Pat Day 2017

I think I fucked up last year, and didn’t write.  But every year on dear old Pat’s anniversary, the anniversary of when she was born, the legendary Ides of March, I think of the old gal.  In this episode of remembrance of things past I mostly am thinking about the conversations I would have had if she were to still wander around planet earth. (I think I just subjunctived the shit out of that sentence.)

The first conversation is all about crafts.  I ridiculously bought myself a button maker to make little pins like thes
I suspect the desire for this little gadget was straight up recapture of the 1970s I never had.  I always wanted whatever the toy version was back in the olden days.  I think it might have been this Button Factory. Although, circa 1978 seems past my peaked pique interest.

Getting back to Pat and crafts more generally, though. Kindred spirits to crafty Pat stroll the hallways of my work. The knitters among my colleagues have of late left the shadows. We gather during the workday and create knitting circles during lunches.

(Completely tangentially, I should disclose that Pat’s own crafty daughter, the person typing this sentence, may have held a little sway in bringing the crafters into the sunshine. )

One knitter spouted a surprising reflection of Pat to me.  She said that there is value in using your hands, having a hobby, an outlet that wasn’t the thought-heavy essence of our daily work. Not everything can be reading and thinking and computers and communication and using your brainiest bits of brain.

Instead, things were solvable by not dwelling on them.  The best of a good hobby is that it takes you out of whatever the thing that you might be doing or might supposed to be doing and puts you somewhere else.  If your hands are busy for a little while that’s all that matters.  Then, while making something homey and crafty, your brain gets to rest and fight another day.

Pat would have nodded in agreement.  One of my favorite Pat quotes in reference to someone going through a bad patch of depression and struggle and maybe a soupçon of intoxicating substance — “She thinks too much.  She needs a hobby.”  It was that simple.

Given half a chance, Pat would have tried to bring a junkie to Jo-Ann Fabrics or Michael’s and had them pick out something to do with their hands.

Which brings me to thing number two that I’d be talking with Pat about if she were here — The scourge that is Donald J. Trump.  The knitting circle at my work and the pussy hat phenomenon, doubtless come from the same place — Scores of woman with hands and a need to do something, anything to make something, create something, build something in the face of the nihilist president.

My aunt and my sister and I have each and all wondered: What the hell would Pat say about Trump?

She’d probably throw herself deeply into doll house making, maybe making the Capitol dome, the real one already miniaturized in moral authority, wee little unethical congress.  Maybe a miniature Capitol dome would be too redundant.  Or, maybe a  White House, tiny and to scale of what real grown up governing looks like, something in line with Trump’s tiny vision, one-inch scale.

And as she built, she’d be ranting.  Each shingle on the miniature roof would be another grumble. Kellyanne Conway would be angrily painted furniture and wrapping paper cum wallpaper.  Betsy DeVos might warrant her own wing or maybe a wall.  She’d build a wall, little bricks glued together to ease the pain of a woman ignorant of how education works being in charge of the whole enchilada.  Schoolteacher Pat would be, in her word, livid.

Maybe this year’s Pat day is about Pat the ultimate maker.  And, now, in the dark days of the most fucked up presidency, the maker spirit is living.  When protests arise out of nowhere.  When knit stocking caps, and really the homespun warmth of DIY, are the cultural fashion gracing the New Yorker magazine.  When everyone is not sure what to do, but they just start doing, because to do nothing is worse.  When strangers speak up, band together, share, write postcards together, share congressional phone numbers on Facebook, march, walk, make signs, rally, write words in the sand on the beach, that’s DIY, that’s maker, that’s crafts.

The best of making shit with your hands is knowing that you can. We can all build a movement.  My next pussy hat will be made for my mother.

I’m pretty sure Donald J. Trump has never built anything with his own tiny digits.  And maybe for just that alone, Pat would never have trusted him.

Arts or crafts

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I think there is one core part of my being that potentially makes me a truly shitty “writer.” I like to do too many things, most of which are not writing.

My fatal flaw is a wide streak of dilettante.

Dilettante has a shitty ring to it, of course, what with it’s negative connotations of shallowness and lack of ability. On a high self esteem day, I might argue that I can write the shit out of a sentence. Even on a weak day though I can claim knowledge of basic sentence structure and grammar.

Evidence? I just consciously re-wrote the sentence above to be TWO sentences. I know that kind of shit.

I consider writing an art. I aspire to be an artist.

My soul, however, values craft. I went to journalism school rather than a creative writing program for that one word. Craft. I may not have the soul of an artist.

I could blame my mother, Pat. Not in a Freudian way, although like all modern day people I can cite a whole lot of ways the woman from whom I emerged left her indelible marks. Turnabout is fair play, I left my mark when she had her fourth Cesarian.

My mother believed, truly believed, like a religion, like a creed, Pat believed in hobbies. She believed in crafts. My mother raised my sister and me to bake, to sew, to knit, to decoratively paint, to buy kits from stores like Michael’s and Joann’s Fabric, to try to make something. We were makers way before making was a thing, a phenomenon.

I made this website.

The first bathroom I ever saw with a sponged walls was not in a plush restaurant with warm terra cotta tones. It was our home bathroom the day Pat stripped the wall paper and tried something new.

Way, way, way back in the wayback machine of time, I didn’t know that people bought mittens at stores. I thought they had pointy tops and thumbs and came from four pointy knitting needles whose double-sides became stealth weapons of surprise when discovered between couch cushions. I thought that mittens were always made from variegated yarn. In hindsight, variegated yarn is the best defense (short of double-pointed needles) against children and a winter of multiple lost mittens.

Making things is so damn satisfying. After reading instructions and following a pattern or free-styling a new recipe, you have something. You have in your hand a tangible product of your toil.

The photo at the top is a knitted pig made in pieces from a hemp and cotton blend yarn and then stuffed and sewn together. I made it.

Satisfyingly, over a few episodes of binge watching the BBC’s Cumberbatch-tastic version of Sherlock, I had a cuddly toy.

(I kind of like Martin Freeman, as John Watson, a bit more than the admittedly heart- and other-throbbing Benedict Cumberbatch. Maybe it’s the frequent assumptions of his own gay attraction to the Cumberbatch. Or maybe it’s that his name is easier to pronounce.)

Writing is not as satisfying. I re-read stuff I have sweated, and I don’t see adorable stuffed pig. I see words that fail to say what I mean. I see editing and mistakes and just nothing.

I will re-read this post and thing “meh.”

I will pour blood from my fingertips in confession or joy, or maybe I will create some thought that hasn’t yet been created in the universe. It will sit never better than just OK in my heart.

In crafts, I can critique and think of small changes to make the next attempt better. In writing, in art, I am I own worst critic. I will allow a vague smile at the occasional turn of phrase.

At this point in my life, I have at least learned to take praise with a simple “thank you” rather than a full on assault suggesting that the utterer of said praise is an utter moron for liking what I produced. I’ve had times on stages or in front of crowds where I have thought to myself, fleetingly, “Yeah, I got this…”

Writing is lonely. I prefer to be physically alone in the house or at least in another room from people, including the one who agreed to marry me. I cannot watch TV and write. I cannot listen to the news, podcasts and some types of music. I cannot do it as easily as I can do so many other things, and I can’t do it with distractions and pop ups of computer notifications calling.

I distrust myself to ever do what I want in my heart to do well. With crafts, I can find forgiveness in small defects and see the larger whole.

In short, I need to get working on the teddy bear I’ve started with fuzzy baby blanket yarn. It’s variegated in various shades of brown. Let’s consider it an homage to Pat and the dozens of mittens made a long, long time ago.

Pat was a maker.

Phone writing

I have been unbelievablely not writing. Part lazy, sheer, ugly bone lazy. Part ennui or something like it. Any thought to write has dribbled into lack of action then nothing.

But, I was reading Tony’s Blog Emporium. He’s writing more or trying and so should I. He’s like a champion role model, only of the comedic variety.

Meanwhile, WordPress.org released software for the old Droid telephone I be using. So there’s that.

On the creative brightside, I haven’t totally given up or killed my soul. After taking 36 million pictures or so on our last trip I felt crafty inspired. Awhile back on an impulse buying whim, M. had thrown a giant frame with a mat full of windows suitable for throwing up a collage of memories into our shopping cart. It has haunted me.

Haunting became the right word, when I finally felt resolve to do something with it. Back in the way, way east (or the east that white cartographers decided was east) there’s a nifty little tradition based in Taoism. Because ancestral spirits like to keep an eye on things, and venerating the dead is an important pasttime, you’re likely to find some great old family pictures on a Chinese family’s wall. I don’t know from burnt offerings or lighting joss sticks next to a homemade altar heavy with tangerines and whatnot, but I like cool photos. M.’s mom has great ones. I’ve taken a few pictures of her pictures.

Stepping back, one thing M. and I have in common is families that have clocked some years each generation. I think his grandfather on his mom’s side would have been about 10 years younger than my mom’s dad. This grandfather is the adventurer who headed off of China’s Hainan Islands and found his fortune in Malaysia.

We each grew up with images from early last century, sepia and gray-toned history. Like my grandfather’s wide-brimmed hat and gaiters, a young doughboy headed out to fight the Kaiser’s army.

That and our tremendous egos and equally tremendous cache of photos of each other and ourselves and ourselves together provide the nugget and the expansion if the craft project. A collage of us and of family.

When all is settled, I’ll probably figure out a web version or maybe just post something here with the rejects. A little bit of honoring the ancestors and a little bit of self worship.