Here’s some of the dialogue I plan to include in my talk on Saturday for Mencken Day. Its title is “When America Was Great and Baltimore Knew Better.”
Bodie: The radio in Philly is different?
Shamrock: N-word, please, you gotta be f-word with me. You ain’t never heard a radio station outside of Baltimore?
Bodie: Man, I ain’t never left Baltimore except that Boys Village s-word, one day, and there wasn’t no radio up in that b-word.
[Shamrock starts to hit the pre-set buttons.]
Bodie: Come on, man, you’re killin’ me.
[Shamrock tunes into Prairie Home Companion and viewers hear Garrison Keillor say, “It’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegone, my home town. It’s been
perfect tomato weather out there. . .]
Bodie: This a Philly station?
Shamrock: How the heck should I know?
Bodie: Why would anyone ever want to leave Baltimore? That’s what I’m askin’.
McNulty: I feel like I don’t even belong to any world that even bleeping matters.
Greggs: ‘Cause you’re a cop?
McNulty: Nah, it’s not just that. It’s like, I went to meet her once; she was in a hotel room on the top floor. I punched the button on the elevator and it doesn’t even go there. You gotta have some kind of special key to even get to that special f-word floor. So I go to the front desk, some sneering f-word calls upstairs, gives me permission to go and get laid. I listen to the s-word she talks about and it’s the first time in my life I feel like a f-word doormat. Like anyone else with any smarts would do something else with his life, you know? Earn money, or … get elected. Like I’m just a breathing [sex] machine. I’m serious; I’m the smartest a-hole in three districts and she looks at me like I’m some stupid f-word playing some stupid game for stupid penny-ante stakes.
Jimmy and Bodie seem to have the same outlook that led Mencken to write this:
Human relations, in such a place, tend to assume a solid permanence. A man’s circle of friends becomes a sort of extension of his family circle. His contacts are with men and women who are rooted as he is. They are not moving all the time, and so they are not changing their friends all the time. . . . In human relationships that are so casual there is seldom any satisfaction. It is our fellows who make life endurable to us, and give it a purpose and a meaning; . . . What I contend is that in Baltimore, under a slow-moving and cautious social organization, touched by the Southern sun, such contacts are more enduring than elsewhere, and that life in consequence is more agreeable.
By the way, Machen is also part of the talk. Can you believe it?