Monday, May 03, 2010

The Last Last Night at Freddy’s Bar, May 1, 2010

The ugly beast known as eminent domain has consumed our land once again — Freddy's Bar stood in the way of a private project, the Net's Arena. New York Times announced that Freddy's bar closing at April's end on a Friday. I heard the bar brimmed with strangers, news media, and reporters reaching to catch the last brass ring on this amusement park ride. Bartender Mike S., described it as douche-bag central.

It's a good thing we didn't tell them about our last night on Saturday, May 01. I was there for a reunion with good friends and old acquaintances. The night was booked with 27 bands, all who had regular performances here.

Anne Ricci brought her fellow divas and devos of "Opera on Tap". I loaned her my Halfing hooded scarf as costume. OOT's former co-founder Jessica Miller came down to show off her latest project, her first child.

It's not over until the fat lady sings, they say. And sing she did — OOT sang an aria and a requiem that moved the entire house to cheers and then tears.

Under a canopy of LCD stars gathered writers, lawyers, politicians, painters, technologists, musicians, doctors. I guess every profession needs a drink after work.

By around 11:00 pm Freddy's became even more crowded, I had to step out for air.

Some people brought their kids. DDDB activist Dan Goldstein stopped by with his daughter Sihta.

Some brought their dogs, and some left their kids at home. Abe sneaked out for one last drink with us.

Freddy's — the home of Knit PH, Opera Night, Old-time Country & Bluegrass Jam, Underground jazz, German Language Studies Night, Humans Against Music (HAM), Stand-up Comedy Night — the birth place of creativity for bands like "Les Sans Culottes," Sarah Brown's "Cringe: Diary Readings," numerous documentary films... etc. the list can go on.

People flew in just for this night to bid farewell. Tim Carrey came down from Boston with his band trusty Sidekick. The Kimmet brothers flew in from London. Scott Turner flew in from Oregon. Roger Paz drove in from Detroit. Through the week Freddy's had sorrowful calls from all over the U.S. from people who had been following them on the news on and the web. One never know who's watching.

All the art, curios, knick knacks, and memorabilia was packed away — including, literally, the men's bathroom walls. Over the course of years the barnacles of writing, stickers, and graffiti had become their own art form. We drew silhouettes of each other to cover the naked walls in the back room.

You never realize now many people you know until you sit in a packed room and recognize each face. By around 2:30 am the place was flooded with strangers again — "disaster tourist" we call them.

Some people cursed the ground where this arena will stand. Some sat in awe of a spectacle that seemed to be somewhere between a funeral and a wedding. Most of us just hugged and toasted. Stephanie and I left at around 3:20.

Corporate welfare is the villain in this story. As I always say, our boys in Albany have been in bed with private interests way too long. Is this war on eminent domain abuse over, swept under a carpet of political corruption? Was the struggle and fight worth it all? According to the papers, our fight lit a fire in the minds of most New Yorkers.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Aloha, Mr. Fu

"Please don't say goodbye, just say aloha..." That's the tag line from Howard Louie Bluie Armstrong's song, "Kanaka." Aloha means "hello" and "goodbye," and sometimes goodbye is just too hard to say. On Sunday, Stephanie and I bade a loving aloha oe to Fu Man Chu. He was one week past 16 years old this past Sunday.

He had his last drink the way he liked it and he gracefully sauntered from the bathroom and out of this life.

The vet said that 16 years is a good long run for a cat, it's the human equivalent of 77 years. As I wash and pack his fountain away I remember that funny croaking meow at 6:00 am. I'll miss his quirky fascination for plumbing, his great love of shoes, the thumping of his big fat feet as he stole food from the table, his fear of the blanket monster, his love of people, his passion for play... we'll miss this little guy dearly.

Aloha oe, Mr. Fu Man Chu Wissinger. A loko e hana nei, good friend. We will never ever find another kanaka like you.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Knit PH at Prospect Perk Café, March 9, '10

Another warm night in winter — 70°. The weather has been unusually warm but I'm not complaining.

I had been craving an almond croissant all day. Kelly arrived first, she's new to the group. I introduced myself as bits of almonds flew from my mouth. She and Mariam are both in the legal field.

Look at Lindey's baby blanket. She has a good eye for color and texture — bold stripes of cream and moss. She the shell pattern is simple, it's based on a pillow sham (I think).

Evelyn used to knit a long while back and she's picked up her needles again. I helped her kick-start a sweater for her husband Tom. Tom is one of my drinking buddies.

Pat arrived later along with Liz and Amy. She brought her new-new project. We can't say that Marci is new to knitting anymore, she's crossed over to the "dark side" from the world of crochet. Although Knit PH is not a "learning circle" or a class, we've all helped each other along with information.

But learn we more than knitting, Meg L. pointed me towards KickStarter, an angle capital organization. She's been one of my biggest supporters of my LOTR  project.
Meanwhile Meg is contempled her next project, a lace skirt. But what would one wear under it? Men's knits are never that complicated. As long as a sweater can disguise a beer gut and a dirty t-shirt it has done its job.

Monday, March 08, 2010

LOTR Knits: Eryn Harn

My friends Anna and Justin are casually strolling through the Woodland Realm in their Eryn Harn — that's Sindarian for woodland helmet. This tilted toque is more Elvish play wear than it is combat regalia. This hat is a birthday present that I made for my friend Matty Kuhn. I guess that make this a man's hat, but Anna thinks otherwise.

I used two yarns: a variegated sepia, and a dark worsted chocolate. It gives this hat a rustic quality as if it were made from old tree bark. This is a great project for left over yarn when accurate yardage is not as important.

The garter stitch has a humble home-spun feel, and it's very elastic, but I don't use it very often in my design work. The garter stitch makes a very thick, spongy fabric — which makes this hat very warm and snug.

I designed this cap entirely in short row, knitting flat from left to right — as opposed to "top-down." Eryn Harn is based on three tapered leaf shapes flanked by small gussets.

 That's Samwise Gamgee in the background standing by the "You Are Here" sign in the Giladrial lobby.

Some sewing is required — the two sides are joined at the back.

I'm not very big on embellishments. I finished the edge with a four-stitch I-cord for stability and trimmed it with a black crab stitch border. A small I-cord loop marks the back.

This hat was inspired the classic representation of the Loatian Buddha. What a happy fellow, no?

Initially I worked on each leaf-shaped panels separately and pieced them together like a soft jigsaw puzzle.

The gussets (marked in orange) are actually of increased and decreased sections

This combination of short row shapes and gussets makes the hat tilt back and curve softly towards the front.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Knit PH at Freddy's, Feb. 2, 2010: Casserole Night

Brrrrr. Another snow storm? Enough already! When I think of being trapped in doors on a day like today, I fondly look back at Knitting & Casserole Night at Freddy's bar.

I was a bit late from teaching a class. As I walked in to the crowded back room I heard "Plates? Did you bring the plates?" Yes I did. What a feast, people brought their casseroles, salads, pastas, and breads. My favorite was the classic tuna, the official symbol of Casserole Night.

I made my Uncle Greg's iceberg salad with Thousand Island dressing. It was actually difficult finding iceberg lettuce. Has it really left the American dinner table? I also made smoked pecan pralines instead of bacon bits.

A damp mild winter evening was warmed up over conversation with good friends, a libation, and of course knitting — but nothing completes a hearty meal like a table of sweets. On the desert island Meg brought her chocolate chip-apricot cookies, and Sara made a spiced ginger cake laced in powdered sugar.

We shared the room with the German Language Studies Club. Cathy (far left) also knits. Fraulein Heather brought her vegetarian enchiladas, very good but I would never turn my back on meat. Mariam, also a vegetarian, made something I called veggie duck skin — twice-cooked baby potatoes topped with cheese and pan seared to a perfect crunch.

After dinner team Tutonic went online to read and post CraigsList missed connections in Berlin, assuming a fictional character of course. Somewhere in das Reichstag, a single wealthy blond woman's eyes met with yours — "Cal mich..."

This month we all said goodbye to Naomi, she's moving to Austin Texas. Not wanting to miss this last night, she biked all the down from Greenpoint with her three bean salad.

She finally put the new sleeves on last year's sweater and gave us a parting wave. Aloha Naomi and good luck.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Yes, Anyone Can Toilet Train a Cat...

But you have to wonder how many cats have drowned this way.
Photo: Stephanie Wissinger

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Snowed in and Stewing All Day

Well, I made an all-day-simmer beef stew today. I always think it's funny how I never crave this until those long cold winters, and we are in the middle of a blizzard (again). My friend Maxcine asked me for the recipe. I told her that this was one of those clean-out-the-fridge meals. Here's a rough description.

1 pound cubed beef
1 whole onion
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 tbs olive oil
1/4 cup minced garlic
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp madras curry
1/2 tsp red chili flakes
1/4 cups minced parsley
1 gallon water
1 beef bullion
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper

Any left-over vegetable. I used:
1 cup sliced carrots
2 medium potatoes (cubed)
1/2 cup asparagus stems, shaved and cut into 1" pieces
1 sliced cups mushrooms
1/2 red bell pepper
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes

Large stock pot, with lid
Long wooden spoon

Sprinkle salt, sugar, and pepper onto beef, rest for 15 minutes, drain liquid. Heat stock pot to medium heat and add 2 tbs olive oil. Put flour into a small paper bag, combine flour and beef and shake. In small batches, brown the cubed beef. Remove from pan and set aside, reserve all liquid.

The only trick to a good beef stew is slow cooking and stirring about every 30 minutes. Slow cooking takes care of the rest. And if you're stuck indoors in blizzard conditions... what else are you going to do?

Reduce heat, add 2 more tbs oil the pot and clarify onions. Add all spices and vegetables, except potatoes (mushrooms, bell pepper, and carrots, cook for 10 minutes). Add water and bullion bring to boil, reduce to simmer, add beef and cover stock pot. Cook on a low heat for about 4 hours on until beef forks apart easily. Stir occasionally. Add cubed potatoes and cook for 45 more minutes, add more water if needed. The liquid should be thick and silky, if not add more olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Allow to set for an hour. Serve with crackers and beer.

Casserole Night at Freddy's, Sunday Feb. 21 '10

How can you call a neighborhood blighted when it has a casserole night and knitting? The Casserole Preservation Society of Prospect Heights and Knit Night at Freddy's Bar share the evening to celebrate the annual winter event: Casserole Night at Freddy's Bar. Put on some warm duds, bring your best cheer, your knitting and casserole... salad, desert, or bread, and a clean take-away container.

When: Sunday, February 21, 2010
7:00 pm and onwards

Where: Freddy's Bar and Backroom
485 Dean Street (corner 6ave. & Dean St.)
Brooklyn, NY 11215
Tel: (718) 622-7035

To participate...
1. RSVP for this night via the Knit PH MeetUp group or by email (subject: Casserole Night).
2. Bring a classic casserole, a hearty salad, bread or dessert
3. Label dish as meat or vegetarian, or if it has nuts or shrimp... etc.
4. Bring a take-away container

All food will be served at room temperature. Bring your own clean take-away container for the exchange. Paper plates, napkins, plastic ware and serving utensils will be available.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Knit PH at Prospect Perk Café, Feb. 2, 2010

It didn't snow as reported earlier on the news. We're expecting another winter storm. Brooklyn street soon become gray rivers of sludge. Winter can make owning a car a liability. The other day I heard a woman yelling at a traffic cop for the ticketing a hill of snow — which was her car.

Silke has been working on a baby blanket in warm sepia stripes. It's for her daughter. Sara's tea cozy is coming along, I promised Sara I'd quit asking her if she had sent it to her parents yet.

We hadn't seen Naomi since last year, and this might be her last night with Knit PH. She's moving to Texas. She will be missed.

She finished that Berroco sweater but accidentally felted it leaving the sleeves at three-quarter length. We all pitched in with suggestions. The consensus was to rip out the sleeves out and make new ones instead of adding a long cuff.

I coached Valerie through the granny square pattern. I think we've got this Afghan project is well covered. Mariam showed me off the new hat she crocheted from my old skien of bulky oatmeal colored.

This leftover ball was always a bane to me — not enough for a scarf, a bit too bulky to combine with other yarns, taking up valuable bin space...etc. But I love her hat. This one-skein wonder looks like a classic cartoon bee hive.

Luise is hooked on something interesting, she's crocheting miniature fruit for an craft exchange project. Kiwi, apple, banana, star fruit — each one is less than a half inch in length made with a very fine hook. I wish I had taken better pictures, they did no justice to her fine work.

Eliza's baby is due soon — ETA two weeks? I'm amazed she made it, she said she needed to get out of the house. So far she and Chris haven't settled on a name.