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2.19.04 Harm City

Did Baltimore embrace me or throttle me to the ground and put me in a headlock, crooning all the while, “Succumb, succumb?” Dunno, but something about that town, according to local folklore and other anecdotal evidence, sucks you back in. 'Suck' being the operative word, because gosh, I love that town, but I hate that town. That is, by the way, fair considering I lived there for 6 years. Aside from being mugged at gunpoint, the thing that really got to me about Bawlmer when I lived there was going down to the mid-town—Charles St. area on a gorgeous spring Saturday afternoon and seeing…no one. Sidewalk dining options in that area are paltry at best, there’s a perfectly dainty little urban parkspace there that doesn’t seem to have much of a draw. In my old neighborhood there was but one (one!) block with commercial businesses, which was great but it feels so silly when you consider the economic geography of other neighborhoods in other smallish cities. But skip down a few blocks to the Harbor and the place is over-run with tourists flopping around with bulging eyes and wagging tongues like they’d just been washed ashore and stranded by the receeding Bay waters. Throw them back, I say! But no, as unsavory as they are, they constitute the life-blood of the city to a large degree. I know that several other neighborhoods enjoy a semblance of cultural and economic vibrancy, but I still never got why I had to cross town and hang out in a strictly defined 4-square block area just to rub shoulders with my fellow Baltimorons.

I do not josh about the mugging either. Stranger than realizing someone has just grabbed me and there is a pistol butt shoved under my chin was hearing that person yell, "What time it is, what time it is" over and over again. That's not even interrogative. What the hell that is? Also, it was funny when once my car got broken into because there was a pack of ciggies on the dashboard. I am not exaggerating. Someone had broken the window in a perfect circular smash right above where the pack had been, and nothing else in my car was even touched. At the time, it would have been better for me if they had taken my near-death Honda and left the smokes on the curb. But really, Baltimore isn't as dumb as it looks.

And I say this as a traitor. To live in Baltimore is to love it and to defend it, especially against the criticisms of a DC resident. Who can’t afford to buy a house around here outside of the 'ghet' with a capital 'toe'. Who loves to still run into acquaintances at old haunts each and every time I go back to B-more. Who loves the sick loyalty Baltimore has to its own sense of identity.

But driving back here on I-95 you pass that sign that reads “To 66 and points west” and, oh, but that twinge of longing is so strong it hurts.

reflect - reinvent ....rayclaire@gmail.com... what i used to think... what i hear... what i see... where i'd like to be...

the black apple... the girl who... sarah brown... thunderpie... evany... jenny b harris... posie... claude le monde... artsy... fartsy... jeff... random person in texas... another rachel... smitten kitchen... more of me... still more of me... even more of me...and yet still more of me...more of me but not for free...

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