Charm City

So, the question of the week — aside from “Mom, can I have more Cheez-its?” — seems to be “aren’t you glad you're not in Baltimore anymore?” And to quote the great Al Bundy, “Uh…no, Peg.” I’m never glad I’m not in Baltimore. I would love to be back in Baltimore. It’s my home, my friends and family are in Baltimore, my history is Baltimore, and quite possibly, my future is Baltimore. Like most Baltimorons, I bleed orange and purple, I crave steamed crabs and beer throughout the winter, and I sometimes have trouble pronouncing the word ‘ocean,’ hon. I was even recently told I have an accent.  


The only times I’ve preferred KC to Baltimore the past year and a half have been when the weather has been significantly worse there — think: the elongated winter when the midwest had already moved on to spring, and Baltimore was still suffering slushy, traffic-halting, school-closing snowfalls. Otherwise, I’d much rather be sitting in traffic on the beltway…or dumping Old Bay into my bloody mary…or fishing a body out of the Inner Harbor. Just being able to view the Bromo Seltzer tower from my seat in Camden Yards would make me pee my pants with glee — though today, as I write this, anyone would love to have that opportunity — let’s go O’s!


I don’t want to get political here, I don’t want to offend people — though, “this is a revolution, dammit! We’re going to have to offend somebody!” Obviously, there are racists in Baltimore, and documented cases of police brutality, and opportunists looting stores for profit, but the anger and the passion, on both sides, are very real. The entire world, it seems, has seen The Wire and Homicide, has listened to Serial. They know it’s bad — corrupt politicians, “failing" schools, a fleeing middle class, gangs, drugs, blocks and blocks of empty, crumbling row homes, and a dangerous shortage of good Mexican food. Yes, dangerous. 


And I do not mean to undermine the poverty and the adversity and the “detrimental situations and shit.” Sadly, no one in the outside world is even surprised that Freddie Gray died in police custody, nor that many citizens were so enraged that they chose to protest, both peacefully and violently. 


But Baltimore is an authentic and honest city with authentic and honest people who are dedicated to the improvement of the city and its honor and prestige, many even willing to bleed real blood in its defense and recovery. We have ideas and organizations that throb with innovation, pulse creativity, and tremble with imagination. 


Then there are, of course, the Baltimore dietary staples: Natty Boh, Berger cookies, crabcakes, and bagels. Growing up, most Baltimore kids endured obligatory annual field trips to Fort McHenry, Lexington Market, the National Aquarium, and the Maryland Science Center. Baltimore has a vibrant art scene: Artscape, the Walters, the BMA, MICA, the Visionary Art Museum, the Creative Alliance and countless galleries stuffed with local artists. 


I couldn’t even begin to name all of Baltimore’s bustling neighborhoods, distinct in intangible ways that words can’t do justice: Little Italy, Canton, Fells Point, Federal Hill, Mount Vernon, Hampden, and Greektown. There’s the real Washington Monument, Cross Street Market, Honfest, the Senator theater, EAP’s grave. We have tunnels and bridges all over and around the city, we’re close to the ocean and the Appalachian mountains, and we’re rich with history. Then there are all the “p’s” of Baltimore: Pigtown, Pelosi, Powell, Port Discovery, Phelps, Pratt, Preakness, Palmer, Patterson Park, and the Pride of Baltimore. Numbers like eight (#8) and fifty-two (#52) and twenty-seven (#27) are uniquely significant to Baltimore residents, and not just because they have an array of factors. Nineteen (#19), too, but that’s prime, so it deserves its own sentence.


Nate put it best earlier today when I asked him what exactly I should write about Baltimore. Yes, it’s sad that I consult a three year-old on a daily basis, but sometimes he’s very wise. “Thank you God for letting us live in Baltimore.” — Nate, tenure in Baltimore: February 2012 — September 2013. Thank you for tolerating my pro-Baltimore rant. I’m homesick and I’m sad and I’m prideful. Writing is just my therapy