THE most random experience of my life began a few months back on November 23, 2015. A few days before Thanksgiving, I received this email:
I work on the Casting Team at Condé Nast Entertainment, which is the digital arm of all of the Condé Nast brands (GQ, Wired, Vogue, Glamour, etc). Condé Nast Entertainment is producing a cool video for The Scene and is looking for people who can do things impressively and incredibly fast with their hands. This will likely shoot at our studio in downtown Manhattan.
We would love to have you casted in our video for Speed Crocheting.
- Speed crrocheting? Yes please.
- This could be fake.
- NYC? How cool!
- Wait, how did they find me?
- I reeeeeally hope this isn’t fake and/or an elaborate plot to kidnap me.
So I replied and chatted with the recruiter. They wanted to plan something for December. Didn’t hear details so sent a follow-up email cause if there was speed crocheting happening, you’d better believe I wanted to be a part of it.
Then in February, things got real.
They sent a few dates when other fast-fingered-friends (a Yo-Yo guy, fast clapper and a fast pizza maker) would be filming in NYC and asked which date would be best. March 4th, 2016. It was settled. They booked me a flight, sent me a hotel reservation and told me they’d see me in a few.
People have asked how they found me and I don’t know. If I had to guess, I’d say they saw this 5 year old video of me speed crocheting and thought I’d do. (I laugh thinking how I do SEO for a Fortune 500 company so it’s literally my job to optimize content; the other three speed crocheters never stood a chance.)
Leading up to my departure, I FaceTimed with the Producer and his assistant, Jeff and Joe, and they asked what I could make in about 2 minutes. They suggested a coaster or a circle. I said, “How about a flower?” Their reactions were the most excited I’d ever seen two men get about crocheting. “A FLOWER?!” Uh yeah, sure, I told them, 2 mins is enough time to make a flower.
A flower it would be.
I got a call from Marco, the prop guy, and we talked about colors of yarn and what he could buy. I asked what I should wear. He said there was no wardrobe guy. Fair enough, Marco, my hands will be the main focus. I told him I’d get a manicure instead of a new outfit and awkwardly laughed.
The filming was on Friday at 2pm so I arrived Thursday night. I had Friday morning in midtown to myself and couldn’t be more excited to explore the city alone. (My sister was planning to come, but with the short notice, I couldn’t convince her to buy a $550 plane ticket.)
Friday morning, I woke up at 6am, walked .75 miles to Times Square to watch Good Morning America film. I met Robin Roberts when she came to greet the fans. Hearing I was from Pittsburgh, she responded, “WTAE!!!” Heck yes, Robin – WTAE!!
I then picked up $17 tickets to see Les Mis (thanks to my friends at GMA who gave me the tip on Broadway for Broke people and cheap same-day tickets), treated myself to brunch of eggs benny (my fav), and headed off to Conde Naste’s studios.
I got lost trying to take the subway there, but they’re right next to the World Trade Center Memorial. I went up, saw the studio, met a bunch of people and they told me to stand behind a table and crochet while they shot aerially.
Um, I don’t crochet standing up. That’s crazy.
So they got me a chair and I repositioned myself. But to be honest, it still wasn’t great. As any crocheter will attest, when you crochet your elbows rest almost at your hips, hands at about mid-stomach level. Normal. To get a shot, they had me stretch out my hands so they were centered over a table. Elbows on the table.
Imagine telling a basketball player they had to shoot free throws sitting down at the foul line. Same thing. Possible, but awkward. It was strange and I’ll admit didn’t set me up to do my best. I was dropping stitches and wasn’t as fast as I’d been practicing.
It was still great, though, and the camera man said my skill was the one he was most excited to see.
After 8 or so takes of crocheting in a silent studio of 10 men watching, it was a wrap. They did one final take with just sound to get the sound of the yarn scratching over my hook. Marco the prop guy fed me the yarn as I was crocheting so it looked like the yarn was almost appearing out of nowhere. So fancy!
Conde Naste paid me $200/hour, said thanks and I left.
And here it is!! My 1 minute, 43 seconds of fame. Enjoy.
After filming, I made my way (yarn and hooks in tow like a bag lady) to McSorely’s, the oldest Irish pub in NYC (thanks for the recco, boss). I sat down, ordered light beer–you’re given a choice between light and dark–and also got the fish ‘n chips.
I’m fine traveling and eating by myself and was enjoying the atmosphere.
Before my meal arrived, an elderly gentleman wandered over and sat down. I heard his life story. Turns out, he was an 86 year old actor and we joked about him being old, his kids never visiting and his wife who attends two Broadway shows a week. God bless NYC.
I spent the rest of the weekend putzing around NYC doing touristy stuff. Stayed in Times Square, read in Central Park. Took selfies at the MoMa, devoured Shake Shack and muddied my way through the subway. It was a fantastically relaxing weekend. I even got to see an old friend, Sam, though we took zero pictures to prove it.
Overall, one of the most bizarre, thrilling moments of my life. I told my mom this trip was a clear picture of how God blesses us. This trip served no purpose besides bringing me joy. I wasn’t saving lives, I was crocheting. A talent God gave me and led me to discover when I was 8 years old. It’s as though He thought up something that I would LOVE and made it happen–just for the fun of it.
Crocheting has marked many seasons of my life.
I remember dealing with death when my crocheter teacher lost her battle with cancer four months after we had our first lesson. I remember recovering from scoliosis surgery when I was 14 and crocheting while learning to walk again. I think back to long drives I made in college to go to craft shows. I remember moving yarn to each new home. I think of the conversations I’ve had with The Knotty Knitters. God’s given me so many good, sweet moments in life and some of the big ones have been marked by this simple hook-and-needle craft.
Thankful I can add this crochet weekend in NYC as another reminder in my life of God’s faithfulness.