jacktellslies: (this machine)
2009-08-07 03:55 pm
Entry tags:

Thank you, pig.

I eat fish constantly, but meat infrequently. This has much to do with availability, but also ethics. The industrial farming of livestock has been something I've been boycotting since I was fifteen, but more recently I've been wondering whether local farms that treat animals and the labourers who raise them humanely might be something I could support on occasion.

The Fair Food Farm Stand has been tempting me with red cabbages all season. (In general, I'm of the opinion that if food can be purple, it ought to be.) But they finally went too far: they offered me a tiny one, precisely enough cabbage for one or two people. Cruel bastards! How could I resist? And cabbage, for me, can only mean Irish food. I've apparently never recovered from my genetic predisposition to want to throw whatever edibles I can find in a cauldron and ignore it for five hours. Reading Terminal Market is filled with butcher's stalls, but I asked the volunteers at my farm stand if they could recommend something locally and fairly produced. I think the girl who sold me the cabbage was a vegetarian who really wanted to be helpful; she floundered for a moment before calling over a friend. She suggested Halteman's and cheerfully shoved me in the right direction. I ordered a cheap pork shoulder from a Pennsylvania Dutch girl. She was pretty in her bonnet, her slightly bloodied apron, and she seemed happy, unusually happy for someone who was at work. I feel good about the exchange.

It's all cooking now. I'm delighted to find that the cabbage and I may have accidentally turned the meat purple. And my house smells fantastic.
jacktellslies: (sebastian)
2009-07-28 03:10 pm
Entry tags:

Recent accomplishments.

I'm drinking a bottle of the cider I started brewing in... February? March? Cider is more like wine than beer, so you can ignore it for as long as you like and, as it will only keep improving in flavour and alcohol content, you get to feel productive the entire time. I'm not sure I'd realised quite how long I'd been ignoring it, though. I only just bottled up the last of it a couple of days ago. The verdict? I think it's good! My friends claim to be excited when I offer to bring them some more, and even strangers, warned that they're about to experience my first attempted home brew, seem to be consistently pleasantly surprised. And goodness me, but the stuff gets one crunk rather quickly. Apologies if grammatical mistakes accumulate towards the end of this missive.

Now that it's all bottled up, I'm plotting my next batch in earnest. I'll admit that I've been pining for a more professional brewer's recycled, and therefore interestingly flavoured, wooden barrel. But I always hesitate to obtain anything expensive, or heavy, anything that I might want to keep. I'm buying some land somewhere one day, and as soon as I get there I'm buying a set of fantastically well-crafted knives of the sort that give young fish nightmares, a cask, and I'm building a beehive. And it seems silly to rush off towards the expensive equipment with only a single try behind me. This one was made with only a plastic bucket, my favourite local cider and, at the time, my favourite local raw honey, a bit of brown sugar, and some white wine yeast. This time I'm considering some wood chips, as a test of whether or not I deserve or require a wooden vessel, and perhaps a touch of cloves and cinnamon. I also managed to scavenge a second appropriately sized food grade bucket from the bakery's recycling bin at work the other day. I'm not particularly offended by the cloudy brew obtained from doing everything in one container, but apparently one can improve the clarity by siphoning everything but the bulk of the dead yeast that has settled to the bottom into a second. I don't turn down gifts from the crossroads gods, so I'll do it in the name of science.

A couple of days ago I had the best day in recent memory.

~ I bottled the cider.

~ I started some seeds: another round of spinach, onions, purple and orange carrots, parsnips, and a variety of red lettuces. (I'm a fool for unusually coloured vegetables.)

~ We've been selling fig trees at my shop. They're small and don't cost much. I don't plan on staying in this house indefinitely, and the lot next to my house isn't mine, but there ought to be trees in the ghetto, and fruit-bearing trees at that. So I'd been admiring them, gazing at them dreamily while I worked. While watering my potted potatoes and slug-ravaged cabbages and my herbs and roses in the back, I noticed a leaf waving at me over the wall. It looked very much like a fig leaf. I'd not explored the side lot much since the spring, as it's become beautifully overgrown. The little trees that were barely my height when I cleaned up the lot on the first warm days of the year are now about the size of my house, and, I'm pleased to report, no one could climb through the lot to my back door at night. We're guarded by underbrush. I climbed through the alley, over jagged cement and tall weeds, and found two fig trees, about my height, right where I'd wanted to plant one. I cursed for surprise, felt up their fuzzy leaves and branches. I have no idea what variety they are, or whether or not they'll bear fruit. I'll find out in the fall, I suppose. I'd seen them around in my neighbourhood before, but I assumed that they'd been planted deliberately. How strange and good.

~ I visited my community garden plot to find tomatoes, green but plump, some squash growing on their sprawling vine, ripe blueberries, and the first nubs of what will eventually become yellow bell peppers.

~ On the way to work I passed the mammoth, healthy grapevine owned by a neighbour but spilling into their back walkway right where it opens onto the street. I'd been watching the full bunches of grapes, waiting for them to ripen, and I grew impatient. I tasted one. It was sour, but it's getting close.

~ I'm starting to consider raising rabbits for food.

~ I cleaned a bit. I drank some tea. The ability to drink tea without rushing is often the mark of a good day.

~At work we were massively busy, but I worked with a favourite fishmonger friend of mine. His father builds and reconstructs old barns, so I mentioned that if he happened to hear of anyone who might be willing to teach me to butcher livestock or raise bees to please let me know. And apparently everyone in his family, parents, aunts and uncles, cousins, raise bees. So he's attempting to get me an invitation to help the next time someone harvests honey. Bees! Honey!

~ ...and I had a crying orgasm.
jacktellslies: (bear girl)
2009-07-22 10:46 pm
Entry tags:

Then onward, to the dancing girls!

Darlings,

I've never worshipped youth. It is wisdom that I crave, experience, and taste. And as I keep mentioning, I've shaken off another year! I emerge suddenly somewhat closer to sagacity and, strangely, more attractive than I was just a few days ago. (But oh, those sweet, innocent times!) It is therefore meet that we gather once more in celebration and praise of me. I suggest that we assemble at the Franklin Mortgage and Investment Company, which is of course a sensible place at which adults can gather to make sound investment choices and not a speakeasy. This, then, is obviously not a review featuring its menu. I suggest that we meet around eight in the evening.

Yours always,
Jack
jacktellslies: (this machine)
2009-07-18 01:56 pm
Entry tags:

Other islands.

I'd assumed that I was the first of my family to see Iceland. But apparently my grandparents were married while my grandfather, the naval captain, was on shore leave. He thought he had a month during which his time was his own, but the day after the wedding he was told that he had a day to get to port before being shipped back to the American military base near Reykjavik, where he lived for some time. He laughs when he speaks of it now. But how immensely frustrating it must have been! I stood at the bay for a day, once, waiting. Strange, that I wasn't the first to do so. They lived that way for most of their young lives: he was on a submarine, the location of which was blacked out by some military censor in his letters. She was on some tropical island or another, raising five babies alone.

My mother drove south yesterday, but blind, deaf, and barely conscious, my grandmother didn't know she was there.

She died at five o'clock this morning. My grandfather was asleep in the apartment of the assisted living home to which they'd recently moved. She was in the nursing home wing where they'd placed her. An aunt and an uncle were there with her. Surrounded by children again, and no husband.

I'm saddened by the idea, and angry on behalf of both of them. Her deafness has been swelling since I was young, but she could always hear his voice. It was the one that could always make it through. I keep asking my mother how he is doing. She says he's fine, but won't say more than that. What kind of bullshit is fine? What does that mean?

They were married for seventy years or more. Her father was reasonably well off and Catholic, and he was a Jew, poor, the son of a suicide and an orphan. They were rarely in the same country. But they wanted each other. The last I heard on the matter, they continued sleeping together regularly into their eighties, sometimes on my grandfather's boat on the river that ran through the town where they were married. Not a bad life, then, was it?
jacktellslies: (opium den)
2009-07-15 05:01 pm

Spirits walk.

I'm approaching a birthday as I mentioned, so forgive me if I describe the past year as somewhat epic. I've had adventures, spent my time in excellent company, filleted a great many fish, and started to learn a number of skills I've always wanted to acquire. But this year I've also stumbled into a shocking number of small tragedies: stupid, random, life-changing, bloody expensive annoyances.

A set of three keys has been left on the ledge in front of my house. They belong to neither myself nor my roommate. So I'm hesitant to move them: I'm hoping that whomever they belong to will return for them. Several strangers have been kind enough to try to return them to us, however, including, just now, an older neighbour I'd not met before with a snake elegantly coiled around his beautifully dark neck and shoulders.
jacktellslies: (crow)
2009-07-12 12:21 am
Entry tags:

Pay no attention to the man behind that curtain.

I'm doing a bit of midnight cleaning. My house is obviously possessed, so I'm scrubbing its mouth out with soap before forcing it to swallow thirty gallons of holy water the wrong way. A proper storm stalks outside, the thunder breathing heavily on us while it watches. Tom and Erica recently travelled to New Orleans and were kind enough to buy me a bottle of voodoo floor wash. I'd planned to keep it as something of an amusing prop, but fuck it, I'm using it.

I bought a mask in Brussels: a woman made of dark, dark wood and human hair, her eyes narrowed to slits and her smile a knowing sliver, a scar or a moon. I work with that mask, sometimes: I'll ask her questions, or ask her to watch something for me. I moved the mask aside before sweeping, and living behind her face was a spider, a small one, perched in her web. Well hullo, old lady. The mask has a far finer mind than I could ever boast, and the spider has demonstrated superb housekeeping. It's good to know that I've been directing my enquiries to the proper authorities.

(I'm a touch disappointed that Krys wrote what she did tonight, because I'm afraid that she's rather stolen my thunder. Given the sort of woman that she is, I may be forced to admit that the thunder was hers to begin with.)

As I've grown older, I've stopped calling the gods by name. The more one learns of them, the more obvious it seems that one would do best to avoid their attentions as much as possible. But my distrust has never been less than amicable. It's often quite loving. But all this year they've been taking things from me, unravelling my efforts, the things that I have carefully built.

They are old and they are mad and I no longer trust that they have a point to make. If they had something to say, they ought to have said it. Because I have things to learn. I am very busy. And they have been getting in my way. Now I am going to start feeding them to each other.
jacktellslies: (circusfolk)
2009-07-09 12:31 pm

Old.

Huh. It's almost my birthday, isn't it? I nearly forgot.
jacktellslies: (crow)
2009-06-21 03:51 pm
Entry tags:

The Scope of Prophesy.

One of the dishwashers with whom I work approached middle age like a traveler, and as he was obviously only curious and exploring the territory, age has mostly left him alone. He's a beautiful man, tall and quite dark with admirable dreadlocks. He has the sort of hands that one would expect could do any number of things, but I think mostly he reads.

He is the grandson of a woman who was blind, but could see the future. And she told him once, with what was for her unusual solemnity, that if he ever saw a black bird suddenly fall directly out of the sky, as if it had bashed its brains on the sun, the world was about to get so bad that no one would want to live in it anymore. It happened in 1995.
jacktellslies: (geroges barbier mermaid)
2009-06-20 10:33 am
Entry tags:

State of the Cut Block.

I email my favourite coworker quite often. My missives are never anything more than a link or two, something I find that I think he might like. In the past couple of days I feel as if I've been writing him constantly, so I thought perhaps some of this deserved a wider audience.

To begin with the most simple: a visual tool for determining the ecological footprint of and toxins contained in popular seafood.

While we're on that topic, if you don't already know of it, the pocket guides provided by the Monteray Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch is invaluable, but alas is only useful to its maximum capacity within the US.

I enjoy BlogFish a great deal, and the Plitt Seafood Twitter feed, which somehow manages to rival me for regular ecstatic fishmongering updates, but both might appeal more to those of us in the industry rather than out of it.

The Ethicurean's review of The End of the Line, a documentary on overfishing and the ecological impact of modern fishing practices that I've not yet seen, suggests that the film doesn't ask enough of viewers. Switching to smaller fish that are lower on the food chain is an excellent start, but the author, who apparently goes as, ahem, Twilight Greenaway, wonders if significantly lowering our seafood consumption might be the only truly viable way to save the world's collapsing fisheries. I've wondered this often. But I think that the best solutions we've found so far include human jobs and traditions within the definition of sustainability. I'd note, however, that when people speak of the jobs of fishermen, they're usually referring to people in large boats with expensive GPS systems, not the communities of indigenous people upon whose coastal waters they are encroaching. This is old news, but that sort of thieving is why we have Somali pirates.

Increasing acidity in the Pacific Ocean is preventing west coast oysters and other shellfish from successfully building shells after their larval stage, so no new ones are growing. This is very bad, both for the cleanliness and health of the waters that they filter, and for the larger fish who feed on them. And, obviously, for humans, who would become dull, unintelligent, uncultured, and lacking in all vigour were it not for the oyster. I wonder if this isn't one of the issues that led to the closure of the California and Oregon salmon fisheries for the second year in a row.

Fortunately for us, small-scale aquaculture is possible. This regularly sends my fishmongering friend and me into incoherent raptures.

And, as neither of us have land of our own just yet, a farm in a box sounds pretty exciting, too.
jacktellslies: (sebastian)
2009-06-10 04:38 am

I probably also distrust love in general.

I try not to allow myself to be too disappointed by heterosexuality. Prejudice against the majority is little better than the alternative, yes? And fairly recently, a woman with whom I work whom I like a great deal was kind enough to inquire after the health of my gentleman friend, and I paused for a moment before I had to admit, "Oh dear. I was actually just about to ask you which one." So, being as likely, or more likely than most to fall prey to male charms, I warn that I'm aware that the following sentiment is potentially hypocritical in the extreme. That said: with some frequency, these aethertubes are good at presenting photographs of old friends and lovers, often blissfully yet fairly modestly entwined with their current partners. This is excellent; I like to see how you're all doing. However, I can't help a twinge of disappointment when extremely attractive queer ladies are displayed in the loving (so very loving in fact that both parties simply ooze emotion and pheromones and supplementary emotion) embraces of men. It isn't that they're male, exactly. And perhaps it's simply that men don't tend to photograph very well, or that my preferences of male beauty tend towards a definite type. But the boys with whom they tangle so rarely seem to be attractive, or even interesting. They all look a bit dull in the eyes. I'd honestly like from time to time to stumble upon one of these photographs and be genuinely impressed and happy for them. I'd prefer my response to be, "Oh, honey. Where on earth did you find that marvellous specimen? Excellent work!" as opposed to, "Oh, must you really?"
jacktellslies: (sebastian)
2009-06-01 06:42 pm
Entry tags:

Small things.

Today I stayed in bed with my partner until one. I then had a proper, civilised lunch of exciting cheeses, some good bread, honey, olives, roasted peppers, and grapes. I went outside to play in the dirt and do the first work on my new community garden plot. The edges were straightened and expanded to encompass the full space allowed, weeds were pulled, and I did what I could towards improving the soil, although I'm not yet done on that front. Now I'm having a simple dinner of salmon sautéed in good balsamic vinaigrette and brown sugar, asparagus, and cider I brewed myself. This was an exceptionally good day. I'm about to curl up with a gardening reference book and some dark chocolate with orange zest, and I'll sleep absurdly early so I can wake up in time to start work tomorrow at five. Goodnight, lovers.

Edited to add: goodness, but the cider I made is a bit strong!
jacktellslies: (crow)
2009-05-29 01:57 am
Entry tags:

Peace.

A dear friend of mine who happens to be, among a great many other things, a composer and rock star is participating in a contest to remix a new Depeche Mode song, and I thought you might like to hear the results. He submitted two entries. The first is an attempt to re-imagine the song as having originated at Depeche Mode's peak, and is quite good. The other, however, is my favourite, and in my opinion it's simply breathtaking. It's an a cappella four-part fugue and chorale. There are hundreds of other entries, too, if you'd happen to be in the mood to listen to variations on recent Depeche Mode for a few hours.

Apologies for spamming on his behalf, but apparently the contest is determined in part by how many people click the "spin it" button next to the track. So, if you enjoyed either or both, might you be so kind as to click it? Unfortunately you must register with the site in order to do so, but it only takes a moment, and you'll be Supporting an Artist without actually having to spend any money or haul amplifiers around.
jacktellslies: (opium den)
2009-05-27 10:15 am

Bloody Torchwood.

The first season of Mad Men that I obtained happened to have been screened originally on BBC HD, and during the credits it was announced that Torchwood would be up next. I'm trying to remember whether I watch any media at all that doesn't end with the revelation that Torchwood is lurking somewhere behind it, probably hoping that it looks dangerous and fiercely sexual while trying not to cry.
jacktellslies: (ladies)
2009-05-23 11:06 am

Post.

The lovely [livejournal.com profile] fasterpussycat was kind enough to send me a wonderful bit of post. I now have one of her stunning Virginia Woolf prints. It lives, at present, above my curios cabinet, facing the a print of Tilda Swinton with antlers in her hair made for me by [livejournal.com profile] cynical_ghost. Once I find it a worthy frame, however, I may put it above my typewriter with Whitney's mounted bugs. She sent a small collage piece including legs and fish, and a rather infamous book about a modern dandy and rent boy. She also sent a marvellous bit of Victorian technology: a stereoscope, one of those lenses that allows one to focus on two photographs taken of the same image from slightly different angles, causing the picture to appear to be three-dimensional. The photograph in question is of a seated young man, quite naked and playing the violin. I was almost disconcerted to find that he's my type exactly: lithe and distracted. He's delicious, Tamara. You know me well. Thank you ever so much!
jacktellslies: (crow)
2009-05-16 11:09 pm

Cut.

A favourite coworker of mine is a butcher. Under his mutton chops he bears extensive facial scaring, a result of a car accident that left him in a coma for months. It is, obviously, exceptionally attractive. And the man loves knives. He adores them. I'll regularly catch him admiring one, shining it on a clean patch on his bloody white coat, holding it to the light to watch it glint like a stage villain. I laugh at him, and he grins, clearly enjoying having been caught. Besides caressing the underside of my lizard-brain in a number of the correct places, I know the feeling. I fixate on the fish, myself. But we both know a certain bloodlust, an unabashedly wicked glee. It is the pleasure of doing something terrible well. There is little place for such worship in this passionless modern world.

I attended my niece's sixth birthday party tonight. I returned laden with the satisfaction of having taught the little lady to roller skate in the kitchen, some excellent cake, and a set of good knives: steak knives, a chef's knife, and a bread knife. The bread knife in particular is a thing I've never owned but longed for for years. I actually purred upon unwrapping them. They're nothing fancy. I desire and deserve a spectacular set of knives, something worthy of my profession and my skill, but I won't allow myself to spend such money until I've settled somewhere. But these are useful things. They're more than sufficient, for now. I've never known a better party favour.
jacktellslies: (dandy)
2009-05-15 11:34 am
Entry tags:

Vanity.

Apologies to those of you who are now seeing this several times over, but this is what my hair looks like of late:

Front

Back
jacktellslies: (bee)
2009-05-14 10:02 am

Haul.

There is a line of wood chips and sawdust where yesterday there were trees on Lombard. It never makes me any less furious, any less sad. Amongst the few remaining bits of green, shook loose and broken, there was an empty birds' nest on the sidewalk. The only worthwhile feat of engineering left on the block, it seemed wrong to leave it there. It deserves better. It deserves eggs and hungry babies, really. But I'll do what I can. Half a block later, I found a window-box, empty but for a bit of good dirt. I'm as happy about the dirt as I am the box.
jacktellslies: (this machine)
2009-05-11 11:06 pm

Princes of the Universe.

My fencing academy is located at 36th and Lancaster. After my lesson I was meant to meet friends at 40th and Walnut for drinks before they went to see a film and I returned home to sleep before working an early shift tomorrow. So I made the seemingly logical choice of walking to 40th street and heading south from there. While getting to 40th, although my surroundings could not be described as picturesque or attractive by any means, I found myself thinking that something about them seemed strangely European. It wasn't until I got to 40th and realised that I didn't recognise the cross-street, that I'd been in a terrible neighbourhood for four blocks, and that I wasn't entirely sure where I was that I remembered what "European" means in relation to streets. It means "tilting in stupid directions that don't make any sense." (To be fair, Philadelphia is really quite good at becoming suddenly terrifying within a matter of blocks.) I made a quick, nervous post to twitter via text message, and Tom, gentleman that he is, called almost instantly to make sure that I was safe. Fortunately, by that time I'd managed to figure out which way might be south (It was nought but a guess. Lancaster curves in such a way that I couldn't spot downtown.) and was nearly at Market. He informed me, however, that one really oughtn't take Lancaster past 36th. Good to know. Also, this means something very important. It means that there are guys with swords at the borders of the badlands. It means, in fact, that I'm one of those guys.
jacktellslies: (Default)
2009-05-11 12:51 pm

Bottles and jars.

I've always enjoyed the resemblance of aquatic cannibalism of the young to mammalian pregnancy. We found a perfect, tiny flounder, swallowed and caught in the gills of a larger one. It fits in my palm, and its mouth is so small that I can barely make a puppet of it. It never touched a digestive enzyme; its condition is perfect. Quickly, someone bring me some ethanol. Why we don't yet keep a stash in the department for just this sort of discovery is beyond me.
jacktellslies: (geroges barbier mermaid)
2009-05-04 08:57 pm
Entry tags:

The same day, he incorrectly explained Freud.

No one has ever been able to satisfactorily answer this for me, and it's a practical concern. Why do household spirits stop working for the people with whom they share a home when thanked or given gifts?

It's halibut season, which means that my fellow fishmongers and I can glut ourselves, indulging our longing to cut naught but immense fish. Yesterday my boss, faced with an unusually massive beast, actually dimmed the lights. "If I had to choose right now between sex, and cutting this fish," he admitted, "I'd take both." Fishmonger psychology, explained.