Forget Kiwanis

When I was a little girl I played the piano. (Well, I still play the piano but the errors that were charming when I was younger are now just…well, sucky piano playing.) I had this Russian piano teacher with one bad leg and she used to strike her cane on the ground like a metronome while you were playing. I was scared to death of her. Back then…maybe now, though I like to think that we are less barbaric as a culture, when you completed certain levels of The Royal Conservatory you had to go perform and be judged at the Kiwanis festival. My piece was “Fur Elise” I practised and practised and practised. Determined to not screw up. Determined. The day of the exam came and my Mum and the Russian piano teacher took me to the thing and all the way there I had this bad pain in my stomach. We got there, and there was this huge crowd in the auditorium (or maybe it was three people…it felt like a huge crowd) and I listened to the other kids play…and then it was my turn.

I took a few moments and begged the Russian piano teacher to let me skip it. I begged my Mum. I told them I couldn’t remember the music (A lie. The music is burned into my memory banks for all time. I will be a thousand years old, I will have forgotten my name and I will still remember how to play Fur Elise. Trauma is like that.) I told them I couldn’t breathe (That was true), I told them that I was going to die. (Possibly not true.) My Mum told me it would be Ok and the Russian piano teacher told me that I “must lern to performe diz musik to be feedink my soul”. (That was a lie too. My soul is fine.)

Me and the horrible clenching pain in my stomach took to the stage, I played the first two bars…and then I screwed up. My colon attempted to exit my body…and despite this I ignored all the warning signs, smiled at the judges, felt all the colour drain out of my face and I started again. I played the first two bars…and then in a moment of hideous vibrancy… I threw up all over the piano.

You can understand then, that last night as I made my way toward the Museum of Textiles for the book launch where I would give the looming 20 minute speech…that when I felt that same pain in my stomach I panicked a little. I imagined myself walking down the stairs with my knitting and my speech, placing them on the podium, looking out at my friends, family and all the knitters, and then upchucking suddenly and completely in a way that people would be talking about on blogs for time immemorial.

I was so sure that this would be what happened that when I did actually stand in front of the podium, I moved my sock in progress to the side.

This is what I saw.

Crowd

Crazy eh? (They are holding up their knitting for you to see.) It’s like I woke up in a Salvador Dali painting. I talked (despite the persistently surreal feeling) and talked (despite the horror of realizing that time had completely ceased to pass and I was going to be there forever in some agonizing loop of trying not to throw up or say arse.) and then it was over. Then it got fun.

I signed books…I saw babies (Hi Lara!), I talked with knitters by the dozen. I forced asked Canadian Rock Stars to pose with knitting.

Ron

That’s Andy Maize, Ron Sexsmith, me (wine in hand. Clearly having a much better time) and Fab knitter/guitar player extraordinaire, Colleen Hixenbaugh who’s claim to fame in knitterly terms is that she helped my Joe find me yarn when By Divine Right toured China. (Please also excuse the rather perplexed look on Ron’s face. “Hold a sock?” We’re just trying to show the sock a good time Ron. Let it go.)

Joseandlily

Not confused by the sock holding at all (longtime readers will recall that they have held a sock before) are Lily Frost and Jose Contreras

Finally, my favourite part? The Wednesday night stitch and bitch at Lettuce Knit changed venues.

Nestofbloggers

Thanks to everybody who showed me such a good time (and each and every one of you who didn’t think I would throw up) , especially the Museum of Textiles, who were completely brilliant. Must go have a lie down now.

72 thoughts on “Forget Kiwanis

  1. See, we TOLD you it’d be fine. We TOLD you you’d do a great job. Listen to the Harlot Collective, dammit! We would not steer you wrong!
    (Ptui. I just ate a phenomenally nasty-tasting vitamin. Ick. Bleh.)

  2. Steph, could you please explain to my co-worker why exactly a picture of people holding up knitting would make me burst into tears? Because he’s not able to understand me sobbing out “I’m so happy for Stephanie!!!” even if it is very much the truth….

  3. Dear Yarn Harlot,
    While I’m very excited you did not throw up while giving your speech, can you please do me one favor? Can you please stop meeting Canadian Rock Stars I adore (Ron Sexsmith)? Because I don’t want to be jealous of you for reasons other than your fabulous knitting. Because right now I am seething with jealousy.
    Thanks.

  4. You wouldn’t dare throw up, you might inadvertently get some puke on all the yarn in the room.
    And, furthermore, Sexsmith? I thought you Canadians were repressed.

  5. Congrats on not throwing up! Bookbookbook, some flower basket lace and I will be flying to Cozumel tomorrow; despite the fact that daughter #1 broke out in poison ivy (yes. poison ivy.in April.), necessitating a late trip to the doctor for a big steroid shot. We shall toast you with margaritas and hope spring arrives in Toronto.

  6. You bring hope to all of us dealing with perpetual cleaning, “Mr. Washies,” work, soccer/dance/music lessons, and stolen moments of knitting. It’s like one of us done good. Heck, one of us did do good! Congratulations.

  7. Wonderful! Brilliant! Canadian rock stars, wine, knitting, babies, yarn…what more could any woman/man/llama/duck want? Bravo, Harlot! Bravo!

  8. Gee, your socks have way more fun than my knitting. It mostly sees the underside of my desk and the inside of my bag. However, I did take a scarf to see The Gates in Central Park last month.
    Congrats on the bookbookbook!

  9. It’s not often that I’m jealous of a sock, but there you are. There really is a first for everything.
    Nice traumatic incident with Fur Elise. I have my own tap dance recital that nobody will let me forget in which I stood off to the side of the stage with my arms crossed while my then-friend Brianne nudged me frantically. But ha. I wouldn’t dance (Don’t ask me).
    Congratulations on not regurgitating, we knew you could do it! Er. Not do it.

  10. Way to go, girlie. I never threw up playing piano, but I definitely had the know in the stomach thing going.
    You are as cute as the rock stars. Thank you for bring high culture and folk art to the rock scene. Thanks also for bring Sexsmith (the name AND the guy) to my attention. My maiden name was Smith, and I NEVER thought there was anything even possibly sexy about it.)
    Enjoy your talks. They’re going to have a hard time prying the microphone out of your hands one of these days.
    Best to you.

  11. Steph, you were brilliant last night. Honestly, we could barely tell you were nervous. The speech was awesome. The girls were sweet. Joe was even better in person. This couldn’t happen to a nicer gal! And for what it’s worth — my husband doesn’t think I’m so crazy after all!

  12. glad to hear i’m not the only one getting tear-y eyed about an audience full of knitters. now that would be a nerve wracking decision. which knitting project do I take to the bookbookbook event??!!??

  13. What Amie said (except no co-worker. I have to explain it to ME.)
    Note to self – bring comforting objects when Harlot Does Seattle (or either Vancouver, or Portland, or LA, or wherever on the West Coast tourtourtour takes you.) Sharp pointed sticks and wool, shorn from a sheep. Comfort objects.
    (Bookbookbook is wonderful, btw. Lots of quotables – and I mean from YOUR writing, more than the ones in italics…)

  14. I’m with Amie.. I’m sitting here tearing up in the same way I did when I read the intro to your book. I am SO happy for you. look at you. you are having fun. i bet you didn’t think you would, but darling, you deserve it.
    I’m so happy I need another tissue.

  15. That’s such a terrible story. Aparently you still haven’t fully healed. We all knew you could do it. I bet it was a great speech ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. I can feel the love and support in the room just by looking at the picture. Way to go Steph-I knew you could do it. *Sniffle, sniffle*

  17. Same here Amie, not sure why a picture of people holding up knitting would bring tears to my eyes, but it did…
    Congrats Stephanie!!! Ya did good!

  18. I have no doubt that you were smashing. Way to go! And you looked really cute too. Nothing like a room full of knitters to make you feel all warm and cozy.

  19. Congratulations on not throwing up. I’m looking forward to meeting you at the knitter’s frolic, where I hope that you will continue on your non-vomit streak.
    Can you please post the times you will be there on your tour info page? I need to schedule my laundry time around your appearance : )

  20. A humble recap of the highlights by a worshipful member of the audience:
    – Bookbookbook is now in its *3rd printing*.
    – Harlot wore new pants. They looked great. Sophistocated and stylin’.
    – Harlot had great hair.
    – Harlot was funny. Really, really funny.
    – Harlot spoke like a total freakin’ pro. (Even the occasional nervous laugh only served to make me feel better about myself by reminding me that Harlot is human.)
    – Harlot’s family all looked very thrilled.
    – Lene wore her tiger socks.
    – Kelly wore her Fleece Artist poncho.
    Incidentally Steph, you MUSTMUSTMUST tell the plastic knitting story everywhere you tour. I almost wet myself.
    You done good. Thanks for a great evening.

  21. Congrats on not puking ๐Ÿ˜‰ and having fun ๐Ÿ˜€ I hope I hope I get the opportunity to meet you. I carry your book around and read it when I need a little pick me up. Thanks!

  22. Way to go, Stephanie! I’m so excited for you and happy to hear you didn’t lose your cookies in front of all those happy knitters. My cell phone plays “Fur Elise” when it rings, next time I get a call I’ll be thinking of little Stephanie and her piano recital. Oh what stress can do to you!
    I love the pictures of rock stars holding knitting. I don’t know anyone else who could or would get them to do it.
    Hudson Valley in the fall, right? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  23. Now, if you could just get Fred Eaglesmith to hold up a sock, I think it would be phenomenal. But Sexsmith isn’t bad.

  24. Congrats Steph — I’m sorry I couldnt make it last night. I ended up helping a friend out at the last minute and wasn’t able to make it. Oh! Your book? On the FRONT TABLE at the Bay St. Indigo. I had it my hands to run up to the nearest employee to tell them that a) I knew you, and b) that you should be brought in for a book signing, but then thought that might be weird. Way to go with the crazy success!!

  25. Our company recently made the decorations for the Juno Awards set.
    Doing a Harlot Book Lauch set could have been our next project. Who knew?
    Congratulations. It appears you are successfully, and officially launched.

  26. I read Kathleen’s recap, and, uh, Stephanie?
    3rd printing in a single month counts as a best seller.

  27. I got my copy of bookbookbook today — and got one for my bestbestbest knittingknittingknitting friendfriendfriend.
    Congrats on the launch — glad you didn’t hurl.

  28. Must tell you … you are sooo popular here in Omaha, that my LYS has sold out of your book, but is expecting more. They are giving you rave reviews! You go, girl!!

  29. Congratulations! Now for a repeated request for your arse in California. Please. (Repeated attempts at bribery have not helped so will try politeness)
    And yes, those recital blunders will get you for a lifetime. I didn’t throw up at any of mine but I forgot a piece while up there once. I read off the accompaniest’s score and my flute teacher never ever made me play by memorization again. Ever.
    Yours is the best recital story I’ve heard so far.

  30. I had so much fun laughing about your recital that it almost dulled the pain of having no clue who the famous people you mentioned are. Even if you make me feel old at least you don’t make me feel short. There are always things to be thankful for.

  31. you are fabulous – and is way up there in my book of celebrities – and probably the best knitter..! Congrats and good luck on the rest of your tour stops! ๐Ÿ™‚ Lara and me.

  32. I’m so glad you didn’t throw up. Really really glad. I’m glad your piano teacher didn’t show up at the launch; that might have pushed you over the edge.
    Which Eros pattern is that? I just realized I have some Eros put away – do you know how I can get that pattern retroactively?

  33. The speech was wonderfully entertaining! I’m so glad I just happen to live in the right city to be able to go hear it.
    I went up to get my copy of BookBookBook signed and was so awestruck at finally meeting the Harlot that only barely managed to blurt out my name…glad I wasn’t the one who had to get up and give a speech!
    I don’t suppose you’d consider putting a copy of it up on the site…or would that mean you’d have to write a new speech if you wind up needing to get up and talk again?

  34. You are so amazingly brave. When I was doing my articles, we each had to do a week where we would run to the courthouse to make applications. My fear of public speaking was (and still is) so great that I would pay my fellow articling students to go for me. My career as litigator was never to be and I quite happily practice law behind a desk and not in the courtroom. Now … what about that Ron Sexsmith – how jealous am I?

  35. upchucking on the piano..now that’s classic! (so good to see someone else use that word besides my mom!) i just had the judges get up and leave the room in the middle of my piece…that was embarassing, and something i’ve never heard of anyone else suffering through. and to think i was a music major in college! another reason to love my knitting…it can’t get up and leave me in a room full of snooty nosed strangers, and if it so much as looks crossed eyed at me..i hold the scissors as a threat! I.HAVE.THE.POWER!…not some self important overly critical piano judge in a high school musical competition. fur elise(and others)….will remain forever in my heart…
    congrats on the speech…much nicer talking to knitters huh? lovelovelove the view from the podium!

  36. I didn’t go last night but I had to comment on this:
    “I imagined myself … and then upchucking suddenly and completely in a way that people would be talking about on blogs for time immemorial”.
    Oh how have times changed! We now worry about what people will be talking about on blogs, I just think it’s too funny.
    Congratulations.

  37. Good for you!!! I knew you could do it, and without incident, too! I must again insist that your people schedule a visit to Denver when you tour the west!

  38. How bitter am I that I didn’t get to go? Darn work.
    But I think I’ll make it to the Knitter’s Frolic on Saturday – it is right in my neighbourhood!
    And the pic of everyone holding up their knitting is so cute!

  39. Maryland State Piano Competition at Peabody Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. Fur Elise. Yup. Yup. Wish you could have seen me nodding my head just now. Didn’t throw up, but maybe if I had it might have convinced my (oh, she was fearsome, too) Armenian teacher not to make me do it again for the next eight years.
    Loved the pictures. Loved the stories. Love the idea that hopefully you’ll be here in Calif soon, and congratulations on the much-deserved success of the book!

  40. Now *I’m* having major performance anxiety. I fear our time in Vermont will be far less rockin’. But I can get you some kickass maple syrup and you can see the place of my birth — if there’s time and if the high water has gone down by then so we can get on the island. We can show your sock where Samuel de Champlain landed. And …um….then we can drive to New Hampshire. Maybe things will be more exciting there, but somehow I doubt it. (hee)

  41. Just a quick comment. Aren’t you a godless heathen? Maybe if you HAD performed…but then, we probably wouldn’t like you as much. I doubt concert pianists have hundreds show up with their knitting. But then again you could be playing with the Canadian Rock Stars.

  42. OK. Ron Sexsmith. Speaking With the Angel Ron Sexsmith. Holding your sock.
    Gotta love it. Will he be at Lord & Taylor so I can tell him how many times my hormonal post-partum self cried at that song? ‘Cause I know he really wants to hear about that. xoxo Kay

  43. Whoo! *holds up lighter and waves it about*
    Oh, wait. I don’t have a lighter.
    *holds up sock and waves it about*
    Now, you must listen to us Californians and come out here! ๐Ÿ™‚

  44. Oh Rana, I can’t stop giggling at the thought of us all going to hear Steph, with our hands up in the airs, swaying to the beat, our socks swaying with us…

  45. Just wanted to let you know that your book is quite the world traveller, it’s made it to Sydney, Australia.
    I’ve been reading bits to my partner, who has been amused. (He was less amused when I started reading him bit of Walkers’ Knitting Treasuries, but what the hell.)

  46. You are so COOL! Really. I know you don’t believe it but you are really, really cool.
    It’s documented in these pics for posterity.

  47. Oh, Steph! Barfing on the piano! Ouch. I had my own private (well ok, not *so* private ~ 50 proud-as-puffy-peacocks parents/grandparents etc were there too) piano recital disaster which involved sweaty palms and *someone* peeing on the piano bench…but we ain’t goin’ there.
    You did it. Knew you could. And would. Way to go!
    And, hmmph. Will the *rest* of us get to hear the plastic knitting story??

  48. Thanks Kathleen for the recap! Wish I could have been there, and am waiting with ya’ll to hear about any ~new book~ coming out, perhaps entitled “The Joy of Socks”?!

  49. I am in awe!! I would totally have puked, and then fainted on the spot. Look at all those smiling faces! They love you, they really love you. And from what I’ve read all this time on your blog, you SOOO deserve it. Ya done good, Harlot, and I am now facing reality, resigning myself to the fact that I will never acheive harlotdom. I will have to satisfy myself with some sort of shrine or something. Item 1 will be my signed copy of the bookbookbook, so I’ll be waiting patiently out here on the west coast while you drink wine and party with everyone else. Congratulations!!!

  50. Steph:
    Thanks for that great laugh this morning – I needed that. Playing Fur Elise on the piano will never be the same for me!
    I just got your fabulously funny book in the mail (from Amazon), and we were discussing it at my knitting bee “Saturday kNit Live – SNL” when fellow knitter Regina commented “Stephanie should make it a book on tape so we can knit while we’re listening to the book.” OK – that takes knitting too much to a new level.
    Happy knitting and great job on the speech.

  51. I’m about three days from having labor induced, and let me say this about put me in labor. I could so feel your pain, but you have a very amusing way of expressing it. Kudos to you! Hopefully, after this experience, your next public experience will not be so bad. After all you survived the television appearance and the museum appearance. What else could here be?

  52. Your book just came yesterday from Amazon, and I’ve been enjoying it. We’re all looking forward to your visit to Lord & Taylor’s. Be prepared for a big turnout! I’ll try and be up front, but not in the front row in case that feeling in your stomach comes back…

  53. You are very right, you did contribute to my Happy Birthday ๐Ÿ™‚ I just finished the book last night and I’m sorry I read it so fast ’cause now its done ๐Ÿ™ It was FABULOUS. Thanks for visiting me, I continue to read your blog faithfully. Many wishes for continued success. YOUR DOING GREAT!

  54. Sounds like you’re doing wonderfully! I can’t wait to get my hands on your book!
    But I also can’t help but wonder… How do you clean a piano after something like that? *grin*

  55. Hi Steph,
    Read the recap and went on-line to Amazon.ca. Did you know if you just type “knitting” and search under books, bookbookbook is the first one that pops up, so must be currently “most popular.” Congratulations. Can’t wait til mine comes in.

  56. oh my stars! i will remember your story the next time my little boy has a recital. sheesh. funny enough, i programmed my cell phone to ring with “Fur Elise” in honor of my piano-playing son. I’ll have to change the ringer when I come see you in NYC.
    Congrats on the tour! Ron Sexsmith? Woo hoo! He’s wonderful.
    Speaking of your tour, are there any more details about your NYC appearance at Lord & Taylor? I can’t find anything else about it.
    We anxiously await your arrival!

  57. A few things for you:
    1. Congrats on not puking. and Congrats on apparently rocking the house!
    2. It’s too late now, but the Royal Conservatory actually did individual exams where you played for 1 examiner – not sure which is more nerve wracking… having all those people there while you vomit, or playing for 1 person who is surely boring a hole into the back of your skull with their eyes. I did this 9 times.
    3. Degrees of separation through Canadian rockers: Stephanie Pearl-McPhee looks dazzling in photograph with Ron Sexsmith who presented an award onstage at the Junos with Matt Mays who has been in my house. How many degrees of separation is that? Is it three? So close and yet so far from the Harlot!
    4. Was at bookstore on Wednesday – the 10 books were down to 3!

  58. Congrats on surviving your speech/launch! My piano recital piece was Fur Elise also, and I wish I had thrown up! I got stuck in the middle of a phrase and couldn’t remember how to get past it. I kept playing the same 8 bars over and over and over. It was awful. The nastiness was completed by an awful aunt who announced, “Well someone has not been practicing!” Ahh the traumas of childhood. Such fond memories.

  59. b.t.w. I read the “I am a knitter”. Being introduced as a knitter in front of all those musicians and music industry types is awesome. I love when I get introduced as a knitter – it’s like saying “This is Stephanie – she’s an artist too.” They’ve gotta respect that.
    Those rockers should totally be dropping YOUR name.

  60. Stephanie! I had a very similiar experience with my first piano recital, also playing “Fur Elise.” I didn’t throw up on the piano because I never actually made it to the piano – I threw up in the car on the way to the recital. What a disaster! I continued to take lessons for years after that but never agreed to be in a recital again. Thanks for sharing your story – love the picture of everyone holding up their knitting!

  61. Dear Steph..
    I knew you would be fine – actually they say that when you speak in front of a crowd – they really want you to do well.. so i guess surrounded by all those fellow knitters good vibes were felt.. Although i went on your tour page, i cannot see Montreal on this.. Do you plan to come ??? I have a couple of fellow knitters who would be glad to meet you !

  62. ahhh…love the photo of ron w/ the sock!
    and, i too, can emphathize…before all my piano recitals as a child…i threatened to smash my fingers w/ the hammer in my dad’s tool box…other than that i was really a pleasant child. although…never got me out of the recitals for 7 yrs…maybe if i HAD thrown up….
    lyn

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