As I make my way through the dark forest of the Internet, I find I’m guided through the underbrush by lights from the most unexpected sources, the latest leading to a weblog called The Panopticon.
The blog is written by Franklin Habit, a photographer, educator and website designer who lives in Chicago, is a Zen Buddhist, is perhaps of Middle Eastern descent, is gay and writes mostly about his passion, knitting. Not much in common with us sports-loving, beer-drinking, East Coast he-men who wouldn’t know a knit from a purl.
But, man, can he write. Which is why The Panopticon is the latest addition to our blogroll.
Franklin, truth be told, can get a little bitchy, but always filled with a humor that makes you want to be slapped by him:
Will you non-knitters kindly remember that knitting is not synonymous with ‘crafting’? Using ancient techniques to fashion warm socks, handsome sweaters, or ethereal lace from spun fiber is not akin to making trivets out of Popsicle sticks and Elmer’s glue.
In a recent snippet titled ‘Schadenfreude Corner,’ he writes:
Gym membership: $50/month
New, smaller Levi’s 501s that fit recently refurbished physique just so: $75
New heels for favorite cowboy boots: $35
Round of drinks for old friends at Charlie’s Bar on Saturday night: $35
Running into the ‘younger man’ that Mr. Ex dumped you for and realizing he’s easily put on forty pounds in the past year: Priceless
His account of meeting his imaginary friend, Dolores, a cheeky Romney sheep who shows up at his door one night, approaches high Gogolesque fiction in its dialogue. The sheep, it turns out, wants to be taken out for a drink.
Another conversation, this one real, with a man on a commuter train who pulls his daughter away from her fascination with Franklin’s knitting, shows a more serious side:
I honestly thought he was concerned that she might be bothering me, so I smiled and said, ‘It’s okay, I don’t mind questions.’
To which he replied, ‘You leave my kid alone!’ And then, not directly to me, but just as audibly, ‘Goddamned freaks.’
Rude? Oh yes. But this is not supposed to be another man-knits-in-public-and-attracts-idiocy story. Those are too common to be interesting in and of themselves.
This is a reminder to myself that my own brain’s not so different from his. I may not be inclined to tell a stranger on the subway she’s a freak, but it doesn’t mean I don’t think it. I do it all the time . . .. I look, I categorize, I judge. And just as I believe that man got me wrong in believing me to be a threat to his child, I’m certain I often misjudge others.
One of the aspects of elusive enlightenment I’m pursuing through Zen Buddhism is (I hear) a genuine understanding that between yourself and myself, there is no difference.
So who put us on to Franklin? My mother-in-law, Virginia Sunderman, 82, an avid knitter and Indiana native who has been known to have Republican proclivities. I am considerably to the left of her, but she felt the following note was necessary:
To prepare you, I will say that Franklin is a mid-Eastern-looking male who is gay, a knitter, very artistic . . . and has an imaginary friend, Dolores, who is a sheep.
I often think Virginia is a Democrat hiding in Republican trappings. But she may suspect that beneath my wool, a Republican is hiding. Well, maybe Franklin’s Buddhism has the answer.
– Sid Leavitt
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