Tag Archives: John Lennon

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only because reading her journal gives you insight into what a vivid person she was but because while it is very much a historical document, it’s also a unique insight into what it is to be a teenage girl.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

Berlin, Hamburg, Leipzig, Prague: Refugees Welcome (Part 3)

12 May

When we last checked in with our heroes, they were heading out of Germany, a train strike looming in the future and no known way to return to Berlin in order to catch their (already paid for) flight home….

The train rumbled into Prague and upon disembarking we went straight to the ticket office. My theory being there MUST be a non-German train going from Prague to Berlin. Czech Republic MUST have a train system – they’re a nation for chrissake. Finally getting to the front of the line we discovered that there are in fact trains to Germany (run by the Czechs) but (grrrr) they only go to DRESDEN. I asked about a bus and was directed to the tourist point and from there to Student Academy which ran buses out of Prague and, falling to my knees in thanks, was told there were two seats left on the 11:00 bus on the day we needed.

We snatched them up and we were off to Prague, which is the most beautiful city I have ever been to.

Seriously, look at this:

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We were staying in old town right next to the Charles Bridge which we crossed immediately to go find the John Lennon Wall. This is a graffiti-ed wall that was erected after John Lennon was killed and has over time been updated with new art.

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And what’s even better than the John Lennon wall?

THE JOHN LENNON PUB!

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Yum…..dark beer.

Back in Old Town Square, they have the Astronomical Clock.

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It was installed in 1410 and is the oldest astronomical clock still working. This clock is amazing – there’s the position of the sun and the moon as well as the month day and time. The four figures flanking the clock which MOVE, represent the four biggest fears/faults/sins: Vanity, holding the mirror,  Greed holding a bag of money, Death in the form of a skeleton who rings the bell each hour and finally foreign invasion which is represented by a Turk which is, of course, totally racist. But it was 1410 so you need to sort keep that in context.

On the hour Death rings the bell and the two windows open and a bunch of saints go parading by, then the rooster crows and the show is over.

I’m not gonna lie – I watched this like three times. It’s just so awesome.

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Prague Castle was a nice long walk up a long winding hill that gave you great views like this:

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And the other really cool thing about Prague Castle is that it’s where Milos Forman filed Amadeus (which happens to be one of my all time favorite movies).

This was the building that was Mozart’s house:

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And even cooler (as if that were possible) down the lane from this house is this one:

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This is Tycho Brahe’s house. If you’re not familiar with Tycho Brahe – and you should be if you watched Cosmos – he was an astronomer, astrologist and alchemist back in the 1500’s. He was the last of the “naked eye” astronomers – those working without telescopes. While Brahe was in Prague, attempting to do his nightly observations of the cosmos, he was interrupted by the neighboring church service and, in a rare show of science over faith, managed to get them quit all church activities as soon as the sun went down so that he could work uninterrupted. The power of science!

On top of that he lost part of his nose in a sword duel and allegedly had a pet moose that got drunk and died falling down the stairs. Poor moose. I also think Tycho’s Moose would be a great band name.

We also saw his grave but we weren’t allowed to take pictures so you’ll have to settle for a Wikipedia one:

Tycho_Brahe_Grave_DSCN2900Prague Castle was nice. I wanted to move in.

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Afterwards we hit up the Old Jewish Cemetery:

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And when they say OLD they mean old. It was in use from the early 15th century and the last body was buried here in 1787.

The most famous resident is Rabbi Loeb who created the Golem!

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Rabbi Loeb’s grave

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This guy prayed for a really long time (with candles) so we took his picture.

And while Rabbi Loeb is pretty famous, Prague’s most famous resident is Franz Kafka. We did a whole Kafka walk, which I might highlight in a separate post for anyone itching to see places that Kafka lived.

In the meantime, here’s a plaque where his birth home was:

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and of course, his grave:

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And this is the monument they set up for him, strangely surreal, much like our boy:

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But Kafka wasn’t the only grave we saw:

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And just because it’s cool

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I want a grave like this. Seriously.

Prague is full of all kinds of cool stuff. Like this guy:

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And places Einstein lived:

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And this building called the Fred and Ginger Dancing House:

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And the hall where Mozart conducted Don Giovanni in 1787:

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But it’s definitely most famous for the Karlov Most (Charles Bridge)

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Which looks great in the day but breathtaking at sunset:

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Karlov Most shadows

And then, it was time to leave…..

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We took the five hour bus ride back to Berlin for one last night, during which it was the 70th anniversary of end of World War II. Being in Berlin on the anniversary of the defeat of Nazism, especially when the Russians were waving their flag around the Brandenburg Gate makes for a weird evening.

Then we boarded the plane and took the long flight back to New York.

Home. Home. Home.

I don’t like to compare trips, especially because it’s going to take a lot of time for me to really process everything we saw and experienced but I will say this – while this trip might not go down as the prettiest (except of course Prague) or the most “fun” (train strikes do throw a damper on things. Also, Nazis.) I have a feeling that it will mean the most. Maybe because of everything last year.

Maybe because I needed it more this time.

Maybe because it just will.

Anyway, it’s a big world out there. If you get the chance, try and see some of it.

Peace, love and starbursts,

Ally

The Forked Road

13 May

Hi All

So I was invited to join The Forked Road by a friend of mine, Aleathia Drehmer.

Aleathia’s a major player in the writing scene so I jumped at the chance to participate.

It’s a very relaxed premise – each day has a different theme and you post when you want to. Got something to say – write it and post it. In Aleathia’s words – the week runs down like this:

Monday-Music Monday—this can be your current favorite song, a write up about your favorite band, a recent concert you have seen, “mixed tapes” you have made, or a great video.  If it involves music, put it here.  Add photos, links, whatever.

 

Tuesday-Let’s Go Somewhere—this the travel portion of the blog.  Write about local places, faraway places, museums, tourist attractions, festivals.  It is anything you can leave your house to do!

 

Wednesday-Lit Bits—this is where you showcase favorite books from established writers.  You can do critique, put quotes, review a favorite author.  You can write about literary events as well.

 

Thursday-Foodies—if you are a great cook you can list favorite recipes.  Restaurant reviews, great food carts, trends in cuisine that you enjoy or review good cook books.  You can share grannies best cookie recipe!

 

Friday-Art Bomb—post about artists that you like, local gallery showings, interview an artist, speak about documentaries of great artists.

 

Saturday-Quills and Frills—this is for sharing our own writing or the writing of other small press writers.  Once a month there will be a writing prompt in which we will each write something and post our interpretations.  I will be sure to share that with you at the beginning of the month so there is time to write it to post at the end of the month.

 

Sunday-OM—this is a section on spirituality.  I am a Buddhist but you can share whatever faith you have.  I’m not saying we are getting all holy roller up in here, but if you have credos you live by that you want to share, feel free.

 

Great concept, huh?

So yesterday, I managed to get over my crippling self-doubt and finish THIS IS SARAH and send it off to my editor. Achievement: Unlocked.

This morning I read through a story I had started last week and realized with absolute certainty that it’s a total piece of crap.

So instead I decided to write my first piece for The Forked Road.

It’s about my recent trip to Liverpool where I got to see John Lennon’s House. Afterwards Aleathia talks about her trip to Bristol.

I think this is going to be loads of fun.

Peace, love and Starbursts

Ally

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