I learned about the death of Jimmy Breslin this morning, and found myself mourning not only his death, but the death of a certain, quirky kind of New York along with him. As a columnist for four different newspapers, and an author of books (fiction and non-fiction), Breslin had a talent for finding stories about what could, in a different era, be called characters. That is, people who stood out from the crowd, for one reason or another, and weren't worried about what other people thought about it. Of course, Breslin himself was one of those people, so perhaps that helped him find those stories.
His columns, and those of other writers from what feels like a lost world of real journalism (like his New York Daily News colleague Pete Hamill), embody the New York I fell in love with many, many years ago. A city of characters. May it always stay that way, and may there always be writers like Jimmy Breslin (or almost like him) to tell us about it.
But Baltimore has its own unique individuals as well. Take, for example, Rebecca Hoffberger, who launched a museum that is truly unique to Baltimore, but one with a reputation that extends far outside of it. Take a look.
There is something about urban living, as opposed to its suburban and rural counterparts, that seems to encourage both a greater understanding of people (and empathy for them), and at the same time a willingness to be adventurous in meeting their needs. Perhaps that is, to borrow from an observation of Sherlock Holmes (by way of Conan Doyle) due to the fact that, in cities, people are quite literally on top of each other. They are forced to interact and, at the same time, have little room for pretense or artificiality in doing so.
May that always be true, in Baltimore, in New York, and all across America.