My birthplace is on my mind on my birthday

“I could tell he was from Baltimore.”

That was the statement my Finnish colleague made after I asked him if he had washed “200 Motels”, a move produced and directed by Frank Zappa. Frank and I have something in common: we were both born in Baltimore.

I came into this world on this date in the 1950s. Zappa predated me by a number of years.

Exactly what my Finnish buddy meant, I don’t know. We regularly discuss old rock and rollers, and he knows I am a native Baltimorean.

I had gotten “200 Motels” at the public library for my friend, knowing his affinity for and expert knowledge of old rock stars. With Jukka, I can mention a song and he will tell me the band, or mention the band and he will tell me its members.

When I got the DVD home tonight, and this being my birthday and all, I took a peek at the movie. It was a little too goofy for me. (Surreal is the word used by Wikipedia.)

The flick stars Ringo Starr and some of the Mothers of Invention, Zappa’s group. It is stream of consciousness (or “out of consciousness”) from the get go.

Baltimore, however, is not ditzy in the least, so in that case my bud showed he didn’t really know my town. He was just taking a humorous poke at me.

Baltimore is a deadly serious place. Watch a few episodes of the HBO series “The Wire”, and you will get the picture.

After I took a quick gander through “200 Motels”, I watched a program from Season 1 tonight. It makes Baltimore out as a war zone, which I suppose on its dark side, it is.

Even today, I read what amounted to a police blotter from the front page of the Baltimore Sun website. Murders, shootings and rapes. It’s the same old stuff in the “land of pleasant living”, as Maryland likes to style itself.

What other town could have produced the 19th centuries version of Stephen King. I am referring to, of course, Edgar Allan Poe, who died in the gutter in his hometown.

Baltimore does have a lighter and more positive side at times, however. It has produced H.L. Mencken, Babe Ruth, Spiro Agnew (a true joke) and of course Frank Zappa.

Baltimore recently hosted a Grand Prix race, complete with Danica Patrick. The press I read on the event discussed how it could help people get a different image of the city than the “gritty” verson of drugs and death portrayed on “The Wire”.

The city has been reborn in some respects. It has a nice harbor area now, unlike the old warehouses that no one like me would venture into as a kid.

The sports stadiums are top notch. I can’t believe Camden Yards is almost 20 years old now, as it was quite avante garde as a ballpark for the Orioles when it was built.

What about the teams that inabit them? I can’t say much for the much maligned, formerly great O’s these days.

However, the Ravens are first class. They could end up in the Super Bowl this year.

I spent my childhood in southwest Virginia and returned to Baltimore right as I entered my teens. I claim both areas as “hometowns”.

Usually it depends on Baltimore’s sports reputation at the moment as to which one I emphasize. Let’s just say that, overall, there are a lot of worse places I could have been born on this particular day in October.


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