Where did you go to school?
Was it Gilman? Or St. Paul’s? I’m tempted to lie myself up Roland Avenue, just to see if I get away with it, but no. I claim no pedigree beyond Montgomery County public schools and the University of Maryland.
Who is your favorite Baltimorean, living or dead?
False, erudite answer: Henry Mencken. More wit and talent than the next three best Baltimore writers combined. Simple, truthful answer: Ella Thompson. She lost a daughter, then tried to save a neighborhood. I never met anyone else quite like her.
What is the biggest mistake you’ve ever made?
Going miles out of my way to mess up a perfectly good marriage.
What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?
Making a new home with a new someone, after having gone miles out of my way to mess up a perfectly good marriage.
What is the greatest problem facing Baltimore today?
An entrenched culture of crime and drugs that flourishes in the absence of meaningful work—the kind of union-wage-with-benefits opportunity that built this city and brought dignity to tens of thousands. Also, we really need a great Chinese restaurant.
How has Baltimore changed since you’ve lived here?
When I got to town, the Orioles were on their way to a World Championship, there were maybe 20 open-air drug markets, and the mayor was an earnest, impatient, annoyed melonhead of a guy whose determination to leave the city better than he found it led to occasional bluster and tantrum. Nowadays, the Orioles are in oblivion, and there are maybe a hundred drug markets. Mayoral change seems minimal, albeit the current officeholder has a regular-shaped head.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Sometimes I plug in a guitar and play “Land of A Thousand Dances” for 20 minutes, loudly and badly, until neighbors bang on the rowhouse wall.
If you could write Baltimore’s motto, what would it be?
“Bawlmer: If you can’t live here, you ain’t right.”
How do you respond to people who feel that your books and television shows depict Baltimore in too negative a light?
I’ve never written anything depicting the totality of Baltimore, nor have I ever claimed such. The city as a whole is represented by a multitude of writers in a variety of mediums and we all tell the stories that matter to us. City living itself is an exercise in pluralism; everyone has a voice.