Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

The finish line…keeps moving

I finished.  I crossed the finish line and walked away breathless with my victory.  In a race I run every year, a race against myself and my generous intentions, I usually emerge victorious. 

This is the race of Christmas knitting. 

Every year in (roughly) August, I make a list (much like another “Nick”) of friends and family upon whom I will inflict bestow knitted items as a holiday gift.  The list is invariably ambitiously long and filled with complex and time-consuming projects.  In my defense, I tend to begin the projects immediately after jotting down the list.  This year, socks, scarves and hats have dropped quickly from my needles.  There were moments recently when the end seemed far away, and then, all of a sudden, I found myself last week, finishing my final Christmas project. 

Two weeks early!  Absolutely unprecedented.  This year is going down in the annals of holiday knitting victories.  When they tell of it to future generations of knitters who will marvel at the tale of one woman’s trials and tribulations, her unflinching dedication in the face of nearly insurmountable obstacles, and her ultimate triumph.  There won’t be a dry eye in the house.

This is not to say that I have tamed this particular beast every year.  There was the year that my father received the meticulously wrapped front of a sweater (no sleeves, no back: for all intents and purposes, an apron), which, in my defense was finished and in his hands by July the following year.  There was also the year that my sister got a ball of yarn, to be turned into a scarf or something.  You see, even though I had failed, I didn’t want my loved ones to feel that I hadn’t thought of them.  In retrospect, the message they probably received was more along the lines of, “I love you, but not enough to set aside an appropriate amount of time in which to complete a gift,”  or, “sorry, I had a party to go to.”

But I stand before you today having accomplished the goals I set for myself this year.  Also, I stand before you with a list of three more projects I might be able to squeeze in before the holiday.

After all, it’s no fun if you aren’t sweating it out just a little.

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The Busbillies

I ride the bus to work and back almost every day.  And, almost every day, the same cast of characters rides with me.  They are the busbillies. (a word, coined by my friend Smokey, to describe the people indigenous to the 86 bus.  Hillbillies live in the hills, so of course, busbillies live–or exist–on the bus) 

The busbillies all have names of their own of course, but we don’t know those, so we’ve given them each a unique and descriptive moniker.  These names describe their personalities, appearances or public transportation tendencies.  A few notable busbillies:

1. Cro Magnon Hipster (not to be confused with Ye Olde Hipster a busbilly identified by Jessica and indigenous to her evening bus, rather than mine).  Cro Magnon Hipster is a semi-regular rider on the 5:30pm bus.  He wears skinny jeans, tight shirts and Converse All-Stars and he has a hairstyle befitting a 20 year-old emo kid.  He appears to be approximately 56 years old, making his dress something of an anachronism.  He talks loudly on his iPhone for the whole ride, either because he is suffering from age-induced hearing loss, or because he wants the rest of the bus to know that he’s just that cool. 

2. Roid Rage is one of the less-pleasant busbillies.  Roid Rage is a tall, muscular ‘billy with a rather startling tendency to scream at other commuters.  His bile is directed particularly at the people who do not immediately “MOVE BACK!” when the bus starts to fill.  Roid Rage has been known to engage in screaming matches with his fellow ‘billies and their loved ones. 

3. Hand Knit is a quiet and unassuming busbilly (lest you think they are all loud and obnoxious).  Hand Knit is always wearing some item of clothing obviously knit by hand.  I have a very keen eye for such things and my observations of busbillies tend to be skewed by my observations of homemade items.  Hand Knit has been observed in hats, scarves and socks (which were a particular coup to have noticed) made by either herself, or someone who loves her a whole awful lot.  In addition to being friendly and quiet, Hand Knit also lives in my building and is nice to my dog, earning her a place in the Pantheon of Awesome Busbillies.

4. Fred Bieber.  This busbilly is one of my favorites, if only because the following description is so very, very apt:  Fred Bieber is the obvious love child of Fred Armisen from Saturday Night Live and Justin Bieber, (horrendous) teen sensation. 

via hubpages.com

this guy

via Wikipedia

....and him.

 Fred Bieber has  Justin’s hair, Armisen’s face and glasses: an unlikely and odd combination.  FB is rarely seen without his pink cell phone in hand. 

When riding solo, FB is a visual anomaly, but otherwise, not notable; if seen in combination with #5, he’s horrible. 

5. Cousin It is named for her long reddish-brown hair, over which she has little to no control.  Her locks sometimes make their way onto the shoulders and books of those around her, which is both strange and disgusting.  She is friendly with Fred Bieber, and when they ride together they speak loudly and  animatedly about their love lives to the dismay and discomfort of those around them.

6. 9-11 Truth Now. This billy, who frequented my old bus, the #89,  is strange and famous (or at least famous to me).  He wears a nice leather satchel completely covered by a huge laminated sign promoting his website: 9-11 Truth Now.  Occasionally, the sign is adorned by computer printouts reading: “Ask me” or “And NO it was not Dick Cheney”.  Sometimes, he has small American Flags draped over his bag.  And on September 11, he carries a 6’x3′ banner to display at his ultimate destination. 

I asked Smokey to supplement this list.  Below are notable busbillies that she felt needed representation:

7. Chivalrous Metro.  He’s never on my morning bus, but I sometimes see him on the afternoon commute.  He always has the Metro in hand and lets everyone else on the bus before he gets on (regardless of how long he’s been waiting).  A true busbilly gentleman.
8. Professor Annoying. This guy is the antithesis of Chivalrous Metro.  He will do anything to get on the bus first.  He looks a little bit like an absent-minded professor, but he’s really a security guard (found out after he was christened ‘professor’), always has a discman on him, and weird anachronistic tote bags/t-shirts with kittens on them.  Typical weirdo busbilly.
9. Fake Alexis. One of the most awesome busbillies ever.  She looked just like my friend Alexis and she would often rock out on the bus in a totally non-intrusive way while listening to her headphones.  No small feat.  She moved away to California a couple of years ago, but I still remember her fondly.  A rockin’ busbilly.

10. Hogwarts Dandy. I haven’t seen him in a while, but this Harry Potter fan (has been seen reading the books, as well as in possession of HP-related pins on his messenger bag) dresses like an old-fashioned dandy, i.e. pink pants, bow ties, etc, yet he’s in his twenties.  His arrival on the bus was always a welcome sight.  A delightful busbilly.

I’m pretty sure everyone has busbillies, if they only take the time to look around, notice others and then give them wierd names.  Happy Busbilly Hunting!

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In Stitches

All I really wanted was a scarf. 

I looked around for the right color,  length, width, the right combination of features that made up the PERFECT SCARF that existed in my head.  I couldn’t find it.  So, I set to making it.  I’m not the type of person who allows the nonexistence of some theoretical thing get in the way of my having it. 

I taught myself to knit.

I had some help in this endeavor.  A little from my mother who cobbled together memories of learning years before, much of which, in the long run, proved inaccurate and unhelpful, but I didn’t know that at the time.  A lot from my co-worker, an avid knitter who could see my mistakes and tell me how to fix them without making me want to abandon the project altogether. 

A year and a half later, I had my scarf. 

Award-winning mittens!

It wasn’t perfect, but the unevenness of its rows and its clumsy bind-off only made its not-quite-rightness more endearing.  I made that.  And, if I could make that, what else could I make?  I wanted to find out.  I kept going with a few more clumsy scarves made of large yarn on biggish needles.  I made some hats and  a dog sweater from leftover bits of yarn that makes Roxy look like Bill Cosby.  I found a community of knitters online who had advice and stories to share, I read books, learned to read patterns, bought expensive, beautiful yarns “to use later.” I found yarn shops, I made toys, I learned new techniques: felting, cabling, lace, fair isle. 

Christmas Stocking for LanaThen I started making socks.  And it was all over for me.  I had turned the corner, I had gone from being a person who knew how to knit to a knitter.  My friends and family tease me about my yarn stash, which I see as an investment in their futures, since my nearest and dearest are the recipients of most of my wooly knitted love.  I got a huge compliment recently when my mom asked me to darn the socks I’d made for her four years ago: my mother wore those socks so much that she walked holes in them.  (I told her how to darn them herself: Step 1, hold over trash can; Step 2, release; Step 3,  say, “darn.”)

So now, I’m the crazy knitting person that people know.  I always have a several projects on the needles, one or two in my bag (this week it’s a lace scarf and a pair of socks), I’m always reading forums and blogs, and making lists of projects for the next round of gift-giving (Christmas knitting starts in August).

Roxy warming Amanda's blanket

Now, though, I’m having trouble finding the PERFECT ARMCHAIR.  I fear I could be heading down a dangerous path.

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