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Entrepreneurs Exposed

Updated: Nov 25, 2020

The COVID Granny Diaries

Shortly before the pandemic began, my daughter Eliza and I flew to San Francisco for a needlecraft trade show where we had rented a booth. Liza has developed a line of crochet kits that is aimed at millennials—and is absolutely hilarious. This was her commercial debut with the kits to make The Millenimals.

Stitches West, which draws hundreds upon hundreds of visitors over four days, was happening at the Santa Clara Convention Center during the last week of February. We had worked like hell and invested a lot of money to get ready. Everyone we had shown the Millenimals had laughed out loud; they are a range of millennial "types" in animal form, all of them with fun pun names. Obsquirrel, for instance, is an overbearing indie band aficionado, the kind of guy who lords it over you by constantly referring to music you've never heard of and deriding anything remotely popular.

Bropossum carries a tiny case of Budweiser and actual ice cubes in a bag.

What makes these kits special are the accessories that Liza carefully curates and creates, each of them included in the kit. Social Justice Terrier, for instance, comes with a poster sign that says "Love is Love. Black Lives Matter. Climate Change is Real. Immigrants Make America Great. Women's Rights Are Human Rights." Coronaviper stares into his laptop, carries hand sanitizer, and hoards toilet paper. Anglophilly, who loves everything British, comes with a teeny-tiny copy of Pride and Prejudice (yes, with all the words), a teacup, a Dr. Who scarf , and a shirt with the number "42" on the front.

The positioning line, posted prominently at Stitches, is "Not your granny's crochet kit." Liza added that after a grandmother at the Santa Fe Fiber Arts Festival picked up Folsom Street Bear, saying "Oh how cute!"—and then saw the whip and the nipple rings. Still, I was a little worried, to be honest, about a couple that were meant to play to the San Francisco audience (Liza lived in SFO nearly ten years and identifies as queer). Folsom Street Bear and Polyamordillo were particular worries—I had mental images of a bunch of needle crafters (who I wrongly assumed to be mostly conservative older women) freaking out. But Folsom Street Bear practically walked out the door—people loved him. One owner of a shop that caters to LGBTQ folks in the Castro District talked to us about a trunk show. Both the bear and the armadillos sold out. Even the old ladies liked them.

In fact, overall, we were a huge hit. We got lots of traffic and sold about half our stock. People came by to tell us we were the most unique booth at the show (which is huge) and photos of the characters were all over social media. We had craft shop owners talk to us about wholesale orders. We definitely had "proof of concept."

On the trip back, we got screwed on our seats. I had paid for aisle seats, but we didn't check in on time and ended up sitting in the middle in the back. But at least we were together and we spent the whole trip across the country planning and brainstorming.

Because of the close quarters and noise, we spoke at about a 10-inch distance or less the whole way home. Then, almost as soon as she walked into her apartment, Liza got sick. She spent the next seven days with fever, sore throat, coughing, and delirium. She chalked it up to a cold.

But I knew that a few cases of COVID had appeared on the Northwest coast and thought it was possible she had been exposed. Stitches was what we now call a superspreader event. And we also now know that the very first cases and the very first instance of "community spread" were in Santa Clara county, right where we were.

The question all along has been, if Liza had COVID, why I didn't get it? Did I get it and pass through it asymptomatic? I am one of those lucky people who seldom gets sick. But I am in the high-risk group. And Liza never got tested, so we will never know, probably, whether either of us had it.

We rake over these details continually. I guess most people have some suspected contact and probably do the same thing. Without testing and with a constantly-evolving understanding of the disease's transmission and symptoms, I guess this kind of speculative scenario was inevitable, maybe for all of us.

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