renaissance

Guest Column: A Wordsmith’s Last Story

Ed Kaufman

An excited buzz came to Dime Stories in the fall of 2011.  Cindy Frazier was coming and she was actually reading! Frazier had been the city editor of the Coastline Pilot for six years and was one of the most influential journalistic voices in Laguna Beach as well as a published creative writer. As I approached Salt Fine Art where the readings took place, I glimpsed a slight, bowed figure sitting in her car. Could this be the legendary, local, wordsmith? She joined the group 15 minutes later, silently slumping into a chair. She read that day, softly and elegantly and wrote a column dedicated to Dime Stories. How proud I was to see my story about the tribal man who wore only a vegetable praised in print. Frazier continued to be a regular reader and won the contest for best essay read the month of March. This meant she would be performing at the celebrated Los Angeles Festival of Books held at USC in April. Her health was failing rapidly from pancreatic cancer by then and I prayed she’d be able to perform at the event.

Amy Wallen, the founder of Dime Stories, USA, gathered a handful of would-be writers together in a Laguna country cottage to prep us for the Festival presentation.  Frazier was barely able to lift herself through the front door. Her jaundiced skin was an apricot, yellowish orange. She rambled and shared catastrophic dreams, yet when she haltingly read her story about her mother, her voice was poignant and clear. By now everyone in the group wondered if she’d be able to read publicly in a few weeks.

A few days later Frazier entered the hospital for nine days of parenteral feeding, I assume with nutrients poured directly into her blood stream through a permanent catheter. Carrying a bag of nourishment in a refrigerated suitcase, she was ready for the battle to get to the book festival.

Frazier’s driver was unable to take her and she agreed to come with me knowing that I had several stops to make on the way back. She didn’t bring her wheel chair, so we walked slowly from the parking lot to the venue, dragging the case attached to her lifeline. We arrived early, and found a spot in the shade to prepare for her reading. And read she did! Crystal clear, she recited with deep, but subtle emotion, “Bleeding Hearts,” a piece about her mother’s death and metaphorically, flowers that bloom in the last place expected.

We struggled back to the parking lot and wilted in the early spring heat waiting for the valet to bring my car. I left her at her home eight hours after we had started. I apologized for our arduous journey, but she expressed her gratitude the next day,       “Thanks for making the reading possible. I feel like I climbed a mountain, but it was well worth the effort.”

Frazier’s front page Coastline Pilot obituary was published June 29, 2012. In a section subtitled “She Was A Brave Warrior,” she was quoted about the event, saying “She was going no matter what, even though she was weak and it took all of her strength and will.”  Frazier’s struggle is a monument to Dime Stories, but more so to courage and determination.

The next Dime Story reading will be this Sunday, July 8, at 5 p.m. at Salt Fine Art, 1492 S. Coast Highway. They are three minute stories with a beginning, middle and end.

 

Local resident Ed Kaufman hosts Dime Stories.

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