I was away for five days for the TNNA trade show, and spent the first two traveling to San Diego on the train with my friend Angela. This train ride was a long time coming. One reason I ended up worn out from so much work travel is that flying produces about as awful an amount of carbon emissions as anyone who lives in a household with only one car that barely gets driven can produce in a short time. There’s no denying that we collectively need to fly less (and yes, that we’ll have to deal with the consequence of the airline industry hurting because of it). I’m not content to say one thing and do another, and decided to prioritize flying to see loved ones instead of to work. I anticipate I’ll take fewer than half the number of flights in 2009 than I took in 2008, and I’ll feel guilt even about those. But anyway—the train!

We started at an hour I like to refer to as the ass-crack of dawn on Thursday, on a bus from downtown Vancouver to Seattle. There, we boarded the Coast Starlight and embarked upon the 35-hour trip to Los Angeles. We shared a 3.5′ by 6′ sleeping compartment that was comfortable in a womb-like sort of way. It was just big enough for us not to feel cramped, and no inch went unused. Our meals were included, and were far better than I’d anticipated. They seat you in the dining car with other travelers, and we made conversation with a couple from Seattle who were introduced to each other with a thousand miles between them by a nun known to each family, with a couple from Tennessee who have traveled the continent by train over the last twenty years, with a 70-year-old woman from Sacramento who is so enthusiastically involved in community life it seems she couldn’t be older than sixty, with a man from Oakland who teaches high-school math and told us about the riots that have recently rocked the city. With the opportunity at every meal to either make conversation or sit in awkward silence, I finally got over my shyness amongst strangers, and felt at ease making small-talk or explaining the Canadian health care system, which was a frequent topic as several people brought up Michael Moore’s film Sicko. I finished my Gathered Pullover [ravlink] (working the neckline no fewer than three times, thanks to Angela’s expert tips on how to fix it). We arrived in San Diego around 1AM on Friday night after changing trains in LA, and collapsed into our hotel room.

My Saturday at the show was like making up for two years of being crazy busy doing magazine work. I spent lots and lots of time with good friends and meeting new people, and got hardly any proper work done. I loved every minute of it.

I had a bit of an existential crisis that night. It was the first time I’d been to the show without a clear agenda. Back when I was freelancing the first time, I was meeting contacts at yarn companies so I could call on them for yarns for my books, and meeting editors and publishers to try to get more work. Then for the magazine I did nothing but an insane amount of work at the shows. This time around, I knew tons of people from all sorts of places, and I found I had no idea what exactly I wanted to accomplish while there. A lunch with Amy O’Neill Houck cleared that up, as I was reminded through our conversation that the best projects arise out of unhindered communication, and the rest of the show flowed smoothly from there. Which is, yes, to say that I do think some great projects will come out of the weekend. More on them when or if they start to materialize.

I did see some pretty great stuff. New friend Tara Jon Manning grabbed my elbow and took me bodily to the Handknit Heroes booth, where the artist (having flown all the way from England just for the show) and writer were launching the first issue of their comic about teenage superheroes who fight evil in handknits. I knew Tara and I would get on swimmingly after that, and we did. And I met the artist, Marc, in the airport on the way home, and we talked about comics, which was pretty awesome. I’m fascinated, see, and hadn’t ever known anyone who knew anything about the art or business. I’ll be subscribing to the comic, for sure.

Rosemary Hill had the projects from her new book at the Interweave booth, and I was amazed by their sheer beauty. On a similar note, I scored a copy of Kristeen Griffin-Grimes‘ new book, French Girl Knits, and it’s the first knitting book in ages that has my heart going pitter-patter over nearly every design. Cecily taught Jacqueline of Soak (yum) and Felicia of Sweet Georgia Yarns how to crochet, which was great fun to watch (I’m pleased with how artfully I passed the teaching off to Cecily, who’s got teh mad teaching skillz). Spending not enough time with Annie Modesitt and new friend Miriam Felton already has me itching for June. Poor Robyn Chachula‘s pipes burst in her house and she couldn’t make it, but I missed her!

As in June of last year, when I first allowed myself to accept exactly how important my yarn-industry friendships are to me, this weekend was about people and love and chemistry. Bolstered by my new-found comfort conversing with people I don’t know, I learned a lot talking to new-to-me friends and colleagues, and I feel refueled and grounded after reconnecting with many I’ve loved for years. After my brief crisis on Saturday, I’m excited to find my new place in the industry, and I know some grand adventures await.


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