Representation Matters for the Diseased, too.

18 May

Image result for Abbie in 20th century women

So something kind of amazing happened the other week. I’ve been rather vocal on the twitters and what not about the portrayal of people with cancer.

Right. See? Cause the things is there are loads of movies I can point at where people with cancer cease to be human and instead are just the embodiment of their disease from which they succumb and everyone else learns to love and appreciate their life.

Sometimes the characters don’t even get their names in the title for pete’s sake.

And don’t forget the books.

Sometimes they get it almost right but only when it’s written by someone on the inside.

And I get that it’s a really easy way to share the human condition and pain and fear and mortality. But as Dr. Roberta A. Clark says in this Huffington Post piece:

“Cancer can involve a lot of messy things — surgeries with colostomies and urinary bags and some kind of nasty things,” Clark said. “That’s not something that filmmakers typically want to portray. It’s probably also a little more emotionally compelling when you have a 30-year-old victim instead of a 75- or 80-year-old victim.”

“If you’re in the film business, part of which is selling sex, it’s hard to walk that line between breasts for titillation and breasts for disease,” Clark said.

So instead they romanticize cancer deaths, framing them as inevitable even as survival rates increase. But what happens when those of us tune in to see our experiences. Because as we all know, representation matters.

“The world looks different after you have spent time pinned to the mat by death. The gaps between reality and representation are no longer theoretical. They are contentious. Beautifully bald actors shorn to portray chemo patients betray reality with their thickly lashed eyes, much to the chagrin of those of us left lashless by the real medicine. Some of the most egregious side effects of treatment cannot be artfully depicted on film ­— mouthsores and constipation, anyone? — while vomiting, which has become more manageable thanks to newer side-effect medicines, continues its prominent role as a cancer-flick leitmotif.” – Ilana Horne

So yeah to say it pisses me off is an understatement. Whenever I watch one of these movies and it ends I rant for a solid 15 minutes straight as my husband prepares dinner about how much bullshit it is that people with disease cease to be people and just become their disease.

And then something cool happened.

I met Abbie from 20th Century Women.

When you watch that clip you learn a lot about Abbie – that she’s a photographer, that she loves punk music and dancing. You learn that she’s smart and funny and has a very good heart.

What you don’t learn is that Abbie is also a cancer survivor who, during the course of the film, has a scare.

But this is only one small part of Abbie. She’s a person first. She just also happened to have gotten cancer. She just had that same terrible luck as the rest of us.

I was left with so many feelings for days after this film I did the only thing I could think of: I said thank you to its creator.

Dear Mr. Mills

I have no idea if you’ll actually get to read this or not. I hope that you do only because something truly amazing happened to me this weekend and it is thanks to you.
I’m sure you have heard from many women about 20th Century Women, about it’s incredible feminism, about it’s strikingly honest portrayal of women, as people, something that is sadly lacking in films. I imagine many of them hinged on Ms. Bening’s fabulous performance and how, according to some interviews you conducted, the relationship that character has to your own mother – the overall autobiographical nature of the narrative.
But I’m writing to talk to you about Abbie.
I’m writing to thank you.
As 20th Century Women came to a close and the characters talked about their lives and futures, I was nervous. When Greta Gerwig’s voice came on, telling me the rest of Abbie’s story, I held my breath. When she concluded and across the screen splashed the image of Abbie holding her two children, I burst into tears.
I’m coming up on the third anniversary of my cancer diagnosis, cancerversary as we in the know, call it. I was 37 when I was diagnosed. As is the case with everyone, my life was turned upside down. I am still actively in treatment, three years out, but my prognosis is a good and I have on the whole managed to stitch the remnants of my old life to this new one and find my “new normal.”
That said I have lost some things. Superficial things like music I can’t bear to hear again. Other more important things like feeling carefree and hopeful. I have also found things. Superficial things like jogging. Other more important things like constructive anger and the strange peace that comes from rubbing right up against your own mortality.
Cancer is a powerful storytelling tool. For those on the outside it gives a peak into a world that we all fear as well as a vehicle to talk about some of the things that make humans truly beautiful creatures. For those of us on the inside, we watch these portrayals seeking representation. Seeking solace.
I have read and seen a lot of characters that have had terminal diseases. In more than half of the cases, they die. So I want to thank you first off, for not killing off Abbie. It meant a lot to me.
But more than the death thing there is something else that these characters all tend to share that I find even more troubling than their mortality (after all we’re all going to die, right?) and that is that their disease IS their life. They cease to be people and become instead patients. I believe it was Larry Kramer who detailed the difference between “AIDS patients” and “People with AIDS.” It seems that Hollywood has not learned this difference. Characters with cancer exist solely to die and teach everyone around them the importance of appreciating life. They are rarely angry about their diagnosis. They have no other interests. They are in fact, barely human. They are mirrors for the other characters to work through their own issues.
And then came Abbie. Punky, artistic, sassy Abbie played beautifully by Greta Gerwig. I have been waiting three years to find a character that had a personality, a life, a love of music, dance and photography, dreams about her future; a character that still goes out, that drinks and laughs and tries to live her life as vividly as possible – who also just so happened to have this rotten disease sink it’s teeth into her.
Abbie wasn’t a cancer patient, in the way that I am not a cancer patient.
She was a young woman who also happened to have once had cancer..and lived.
Just as I will be….one day.
Best,
Ally Malinenko
Peace, love and starbursts,
Ally
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From Bowie to Alice to Castles to Cleopatra London/Oxford/Edinburgh

8 May

Heelloooooooooooo!

I haven’t written a blog post in a really long time so get ready for a BIG ONE.

First off, as always, we begin with the thank yous. While I was revising Palimpsest I not only barely sent out any poems but I barely wrote any so it was especially cool to get a few published. So thanks to Anti-Heroin chic for taking these three poems, thanks to Boyslut for Kyle, thanks to In Between Hangovers for Like a Terror and Oh The Things I Would Say (We Were Witches). I also had a few of my How To Be An American poems republished on WineDrunkSideWalk here and here.

Shameless plug: If you like the How to Be An American stuff you can collect the whole set here.

That reminds me, if you are outraged over the Trump election, John Grochalski is accepting submissions to his blog WineDrunkSideWalk. Send poems, stories, paintings, cartoons, whatever you like. Doesn’t have to be about the orange monster – anything about living in these horrific times. Remember Art is resistance so #Submit2Resist at winedrunksidewalk@gmail.com. Also be sure to tune in every Saturday for the weekly roundup of atrocities.

And finally, I am beyond humbled by this incredible review of Better Luck Next Year – the cancer poems.

In some ways, the book functions as a record of trauma, a hopeful prayer that hesitates to be spoken—the prayer that everything could still be fine, despite the odds, and, though hidden, better luck may be around the corner….Malinenko recalls Beat poets like Elise Cowen and Diane di Prima…This book will haunt and arrest the reader that embraces it, and I encourage you to do so, and to be prepared: this is an intimate book, and Malinenko is intimate with her reader.

I think if there is one word to describe Better Luck Next Year, it is Intimate. Thank you, Mike Good for this incredible review.

Now that we got all the business out of the way, let’s talk travel.

LONDON!

I love this city which is why I think I keep coming back to it. This time, we had some incredible highlights, like heading down to Brixton to find this:

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All the notes and love around the mural was just beautiful but this was my favorite:

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Then we headed down to Stansfield Road to see our dear David Jones childhood home:

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After that David we moved on to my other favorite David!

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I’ve never seen a show on the West End before and to have it be David Tennant in a play as hilarious as Don Juan in Soho was an absolute delight. No joke, I nearly squealed like a little girl when he walked on stage. He’s really tall. Like taller than he seems in the TARDIS.

I loved the play overall but his performance was really what made it. And I’m not the only one who thought so.

We also took a little boat ride down the Thames on the River Bus to Greenwich. I’ve never done that before and you get really love views of London, like this:

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and this:

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and of course my favorite, The Globe
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In Greenwich, which is lovely by the way, you get to stand in two hemispheres at the same time and I am exactly the kind of dork that thinks that is the best thing ever:

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Another really great thing about Greenwich is that it’s right next to Deptford and in Deptford lay the bones of an incredible man.

If you’re new to the site, you might not know that I have a bit of a Shakespeare obsession. Might have even wrote a kid’s book about it once. And in that book, the bad guy is a man who goes by the name of Dmitri Marlowe – the only living descendent of Christopher “Kit” Marlowe. This guy:

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Long story short, Marlowe was an incredible playwright. An in his day was more popular than our boy Will. Unfortunately Kit was killed – stabbed in the eye as the story goes over a bar bill – though more than likely he was killed for being a spy. No joke, he lived a fascinating life. There is also a RIDICULOUS theory that he faked his own death and then recreated himself as Shakespeare but that is utter nonsense and I won’t have any of it.

We found the St. Nicholas churchyard pretty quickly where we were greeted by this:

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It is believed that this is the skull and cross bones that the pirates used to create their infamous flag.

The cemetery is beautiful:

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and after creeping around we finally found it, a plaque affixed to the stone wall:

Marlowe

I’m not gonna lie. After taking a stone from below the plaque (to set on my writing desk next to the one I got from Shakespeare’s graveyard) I might have whispered, “You’re just as good as Will.”

They’re going to revoke my Bardolator’s card for this.

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Then we headed up to OXFORD!

Nicknamed the City of Spires, she is beautiful

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I have been wanting to go to Oxford for some time now mainly for two people.

The first is Mr. Clive Staples Lewis.

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C.S. Lewis taught at Magdalen College in Oxford. On his walk from his home to the college he would walk past a small brown door in which there was carved a lion’s face.

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It is believed that this image of a lion was lodged into his mind, eventually forming into Aslan. Just above the door are two golden fauns looking rather Mr. Tumnus, don’t you think?

And then, just a few steps away is a lampost.

Now of course there are lamposts all over Oxford but there is something about the way this one just stands alone, so close to our lion and our faun that you can’t help but to expect to see Lucy Pevensie waiting for her faun.

lamp

narnia

The second Oxfordian is Mr. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll. (Fun fact! Charles got his infamous nom de pume by taking this first and last name, converting it to Latin, flipping the order making the last name first and the first name last and then translating it from Latin to English!)

Dodgson taught mathematics here, at Christ’s Church in Oxford

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The school has a very famous dining hall.

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Made even more famous by a trio of kids new to a magical school waiting to be sorted into their houses:

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I sorted myself into Ravenclaw, Jay got Gryffindor

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Another cool thing about the Dining Hall is the fireplace and specifically the hearth ornaments. One cannot help but wonder how often Mr. Dodgson dined here, the image of a stretched neck in his mind.

 

 

Up above the Dining Hall in the stained glass, there is a portrait of Alice Liddel along with her famous namesake character and Mr. Dodgson along with the Dodo. (Fun fact! Mr. Dodgson has a slight stutter so when he introduced himself to people he would say “Do-do-dodgson” hence him being the Dodo in the story)

window

 

In case you didn’t know, Alice Liddel was the daughter of the dean of Christ Church while Dodgson was a teacher. He was working in the library when he spied the girl and her sister playing in the Dean’s garden. He asked if he could photograph them and from there blossomed a friendship. On a boating trip, he started to tell her the story of a little girl named Alice who falls down a deep deep hole and winds up in a fairy land. It was on this river that it all began:

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Alice used to buy her penny sweets from a candy shop next door which is now an Alice themed gift shop
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After the dining hall we were ushered into the Cathedral:

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Which is utterly gorgeous. But the best thing about the Cathedral is that it has it’s own garden that is directly against the Dean’s garden. It was in here that Alice used to play and underneath a chestnut tree, Dodgson would tell her stories. Before we left, I asked one of the nice ladies in the church if Alice’s garden was nearby.

She said, yes….and no and then offered a rather mischievous wink. She lead me to this door located at the side of the cathedral:

wonderlanddoor

And with my heart in my throat….

She let me into Wonderland:

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This is the Cathedral Garden, on the other side of that small door near the steps is the Dean’s Garden. When Alice peeks through the keyhole and wants to get into the garden in the story, it is THIS garden.

And this is the Chestnut Tree, under which the story unfolded:

wonderland2

I stood there, breathless, barely believing where I was standing. Oddly enough no one else in the church stuck their heads out to see what I was doing. I was completely alone in Alice’s Garden. In the spot where one of the most important stories of my life was created.

It was incredible.

Afterwards, we headed down to the Eagle and the Child were the Inklings, a group of writers, used to meet and read aloud their work

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It’s a pint-sized perfect pub….

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that serves a delicious cider

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and whose walls were the very first to hear early drafts of not only The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe but also Lord of the Rings

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Because as you can see from that handwritten testimony from the Inklings, members included C. S. Lewis (top left) and John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (bottom left)

On of our last days in London, before we headed up to Scotland, was spent doing my absolute favorite thing in the city – attending a Shakespeare play at the Globe Theater

This year was Romeo And Juliet:

romeo

I’ve seen 3 other Globe Theater performances and they were all classic interpretations. Romeo and Juliet, which is not one of my favorites but who cares right, was decidedly NOT a classical interpretation.

We were warned before about strobe lights and gun violence. There were bombs hanging over the stage:

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I wasn’t allowed to take pictures during the performance so these images are from elsewhere but honestly, it was….incredible.

They went with a Day of The Dead Emo Goth Chic thing:

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Mercutio was played by the woman on the left! rj7

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I mean seriously. Have you ever seen anything like this in your life?

Romeo and Juliet - William Shakespeare - Shakespeare’s Globe - 21 April 2017

Director - Daniel Kramer
Designer - Soutra Gilmour
Choreographer - Tim Claydon
Lighting - Charles Balfour

I loved it so much that when I got back from Scotland we rushed down in the freezing rain to see if we could tickets for another performance before we left. Alas it was not to be so. BUT the good news is that it will be on DVD. So i’ll get to see my Emo Romeo (Rom-EMO?) once more!

I liked it so much I bought the shirt

tee

Then we were off to Scotland!


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/216544414″>Train Ride to Scotland</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user50279965″>ally malinenko</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Edinburgh is beautiful.

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Even better at night:

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It’s got castles

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and palaces

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and amazing volcanic mountains like Arthur’s Seat

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Gorgeous views:

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And these things called “close” which you think is a street but it’s a staircase. I loved these things:

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It is a fairytale kind of city. Which makes sense that a certain someone sat in this cafe and wrote a certain series

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There’s apparently a Tom Riddle gravestone in the nearby cemetery but I couldn’t find it. Oh well.

Harry’s not the city’s only literal character. Arthur Conan Doyle is from Edinburgh, born on Picardy Place. There’s a statue of his famous character there now:

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Conan Doyle attended medical school at the University of Edinburgh were he studied under one Joseph Bell whose keen intellect and powers of deduction informed Sherlock.

“It is most certainly to you that I owe Sherlock Holmes … round the centre of deduction and inference and observation which I have heard you inculcate I have tried to build up a man” – Letter from Conan Doyle to Mr. Bell

So while we were there, I had a birthday! (I’m old. So very old) I wanted to go to the Surgeon’s Hall, which didn’t allow picture taking but I found this one online:

surgeons-hall-museums

See all those little jars on all those shelves. They’re all full of organs and tissue and other gross body bits. I’m a sucker for this kind of stuff but man, after 3 floors of this even I got queasy. My poor husband had to wait out in the hall.

I also got to hold a owl on my birthday. Her name is Tee. She was so light.

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We also went to the Scottish Museum that day which had Dolly!

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Yes! THAT Dolly. The cloned sheep. The museum also has some of the Lewis Chessmen

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I’m in love with these guys. They’re carved from walrus and they were found on the Isle of Lewis. I saw the rest at the British Museum

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Okay I have a thing about chess. I wrote a book about that too.

Before heading back to London I had to have at least one good whiskey

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Many thanks to the fine bartender at The Bow Bar for hooking me up with this Ardbeg Whiskey

Our last day in England was spent at the British Museum checking out the Rosetta Stone

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And a fortune telling machine (You’re looking at the side that would face the fortune teller who would set all the knobs and levers to certain levels, ask you questions and tell your future!)

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This is a masquerade dancer

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and Kanga textiles 

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The Sutton Hoo helmut

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The Lindow Man who was found in a bog in North West England. Poor bastard was strangled, hit on the head and had his throat slit before he was tossed in the bog

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The Tring Tiles which tells stories about Jesus. In this one, a poor kid is locked in a tower by his awful parent so Jesus comes along and slips him OUT THE KEYHOLE. Clever, Jesus.

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A big jade tortoise that is apparently detailed enough that they can determine it is female. I didn’t ask how.

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And last but not least, that right there is Cleopatra.

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It was incredible two weeks. I spent the flight home, working on the new book – Gravity Wins – about the time I fell in love, fell off a waterfall, cracking my head…and my heart.

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(In case you’re wondering that’s a lymphedema sleeve. I need to wear it when I fly because I’m at risk for developing lymphedema (swelling of the arm) since I had lymph nodes removed during cancer surgery.  Mine is covered in stars because….why not?)

And that’s about it.

I have another post I want to write about 20th Century Women but I think 2,000+ words is quite enough for today.

Peace Love and Starbursts/ Chins Up Claws Out,

Ally

Hey World. I’d like you to meet Sarah

10 Mar

I clam up when I’m upset. It’s a frustrating problem to have because when you have someone sitting across from you willing to listen and you have so much you need to say and you just…..can’t.

I imagine I look an awful lot like  guppy, my mouth just opening and closing.

What I can do though, is write about it. The vast majority of my poetry is as real as I get with strangers. The last one, Better Luck Next Year, probably the most naked I’ve ever gotten.

But sometimes I can do it with fiction.

In 2014 I wrote a book called This Is Sarah.

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It was a simple story about grief, but I packed all my heartbreak, all my denial, all my sadness into a suitcase and I put in the hands of Colin, my main character, and I watched him walk away with it.

The story centers on two characters, Colin and Clare both of whom are trying to navigate the barren landscape that is life without Sarah – Colin’s girlfriend and Clare’s big sister.

When Colin Leventhal leaned out his bedroom window on the night of May 12th and said goodbye to his girlfriend, he never expected it would be forever. But when Sarah Evans goes missing that night, Colin’s world unravels as he transforms from the boyfriend next door to the main police suspect. Then one year later, at her memorial service, Colin makes a phone call that could change everything. Is it possible that Sarah is still alive? And if so, how far will he go to bring her back?

And as Colin struggles with this possibility, across the street, Sarah’s little sister Claire learns how to navigate the strange new landscape that is life without her sister. Even as her parent’s fall apart, Claire is determined to keep on going. Even if it kills her.

THIS IS SARAH is a meditation on loss, love, and what it means to say goodbye.

Sarah was for many reasons one of the easiest things I have ever written – and by easy I meant, Colin was right there in my head every time I turned toward him. I don’t know if I believe that some books write themselves but….this one wanted out.

This month, my publisher, Bookfish Books, is offering This Is Sarah for 99 cents on Amazon. I can promise you, you’re going to get a heck of a lot of emotion for less than a dollar if you take them up on it.

Here’s some things readers have said:

I haven’t read a book that has kept me up for a long time, but this book made sure i was not sleeping until the final page. Brilliantly written, the reader is listening to their friends talk to them.

and…

Sitting down to write this review, it dawned on me that in some ways Ally’s book reminds me Jodi Picoult’s work. Take that as high praise because she is one of my absolute favorite authors. Both women are capable of bringing incredibly tough and emotional material to life in the pages of their books. I am a complete sucker for a well-written book that tries to tear my heart to pieces.

and…

The prose in this book—it’s beautiful, bordering on poetic. Not a single word is extraneous. As somber as the tone of the book is, it never feels overwrought or cloying. Every line of dialogue sounds like it would be spoken by an actual person.

So if you’re curious what to expect, this is Colin:

I get up early to run, because it’s easier in the morning. There’s no one up yet at five am, and the streets belong to me. I don’t even bring music anymore. I only want to hear the steady thwack of my sneakers on the pavement, the rustle of leaves in the breeze and the huff of air coming out of my lungs. It sets up a rhythm that allows my brain to shut off for a while so my mind stays empty.

Not thinking feels good. It’s one of the few things that still feels good.

I crest the hill at the top of Cedarhurst and pick up speed going down. My lungs feel clean and clear, and I think about sprinting the last five or six blocks back to my driveway. My energy seems a little low, but I figured I can probably push it.

The sound of my feet hitting the pavement intensifies and I pump my arms hard, small tears forming in my eyes from the wind. I clear my mind. I am no longer Colin. I’m just muscle, tissue and bone; a complex and delicate machine pushing its way against gravity and inertia, covering distance on this rock floating in the darkness of an ever-expanding space.

When Claire pulls her bike alongside me I nearly jump out of my skin. Where the hell did she come from? She pedals hard, riding off the seat, her blonde hair whipping back. She passes me and looks back and smiles. As the distance between us grows, I’m overcome with loss, and a sort of panic, like I need to catch up to her. I’m not sure what it is, but I watch her move away from me, her blonde hair streaming, her legs working the pedals and every muscle in my body screams to catch her.

Suddenly Claire is everything in the world, everything beautiful, alive, peaceful, and good, and it’s all getting away from me.

The farther she gets from me, the closer she gets to the monsters and all I want in the world is for Claire to always be safe.

Jesus Christ, I just want to be able to save one of them.

She looks back at me once and smiles before pumping the pedals again. In that moment, that small bright moment, her hair and her smile reflecting the early morning sun, she looks just like Sarah. Just like Claire looked that day in the hallway.

Suddenly I feel so hollow and empty, carved out like the husk of some dead cicada. I watch her get away from me and feel more lost than ever before. She rounds the bend and disappears from my line of sight, something inside of me snaps and I stumble forward. My feet now clumsy, my balance thrown off, until I stop, bent, heaving, coughing, spitting foam, my heart wild inside me. In my head, an image forms of Sarah when I made her laugh so hard she nearly choked on her sandwich at the diner.

That was Sarah.

Sarah and me, in a moment we won’t have again. A moment that was once real but now feels like it belonged to another life. Neither of us foresaw it ending this way.

The year before or the week before or the day before. We never saw it coming.

If I knew when she stood on that driveway, staring up at me, with me hanging out of the window looking down at her, if I knew, I would have told her everything.

And this, is Clare:

They found her red Chuck Taylor sneakers five miles from where her car was, deep in the woods.

One was unlaced, as if she had undone it and slipped her foot out of it right there under that canopy of trees.

The other was still tied.

Snow filled them like little red candies covered in sugar.

In the police station, in that evidence bag, they seemed so small, as the snow slowly melted off them, staining the fabric and dripping into the bottom of the bag. I couldn’t imagine them fitting Sarah’s feet. I couldn’t imagine them fitting my own.

Sarah’s empty shoes.

I thought about how they’d never be worn again. How she would never slide her foot inside, how her fingers would never tug those laces and loop them closed.

Her room back home was filled with things that would go unused. They’d just sit there, waiting for Sarah to come home, collecting dust.

All the things Sarah left behind.

When I saw the shoes, sitting in the police station, a noise escaped me. Not quite a sob, but a cry—a shock of disbelief—and my hope retreated as I realized I was now one of those things. Like her clothes, her jewelry, her records or her shoes.

I was just another thing Sarah left behind.

So there it is.

This is Sarah.

99 cents.

This month.

And if you do get, and read it, I would love to know what you think.

 

Peace, love and starbursts,

Ally

 

 

The Future Is Female: The Women’s March on Washington

24 Jan
  • carrie

It is indeed. The trip to Washington was incredible and life changing and also unsettling and just the beginning of the conversation.

So let’s start at the beginning. On Saturday morning we hit the Shady Grove DC Metro stop and found this:

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A very very large crowd trying to get into the train station. We were here for hours. Rumors went through the crowd that if you didn’t have a DC metro card you couldn’t get one anymore.

We did not have a DC metro card. The face I was making at this time was not a happy one.

Finally when we got up to the gate – which they had to close to stop people from coming in – the guards said that wasn’t true. We slowly slowly slowly inched our way through the tunnel, to the machines, up the stairs and finally onto a train which spit us out at the National Mall around noon. By this time, Independence Avenue, the location of the rally and start of the march was inapproachable. And when I say inapproachable I means the crowds were wall to wall filling every possible space at every cross street to Independence.

Like this:

YOU did this. KEEP SHOWING UP. (Repost: @averyjo_)

A post shared by Women's March (@womensmarch) on

And that’s ONLY Independence Avenue.

We were LEGION.

At that point we were chanting and hanging out waiting for this thing to happen. By 2:30 when it wasn’t, we started chanting “Let’s March Now”

And then we did. The original route went up Independence but for those of us not there there was no way we could reach it so we headed up the Mall. And when I say up the Mall, I mean pulled down fences, headed up the Mall.

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There were some really amazing chants.

My favorite was “You’re boring, you’re gross, you didn’t win the popular vote.” With runners up being:

“Hands too small, can’t build a wall”

“Welcome to your first day, we will never go away”

And it was refreshing to hear how strong “Black Lives Matters” chants were because, my march seemed to be predominately white and considering 53% of white women voted for him, I’m glad we’re the ones doing the work now. We need to fix this. This is on us.

Neatly summed up in this incredible image:

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White feminism is a dangerous and destructive thing and it is on white people to constantly work towards intersectionality and inclusiveness. And I’m hearing a lot of crappy whining from white feminism about how their “good time” is being ruined and to them I say this:

Stop talking. Listen. Really listen. Bite down on the knee jerk reaction to say “But not me” when people of color are talking about racism. You know how we hate #NotAllMen when we’re being #YesAllWomen. Same deal. Shut up and listen to these arguments because we cannot move forward unless we are walking the same path and we cannot do that unless we are together. Conversation – icky awkward it-makes-me-uncomfortable conversation has to happen. People of color live under white supremacy and face racism every day. The least we can do it is listen to them and manage that small bit of discomfort.

Also there was a lot of chatter about how peaceful the march was. And it was. Don’t get me wrong. I saw people taking such good care of each other – lifting each other’s children up, helping the elderly – it was beautiful. But the police let us march all over the Mall because we were predominately white. BLM rallies and marches have snipers, riot gear, pepper spray.

Bullets.

We did not make this peace. Our whiteness did. And now it’s important for us to show up for BLM and NoDAPL and pro-immigration and anti-Islamophobia rallies and marches and to truly stand with our sisters.

There was also a lot of really positive body image stuff at the march which I LOVED. I mean, come on? This is anatomically correct!

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And this beautiful woman dressed up!

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And seriously, all the men (and some women) complaining about the Women’s March being obsessed with pussy can just stop right there. Just remember that every day women navigate the constant miserable tightrope that is knowing that our vaginas that you straight men love and covet and need and chase after and use to feel powerful and want so fucking badly (you’ll just take them if you have to) are the same ones you mock and demean for their shape and taste and texture and smell. Don’t think that we didn’t grow up being told they were shameful and embarrassing unless they were loved by straight men. We live with that every fucking day. So if the next generation of girls grows up to think there is nothing wrong with their vaginas because at the march people wore pussy hats and had anatomically correct drawings and hell, dressed up like them and instead they think their vaginas are beautiful and natural and wonderful and powerful then this march accomplished something goddamn groundbreaking.

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Even the earth made an appearance!

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class

 

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In case you can’t read that top one it says, “Alt-righters: Call your Dad, You’re in a cult!”

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rule

And one of my favorite quotes ever…..

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We are the storm.

It was a really good day. Easily the best I have felt since the election and it mattered so much to see this groundswell of women, all over the world. Including ANTARCTICA!

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Look at us! We did this!

Me and you and you and you.

We did this.

And we need to keep doing this. Every day. We need to stay vigilant and protest. We need to support BLM and NoDAPL and Immigrants and the Disabled and Diseased. We need to call our reps. We need to support real news. He is coming for all of us. Never forget that.

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This is what feminism looks like:

So in honor of this and this historic march and our giant Pussy Fight, I’m changing my sign off slogan. I used to always say “Peace, love and starbursts” and while I still love all those things, times like this call for a little bit more.

chins-up

Resist, my friends. Always.

 

Chins up, Claws Out,

Ally

Day Zero: Shipwrecked in TrumpLand

19 Jan

And here we are…

I watched some footage of Michelle Obama taking her last walk through the White House. Insta-tears.

I told my husband this morning that even if Hillary had won, I would still be mourning the loss of MY President.

Regardless, here we are. So where are we?

Well we did a little protesting this weekend. My Brooklyn neighborhood is incredibly diverse (like nearly every New York City neighborhood) and predominately Arabic. I love my neighborhood. So when I saw that they were holding a pro-Immigration rally and march, I headed over.

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Seriously this family wins twice – one for the Not My Tsar and the other for the kid’s finger painting protest poster.

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This isn’t the best example of the magnitude of the crowd but you get the gist. The whole time cars were honking and people were cheering because….

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Not this time, indeed. This was a nice primer for Saturday, The Women’s March on Washington which, in all honesty, I think might be the most historically important thing I have ever done in my life. I’m proud to be there, with my friends, to stand up and be counted.

It’s going to be a long four years. We need to protest. We need to call our reps. We need to be vigilant. And we need to keep making art because Art Is Resistance.

As many of you know, my husband, John Grochalski kept a poetry blog posting a poem a day for nearly a decade. He retired that blog this fall but then, when Trump was elected, decided to bring it back only this time it wasn’t just his writing – it was for all of us.

He’s going to be posting something every day of the Trump Administration (read: Trumpocalypse). That’s 1, 460 days. So, my artist friends – please submit to winedrunksidewalk@gmail.com

Also it doesn’t have to be Trump specific but could also be observations on our life in these terrifying times. Any kind of art accepted – poems, stories, rants, novel excerpts, music, photos, paintings, digital art, stuff your cat does at night, whatever you consider to be art, is what you send.

We’re going to work together to RESIST what is happening.

Artists, get on your motherfucking marks.

Get set.

Go!

So to kick off this blog, today John posted his first piece. It’s very dear to my heart and penned by a man in my life who taught me the power of empathy, the importance of listening instead of speaking, and, as an immigrant, the lasting impact of courage.

Here is the letter that my father, or as we like to call him, Big Ron, wrote to me on my sisters days after the election, when everything felt so raw and helpless. Thank you for being there for us. Thank you for being you. And I too hope you get to see a Madam President.

(And congrats on your first publication!)

And to hear more about what John is doing with his blog, check out his interview on Talk with ME and his artist’s statement on his blog. Again if you want to submit, (winedrunksidewalk@gmail.com) do it! We need to stick together.

Remember that scene in Apollo 13 where they had to slingshot around the moon and they were going to go radio dark and no one in Houston knew if they would make it?

Yeah.

Yeah…..

See you kids on the other side.

Peace, love and starbursts,

Ally

Bugger off 2016

31 Dec

 

First off, a quick thank you and shout out to Rebecca at Albany Poets for this amazing review of Better Luck Next Year

Even though Malinenko is discussing how cancer changed her life, her multi-dimensional self-exploration allows the reader to appreciate how any life altering experience can disturb the way we once saw ourselves and our placement in the world.

So….here we are….finally reached the end of this terrible terrible year that in many ways went to shit on January 10th, 2016 (I still miss you Bowie) and then continued to plummet to absolute hell after that.

And it’s not like there’s much to look forward to in 2017 with the monster taking office and the GOP running everything. It’s going to be bad. It’s going to be ugly. People are going to get hurt. We are going to have to keep fighting and resisting and it’s going to be exhausting.

But there’s still us. You and me and the rest of us who didn’t want this and who will fight against it. There are more of us than there are of them. That matters.

Not to sound all Gandolf-y but no one wants dark times. But that is not for us to decide. All we can decide is what to do with the time that is given us.

Tomorrow is the first day of a new year. There’s art to be made. Art to fight, art to comfort, art to make us laugh. We’re at the starting line, artists. Take your mark.

On that note, writers, photographers, artists of all flavors, John Grochalski is restarting Winedrunk Sidewalk. He needs your help. Submissions can be sent to winedrunksidewalk@gmail.com

I’ve told my husband a few times that I think this year is worse than 2014, and he keeps disagreeing with me. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. Maybe that’s the power of perspective.

But on the last day of 2014, after the diagnosis and the surgery and the radiation and everything was finally finished, and the worst year of my life was coming to an end this is what I posted.

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I still believe it’s a magical world. I always will because that is central to the core of who I am and how I navigate through my life and this world.

And not cancer or a monster in the white house is going to shake that.

Happy New Year, my friends. Know that I love you. Let’s take care of each other. Let’s go exploring.

Peace, love and starbursts,

Ally

Love Wins.

29 Nov

And as November wears down and the final month of this year begins I feel the need to reflect on the few good things that happened this month. Because the rest of it has been pretty goddamn awful with no end in sight.

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photo courtesy John Grochalski

1. Some horrible person spray painted a swastika on playground with the words “Go Trump” in Adam Yauch’s (MCA from the Beastie Boys) park in Brooklyn Heights. So basically the whole borough came out to prove that we won’t tolerate hate.

Brooklyn is awesome like that.

This is a video from youtube because mine sucked and my battery died half way through. Also I’m short so you couldn’t see anything but heads and jackets.

I couldn’t find a video for Borough President Eric Adams which stinks cause his speech was really fantastic and moving BUT City Council Member Brad Lander went old school with the people’s mic which was pretty sweet.

 

It felt good to be there, surrounded by people who will give up their Sunday morning to stand in the freezing cold (and it was COLD) and link arms and cheer and shout and sing together. We sang the National Anthem because as I said before – the fascists that voted him in – they don’t own the word Patriot. This is what Patriots do. We fight and we protest and we stand up for each other and we hold our country up to a higher standard.

2.  Another really cool thing that happened this month is that I was invited onto Talk with ME, Marcia Epstein’s incredible radio show. I got hooked up with this show through Wolfgang Carstens who recently published a chapbook of mine – I’ll Be So Still You Won’t Even Notice Me. I was incredibly honored to be included in the series and to have this opportunity to be on the show. Over the course of an hour we talked about a lot of different things including my ridiculous writing schedule (4:45 am, folks) and the importance of art in times of difficulty; about cancer and mental health; we read some poems;  talked about Life and Death and the Universe and Empathy and Compassion and really How Goddamn Beautiful This World Really Is.

At the end of the hour I started to describe this image I had seen online, a drawing of Snoopy and Charlie Brown sitting on a dock.snoopy

After I described it, Marcia started to laugh with that really beautiful deep throat, throw your head back laugh that she’s got and she tells me that Wolfgang actually made that.

Of course. Full Circle. Everything just keeps coming round and round. It was one of those moments where everything felt magical.

You can listen to the whole thing here:

 

3. And the most absolutely wonderful thing that happened this month is that I had the sacred honor of standing witness as my best friend Dan married the love of his life at City Hall.

This was really important to me because I have known him for a long time. And when I say, a long time, I mean, a LONG TIME

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Always with the snot, Malinenko

My most heartfelt congratulations to you, Dan and Adrian. May you be as happy every day as you were today. It was truly a sacred honor to bear witness.

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And now, comes December and Christmas and New Years and then 2017 and whatever it brings. We’ve got to take care of each other. We are, after all, all we’ve got. It’s just us sitting on this pale blue dot in all that nothingness.

If you have the money, please donate to causes that need it, that will fight for the people who are the most vulnerable. Do what you can.

In January I will be going to the 1 Million Women’s March on Washington. Come stand with me, with your partners and your children and protect our rights, our health, our safety and our families. I hope to see you there.

 

Peace, love and starbursts,

Ally

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