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#309 Baynard Woods

Read the postcard profile of City Paper's Senior Editor

Baynard Woods was born in 1972 and raised in South Carolina. He nearly failed kindergarten because he was so uncoordinated that he couldn’t skip right or cut with scissors. He hated school and was happiest wandering the woods behind his house. Baynard was largely unhappy (unless he was daydreaming) until he started skateboarding in sixth grade and girls started liking him.

In high school, Baynard started doing lots of drugs and got busted often. It was the height of the war on drugs and he flaunted the fact that he smoked weed. At the time, he was also reading Nietzsche, the English Romantics, and the Beats while flunking all his classes. He got kicked out of two schools and then his parents kicked him out of the house after his mom found him in bed with a stripper. Baynard moved in with her and they traveled North America. She danced and he drove. They ended up in New Mexico and Baynard started studying ancient Greek. He loved memorizing verb forms and the beauty of the Greek constructions. He wanted something difficult so he could prove himself. The stripper left him to follow the Grateful Dead and Baynard became an obsessive Buddhist. He spent time at a monastery, where he was seduced by a nun, and cured of religion.

In 2003, Baynard met his wife, Nicole King, when she was on a date with his good friend Charles Steen. Nicole is a professor at UMBC, both super-brilliant and super-grounded. By the end of the night, they had ditched Charles, but Nicole was frightened by Baynard’s place, which had giant stacks of books and no furniture. At 30, while trying to quit smoking, Baynard started to play the banjo that he inherited from his granddad. The banjo became a substitute for cigarettes and he wrote some country songs for a character in a novel he was writing. After that, he started playing in country bands. In 2004, Baynard got his Ph.D. in ancient philosophy for a dissertation that used Plato and Thucydides to argue that we eventually become bad people as our mistakes compound each other over time.

In 2008, Baynard became a reporter, which is the only way to live the Socratic life (the good life). Only by talking to as many people as possible, by trying as much as possible to see the world from different perspectives, can he hope to create some kind of approximate patchwork of truth. In 2010, Baynard published a book about a sheriff who used voodoo to govern a county in South Carolina.

Now Nicole and Baynard have been married for 10 years. They have family meetings and keep minutes in a logbook so they can look back at their decision-making. Baynard’s life would probably be an utter wreck without Nicole, but she keeps him sane and living at an acceptable level of humanity (instead of in squalor and doing nothing but work). They don’t own a house or a car and their lives are infinitely richer because of it. Walking and riding public transport are the best ways to get to know Baltimore, which they both love madly. Now Baynard plays in the rock and roll group called the Barnyard Sharks (with songs based on the Iliad and Odyssey) and writes librettos for the opera company Rhymes with Opera. He’s an editor and writer for City Paper. And he’s writing a book about people who still believe in the Greek gods. He would never say anything against Athena or Aphrodite.


Card Sharp: Michael Kimball writes your life story... and his own
#309 Baynard Wood: Read the postcard profile of City Paper's Senior Editor written by Michael Kimball


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