Sunday, September 16, 2012

ALLEYWAYS (a review)

I'm no stranger to the hometown ink that is Smile, Hon, You're in Baltimore! I've graced the pages a few times, both as myself and...well this self whose blog you're reading. Somewhere along they way Smile, Hon has become the man's cigar reading of choice. Which is why I am finally getting around to penning my thoughts on the current issue.

He's tired of waiting for this copy.

So here we go. What to say about the Alleyways issues of my favorite indie mag? What else? Awesome. Full of tales you're sure must be invented (I'm betting they're not, this is Baltimore after all), poetry, and just plain engaging writing. I thoroughly enjoyed the issue (and took my good sweet time doing it, too). It's jam packed with black and white photos and back alley sagas. It was hard to narrow down a favorite in a field of poetry, the story of arguing over a 'homeless' cat with a sex worker, or a spectacular vehicular blizzard standoffs in the street (a particularly fine tale seeing as it brought back warm fuzzy memories. My son was conceived during that blizzard. Hey, you can only shovel so much, you know.)

I did manage to pick a favorite though. Or rather, somehow it picked me. Queenie and the Boys by Dean Bartoli Smith, was the standout piece for me (there's always one). With nothing but words, it slammed me back to my own alleyways. My trips to the A&P with my grandmother and popping caps with rocks behind her house with my cousin. I remembered my grandfather driving a truck for Pepsi and riding down to pick him up from work. The dreaded warnings of eating "the devil" when steamed crabs were on the menu.

In a word, this piece was fucking brilliant. Okay, that's two words. But from a lifelong Baltimore girl, my adoration of those few pages is high praise. I've been here all my life. I could taste my hometown in those words. Very cool.

Queenie and the Boys made me ache just enough--that feels good kind of ache--for my childhood and the days when high entertainment was sitting on a front porch calling out to your neighbors with the Orioles game on the transistor radio as the sun went down. Sometimes I think we all need to get back there. To when life was less complicated. There was something magical about that time. Or maybe it's just because that memory belongs to me.

Either way, if you want to break off a piece of Baltimore you can go here and grab your own four dollar copy. And take a trip down some of our alleyways. Just make sure go watch where yous step. ;)


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