Memories of Belle – Update

Annie died Monday 08 February 2016.

The following love note to her was originally published 05 July 2015.

 

By Kit-Bacon Gressitt

 

memories lost friendship AlzheimersPictures of her adorn my house still, though we haven’t been friends for some years. Or we haven’t behaved as friends. I continue to think of her as one.

My friend—let’s call her “Belle”—she’s bright and lovely, so much more gracious than I, the perfect Southern lady I will never be. Belle came to me by word of mouth, I can’t recall whose. Don’t you love that sort of thing? Someone thought we’d like each other. Someone I’d thank, if I could remember.

In a photograph on the fridge, Bell and I are posed at a Halloween party, long forgotten—but not the captured moment. She stands behind me, in a flapper dress; I, in my husband’s cammies and flak jacket, helmet under my arm, fat cigar in hand. She has wrapped herself around me, rested her pretty face on my armored shoulder. That’s how we spent our years together, the years we behaved as friends.

Belle wrapped herself around my life and became a family fixture, expected, without need for invitation, at high days and holidays. She’d arrive other times, unannounced—a welcomed breach of Southern etiquette—to flop on the sofa, peruse the bookshelves, comment on the latest piece of art. She’d pour herself some wine, raid the fridge, have an occasional case of the vapors—venting the sorrow of an ill-kempt marriage, a clash of faiths, fears for a beloved son, things darker.

Mostly, though, we’d while away hours in conversation while my family snored—a duet of Southern twang and remnants of Baltimorese. We’d muse on the unfathomable, cry at the cruel, mourn our losses. Laughter sometimes trumped the darkness, not always, but we were sisters. We could survive anything. We’d always find a way to make the other laugh. At some point. We knew each other, really knew.

I wonder how many times it was that she concluded a moment of relationship frustration with “If only we were lesbians.”

We could have been lovers. If we’d been a bit more bi. If we hadn’t had husbands. If she hadn’t remembered the miasmic hurt of oppressive Southern nights, hairbrush handles and gentleman callers invading her childhood bed. If she hadn’t been guided to remember.

I never questioned her memories. Her feelings were real. She needed to express them, sometimes more virulently than others. When the need was great, Belle would wail at the “vile mother monster” who offered her up, while the torches of white-sheeted men flickered across her bedroom window. That’s how Belle recalled it.

Other times, she held the need quiet and clenched: “My mother was an evil bitch.”

My aches seemed relatively trivial. My dear mother was just a wee bit of a bitch—in my teen years, I suppose. But Belle and I held and rocked each other, encouraged and scolded, mothered and sistered as the need arose, without condition. I was grateful that she fled the South and found her way to a place in my California home.

One day, though, one moment, Belle and I changed. It happened in my living room, amid a gathering of friends. It was so sudden, so simple, so devastating. I failed to honor her memories, to defend them from a curious other, an inquisitor asking for proof of her pain, and Belle left my sofa, my family, my life. She never returned.

I mused over the cause. I cried into her void. I mourned the loss of my dearest friend. And she was not there to make me laugh. Instead, I hung the pictures, so I’d never forget, and some years passed.

Not long ago, a friend of Belle’s contacted me. He thought I’d like to know what had become of her—she had so often spoken of me, he said.

He told me she’s living in an institution, a home for the forgetful. She has early onset Alzheimer’s, rapidly progressing.

I drove to the distant corner of the county to see Belle, to hold and rock her if she wished, to make her laugh if I could.

She rose from a table in the common dining room, bumped her way through wheelchairs, sidestepped fallen lettuce on the linoleum floor. She greeted me with her lovely smile, shook my hand warmly, but she did not know me.

We walked to the porch, commenting on the weather, and sat on a wicker love seat, the cushion protected with plastic. We did none of that pleasant catching up, prelude to more intimate talk. She couldn’t. Every other sentence was the start of a new conversation.

She handed me a piece of paper and asked me to write my name and phone number—a polite trick of the trade perhaps?

When I returned the paper, she held it out as far as she could reach—”Can’t imagine where I left my glasses”—read it, and jumped from the seat.

“Kit-Bacon? Kit-Bacon Gressitt?”

“Yes, that is I, it’s me, c’est moi.”

She clapped her hands and laughed. “Kit-Bacon, Kit-Bacon—how wonderful to see you!” She tucked the paper in her pocket, took my hand, sat back down and hugged me, laughing and repeating my name.

I had forgotten that laugh, Belle’s wild, ribald laugh, so unlike her gracious demeanor. It’s one of those small, dichotomous things I love about her. And with her moment of recognition, I hoped we might revisit our shared history. But in the next moment, she forgot who I am.

I lingered for a bit. We sat in the sun. I  asked Belle what she could remember. She mentioned her son, her “precious boy.” She mentioned her mother.

“Oh, I remember moving to California,” she said. “My dear, sweet mother, she helped me pack. She wrapped up all my favorite things for the road. What a sweet, sweet woman.”

I love you, Belle,
Kit-Bacon
……………………………..

 

About Kit-Bacon Gressitt

Spawned by a Southern Baptist creationist and a liberal social worker, I inherited the requisite sense of humor to survive family dinner-table debates and the imagination to avoid them.

As the Sunday political columnist at the San Diego North County Times, I won awards, a Pulitzer Prize submission, a fan club, and death threats from angry readers—but the sales department loved me. More recently, I wrote book reviews for the paper, which is no longer: The U-T ate it.

In the last few years, the San Diego Poetry Annual has published some of my late-night poetry, and my creative nonfiction has been published by Trivia: Voices of Feminism and Ms. Magazine blog among others.

Today, the pocket gophers and hummingbirds keep me company while I write—yippee!

The Luau

A Short Story by
Dan McClenaghan

 

Since Ellis Leahy’s present financial situation wouldn’t allow a trip for him and Ruth to Honolulu for a Hawaiian vacation, he did the next best thing: He planned a backyard luau. First, he went online, to “Pigs R Us,” and ordered a sow, a young eighty-five pounder. Then on Amazon he ordered a CD, “The Twenty-Five Finest Ukulele Hits” and four grass skirts. And he invited the next door neighbors over, Clete and Juanita, for the celebration.

Ellis and Clete dug a hole in the backyard lawn, while Ruth and Juanita drove down to the beach for a half dozen plastic buckets full of fist sized cobbles. When the ladies got home—cursing at the pain of back strain from lifting two hundred pounds of stones—the Weber Grill was smoking, and guys in grass skirts Hulawere dancing around the grave-sized hole in the ground, moving to the lilting Hawaiian sounds floating out of the boom box. Ellis and Clete hula-ed over to the buckets that Ruth had set down on the patio and attempted to lift them. When they couldn’t, they picked up the stones two at a time and put them on the Weber Grill, to heat them to a red hot temperature that would cook the tender flesh of the pig.

And then she arrived, alive, frisky, snorting and prancing across the backyard like a plump pink filly. She sidled up and leaned against the thigh of Juanita, wanting to have the spot behind her ear scratched.

The delivery girl from Pigs R Us handed Ellis the clipboard for a signature on the receipt, and Ellis said, “I thought she was gonna be dead, gutted, you know, ready to go in the ground.”

The delivery girl, with her turquoise hair and a rainbow of tattoos rising out of her blouse like a riot of wildflowers, took the clipboard from him and said, ”That’s your job, Ace. You want her dressed out, you gotta pay for it.”

“So, you forgot to read the fine print, huh?” said Ruth, grinning, as Ginger, Juanita’s Chihuahua, crawled through the hole she’d dug under the fence between the two backyards and started gamboling with the pig, chasing her, then getting chased by her, ears pinned back against her head until she skidded and u-turned, yapping maniacally and giving the pig a chance to try to elude her in this eight-legged game of tag that zig-zagged on a circuitous circumnavigation of the Leahy’s drought dried backyard lawn.

“Looks like Ginger found a friend,” said Juanita.

“You ladies,” Ellis intoned, “are gonna have to go inside, and take Ginger with you. Me and Clete got man’s work to do.”

“Says the guy in the grass skirt.” Juanita smirked.

Ruth laughed.

And Ellis tore the rustling garment off and threw it in the hole, then he stalked into the house and reappeared with a butcher knife. “She’s goin’ down,” he said, as the pig rose up and put its hooves on Juanita’s shoulders and gave her a piggie kiss.

“Get away from her, Juanita. I’ve got blood to spill,” Ellis said.

“Give me a break,” said Ruth. She’d been married to Ellis Leahy for forty-three years, and he had never in his life killed anything larger than an insect. She took the knife from his hand without incident and went into the house, followed by the pig and Ginger.

Juanita said to Clete, “Go get the VISA Card out of my purse, my love, and buy us something to eat.” Clete’s mouth puckered up like a pouch with a drawstring, when Juanita added, “And you might,“ as Ellis and Clete slouched out the side gate, “take your skirt off, Dear.”

Clete stopped in the gateway and broke into a scowling, defiant hula for her, a hula with an attitude, a rapper’s hula.

Ellis grabbed his grass-skirted friend’s shirt at the scruff of the neck and pulled him away from his smirking audience, toward the purse and that VISA Card.

………………………………………..

About Dan McClenaghan

DanMcClenaghanMugI write stuff.

I began with my Ruth and Ellis/Clete and Juanita stories in the early 1980s. At the beginning of the new millennium I started writing reviews of jazz CDs, first at American Reporter, and then (and now) at All About Jazz. I’ve tried my hand at novels, without success.

I’ve been published in a bunch of small presses, most notably the now defunct Wormwood Review. This was in the pre-computer age, when we whomped up our stories on typewriters, then rolled down to Kinkos to make copies, which we stuck in manila envelopes, along with a return envelope with return postage attached. Times have changed.

Aside from the writing, I am married to the lovely Denise. We have three wonderful children and five beautiful grandchildren; and I am a two-time winner—1970 and 1971—of the Oceanside Bodysurfing Contest. Kowabunga!

Photo Credit: Evil Erin via a Creative Commons license.

 

Mongolia’s Nomadic Eagle Hunters

A film by Brandon Li from Matador Network

 

 

Mongolia’s Nomadic Eagle Hunters Brandon Li gets up close with the Kazakh eagle hunters on the boarder of Russia and Mongolia. Here’s his take on what it was like making this stunning film:”My producer and I totally went out on a limb to make this video. We spent several weeks living with ethnically Kazakh eagle hunters on the Russian/Mongolian border in their traditional gers. It was wild.Training eagles to hunt, herding yaks, and racing camels are just a few of their daily activities. We’re really passionate about their story, in part because we’re also nomads: we move every 3-10 days to cover ground as travel filmmakers. Saddle up and enjoy the ride.”

 

Distant Valentine on Rye

By Sharon Thompson

 

Canters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last time I was in L.A.
my third husband
was still the rebound guy.
Another Goy. Shy musician—
Hermosa Beach native.
Novice in The City.

Crushed by crowds on Fairfax,
shouldering our way toward Canter’s buckled parking lot,
motionless at the Deli’s exterior
we gawk like tourists
at the faded fresco splashed high
covering chipped brick.
Sephardic Jews, tallies, yarmulkes, black beards—
earnest men rendered twenty-five feet tall;
imitation Wailing Wall.

Inside, waitress finally arrives,
annoyed behind rhinestone glasses
shifting foot to foot, pad in hand,
chewed pencil hovering over paper,
another tucked into stiff bleached hair.
Hip cocked, she waits, bored. Querulous.
“Well?” — all the hospitality we earned,
including an extra beat
when my new lover ordered mayonnaise
on his corned beef on rye.

……………………………….

About Sharon Thompson

Sharon ThompsonSharon Thompson has been writing for most of her life. Love of reading and writing led to a twenty year career teaching high school English first in Los Angeles and finally in the San Diego area. Now retired, Sharon enjoys focusing on her own writing, attending workshops and reading her work for others. She lives with her dachshund, Sam, in Temecula, California, close to her two grown sons.

 

Photo credit: Karen via a creative Commons license.

 

Making a Killing: Guns, Greed & the NRA

A new film from Brave New Films

 

 

Brave New Films is taking on the National Rifle Association and the gun manufacturers, the most feared special interest group in the USA. Their reluctance to allow for safe gun policies has helped create a 6 billion dollar a year industry and leaves 80 Americans dead from guns daily. For too long, the debate on guns has focused on the rights of corporate partners funding the NRA over the rights of everyone else to feel and be safe in their communities.

We will not be bullied like our legislators. JOIN US & HOST A FREE SCREENING.

Making a Killing is a game changer, leveraging innovative distribution technology to accelerate systemic change. Together we are going to reframe the debate because the right to safety should always triumph over greed. We may not have as much corporate sponsorship money as the NRA, but we have you and the thousands of others who believe in this film and are ready to take on the NRA once and for all.

Join the fight against gun violence: Host a free screening at your home.

 

BBC: Auschwitz 70

“One minute in Auschwitz was like an entire day. A day was like a year. A month, an eternity.” — Roman Kent, Holocaust survivor

Survivors gather at the former Nazi death camp Auschwitz to mark what is now the 71st anniversary of its liberation by the Soviets, in January 1945. This aerial footage shows what it looks like today.

Subscribe to BBC News HERE

 

Writers Read Presents, on February 9, 2016


WordOfPower

Poet and Novelist Jon Wesick 


Reading and discussing


Poetry: Words of Power, Dances of Freedom

Novels: Hunger for Annihilation and Yellow Lines    

 

 

Hunger

 

 

Preceded by open mic for original poetry and prose

Date: Tuesday, February 9, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Location: Fallbrook Library, 124 S Mission, Fallbrook, 760-731-4650

 

 

YellowLinesHost of the Gelato Poetry Series in San Diego, author of the poetry collection Words of Power, Dances of Freedom and two novels, Hunger for Annihilation and Yellow Lines, Jon Wesick has published over three hundred poems in journals such as the Atlanta Review, Pearl and Slipstream. An editor of the San Diego Poetry Annual, he has also published nearly a hundred short stories, one of which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. One of his poems won second place in the 2007 African American Writers and Artists contest. Another had a link on the Car Talk website. Jon has a Ph.D. in physics and is a longtime student of Buddhism and the martial arts.

 

For more information, contact Kit-Bacon Gressitt at kbgressitt@gmail.com or 760-522-1064.

 

Berkley 1967

By Penny Perry

for Olivia

 

CircusGirlsunder your red and gold

Nigerian

umbrella

 

compliments

of the Peace Corp

we were

our own little circus

 

me

with walking stick

and binoculars

 

you with Bethany

in your belly

freckles on your white knees

 

we bobbed past ferns

in Tilden Park

in the spring rain

…………………………………….
About Penny Perry

PennyPerryKateHardingMugPenny Perry is a six-time Pushcart Prize nominee in poetry and fiction. Her work has appeared in California Quarterly, Lilith, Redbook, Earth’s Daughter, the Paterson Literary Review and the San Diego Poetry Annual.

Her first collection of poems, Santa Monica Disposal & Salvage (Garden Oak Press, 2012) earned praise from Marge Piercy, Steve Kowit, Diane Wakoski and Maria Mazziotti Gillan.

She writes under two names, Penny Perry and Kate Harding.

Moonwalk

By Conney D. Williams

 

moonwalk today’s exclusive or maybe a day
that masquerades as present
as urban city America
reality never incarnates ad-hoc
it is perpetually current history, when
a black body can only be elevated, posthumously,
to lead role as Citizen, status
as something other than “Other”
today when a blue flatfoot
in a surreal, Maury television kind of truth
required to be
accountable
like mathematics or statisticsmoonwalk
where this genre of anomaly exists
for adhering to institution & protocol
when a black man moonwalks,
he is without menace
devoid of those tendencies
that create a culture of white mass murderers
and not all of them are named Dylan
some do their best work
between the E Pluribus Unum
of God and Country
if Motown 25 proved anythingmoonwalk
besides it’s probably the greatest
record label of all time
it is that Michael Jackson’s moonwalk
hypnotized White America,
Michael Jackson,
could never be convicted of any crime
though his greatest crime was to forget,
seduced by his proximity of pigmentation,
he was still a black body
but Motown 25 and Michael moonwalkproved that
moonwalk is admissible black man conduct
especially when behaving on public stages
like parks, Walmarts, front porches, or sidewalks
when the black man pirouettes clockwise
then moonwalks offstage, submissively
he is no longer mythological
sure his whereabouts still cast shadows
a blemish against the American background
but, when he moonwalks, with
back reversed,
he is conscientious objector to threat
thirteen months after his indiscretionmoonwalk
a badged “Van Dyke” is taken off payroll
endorsements rescinded one year and one month
after his six second portrayal as peace officer
he’s no longer reimbursed with “conflict” dollars
dollars unearthed like South African diamonds
embezzled from the black anatomy
this brand of accounting grants no revisions to
these Lucifer-like martyrs who dare
to be equal to self appointed GOD(s)
him and her black bodies
hushed like opportunity in a housing projectmoonwalk
“oops, they did it again”
so, Officer “Van Dyke” has no more “conflict’ dollars
to swear allegiance
only on today
thirteen months after his unassisted suicide
a black man will always have the forensics
of his living under examination
and his life fall below white market value
and still be declared cautionary
because black bodies
can never disrobe their menacemoonwalk
a deluge of melanin is its own threat
when a white man is responsible for, well
I’ve never known what colonialism isn’t responsible for
however, a white representative was arrested
allowed to turn himself in, surrender
as courtesy to the fact, he is a citizen
this is never guesswork
unlike the pathology of Blackness
thirteen months after not being allowed
to consider the benediction surrender offers
Laquan McDonald’smoonwalk
life and citizen are queried, interrogated
as though it wasn’t really his
or that he did not deserve to own it
only today,
or a day masquerading as post-racial
could a black man, be
Al Caponed in the Chicago dusk
his breath third degreed
no he didn’t deserve execution
“deserves” got nothing to do with justice
as unbiased news anchors opine,
“wasn’t he moonwalking,”
he did not deserve fourteen more bullets
invading his flesh after the previous two
had crumbled him,
like the endangered specimen he is
but how he expect a different outcome?
remember blackness
is forever on the auction block
perpetual Atlantic
always Standard & Poor’s
rather than the Dow Jones
no he shouldn’t been required to attend
remedial firearms training as target
“all sixteen bullets” thrust into the silhouette
of the pseudo human target
PCP and three-knives are excuses
narratives that embellish Black folklore
menace is replete in melanin
how cold he deserve to live?
how does blackness
the black body hold such memory
memory akin to erasure
eradication, otherness
when blackness, the black body
is at once first woman/man
first man/woman
when doest the black body
in America, remember
remember when it was something
other than other
even when there is nothing left
nothing left to extract or excavate
nothing left to barter or auction
the black body is still imbalanced
no proper diet
or minimum daily requirements
that will procure acceptance
or assimilation this anorexic culture
even when ounce of blackness
spills into crevices of pavement
reserved for non-compliance
non-citizens
the black body is still a debtor
still owing some recompense
for its existence
against the residue of whiteness
that is the background for blackness
not parallel or reflection
but an indelible smudge
this white background
always bearing witness against the black body
Laquan McDonald’s body
my body, and
the body of my children
how does the black body hold such memory
only today
as in everyday
a day that masquerades without promise
when a murdered black body
thirteen months after his death
was almost citizen
except for his blackness
except for his black body
when the black man pirouettes clockwise
then moonwalks offstage, submissively
he is no longer mythological
but even immobile, he is still a threat
because black bodies
can never disrobe their menace
black bodies never disrobe menace

………………………………
About Conney D. Williams

ConneyConney D. Williams is a Los Angeles based poet, actor and performance artist, originally from Shreveport, Louisiana, where he worked as a radio personality.

Conney’s first collection of poetry, Leaves of Spilled Spirit from an Untamed Poet, was published in 2002. His poetry has also been published in various journals and anthologies including Voices from Leimert Park; America: At the End of the Day; and The Drumming Between Us. His collection Blues Red Soul Falsetto was published in December 2012, and he has released two new poetry CDs, Unsettled Water and River&Moan, available on his website.

Come out of the closet and read!

 

Writers Read at Fallbrook Library

Free monthly readings of poetry and prose, with featured authors and open mic 

 

Presents

All Open Mic Night

Celebrate the New Year with writers of poetry and prose

those who read their work every chance they get

those who’ve never read publicly before

those who fall somewhere in between

 

Join these and other book lovers on Tuesday 12 January, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. 

Books

Come out of the closet and read!

 

Fallbrook Library •124 S. Mission Road • Fallbrook

Next Writers Read: Tue. 09 Feb, featuring performance poet Karla Cordero

For more information, contact K-B Gressitt at 760-522-1064 or kbgressitt@gmail.com

or visit www.ExcuseMeImWriting.com

Lava

A Short Story by
Dan McClenaghan

JalapenoPeppersClete had the feeling he’d made the chili a bit too hot, so he called his buddy Ellis in from the patio, where the two men had been drinking beer and listening to the pool filter sigh, and told him to test out a spoonful of the fiery goop.

Ellis slurped some up, dropped the spoon, sucked in a huge gulp of air, clutched his chest, and staggered backwards, bellowing. Then he swung around and punched the refrigerator, lifting it six inches off the floor and leaving a dent in the white metal deep enough to hide a cantaloupe.

The ice dispenser hemorrhaged, a cascade of cold cubes spilling forth with a clatter. Ellis scooped up two big handfuls and stuffed them into his mouth, then barreled through the house and out the sliding glass door, charged across the patio, and dove in to the pool, face first.

Clete used the side of his foot to sweep a path through the scattered ice cubes and walked over to peer out the doorway. Ellis spouted like a whale, ice cubes flying, sparkling in the sun like diamonds as they rose to their zeniths then plunked down into the turquoise water.

Clete walked back to the kitchen, thinking: Maybe a few too many jalapeños.

The chili, as he took another look, was bubbling up over the sides of the pot, flowing across the stove top and down onto the floor like lava, hissing and smoldering, catching fire in places.

Definitely too many jalapeños, he mused, as the doorbell rang. He strolled out to answer it, and found two young men in polo shirts who wanted to know if he’d be interested in solar power.

“No, not really,” he said. “But, hey, can you do me a favor, and come in here and take a taste of this chili I just made, let me know if I made it too hot?”

Back in the kitchen, the refrigerator continued to spew ice cubes onto the floor, while the chili sizzled and popped and flared up, setting the smoke alarm to wailing.

………………………………………………….
About Dan McClenaghan

DanMcClenaghanMugI write stuff.

I began with my Ruth and Ellis/Clete and Juanita stories in the early 1980s. At the beginning of the new millennium I started writing reviews of jazz CDs, first at American Reporter, and then (and now) at All About Jazz. I’ve tried my hand at novels, without success.

I’ve been published in a bunch of small presses, most notably the now defunct Wormwood Review. This was in the pre-computer age, when we whomped up our stories on typewriters, then rolled down to Kinkos to make copies, which we stuck in manila envelopes, along with a return envelope with return postage attached. Times have changed.

Aside from the writing, I am married to the lovely Denise. We have three wonderful children and five beautiful grandchildren; and I am a two-time winner—1970 and 1971—of the Oceanside Bodysurfing Contest. Kowabunga!