My Real Life Modern Family

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Woodstock – in Eight Trippy Minutes

1 Written by: | Wednesday, Apr 15, 2015 10:16am

Gary and Elana Vikan at Woodstock.

Gary and Elana Vikan at Woodstock.

Writer Gary Vikan–director of the Walters Art Museum from 1994-2013–reflects on his quick trip to Woodstock, a glorified study break during grad school, and what happened on the stormy way home.

“Wanna score a lid – $25?” Elana and I were in a small, old-fashioned grocery store attached to a gas station, on a rural highway in southern New York State. It was late morning, Sunday, August 18th, 1969. It was sunny and mild. We had stopped to gas up my 1968 red VW Beetle – the one that had yellow and lavender teardrop-shaped psychedelic decals in its rear windows, until a heavy-handed “pig” made me peel them off, claiming that they somehow blocked my view of the road. That VW was our understated hippy-mobile, and Elana and I were its understated hippies, on our way that morning to Woodstock. We had bought tickets just for Sunday, the last day of the festival, because Friday and Saturday, even in the dog days of August, were study days for grad-grind PhDs-in-the-making like us. The tickets, which I still have, were $7 each. That entrepreneurial hippy was offering us weed at what I knew was an inflated price because, I assumed, he had figured out we were Woodstock bound, and he guessed that we may not have planned ahead. A clue to our destination was the God’s eye, woven out of multi-colored yarn around two matchsticks, which Elana was wearing around her neck. She had picked it up the previous September somewhere between Big Sur State Park and the Esalen Institute, on California Interstate #1. We were hitchhiking, on our way to be part of the fifth annual Big Sur Folk Festival at Esalen. A small band of potheads in a VW van had picked us up; they were busily churning out God’s eyes in the intervals between stopping, in their paranoid delirium, once again to check out that odd knocking sound under the hood – a noise they heard but we could not. Read More →

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His Own World: The Mystery of My Uncle Steve

3 Written by: | Wednesday, Mar 11, 2015 10:03am

salvador1st+picture University of Baltimore MFA student Mary Walters describes her eccentric uncle’s life, death — and legacy.

The brown paper bag.

A few days after my Uncle Steve died, my dad brought home a brown paper bag from the apartment where single, childless Steve had lived for 17 years. It was soggy and heavy with coins. He dropped the bag on the coffee table mumbling “your inheritance.” My cousins, siblings, and I paid it no attention until the conclusion of whatever television show we were watching, and then my brother, Andy, peeked inside and wondered how many dollar bills those pennies would add up to—pennies could add up to anything. He drove to the Weis with the coin machine in Damascus and I came along. They added up to $38.00, $3.80 per niece and nephew. Read More →

Featured, My Real Life Modern Family

Dreams of Drowning

8 Written by: | Wednesday, Feb 25, 2015 12:00pm

Indonesian Sea. All photos by Ann Schlott Hillers.

Baltimore native Ann Schlott Hillers spends the summer in Bali with her three young sons and, despite fears, embraces the underwater world of the Indonesian Sea.

When I was in my twenties and childless, I dreamed a lot about drowning.  Not my own drowning, but that of my niece, Maggie, my older sisters eldest daughter.  First, she scaled a tall Victorian hotel whose roof was covered in ice.  As she reached the peak, I scrambled up the roof only to arrive as she was sliding down the other side, falling a mile into a lake of ice below. I tried to grab her dress, but she was slippery and fast. And gone. Read More →

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Toward Graphic Maturity

1 Written by: | Wednesday, Feb 18, 2015 9:59am

image via fastcodesigns.com

image via fastcodesign.com

Essayist Lindsay Fleming ponders the character hidden inside each person’s handwriting.

I’m filling out the permission form for an after-school activity and call Addie over to sign her name. She’s 11 and several forms in the past year have required her signature. She watches me sign in the space for parent/guardian. I hand her the pen. She says, “But I don’t have a signature.” Read More →

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Traveling on the Road to Love

9 Written by: | Friday, Feb 13, 2015 12:27pm

fenwicks

The writer and her then boyfriend, now husband traveling through Europe, 1997.

Unexpected challenges on a whirlwind trip teach writer Muffy Fenwick the true meaning of love.

It is a common joke in our family, especially when my husband’s antics are most pronounced, that I was a mere child when I became a bride and thus should not be blamed for my youthful mistake in love. But truth be told, whatever mistake (or lack thereof, as it may be) can be traced back to a trip we took after my graduation from college, a trip that ultimately taught me what love means. Read More →

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Local Art Teacher Shares Four Ways “Whiplash” Gets Art and Aspiration Wrong

4 Written by: | Wednesday, Feb 11, 2015 9:38am

Whiplash-5547.cr2

Writer/musician Ron Tanner takes Oscar-contender “Whiplash” to task.

Oscar-contender “Whiplash” — about a talented college drumming student under the tutelage of a maniacal master teacher– has made a well-deserved splash with both critics and viewers. The film’s pyrotechnic student-teacher duel plays like a hot-jazz cutting contest and you’d be the odd exception if you came away from the movie without great admiration for the acting: J. K. Simmons is a marvel. That said, the aptly-named “Whiplash” left me shaken because, as a long-time teacher of the arts, I found so much of its message wrong-headed, if not downright wrong. Read More →

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Checkpoint Charlie: Before the Wall Came Down

5 Written by: | Wednesday, Jan 28, 2015 9:52am

BigComboTrailerTwenty-five years ago, on November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall came down. University of Baltimore MFA student Ellen Hartley recalls a night in 1966 when she and her student husband tried to cross to East Berlin. What stopped them might make you grateful.

 

Halten Sie — sofort!” A guttural voice. “Schnell aus dem Auto!”

Danny slammed on the brakes of our VW Bug. We stumbled out of the car. A pair of burly border guards ordered us to step aside and empty our pockets.

1966, Checkpoint Charlie. My husband and I were students, out for a night at the opera in East Berlin. Read More →

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Black and White

19 Written by: | Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 10:19am

 

terriUniversity of Baltimore MFA student Terri Steel sees her loving family like any other, even if plenty of people stop and stare.

Other kids called us the Oreo cookie. It was the 1970s and there was no such thing as political correctness. Sheila, Shirley and I enjoyed being the cookie, or at least that’s what I believed. I never considered that perhaps it was because of my position in the shiny white center. Names like Fat Janet and Retarded Betty were common in my neighborhood. One of my favorite Saturday morning cartoons featured Bill Cosby’s voice as the lead; it was called “Fat Albert.” Read More →

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Father and Son: An Annotated Bibliography

0 Written by: | Wednesday, Jan 07, 2015 10:12am

image via homewiththeboys.net

image via homewiththeboys.net

University of Baltimore MFA student Michael B. Tager remembers his father’s recommended reading, and vice versa — and invites us to read between the (loving) lines.

Berenstain Bears Go Out For the Team, 1983

I am in his lap, his stubbly cheek against the top of my head, his deep voice patiently reading the childish prose. The Berenstain Bears are all I want him to read, though I have dozens of other children’s books.

Brother and Sister play pee-wee baseball. I relate, though our umpires and coaches don’t wear menacing sunglasses. Brother and Sister also play catch with Father. My father isn’t very good at catch but he plays with me, saying, “Relax,” and “Straighten your elbow.” Read More →

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Murtherfore: A Story of Alcoholic Inspiration

0 Written by: | Wednesday, Dec 31, 2014 12:00pm

1920s  Party

This New Year’s Eve, writer Lindsay Fleming remembers her father-in-law’s wit and wisdom, his whiskey sours and his elegant exit.

My father-in-law was famous for his whiskey sours.  When your drink ran dry, he’d be quick to notice and urge a refill.  If you hesitated, he’d settle it with the reminder, “No bird ever flew on one wing.”  When he died, copies of his recipe were posted by magnet on the refrigerator at the family beach house.  A backup was filed underneath the highball glasses in the art deco bar on the screened-in porch. Read More →

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Woodstock – in Eight Trippy Minutes

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