Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Thanksgiving Day Tale

Courtesy of O. Henry via The Literature Collection.

Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving.
from one who has spent her entire life skeptical of tradition, and yet cooks a turkey today.  Oh, and the other Thanksgiving tradition:  listening to this the whole way through at least once.
Enjoy the read.

Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen

There is one day that is ours. There is one day when all we Americans who are not self-made go back to the old home to eat saleratus biscuits and marvel how much nearer to the porch the old pump looks than it used to. Bless the day. President Roosevelt gives it to us. We hear some talk of the Puritans, but don't just remember who they were. Bet we can lick 'em, anyhow, if they try to land again. Plymouth Rocks? Well, that sounds more familiar. Lots of us have had to come down to hens since the Turkey Trust got its work
in. But somebody in Washington is leaking out advance information to 'em about these Thanksgiving proclamations.

The big city east of the cranberry bogs has made Thanksgiving Day an institution. The last Thursday in November is the only day in the year on which it recognizes the part of America lying across the ferries. It is the one day that is purely American. Yes, a day of celebration, exclusively American.

And now for the story which is to prove to you that we have traditions on this side of the ocean that are becoming older at a much rapider rate than those of England are--thanks to our git-up and enterprise.

Stuffy Pete took his seat on the third bench to the right as you enter Union Square from the east, at the walk opposite the fountain.  Every Thanksgiving Day for nine years he had taken his seat there promptly at 1 o'clock. For every time he had done so things had happened to him--Charles Dickensy things that swelled his waistcoat above his heart, and equally on the other side.

But to-day Stuffy Pete's appearance at the annual trysting place seemed to have been rather the result of habit than of the yearly hunger which, as the philanthropists seem to think, afflicts the poor at such extended intervals.

Certainly Pete was not hungry. He had just come from a feast that had left him of his powers barely those of respiration and locomotion. His eyes were like two pale gooseberries firmly imbedded in a swollen and gravy-smeared mask of putty. His breath came in short wheezes; a senatorial roll of adipose tissue denied a
fashionable set to his upturned coat collar. Buttons that had been sewed upon his clothes by kind Salvation fingers a week before flew like popcorn, strewing the earth around him. Ragged he was, with a split shirt front open to the wishbone; but the November breeze, carrying fine snowflakes, brought him only a grateful coolness.  For Stuffy Pete was overcharged with the caloric produced by a super-bountiful dinner, beginning with oysters and ending with plum pudding, and including (it seemed to him) all the roast turkey and baked potatoes and chicken salad and squash pie and ice cream in the world. Wherefore he sat, gorged, and gazed upon the world with after-dinner contempt.

The meal had been an unexpected one. He was passing a red brick mansion near the beginning of Fifth avenue, in which lived two old ladies of ancient family and a reverence for traditions. They even denied the existence of New York, and believed that Thanksgiving Day was declared solely for Washington Square. One of their traditional habits was to station a servant at the postern gate with orders to admit the first hungry wayfarer that came along after the hour of noon had struck, and banquet him to a finish. Stuffy Pete happened to pass by on his way to the park, and the seneschals gathered him in and upheld the custom of the castle.

After Stuffy Pete had gazed straight before him for ten minutes he was conscious of a desire for a more varied field of vision. With a tremendous effort he moved his head slowly to the left. And then his eyes bulged out fearfully, and his breath ceased, and the rough-shod ends of his short legs wriggled and rustled on the gravel.

For the Old Gentleman was coming across Fourth avenue toward his bench.

Every Thanksgiving Day for nine years the Old Gentleman had come there and found Stuffy Pete on his bench. That was a thing that the Old Gentleman was trying to make a tradition of. Every Thanksgiving Day for nine years he had found Stuffy there, and had led him to a restaurant and watched him eat a big dinner. They do those things in England unconsciously. But this is a young country, and nine years is not so bad. The Old Gentleman was a staunch American patriot, and considered himself a pioneer in American tradition. In order to become picturesque we must keep on doing one thing for a long time without ever letting it get away from us. Something like collecting the weekly dimes in industrial insurance. Or cleaning the streets.

The Old Gentleman moved, straight and stately, toward the Institution that he was rearing. Truly, the annual feeding of Stuffy Pete was nothing national in its character, such as the Magna Charta or jam for breakfast was in England. But it was a step. It was almost feudal. It showed, at least, that a Custom was not impossible to New Y--ahem!--America.

The Old Gentleman was thin and tall and sixty. He was dressed all in black, and wore the old-fashioned kind of glasses that won't stay on your nose. His hair was whiter and thinner than it had been last year, and he seemed to make more use of his big, knobby cane with the crooked handle.

As his established benefactor came up Stuffy wheezed and shuddered like some woman's over-fat pug when a street dog bristles up at him.  He would have flown, but all the skill of Santos-Dumont could not have separated him from his bench. Well had the myrmidons of the two old ladies done their work.

"Good morning," said the Old Gentleman. "I am glad to perceive that the vicissitudes of another year have spared you to move in health about the beautiful world. For that blessing alone this day of thanksgiving is well proclaimed to each of us. If you will come with me, my man, I will provide you with a dinner that should make your physical being accord with the mental."

That is what the old Gentleman said every time. Every Thanksgiving Day for nine years. The words themselves almost formed an Institution. Nothing could be compared with them except the Declaration of Independence. Always before they had been music in Stuffy's ears. But now he looked up at the Old Gentleman's face with tearful agony in his own. The fine snow almost sizzled when it fell upon his perspiring brow. But the Old Gentleman shivered a little and turned his back to the wind.

Stuffy had always wondered why the Old Gentleman spoke his speech rather sadly. He did not know that it was because he was wishing every time that he had a son to succeed him. A son who would come there after he was gone--a son who would stand proud and strong before some subsequent Stuffy, and say: "In memory of my father."  Then it would be an Institution.

But the Old Gentleman had no relatives. He lived in rented rooms in one of the decayed old family brownstone mansions in one of the quiet streets east of the park. In the winter he raised fuchsias in a little conservatory the size of a steamer trunk. In the spring he walked in the Easter parade. In the summer he lived at a farmhouse in the New Jersey hills, and sat in a wicker armchair, speaking of a butterfly, the ornithoptera amphrisius, that he hoped to find some day. In the autumn he fed Stuffy a dinner. These were the Old Gentleman's occupations.

Stuffy Pete looked up at him for a half minute, stewing and helpless in his own self-pity. The Old Gentleman's eyes were bright with the giving-pleasure. His face was getting more lined each year, but his little black necktie was in as jaunty a bow as ever, and the linen was beautiful and white, and his gray mustache was curled carefully at the ends. And then Stuffy made a noise that sounded like peas bubbling in a pot. Speech was intended; and as the Old Gentleman had heard the sounds nine times before, he rightly construed them into Stuffy's old formula of acceptance.

"Thankee, sir. I'll go with ye, and much obliged. I'm very hungry, sir."

The coma of repletion had not prevented from entering Stuffy's mind the conviction that he was the basis of an Institution. His Thanksgiving appetite was not his own; it belonged by all the sacred rights of established custom, if not, by the actual Statute of Limitations, to this kind old gentleman who bad preempted it. True,
America is free; but in order to establish tradition some one must be a repetend--a repeating decimal. The heroes are not all heroes of steel and gold. See one here that wielded only weapons of iron, badly silvered, and tin.

The Old Gentleman led his annual protege southward to the restaurant, and to the table where the feast had always occurred. They were recognized.

"Here comes de old guy," said a waiter, "dat blows dat same bum to a meal every Thanksgiving."

The Old Gentleman sat across the table glowing like a smoked pearl at his corner-stone of future ancient Tradition. The waiters heaped the table with holiday food--and Stuffy, with a sigh that was mistaken for hunger's expression, raised knife and fork and carved for himself a crown of imperishable bay.

No more valiant hero ever fought his way through the ranks of an enemy. Turkey, chops, soups, vegetables, pies, disappeared before him as fast as they could be served. Gorged nearly to the uttermost when he entered the restaurant, the smell of food had almost caused him to lose his honor as a gentleman, but he rallied like a true knight. He saw the look of beneficent happiness on the Old Gentleman's face--a happier look than even the fuchsias and the ornithoptera amphrisius had ever brought to it--and he had not the heart to see it wane.

In an hour Stuffy leaned back with a battle won. "Thankee kindly, sir," he puffed like a leaky steam pipe; "thankee kindly for a hearty meal." Then he arose heavily with glazed eyes and started toward the kitchen. A waiter turned him about like a top, and pointed him toward the door. The Old Gentleman carefully counted out $1.30 in silver change, leaving three nickels for the waiter.

They parted as they did each year at the door, the Old Gentleman going south, Stuffy north.

Around the first corner Stuffy turned, and stood for one minute.  Then he seemed to puff out his rags as an owl puffs out his feathers, and fell to the sidewalk like a sunstricken horse.

When the ambulance came the young surgeon and the driver cursed softly at his weight. There was no smell of whiskey to justify a transfer to the patrol wagon, so Stuffy and his two dinners went to the hospital. There they stretched him on a bed and began to test him for strange diseases, with the hope of getting a chance at some problem with the bare steel.

And lo! an hour later another ambulance brought the Old Gentleman.  And they laid him on another bed and spoke of appendicitis, for he looked good for the bill. 

But pretty soon one of the young doctors met one of the young nurses whose eyes he liked, and stopped to chat with her about the cases.

"That nice old gentleman over there, now," he said, "you wouldn't think that was a case of almost starvation. Proud old family, I guess. He told me he hadn't eaten a thing for three days."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


For the past week and a half there have been temporary barricades on one of the streets I drive down frequently. In addition, one of the houses on that street has had curious goings on.

It's a modest '70's style colonial, probably about 2400 sq. ft. at most. The first day there were about 5 moving vans on the street in front of the house. way could all that stuff fit into that house, nor could all that stuff have come out of that house. Admittedly I didn't see any "stuff", just all those vans jockeying for position.

Later in the week there were two big trailers in front of the house. One of them had a side panel where one could see all kinds of electronic metering equipment. Hmmm? Biohazard? Toxic waste? Too much CSI?

Yesterday I stopped at Hands on Leather in my continuing quest for the perfect little purse. The store is located on a one way street with diagnoal parking. In front of every parking spot was a temporary "No Parking" sign, yet cars were in those spots. So I pulled in a vacant one, and could then see in small print "after 5:42 PM". Hmmm....what's so special about 5:42 PM?

Nancy did have the perfect bag that I've been searching out for the past 6 weeks (this one) and while settling up I asked about the signs. She looked at me in disbelief...."Didn't you know they are filming a movie in town?" Duh....well now I know.

It's this one. Now you know too.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Lee and Shan both correctly identified me in the "Quick" post comments. Send me a note to vmusselmAThotmailDOTcom   Perhaps you could use some handspun yarn?

I don't think I've put up identifying pictures of me....(well...maybe that neck...argh!  must pull out the mock turtle necks shirts.)  The exception would be my wedding picture from 32 years ago.  I am well aware that I no longer look like that.

Everything I needed to know about round robin workshops....

The workshop this week was my second round robin workshop with Robyn Spady this year.  Prior to this I had pretty much sworn off round robin workshops.

For the uninitiated: A round robin workshop is one where all of the participants receive a draft and instructions for warping their loom.  Each one brings their dressed loom to the workshop and the weavers work their way around the room, weaving a sample on each warp.  What could go wrong!? (ha!) my history Murphy often made an appearance and sometimes even prevailed the experience.  Not so with Robyn's workshops.

The first of  Robyn's workshops I attended was  Pictures, Piles, Potpourri, and Perplexing Curiosities.  There were at least 12 of us in the class.  Everything went smoothly over the three days.  Each of us even wove velvet! (How cool is that?!)  At the end of the workshop we all came home with a completed sample book, each sample tucked neatly in a protector page with the instructions for that weave and alternative treadlings for some of them.  That's the goal of a workshop: to be able to reproduce, adapt, and advance the information learned in the workshop.

After the workshop, I flipped through my sample book and marveled about how successful the workshop was:
  • Everyone's loom was properly threaded. 
  • It was clear what we needed to do at each station.  
  • Cutting off the loom was organized and orderly. 
Much of this was due to Robyn's level of organization and communication before the workshop.  But I also thought that this was probably an exceptional group of weavers.  After all, Joan  taught many of them and she runs a weaving weaving boot camp!  Clearly a little "military order" improved this workshop.

A few weeks ago our guild announced Robyn's Two Sides to Every Cloth workshop. I steeled myself about the round robin thing then signed up, got my instructions, dressed my loom and showed up for yet another astoundingly successful workshop. No class of bootcamp graduates for this one, just the typical  guild mix of newbies, highly experienced, and dilettante weavers.  And here I sit with another full sample book, with duplicates of some of the samples, and a gazillion ideas for future warps.

So, what makes a successful round robin workshop?  Here are the my thoughts on that subject:

For the participant:

Before the workshop:

  • As you prepare your loom for a round robin workshop, treat your loom as you treat your home when you are expecting guests.  Clean things up a little bit.  Tighten that loose brake.  Make sure the warp has even tension, is threaded properly, and has the tie-up the way the instructor has suggested.  You will be "hosting" the all of the other workshop participants on your loom.  Make those guests welcome.  Have a couple of bobbins wound in advance.  Leave a brief, specific note with your loom if it's an unusual loom in your area and it has a quirk or two.  For example, my workshop table loom has the treadles arranged from right to left rather than the usual left to right configuration.
  • Assume the instructor knows what they are doing.  Don't make arbitrary changes to the instructions based on what you think is a better way.  If you have such temptations, contact the instructor....most everybody has email, or twitter, or whatever.  It's not hard to ask the simple question that could avert disaster for yourself and the rest of your classmates..
  • If you don't understand something in the instructions, again ask the instructor.  (see above)
  • Trust:  Trust that the weave structure you are assigned is just the one you need at this point in your weaving life.  Trust that there is some kernel of knowledge or truth in that structure that is tucked in there just for you to learn in the next few days.  Even if it's just plain weave on a straight draw, trust that you don't know everything about's not possible to know every nuance about every variable that's going to go into this workshop in advance.  Be open hearted and prepared to look for what that truth will be for you.  (In other words, don't call the instructor and ask for "something" else just because you don't like "your weave" or you think it's boring.  The only exception is if there is absolutely no way your loom can handle the warp as described in the instructions.)
  • Give yourself plenty of time to dress the loom.  Break it up into stages and fit them into your schedule the week before.  Threading errors are more likely if you are threading your loom at 2:30 AM the day of the workshop.
  • Unless it is counter to workshop instructions, weave a header in the warp before the workshop.  You could also try out your treadling.  Make sure there are no crossed warp threads, no threading errors, and the tension is even.
  • Make a packing list of the tools you'll need.  Assemble them and put an indentifying mark on them so they are easy to keep track of at the workshop.  Tuck that list into your weaving kit and take it with you.
  • Get plenty of rest the night before.  You are going to be taking in a bunch of new information along with the fact that you will be using different motor skills in adapting to the other looms in the workshop.  This is taxing for even the most flexible and energetic body and brain.
At the workshop:
  • Arrive in time to get your loom set up and be ready at the start of class.  
  • Check your attitude.  This workshop is not all about you.  It is all about gaining new information that everyone in the group will be able to use in the future. 
  • Most of us in the weaving community are "maturing" rapidly.  We need new weavers....a lot of new weavers, to replace us and to help us keep our equipment and yarn supply lines running.  Not everyone in the class will have gone through the checklist above.  So be prepared to be patient with your fellow weavers.
  • Think again about hospitality with regard to the looms.  If you live in the biggest, nicest house in town, you're going to be awfully lonely if you aren't gracious when visiting people with more meager dwellings.  The same thing is true with workshop looms.  Be gracious about using looms that you don't love.  Someone else may love it, or it's the only loom they could lay hands on to take advantage of this learning experience.  It's only a sample, be nice.  And don't castigate a newbie if they've made some small error in warp preparation.  (Like you've never woven two yards before discovering a threading or treadling error...right?)  If it's something that can simply and easily be fixed (ie. a broken warp thread) do so graciously.  We're planting new weavers here, don't pull them up by the roots!
  • If you must count, don't do it out loud.
  • Don't stand and talk to someone while they are weaving. (see above...most of us are counting.)
  • Make sure that your samples are clearly identified as yours.  Little hang tags on strings, masking tape with your name work well.   Something more than just a shot of odd colored yarn that could get lost in the shuffle.  It's also helpful to identify for yourself which sample it is so that it can easily be paired with the instructions in your sample book.
  • Don't talk to your neighbor when the instructor is talking.  And turn off your cell phone.
  • Be helpful.  Looms and benches and all that equipment isn't easy to schlep around.  However, weavers and their looms can be kind of quirky.  Something that you think needs fixed may not need fixing.   If you see that some help might be needed first ask:  "How would you like me to help?"  That cord you think is in the way may be integral to the loom set up.  The weaver you're helping knows if the loom will only fit in their car if it is turned to a 65 degree angle behind the armrest of the passenger seat.  Unsolicited help if often not helpful.
  • Clean up.  Workshop spaces are not easy or cheap to come by.  If you leave the place a mess, your guild may not be able to get that venue again.  Or if you leave the clean up to other workshop participants, you may not be received so warmly in the future.  (See hospitality above.)
  • Remember that packing list you used to prepare for the workshop?  Check it again as you pack up to go.  Be sure you have all of your belongings.
For the Instructor:
  • Provide clear and concise instructions for the students.  Have another weaver proof read them for accuracy and clarity before implementing them.
  • Let students or the workshop coordinator know the most convenient way to contact you if there are questions.
  • Be gracious.
  • It's not all about you.  Expect that students may have likes, dislikes, and preconceptions about certain parts of weaving.  That doesn't mean they don't like you..  Accept their feelings about "pick-up", "clasped wefts", changing tie-ups mid-warp, or whatever.  But be encouraging and supportive.  Invite them to try something new.
  • Leave your ego at the door.  If you were invited to teach this group and they have agreed to pay your workshop rates, then trust that you are well respected within that room.  That's a good thing and for now, that is enough.
  • Invite and accept feedback.  It's an opportunity for you to make this workshop better for future groups.  You may also get ideas for other workshop topics that you can teach.
  • If you have a chance, take one of Robyn's workshops.
IMO, we could change the name of these things to "Round Robyn Workshops" (well, the successful ones anyway.)  Her knowledge, unflagging energy, enthusiasm, and level of organization make for an exceptional learning experience.  Pay attention to all the neat little things she does in advance to cut down on confusion.  Those things also help in keeping everyone headed in the same direction.  We all know that leading weavers can be a bit like herding cats.

So...that's my list.  There are some other things under the category of general weaving that I learned this time around.  I'll save that for another post.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


For a quick look on what we were doing in the weaving workshop check here and here. Just for fun, can anyone (who doesn't know me outside the blog) guess which picture features me in that last link? (hint, I'm wearing something made from handspun yarn.)

Answers to questions in the comments:

  • With the support spindles I usually use a little wooden base that I bought with my Forrester spindle.  It is pictured in this post.
  • The sentence:  "A certain amount of legerdemain was required to truss the turkey filled with that much fennel dressing.  (write me if you want the fennel dressing recipe)
  • The workshop was held in a large church basement fellowship hall.  They have a triptych painted on that long wall that's sort of a landscape with lots of greens and purples framed as viewed through a palladium style window.  It's new since we were there for a workshop last spring.
Gotta go, I'm dog tired.  And there some busy days ahead:  Guild meeting tomorrow, yoga workshop on Friday, birthday party (for a friend) on Saturday, and tickets to see A Little Night Music with yet another birthday girlfriend on Sunday.

BTW, I know more people with birthdays in the coming week of November than any other time of year.  Mary, the Sunday birthday girl and elementary school teacher said that she's noticed that too in her almost 40 years of teaching.  Her theory is that Valentine's Day is 9 months before.  So, there you go.

Now, where  did I stash all those birthday cards?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Random Busy

Over the weekend I made some support spindles:

I like support spindles for short fibers like cotton and cashmere. These were made from large, flat, semi-precious stone donut pendant beads .  They are shown here, nestled in the cashmere that they are designed to spin.  My favorite is the speckled one in the middle.  It spins like a dream and weighs 20g.  The biggest disappointment is the lapis on on the left.  The stone is not well balanced, and though it spins's just okay.  The one on the left has neat sparkles in it and has a pretty nice spin too.

Next:  A drum roll please:

Finally the cast off row for the Queen Silvia shawl!  Stitch count on the final row was 832 stitches.  I'm about one third of the way through this cast off and will probably finish it during The Good Wife or NCIS if I decide to put off writing Christmas cards yet again.

Over the weekend this warp was measured, threaded and tied-on:

For this workshop:

which will wrap up tomorrow.  More about that later.

And last but not least, I learned a new word today:
legerdemain - def. skillfulness in using ones hands particularly for deception as in conjuring.
The interesting part is that I learned this word while reading my first full length graphic book (not a novel, since it's a biography).  Funny that one should learn a new big word from a book narrated in pictures.  Guess that will teach me to look down my nose at new art forms.  The book is Fun Home: A Family Tragic Comic by Alison Bechdel.  Her ability to communicated complex and nuanced information with illustration and words is fascinating to me.

Next up: a post about weaving. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Larger Stage....

William Shakespeare said that "All the world's a stage...."  and what a strange stage it feels to me this week as I ponder the news.  News full of beginnings, endings and ongoings:

As I type, the Memorial Service at Fort Hood is playing in the background. What a sad ending for 13 heroes.

Yesterday the news was all about the 20th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. I have distinct memories as a second grader, of sitting in front of the black and white tv in my best friend's living room. I remember feeling perplexed as Walter Cronkite reported behind the blurry footage of people desperately trying to cross the border to West Berlin as the wall and barbed wire went up. Now in a strange twist of fate, another little girl who was sitting within the boundaries of that wall at that same time is the Chancellor of a united Germany.

I also remember, as a young adult, following the news story of the ending of the US involvement in the war in Viet Nam, a war that was the back drop for my high school and college years. This was the first war to be graphically televised into our homes and it was all disturbing. The end of the war was equally disturbing as the Viet Namese Boat People fled as refugees from their homeland. Now today in the news a 5 year old refugee from that time returns to Danang as a U.S. Navy Commander. What a journey.

Seven years ago, we all watched in horror for three weeks as the elusive Beltway Sniper Attacks.  Ten people died and three were injured. Tonight the mastermind and perpetrator of that evil is to be put to death. I must admit to being ambivalent about the death penalty, but in this case what other end makes sense? If only it would be an end to all such evil.

On a lighter note, today marks 40 years of the broadcast of Sesame Street. I was a teenager with nieces and nephews when this show was launched. Big Bird provided the inspiration for my costume for a Halloween/birthday party for dh when we were dating. For many years I worked as a pediatric physical therapist and am also a mom. Sesame Street characters were wonderful and familiar "tools" to ease some of my small patients into their therapy activities. I am indebted to them. May Sesame Street continue to be around for 40 more years!

So these are all the things I am pondering while working the interminable 776 stitch border rounds on the Queen Silvia Shawl.

What's that saying?.... May you live in interesting times.