Monday, November 28, 2005

I Have A Non-Knitting Announcement to Make...

I am taking on a new job.

This took a lot of soul-searching, because the East Baton Rouge Parish Animal Control Center is a fine agency, and I feel a great deal of loyalty to the animal shelter itself, to my boss, to our veterinarian and to my co-workers. I am leaving some of the finest people I have ever worked with in my life, but I am moving on to work with some equally fine people.

I have been offered a job as director of operations for LA/SPCA in New Orleans, and I have accepted, but not for the salary increase alone. There are much deeper forces at work here.

Hurricane Katrina has irrevocably changed something inside me. The day I watched New Orleans drown was the most horrifying and shocking day of my life -- more awful than 9-11.

I grew up in New Orleans, and, when I was old enough to go to college, I wanted to get out and stay out, as young people often do. In order to become yourself, you usually have to get both physically and spiritually away from your roots.

But watching New Orleans drown, watching fires within the flood, working in the animal rescue efforts after Katrina, hearing tales of survival, witnessing parts of the ghastly aftermath firsthand, and being a small part of the vast effort to rescue animals and reclaim my hometown ... all of these things have flipped a switch inside me. And just as a vagabond youth comes rushing home when news arrives that a loved one is at death's door, so do I feel compelled to be directly involved in picking up what is left of my hometown and trying to breathe new life into it. It's like giving blood, or even a kidney, to a loved one whose life is on the line. There is no explanation for the motivation to do so. You just have to do it.

This is going to be a tremendous challenge. During the three days before Hurricane Katrina hit, the LA/SPCA evacuated all of the animals from their landmark shelter at 1319 Japonica Street, in the heart of the flood-ravaged Ninth Ward. But that shelter is now completely unsalvagable. Below you will see a photo of the ruined SPCA lobby after the floodwater was drained. Bad enough, I suppose, but this isn't the worst part by a long shot. It actually doesn't look so bad compared to the rest of the building.

We couldn't even get into some other parts of the building.

The new shelter will be constructed directly across the Mississippi River from downtown New Orleans, in an area which does not flood.

We get to transform an old coffee warehouse, with half a roof and no plumbing except for a toilet and washstand, into an animal shelter. We get to live and work in FEMA trailers while we do it. And we need to do this within the next two years.

After that, there are long-term plans for LA/SPCA to build a regional shelter, inland, high and dry. This shelter will also serve as a regional emergency preparedness center for animal evacuees during future hurricanes or floods. It is extremely likely that this regional shelter will be in, or very near, Baton Rouge. This shelter will be able to serve the entire region. Like Lou Reed said, "It's the beginning of a great adventure."

I won't be moving to New Orleans. I will be commuting.

Some of my friends and co-workers see my new job as a well-deserved promotion, some folks think I am insane to even consider commuting, some people are just plain happy for me, and a few think I am quite mad to accept a job "patching up the Titanic."

But to me, New Orleans is not the Titanic. I may choose to live in Baton Rouge, but New Orleans is home, and I cannot stand by without attempting to revive it. And if it were not for the lessons I learned as a child from my family and from the example set by the good people of 1319 Japonica Street, I might not be doing what I am doing today. This is a chance to close the circle and pay back with thanks.

And so that is my news.

And Now For An Important Knitting Annoucement:

It's almost time to send those cage cozies. The warehouse is being repaired and renovated into a permanent animal shelter, but at the same time, it is being used as an emergency shelter. As yet, there is no climate control. This building promises a chill, damp winter for the animals. Cage cozies are needed in both 18" by 18" size for cats and small dogs and in baby blanket size for larger pets. Gather up those cozies you have been making and in the next few days I will be able to post maling instructions.

And A Few Mundane Updates:

My hiding place is making a bit of progress. I have discovered that I can fit a considerable portion of my stash into this little space, along with my spinning wheel, a stool, a small mattress, and a bunch of pillows. A progress report is forthcoming.

Several shawls are finishing themselves at the same time. Don't ask me how this happened, but it is a very good thing, because I have only six inches done on the alpaca lace vest I am making Mom for Christmas. Photos of FOs and WIPs should be coming soon.

Now I have to get busy untangling myself from my current job and getting ready for my new one.

More soon....


Sunday, November 13, 2005

Tiger Feet

If anyone ever tells my mother that I am taking pictures of my feet and putting them on the Internet, she will absolutely faint, even though after forty-mumble years of my existence, she should be accustomed to this sort of oddity coming from me.

And it will do no good whatsoever to inform Mom that a great many other people in this world regale the Internet with photos of body parts far more alarming than feet.

Nor will it do any good to tell her that all the other knitters are putting pictures of their own be-socked feet on the Internet.

"All the other kids are doing it" didn't work in high school, either.

But anyway, here are my feet.

Mom, please note that they are very modestly encased in wooly socks. You canot tell from the still photo, but I am wiggling my toes in delight.

I am pickled tink and deeply honored to report that I have received this gift of a very special pair of Tiger Feet from Master Sock-Knitter Joan Richardson of Baton Rouge.

Although these are made from the new, more truly tiger-colored version of Opal Tiger, these are no ordinary socks. Only people who have knee injuries, specifically a torn AL, get a pair of these socks from Joan, and that honor has, to date, been reserved only for women on the LSU women's basketball team. However, having managed to injure my knee and damage an AL this summer (see my earlier post in the archive from this past summer: Knit One, Patella Two), Joan has decided that I deserve a pair of these magnificent socks.

Joan, I am delighted with these socks and wish to thank you in public, on the Internet, for this wonderful gift. I plan to wear them on game days for the LSU women's basketball team for good luck for the team and of course during LSU baseball games as well.

And here they are, sans pieds, displayed upon the Jupiter Gravity Couch at our house:

What, you may ask, is a Jupiter Gravity Couch?

That is a perfectly reasonable question, which deserves a perfectly reasonable answer.

The Jupiter Gravity Couch began as a sturdy, well-made sofa bed with a comfortable mattress but a poorly made pull-out metal bedframe. When after much use, it finally twisted into a pretzel and firmly refused to fold back into the couch, I simply disassembled it, tossed the frame at the curb, folded the mattress into thirds, and placed it in the gaping rectangular hole left behind by the previous mattress-frame combo.

But oops! Being frameless, the folded mattress was far too shallow when the seat cushions were replaced.

So, I inserted a thick chunk of sofa-seat-sized furniture foam, wisely covered in plastic, at floor level, and place the mattress on top of that.

Still too shallow.

Another layer of furniture foam was placed atop that. And finally, the seat cushions were put in place

The end result is that, after a great deal of cussing at inanimate objects and dis-assembly of cheap frame components, I achieved in a weekend afternoon something that the world's greatest physicists have been working on fruitlessly for decades:

I have achieved Jupiter Gravity on Earth.

Once you sit -- or worse, lie down upon -- this couch, it is physically impossible to get up.

So. It is Sunday afternoon. I have some important decisions and plans to make this afternoon, which I shall announce to all of you very soon.

I think I will retire to the Jupiter Gravity Couch for awhile now, to sit and contemplate my future.

Thanks again, Joan!


Sunday, November 06, 2005

My Hiding Place

Our house started out as a wee, two-bedroom, welcome-home-GI house built in 1947. Over the years and through various owners it was expanded a bit, and, amongst the eccentric add-ons is a wee loft over the den, the addition of which happened sometime in the late 1970s.

For many years this loft housed a futon mattress, which often served as sleeping space for guests willing and able to climb the steep, ship-like ladder-stairs to the loft. And I admit that it was often -- make that "usually" -- a bit overcrowded with large boxes full of miscellaneous household items.

It was also a good nap, reading, and, of course, knitting spot.

Best of all, it sports a small, operable skylight so you can invite the breeze in on fine days.

It's like having an indoor treehouse.

For several months, I've been of a mind to convert this space to a real knitting nest, and Hurricane Katrina has forced my hand. After the first few days of seeing Mom trying to be comfortable on the lumpy sofa-bed in the den, I was inspired to buy a new futon frame, drag the mattress down out of the loft, and set up the futon in a small room downstairs so Mom could be more cozy.

This left me with a (mostly) empty loft to clean and de-junkify.

So. Now I get to play "Design On A Dime." To wit, I plan to transform the former sleeping space and junk storage loft to a cozy knitting and spinning nest.

The floor space you see is only 8 feet by 8 feet, and the side wall where the pictures are is only about 40 inches high, so I will not attempt to store much of my stash up here, aside from works-in-progress. One can't exactly stand up in this space (perhaps the Yarn Harlot could) but one certainly can lounge around in it or sit on a spinning stool or in a not-so-big chair. I am inclined to make use of my existing cot-mattress and pillows so I can lounge around like a sultan while Iknit.

So, what to do?

Perhaps I shall paint the walls. Perhaps not.

I will definitely rearrange the pictures on the wall into a more fetching configuration, and perhaps add or delete a few of them.

I do plan to stock that little shelving nook (3 feet high, one foot wide) with my favorite knitting books.

I also want to lug my spinning wheel and spinning stool up there, and bring up some of my covered baskets full of fleece and spinning supplies. I might even have room for my Navajo loom. The loom is a tad over four feet tall and the space where I want to put the loom is a little under 50 inches tall. It will just exactly fit.

I considered scavenging a bit of leftover carpet from a friend in the construction business, but decided that it's easier to clean cat vomit off the painted wood floor.

Just in case you are not familiar with the Captive Feline Code of Ordinances, I shall quote:

Title 14, Section 201:3; Placement of Hairballs and Liquid Vomitus in Human Habitations

(k.) Felines residing with humans who have installed new carpet at any location in the human dwelling are obliged by this section to deposit hairballs, liquid vomitus and insects and/or grass rejected by the stomach upon new carpeting within twelve hours of installation, and as often as possible thereafter until said carpet is sufficiently stained to match other carpet elsewhere in the human dwelling.

So. There you have it, in writing. I might add that it took a considerable bribe of tuna and sardines to obtain that information from a certain feline member of our household, who, for his own safety, shall remain unnamed.

So, dear readers -- ideas and suggestions?

What would you do if you had such a small space and wanted to squeeze in the following items:

1. A trunk and several Rubbermaid bins of yarn stash and WIPs

2. Several baskets of fleece and spinning supplies.

3. A small cot mattress (28" by 72") to be set along one wall with a convention of pillows upon it.

4. Knitting books.

5. Etc.?

Welcoming input from you all ...


Inmates in the Asylum since July 27, 2006: