Check Your Pride, Gregory

I’ve always been so proud of my accomplishments.

So many years ago I stepped out of a world of homelessness, of fear, of anger, a world of being dismissed by some, and onto the page of my own books. I leaped into the stitches of my own teddy bears.

I have come so very far.

It kinda puts the rest of life into perspective doesn’t it? Massive failures happen….and you survive. And it happens again…and still you survive. And why? Because life is always in your own hands, the spark of it, the sunrise of it, the blinding jewel of it, is always in your hands. You hold the key ingredient that you need to survive anything that comes your way: the promise and hope of life.

And with that said, I will readily admit that this knitter knows when he’s defeated. Or rather, when a man’s pride is defeated.

One must take whatever approach he can to take care of his family, then himself, then those that also need help. He can do no good if his family is suffering and shattered, and if he is burdened.

I have consistently resisted starting a Go Fund Me page. With options dwindling, I swallowed my pride and started one. But, more so, I took that pride and decided that I should not be embarrassed about wanting to make sure my family (my Phillip, my Mario, my Bacon, and all of you), were all taken care of.

There is nothing wrong with admitting that this is where the days have led us, and this is as far as we have come. There is nothing wrong with looking adversity in the face and admitting how much you can handle, how much you can’t. There is nothing wrong with accepting your situation. A foolish man would rack up more debt, wear nicer clothes than I, wrap through the city in warp speed in a car he can’t afford, and proudly announce to everyone, “I’m a big man.”

Well, this big man, albeit 6 foot and 125 pounds, came to the realization that he was better suited when he was honest about doing whatever it took to take care of those he loves. And I will do all of us no good if I’m not able to stand proud, admit my blows, dust them off and tend to what needs to be done, in whatever capacity I can.

So, I started a Go Fund Me page to help pay off the tax bill.

Should this work, we can move forward to the endeavors we started before this calamity. Set ourselves securely (but, not indulgently) in our own lives, so that we could help others.

There’s nothing I can give in return, save my unyielding promise to pay forward.





Blue Bears Are Not Always Sad

So, I got up this morning with this plan in my head. 3am. No time to waste. First half of the day, work up a bear to sell to pay off my taxes, second half of the day, knit up a bear on order. I got off to a good start! And I was enjoying the quiet early morning. Imagine me in my pajamas, knitting furiously in a dimly lit room, listening to Coast to Coast AM on the radio. This episode was about a man who had recorded “Bigfoot” noises in the woods in the middle of the night. Ha! Ok, sounds hokey, but they take all of that very seriously on Coast to Coast. And you find yourself beautifully sucked in because of that. Like sitting around a campfire listening to ghost stories….

IMG_2676In the crisp new hours of the morning I whipped up this guy with yarn donated to me from the UK. Blue…..And what a great blue. It kinda shifts like denim, from lighter to dark, from here to there. There’s only, and if you’d like to have him, click here. He’s ready to ship with a signed card by me.

I’m surprisingly optimistic right now. With so much on my shoulders, I should be collapsing. But, that’s not really how I’ve dealt with things is it?

I rarely speak with my father. He wasn’t too sure of me when I was younger. I was frail, wraith-like, runty and boney. I wasn’t a strapping, strong determined man like he was. But, with what he has seen me witness, accomplish, and pursue, and just the manner in my tone, he told me recently, “Life keeps whipping you, and you barely flinch. I’m very proud of you.”

With just a hint of a smile, I said quite clearly, “Thank you. I appreciate that.” Sounds kinda cold (but it was kinda meant to).

Sometimes battling your dilemmas means battling your own emotions. Not everything requires you to drop into dramatics. Sometimes, you have to take it on the chin, vie to win, and leave your crying for another day.

So, I may feel a little blue now and then. But, I will knit my little heart out every day to build a rose colored world if I have to….

Latest on taxes: $4,301 left to go.

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Taxing Woes

Unfortunately, I was denied a payment plan by the IRS. But, that’s ok. I’m just going to start flooding their offices with money orders of any amount I have on hand at the time. If I have $5, boom….money order sent. Next day, should I be blessed with $50, then I’ll send that, too. Everyday I have income from sales of my bears, t-shirts and books will be turned into a money order the following morning and sent off to Kansas City. I’ll force them into a payment plan. What are they going to do, refuse my money??? My hope is that before they have time to REALLY get nasty and come after me, my debt of $4400 will be so chipped away, they’ll have no choice but to back off. So, I just have to knit, write, and sell my butt off.

IMG_2662I have this little bear I worked up from the skein of yarn leftover from the last bruised bear I did. People really like him, and he does make something of a personal statement. He’s ready to ship with a signed card by me.

I better make some more coffee….

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Why You Should Never EVER Learn to Knit

To begin with, it takes too long, right? You want to knit a sweater or a pair of socks, but damn….a few rows in and you realize that this is going to take you a while. Well, that doesn’t really mesh well in our current “on demand” society now, does it? No. Easier to go get a mass produced darling that you can wear this evening. Why doesn’t someone come up with STREAMING knitting? Isn’t there an app for that? Can’t I app-knit a pair of socks? My app does everything else for me. Why won’t it KNIT for me? So basic….

You’ll be forced to slow down for a minute and pay attention. That’s just ridiculous. This is a fast paced world. You need to be on top, always push others out of the way to get what you want…..whatever it is you want!  Knitting just slows you down. Can’t imagine what knitters are thinking. They’ll never get ahead!

You’ll be forced to spend time alone with your thoughts. Foolish to think that you could ever be pulled away from social media. If you’re not constantly connected and being looked at, then how are to know what’s trending now, or what’s important? Look, you can’t honestly be asked to step away from what the Kardashians are doing to knit? What are you? CRAZY? OMG….I just missed what has happening on the RHWOBH while writing that. Meh….I’ll stream it from Hulu.

DSCF2040Knitters are always old women with shawls, blankets and baby booties that fit too tight. Who the hell wants to be in that club? Yeah, I know, we’ve seen svelte guys with beards and hot chicks with purple hair knitting, but it’s only because it’s “ironically” cool. I mean, he “literally” knit that beanie he’s wearing. “Literally.”

You have to learn how to read patterns. It’s like….duh? Why would I want to learn algebra again? Knitters have letters like SSK and K1FB…..who the hell knows what that even MEANS in a text? SMH…..

I don’t think Beyonce knits. So, that’s a no-go.

People stop and ask you, “What are you making?” And you’re like, “Ummm, did I accidentally ‘friend’ you?”

So, you should never learn to knit because you’ll be taken away from social media, won’t have what you want right when you want it, will always have to WAIT for something to be done when you can just go buy it, will be forced to spend time alone like the unpopular people, and you’ll be forced to learn something new. GAWD! I can’t find a stupid knitting emoticon!
Don’t bother learning to knit. You’ll only learn patience, solitude, self awareness and a (pffff) “skill.”

Thaz jus stupid imo

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Knitters of the World, Unite and Write

Ever since this blog began, I’ve commented often on how knitting saved my life, how with a simple teddy bear I pulled myself out of homelessness. And in the time I have written this blog, I have received a number of emails from people sharing their own experiences about how knitting changed their lives for the better, or saved them from bitterness, or brought them to a place of selflessness that we all can only hope to achieve at some point.

All of those stories need to be shared in a bigger way, a more collective way, because I realize more and more every day that although I might inspire people to share their stories, it is YOU that have inspired me to keep going, to never look back, to do some benefit with these talents of mine, and make them meaningful. You have kept my soul alive all this time, you’ve kept these hands working hard with either a quick click of my needles, or the fast tapping at this keyboard.

I wanted to write a book about these stories….and then I realized, no no no…..My next book has to be, HAS TO BE, OUR book. We’ve gotten this far together and there is no way that I could even conceive of moving forward without all of us being involved. So, you and I are both going to write the next book.

Here’s how this works. Send me your stories to madmanknitting@gmail.com. We’ll read over them and select 10 to 15 of the most moving, or most poignant. Not the 10 to 15 best. This is not a competition. I’d like the book to about 300 pages. I’ll collect those stories into an anthology, a collection of essays with an emphasis on how knitting made your life better, or bettered the lives of others. I really want them to be optimistic and hopeful. I want these stories to inspire people outside this blog on how you can use your hands, your talents, your crafts to make the world a much better place. Or how your soul flourished when you realized your knitting made you softer, kinder, more patient.

And here’s the cool part. You get paid. Lulu will distribute the royalties from all sales, so they won’t come to me first and I dole them out. No. At the end of the month, all authors involved are distributed their own payments from sales made through all the major distribution channels, including kindle sales. We all get the same equal amount cut to us on the same day, directly from the distributor. You get a direct deposit, or a check. Either way, everyone receives equal amounts paid by the distributor.

I don’t have a title for the collection yet. Again, that’s something WE would all come to an agreement on. Because this is OUR book. OUR story……

Let’s go! Get to writing those emails! Go! GO! I’m looking at a print date somewhere near the end of June! Why so fast, you ask? Because I’m inspired to let the rest of the world know about the people that saved me.

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Evil Queen (part 2)

I jumped right in. My voice changed for each of the characters, my expressions, my eyes would hint at foreshadow, my arms would move as though I was orchestrating the words as symphonic syllables.

vlcsnap-2016-05-11-19h14m52s907I was telling this story about an evil queen that was intent on finding the perfect man to be at her side. You see, when she had been a young evil princess she fled the rages of her father, The King, of course, into the hidden storage rooms of the castle. There she stumbled upon the painting of a long dead warrior that had fought for a previous king a century before. She stared at him daily, loving him, brushing her hand against her face. She escaped into his portrait, imagined the two of them together, fled to his safety when her father burst into maniacal fits of madness. Now that she was older, was now queen, and as evil as they can be, she restructured her kingdom around the long dead warrior she was so fond of. Statues were erected, buildings were renamed, and men were brought to the castle daily for her inspection. She even purged her kingdom of any man with fair hair and blue eyes. She wanted olive skinned men with almond shaped brown eyes, rolling tresses of mahogany curls on her man. She was looking for his likeness, his double. Alas, it wasn’t working. No one looked exactly like him. So she began to conspire with a witch to bring the real warrior back to life, confusing life and death, and placing her soul and emotions on physical aesthetics, on the material, the flesh. Spending her kingdom’s fortune on the impossible.

The bell rang. Class over.

My classmates applauded and I blushed in response. I was so happy. So proud. And I knew what Herr Schmoll was up to. He knew I was a dramatic little shit, always trying to get attention, dressing in modern goth, hair teased, eyeliner, long black boots. He was channeling those dramatics into something viable that I could work with, that would benefit me. Being asked to be looked at is one thing. Sucks when those asked to look at you go, “What am I looking at?”

My classmates applauded with sad looks and disappointment, gathering their books, pouting as they left the classroom, “I wanna know what happens to the evil queen.”

Herr Schmoll smiled, gave me a thumbs up and said, “Keep going.”

Every Monday I’d get to read the next chapter to my class, and every week I made absolutely sure they wanted more. They were absorbed with the story, my reading of it, my theatrics and inflections. Every one wanted to know what happened to the evil queen. They’d pass me notes in class, “So, what did she do next? Tell me, I promise! I WON’T TELL ANYONE!” Herr Schmoll suggested I keep them on their toes, finish the story on the last day before semester break.
vlcsnap-2016-05-11-19h19m35s476I would wander around Berlin, hear music, sit in clubs and watch the characters roam the room, all while writing what I saw. I’d slip inside Cafe M for a coffee, watch people, notice a woman walk and say, “The evil queen would never walk like that….” Smoke eddies would lift around me, move sensually through the air like the tail end of a soul before it diminishes into hell and I’d say, “That’s how the evil queen smiles.” A glass would drop and crash to the ground, and I’d write in my little notebook, “That’s how the evil queen laughs.” And when a man came to meet his lady at his table, I’d be sure to write later, “That will never happen to the evil queen…..” Siouxsie was my model, my great muse. Her music, her look. She was my evil queen:)

I’d be handed a joint, but couldn’t put my pencil down long enough to smoke it. So, my career with hash ended rather fast. I was inspired, not by the euphoria of a drug, but by the encouragement of my teacher and my peers. Smiles were the rewards I required when reading. Actually writing the work filled me with a high unlike any substance I’ve ever come across. Spending time with characters, tapping into my imagination, and being creative took me on a path at such a young age that I never turned back.

With Herr Schmoll’s insight, I learned to write what I felt, not what I was told. Can you imagine if he had initially said, “Screw your story, write the damned journal like I told you!” But, no….And I owe so much of my past, present, and future to him. He encouraged me to find the brightness in my imagination. He challenged me and gave me a place to begin. It’s one thing to imagine. It’s another to create into reality that vision, to give it life and allow it to belong to someone else’s imagination.

And what of the evil queen? Of course, the story was much more detailed and rich than the two paragraphs I used to describe it. But, she got her wish. She and the witch successfully resurrected the lost warrior. Upon his return from the dead, he fell in love with the evil queen’s beauty. She was exceptionally beautiful. And don’t forget, she could have any man she wanted, but this was the man she wanted, why she had spent all of her money, demanded parades for him, installed holidays to honor him. And now she had him, the perfect face and body….however, she had not counted on one thing very important to the superficial minded: his soul, his emotions, his identity. After seeing her evil shine through, he refused her, dismissed her as grotesque and horrid, “But, I am the most beautiful woman in the kingdom.”

vlcsnap-2016-05-11-19h16m27s054“My beauty, you are, if anything, ugly.”

She put him back in his grave, stabbing him violently, before collapsing into a rage, hitting the walls around her, shredding the comfort of anyone near her, her shrieks of anger and pain cracking mirrors, her violence sending the last of her subjects into hiding, the dead warrior’s blood caking on her.

A dead kingdom as her reign, a collapsing castle as her domain, she walked away. Just walked out of the front door of the castle, to never come back, to never be queen of a vibrant land again, hiding in the woods never to be seen again. Sometimes you don’t need to know what happened to someone after they failed. You just need to know they failed. 

The villagers had won their battle with the evil queen. They raided the castle scrambling for any scraps of value they could find. And just off in one of the darker rooms of the castle, a young man hating life and searching for fame and fortune found the portrait of a beautiful queen. Greedily, he clung to it, became enamored with it and whispered quietly, “She’s perfect…..I need to find her.”

And that was how I started writing.

Well, I’ve taken up enough of this blog on a beautiful tangent. I enjoyed myself. I really did. What came as a thought this morning about what I should blog about reminded me of why I pen as I do. Which leads me to my big announcement.

YOU are going to be my next book. I’m going to explain more in my next post, but you have inspired me with your emails and your comments. You have stories to be told. WE are going to write a book together.

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Evil Queen (part 1)

I love anniversaries, and red letter dates, moments of occasion, and calendar celebrations. They can remind us of good times, and memorials. But, above all, they serve to remind us of where we’re from, what happened to bring us here, and why it is important to always move ahead. And I don’t mean only holidays. Our challenges and our blessings are all wrapped together in dates circled in memo books, diary entries, personal memories.

Did I ever mention when and how I started writing? Don’t worry, this won’t be a long story.:) In 1989, I was a wee and curious thing in high school. My best friend (Steve Light, where are you???)  and I had become little darlings at a Goth club in Berlin called “Linientreu.” There we meet a slew of richly caricatured souls, including a young English nurse by the name of Rose. She had this short pixie haircut, the kind that looks playful and sensual if framing the right face. But, Rose never tended to it, so she always ended up at the club dressed amazingly, dancing languidly and proud, make-up worthy of glossy fashion print, but looking like someone had just taken sheers to her head. Odd that I remember that about her, but that’s how the scenery of memory works.

Anyhow, she invited Steve and me to a party at her cramped flat one evening. It was in Kreuzberg. If you know anything of Berlin in the 1980’s, you will know that Kreuzberg was a dangerous place to go. But, I was 16 and adventurous, daring and curious. Every young man should be at that age. He should test the limits, see where “too far” really is. It’s no different than really learning what “hot” is when you touch a stove for the first time as a tot. You have to experience it to know how dangerous it is.

We arrived at Rose’s closet of an apartment. I only make mention of how small it was, because of the number of people she had invited. Perhaps 50 people crowded themselves into a flat you could shove on a shelf. She said quickly as we entered, “LOOK! My American boys! Yay! Now…..coke is there in that corner, there’s a little smack in that corner, and don’t be greedy, and some hash on the balcony…..” Big smiled she was at how much of an accommodating hostess she was proving herself to be.

I looked at Steve, and Steve in turn, looked to me. Both of us rigid and wide eyed with shell shock. I asked Rose nervously and asked with one of those titter of a laughs that exposes how nervous you are, “Got any beer?”

Her scream was undiluted, and caused a few cracks in the wall, I’m sure. “HEY! HEYYYYYY!…..(all went quiet, all eyes on her)…..did anyone bring any beer?”

Not a peep. She turned back to us as her smile brightened and said, “Sorry, fellas! Enjoy!” She then danced off back to her guests as I turned quickly to Steve and said, “We’ll go to the hash. I’ll be David Bowie, you be Iggy Pop.”

And there we were on the balcony, lovingly enjoying the breeze, the view of the bright city lights when we smoked hash for the first time. It must have slowly crept up on me, because for the longest time I felt like I was smoking nothing more than a cigarette and telling myself how harmless this really was. Having to pee, I found my way to the restroom. And while unbuckling my belt, I could hear the music. I’ll never forget it. It was Siouxsie’s, “Red Over White.” And suddenly I started seeing all of these scenes in my head, could feel my imagination truly take hold, could see a story line develop. Without batting a lash, I looked around thinking how desperately I had to write this down. I found an eyeliner pencil and a roll of toilet paper and just sat on the floor and started writing. Just scribbled on the toilet paper as he rolled and rolled out. Then the next song came on and my story shifted. New ideas, new scenes, new twists to the plot. I must have been there a good 10 minutes before a knock on the door got up me up…..clutching an eye liner pencil, trailing a roll of toilet paper behind me.

I screamed at Steve, “You HAVE to read this.”

“You wrote this? That’s good…..what happens to the evil queen?”

“I don’t know. I’m waiting to see what the next song is….”
siouxsie_siouxThen it became a beautiful routine. Steve and I would gather some hash from Rose, go back to my apartment, smoke something, and Rose would dash in a flash (always after an American GI). We’d pull out our records (ha! Remember those?) Steve would play DJ, and I would write. When done, he would read, encourage me, and there ladies and gentlemen, I was set free. Oh, and what freedom I found in the vinyl scratches of Diamanda Galas, Skinny Puppy, Einsturzende Neubauten, Anne Clark, Alien Sex Fiend, Dead Can Dance, This Mortal Coil, and of course, Siouxsie.

Other friends would come over to visit, see the writing on my desk and in mid sentence, their eyes would scan the desk, they’d mumble a few salutations, then go quiet.

“I just started writing that,” I’d say proudly.

Then they would have a seat.

I’d ask, “Wanna get something to eat?”

“Hold on….I’m reading this.”

“What do you think?”

“Well, it’s good.” Pauses as they continue scanning the writing on the desk before looking to me with curiosity. “I wanna know what happens to the evil queen….” Obviously.

It was here that my AP English teacher assigned us to write weekly journals and pass them in. After class I told him I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to journal. “Well, that’s the assignment. Figure out a way to do it.”

“Well, I was thinking maybe I did a serial instead. Maybe I’d write a new chapter every week with a cliffhanger to keep the story going?”

Man, you should have seen the look in his eyes. As though he were proud, but still asked, “Why not a journal?”

“It’s just not what I want to write, but I want to write something. I have an idea in my head.”

He smiled, placed his hand on my shoulder and said, “Ok. If it’s a good enough story, I’ll let you keep going, but after two weeks, if it’s not grabbing my attention, you need to go back to journals.”

“Fair enough.”

He collected our journals (and my first chapter on Friday), read them over the weekend, then gave us his thoughts on Monday. Monday morning I rolled into class and he pulled me aside. “I want you to read this out loud, in front of the class.”


“I want to see what you do with it. It’s dramatic, expressive. I want to see how you deliver it to your classmates.”

I stood there, frozen, staring at my classmates, a tickle in my throat, cute football player’s biceps distracting me. I looked to Herr Schmoll, then down at the page, cleared my throat and…..

(To Be Continued…..with a major announcement in part 2).:)

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