On Another Sunday in Baltimore
I was in Baltimore this past weekend to launch Another Sunday there. It was an extraordinary experience for me. First, that this book is really here; second, that people actually want to read it. And then being back in the city where Another Sunday takes place, albeit the Baltimore of the early 20th Century, was intensely emotional.
We stayed at the Johns Hopkins Mt. Washington Conference Center, which just happens to be the site of a major scene in the book, The Mt. Washington Country School for Boys. The Octagon Building, a pivotal location, is now lovingly restored to its former glory. Thank you, Johns Hopkins University, for that. How poignant to actually enter its foyer, to see where little boys, dressed in their military school uniforms, learned Greek and Latin and the history and geography of a century past.
The launch was held at the Baltimore Streetcar Museum, for streetcars play a major part throughout the book. The volunteers there could not have been more helpful, nor more enthusiastic, and all who attended, in addition to the “pleasure” of hearing me read, were treated to a ride on a 1900 streetcar. The actual streetcar, not a replica.
This journey back to Baltimore was also filled with sadness, as we visited streets and neighborhoods that are featured so prominently throughout the book, and which have not fared as well as the beautifully and lovingly restored Octagon Building. Time and circumstances have not been good to North Avenue, the Baltimore Cemetery, St. Paul Street, Maryland Avenue. Those areas, indeed Baltimore itself, have as central a role as do the human characters. And, like the protagonist Celeste, who starts the 20th Century with hopes and dreams and assurances, and who finds life’s challenges sometimes unwinnable, so too does Baltimore, the real Baltimore, not the ersatz posturing of million-dollar harbor-view condominiums and restaurants featuring hundred-dollar plates of spaghetti.
And I realize that for my Baltimore, its time is past. Jobs have vanished, thousands upon thousands of vacant and derelict houses remain, hidden to the visitor’s eye behind the harbor’s Potemkin façade. It is almost impossible not to despair. My Baltimore is gone.
I write of a time in the early 20th Century, a time when the city thought it faced a bright future. For me, it’s better that way.
Another Sunday, www. cynthiastrauff.com