I am undertaking an ambitious amount of knitting for Xmas this year. How is that different from the past five years? Well, this year, there are a couple of sweaters in the mix. Yes, sweaters. No, I am not crazy. I finished one of them last night, along with two scarves that had been languishing on the needles. I took a fifteen minute break then started another scarf. I have two months to make two sweaters, three hats, four scarves, and a cushion. I knit on the train, I knit in front of the television, I knit all the time. If I could, I would knit at work.
Fortunately, there is a sale on at Loopy, my lunch hour LYS. It's a brisk walk from the office or a short cab ride. Of course, I did not buy anything that was on sale. I went there on Wednesday to pick up some yarn for the cushion, but underestimated the size of the pillow form. So, I had to go back and get more yarn yesterday. I ended up buying an entire mill pack of the yarn in question, a green wool yarn that looks remarkably like a cotton yarn that I love. Except it's wool, so it's a stable fiber. So, I'm going to remake the disastrous cotton cardigan in wool. Matching cushion and sweater. Wearing the sweater around the cushion would be a bit awkward, so I'll have to plan accordingly. Besides, I can't knit anything for myself until after Xmas.

A couple of unrelated stories about karma:
I am quickly becoming a Lush addict. Their store is dangerously close to my office. On Thursday, I was killing time before I had to clock in and stopped buy to see if they had Elizabeth's favorite (sadly discontinued) shampoo bar. They had a big stack of them. They also had a demo of the bubble bar going, using the Karma bar. It was intoxicating. So much so that I bought a jar of Karma Cream even though I still have a half a jar of CO Bigelow Lemon Cream! The Karma Cream is fabulous, rich, and fragrant. Elizabeth was thrilled when I called her about the shampoo bars.
This little errand qualified me for a free glitter bar, for use on the hair. I'm really glad that I tried it out in the privacy of my own home rather than in the bathroom at work before going out. I stupidly rubbed it directly on my head, dumping an amount of glitter on my scalp that would make David Bowie weep. A shower and a bath later, I still have glitter in my hair.

I was having a shitty day at work, feeling a little sorry for myself, when I got an unexpected phone call. A couple of weeks ago, I sold tickets to a former dancer who hadn't been to the ballet in the decade since his retirement. We had a fabulous conversation and he expressed an interest in meeting me, which is always a little awkward. Unfortunately, our paths didn't cross at the ballet, but he called to thank me. He loved his seat, loved the ballet, and had so much gratitude. That type of feedback is rare in my work. His phone call really turned my day around.

Yesterday, I was driving home from the train station, listening to some Frank Sinatra on the stereo when a woman began frantically honking at me. Fortunately, I restrained from any rude gestures. She alerted me of my flat tire, which I had somehow not noticed when approaching the car in the parking lot. This was on a busy street, so I decided to limp the two blocks to the next gas station to address the problem there. As soon as the woman pulled away, a man pulled up next to me and started honking. He seemed so upset by my blase reaction to the news. Who could expect two good samaritans in a row? I pulled into the gas station and saw no obvious holes, nails, etc. in the tire, so decided to reinflate it. The tire held air overnight, so the cause of the flat remains a mystery.


The Round Up

What have I been up to lately? Besides working six days a week?
Well, in no particular order, I have seen the following things:
* The Pillowman, at Steppenwolf. Highly disturbing, excellent work. The short stories within the play are amazing. A very Steppenwolf show.
* The Queen, a new film by Stephen Frears, starring Helen Mirren. Superb acting and directing, matched with sharp, sharp writing. I went to a special screening at the Chicago International Film Festival, which prompted me to re-order my Netflix list.
* The Handyman, a French romantic comedy. I didn't set out to see this film. I bought a ticket to The Page Turner, but the print was held up in customs. Instead, the powers that be at CIFF decided to substitute The Handyman. They're both from France, but of remarkably different theme and tone. A charming film with a terrible, arbitrary ending.
* Cinderella, by Sir Frederick Ashton, danced by the Joffrey Ballet. Twice. Beautiful, fabulous stuff. The first time around, I saw the all-star, dream cast. Second time, younger dancers in the principle roles. It was interesting to compare artistic choices and abilities. I sat in the front of the orchestra section the first time and back in the dress circle the second time, which was useful for future reference in seating. I love my season seats (in the orchestra section); I saw a lot of detail and texture that wasn't clear from further back. The dress circle, however, is much better for watching patterns in the corps, which were a bit muddy at times. I'm not entirely sure if that was the dancing or the choreography. Still, a wonderful time had by all.
* Vigils, at the Goodman. I saw the first preview tonight. It's a funny show, but it's hard to judge a show so early in the run. I'm sure that it will be tighter by the time opening rolls around.
What else is going on, you ask. Well, I still haven't finished that raglan sweater, though it is definitely sweater weather in Chicago now. Perhaps tomorrow... I dropped a small fortune at the Lush store this week, in a Crimbo present spree. Oh, and I'm stalking my shipment of yarn from the lovely folks at Webs via UPS tracking. That site is addictive. So, I've got lots of knitting and pampered skin planned. I've also got tickets for King Lear next week at the Goodman.


Canada, Oh

My trip to Canada was brilliant. Not without its low moments, but generally fabulous. Included in this post are a few photographs I took in Montreal.
Unfortunately, there was only one day of good light for the Holga. Still, one is better than none, and that day included a trip to one of the Catholic cathedrals. I haven't processed that yet, but expect good things.
Elizabeth and I hadn't seen each other since summer stock last year, so I was really looking forward to seeing her again. As far as I am concerned, she can travel with me any time that she wants.
Montreal is considered by many Americans to be very European, and by Europeans to be terribly American. Well, I don't know about that. It's a very chic city, where everyone wears artfully tied scarves. Elizabeth and I both bought several scarves. Many of the buildings have strange second floor entrances and beautiful wrought ironwork similar to that of the Vieux Carre in New Orleans. If you paid attention in history class, you may recall that many Acadians fled to Louisiana during the colonial period. It's always interesting to see the signs of things like that.
Many people in Montreal also speak English. If you have an anglo accent or any kind of linguistic stumble, they will switch languages. This frustrated me greatly. I wanted to speak French, but found English to be quite the crutch in Montreal. I wanted to flex my linguistic muscle, as I had to when I was in France. Elizabeth does not speak French, and asked the meaning of various signs. The signs invariably included words that I don't know (it's the same language as much as we speak the same language as the English). The one that really drove me nuts was l'erable. It was everywhere, and I'd never seen it before. Well, that would be a very Canadian word, I thought once I realized its meaning. L'erable means maple. They're just falling over maple this, that, and the other in Canada. After seeing the first vibrant red leaves in Mount Royal park, though, I can understand why it is so iconic.
There were two things that made the whole trip worthwhile: the Chinese Lantern Festival at Les Jardins Botaniques and a Pink Martini concert at the Place des Arts. Elizabeth advised going up to the gardens before the weather changed, so we saw the lanterns on the last day of summer. We couldn't have planned it better. The gardens are high above the city, next to the Olympic Stadium, with a breathtaking view. We had just enough time to stroll through the gardens before dusk. The lanterns really popped as the light left the sky. I'd expected generic, round lanterns, but the gardens had all sorts of shapes and sizes, hand-painted, made to look like ducks, swans, long boats, and many other surprising figures. Naturally, the only photo I was able to take is of the most boring lantern there, in one of the Chinese pavilions.
Pink Martini was amazing. The Place des Arts is similar to Lincoln Center, but all inside, linked to the Metro station of the same name. It seemed a very well laid-out complex. They even had custom paint jobs on the lighting instruments to make them blend into the beige acoustical treatments. The audience was lively, large, and mostly French-speaking. The band spoke French, with charming mistakes, between songs. I hadn't noticed before then how adorable the pianist in Pink Martini is. He got quite the reception! I'd just seen Pink Martini at the Barbican in March, but this was a very different experience. The crowd in Montreal was more engaged. They clapped sooner and more accurately. They also gave two standing ovations. I can't wait until their next album comes out.
Generally, Montreal is pretty cool. They ask if you want to have separate checks straight away in restaurants, so you don't have to ask. The make-up ladies at The Bay on Ste. Catherine rock. One of them told Elizabeth that she looked as though she'd just come in from playing outside while trying on blush. Everything must be labeled in French, making our trip to the Lush store especially novel. My canister of dusting powder has no English translation, but it does have a creepy pic of some guy named Graeme who works there. There are a lot of cool vintage stores and used book/record stores. We stayed in the Plateau, quite near Mt. Royal, so we had many to choose from nearby. Our cabbie even pointed out a place to score drugs and gave an explanation of the local drug laws on the way to our auberge!
I don't know if I will return to Montreal, but it seems like a great place. I think that I might like to explore other parts of Canada, like the Atlantic Coast and maybe out west. I'd love to be able to pick up Canadian magazines like Maclean's at the local B&N. Their writing is so sharp and fearless in a manner that has largely disappeared in the mainstream press here. And Canadian humor and advertising is so fab. The weird beavers for Bell, the funny posters for the birth control ring on the wall in the ladies' room... maybe they seem cool because we don't see them all the time. Or maybe all those additional years in the Commonwealth really paid off for our neighbors to the north.

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