by Elizabeth Teets
I have a deep unending love for Bette Midler. My passion for The Divine Miss M knows no bounds. My mother loves her and it is the only piece of pop culture we seem to agree on. I am very thankful to my mother for exposing me to Bette at a young age because I believe in many ways it saved me from years of pain. Despite my Catholic upbringing, now when I think of God and what she must look like, I think of Bette. As a queer person, this has probably saved me years of self-loathing and therapy costs.
My religion, like any of the western ones, has a holy trinity. These days, instead of finding myself saying prayers to father, son or Holy ghost, I look to another trinity, one that reminds me that men have no power here. My trinity is wise and good and needs nothing besides a really good white suit. Bette, Diane, Goldie. These women make my world go round, my sunrise, and my sanity at semi-normal levels.
This is to state the obvious that my favorite movie of all time, is The First Wives Club.
If you are unfamiliar, The First Wives Club is a 1996 American comedy film about three divorced women who seek revenge on the husbands who left them for younger women. It stars the actresses that make up the Holy Trinity of my personal religion with Bette at the top as God. It is a perfect film and I will not be taking questions at this time.
I have seen The First Wives Club an obscene amount of times. I do not know how many, because I go through periods where I just have it on as background noise. Something to listen to while I open mail or fold laundry. It’s comforting to hear the lines, as familiar as if they were my own heartbeat. The jokes have a rhythm. Each one so well written, it’s as if every punchline is musical.
Before I saw The First Wives Club, for the first time, probably playing on TBS as a middle schooler, I had seen the movie trailer dozens and dozens of times. It appeared as a trailer on my VHS copy of Nora Ephron’s This is My Life, which was my favorite movie as a kid.
My habit of watching the same movie over and over again started young, possibly a result of only having three television channels. I am also an only child of a single parent, so entertaining myself was a necessity.
I watched This is My Life, a comedy about a woman who becomes a stand-up comedian so many times as a child that I am now a stand-up comedian. But part of the viewing experience was first watching the trailer for The First Wives Club before, an appetizer before the entree.
I watched the trailer over and over again because I enjoyed two specific jokes. I would sit on the floor of my mother’s living room laughing at them each time as if they were new.
My favorite parts of the trailer as a child were as follows.
Two perfect cinema moments. But to my surprise. Only one made it into the actual movie.
The scene from the trailer in which Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker fight over a cake server was cut from the film. The First Wives Club famously shot hours of additional footage. Goldie Hawn’s character even has a boyfriend, played by a young Jon Stewart we never see. His entire role was cut out at the end. I think this probably for the best. The film itself is perfect and a man would only ruin it.
But my favorite scene still lingers in my heart. Why was it in the trailer but not the film? Where is the footage? Who won the fight? Did Diane Keaton help? After all she recently learned to hit thanks to Marcia Gay Harden. What happened with the cake server? I can't get the look on Bette's face as she stares at Sarah Jessica out of my mind.
Like any god, mine is a mystery and there are parts to her divinity I will never see. Unless they are released from a vault somewhere for a limited edition DVD Blu-ray combo pack.
Luckily, Bette Midler has Twitter. And maybe one day she will respond to one of my many many tweets with the full clip. Or maybe not and I will just have to be good, so she can show it to me in heaven.
*Inspired by the late Adrienne Rich and her poem Diving into the Wreck.
by Melissa Greenwood
We have to pull them in during our Pilates work—front ribs to back ribs—or into an imaginary wall behind us. Left to flare, to splay, they are “the ribs of…disaster.”
What is the function of the ribs? To protect the vital organs in the chest: the lungs, the spleen, the heart.
Our ribs protect our hearts, and yet they are a disaster. Our ribs protect our hearts, so we knit them together just as protectively—like yarn in a bubbe’s blanket. Our ribs protect our hearts, and thus we cannot ingest them. THAT would be a disaster for us (Pilates-) practicing Jews.
Instead, we contract them, make them smaller, as we likewise get smaller: longer and leaner. As though standing before a funhouse mirror. As though wearing Spanx and a corset. As though zippering up a spacesuit, or, these days, onesie pajamas. The goal isn’t to be thinner, but exercise will do that to a person.
Meanwhile, others prefer their ribs bigger—meatier. They put a ubiquitous “Mc” before them and eat them for lunch between bread, a Coke and fries rounding out their meal and their bodies—the golden ribs of disaster or deliciousness, depending on who’s asking.
An Antioch University Los Angeles MFA alumna, Melissa has published creative work in The Los Angeles Review; the Los Angeles Review of Books; Lunch Ticket; The Manifest-Station; Brevity; Annotation Nation; Meow Meow Pow Pow, for which she recently received a “best small fiction” nomination; and Pink Plastic House's Poke. Melissa lives in LA with her husband in the aforementioned pajamas that she desperately wishes were onesies. Although she teaches and practices Pilates, she fully supports the occasional McDonald’s indulgence. #ribs
Of Spandex & Sorrow
by Clem Flowers
"I'm sorry, but this is taking forever."
"Yeah, just search something else."
"Nononono, just a few minutes more. I promise it's worth it. It's so good."
"Are you sure they used Placebo?"
"I'm sure. And it's awesome. I mean, I think it's a cover they did, but still, it is fucking awesome."
My high school friends, now enjoying the pleasure of being able to legally buy booze, sat around the scattered seating in the basement at our rich pal/unspoken group leader's family home, tipsy & taking turns showing weird/ funny/ bizarre things found on the primordial video sharing site known as YouTube. A far- too- expensive projector screen bought by her garbage stepfather to try to gain her mother's warmth for another day served as the canvas for each of our curated selections of music videos and weird local commercials for group enjoyment.
Then came my turn.
Please understand, these were my best friends on the planet at that moment. They'd helped me come out of my shell and put behind memories of a childhood filled with illness, sadness, and the deep lonesome woes that tend to manifest themselves when you've spent so long in the hospital your classmates in second grade make cards for you.
These folks helped me discover that deep in my iron- lined closet was a bisexual, hedonistic rascal dying to get out and meet cute dudes; moreover, from them, I got how to dress cool and be introduced to new worlds of music, movies, and all sorts of pop culture ephemera. In return, they were delighted and fascinated by my deep running knowledge of TV, movies, and music of a bygone era. (Thank you immune deficiency.)
They were wonderful friends, with no judgements.
Except one- I adored pro wrestling.
They did not.
I tried on numerous occasions to articulate that which I loved about the medium- the pageantry, the drama, the morality tales, the athleticism, the rare moments to see good triumph, to see justice in an unjust world- not to mention, the kick ass fireworks that usually capped off all big pro wrestling shows.
My snarky, Hot Topic- loving friends considered it the TV show for close minded, homophobic knuckledraggers.
Considering we'd lived through the late 90s, when wrestling was at the apex of pop culture and seemed to be baptized in blood and casual misogyny, it was hard to dispute them.
Many attempts were made on my part to try and explain why I loved it (as many of them were huge glam rock fans, you'd figured the costumes would've helped a bit.)
It was a non- starter.
Just eye rolls and barbed remarks any time I brought it up.
Thus, it became my secret shame.
At least, until Placebo came into the picture.
Quick primer- Placebo is a British indie/ alt band that specialize in shimmering, moody songs dealing with drugs, sex, and a plethora of angst.
Which is to say, utter catnip for those who mostly dress in black.
Watching one of the weekly WWE shows one night, I saw a video package hyping an upcoming match for the company's biggest show of the year, Wrestlemania.
And there it was.
The weak, primordial Wi-Fi finally pulled through enough to finish buffering the video.
I shushed my slightly annoyed friends & took my seat as the video started.
What unfolded was a masterpiece.
The typical soliloquy of a wrestler (in this case, Shawn Michaels, a legend in the medium) licking their wounds over a loss and vowing revenge soon gave way to something unique.
As the tribal drums of the Placebo cover of the timeless Kate Bush classic "Running Up That Hill" came rolling in like waves on a rocky shore, what commenced was not a highlight reel of wrestling.
This was Michaels being swallowed whole, his world ripped to shambles by one thing everyone can relate to:
The desire to fix a mistake.
In the previous year's Wrestlemania, Michaels had come closer than anyone before him to ending the storied undefeated streak of The Undertaker, a ghoulish phantasm made whole in the wrestling ring.
But a bit of carelessness and the dream was crushed.
Michaels then received a storyline award for the match, which sent his mind to replay the match in his head, as it had clearly been doing for every day.
"It doesn't hurt me/ You wanna feel how it feels"
The song began in earnest.
I got caught up in the video for a moment before realizing something, something there hadn't been all night in the room:
Everyone was watching.
"If I only could/ Make a deal with God."
Denied a chance to "right the wrong" at seemingly every turn, Michaels fell into the clutch of madness; attacking innocents, friends, idols- anyone who he deemed a threat to his one wish.
"You don't wanna hurt me/ See how deep the bullet lies."
Finally, after weeks upon weeks of chaos, The Undertaker agreed to the rematch. With a condition- if Michaels failed to defeat him again, then Michaels had to retire from wrestling.
Michaels replied: "You don't get it. If I can't beat you at Wrestlemania, I have no career."
A bit of a heavy handed line to end on, and one I was certain my friends would roast instantly.
But there were no laughs.
After a few moments, one of the group offered a summation of my friend's reviews of the piece:
"Shit. That was good."
Murmurs of agreement followed.
After that, someone cued up a highlight reel of weird infomercials and we had a good laugh.
Now, do I think I converted any of them to wrestling fans that night?
But, none of them ever ragged on me if they saw me in a wrestling shirt again.
Clem Flowers is a queer, soft spoken Southern transplant living in the colossal shadow of a mountain range in Utah. They enjoy cooking, watching old films, and making many trips to a local bird sanctuary. They live in a cozy apartment with their wonderful wife and their sweet calico kitty Luna. They can be found on Twitter at @hand_springs777.
Chorus Blog is our opportunity as the team behind Meow Meow Pow Pow to share our interpretation of the themes we ask writers to submit work for. Here is our Chorus Blog on... "Bees."
Charming - Marie Marandola
I said, look at the bees
in my yellow-flower tree,
and he said, a single tree
is just a pollinator rest stop
and your bees cannot be saved.
I said I was thankful for the sunrise
and the singing birds, the roof
above my head, and he said,
not everyone is happy.
Don’t be so brazen with your gratitude.
I said I’d like to cook
a meal for him. And he said,
But that’s not the way
my mom makes it.
I said, Here,
I wrote this love poem for you,
and he said, why
would you use such a cheap word as love?
I said, let’s share a home, a life,
and he said, Life?! I thought
this milkshake was enough.
And then he hit the spoon
out of my hand.
I said that I was leaving,
and he said--
Let’s try again. I mean,
we were so perfect for each other.
And I said, you know?
The slipper never really fit
as well as I pretended,
it was only ever made of glass.
Reaching Detente - Brennan DeFrisco
I am not at home when she speaks
to the small workers harvesting lavender,
preparing pollen for alchemy,
a hundred million year old recipe
secreted in the tips of flowers.
I am not home when she requests
safe passage, a visa to remove weeds,
hive minds think alike, so, when she speaks
the whole apiary hears her voice--
she notices the sibilance in symbiosis,
wonders if buzzing is just an s
vibrating at a high frequency.
I am not home when she enters
an empire of lilies, threat of venom,
elegy for allergies, each stinger
a splinter in death’s fence
along which, my affections require
a twist & a steel tip driven
into her soft thigh.
I am not home
when she reaches détente
moves through their airspace
like a game of Operation
& pulls a jade spike
from its wiry roots
Flight - Alex Simand
The best part of being high
is how honey tastes
traveling back in time
from blossom to pollination
how it captures valleys
like landscape painters do
so you can hear a brook
chasing itself through moss
or how rain goes bounding
through birch leaves
how mushrooms sprout in shade
Earth convening its pores
how wildflowers aren’t pretty
not for us never for us
but for themselves
and for bees taking who give
beating bodies into trunk
disappearing like ash into bark
bark into boulder
Bees. There is no other creature on the planet that is more emblematic of growing up than the bee, to me. I don’t mean in the way the bee works, or flies, or eats, or stings, or lays eggs, or makes honey. It is how the perception of the bee changed over the course of my life.
As a small boy I would stop my mother from killing bugs all the time. Sunday School taught me that I should not kill. Therefore no one else should either, correct? Also, there is the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you? I don’t want to be killed; therefore I won’t try and kill anyone else, including bees. As my mother rolled up a newspaper or a magazine I would rush and place myself – standing somewhere around her kneecap – between the bee and her. I would raise up my arms, palms open, fingers outstretched and should, “No mommy! Don’t kill it.”
My mother would put down whatever killing tool she had in her hand and watch as I ran to grab my step stool, race back to the bee and climb the tiny ladder. With nothing but my bare hand I would lead the bee – or the ant, the spider, the roach – into my other hand, cup the creature and place it outside in the grass. I knew bees liked flowers, so if the bee did not fly away, I would pluck one from the garden and engulf the bee in the pedals. Almost always the bee would do its work and take off. I suspect my mother would hide the bees that did not make it from my eyes.
As I entered kindergarten, and grade school, I learned of bee allergies. Having no allergies in the whole family I’d never encountered the concept that someone could potentially react poorly to something else. But on some Tuesday in November of First Grade – I remember because it was Turkey Tuesday, where we traced our hands and, well, you know the rest – a bee flew in, evidently avoiding the blistering cold.
My friend and one other classmate were excused from the classroom. I asked why, and our teacher had to explain that they were allergic. The classmate who sat next to me said, “Yeah. They could die.” What a horrid thought. My friend dying from what? A sting?
The vice principal came down and tried to smash the creature to smithereens. I got up to save the little winged fuzzball but the teacher ushered me back to my seat, saying it would be safer if the bee died. I wept silently as a thwack sounded in our room, and my teacher gave the thumbs up as the Vice Principal left.
After this experience, bees equated to fear. Bees could sting. Indeed, I got stung once in the third grade where the stinger stayed lodged in my bicep and the skin started to heal before a neighbor took tweezers to it. Every time a bee entered my vicinity a dread would hit me in my throat and cascade down into my heart where each beat felt like a stab.
And yet, as life moved forward, so did my understanding. I had been taught the old mantra that “It’s more afraid of you than you are of it.” Yet this did not stick until a biology course, a college education, and a manual labor job passed me by. The biology course taught me the incredible significance that bees have as one of the main pollinators in the world. The college education, specifically as a sociology major, taught me to observe power dynamics. And the manual labor job put me right in the midst of bees on the daily basis.
I worked on a property that housed senior citizens and worked as a gardener for a summer internship. There I weeded the flower gardens every day. In the sunlight, I would step deep in between the flowers and immerse myself in what amounted to a beehive, just without the hive. This took a bit of praying and a breath to get myself to do. The honeybees flew all around me. They landed on me. They tickled my ear. They walked on my beard. They’d sandwich themselves between the fingers of my gloves.
It took the wisdom of the grounds keeper to get me to see everything. He didn’t say that much either. The man, who looks much like an American Hagrid, simply walked up and said, “They won’t hurt you. They don’t want to. Look, they’re surrounding you.” Imagine the benevolence of such creatures. Here I stood, a walking giant capable of bee genocide if I wanted, and all the bees would do is fly around me, and occasionally act on their curiosity.
Any fear of bees left after that summer. They’re such a beloved creature in my home that when I, or my wife, see them we watch for half a minute or more as the bee’s buzz around. When one comes in my home, I usher it out gently, but still don’t feel quite capable of putting it into my bare hand. But boy, do I want to. And that’s pretty much what adulthood feels like to me. An attempt to realize how baseless your fears are and try to get back to the unimpeded innocence and joy of childhood.
Pine Honey - Cassandra Panek
August. The Pine Barrens. Alarmed flyers warn of the invasion of the Spotted Lanternfly. Pictures showcase its vibrant red and spotted wings. It’s pretty. If seen, it should be killed, bagged, reported. I take a nature walk and make pine needle tea.
July. Penn Campus. Twisted shells on the pavement, still identifiable as spotted lantern foe. We don’t bag and report them anymore. They’re already here. Everyone knows. The flyers didn’t mention they were fast, leaping, hard to kill. Nothing wants to eat them yet.
May. A patio. I’ve been spraying nymphs with neem oil. Right in the face. They don’t leave, they just frown. Will this interrupt their life cycle? It’s certainly not killing them outright. I murdered the first adult yesterday, squashed it with my phone, left the body as a warning. Two wasps are cannibalizing it.
September. A doorway. They alight on screens. They sound big like locusts. I startle and swear. They sucked the sap from my blackberry canes and flourished. Foliage is covered in their leavings; honeydew is secreted by aphids, psyllids, and spotted lanternflies. Bees collect it when nectar is scarce, often early spring and late summer, culling from fungus and scale and oak dew too.
When collected instead of floral sweets honeydew produces ominous cells of shining black nectar. It transmutes from insect waste to a dark, heavy-flavored substance through bee alchemy. Called forest honey, çam balı, miel de sapin, names to highlight region and obscure origin, honeydew honey boasts varied flavors of malt or mint, tastes sweet or spicy, and is suggestive of sap. Its nuances are as varied as the countries where it’s more common than the mono- and polyfloral varieties favored in the eastern United States.
October. A pandemic. I trapped a lanternfly under a candle globe and now I have a perfect deceased specimen. They’ll all be dead in a few cold nights. The bees are growing sluggish. I’ll be bold. I’ll peek in the hive, consider the combs, scour for oil-rich cells. Then I’ll hunt the woods for egg masses to scrape down and destroy.
Killer Bees - Jane-Rebecca Cannarella
for Jumpin’ Jim Brunzell and B. Brian Blair
Bewilderment was once black and yellow stripes, high flying initially, and independent eventually. Stings took the shape of multiple Mashed Confusions; all men in the square dressed similarly from flyers to referees and puzzled opponents with the zigzag shadows of every man as a masquerade: dancing with bounced step. Achieving victory in the before days, duos of bzz eliminated their opponents, and royalty came in the form of mass bodies in competition. The insects faced survival among more complex predators, but were hacked from a perched branch. Stocks slipped, two cards once in a row shuffled out of order; the stinging was unsuccessful in later years. Final days were spent feuding with leather straps. Everything confusing ultimately gets demolished. Out of the eyes of others, the team tore apart. Driven from a crowned queen and honey in the hive: entwined entities shifted to singular preliminary bodies: as fragile as larvae broken from the brood. The stinging stopped; and it marked the end of the black and yellow days of Bees.
I once lived in the state of Utah, which is known as the Beehive State. Its state emblem is the beehive and the state insect is the honeybee. All the good Mormons were supposed to be like worker bees, working towards a common good. That's what the beehive was supposed to represent—industry. In fact before Utah was called Utah, it was named The State of Deseret by the followers of Joseph Smith. Deseret in the Book of Mormon means bee. Another interesting fact: There's even a small newspaper there called The Mormon Worker that's all about mormonism, pacifism, and anarchism. Whooda thought there was such a thing as Mormon Anarchists?
Last week, a honeybee stung my daughter. We were at my mom's house in Hood River, Oregon. The bees stung my mom too. They were ground bees, which I didn't know were actually a thing. No, that's not true, ground bees once stung my wife. They came out of a dead stump in our driveway. It's strange because I myself have never been stung by a bee in my entire life.
Top 5 People WHo Have Played Bees ON TV - H.
in no particular order...
B. Brian Blair
Our fabulous blog team