Those of you in Philadelphia tomorrow should make a point to stop by the Eastern State Penitentiary at 22nd and Fairmount. Le Jour de la Prise de la Bastille is a French national holiday that celebrates the storming of Paris' Bastille prison, a cherished symbol of the French Revolution.
The "French Fling," as it's known in Philly, is a daylong celebration with live music, activities, and food. The day culminates with an event at 5:30, when historic reenactors storm the Eastern State Penitentiary to capture Marie Antoinette. Before being mock-guillotined, she cries out, "Let them eat TastyKake," as the local treat is thrown down to the crowd below.
Restaurants in the Fairmount area will also be offering French dinners and wine tastings.
The Paris Hilton mania continues, and we couldn't help noticing the frenzy over a prison drawing she allegedly sent to TMZ.com. Its naivete is freakishly childlike -- so much so it's hard to believe it's real (hence our use of the word "allegedly").
But in our offices, we have the real thing. Terry, an inmate at Trenton State Prison, spent much of his incarceration fashioning the matchstick jewelry box we have pictured here. Sadly, Terry died of AIDS in the '90s, but we keep the box in our boardroom. On its top it has a beautiful rendering of a bird, and when it's open the velvet-lined drawers are reflected in the round mirror. It's a lovely piece of work by any standards, made even more remarkable when you consider what Terry had to go through to make it. Here's what he said about it when asked to describe his artistic process:
Well, I believe I used about 8,000 wooden matchsticks, if I
It has a lot of imperfections, but that’s what makes
something handmade so special.
My tools were limited to razor blades, a pair of toenail
clippers, and little pieces of well-used sand paper.
I’m allowed to have the sticks as a hobby, but I can’t have
my tools or sand paper. The conditions I had to work under really suck. The sand paper, I got some
friends to steal from the repair shop, but only little used pieces and they had
to hide them in their shoes to smuggle them to me. I had to keep going back to
them for more, because this one cop, he knew I was working on the box. Every
time I went to the yard, he would come in my cell and find where I hid the sand
paper and take it. Plus, I could only sand in the middle of the night, when it
was quiet enough to hear if a cop was walking towards my cell.
The same thing with the black velvet-like material I used
inside the drawers. Some other friends that work in the upholstery shop got it
for me three times, because of that cop. The same deal, only little pieces and
they had to hide them in their shoes to smuggle them to me.
If anyone would have got caught smuggling the stuff out of
the shops, they would have lost their jobs.
The urethane, or clear lacquer I used to coat the box with,
was also stolen for me. But that’s a real no-no, because it’s flammable and you
can make firebombs with it. If you get caught with that, that’s it. You go
right to lock-up (you don’t get to pass go or collect $200.) I had to bury that
in the dirt out in the yard and only bring it in and use it on Friday and
Saturday when that one cop was off. But I still had to be real careful because
it smells. That was a pretty good trick to hide anything out in the yard
between the guard towers and rotating cameras and all the nuts that would just
love to dig it up to see what I was hiding and steal it.
As for the painting I did on top of the box, I had the water
paints but the paintbrushes I made myself out of my hair, Q-tips, thread, and
glue. The picture I painted was from a card you sent me. I reproduced and
enlarged it and added a little to it.
I guess you could say nothing can keep a truly creative person from creating.