A Stitch in Time …

Posted: December 5, 2013 in McTrip posts
Tags: , , , , ,

KnittingWorldWar2_LifeMagazine1941-746717“What’s up with the knife,” a fragile-looking teenager asks me at Starbucks, overhearing my request for the disposable utinsil.

“Self defense,” I say. “I hear it’s a bad neighborhood.”

Clearly I’m joking. It’s a flimsy plastic knife and this is Palm Springs, where the worst crime is wearing plaid shorts and a striped shirt.

He doesn’t give up. “Did you order a bagel?”

Dear god, I think, what does this child want?

“What are you knitting?” I change the subject. He draws yarn from a spool stuffed deep inside his coat pocket, never looking at the needles.

“A beanie.”

“Like the one you have on?” I ask. Yep, sure enough, he made that one, too.

I complement his work, wish him a good day, and retreat to the patio, alone, but not for long.

Within minutes he taps my shoulder and introduces himself. He asks if he can sit with me, the first of a barrage of questions ranging from how I cut my hand (he sees the band-aid) to what I do for a living.

To the last question, I wanted to respond: “I write about people who made bad decisions when they’re your age and feel the repercussions of those decisions when they’re my age.”

But instead I tell him, “It’s a long story.”

Time to turn the tables.

“So what do you do?” I ask.

Here’s what I learn. He’s 18-years old and a recent high school graduate, a detail he proves by whipping out a laminated, credit-card sized replica of his diploma. He’s lanky, a bit pasty, with shoulder-length hair which protrudes from underneath his homemade beanie. Although it’s not discussed, we’re both gay. Trust me, I didn’t have to ask him, our people just know these things.

He could pass for a runway model without much makeover. He speaks with confidence; his personality is bold, polite, inquisitive and playful. He seems to be your “normal” confused teenage kid who takes his circumstances in stride. And his circumstances are a bit unfortunate.

His father uprooted the family from Illinois after his wife (the lad’s mom) was killed riding on the back of a friend’s motorcycle. Apparently the driver thought it would be fun to “pop a wheelie,” which resulted in Mom tumbling off the back, head first, killing her instantly.

Dad soon found a new wife in Palm Springs (I didn’t ask for details) and currently works “sweeping floors,” he says.

So this kid, who doesn’t work or go to school, is hundreds of miles from his home in Illinois, with nothing more than hot chocolate and yarn to fill his day.

At least that’s what he tells me. His days consist of mornings at the coffee shop,  a mid-day walk, then back for hot chocolate and knitting in the afternoon. In other words, more of the same. And, I presume, more chatting with solo gentlemen.

“What’s your plan?” I asked.

“For the rest of the day?” he says.

“No, I mean for your life.”

“I want to have children.”

“Ah, okay,” I say. “And what’s your plan for that?”

“I don’t know. I’m not physically able.”

Yes, I know you don’t have a uterus, I thought.

“I mean how are you going to afford kids? They’re expensive.”

“I only want one.”

“One is expensive! What’s your plan to pay for raising one kid?”

He could sense I was getting agitated.

No plan, he admits.

“What do you want to do for work?” I push on.

“I haven’t figured that out yet,” he says with a toothy smile.

“What do you like to do?”

Turns out, he’s doing it right now. Knit.

You know you’re getting older when, at times like these, you feel compelled to intervene with some sage advice. I just couldn’t keep quiet. This kid might become society’s burden someday and right now I’m going to represent the interests of society and make him my project. At least until I finish my latte.

“You know what you should do?” I said, “cut hair. Your hands are strong enough to knit all day. And most importantly you aren’t shy. You have a great personalty. That’s half the battle. People go to their hairdressers, not just because they like the haircut, but because they like the stylist, as a person. A couple hard years of building up a clientele and you’ll be set for life.”

He ponders in silence. No push back yet, so I push on.

“You should look into cosmetology school. I’m sure there’s one here in town.”

Hey look, a laptop right in front of me. Let’s Google!

I find a local school, give him the phone number and tell him to call today, if he thinks it might be an option. Keep me updated. Here’s my email address.

Having done my good deed for the day, I wish him farewell and return to my vehicle, where I slice a piece of my mother’s homemade zucchini bread with my newly acquired plastic knife.

I get an email from him later that day. He made the call to the cosmetology school. He’s got a phone appointment to look into financial aid later in the week.

Wow, if this kid were my son, that would never happen. I don’t have kids. But I can’t imagine having a 10-minute conversation with my teenager, about the direction I think he should take his life, and 30 minutes later hearing that he agrees, and has already taken action. Has that ever happened to a father on Earth?

Since moving to Los Angeles I have met hundreds of people younger than me (I strain my brain trying to think of friends who are older). I find myself repeating the same sentiment to these young friends, that they’re not as young as they thin they are.

Use your advantages, in this case intelligence, attractiveness and personality,  to get more out of life than knitting needles and hot chocolate.

(To be continued…)


  1. Mark Saxenmeyer says:

    SO MUCH BETTER! awesomely better. seriously. except you spelled cocoa wrong.

  2. Jim McTrip says:

    I thought that’s why I had an editor.

  3. morgan says:

    Bravo… have you considered education/counseling in your youthful age yet? That is a textbook engagement of a rudderless youth. Absolutely brilliant writing, especially this: “…and right now I’m going to represent the interests of society and make him my project. At least until I finish my latte.”

  4. troy patruno says:

    omg this is one of your best– i fully agree w Morgan! and i literally burst out laughing at the “decisions made at your age that you regret at my age” bit–LOLOL.

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