Bohemian Rhapsody

Bohemian Rhapsody, Culture, Featured

The Story of Laurie

13 Written by: | Wednesday, Jul 09, 2014 8:00am



Marion Winik shares the story of her friendship with an unlikely BFF, whose untimely death still makes no sense.

Chapter One

At the time I met him in 1999, my second husband Crispin was renting a little white house on an emu farm in Seven Valleys, Pennsylvania. It was on Granary Road, or Grainary Rd, or Grainery Rd, depending on which of its three signs you were looking at. Orthography is a bit of a gamble in South Central Pennsylvania; if no one knows for sure how to spell anything, at least they cover their bets.

One day while Crispin was out shooting hoops in the driveway with his little son, they noticed smoke rising over the hills of the farm next door.  Crispin is not much for visiting, socializing  or anything else that interrupts one’s reading, but as it became clear that this was not a barbecue but an uncontrolled field fire, he accepted that it was time to meet the neighbors. Read More →

Bohemian Rhapsody, Featured

Rhapsody in June

13 Written by: | Wednesday, Jun 18, 2014 8:00am


the-delaware-seashore in June

I am never going to leave Virginia Beach, where the boardwalk is stone and the hotels are a wall of blocks flanked by mulched banks of flowers. The bike trail veers from the oceanfront through a pine forest, deep and green. The waves are so gentle they almost don’t break. We have a coupon for a free drink at the bar.

In Narragansett, the bay is true navy with white sails scudding, the beach a smile of sand in a rocky clasp. There is no retail anything anywhere, not a hot dog stand, not a hotel. We dragged chairs for a quarter-mile to study real estate listings on the beach. If we had to leave we would surely return. Read More →

Bohemian Rhapsody, Featured, Lifeline

June Wedding Report: The Long and Winding Road

18 Written by: | Wednesday, May 28, 2014 8:00am



Photo by Kirk Bauer.

For many years I was a freelancer for Brides magazine, writing up weddings at the Museum of Natural History, at exclusive resorts in Cabo San Lucas, on cruise ships in New York Harbor, with bridesmaids in Todd Oldham or Vera Wang and flowers that might have come from the court of the Sun King. These weddings had theme colors and signature cocktails and bridesmaid favors and complex gift registries, the full monty of goofy traditions we heterosexuals have invented to go along with the legal and emotional essentials, and all were thoroughly documented in my accounts. Read More →

Bohemian Rhapsody, Featured, Lifeline

Big Times at Mama’s House: The Boomerang Update

14 Written by: | Wednesday, May 07, 2014 8:00am

Marion's dog

No one is happier than the family dog, Beau, to have everyone under one roof again.

Watchers of this space have read of the comings and goings of my children from the maternal roost in the past few years, though a news blackout has been in effect since last summer, when my younger son Vince put the kibosh on further reports concerning his personal life. Well, who can blame the kid? Anyone can see how annoying it must be to have a memoirist for a mother. Read More →

Bohemian Rhapsody, Featured

What I learned from Miley Cyrus

9 Written by: | Wednesday, Apr 16, 2014 8:00am

Teen girl fans at the Miley Cyrus concert in DC

Jane and Lily

Last week I saw Miley Cyrus in concert at the Verizon Center in DC and what a crash course in modern culture it was. Wake up, Marion Winik, it is 2014 and WE ARE GOING ALL IN!

Having begun my own concert-going career in the 1970s, when a show consisted of a bunch of guys in blue jeans and t-shirts playing guitars under flashing purple lights, and not having kept up closely with the pop extravaganza developments of Gaga & Co., I spent much of the evening with my jaw literally hanging open. Though I doubt I can come up with any better phrase than did Washington Post music critic Chris Richards — “Twerk du Soleil” — let me tell you about my night with the lovely and talented badass, Ms. Destiny Hope Cyrus, aka Miley. (Billy Ray, what were you thinking?) Read More →

Bohemian Rhapsody, Featured

Some Things I Never Thought I’d Say

27 Written by: | Wednesday, Mar 26, 2014 8:00am


Recently I got an email that was supposed to be congratulating me on a good review, but the writer managed to make it clear that she personally had some reservations about my work.

Immediately I clicked reply and began typing a sarcastic response. Read More →

Bohemian Rhapsody, Culture, Featured

Fear and Loathing in the Middle Ages

6 Written by: | Wednesday, Mar 05, 2014 8:00am

Photo via

Photo via

One of the things you’re going to see as soon as marijuana is legal is hordes of people in their forties, fifties, and sixties lining up outside the dispensary, finally able to get some weed without buying it from the kids. In fact, if you think about it, this is why decriminalization is upon us: the inaugural generation of American stoners is driving the lead bus of the social order and they cannot figure out where to cop.

Yet I will not be among the chuffed boomers dropping vac-packs of skunk into their Prius glove compartments, I’m sorry to say. I so wish I could enjoy marijuana — it’s clearly the most wholesome of the mind-altering substances, a superior vice in almost every way. Indeed, back in high school in the seventies I could not make it through fourth period without dipping out to the parking lot for a toke. But then I took a long break from my friend Mr. THC, first for spiritual endeavors, later, for poor choices involving hard drugs, finally for pregnancy and motherhood. Ever since, it hasn’t been the same. As much as I may love it in theory, bud is not my bud. This may be partly due to the fact that the weed of today is 50,000 times stronger than what was smoked in the bus-ports of yore, but I also suspect that have I some sort of cannabis allergy. Read More →

Bohemian Rhapsody, Featured

Madeleines of Baltimore

15 Written by: | Wednesday, Feb 12, 2014 8:00am


A favorite of the writer: tart fro-yo at TCBY

Almost Valentine’s Day, yeah, yeah, I know. I got nothin’. While couples are gazing into each other’s eyes over champagne and oysters, some of us will be ordering from the singles menu. And so, a love letter to food, which I adore and suffer from and play head games with as I would any bad boyfriend. In fact I just gained weight while visiting Africa, an accomplishment few can claim. Now back in the bosom of Baltimore I offer a Valentine to favorites from local eateries, which I seem to love as much for what they remind me of as what they are.

1. Huevos rancheros, Atwater’s

Of all influences I absorbed during the 20 years I lived in Austin, Texas, none has been more abiding than my passion for Mexican breakfast dishes, and I am always on the lookout for reasonable facsimiles. When my friend Ken was recovering from surgery in a rehab up north near the Beltway, I used to stop at the Falls Road location of Atwater’s to bring him a latte on the way to visit and thus came to try the non-traditional version of huevos rancheros served there. Three, count ‘em three, fried eggs served on corn tortillas with a thick, mild red chile sauce and queso blanco. No refried beans, no potatoes, no jalapenos, no ranchero sauce for that matter, but satisfying in its own way. Or maybe I’m just getting soft in my old age.

2. Cheese steak, The Real Thing, One World

Cheese steak was the signature food of my first husband Tony, born and raised in Philly. He used to go to the Italian market on South 9th Street with his grandma, and if he was good they would stop afterwards for a steak from Pat’s King of Steaks. Indoctrinated early in our relationship into this wonder of the junk-food world, I said farewell to Tony by ordering 100 cheese steaks from a sub shop in Austin for his memorial service in 1994. As you may know, Pat’s in South Philly is across the street from another cheese steak stand called Geno’s, and each has its own passionate fan club. The guy who owns The Real Thing on York Road in Towson used to cook at Geno’s, but we try not to hold that against him. And call me crazy but my daughter Jane and I like the vegetarian version at One World.

3. Tart frozen yogurt, TCBY Belvedere Square, Evergreen Cafe in warmer months

Probably due to my mother’s overzealous policing of my youthful eating habits, I have a kind of PTSD that prevents me from enjoying desserts. Fortunately frozen yogurt was invented after I escaped my mother’s surveillance. My first bite was a life-changing encounter with creamy cold sweetness for me, spawning an immediate fantasy of opening my own fro-yo store. Early frozen yogurt tasted like real yogurt, but soon a bland replica of soft ice cream took over. Only in the past few years has yogurty frozen yogurt come back. R.I.P. Mr. Yogato of Fells Point, a kooky, endearing spot where I first encountered the new “classic tart” flavor. Fortunately it has now caught on widely. Read More →

Bohemian Rhapsody

Out of Africa: The Baltimore-Kampala Express

11 Written by: | Wednesday, Jan 22, 2014 7:54am


The writer and her daughter on their African adventure.

The writer and her daughter on their Adventure in Africa.

“Think of the long trip home.”
-Elizabeth Bishop, Questions of Travel

For almost all of my twenties and thirties I resided in Austin, Texas; my widowed mother lived 2,000 miles away in our ancestral home outside Asbury Park, New Jersey. Game to the last, she visited often, particularly after her grandsons appeared on the scene.

She would come out of the baggage claim with her roller bag and tote, a Carlton 100 clamped between her lips, and after a quick kiss I would inquire, “How was your trip?”

For my mother, the reply to this question was no routine nicety. “Tough,” she might pronounce, sucking on the skinny white cigarette smoked in the car despite all protests. Then she would dive into the account with relish, exuding the triumphant yet embittered air of a field marshal summarizing a battle won after many reversals.

As her visit proceeded, others would politely pose the same question, and she would tell her tale again and again. Certain words would float toward me over the hum of conversation at a party or bar — runway, turbulence, layover.

Later, when I moved to Pennsylvania, she could get almost as much of a nail-biter out of her three-hour drive on the turnpike, fraught as it was with overturned tractor-trailers, inexplicable jams at Bethlehem or Pottsville, mysterious aberrations in the operation of E-Z Pass.

Well, the only pursuit more delightful than recalling one’s mother’s quirks is re-enacting them. I find myself adopting so many of the questionable habits of lost loved ones these days, from my father’s bellowing and name-calling, to my grandmother’s bottomless dish of Hershey’s Kisses, to my first husband’s weakness for synthetic codeine. An odd sort of memorial, but a memorial nonetheless, and in that light I present this logistics-only account of a recent trip to Uganda with my mother’s namesake, my daughter Jane. We flew there the day after Christmas to visit our friends, Jim and Steve, a writer and a medical researcher, who are based in Kampala for a year. Read More →

Bohemian Rhapsody

Assessing Your Assets

4 Written by: | Wednesday, Jan 01, 2014 8:00am


It’s New Year’s resolution time — no better moment to become obsessed with the possible flaws in one’s physique. University of Baltimore Assistant Professor Marion Winik offers this helpful measurement tool.

Welcome to the Butt Assessment Test (BAT)!

While factors such as personality, intelligence, education, and work experience are all important to a person’s self-esteem and prospects, these indicators are secondary compared to the importance of butt size. Even the most accomplished and beauteous among us can find herself trapped in a snake pit of self-loathing and madness if her butt is too big. And how do you know? When you end up in a department store dressing room with fluorescent lights and a three-way mirror and learn that a hideous alien life form is posing as one of your body parts? Fortunately, most of the time, your butt is in your head, and that is why psychologists have at last provided an assessment tool in this area.

While a written test like the BAT cannot determine the actual, i.e., “physical”, size of your butt, studies have shown that physical reality is less important than delusional projections when evaluating the effect of your rear on your daily life. So take a seat and let’s begin.

Sentence Completion Section

1. The best thing about my butt is

a. It looks so good in a thong.

b. Guys are crazy for it.

c. It is comfortable to sit on.

d. It is in a place where I rarely see it.


2. When I was a child, people made fun of my

a. little sister.

b. lunch box.

c. frizzy red hair

d. butt.


3. The most serious obstacle to my personal happiness is:

a. my boring job.

b. my tedious partner.

c. my drug and/or alcohol addiction.

d. my butt.


4. It is said that some men prefer women with big butts. This is

a. true in a song I once heard.

b. true in cultures to which I do not belong.

c. if true, proof of the existence of a benevolent God.

d. really not the point.


5. Which of the following is best for minimizing the appearance of your butt at the beach?

a. a French-cut leg.

b. a vertically-striped maillot with a belt at the waist.

c. a tricky skirted number.

d. a giant t-shirt which you never, ever take off. Read More →

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