On Bill Maher's program the other day, John Waters said that gay marriage is only the beginning: The next battle will be to allow chronic masturbators to marry themselves.
Naturally, this proposal came from one of Baltimore's most famous sons. Maryland is home to the most self-absorbed people in America. There should be a sign as you enter the state: "Welcome to Maryland. It's all about Me, so STFU."
It is one of the ironies of history that the NSA makes its home in this
state. Presumably, you can't work for the NSA unless you have at least some
interest in what other people are saying.
Los Angeles may have a reputation for narcissism, but don't believe what you hear. Most people in that city feel that they have no right to exist unless they've directed a film that made a billion dollars. Life there is humbling.
As some of you may know, L.A. has experienced a few earthquakes. There is a post-earthquake tradition of neighbors meeting up in the streets to trade "What it was like in my house" stories. The rules are simple: You listen politely to your neighbors' tales of falling bookcases and flying crockery, you offer occasional comments and questions -- and then your neighbors listen politely as you
story. In California, this is our most cherished ritual.
The rite differs on the east coast. Last year, Marylanders had a rare earthquake -- notable not so much for its strength as for the unnerving fact that it happened in a place where the building code is Whatever, Dude
. After the temblor, I walked outside to participate in the traditional ceremony.
Sure enough, an elderly lady in the neighborhood told me all about the situation in her home. I listened; I nodded; I asked questions. Then came my turn...
"Well, where we
She turned right around and walked back indoors.
Not even a muttered goodbye.
The same scenario played out several times that day.
In Baltimore, nearly every conversation works like that. No matter what the topic, these solipsists will find some way to turn the dialogue into A Discourse on Me Me Me.
If you insist on saying anything -- anything at all, however concise, however striking -- Marylanders will tune you out. Instantly. The eyes go unfocused, the gaze drifts. They cannot feign interest for even a few seconds, the way people do in other parts of the country.
Marylanders will react in this fashion even if -- especially
if -- you have met lots of interesting people and done lots of interesting things. Each Marylander thinks that his or her tiny, tiny little life is the Greatest Story Ever Told, and how dare
you pretend that other narratives have value.
When Ray Bradbury died, I told you fine people about the times I met him. Baltimorons would never stand for that. Some of the more literary-minded people in this town might be willing to talk about their own reactions to Bradbury's writings. But if you were to tell a Marylander: "Well, you know, I met the guy and..." Boom. End of conversation.
Trust me on this: When John Waters of Baltimore proposed that people should be free to marry themselves, he wasn't kidding. It'll happen one day. In Maryland.