Michael Alig’s Year of Solitude, My Brooklyn Home

The “Party Monster” was not released, as many had expected. Instead, the powers that be in Albany have decided that Michael Alig will walk amongst us next November—provided that he behaves himself. Although this has been viewed by many as an unfair outcome, it was expected by me and mine. Alig, who was sentenced to serving ten to twenty years for the murder of Angel Melendez, has almost reached his “due date.” The date that peeps serving that sentence are normally set free, with a big “unless” attached to it. This particular “unless” has to do with behavior and “good time.” Michael, always good at showing people a good time, violated a rule here and there, and experienced a loss of “good time,” totaling six years. You do the math. That six year loss brings him up to his twenty. However, (another huge word) inmates have opportunities to earn back their “good time” by doing extra work, and completing programs.

Michael’s violations were all drug-related. Except for that one really bad hour with Freeze (Robert Riggs, who has been released), and Angel (who was no angel), he never was a violent sort. So Michael did his required penance. He took drug programs, and even ended up leading, and helping others. He turned it all around. The brain trust in the State’s capital thought that good enough for five years out of the bad six he had accumulated. As I told Larry Seidler—a pal that Alig and I share— in the car on our way back from our last visit with “iron bars” Mike, they probably thought they were doing him a huge favor.

Although disappointed that he will not spend Christmas— or even Independece Day—on the street, Mike must embrace his fate, and prepare in earnest for his now defined release. He must stay sober, and despite what he believes, he hasn’t been sober all that long. He must not get in any trouble, and get used to that. He must focus on that release date, and be prepared for it. He has a book in him, and it is almost done. He is painting and getting good at it. He has film and TV crews biting at the bit to chronicle his life and his transition from that marvelous, maniacal, Warholian wonderkind-turned evil-doer, who’s now turned all-around-swell-person. Few — very few — leaving the joint after so long have any support groups, friends, or relatives anxious to help them. Michael’s blessings cannot be counted on fingers, toes or any body parts. They must be counted on that year, plus a little bit more calendar that suddenly has a real date on it. Freedom is no longer just a theory. Michael will cry, and whine, and complain, which is his way, and he can’t be blamed for it, but it all seems fair, and he must get used to the idea that after one more year he will be free.

I am still writing out of internet cafes, mostly from House of Small Wonder in Williamsburg, where I still live. I must admit, I do love it, but there have been a few moments where I have nearly gone postal. The early mornings at other coffee/internet spots, amongst the hordes of plaid hipsters, when I must insist on cow milk rather than bean — or nut milk — have been close calls. House of Small Wonder is simply wonderful. Yesterday, running into former Top Chef contestant Josie Smith-Malave and event planner Kevin Crawford at the park, while picnicking with puppies, made it all feel right. McCarren Park with huddles of happiness, sports, and babies from young parents was a flashback to Washington Square Park circa 1972. It is out of such convergence of creative youth that movements spring forth. As a poet once said, “it was deja vu all over again.”

At night, I was whisked to the Polestar Poetry Series at Bruar Falls. Melissa Brewer usually hosts these shindigs at Cake Shop, but held it at Bruar’s last night. There seems to be an affiliation between the two joints. Again, I’m new at this Brooklyn stuff, so I’m just feeling my way around. This event had the blog Electric Literature entwined in it, and I was tagging along with writer, Julia Jackson, as she was covering it. I ran into hardcore icon Jimmy Gestapo (from the iconic hardcore band, Murphy’s Law) as I neared. He was shocked to see me in BBurg. He wasn’t feeling the readings and told me to join him across the street at Trash. I promised I would after I caught a little bit of the poetry thing. I too, lack the patience for the spoken word thing, unless there is something being said that I can relate to. The old banger cashier machine drowned out great gobs of words from seriously crunchy sorts, and I was quickly at the point where I wanted to go see Jimmy, but needed to support Julia a little.The falling ice, pinball machine, and unrelated laughter joined the banger in drowning out very important words. I knew they were important because the readers paused for affect, for applause that would never come. There were few emotions in the words. All were a single beat, a monotone relay of mundane events, or relationships. Realizing that I wasn’t bright enough to get it, I joined the crew watching Miss Piggy and the Muppets closed-captioned on the bar TV. This too fell short of satisfying my urges, so I dashed to Trash with my gal.

A jukebox Jello Biafra tune got my blood flowing and then the Ramones got me straight. I wondered if the poets across the street could pick up something from the poets on the jukebox. I wondered if it would all be good if they just shouted 1-2-3-4 in between tomes. Felipe, the barkeep at Bruar kept the diet cokes flowing, but I left anyway, missing the band Sweatband, which was promised. The place was jammed with a pleasant crowd and I’m sure I would have loved it.

My weekend was more misses than hits. I missed my pal Oleg Vibe’s birthday bash at OPM. I missed Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, and Kenny. Dinner at Taco Chulo and cocktails at the Lodge were swell, but I need my cable and maybe a place to crash once in awhile in Manhattan.

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