Tag: sense of place

Hidden Nerve

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photo by Judith Krummeck
photo by Judith Krummeck

Baltimore writer and beloved voice of classical music radio (WBJC) Judith Krummeck describes her sense of place — in the U.S. and Africa — and her sense of longing for each land she’s called home.

A hidden nerve is what every writer is ultimately about.

–André Aciman

I was born in Africa. I am an African. But, because of the color of my skin, I am not truly African. Strictly speaking, because I was born in Africa and I am now an American citizen, I am an African American. But, because of the color of my skin, I am not truly African American. In the truest sense, I am neither African nor American.

Guacamole Is a Cruel Mistress: A Recipe

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University of Baltimore Asst. Prof. and Bohemian Rhapsody Columnist Marion Winik has strong opinions about how to prepare guacamole — and she’s not kidding around.

A couple of weeks ago in The New York Times Book Review “How to” issue, novelist Kate Christensen, who has recently moved to Maine, had a wonderful essay about making clam chowder. The theme of embracing a new place through its ingredients and dishes is a sweet one to me. It was the story of me and Texas, where I lived for 20 years.

The Tex-Mex food I am and always will be obsessed with is divided into two categories: things you can make at home, and things you should go to Texas to eat in a restaurant, like cheese enchiladas or huevos rancheros with fresh tortillas and refried beans. I won’t dwell on the latter; it will just make us sad. Fortunately, in the do-at-home group is guacamole.

Coming Clean (about Baltimore)

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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?

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.

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