April 23, 2011

Portlandia: The More-Than-Likely-Lost-On-Purpose Yarn Bombing Episode, partie deux

Portlandia: The More-Than-Likely-Lost-on-Purpose Yarn Bombing Episode, partie deux

Last weekend on Portlandia: The Lost Yarn Bombing Episode, we left our heroes in some fine predicaments. Let’s recap them all in 100 words or less, “Glee” style. Deep breath. Here we go!

Tiffany feels completely misunderstood by her friends and runs out into the street over a sheared sheep only to be run over and dressed in hand-knits by the mad knitting yarn bombing mob who are in a frenzy after feeling that overwhelming thing people feel when they enter a like-minded group that causes them to develop the disorder known as “mob mentality,” except that our mob is—more or les—doing a positive thing, even if they are beginning to overrun the city of Portland with shreds of yarn, broken needles and clothing on statues. Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Mr. Smith’s brother Joe made a public service message/telethon-type appeal to the community for their adopt-a-sheep program, which they really shouldn’t be doing since they know nothing about sheep and sheep rearing practices. Mr. Smith becomes angry with Joe for pointing out some evidence of his brother’s defects in sheep knowledge and they begin fighting, cutting the important service message short. We learned how knitting began, even if it was only a rip-off of an old Reeses’ Peanut Butter Cup commercial and we learned that with a little willpower, an entire Navy ship can be afghaned to cozy it up.

How’d we do? 203 words? Good enough. Moving on…

A Drive-by Fleecing II

Tiffany is dazed and confused after being practically trampled by the well-meaning knitting mob. She is stumbling around. A passerby asks her if she needs help and she screams, spitting out, “NO! The SHEEP does, idiot!” A little alarmed, the Good Samaritan backs away and leaves her, mumbling something about “probably being on meth.”

Tiffany makes her way desperately through the city streets. She wanders sloppily, aimlessly, looking for a yarn shop. There have to be needles and yarn somewhere!
She finally sees a storefront that might be a yarn store. She stumbles in, nearly falling prostrate in the doorway, as one might do after several days without food.

It’s a small shop with a long counter in the center and a more than ample supply of yarn to cover one naked sheep. There is a television behind the counter that seems to just be on for background noise. It’s blaring something about a mob. Tiffany barely notices two women behind the counter and one lone guy in a felted hat and a vest at the front of the store who has been knitting as she enters. The three of them turn to look at her in curious silence. Should they be afraid or concerned? They wait for more information.

“I need some needles!” Tiffany is practically in hysteria.

They choose fear. One of the women reaches for the phone. She hopes the police aren’t too busy with the Yarn Bomb Gang (as they have been dubbed on the local news).

The young woman sees the phone grab and screeches, almost inaudibly, now in pitiful dramatic fashion, “No! Knitting needles. For a poor sheep.”

The yarn shop lady #1 puts the phone slowly down and asks in an even tone exactly what the girl needs.

Tiffany realizes that she is going to get nowhere if she can’t spell it out. She squeaks, “I need some knitting needles…and some yarn and uh…” she tumbles out the last words so fast they almost sound like one, “some quick instructions on how to knit.”

As the women divide and conquer the store to complete the task as fast as they can (they have to get this girl out the door—she may scare away customers), Tiffany looks in her backpack. No money. Todd had paid for her coffee earlier. She had forgotten that she had no wallet.

“…uhhhh…” Tiffany’s expression turns suddenly lucid.

“Yes?” The yarn shop ladies both turn.

“I don’t have any money.” She sees the look on their faces and very, very quickly recounts the story about the sheep and the driving and Oregon City and Toad—uh—Todd and almost out of breath says, “… it’s for a good cause. Couldn’t you donate it?”

It had been a weird day what with the yarn bombers and the guy with the felted hat. He had earlier tried to tell them he could help them find their religion. They had declined and, instead of finding religion, spent the afternoon scrutinizing him from afar like department store security, as he nested cozily on the futon in the front of their store with some knitting. The yarn ladies were at the ready to head off any customers he may approach.

God, couldn’t this day just be over?

One of the yarn ladies gives in to Tiffany. This will be quicker, she thinks. She is only interested in having one less colorful character in her store.

Tiffany thanks them with soulful crocodile tears in her eyes, mumbling something about how she will mention them when the media covers her story, and stumbles out the way she stumbled in, but this time she is armed with bamboo needles and some 100% blue alpaca yarn—to cover a sheep.

The young man on the futon calls after her, “Bless you!”

A Yarn Bomb. No, Really

Fred and Carrie meet up with a good friend from Portland named Vince who has been a very useful consultant for the show, helping to keep it true to Portland form. He is an earthy fellow who still believes in peace and love. He has very long, graying hair that is lately forming dreadlocks surrounding a kindly face. He is soft spoken, but deliberate in his way of communication. He has elegant, fine features and a slight build formed from years of yoga and a strict vegan diet. An accomplished fiber artist and glass blower, he has called the two friends for a meeting.

He has an idea for the show.

Let’s listen in as they settle down in a coffee shop...

Vince orders a chai tea without cream. No animal products, please. He softly smiles at the server, a young woman probably in her early 20’s.

Fred and Carrie order a couple of espresso drinks and ask Vince what’s up.

Vince’s serene face lights up and he strains to hold back a too-broad grin. He begins, “Well, my friends, you know how much it means to me to work toward a more peaceful existence through natural means and loving others,” his words are drawn out in a meaningful, almost dreamlike way.

He continues as Carrie and Fred glance at each other, then return their attention to Vince, “I believe I have found a way to celebrate Yarn Bombing Day, which also strives to bring people together, with a message of peace.”

No longer able to hold back, Vince produces a tiny, round knitted object with an even tinier stem of crocheted stitches on the end. He points the stem toward the ceiling. The sphere is only about 2 inches in diameter, and the stem only millimeters.

They all three gaze at the tiny…bomb?

Vince exclaims, “Isn’t it great?”

“What is it?” Fred and Carrie ask simultaneously.

“It’s a bomb!”

“Why would you want a bomb to promote peace?”

Vince is clearly glad they asked this question, “Don’t you see the social irony?” His words are freely flowing now, his excitement rising, he speaks rapidly as though all the words will not wait their turn, “A tiny, warm and fuzzy deliverer of peace in the very form that usually instills fear! What a message!” Vince, the evangelist of peace goes on, “Remember that piece you guys did a while back? ‘Put a bird on it?’ Well, put a bomb on it for International Yarn Bombing Day!”

He sits back triumphantly. His eyes welled a little with tears as his emotions have momentarily carried him away. He composes himself, waiting for the wonderful compliments from his friends that will surely ensue.

“Uhhh…” Fred hesitates, careful not to burst his friend’s bubble, “Vince, you might be able to do this in limited places, but I think overall people might think it sends the wrong message.”

Carrie nods. She holds her hands over Vince’s. “Vince, it’s a great thought, but I agree with Fred -- it’s too risky.”

Vince is undaunted, he ignores their caution. They just aren’t getting it, that’s all. “Think about this for a minute. It will be cute. You know, like those miniature knitted figures. The bombs will be like a messenger of hope. Imagine! Bombs for peace!”

He says this last part too loudly, and people are starting to turn and look at him. He is wearing flowing robes and is starting to make people suspicious.

“Vince,” Fred says through his teeth, smiling and glancing around, “you might want to lower your voice.”

“Fred, we did not lower our voices back in the 60’s and we aren’t going to start now!” Now he was really getting riled up. He tried to quickly lighten the mood that was clearly turning, “Look, it could be really splashy and fun! You could use those candles that won’t burn out—the birthday candles that re-light themselves—inside the bombs. Light them for fun, leave them in a public place, and watch people try to blow them out!”

He wasn’t finished, “Or another thing you could use are those party poppers. You know, wrap them in yarn, only the string is the ‘fuse’ and kids could pull them and the streamers and stuff come out the bottom. Maybe that could be a 4th of July skit, or something. Man…you could get crazy with this!”

There was a commotion outside, which Vince did not hear at first. A few people wearing lovely entrelac sweaters and carrying dogs on leashes—wearing the same sweaters—were running by the coffee shop window. Were they running from something?

For a moment, everyone in the coffee shop turned their attention from Vince’s sermon (“…or what about New Year’s Eve and party crackers…”) about peace and bombs to the window. They all heard the sound of drums, marimbas and this clacking sound…what was that? The television behind the espresso machine in the shop was humming something about a Yarn Bomb Gang and the mayor of Portland declaring a state of emergency.

Then they all saw it. The tidal wave of color and yarn and needles and oh so many people!

Vince stopped his speech. He saw them, he heard them. He heeded them. His people. They were calling him!

He turned. He had, in his excitement, climbed a chair to preach to an unwilling crowd.

Now, as they passed, he gave up on his friends, bidding them farewell. He grabbed his bomb and lightly, freely exited the shop, joining the mob as joining old friends. They welcomed him, tossing him a tee shirt that said “only knitting.” on the back.

“We’ll never see him again,” Carrie said wistfully.

“No. He’s happy now.” Fred smiled. Then he wondered, almost to himself, “Where the heck did they get those tees?”

They both stared as they watched their old friend pass from this life into the next…

Adopt-a-Sheep II

Mr. and Mrs. Smith, who we will now call John and Martha because I am tired of typing the periods in Mr and Mrs, are holding a fundraiser for their cause at their country club. They have brought their first sheep with them.

The sheep is on a pink leash, and Martha has tied a pink bow around its neck.

Martha stands up in front of the crowd to announce some of the successes of their first participants.

“They are here tonight,” she says, gesturing around the room.

A couple sitting in the back raises their glasses in a return gesture, but their sheep, present with them tonight, has a leash and it is around the woman’s hand. The sheep lunges to one side, spilling the woman’s drink on her husband’s lap. He is clearly irritated, tries to dry his pants a bit and smile to Martha.

Another couple in the opposite corner of the room, looking exhausted, speaks up. Did they shower before coming tonight? Hmmm…Martha looks at them, “Yes? How are things going with your lovely little lamb?” She smiles sweetly, then stumbles on her heels as her pink-collared sheep tries to walk toward the sheep to her left. It begins bleating.

The husband of the couple says, “Uh, alright, I guess. What is the sheep supposed to be eating? I mean, uh, this one keeps trying to eat our carpet.”

“It ruined my spider plant!” The wife pipes up, shaking uncontrollably, “It nibbles things!” she raised a hand with two broken nails to wipe her eyes, “And it doesn’t answer to its name.”

Out of turn, John pipes up, “Did you try spraying its nose each time it came near the spider plant? You have to be consistent, but…”

Martha gave John an evil eye. Then she turns to the shaking woman’s husband, “Didn’t you get a kit in your sheep’s crate with all the information?”

“Uhhh…no, just a sheep. And I think it’s pretty hungry.” The sheep tries to pull the cloth off the table, knocking over several serving pieces. “We don’t know what it eats.”

Martha moves on, trying to keep the peace. People are murmuring, some are giggling.

Martha straightens her spine, feeling taller and says, with authority, “We will address all questions at the end of the evening. She has a PowerPoint presentation ready and the lights are dimmed. She has worked on it for weeks and is very excited to show it to someone. Her first slide has a picture of a sheep close up with the title, “Why City Folk Can Help Homeless Sheep Too.”

“Hey! Does this presentation have anything to do with the care of sheep?” The first couple speaks up again.

Martha rolls her eyes a little. They clearly have not been listening. She sighs, regains a demeanor of authority and directs her attention to the question.

The man of the couple continues, “We read online that they are supposed to have at least 50 square feet of space—outside. The paperwork in the sheep’s crate said our apartment was okay, but it seems a little small.”

Martha is getting nervous, “Well, I suppose if one is out in the countryside that would be possible. But,” she raises a finger here in an attempt to segue into her PowerPoint, “we can help the homeless sheep here in the city too!” She adds some light laughter.

The right-hand couple is quietly quarreling in the corner. The man interrupts again as Martha tries to once again begin her presentation.

“Uh… sorry, but don’t these sheep need other sheep? You know, like in a herd? I read online that they need at least one more sheep to feel comfortable, and we can’t take on anymore sheep.”

The left corner couple agrees, “Yeah…and there’s no category on Craigslist to give away sheep. Not even for free.”

Martha is beginning to lose control. She tries again to say that questions will be answered at the end. John comes to her aid and tries to answer some of the questions now, just to keep the peace.

“Everyone, everyone,” he says, “Let’s all calm down…” the whole room is muttoning—er, muttering. John continues, “We all want to help these sheep—“

Another interruption, this time from someone sitting nearest the front who has no sheep, “Hey, aren’t you getting these sheep from U.S. farms? And aren’t they usually coming from farms where they are freely roaming? You know, like sheep should? Where they can graze? Why would you take them out of that environment and give them to, well, people who don’t seem to know anything about sheep?”

“Sir, Sir, all your questions will be addressed—and yes, the sheep came from a farm that provides pet sheep to people.”

Right-hand corner couple, “Well, then these sheep are not homeless at all!”

Martha’s sheep has somehow broken free of its leash and has toddled across the room to be with the other sheep on the left. The right side sheep is gnawing on the carpet now, and they all begin bleating, calling out to each other.

People are standing up too quickly as the sheep pass, spilling their drinks onto people around them. Women are wishing they had not worn cocktail attire—they move too slowly in tight-fitting dresses and several people get knocked over by running, confused sheep.

The couples with the sheep are shouting now at John and Martha and her PowerPoint becomes unplugged in the pandemonium. The lights go out completely with the loss of the large monitor for the PowerPoint. Joe appears from somewhere in the shadows just long enough to tell his brother that this was all a really bad idea and he was an idiot to try it with so little research.

John goes after Joe, they get into a tumbling and punching match on the floor.

John and Martha decide later that week to close down Adopt-A-Sheep, cut their losses, pay for the judgments against them and never, ever try to have livestock in their condo again. They are, however, working on a Coats-For-Yaks fundraiser. Check out their blog at www.yakkingaboutyaks.blogspot.com.

A Drive-by Fleecing Conclusion

Tiffany had no plan, really. All she could think of was the cold, naked sheep, probably shivering in its little—hooves—she thought. Did they wear horseshoes? Like, tiny ones? She shook off this little mental detour and got back to the work at hand.

She knew she had to focus—but on what? Facts, Tiffany, facts, she told herself. She was pretty bad at facts. But for the sheep! She could pull it together! Now she began muttering to herself, “No ride,” she said as the light rail train passed by, “no money…I could work on the knitting!” 

She sat down on the sidewalk with the yarn, the needles and the instruction sheet. She looked at it. It looked like Greek. But this just had to work.  It’s exactly like riding a bike, she told herself. If I believe it in my heart, it will be true! I can do it—I can knit that sheep a fur—fleece, whatever—exactly like it had before the brutal de-furring! She closed her eyes, took some deep breaths—just like the woman did on that FIT TV yoga show—that would do it.

She held up the needles into the sunlight, which was lowering a little, just to the top of the building across the street. The light was slanting a bit. She lifted the end of the yarn, she kept breathing. But the breathing didn’t seem to be doing anything. Why wasn’t it working? She should have been casting on like the picture on the paper and knitting away. And why didn’t her fingers remember how? Did she ever know in the first place?

She breathed again. The needles should be acting as divining rods of justice, shouldn’t they? Nothing.

Her hands were suspended, needles pointing up. The sun was just beginning to sink in the sky, the time was running out. She realized it. She had failed. She had failed the sheep. The naked, furless sheep. The temperature would be dropping soon. She thought of it shivering in the night.

She dropped her hands. Weeping uncontrollably, she hung her head in failure and shame. What had she done? She couldn’t complete this mission. And she didn’t have money, a way to get home, not even her iPhone, which she left in her bag.

A sound, creeping up at first, began in the distance. She ignored it at first, but it grew louder and louder.

She looked up out of faint curiosity and turned her head toward the sound. There was a blind hill to the right, and the sound seemed to be climbing it from the other side. After a moment, she saw something like confetti lifting into the air like it had been shot out of an air popcorn popper.

Then figures appeared under the shower of colors and sticks, determined in a sort of march.

A march of purpose.

A march of destiny.

There appeared a man at the front. Tiffany, face still tear-stained, temporarily stopped weeping to see the marvelous sight. Were those Cirque du Soleil acrobats around the edges of the crowd? Where was that music coming from? Was this a delirium?

The man in the front seemed to be singling her out—from what? She was the only one on the street. He came closer and closer, his mignons flanking his sides. Now, they seemed to form a holding pattern.

Tiffany looked up at him more and more steeply as he approached. He stepped right into the space between her and the sinking sun, its light forming an angelic, ecliptic halo around his gray dreadlocks.  He held out his hand.

Vince said, “My child. Come. Join us.”

Tiffany knew in an instant: This was the answer. The muses to her knitting, the Others to her Lost, the tick to her tock, the peanut butter to her chocolate.

She held out her hand. Vince helped her stand.

The holding pattern broke and she joined in the dance.

The next day, all was quiet. The evidence of their goodwill tirade was everywhere, as though Mardi Gras and about 10 other celebrations had converged on the city all at once.

The city was sparkling with vivid hues of an unimaginable number of colors. Yarn bombs and graffiti draped, hung, dotted, scattered, spread, covered, embellished and—let’s face it—improved every corner of the fair city of Portland, Oregon.

The state of emergency was lifted, and everyone came out to see the giant mural-like landscape. People stared in awe. They never forgot that day, June 11, 2011.

No one knew what became of the paraders. Some said they went on to other cities, while others said they probably just went back to their lives.

As for Tiffany and Vince? Some say they ran off to start a commune in Vermont. Someone else claimed to have seen them trying to hand out yarn bombs at the airport a few months later. Wherever they are, I am sure they are happy. And cozy.


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