Jack Smith was the kind of man I wanted my mother to marry. Adventurous, they tried mushrooms once. He liked puppies and was smart.
They started a business together. He was a pharmacist and mother knew women’s needs. I was meandering and without goals even though I was only 10 years old. Jack wanted to motivate me. Said that if I read a book by Ayn Rand that hat he would give me a telephoto lens for my camera. That I would understand his life.
When he opened his drug store, we laid down the green felt checkerboard tile ourselves. He taught me how to stock the store. Help customers, even fill prescriptions. It was easy counting by fives and sweeping the pills.
Even my friends were employed, a few cents each to label bottles of YUM YUM douche Jack and mother manufactured. Far out fragrances, with psychedelic labels. It looked like Peter Max had designed the labels undulating Strawberries & Bananas Splitting.
Jack grew up in Philadelphia always wanting a pit bull terrier. One day he introduced us to his new puppy Yummy. Naming it after their douche, but I called her Arnold. She reminded me of the pig on Green Acres.
It was a good time and then they broke up. Jack fell in love with a woman with red hair. The drug store folded. The douche business was sold off to a distributor.
Our last supper together we went out for Chinese. Jack told us about a neighborhood kid 17 years old who he had hired to take care of his dogs and water the plants when he went out of town. He had rewarded him with one of Yummy’s puppies.
But the puppy disappeared. And Jack was accused of having it stolen. The kid was positive Jack had set him up.
A week later Jack returned home to find his apartment empty. He filed a police report. Hired a detective who canvased the neighborhood. The young man was arrested but let out on bail pending a trial. Neighbors reported a U-Haul driven by an older woman (the kid’s mother). The mother and child had wheeled out his safe, his furniture, taking almost everything but the dogs.
So it wasn’t a huge mystery a few days later when his car disappeared. After his shift ended his parking space vacant. The police soon located his automobile totaled at the bottom of a cliff.
It was in the newspaper. The young man had let himself into Jack’s apartment. Used that same set of keys he had used for his car. Ushering the dogs out to the patio closing the sliding glass doors.
He surprised Jack Smith hiding behind his front door. He was waiting with a baseball bat. Brutally incapacitating him. Then poured gasoline on his body and lit him on fire.
Arnold had a cough from all the second hand smoke. She coughed for an entire year. But in the end they called it good behavior when his killer served only a 5 year sentence.
I didn’t realize it at the time but Adrienne was not Adrienne but Penelope Trunk, a self obsessed non stop talking barf machine when we met at Sunset Beach. New to Santa Monica, she was looking for pickup volleyball games. I showed her the sign up sheets on each of the courts: the rules for doubles were simple: winners stayed and played. Losers left or went to the bottom of the list. She was a beginner but I played with her anyway.
She was different from the other wannabe jockettes, she read poetry, liked Adrienne Rich. I had been new once and never forgotten when Eric Sado played with me, one of the greatest defensive players ever on the USA National Team. A good player should be able to play with anyone.
So I practiced with her at least a few times a week. Bumping the ball, spiking and passing when we weren’t losing. We were playing good players and they serve the weaker opponent and keep the ball on them, never letting up. Duplicating what they will do in tournament play. With Adrienne so unskilled they served her every ball. Forcing her to pass the ball and side out.
She was self effacing and charming at first. Her head matched her ego, an oversized pumpkin. She hit you with her story so you couldn’t help but help. Raging bulimia, a critical father, no money, no car, no friends, and destitute working at a bookstore.
I was game to pick her up when she beckoned. One exploit, Noah’s Bagels after hours so she could dumpster dive. Huge bags of perfectly good 5 day old bagels. Adrienne had decided that bagels were the antidote to her bulimia because they were so difficult to upchuck. I didn’t mind paying for meals, but it wasn’t an appetizing sit down. Her never ending ego explorations were redundant.
I am sure you’ve had one of those friends, whose appetite for sharing their recycled material eventually spoils. I had to finally come up with a strategy to fend off her phone calls. My shrink suggested giving her a time limit. That people are miraculously able to condense their message when you put a clock on it. There was no dialogue.
One fellow I introduced her to was smitten and became a boyfriend. But he made the mistake of introducing her to his best friend. Whose contacts led to a better job. A house. A car. She was a pro at beach ringed monkey bars, swinging from one person to the next.
Adrienne was a good writer. I encouraged her to write keep a journal. I wasn’t above puking but I used the page. I kept a detailed diary, even wrote about the contents of her vomit. To make sense of our one way friendship. Invited her to a workshop I was running. Introduced her around.
When she stopped calling I wasn’t terribly surprised I never felt like she cared about me. She had improved her set. I was busy anyway. After a car accident, and over a month in the hospital and protracted rehab I hadn’t been playing ball. But I learned to walk again, to run, and was ready to get back to beach volleyball.
The last time I saw Adrienne she had changed her name. She was on one of the three women’s courts at Sunset Beach. Friendly and happy acting, she was the self appointed spokeswoman of the foursome. “Jessica we are not taking challengers today. We set up this foursome because we are all on tight schedules and only have a few hours to play.”
I swallowed. I said “you can’t do that you know the rules. Serve me off the court.” Then I called her a “cunt.” I felt she owed me something. I had been so broken by my accident. I saw our circumstances as reversed. And I expected that she at least play by the rules. I deserved that.
Years later I saw her on CNN. An authority on what? I goggled trying to figure out her expertise. One of her pen names had evolved a third time to Penelope Trunk. I Pen name with baggage really? Her blog promises to teach people how to get ahead. 350 an hour for a telephone consultation. Career advice. Classes. Inc Magazine calls her the most influential guidance counselor on the planet.
She calls herself an ex-professional volleyball player. Anyone can play in an open. But there are entry fees and it doesn’t make you a pro. Never placing in the money, she was actually a loser, putting out money not just for entrance fees. But travel, equipment, etc..
I made the mistake of looking at the wikipedia page for Beyond Baroque.
A literary arts center I worked it for over a decade. Second paragraph mentions my contribution “Beyond Books.” But not me.
I attempted a correction but was instructed to reference another website and then link back. My edits were vanquished.
It seemed logical that a national literary arts center, would publish. I approached Fred Dewey the director, suggesting on at least 10 occasions that the best work at Beyond Baroque wasn’t our celebrated authors, who blew through town on the weekends. But the troops of writers and poets who polished and spit clean those halls daily: those who participated in the workshops.
For almost a decade I led the Wednesday night workshop. Also the Sunday free open mike. And created the first webpage for Beyond Baroque. But Fred didn’t want to invest anything into the webpage. I asked to put the schedule up. But it was a flat no. We got huge kudos for the look of the webpage. Yet one day I got a call saying he was bringing in someone else to take over. Professionals.
And one at a time each of my jobs was repealed.
But back to Beyond Books. Fred Dewey was tepid, he thought it was a fine idea. If he didn’t have to do anything. Our workshop held a fund raiser and paid for the publication, we designed every aspect of Beyond Books: The paper stock, the color weight, size, soft back, design font, edit, etc.
And when the books sold Beyond Baroque kept the money. The book sold out. A second printing. Even the palm tree over the book icon that is still used today for everything Beyond Baroque was not created by “the center.” It was Nate, a member of the Wednesday night workshop.
And he could have used the money.
The Beyond Baroque wikipedia page doesn’t mention Franceye the soul of Beyond Baroque. The bearded woman who spent decades attending almost every workshop and function. A worse omission than my name certainly is Frances Dean Smith.
Bob Flanagan would tell poets challenged by the workshop,”If Franceye likes your work you are good”
The precursor to the book “Echo 681” the first of Beyond Books, was my challenge to the Wednesday Night Workshop. For each of us to self publish our own chapbooks. We were a talented bunch. Mine was called, “Meat Me.” And we sold and traded them in the bookstore.
A year later Fred created a chapbook library, and although I worked at Beyond Baroque for more than a decade my chapbook was never made apart of that collection.
It doesn’t matter I tell myself. Someone else will tell a similar story. What’s in a name? A headstone? My bed’s backboard? Fate is ashes. My people Pompei. Who cares if I was once the queen of Beyond Baroque?
I studied dance at the Olga Fricker academy but not to be a ballerina.
Desperate to be a princess. A year earlier at the masquerade ball all the Cinderella costumes had been rented. I was inconsolable, because my lot was to wear what fit me, the only costume left, the little devil.
At the academy I studied modern dance, with Tanya, once a student to Martha Graham. But asked mother to stop making me go.
Mother would leave work to pick me up after school. Then drop me off at the studio. Then nip back to her real estate office. It was a clever alternative to babysitting that kept me close.
But I was unappreciative. A prisoner condemned to interminable waiting rooms.The Mogul Ski Club. The after school Tee Pee Club. And my mother was always late.
My Grandmother said I was a wild indian, without supervision.
The academy produced pink satin troops of princesses. Pointy toed butterflies in simultaneous orchestrated compliance. I would pretend to be one of them. Holding the bar, plié, straighten, relevé, and down.
Olga Fricker while small in stature was a formidable architect. Once a dancer herself she used her instrument entirely.
Ringmaster to a circus filled to capacity. Barely standing room mothers, awed by the military grace, their daughters, minding. Olga the keeper of time and human metronome, shouted and cajoled, levitating the floor, had the piano doing jumping jacks. And everywhere girls leaping past each other without collision.
At 3:00 Tanya would start our class. Guiding those without skirts and ballet slippers. We modern ragamuffins into a circle of pretend. We took our starting positions. The scratches giving way, and tucked our heads and legs in to our bodies. Not standing our first position, but on the floor, making ourselves into little uni-pods. Seeds.
Tchaikovsky 33 rpm on the suitcase phonograph gave us a choice to grow and move or not. Some days I would not feeling like rooting even. And I might just listen, feel the floor and my heart.
In the wind and storm of the electric fan. I would raise my limbs, my branches, finding the pull to move within without anyone telling me when or what to do.