Author: Gregory Patrick

A mad man who writes books, knits, and deals with the daily dilemmas of living 20 miles from nothing...I'm not kidding.

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Knitting Before the Sun

img_1077I have to confess that nothing gives me greater joy than knitting before the sun. I like early mornings. Always have. I have my coffee and anxiously wait as the sky slowly brightens from grey to brilliant blue. There’s something remarkable about waking up before the sun, grabbing my needles, getting right to work with intermittent sips of coffee. And there as the blinding streak of the first ray hits fast through the trees, I feel all will be right with the world. A sense of optimism builds as the sun drops cling to the yarn, as my needles clack and scratch in rhythm with the chirping birds.

As the last days of winter’s burdens blow on us, we find hope in knowing that through the cold, through the snow, is a craft that gives hope when the chill of life becomes too great to endure. We find hope in a fiber art that uses our talents by means of reflection, that uses our yarn to create comfort.

img_3175It is in these moments that I realize, while the world is still quiet, before the buzzing hive of traffic and people begin to swarm, there before the sun as in some sort of craftsman’s contemplation, that I realize how blessed I am to be a knitter.

Have a wonderful day, everyone. All will be right with the world.

If you would like the teddy bear pictured, click here. Or you can get Phillip’s latest Strange Friend here. We really would like to secure them new homes today. 🙂

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Old Boots and New Dreams

It’s really weird going back in time, reliving in detail moment by moment situations in the past. As I tie up, finish up, clean up “Man Vs Skein-The Confessions of a Male Knitter,” I find myself, naturally, emerging into the past, reliving the days that I had vowed I would never return to, nor relive again. But, as I think I’ve mentioned, I could not, cannot move forward and embrace life, nor the light of life, if the darkness of those days aren’t finally approached, dealt with, and finally put to rest. Because I’m having a hard time moving forward. The anchor of my motions in daily life, and even the frail things I tend to minute by minute are ruled by the hindrance of those days. So, you see, better days will never brighten as long as I’m subconsciously stuck in the dark.

My nightmares are sometimes like Hieronymus Bosch paintings, while my dreams are prose recounts of trees dripping with dew, as the sun climbs the horizon, as I knit beneath the misted skirt of an old oak tree. I can allow myself to constantly describe the nightmares, but I’d rather spend time visualizing the dreams.

I was recounting earlier in one of my posts about having when I was homeless, always wearing my boots, even when I slept, fearing I had to leave at a moments notice. If needed, and as we had done before, I could grab my bug out bag, throw Mario in a pillow case, and head on….

Those particular boots were bulky, heavy, never fit very well. They were too big, given to me as a donation because my own shoes had holes in the soles. After a piece I had written had gone viral, had a few dollars of my own, and had managed to rent that little garage apartment, I bought myself a new pair of boots. I owed it to myself, I thought. Oh, and I have loved these new boots. They fit perfectly, looked good on me, helped me walk like a confident man. And the most important thing? I had found in my heart a moment where I could take them off. I didn’t feel I had to worry as much. (of course, I still worry, day by day we try to regain some fame….I’ll get to that). But, those boots have been with me for two years. Everyday I put them on, walk out of our apartment, stride with the best of them as I do my quick shopping at 7am, then rush back home. Those boots have served me well. And I’ve noticed that they’re beginning to wear, beginning to break down.

Fast forward to today….I never got rid of those old boots. I still had them tucked away….just in case? Who knows. I had not seen them in two years, as they sat quietly festering with bad memory in the back of a closet. But, I couldn’t get rid of them for some reason. And maybe today was the reason why.

With these newer boots beginning to fade and a little painful to wear now, I remembered I had those old boots from when I was homeless, and thought I’d wear those while I waited to get another new pair of boots. I lurked through the closet, found them, put them on and…..

It all came back to me. Blistering images of being behind dumpsters, painful visuals of Mario and I asking people for food, moments we forget but cannot shed unless we clarify that they do not define us….

You would think that someone in my situation might have a panic attack, or be ripped by anxiety, or maybe even begin to cry. Not I. Nope. Can’t do it. My face grew stern, and as I stared down at these boots on my feet, my posture went straight, my eyes sharpened, and I got defiant and said out loud, “Never again. I’m not going back.”

I quickly took the boots off and threw them in the trash. It was the start of a realization that if we are always living in a moment of the past we will never move forward. We started visualizing and living as though we were living in the future, mindfully grateful for the present, and taking moments daily to leave the past behind.

img_3168I’ve taped a $100,000 bill to the lamp on my desk. I can’t escape the sight of it. It’s purposely been put there for me to see all the time. As the new book is being finished up and printed, that fake bill reminds me that I can move forward. This book reminds me that those days will be over once and for all, as long as they are dealt with first. Because the past seeps into the present every day. And as I was writing this book, I was watching it all wash away….

And that fake bill reminds me that one day I’ll be in a place where a homeless man, only in need of a hand up, can rely on me. I’ll be able to lift others in the same way others lifted me….

If you appreciate this blog and would like for it continue, please donate. Every single bit helps! Thank you! Or check or read my new book!

 

 

 

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Like Studio 54

img_3160He really puts me to shame sometimes. Here I am, touting myself as the Mad Man Knitting, when we should be calling this blog lately, “Mad Man Knitting’s Husband Crochets Like a Mad Man.” He has been up early, bed late. Following the sunlight through the apartment (he’s practically blind, even without his telescopic glasses….how do you think I landed a man like that? I’m so blurry in his eyes, I’m actually hot!)

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m busy knitting and writing myself, but the fact that he does it with a sway back and forth while singing is hilarious. That fact that he does it while watching films about superheroes makes me laugh. The fact that he does it while shouting out political opinions randomly out of no where does cause me to wonder if he’s losing it 🙂

His Strange Friends are starting to look more and more like attendees at Studio 54. Maybe they always have and I just didn’t notice. Or rather, maybe they don’t and I’m just anxious for a bunch of drag queens to bounce out of the nice weather and force me to dance to Donna Summer. “Dance! Do it, girl! If You don’t I’ll READ you!!!” (That’s just pretty much the neighborhood I live in).

So, take a peek at his new Strange Friends in our shop! He would love for you to send him pictures of his creations in their new homes!

 

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Don’t Ever Feel Forgotten

We have 5 more copies to go before we finish the first 20 copies to get the discount from the printer. So, I thought I’d share another excerpt from the book.
After years of eating poorly, I could now afford a tomato. That’s all I wanted. Fresh produce, real fruit…..and a bowl of fresh tomatoes.

There was a Winn Dixie in my neighborhood that was shamed, frowned upon. And why? For one of the strangest reasons you could ever think of. No matter how good the sale might be at Winn Dixie that week, you won’t catch the people who live two blocks over ever going there. And why? Well, next door to Winn Dixie is a weekly hotel where many homeless people live, with the majority being men. A lot of them will band together, pan handle, collect recyclables, or do whatever they can to pitch in to share a room. So, you’ll have 5 guys living in one room. Its pretty much a place to sleep and be off the streets. And believe it or not, this is a step up. This is a hopeful way forward. They sleep on the floor of a crowded room, hope not to get into fights, hope no one gets drunk, and cook their meals on the barbecue pit in the weedy courtyard downstairs.
Now, Winn Dixie is where they shop, or sometimes to get away from the crowded room, or the fights, or just to be left alone. They wander around Winn Dixie, or just hang out in front of the store where they have a free water dispenser. Because of this, many, no let’s say MOST of the people in the neighborhood won’t go there. They don’t like the sight of it. They don’t want to be bothered with it. I, of course, didn’t care because of my own history. I had been one of them.
That particular evening was interesting. I walked up there, grabbed my tomatoes and some other vegetables and as I was coming out of the store, the usual afternoon monsoon in Central Florida started. The bottom of the clouds opened up and began drenching with a deluge everything below. So, I hung out under the awning of the store waiting for the rain to pass, standing not to far from two homeless men. A few seconds later, a few more fellas came out of the store, and a few more from out in front of the building. So, there I stood among probably ten homeless men, all of us with our belongings in tattered bags, all of us with clothes found or picked up at a church thrift store, all of us sharing at one point or another in our lives the same moment of hopelessness. I looked around at them, watched them, their faces, many blank and without spirit, broken, discarded. Forgotten.
Yes, its true. Some of them have substance abuse problems. Others have mental health issues. And some, like myself, just hit a financial oil patch and skidded towards ruin very quickly. I had that same look on my face for a long while, too.
It wasn’t that long ago that I was one of them. And another miscalculation in the near future could put me among them again. So, what was different between us now? I have a very tiny place to live, but its mine. I no longer went a day without eating anymore. It may not be the BEST thing for you, but at least I don’t fall into bed hungry. So, what was different? How did I escape? Was I lucky? Did I work harder than them? Was I more of a survivor? A fighter? The only answer I can truly claim, is that I never gave up hope. Yes, at that point in my life back then, I definitely was convinced that the world had not only trampled me, but that it had forgotten me. I could see that in their faces under that awning. They felt forgotten, invaluable. Dismissed. Unnecessary to the world at large. Unwanted. And why wouldn’t they? They’re reminded of it often. People don’t look them in the eye. People turn their heads when these men approach. Hell, people won’t even shop in the same grocery store with them.
And maybe that’s the difference. I made damn sure that the world would not forget about me. I made damn sure that I reminded people that I was valuable. I wasn’t going to just go away. I opened my heart so that I could feel wanted. I was HOPEFUL that the world was filled with compassion, care, kindness. And with heartfelt joy, I am able to say I’m right. . With my hopeful writing and my sad eyed teddy bears, so many helped nourish that hope. They never forgot me, They lifted me. They remembered me.

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The rain disbursed, and slowly the sun began to creak through the cracks in the clouds. I gathered my bag of produce and started to leave. I turned back around as I was halfway through the parking lot and saw them standing there, faces still uncaring, too beaten inside to have any hope left. And I whispered under my breath, “Don’t give up hope, guys. I’ll always remember you. I won’t ever let you be forgotten.”

Those men you see on the side of the road, or passing by with their shopping carts, or bound up in parkas even though its 90 degrees outside……they’re always in my thoughts. Don’t ever feel forgotten, my brothers, I will always remember you….

Click here to order a copy of “Man VS Skein-The Confessions of a Male Knitter.”

 

 

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Acknowledgment (or) My First Batch of Heroes

Well, the feedback for my new book has been overwhelmingly beautiful. Woke this morning to read comments. And those first few paragraphs that I transcribed in my last post seemed to excite people. So, thank you!

IMG_0266“Man VS Skein-The Confessions of a Male Knitter” looks like it could be a promising endeavor. Maybe this is the one that sets me solid?

As I sat staring out of my window this morning, writing away to the frail hints of remembrance, I saw the dewy end of a leaf, culminate the humidity, grab hold of the air, gather it as companion, then let the over abundance of airy nectar drop in one little plop into a puddle below. The ripples glistened, the waves ebbed out and sadly and said goodbye. Little things moments can make great impacts on us. Old memories ripple on forever….

I’m go glad you like my book, the idea of it, and the pages I’ve show so far. So, I want to do something interesting with it. I want to sell 20 copies today. That way I can get a discount on the printing, and the funds left over can go towards ordering additional copies so that when someone orders them in the future, they’ll be ready to ship. I won’t have to order them. And to the first 20 people that order the book, I’ll give acknowledgment in the credits. (If you don’t want to be named, just let me know. I know some people prefer anonymity.)

It really is a strong book. I’ve never been this proud. And all the chapters are all terms we knitters know all too well, like “Guage” and “Tension,” all meaning things so different than what the pattern intended….

Yeah, that’s it….that last line says so much about my life and this book…..”so different than what the pattern intended.”

Quick passage from the book : (….and I heard my own name, as though it should have been listened for. There, while staring down to tie my shoes I heard Martha Stewart say, “Gregory Patrick is busy knitting and shipping teddy bears…..Look at them. I think they’re adorable….” “Look at them.” How does one surface from that shock? How does one react? What does one say?……I stood to my feet and screamed, “MOM  Come QUICK!!!!!!! I need you!”)

mvskeinIt really is a great book. 🙂 I love it. I love finally getting to speak, to say….and avoid the poetry that my prose seems to get entangled with.

So click here to snag a copy! I’d love to have you in my book. We’re going to print on Monday, so that’s why I’d like you to be included before then. 20 copies. Not so terrible, really. We’ve sold six so far. I think this book could be a hit. I really do….

UPDATE! Three hours after this blog was posted, we only have 10 more copies to go! Yes!!!

 

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GAUGE

I thought you might like to read the preface to my new book….

 

Little surprises happen often, quicker than you expect, and sometimes they come in waves more than you can handle.

After having been homeless for so long, I finally had a 10 by 20 apartment of my own. An old converted garage that had been refashioned into a studio. But, it had everything I needed. A toilet, a stove, and even a little garden patch to call my own. It was a dream come true. Safely sitting in an area of Orlando that was beginning to grow, the price of the place had not yet reflected the trendy hipsters that had begun to move in. I came in just under the wire. After that? The vegan cafés popped up, the overpriced food trucks showed up….vinyl record stores became “a thing.”

82My little space had few furnishings. I had a mattress on the floor, a stack of books that I used as a table, and a simple wooden chair to sit in, my laptop (ironically in my lap) so I could write. My yarn was in cardboard boxes, my clothes were stacked neatly to the side in piles that resembled the bourgeois table displays of the Gap. Those books rescued from a thrift store at twenty-five cents a piece, which I read for my entertainment, allowing my mind the greatest of escapes in fiction.

It may sound as though I had very little, but at the point, I had accomplished so much. Again, having been homeless, I had been knitting teddy bears to feed myself first, then begin raising enough money to get a place of my own. So many people later on began addressing, “How can a homeless man have a laptop? He can’t have been that bad off….” We’ll get to those comments in due time, but have here a 21st century life lesson in imposing homelessness. When I saw life crashing into flames I knew that having a laptop was much more valuable than having a phone. I could connect to the world, I could use the wi-fi in many random places, and  list my little teddy bears for anyone anywhere in the world to buy. I could write with my laptop, and if given an opportunity, listen to the news through free streaming services. Oh, yes, should you be teetering down the hopeless road of homeless, take your laptop. Not your phone.

Within a year I had snagged that little place on Washington Street. The landlord took a huge risk with me. I had no job, no car, but did have a cat. All the sorts of things landlords don’t usually accept as viable tenants. But, I wrote her a letter, then spoke with her on the phone and the only thing I could use to convince her with was, “I just need someone to take a chance on me. That’s all I need. I’ve been dismissed, forgotten, exiled…I just need someone to give me a chance.”

She agreed to offer me a temporary lease to see how things would go. And the place was mine.

I was there for a year with my little mattress and my box of yarn, busy knitting and diligently selling my teddy bears online to keep myself fed and my apartment paid for. I had very few friends and contacts. When you get shafted by the world, it’s hard to invite people into your life. You have a tendency to recoil, not mistrusting, but avoiding pain in the days ahead when people fail you.

But, in so many ways, those days were quite romantic. After having been homeless, I was happy, beyond grateful for what I had. My blog was a place where I could talk, a journal that was left open for the world to read, an account of a man’s fight to find hope in a hopeless situation, a plea to the greater good for someone to hear my voice, when I had once been quieted, pushed aside. My little apartment was a home where I rarely wanted to leave. I had hot water. I had privacy when I slept. I had walls that could define me, a place to wash my socks.

So many years of being homeless, trench foot had begun to set in. I had kept my boots on for so long, so ready to leave at a moments notice, that I never took them off. And brewing on my soles was something not many have seen since World War II. Hence the term, “trench foot.”

mvskeinI went to bed one night, boots still on (some habits are hard to shake after a trauma), my little cat, Mario coiled beside me, the windows wide and open. We relied one each other more than you’ll ever know. You see, I never felt that I could hit rock bottom as long as she was with me. I had a life that depended on me for it’s survival, and as long as I had that, then I could keep fighting. And she was the only life that had not turned it’s back on me. For that I’m eternally grateful.

I went to bed with Mario tucked beside me. The sound of the city growing dim. The sound of silence so different than the sound of trampling feet as they scurry by you, the sound of your stomach grumbling, the sound of laughter when you want to cry.

In knitting we have a term that applies to the thickness of your yarn. Patterns have a gauge to let you know if your work is too tight, or too lose to proceed with the project. And sometimes, your gauge is just right. Your knitting is just perfectly attune to your the movements of your hands, the tension in your soul, or the calmness in your life. Gauge is very important lesson to learn in such aspects of life. When you push to hard, or pull your yarn to tight, everything comes out wrong. But, if you sit quietly for a moment, and trust the quiet of your skein, the gauge comes out perfectly.

I went to bed with about $10 in my account that night. It had been earmarked for cat food for Mario and a bag of lentils for myself.

I woke up the next morning with $20,000. My life was about to change…and my gauge was about to be off…

Want to read more? It’s all in the book: “Man VS Skein-The Confessions of a Male Knitter.”

 

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Man VS Skein-The Confessions of a Male Knitter

A few days ago, I posted a question on my facebook page: “Should my next book be about contemplative knitting? Or men who knit?”

The answer was decidedly, “BOTH!”

Then Phillip and I were talking a few days ago about the project when we just couldn’t figure out the correct angle for what I was trying to say. Contemplative knitting….so many people have written about the zen of knitting, to great success. Those are some wonderful books. But, I didn’t want to do what someone else had already done. Men that knit….kinda….well…ok. And? What’s the big deal, right? Men knit….the book ended in the title.

Heading to the bathroom, Phillip quipped,  “You should write about all the behind the scenes stuff, what you really go through as a knitter…..some of the stuff you DON’T write on your blog. Sometimes that knitting world is just as vicious and gossipy as Hollywood….”

mvskeinHe got it. Oh he got it, he got it, and he got it HOT. THAT is a book worth writing: the back stage, behind the scenes look at a man who has a contemplative life through knitting….and all the madness that circles around him. Like the time Deborah Norville poo pooed me on live TV. Or the time I got into a heated fight with a very well known and established male knitter because of the Pulse night club shooting. How I lost a thousand followers for a political belief. How I was offered a reality show, they asked in the interview for me to take off my ball cap and I said, “Nope. It’s my look. Deal with it. After all, this isn’t an audition for Naked and Afraid…..is it???”

There are so many juicy moments that don’t get explored enough in this life of a male knitter. Some of them controversial, some of them joyous. Some of them got me pushed out of the knitting community and some of them invited me in even further.

There are so many great juicy moments that have happened on this end that we never wrote about. Yes, because they were too controversial. (So controversial that I don’t think Lionbrand wants to talk to me anymore…and that’s in the book, too). But, this book touches on all of that. Oh, yes, we got to work right away. Using my blog as a diary, we were able to look back and go, “Oh! Remember this was happening at the same time, and we didn’t DARE write about it!” Oh, yes, we made sure to include everything that we didn’t think was appropriate for the blog because I didn’t want to get all…..what’s the word? Gossipy? Issues with my family, unresolved reasons for my homelessness….So much was left to the way side.

Now, I wasn’t keen on it being my version of incidents that trashed people. Nope. You see, when you mix those moments with the good moments, you begin to see that the life of this male knitter has been an interesting ride. And I LEARNED so much about it’s blessings and it’s few curses. I got to make friends all across the globe, and I got to go deeper into a place in my soul that the usual practices of contemplation didn’t allow. I couldn’t sit with the eyes closed and be mindful. I had to pick up knitting needles and listen to the world, what it said about itself, what it said about me…..and what my own soul had been desperate to tell me: that the worth of a man is valued not in his possessions, but in his actions.

So, this new book will lean in closer on the backstory, in detail, the good moments, the rough moments. The times we shined, the times we failed, and all the things I wanted to say, but didn’t have the courage to at the time. It leans in closer to the contemplative side of what all those moments meant, what they taught, and how they shaped me into the man I am now. From homeless, to somewhat famous, to then shunned, then reborn with the truth that knitting taught me.

I have a good feeling  about this book. It really does say everything that should have been said, not because all of it was raunchy and controversial, but because I just didn’t have the courage at the time. But, hell, if we’re going for broke then we might as well put it all out there….

If you appreciate this blog and would like for it continue, please donate. Every single bit helps! Thank you! Or check out my shop!