Marion Winik

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University of Baltimore Professor Marion Winik writes Bohemian Rhapsody on the first Wednesday of the month. She is the author of "First Comes Love," and, forthcoming in fall 2018, "The Baltimore Book of the Dead." She is the host of The Weekly Reader on WYPR. Sign up for her monthly email at marionwinik.com.

Lent Report

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Photo by Flickr user radiate2357

Last week, I received an email from Carrot Ink, the company from whom I purchase supplies for my printer. GET READY FOR MARDI GRAS, it urged in puffy purple letters festooned with GIF confetti and wagging carnival masks. 18% off all ink and toner with coupon code PARTY18.

Today can’t be Mardi Gras, was my first thought. It’s Thursday.

Followed immediately by my God, has it come to this?

No Time Off for Good Behavior

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Marion and Tony Winik with their children, 1992.

Readers: I wrote the following essay a long, long time ago. Whether you are raising small children now or whether you are, like me, looking in the rear view of an empty nest, it could make you feel better about things. Yours truly, M. Winik, setting the low bar on parenting since 1988.

I see a couple with a tiny baby at a party; they are so happy. I go over to ooh and aah at the baby, and ask to hold him. I have two boys, I say.

Oh, really, how old?
Two and four.
Is that hard?
It’s hell.

They exchange looks. Is this a depraved person to whom they are speaking, or is it the voice of doom resonating from their future?

Q&A with environmental journalist Tom Pelton, on the health of the Chesapeake and his book ‘The Chesapeake in Focus’

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Even if the story about the person who fell off a party boat into the Inner Harbor and died the next day is an urban legend, we all know the Chesapeake Bay is in trouble. I just googled: the last three headlines in the Baltimore Sun on the topic have been “Chesapeake Bay’s weakened federal partner takes another hit,” “Chesapeake Bay’s grade drops to a D+ in 2018 report card,” and ” ‘Code red’ for the Chesapeake Bay.”

Whether you’re a nature lover, an oyster and crab maven, a sailor, or just a citizen of this region, it’s a good time to take look at Tom Pelton’s 2018 book, “The Chesapeake in Focus” (Johns Hopkins University Press), a sweeping narrative that leverages the author’s decades of environmental reporting to create a multi-faceted portrait. Pelton’s combination of nature and travel writing, personality profiles, political analysis, and scientific storytelling will be familiar to listeners of his public radio program, “The Environment in Focus.”

Oprah: This is your sign from God

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Toward the end of last year, I was down in Virginia visiting my 92-year-old ex-mother-in-law Joyce, and Jane, her sister-in-law, a former ambassador. Joyce reads the Washington Post from cover to cover every day, while Jane reads the New York Times with equal thoroughness, though she eschews the Thursday Style section. I asked these avid and perspicacious followers of politics to give me their takes on the Democratic presidential candidate options. 

The 11 biggest happenings of 2018 in Baltimore’s literary scene

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Photo by Corey Jennings.

It’s been a busy year for Baltimore’s writers and literary institutions. Here are some of the most interesting developments and gossipy tidbits.

The Luxury of Solitude

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The author’s dog, Beau. Photo by Marion Winik.

At Thanksgiving dinner, as we went around the table saying what we were grateful for, my daughter Jane gave thanks for leaving home, for the excitement of starting a new part of her life on her own. For a second, I thought about being hurt by this, but she assured us that she meant it in the nicest way, going on to thank everyone at the table who had helped her get to this point. 

Once I thought about it, I realized I too should give thanks for her departure.

This Dog’s Life: A Tale of Love and Armed Robbery

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black german shepherd in EvergreenBefore I was struck down by my rebellious appendix last summer, I had started a new writing project, collecting stories about pets in my three-block Baltimore neighborhood, Evergreen, founded in 1873. Many of its original residents were the construction workers and tradesmen who helped build Roland Park, the elegant, affluent quarter that surrounds us on all sides. 

The Baltimore Book of the Dead

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Baltimore Book of the DeadMarion Winik just released her latest memoir, “The Baltimore Book of the Dead,” out from Counterpoint. This week we publish an excerpt from the introduction of the book, which is a compilation of essays about people she’s lost. Marion approaches the touchy subject of death with emotion, wisdom, and humor as only she can. If you’re a fan of Bohemian Rhapsody, you’re in for a treat. Read on. – S.D.

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During the spring of 2007, in the dark days towards the end of our marriage, my second husband and I managed to get ourselves invited to a small house party on the South Coast of Jamaica, held over the weekend of the Calabash Festival, a major annual literary event with writers from all over the Caribbean and the world. I had just begun writing The Glen Rock Book of the Dead, the predecessor to this volume.

The first morning, all the guests went up the road to Jake’s, the resort where the festival is held, in our hosts’ van. We heard readings, paged through books on sale, sipped frozen drinks. My husband and I sipped many of them. The group went home for lunch, planning to return in the afternoon, but storm clouds massed and broke and no one wanted to go back in the pouring rain.

Welcome to My Anticlimax: The Empty Nest Report

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the empty nest anti-climax
The author hiking in Olympic National Park.

Since Jane has not yet been gone for a month, it’s a little early to call it. “It” being the long-dreaded experience of the empty nest. The nest in question had been in operation for 32 years, if we count from the day in 1986 when I quit drugs, drinking, coffee and everything else I knew as the staff of life to begin the absorbing process of having babies and raising them, ultimately sending off into the world three biological progeny and two stepbabies. In the process, enriching the coffers of numerous educational institutions, now including Bard College in New York State, where Jane is currently renting calculus books and eating farm-grown vegetarian meals.

Now, for the first time ever, I am living alone. Living alone is not something I ever aspired to and at times imagined almost as a punishment for something you did that made you unbearable to others. I mean, many people get to this point in life with a partner in tow, but I’m two husbands down with no replacement in sight.

Another unbelievable Airbnb nightmare

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Photo by Jimmy Emerson, DVM, via Flickr

The following is a letter I have composed for my son’s girlfriend, Shannon.

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Dear Airbnb,

I just received an email asking me to rate my recent experience–July 13-15, 2018–on a scale from terrible to great. As there is no option that adequately describes my experience, please bear with me while I explain.

The story starts one year ago, when I threw a surprise birthday party for my boyfriend in Brooklyn in a building that, once all the guests had arrived, turned out to be nonexistent. I live in Baltimore and many of the 25 guests came from out of town, so perhaps you can imagine how devastating it was that the event space I had booked for $800 simply was not there, nor was there an answer at the phone number, nor could Airbnb provide any suitable alternative venue. (Further appalling details in attached copy of previous letter.)

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