Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Happy Maryland Day

On this day in 1634, 150 settlers from England disembarked from two vessels, the Ark and the Dove, onto an island in the Potomac River. They named the island after Pope St. Clement I, patron saint of mariners, in thanksgiving for having safely crossed the Atlantic Ocean. March 25 is also the Feast of the Annunciation (called "Lady Day" in England), celebrating the visit by the archangel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary, a happy coincidence, as the colony these settlers were to found had already been named Terra Mariae, or Maryland, by King Charles I, in honor of his wife, Queen Henrietta Maria. Though many of the earliest settlers were Protestants, the Calvert family, who sponsored the expedition, were Roman Catholics (as was the queen) and explicitly wished Maryland to be a place where all Trinitarian Christians could live together in peace, making it a model of religious toleration.

Though I haven't lived in Maryland regularly since 1989, I still consider it my home. My formative years were spent in this lovely, quirky Midatlantic state and most of my blood relations still live there, including my parents. I remain a diehard Baltimore Orioles fan and miss steamed crabs and seafood that doesn't have to be transported hundreds of miles to reach my dinner plate. It was a great place to grow up and I suspect that my love for "rough edges" comes at least in part from having grown up in a state whose identity has been a weird mix of influences held in barely coherent tension since the beginning. Maryland's a southern state that never seceded and fielded regiments for both the Union and the Confederacy, though the state song's lyrics curse Abraham Lincoln ("The despot's heal is on thy shore," a reference to the fact that the District of Columbia was established on land donated to the federal government by Maryland). Geographically, it's both heavily urbanized in parts and extremely bucolic and wild in others. Our distinctive accent is like no other in the region and jousting is our state sport. And we boast a storied history of corrupt local politics of which perhaps only Louisiana can top.

Too strong an attachment to the place of one's birth can be the source of much evil, as history has shown. At the same time, I can't help but feel that a little parochialism might be a useful tonic against the depredations of this age of globalization. I like local oddities and quirks. I prefer it when everything isn't the same bland pabulum no matter where you go. That's probably why returning to the old school feels so right for me. Like my experiences of home, we're a weird, confused, cantakerous bunch. It's easy for outsiders to look at us and dwell on the individual trees without seeing the glorious forest of which we're all a part.


  1. "And we boast a storied history of corrupt local politics of which perhaps only Louisiana can top."

    I've lived in Maryland for almost 30 years. But as far as political corruption goes, my home state of Rhode Island leaves Maryland in the dust.

  2. Rhode Island? Really? I used to visit New England every summer and it always seemed far too stodgy to be corrupt, but then I was a kid, so I probably didn't notice certain things.

  3. My wife has ancestors who were tried for conspiracy to overthrow the government of Maryland - they objected to its religious tolerance.

  4. "I used to visit New England every summer and it always seemed far too stodgy to be corrupt"

    I grew up in Providence -- immigrants, crumbling mills, and the Mob. Although the last time I visited Atwells Ave., it looked more like a Yuppie tourist trap than the Little Naples of my youth.

  5. Just curious, why are you in Toronto then?

  6. Just curious, why are you in Toronto then?

    This is my wife's hometown.

  7. James:

    After spending several down days at work completely engrossed by your blog, I stumbled across this post, which, like much else you've posted here, quietly blew my mind.

    I grew up in Harford Co., and being within a year of each other's age, I imagine our timelines for introduction to the game are quite similar. Unlike you, though, I didn't stick with it: by the time 1E went out with a whimper, my best gaming days were well behind me, and I hadn't really given much thought to returning to the hobby until recently. In this regard, Grognardia has been an inspiration.

    Just wanted to give a shout out to a fellow Old-Liner, and Old-Schooler, I suppose.

    P.S. — I too remain a staunch Orioles fan of the Weaverian school, though I'm starting to lose faith that they'll every be able to consistently compete with the money-boys in the AL East.