Ellen Hartley


Checkpoint Charlie: Before the Wall Came Down


BigComboTrailerTwenty-five years ago, on November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall came down. University of Baltimore MFA student Ellen Hartley recalls a night in 1966 when she and her student husband tried to cross to East Berlin. What stopped them might make you grateful.


Halten Sie — sofort!” A guttural voice. “Schnell aus dem Auto!”

Danny slammed on the brakes of our VW Bug. We stumbled out of the car. A pair of burly border guards ordered us to step aside and empty our pockets.

1966, Checkpoint Charlie. My husband and I were students, out for a night at the opera in East Berlin.

An Unaffiliated Jew: How I Got Religion

image via kanestreet.org
image via kanestreet.org

University of Baltimore MFA student Ellen Hartley describes her stint in Hebrew school, the scandal that rocked her temple, and the pivotal personal decision she made at age 15.

I am an unaffiliated Jew. I wasn’t always. I became an unaffiliated Jew in 1956 when I was 15.

Before that I had felt comfortable within the fairly relaxed Jewish framework in which I’d grown up. My parents came from an Orthodox background of Eastern European immigrants. Their families kept kosher and observed the whole shebang. My mother officially left the fold as a teenager, when she and her cousin Ethel sneaked out of Yom Kippur services and went to a luncheonette for their first ham sandwich. When my parents married, they moved 250 miles away and dropped the Orthodoxy. Our refrigerator regularly held sliced ham for sandwiches; oddly, my mother drew the line at bacon, which she claimed made her ill. I remember my father making bacon and sausages for my brother and me on Sundays when my mother slept late. We’d run the exhaust fans so the “porky” odors would be extinguished.

He Married Her Best Friend

image via a pairofpears.com
image via a pairofpears.com

University of Baltimore MFA student Ellen Hartley found her truest love affair in a most unexpected way — through an equally emotional loss.

It began with a phone call.

Ellen, I’ve got dreadful news.  Helen died yesterday.  It was Myra, the sister of my best friend from music camp 40 years earlier.  I didn’t even know she’d been sick; over the years we’d lost touch.  I knew only that she lived on Long Island and had four children.  I was shocked and angry I hadn’t gotten to say goodbye.

God Should Have Gone to Law School: Two Funny Poems for Friday


ddWarning: UB MFA grad student Ellen Hartley has some strong opinions that might just crack you up.


I hate


loathe & detest them


are instruments of the devil

Dilemma: “Does My Life Have Direction?”



University of Baltimore MFA student Ellen Hartley has a few questions for her readers…and herself. But she doesn’t take any of them too seriously!



Does my life have direction?

What is direction?  Do I have

a purpose?  Is purpose

direction?  Is direction

linear?  Is linear

2-dimentional therefore



Car Talk: A Memoir



UB grad student Ellen Hartley watches her wild life race past from behind the wheel.

1956:  The Chrysler

When I was 15, my mother drove me to the doctor’s to have a growth removed from my neck. I was old enough to get my learner’s permit but hadn’t gotten around to it yet. So I had to be chauffeured. Mother was more than happy to comply — she was in no hurry for me to start driving. Especially since it was her car – a shiny new Chrysler Windsor Deluxe – that I’d be abusing.