The L Word : Behind the Scenes

The L Word Bette Porter Tina Kennard


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A Taste for Politics Bette Porter L Word

BettePortrait_FAB and backlite

A Taste for Politics

As I walk through the parking lot my thoughts are far above me on a rooftop just past the trees off to my right, and a lifetime ago in a shed filled with sea breezes and the taste of salt on Tina’s neck. My tongue I realize is lonely. Its urges unnerving to me.

People talk about the wholeness and peace gained in mindfulness as a person moves toward integration with The Self. That knowing all of the parts of ourselves is somehow a more evolved state of mind. Let me say this to them: If I were to spend any more time in my looking glass of memories in the basement of my mind I would shatter completely and it would not be pretty.

It would not be a break or the mental snap that led me to murderous thoughts with a Bowie knife after Tina and Henry threatened to take my child away. It would not be like the disassembling meltdown that left my throat sore for hours after I screamed her name when she left me the first fucking time. It would be closer to the devastating strike on 9/11 in Manhattan as the spines of the towers collapsed into clouds of toxic screaming rubble.

I feel a sickness inside me. I was in New York that morning. I remember the chaos and unearthly panic as the hot smelling dust of them blew up Broadway and chalked us all white. It left me inches away from insanity, an experience impossible to wash away.

No, I would find a crooked Zen moment and walk in front of a bus. Wholeness would break me. I know too much already.

Fuck! I’m lonely and pissed off. It’s cruel that on this important night of my life Tina is nowhere to be found. So fucking typical of everything, including this impossible unraveling.

But my tongue, my most valuable antenna, is impossibly devious and largely unruly by nature, and now I must deal with its dangerous thirsts for Coeds. What else can it hunger for? And what at the party – within ten minutes of getting my there – can I possibly find to slake its thirst?

I’m roused from my lascivious self-pity when I see Arnold’s long black limo and security entourage – guarding him front and back – drive through campus toward me. But wait, those aren’t the golden bear flags of the State of California. I stop walking. The limo pulls along side me. The window slides down with a whoosh.


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Low Hanging Fruit – Bette Porter Tina Kennard L Word

Bette_thoughtful Looking down

Tina’s Apartment – Alice

I pretty much told Bette and Tina both – a few days after we returned from Canada and Shane’s botched wedding, Bette’s botched kidnapping, and Helena’s frozen bank accounts – that I was waving my “friend’s with both of them” white flag, and to please stop shouting around me. My parents yelled for years and years, and Bette and Tina are starting to resemble them. And those aren’t good memories for me.

When I had unfortunately run into them at The Planet during a baby exchanging exercise fraught with unnecessary tension I had raised my voice at them. “What do you guys do? Stew overnight? Make up more shit to yell at each other about the next morning?

“Think about it! Why do you show up here every day for coffee if you fucking hate each other so much? Just a thought, but really: Get a clue.”

In character Bette had stormed off. Tina had done this new ‘I just give up’ move of hers. Something she must have picked up out in the suburban wilds. She had tossed both her hands up only to smack them down on top of her thighs. And then, The Look, as if I were not already convinced she was clueless.

Man, they are getting on my nerves. Long ago I had guessed their numbers, and I’m about there – at the end of my dirt road of patience with them both.

Bette and I used to date for about five minutes – she thinks, but for me I was smitten, and trying not to show it because clearly she wasn’t with me. We had fun. We went out to a lot of great parties. She was and still is a great dinner companion because she isn’t fussy about food.

Dating someone who’s picky about their dinners, and turns their nose up and orders everything, “on the side” can be it’s own horrible limo ride and entourage to hell and back. And in an overindulged, pamper queen town like this – my money is on waiters being huge abusers of Xanax – an educated guess – but in a number of unexpected ways Bette can be uncomplicated.

One example: When our waiter would materialize Bette would ask about the chef’s special, and unless it was Brussels Sprouts or some indecipherable puree – she would order it without ever looking at the menu. On those evenings she gave me a feeling that there were so many more interesting things to do with her time at the table with me than, and I quote, “Try to interpret the silly ways nouveau cuisine was attempting to explain itself this week.”

And sex with her was – I’m going to have to come back to that because I’m actually blushing standing in Tina’s kitchen thinking about a certain night with her ex-lover before they ever knew each other.

TinaTakesEarring

And I introduced them! Well, sort of. I think what I did more than anything was cause my own bit of mischief at the dinner party. Then Tina had looked down the table at us. I remember Bette throwing back her head to laugh at something clever I’d said, and then when the joke was over she’d glanced down the table to see how her guests were fairing. That was the moment their eyes had locked and something interesting and not invisible between them had happened.

In my mind their game is long from over. They love each other too much, and now they hate each other too much, and while I’m thinking about it two days ago they had given me a fucking headache by 9 am. So, I had yelled at them, and since then they’ve been quieter around me.

But at the moment Tina is definitely stuck on stupid again. She slams her kitchen cabinets after hanging up the phone with Bette. I gather today’s meltdown is already beginning. What restraint! It’s ten fifteen. They waited an hour.

“So, I guess she told you about her big event tonight with Arnold, The Governator, he’s coming down here to give her some big arty award.” I say to mollify Tina that Bette does have other things to do today than make her life a living hell.

“No, but that must be why she wanted to switch Angelica’s night with me.” Tina fusses with the tea bags and cups. “What award?”

“So, you haven’t seen today’s LA Times?”

“Just tell me, Alice. I’ve been up for hours, but not pouring over the newspaper. I can’t sleep well all of a sudden. Angelica didn’t want to go to daycare. She wanted to go riding in the car with Mama B.” Tina blows her hair back from her face. “So, no. I’ve not read today’s Art Section.”

“Well, she’s on the front page actually, so it’s impressive. Nice picture of Bette, naturally. Some big idea and program she’d convinced Phyllis and the Board of Governors to fund, and it just so happens to be a pet project of Governor Schwarzenegger’s. So, it’s a big deal for her, and there’s a cocktail reception tonight. Then, the article says Bette’s having dinner with the Governor.”

“Hm.” Is all I hear Tina say in return. Phyllis has filled me in completely on anything I want to know about the workings of her university.

“Hey, while you make the tea I’m just going to slip in your lavatory for a sec, okay?”

“Of course, Alice, I’m just furious right now with her, and I know you don’t want to hear about it.”

“Well, maybe for a second, but I’ve got something in my contact lens.”

Inside the bathroom I dig around in my purse. If I found last week’s turkey and avocado sandwich I would not be surprised it’s such a wreck inside my handbag. I’ve got a stack of letters to send to Dana’s parents that have come unclasped. Now they’re everywhere like leaves in my way to finding my contacts and eye solution.

Fuck it! I dump everything on the floor. My eye solution rolls away from the pile. NO! It’s empty!

Maybe Tina has saline. I open her medicine cabinet. No eye drops but a fresh prescription bottle of… I squint my right eye to focus my left, Doxycycline. The label reads: Take three a day with meals for treatment of vaginal infection. Dr. Judith Wilson, MD/OBGYN.

Oh my God! Tina has Chlamydia! I’d bet anything! This is exactly the antibiotic Dr. Wilson gave me while I was being a dumbass bisexual last year. No fucking wonder Tina’s being crankier than usual! Those Chlamydia bugs can hurt, and make you moody and crazy.

Or should I say, moodier and crazier? “Yuck and ewww.” I slam the door to the medicine cabinet shut. “Henry, you asshole.”

If I tell Shane my morsel of gossip she’ll likely say, “Well, what’d you expect? The guy’s had like fourteen wives or something you told me? Right?” Then she’d wildly rub her face.

Shane is particularly dismissive about anything that has to do with that weekend. In fact, we are all geographically challenged now that neither country to the north, Canada or south of us, Mexico, where Carmen was from can be mentioned without her face showing symptoms of what I hope is not really Tourette’s Syndrome. But I’m seriously starting to worry.

But what if I were to tell, Bette. Now, that’s someone who would find this information very interesting and infuriating. Hmm, well, maybe I won’t tell her then because when her switch has gotten flipped on lately about Henry and Tina, well, volcanic about covers it.

Who can blame her though? But they’re both being stupid bitches and that’s all there is to it.


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Sleeping Rough – Bette Porter L Word

BetteSternLarge file

Sleeping Rough – Bette Porter L Word

Somewhere near the border of the United States and Canada –

I’m not usually impetuous. I can see its value. I have watched its serendipity. I’m a bit more of a plotter. It’s what makes me a good art critic, because I can see starting points and artist’s inspiration. I can tune in and feel the artist’s overall strategy for the creation in front of me. Where they began and where they hoped to end up, and between there and where is the place the magic in art can happen.

Only with artists and intellectuals I know very well do I ever admit after rivers of wine and hours of heady debate that when the artist and the mind, and the brush and the color come together, Art can only be described sometimes as Magic.

Not God, or human skillful execution. Not dumb luck – although that does happen – but magic, and that word spoken leaves a room almost quiet for a moment because every artist there has felt ‘It’. And as artists we don’t really know what IT is so, the smartest ones of us just shut the fuck up, until the moment passes. A silent acknowledgement to – The Mystery.

But tonight I have been impetuous, and my rashness has drawn me far away from the hotel, and far down this dark road. My headlights pan across the tree trunks in the old forest as the rural country road winds south. I slide the rental car’s window down a crack.

Fresh air hits my face.

The wind is icy.

Behind me Angelica is strapped in her baby seat. She makes a sputtering baby cry. “Mama B and Angie had to take a little ride, sweetheart,” I console her, as if my not having the faintest clue helps either of us at all.

walMart interior Sleeping Rough

WalMart – North Washington State – Bette

Holy Mother of God! What the fuck is this place? It’s a hideously fluorescent main street with a drug store, an Optometrist’s eye wear shop, a bank, a McDonalds, and then we eventually get to the store’s interior.
Major Retailers Begin Black Friday Sales Thanksgiving Night

Is this one of the places people lose their minds to get into on Black Fridays after Thanksgiving? I bet it is. But why?

I roll my cart with Angelica held in my arms past rows and aisles of things I cannot imagine ever wanting to possess. until I finally arrive at the WalMart Baby Section. Gods of Retail! Make me a better Mother! My eyes seize upon sippy cups, and a very sweet little blanket with blue sheep leaping over tiny rainbows. Hmm, WalMart is not so bad.


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The Ant Farm Bette Porter L Word Tina Kennard

Baby Angelica in Bette's arms

“Memory believes before knowing remembers. Believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders.” Wm Faulkner – Light in August

Bette’s Garden – Tina

As I finish my jarring story, Bette looks at me with the most unusual expression. “What Gypsy? Where’d she come from?”

“Can you whistle, Bette?”

“A tune?”

“No. Can you whistle with your fingers, like for a cab or a dog?” I explain.

She puts two fingers in her mouth and sends out an alert in two beats. “Like this?”

From inside the house I hear Shane call out, “Yo!”

“What? You can’t do that?” Bette asks me in disbelief that mighty whistles are all that unique.

“No. I can’t do that.” I shake my head.

“It’s a tongue thing, really.” Bette says nonchalantly.

“It always is with you.”

Shane greets us back inside, “Hey! Stay and hang out with us, Tina. Alice has pizza warming in the oven.”

“Caesar salad, too.” Alice appears from Bette’s bedroom with a white jasmine scented candle. One I’d bought last spring and never lit. Alice places it next to Dana’s remains, and nods the bottle of wine at me. I should stay. I need to stay. They want me here.

Bette pours Merlot into the goblet we shared as I went back in time twenty years. “For you, T. It would be good if you stayed with us.” She reaches high up to the top cabinet’s latches. The ones I always had to get the stool for unless she was nearby to help. I look sadly at the soiled Starbucks cup that sits on the counter containing Dana’s ashes we stole earlier.

“Alice, I think I have a few nice jars and porcelain we can sort through for Dana. How many do you want? Four, three, six? What?”

It was uncomfortable going through all those emotions again. Feel drained, feeling disoriented by reliving them. I can almost feel the long, long arms of the Gypsy’s catching hold of me.

I remember the sawdust flying up as my feet dug in to run away. But the woman had held onto me and said, “You’ve been really hurt, child,” and the blood on my hand as I’d touched my back had confirmed a growing patch of wetness. She had told me not to worry, like her I would always have a Gypsy scar.


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The Gypsy Whistles Tina Kennard

Tina_wooden bench behind her

The Gypsy Whistles

I’m not a shy person by nature, I’m more introverted than Bette, but I was adventurous as a child. My exploring and my best childhood experiences were outside in the woods, not scholastic, or on the field in soccer or sports. I was an avid tree climber. I captured all kinds of bugs. I kept lizards as pets. I was a very pretty tomboy, my father used to say.

Lucy, on the other hand, was a wild child they called her back then in the 80s. She was pretty, and I really wanted to be just like my older, gorgeous cousin. And then she died, and that scared the living shit out of me. Slowly, I’d come back from the shock. I hit reset as a college freshman, and hoped it would all disappear.

But the afternoon at the state fair is what Bette wants to know about, and even though I’ve almost told her before tonight, she’s looking at me very carefully, and tenderly, and handing me her glass of wine to share. I know this evening – after a horrible day filled with all kinds of lows surrounding Dana –  must be the hour and the time. So, I begin.

“Bette, I want you to know, I wasn’t raped by this creep, Allsweld, but he killed my cousin, and I was there.” I watch to make sure this sinks in. “Really, after awhile I was okay.”

“So you say, and I’m relieved, and I believe you.” She lets go of my hand. “How did you meet this man?”

“Lucy was just the kind of girl that was born for taunting packs of boys at a fair midway, Bette.” I laugh at the memory of her as a Carnival Barker’s best friend. “Lots of tobacco crop money was spent trying to shoot the disks, or the bulls eye and win her a prize. I was younger by four years, maybe three, but compared to her – I was unseen by the boys that flocked around her.


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Tomb Raider – Bette Porter Tina Kennard

Bette Porter L Word Tomb Raider

GreatSmile Bette

St Paul’s Episcopal Church – Bette

Filing out with the other mourners, and into the parking lot after Dana’s funeral service, I get that Republicans in Orange County are a different species. I realize that a hundred years of evolutionary science has proven that diversity is the key to any species’ survival. I am not an against the grain theoretical nitwit.

But what I am is solidly convinced of the following –

Number One: There was no soul inside the walls of that church just now, and Dana’s soul certainly wasn’t there at all. She had kept herself safe from that at least. But as her friends we came out here – to the deepest red of Orange County – for whatever it was worth. I feel robbed. There was no healing, no closure, no coming together during the hymns and psalms. I feel sick that she’s gone, and angry.

I get that not everyone would pick a bar for their father’s memorial. Granted, it made sense to me and Kit, but could these people – and the hideous red brick building behind me – possibly be anymore soulless and sterile? Irritated beyond belief I watch, as couple after couple in search of tomato aspic, golf tees, and tedium drive away in their Lincolns and Cadillacs.  But Alice’s impromptu from the back of the church? That had made me happy. Our team had tried to bring some truth to the minister’s misguided eulogy.

Number Two: Tina’s new community of white, straight, coupled-up, customized and galvanized for shiny reflections back unto itself, bullshit sours my mood hourly. I think about Angelica growing up in it, and after this godforsaken funeral – I’d like to burn something down.  Like Henry’s house, as an example, with him in it.  Then, I stop.

Why is Alice raiding the parking lot garbage can for a Starbucks cup and lid?

“Alice did you drop something in there? Can I help you?” Alice, I need to pay attention to for the next several weeks. My meltdown time is over, it’s someone else’s turn now.

“Come here. Come inside. I need you to stand guard.” Alice presses the sticky cup against me, and pulls me toward the back door of the church.


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The Fugue of White Noise – Tina Kennard – The L Word

TinaFABulousPortrait

The Fugue of White Noise

Shaolin Studios – Tina

Helena has fucking lost her mind but I can’t even deal with that right now. I’m thinking about Dana and how Bette doesn’t know yet how bad it has become. In a few hours she’ll be home from her meditation retreat and because she thinks of Dana as a little sister this news of her back in the hospital is going to hurt.

Alice can only be found now, as in 24/7, at Dana’s bedside, all vampire weirdness a forgotten fetish. Shane continues to encourage me in her smartass way that if I ever need a reminder of sex on the dark side Uta’s friend, Alessandra, is waiting in a hot tub above a wine cellar somewhere west of where I live.

There is no way to explain Henry to Shane that would make her not rub her nose in circles and go for the bong behind the couch. Carmen is a “No” vote for Henry and Jenny looks crazier and crazier every time I see her. There’s something wrong with her eyes, and I just don’t think it’s allergies like she says.

I feel sometimes one after another we all get into a mental ward straightjacket state and become impossible to understand. But these days I’m back at work, in a nice relationship with Henry. Money is coming in, not so much of it going out anymore, and things are steady. Except for Dana and it breaks my heart. And Helena, of course, but I’ll have to explain the movie business, as ‘in its entirety’, to her later.

Alice is expecting me at the hospital, and I can’t find where I put the hand lotion I hope Dana will enjoy. It’s from the lovely Welsh dispensary Bette had discovered while we were over there. She’s still devoted to the two ladies who dreamed this whole creamy scheme up years ago, as a way to pay for their visit to Lourdes, and its healing waters.

I never knew Bette cared, or even believed in magical waters, but in Wales she became so enamored with Afanen and her lover, Cerridwyn, that she’d dropped two thousand dollars – right there on the spot – and had handed them her entire Christmas business for that year.