April 4, 2011

Yarn Bombing Garrison Keillor

I am madly infatuated with Garrison Keillor.

I may not fall into the same fan category as the women who obsessively follow Robert Pattinson from the Twilight movies, weeping black tears that stream down their cheeks and onto their “Team Edward” tees upon seeing him at movie premiers, but make no mistake: I have a crush on Mr. Keillor, no matter how quiet mine has been.

In fact, it has been so quiet that my friends may be surprised to know that he is right up there, for me, with Collin Firth’s Mr. Darcy. And Collin Firth’s no slouch. Why would I consider trading the tall, dark, handsome and mysterious Mr. Darcy for a 68-year-old-man 6’3” with nosferatu-like fingers and albeit charming but Pekineseque face?  (since one is a fictional literary character and one is a man who has never seen me, either chance is slim...)

In 1995, I was transplanted to Minnesota, many miles from the fir trees and mountains of my Oregon birthplace to the very different landscape—and climate—of the upper Midwest. I knew no one but my family.

I was not lonely, exactly. I love new places, but I felt a constant element of social disequilibrium. I felt out of place. Then I found MPR, Minnesota Public Radio—and consequently A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor. It was a very unusual show to me—a comedy variety show recorded in front of live audiences, most often in St. Paul. It was very entertaining and quickly became my favorite weekend pasttime.

It was my secret outsider’s view into the private jokes of Minnesotans, their interesting insights on life in their great state and wonderful ways. At first, I laughed along because, really, the show was funny even to an outsider—after all, who can resist a good public service announcement from “The Board of Ketchup?” But the more I listened, the more I felt a part of the inside jokes.

I loved that I began to understand the jokes about the weather and how people felt compelled to go out for milk in blizzard conditions just to prove how tough they were. Soon, I was rolling with laughter with the rest of the radio audience at the thought of Norwegian bachelor farmers making baking powder biscuits that were pure, mostly. I was so in.

I thrived. I made friends, I bought a snow-blower, I put snow pants on my kids before sending them to school and I learned how to say “hot dish” instead of “casserole.” I stopped gigging inside every time someone said, “You betcha.” I started saying, “You betcha.” I knew the rules. 

Garrison Keillor, with his steady, deliberate baritone guided me through these things. He was wise, insightful, learned. He was charming and just the sound of his voice riveted me. It still does.

Garrison Keillor is still on the radio today, and his show has been running almost as long as I’ve been alive. He is still my link to his great state, and I still think so fondly of him.

Recently he announced he will be retiring soon, so I felt an unreasonably urgent need to see my crush doing his show live at least one more time. Then, out of the blue, something wonderful happened.

The other day my good friend from college, Anna, emailed to say that he is coming to do his radio show live in upper Washington state—and at one of our favorite wineries, no less! I practically ran out in the street upon receiving this news. I told the neighbors (I restrained the urge to knock on doors), I told friends, patients at work … even strangers at the grocery store were not immune to my excitement. 

The best part of all: He is coming on my birthday — June 11.

Yes, International Yarn Bombing Day. I realized this only about a week after Anna’s email. It was a terrible day.

I love knitting as much as I love Garrison Keillor, though obviously in a different way. I can’t believe how it has changed my life over the past two years. I have new wonderful friends, an emerging skill and the incredible satisfaction of being able to create things in such an amazing way.

The culture of knitters is equally as appealing to me as the craft itself. People from absolutely any walk of life or place in the world will come together like the oldest of friends once they realize they share the common interest.

Case in point: A few months ago at my son’s school play, a woman, a complete stranger, approached me and asked with restrained excitement, “Did you make your sweater?”

“Yes!” I said, surprised that someone wondered such a thing. I was getting that hopefulness common to all crafters.

“Your hat, too?” She was getting more excited, her eyes locked with mine. She could see the connection. Now, she was nodding, anticipating my answer.

“Yes! How did you know?” Of course I knew.

“I knit, too!” She could hardly contain her excitement anymore. We were pals—that was it. We started talking as fast as we could as though we had been high school friends and had only been given a few minutes to catch up, exchanging ideas, patterns and yarns we liked. When the lights went out for the play, we had almost forgotten that our kids were on the stage.

Not wanting people to think we didn’t care about our kids, we dutifully took ours seats. For an hour and a half, we glanced across the room every once in a while. I think we were trying to maintain the connection so the magic would not be lost.

It’s that kind of camaraderie that still amazes me and makes the Yarn Bombing events so incredible.  To think that we, as knitters, across the world will be united in so many acts—which really culminate into one act—of beauty nearly brings tears to the eyes.

The women in my knitting club have been abuzz about the concept for months and now are excited about the event. What to do?

In my college ethics class, we called this an ethical dilemma: two good choices with conflicting outcomes. Do I choose to see the man who was my friend when I had none and now secretly admire from afar to help send him off with a thank you before he retires even if he has no idea I am attending his show, or do I join a worldwide effort to make the world a warm, fuzzy and more beautiful place, bringing joy to millions?

When faced with dilemmas like these in a college ethics class, the steps to resolve the conflict begin with listing the stakeholders. Let's take a shot at it. Here are mine:

  • Me
  • Garrison Keillor
  • Everyone in the world plus an army of selfless knitters and crocheters

Then we list the possible outcomes for each stakeholder of each scenario. Scenario #1:

I go to see A Prairie Home companion

  • Me: I see the man of my dreams while sitting next to my husband on my birthday. I feel guilty the entire time because I should be enriching people’s lives with yarn bombs.
  • Garrison Keillor: Doesn’t even know who I am
  • Everyone in the world plus an army of selfless knitters and crocheters: Don’t even miss me, but bring a lot of joy to the world that I am not a part of.

Next, scenario #2:

I go with my group to do some Yarn Bombing

  • Me: I am distracted because I am missing seeing Garrison Keillor. I feel sorry for myself because it is my birthday.
  • Garrison Keillor: Doesn’t even know who I am
  • Everyone in the world plus an army of selfless knitters and crocheters: Get the same amount of work done as they would without me because I am useless.

There is one final scenario, #3. Let’s list the pros and cons.

I go to see Garrison Keillor while also making a yarn bomb showing at the show. I wear everything I have knitted and make a knitted chair cover for my plastic chair. Under my hand knits I wear my knitting club tee that says “Team Garrison” on the front and on the back, “What happens at Knitting Club Stays at Knitting Club.”

  • Me, pros: I participate simultaneously in both events.
  • Me, cons: Worst-case scenario, I am removed by security for having knitting needles and generally looking like a potential stalker.
  • Garrison Keillor: Hears a small commotion from the back row, goes on with the show. Doesn’t know who I am.
  • Everyone in the world plus an army of selfless knitters and crocheters: Get the same amount of work done as they would without me because I am useless.

After reviewing this information several times and giving it much thought, I will just have to risk show security. I already bought the tickets. Love makes you do crazy things.

No comments: