Have you heard of Car Seat Headrest? Neutral Milk Hotel? Nilüfer Yanya? Tay-K? Alt-J? Milo, the rapper who references Nabokov and Aristotle, rhyming “axis” with “praxis”? These are some of the musicians we listened to in the car Tuesday night coming home from the Taylor Swift concert. My daughter Jane, who turned 18 last month and got a tattoo and a vape to celebrate, is a big girl now. As I write this, she will only be living at home for another 28 days and then she will be off to the Catskills to attend a school that advertises itself as “a place to think.” She is ready for that. She acquired her notebooks even before her shower caddy and extra-long twin sheets.
A couple of weeks ago I was in New York City for my son Vince’s graduation from his masters’ program, held at Radio City Music Hall. His sister Jane and I were waiting on the plaza across the street; I was reminiscing geezeresquely about how I used to eat falafels for lunch in this very spot when I worked at Stanley Kaplan in the 1980s. As I scanned the purple-robed throng for my own graduate-to-be, we were approached by what seemed to be three rock stars: a tall man in a low ball cap, a beautiful blond, and an even taller guy with a mane of brilliant, copper-colored hair and a slim black suit. All were wearing dark glasses. It turned out to be my son Vince, his girlfriend Shannon, and his friend Adam.
Lots of birthdays this month. Baltimore Fishbowl is turning seven, and with it the Bohemian Rhapsody column; meanwhile I am celebrating my 60th, and my son Hayes turned 30 at the end of April. In honor of all this, we’re re-posting the very first column I wrote for the Fishbowl… commissioned and edited by my dear Betsy Boyd, who shares my birthdate. The essay captures a time in our lives that seems long ago already; it, along with many of its successors, became part of the raw material for Highs in the Low Fifties, published in 2013. As for highs in the low sixties, one of the reasons I didn’t write a new piece this month is that I’ve been working on my one-woman show, Portrait of the Artist as a Sad Little Girl in New Jersey. It will premiere at the University of Baltimore Wright Theater May 24, 7 p.m. One show only. It’s part of a works-in-progress series where the audience stays on after the show and gives feedback.
Originally published May 24, 2011 – Last spring, my son Hayes graduated from Georgetown with a degree in finance and was immediately offered a six-figure salary in New York City at one of the big banks. I was amazed. In 1978, when I graduated from Brown with a degree in Russian History, I could hardly land a four-figure job at the 7-11.
Off he went to Manhattan, but things very quickly went very badly. His girlfriend, the beauteous Queen of Ecuador (she was from an illustrious South American family and looked like Penelope Cruz), dumped him two days after he got there. Meanwhile, the six-week training program at the bank was mind-numbingly dull. And while he had not liked New York when he’d lived there as an intern his junior summer, this time, he really hated it. Just making his way from his apartment to the subway in the sweaty morning rush hour crowd was almost more than he could take.
Q&A with local writer Michael Downs, author of ‘The Strange and True Tale of Horace Wells, Surgeon Dentist’
Before there was virtual reality, there was historical fiction. As lovers of this genre know, its best representatives offer an experience akin to time travel, making the cultural ambiance and physical details of another era almost magically vivid and immersive. One certainly feels this with the work of Michael Downs. He is a native of Hartford, Connecticut, born in 1964, but in each of his works set in that city, he leaves the convincing impression that he might have lived there in other periods, other lives.
There’s been a surge of fiction and nonfiction by writers of my generation dealing with the matter of becoming the caretaker of aging parents. I myself got a piece out of this life transition — for the New York Times, yippee. But in my case, that phase only lasted a few months, and it was ten years ago. I’ve now aged out and gone on to the next milestone — being taken care of by my children and other younguns.
No, I am not yet completely infirm, doddering and non compos mentis (though as you may recall I was recently taken advantage of by scammers). But I guess I have become a little fragile. On St. Patrick’s Day, I was in a sequinned gold dress on the 13th floor of the Belvedere Hotel, dancing at the wedding of dear friends for whom I had just offered a heartfelt toast. I must have been getting a little too jiggy with it because my right kneecap — which has been letting me down this way since 1971 during my entrance onstage as Cassius during the tenth-grade rock opera production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar — took a leave of absence from its leg-holding-together duties. In other words, my patella subluxated. I lost my balance and hit the floor, catching myself with my left hand.
“In June of 1992, I left Boston for France with everything in front of me.” So begins the first story in The Balcony, debut fiction from Jane Delury, a professor in the MFA program at the University of Baltimore.
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.
In Baltimore, Tim Kreider is known primarily for two things: his comic strip in the City Paper, The Pain: When Will It End?, which ran for fifteen years, and an essay called “My Own Private Baltimore” that he published in The New York Times. For the former, he is beloved. For the latter, the reaction was more complicated. (Sample sentence: “Ernest Hemingway famously described Paris as a moveable feast; Baltimore is more like a permanent hangover. Once you have lived there, you will never be entirely sober again.”)
Laura Lippman wanders downy shore.
If you love Laura Lippman, as so many Baltimore readers do, she’s kept you busy in the seventeen years since she left her job as a reporter at “the Sunpaper” and devoted herself full-time to fiction. Her series featuring detective Tess Monaghan debuted in 1997 with “Baltimore Blues.” “Hush, Hush,” the twelfth in the series, came out in 2015. Her latest book, “Sunburn,” is the tenth of her off-series novels; many of these have hit the New York Times bestseller list in a big way. Just released this week, “Sunburn” may be heading there to join them; starred pre-pub reviews are now joined by raves all in the daily papers and on websites.