Better Luck Next Year: or How I Learned To Talk About My Boobs

20 Jul BLNY

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So in just three days Better Luck Next Year will be out in the world.

As I’ve said before I’m really excited for you guys to meet this book. We’re having a little reading party with Jason Irwin, author of A Blister of Stars and John Grochalski whose new book Wine Clerk is now out. It’s this Saturday in Pittsburgh at the East End Book Exchange at 7pm. If you can make it, very cool.

We’ll talk about my BOOBS. It’ll be fun.

I want to thank Rege at Tribune Review for taking the time to talk to me about the book. You can read that interview here and if you like what you hear check out Littsburgh.

They asked me “What do you hope readers take away from Better Luck Next Year?”

And I said:

“I think the reason anyone writes anything, or reads anything for that matter, is to connect with another person. To put something into the universe that a stranger picks up and says, ‘Yes, I know that! That’s me!’ To cultivate empathy – something we could all use a little more of. Cancer is an incredibly universal disease. You can’t throw a rock without hitting someone who has been affected. But it is also exceedingly isolating. There is a clear demarcation between the life you used to have and the life after diagnosis and it bleeds into nearly every aspect of your existence. So what I tried to do is speak to that as honestly as I could. It was an attempt to dismantle the ‘warrior myth’ and fetizishing of breast cancer. When you scrape away all the ribbons and charity walks you’re left with some very harsh realities. So if there’s anything I hope that people get out of it it would be the ability to speak more honestly about our shared fears and hopes. To speak as honestly as we can about mortality – our own and that of those we love.”

There’s also a few samples of the poems that you’ll find in the book!

And they did a nice spotlight on Jason’s A Blister of Stars and on Low Ghost in general which is an incredible press that I’m so proud to be on.

Or you can listen to what Karina Bush said (a poet that I don’t know, I swear):

“I am impressed by Ally Malinenko, her poems about her experience with cancer are excellent. I think she has a book coming out soon.”

I do! In three days!

(Also that was sent to me by the guy who published her book and did some broadsides for me so I wasn’t like…googling myself, I swear).

This has been a long week. I had back to back appointments, one of which was treatment. While I was there something…happened.

I was bullshitting with my oncologist as he checked my lymph nodes, he got a phone call about another patient. Her numbers were bad. There was discussion about changing her meds. He told the nurse that he needs to see her and to make sure she gets an appointment by tomorrow and that she can’t start the other medication until she comes in. After he got off the phone there was a beat and I could see how distracted he was by this news. Then he just started chatting with me again.

Me, one of his “healthy” ones.

And I realized that in this ugly twisted fabric of terrible luck, there are pockets of good luck and I am in one of those pockets. And I am so thankful.

And then today, my mammo came back clear. And I’m good for six more months.

So I bought myself some starbursts

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I love you guys.

Peace, love and Starbursts,

Ally

 

 

 

Books are Coming! Books are Here! Books Books Books!

14 Jul

Howdy from the hot garbage smell that is Brooklyn in the summertime!

Yummy!

So real quick, couple of thank yous before we get to the nitty gritty on the books, books, books.

First off thanks to Anti-Heroin Chic for taking these three poems and to Your One Phone Call for this one. Speaking of poetry, I was incredibly sad to find out that Dead Snakes is no longer. It was a great site for writers and readers and Stephen was a tireless champion of all of our work. I can’t thank him enough for all the poems that he’s given a home to and for all the writers he’s introduced me to. I hope the archive stays up.

So books!

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Next Saturday the 23rd is the official book birthday for Better Luck Next Year. I am super excited for this book to be out in the world, not only because of the subject matter (stupid cancer) but because I think that the folks at Low Ghost helped to put together a really solid book out of the hot mess manuscript I sent them. In the meantime you can add it to your Goodreads To Be Read Pile (should be so inclined).

And if you’re on the fence, here’s what the (amazing) James Duncan of Hobo Camp had to say about it:

Malinenko is so simply eloquent and true that she makes the most personal of her trials too universal to resist, makes those midnight terrors so real you can feel your throat clenching as you pass from one stanza to stanza. I wept as I read her suffering the endless runaround as she searched for medical help, as she picked apart her life for the mistakes she might have made that brought this cancer to her body, as she searched her familial history for tell-tale signs too late to help, as she discussed buying a pizza with her husband on the way home from the hospital because that’s what a human being with or without cancer does when they have to keep on living, right? It is cliché maybe, but I’ll say it: I cried when I read her poetry, because it’s good and real and true and it hit home.

You can read the whole things here!

 

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If you’re in Pittsburgh please do come by the East End Book Exchange at 7:00 pm on Saturday July 23rd for some beers and some poetry and some stories about my boobs, and some possible rants about the “warrior myth.” It’ll be fun. Come.

Also! It’s the release of Jason Irwin’s A Blister of Stars which is a beautiful poetry book – and I’m so glad we’re paired together as it also deals with illness and physicality – and John Grochalski’s Wine Clerk. If you read his first book, The Librarian, then you know what an amazing character Rand Wyndam is and how funny John’s books are. Also, come on, this cover is sweet!

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Some things people have said:

John Grochalski’s is a line that extends back to Steinbeck and Sinclair and up through Fante and Bukowski. Wine Clerk is another brilliant evocation of how miserable the world can be and how surviving with a drink in a dive bar is our only shot at victory.

-Dave Newman, author of Raymond Carver Will Not Raise Our Children

You can preorder now!

 

Next up Epic Rite is including my chapbookI’ll Be So Still You Won’t Even Notice Me – in the Punk Chapbook Season Two. Basically for a paltry $40 you get 12 books of poetry. This is a good deal folks. You can pre-order that one too from the link above!

And finally I got this:

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It was made by the crazy talented Janne Karlsson from Sweden. Now I know how comic book writers feel. Drawings making words better. I’m completely overwhelmed with how cool this is. He also illustrated a poem of mine which will be out later this year.

So that’s about it. Again, if you’re in Pittsburgh please swing by for the book launch.

Peace love and starbursts,

Ally

 

 

Better Luck Next Year

10 Jun

Cancer is a rare and still scandalous subject for poetry;
and it seems unimaginable to aestheticize the disease.
-Susan Sontag from Illness as Metaphor

 

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Cancer poems, meet the whole world. Whole world, meet the cancer poems.

Low Ghost Press. Out July 23rd.

It’s a limited edition 100 copy run.

I’m eternally grateful to Kris Collins at Low Ghost Press for turning the hot mess manuscript I gave him into an actual book and to Nathan, for copy editing this thing like a champ.

And to all the presses that published these poems beforehand – 48th Street Press, Anti-Heroin Chic, Beechwood Review, The Blue Hour, Carcinogenic Poetry, Clockwise Cat, The Commonline Journal, Dead Snakes, Drunk in a Midnight Choir, Drunk Monkeys, Exercise Bowler, Eye on Life Magazine, Hobo Camp Review, Homestead Review, Horror Sleaze and Trash, Kind of a Hurricane Press, Mad Swirl, Mas Tequila Review, Misfit Magazine, Pine Hills Review, Pyrokinection, Red Fez, Revolution John, Verse Virtual, Yellow Chair Review, and Your One Phone Call – thank you.

Thank you for giving me a space to scream and cry and laugh. I’m eternally grateful.

You all helped keep me alive through this.

And while I’m saying thanks, thanks to In Between Hangovers for taking The Bridge That Doesn’t Go To Manhattan and Cancer Math and also thanks to Drunk in Midnight Choir for taking these three poems. Also thanks to CommonLine Journal for Radiation Day 17 and Red Fez for My First Visit to the Apple Store: April 2016

BETTER LUCK NEXT YEAR is, thus far, the most honest and personal writing I have ever undertaken. I’m glad it is going to exist in the world. It is literally the lemonade from the lemons.

If you’re in Pittsburgh on July 23rd we’re doing a reading at the East End Book Exchange. Come on out. I promise not to be depressing. I mean honestly how bad could it be. I’m gonna spend some time talking about my tits!!

Oh and I’ll have a bunch of broadsides from Chris at 48th Street Press to give away.

Like this:

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Give the title track a spin. (originally published in Red Fez)

Better Luck Next Year

I’m not even sure why I kept it so long

this pewter pink ribbon pin

that was given to me during radiation treatment,

 

that first day when the nurse walked up and said

I have something for your collection

nodding at all the pins on my bag

and placed in my hand a little pink ribbon

a symbol

 

a mark

 

and I took it with quivering fingertips

there in my hospital gown

waiting to be burned

 

because I didn’t know what else to do.

I put it on my bag with the others

and there it stayed

through all of treatment

 

through the tears

and the panic

the sick dizzy feeling

in the middle of the night when I got up to pee

the one that told me

 

You’re going to die. Sooner. Painfully.

It stayed there through the injections

and the long hours spent in the waiting room.

 

It stayed there through telling my parents

and my friends and the depression

and the anger that crashed against me like a tidal wave.

 

It stayed there until

yesterday

when I looked down at it

and realized

I don’t want a symbol

and I don’t want to be a warrior.

 

I thought of all the young women that came before me

the ones that died

and the ones that lived

and all the others out

there right now blossoming

this burden in their holy bodies.

 

I thought of all of things people told me

when I told them about this hurricane of a tumor in me

 

and it was yours that came back to me:

 

Better luck next year, I guess.

 

You said it not insincerely

but with the exacting honesty

of the unchangeable

unfairness of this life

 

and I took the ribbon pin off my bag

because I am not a warrior

or a survivor

but just a young women trying to live with a disease

and I hurled it over the

wrought iron of the cemetery fence

and I kept walking

not caring to see which grave it landed at

 

knowing that at least

it wasn’t mine.

And finally, today, June 10th, is Cancerversary Year 2.

This girl’s still alive.

Suck it, cancer.

Peace, love and starbursts,

Ally

Where the Fuck Did May Go?*

24 May

*Yes it’s a David Bowie reference. Yes, I’m still upset. Leave me alone.

We must always work, and a self-respecting artist must not fold his hands on the pretext that he is not in the mood. If we wait for the mood, without endeavoring to meet it half-way, we easily become indolent and apathetic. We must be patient, and believe that inspiration will come to those who can master their disinclination. – Tchaikovsky

 

So wow….I seemed to have lost a month. During the beginning of which I turned 39 (!!) and by the end of which, today, my husband reached over and plucked a white hair out of the top of my head.

I’m not even kidding. It was WHITE. I’m officially old.

So in between now and then I have a few people to thank, list-style

In other writing news, I’ve been working with Six Gallery Press and Low Ghost Press on edits to Better Luck Next Year which should be out end of July. In case you don’t know it’s the poetry book that’s all about the cancer escapade. I won’t say journey cause I hate that term. Anyway, I gave Kris at Low Ghost a giant hot emotional mess and out of that he has helped to carve a really honest and raw look at what 2014-2015 was like from the days before diagnosis to the end of treatment.

Caveat: So I’m just going to put this here because a number of people have asked me about treatment lately, specifically Am I done? and if not When will I be? That’s a hard question to answer, even as I come barreling towards Cancerversary #2.  I’m not going to be “done” for a few more years. I’ll be on tamoxifen for at least three more years unless it causes potentially dangerous side effects. I’m still going to be getting injections of ovarian suppressants (Zoladex) for another year and a half. But what I do each month is not at all like what people typically think of when they say “treatment” which is chemo. So I guess the answer is yes-ish but also no-ish.

/end caveat

I’m really excited for Better Luck Next Year. I think it contains some of my best writing – and if not then it’s definitely got the rawest and most honest stuff I have done. I promise it’s not to terribly “woe is me” or too terribly depressing.

In other writing news, I’ve been doing a lot of hand wringing lately over Palimpsest (the massive nightmare that is the sci-fi book.) I’ve been querying agents and I’ve had some very promising leads and bites and interest but nothing that has panned out into an offer. Which is fine, these things take time. That said, at the beginning of the month I had a really interesting conversation with an agent who made some suggestions that would require a big revision.

Big.

And I have been heming and hawing about it for a month now, whinning to friends and beta readers if I should go through with it and “one person’s opinion” and “am I willing to do the work” and whine whine whine.

Ultimately the problem is the end. Endings are HARD. And then a friend shared this list of suggestions from Billy Wilder to Cameron Crowe:

  1. The audience is fickle. Grab ’em by the throat and don’t let ‘em go.
  2. Develop a clean line of action for your leading character.
  3. Know where you’re going.
  4. The more subtle and elegant you are in hiding your plot points, the better you are as a writer.
  5. If you have a problem with the third act, the real problem is in the first act.*
  6. Let the audience add up two plus two. They’ll love you for it.
  7. In doing voice-overs, be careful not to describe what the audience already sees; add to what they are seeing.
  8. The event that occurs at the second-act curtain triggers the end of the movie.
  9. The third act must build, build, build in tempo until the last event, and then …
  10. … that’s it. Don’t hang around.

 

* emphasis mine

My friend wrote a whole post about it here which is great and you should read it. It was number five from this list that hit home for me.

And I think I found the problem in the first act. So the only question is should I cut my loses, scrap this to “one person’s opinion” and move on?

Or am I able to do the heavy lifting – the WORK – that will be turning this book around? Am I willing to put my other stuff on hold to go back into the trenches with Palimpsest again?

Oh who am I kidding?

My alarm is already set for 5 am. There is no spoon.

Wish me luck.

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s All Go Down To The River and See What We Find

28 Apr

Bruce Springsteen opened his show last Saturday at the Barclays Center with Purple Rain. He walked on stage, bathed the audience in a sea of purple light, said absolutely nothing and just started singing. It was a beautiful tribute to a legend lost too young.

Forever Prince. And then he said:

“We’d like to dedicate this show to Prince. There’s never been anyone better … Bandleader, showman, arranger … Whenever I would catch one of his shows, I would always leave humbled. I’m going to miss that. We’re going to miss that.”

Afterwards, he played Meet Me in the City and then as promised he played the entirety of The River and then another hour of some of his best songs: Badlands, No Surrender, The Promised Land,  Backstreets, Because the Night, Lonesome Day, The Rising, Thunder Road. His encore was Born to Run, Dancing in the Dark, Rosalita (Come Out Tonight), Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, and finally Shout. Yes, the Isley Brothers.

It was 3+ hours of pure rock and roll like only Springsteen can, and has, delivered for decades. The man crowd surfed at 66 years of age. CROWD SURFED.

At which point my husband leaned over and said, “Oh please don’t drop him. This has been such a terrible year already.”

And while the hits were great, it was really hearing The River in it’s entirety that was really amazing. Like this chilling rendition of Fade Away.

That ending, my God.

And for as great as these clips are, the really amazing part of the concert was not recorded. And that was Bruce, talking about making that album. Before he played Independence Day he said this, “I was 24 or 25 years old and trying to talk to my father. He was never that vocal, so I thought, I’ll write him a song. I’ll write him a song.”

And then he went on about writing The River. About looking around and seeing the things he didn’t have in his life – a love story, a family – and how he thought if he sat down and wrote about all those things he wanted, maybe, somehow they would come true. How he wanted to capture it all, for himself, yes, but for all of us, too.

And I felt so lucky to be there. To be in that space listening to a man whose music I have adored my entire life talk about his PROCESS.

And I looked around at my fellow fans, in the hope of some sort of communion only to find a sea of people dicking around on facebook. I’m not even joking. Bruce Springsteen was on stage RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEM talking about how he wrote some of his greatest songs and the people around me were bullshitting and on twitter and facebook.

Why do we constantly devalue art-making? So much of his music is iconic. This is the man who said, “Is a dream a lie if it doesn’t come true? Or is it something worse.” And he’s standing up there telling you how that happened and you’re on…….facebook.

And I know things have changed. I’m not that blind. But in the same way I watch people photograph art at museums and then walk away not really seeing it. Not even bothering to look. Just recording it. The same way people next to me at the concert were more concerned with how many people liked the video of Bruce singing Purple Rain that they just posted.

We aren’t living right now. We aren’t experiencing things as they happen anymore. Everything gets recorded and photographed and posted and paraded around online. We’re losing something here. Something important.

My friend, Brad, said this in a beautiful post he wrote about Prince:

There will never be another Prince or a Bowie. Music isn’t valued anymore. Money (and the lack of it) is the motive. So is social media outreach. So are Facebook likes. Rock and roll is fading from the airwaves, like a weak radio signal as you drive out of its radius, flickering out before going to static. Alternative rock is too fragmented to make a difference. Rap and hip-hop have gotten boring. Pop is disposable more than ever. We’re living in the future Warhol predicted. Everybody’s famous; especially the ones who don’t deserve to be. Our 15 minutes are almost up. Our rock stars are dying off. Soon our radios, our Spotifys, our streams will be filled with the voices of ghosts.

And it’s true. Music isn’t valued. Writing isn’t valued. Art isn’t valued.

I used to drink at a bar and one of the guys there was a big music fan. He used to talk about music all the time and when I called him out for stealing music from the people he claims to love he said, with a whiny voice, “Oh, poor indie rockers!” And all I could think was, yes, poor indie rockers who aren’t going to make it because you can’t bother to pay them for what they do. Because to you, it has no value.

Prince was famous for policing how his music was shared. He’s not an easy guy to find online. But what some saw as greedy, I saw as a calling. Prince believed in the sacred exchange between a creator and a fan. He believed in the value of art.

So when Springsteen is up on that stage talking about how the music that these fans adored came into existence, that it wasn’t just sitting in lyrical heaven waiting to be plucked down, that it took work and heart and sweat and tears and pain and heartache and hope and love because that what it takes to make art….well….when Springsteen is saying that, you better fucking listen. Because  as this year has so painfully taught us these artists are not going to be around forever.

Now I know that in that sea of fans I wasn’t the only one listening.

I just wish there were more of us.

All the same, I heard you, Boss….. Untill the end.

 

 

Bosch to Banksy: Amsterdam/Brussels/Bruges

18 Apr

Hello kids.

I’m back.

Before we dive into the traveling story, I’ve got many thanks to give. First off, thanks to Dead Snakes for giving these poems a home. And to Hobo Camp Review for taking these (none of which are about cancer, surprise, surprise) and to Your One Phone Call for taking Morning Commute.

In other writing news, I got the guts of a new poetry book back from my editor and man am I excited about this one. News on that soon…

So AMSTERDAM! and BRUSSELS! and….Bruges.

 

So first up….Amsterdam!

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Amsterdam is beautiful and canal-y and picturesque and filled with WAY TOO MANY BIKES. I mean good god. You can’t take a step outside without some ringing their little bell at you.

I mean this is basically every corner.

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That said, it’s still incredible. Look:

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That’s a Van Gogh sky if I ever saw one. Speaking of Vincent, he and Anne Frank were my big must do’s in Amsterdam. We had tickets for the Van Gogh museum but not Anne Frank since they only sell a limited amount online. So we headed up there on Day 1.

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I don’t think I’ll ever have the words to describe what it was like to pass through that secret door behind the bookcase and to stand in the Secret Annex. Photography is not allowed so I grabbed a few images from online.

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The staircase behind the secret bookshelf that lead to their hiding place

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Anne Frank room

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Anne and Mr. Dussel’s room as it would have been furnished

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The diary

I also found this virtual tour of the house.

It’s still hard to unpack what an emotional experience being there was – not only because reading her journal gives you insight into what a vivid person she was but because while it is very much a historical document, it’s also a unique insight into what it is to be a teenage girl. A girl who fights with her mother. A girl who crushes on the boy down the hall. A girl like we all were.

One of my favorite parts of the visit was at the end when her friends talked about her. About how she was certainly no saint. How she was a bit of a big mouth. A bit of a bossypants.

But more than that, Anne was a writer. Prior to their discovery, Anne found out that Allies were interested in the journals of people who were in hiding for possible publication and she immediately started to write with an eye towards publication, editing and changing her work. I full believe that had Anne lived she would have been a writer.

I can think of only one other person who died without knowing the impact that their work would have on the world. And that would be Vincent van Gogh.

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The museum was simply spectacular. Not only does it house a large quantity of his work, it’s got some of the most important pieces, like these:

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Self Portrait in Grey Felt Hat

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Almond Blossoms – painted to mark the birth of Vincent, Theo’s son.

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The Potato Eaters

And my favorite, the Yellow House

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This image doesn’t do this painting justice. Vincent was a color theorist and understood the importance of color juxtaposition – that yellow is more yellow against blue.

Unfortunately The Bedroom was out on loan to Chicago. Sadness.

In addition to the amazing work, they also had audio recordings of many of the letters that Vincent and his brother Theo exchanged in their equally short lives.

Other cool things we did in Amsterdam was the Rembrandt House, which I recommend to anyone who visits, especially the demonstration on how paint was made in Rembrandt’s day. Needless to say, it wasn’t a simple matter of going to the store and buying a tube. A large amount of the color was achieved through toxic and in some instances, gross, means.

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Making Paint

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Rembrandt’s studio

And we also found this:

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That’s the Amsterdam Hilton. And if that doesn’t mean anything to you then you’re obviously not a John Lennon fan.

Drove from Paris to the Amsterdam Hilton,
Talking in our beds for a week.
The newspapers said, “Say what you doing in bed?”
I said, “We’re only trying to get us some peace”.

It’s where this happened:

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Other things, Amsterdam is full of: Tulips

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And of course we also found the…ahem…. “coffeehouses.”

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Oh and we stumbled into a massive pillow fight. Because why not?

 

Next up was a quick side trip to ‘s-Hertogenbosch, often called Dem Bosch to see the Hieronymus Bosch exhibit.

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The Man of the Hour

In case you don’t know Bosch was a painter in early 1500’s whose paintings have informed our modern day imaging of hell.

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And if you look really closely you’ll see some interesting things.

Like birds.

Flying out of butt holes.

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The exhibit was great – though really crowded which was hard because to really enjoy Bosch you need to get right in there and really look. For birds. Flying out of buttholes.

Or this guy:

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Or this…whatever this is:

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Next up was Brussels.

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Grand Place

Brussels is a gorgeous city that, as you know, was recently the target of a ISIS terrorist attack. While we were there, they found the “man in the hat” which I can only imagine gave the residents much relief. That said, every night on the news, I heard about how Brussels was “reeling” but what I saw every night were people having dinner and drinks with friends. You know, living.

We did see the memorials that were set up.

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And we also saw a lot more ART including the Magritte Museum and a special exhibit of Andres Serrano, the photographer who did the now infamous Piss Christ

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Yes that is a crucifix dipped in a jar of piss. Also on display was his Denizens of Brussels and Residents of New York, two series he did photographing the homeless, or sans abris as they are called in Brussels. But my favorite was the Morgue series: photographs of the dead, the caption of each image was cause of death.

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Suicide by Rat Poison

Serrano also paid homeless people for their signs.

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One of the most famous residents of Brussels is Manneken Pis – a statue from 1618 of a kid peeing. Apparently in the Brussels museum is a whole host of outfits that he sometimes wears.

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More recently in 1985, he got a girlfriend, Jeanneke Pis.

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We also found a studio where Vincent worked. The studio belong to his friend Rappard and had better light than the place Vincent was living at on Boulevard du Midi.

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And a place where Byron lived

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And the infamous spot where Verlaine shot Rimbaud

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Shortly after taking this picture the owner of that lace shop came outside and informed us that the plaque is a lie and that Verlaine shot Rimbaud about four blocks to the west but since this is where all the tourists are that’s where they put the marker. He also called Verlaine a disgusting old drunk. So there’s that too.

And we found the Royal Academie, host to nearly every great artist in Europe including James Ensor, Magritte, De Kooning and of course….my beloved Vincent who after a month quit when one of his paintings came in last in a contest. Oh, Vincent.

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And Brussels had some really great street art.

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All Truth is Negociable

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Tintin!

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It was a really really beautiful city which we left for……Bruges.

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If you haven’t seen In Bruges, you should cue that up right away. It’s a dark comedy about hit men trapped in this medieval city staring Colin Ferrell.

And really it’s not Bruges’ fault. It’s a very pretty little city but short of looking at windmills there isn’t much to do. So we looked at windmills.

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But we did go see the Picasso Expo which was fantastic and a chance to see the flower bunch, which as a child, decorated my sheets. My parents are very cool.

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And his Don Quixote

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which my parents also had a print of…and his Dove

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So that was Bruges.

We took a train back to Amsterdam in time to catch the Warhol/Banksy exhibition at Moco Museum.

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So there it was…from Bosch to Banksy. And in between, I ate a disturbing amount of fries and chocolate and waffles.

Because, waffles.

 

Peace love and starbursts,

Ally

At Least We Didn’t Get Arrested: Attending the Anti-Trump Rally in NYC

21 Mar

So before we get into the story of how I almost got arrested this weekend, I have a couple quick writing thank yous to share.

First off, thanks to Clockwise Cat for accepting this poem, New Strange Life, for the David Bowie tribute issue. Always an honor to be included. And to Boyslut for taking Moment and finally Yellow Chair Review for taking Please Don’t Call It a Journey and for publishing my new essay about Betty Tompkin’s amazing exhibit.

How To Be An American my poetry book has also gotten some love. First up was Alison Ross at Clockwise Cat who said:

“The content of the poems, sans pedantic preaching, scream volumes about what’s very toxically wrong with American society
– its consumerism mania, its revolting xenophobia, its laughable “Jesus-was-American” attitudes, its faux-patriotism.

“How to Be An American” is the “Idiocracy” of poetry, serving to amuse, yes, but mostly to enrage and enlighten – about a freakishly frightening society.”

The full review is available in the new issue of Five 2 One.

And then Matthew gave this review on goodreads:

It never occurred to me that I would open up a book one day and be transported back to the basement of Sacred Heart Church. Ally does that a lot in this book though and that makes it interesting. Having played dodge ball, being a traveler (and rarely a knowledgeable person of places I travel), and being an American I find myself in this book sort of surprised by the glare of the stage lights. ‘How to be an American” puts you uncomfortably back in your skin. I think this is good poetry because it can do all of this transporting and or recollecting in very few words. Anyway, that is my initial assessment. i will come back and read it over and over and add more comments to this site eventually.

So thank you both for the love.

Speaking of How To Be An American…..I found myself in the midst of a political rally this weekend.

I knew about the Anti-Trump rally that was taking place in Manhattan earlier this week. The march was beginning at Columbus Circle and ending at Trump Tower on Madison. For the bulk of the week we had planned on attending. Then we found out that they didn’t have a permit and we were feeling a little iffy.

The way it works in NYC is that if you get a permit, you get to march right in the street. If you don’t, you get to increase the likelihood of arrest if you a) go in the street or b) you block the sidewalk.

Thousand of people were saying on Facebook that they were going. Thousands of people marching without a permit. Hmmmmm.

So that Saturday we found ourselves not too far from Trump Tower around 1:30. The rally was supposed to start at noon at Columbus Circle. I figured they would already be done but we figured hey, why not? Let’s walk up and see what we see.

And this is what we saw:

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There were about four Pro-Trump people corralled behind the metal barricades. As we got closer, another pedestrian asked them why they were protesting in front of Trump Tower. And they answered:

“We’re not. We’re here to protest them.”

Lady: “Who?”

ProTrump Person: “Can you hear them coming?”

And like something out of a movie, the protesters snaked into sight, drums banging, voices chanting. It was a beautiful thing:

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So we joined the fray! (you’ll want to use headphones. Pardon all the cursing on these videos.)

NYC Anti-Trump Rally March 19, 2016 from ally malinenko on Vimeo.

By this next video we were down to where the Pro-Trump people were

NYC Anti-Trump Rally March 19, 2016 pt. 2 from ally malinenko on Vimeo.

Obviously there were a lot more of us than there were of them but that didn’t stop one of them from screaming at these two girls next to me to “keep moving” and “shut up” when they were chanting “love not hate.”

Unfortunately we had hit the end of the sidewalk. The police had the metal barricades up so we couldn’t go any further. So everyone yelled “Turn Around” so that we could head back the way we came.

Unfortunately it takes a long to relay that message through thousand of people. So we got bottlenecked and stuck. At this point the line of cops started playing the announcement (which you can hear in the second video) that we were in violation of new york city law because we were blocking the sidewalks. If we continued to do that, the announcement said, we would be subject to arrest.

Then the message came through the crowd that they had closed off the sidewalk on the other end, essentially trapping all of us in a city block.

We couldn’t stay and we couldn’t leave. And it was looking very likely that we were going to get arrested.

At which point I turned to my husband and said, “We did a very very stupid thing.”

We managed to get through the crowd far enough to reach a cross walk where legally we could get to the side of the street, which we did.

And then we saw these:

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And these:

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We figured this would be a good time to head out.

Turns out we were right because after we left the pepper spraying and the arrests started. According to the Daily News (who unlike the Times actually covered the event) people spilled into the streets and were then sprayed and arrested at 57th.

But this video which another protester posted shows a different story.

This is our country, friends. It’s terrifying.

I get to vote at the end of April. I hope to participate in further protests. And I really hope to not get arrested.

I don’t know what happens next.

I only know that I can’t stand by and watch this demagogue spew hate and vitriol.

Silence = endorsement.

Love trumps Hate.

Peace, love and Starbursts,

Ally

 

*all photos and video (except the last one) courtesy of John Grochalski*

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