The Detective’s Daughter :The New York Trip Part 1

We are having a technical problem this morning. Earlier comments have been lost and you may get a second message announcing this post. We apologize for any inconvenience!

Kim, back in Baltimore, planning the next getaway.

Last month I visited one of my favorite cities, New York. I try to get there at least twice a year. Though I’m not fond of crowds or the Times Square hubbub, the West Village has wrapped itself around my heart. It was the Jane Hotel that first introduced me to this lovely neighborhood several years ago.

The Jane Hotel, designed by William A. Boring and opened in 1908 as a hotel for sailors, is not only a beautiful and inexpensive place to stay but is rich with history. More than 100 survivors of the Titanic stayed at the hotel during the American Inquiry into the sinking of the ocean liner in 1912. The sailors felt right at home in the cabin-like rooms.

I stay in a “Captain’s” room usually on the third floor with a view of the Hudson River. The rooms are a fair size though not overly large, but you could swim in the bathtubs! The Jane also has a restaurant and a nightclub. Even if you’re not a “clubbier” it is worth going to see the Victorian architecture.

In the late 1980’s RuPaul lived in the “penthouse” apartment which is now the rooftop bar. Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Million Dollar Club were among the bands who performed there in the 1990’s.

As much as I love New York, I believe I really go just to stay at the Jane. Everything else is a bonus.

Readers, Join me next month to learn about all the fabulous places I visited when I was able to drag myself from the hotel. In the meantime, please share your favorite hotel experience.

The Detective’s Daughter — Snow! Snow! Snow!

Kim, in Baltimore, watching her cement steps crumble under layers of salt.

When I was about seven years old, don’t even ask me what year that was, we had an incredible snowstorm. The snow was piled so high we had to tunnel through it. Now granted, I was a little kid, so the snow banks might not have been quite that impressive to the adults, but it was bad enough that everything in Baltimore was shut down and the National Guard was transporting all medical personnel and law enforcement to work.

Nana, Mom, and I stood at the door and watched as Daddy climbed up into a truck that had wheels almost as tall as my father. You see these over-sized trucks everywhere today – don’t even get me started on that! – but back then, other than a tractor trailer, people did not drive these types of vehicles. A man inside had to help pull Daddy in. I remained there as the truck drove away, its tires crunching across the ground breaking the cold silence.

The snow days of my childhood were thrilling, filled with hot chocolate, popcorn and endless hands of 500 Rummy. If Daddy wasn’t called into work, he would pull me on my sled or we would walk our St. Bernard, Barney, to the park. I can’t recall one time my parents rushing out to the grocery store or any of our television programs being interrupted by a haggard looking weather forecaster predicting doom.

My family loves snow, though we don’t get very much of it here in Baltimore. Just seeing the snowflake symbol pop up on my phone brings a smile to my face and I rush to my pantry to make sure I have our snowy day essentials. Coffee, cocoa, popcorn and the ingredients for a hearty soup or dumplings are always available.

Now my own children are grown. They no longer sit on the stairs anxiously awaiting to hear if their school is closed. They don’t need any assistance with their coats or boots and mostly know where they’ve left their gloves and hats.

Last Saturday night I sat near the window, my coffee mug in hand, and watched as heavy wet snowflakes dropped from the sky. The yard was empty, but in my heart two beautiful children ran with their dog and flung themselves on the ground to make snow angels.

One of my favorite movie scenes is from White Christmas. Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye and Vera Allen are on a train headed for Vermont. While sitting in the dining car they create a winter wonderland on their table and sing of their love of snow. That’s how I feel. While others may be counting the days to spring, I am hoping for one more snow day.

Dear Reader: Do you love or dread snow? What is your fondest snow day memory?

The Detective’s Daughter

Breaking news! Jennyjc is the winner of Julie Moffett’s contest. Jenny please send Sherry your contact information and she will get it to Julie:

The flu has hit the Wickeds! Kim we hope you feel better soon. We are bringing you this encore post — the very first one Kim wrote almost four years ago.

Today we introduce Kim Gray, winner of the 2009 William F. Deck – Malice Domestic Grant. We met Kim at the Seascape Writers Retreat in 2009. Her stories of growing up as a detective’s daughter fascinated us and now she will be sharing them in a monthly column. Welcome Kim!

By Kim Gray In Baltimore City

Today we introduce Kim Gray, winner of the 2009 William F. Deck – Malice Domestic Grant. We met Kim at the Seascape Writers Retreat in 2009. Her stories of growing up as a detective’s daughter fascinated us and now she will be sharing them in a monthly column. Welcome Kim!

With a mother who grew up as a grave digger’s daughter, and a dad who was a homicide detective for over thirty years, is it any wonder I spend copious hours contemplating death? I can’t see an abandoned glove without wondering where the remains of the owner might be. Every discarded trash bag left along the side of the road has the potential for holding together a dismembered body. Even the innocence of a free floating balloon brings my thoughts to mayhem. I can not help myself.

kimbabypicAs a child, I didn’t spend a great deal of time with my dad. He worked everyday, after all, this was Baltimore City, a place synonymous with murder. Dad was a busy man. He was also a man of few words. There wasn’t a great deal of conversation during dinner, for my mom was also a quiet person. On the nights Dad brought home a folder of a case he was working on, well that was a treat. On those nights he actually talked with us. There was nothing he loved more than to discuss a case. I hung on every word and they seeped through my skin and into my bloodstream.

On occasion Dad would let me run an errand with him. We’d be driving down a street and he would point out locations where bodies had been found. Later in life I referred to this as Dad’s Homicide Tour. It was interesting and if he were alive today I believe he could have had an enterprising business.

kim's dadThe story I remember most clearly occurred near St. Paul street, in a very posh neighborhood. Dad pointed to a large Victorian house on the corner. “See that third floor window, over to the right? Well, we were called in there for a suspicious death. Parents claimed the boy hung himself. But I could see straight away it was wrong. Everything was wrong. The kid had a bruise around his wrist and the rope just wasn’t right. Found out within an hour the stepfather had a history of domestic abuse. He killed the kid, said it was accidental.”

So many stories were similar to that one. Hardly a street was passed without a story of some poor person and their final moments in Baltimore. As hard as I tried to pay attention, listen to every syllable he uttered, I wish I had written it all down. At the time it didn’t matter what he said,or what story he told. I only cared that he was talking, sharing a story and some time with me.

On a summer night a few years ago I was sitting at a red light in a very posh neighborhood of the city. My own children were very young and my dad had been dead three months.  Looming ahead of me was a Victorian-style mansion. “Hey guys, see that house?” I asked my kids. They were busy looking at books in the back seat. “Well, years and years ago Grandpa Charlie was the lead detective on a case there.”

And so the tour continues to this day,with me passing the torch to the next generation of homicide hunters.

Readers: What traditions do you carry on with your kids?

The Detective’s Daughter — The Ornaments of Christmas

Kim in Baltimore decking the halls…and every other room!

It has taken me nearly three weeks to decorate our tree. This project began the day after Thanksgiving and our tree is not that big. The problem is me. I need to reminisce over each ornament then find exactly the right place for it to hang. Maybe by Christmas Eve it will be finished.

Growing up in the house in South Baltimore, we had two Christmas trees. One was downstairs in my grandparents’ apartment and the other was upstairs in our apartment. Both were artificial and I was an adult before I realized people could have live trees other than in movies.

Nana had a beautiful silver tree that sat on a table she sometimes gift wrapped. The ornaments were all silver like the tree, but changed colors as the color wheel turned.

Mom’s tree was a traditional green wrapped in colored bubble lights and adorned with ornaments that she and I (and sometimes Daddy) had made. We would sit at the kitchen table and paint wooden gingerbread men, angels and houses. There was also a trio of angels made from feathers. They were my favorites.

As I decorate my own tree I remember all these stories and how each lovely ornament came into my possession. There are the ornaments I was given by my students when I taught Kindergarten, the little things my own children have made, and the ones we’ve collected on our travels. Still, after all these years, it’s the ornaments I have kept from my childhood that truly mean Christmas to me.

I have recently found a beaded lady Nana made and have added that to my tree this year along with a snow-covered house my son bought for me last year. New items to hang beside old favorites. I still have one more box left of ornaments and though my family will say we have enough and the tree looks good, it isn’t finished until all the boxes are empty and the garland is draped over the branches.

I wish each of you a happy holiday season!

Dear readers: Do you have a favorite holiday ornament or tradition? Please share it with us.

The Detective’s Daughter — Lost Language

Kim in Baltimore enjoying the last days of summer.

“What’s black and white with a cherry on top?” This was my dad’s favorite joke. “A radio car,” he’d say before anyone could answer and he’d laugh as if it were the funniest thing he’d ever heard. A radio car.

A few nights ago two police officers came to have a talk with a man who lives down the street with his girlfriend. She’d been on the porch yelling at him right before they showed up.

“What’s going on?” my daughter asked.

“Not much, just a radio car stopped down the street,” I answered.

“A what?”

“A radio car,” I said again. She stared at me, a blank expression on her face. “A patrol car, you know, the police.”

This exchange left me wondering. Does anyone still say radio car? What other pre-historic phrases am I using that baffles my family and friends?

Have you noticed people seldom say telephone anymore? It’s either landline or cell. I’ve even had to describe to my kids about  phone booths.

I think back to my own childhood and the phrases my grandmother would use. When she said, “I’m going to lay across the bed,” that meant she was going to take a nap. And that was exactly what she would do, lay across her bed and not on the pillow or under the covers. I still say this, but it means I’ll be napping upstairs and not on the couch.

One of my favorites was the word “jackpot”. And no, it didn’t mean a big prize, in fact quite the opposite. If you were in the jackpot it meant you were in a great deal of trouble, not a winner.

For years we said things such as icebox and hanky because that’s what my grandparents said.

Why is it that some expressions hang on while others disappear? Is it because times change or is it that we move farther from our families these days and the old terms fade away with our distance from them?

My daughter is never going to use the term radio car, or say she’s in a jackpot, but hopefully some of my “old” sayings will be passed along for future generations to wonder over.

Readers: What phrases or words do you remember your parents using that are no longer in fashion?

The Detective’s Daughter

Kim in Baltimore protecting my eyes from the eclipse.

Nat King Cole sang about those lazy, hazy days of summer as Nana cooked in the kitchen. I could hear the music as I played in the yard. The windows were wide open despite the muggy heat of a Baltimore summer and the fact that Nana had a brand new air conditioner. She refused to turn it on no matter how hot the temperature.

I lounged in a tiny pool that Pop-Pop used a bicycle pump to inflate. Nana had put several throw rugs and an old comforter to protect the bottom of the pool and to cushion my feet from the hot cement.

Sometimes my friend Valerie from down the street would come over to sit in the cool water with me, but most often it was my dog Rikki who kept me company. He stayed in the shade under our picnic table watching over me as Pop-Pop sat dozing in his lawn chair with a transistor radio to his ear listening to the Oriole game.

This is how I remember the summer days of my youth. Baseball games, steamed crabs on Sundays, snowballs at night. I can close my eyes and conjure up the smell of Nana’s rose garden after an afternoon storm and hear the whistle of the trains passing the house and smell the tar of the street that was too hot to walk across in bare feet.

I tried to recreate those summers for my own children; the freezer stocked with juice pops, a wading pool in the yard, a gentle dog to keep watch. I have an air conditioner in the window I rarely use. When we first moved to the house we only had a few fans. In the morning I’d strip the beds and load all our sheets in the freezer for the day. At bedtime we’d grab them out and run as if the devil chased us up the stairs, throwing ourselves onto the sheets not even bothering to smooth them out or tuck them in. We just wanted to enjoy those few moments on the icy bed.

The coolness of the sheets was as brief as those summers that we remember not so much for the warmth of the days, but the happiness of being together.

Readers: What are your favorite childhood summer memories?



The Detective’s Daughter — Page to Screen

Kim in Baltimore enjoying the air conditioning and a cool glass of watermelon lemonade.


I’m going to do a dangerous thing. I’m going to read a book and then see the movie! What’s that you say? Don’t do it? I know, I know! I set myself up this way every time. Although most novels make a disappointing show on the big screen, a few have managed to capture the essence of the author’s story. I loved Practical Magic, the fabulous book by Alice Hoffman turned into an equally fabulous (in my opinion) movie starring Aiden Quinn. I  think Sandra Bullock was in it, too, but who knows once Aiden Quinn hits the screen! To Kill A Mockingbird and Gone With The Wind are two of my other favorites.

People are passionate over the books they love and are not forgiving when Hollywood botches up a story the reader holds dear. I am a great fan of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. I was thrilled when I learned Ms. Evanovich modeled her character after Sandra Bullock. That was exactly who I saw as I read each novel. When there was talk of One For The Money being filmed, I was overjoyed. That fizzled fast enough when word spread that Katherine Heigl – not Sandra Bullock – was to play the lead role. I gave it a chance anyway. Who wouldn’t want to see Debbie Reynolds as Grandma Mazur? I was sorely disappointed.

This time will be different, though, I’m sure of it. While sitting in The Charles Theatre taking part in their weekly revival series, I saw the coming attractions for My Cousin Rachel starring Rachel Weisz. It looked good enough that I felt I’d be willing to pay for a full price movie ticket. I had read Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca several times and had seen the 1940 movie as well, but I’d never read My Cousin Rachel. I made haste to my local library and borrowed a copy. I was only halfway through the novel when I realized the movie was showing at my beloved Charles Theater. I was truly torn about going before I’d completed the book, but didn’t want to miss it’s run at my favorite movie house.

Just as in every great novel, my life had a major plot twist before I could make it to the cinema. My husband ended up having heart surgery on the very day we had planned to see the movie. He recovered at an amazing speed, but we have yet to see the film. I might need to wait until it’s on Netflix at this rate.

The book kept me company over these past weeks and the story now is as close to me as a dear friend. I’m counting on Rachel Weisz not to disappoint me.


Readers: What books do you think were turned into enjoyable movies? Which ones should have stayed on the pages?