Lisa M. Van Wormer


Severna Park Hilbillies

The monster of Monster Mile.

Writer Lisa Van Wormer shares her first trip to a NASCAR, where she discovers a previously unknown species: the Severna Park Hillbilly.

For my first professional car race experience, I decided to go to Dover International Speedway, also known as the Monster Mile, to watch the NASCAR Sprint Cup.  The internet told me what to expect for my NASCAR weekend: mud-tired American made trucks blaring country music, flags of all kinds including checkered, Rebel, and Old Glory, a multitude of mullets varying by hair length, texture, and even color in a lax open-carry and BYOB atmosphere.

I was looking forward to a super friendly and inviting crowd to watch about 40 cars race around a mile-long cement circle 400 times in the blazing sun.  My trusty friend Google said the “true experience” involved camping all weekend in a parking lot across the highway from the track.  Good old Google had never lead me wrong before, so I rented a pop-up Aliner trailer, stuffed it full with beer and food, hitched it to my black F-150 that was dying to get truly dirty, and was off to be all in for this ride.

Roll Call: The Girl Who Didn’t Come Home

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University of Baltimore MFA writing student Lisa M. Van Wormer recalls the day her fellow soldier failed to answer the repeat call of her name. Hear Lisa read the piece on WYPR’s “The Signal” this Friday at 7.

You are about halfway through your year deployment to Iraq at this point, just enough time to make routines and gain a sense of security in the day to day. You are at a satellite site away from the majority of your unit when you hear the news. Once granted permission you are on the next convoy to travel the 40 miles down IED alley to the base that it happened at, to be there for your surviving friends—for roll call. The feeling this day at the base is far different from any other you have experienced. For one, everyone is in full battle rattle (flak vest with shields, Kevlar, slung weapon, eight 30-round magazines), even off guard duty, which is not the norm for this secluded base. Secondly, there’s no milling around or open chatting—the whole base is silent and somber.

The Rucksack: What One Woman Carried to War

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University of Baltimore MFA student Lisa M. Van Wormer recounts poetically the contents of her rucksack when she served one long year in the Gulf region–the list of items will surprise you.

One knotted ball of light brown hair ties

One of the many challenges of being a woman in the Army was that your hair always had to be regulation: either cut into a bob that did not touch your collar or pulled back into a tight bun. Even in a sandstorm, even under a Velcro-strapped Kevlar helmet, perfection was required. Many of my fellow female soldiers had tools to make this magic occur: hair-colored bobby pins, hair bands with no metal on them that would blend in with a natural hair color (as stated in Army Regulation 670-1), gel and smoothers, even a sock cuff to pull off the “perfect bun” look. I knotted my thick, wavy red hair tightly each morning and always had my cargo pockets full of hair ties as close to my color as I could find, but inevitably by midday wisps would become unruly and slip out of ranks.