Tag Archives: publishing

Books, readings, poetry, oh my

3 Oct

Oof.

How the hell is it already October?

It’s this election, guys. It’s killing me slowly.

Speaking of I just spent a week in DC which deserves its own post but I have to say it was both amazing and surreal and sad to be there now. At one point I was standing in the Smithsonian Museum of American History, in the Presidential room, looking at that history, for all its good and bad, and the legacy of men who have lead this country and was struck stone cold sober with the notion that that bloviating noxious man child is a possibility.

That said, this happened after I left. Snicker. Snicker.

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But before DC, I have a few updates to share.

First and foremost I’m doing a reading on Friday at the Parkside Lounge for PinkSpeak.

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More information can be found here.

Featured Artists:

Storyteller/Poet Phillip Giambri aka The Ancient Mariner

Singer/Songwriter Samantha Leon

Poet Keisha-Gaye Anderson

Singer/Songwriter Taylor Tucker

Poet Wynne Henry

Spoken Word Artist/Poet Scott Raven

Poet Dara Kalima

Singer/Songwriter Matt Wiffen & His Band

Poet Ally Malinenko

Singer/Songwriter Natatia Allison

Poet John Grochalski

Hosted by Jenny Saldaña.

It’s gonna be a good night, with a good cause so come join us for some beers, some poems, some songs as we hoist a pint and offer a hearty Fuck You to cancer.

If you’re in town and can come, awesome. If not you can still donate to a really great cause that helps young women with cancer. Cause we need all the help we can get.

I’m also really excited to say that my new chapbook, I’ll Be So Still You Won’t Even Notice Me is available now via Epic Rites press. It’s part of Epic Rite’s Punk Chapbook series where in you can get 12 books for $40 and that’s a pretty sweet deal. The package includes yours truly hooked up with some of her favorites, including William Taylor Jr, James Duncan and Janne Karlsson as well as a whole host of awesome writers.

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(I’m scheduled to do another reading in November at Parkside at which I will have copies available too. More on that later.)

Also I’m excited to be included in Janne Karlsson’s anthology the Bones of Nirvana. Janne did the fantastic artwork for all the punk chapbooks from Epic Rites. He’s super talented and for Bones of Nirvana, he’s illustrated every poem in the collection. Needless to say I was floored when I saw mine. Now I know how comic book writers feel. Art making words better. I’ll share when that’s available too.

And finally I just want to say thank you to Brooklyn Poets who posted not only a poem with audio track (in other news I hate my voice) but also an interview.  I was honored to be their poet of the week!

DC Trip post coming soon…….

ETA: I completely forgot to thank Red Fez and Drunk Monkeys for their Best of the Net nominations for my poems “Better Luck Next Year” and “While David Bowie was Dying

Peace, love and starbursts,

Ally

 

 

Boys Don’t Cry: Sexism and Gender Representation in Publishing

15 Aug

I love reading to my niece. It’s one of my favorite things to do and last time I was at her house she picked a new book.

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It is the story of Duncan’s crayons who previously quit due to what they saw as unfair practices by Duncan. In this the crayon’s are all returning with tales of their adventures. We had a blast reading it until we got towards the end and I cringed. All the crayons in this book are clearly boys or otherwise ungendered. There is one exception.

Wait for it……

………….

……………

……………

The unused pink crayon. OF COURSE.

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In the pink crayon’s letter to Duncan she calls herself a “girl’s color” and laments the fact that Duncan has only used her once. Then she congratulates Duncan’s little sister for doing a good job of staying in the lines. Cause, you know, that’s what good little girls do.

They behave.

This is all highlighted in a really amazing article about children’s books on the Washington Post the other day. The whole thing is worth a read but the gist of it is that there a significant lack of girl representation in picture books, and that when there is, they are incredible sexist. The fact that publishing, on the whole, has a significant gender problem.

That J.K. Rowling has no middle initial but they gave her one so they could use just initials because how else were they going to sell a book to boys written by – *gasp* –  a woman!

I thought back to some of my favorite stories growing up and sure, I had Meg in Wrinkle in Time but her utter lack of self-confidence made her more of a pawn in her own story than anything else. In fact it is only through Calvin’s constant affirmations that she overcomes her insecurity. The boy tells her she can do it. So she believes it.

When I first decided to write a story about the last living descendant of Shakespeare, my main character was a boy.

I remember standing in the kitchen talking to my husband as he made dinner about my idea about this boy and his muse named Jonathan and how I wanted to incorporate Shakespare and Greek mythology when he looked at me and said, “Honey, why would you make your main character a boy? Why wouldn’t you make it a girl?”

It took someone else pointing it out before I realized that I had internalized that idea that the Hero is a Boy. So even as  a girl reader who grew up into a woman writer, I still initially went with a boy.

Maybe it’s because I grew up with this:

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and not this:

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But if my neice grows up to be a writer it will be different for her. I certainly hope so.  All the same, feminism fail, Ally.

But I didn’t forget that when I started my next book, This Is Sarah. The story started out as a ghost story – a boy haunted by his dead girlfriend and then warped into something very different – a boy broken by his girlfriend’s disappearance.

To Colin, I gave distinctly  “non-masculine” if not “feminine” traits:

  • He’s was very into his relationship with Sarah, to the point that he alienated friends.
  • She’s basically all he cares about.
  • He cries. A lot. Sobs really
  • He needs to see a therapist because he’s falling apart
  • He gets hysterical
  • And he fails the Bechdel test every single time.

He is raw and tender….traits that are steroetypically female but in actuality, as Wendi pointed out, typically human.

And as Jennie Yabroff said in her Washington Post piece:

As Monfried says, “When we read our children picture books, we’re saying, ‘There’s a world here that will give and give and give for the rest of your life.’ We should want to show our children that anybody can do anything.”

To which I’d add, we should want to show our kids that girls can be anything — and anything can be a girl.

Anything can be a girl. Because ultimately we all laugh and cry and mourn and love in similar ways. Far more similar than they are different.

Peace, love and starbursts,

Ally

Better Luck Next Year is officially for sale!

1 Aug

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The writer Joanna C Valente said that “A trauma is a funeral for one; there is no one to mourn you but yourself. The coffin is empty, since you are still alive, but you must fill it with something, and that becomes your former self.”

Or it becomes a book of poems.

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Better Luck Next Year is officially out and about and available to buy.

And the City Paper wrote a nice review about it saying:

Malinenko’s witty, conversational tone keeps Better Luck from veering into weepy sentimentality. When her speaker describes the sonogram of her tumor, it’s “[l]ike the red spot on Jupiter / a hurricane the size of a planet / here now / inside me” — a brilliant use of simile. When she writes of this news sinking in, “I whisper. Fuck. / The smallest hurricane of a word I know,” it’s powerfully restrained.

The reading last weekend went well. I think. I was pretty nervous and anyone who was there can attest to my incessant shaking. I’ve read poetry plenty of times but never anything as personal or as hard as this. I think I underestimated how hard it was actually going to be. I nearly lost it reading the last poem – the title track Better Luck Next Year – specifically on these lines:

 

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

Specifically the word warrior. The language that we use to talk about a situation – any situation – reshapes it. It frames people’s experiences. The warrior myth – and it is a myth – turns individuals into an amorphous mass stripping them of their unique experience. If you have “winners” then you, in turn have “losers.” As many obituaries read, people “lose their brave battle.” As if I could will myself into better health. As if it were just up to me. That is without a doubt the most dangerous form of magical thinking I can imagine. And it is an aspect of this experience that I feel most strongly about which is why that little word carried so much power.

In the end, I’m sorry I had to write it – that I ever had a reason to write it – but I’m so glad it exists.

So thanks to Kris and Nathan for all their hard work in turning this into a real live book. And if you do get it and read it and have a second to post your thoughts on Amazon or Goodreads, I would be eternally grateful.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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

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