ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Rafael Alvarez was born on May 24, 1958 - Bob Dylan's 17th birthday - in Baltimore's old St. Agnes Hospital, the first of three sons born to Manuel Alvarez, a tugboat engineer from Highlandtown and Gloria Jones Alvarez, a homemaker who was raised on Dillon Street in Canton.

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Rafael Alvarez was born on May 24, 1958 - Bob Dylan's 17th birthday - in Baltimore's old St. Agnes Hospital, the first of three sons born to Manuel Alvarez, a tugboat engineer from Highlandtown and Gloria Jones Alvarez, a homemaker who was raised on Dillon Street in Canton.


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Alvarez was educated in Catholic schools and as a child spent many hours reading the World Book Encylopedia. He decided, without knowing exactly why, to become a writer while in the 3rd grade at Linthicum Elementary School, having been moved by teacher Jean Ortgies and her narration of "Stuart Little," by E.B. White.

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By age of 19, having spent two summers sailing up and down the Atlantic Coast as an ordinary seamen in the Seafarer's International Union, he landed a staff job with Baltimore's City Paper and was hired to dispatch trucks in the circulation department of the Baltimore Sun.

In his early days at The Baltimore Sun, Alvarez compiled horse racing charts for the sports department, working alongside such Runyonesque greats at Jimmy Jackson, Cameron Snyder and the immortal Lou Hatter. On his nights off of the sports desk, he chased rock and roll stars and bluesmen for the paper.



GALICIAN ROOTS OF
AN AMERICAN PATRIARCH

Rafael Alvarez Veiga (above), age 16 in 1920, at the time of his registration for Spanish maritime service. Within five years, he will have landed in Baltimore and dropped his mother's last name of Veiga.


Prato siblings
near Oldham Street and Foster Avenue
during the Great Depression.
Frances Theresa Prato, front row, far left
married to Rafael Alvarez at Our Lady of Pompei
in Highlandtown
1925. Mother of Manuel Alvarez and grandmother of Rafael Alvarez, Frances died in June, 1976.


Anna Potter Jones (above) - the author's maternal grandmother - hanging laundry in the backyard of 2729 Dillon Street, where she was born. Photo circa 1940s.


Author's maternal grandparents circa 1959.
William Jones, brewery work, at left.
Anna Potter Jones, longtime member of the
Int. Ladies Garment Workers Union
in glasses at right.
Little Ralphie in playpen.
Photo taken in backyard of 2614 Daisy Avenue
Lansdowne, Maryland.
First home before move to Linthicum in '66.



Willie Jones
prince of the Canton bar rooms
and one hell of a frying pan cook.
1907-to-1971



Gloria Theresa Jones
author's mother
a girl of Dillon Street
and St. Casimir parish
born Dec. 13, 1934.


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SUMMER 1983

Watterson "Mack" Miller.

credit: Macon Street Books


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Manuel Alvarez
Seafarer and tugboatman
discussing his teenage voyages to South America
from the kitchen table of his parents' home
627 South Macon Street



Alvarez would work for the sports department from the fall of 1978 through early 1981, when he was moved to the City Desk to take dictation from foreign correspondents and learn to cover the police districts.

For a detailed chronology of Rafael's journey from circulation to the City Desk, see foreword to "Hometown Boy," a collection of his newspaper articles published in 1999 by the Baltimore Sun.

In 1987, he launched a small literary press called The Story Company and in 1989, weary of promoting other writers, committed a self-taught fiction apprenticeship and began devoting all of his spare time to writing short stories.

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Summer, 1987. Story Company launched at Asbury Park, N.J. (Note shirt from the "Fred Sanford Collection.)

His first stories - tales about relatives and Elvis and the lovers Orlo and Leini - began appearing in small literary magazines shortly thereafter. In 1994, Alvarez's best-known tale - "The Fountain of Highlandtown" [Woodholme House, 1997], won Baltimore City's Artscape Award for the short story.

The contest was judged by James Alan McPherson.



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Alvarez with his friend and mentor, Tom Nugent - author of "Not Mean Enough" - at literary pot-luck dinner on Macon Street, January 1993.

Alvarez often entertains at the Little Pink Rowhouse in the Holy Land, where his family has lived since his namesake grandfather came to Baltimore from the Galicia region of Spain in the mid-1920s.



In the backyard, on a small spit of land between the Greek restaurants of East Baltimore's Highlandtown neighborhood and the riverbanks of the Patapsco River, Alvarez keeps a claw-foot bathtub filled with dirt from around the world - Fatima, the Lowell, Mass. birthplace of Jack Kerouac and the Polish countryside of his mother's ancestry. The tub was the inspiration for Alvarez's story "Orlo's Velvet Room," and in it he cultivates Maryland tomatoes and a bush of miniature roses that were present at the marriage of the poet Bonni Goldberg and carpenter/artist Geo Kendall.



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BOOK STAR bookstore (above), Nashville, Tenn., during "AUTHOR UNKNOWN 2000" tour to promote "Orlo and Leini." No one showed up and the tour rolled on to Asheville, N.C. and the grave of Thomas Wolfe.



Rafael Alvarez





Family patriarch and author's namesake Rafael Alvarez (1904-1990) at family gathering with (left to right) his son, Victor; son Manuel and granddaughter Donna (daughter of Victor) circa 1985.

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