Monday, June 22, 2009

Ahhhh, Columbus

Some days
Originally uploaded by norvegal

The much-twittered-about TNNA was a great success. After hours, the Hyatt lobby took on the look of a summer camp with pajama-clad knitters flopped on every chair, chatting and giggling and taking pictures and Twittering until the early hours of the morning.

I have learned the hard way that the later you stay up at these events, the weirder and potentially more unsettling the conversation can become. You tend to wake up the next morning thinking things like, "Did everybody realize I was being ironic when I said I hated all knitters??!" or, "Was she really being ironic when she said I was stupid and obsolete?" Either way, it can unsettle you, especially if you have to mingle among those very same people the following day.

Better to take a bubble bath and turn in early.

In parallel to the summer camp side of things we had some true, serious, well-contemplated commerce taking place on the show floor. Yarn stores were buying. They weren't just stocking more from existing vendors, they were picking up new ones, investing in entirely new companies and lines. And that's a very, very good sign that our ecosystem is on its way to recovery.

When not connecting and reconnecting with a slew of smart, lovely, hard-working people who are trying to make a living as shop owners, designers, yarn company owners, and even publishers, I consumed far too much Jeni's Ice Cream, played barefoot in a big splashy fountain, and watched a gorgeous blue heron slowly wander along the banks of this occasionally septic river in search of fish.

All in all a good trip, but I'm mighty glad to be home.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Not-so-grand View

Not so grand
Originally uploaded by norvegal

A few months ago, we had quite a stir when a fellow named Donald Crabtree decided to open a coffee shop in Vassalboro. One one of those blink-and-you'll-miss-it towns in the middle of nowhere, Vasalboro's big claim to fame is being in a Bert & I joke. The tourist wheels through town and asks, "Which way to East Vassalboro?" The local replies, "Don'tcha move a goddamn inch." (I don't know, but it's a classic.)

Anyway, the concept of any business opening up in Vassalboro is a great thing, especially something like a coffee shop. But that wasn't the source of the controversy. No, the problem was that this coffee shop, my friend, would be staffed by topless women.

The local reaction was mixed. Apparently 150 people applied for 10 positions (that's job positions), while the more vocal locals insisted it was a moral outrage. It caught national media attention and sparked my favorite new term, "Bare-istas."

Well, last week Donald met with the town fathers/mothers and shared his intention to expand business to be more like a strip club. At which point all patience evaporated and Maine justice, of you can call it that, clicked into action. By 1am, the coffee shop had been burned to the ground. What you see is all that's left.

(Photo blurry because it was taken while driving past at 55mph this morning on my way to Portland. Taking pictures in a moving car is a nasty habit of mine. Don't do it at home, kids.)

Fortunately nobody was hurt (so much for my original post title, "Toasted Titties"), but folks won't be able to get their morning coffee-and-boob fix for a while yet. Donald had no insurance but insists he will rebuild and continue with his strip club plans. The newspapers are gently noting, "Arson has not yet been ruled out," to which I can only say, "Well DUH."

I'm wondering if a milk-your-own coffee bar, with a cow in back, would be better received? You still get your coffee and you'd even get to TOUCH the boobs. As long as the cow consents.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Columbus Beckons

Right now all around the country folks in the knitting biz are looking at their calendars and saying, "Holy crap, TNNA is next week?!" Closets are being overturned, new outfits purchased, suitcases pulled from the attic, emails sent out, press releases finalized, patterns finished, samples darned, materials packed and crated for the journey.

I love the summer TNNA because it takes place in Columbus, Ohio. Those of you who've never been to Columbus or who've only spent times in the drearier parts may smirk or roll your eyes, but I love this city. I love its midwestern vibe, I love its architecturally extravagant convention center, and I love to the point of near distraction its North Market and, specifically, Jeni's Ice Creams.

TNNA also gives me a chance to spend a week among some of my favorite people in the world -- my peers and the sources of so much motivation, inspiration, and support. Most of us work in near solitude the rest of the year, so this is a rare opportunity for us to come together and be goofy.

The only dark side to TNNA, for me anyway, is being the reviewer among many of my reviewees. Not because of anything that I've written, because I never write anything in a review that I wouldn't feel fully comfortable saying to that person face to face. But because it can, on occasion, present an awkward dynamic. And being around folks whose products I have intentionally (or for mere logistical reasons) not reviewed, but who may have expected something, can cause knots in the ole stomach.

Of course none of this would matter if I were more of a prickish, arrogant figure, like Sheridan Whiteside in The Man Who Came to Dinner. I'd wheel through the hall, ordering people about, issuing witty and cutting retorts, and swishing out of the room to the laughter and applause of the audience.

Thankfully I'm not that character, but I do feel genuinely bad when I'm not able to bring another person's high hopes to fruition. That doesn't stop me from doing it all the time, since editorial trumps codependency any day of the week. But TNNA does put a human face on each of those decisions.

Now, a bigger question: What should I pack?

P.S.--Hey Columbus knitters! Won'tcha play hookey with me on Wednesday, June 17th? I'm teaching a course about yarn at Knitters Connection and I understand we still have room for a few more people. I haaaaaave swwaaaaaatches.....