Frank Messina was born
while I was doing belly rolls
on North Beach in San Francisco.
While I was belly dancing
at the Casbah and Baghdad nightclubs,
on Broadway,
just a few blocks from City Lights Bookstore,
that’s when Frank Messina was born.
I had a belly dance school,
called Harems Unlimited.
I taught at my flat on Nob Hill.
My livingroom-diningroom became a ballroom,
just by sliding the heavy wooden doors open.
That was my dance studio,
where I taught girls how to roll their bellies,
and many other movements.
Most belly dancers I met,
rolled their bellies inward and up.
I preferred to roll my belly out and down --
“Like giving birth”, I told my belly dance students.
That’s when Frank Messina was born.
Besides my steady jobs on Broadway,
I had side-gigs,
usually one-night performances
or weekend engagements that paid well.
I was rolling my belly all over the Bay area and beyond.
That’s when Frank Messina was born.
One agent sent me to far-flung towns,
like Modesta or Fresno,
even as far south as Indio
 just south of Palm Springs,
where they grow dates.
Dating there often culminated
in a Middle Eastern or Greek wedding –
nationalities that enjoy dates and olives,
couscous and baklava.
Weddings paid well,
joy-filled occasions.
The guests loved my “feed the Sultan grapes” act.
I chose a man from the audience
-- sometimes the groom –
to come to the stage.
I would sit him on a cushion on the floor,
then I lay on my side in front of him,
undulating horizontally,
while feeding him grapes.
Rolling my belly took me on many a journey.
I rolled my belly all the way across the
belly of the U.S.A. and back again,
wherever my agent sent me.
I was giving birth to my free spirit.
That was when Frank Messina was born!
copyright, Tara Sufiana
May 30, 2007

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