Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story
(on a postcard)

This Was Pretty Nice

Baltimore Magazine included me on their list of Top Five Writers -- along with John Waters, Laura Lippman, Madison Smartt Bell, and Stephen Dixon. Here's the blurb: "One of the funniest guys around wrote Us, one of the saddest and most poignant books that you'll ever read."
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#272 Bill Hughes: Longshoreman, Lawyer, Actor, Writer, Activist, etc.

Bill Hughes was born just after his twin brother Jim in the now defunct South Baltimore General Hospital. His mom was Irish-born and feisty. His father was short-fused, a local guy who worked on the docks and used "the belt" as punishment. One of nine children and raised in Locust Point, Bill learned how to swim in the harbor and played in Latrobe Park. When he was 7, Bill got detained for fighting, which almost caused a riot when Bill’s mom cussed the cop out. Bill’s mom dressed the twins alike. They were always “The Twins,” never Bill and Jim, which Bill grew to hate, but there was a good part to being a twin: they could team up to beat up the neighborhood bully, which they did. After that, The Twins were feared. In 3rd grade, Bill passed, but Jim failed. That ended the twin thing. Bill found school boring and the nuns at Our Lady of Good Counsel sometimes used him as a punching bag. He played on three championship soccer teams and was named “All-Maryland” while at the Calvert Hall High School. Bill got a soccer scholarship to the University of Baltimore (received an AA Degree). For 5 years, Bill worked as a longshoreman out of ILA Local 829 on the Baltimore waterfront. One summer, he was collecting unemployment insurance when he ran into a high school crony who was in law school. Bill thought: "If that dumb bastard can do law school, so could I." Bill attended the UB law school at night (where he received an “A” from Adjunct Professor Spiro Agnew and a JD degree) and had a day job as a courthouse clerk. One of the best things Bill ever did was pass the Maryland Bar exam. After that, Bill spent over a decade in the City Solicitor’s Office, where he was the chief of the Litigation Division for a few years. He was also a 24th Ward boss and an attorney for the Stonewall Democratic Club. During that time, a lawsuit was filed to stop Harborplace from being built, but Bill won that case. In 1958, Bill was at the Greatest Game Ever Played (the NFL Championship: Baltimore Colts vs. NY Giants) with his then-girlfriend Carolyn who he later married. They have a lovely daughter, Lisa, and three terrific grandchildren—Schuylar, Calista, and Kynan. Eventually, that relationship tanked when they realized they were incompatible. Now Bill is very happily married to Ann, who he met at a Liberated Singles event at the Unitarian Church. Ann is Bill’s rock, and they have one grandson, Matteo. Throughout his life, Bill has also been an attorney, an educator (an adjunct professor at UB Law School and Dundalk CC), a photographer, videographer, producer for Baltimore’s Channel 75, and an actor. He’s a member of AFTRA/SAG and has been in four John Waters movies. In Pecker, Bill played the Wild Man of 22nd Street. Bill is also an insatiable reader and loves reading and writing book reviews.
Bill has published four books, written tons of political essays, and been a columnist for many news outlets. He even did a stint as a commentator for WBAI’s Radio Free Eireann in NYC. Bill is proud of working as an activist and writer for the cause of Irish Freedom. Bill is a devotee of the American Revolution, loves to travel with Ann, and has a private pilot’s license (even though he’s afraid of heights). Before he dies, he hopes to witness the restoration of the American Republic. After he dies, Bill is going to be cremated and have his ashes tossed off Fort McHenry, after which he hopes somebody will belt out The Ballad of James Connolly.

[Note: You can see Bill's videos at YouTube and Vimeo, his photos at Flickr, and his column at the American Chronicle.]

#222 Alan Carroll Reese: Romanticism and Melancholia

Alan Carroll Reese was born in 1950 in Sayre, PA, a sleepy railroad town on the Susquehanna River. The running water and train whistles were some of the first sounds that Alan ever heard and this informed his early romanticism and then his general melancholia. When Alan was 9 months old, he had a severe asthma attack and turned blue in the car on the way to the hospital, which might explain certain bizarre behaviors. A tracheotomy relieved the asthma attack, and, later, an incident that involved grave robbing cured him of any bizarre behavior. Besides that, Alan’s childhood resembled a Leave It to Beaver episode in many ways. Growing up, Alan spent a lot of time digging for dinosaur bones, sleeping in tree forts, having epic snowball fights, and playing baseball in an abandoned field. But there were also David Lynch elements to Alan’s suburban childhood. For instance, his grandfather liked to pretend that he could swallow his tongue. Also, when Alan was 9 years old, 3 neighborhood boys tied him to a tree and threatened to eviscerate him. They were just playing, but the trauma was real. About 10 years later, Alan was sitting on a bench outside of Woolworth’s when a friend invited over a woman named Alberta who then made funny faces for Alan, which made Alan smitten. At 19, Alan married Alberta and then, on their wedding night, they drove all night to Provincetown where they lived for 2 years. Alan loves that Alberta lived life as a comedy and that she had an unmatched capacity for selflessness. Over the years, Alan and Alberta had 3 children—Camille, Jesse, and Joshua—and none of them are sociopaths, which was a kind of relief. Alan is most proud that each of them is a distinct individual with a great sense of independent spirit and thought, and that each of them is also bound by compassion. Once, Alan met William Burroughs, who made him a cup of tea. Also, Alan has worked as an extra in 6 John Waters' films. Further, Alan cannot recall a time when he didn’t share living space with a dog. In 2002, Alberta died of a sudden heart attack and Alan woke up that day into a different world, a Twilight Zone version of his life. The places resembled the world he used to live in and the people behaved in familiar ways, but there was the distinct sense that it wasn’t right. There is no next for Alan. There is only now. Someday, though, Alan might find a mountaintop cabin to live in and, from there, he will send internal weather reports to the survivors of the oil wars and watch the beautiful glow as cities begin to burn.
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