There’s something about New Orleans that, once experienced, makes you crave it down deep in your soul. It could be the historic old buildings in the French Quarter with their wrought iron balconies and gas lamps. Or, perhaps it’s the music and the food that belongs to this region. Maybe it’s the swamps and the close warm breath of a hot Louisiana night. Or perhaps it’s just the people - with their gaiety and laughter and overall love and gratitude for life itself. Whatever it is, New Orleans is enchanting and addictive. Once tasted – you are hooked.
I had thought that a quick visit to this city would be enough to satisfy my appetite, but I had been wrong. Sometime during my whirlwind tour, New Orleans had entrapped me like a new lover, and was holding me - a breathless captive – to its breast. Unable to leave with this newfound love blossoming in my heart I gave in to the siren’s call and became one with it.
That is how I found myself sitting on a bench in Jackson Square on a sunny October afternoon watching the tourists and listening to the bells ringing on the barges as they chugged down the muddy Mississippi River. At my feet sat my basket of wool, its colors exploding in the sunshine that tickled the fibers as they wound their way on to my needles and off again. To me, knitting and the fall season go hand and hand – and the beauty of New Orleans had inspired in me a need to produce an article of clothing that would keep it all close to me.
With my pattern tucked under my left knee, I worked in the mallard greens and the periwinkle blues, throwing in a dash of raspberry and pale yellow while the rainbow still waited its turn in my basket. I purled and slipped stitches, cabled and seeded – engrossed and happy and contented. I barely noticed the man who quietly slipped onto the other end of the bench, only nodding a hello as I changed my needles from the right hand to my left in preparation for starting another row. As I worked the intricate pattern, I was aware of the gentleman’s interest and again cast a glance in his direction, a slight smile crossing my lips as if in apology for my lack of conversation. He looked vaguely familiar, but the sunglasses and the newspaper boy’s hat did a lot to mask the eyes and the hair and I let that idea go – doesn’t everybody look familiar after a while?
Time passed as it will when you are knitting, and the sun had slipped a little lower in the clear blue sky, making the river look like dark slate. I fished around in my basket in the hopes of finding something close to that color to add to the palette on my needles. As I did so, I dislodged a ball of wool over its edge and I watched in disbelief as it rolled up against the feet of the quiet stranger on the bench beside me. With a smile he rescued it and handed it back, then complimented me on my knitting ability. As I blushed, I realized I recognized his voice – or at least I thought I did – and I stopped short, the splash of color forgotten in the palm of my hand, and took a good look at him. Dear God! I was sitting beside Brad Pitt!
I don’t know about you, but I get rather flustered in the presence of immortals. Having just come from a tour of Oak Alley where they had filmed Interview with a Vampire, I was still overwhelmed and under its spell. That is my excuse for immediately dropping the errant ball of wool. As we both hurriedly bent to save it from an untimely death underneath the feet of those passing in front of us – we knocked heads. Dropping my knitting, I covered my flaming face with both hands and let out a small moan. Of course the darling man thought he had physically hurt me and slid closer to examine my scalp for damages. The thought of his hands in my hair only made matters worse, and I wished fervently for the pavement to open and let me plunge directly into embarrassment hell. As the seconds passed with no reprieve in sight, I gave in and grasped my needles again, pasting a pale lipped smile on my puce colored face. I let him search my head for damages and smiled (again) gratefully at him then turned firmly back to my knitting as if it was the most important thing in my life. I remained calm as I slipped dropped stitches back onto my needle and took up the pattern once more, only to be stopped short again by the now nonstranger next to me.
“That is just amazing,” he said with so much excitement and awe in his voice that I almost dropped my cable needle. “You make it look so simple – and your combination of colors is confetti to my eyes.”
I looked at him closely to check if he was perhaps rehearsing some lines or just being patronizing. What I saw was something I recognized in others – a passion for creating – no matter how it is accomplished. “Well it is really quite simple once you learn the basic knit, purl techniques,” I said as casually as I could. Picking up my knitting again I showed him the basic knit and purl stitches, explaining how the needle goes into the front and into the back. Then, with a touch of reluctance – I offered him my knitting and asked him if he wanted to give it a try.
“No – No! Not me! I don’t want to ruin all your beautiful work!” he said as he raised his hands in the air and blinded me with the sun glinting off his teeth. Inwardly I heaved a sigh of relief and resumed knitting. I paused in midstitch when I heard him say “But!” It was said with such thought and was so long and drawn out, that I felt a little shudder run through me as I turned towards him, one eyebrow raised and a questioning look on my face.
“Do you think you could teach Angelina how to knit?”
I don’t think I gasped – at least I hope I didn’t let one slip out – but how many times does one get asked that question?
“Well,” and that was long and drawn out on my part too as I scrambled to think of what to say. “I have taught many people how to knit. In fact, I use to teach knitting. But some people just never catch on. So if you want a guarantee on that – I can’t give it to you. However, (and here I pretended to concentrate on transferring some cable stitches to allow my brain some time to think about what I was letting myself in for) I guess I could give it a try.”
“Great!” he yelled as he jumped up and grabbed my basket and piled my belongings on top. “Let’s get going!”