You might be expecting – justly so – something about our blue crabs, maybe a paean to duckpin bowling, perhaps celebration of a few the best TV shows ever made (Homicide, The Wire and the inexcusably overlooked Hot-l Baltimore), maybe an excuse on the state’s equivocal position in the Civil War or its widely varied topography (You know, “we’ve got mountains, an inland sea – the Chesapeake Bay, and the Atlantic Ocean.) But, no, I’ve always been impressed by Maryland’s Marylanders, folks who were born and raised in the state or lived a significant amount of time there. They are an eclectic bunch, and I count myself among them.
The most obvious thing about my home state – aside from its pretty flag -- is that it’s rather irregularly shaped. The jagged border on the south suggest to me an irregularity in terms of its citizenry in contrast to the sharp Mason-Dixon line on the north. Let’s take a look at some of them, both the famous and infamous. Most of them need no introduction. By themselves they are no more or less unique than any other homo sapiens, but put them together in the same smallish container (It’s the 42nd largest state), it’s an amazing jambalaya.
Some of the justly famous folks, for example, include a bunch of musicians: Billie Holiday, Eubie Blake, Philip Glass, Frank Zappa, Tony Braxton, Doctor Dread, Nils Lofgren, Mama Cass Elliot and Ric Ocasek. There are writers and journalists too: Edgar Allen Poe (OK. He wasn’t born in Maryland, but he lived, worked and died there.), John Barth, H.L. Menken, Connie Chung, Dashiell Hammett, Upton Sinclair, Leon Uris, Walter Lord, Ann Tyler, Tom Clancy and me, of course! Other artistic types of stage and film you might know are Francis X. Bushman, John Waters, David Hasselhoff, Goldie Hawn, Edwin Booth, Jada Pinkett Smith, Annie Oakley (Sure, she was born in Ohio, but her only surviving residence is in Maryland), Mink Stole and Divine (These last two, if you aren’t familiar with them, you should be. They’re from the original film, Hair Spray.) Politicians and public affairs people? Sure, we’ve got them as well: Fredrick Douglass, Thurgood Marshall, Clara Barton, Nancy Pelosi, Steven Decatur, Francis Scott Key, Johns Hopkins (Don’t call him “John”!), Harriet Tubman, John Rawls (an analytic philosopher), Rachel Carson (I though her book, Silent Spring, was science fiction!) and John Hanson (Who? Why he was the first President of the United States! Yup – under the Articles of Confederation, and the one and only POTUS to have his body stolen by grave robbers and his grave site paved over by a parking lot.). Ok, there are tons of athletes from the irregular state: George Herman “Babe” Ruth, Jonny Unitas, Lefty Grove, Frank Robinson, Pam Shriver and Cal Ripken, Jr. You already know to two really infamous ones. There are no doubt more than two, but these are two nasty baddies of the worst sort: John Wilkes Booth and Spiro T. Agnew. Need I say more? Nevertheless, they are part of the Maryland mish-mash – best served with National Boh and eaten with crabs well-seasoned with Old Bay.
(Pictures provided by author)
(Pictures provided by author)