Courtesy of the Baltimore Museum of Industry

The truth is, I was raised just outside Baltimore. Yet, when I say where I’m from, I claim Baltimore. This upsets some, but, the other truth is, whether I claim it or not, Baltimore always claimed me.

I never had a connection to place. Where I lived was just where I lived. It held no significance to me. At best, it held a degree of cultural weight: I was a Jewish kid and so was damn near everybody else.

I would go into the city on occasion. A show, a game, a celebratory dinner, even an embarrassingly basic day out…


Marketing: the act of using wordplay to grease your way into a person’s subconscious.

Grease. What a respectful way to enter someone’s head.

Yet, marketing remains a beloved tactic, whether the ends be moral or malicious. Our brains are calibrated to it, juiced by it. It’s in the bloodstream. Every minute of my waking life, someone or something has tried to convince me of the value of someone or something else.

Not with conversation, with manipulation.

Slogans. Catchphrases. Turns of phrase. Rhymes. Those obnoxious acronyms that for some reason must always spell out a word at best borderline relevant to…


Punishment.

The logic goes, if you isolate a person from others, strip them of their toys, and do this for an indefinite period of time, they will magically reflect on the nature of their transgression, understand why it was a transgression in the first place, and choose to avoid repeating this transgression in the future.

For children, we call it time-out. For adults, we call it prison.

For children, this method of punishment is a form of training. We call it training because, for the most part, bad behavior from children is no more than freewheeling cognitive exploration of a…


My introduction to politics was in the 6th grade. I had just spent 5 years more-or-less on social autopilot: too young to carve out an identity, and frankly too young to even know what identity was. Then again, not too long before that, I had just been introduced to toilet paper, so I like to think I was doing my best.

But then elementary school ended, and I was changing venues. Painfully in line with the social caterpillar-nowhere-near-butterfly that I was, I was blissfully unaware of the inevitable social grouping dilemma that was coming down the pike:

What lunch table…


Every so often in this uniquely strange country, an event occurs that peels back the onion of American society with exacting precision. You may even find that the part of the onion you thought you occupied, or the contingent of people you thought occupied it alongside you, isn’t quite as comfortable or clearly delineated as you once convinced yourself.

The storming of the Capitol building on Wednesday is one of those events. It asks us to reflect on the nature of not just their grievances, but our own. It asks us to wonder what the nature is of our own…


I get paid to be a time traveler, a revisionist historian, and a royal pain in the ass.

That is to say, I get paid to watch, analyze, and scrutinize police body cam footage.

I watch the way police talk — to citizens and about citizens. I watch the way they talk to each other. I watch the way they investigate. I watch the way they build official stories. I watch the way they choose who to arrest and who not to arrest. And I watch the way they talk about Baltimore.

And so when Barack Obama and Joe Biden…


“Are you concerned?”

“Not at all. Which is weird maybe.”

I came home to police tape surrounding my block the other day. Most of us that live in Baltimore have had the pleasure of this experience. Equal parts foreign and familiar. So incredibly finite that any attempt you make to wrap your head around it triggers a self destruct sequence that you have to frantically defuse before you can return to any modest breath of sanity. I say that to say I don’t think it’s possible to ever grasp the magnitude of a shooting. …


I was driving down Orleans St. the other day. East side. Past Hopkins. I saw something I wasn’t expecting to see.

I saw some of those new gray buildings. You know, that unnecessarily confident gray? All posted up in a little row. Like they just arrived at the party but only plan on talking to each other because everyone else is “ugh so lame”. Dressed wrong too. The whole kit and kaboodle. Never forget the kaboodle.

It’s one thing to be out of place. It’s another to be proud of it.

Like that one guy that inevitably walks into the…

Zach Zwagil

I’m an unmarried 30-something, I live alone, and I have no pets. So, I talk to myself.

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