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25 Bucks and a Cracker: Richard Yves Sitoski's Remembrance of Jennifer Reimer

Michael Powell-Deschamps: A little note about this - Richard Yves Sitoski has a lot of respect from me. It felt like I met everyone Jen ever was intimate with after she died. She knew some really messed up people. I unfortunately know too well that they did reflect one side of her - but I know also that it was only one side. Richard is an accomplished poet - he recently published one book of poetry. While talking to him, reading his work and much else, I realized that the two of us were really, really similar types of men. Women like Jennifer usually have two sets of men in their lives - the men they really care about and are scared of failing and the ones they keep around to tell themselves they can do better. Both sets end up feeling burned by such women - but it's the ones the woman really cared about who end up having the lasting impact.

When she died, he posted pictures of her from poetry readings wearing her trademark glasses and also put a lantern in the air in her honor. Richard's love and fear of the woman is so similar, as is our prominence in the legacy of her life. The men she kept around to blame are faceless and forgotten - whenever her name is mentioned, it is me, Richard, her father and those who really loved her who literally and figuratively carry her lantern.

I knew the real Jen and so did he. My mission, so far as she is concerned, is to remember not the dark side but the side we both loved. I consider him a partner in that task.

I found this picture of Jen with Richard today. She really loved you, Richard. We did what we could.

Richard Yves Sitoski: Jen was elusive. The definition of aleatory. Or so she appeared to me. And I felt viscerally that any time spent with her would be fleeting. Prone to gusts and lulls, capable of feeding flames and cooling limbs, she could also pick up and become a village-leveling gale. To get to know her, you needed sails and good rigging. Me? All I had was a dinghy and a net. And when all you have is a net, trying to capture the wind is self-defeating.

In early 2011 I spent just over a week of intense paddling down her stream-of-expanded-consciousness. We had met a few months back online, a product of the blogosphere. I had been going through an activist period at the time and maintained an advocacy blog of low readership and marginal impact. Her confessional and investigative Practice of Madness blog was going strong. We bonded over our mutual distrust of psychiatry and abject hatred of Big Pharma. What sealed the deal were her academic skills and inclinations. She had a formidable intellect, and in my small town finding anyone to converse with about cultural theory and radical politics is a non-starter.

When she visited me – from Vancouver to Owen Sound via Winnipeg – she admitted to having fallen for me. I wanted to reciprocate in precisely the same way and to the same extent, but my more cautious and reserved nature made it unlikely, if not impossible, to mesh with someone who could take off at a moment’s notice with only 25 bucks and a cracker. Impulsivity can of course be a great advantage; I’m a ditherer and know damn well I’ve lost much through indecision. Nobody could accuse Jen of that. She lived every nanosecond through to its sometimes illogical conclusion, and while that could give her and her loved ones a lot of joy, it brought her and her loved ones a lot of grief. And the potential for grief where she was concerned was too great for me.

It seemed the only appropriate thing for us to do, then, was to each take a page from her book and live out the week as a lyric… a sort of free-form sonnet of indeterminate duration, of no discernible rhyme scheme, of variable line length and with scattergun imagery. We’d recite, sing, incant and launch ourselves into full histrionic flight until things came to a stop with the inevitability a rhyming iambic couplet. It was a time of laughter and revelation, of mirth through the exorcism of ghosts both friendly and not so well disposed. For someone whose extra-curricular activities rarely consisted of more than a hot day lager or celebratory single malt, her leading me by the hand on a walk down a lane bordered by Hawaiian woodrose was a change as good as any rest (but not a place I’m keen on revisiting; a mug of full city roast provides me with all the stimulus I need). She read at our local coffeehouse/open mic, dazzling the audience with a charisma and presence all who knew her could attest to – flaming red hair, abstract expressivity, part Tori Amos and part Sylvia Plath in intent, form and foundation. We watched Trailer Park Boys long into the night and followed that up with debates about Michel Houellebecq. We played cribbage till we collapsed from exhaustion only to awaken in blazes of creativity and collage our way to breakfast.

It was pure ferment, and one of the most intense periods of the past decade. And we were both relieved when it was over.

She knew my dinghy wasn’t up to her nor’easters. For my part, I couldn’t get her to eat anything other than ice cream, and she knew that I knew that she knew that at some level there was a serious problem. To me, that was emblematic of other things, things I could not deal with, things which were sure to trip us up. In the end, as I see it, we didn’t so much make a strategic withdrawal from love as make a tactical retreat to a place of more secure affection. It was a location that served us well. From then on we would always occupy places in each other’s hearts and minds. Even though there was an estrangement near the end, news of her passing crushed me. Normally resistant to tears, I wept openly and uncontrollably for days.

Beyond this, I believe I can say no more. In commemoration of her last year I purchased a floating lantern, one of those paper ones that rise on a column of air from a sputtering paraffin candle. It was Jen to the extreme, right down to its take on Plath: bright red in colour, rising straight up until it was almost lost from sight in a sky uncharacteristically blue for that time of year, then eating itself like air. The cinders did not disperse but fell straight down. There was no wind.



  1. Powerful. Very good description of Jen ... better than I could formulate on my own. Thank You for sharing.

  2. Richard is a fantastic writer. She certainly had a type.

  3. here i am again, reading it as if for the first time ... that is until i saw my initial comment a few months ago ... odd how Jenn herself floats in and out of our lives still. she was blessed in having met you both and you are blessed in having known her ...


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About Radical Second Things

Michael Orion is a blogger, writer, artist and photographer based in the Bay Area. Besides his maintenance and promotion of Radical Second Things, he contributes to the San Francisco newspaper SF Western Edition, where he writes about local non-profit organizations.

Mark Cappetta is a practicing Catholic and active LGBT activist. He has been instrumental in keeping Radical Second Things and updates the Facebook account almost daily.

Eva Gnostiquette is an artist, programmer, "future scientist," bi-trans girl and graphic designer. She voluntarily helped to create the first print issue Radical Second Things and designed our beautiful banners. Thanks so much, Eva!

Jordan Denato is a professional artist based out of Iowa. He took the initiative to illustrate both Jennifer Reimer's story and Michael Orion's Oscar Romero work. He has his own art studio, Tar and Feather Studios, and is a critical part of Radical Second Things.

Radical Second Things is a liberation theology themed blog that has clear cut goals - we see the structural decline of the United States and much of the west and hope to present alternatives that will offer "a preferential option for the poor" as more become vulnerable.

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