jacktellslies: (this machine)
I very recently inherited my family's copy of the original Square Foot Garden. I remember that garden, three plots planted diagonally, directly in the middle of my family's back yard. I remember eating snap peas and running into tomato plants in an attempted backwards dash across the yard. I was probably about five. I knew that my family had done this, and that they were fairly good at it. I knew that my father had planted all of the trees in that yard when he was young, a good many, and that several of them grew diseased and died at the same time that he did. But as I turn through the book, I find things. There are notes and lists in my grandmother's hand. There is a card written by my father bearing the address of the site where I just went to pick up free compost from the city. And they were growing organic! I had no idea. It all seems a bit unlike the things in which they were interested when I was older. So it's interesting to start digging and find my family already there. I'll dig up their bones and stake my tomatoes on them.


May. 1st, 2009 10:33 am
jacktellslies: (bear girl)
My garden is small but good. My mother just gave me a gift of herbs growing in a pot far nicer than the ones I usually manage to salvage. I spent a couple of days recently cleaning up the abandoned lot next to my house. I found construction materials from the people who refurbished my house, cement and paint poured onto the ground, beer bottles and cans from neighbours, children's juice boxes, and useful things: bricks and cinder blocks I'm using for other projects, snail shells I kept, pretty bits of glass and metal, and enough empty and untorn trash bags to fit all of the junk that I cleaned up. And I found so many worms! My niece came to visit me one day, and we collected them in a cup and put them to work as slaves in the mines of my compost pit. The lot looks far better now. I plan to put down some pretty groundcover in the front part in hopes that it will prevent people from dumping things there again, and maybe building some raised beds in the back.

I had my first couch surfing guest come to stay with me. He is an American, from farther North than I am, and hoping to move to Philadelphia. He's a terribly sweet anarchist named Bobby who likes spending time in the sun on his roof, and writing poetry, and hoping to learn to build furniture so that he can move with almost nothing but tools and build what he needs when he gets here. We liked one another immediately. I took him on a walk through my city, almost an accident of good streets and local markets and parks on our way to meet some of my friends. He was so thrilled with all of it, and liked my tribe so much. The next day Whitney and I started to plan for our early Bealtaine celebration, and he joined us, first coming with us to our favourite stalls at Reading Terminal Market. Then we had a good adventure, searching for firewood in the city for the evening's bonfire. I wore a big backpack, and sticks and twigs and lumber stuck out of the top of it, making me look like a proud wicker man. We carried seed bombs with us while we explored, dry little balls of compost and clay and seeds, and tossed them into empty patches of dirt that needed some flowers to fill them. We collected huge quantities of moss, too, which I later fed to my blender along with beer and yogurt and sugar. We painted it on the walls of my back yard, sharing what was left of the beer, toasting with the moss. Now we mist it and wait for it to grow.

Bobby had to pack up and get on a bus before the party. That evening more friends came, and we lit a big fire with sparking pine branches and the things that we'd gathered. Whitney made a salad with strawberries, raw goats' milk cheese, excellent balsamic vinaigrette, and caramelised pecans. She made asparagus and mushrooms too. I always admire the local royal trumpets and oyster mushrooms at my market, but I usually settle for the far cheaper criminis. It was nice to finally have reason enough take a few of the fancy ones home.
jacktellslies: (crow)
Whenever I manage to do my eye some small injury (this time it was thrust upon the corner of an open cardboard box in my industrial freezer at work) I mean to take it like Odin, stating, "I sacrifice myself to myself!" Unfortunately, to date, it always comes out something more like, "SHIT MOTHERFUCK DAMN IT."
jacktellslies: (this machine)
Around the time that I first stumbled somewhat unwillingly onto Live Journal I was working as a secretary on the twenty-third floor of a building at Broad and Sansom. I've been paid to slit nearly rotten fish from anus to jaw; to kill crustaceans; to dig through industrial rubbish bins filled with slops gummed by the elderly, searching for lost teeth; and to show glimpses of teenaged skin or brief displays of homosexuality for the sort of men who loiter in the car parks of suburban malls. Secretarial work was, by far, the worst job I've ever had. I had no office of my own, and thus no window, but when I'd step into someone else's office to deliver a letter or retrieve a file, I'd stare out, more envious than I could possibly explain of the construction workers strutting about on the roofs of the buildings below me. They could feel the sun. They could see the city. They moved and built things, and grew tough and tan and well muscled. And they were paid for it!

My yoga class switched studios. I like the new one. It is at a proper yoga studio, which means that in future I'll be surrounded by willowy young women rather than blank gym rats. It's closer to home and much closer to work, too. I was midway through class today before I realised just where I was. I was in the building crowned by the roof at which I used to stare, wondering what it might feel like to work with one's body, one's hands, to survey the city from a place where it couldn't crush you.

How foolish it feels to admit that what I'm searching for is freedom, that I hope I'm closer than I was when I was twenty! Well then. I toe the precipice, my eyes on the sky.
jacktellslies: (sebastian)
I'd thought that I was the only one left at my level at my fencing class. Beginners are allowed to sign up during a two week period. Another ten weeks go by in between before the next opening. Among my fellow beginners there are the more experienced boys, who are cocky, not particularly good, and easily made utterly confused when made to fence anyone on any level other than their own. Three weeks ago I attended a class with five or six new beginners. As far as I can tell, one of them is left, and he's been joined by a gentleman who started a week late. The one I'd met before is attractive, quite tall, and has been handling his plastic weapon with a delightful flourish since the moment it was handed to him. I hope he stays. My class began with fifteen people or a bit more, and I'd believed that I was the only one remaining. But today Pierre came to visit me at work, admonishing me for going to Thursday's classes rather than Monday. (He prefers our instructor Nick, who runs Monday's classes, for something having to do with teaching style. For the most part I'm simply at the mercy of my work schedule, but I prefer Patty's classes on Thursday. This is because when, in the course of a game that requires that one player only lunge, and the other move in any way they wish while attempting to get as close to the lunging opponent as possible without getting hit, she demands, "Right. Now you tease me," my lizard brain flops out of my ear and begins rubbing up against her leg.)

Pierre is French, and in his sixties. He is, I swear to Christ, a former mime, and also a retired architect. We took the same train together one night after class, and while talking in the station we discussed our lives and our travels. His family hosted exchange students when he was a young man, and he seems to have seduced all of them. The first was a British woman who was, I believe, studying archaeology at University. He insists that good French spoken with a British accent is simply sublime. The next was an American whom he married and followed to New York in the sixties. To be French and in New York in the sixties! He admitted that he prefers America to France. Then he amended the statement to note, "Well. I do miss the land. And the food." And he continued, reciting a list that was fairly long, and ended in a shrug that indicated that it could have been longer, giving the distinct impression that America itself he could probably do without were he not exceptionally fond of American tail. Being as I am sympathetic to geographically inconvenient preferences, I've adored him ever since.

He came to my store accompanied by his American wife, not the first one, and possibly not the one after that, either. She told me that he missed me, mentioning my absence after every class at which he didn't see me. How sweet! He insisted that I join him on Monday, sure that we'll learn more if evenly matched. I apologised and told him that my employers are cruel and and my schedule demanding. Dropping to en garde he demanded, his accent beautiful as ever, "Where is your boss? I'll fence him with your filleting knife for your freedom!" I sighed, "I try it all the time! It hasn't worked yet!"
jacktellslies: (Default)
I have two friends who have been dancers. One made herself stupid with drugs every night to force herself on stage to be watched by men that she believed were nothing short of evil. She was drunk and sobbing on the sidewalk when she admitted it. It broke her, and years later her wounds are still raw. But in the middle of it she spit, suddenly angry rather than broken, "but the money was good, and I needed it, so I did it." It sickened me, that capitalism can so easily demand our rape, that so often we acquiesce. And yet it was incongruous, almost disappointing. Something in the way that she said it, far more than the words themselves, implied an untruth.

The other was a burlesque dancer in New York in the seventies. Her close friends dated Iggy Pop, started doing heroin with Sid and Nancy when the Sex Pistols fell into town. She kept dancing and ingested many a fascinating poison, but abstained from the needle. Eventually her friends died, or she had no choice but to leave them as empty shells, only learning upon the release of Please Kill Me that some of them actually survived. But she kept dancing; she liked it. Then she got pregnant, so she stopped. She said she wasn't going to be one of those mothers who blamed their children for forcing them to dance. She wasn't going to wait for it to stop being fun, and she wasn't going to blame anyone else for a choice that was entirely her own. She took a long series of simply appalling jobs, but she never thought of going back. She knew the traps of her profession well. She knew her own boundaries better than that.

At my fencing lesson today, I listened as the more experienced women discussed another fencer who had gone into labour today. She'd prepared for a natural birth, but two hours in requested an epidural. Last I heard she was still at the hospital, and they expect she won't birth until morning. One of the younger women was disappointed for her, and perhaps actually disappointed in her as well. One of the older women, who, unlike the first, seemed as if she may have actually experienced childbirth herself, almost slapped her. Thus far I've not heard many stories in which women give birth without the assistance of drugs in hospitals, whatever their original intention. I never want to get pregnant, and I certainly never intend to stay pregnant. But in the event that a massive failure of birth control, a complete lapse of judgement, and my occasional heterosexual experiments should all converge, please note that I'll require the following: a large jacuzzi, an extremely attractive and capable midwife, the presence of at least three of my lovers, and a strong waterproof vibrator. Barring any serious complications, it will not happen in a hospital. And if I ask for drugs, I get the fucking drugs. Because, as I understand it, the point of a natural birth is respecting a person's choices about their body.

Earlier today my partner sat in a cafe, politely sipping hot drinks with a friend who was three centimetres dilated and quite calm.
jacktellslies: (crow)
My gods are silent and distant, and at times I hate them for it.

At yoga today my instructor, who is Jewish but non-practising ("I only practice yoga," she likes to quip) commented before shavasana on the idea of Sabbath, on rest as a form of worship. In a small yet appropriately divine voice Nick whispered, "Hey. Didn't I tell you to do this yesterday?"

Carla, poised as always, not looking up from her pose, countered him: "Shut up, altar."

I long for a world that speaks. There are moments, sure, but it's not something I've ever been able to maintain. But I like the idea of a ritual from which not even its intended centre could sway you. And I love people who live to tell the gods to fuck off.

My neighbourhood exists in states of decay: either abandoned, torn down, or ill used. So today I went scavenging, collecting bricks, the bones of buildings burnt. Now I have a fire pit in my cement back yard. I started some seeds, too: chamomile and morning glory.
jacktellslies: (this machine)
I work long hours, and that does not trouble me much. I dislike it, however, when I must rush from work to some other thing, or leave when my shift is done but there is yet more to do because I have another appointment. I run home from work or fencing in order to catch something barely approximating enough sleep before I dash off to work, or yoga and then work again. I hate the feeling that when I rest there is some other thing I ought to be accomplishing.

I suppose this means I'm doing too much. I've weighed my options, and scaling back seems preferable to developing an unsavoury addiction. I may change my mind later.

However, for now, for my own reference, my priorities would seem to be the following, in no particular order:

Cook and learn about food. Brew closet booze.
Spend time with friends.
Breathe. Take baths. Sleep.

I'd been rather excited about gardening, but for various reasons, not least of which being lack of sufficient sunlight, I'll have to abandon my grand hopes and content myself with my houseplants. I like sewing, and I'd like to improve, but I think for now it shall have to be an occasional experiment rather than a course of study. Knitting, playing the accordion, I'll long for you a little, but I can wait. I'll have you eventually. I'd hoped to write here more often, too. Ah, well.
jacktellslies: (tea)
While travelling, I developed a taste for having certain important things on my person at all times. So I carry a large military backpack, one with lots of pockets. I require that I have access to a water bottle, a bottle for tea, a complete set of utensils, good painkillers, a book for reading, a book for writing, a suitable pen, condoms, an umbrella, my antique sunglasses, at least one but preferably three hats, a handkerchief, a menstrual cup, and Icelandic, British, and American coins. For some reason the euro is absent. One can often also find an extra book, some found metal, gloves and scarves and things, some fruit, and the day's groceries.

The honey that I brought home from work would seem to have leaked in my bag. As a result, I learned that I've also been carrying an impressive volume of vegetable detritus, mostly flaked garlic and red onion peel. This is not at all surprising.

Most of the honey pooled on one of the rabbit fur-lined red leather gloves I obtained in Venice. This is annoying, as the gloves are among the most valuable things in the bag. I shan't be disappointed, however, as this is quite possibly the sexiest problem I've ever had.
jacktellslies: (papa's in heaven)
Bones seven years in the ground, and I've half a mind to dig them up. You were sick of lying still when we put you there. I'll wear your keys at my hip, prop you up against your stone and feed you whiskey and words, let life splash past your teeth and over your ribs as the smell of death barely manages to confront the back of my throat, I'm so used to it now. You've done the same for me. And my worthless bones prop no better than yours. A cough and a clack of a ghost of a tongue, and you'll speak. Although you cursed me for it, I would remind you that it was you who taught me that there were gods, and that they had names. So. Who are the gods that you now know? With whom have you been drinking, besides me? It's gossip I want. Gossip, names, signs, sigils, and a good map.
jacktellslies: (circusfolk)
I tend to resist the manner in which gender is made so central to all discussions about infants and the yet-to-be-born. I understand why, however. How frustrating to find that someone you don't know at all has become central to your life! One cannot help but turn to divination for some sense of them. The deck of cards required to adequately describe a real person, a real life, would be nearly infinite. The form of divination actually used, however, is more imperfect by far than most such systems. Unless something is wrong, the ultrasound will reveal only one detail out of only two possibilities. It ignores completely the subtle gradients possible in human gender, let alone any real glimpse of a person. It would be more useful in guessing at their temperament to know that the child will come to adore the sound of a lone violin more than any other sound, or that they'll one day break their clavicle but attempt to ignore it for a week before seeing a doctor, or that they'll show a gift for woodworking. Fortunately, the mother instinctively knows more about them than whether they sport a cock already, or will have to consider buying one as a freshman in college, without the intervention of flawed technology. My niece Allyson, for example, craved cheese from the moment that she was conceived. When my mother was pregnant with me, she was overcome with an irresistible urge to watch nature documentaries. And my sister's newest little home brew seems to quite like spicy food.

That said: it's a girl! I won't bother to deny my joy and relief at the news; Ally is thrilled to have a little sister on the way. Her name is Naomi Patricia Robbins, family names both. Unless she decides to meet us a bit early, she'll be born in June.
jacktellslies: (bear girl)
In the midst of rushing about, tearing the guts and heads from innocent fish, serving customers, and idly wishing that I could reverse those two things, my coworkers and I actually manage to have a great deal of fun.

One of my dearest friends is uninterested in either courting or being courted. She says, however, that although one can do quite easily without sex, one cannot live without romance. In recent weeks I've been shocked and distressed to discover that I quite agree with her. I would like, therefor, to tell you about a few of my recent little romances.

Ed is a charming young man, well spoken, well dressed, and almost too tall. He sells flowers at the shop where I cut fish. He saw me buying his purple cala lilies some time ago, and we chatted, I confiding that I'm made quite stupid by any purple plant, and that cala lilies are my favourite flower. On Valentine's day, in the midst of his pained struggles to provide all the desperate and unprepared men in Philadelphia with fitting oblations, he hid for me a gift of a dozen purple roses. A tricksy customer found them and purchased them before he could stop them. I might prefer my unwilting and eternal stolen flowers more than I could a real bunch. Thank you, Ed.

Brigit, an adorable young thing who is quite wisely exceptionally fond of a certain knitted yellow hat, recently told me that every time she hears a Britney Spears song she thinks of me. I couldn't possibly feel happier, or more gay. The feeling is, in fact, mutual. I look forward to many dance parties amongst the pyramids of pears and oranges to come.

Elias, one of the butchers, and I are engaged in a passionate imaginary affair. He calls me his boo, among my favourite terms of endearment, in his unrepentant Puerto Rican accent. We reach for one another, pretending to weep, as we stand too far away from one another at our respective counters. We call one another's names. Recently, finding him there as I emerged from our shared industrial freezer, I clutched the five pound bag of minced wild caught salmon meat I carried to my chest, explaining, "Elias! This bag of salmon burger meat is like my heart when I'm away from you: both pulverised and frozen." He bit his lip, too moved to speak.
jacktellslies: (circusfolk)
Lucretia frowned. "But Auntie..."

our boy," said Lithia. "I found him."

"And we're going to keep him," said Lucretia.

"You will not." Aunt Imperia towered over them all. "All they're good for is heartache and..." She sniffed deeply. "All they're good for is heartache. And if they don't know how to bite properly, they'll certainly not know any of the other things that make the heartache almost worthwhile."

"What is she talking about?" asked Lucretia.

"I'm certain I don't know," said Lithia, for the first time in her life.

From The Evil Gazebo,
a children's book
by Bernie Mojzes,
illustrated by Linda Saboe.
jacktellslies: (Default)
For some reason I'm unable to get into my Flicrk account. I've attempted to supply verification information in every combination that would have been true in the past couple of years, but none of it works. I'm sorry to admit it, but I'm panicking over this rather a lot. I've lost far too much of the media that means anything to me in the past couple of months.
jacktellslies: (opium den)
An unexpected side effect of eating local food is that those things that I eat that come from far away have developed a strange connotation. There is something of the Silk Road about them. Tea, from China! Spices, from India! Chocolate, from South America! The occasional box of macaroni and cheese, from the midwest!
jacktellslies: (circusfolk)
Pardon my silence. The last while has been painfully busy. I work until I drug myself to sleep so that I can rise and work again. I'm building new muscles, tearing them again before they have time to heal, and gods, they hurt. Shrove Tuesday I was running to work by four thirty in the morning, but when I was done I was racked and cracked, then massaged, then found good liquor and good friends. Our table was strewn with my masks, and we told them our worries and our plans. Tom was newly tattooed, more fatigued with pain and with high ritual than I was with work and with practice. I felt as if I stayed up late, but I was asleep shortly after ten. Today I swore I wouldn't get out of bed, and I haven't. I read. I spoke with my lover, plotting a tricky seduction. I took a bath with candles and a glass of wine. I accomplished none of the personal things that piled up while I worked. It is Ash Wednesday, and I am repentant for nothing. And staying still felt so delicious, so decadent, that my work ethic, one of the American flaws in my temperament, recoiled in horror at my sloth. I start work again in the morning. I suppose I'm ready for it.


Feb. 14th, 2009 09:47 pm
jacktellslies: (ladies)
riding elephant ren faire

I've long been of the opinion that the only civilised way to get anywhere is by elephant. The image above was taken the summer before last at, ahem, a Renaissance faire. I am the one wearing striped socks and exploding with joy. The pretty lady that I was lucky enough to find riding behind me is the lovely [livejournal.com profile] belovdpoet. The surly looking gentleman in the green shirt is, of course, Warren Ellis.


Feb. 12th, 2009 12:40 pm
jacktellslies: (geroges barbier mermaid)
I'm told it's nearly Valentine's day. In that case, some of you may find the following information useful.

The confused and frightened men who fall into my store near the fourteenth often gravitate towards my case, desperate to appease the womenfolk with dead things dragged from the depths. They frequently choose sea scallops. They are correct.

My sea scallops are hand-caught by divers. Someone sunk down, searching amongst the dead things and the swimming things. They returned with a bright shell with something living and soft inside, something that you may present to your lover. The modern world is not known for such luxuries.

Besides being quite romantic, diver-caught shellfish involves a minimum of environmental impact. The sea floor is left as it belongs. Once again, the alternative is dredging.

When selecting scallops, you want to be sure that they are dry. Dry is the term used to indicate that they are neither bleached nor inflated with chemicals to appear to be larger than they are. If you distrust the word of your fishmonger (as, really, you ought) colouring is a good test. If every sea scallop is white, suspect unnatural influence. You want a variety of colours, mostly white, but some brown or even orange. Difference in colour implies no difference in flavour.

The darker ones are female. Some of the white ones are, too, but the darker colour indicates that they are or were recently ovulating. They soak in their own juices, absorbing them, thus succumbing to an aroused blush. Delicious.



Feb. 11th, 2009 08:11 am
jacktellslies: (dandy)

Meet Berthe Tripier, [livejournal.com profile] __uptight's great grandmother.
jacktellslies: (jeanne mammen)
Transatlantic flights are more affordable right now than I've ever seen them. For flights leaving in late February and early March, one can get to Brussels or Frankfurt for under $400. Flying to Dublin, including fees, costs $350. I'm not talking about one-way flights. These are round-trip. Go to one of those delightful ticket-finding websites and experiment with various cities and dates. The results will, I assure you, be beautiful. I've managed to scrape a bit of money together for the first time since I've been home, and I'm honestly considering running off somewhere for a week. I'm not sure it will ever be so affordable again, so it seems foolish to stay home.


jacktellslies: (Default)

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