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A lifelong Baltimorean, born on Bob Dylan's 17th birthday, Rafael Alvarez has spent the last 35 years writing about his hometown -- and when he can get away with it -- nothing else. The author of the epic "Orlo and Leini" stories, he is about to finish a history of The Tuerk House, a pioneering drug and alcohol rehab in Baltimore that was one of the first facilities for the poor when alcoholism was decriminalized in 1968.
Alvarez wrote for each of the first three seasons of the HBO drama, " The Wire," and was especially involved in season two, which focuses on the Baltimore waterfront. His book about the show -- the encyclopedic "The Wire: Truth Be Told" -- was published by Grove/Atlantic and was nominated for a 2011 Edgar Award.
His influences include the great Johnny Winter, Isaac Bashevis Singer and the art of Henry Ossawa Tanner.
Number of posts: 13
Email address: email
Posts by Rafael Alvarez:
“The view was always fascinating, bewitching, entrancing. The eye was never tired of gazing, night or day, in calm or storm …” —Mark Twain
All sorts of things stand out on my 2012 Nevada summer vacation (more spider webs and dragon flies at the desolate and shimmering Walker Lake than I’ve ever seen in one place) from Las Vegas to Carson City and back again by way of Convict Lake and U.S. Route 395 in California.
Eating to Carson City
I recently returned to vegetarianism—not super strict, seafood allowed, the occasional cheat—after a 15 year glut of barbecued ribs, cheeseburgers and fried chicken, often as late as 11 p.m.
Diet and its exacting drill sergeant—exercise—have long been the last outposts of self-preservation. I long ago gave up this and shortly thereafter forsook that. But at 54, with a penchant for Pop Tarts and gas station hot dogs along with an aversion to vegetables, this new asceticism didn’t come a moment too soon.
It preceded by a fortnight a 4th of July road trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas to Carson City…
Two Cents Worth
I can’t imagine this happening in Baltimore.
Around the Fourth of July, I was drinking a “Blood Transfusion” cleanser shake (Thai coconut blended with spirulina and coconut water) and watching the hipsters line up outside of the Upright Citizens Brigade theater in Hollywood when a hail of pennies flew past my head.
The coins landed in the gutter outside of Real Raw Live at 5913 West Franklin Avenue, where I had purchased the drink for $5 and was enjoying it in a plastic chair next to the glass doors.
The cookouts and fireworks of July (hope you didn’t eat those deviled eggs that were left in the sun too long) have given way to the box-fan-in-the-window dog days of August.
It’s a time when lifelong memories are made, some beautiful. Others will forever stain that beauty like ink on your favorite blouse.
Covering the Waterfront
“I always wrote about me when I could … ” — John Lennon, 1970
I’ve been fighting this fight a long time, from my earliest days as an unpaid rookie on Russell Smith’s fledgling City Paper in 1977 to a recent impasse with a Wall Street Journal editor.
If it happens to me, I think you should read about it. That’s how I make sense of the world.
“I hate drunks, they are so obnoxious. I should know, I used to be one …”— Mary Carol Reilly on the fundamentals of being a cabbie.
She used to lie in bed at night, a 10-year-old kid imagining that one day she’d be a movie star. Though she never quite got the role—getting just close enough to feel the heat of the kliegs—the Mary Carol Reilly bio-pic is epic.
“The dreams helped me get to sleep,” said Reilly, a native Baltimorean whose family was riddled with alcoholism, mental illness, condescending haves, and subservient have-nots.
The Meat Man
“Catch a cannonball, to take me down the line …” — The Band
Clarksdale, Miss. – First, a moment of silence for the soul of a great American, the Arkansas drummer and singer Levon Helm, dead of cancer on April 19, 2012.
Here in the upper Delta – home to the country’s finest blues museum – I began cruising for early afternoon ribs. I’d passed the morning some 75 miles north at Graceland, taking photos and buying postcards at the King’s Memphis manse and then headed south on the highway little Bobby Dylan revisited so well.
Worthy of Comment
Also on the Dew
If you're a head of household in little Nelson, Georgia, you're about to be required to have a gun and ammo. If you want to, and if you can afford it. But not if you're a convicted felon or have certain physical or mental disabilities. The law is just a stupid as the reasons for it. The police chief, also the town's only police officer, said he hoped the law would make Nelson safer. But he didn't have any stats on just how unsafe Nelson is now, before the law. "Very minimal," he told ABC. "I couldn't even give you a percentage." Read on →
In this day of anonymous email trashings, un-informed blog posts, and you tube mistakes that last forever, we rarely see political second chances. But last week a disgraced public servant rose like a Phoenix from the ashes to reclaim former glory in the political arena. Mark Sanford has been elected to represent Charleston, and South Carolina, in the United States Congress. In a room where everyone is addressed as “honorable” Sanford will have an opportunity to regain the revered glow that accompanied him during his magical time as governor of one of the self-proclaimed great states in this country, and finally bec Read on →
Last Thursday, just before I took my daily two-mile run/walk hunger struck. A few bites of watermelon did the trick. When I bit into that cold sweet watermelon a flood of summer memories rushed in. I recalled the great tastes of summer and with those memories came warm images of youth in the Georgia countryside. I saw stacks of dark green, striped watermelons, red, ripe tomatoes, and heard the beautiful grinding of a hand-cranked ice cream churn. Recalling the great tastes of summer I thought will make a good column. I created a document and titled it “The Tastes of Summer.” I’m Read on →
For some reason, a letter from the lobbying arm of the Heritage Foundation was characterized as having been received by NBC News, as if it were some sort of privileged communication. In fact, the thing was a press release and rather obviously designed to change the conversation about the Heritage Foundation from trying to defend the indefensible "study" of Hispanic intellectual insufficiency to food stamps, a real two-fer issue. Two-fer in the sense of being offensive on two fronts since the dollars doled out represent a subsidy to industrial agriculture, even as they serve to remind the indigent that, if they're Read on →