So, About That Convention

Didja watch? Didja, didja? Wasn’t it great? I wanted to watch more – like I wanted to watch more of the Olympics – but I only caught the tail end of Barney Smith, some commentary, and then Obama’s acceptance speech on TV. And whew, what a speech. No, not transcendent oratory, which he is capable of, but a speech that had a job to do and did it.

Echo was sitting on my lap for most of it, and at one point, I asked if she knew who that guy talking was. “That’s the President, honey,” I said, and as I said those words, a little shiver went through me. I have never used that word with her, never schooled her about what nation-state she belongs to or any such stuff that used to be called ‘citizenship’. I cannot imagine exposing her to the malice, avarice, and slow-wittedness of Dubya – it seems on a par with feeding her lead shavings, not to mention exposing her to the roiling boil of my nerves he instigates, which is never a good thing to expose a tot to. So this whole concept, “President,” is a brand-new one. And friends, yes, I did get a little shiver. Yes, sure, I’m a Green and a Zapatistaist and on occasion a black-masked anarchist, putting me perhaps a little further afield, politically, than most likely voters. Sure. But, damnit, I’m still a citizen. I still have the right (the duty?) to care about how defiled the Presidency has become, and I still have the right to expect something from leadership that purports to be mine. Aaah, to imagine it … President Obama! A president who calls the U.S.’s addiction to oil exactly that, an addiction; a president who can both read and speak in complete paragraphs; a president who realizes that the middle class is the backbone, the lifeblood, the foundation of the U.S. rather than a beast to be bled to death. Who knows, this may be the year I pay taxes.

~~~~~~~~long digression below, sorry~~~~~~~~~

Now, look, I still can’t reconcile myself to his FISA vote, OK. But upon reflection I do understand it better. Surveillance, baby; that’s the future; your life on the big screen, at any given moment. Giving permission, why, that’s so last century! I think of an old college prof of mine, someone I T.A.ed for multiple times. His thesis of privacy: Have none. Own everything about you and about your life, own it without shame, announce it or at least be prepared to at any moment. Invasion of privacy is only an invasion to the person with a secret. So, have no secrets, have no shame, and be done with hypocrisy. Then it won’t matter a whit to you who spies on you.

To some extent, I totally agree. Some secrets should not be had. I can’t bring myself to care about the rights to privacy of a child pornographer who gets arrested because someone intercepted and read his emails; spy away, I say! Tap his phone, open his mail, I bless you for it. BUT. There is a problem here. This theory of total transparency works just fine if your ‘secret’ is, say, crossdressing, or a foot fungus, or atheism, or polyamory. But what if you are one of that vast silent majority of Americans who feel that a glass of wine is on a moral and functional par with a bong hit? Now your ‘secret’ could cost you your house, your children, your career, your very life. Could. Could, if someone chooses to punish you. You ask me, until drug laws (and those nasty anti-gay laws) are finally made sane, FISA is not much more than the attempt to get a handle for blackmail on every American alive, and that simply sucks.

~~~~~~~~~~~~digression done~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So, softies! I’ll be catching up with my softie-mailing duties this weekend, so be prepared to give me your mailing address. As soon as those babies are shipped, I’m moving on to ROBOTS.

There’s No Place Like …

Yeah, it’s nice to be back.  Cold, though … most of Wednesday didn’t get too far above 65, which was a shock after a week straight of high 90s.  We settled in, slept in; I gardened for an hour today.  It just feels like fall.  Odd, and impossible to precisely pin down: why has that summer something vacated the joint?  It’s been a clear, sunny, lovely day, but a fall day nevertheless.  Sad.  My freedom, it is coming to an end.

Echo and I had a good time in SoCal, all things considered.  Winter visits are always good – the sunshine is most appreciated at the end of December – but the holidays add a layer of stress and bustle that’s not pleasant, and I always feel that I’m missing out on something by not having a homey holiday and baking my own cookies, sledding, ya ya. (And snowshoeing – did I ever tell you I love snowshoeing?  Love it!) This visit was definitely more relaxed in that respect.

But … yeah, there’s always that niggling little “but,” isn’t there?  Summertime in that knot of freeways is its own specific challenge.  Things that struck me this time:

The driving styles, the extremely childish driving styles.  Why on earth would an adult stomp on the gas and rush headlong towards a yellow light?  Why accelerate directly towards a stop sign?   Why tear off, trying to hit 45 mph in six seconds, on a narrow residential street?  For the pleasure of slamming on the brakes, I guess; apparently, few drivers in the Southland have realized that this … uses … gasoline.  Hmmm.  Wonder if anyone’ll break the news to them.

More and more mixed-race partnerships – large families, lovers, young parents.  Years ago, when I’d been living in Santa Cruz about 2 or 3 years, I went to the L.A. County Fair (something I’d done every September of my childhood, a ritual I still adore and miss deeply).  Walking through the fairway, among the games and rides, deep-fried crunchies and blaring top 40, lights flashing against the sullen, starless night sky, I stared at faced – or no, not stared, but let my eyes glide from one face to the next, trying to feel what I’d moved away from, what had become strange to me.  Santa Cruz, both the university and the town, are overwhelmingly white, and this fairway was antidote and antithesis to that.  It wasn’t the superficial fact that people looked different that suddenly struck me that night; it was the palpable aura of distinct culture, language, mores that seemed to surround each group, and the way that aura seemed to create a buffer around each knot of people.  Mexicans sporting a pachuco look, teardrops on temples, wifebeaters and small babies, drifted by gangstered-out black groups, all do-rags, braids, and gold, past young South Asian men in white Ts, black sneakers, immaculate baseball hats … no eye contact outside each group, no intermingling, no young moms smiling at a baby in another mom’s stroller.   Each group seemed invisible to the others, but with an underlying sense that were any stray elements to collide, violence would irrevocably follow.   It was an ugly sense, and it stayed with me since … but on this visit, I saw the opposite.

Luxury.  I hardly saw a kitchen without granite sinks, a couch with a worn spot, a refrigerator with a bare shelf, this whole visit.  That’s nothing new, in fact, but it makes it interesting to come home to my 1940’s tiled kitchen, my stained and worn hardwood floor, my aging and battered laptop.  And I say ‘interesting’ without irony.  I so prefer this rumpled setting, my chaotic garden, my mismatched plates in this hundred-year-old house; I am a slob, and I love old things, and I suppose I’ll be that way the rest of my life.

On Vacation … still

We’ve been out and about for days now.  Very busy time, but good; the weather hasn’t been too-too hot by CA standards (though we are real Portlanders now, and we think anything over 85 is insanely hot).  What have we done lately?  Let’s see …

Chilled out with Cousin Grace in front of the tv

Visited the LaBrea Tarpits and greeted our old friends, the mammoths

Ran around the installations at LACMA … both inside and out

Drank violently blue drinks with Grace and Kimi after dipping our toes into Puddingstone Lake

Also visited the Apple Store a few times too many – now there’s a boring story – spent time with Frank, Dan, Laurie & Rob (& kitties, naturally), had dinner with many siblings and nieces.   Also visited my parents.  A story both boring and tragic.  Basically, this is a very Echo-centric visit; she and Kimi are watcing Nickelodeon as we speak.  Hopefully, I’ll add a short movie in the next few minutes, but this is it for now …

OH!  and Thanks for the many corny jokes.  I’ll close the softie competition tomorrow night and get back to y’all for your choices.

All Your Base Are Belong to My Army Of Clones

Take a better look at what’s up for grabs. To get one, leave a comment ONLY on the “Great Softie Giveaway” post! Jokes left randomly elsewhere will not qualify. Two jokes will get you two softies only if you have two kids.


“Stinky,”stuffed with barley, smells like cedar. “The Executive,” made of wool, weighted on bottom.

“Prince Chunky,” lightweight cotton “E. Coli,” stuffed with barley (heavy & beanbag like)

“G. Ardia,” lightweight cotton “Mr. Smoothie,” stuffed with barley

“Tweedy” my personal favorite “Pinkie,” wool tweed, lightweight stuffing

Some of these guys don’t have their embroidery done yet, but they will.


….”Violet” —————————- “Pickles”

“The Anti-Miffy” ——————— “Hazel”

“Sorry, I’m Taken” ——————- “Pixie”

“Spinderella” ———————— “Miss Margery Jane”

“Dotty” ————————–“Anglica” (yes, as in C of E)

“Angela Davis’ Kitty Cat” ———– “Aunt Mildred”

“Little Timmy”

…. and a final group shot ….

Am I insane? Well …. I have been a little obsessed. This has been so much fun. I admit to being a little softied-out at the moment, though.

See y’all in SoCal later tonight …

The Great Softie Giveaway

OK, friends … I have tempted you with pictures of fuzzy little bunnies, kitties and bears … and of course, poop.  And there’s more, a little bit more – a robot creature, pictures to come.  So, you want some?  Of course you do.  And here is your chance.  You too can score the critter of your choice.  But you gotta work for it.

To get the softie of your choice, tell me a joke in the comments.  Doesn’t even have to be all that funny.  First come, first serve as far as selection; tell me which critter (and, for bunny, kitty and bear, color choice).   Any old joke will do, and it doesn’t matter if you’re a frequent poster or a first-timer.
So don’t be shy! Post away, make me smile, and get a critter.

I have no idea when this competition will end, by the way, so don’t hesitate or procrastinate, but post your corniest efforts ASAP.  Good luck!

Creatures!

What a week it’s been! The heat I’ve been begging for has arrived, with a vengeance. Three consecutive days of triple-digit heat, and P-town is just not ready for it. Even our house has heated up … the very floorboards are warm; that never happens, never. Of course we have no AC, other than cold showers. The sewing room, at the top of the house, is truly a hotbox. I am writing this post from the back yard, sitting with my feet in a wading pool, at 10:14 at night; the tent is set up next to me, and Echo’s sleeping inside it (it’s Camp Out Night!) That’s hot.

So of course I’ve been engaged in an especially warm, cosy, sweaty endeavor this whole week. Actually, I wanted this to be sprung as a completed surprise, but the heat has slowed me down to a humid crawl and I’m not finishing on time at all – so here goes: Meet my army of softies (seven out of thirteen, anyway):

The Process

First, spend several hours figuring out which fabrics and combinations will work. I mostly have three color stories going on here, based on what scraps I have most of: aqua/orange (the colors Echo was dressed mostly in until the pink craze hit), fawn/lavender/blue, and black/yellow/blue. A bit of pink appears too. After the thinking is done, cut out critter pieces using the Wee Wonderfuls pattern “Put-Together Book 1.”

Second:  Sew pieces to make the 2 sides of each softie.

Third: Cut eyes, noses, collars and all the rest. I’m using scraps of wool felt from the Pendleton Mill End Store – $5.00 per plastic bag, you-stuff-it as full as you can. You won’t get a better price on real wool felt, and you don’t want to use anything other than real wool felt. The scraps are on the small side, but it’s worth it … it’s all in keeping with my imperative to never, never buy from the top of the food chain. My aim is to solely use raw materials that were headed towards a landfill, divert them from that end, and create something new and valuable from “waste.”

4). More time thinking, mixing, matching eyes, collars, etc. etc.
5).  After the two sides are sewn together, snip, snip … clip the curves and notch the corners for nice turning. I spend an inordinate amount of time on this step.

6).  Painstakingly stuff it! And here’s where it gets sweaty, baby … the stuffing, and the stitching.7). – stitch every felt sit firmly in place.   For some reason, that’s killing me this week.
So, where will these guys go to live? More on that later …

This past week, we have done these interesting things:

  • Seen the Portland Cello Project at their CD release party
  • Echo’s spent her first evening away from home (with Moon and Lanny – and the DVD “Hairspray” – she’s got some new dance moves)
  • Seen a bloody terrific movie, “Tell No One” – French, fantastique! Do see it if you can.
  • Hosted our first playdate (for Echo’s buddies C. and E.)
  • Gone swimming at the Sellwood Pool five times
  • Purchased a new bike! Echo’s got her first two-wheeler!
  • Faced reality and started to prep for fall term
  • Biked around town a lot
  • Gone to a birthday party (our fourth of the summer, I think)
  • Seen Nellie McKay at the Doug Fir – and ate dinner there too, what a treat
  • Ate loads of fresh fruit and some nice meals:

Last thing: Nellie McKay doing my favorite song – the encore song last night!

Butterfly, Fly Away

To counteract the theme of the last few posts … let’s go from the ridiculous to the sublime.

One of the major reasons I like to sew – and I think this is true for most crafty types – is that I just flat-out love textiles. I love the textures, the colors. I love the vast variety, from polished cottons, cool and crisp, to thick spongy wools, soft yet scratchy, with the scent memory of the lamb that gave them. Just look at a name and free-associate:

Linen.

Velvet.

Silk.

They’re so specific, I can’t think of adjectives that could better your own memories; they are themselves adjectives. Sensual, tactile, visual; fabrics are delightful, to me. And nostalgic. Like a scent brings a memory to the fore in sharp focus, a textile can bring to life a memory or a mood – or a relationship, a person, a loved one.

Here are two textiles, both lovely to see and lovely to touch. Both given to me by dear friends, and both treasured. And both with a butterfly theme.

This silk tablecloth was a gift from my dear friend J.

Of course, there’s a story here. And of course, like most textile stories, it revolves around women, women’s lives and women’s homes.

J. is from the mythical city of New York, born and raised there in the mythical days before Giuliani. As is her husband, P., and by extension, her mother-in-law. They belong to a group that I, West-Coast born and raised, Mexican-American, from a different generation, don’t really know, don’t really understand from experience: Brooklyn Jews, committed to social justice; activists, unionists. People from a neighborhood and a time and a place, from a culture, that’s to me more myth, more history, than real experience. But it is the lived experience of this family, and specifically, this woman; the mother-in-law of my friend.

After her death, boxes and boxes of her belongings, including beautiful linens, were shipped to J.’s family. Really, I knew this woman only through the black-and-white photos (people in dark clothes, standing on stoops) on J.’s walls, but I heard some stories at this time as I helped J. open a box or two and riffle through it. “Pick something out,” J said. “No, no way,” I answered. These things were hers, memorabilia, it seemed to me, of not just a person, but somehow of much more.

But she insisted: it was okay, it was what what she wanted. And if you know J., you know she never says a thing she doesn’t mean.

I treasure this tablecloth. It should be ironed, clearly, but I don’t want to risk it. It is a fragile thing; the bronze print sits on the silk like a jewel would on a butterfly’s wing. I take it out, I enjoy it, I spread it out for a day, for a few hours, and look at it, touch it, remember, and put it away.

And I put it away next to this, another story.

A velvet quilt, hand-pieced, hand-quilted; a gift from my beloved friend Rachel Brezinski.

Rachel is another woman who’s part of a culture, a time and a place, that belongs to American myth as much as reality. She “went back to the land:” left Europe for Northern California to practice self-sufficiency. She canned, baked, preserved and pickled. She butchered, cured, irrigated and weeded. She fed her family, and clothed them, and schooled them.

And, seeing the environmental devastation – the poisons, the clearcutting – there in Trinity County, she started an environmental group at a time when it was a truly radical thing to do. I understand the group is still active.

Echo was … what, two moths old? when this arrived in the mail with a letter. Rachel had wrapped her babies – or at least, one of them – in this quilt (even if he can’t remember it). I laid Echo in it, yes, but not much more. I mean, look at the hand-quilting: every stitch, every one, picked out through three layers. The piecework; irregular angles, circles, all in velvet. Imagine the touch of this velvet. Imagine, too, the possibility of baby barf.

Here you have them: two treasures. I keep them together, bring them out together, stroke and snuggle them and then refold them. As beautiful as they are alone, it’s the stories, the lives and memories that make them most precious.

I’ve heard the complain that handiwork, sewing and knitting, are somehow anti-feminist; that to craft is retrograde, to cook is rechaining yourself to the patriarchy. Here’s my rebuttal: these two pieces, among others. Feminism has everything to do with women’s lives, their everyday reality. It’s about re-investing those lives with value, not erasing or ignoring them; remembering them, treasuring them, speaking about them. Feminism is inherent in handicrafts. And both, of course, are dear to me.

Where Is My Mind?

First off, y’all are icky.  Just as icky as me.  The phone was ringing off the hook with poo requests!  (Sort of.)  But seriamente, I’ve never received as many requests for anything I’ve made — except maybe cookies.  So, sit tight, there will be a poo giveaway sometime next week.  Also a possible book tie-in (shoutout to my girl Mama Jess!)  More info to come.

Tom, by the way, is slightly horrified by this development.  “You’ll be known as Portland’s Premiere Poop Seamstress!” he pleads.  “At least take down that video link.  You’ll make people sick!”  Sorry, honey …

Have you been watching any Olympics?  I’ve caught a few bits and pieces.  The sky does look pretty gray, hmmm?  I admit to feeling a chill down the back when the cyclists went past Tien An Men – that iconic Mao portrait, the vast expanse of the Square … I loved Beijing, loved it, and I loved China intensely the two years I was there.  I love seeing the city and I feel this odd pride that My China™ has pulled this off so well.  That opening ceremony – dang, that mass spectacle – it’s what China does so well, and I was delighted to see how beautifully it came off.

Shameful admission time: When, Friday morning, Tom read to me the story of Russia’s declaration of war on Georgia, the quotes from Putin, the thousands of women and children fleeing the cities – I was shocked, of course; my heart prickled with sadness and horror at the thought.  But (and I can’t believe I thought this, and I can’t believe I’m admitting it) I also immediately, thought “Poor China!  What crap luck!  Your special day …”

Of course, from what snippets I’ve seen on the local affiliate, war in Georgia (1,500 dead the first day of fighting … reportedly, anyway … let that sink in for a second, hmm?)  – well, all those dead people matter less than Team USA.  So sad.  Poor Georgia!  I’m always on the side of the underdog, so I’ve got  a knee-jerk sympathy for them; I’m painfully ignorant of exactly where Georgia really is/was, geopolitically.  But from analysis I’ve read, they really do sound like the little republic that was doing it right.  Take a moment, maybe, and send those poor people a good thought.

Scatology

So what was the first thing to be created in the glorious, if hot, new sewing room? Was it … blankets for the needy, or perhaps a couture ballgown? It couldn’t have been two little lost pieces of poo, could it?

If you chose C, what can I say … you know me all too well.

Yes, the guy on the left is suffering from pinkeye as well as stinkiness. Poor lil’ fella!

Today I am putting nose to grindstone and cranking out some some super-cute creatures, then moving on to two more philanthropic projects. Update to come. In other news, yesterday morning I had a root canal – stage one of it anyway – yes, that was fun; then left messages to siblings about my parent’s financial instability. Even more fun.

On a parting note, if you think those softies are stomach-churning, then whatever you do, do NOT click on the following video by Michel Gondry. Yes, that IS David Cross in the poo suit.

Ta-da…

Aaand here it is ladies and gents … the product of five day’s effort, $200 of Ikea shelving, and of countless trips up and down basement stairs, then attic stairs … my first completely outfitted sewing room.

At Last!

Sorting Out Quilting Cottons
Sorting Out Quilting Cottons
My Able Assistant
My Able Assistant
A Real Cutting Table
A Real Cutting Table
Wall O' Fabric
Wall O' Fabric
Machines of Grace and Power
Machines of Grace and Power

You may not be feeling the thrill, but rest assured, I am. I’m going to go start working right now! But first … travel times and dates. I have a lot of flying in my future.

August 20 – 26: In SoCal My long-awaited trip down south, baby! I want to see many friends while I’m there … I’ll fly in and out of Ontario, and I’ll probably have a rental car for the bulk of it. More detailed scheduling will follow. Definitely on the calendar: The Japanese exhibit at LACMA, the Cheech Marin collection of Chicano painters – kind of excited about that! – and the AMOCA ceramic museum. Brother Frank lives just around the corner, so we’ll have a little family reunion (and talk about the latest parental tragedies and try to figure out what to do).

Sept. 4 – 11: NYC! Two days in Manhattan and the rest on Long Island. Whee hee!  Can’t wait to bathe in the Atlantic.  (And especially can’t wait to fly out of NYC on 9/11.)

Dec. 12 – 27: Mexico ! !! Flying into Mexico City, staying there a few days, then moving south – I’m thinking to Oaxaca, then some beach town. This will be an exciting trip. Any advice about Christmas in Mexico, tips about where to stay, etc, most appreciated.

Yesterday: Dinosaurs at OMSI!  We had a terrific time.  However, I only brought the flip video camera, so no pictures — If I get my video editing shizit together, you will be able to enjoy a movie of Echo and moving, roaring, grisping and grasping animatronic dinos.  Fun, baby.