Alt Wire with Baltimore Zine Maker William Patrick Tandy

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Alt Wire is a morning digest of links and information collected and explained by a different guest blogger most weekdays. Today’s guest is William Patrick Tandy, creator and editor ofSmile, Hon, You’re in Baltimore!(a Best Zine nominee for the 2009 Utne Independent Press Awards).  We asked him for five links and here’s what he came up with.

Baltimore has never done a particularly good job marketing itself.  The Powers That Be in the nation’s 20th largest metropolitan area strive for that “big city” recognition among out-of-towners who are otherwise abandoned to negotiate for themselves the gap between John Waters and David Simon – each of whom, like the world’s religions, might possess kernels of the truth, though never its entirety.  The following subjects – lesser known beyond the city limits – are a mere sampling of the scuffed heritage and earthy character that still captivate me, a Jersey boy, nearly 10 years after my arrival…

A. Aubrey Bodine: From 1920 until his death in 1970, legendary Baltimore Sunphotographer A. Aubrey Bodine documented life in Baltimore and across Maryland in the pictorialist style while simultaneously exhibiting his work and winning competitions the world over.  Today, Bodine’s daughter, Jennifer, maintains an extensive, ever-growing online database of his work, offering reproductions for sale.

The Johnny Eck Museum: Billed as the “Half-Man”, Baltimore native son Johnny Eck made a name for himself early in life through appearances on the sideshow circuit and, most notably, in director Tod Browning’s 1931 classic Freaks.  In later years, Eck became a renowned painter of window screens, a common practice in his East Baltimore neighborhood since the early 1900s.

Baltimore John Watch: Outraged by the area’s illicit sex trade (and attendant criminal activity), a handful of bold (and tech-savvy) residents of Baltimore’s Pigtown neighborhood launched Baltimore John Watch in 2008.  Contributors document the often brazen activities (which frequently go down – no pun intended – within feet of the elementary school, during school hours), going so far as to post photographs of the perpetrators, their vehicles and plate numbers. Curator Thomas Paul maintains this online repository devoted primarily to collecting the histories and images of old movie houses in Baltimore and across Maryland, most of which have been razed, long ago converted for alternative use or simply left to rot.  Paul’s brother, Adam, operates the equally engrossing Baltimore Ghosts: Unsung Monuments of the Monumental City, which delves even further into such esoteric history as streetcars, advertising, railroad lines, streetlights and more.

Baltimore Crime Beat: In his nearly 20 years with The Baltimore Sun, veteran crime reporter Peter Hermann has run the journalistic gamut from covering the city’s police department to serving as the Sun‘s Middle East correspondent.  At a time when the Fourth Estate more closely resembles the House of Usher, Hermann’s knowing which questions to ask (and of whom) as well as his insight and good old-fashioned legwork render this daily blog an indispensable portal into the city’s criminal element, its victims and the men and women of law enforcement who stand between them.

Guns and Potato Chips: Former bounty hunter Michael Papantonakis stands accused of selling guns over the counter at the Utz potato chip stall where he has worked since his old man bought the place 39 years ago.  “I love the Utz stand down there!” a friend of mine (and former employee in the Mayor’s Office) said in disbelief when I brought the story to her attention.  “Indeed,” I replied, “and according to the charging documents, so do the Bloods, the Crips and the Angels.”  Smile, hon, you’re in Baltimore!

Bio: William Patrick Tandy began publishing Smile, Hon, You’re in Baltimore! under his Eight-Stone Press imprint shortly after fleeing the Garden State for less-oppressive climes in 2000.  From the harbor to the hills, the submission-based Smile, Hon collects the tales of those on whom Mobtown has left her indelible mark: polished, professional essays; barroom sermons delivered from the sanctity of a favorite stool, the poet’s fleeting sentiment captured in both word and snapshot – a slice of Baltimore as told by Baltimore, all presented with the time-honored, DIY accessibility of a limited-run, handcrafted zine.  Learn more at

Previous Alt Wire Guests:Alycia Sellie, Davy Rothbart, Roger White, Dan Sinker, Phil Yu, Matt Novak,Jason Marsh,David LaBounty,Jen Angel,Will Braun,Regan Hofmann,Josh Breitbart,Andrew Lam,  Jessica ValentiJessica HoffmannNoah ScalinRinku SenPaddy JohnsonMelissa Mcewan,  Fatemeh Fakhraie Joe BielAnne Elizabeth Moore

Image by Davida GypsyBreier.

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