Bealtaine.

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: (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:

Work.
Fencing.
Yoga.
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: (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.
jacktellslies: (crow)
Timing her arrival with a marvellously dramatic sunset, the amazing [livejournal.com profile] westlinwind found me at the train station and stole me away to a whiskey tasting. The event was a fund raiser for the Colonial, a theatre that hosted Houdini when it was a vaudville venue, and later, as a cinema, was featured in the film The Blob.

Our whiskey expert, Riannon Walsh, began distilling at the age of six. We were provided with excellent cheeses and breads and chocolates; I'm not often fond of dark chocolate, but apparently I do seem to enjoy it when it is combined with citrus, ginger, or whiskey. We were given six kinds of whiskey to try. One was an American variation produced in the same way as it would have been made in the West in the nineteenth century. (I didn't entirely approve. Cowboys: they're doing it wrong.) Some smelled of vanilla, caramel, the oak in which they soaked, and, some claimed, the sea. The best was a Scotch that tasted of peat. All six were better than anything I deserved to touch. Unopened, the bottles from which all six came were as like to be investments as they were to be a toast. I'm not often permitted to taste investments, so I enjoyed the experience a great deal. Several of the gentlemen in my life are whiskey drinkers. My father was one, too. So it always tastes a bit sentimental, even, especially, when it's kicking me in the teeth.

Earlier in the day I'd found a magnificent little bakery in Old City called Tartes. One couldn't go inside, but would instead appraise the offerings from a window. Beyond the window there was a small group of women making little cakes. After a moment one noticed that I was watching them and walked over to work the register. It was perfectly small and charming, and their deserts were beautiful things. It's difficult for me to resist a pretty girl wielding a cupcake. I also like supporting local businesses. And, most importantly, I like pastries. So I ordered two of their signature dishes: one with apples and cranberries, and one with sweet potatoes and pecans. They were quite good, but perhaps more important than that is the fact that, as Krys noted, yes, I am Jack, and sometimes I do arrive with tarts. (I tend to think of myself as the Jack of spades, actually, but so far as I know, the Jack of spades doesn't concern himself with dessert nearly as often as I do.)

Before going home we went to visit Bernie and Linda and Loki. We admired vultures and planned knitting and dreadlocks. And then, with very little time to spare, Krys delivered me safely unto my train.
jacktellslies: (this machine)
n1150596747_69756_9803


Ages ago, before I left to travel, my friends Penny and Liam and Lady Tapestry allowed me to dress up like a clockwork conductor, brought me to an abandoned steam train overgrown with plants and home to spiders and a beehive, gave me a sword and a mask made of brass, and allowed me to pretend that the train was my TARDIS while they took my picture. I can't actually imagine a better day.

This series of Penny as a (the!) Cartographer, however, are flawless:

IMG_0429

IMG_0426


Her new Flickr account, clearly, will be one to watch.

Success!

Dec. 10th, 2008 11:17 pm
jacktellslies: (tea)
Flour, salt, butter, water, a red onion, a portobello mushroom, two purple potatoes, one parsnip, half of an acorn squash, and some spices were all combined in such a way that a vegetable pie was the result. Vegetable pies are better than messes and inedible lumps by a vast margin. And I barely bled at all! I'm most pleased.
jacktellslies: (circusfolk)
Beth and I have taken to laughing, "I get everything I want!" for those moments that manage to be irrationally perfect, more than you'd ever ask for piling around you all at once. And yesterday was better than that, a consistently and unreasonably lovely day. I'd stayed up late the night before dancing around a cauldron of glue in my oven room, a bulb burning directly over my head, my halo, my moon. And I woke up early, no reason but a hunch, and done with dreams. My suspicions were correct, and someone I'd been wanting was tangled in the aether cables. I hadn't known what it would call. There were crows above me, instantly, calling in a grey and writhing sky. There were three or five of them, when I've not seen crows in this part of the city in years, if ever. Obscenities, my only prayers, fell from my tongue like fairy gold turning to feathers.

I did yoga; I did not, so far as I can tell, shatter my spine. I'll proceed with caution. I'd quite like to return to it in earnest.

By the time I'd dressed it was nearly time to leave, but being occasionally irrational, I decided that I couldn't possibly be seen in public that day without a new hat. I found the streets of Philadelphia, my lover, boot to brick, moving in her in a fury of winds. Other people's sigils were burnt in the alleyways, mirrored cave paintings replaying my perfect morning and laughing, certainly correctly. I pouted and preened for myself in the shops and returned with something I liked.

I got to the park laden with fruits and red and white wine. I found friends there, beautiful ones, and we ate grapes from one another's chests and trousers like silly foul mouthed children. The trees insisted on joining in, covering us in spores and other spunk of the natural world. Tom, being even more of a true city-dweller than most of us, was unfamiliar with such obscenities and was terrified.

It is, I think, the nature of us veterans of the Fort to threaten as much as to flirt. But this being the first of spring, I think we may have outdone ourselves. It was filthy. We accused one another of vile things and promised one another worse. A running tally of my failings was kept by Winston Churchill (here represented by a delightful young bulldog, clearly drunk and a scrapper) and my dead father, drinking deep of the whiskeys of hell yet still unable to forget their unnumbered sins and disappointments made flesh and left to wander the streets in the form of yours truly. In our defence, for the first of spring it was a bit cold and the wind was cruel; we were fighting and flirting to stay warm. Eventually we were forced indoors for mystery beer, a charming custom of paying next to nothing for a surprise in a paper bag and a bottle. Sometimes it was quite good, but there was always the risk of falling victim to some of that mainstream American beer that tastes like a mixture of spit and the underside of the furniture in a fraternity. The waitress, being wise and just, only inflicted such indignities upon Tom.

I feel like I've left out some of the goodness, but I'm not sure I'd know how to convince all of it to fit. I don't know how one day managed it, still. But the winter is dead at last, and I'm hopeful that this day won't be the last of its kind.
jacktellslies: (ladies)
Friends! Following a thoroughly successful day of adventures with Krys including, but not limited to: an examination of the medical oddities of the famed Mutter Museum, the sampling of oft and deservingly praised crepes at Beau Monde, missing a magpie, the exploration of most of the city's great antique shops, the acquisition of the second top hat of the week and a kneeler to accompany the Fort's church pew, a great feast occurred. Long lost friends gathered at The Fort for a grand tea party, at which we tasted a mirage of teas from the antipodes, watercress sandwiches, fine cheeses, strawberries, pears, and grapes (even in winter!), and wine. We spoke of art and politics! We wore hats! And, most important of all, we noted, as we have all been long aware, that all of the existing terms in the whole of the English language for, shall we say, the naughty bits, are painfully inadequate. So we made new ones. Below is a partial list. Please review, amend, and advise.

the teacup of Venus
the Spear of Destiny
the horn of the unicorn
his quivering tower
Christopher Walken
his Spanish cigar
her secret grotto
her dark cavern
her mysterious pocket
her blushing apple blossom
her chastity and virtue
her secrets and lies
her cavern of jewels
his divining rod
her flowing cup freshly remembered
his beautiful hookah
ein ├╝bermensch
her jar of fine ointments
his proud peacock
her unlit room
his devil's tower
his calvary and artillery
le croquet
his devastating cannon
the devil's wineglass
his swift rapier
his plus three mace of increased strength
The Nautilus (I think this works equally well for most people's bits, actually.)
his gentleman in a bowler
his bright candlestick
her snuff box



And a few for the act:

to throw one's gauntlet
once more unto the breech dear friends
with a led pipe in the conservatory
sailors fighting in the dance hall


Some of these are absurdly insular, and such in-the-moment drivel that come morning even I won't remember exactly what we'd been raving about, but they're still a good deal better than the alternatives. More, more!

And thank you for your attention to this matter.
jacktellslies: (jeanne mammen)
I've not been dancing in months.

I'm atrophying. I get the distinct feeling of late that I'm meant to be hibernating. I'm perpetually exhausted, surly, and demanding that Beth, shoeless and crying, bring me dripping piles of (faux)meats and bread, butter and beer by the bucketful. Fishmongering is rather physically demanding, but that's always the case, and it doesn't always push my body to become a useless fob watch that I never bother to wind.

It's also left me feeling unreasonable resentment towards the DJs of this town: nothing could possibly be queer enough for me just now, no transition even close to well matched.

I'm pining for the trashiest of London fag bars, Berlin street corners at three AM. In turn, I'm struck with the feeling I don't usually allow myself anymore, that time and space are cruel, that the vastness of distance is crushing. What a useless feeling! Missing people who are here because one day I'll miss them, longing so intensely for places that I'm going. I live in South Philadelphia, jagged and winding cathedral of brick and broken glass, in street market temples of spark and ash, under an ever burning post-industrial sky! My friends are brilliant and morally lax! And tonight, possessed by caffeine, by red wine and rum and lipstick, we go dancing!
jacktellslies: (Narcissus)
Ben got older, so I took a train to his house, which was made entirely of women and nearly empty bottles. His new ladyfriend, a curvy thing with red hair and perfect lips and exquisite taste in hats, was introduced to society. I took up a new sport, and every time Ben left the room convinced new combinations of girls to take over his bed. The boys who stumbled into the room stood around looking nervous, but Ben and I, being gentlemen, were usually invited. I wandered the night with Beth. We got lost and were followed by packs of dogs. I sliced up my hand, anointing suburban streets with my own holy blood, terrifying the uninitiated. We kissed in the rain, under a bridge, against a church. The next morning the three of us were listening to music in his living room, singing to one another, hugging, dancing. It was saccharine but perfect. I'm in love with all of us, with these moments. We do nothing but bathe and praise the Fort, inventing and reinventing self-referential mythologies, building Babylon in a former Chinese restaurant in South Philadelphia. We have an anthem now, Psalms, a flag, auxiliary troops, and our parties are all exactly like this:

Elephant Gun )
jacktellslies: (sebastian)
The favourite of the Roman Emperor is taken to be entertained by the mysterious Egyptians. He wears only a loincloth of red silk and is fed grapes and honeyed wines by boy-slaves while he's carried about on a litter, finally returning home to be devoured by his friends. (Et tu, Beth?)
jacktellslies: (corsetry and robotics)
My roommate Meredith enjoys photography, and she's quite good at it. The following, however, should not be considered an example of her skills, but as an experiment in making the best of bad lighting, aiming a machine and pushing a button and being tipsy all at the same time, and fantastic company.

These are my friends. )
jacktellslies: (bee)
Stopping to consider the mostly unopened morning glories, wondering if I was awake earlier than they or if I had just missed them, I watched a bee squirm inside a few of them, bulging the sides out, barely welcomed. I like the insides of flowers. It's like looking up someone's skirt with absolutely no idea of what one might find there: a thousand identical but seemingly separate buds, imitation insects, sweet poison and small dead things, colours horrific and obscene, curving pistils and stamens both, or nothing but petals, twisting inward endlessly, perfect and disappointing.

Meredith and Rebecca and I walked in gardens on Saturday. We kissed stone goats and orchids, climbed a tower, tested water lilies, and illicitly ate berries and tomatoes and peppers. They were bold Eves; I only ate what they gave me. My rib is theirs to do with as they like.
jacktellslies: (this machine)
A great many fish, especially those in the bass family, have sharp spines along the ridges of their backs and on the strongest bone or two of their fins. The spines of red snapper are not only sharp, but also poisonous. The fish produce bio-toxins that ensure that when we fishmongers stab ourselves in the knuckle with one of the spikes, as we often do, we'll have a joint that is swollen, limited in its range of motion, and in a good deal of pain for a few days. It is one of our more interesting battle wounds, and we count ourselves luckier than ordinary predators: at least we don't take it in the mouth. This time, however, besides the usual symptoms I was also given an interesting series of red lines tracing their way up my forearm, at first in the shape of a tree as it followed my veins, and then converging and spiraling most of the way up my arm. Blood poisoning! What a clever fish! The doctors and nurses were all fascinated, as apparently this sort of reaction usually takes a week or two as opposed to a bit more than a day, and not many of their patients come in with fish related injuries. They even had to do research in order to give me an exact diagnosis. The people for whom I work were kind enough to cover the expense of my visit to the hospital and my medication, and to pay me for the time during which I was at the hospital instead of work. Even better than that, the amazing Tom and Erica were extremely good to me, visiting me in the waiting room and bringing me a cookie. All of fishkind, meanwhile, rejoiced, having finally taken their revenge.
jacktellslies: (algeria 1905)
A dispatch:

I am now living in a former Chinese restaurant, now a fort in the deserts on the border of South Philadelphia and French Algeria. The layout of my post, in part, is as follows: the outside is painted in pink and white stripes. All of the floors are tile, which should make cleanup easier should I require anymore emergency surgeries (please refer to paragraph three). The bedroom windows open up onto an alleyway that does not, as far as I can tell, open onto the street. I've not yet climbed through either of them to go exploring. There is also a door that should open to the basement, but instead opens onto a blank wall. I'll explore that as soon as it opens into a magical realm. I check daily, taking turns employing the various fairy tricks I know. No, I admit, I've not yet investigated the surrounding territories much, but I believe that one should secure the fortifications before wandering out into the unknown. I did venture out in order to find the nearest liquor store, and was thrilled to find it a mere three blocks away. (I planted a flag there, of course, thus expanding the empire.) There is a spider living under the hand crank that opens the bay window in the living room. Her web is the cottony sort, not the geometrically perfect variety; she seems far more concerned with my housekeeping style than her own. Every insect to die in the house thus far is currently entombed in a pile beneath her nest. Clever, gluttonous girl.

Two of my dearest friends are being swallowed up by their own wilderness. I wish them success, cool weather, contented kittens, food that is both interesting and delicious, and at least three of the best used book stores ever to exist within walking distance of their new home. Still: you've won again, Florida. A pox on your swamps.

The pocketing experiment on the back of my neck ended in the company of good friends with a scalpel and a bit of whiskey and blood. I've always wanted to experience a Civil War battlefield amputation, but I expect this is as close as I'll come for some time. As is usual, I was brave, but not necessarily quiet. The whole thing was filmed, both the insertion and the removal.

I have a small predicament. I had hoped to host a party in order to show Fort Ellsworth and introduce various groups of friends to one another. I'd also been wanting to have the chance to spend time with friends on or near my birthday. (I'll be twenty-four on the nineteenth of July.) The plan for my birthday had been to have a picnic and visit a strip club. I'm not sure, however, that I deserve this much celebrating in one month.

[Poll #1011359]
jacktellslies: (tea)
To celebrate Parker's having started T, Carla and I threw him a surprise, ahem, tea party. There were cucumber and watercress finger sandwiches, artfully arranged platters of meats and cheeses and smoked fish, ladyfingers, and little cakes with fruit. There were also, of course, several thousand varieties of expensive and exotic teas. As I'm sure you've noted, it was intensely manly. In fact, following a discussion regarding the strange ability of those sphinxes, women, to pick at the tiniest quantities of food and rely on the clever application of pauses in order to appear delicate and half starved while secretly consuming entire galaxies, we decided to hold an experiment. We embarked upon a quest to prove our virility: twisting their deceitful feminine ways to our own purposes, we nibbled away at entire pyramids of watercress sandwiches, cheering one another onward to still greater feats of gluttony, more daring displays of masculinity, leaving naught but pure machismo and crumbs in our wake. Debbie brought a gift of beard grooming products, and at the end of it, as a ritual acceptance of adolescence and, eventually, manhood, we took Parker out into the woods and circumcised him with a straight razor while chanting the following:

Gentlemen, behold! )


We'll host a sausage party when he's a bit further along.
jacktellslies: (bee)
Yesterday I was blindfolded by Rain and spun around a tree. I swung a stick and didn't miss all of the time. I didn't hurt anyone, as far as I know, and when a boy won it was less a shower and more an eruption of candy, condoms, sample packets of moisturizer, and, alas, beer. I found an ant on my hand for the first time this year. There were cupcakes and wine, and we burnt down most of a chair. Thom taught me about his future-furniture, which is to be made of new studio space, found wood, lost barns, no tools, useful books, and joining. I met some very nice people with whom we spoke about art, and an organic farmer and carnie named Jill. We walked in a line, climbing along the side of the road in the dark. It felt much later than it was as Alex and Meredith and I made our way home, but there is no such thing as too much Leonard Cohen. Thank you for having a birthday, Rain.
jacktellslies: (cafe terrace at night)
Tonight I found my way to an underground bar (Safe from the war, as Robert said. Nine steps closer to hell, I added.) with friends, including Courtney, back from the south for the briefest of stays, and a DJ. I'm the bartender's roommate, so all I had to do was encourage him to create things, to give me adventures, and suddenly I was standing by the bar in a suit and holding a martini glass containing something new and interesting and unnameable. He wouldn't even let me tip him, let alone pay my tab. So, should you find yourself at Bar Noir with a handsome young barkeep named Terrance, please tip him well and write something dirty on a napkin for him on my account.
jacktellslies: (circusfolk)
It has become necessary that I provide photographic evidence that I am real:



I'm the gent in the hat. As usual, Alex is planning something awful involving magnets, and Meredith is in the process of deciding how long she'll allow our nonsense (read: existence) to continue.




Both of these were taken by the illustrious Megan Etzel at the Franklin Fountain. Before Alex has the chance to begin another lecture on my failure to be adequately promiscuous, no, I've not yet seduced either of the young ladies who had been working that night, and yes, we should return for phosphates soon.

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