Gather together

April 18, 2013 § Leave a comment

Gather 1Gather 2I’d heard of an art walk and a pub crawl, but never a yarn crawl before last weekend when I stumbled upon the event during a visit to The Last Bookstore. Seeing that the tiny yarn shop on the mezzanine was open, I went upstairs to check it out and found myself in a Very Busy Place.

Gather 3Seems that L.A. County’s local yarn shops (known simply as LYS to those of the knitting persuasion) banded together to promote their emporia by sponsoring said crawl April 11 to 14. Gather, the shop at The Last Bookstore, was one of 32 participants. You could get a “passport” –a sheet of paper with LYS names and addresses printed within small squares–stamped at every store you visited, then possibly win prizes by leaving it at the last shop you visited.

I kept my passport; it’s a terrific guide to the many and varied knitteries hereabouts. Turns out you can shop for yarn & accessories from Claremont and Glendora, to Whittier, Bellflower, Santa Clarita, Torrance and Tarzana. Who knew?

Which gets me wondering: the LYS phenomenon began about the same time that women’s bookstores were taking a nosedive. Do you suppose there’s a correlation? Feminism’s fire transmuted via worsted wool and #7 needles into the DIY (do it yourself) movement? Much less overtly political (“the personal is the political” notwithstanding), but resistance to stultifying norms nonetheless. DIY hasn’t meant simply replicating Martha Stewart place settings (or cupcake decorations or whatever); it’s renewed appreciation for handcrafted items and creativity, and represents a turn away from the mass produced “stuff” that crowds our lives.

IMG_2170A sweater, even a scarf, takes time and patience to knit and finish. That alone qualifies it as countercultural. Then there are offshoots such as yarn bombing–appropriating public spaces for unexpected and unexplained displays of handiwork. And what about the high concept work of artists such as Masaki Koizumi who actually handknits playgrounds!

I don’t think I can make a case for the DIY movement as daughter of second wave feminism. It’s more like a godchild. But neither do I underestimate the possibilities that open up when women gather together. They’re probably doing more than K1, P2.

April 6, 2013 § Leave a comment


We awoke this morning to the sounds of the Hollywood Half-Marathon making its way through our neighborhood.

Half Marathon Participants came in all shapes and sizes, ages, ethnicities. Also costumes: Superman, Wonder Woman, tutus, butterfly wings, a man in a filmy white dress and blonde wig. Mostly though, they wore spandex, lots and lots of brightly colored spandex. Enough to stretch all the way from Hollywood & Highland, where the race began, to Sunset & Alvarado, the turn-around, and back again: 13.1 miles.

“Thanks for letting us run through your neighborhood!” a man shouted as he legged it past me. Which was nice of him since it was a bit of a nuisance, hemmed in as we were by parking restrictions until 1 p.m.

Back in the ‘70s when the marathon craze was really taking off, I stood on the berm of a country road in Central Pennsylvania giving out split times–time elapsed since the last marker–for the first marathon of the region. It an all volunteer affair and long before barefoot-running, CamelBaks, energy shots–or spandex. By the end of the race I saw men bleeding from their nipples from the chaffing of cotton/polyester t-shirts.

I don’t remember any women running. That’s how it was back then.

I was jogging regularly at the time, though never as fleet of foot as my father who ran cross-country in high school. After watching the half-marathoners, I dug out his medal from the Marquette University Relay Carnival,  c. 1927. On the front, Winged Victory appears in low-relief. Inscribed on the back: 1st prize, 4 mile relay, National Champ.

While my dad might talk about running, he never gloried in having been on a national championship relay team. It wasn’t his way. He never gave up his love of bi-pedal mobility, however, which he lauded by slapping his thigh and repeating the old adage, “Shank’s mare will get you there.”

Evidently all the way from Hollywood to Silverlake and back again.

Tree of Fire

April 1, 2013 § Leave a comment

Good things in L.A. sometimes happen in strange places.

Like Saturday night when I drove downtown to Skid Row. There, in the produce district, Inner City Arts has a serene campus of multiple buildings stocked with all manner of art-making materials. Since 1989, they’ve done what a lot of schools no longer do: provide a space for creativity to flourish.

But their theatre was simply the venue for an independent production from the Roots & Wings Project: “Tree of Fire.”

Three incarcerated women review/relive their lives and choices as the prison burns around them. Very powerful vignettes of exploitation, abuse, grief, and desperation–as well as sisterhood and mutuality.

Original script & music, superb acting on a bare-bones set, each woman contained within a small square of light projected onto the floor.

When a medical emergency forced one of the actors to drop out, playwright and producer Jesse Bliss Woods stepped in as a reader.

It was gratifying to finally see the fruits of so many years of labor. Here’s hoping there will be future productions.

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