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.
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
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.
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.
AN AMERICAN PATRIARCH
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.
near Oldham Street and
during the Great Depression.
Frances Theresa Prato, front
row, far left
married to Rafael Alvarez at Our Lady of Pompei
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
William Jones, brewery work, at left.
Anna Potter Jones, longtime
member of the
Int. Ladies Garment Workers Union
in glasses at
Little Ralphie in playpen.
Photo taken in backyard of 2614 Daisy
First home before move to Linthicum in
prince of the Canton bar
and one hell of a frying pan cook.
Gloria Theresa Jones
girl of Dillon Street
and St. Casimir parish
born Dec. 13, 1934.
Watterson "Mack" Miller.
credit: Macon Street
discussing his teenage voyages to South America
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
Story Company launched at Asbury Park, N.J. (Note shirt from the "Fred Sanford
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
The contest was judged by James Alan McPherson.
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.
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.
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.