TSA Cookies: They’re Great!

posted in: Confessions, Day In The Life | 16
It’s almost as if they’re exiting the scanner. Image: Wikipedia.

 

 

Hilarious things happen to me.

Or maybe totally normal, definitely not-hilarious things happen to me and because I’m a dweeb, I just find them hysterically funny. Does it matter, in the end? My life strikes me as funny when it’s not devastating — and that’s how I like it.

Today, after passing through the metal detector at the airport TSA screening area, I waited at the end of the scanner conveyor belt to retrieve my purse. There, sitting atop the conveyor belt at the end of the line, orphaned and forlorn and wrapped in plastic, for the third time in my life … I found a cookie!

So I took it.

And I ate it!!

I did, I did! I found a cookie at the TSA and took it and ate it! And I’ve done it before!

Listen, listen: I need you to listen!

Can we agree that there are cookies. Yes. Some cookies get wrapped in cellophane and packed into purses and bags when people go on airplane trips. Yes, well, sometimes these airplane trip cookies — I guess one time it was a brownie — get knocked out of those bags while inside the TSA conveyer belt scanner! The bag gets bumped! The cellophane-wrapped cookie falls out!

And the person who packed the cookie doesn’t realize it!

Who gets their purse off a conveyor belt and goes, “Wait, wait; let me make sure my cookie made it through.” No one does it! Only later, halfway across the country, will the person become dimly aware that a cellophane-wrapped baked good may have been lost on the journey … But when? How? Was there a cookie in her purse, the person wonders … No, it couldn’t have been …

Yes! Yes, you had a cookie! It was wrapped in cellophane and it was in your purse! It fell out in the conveyor belt! After it got bumped around in the dark for awhile, it came out! A TSA person put it on the top of the conveyor belt! It sat there for a long time, probably an hour!

And then I came through and found it! And I took it!

And then I ate it!

The thrill of this TSA cellophane-wrapped cookie is extreme. And because it keeps happening it’s a serious game for me, now, spotting and liberating a TSA treat. The liberation moment is intense because we all know there is not to be any kind of funny business in the airport. I get that; I respect that. But let’s use our heads, people. The treats I keep finding at the TSA screening area are fine. These cookies are not involved in a scheme. No one is “planting cookies” at the “airport,” and if they were, they wouldn’t be using the TSA “screening checkpoint” as their “base of operations.” The TSA cookie — or brownie, that one time — is innocent. And abandoned.

I think the cookie I got today was homemade. Seriously, I’m eating it right now. Somebody makes a good oatmeal raisin, let me tell you. Delicious! Wish I had a glass of mil —

“Mary!” you say in a sharp voice. You purse your lips and look disapprovingly at the crumbs on my blouse. “That cookie might belong to someone! You shouldn’t take something that doesn’t belong to you. You should let a TSA agent know. What if the person comes back for their cookie and it’s gone?”

I look down at the cookie in my paw and look back up at you. You see that I am confused. “But … Who would want a cookie that has been bumped around a TSA checkpoint for an hour and then placed on the top of the conveyor belt?”

You shake your head, but secretly, you want a bite.

The Mary Fons Quilt Auction Begins at 7:00 PM Tomorrow Night, October 2nd!

posted in: Quilting | 5
Pendennis, reclining on the back of Big Red, one of the quilts being auctioned off tomorrow! Photo: Me.
Pendennis, reclining on the back of Big Red, one of the quilts being auctioned off tomorrow! Photo: Me.

 

Wow! Setting up an auction is a lot of work. But it’s exciting. It’s actually one of the most exciting things I’ve done in a long time, I have to say. Helping feels great. (It sure feels better than doing nothing.)

In case you missed it: I’m going to sell ten quilts to raise money to benefit those down in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands who have had their lives turned upside down as a result of Hurricane Maria. I’m donating all the money raised to Americares.

Yesterday’s post gives a lot of details, so check it out.

And this post is going to serve the same purpose: to give more details. Instead of rushing through this and going off half-cocked, I’ve decided to start the auction at 7:00 p.m. CST, October 2, 2017; I will post the link to the auction here on the ol’ PG at that time! The auction will last two days, until October 4, 7:00 p.m. I’m hoping it won’t take that long to sell off quilts for hurricane relief, but who knows? Maybe no one wants homemade quilts by Mary Fons with help from Pendennis and simultaneously help their brothers and sisters in need… Cough! Cough!

A few more important things:

  • There’s a quilt I’ve decided to auction that is one of those should-I-or-shouldn’t-I situations. But I’ve decided on “should.” There’s a quilt I have called “Memories.” It was one of the first quilts I made. We featured it on Love of Quilting (Episode 1709), which some may remember because I talked about how I had actually lost three of the blocks from the quilt! I made this quilt 10 years ago and… It’s gorgeous. It’s really, really gorgeous, y’all, and it’s huge, at 90 x 90. Dawn Cavanaugh longarmed it and it’s just truly phenomenal, almost show quality.But… Well, it’s time. I want to help people and share the love of this quilt more than I want to have that quilt on the back bed, sitting under other quilts, you know? It’s done what I needed it to do for me. It’s given to me. Now, it can give to you, and give to other people. This one is a take-a-deep-breath-and-go-for-it quilt. It’s scary to give till it hurts, I gotta say!
  • I’ve decided that all the quilts will have a “Buy Now” price in case someone is really freakin’ out to get one. I don’t think this will happen (Jinny Beyer/Nancy Crow I am not — and they command higher prices than that!!!) but I figure there could be someone out there who wants to help people and wants a quilt and why not give the option? Can’t hurt, I guess, but I set it super high so that it will encourage people to bid and have fun with this.
  • Will you spread the word? I know, I know: The more people know about this, the more people you’ll be competing with to win! But remember: The point is to raise the most money possible, so please share about this auction on social media and on your various phone trees? We can do this together, and the lights are still off in Puerto Rico. They need us all.

See you tomorrow night!

xoxo,
Mar

“IT WAS LIKE A DRAGON” – A Short Play By Mary Fons

17th Century engraving of a Griffin, image courtesy Wikipedia.
17th Century engraving of a Griffin, image courtesy Wikipedia.

Below is a conversation I heard tonight as I waited for the east elevator here at the beautiful Kennedy Warren. In case you are just joining us, my towering, Art Deco, super-historic building borders the Smithsonian National Zoo. My neighbors are animals. From time to time, one can hear the call of the wild when heading out to the store or opening the window for some fresh air. And now:

IT WAS LIKE A DRAGON:
A short play by Mary Fons

Woman 1: It was like a dragon. 

Woman 2: A what?

Woman 1: A dragon

Woman 2: Maybe it was a wild boar. They’ve got the wild boars out right now.

Woman 1: I don’t know…

Woman 2: Maybe it was just the zebras. You know how they’re always going on. 

Woman 1: Oh, god. The zebras are like — 

Woman 2: It was probably a boar.

Woman 1: Fine, but it sounded like a dragon.

THE END

Quiet Windows.

posted in: D.C., Story, Washington | 0
Cutchogue, NY, 2005. Photo: Wikipedia,
Cutchogue, NY, 2005. Photo: Wikipedia, 2015.

On Saturday morning, I had my first experience delivering groceries to seniors with We Are Family D.C.*

There were about thirty-five people at the meeting place when I got there; the man in charge said our numbers were lighter than usual, so we’d have to pull together to get it all done. Lucky for us, Girl Scout Troop 714 was there that morning, so really, we had the strength of the Light Brigade!

There were undergrads there, too, as well as folks working in conjunction with other charity organizations, and there were a handful of people like me who just came on their own. (About 1/3 of the entire group was helping for the first time.) Our first job was to take over 100 bags and dozens of boxes of non-perishable groceries from the back of a huge van and stage them in the parking lot. Then we all pow-wowed in a big meeting room so we could get the plan for the day and meet each other. After that, we were split up into groups.

I was teamed up with James, a twenty-something who helped start “Sonos Familias,” the Spanish arm of the organization, and Pete, a seventy-something who has been delivering groceries and paying visits to D.C. area seniors for twelve years. We loaded up Pete’s car with our share of bags and boxes; James got our list of names and addresses. Pete drove, I sat in back.

“Okay, the first house we’re going to,” Pete said, turning the wheel, “is Esther’s. Now, Esther is one of my favorites.” (Pete said this about every person we visited.) He told us all about Esther, how he makes sure she’s taking her insulin and how some weekends he’ll take her a bag of vegetables on his own dime. “Toward the end of the month, she needs it,” Pete said. Then he honked at a driver and made a creative left turn. “What a jerk!” Pete said, and then went back to telling me and James about Esther.

I listened to all Pete’s stories and looked out the car windows. We drove through parts of D.C. that I hadn’t been in, yet. Without doing something like this, how will I ever see the whole city?

Pete would wait in the car while James and I took bags and boxes to the doors. Some folks weren’t home or weren’t answering, but most people came to the door. Some wanted to visit a little, some didn’t. Everyone was grateful, everyone smiled to see us. The man in charge told us when we were in our huddle that a lot of these older folks had been in their houses for forty years, fifty years.

“They were in their neighborhoods when the civil rights riots were happening, through the crack epidemic in the ’80s. Now the neighborhoods are changing and it’s… I mean, if anyone earned the right to be there, to stay there, it’s them.”

James and I were buzzed into one house that was all shuttered up. From the outside, it looked empty. We stepped into an entryway that was dark but tidy. The whole place had a strange smell to it: a combination of face powder, dust, and canned green beans.

“Coming down,” a weak voice called from upstairs. James and I stood by the beautiful, dusty oak bannister and watched an elderly woman ride a chair lift slowly, slowly down the stairs. James and I were patient and talked to her while she made the trip. Pearl had big sunglasses on, compression socks, a housedress, and orthopedic shoes. Her dark skin was ashy and she didn’t have many teeth, but — and I’m not just saying this — she looked great. She was getting around. She was sharp. When James asked her how long she had lived here, she said, with great pride, “Forty-nine years, honey, right here.”

“We love this bannister,” James said. “It’s beautiful.”

“It was painted, you know, but that wouldn’t do, so I did it.”

I wasn’t sure I had heard correctly. “I’m sorry, Pearl, did you say that you stripped the bannister and stained it?”

“Yes, I did.”

James and I took the box of groceries to the kitchen, visited a while longer, and then went back out to the car to go to the next spot. The group meets several times a month. I plan to join them again, and probably a lot.

 

*The organization is remarkable not just for the service it provides but for its efficiency, history, and reach. If you’re in the D.C. area and think you might like to do some community service, I can’t recommend WAF enough. 

Give Your Quilts Away!

posted in: Day In The Life, Family, Quilting | 0
Sarah's text message today. Whee!
Sarah’s text message today.

Do you have quilts in your house that are just sitting there? Are they folded, perhaps in the closet, perhaps on a shelf? Put another way: is it time for you to give some quilts away? Probably.

Generosity is in quilters’ DNA. We typically do give quilts away, which is fabulous if you’re a person who knows a quilter, because if you wanted to buy a beautifully made, king- or queen-sized quilt, it would cost you several thousand dollars; if a quilter loves you, you get it for free.

I give quilts away because there is nothing worse than looking at a stack of beautiful quilts languishing in my closet or in baskets around the house. What good are they doing there? The joy is in the making. Once the quilt is finished — unless it’s one I’m going to use for teaching or one that means so very, very much to me personally it’s like a limb — it’s time to give it away. Everyone but everyone needs a handmade quilt.

Today, my bestest friend Sarah got her quilt. It was a wedding gift way overdue. It’s the cover quilt for my book, Make + Love Quilts (available at fine bookstores everywhere!) It’s perfect for her, her husband Seth, and their kids, Little Seth and baby Katherine.

The quilt is out of my studio, out of my home, out of my life. I couldn’t be happier.

I love you, Greer!!!!

 

Meet Mickey.

posted in: Day In The Life, New York City | 1
Keep smiling, mouse. Your time shall come. Photo: Wikipedia
Keep smiling, mouse. Your time shall come. Photo: Wikipedia

We have a mouse.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “No, Mary Fons. You live in New York City. What you have is a rat.” But I assure you, we have a mouse. If it were a rat, I would not be writing this from inside the apartment because I would be in Toledo.

About a month ago, I was here, minding my owns and zip! The ol’ peripheral vision registered a tiny off-black dot moving extremely fast across the parquet floor. When you see a mouse for the first time, you don’t think you have. Reason scolds fact into thinking it imagined something. I guess if you walked into a small, windowless room and flipped on a light switch, if there was a mouse in there, you’d see it. But when there are rugs, table legs, and adult-onset exhaustion in the mix — and you aren’t used to seeing mice — you just go back to your book.

“I think I saw a mouse,” I said to Yuri several days later. My peripheral vision had caught the fast-moving off-black blur again. Fool me once, mouse, shame on you. Fool me twice…well, you’re not gonna fool me again.

“Naw,” Yuri said.

A few days later, I came home from a business trip. With wide eyes, Yuri told me about the astonishingly nimble, light-footed mouse that had been keeping him company while I was gone.

“That little sucker moves fast,” he said, he told me how he was up and working into the wee hours several nights in a row and saw the mouse once each night, lasering from one side of the apartment to the other. I said we should get some traps or ask my sister if we could borrow her cat. My sister’s cat was born sometime during the Jurassic Period; we opted for traps.

And we named him Mickey, naturally. We’re tell ourselves we’re battling just Mickey, but sure, that’s naive. Where there is one mouse, there are many; where there is one critter that can steal the cheese from the trap without getting caught, there are legions of them, all in Cheese College, learning the trades while stupid humans ask each other if maybe chocolate will work, or peanut butter.

Earlier today, Yuri said, “Mickey. Just like a woman. Can’t live with ‘im, can’t live without ‘im.”

This made zero sense. In no way did this make sense on any level. Sometimes this man tries out idioms just for fun, just to say them. He’s curious and provocative and I smacked my forehead and shook my head, lamenting this.

But he sets the traps.

A Morning Ritual, Changed.

posted in: Day In The Life, Sicky | 1
I have one Versace teacup. It's in storage right now.
I have exactly one Versace teacup. I got it on eBay and yeah, the tea tastes better. Currently in storage.

This morning, I drank tea and wrote in my journal. It was the same as so many mornings, save for two differences: the tea was black and the sky was light. Not long ago, it was the other way around.

Almost every day of last year and into a healthy slice of this one, I would get up before the sun to read and write. I rarely set an alarm; I just woke up, sometimes at 3:30 in the morning, unable to go back to sleep. This was due partly because I was excited by the prospect of being up when so few others were. I felt as though the hours from 3:30am to 5:30am were on sale; perfectly fine hours that no one really wanted. They came cheap.

But I also woke up because like a newborn baby, I needed soothing. I was scared and sad and lonesome, “waking at four to soundless dark.”** Having my tea tray in bed in the middle of the night with my journal and books all around me was how I soothed myself. The routine was the gentle mother, swaying me to calm.

The fall of 2012 was the worst time of my life, health-wise. The despair of searing, chronic pain worked its way into every fiber of my frame. The sheer exhaustion of day-in, day-out agony management had constricted my world into a hard, glittering dot. I worked very hard. I was in a relationship I cherished, but there were limits to it and we both knew it. My social life outside of seeing Mr. X dwindled to zero, as most of the time I didn’t have the energy to make plans, much less make good on them. I fought with my sisters or I withdrew from them. My mom and I weren’t getting along, either. I didn’t want any of this whittling away to be true, except that I did, if it meant sanity. The hard, glittering dot I could focus on. Everything else was too hard. I was in the hospital all the time.

The medication I was taking made my head feel like a rainstick. You know those things you get in hippie music stores? It was like that when I sat up in bed. “Wffffffft,” my face and brain would go, one way, then I’d put my head on the headboard and breathe and “Wfffffff,” the rainstick would run the other way. I’d take a deep breath — not too deep — and determine if my guts were good, bad, or a real laugh riot. At that time, it was usually the riot. After gentle tummy rub and pat and an admonishment to stop flirting with cigarettes (there were days I’d have half a one, feeling it was justified, being in the trenches and all) I’d decide that I could make it to the kitchen. I’d usually have to stop halfway from my bedroom to put my hand on the living room table and let the rainstick go for a minute, but I never fainted.

Then tea tray preparation would commence and I so enjoyed it. While I waited for the water to boil in my stainless steel kettle (I brought it to New York with me, like a goldfish) I would do the things. Into the French press went the tea: Earl Gray Creme, loose, from Teavana or Argo Tea. No variation there; I’ve been drinking this tea for years. Then, into a little monkey dish my sister Rebecca made in her pottery class, almonds: Dry Roasted & Salted from Trader Joe’s. They had to be these almonds; no others would do. Then…Nutella. I’d scoop a big scoop of Nutella into the little monkey dish because Nutella and Dry Roasted & Salted almonds from Trader Joe’s is delicious. It’s like eating a candy bar in a bowl. Sweet, salty, and totally decadent without being half a cheesecake or a box of petit fours. (One of the results of being so physically miserable all the time is that you feel you have license to eat whatever the Sam Hill you want to, especially if you’re only managing about 1000 calories a day.)

With the honey pot, the pichet of milk, a couple spoons, a little dish of meds, and my fancy Versace teacup, I’d be ready. The water would reach pre-boiling, I’d pour it into the French press, and then I’d carry the whole operation back to my fluffy, lovely bed and sink into the cloud again.

I read all kinds of things. And I wrote pages and pages. I wrote my grad school essay that way and I would work, too, so there’s a lot of those mornings in Quilty, however invisible they may be in a happy quilting magazine. You never know; maybe the weirdness is there. Quilty is kinda weird.

The 4am mornings, they’ve been slipping away. This spring, when I was first in NYC with Yuri, I kept them up a little, but my body and brain were soon in agreement that sleeping in the arms of love is better than sitting alone, crunching hard almonds coated in the sugar that was probably killing you all along.

Yuri sleeps later than me still, though, so I still get up and read and write. But the tea is black. And the sky is light. And that rhymes and I love it, and I love that it rhymes.

**From Philip Larkin’s “Aubade,” the finest poem in the English language, in my view, and a kind of poetic soundtrack, if you will, to this entire era.

New York: Where Your Twin Has Been Living Since 1985.

posted in: Day In The Life, New York City | 0
Woman on subway, NYC 1973. Photo: Erik Calonius, US National Archives.
Woman on subway, NYC 1973. Photo: Erik Calonius, US National Archives.

My Big Apple bedazzlement continues.

In 2013, the Census Bureau reported 8,405,837 million people living in New York City. If nothing about that number has changed except that me and Yuri moved here, it’s now 8,405,839. If you count my sock monkey in the number, which you should, we can get to a nicer, roundish number of 8,405,840. I’m confident Yuri, Pendennis, and moi are not the only changes to the New York City population since last year, but this is why its funny.

All of these people. There’s one of everything.

I play a little game when I’m out and about. When I see someone totally one-of-a-kind, or outlandish, or remarkable in any way (and everyone is remarkable in some way) I note their characteristics and then try to imagine imagining them. Like:

“Could there be on this earth, at this moment, a person who is a nun, around fifty years old with pink socks, a guitar, and a suitcase with a Grateful Dead sticker on it? Could that person possibly exist in this wide, wide world?”

Then I answer myself that yes, there could plausibly be such a person because in that moment when I’m asking myself, that means I am looking at a person who matches that exact description. The nun was standing in front of Penn Station the other day, waiting for a bus, I assume. Then I play some more.

“Does a person exist who has a spiderweb tattooed on his face and wears corrective shoes?”

Yes, this person lives on my block. Yuri and I call him “Spiderman” and he is frightening to behold. He is acutely homeless.

“Could there be a 4’5 Asian-American girl with a panda backpack and a tattoo of a Pac Man ghost that covers her entire leg, who is screaming at her boyfriend that she wanted peanut butter froyo, not caramel froyo, dammit Reggie????”

Yes, that argument happened about an hour ago out on St. Mark’s Place.

“Is there a male model whose girlfriend is also a model, and are they both wearing large hats and are they both wearing all denim, and are they both Serbian?”

Yep, and yep. Just another piece of the crowd on any given day.

And consider what you’re wearing. Right now, look at your outfit. Someone in New York has that exact thing on, I’m telling you. I can’t say I’ve seen them in it because of course, I can’t see you in it. But someone has it on. They might even share your name.

There’s only one you, but New York gives that concept a run for its money.

Tales From The Move: Used Books

posted in: Day In The Life | 1
Ay, papi. Oof.
Ay, papi. Oof.

Outside: New York City.

Inside: New York City.

Alone, because Yuri isn’t here, yet. I wish he was. Baby? I wish you were.

And I’m pretty sure I’m a cliche, a thirtysomething woman, transplanted, enchanted and terrified by New York City tonight. (I’ll have you know I’ve seen exactly 0.75 episodes of Sex & The City — and that estimate may be generous. I believe the show has something to do with a woman who blogs or writes a column inside Manhattan and has a lot of shoes. I do have a lot of shoes, but they are mostly in storage in Chicago. There is no room in Manhattan for lots of shoes unless you have lots of money and I do not have lots of money. I have a little money, and that is for rent, now. Goodbye, shoes.)

I saw a boa constrictor (anaconda? python?) snake today, curled around a girl’s shoulders; a snake handler was selling pictures with it at The Cube at Astor Place. That beast was so astonishingly thick and long, I gasped out loud when I saw it, nearly fell over a waiting Yellow Cab. I saw a rainshower and a sunbeam, both through the tree that bows over 2nd and St. Mark’s. I saw a girl so pretty my teeth hurt. She was getting coffee, wearing a short skirt with daisies on it. I thought these exact three thoughts in rapid succession: 1) there is nothing more powerful on this earth than a beautiful girl; 2) fashion/perception is everything; 3) New York will fall in a terrorist attack, hurricane, or contagion and this girl and me, we are as good as dead.

So I’m fitting in!

This post was supposed to be a Tale From The Move because I need more time to get my New York thoughts in order. It’s all too raw and green, like an East Village wheatgrass shot. Better to go back to Chicago.

The laundry room in my (former) building has these cute bookshelves that serve as a resident library. Leave a book or magazine, take a book or magazine. Isn’t that charming? I think so. I was a dutiful, silent member of this library from the day I moved into the building, leaving excellent magazines (e.g., Vogue, New York, Harper’swhenever I washed muh’ skivvies. I took stuff, too, but for the most part, I was giving more than I got. Though I scored decent magazines that I would have never gotten on my own (Town & Country, House Beautiful, etc.), the vast majority of the books available were not so much my taste. but I rarely got any good books, except the time I spied an early edition of Bellow’s Dangling Man; I still have that copy and yes, it’s currently in storage.

When I packed up to move out, I had a big box of books that I decided would be my gift to the building. When I took my box up to the 20th floor, however, I had to make room. Some of the titles I decided to uh, liberate, included Danielle Steele’s clearly impossible-to-resist The Klone & I; Robert James Waller’s lesser-known Puerta Vallarta Squeeze; and what looked to be Dan Brown’s entire catalog. Ew. I put those all near recycle bin. They had been there for over two years!

Here are a few titles I left for the good people of [REDACTED]:

Fraud, David Rakoff (Doubleday, 2001)
The Chinese Opium Wars, Jack Beeching (Mariner Books, 1977)
Marriage & Morals, Bertrand Russell (Liveright, 1970)
…and a copy of Madame Bovery and many others I can’t recall, now.

You’re welcome.

(And I slightly miss you.)

William Morris, Nervous Breakdowns.

You still need to pack the Sharpie.
You still need to pack the Sharpie, though. And the tape. See what I mean?

Because I’m renting my condo furnished this summer, I falsely assumed the task of moving would be less arduous and there would be no need to hire professional movers. I was wrong, and thus have spent the last two days in hell.

Fundamental truth: I am ruthless when it comes to disposing of excess stuff. I claim no bric-a-brac. I keep no old shoe. Being a purger (??) is made easier because I live and die by the words of Arts and Crafts giant William Morris, who proclaimed in 1880

“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

Yes, Willy, Yes!

I am the anti-hoarder. I keep nothing, buy nothing that is not useful/beautiful. If I need a can opener, for example, but can only find lame ones made of plastic, I will wait until I can find a basic metal one and go without canned things. A plastic can opener might be useful but it is not beautiful, so it’s out. A classic, metal can opener is timeless! an objet d’art! I’m 100% serious and I’d like to think my home is harmonious as a result.**

But for heaven’s sake, I’m a person with a home that doubles as an office and a sewing studio. I have so many objects. Harmonious or discordant, this move is gargantuan. Do it all myself? Or even just with Yuri? What planet was I living on? (No! Don’t answer that!)

The Russian and I got boxes, a storage unit, a cargo van. Horrible, all of it. Soul-crushing. I’ve been doing my Midwest-work-ethic best, packing, eliminating, Goodwill-ing, all while still answering emails and attending to work-related tasks! I also remembered to brush my teeth! What race am I running, here?? (No! Shush!!)

As one might imagine, my productivity and emotional fitness ebbed and flowed throughout yesterday and today. This morning, I was actually in a fetal position for a spell, curled up near my desk in a sea of paper, wailing at Yuri, who was in the other room:

“Help me! HELP! ME! I’m doing the work of ten men! TEN MEN, DO YOU HEAR ME! I hate you! I can’t do this! I HATE YOU AND I NEED HELP!”

One of the reasons I love Yuri is because in situations like these he does two things:

1) he lightens the mood by coming into the room with a grin, saying something like, “Aw, who’s on the struggle bus? Who’s lookin’ so fine, ridin’ that struggle bus?” and of course this makes me bust out laughing, still on the floor
2) he helps

But the hard part about moving is never the logistics.

The logistics suck all right. But the core of it, the real trouble in River City is that you’re kicking up deadly serious dust. The longer you live in a place, the deeper and more emotional that dust becomes; if you have a strong emotional connection to a place (like I have to this place) it’s a double whammy. In the past 48 hours, I’ve hit upon a lot of life — more than I really cared to hit right now, honestly. Books, pictures, fabric, dresses, quilts — what we own owns us. And when we move we’re at the mercy of it all, we’re possessed by those possessions, even when we think we don’t hang onto much.

We do.

I do.

I hang onto absolutely everything. I just store it differently.

I store it here.

 

**All this editing may be due in part to my peripatetic lifestyle. If I’m not harmonious, I’m sunk. I heard once that “every item or object in your home is a thought in your head,” which is to say that belongings take up valuable real estate in one’s brain. A cleaner home equals a clearer head; I need every advantage I can get. 

The Deer Story.

posted in: Family, Story | 9
This vintage die-cut will not ruin your car.
This vintage die-cut will not ruin your car.

One hot August afternoon in the year 2000, I found myself driving a shiny red convertible on a highway in Iowa. I was barely twenty years old, the top was down (convertible top, not my top) and this was a good day because, hey, convertible, and also because it was summer. On top of that, the car had a CD player and I happened to have all my Beastie Boys records with me. Bam!

The car was my mom’s almost-brand-new new toy, but she was allowing me take it to Iowa City for a few days. I was in college then, and that summer I split my time between my hometown and my college town, working as a waitress in both places. I’ve always been a pretty responsible kid and my mother has always been a pretty generous person, so I got the car for a spell. My plan was to rock out, get to Iowa City in one piece, work a few days, and then jam.

That is not what came to pass.

About an hour into the three-hour drive to Iowa City, somewhere between Paul’s Boutique and Check Your Head, I became intimately acquainted with a wild animal.

Out of nowhere — in the middle of the afternoon! — while speeding along Highway 169, my peripheral vision picked up a huge, brownish mass bounding out of the ditch on my right. I was going about sixty-five miles an hour; the huge, brownish mass was matching my speed.

Before I had time to understand what was about to happen, the mass — a 10-point buck, give or take — chose to cross the road. Right that second. Mother’s convertible was in the way, of course, and I was in the convertible. The deer dashed up onto the shoulder and then charged, hard, directly into the road.

In a hideous flash: impact.

Ever been hit by a deer from the side while you’re driving? Ever hit a deer head on? It’s not good. Deer are huge. Even small deer are huge. They’re at least bigger than a Great Dane and Great Danes are enormous. Think about hitting a Great Dane with your car. Now make the Great Dane at least three times bigger with antlers and hooves. Bambi is a lie. Bambi is a cartoon animal with big eyelashes. Actual deer are big, wild, and painfully stupid. And they do not have rabbits as pets. So I’m like:

“AAAAAAAGGGGGGGGAAAAAAA!!!!!!! AHHHHHHHHHHGGGGGAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!! GGAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!! GAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!”

…as the deer comes up over the side of the car and into the car with me. I felt its bestial heat. Its deer belly was five inches from my face. There came The Great Kicking, and I remember understanding a tremendous amount of weight very near me now, and I remember thinking how much blood a deer probably has and how I was going to know for sure very soon.

“AAAAGGGHHHHHHH! GAAHHHHHHH!” screamed the deer, as he kicked and scrambled over me.

While this is all happening, understand, I’m still driving the car — sort of. I hear plastic shattering and my feet are stabbing at the clutch pedal and the gas pedal and who knows what else. I’m downshifting, I’m pulling over, somehow, and as I’m doing this, the deer clears the car. He came up onto the road, came into the car, and left out the other side.

This is a true story.

When the car finally stopped, there was glass all over me. The deer had all but shattered the windshield; it sagged toward me, crackled into lace. The passenger’s side mirror was in my lap in 10,000 pellets. The entire console of the car was kicked in, totally gone. The Beastie Boys were silent. There was deer hair everywhere. I was taking Italian in school at the time and as I looked at the rape of the convertible, the first thought I had was in Italian for some reason; this probably has to do with my brain not functioning properly or functioning at some adrenaline-boosted peak level. The hair was three distinct colors: dark brown, medium brown, and white, so:

Tricolore,” I said to myself. “Capelli…deer…e tricolore.”

A woman coming down the road on the other side stopped and helped me. She had seen the whole thing. I wasn’t hurt. I thought my face was bashed in because my chin was wet, but it was just spit that had flown out of my mouth when I was whipping my head around and going:

“AAAAAAGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!”

I used the lady’s phone to call Mom. When I told her what had happened, she did what any good mother would do: she thanked her lucky stars her daughter was okay and called a mechanic. It was no one’s fault; car insurance was deployed. I went onto Iowa City not long after the whole thing was resolved — you can’t keep me down for long.

But to this day, whenever I drive in Iowa (and I have been driving a lot while I’m here for TV) I end up with a terrible pain in my right shoulder. This is because I drive with it hunched up into my neck, subconsciously trying to brace myself for impact.

The Canoodling Burrito: A Love Story

No.
No.

I found myself on a Chicago el train tonight, but I wasn’t supposed to be there. If my itinerary had gone as planned, I would be in Iowa.

After my gig in Cleveland, I planned to go straight through Chicago to Des Moines, no pitstop at home. (I’ll be in Des Moines for the next two weeks, filming Love of Quilting for PBS.) But when our flight was delayed (and delayed and delayed) out of Cleveland and most everyone missed their connections, I had an idea. I deplaned, slipping through the crowd of grumpy travelers to seek out a free Southwest ticket agent further down the terminal. I spied a friendly-looking blonde lady at gate A9 and went for it.

ME: (Exceedingly chipper, non-threatening:) Hello! How are you!

SOUTHWEST TICKET LADY: Hi there. How can I help you?

ME: Well! It’s cra-ray-zay! I was on Flight 313 from Cleveland and, you know, all that rain… Well, I have not missed my connection to Des Moines. I can absolutely make it. But the truth is, ma’am, is that I live in Chicago? And my home is here? And is there any way that I could, you know, go home to my condo tonight? Could I fly to Iowa tomorrow, instead? I don’t know if this is possible, but wow, would it ever be great to, you know… Could… My bed, and my…my bed.

SOUTHWEST TICKET LADY: Let’s see what we can do. (Clacks on computer. Pauses.) We can do that. No problem. I can put you on a flight tomorrow. Morning or evening?

I nearly hugged her.

My luggage went onto Des Moines, but I didn’t care. It would be safe in the baggage room overnight, and who needs mascara, anyway?* I got a boarding pass for tomorrow and waltzed out of the airport. I was going home! I wasn’t pulling any heavy luggage! The words “footloose and fancy free” came instantly to mind. I did a little two-step on the moving walkway. I had visions of a glass of red wine, a book, and my glorious, glorious bed, which would be waiting for me with fresh sheets because I had thought to change the linen before I left town.

I made my way to the train platform. Orange Line to the Loop. Right before the train left the station, a couple came in and sat in the two seats directly in front of me. They were early thirty-somethings; white, preppy and well-groomed but not so wildly attractive that I thought I was looking at prom king and queen. There was actually a touch of nerdiness about them, but they were both dressed like they worked in PR or at Deloitte and Touche, whatever that is. It was abundantly clear that the guy had just arrived and the young lady had come to the airport to meet him.

Let me tell you that they were excited to be together. Very excited.

The pair were talking rapidly and kissing each other in between sentences, then in between words. When they first started this canoodling, I was filled with happiness: lovers reunited is a beautiful thing to witness. This feeling was followed hot on the heels by a terrible pain, however; Yuri is in New York and I am not and I wanted nothing more in the universe than to kiss my lover between sentences, too. (And everywhere else while I’m at it — hey-o!)

My self-pity didn’t last long, because the canoodling couple started to annoy me. They were talking a little bit too loud about the guy’s trip, for one thing. And these kisses were sort of anemic; his lips were squished into a droopy grape shape that he kept smushing into her cheek. And she’d be halfway through a syllable and stop to pucker up. It was like this:

GUY: Yeah, he’s doing great.

(Kiss.)

GIRL: Did your mom saying anything about the oven mitt?

(Long smooch.)

GUY: She loved it. Oh, Ronnie’s going to be in Chicago next month.

(Kiss.)

GIRL: Oh (Kiss) that’s (Kiss) awesome.

(Kiss.)

I pulled out my magazine and slumped down in my seat; I tried to get into an Atlantic article about helicopter parenting and fight the urge to wield, in this perfect of circumstances for it, one of the finest expressions in the English language: Get a room!! 

But then came the food. And I was too grossed out to do anything but cover my mouth and look out the window.

The kissing and cooing sounds were joined by the sounds of a food wrapper being opened. Cellophane or paper was being pulled down what I perceived to be a burrito. Now, between syllables and kisses, there was…chewing. Mastication. Food. She would take a little nibble of this burrito and then, mouth full, would peck him on the lips. Then he would talk a little more, bend his head over to take a bite, and then talk more, and then smush his grape lips onto her neck. I was horrified. I could not get the vision of refried beans and saliva and bed sheets out of my head. It was a physical reaction; I felt ill. When you’re on a train, the people sitting in front of you are right there. I was almost directly implicated. It was almost that kind of party.

This went on. We were close enough to my stop that I didn’t get up and move. I also realized immediately that this was PaperGirl material, so I hung on. I stole two glances: the first, to try and catch the guy’s eye to give him a cold, hard, “EW” look; that failed. The second time I looked up from my recoiled pose was to confirm that these two people were actually making out while eating a burrito. I’m glad I took that second look because guess what?

It was a Rice Krispie treat!

I brightened considerably. Well! A Rice Krispie treat! That’s sorta cute! I kinda like these two, I thought, and I no longer felt like I could barf. Rice Krispie treats are sorta like kisses themselves: sweet, kinda sticky, well-intentioned. It was amazing to me how different I felt about the situation I was in when the food changed from a stinky, cheesy burrito to an innocuous rice-and-marshmallow snack.

They probably went home and had a lot of sex.

*Me, a lot.

Taste-Makin’, Makin’-Taste! Photos Post-Renovation.

posted in: Chicago, Day In The Life, Tips | 5
From the most recent Neiman Marcus catalog.
In the most recent Neiman Marcus catalog, a Scalamandre bonanza.

See that Scalamandre red wallpaper with the zebras?? Yeah, I see it too! Every day! In my bathroom!

Looks like I was a touch ahead of the crowd on the Scalamandre zebra wallpaper, friends. Neiman Marcus has licensed the print. Now, a person can get pillows and dishes with the motif and be black, white, and red all over. Just like me! The wallpaper was the highest-ticket item I purchased in my renovation, relatively speaking, and I love every crimson inch of it. Those zebras move, sistuh.

I’ve taken lots of pictures of both my bathroom and my kitchen with the intention of sharing them, but when I get to the “insert photo” moment here on the PG, I balk. I get letters from guys in prison, you know. That gives a girl pause when she’s about to post photos of her bathroom mirror, especially because she’s fully aware 99% of all nutcases and stalkers are not currently behind bars.

Plus, as stunning as my Scalamandre bathroom is and as drop-dead gorgeous as the navy blue subway tile and floating shelves are in my kitchen (it all turned out perfectly, almost gross in its awesomeness to me) isn’t it better to imagine these things than be even slightly let down when you see (for example) a bag of Stay-Puft Jumbo Marshmallows on my counter instead of leftover osso buco? What if you think I have a huge, ginormous house? I like that! Keep thinking that! When you see my galley kitchen, you may have to go find another fantasy and no one has time for these things.

You see, I cannot possibly post the pictures of my home on this blog.

Instagram is completely different, however.

On Patchwork.

String quilt blocks for "Majesty."
String quilt blocks for “Majesty.”

I have so enjoyed sewing at The Yarn Company over the past few weeks. I’ve nearly completed my latest quilt for Quilty, a string quilt I’m calling “Majesty,” due to all the royal purple fabrics. A string quilt, if you don’t know, is a quilt made by sewing long strips (“strings”) of fabric to paper foundations. You sew, trim, and then tear the paper off the back of the units you’ve sewn. You sew the units together to make blocks, and from the blocks, you make the quilt top, and so on. 

There is a myth that quilters are patient. It’s the opposite. We are extremely impatient. We must forever be doing something with our hands. We finish a quilt and immediately start the next one (many of us, including me, begin our next project before we finish what we’ve got going.) We look for efficiencies everywhere. We strategize. There is no meandering, no lackadaisical approach. We make patchwork and quilt quilts to calm ourselves down, not because we are some breed of serene creature with nothing better to do than sit around and (slowly) make “blankets.”*

I’ve calmed myself down in the middle of Manhattan by working on “Majesty” at my sewing machine. If I could’ve spent hours and hours more doing so, maybe I wouldn’t have gotten sick. (A more optimistic way to frame it: I might’ve been sicker had I not enjoyed many hours of sewing.) The whirr of my Babylock, the snic! of my scissors cutting thread; these are the sounds of patchwork science that have soothed my cerebrum when it’s been burnt crispy by the sirens and the subway. There are dishes to do, always, and dinner and cookies to make for myself and Yuri. There are phone calls and emails and fires — all of it important, none of it more important than anyone else’s phone calls, emails, and fires. All of this is laid down when you sew. You really can’t do much else when your foot is on that pedal.

My mom likes to say this:

“When I was a young mother, working on my first book, it seemed crazy to make quilts in my ‘spare time.’ But I loved making patchwork and quilts because they stayed done. The dishes didn’t stay done, the laundry didn’t stay done. There was always more homework, there were more bills… But a quilt block stayed done. You could say, ‘I made this’ and enjoy it forever.”

Chicago will see very little of me; the remainder of March is all we have together. I go to Cleveland, Iowa, Florida, Lincoln, and somewhere else before coming back to NYC in early May. Nothing stays done. Plane tickets don’t get framed. Suitcases don’t stay packed or unpacked. Kisses are like matches. Sandwiches are consumed. But “Majesty,” when it’s done, will stay done. And someone will cover up under it one day and see the Quilt Charm on the back. It will read, “Made by Mary Fons, NYC, 2014. Done.”

*Don’t call them “blankets.” Your CB2 knit throw is a blanket. We make quilts.

Nellie Bly + PaperGirl: Conversation #00172

posted in: Day In The Life | 10
Walkies.
Walkies.

(MARY and NELLIE BLY walk along the Central Park reservoir. NELLIE records the conversation on her iPhone. MARY wears Nike Dunk hi-tops.)

NB: Are you sure I should be here?

PG: What? Why?

NB: It may be too soon for another Nellie Bly post. You don’t want people to get bored.

PG: (Considers this.) After this, you should probably get lost for awhile.

NB: No problem. How are you feeling?

PG: Much better, thank you. It took days to feel normal after the morphine. That was bad. I’m a little spooked about what would’ve happened if I had had three injections instead of just two.

NB: You might consider wearing a medical bracelet. I wear one.

PG: Really?

NB: Yes, I’m anemic.

PG: Hey, so am I!

NB: You told me you wanted to talk about a comment someone made online. I assume it was something hurtful?

PG: Right, yes, the comment. The comment wasn’t hurtful at all. It was a thoughtful, “get better” comment from a nice lady named Becky. But Becky said something about being surprised to learn I’ve have a chronic illness with insane complications. She said that on the outside looking in, it looks like I have “a perfect life” because of my job.

NB: What’s the issue?

PG: That is so wrong. It’s dangerously wrong.

NB: Okay.

PG: You just can’t draw conclusions like that. It made me furious at the power we give television and media.

NB: Ah. You’d better clarify that you’re not furious at Becky. This could go the wrong way.

PG: Good heavens, no! We love Becky. Becky is not the issue. Lots of other people made similar comments when I wrote about my parents’ divorce. They said things like, “Wow, you never would guessed your family endured something like that,” and “Everything seems perfect, looking at you gals on TV.” I just… I can’t believe it. I can’t believe anyone would look at me on TV or Mom on TV or both of us and think that we are somehow different from any other human beings. We’re people. We have family drama and skeletons and horrible mistakes and regrets. Well, Mom doesn’t have horrible mistakes. But we have problems and struggles like anyone does.

NB: More than others?

PG: No! The same amount! That’s the point! It’s not okay that television has the power to make people believe something impossible — namely, that there is such a thing as “a perfect life.”

NB: You’re really chewing that lip. 

PG: Look, if my life is perfect, someone has a lot of explaining to do.

NB: You realize you’re doing the “celebrities are people, too” thing.

PG: It’s not healthy to graft narratives onto people just because they’re on a screen. The only difference between me and the camera crew at Iowa Public Television is that I’m on one side of the lens and they’re on the other. My life is not special. There’s no magic — there’s just more footage.

NB: It’s natural to draw conclusions from what we see, though.

PG: Yes, but I’m making quilts. All a person can deduce from watching me make quilts on camera is that I make quilts on camera. You can’t even deduce that I like it, though of course I do. I love it.

NB: I’m trying to understand the anger, here.

PG: It’s not anger. It’s animated compassion. I just want people to never, ever compare themselves to something they see on television, ever, even if it’s a friendly quilting show. Look, my dad is like totally out to lunch. I had a messy divorce after two years of being married. Just the other day, I accidentally double-booked myself for a gig in June. Do you know how bad it is to double-book yourself? It’s really bad. And last summer, I tripped on my own flip-flop.

NB: Really?

PG: Oh, yeah. Middle of the day. Tripped on my flip-flop blam! flat on my face. I almost busted my nose. And these are all examples of things I can say online!

NB: Yeah, let’s not go into anything from 2003.

PG: It’s not like I’ve done heroin or anything. (pause.) What if I had done heroin?

NB: I’d counsel you to not bring it up here.

PG: Well, I haven’t, so it’s a non-issue. I did do —

NB: Look at the time, Mary. I’m glad you’re better.

(End.)

Real Conversations, Real Good.

posted in: Day In The Life | 3
This picture is mesmerizing. It's like it's made out of foil.
This pina colada icture is mesmerizing. It’s like it’s made out of foil.

I’m in California now, writing from the guest bedroom in my aunt’s house. It rained today, so you needn’t feel envious if you’re still trapped in the icy tundra; it poured all day, which kept me from sipping pina coladas by the pool. There’s still time.

But I’m still thinking of the winter in Chicago and since my last observation on it was so spooky and dour, I thought I’d share two actual conversations that happened while I was there that, while not sane by any means, at least show a lighter side to the cold in Chicago. My theory is that people are losing their minds and therefore say strange and unusual things.

Example No. 1 is an exchange between me and my cabdriver en route to the train station before the Fremd gig on Wednesday. It was 5:40am and the temperature was -14. I opened up the door to crazy-loud Haitian music and love beads hanging all over the cab. The driver shouted:

DRIVER: Good morning, sweetheart!
ME: Hey. I’m going to Ogilvie Station, please.
DRIVER: Let’s do it. You up early today, my lady!
ME: I’m going to the suburbs to talk to high school students about writing.
DRIVER: You know what I say? I say, all I know is that I was born nekkid. And I’ma die nekkid. That’s it!
ME: (pause.) Yeah. I guess…that’s true.

Later, waiting for the bus (it was a long day) the man huddled with me at the bus stop began to talk to me like we had known each other since the fifth grade. He was not an insane person, far as I could tell. He was dressed nicely, he was articulate. But he was made weird by the cold, which had clearly paralyzed parts of his brain — the parts that keep one from talking to strangers about alligators.

MAN: Cold, cold, cold. That’s what I say. Move out if you don’t like it!
ME: Hm, yep.
MAN: I been thinkin’ about it.
ME: Yeah, Florida sounds good right about now, right?
MAN: No! No, no, no. Not Florida. The alligators’ll come up under you and eat you alive. Through the window. Come up under you car and hide and then “gulp!” they’ll eat’cha!
ME: (wide-eyed) Wow.
MAN: Oh, yes. They’ll come in the windows and they’ll eat anything. They’ll eat a baby.
ME: Look at the time. I’m gonna have to cab it. Nice talking to you.

They really will eat people, alligators. Definitely. And I confirmed with two people that they will come into the house through a window or door. But at the bus stop in subzero temperatures, hearing about these things eating babies in balmy Sarasota was too much.

All I know is that I was born alligator, I’ma die alligator.

Mary Kate’s Book Report: Fahrenheit 451

posted in: Art, Rant, Word Nerd | 2
The best part of Fahrenheit 451 is learning to spell "fahrenheit." Also, the awesome graphic designs for the book over the decades.
The best part of Fahrenheit 451 is learning to spell “fahrenheit”; also, the awesome graphic designs for the book over the decades.

Plenty of folks tell you what’s good and what you should like:

“This restaurant is so good, you’ll love it.”
“Have you seen that show? It is so good.”
“Oh, it’s a classic. It’s so good.”

You are smart enough to realize that a musician, say, can be very good at his or her craft and that this has nothing to do with the fact that you’d rather listen to two cats in heat for two hours than be subjected to that musician’s greatest hits. You are smart enough to realize that there is quality and there is preference, and these things don’t always meet up. Look at the case of my mother and Frank Sinatra: she hates him. She thinks Frank Sinatra was a creep and his ubiquitous music, now on repeat from beyond the grave, is like, ear-porridge for people in shopping mall food courts. I don’t like his music, either, but I argue (with Mom) that Frank Sinatra was a talented entertainer, and that this fact that cannot be disputed. He could sing, dance, act, and probably sleep with nine women in a single night: this was a person with gifts. You don’t care for the tone of his voice, fine, but he’s still remarkable. My mother will begrudgingly allow this position, but she will always, always announce that she hates Frank Sinatra and damn what everyone else says when the strains of “Strangers In the Night,” are within earshot.

I recently had an experience that confounded me vis a vis the quality/preference nexus, though. I tried reading Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and dammit, that book sucks.

I sincerely do not believe that my dislike for the book is an issue of taste or preference: this not a good book. The prose is weak. Darlings were spared right and left and the dialogue is not-believable. The characters are one-note. And Bradbury’s social commentary is woven through the tale about as elegantly as a rubber hose might get through a placement. “Books” are ideas, Ray, got it. Okay, they’re symbols for people, too, I see what you did there. I tried three times to pick that book up and make it through, but I couldn’t. It’s a short book!

Fahrenheit 451 is a dystopian tale, set in a world where books are burned by the nasty Powers That Be because books inspire people to think for themselves, something that is bad for the PTB. In this sooty world, “firemen” don’t put fires out; they start them (an admittedly badass conceit.) The novel centers around protagonist Guy Montag’s uncivil disobedience and attempts to save a world that is almost entirely obliterated by the time he decides to do something about it.

But it’s just a cudgel of a story. Bradbury writes Montag as 100% savior material while everyone else is suspicious. There are bad guys and good guys and there’s hardly a whiff of “But whose side is that character on?” which is what I crave in a novel and crucial to a meaty story, in my view. Montag’s zombie of a wife is hardly necessary for the story, she’s so early written-off; her arc is non-existent. There’s an old professor who still loves books (oh, really? an old professor still loves books? you don’t say!), and Montag’s fireman co-workers have names like Stoneman and Black, which is way, way too on-the-nose for me. That’s not a wink-wink from an author: that’s being cute. I don’t want cute. I want a good story, bro. [SPOILER ALERT] The book ends tidily enough, with everyone learning at least a little bit about themselves and the dangers of a Leviathan-style society. Wow! I didn’t see that coming. Except that I did, from the first page.

Perhaps the most damning thing I can tell you about Fahrenheit 451 is that Bradbury kills off this young girl early on in the story, but when the film version was made, they changed her fate. Instead of dying, Clarisse goes and lives with the exiles, which is way, way, way better for the story. Bradbury was like, delighted and all-in on that massive change to his book, so much so that when he wrote the stage version of the story, he used that storyline, instead. That’s called a major re-write, dude. That’s supposed to come before your book is required reading in for freshman in high school from Santa Monica to Albany.

And that’s the thing. Fahrenheit 451 is “so good.” It’s “a classic.” It’s won all kinds of awards and everyone has heard of it if they haven’t read it themselves. I bought a copy at the bookstore because I was like, “Dang! Fahrenheit 451! I’ve never read it and that is a shame. Time to set things right.” But I don’t like it and I don’t think I’ll finish it.

It is a good thing for a person to take up arms against a sea of hype. If you don’t think the ocean is beautiful, then don’t go to the beach for spring break. My mom hates Frank Sinatra and I think the case can still be made that he was “good,” but I am open to any arguments that he actually did suck. Staying open to revision and re-consideration, and being a proud skeptic: these are “good” things and I’ll argue that till I’m dead.

“It was a pleasure to burn” is not a good opening line to a novel, Mr. Bradbury. It’s cloying and snotty.

 

Home Is Where the Bobbin Is.

"Northbound." From my forthcoming book, "Make + Love Quilts: Scrap Quilts for the 21st Century." Pre-order now at ctpub.com.
“Northbound.” From my first book, “Make + Love Quilts: Scrap Quilts for the 21st Century.” Available nationwide May 15th.

Most people assume I have been making quilts since I was small. My mother, Marianne Fons, is a famous quilter, so it makes sense that she would’ve taught me how to sew from an early age. If I had shown more interest, she most certainly would have. We made a few doll quilts and a few quilts for friends of mine, but my creative pursuits took me to writing stories, putting on plays, singing…and creating and editing a magazine for my junior high school called TRUTH, the name of which I got from a film strip we watched about Russian communist propaganda newspaper, PRAVDA (translation: “truth”). I hired my best friends as columnists and we put out six issues with zero ad support. True story. Have I mentioned I didn’t have a boyfriend till my senior year of high school?

I started making quilts about six years ago. In my lectures to quilters, I talk about the reasons why:

  • I realized I didn’t have to make quilts that looked like what I saw in contemporary magazines or books; my quilts could look like ME, with solid black fabric, and teeny-tiny prints, and washed out shirting prints, and zero rick-rack
  • it was no longer uncool to be like my mom — in fact, it struck me as the coolest thing ever to be a part of my family’s place in the world
  • I got really, really sick and I needed non-medicinal healing (hello, patchwork)
  • the timing was right, age-wise. I was in my late twenties and ready to sit down for five seconds

And so I became a quilter and making quilts has brought me untold joy ever since. I’m not sure how many quilts I’ve made; it’s dozens, and they’re all kinda huge. Mom has always told me to make quilts that cover people, since that’s what quilts are for. The Fons women don’t do table toppers, though we support anyone who does. We support quilters, period.

A sewing machine with my name on it arrived in New York City yesterday. The fine folks at BabyLock are loaning me an Ellisimo while I’m here, and I carried that huge, glorious box 2.5 blocks and up 2.5 flights of Manhattan walk-up stairs with huge smile on my face. Anywhere I hang my hat for more than about four minutes simply ain’t a home unless I’ve got a sewing machine nearby. Making patchwork and making quilts isn’t just something I do: it’s something I am. The craft, the gesture, the sense-memory of the process is in my DNA, now. I quilt, therefore I am a whole person.

I have absolutely no idea where I’m going to put this thing. Seriously.

 

The Pendennis Observer, January 29th, 2014.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to The Pendennis Observer. If you’re not gotten The Pendennis Observer before, please find all the details you’ll need right here.

We’re happy to report that the PaperGirl has arrived safely in New York and that she has had all her shots. Dispatches begin tomorrow. Pendennis is with her now.

We wish you a pleasant evening.

– The Management

 

Remember: never posed. Ever. The monkey comes by these situations naturally.
Remember: never posed. Ever. The monkey comes by these situations naturally.

 

Saturday night face plant.
Saturday night face plant.
Pendennis and my mom's dog, Scrabble, cuddling during an early morning blizzard. Door County, 2013.
Pendennis and my mom’s dog, Scrabble, cuddling during an early morning blizzard. Door County, 2013.
Too much Heidegger too quickly.
Too much Heidegger too quickly.

You Can’t Wrap a Baby In an iPad: Why Quilts (Still) Matter

posted in: Art, Quilting | 7
My Little Churn Dash. Designed and pieced by Mary Fons, quilted by LuAnn Downs.
My Little Churn Dash. Made by Mary Fons, quilted by LuAnn Downs.

Unless I’m at a cocktail party hosted by quilters, I am usually the only quilter at a cocktail party.

When I talk about what I do for work, someone will invariably say, “Sorry — did you say you’re a…quilter?” I nod and say yes and then two things happen: first, the person cocks their head and goes “Huh!” and then, “My auntie used to knit, too.” Sometimes I gently explain the difference between quilting and knitting, sometimes I just ask about the auntie.

If you’re not a quilter, you probably don’t think about quilts very often. You know what they are. You maybe had one in your house as a kid. You don’t know that we take umbrage when you to refer to a quilt as a blanket (please!) and you have no idea that the business of quilting kicks up $3.6 billion dollars annually — that’s just in the States. But that’s all perfectly okay. I don’t know about programming in Ruby, nothing about the Blue-Footed Booby (okay, that rhymed), or how to fix the sink. We all have our work and stuff we geek out on. Quilts, for me, are both. I traffic in them; you don’t.

But then…

Then a quilt comes into your field of vision and I can tell you exactly when it happens: when there’s a baby coming. When there’s a marriage. When someone is real, real sick. Unlike the Blue-Footed Booby, quilts arrive when they are needed and what I insist upon, what I know is true, what I make sure to say at any cocktail party, be-quilted or otherwise, is that quilts are still needed, still relevant by virtue of what they are. Quilts are love, manifested. Put another way:

You can’t wrap a baby in an iPad.

Technology is galloping away with us all and I’m riding bareback with all my quilter friends who, you could argue, are more digitally connected than other hobbyists — we have pictures of quilts to share, online bees; the entire Modern Quilt Guild “movement” was born online. But all the binary code on the planet can’t comfort a baby like wrapping it up in a quilt. Another example? Give a newlywed couple a handmade quilt and watch death rays emit from the eyes of everyone else at the shower — the crystal fruit bowl from Tiffany’s and the Kitchen-Aid mixer might as well be crap from the Dollar Store. You can’t beat a quilt with a stick. They’re magic. They’re irreplaceable. They’re also positively American, at least when we speak specifically of patchwork quilts (as opposed to whole cloth or fancy boutis stuff from Europe, and they can keep all that.)

Hey, I want my own MakerBot. My smartphone, myself.  In the Venn diagram of “Nerdy,” “Creative,” and “Friendly,” “Quilter” is smack in the middle. Besides, we like buttons and stuff. But what gadget — and while we’re at it, what work of art — can you wrap up in, sit on, barf on, wash, cry under, make a tent out of, mop up stuff with, hug, throw, wad, rip, repair, and then give as an heirloom? I’d guess there’s probably just one answer to that question.

And so we still make quilts. We still do. And we will for a long time because try as we might to wriggle out of it, we’re still human. Humans need comfort and joy and to me and my fellow grieving, joyous, aging, newborn, and just plain chilly humans, a quilt is just the thing.

Drinking & Sewing.

posted in: Day In The Life, Quilting | 3
Better have some in the medicine cabinet, dawg.
Better have some of these in the medicine cabinet, dawg.

I cut my finger pretty good last night. I was drinking and sewing, so you are forbidden to have any sympathy for me. It’s okay.

I don’t drink much alcohol these days. I’m just not into it. I realized awhile ago that the increasingly obligatory evening glass of wine was suddenly two obligatory evening glasses of wine and about the time that it became that, I stopped getting a good night’s sleep. I would wake up at 3am and if there’s one thing I do not do, it’s toss and turn. So I’d wake up and read books and try to attack my day — and by noon I was a shell of a woman. When I didn’t drink wine in the evenings, this did not happen. Eureka!

But last night I decided to enjoy a vodka tonic. It’s been months since I indulged in a little evening refreshment and it just sounded nice. A little Tito’s, a little diet Schweppe’s, a little ice. Clink, clink, ahhh. And then, because I am brilliant, I picked up my rotary cutter, which is essentially a razor blade on a wheel. The rotary cutter is to a quilter as the hammer is to the carpenter: an indispensable tool used constantly that can really mess up a finger.

I was slicing around my fan template, zipping to and fro, enjoying some tunes. Sip. Zip. Zip. Sip. “La-la-la,” I sang, and I was so excited about the vodka and the scrap quilt forming on my design wall that I zipped my way right across my index finger and pam! a great flap of skin was now dangling off of me, ruby red blood welling up in astonishing quantity.

“Ah!” I exclaimed and jumped back. I raised my hand over my head and grabbed the first thing I saw to wrap around my wound. What do you suppose I grabbed? Fabric, of course! You see, quilters are very smart. We have bandages at the ready at all times. Carpenters can’t say that (though you could argue they can make a splint pretty quick — or a stretcher.) I hopped up and down and whistled; this thing could be bad, I thought, and I stole a peek. Oh yes! Pretty bad. But there was no tingle, no numbness, so I don’t think I hit a nerve.

The lesson: do not drink and sew. I am not the first to do it, certainly not the first to advise against it, and I know for a fact that I’m not the first to do it anyway and then injure myself. But “the fool who persists in his folly will become wise,” said William Blake, and he actually died while singing, so we should listen to him.

Can I get anyone a drink?

“I Came Here To Win.”

posted in: Day In The Life | 0
It hurts so good.
It hurts so good.

I make quilts. While I sew, I enjoy various media. Sometimes it’s radio, sometimes it’s a podcast. A lot of the time it’s junky television via the Internet.

There is lots of great, game-changing television out there. I don’t watch it. It takes too much focus. (I can’t watch Mad Men and sew patchwork; it’s unfair to Don Draper and unfair to my quarter-inch seam.) Instead, I watch gameshows. Reality gameshows. Biggest Loser, America’s Next Top Model, and Master Chef are totally — like, totally — my favorite shows. They’re just engaging enough to keep me company but utterly devoid of real substance. Perfect.

So I fire up the HuluPlus and I let entire seasons play. The downside to this is that any mystery or magic used in putting the shows together is gone. I know the template now. The challenges, the editing, the hosts’ indignation and the tear-jerker stories behind the contestants — every show, every game, it’s all die-cut. What’s really hard to listen to after hour eight are the interviews. I’ve figured how they do them. I’ve never experienced an actual reality show interview, but I am 99% certain they play sections of the already taped show for the player and ask him/her leading questions about what they were thinking at the time. And I picture the interviewer being extremely bored because these players, they say the same thing every single time.

Interviewer: “What does this competition mean to you?”
Player: “This competition…it means everything to me.”

Interviewer: “When Heidi walks out, what are you thinking?”
Player: “I’m just thinking, ‘What is going to happen next?'”

Interviewer: “What are you thinking right now, when Susan put the shrimp on the plate?”
Player: “Right now, I’m just hoping I don’t go home.”

Interviewer: “What did you come here to do? Is this just a game to you?”
Player: “I came here to win. This competition is not just a game for me.”

And on and on. And every once in awhile, something actually dramatic or surprising will happen (doesn’t happen often) and I’ll whoop or holler while I’m pressing my fabric and if anyone saw into my condo, they would see that I am a nerd.