Local author Nick Belardes performed the first chapter of his novel Anhinga as poetry at Bakersfield’s best open mic Bakotopia Unplugged. The novel examines a dual-ethnic’s experience of the San Joaquin Valley and post-9/11 life with lyrical intensity and a power rooted in the images common to Bakersfield residents: the boxcars of South Pacific trains, neon graffiti, and the cool water of backyard swimming pools. Addressing a broad range of topics at the heart of Valley life, the chapter explores questions regarding families, race, mythmaking, and rebuilding.
On a personal note, the final few minutes of Nick's performance resonated with me as we enter Bakersfield summer. One of my first memories of my mother is of her teaching me how to float in the pool, her hands holding me from underneath--much like the father and son featured in the chapter. The father's advice should be remembered when we find ourselves simply needing to float.
"Just relax. You're buoyant. Let yourself feel lighter than the water. Look up at the heavens. Be with the air. Breathe deep, feel your heart, trust the water."