Tag: nostalgia

The Mad Naked Summer Night

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University of Baltimore Asst. Prof. and Bohemian Rhapsody Columnist Marion Winik ponders “the half-life of a snow cone” and other heated, heat-related topics.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s night? Thou art more lovely and more temperate, but I’m afraid that’s not saying much. These nights are thick and heavy as black velour, hot and formfitting against our bodies, over our faces. A humid landscape through which we plod like testy zombies, arms outstretched, eyes blank, returning slowly and inexorably to our air-conditioned tombs. We have sacrificed our last calorie of energy on the altar of daytime. We have burned the skin off our thighs getting into the car. We have permanent ruts between our eyes from the weight of our sunglasses. Exhausted drag queens in melted makeup, we have worked our last nerve.

Motorcycles thunder, jet planes roar, a distant procession of sirens woo-woo for hours, as if people for blocks around us are dropping like flies. The cicadas drone the same annoying phrase over and over, a garage band of four-year-olds with sitars. Then the monotony is cracked: shattered glass, a shot, a bomb, a firecracker, maybe just a boom car throbbing down the street. Toward midnight, the fabric of the sky is torn by heat lightning; even the atmosphere cannot take it anymore.

Greetings from Asbury Park: A Tale of Life after Death

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University of Baltimore Asst. Prof. and Bohemian Rhapsody Columnist Marion Winik ventures home again.

New Jersey, our state

All our best is addressed to you!

New Jersey, our state

We’ll keep abreast of the times with you!

Once again we’re here to tell

The many ways that we excel

In New Jersey the state that is great, great, great

In New Jersey, the Garden State.

This is not the state song of New Jersey and I can find no record of it anywhere except my head, where it was downloaded long ago by some elementary school teacher and still comes up on the jukebox rather often.

If New Jersey were actually an armpit, the town where I grew up would appear as a mole just below the axillary hinge, 55 miles south of Manhattan, a mile from the shore. Though we of Parkway Exit 105 breathed fresh salt air rather than the refinery stink the state was infamous for, we looked around our ranch-house mansions of glory and saw what Springsteen saw. It’s a death trap, it’s a suicide rap, we gotta get out while we’re young. Tramps like us, baby we were born to run.

Maybe that should have been the state song.

I haven’t lived in New Jersey since I was 17. While I was holed up in Rhode Island, Texas, and New York City, my sister moved away, our grandparents and parents died, and the house on Dwight Drive where my father carved MARION & NANCY 1960 into the wet cement was sold to people I never met. When I visit, I stay down the street at my best friend Sandye’s mother’s house, which feels both weird and lucky. No matter what the weather I pay my respects to the boardwalk in Asbury Park, which greets me like a sweet old relative who has no idea who I am.

It is too late to fall in love with the place I grew up. So of course I have.

Bohemian Rhapsody: My Sibilant Darling

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University of Baltimore Asst. Prof. and Bohemian Rhapsody Columnist Marion Winik recalls a previous life, when she and her little sister did, well, everything together…

Another relic from the early 90s, one of my favorites. The boys are 23 and 21 now; my sister and I are thirty years past that; the tough times described here have long since passed away. -MW

“Where’s my brother?” asks three-year-old Hayes when I pick him up at the pre-school. (You should see him, Nancy, he’s a big boy now. He can write his name.) He cranes his neck to check the baby seat in the back of the car. “Is he at home? Is he waiting for me? Did Daddy give him a Popsicle?”

When we pull up, his little brother is on the front porch. As Vince recognizes the car, a flock of emotions flies across his year-old face. His happiness at seeing me is edged with pain because the joy of my arrival reminds him how sad it is that I wasn’t there just a moment ago. And how endless the path from the street to the house! How long until I lift him in my arms! But then he notices his big brother racing up the steps ahead of me, and you can see it happen: the registering, the shift of attention. The airwaves open up. He’s here. Each of them subtly changes into what they are when they are together. Brother first, everything else after.

“We want a banana,” Hayes says. “I want one, and my brother wants one too.” And they run to the kitchen, laughing because running to the kitchen is funny. In the same way splashing all the water out of the bathtub is funny. In a few years, it will be making fart noises with their lips in the backseat of the car.

And now the big one builds a tower of blocks and the little one knocks it over. Incensed, the builder smacks the innocent toppler, who bursts into tears and toddles off crying. “No! Don’t leave!” shouts his big brother, grabbing him and dragging him back. “Play with this,” he says, solicitously presenting a broken piece of some dead toy. And the baby is smiling, honored, waving the plastic turtle foot over his head like an Olympic trophy.

Goodbye to the Last Old-School Parking Meter

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This week, Manhattan’s last old-style parking meter — you know, the pole-mounted kind that demanded regular meals of quarters — was decommissioned; while plenty still remain in Baltimore, it’s clear that their days are numbered.

Baltimore’s slowly been replacing its single-space pole meters with EZ Park devices, which take credit cards and are wifi capable. But they can also be tricky for motorcyclists (where to put the slip of paper so its seen by meter police, but not stolen by other would-be parkers?) and deceptive for drivers (they’ll accept payment for times when parking isn’t allowed). But since they eliminate the need for clearly delineated parking spots, they also make more parking spots available.

And while there are some aesthetic reasons to be nostalgic for the old school version (the satisfying clunk of a quarter in the slot! their elegant shape!), it’s worth pointing out that many other cities have made the switch to computerized meters at the same time as they’ve outsourced parking enforcement to private companies — often with disastrous results.
In Chicago, protesters fed meters enough pennies to fill its coin reservoirs, rendering the machines inoperable. (And, because it’s Chicago, there’s also a parking-related corruption investigation going down at the attorney general’s office.) Boston and Portland have each faced their own parking meter scandals. Plus, it’s generally a bad deal for the city — a big chunk of money upfront, but a loss of revenue for the coming years (three-quarters of a century, in Chicago’s case!)

So let’s hope Baltimore doesn’t privatize anytime soon. And if you’ve got a smart phone and a tendency to amass parking tickets, you might by interested in a new app that’ll tell you the odds that you’ll get ticketed in a particular spot at a particular time (based on analysis of publicly available city data). Has anyone else noticed that you rarely get a ticket when it’s raining?

Yes, Sir, That’s My Baby

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My son’s extended relatives—who all live far from Baltimore—are always demanding more pictures of him be posted on Facebook. I sometimes feel like my wife and I accidentally signed ourselves up for an unpaid digital photography internship. But, of course, our family’s photo obsession is sweet, and why shouldn’t they crave pictures of him? After all, they don’t get to see him every day like I do. So what’s my excuse, then?

I have often been guilty of sitting the kiddo up in my lap so we can look at pictures of him together on the computer screen, (Well, I look at them. He mostly pulls his head back to stare at the ceiling fan.) Only recently did I realize the absurdity of staring at images of my child, when, if I angled my head a few degrees, I could be looking at the real thing.

It reminds me of when I traveled to New York City as a child. I stood just outside the Statue of Liberty, not staring up in awe at the literally monumental vastness of the original, but rather transfixed by the dinky, plastic facsimile my Grandma bought for me in Battery Park before we boarded the ferry.

Perhaps we feel more connection to souvenirs because we understand that they outlast the moments they memorialize. They are the infinitesimally small piece of the memory that we get to own. I still have that little plastic Liberty, and I can now only barely remember the view from the actual statue’s crown. Someday all I will have of my son’s infantile smile are hundreds upon hundreds of digital photos on Facebook and Flickr.

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