Silver Linings Playbook, Thanksgiving Edition: A Baltimore Holiday Tale

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In which University of Baltimore Asst. Prof. and Bohemian Rhapsody Columnist Marion Winik counts her blessings, even the crappy ones…

Even before I heard about the new Jennifer Lawrence/Bradley Cooper movie, I was thinking about silver linings this Thanksgiving. I mean, of course I’m grateful for all the usual stuff, my family, my home, my health, such as it is, for decent public schools and the iPhone 5 and the nice neighborhood I live in. I’m thankful that Video Americain hasn’t gone out of business yet, that chickens lay eggs, and that it is still possible to make some kind of living typing claptrap since it is the only thing I am capable of doing.

Giving thanks for one’s blessings is just too easy. I say we take it to the next level and give thanks for the crap too. Like, I am thankful that Johnny’s, the new restaurant in my neighborhood, is just a little too expensive so I don’t go there all the time and get any fatter than I am. I am thankful that Superstorm Sandy drove my friends and relatives out of their homes and down to mine, because it gave me a good excuse to go to the Visionary Art Museum and drink barley wine at the Heavy Seas Alehouse. I am thankful that the man I was dating broke up with me immediately after I got back from a funeral…well, because it was good to get all those bad experiences out of the way at once! And now I don’t have to break up with him, which I never would have done even though it wasn’t happening between us. But because I can conceive a fierce loyalty to, like, the leaf that just fell on my shoulder, I would doubtless be shopping right now for really expensive Christmas presents for him and planning the next 10 years of our lives together. Whew! Thanks, man!

You see how it works? While I am still working on what is good about fleas, flat tires, and dry skin, I am totally awash in gratitude for the fact that my 22-year-old son is back living at home while he attempts to start a music career. Though he and I do have a few little lifestyle and personality conflicts, my days and nights are much more interesting now and, at least until he throttles me in my sleep, I have better things to write about in this column.

For example, I had not even met my across-the-street neighbors, a middle-aged couple who work at home, until the Mrs. knocked at my door to tell me that she was being terrorized by my son’s friends. As she explained, she and her husband sell accessories — which involves her sitting in the car in front of her house talking on the phone quite a bit — and some kid just pulled up behind her in a giant SUV with tinted windows blasting rap music so loud she couldn’t even hear the person she was selling accessories to. She got out of her car and approached the driver. He rolled down his jet-black window an inch but didn’t lower the music at all. So it took a lot of screaming for her to get across her request, which was that he lower the music.

“And what do you think he said?” she goes on, flicking her eyes to her scowling husband, lurking nearby on the sidewalk. He’s got her back for sure. “He said no! He said — he said if I didn’t want to hear loud music, I shouldn’t be living in inner-city Baltimore!”

I suppress my chortle and try to explain to her that though this young man may look like a pumped-up skinhead who got out of jail yesterday, he is actually a childhood friend of my son’s from rural Central Pennsylvania who thinks Roland Park IS the inner city! Ha-ha! She’s not getting the joke, though, and when I say I’m going to send the boys over to apologize, she begs me not to because she is afraid they will “retaliate.”

I head off the retaliation and send the dear boy over there to mumble his apology. The next day he quits his job at Best Buy and runs away to Florida with another overachiever from our Central PA past. In any case our inner-city neighborhood has been much quieter since then.

Do you see why I am grateful? Shit like this makes life worth living. I mean, like the other night, when my son’s girlfriend reported that she hadn’t heard from him all day and I hadn’t either, and his phone was dead, and we realized that all we knew was that he had gone to a recording studio somewhere in Philadelphia to do a session with a producer named Nyce Boy, so we flipped out. We called his brother and his friends and got on the Internet and tried to figure out where this studio might be and eventually I did find an email address for Nyce Boy. Though I felt sure as I did it that I would I pay for this bold move, I sent him an email saying I was Vince Winik’s mom and did he have any idea how I could get in touch with him?

It was after 11 by now and my Superstorm Sandy refugees were all sleeping upstairs so I crashed on the couch with my phone, praying to learn that my son was somewhere still alive. At 1 the phone rang. And guess who it was.

It was Nyce Boy! He was calling from Hawaii! He didn’t have any idea where my son was (“I know two Vinces,” he mused, “is this the one I met in New York last summer?”) and he wondered if I knew who he was.

“Of course,” I said. “You recorded a song with Jennifer Lopez!”

Nyce Boy was unbelievably nice. He said he would “reach out to my son with a text” and urge him to return home.

I told Nyce Boy to have a Mai Tai on me, put the phone next to my pillow, and considered the possibility that my son had gone off to join his dopey runaway pals in Florida. That was when the front door burst open and my son himself came in shouting at me for rounding up a posse because he is 22 years old and he is a man and what business of mine is it where he is! Then he went out again, cursing and slamming the door. I spent the rest of the night composing an email to him explaining my point of view, which he never answered, but I did get a follow-up note from Nyce Boy about a week later to make sure I had located my son. I think we are, like, friends now. How much more thankful could I be?

I found out later in the week when my son’s band played their first local gig at Joe Squared and their second up at Tailgaters in York, PA. I don’t know exactly why listening to those kids play their funky psychedelic reggae makes me feel like I just took a hit of X, but I have to say it is the strongest non-chemical sense of well-being I have ever experienced, a sterling silver lining for this broke-down inner city mom.


Marion Winik writes “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a column about life, love, and the pursuit of self-awareness. Check out her heartbreakingly honest and funny essays twice a month on Baltimore Fishbowl.

Marion Winik
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  1. This is the funniest thing I ever read. As usual. Right now, funny is especially good. Never stop writing about your nears and dears. We love them, and you!!!! You put us all back on track. Lisa’s comment also makes me laugh!

  2. Marion, you are the master! Tell Vince we love reading about your family. And do you know about this thing where a veterinarian will put a microchip in your cat? I’m hoping that human microchip technology busts a move but soon. My household is on the heels of your madness.

  3. Nah, you don’t go too far. It’s the price a boy pays when he lives with his mom. In the basement. In Roland Park. Who doesn’t do his own laundry. He’s so fly.

  4. Brilliant, tongue in cheek treatise on the levels of gratitude, which those of us who have raised sons can relate. As usual, your stoicism in the face of the adversity called life is commendable and your witty analysis of them, priceless. Rock on!

  5. Wow, the boys have come a long way from the days of the golden dinner. I still think of that whenever I serve macaroni and cheese …

  6. Marion, I really enjoy your writing and tomorrow I will ponder the good and bad things I’m grateful for! But I understand Vince’s feelings too. Hey…how about some fiction? I’d love to read a short story (or novel) by you!

  7. Two suggestions: offer Vince an opportunity to take a turn at writing Bohemian Rhapsody — might give him another perspective. Also, consider adding video re-enactments, set to beats. R. Kelly pioneered hip hopera with “Trapped in the Closet.” Cik it out at You write it, get Vince to score it, get Jane and her Roland Park friends to act it. Presto: Easy St.

  8. Please keep writing about Vince and the rest of your family. I always enjoy reading about them, and appreciate your candor and humor.

  9. Thanks for the laugh I really needed this morning. Whenever I count my “unblessing” my husband tells me I’m being negative. But I know better

  10. Don’t I remember Vince from an essay on how a fire got started? Just so you know, he’s been at my house a lot wearing my son’s clothes and spouting the “I’m a man” stuff.

    P.S. It’s not fair you were behind me at Ocean Township H.S. I needed you to be in my class. In all my classes!

  11. Maybe Vince should utube the
    Mike Gundy Video about “I’m a Man ”
    You should move back to Austin ,
    Vince would love it !

  12. Love the comment about the boyfriend. Reminds me of Matt Damon’s line in “The Departed.” Went something like, “Look, I’m Irish, so you’re going to be the one who has to leave.”

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