Food Feature: A faerie tale
Queer country living, off the grid and on the mountain
Let me tell you a story about fairies. Forget what you think you know — no Tinkerbells, no wings, no godmothers. Nope. This is a story about the Radical Faeries of Tennessee.
Once upon a time, way up on a hill, there lived a group of gaudy, glorious gay men. They didn't have electricity or a phone or even plumbing (as you and I would think of it in this day and age).
No, these men were living "off the grid," with solar power, a water cistern, outhouses, and some goats, chickens and trees.
These were the Radical Faeries.
Don't be scared, they're nice enough poofters. They'd rather give you a kiss than a hit on the head. It's a much longer story of how they ended up living on a mountain everyone calls Short, in the distant, misty land of Tennessee. If you're good, maybe I'll tell you one day.
These men flourished in their sanctuary. Free from the world's distractions, they spent time carving, writing, reading and frolicking.
But these men were not alone. No. They had faerie friends all over the world — and they invited them to the mountain twice a year to eat, drink and be merry. They called these events Gatherings.
Well, one day a young man, Quester, and his friend Kit set out to find these fabled faeries. They piled up their gear and sought them out. They knew they were getting close when they took a narrow dirt path up the side of the mountain. "You're almost there!" said a sign written in bright paint. The men smiled.
The Sanctuary wasn't meant for cars, so they left theirs in the meadow. They piled their gear into a wheelbarrow and went searching for a spot to make camp. Finally, they found an area crowded with tents, and decorated with crepe paper, dolls and lights.
"This is a faerie camp," they whispered.
While they set up camp, naked men roused from their slumber. One, named Driftwood, paid his respects. Then another in a yellow cotton dress hugged the newcomers. He was a Philly faerie. What was most remarkable was not that this aging Philly faerie with glasses wore a dress that reached his ankles, but that the dress was unbuttoned and his penis flopped forward.
Quester and Kit said hello and found a spot to rest on a grassy knoll. From there, they could see men, and a few women, entering a roughhewn log building with smoke snaking from the top. It was the bathhouse, and it was decorated with hundreds of towels that people left out to dry, weaving a quilt of color around the warm structure.
A man dressed in a tutu played Frisbee with three children around a May pole that stretched into the sky. Goats found their way from the barn and grazed on weeds, while chickens clucked around their feet. It was very slow and peaceful in the Faerie Sanctuary.
"Why is it so quiet here?" one of the men asked.
"There was a great party last night. Drumming, chanting, a bonfire. We set up lights and speakers around the fire and burned a huge doll named Irony in it," one man explained. "Some people aren't getting to bed 'til now."
A bell rang, calling those awake to lunch at the main house. There was a great big kitchen with huge pots and pans — one pan filled with roasted potatoes and onions, others with fragrant pesto. The men ate the faerie food and met other faeries. There was Storm, who had yellow, pink and green hair, and wore a bright skirt and black-and-white-striped tights. Storm gave both men a big hug. There was Weeder and Zoom and Easy (who wore a large yellow beehive wig).
Most of the time, the men sat and talked and lounged in hammocks. Some would go into the barn, where there was a special room called the Goat Boutique. Inside was a panoply of dresses, shirts, shoes and costumes. Anyone could search for something to wear and transform himself into something new.
There was so much freedom for these men! If they needed to pee, they just found a bush and peed. Other calls of nature were answered at the Chapel — or as some called it, the Shitter, a communal outhouse (really just planks over holes in the ground) used by men, women and children.
As the sun sank, it was very dark at the Sanctuary, and the only light was at the big house. After dinner, people began making their way to the bonfire. Quester met a man named Mojo. They warmed themselves together by the fire. Eventually they lay together in a hammock while tribal drumbeats reverberated in their ears and the fire warmed their faces.
This was Faerie Land — one of love and warmth, dresses and drag.
And they all lived happily ever after.