gone off to the library for the day, all of the errands that I put off yesterday are going to have to wait. I've been working on some blue projects for June, and a gloomy day like this seems an appropriate time to show them.
I picked up this ugly green cotton pullover a few months ago at a small-town Christian thrift store in Georgia; the clothes in this store were separated into rooms, one room for "children", one for "moms" and one for "dads", exactly the sort of place where I usually succumb to the temptation to flaunt my heathen lifestyle. Somehow this time I managed to resist.
Because green is just so last month, I unravelled the sweater and dyed the whole lot blue instead:
Also in the same dyebath, this lambswool with a strand of spandex, recycled from a Gap stretch sweater I got at the buckapound (is it any wonder why I'm so damned cheap when I can get good soft wool for a dollar a pound?). I assumed the spandex wouldn't take the dye at all, but it actually took more than the wool, and ended up a bright dark thread, which you can just see if you squint:
The cotton is well on its way to becoming Ms Marigold.
This morning's rainy day indoor project:
Five half-pint jars of peach salsa. They've just come out of the kettle, and hearing all of those lids popping from the next room is one of the most satisfying sounds there is.
June 19, 2006
What the NHL needs: more nipple
I think that after every Stanley Cup playoff game the players should exchange jerseys like they do in the World Cup. I mean, the games are exciting and all, but a little flash of nipple would make them all that much better. My relationship with hockey has always been tinged with lust: not lust for actual players, or at least not any player(s) in particular, but just the whole sensual experience of the sweat and diesel smell of an arena, the sound of blades scraping into ice, and the sweet, sweet cold of the air. It reminds me of the summers of my puberty years, those endless days of shivering in a mesh top and satin shorts in the local arena lusting after those cute, cute hockey school boys, hoping they would notice me. Watching the games on television takes away that delicious chill and the sweaty smells and the opportunity of hooking up with hockey boys over bottles of pop at Theo's Variety after the game, but that could all be made up for with a few flashes of bare chest, don't you think?
June 09, 2006
Peter is going to kill me for this. . .
I gave some food to the Old Kitty.
I've been trying to get to know this decrepit old alley cat ever since we bought our house three years ago. He looked impossibly old and feeble the first time I set eyes on him, all scrawny and crusty and covered in matted tufts of fur that stuck out at all angles (think Bill the Cat only gray and white). He's got a bum hip that hitches at a weird angle when he walks, and his legs are so stiff that in order to get low enough to creep under our back gate (which has about six inches clearance) he has to lay his hips down on their side and drag himself through. It's amazing to me that this cat can survive in the wild, winter after winter, and each spring when I spot him for the first time I rejoice that he survived the cold months.
The first summer we lived here, Old Kitty would often sleep the afternoons away in our backyard, slowly moving across the back corner as the sun crept in and the shade from the cedar tree dwindled to nothing; when all the shade was gone he would haul himself up and set off to find a shadier spot on someone else's property. I would stand at the back door with my mug in my hand and watch him sleep, wishing I could get near enough to touch him, pick him up, maybe take him to the vet. But he was wary of me and would never let me get closer than a few metres; eventually I gave up trying to get close to him, worrying that I would frighten him away from our property altogether. Then I cut the cedar down and he stopped coming by so often.
That first winter there was a litter of four kittens living in the bushes at the back of my neighbour's lot, and I thought that the Old Kitty was their mother, because I would see him (her?) out there playing with them, watching over them, and even rubbing his (her) nose on theirs. I've since come to believe (although I haven't been able to have a really good look) that Old Kitty is a boy, but can't quite figure out why a wild tom cat would behave that way towards a bunch of kittens. That spring Old Kitty would often be found curled up with one of those kittens, a tiny brown and orange speckled female I'd named Greek, atop some mattress fabric I'd left out on our back deck (um, an art project gone to seed, don't ask). When those kittens disappeared from the neighbourhood, Old Kitty stopped hanging around our place for good, and since then I've only seen him rarely.
I can't explain why I feel such tenderness and longing for this nasty, flea-bitten old mess of an animal. Maybe because he's the only one of the many alley cats around here that could ever come near my own cats without them freaking out: I even caught Fat Boy and Old Kitty nearly touching noses at the bottom of the front porch steps once. But it's probably just because he's so ugly, and because I can't even imagine him being able to move his old bones quickly enough to kill a rat, but he must somehow. As Pete often reminds me, he's probably not even all that old, likely far younger than my fat healthy 13 year old indoor cats. I know he can take care of himself, and has done so for quite some time, but every time I see him he seems a little scruffier, his joints a little creakier, and I just wish that I could help him out a little.
This afternoon, as I went into the kitchen to make some more tea, I saw him there on my deck, lying down right outside the screen door. For the first time, he didn't start up in alarm as I approached the door, and when I sat down just inside the screen and spoke to him, he didn't run away. So I gave him a little dish of the food that Benny isn't allowed to eat anymore (because it isn't geriatric diet food), and some water. He didn't flinch when I put my hand just a few centimetres away from him to set down the water, and I didn't press my luck by trying to touch him. He ate what he wanted, looked up at me, and then slowly tottered down the steps and dragged himself under the gate.
I don't know what I'll do if he comes back expecting to find more food. I know we can't keep feeding him, there are too many rats in these alleys to leave food outside, and I know I'll have to throw out the food he left behind pretty soon. I know that it was a mistake to give it to him in the first place. He's certainly not ready to be turned into a house cat, even if Benny would put up with him in her house (there's no squid-jigging way, I know that). But I really, really want him to be my kitty.
June 08, 2006
I keep forgetting. . .
I can't seem to get a good picture of this haircut, and it's three weeks grown out now. It's pretty much as messy as ever, just messy and curly instead of messy and fried. In the photo it looks the same as last year, but it's really a lot longer, especially in the back. Martina started to make it a bit layered and asymmetrical, but it won't really show until it's longer and we've trimmed it a few more times. I'll go back to her again before I go back to Athens and hopefully I'll be looking like an 80s rock star soon.
brought to you by the colour blue
Today is a special day, the anniversary of a happy and sad event, an event that shook up my whole life and changed it forever. It's not something I can write about, just something I mark privately and celebrate quietly. I spent some time wandering about the house thinking about how glad I am that I'm here, and while I did that I took photos of some things that are blue.
June 06, 2006
Devil's day, my ass
Well. I made the silly mistake of letting the crazy fundamentalist wingnuts (you know, the ones who have been having their babies induced all week to avoid going into labour on June 6th, thus running the risk of giving birth to the anti-you-know-who) get me all excited, and I was expecting at the very least a little fire and brimstone today. I suppose the day is still young, and perhaps it takes a while to get all that brimstone warmed up to where it starts giving off the acrid fumes of hell, but jeez. So far the only bad thing that's happened is that I hit my head on our new car. And really, I don't think the devil can be blamed for that one, because I also hit my head on the fridge yesterday, on a perfectly ordinary nothing-to-do-with-the-devil day.
So. Our van died on the 401 on Sunday (for a super-boring little photo essay go here. And remember that there's not all that much to take pictures of on the side of the highway). We were planning to replace it at the end of this month, after Peter gets his pay raise, but after more than four years of fairly solid service and several trips to Georgia and back, Pennsylvania and back, D.C. and back, plus to London and back every other weekend. . . the bugger pooped out on us four weeks too soon. So yesterday we bought a car, and picked it up this morning. As with the house, once we'd made a decision (or, had a decision made for us) we just went ahead and bought the first car we looked at.
And it's mauve, for Project Spectrum! Yes, I know June is for blue. But we weren't supposed to buy the car until July, see?
Since we had the van towed to our driveway and it's still sitting there taking up space, I had to cut some branches off of the mulberry tree out back in order to gain access to the second of our three parking spots (our little parking lot is two-thirds overgrown; the third parking spot is home to a large pile of topsoil that's been there for a year and has sprouted all manner of weeds). And because I can't let all of that good fibre go to waste, it's time for a papermaking lesson. Whee! Hold onto your pee, because this is going to be exciting.
Place the bundle on end in a colander inside a big pot. I use a 20-qt stainless stock pot and an old dollar store colander; I put a canning rack in underneath the colander to keep it off the bottom, but if you use a metal colander instead of a plastic one you won't need the rack.
Bring the water to a boil and let the branches steam for ten or twenty minutes, then turn off the heat and let it cool. When the wood is cool enough to touch, take it outside with a knife and a plastic bag and maybe a cup of tea or a gin and tonic, because the next step is a long, slow one.
Peel off a strip of bark and then, placing your knife between the woody outer layer and the creamy, filmy-fibred inner layer of the bark strip, separate the two. Sometimes it will peel apart for you and sometimes you'll have to use your knife to scrape the outer bark off. Don't worry about perfection because you'll still have to boil it before you beat the fibres, and any organic material that's still clinging to the cellulose will separate out then. Toss the creamy stuff into your plastic bag and throw the rest into the compost pile. Use the sticks to whittle quaint little dolls and whistles for the neighbour children, or bundle them again and put them out for pickup.
Steam small batches at a time because the peeling really takes a while, and if you don't get it all apart in one sitting it will harden up again.
That's it, kids! Peeling all this bark apart ought to keep you busy until August, when I'll have access to a hollander beater again, and then I'll show you how to make beautiful paper out of this stuff.
*ps, to Pete: don't worry. I only cut down enough to steam one batch and the rest of the branches are bundled for pickup; there won't be any piles of neglected mulberry branches clogging up the backyard this year, I promise! I tried to clog the backyard with piles but the weeds are all so big that I couldn't find a spot to put them.
June 05, 2006
Standing on highway 401, looking at our dead van
Dear London Free Press
Regarding your Sunday, June 4 cover story, "The face of terror?":
It's no wonder the Islamic community feels targeted; your article mentions the fact that the seventeen young men arrested all sport "traditional Muslim beards", but the five men pictured in the accompanying court artist's drawing could also be sporting the "traditional" hipster beard of the young urban Canadian male. A beard is not an indicator of criminality. In this same illustration, a hijab- and veil-wearing woman waving her hand in the foreground seems to be present for the sole purpose of confirming to readers that the accused are Muslim, presumably to identify them as "terrorists" rather than just ordinary criminals.
A neighbour of one of the arrested is quoted as saying that when he saw police cars he knew it must be "drugs or terrorism"; would he have immediately jumped to the conclusion of terrorism had his neighbour been white, or black, or First Nations? Of course not. And where do Canadians get this racist thinking from? Perhaps from reading the papers.
June 02, 2006
Blue knitting for June
Scouring Value Village's sweater racks last night in search of some appropriate materials for Project Spectrum, I hit upon an excellent score: a lovely deep blue Shetland wool pullover which, together with this previously reclaimed gray lambswool, will soon become Eunny's deep V argyle vest. Swatches to come, after all the kinks have been washed out.
I also picked up this cotton/rayon lace sweater that has a little shimmer in it, because in the harsh light of Value Village I thought the yarn might be just the thing to make Anna's Cherry cardigan. Now I'm not so sure, though; the rayon part is slippery and I think it might end up being very splitty and irritating. I seem to never learn with the recycled cotton yarns (ie that one shouldn't even bother). I shall have to see how it feels once I've got it all unraveled, I suppose.
Those of you who guessed that Alice the camel-hair yarn is becoming Bridie guessed correctly. I have high hopes for this sweater changing my life, transforming me into someone more poised and elegant, someone with controllable hair, someone who doesn't drop the "g" from "ing" endings, and who doesn't say "fuck" except for when it's really, really warranted; someone who could conceivably be someone's teacher. Because, in ten short weeks, I'll be someone's teacher. Gah!
disconnected again** updated, yay!
For some reason my server refuses to accept my password and let me access my e-mail. I haven't been able to get my mail since early Wednesday, so if anyone has sent me anything important since then and not heard back from me, please try me again at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please continue to use that address to contact me until further notice. Argh.
June 01, 2006
Proof that we can get a lot done once we get started. It's just motivation to get started that's the problem.
I have some skeins of reclaimed lambswool here that I was going to dye blue today to kick off June, but damned if I can find even a box of cheapass Tintex in this craptastic downtown I call home. Maybe over the weekend I can find some, then next week I'll show you my blue knitting project for June. Not that I'm anywhere close to finishing up my green knitting project for May, of course.
After a fierce thunderstorm last evening we headed over to Tina and Simon's to pick up some plants for the garden, and we've now got about two thirds of the front yard planting finished. Here's a view from the porch of the new section (the portion you saw the other day is directly to the right of this):
The white line indicates the approximate location of a flagstone path that we might get around to putting in next week.
counter-clockwise from bottom left:
1. a gigantic hosta from Tina and Simon's neighbour
2. more bachelor's button that came with the house
3. coral bells from Tina and Simon. I forget what she said this variety is called; marmelade, perhaps?
4. sweetgrass from Tina and Simon
5. another heuchera (coral bells) from Tina and Simon
6. another clump of yesterday's mystery plant from Owen and Pat, since identified as some kind of spurge (thanks, Liz!)
7. wood geranium from Tina and Simon
8. a sedum that came with a place I used to rent in London; when we moved to Windsor this went to Mikell's for safe keeping, then to our back yard last year, and finally to here.
9. lamb's ears, I have no idea where we got these. That's okay, nobody but me gives a rat's ass anyway
10. three columbines all clumped together, from Tina and Simon: a purple one, a white one and a burgundy/pink one
11. sweet woodruff from Tina and Simon
Immediately to the left of this area, where the dirt is lighter, is where our new sidewalk to our new steps will be!
Here's a view from the sidewalk of the whole thing so far:
So. Anybody know what this is?
I know, I KNOW! I'm such a lazy slackass. But having my own personal librarian all through my undergrad helped to make me that way.
Dear Globe and Mail
Regarding your Saturday, May 27 cover story, "Details surface of U.S. 'atrocity' in Iraq":
I find the use of the phrase "women and children" in stories such as this disturbing, as too often this phrase is trotted out in an attempt to ratchet up the horror of events being reported. Not only does it characterize women as helpless and weak individuals, something less than adult, but at the same time it implies that it is somehow more "okay" for male civilians to be killed than for women. It may seem a small quibble, but journalists of all people ought to be sensitive to the subtleties of the words they choose: had women and children not been among those civilians so brutally killed, would the events of last November then be less of an atrocity? Your language suggests that it would.