When I think of Inglewood, California I think of my tie to all of the work I am here to do. The other day a psychic / astrologer told me that I, with Virgo sun and Gemini moon, am a woman with many careers that drastically differ as I “can't be still for too long. You have to write though.” He said. “And you write a lot.” He was accurate.
“I'm a poet and storyteller and I also work on and off as a caregiver.” I told him.
“The caregiver in you now is some past life healing work you're still doing. You were a doctor.”
“Really?” I asked excitedly but not surprised.
“Not a regular doctor though. You've seen some of the sickest. You used to heal and work with people who had leprosy. And you were really good.” He made some other statements too, but what stood out most was something I'm very clear about. “You're here to teach art and spiritual work. You're a healer.” I believe every word of that.
Ms. Catherine was my favorite home health client. I worked with her for about two years faithfully until she passed away on the twenty-third of November last year. I still love and miss her. She was a thin woman with the widest smile that spread slowly across her face. I never knew her to be in a hurry. Even her mouth took its time reaching one ear and the other. She loved wearing her smooth gray hair very short. Mostly I remember her cold fingers as she held both of my hands in hers and kissed my writs. Always.
Ms. Catherine and family (son – Curtis and daughter in law – Karen, three dogs and cat) lived in Inglewood. Inglehood as they call it. I wonder if they realize they are talking about Ms. Catherine and her family. Inglehood? They are talking about the Black Muslim selling bean pies on Florence and Crenshaw across the street from Guidance Church of Religious Science led by Rev. Nirvana Gayle.
Inglehood? They are talking about the workers and students crowded on the 210 bus. The brother on Slauson and West selling Lakers shirts. They are talking about Mr. Bennie, whose car repair shop I walked by for months when my car was broken and said, “Gal, you should take my number.” And handed me a 310 number on the corner of orange card stock.
“Why?” I asked suspicious of the old man.
“I'on't know. Somethin' might happen and you might need a numba to call.” Then showed those white teeth through that bookcase black beautiful skin. I love us. When you say Inglehood you talkin' about my people and me. In the everlasting words of rapper E-40 “We out here tryina function.”
I looked forward to my days with Ms. Catherine. I drove from my home in Los Angeles south down Crenshaw to Florence and made that right near The Inglewood Cemetery. Then the adventure of my day began.
As a storyteller, I host a monthly storytelling show in Inglewood at a tea house called Vibrations on Manchester near Van Ness. The show is called Red Stories. I invite an artist a month to tell the back stories of their poems and lives. I share mine as well. Sometimes I share stories about Ms. Catherine and my short drive down Crenshaw to Inglewood.
One day on my way to work I passed a motel near 64th and there was a bloody mattress leaning against a light post. The image triggered my caregiver and poetic sensibilities. I made a mental note, as if the image could ever leave my brain, and continued on my journey to see Ms. Catherine. Her dogs Musa, Sula and especially Zinnji (miniature Dachshund and Chihuahua) eagerly greeted me as I walked up the driveway. Zinnji would wag her tail so furiously it seemed her body would break. When Ms. Catherine saw me every morning she acknowledged me as if I were a beloved family member she had not seen in a while and loved me more in the missing. She complimented something I had on. Always. I think of her frequently. Often we took short trips. And short walks. I took her to get her manicures, to lunch, medical visits. Sometimes when we went to eat I asked her if she had enough she would say “I have dined sufficiently, any more would be superfluous.” Then that great big wide slow smile. When we took walks she used a walker and I carried a stick. For the dogs. I am afraid of dogs. She used to see dogs and call them to her and whisper in their ears. “You're so precious. Do you know that? Do you know how precious you are?” She used to kiss and speak to the flowers along our path. She spoke to the leaves and hugged the barks. Ms. Catherine is who I think about when I think about Inglewood.
Sure, there are flashes of old Chevy s bouncing down the street. Right now I am in Los Angeles but when I close my eyes I can smell Woody's Bar B Que on Slauson. I can see the planes flying directly over Manchester every few minutes. I remember seeing Whitney Houston in concert at The Forum many years ago. I walked twelve pounds off these thighs walking around The Forum early mornings with several other walkers. We had a family reunion at that park across from the cemetery. My godmother's mother is buried in that cemetery.
Inglewood is family. To me, Inglewood will always be about Ms. Catherine. The way she loved her family. How she watched her son, who is also an artist and a healer, get dressed for work. “Shower today, okay, Mom?”
“Oooh, anything for you my precious son.” Whether she wanted to take a shower or not. Inglewood is the smell of Karen's homemade soup. Inglewood is soup.
Inglewood is filled with stories. My stories. Ours. Red Stories. Inglewood is conversation. Is veggie patties and remembering my thoughts about what will Ms. Catherine want to eat today? Inglewood is remembering her stories and songs and poems. Inglewood is wondering how she remembered so many songs and poems.
When I think of Inglewood, I think of roses and puppies and remind myself as Ms. Catherine would remind them, that I am that precious too.