Hello my Lovelies! How is your Friday beginning to shape up? Mine is going to be an odd duck. I woke up this morning to take my second eldest son to school (he had to be there early) only to find that my car windshield was frozen over. No big deal. Ice scraper out, I tackled the windshield. Only…it wasn’t coming off. What the..?? After a moment I realized what was going on. The windshield was frozen on the inside. No, the windows weren’t cracked or rolled down and all the doors had been shut properly. Do not ask me how the inside had frozen because science was never my best subject (except biology). But it was funny and my son and I had a good laugh about it. I swear, things like that can only happen to me. (Hope it gave you a chuckle or smile, too.)
Today, I have a very special Friday’s Features. Helena from Being the Memoirs of a Dilletante contacted me recently and asked if I’d be willing to post an excerpt from her forthcoming book Memoirs of a Dilletante, Volume 2. Being the cool chick that she is, and because I like her, I said yes. Helena and I are recently new friends, still treading the fairly warm delightful waters of a beginning relationship. I was introduced to her by our lovely mutual friend Lizzi Rogers from Considerings back in October when Lizzi wrote a poem to help promote Helena’s book Jessica. Jessica B. Bell is Helena’s nom de plume and the book is all about how Helena met Jessica. I’ve read excerpts from it and participated in the lead up to it’s publication, and I have to say what I’ve read is fantastic. Dark and twisted, I knew exactly which friends of mine would love it. I was excited about it and I am not normally a horror fiction reader unless it’s gothic horror. Give me some Poe and I’m good. I had a fling with Stephen King when I was 14, but Dracula, Frankenstein, etc, are what makes my frightened heart beat fast. Jessica, though…well, I wouldn’t want to meet her in a dark alley for sure. But I imagine she’s interesting to talk to. Bravo Helena, darling, for your bravery.
Now, last month Helena “came out” as it were about her real identity. Helena is actually Ken. I’m not sure if it was just me or what, but I was not as surprised as I guess some people might have been that a man is under the hat of our favorite dilletante. To be honest, I thought it was brilliant and completely understandable. It’s all about appreciating the work, not the author. As a writer, we want our writing to be acknowledged and loved for itself, not because of ourselves. Or at least, I do. Helena/Ken feels the same way. Plus, most of society stereotypes and judges individuals based on those stereotypes. Having read excerpts from Memoirs vol 1 and vol 2, I can say, without doubt, that Ken blows the steretype that men can’t write from a woman’s point of view out of the water. He nails it. And I love it. Sadly, I do not own any of Helena’s books. Not yet. I’m on a book diet and have a long list of books I’m waiting to purchase. Helena’s are top of the list. Recently, however, Helena had a contest where she asked the question “Who gave the worst film performance of Hamlet, who is his ex-wife, and what was the only project they worked on together?” Heh heh heh…I didn’t name my blog The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet for nothing. I did have to verify the ex-wife part but otherwise the answer was fairly easy. Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, and Gattaca. What did I win? Ken/Helena’s new Shakespearean inspired/styled tragi-comedy play Penelope, Countess of Arcadia. I.Can’t.Wait. And not only is Helena just fantastically dressed, but Ken has awesome taste in music and books. You really MUST go check out Helena’s blog, get to know her (and Ken), and BUY THE BOOKS! They really are exceptionally written (basing that off the excerpts and other things I’ve read in comments that Helena/Ken has written).
Now that I’ve given you a glimpse of Helena, I’ll let her do the rest. She’s left a little taste of Memoirs of a Dilletante, Vol. 2 down below. I hope it whets your appetite for more.
I Know Very Well How I Got My Name … an excerpt
This is a love story. But not a Hollywood love story, darlings, so I can’t in good conscience offer you any promises of a happy ending. Or at least not in the “they rode off into the sunset together and lived happily ever after” way.
It’s a story about honesty – about being true to yourself – about loving enough to let go.
I met Adam at a particularly low time in my life. My sister Cheryl and her husband had died not six months before, and I had (is inherited the wrong word to use here?) my niece Penny. I was suddenly no longer just fun Aunt Helena; I had to look after her. Not that Penny, already technically an adult – though just technically – needed diapers changing (well, not very often, anyway) or to have her every need provided for. For that I could be thankful – that in a way, we were a support for each other.
Adam was a fixer-upper. Not the first project I’ve taken on, and – give me strength – probably not the last. He was an actor, or at least, he wanted to be, at any rate. He worked through the agency I work for, taking jobs as a background actor – an extra. You know, the crowd of people that fill out the scenery in movies and television shows.
It’s not exactly a full-time gig, and it’s all Adam did for a living. The rest of his time he spent painting – but I’m getting ahead of myself, darlings.
The end of the year was approaching, and I had been invited to a very important party for New Year’s Eve. Not the type of party with celebrities and directors – I wasn’t there yet, darlings – but with a lot of casting agents and other industry contacts. If I ever wanted to get out from behind my desk and in front of a camera (sigh – yes, I, too, dreamed of the silver screen) then I had better drag myself out of my mourning funk for one night only, and show off my dazzling… wits.
I didn’t want a date. Really, I didn’t – but much as one does not simply walk into Mordor, one does not show up at the biggest to-do of the year on one’s own. No, like it or not, I needed some arm candy. Adam just happened to walk in my door – the most beautiful man I’d ever laid eyes on. It didn’t hurt that he was wearing a tuxedo – a pinstriped suit that the wardrobe department had provided for him for a shoot of some ballroom scene set in the 1930s.
I really hadn’t said more than a dozen words to Adam before that day. Just business – can you be here at such and such a time, etc…
When I asked him if he would be my date for New Year’s Eve, it felt strangely like a similar business transaction.
I don’t think I spoke to him at all between that day and New Year’s Eve, when I called him to make sure we were still on, and did he have a tuxedo, and blah blah blah…
He meant nothing to me. For all intents and purposes, I might as well have hired an escort, except that the advantage of being a woman – and a beautiful, charming one at that, darlings – is that I can always find someone willing to be seen with me, even if for just an evening.
The night itself was nothing to write about. We had fun. We danced, we drank, we had a few laughs. It’s not that he wasn’t a nice guy, it’s just that it was all fake for me. I was just going through the motions, trying to put on a happy face when I was anything but. By the end of the evening, I was drunk enough to invite him back to my place, and even drunk enough to let him get a bit frisky with me, but not so drunk that I turned into a complete slut.
No, darlings, I’m happy to say that we fell asleep with our clothes on, and in the morning, I kicked him out after a polite thank you and a cup of coffee. We did the ever-popular I’ll Call You Two-Step (cha cha cha) and said good-bye, both expecting that would be the last of it.
But a month later, I got invited by a friend to go out on the town for Valentine’s Day. She’d won some prize package that involved a limousine, fancy dinner, nightclubbing, and Niagara Falls, and she insisted that I join her, and was I seeing anybody? I don’t know why, but for some reason, I told her that yes; yes, I had started seeing someone on New Year’s Eve, and yes, Adam and I would love to join her.
Adam and I never made it to the Valentine’s Day party, though.
“How come you haven’t called me?” I asked, feigning disappointment. He saw right through me.
“What do you need from me now, Helena?” he laughed.
“That obvious, huh?”
“I knew what New Year’s was. I had fun. But I got the feeling you didn’t, so I let it go.”
I couldn’t see him over the phone, but in my head, he shrugged, and it was adorable.
“I need a date for Valentine’s Day,” I blurted, and he burst out laughing. He had an amazing, deep chuckle that made me grin sheepishly in return.
“Why do you assume I’ve got nothing planned for Valentine’s Day? What if I already have a date?”
“Oh, you can’t!” I declared decidedly. “You simply can’t. You have plans with me. You’ll just have to break that poor other girl’s heart!”
“Actually, my best friend is flying in from Vancouver on the 12th, and staying with me for a few days. I’ll tell you what – if you have room for two more – assuming you can find him a date – then I’m in.”
“I’m going to need to know more about your friend if I’m going to set him up on a date with someone on Valentine’s Day. And he’s going to have to buy roses. Lots of roses.” I insisted, negotiating the contract.
“Roses on Valentine’s Day?” he laughed. “Do you have any idea how much they cost on Valentine’s Day?”
“Oh, and chocolates,” I added. “And not some drug store heart-shaped box of waxy $2.99 specials. Truffles. From an actual chocolatier.”
“Wait, aren’t you the one who asked me for a favour?” he asked, amused.
“I am offering you the pleasure of my company for the most romantic evening of the year. If you insist on bringing your friend – whose charm and character have yet to be proven, along with us – then I think it only fair that you sweeten the pot a little.”
“Oh I see,” he said. “Well, why don’t you come pick me up for a drink, and I can fill you in on the details about my friend?”
By the time Valentine’s Day rolled around, we’d spent nearly every waking moment outside of work with each other, talking over coffee – those long auto-biographical conversations you have at the start of a new relationship. A sort of unpacking of your heart for the purposes of barter and exchange. You show me yours and I’ll show you mine. For him, he played his cards one at a time, insisting that he was hiding nothing back. But of course, this is another familiar dance. Only a fool would lay all their cards on the table all at once. Ordinarily, I came to the table with armour firmly fastened to my fine frame, prepared to protect my past. Maybe it was vulnerability, or exhaustion. Maybe it was just an honest, deep longing to connect with another person; to wash away my sorrow and bury myself in the comfort of love. For whatever reason, this time I came to the table with both my weapons and my defences down. For good or ill, the game had begun.
He played the King of Diamonds – a wealthy, successful father in Vancouver who had all but disowned him when he refused to go work for him in his construction company.
I countered with the King of Clubs – an angry, abusive, controlling father who created an atmosphere of terror for me and my sister growing up.
He laid the Jack of Spades, and explained about his trek across the country, totally broke and hungry, running as far away as he possibly could, living in his car and busking on the street; painting stylized portraits for gas and food money.
I countered with the Queen of Hearts, and confessed my passion for life, love and the arts. I spilled all the relevant details of my dalliances with love, up to and including the painful tale that ended with me miscarrying on my sister’s front porch.
He returned with the King of Hearts, declaring that didn’t think he’d ever been in love, but that he thought he’d know it when he saw it.
I played the Queen of Spades, and told him about Cheryl and Ted’s fatal car accident, speaking honestly of the grief that had been eating away at me.
He showed me the Jack of Hearts, and told me about his best friend Paul, who he’d grown up with and for whom he’d do anything. Paul’s mother had just died, after the doctors discovered an inoperable brain tumour not three months prior. He was coming out to Toronto to stay with Adam for a few days just to get away from all the people in his life that were hanging all around him, doting over him and trying to help him and constantly asking him if he was all right; if there was anything they could do.
I dropped the Queen of Clubs, and proudly described my brief stint as the singer of a band out in California, and how it had ignited a desire to perform, to create, to show the world what I could do. I told him how I’d tried to show my writing to people – little short stories and poems; the makings of a novel – but how I’d gotten a lot of blank stares from people, or polite nods and smiles. I had no idea what to make of that – was my writing any good? Or were they just placating me?
He slapped a pair of Jacks down – Diamonds and Clubs, and told me that he didn’t really want to be an actor; that all he really wanted to do was paint – that if he could ever make anything as incredibly cool as his hero Jean-Michel Basquiat, he could die a happy man. He wanted to be famous for his paintings; to have his own gallery and studio. He gravitated toward little artist communities, and loved meeting and collaborating with other artists, and he fantasized about opening up a collective studio, like Andy Warhol’s Factory; just opening the door to all the freaks and artists and musicians and creating something amazing.
I held the King of Spades and the Queen of Diamonds in my hand, and wondered if this was supposed to be us. Him, the black sheep of his family. Me, the glamorous pseudo-orphan – equal parts castaway and self-imposed exile. Neither of us having any idea how to love properly, what with our model upbringing.
At some point, the game must have become strip poker, because we ended up in bed together, desperately devouring each other, exploring each other’s hard and soft places, guiding each other around the labyrinth of our bodies. He was nervous at first, but willing to learn, and we spent hours in session, with Professor Helena providing PowerPoint presentations on the proper procedure for pleasurable foreplay preceding penetration.
We shut out the world for days, ignoring the phone, me calling in sick to work, emerging only for necessities like food and water. We had been in a state of coital bliss for three days when it dawned on us that we had completely missed our Valentine’s Day date, and Adam had missed picking his friend Paul up from the airport. Adam had several angry messages on his cell phone from Paul, saying eventually that he was going to stay at a hotel, and that he didn’t know where Adam was or what was going on, but that he’d wait for his phone call.
Feeling guilty, I offered to go with him to pick up his friend, to sort of kill two birds with one stone. I’d heard so much about Paul, and knew that if he was important to Adam, that I’d have to meet him and make a good impression. Considering the circumstances, I was pretty nervous.
I shouldn’t have worried. We loved each other immediately, and from that day on, the three of us were inseparable.
In retrospect, I should have seen right away that Adam and I weren’t meant for each other.
 Yet another Lord of the Rings reference that has come to mean understanding the true gravitas of a task.
 Basquiat was an artist in the late ‘70s and ‘80s who started as a graffiti artist and found international acclaim with his Primitivist paintings.
Some people attribute the invention of the Ampersand to her, but she has never made that claim herself.
Last year, she published Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume One, and is about to release Volume Two, along with a Shakespearean style tragi-comedy, entitled Penelope, Countess of Arcadia.
Helena writes strange, dark fiction under the name Jessica B. Bell. VISCERA, a collection of strange tales, will be published by Sirens Call Publications later this year. Find more of her writing at http://www.helenahb.com or and http://www.whoisjessica.com Connect with her via Twitter @HHBasquiat , and keep up with her ever growing body of work at GOODREADS, or visit her AMAZON PAGE