Artist, MICA instructor, world traveler, and well-meaning truth twister Marcus Civin faces (mostly) facts about his unexpected move back home…to Baltimore.
Originally, I’m from Saint Petersburg. When I learned to drink champagne, I learned in a castle back home. I learned to smash the empty champagne flute on the ground after a toast. My mother says a family of raccoons lived in our tool shed. Way back, I’m related to Dostoyevsky—yes, the great Russian novelist.
My father did his medical residency at the National Institutes of Health, outside of Washington, DC, in Bethesda, MD. I have an early memory of watching my brother and my father build a metal model fire engine. I watched them through a hole in the floorboards; they were in the basement of a little house in Bethesda, and I was upstairs with a stuffed Snoopy. I bet I was supposed to be napping.
My mother says my father used to bring bones home to that house from the hospital for study, that they were real human bones. When I was three, my father got a job at Johns Hopkins, and my family moved from Bethesda, Maryland, to Baltimore.
Wait — I lied. I am not from Saint Petersburg. I learned to drink champagne in Baltimore. Really, I was born in Boston, Massachusetts, then moved to Bethesda, then to Baltimore. My father, it’s true, worked at the NIH, then at Hopkins. I’m not related to Dostoyevsky, though this is not by choice. I’ve been to a couple of castles, but I haven’t been to in any castles in Saint Petersburg. The raccoons lived in our garage in Baltimore, this is completely accurate.
I grew up in Baltimore. My older brother and my sister-in-law, my nephew, my parents, the family with whom my family does all the Jewish holidays…they’re still here.
I left Baltimore for good in 1996. Since then, I have lived in Providence, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. I never thought I’d be back to Baltimore to stay. I’m back.
Really, why’d I leave? Really.
Maybe it was the preppies. At the Baltimore prep school my parents sent me to, I read Camus in the original French. I remember reading the opening passage of The Stranger (L’Etranger). It was 10th grade study hall. My French was pretty good; I understood what was happening. Sitting in study hall, I was reading when I got interrupted by a boy twice my size who put me in a headlock. I shook him off, looked around and decided to put a boy smaller than me in a headlock. This is all to say that I didn’t understand Camus’s existentialism. What is existentialism to a 10th grader?