Kevin Ridgeway is a writer with whom I’ve had the honor of sharing a stage with. He is incredibly talented, prolific and has become a rather recognizable face in the Southern California poetry community. I was really excited when he agreed to be part of this project. We agreed that shooting in Whittier, a city he considered a sort of “home town” and part of his essence as a writer would be a good choice. I asked him to reflect a bit on the experience.
"I was born in Bellflower and raised in Whittier, CA, at the southern most end of Colima Road. My life in South Whittier growing up came without kids my age, and I mostly isolated in my own little imaginative world with my mother working, my father in prison, my older brother at a different age than one I'd understand and a great-grandmother as my constant companion. I watched movies and read obsessively, also pacing back and forth with great intensity as I daydreamed my own works of art. I left when my mother died and we sold the house in 2015. My uncle is leaving in the summer for Boise. My family is no longer in Whittier. I never belonged here. Maybe on its theater stage, in its record and bookstore aisles and over at St. Matthias with the misfits, a place Fred Voss wrote about in his poem "Toy Trains & God". I grew up in Whittier, where I missed out on too much beyond make believe with the community theater, funeral eulogies and a longing for a dream deep inside of me that is far away from the streets of Whittier."
Kevin Ridgeway was born in Bellflower, CA, and raised in Whittier, CA. He is the author of six chapbooks of poetry, including All the Rage (Electric Windmill Press, 2013), On the Burning Shore (Arroyo Seco Press, 2014), Contents Under Pressure (Crisis Chronicles Press, 2015). His latest book is A Ludicrous Split alongside poems by Gabriel Ricard (Alien Buddha Press, 2018). His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Slipstream, Chiron Review, Nerve Cowboy, Spillway, Plaingsongs, The Cape Rock, San Pedro River Review, Lummox, Misfit Magazine, Suisun Valley Review, The Mas Tequila Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, 48th Street Press, Thirteen Myna Birds, Trailer Park Quarterly and Cultural Weeky, among others. A poem of his appears below.
The Original Unsung Hometown Zero
by Kevin Ridgeway
I daydreamed in the grooves of vinyl LPs scooped up for discounts in the rare expertise of Lovell’s Record Store on Greenleaf Avenue and hid in the claustrophobic stacks of the Little Old Book Shop,terrified during auditions for plays at the community theatre my
brother, Richard Nixon and I all performed in over the decades. BGirls I had crushes on saw me in my underwear behind that stage during quick-change pants-drops in between scenes onstage where they gave me my first kisses. I spent so much of my time up in my head that I forgot to experience Whittier much beyond my role as one of its fallen stars, a drunk in the pews of Saint Matthias Church listening to musicians eulogize the husband of my first AA sponsor the week after my great grandmother died and my father was sentenced to life in prison on the front page of the Whittier Daily News. I whisper Happy Mother’s Day to him as a reminder of his wife's death from inside those St. Matthias pews as I croon a Sympathy for the Devil feared by old John Greenleaf Whittier who came from Haverhill, Massachussetts where my college best friend grew up and where we wrote bad poetry that had nothing to do with two places where I never belonged, wasted
and in search of the eternal poet who writes verse that’s beyond all human comprehension, the one that saves me
in my newfound life as a rolling stone
on my way to finding myself,
whoever that is but he's not in Whittier
or Haverhill. His mind is his hometown.