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So once upon a time this blog included knitting.  Only I haven’t knitted very much since I moved to LA because, well, my apartment is too hot to touch anything during the summer and the rest of the year I can barely get thru eating, sleeping, and bathing.

Every now and again I pick up a pair of socks I started before I left for California in 2013 and knit a bit on it.  The thing is, it’s boring.  I devised the pattern myself and I should have known better.  The other UFOs I have, though, are complicated, lace or sweaters needing careful attention to necks or sleeves and my mind just doesn’t have enough room. So the sock has become my go to “I think I’ll do a bit of knitting tonight” project.

Last year about this time I finally finished the first sock and did the toe and a bit of the foot before tossing it in the UFO basket.

But it’s that time of year when not only do I have time and the mental energy to knit but it’s also not too hot. Plus at the end of the semester I usually offer the students a chance to learn.  The added bonus for them is that I also propose a campus yarn bomb project.

I needed to get back in shape for this since it seemed so long since I last knitted that I might have forgotten how so I got out the socks.  It all went well because muscle memory kicked in and short of a head injury it’s unlikely that I ever really forget how to knit.  Soon the 2nd sock was ready for the heel.

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I had to look up the instructions for my preferred short row heel but once I got into it I had it down.  Up to where I had to pick stitches to turn the heel.  Some where I must have put the sock down in the middle of a row because there was a weird half row of purl stitches on the front side of the sock.  Bummer.  I kept knitting, thinking I could live with it, until I couldn’t.  I frogged back to the end of the short rows. I began again.  Suddenly I had 6 stitches to pick up on one side of the heel and 3 on the other????  I solemnly swear I picked up a stitch at the end of each row.  Although it may not have really been the end of the row? I frogged back but couldn’t figure out where I needed to be so I went all the way back to the beginning of the short rows.  I did this a few more times.  Like 5.  The same thing, decreasing fine but increasing always too many stitches left on one side.  The yarn was now splity from so much back and forthing. I couldn’t sometimes tell anymore what was a stitch. It was now 2 am.  So I went to bed.

This morning I was waiting for some pictures to upload for what seemed like forever so got out the sock.  I only thought I would just it back to the start of the heel, again, but in the light of day I pushed on.  Then I discovered part of the problem.  I picked up a wrap and a stitch separately and now had an extra stitch on 1 side.  Eureka.  I ripped it out and started over, again.  Only even after placing stitch markers and counting each row I somehow had decreased 7 times on one side and only 4 on the other???  So now I couldn’t even get the 1st part right????

Failure to complete my 2nd sock will not be because I lack the will to finish it.  I am actually pretty determined to force it into being.  It will be because the !@#$%^&* doesn’t want to be a sock.  

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The Music in Us

I watched the Ken Burns documentary on the Vietnam war which concluded last week and I have some thoughts I’d like to share about it.

Vietnam is my generation’s shared history.  It continues to tug at us like a hungry ghost but unlike our parents, for whom WW2 was a defining moment, we don’t have any sense of a common experience about it.  Everyone’s war was different whether one fought or didn’t, supported or protested, or even just watched the body count climb on TV every night. It has made it difficult for us to talk about it or to find a way to relate to each other’s experience.

It struck me, as I watching, that there is a place where we have common ground and shared experience.  We all, in country and back home, listened to the same music.  The Beatles, Otis Redding, Bob Dylan, The Stones, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, they are all there.  If anything, the legacy of my generation is it’s music. The fact that our children and grandchildren grow up singing Beatles tunes and know the words to Blowin’ in the Wind is testament to the longevity of that legacy and maybe this is where we come together.

 

 

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This week has been two steps forward and one step back.  I can’t talk about it most of yet so instead I thought I would share what I learned in my travels abroad.

The best thing you can do in any new place is wander around, explore, and get lost.  Then find a cafe to hang out while you figure out where you are. That’s how one finds the best stuff and has the most unique experience.  The only exception to this is when one is trying to find one’s lodging after a long plane ride. Then you need clear directions and a map.  I learned this the hard way.  Don’t ask.  I will say that I discovered my Italian was better than I thought it was.

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Venice is particularly good for getting lost because somehow you will end up at the Grand Canal or San Marco no matter what.

Free days are the best- the ones you didn’t plan anything for.  When you can just hang out. The great thing about travel is that you are free, for the duration, of all the things you deal with daily at home.  That’s why it’s relaxing.  Unless you are rushing from place to place to see everything.

Because not everything on the usual tourist agenda is worth seeing- especially if it’s not where your interests lie.  So don’t go to sites just because you think you are suppose to.  Pick and choose what you want to see and leave some free time.  I didn’t go to the Louvre because I knew it would take all day and I only had 2 in Paris.  I don’t regret that and it gives me a reason to go back.

Tourism keeps places like Venice and the historical part of Prague afloat.  If masses of people didn’t visit there every year (and spend money) Venice would have sunk into the lagoon years ago and only those with scuba gear would get to see it.  Unfortunately this also makes it crazy with people.  It also makes the locals grumpy and/or greedy.

Which is why Prague feels like Disneyland with some Las Vegas thrown in.  It doesn’t hurt that that it looks like a made up fairy tale place where medieval, Baroque, Art Nouveau, and Cubism co exist.  But then it also has paddle boats, oldey timey car rides, and shop after shop of souvenirs that pretend to be Czech. And many, many bachelor parties, all drunk, all the time, all weekend, every weekend, staggering thru the streets.  Which is why my best advice about Prague is that if you are there over a weekend, plan on doing something less touristy and stay off the Charles Bridge until Sunday evening.  I took a wrong turn on Saturday and was swept up in the crowd headed to the bridge with no possibility of going any other direction.

Which brings me to:

Lots of popular sites are free but if you want to see places like Notre Dame, Saint Mark’s Basilica, the Astronomical Clock, or the Doumo- go early, get in line before the doors open.

Try the food.  You don’t have to like it. You can find Italian or burgers almost everywhere if the local cuisine isn’t to your liking.  If you like a place, write the name down.  I had the best vegis pizza in Murano but the place doesn’t show up on Google maps and I didn’t pay attention to the name at the time. I was hungry and it was hot and they had shade, ok? Murano is woefully short on shade.

The really cool thing about Paris is that, in spite of the tourists, it’s a real city where people live and work and don’t care where you came from or if you’re going to spend money in their fabulous city.  And if all the tourists left tomorrow, everything would still be there.  All the more reason to pick a just few things you really want to see and spend more time exploring.

Travel makes you want more.  I could happily spend a month in Europe and I am absolutely going back to Paris and I’ve always wanted to go to Indonesia and I’m obsessively checking airfares and looking up places on Airbnb… and if you offered me chance to go almost anywhere, I’d take it.

Best things about Florence:

Santa Maria Novella- Botticelli to Bronzino, the entire history of Renaissance art is represented here and the parfumerie is an experience all to itself.

Shopping in small stores in Oltrarno

Watching fireworks from a bridge on the feast of St. John

Best food:  Lemon chicken and fried Squash blossoms at Tratoria al Tranvai.  Pear and ricotta ravioli at Zeb.

Best things about Venice:

Music- it’s everywhere and the concert I went to in Chiesa de la Pieta was top notch

Apertifs and dinning leisurely outside, preferably on a canal with a sunset view of the lagoon

Getting lost and finding cool stuff also dreaming about the Grand Canal for months after my visit.  Also the Biennale, Punta de la Dogana (modern art), San Mauricio (musical instruments museum), Burano

Best Food:  GamGam, Kosher food, Seafood at Paradiso Perduta, and pizza at that place in Murano I can’t remember. And risotto, gelato, lobster, polenta…

Best things about Prague:

Open air Street markets

Crazy architecture and absurdist art

Walking along the river

Best Food:  fried cheese sandwich at the Lobkowitz Palace cafe.  Bread, strudel, mini pizza from the market across from the Municipal house.

Best things about Paris:

Just about everything

Best food:  Pastry, pastry and more pastry and the french fries (of a completely different caliber than anything served in the US) at a place across from the Pompidou Center another one I can’t remember the name of.  I know I’d have more to add if I had spent more time there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Jane suggested that it might be time to bring back blogging I agreed.  Because blogging made me write, a lot.  It gave me the courage to find the time to do NaNoWrimo.

Twice!

Then it all just kinda died out… we didn’t need to blog; there was Facebook to keep everyone up to date.

I still wrote.  I started a not for NaNoWrimo novel and got about 8000 words into it as well as a couple of short stories that I submitted to contests.  I didn’t win.  I occasionally add to the stack of details that will (maybe) ultimately go into my revised 2010 NaNo novel.

Then work got crazy.  I moved. New work was just as crazy.  I leave my house at 8:30 am.  I get home by 8:30 pm on an average day and all I want to do is eat and veg.  I work most weekends during the semester.  I sometimes had ideas for my various writing projects and if there was a writing implement handy and I wrote them down.  One afternoon I even wrote a new and vastly superior outline for the 2010 book.  Then I lost the paper it was on while cleaning up the shop because it was on the backside of a list I no longer needed.

But… as soon as I began to blog again I wanted to write again- even though the thought of tackling either of the 2 novels in play seemed daunting.  I have now written a new outline (new? There’s no old outline, you never wrote one.) outline for my adventure/ fantasy/political thriller novel.  I haven’t lost it either.  It’s filed in the folder I keep for notes about my stories.  I am also attempting to finish a short story.  Yay for blogging!

Of course this is probably because until this coming week I haven’t been able to  move forward on my school projects but who knows…

So I was ready to dive into the semester.  The shop was back in order after last week’s electrical chaos.   I have lists and plans.  My larder is stocked.  I am preparing myself for another round of long days and weekends lost.  Then…

Can you feel everything slowing down…? Mercury will go direct on Tuesday.  Meanwhile it feels like nothing can be done.

The shows I should be working on RIGHT NOW will not be cast until next week.  Can’t make/buy/choose costumes without knowing who is going to wear them and what size they are.  On hold.

A few of my work study kids have started work but most of them are still in a beginning of the year daze.  Storage reorganization proceeding s-l-o-w-l-y.  Space now in complete chaos, again, until further progress is made.

I lost my cell phone on Tuesday.  Not forever, found on Wednesday.

But the same day I came  home to this:

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My shower door imploded.  Probably from the heat.  After months of unseasonable cool rainy  weather, Mother Nature said “Surprise! Just fooling, it’s August after all.” My bathroom is easily 120+ degrees mid day if the outside is over 85.

Gee it’s nice to be able to take a shower in hot weather.

The landlord has cleaned up the glass and replaced the doors with  a curtain rod and I’ll be able to take that shower as soon as I put up a curtain. Only it’s 95 outside already and hanging out in the bathroom seems like a bad idea.  So does going to the Farmer’s Market, cleaning, or expending any energy at all.

But you could go to the movies?  It’s cool there and it is a 3 day weekend and you can’t do anything else anyway…

 

 

The students are back.  Classes start Monday.  Overnight the campus went from seeming like a quiet restful  park, a few people, the squirrels, and me- to a weekend rock festival, crowds, music, parties, and traffic.

Deadlines approach and supposedly I spent the summer preparing.  What I actually did was go to Europe, then Music Circus, and when I got back and because there was nothing that needed immediate attention I was, well, a bit lazy.

Please, taking care of yourself.

No, you were lazy.

Really?  Because I went to the masseuse, the dentist, the farmer’s market, petted the cat, cleaned the house, got a haircut? Took a vacation?

So this week I had a panic attack and went into production mode.

Because:

Costume storage.  Last year we shifted from expecting to find Dracula’s coffin in our dungeon of a space to checking for anacondas in the jungle of clothes.  It was that jam packed with extra racks squeezed into every available space.

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I usually do some stock reorganizing during the summer but this year it was on hold while the TD built me some extra hanging space above the exsisting fixed racks. Thumbs Up!

Then to clear the floor space of all the extra racks, he put everything from the rolling racks all the way up near the ceiling.  These are the items we need all the time, pants, petticoats, and skirts. Since I don’t want to be that costumer who dies from falling off a ladder under a pile of clothes in a locked room all by herself with no cell phone reception,  I put reorganize stock on the list for the work study kids. Which I need to do with them because I am tired of finding contemporary nighties in the medieval section and, well, ladders.

Only a few other things are happening at that same time.

The department decided to do a opening of the semester show the 1st week of classes.  2 actors, not complicated, but it means I will be in dress rehearsals next week.  Also production meetings, welcome back events, and measurements, shopping, designing for the actual 1st show, and patterns for the 2nd show which is a period piece.

Knowing all this, I got the shop cleaned, organized, and ready to go.  I also dealt with all the costumes that overflowed into another room which is now going to be a design classroom.

BUT there was a glitch.

Of course there was, mercury is in retrograde

A couple of weeks ago, I tripped a breaker.  Only one machine and the iron were on so this should not have happened.  The electrician came, assessed the situation, and decided the shop needed more power.  Surprise!  I only asked for this when we moved into the room 3 years ago. Last week they rewired the costume shop and the laundry room and the adjacent design room.   Like any remodleing project on an older building, they kept uncovering more broken disfunctional things and making a bigger mess and so it went on. Finished except for “just 1 more thing” on Friday.

I am ready to go?  No, but hey, if there was really enough time to get things done, I’d never do anything.

 

 

 

Digging out

It’s my favorite time on campus.  Only a week to go before finals.  The students are busy but I have some leisure to sit back and watch them fumble frantically thru the last few projects.  Occasionally I lob some encouragement or advice their way.  Of course, the last show will leave me with a mountain of laundry and restocking just when they all run off for the summer.

The costume shop seems to attract more than the usual suspects at the end of the year. Which is very gratifying; I feel very popular.  It’s also noisy and crowded.  The usual topic, besides gossip about the last show, is the possibility of pitching a reality TV show about the shop to the campus television network.

After a month of non stop work, today I did my personal mountain of laundry and dishes.  I get the laundry but I don’t know how the dishes pile up when I am mostly eating on campus.  I think the cats must be having parties in my absence.

I made the mistake yesterday of going to Trader Joe’s when both hungry and tired.  I am not sure what all I bought but the freezer is full.  It was all so exhausting that I slept all afternoon to recover.

There’s still a long to do list of things that took a back seat to the dance concert but I am quite satisfied to cross those few things off.