All posts by Matt Waldrop

Confessional

I write every day, and yet people continue to tell me that I need to write. I do write. I need to write. I’m compelled every day to speak my mind, and people listen. People seem to get something out of what I write, and I …

I want to say that I enjoy doing it, and I do. I love it. It’s cathartic and wonderful and connecting on a level that I don’t think very many people get to experience for themselves on a daily basis. It’s breath-taking. Preachers get it, I imagine. And politicians. But writers? Yes, all of us. We get it. As we’ve all become writers in our pockets, we’ve come to know. Like. It feels good. You know you’ve connected. Pleasant little instant feedback loop. (Until it isn’t. You get to control that, you know.)

I want to say that it feeds some part of me that I can’t explain. But I think I can. I wasn’t an only child, but my only sibling, my sister Debbie, was nine years old when I was born. I had a cousin who lived next door who was only six years older, but for the most part, there just weren’t a lot of kids around my age who I got to share with. Share toys. Share experiences. Share explorations of the world. And thoughts. Big thoughts. And little ones.

We’re the sincere ones. The raw nerves. We’re those people who feel passionately about little things and really just want to share with you some of what we see. But we can be tender. That, among other things, makes us strong over time. We’ve seen much, and we’ve learned. We’ve been alone often, but we have much to share and love sharing it. You’ve known us. We’re in the core of every specialist community.

And some of us—many of us—write. #sincereones

But ultimately, I write because it’s a part of who I am. I’m not a half bad speaker, but I do my best composition alone in a quiet and comfortable space. Coffee. Home. This is where I write best to the world at large. At home. In my space.

Gratitude 25–27

I’ve missed a couple of days of confessing my gratitude, but I’m grateful to have maintained it.

I’m grateful for books. My grandmother was an avid fiction reader as are my sister, my six-day-older cousin, and I. My mother loved encyclopedias. My dad was always a newspaper and magazine guy. Reading has always been a liberty that I could enjoy pretty much at my own discretion. I suspect that I scandalized more than one librarian in my youth, but my parents were surprisingly laissez-faire when I was very young. And I was, as I’m sure you could guess, quite precocious. This led to harsh reprisals once it caught up with me, but as a young child, I was able to read voraciously. Everything Coleman Library had to offer. Then Memorial Library. Everywhere I’ve gone, libraries have been my refuge, and I’m grateful for them.

I’m grateful for color. I sincerely weep with those who, on trying on glasses that allow one to see a full spectrum of color for the first time, are unable to contain their emotions. I can’t imagine. I love color. It’s everywhere. Light and dark. Vivid and subtle. And there are so many interesting ways to play with color. I love folks like Vivian Hoxbro, Kaffe Fassett, Lynne Vogel, Claudia McClean, Sophie Digard, Maie Landra, Gina Wilde, Carla Kohoyda-Inglis, and whoever is responsible for the palette at ShiBui. I love people who, in their work and play, make me stop and look. I’m grateful for quilts and spinning fiber and looms and every possible tool one can use to play with color.

Which means, ultimately, that I’m grateful for art. Its expression and its craft. Pastels under your fingernails. Paint on your pants. Clay in places you’d as soon not realize you have places. Getting your hands dirty. Making a mess. Art.

Awry

I was born to be an evangelist.

Look at me. Those were the first words out of my mouth. I’m sure of it.

I love to talk. I love to be engaged. I love to interact with other people.

Over here. That was another big one. Come look at this.

I’m full of them.

I’ve always wanted people to see the things I see. It’s maddening for people around me. I get that. I can spend a good fifteen minutes on a really good yarn pic. And I have to repost that shit. It’s required. You spend fifteen minutes drooling over something? You repost. Porn rules apply.

Right. We were speaking of evangelism.

You can probably see where this went awry.

I’ve always questioned everything. It’s in my nature—sometimes very much to my own amazement. How many of you know how to tat? (Hush. Hush. I know. A bunch of you. I’m making a point to the Muggles.) I get involved in things. I metaphorically wallow around in them. Make them mine. Get my stank on them. And theirs on me.

It’s what we do. Car nuts? Gun nuts? Yarn nuts? Color nuts? I’m not saying it’s all the same, but it possesses some similar traits. Ok?

Well, I do that with pretty much everything I touch.

Right now, those things are primarily centered on things that I have to have. Food, shelter, clothing, and entertainment. And yes, I firmly believe that joy is a fundamental requirement of life.

Oh, and there’s one other really big thing. Thing, I say. My boyfriend who will remain nameless on this blog. I want you all to come back, he’s in a place where it’s dangerous to be gay, and I want him around long enough to be able to join me in The US. Also, I’d like The US to be a welcoming place to him when he’s ready to immigrate.

I have a tendency to talk about queer, liberal, geek shit as well as shit of various flavors in myriad combinations, so I sometimes get flamy comments. It’s cool. Ignore them. I’ll delete them as I find them. That’s not what this platform’s for.

And no, that doesn’t mean that I’m going to automatically delete anything I don’t like. But I reserve the right to do exactly that. If you want an open forum, go someplace else. I’m not having it here. My house. My rules. And generally, my rules are pretty liberal. (Get it?!?)

So, Crowing Ram’s back. I can’t say that I know exactly where this is going. But I’ve had friends tell me that I need to be doing more writing. When asked, they said I needed to be doing it someplace other than Facebook. I totally respect that. So, this.

When we were last really here together all at once, things were very different. Hell, it was most of a decade ago. Life’s gone on. The archives are here if you want to look back. I do from time to time. There’s some good stuff in there.

There’s also a lot of bad stuff, and I’m not being maudlin about this. I’m delighted to see how much I’ve grown. How much I’ve improved. One of the lessons that I’ve tried to offer all of my students, customers, and patrons is that one of the most difficult things for an adult to be is a beginner. We’re used to knowing how things work, and we pride ourselves on it. So, being fumble-fingered at anything runs against the grain. I believe it’s one of the fundamental reasons that knitting communities form. The shared experience of overcoming one’s fear and vulnerability in that moment of learning is emotionally charged. People see and honor each other’s journey. That’s powerful.

So, seeing my own mistakes laid out behind me isn’t as disheartening as it might be. They got me here. They taught me thousands of ways not to do things in the future. And ultimately, I’ve gotten a hell of a lot right, too. Maybe not men or money, but I’m still working on those.

I expect that this will be a broader stage than what I’ve played on before. I intend to share cooking, fiber stuff, books, and living in a really cool place when you don’t have children or pets. Is this going to be a daily thing? Maybe. If not, that’s cool too.

Southern-style pinched biscuits: trial and error

All of my adult life, I’ve been a bit phobic about making the pinched biscuits my mother made at least daily when I was growing up. She showed me her process (there was no recipe) repeatedly, and every batch I made was a crushing disappointment (to me, anyway).

Fast forward thirty years, and I’ve been making my own bread—amongst other things—for the last several months. At first, I had to. I couldn’t afford to buy groceries for a while immediately following my contract ending in June. But I’ve come to genuinely enjoy the process as well as the result.

So tonight, on a whim, I made biscuits. The term we used as kids was cat heads: lumpy, unattractive biscuits. Nothing at all like Moma’s smooth perfect little morsels. But you know what? The interior was perfect, and I learned a thing or two.

And there was no fear. None. I just went into the kitchen and made biscuits like there was nothing to it.

And truly? There was nothing to it. I needed to fail. I’ve said it a hundred times a hundred times to students in knitting classes. Adults hate being beginners, but it’s good for us. We don’t know everything. We can’t know everything. But especially as adults, we really have to work against thinking that because we haven’t done a thing that we can’t do a thing. We’re probably going to screw the pooch a time or twelve, and that’s ok. We learn from our mistakes. Sometimes a little. Sometimes a lot.

So tonight, I made cat heads. They taste good, and the crusts are fucking divine. The interiors are dense but fluffy. The taste was ok. The shapes definitely need some work. And the sizes were all over the place. Now I have ideas for how to improve them. For next time. Because practice may not make perfect, but it brings us closer to where we really want to be.

Pesto Vegetable Pasta with Grated Incanestrato

I drove into Rockford to visit Valli Produce and picked up some small (roughly racquetball-sized) eggplants along with a jar of prepared pesto. I also got several cheeses including one that I’d never heard of before: incanestrato.

Today for lunch, I cooked one of the eggplants sliced with a handful of sliced mushrooms and halved cherry tomatoes, julienned sun-dried tomatoes and shallot, and a single fat scallion in a large skillet along with a large dollop of the pesto. I served that over whole wheat spaghetti topped with a generous grating of incanestrato.

I’m generally not a great fan of licorice or anise flavor, but there was a sharp but very pleasant note of licorice in what I’m assuming was the cheese (seems unlikely it came from the pesto). Incanestrato is a hard Italian cheese made from cow or cow and goat milk, salt, and herbs. It seems plausible that one of those herbs might be anise, and if so, I’m impressed. It made a believer out of me. I really enjoyed even that specific part of this dish.

UPDATE
Turns out it was the pesto, but the cheese is still excellent.

Purpose and the Fear that Confounds It

I have floundered as a writer. I’ve been cautious and cognizant that, in these days of constant scrutiny and universal access to practically everything we publish (and much we’d prefer not to), anything I wrote could make it more difficult for me to find work somewhere down the road. So I’d sit at my keyboard looking at a blank screen and just … well, flounder.

Certainly there are less personal things I could write about. Come on. After over fifteen years in an industry that the majority of my readers support, there are limitless topics of interest that I have working—even extensive—knowledge of. But those things don’t generally inspire me to write. They inspire me to work. They inspire me to teach. They inspire me to create, design, and even to publish, but that isn’t the same thing.

Some of the most passionate, eloquent, and effective prose I’ve ever written has been in social media posts dealing with current events—topics that truly matter to me and that feel critical in this time of social and political unrest. I write from the heart about race, sexuality, abuse, and abuses. I write about struggle and heartache. I write about loss and finding one’s way after loss. What I write about, put simply, is life. That’s where my writing shines.

So that’s the point to which I’ve come, yet again, to either pick up the torch and let its light shine thoroughly onto the things that hide in the shadows or to walk past yet again and to let those creeping things in the dark continue their ugly work. I choose light. I’m no Herodotus. I’m neither Edward R. Murrow nor Molly Ivins. Hell, I’m not even Arianna Huffington. But I have a torch. And I’m here to use it.

The Plural of Phoenix

I have had the great fortune of falling many times over the course of my life. The knees of the soul I walk around in are scarred and more than a little swollen. I’ve been known to use a cane, and frankly, it’s a very good thing that there are friends beside me to keep me upright on occasion.

This is reality, and as my own personal bard once put it, reality is Ralph.* It doesn’t make great fiction, but it’s definitely inspiring—educational, even. It’s ridiculous and nonsensical and utterly mind-boggling. And it keeps going.

This is a blog. It isn’t the first that’s resided here, and it may not be the last. It is, however, a new beginning. An exciting one.

I’m a writer, you see—and a fiber artist, a graphic artist, a designer, an editor, a geek, an entertainer, a hard ass and big softie, a patron of all things delightful, a pretty damned good cook, and a dreamer of impossible dreams. But ultimately, I write. I talk. I run my freaking gob until the cows come home. And amazingly, some of you actually listen.

What comes next? Well, life does. Obviously. What does that entail? Ha! You’re funny. I don’t have those answers. But I’m mightily full of questions.

Shall we?

* From Lisey’s Story by Stephen King