Maryland has the distinction of being the only Catholic colony and of having been a neutral state during the Civil War. I have never lived in Maryland, and I am afraid all true Marylanders will be incensed to know that during my two tours in the National Capital Region (NCR), I did in fact reside in Virginia. I should probably keep that on the downlow and not put it on a blog or anything.
In 2004, I worked as the deputy public affairs officer at Bethesda Naval Hospital, which actually was then National Naval Medical Center (NNMC) and now is NNMC-Walter Reed-National Capital-OMG WTF BBQ or something. It looks like the Internet truly does live forever, as an article I wrote has digitally survived over a decade. I was working here when I served as the PAO for USNS Comfort on a short underway to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Newport, R.I.
The beautiful Art Deco tower (Building 1) wasn’t up to 2004 standards of patient care, so the non-patient areas were banished there. Public Affairs had a shabby suite of offices with a million dollar view of Rockville Pike. I think that was the first and only time in my military career that I had a corner office in the sky. Our big issues at that time were the birth of conjoined twins (who were later successfully separated and are now teenagers) and the Marines wounded in Fallujah. A young man who died of his wounds was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
Bethesda has always had intersections with history that weren’t happy. The first Secretary of Defense, James Forrestal jumped out of the window seven floors about my office. Or DID he jump? JFK was autopsied here; this blog has a first hand account. Nidal Hasan attended the co-located Uniformed Services University of Health Services (USUHS) –in fact I knew a prev med officer who had been in class with him. She said the other students’ complaints about his erratic behavior were ignored and that he was just pushed on to another duty station with a lukewarm OER. Highlights the importance of making difficult personnel decisions rather than passing the buck.
By some reports the photo lab in Building 1 is haunted, probably by an angry and exhausted photog on deadline, or maybe by Forrestal. One of my proposed ComRel events was a “Haunted Bethesda” Halloween tour, but it was kiboshed pretty swiftly. On a lighter note, the broad sweep of lawn was haunted with Canada geese who didn’t realize they were supposed to migrate but instead, in one instance, had their babies in one of the art deco planters. Apparently they were protected and could not be removed, despite the constant complaints of patients at whom they had hissed quite aggressively.
But I also had some fun in Maryland …
I once spent a Saturday driving and driving and driving to a State Park in southern Maryland to enjoy a crab feast. Wouldn’t be Maryland without crabs (GET those minds out of the gutter). It was a humble setting, an open shelter with a BBQ pit where corn and potatoes were roasting. Soon, however, two panel trucks arrived and were heartily cheered by the assembled company. One had taps on the outside and was filled with beer kegs, and the other had steam coiling from the doors. They unloaded boxes of freshly steamed Maryland blue crab. You put down some butcher block paper on the picnic table and dissected the crab with mallets and nut crackers. A native daughter of Maryland showed me the art; first you take off the top shell, remove the lungs and take out the mustard (optional to eat, and if you know what the mustard really is, you will realize why it is optional), then you methodically remove the meat. Don’t neglect even the skinniest legs; an expert can retrieve good stuff, and with amazing speed.
At one point I attended a wedding on a Civil War-era ship in Baltimore Harbor. The USS Constellation was the last US Navy warship designed to operate solely with sail power. Today she is cemented to the floor of the harbor, but you can still operate a nice party. Also in Baltimore is the grave of Edgar Allen Poe. Heard of the Poe Toaster (not to be confused with a poetaster)? Since 1949, a mysterious figure has been leaving cognac and three roses on Poe’s grave.
Overshadowed by the DC suburbs and Baltimore is the charming and more tranquil eastern peninsula of Maryland. Ocean City has a beach boardwalk that like all vacation areas is best enjoyed right before the season starts. I visited on a rainy weekend in April. Also check out the Ocean City Life-Saving Service Museum. They were the Coast Guard before Coast Guard was cool.
That sums up Maryland for me: life and death, healing and hospitals, graves and life-saving … and while conducting this serious business, we need to make time to feast, to celebrate, and to amuse ourselves.
Corey is not quite an international woman of mystery, but is hard at work becoming a regional person of interest. Previously both a Classics Major and an Army Major, she is currently travelling where the road will take her and leaving digital footprints at http://www.greensunla.wordpress.com. Upcoming reports may include improving trails in Muir Woods, diving from a liveaboard in the Bahamas, flying military Space-A across the Pacific Ocean, and taking a month long cruise to Antarctica on a refitted Russian research ship. You may also check out some older writing at https://coreyschultz.contently.com/ or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.