Thursday, October 10, 2013

Sportswriter Frank Deford calls "Bawlmer, Merlin, My Hametown" a "wonderful place for a boy to learn to live" in his recent memoir Over Time: My Life As a Sportswriter
. He looks back on his upbringing with clear-eyed affection, loving Baltimore for its unpretentiousness and ability to, like his parents, carry on through ups and downs.

There was, after all, a humility to Baltimore that was sweet and enriching, simply because Baltimore was, altogether, looked down on, we did not tolerate arrogance....
What especially hurt about being from Baltimore was the glory that it had lost.... Into the middle of the nineteenth century, Baltimore had been a cosmopolitan jewel, gateway to Dixie, harbor to the world.... The mighty B&O Railroad steamed over the Alleghenies, carrying goods and civilization to the benighted West. Johns Hopkins Hospital cared, best, for humankind. It was in Baltimore that Samuel Morse took the whole world a step up from Gutenberg, punching out, "What hath God wrought?"
But by the time I grew up, Baltimore was a tentative place, only a stream or two short of a backwater. It had become the quintessential branch town. The harbor had become a Stygian tributary leading to a humdrum skyline that was dominated by a bizarre faux-Florentine building that was topped by a rendering of an antacid fizz bottle. (And wouldn't you just know: it was Bromo-Seltzer, the runner-up heartburn remedy, not the pre-eminent Alka-Seltzer.
Baltimore has also been belittled simply because too many of us talked funny. It was a horribly grating nasal accent, sort of lispy, somehow produced because it was here where the harsh Bronx tones from the North crashed head-on into the softer hillbilly lilt moving up from the hollows of the Blue Ridge.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Back where I started

I started this blog four years ago, after just having moved here, to explore Baltimore via books. It's been a most successful journey. I've read mysteries, poetry, non-fiction, romance, children's books, YA, and adult novels, all featuring Baltimore or by an author who has a Baltimore connection or which feature a Baltimore scene or two. I've gotten to know the literary scene here; it's active and welcoming. I hosted book talks at the Baltimore Book Festival, CityLit Festival, and the American Craft Council show. After this location, I went on to Reading Local: Baltimore, Charm City Current, and Baltimore Style magazine's website. And so, I did it, I'm done, I've adapted and moved on to regular life.

But it was such a great experience and exposed me to such a variety of works that I find myself continuing to seek out Baltimore writers and scenes and connections. It's an interesting filter through which to approach literary life, making bedfellows of mystery writer Laura Lippman and poet Afaa Michael Weaver, each with very different Baltimore histories; genteel Anne Tyler and wild Larry Doyle.

I think I'll keep going, back here where I started.