Thursday, January 25, 2007

A Little Less Conversation, A Little More Action


One of my absolute favorite places to knit is in front of the television. I claim I'm not a big TV kind of girl but that just might be a lie. With the exception of GREY'S ANATOMY I don't know too much about what's new and popular but when it comes to the old, the unpopular, and the downright embarrassing I'm a veritable Encyclopaedia Britannica of worthless pop culture information.

(Did I ever tell you that I worked for EB when I was seventeen? They had an office at 575 Madison in Manhattan and it was mainly filled with characters and crazy people. One editor threw her IBM Selectric out of a 10th floor window because she believed my friend Carol had typed on it.) (She thought Carol was possessed by an evil genie that made her irresistible to all the men in the office.) (She was irresistible to men but that's another story.)

Where was I? Anyway, I was knitting and channel-surfing the other evening and everywhere I looked there was Elvis which isn't a big surprise since January is his birthday month. Young Elvis. Adult Elvis. Gorgeous Elvis. Fat Elvis. Paranoid Elvis. Naive Elvis. Tragic Elvis. One of the documentaries contained big gulps of concert footage and it was painfully clear that he was only going through the motions. He forgot the words to ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT. He slurred MY WAY. He didn't give a damn. And then they cut to the limo after the show. He was slumped in the back seat, surrounded by his friends and butt-kissers and hangers-on, and suddenly he starts singing an old gospel tune. Quietly. Passionately. His backup singers add some harmony. He closes his eyes and gives over to the music he loved and you actually saw the years and the drugs drop away from him and all it took was going back to the source.

(Didn't Joseph Campbell say we should follow our bliss? Editors toss out a version of that all the time, "Write the book you love." Great advice if you're not a working writer who needs an income to keep a roof over her head. Not so great advice if you do. Who says that what I love is what you'll love . . . or what tens of thousands of other readers may love? The trick is--and always has been--finding the common ground.)

I wasn't an Elvis fan (the Beatles were my generation's musical icons) but I had a friend who worshiped the man's every pelvic thrust. I met Marita in freshman year of high school and she claimed to be Elvis's biggest fan. I really liked Marita but I found her passion for The King kind of weird. (It was like professing your love for Julius LaRosa or Eddie Fisher. Too bizarre to contemplate.) Marita also said she was planning to become a nun, something nobody at St. Bartholomew's really believed. (She wore ankle bracelets, had a boyfriend, chewed gum, and read True Confessions magazines. This was big stuff at St. Bart's in 1963.)

Well, Marita had the last laugh. She went into the convent in 1967 and took her vows in 1968. (The year Elvis made his comeback.)

Any guesses what name she took? Yes, knitter in the back row, that's right: Sister Lisa Marie.

What is it with girls and singers? Why do we turn them into demigods? Geez, you'd think they were a roomful of Kureyon or something . . .

My aunt shivered in the rain to get tickets to see Frank Sinatra when she was a teenager and then, twenty years later, shivered in the rain again to see Harry Belafonte in concert. I screamed my brains out over the Beatles at Forest Hills and even to this day, would walk a mile to see anything Motown. (Marvin Gaye.) (I rest my case.) My 90 year old friend Margie rented one of those electric Rascals so she could go down to Atlantic City and see Engelbert Humperdinck. (Don't get me started on E.H. . . . "ick" doesn't begin to cover it.) And yes, I really did scream "Oh, Frankie!" during a Four Seasons concert in 1975. I know I should be ashamed but, damn it, I'm not.

I sat there knitting as the images on the screen flew by and I think I saw my life fly by with them, all sorts of stories and memories and vignettes jumbled up together with Elvis as a common thread.

There's something about sitting in front of the television and knitting that sets my mind spinning down all sorts of weird avenues. What is the connection between repetitive motion and creativity? I know it's a strong one but I've never been able to understand what neurons or impulses are linked up between our fingers and the right side of our brains.

The top down sweater is moving along. I have maybe eight more inches to knit before I do the bottom ribbing. The gauge is 4 stitches to the inch and 5 rows to the inch. I have a big question about the instructions but I'll save that for next time.

Who needs Elizabeth Zimmerman when you have Elvis as your Muse? Now if I could just get him to finish writing my book . . .

4 Comments:

Blogger Fran Baker said...

So where were you when you heard "The King" had died? I was driving the kids - our two and half-dozen others from the neighborhood - to the swimming pool. Immediately after the announcement, the radio station started playing Elvis songs and played them all that day and night.

6:59 PM  
Blogger Barbara Bretton said...

I was living on Long Island. I remember it was summer and my first thought was, "What will Sister Lisa Marie do?" followed by, "Thank God Barbara Niland got to meet him." That was my other Elvis Fanatic Friend. I met her when I was a newlywed working in Omaha. She was about 10 yrs older than my 18, madly in love with Elvis, and thrilled that he was heading back to the concert stage. She embroidered a denim jacket for herself then beaded it from one seam to the other and wore it to every Elvis concert she attended. (Front row seats every time.) He came to recognize her and she finally got to shake his hand or kiss him -- I can't remember which. But both Marita and Barb were so devoted that my first thought was how his death would affect them.

Other than that, Elvis wasn't on my radar screen at all. Later on I came to appreciate his talent and wonder what might have happened if Colonel Parker has loosened his hold on Elvis and let him make some good movies. The man had real acting ability. I heard that Streisand wanted him in the Norman Main role in her version of A STAR IS BORN but Parker nixed it.

You can't help but wonder what might have been.

10:29 PM  
Blogger monica said...

When I was a teenager I spent every summer, or almost every summer at my grandparents' farm in PA. I was sitting in their living room listening to my grandmother and her sister discuss coconut cakes when the news flash come on about Elvis. Isn't it funny how you can remember stuff like that. I was not a fan, but still, I can remember not only where I was, but also what my grandmother and great aunt were talking about.
Barbara, thank you for the sample of the Elann yarn, you are right, it is nice to work with.

2:33 AM  
Blogger KnitTech said...

I was in the 6th grade and didn't have a clue who he was. My best friend at the time was completely upset and we spent the night listening to (hunk-a-hunk-a) "Burning Love" on her record player.

About four years ago, we got his Mom (a huge fan), a newspaper that came out covering the event. His sister was annoyed, because how was she suppose to compete with that?

8:37 AM  

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