Archive | October, 2013

Happy Halloween

31 Oct

Happy Halloween kids!

You want to know what’s REALLY scary?

…………………..

That movie is twenty years old. TWENTY! How is that possible? It’s not because I distinctly remember going to see that with my best friend and it was NOT twenty years ago.

Since I’m clearly far too old to go out, grab your masks, raise your pumpkin goblets and go harass your neighbor’s till they give you candy. And when you’re done, here’s a helpful guide for all your trick-r-treating swaps. I’m pretty sure my sisters always stuck me with the Brachs.

via Boing Boing

Lou Reed Like a Black Bed Sheet

30 Oct

Lou Reed Like a Black Bed Sheet

 

Because Jet Blue

stopped flights to Pittsburgh

unless you wanted to detour

through Chicago

which, if you think about it,

from New York,

means you really overshot your goal,

 

we rented a car

and I had driven

maneuvering us out of the city

because my husband hates to drive

and especially hates to drive in Brooklyn

 

so that now as the long stretches of

highway rolls forever before us

like an endless black bed sheet,

he drives

 

and that means it’s my turn

to be in charge of the radio.

 

What do you want to hear, I ask

and he shrugs, like he always does.

Doesn’t matter.

No indierock, he says.

No chick singers.

 

I scroll through my songs,

knowing that takes a decent size chunk out.

I offer Bruce and Petty

Ryan and the Beatles

and he shrugs, even to the Beatles

because it’s late and we’re tired.

 

Whatever, he says.

 

Because neither of us wanted to take this drive.

It wasn’t like the one five years ago across the country where everyday

would bring us something new.

We knew exactly where we would end up.

Exactly what it would mean.

 

I’ll find something, I said.

And as I hit play

Lou sings

 

It’s so cold in Alaska

It’s so cold in Alaska

It’s so cold in Alaska

 

I open the window

just as we reach the tunnel

and think about how long it’s been

since I quit smoking

longer still since I started

before I left that little town

that had little to do

and how someone

usually Wyatt

would put on Lou Reed

as I laid on the hood of a car

stoned

at the lake

and Maureen danced and laughed

back when I was just a teenager

and life stretched before me like a black bed sheet

 

and in this car,

as we pass through the tunnel

my husband places a hand on my thigh

warm

and says over Lou’s hard voice

this is exactly what I wanted to hear.

 

Exactly.

 

How To Be An American poem

29 Oct

Individual Liberty, in the American Mind, Became Synonymous with America, and Americans Consider Themselves the World’s Freest People

There is a crowd of tourists

blocking the subway turnstiles

at Union Square.

They can’t figure out which way

to swipe their Metrocard

and I’m thinking to myself,

this is why tokens were better

 

when the cop taps me on the shoulder.

I stare at him

a little confused

and realize that even though

I peed at the bar before we left

I think I might have to go again.

 

“We need to check your bag,” he tells me,

pointing to his partner

at the table.

At first I’m confused

and then annoyed

but I comply

because he’s a cop

and if he says he needs to check my bag,

 

It must be true.

 

I drop it on the table

and the female cop

glares at me,

her tight face

under her little hat

and suddenly I hate her.

 

“Open it. Remove the contest of your bag, ma’am.”

 

I sigh loudly

because now I’m pissed

and from it

pull the new jacket I bought

at Old Navy because it’s getting cold

and I don’t have a jacket

and the empty plastic water bottle.

 

“Good enough?” I ask

before ramming the contents back in my bag.

It’s a pretty shoddy search

as far as searches go.

If I had a bomb

I could have folded it in the coat

or slipped it in the pocket.

 

She doesn’t look in there

never even touches the jacket

because she doesn’t really want to know.

I’m just here to fill

the White Girl Quota for the day.

 

They’ve been doing this since 2005

and I’ve never been stopped.

Sure I’ve seen the police, standing like SS

hands folded, eyeing us from under their hats

but we’ve all just accepted it.

It’s the price of freedom, we tell ourselves

or those that control our freedom

tell us

and we agree.

Because we’re Americans and nothing if not agreeable.

Either way, you wouldn’t be worried unless you had something to hide right?

Isn’t that true? Isn’t that what they ask you if you protest?

 

“Everything okay, Osama?” my husband asks me

as I rejoin him,

now pushing past the tourists,

slipping through the turnstile

and catching the N train back to Brooklyn

just before they close the doors

thinking to myself

so help me god,

if I had missed this train…..

 

The Car Accident, 1995 at Pyrokinection

28 Oct

Photo by Jim Lennon. Old Mineral Springs Waterfall. May 2012

In 1994, when I was in high school, I fell off a waterfall and busted my head open.

A year later, I went back there, with my boyfriend and two other friends to see it.

On the way home, I flipped my ford escort over, totaling the car. When I saw the wrecked car in the junkyard the roof touched the ceiling. We all should have been headless and yet, amazingly, no one was hurt.

My mother told me there were certain places that certain people shouldn’t go. And if I went back there she’d disown me.

I took her advice and I’ve never gone back.

Thanks to AJ Huffman at Pyrokinection for taking this poem about that accident.

And also, RIP Lou Reed. I was talking to my husband at his yesterday and, while listening to his music, he said, “Poor Lou Reed.”

And I said, yes, but he was 71 (which is pretty good for a rock n roll lifestyle) and also, he was LOU REED. I mean, honestly, he had a better life than any of us poor shlubs will.

That said, we’ll miss you Lou. Thanks for the music.

Peace, Love and Starbursts,

Ally

cAlly-fornia

25 Oct

Hi

I’m back from California. We had an amazing time.

We flew into LAX, picked up our rental car (It was a Dodge Charger, as in DODGE CHARGER) and headed out to Long Beach, which was beautiful, by the way. This is my second trip to the LA country area and the first time I was sure I could never live there – I mean sure the weather is great and everything but I think I would go crazy if I couldn’t walk everywhere I needed to get to. There’s just SO MUCH DRIVING. That said, I liked Long Beach. You might have won me over Long Beach, you cheeky thing, you.

Course that’s also cause we met some really really great people. The folks who put together the Long Beach Poetry Festival were some of the nicest most genuine down to earth funny artists I’ve ever met. And that is saying a lot coming from me cause those “let’s-get-together-and-have-beers-with-total-strangers,-come-on-it-will-be-fun” parties make my social anxiety rear its ugly head. But they were all so great, I was over my nervousness by the time the first beer was gone.

And Jay did a great job at the reading!

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In between poets we snuck over to the V Room which was hands down one of the coolest dive bars I’ve had the privilege of drinking in. It has no windows. None. When you first walk in you stumble around blind and then, you look like this:

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So thanks again to the amazing writers who put this reading together. I’m looking at you Kevin, Clint, Anna, Donna, Tamara and Paul and all their little helper cohorts. It was a great day and you crazy bastards made it so.

We bid farewell to Long Beach and headed up the Pacific Coast Highway – California 1. We got lost 1.5 times which isn’t too bad since we covered about 600 miles or something. And one of the 1.5 times lost was only because the sign was blocked by hedges  so we got lost in a town and drove out to a dead end and realized the ocean was now on the wrong side. But man was it a hell of a drive!

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Pretty right?

I love road trips. We stopped along the way too.

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and look what we found!

Elephant Seals!!

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They smelled lovely, trust me.

And then we headed up into Big Sur territory! I drove the whole way yelling TAKE A PICTURE! TAKE A PICTURE to poor Jay.

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And we drove over the Bixby Cannon Bridge, which you Kerouac fans know is pretty darn cool. It went by so quick (and it was so high, oh so high) that we didn’t get a picture but it looks like this:

Bixby_Creek_Bridge,_California,_USA_-_May_2013See how HIGH!! Ugh. Too high.

Sheesh.

And then we got to Monterey which was beautiful and Stein-becky.

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And they did a controlled burn while we were there which was upsetting to see at first until you realized it was, you know, ON PURPOSE.

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We went to Aquarium (HAMMER HEAD SHARKS! and PENGUINS!!! and JELLYFISH!!) and found a couple of Steinbeck’s houses and hung out looking at how darn pretty everything was.

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Next up was San Francisco. My third visit to this beautiful city. The first was right after Jay and I got married 9 years ago and then again in 2007 when we traveled the country. Each time, it keeps getting sweeter.

But the one thing I had yet to do was walk over the Golden Gate Bridge.

So we did.

From our hotel in North Beach.

For those of you who don’t know, that’s FAR. It wound up being like 9 miles and I thought I was going to die when I got to the other side and wound up begging a lift off the San Francisco Sightseeing Company Trolley driver (the company charges $35/head but our lovely Irish driver took us both for $15) and dropped us off right on Van Ness. The man was a saint, I swear. But still, we WALKED THE GOLDEN GATE!

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And then drove it back!

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We even headed up to Berkeley and Oakland to find the place where Ginsberg may or may not have written Howl. First off the directions are a little vague. Secondly nearly every coffee shop in Berkeley claims that Ginsberg wrote Howl there. It’s a long poem. They’re probably right. But the main story says that it was written in a shack behind this apartment building:

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So like good little lunatics we did a little investigating (i.e. trespassing. Sorry, Mom)  and around back we found this:

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Could that be it?

Probably not. But hey, if it’s not, it’s at least where the shack once was.

Afterwards we went to Oakland to Jack London Square where they’ve got his cottage which was dismantled in Alaska and re-mantled in Oakland:

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and then had a few beers at Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon. It was opened in 1883 and the name refers to the fact that it was sailors first drink when they returned or last drink before they headed out. In 1906, because it was built on swampy ground it sank in the earthquake so the whole thing is tilted. I swear, I had to hold onto my beer at the bar. I would have taken a picture of the inside but trust me when I say it’s not the kind of place you start taking pictures in.  At least not with the guys that were in there when we went.

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Here’s the inside via wikipedia:

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Added bonus, apparently it’s HAUNTED!

The rest of the time in San Francisco we found beat houses (but I’m thinking of starting another blog for that stuff and besides, this post is already too long, n’cest pas?) and drank tea/coffee each morning at Cafe Trieste and drank Dark and Stormies each night at Vesuvio and went to the Beat Museum where we met a great guy (who wrote this book!)  who gave us the low down on Vieni Vieni which was kick ass.

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And we also climbed all the way to the top of the Coit Tower and wow, what a view!

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And then it was time to go.

And have a miserable shaky “we’re going to die I’m never traveling again” flight home.

That said, within a day, we already started planning the next trip!

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Bon Voyage!

Peace, Love and Starbursts,

Ally

Post-California update but really, it’s just about poetry.

21 Oct

020Hi.

I’m back from California where I met amazing people, heard amazing poety, drove amazing roads, saw amazing animals, ate amazing food and then took one very NOT amazing flight home. This whole traveling thing would be much easier if someone could just knock me over the head as soon as the plane takes off and wake me up when it lands.

That said, I’ll have a post (with pictures!) on all that soon. In the mean time, here’s some poetry stuff.

First off, many thanks to the fine folks at Red Fez for taking this poem about America being lonely. It’s another poem from the series that I’m working tentatively entitled How to Be An American. More info here.

Also, here’s a poem I wrote this morning cause sharing is caring. Also this is probably the longest poem I’ve ever written. Consider that a warning.

Kevin loves Lisa

This is what it says on the metal door of the bathroom stall.

Kevin

loves

Lisa

with a little heart for emphasis.

Next to that it says

Shane and Mary forever.

And above that

Matthew and Marie equals destiny.

I couldn’t help but enjoy the rhyme scheme on that one

as I sat there, peeing out the four beers

we’d already had in this tourist trap

of a bar on the San Francisco wharf

because we were too tired

after hitching a ride back

over the Golden Gate bridge

from a Scottish man driving

a tourist trolley

who said the company charges 35 a piece

but he’d take both of us for 15

as long as we had cash,

we did,

and don’t mind the stopover in Sausalito.

We didn’t.

And now here I am,

too tired to walk back up to North Beach,

reading the graffiti in the women’s room stall

all about love.

I never have a pen on me

let alone a sharpie

to doodle

my thoughts on the metal doors of bar restrooms

probably because I don’t carry a purse,

but other people do,

because I am never without reading material.

I wonder about these women,

the ink at their fingertips,

the truth of their heart

and minds ready to become a permanent part

of the bar landscape

and I can’t help but think

that’s it?

that’s all they have to say is

that Kevin loves them?

Not even that they love Kevin.

No, the order is important.

Kevin Loves Lisa forever and ever and ever.

This is the most we can muster, women?

Really?

Because back in New York City

which feels so far from here

and back in time

farther still

someone once scribbled

You’re drunk Kerouac go home

in the men’s room stall of the White Horse

which as far as graffiti goes, is pretty damn good.

And I can’t help but wonder

what else we can write besides

Kevin Loves Lisa

which of course

I’m sure he does

or did

at the moment Lisa pulled from her bag

a sharpie and sealed their future on this door.

And I wonder is it the beer

or the chocolate-tinis that stifles our pen?

That stays our tongue?

That reduces us to nothing more than

Kevin Loves Lisa.

Not even Lisa loves Kevin

because we all know

to be loved

is better than to love.

No one writes poems on the walls of this bar

but I’ve seen a few in the Grassroots

and once an amazing doodle

on the side of a piano

which shared the bathroom space

in New Orleans.

No, on this door,

it is love and only love that we want to talk about,

that Lisa and Marie and Mary,

three women who I now picture together

here in this stall,

giggling

brave on vanilla flavored shots

breaking the rules

in their first big girls weekend

trip to San Francisco.

And suddenly, while peeing,

I hate these girls.

I hate them for not being poets

for reducing themselves

to nothing but their relationships

as if couple-dom is the ultimate

status update.

I hate these girls for having nothing

in the empty little heads and empty

little hearts

but to declare

that they have something

that you don’t.

They have a love,

who loves them

all the time and don’t you doubt

it cause that’s why they wrote it in permanent ink.

I’m being harsh, I know,

as I ball up the toilet paper and wipe and flush

and wash my hands and return to the bar

to ask my husband

what men write about on the walls of

their stalls

because it has to be better

than what we women got going and I’m starting

to think that the war of the sexes

will never end if we keep

ratcheting up the bulllshit quota

by deciding to limit ourselves

to the two names between the ampersand,

to define ourselves by the fingers entwined

or not entwined in ours.

I want to find Lisa and shake her

and ask her what she thought the day

she saw her mother crying at the kitchen table

or what she thought

the first time she heard a record skip

Did she believe with all her heart that this moment

was never going to be the same?

Plus

I want to know what Kevin thinks,

what he writes on the stall doors

so I ask my husband who cocks an eyebrow

because it seems that I’m always

asking these sort of things

and I wonder if that too

is getting tiring.

What do they write on the stalls, I ask,

as he pulls on his beer and glances

at the playoff game over the bar,

knowing he’s secretly rooting for the Dodgers

even though we’re in Giants country

and he says

it’s mostly about getting head.

Or getting laid.

Or getting some.

And I sigh

and drink my beer

and think

maybe it doesn’t matter

maybe I’m just an old married woman

who doesn’t remember what it’s like

to want to tell the whole world

about how great Kevin is.

And maybe he is,

even if he did write that thing

about getting head on the bathroom wall

of his stall

which I hope, for Lisa’s sake isn’t about her.

And then I think

I hope that I won’t have to pee again

before we get up the hill to Broadway

and Columbus

to have a dark and stormy at Vesuvio.

Peace Love and Starbursts,

Ally

End of an Era

9 Oct

So my submission notebook finally gave out.

All the pages are filled.

I know what you’re thinking. Who cares, right? Get a new notebook.

Thing is I bought that notebook back in 2000. Thirteen years ago at the Pitt campus bookstore I snatched that notebook off the shelf and decided that while it was great to write my little heart out, if I didn’t have the chutzpah to put it out in the world then what was the point?

I was 23 years old. Christ.

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The first entry was from August 19th 2000. I submitted poems to Alembic – a now defunct press in Philadelphia. They took two, Little Love Poem and An Apology in November. I don’t even have those poems anymore. They were written on a word processor. It looked like this:

File:Hardwarewordprocessor.png

And then saved on one of these

which I used to keep wrapped in a plastic baggie – just in case it rained – in the pouch of my backpack.

Blind Dumb Walking Space was rejected. With a title like that, I can’t really blame them.

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This was back when you mailed things.  No email attachments, no submishmash, no paste in the body of the email. You printed it out, folded your SASE (Bonus points if you still know what that even means)  into the envelope – DON’T FORGET THE STAMP – and the dropped it in the box with an extra stamp cause those five sheets of paper felt a little bulky. Then you waited two months for an answer.

Man, you could go broke mailing out to the little rags.

Aside from this book being a cool little record of everything I got accepted and rejected over the last 13 years, it’s also a reminder of how you grow a skin. I used to keep the rejections in a little folder. Little slips of paper that said, “I’m sorry your work does not fit our needs” or just a handwritten note that said “sorry, not for us.” I kept all of them. In the beginning they crushed me. Eventually they barely elicited a shrug. They’re all lost now. In the successive moves from apartment to apartment from Pittsburgh to Brooklyn to Buffalo and back to Brooklyn I lost them. But not this book.

Inside is a record of every poem accepted. Ever story rejected. A huge list of agents – all of which also rejected me.

It’s humbling. I’m not saying I have anything to be particularly boastful about – that’s not what I mean – but it’s humbling in the sense that you really get a scope of how much work goes into each small accomplishment.  Each poem accepted came off of rejections. Each story. Each novel.

It’s like a little written history of How Ally Grew Her Skin and Put Her Writing Out There.

I’ll miss this little notebook.  I learned a lot with her.download (2)

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