In Journeys to the Heart of Baltimore, veteran journalist Michael Olesker writes of the American melting pot-particularly Baltimore's-in all its rollicking, sentimental, good-natured, and chaotic essence. The stories come from neighborhood street corners and front stoops, playgrounds and school rooms, churches and synagogues, and families gathered around late-night kitchen tables. "Think of this as a love letter across the generations," Olesker writes. The D'Alesandro political dynasty comes to life here, and so do the legendary Baltimore Colts Lenny Moore and Artie Donovan. The old East Baltimore ethnic enclaves nurture youngsters named Barbara Mikulski and Ted Venetoulis, and out of West Baltimore comes the future Afro-American newspaper publisher Jake Oliver. Journeys to the Heart of Baltimore is a delightful reminder of the nation's ethnic and racial mosaic, where a future mayor named Martin O'Malley and a future Baltimore County executive named Dutch Ruppersberger first learn about the melting pot. Boys from Baltimore's Little Italy, like John Pica, go off to fight a war in Italy when they know their allegiance is being tested.
And a city struggles through racial convulsions, remembered by those such as John Steadman and Father Constantine Sitaris. "We overlap-or what's the point of America?" Olesker writes. "We compromise, we shed the garments of the past. But we simultaneously strain to hold onto yesterdays. It is the hunger of memory."
Michael Olesker has been a metro columnist for the Baltimore Sun for more than two decades. Before that, he wrote for the News American. Since 1983, he has been a nightly commentator for WJZ-TV's Eyewitness News. He is the author of three books, including Michael Olesker's Baltimore-If You Live Here, You're Home, also available from Johns Hopkins.
Contents: Introduction "Don't Give In to the Bastards" The Americanization of Zlotte Dancing on the Roof Times Square The Home Movie "America Was What You Saw at the Movies" Sinatra and DiMag The Man in the Closet Michele and Jake "You Do Not Have to Melt to be American" Crossing Park Circle Lenny and Artie Twenty-Three Nations Ray Charles in the Cafeteria City College The Forbidden Fruit The Riots "You Gotta Marry in the Faith" God in Protective Custody O'Malley's March