Bohemian Rhapsody

A Cat Named Bruce

“Bruce The Cat Is AWOL: We haven’t seen our cat Bruce (gray and white with a big belly) since yesterday. If anyone spots him, please let me know.” -Evergreen Community listserv

The email list in our neighborhood is an active one, what with people getting rid of furniture and gadgets, looking for plumbers and electricians, and calling for crews to pick up litter at Stony Run, the creek that runs along the edge of our three-block enclave. This posting about Bruce the Cat, complete with framed oil portrait, appeared one day in late February and turned out to be the first in a rather riveting series. But before we follow the drama of Bruce’s recent disappearance, let us begin with his origin story.

Scrabble, and Other Secret Languages


Because am I knee-deep in writing The Baltimore Book of the Dead, we’re reposting a column from the very early days of Bohemian Rhapsody — the third, in fact. The Baltimore Fishbowl was just a month old. My ex and I were having a little post-divorce relapse, as we learn at the end of the piece. That does seem like a long time ago. Since I wrote this, four new two-letter words have been added to the “secret language” of Scrabble: DA GI PO TE, appended to the official word list in 2014. I can only imagine what my mother would have to say about it. These days, it’s her namesake, my seventeen-year-old daughter Jane, who is kicking my butt. There’s no one I’d rather lose to.

Originally published June 22, 2011 – I was brought into the fold of Scrabble players in the mid-90s by a food writer boyfriend who kindly scooped me up and resuscitated me after my first husband died of AIDS. In addition to viciously competitive Scrabble playing, the food writer’s recovery program for dazed widows included extravagant piggery both at home and in restaurants, gin martinis, Camels, wave-tossed waterbed sex and the occasional brisk morning walk.

Just Like Star Wars, I Got a Sequel

Movie poster via IMP Awards.

Good news: A couple of days before Christmas I received word that Counterpoint, the press that published The Glen Rock Book of the Dead in 2008, will bring out a companion volume in the late fall of 2018. Like its predecessor, The Baltimore Book of the Dead is named for the place where it is being composed and will contain about 60 brief portraits of people who have died, all who have crossed my path in one way or another. (While it will contain some allusions to the terrible violence we have suffered in the city in recent years, it will not be the focus of the book.) I could not be happier about this much-wished-for turn of events and have spent the past two and a half months traveling in the world of the departed. Now I will spend several more.

Hook, Line, and Sinker: How the Phishermen Reeled Me In


I’ve been reluctant to tell the story below: it’s too embarrassing, even for a blurter like me. However, I just read that one of the secondary dangers of being scammed is that the victim feels so much shame about falling for the con that they are unwilling to talk about it, leading to depression and PTSD. So spill I shall.

Too Young, Too Soon: Remembering E-Dubble

E-dub and Vince at work.

As part of our Throwback Thursday series, we republish Marion Winik’s essay in memoriam of E-Dubble, the local rapper who died last February. His new video was released this week. 

View the video, below.

How to Celebrate the Day of the Dead


It seems to have become a tradition to re-post this 2013 column on November 1. At my house, Day of the Dead season opened a couple of weeks ago when I started a new book project: a sequel to The Glen Rock Book of the Dead. It will be called The Baltimore Book of the Dead, again named after the place it was written, again containing very short lyric essays, each a portrait of someone who has died. The first one is my mother, The Golfer, who left us right after I finished the first book, and I’ve got a handful of others already. I can picture the two little books standing next to each other, so maybe it will actually happen and you will read it someday. If I continue to be swept up in the writing, you might be reading essays from the archive for a couple of months, but I’ve been digging around and there are some very ancient ones that I bet most BFB readers have never seen. Happy Day of the Dead, shots of tequila all around. 

Drape a small table with a cloth in the favorite color of the person you loved who has died. Adorn it with candles, flowers (marigolds are traditional) and framed photographs. Set out some favorite foods: a slice of pie, a bottle of beer, a Milky Way. Add the instruments of their hobbies and vices: a pack of Newports, a deck of cards, a banjo. A People magazine, a racquet, a Terrible Towel. A copy of Peter Pan, of The Joy of Cooking, of the Bible.

Harvey’s Choice


As soon as I heard about Hurricane Harvey, I started worrying about the animals. The ones tied up in backyards, the ones waiting on roofs, the ones peering out attic windows. I hoped it would go better for them than it did in 2005 when according to the Louisiana SPCA, tens of thousands of pets died.

Surprise Party Surprise

The birthday boy.

For Vince’s 27th birthday, his longtime girlfriend Shannon decided to throw a surprise party. Shannon is a gorgeous blonde and a smart cookie too, but her real superpower is worrying. She can worry ordinary people under the table. As you might imagine, planning a surprise party gave her some material. Whom to invite, and how many, and is this everyone? Can they all keep a secret? Might Vince find out some other way? Let’s say it comes off — does he even want a surprise party? Vince can be a crank. As one of his friends recently pointed out, Shannon is “the only person Vince is actually nice to.” Where to have it, what to serve, how much is all this going to cost?

The Return of Tracy Beth Richardson


A couple of months ago, as we were stuffing our blocks into the cubbies after a yoga class, a woman I saw frequently but knew only as “the short one with the beautiful blond hair” introduced herself. Alex Hewett is one of the producers of the Baltimore/DC chapter of Mortified, a show where adults present diaries, letters and other archival materials from their childhoods. She wondered if maybe I, or some of my students, would be interested in performing.

Backstage at the Wedding


Big news: My son got married last week, and now I have a daughter-in-law. I have lucked out in this department. Maria is a formidable person with beauty, brains and a lovely family hailing from the country of Ecuador. I often describe her as “the younger, prettier Penelope Cruz.” She is bilingual, she is doing her residency in orthodontics at Harvard, she is sweet and has a lot of really cute dresses. In general, she is a pretty upscale specimen of the human race.