The front of my building: the scene of the crime, as described below, was just behind those fabulous red doors…I need the law and order transition right now…
A child is born in hard time Baltimore City, she grew up, in small town Harford County, she hit high school and went away to colllege, then graduated and headed for the west, and once she left she ended up back in Baltimore cittaaaaayyyyy. Ok, so if you read that like what in the world is wrong with this chick, then go back and sing it like the Stevie Wonder song, “Living for the City”. Tonight I’m in stream of consciousness mode which for me is the best mode to be in, so bear with me, everything will tie together. So today after work I was parking when suddenly I had a flashback to earlier this week when someone broke into my car (mercifully without smashing the glass) and tossed around all the stuff from the middle console on my front seat; surprisingly my first thought was I love living in the city. Then a quick succession of negative memories came tumbling forward to I guess, tap me on the shoulder and tell me why I shouldn’t like living in the city, but despite the tumult of memories: someone crapping in the vestibule of my building, the corner newspaper guy crapping behind a dumpster at the building across the street, numerous smashed windows aka car break-ins for others-I’ve had three in six years none resulting in smashed windows so I count myself amongst the lucky ones, homeless nomads aka squatters using the stoop as their living room or bedroom, Blanket Man (as he was named by the local college students) talking to himself in full stage voice down the block loud enough for me to hear with windows and doors closed-I wonder what happened to him, the city waiting for me to dig my car out of tons of snow then 20 minutes later (no lie) being so kind as to tow it- but not the other cars covered in snow- because it was in in an unmarked snow emergency route that only the city knows exists…I’m sure there are many more but I’ll just work with this little list of irritants and expand on the one that enraged me the most.
The king of all the afore-mentioned irritants was the crapping in the vestibule. It was a Friday early evening and I was taking out my garbage to place on the corner as directed by the city and so instead of going out my backdoor where I never would have found the pile of offending feces, I decided to take a shortcut upstairs through the front door. It’s as if I was meant to see this because I hardly ever use the front door. So I walk through the small vestibule, see it, and step over it to go outside. I even go back through the back door to avoid the pile but my conscience was eating away at me, ‘you live in this building, even if you don’t use the front door, what kind of person are you to ignore something like this’, blah blah blah. Short story, the guilt drove me to some kitchen gloves, bleach, and a roll of the landlord’s paper towels -she has a bathroom for her business so yeah I pilfered them, I thought it was my due since I was cleaning up hazardous waste in the public space of the building. I tied a scarf around my head somewhat like the one in my 10/18/11 post and grabbed a plastic bag like I was walking a dog. I picked that mess up, and believe you me it was a lot and it was heavy (blech!!!). I bagged it and liberally poured bleach on the area, cursing in my head for fear of opening my mouth and tasting the fumes. All I could think is what kind of person would shit (I had to say it) in the vestibule of a building in broad daylight where anyone could see them? That must have been the most furtive shit ever…anyway, I was angry but did I pack up my apartment and hit the road? Hell no! I have a well-priced, well-placed (historic district) basement studio apartment with its own private (meaning street folk can’t walk up on me) entrance to a spacious patio that I call my secret garden, gorgeous architectural details like built in bookshelves and a stone fire place I imagine maids must have cooked over back in the early 1900s, and a landlord who believes in staying out of your business. What more could I want right? Welllll, yes and no, my place is lovely but living in the city, no matter how nice the neighborhood appears is full of quirks and also some desperate people who do what they have to in order to survive. I’m definitely not condoning relieving oneself in a vestibule but I’m guessing that this wasn’t someone headed to work, like oh wow, I gotta go, ohhh let me stop right here on this corner and take care of business. Nah, so living in the city means embracing the crazy from as far away as possible.
I grew up in Harford County Maryland in what I like to call, rural suburbia, and went to college in Bronxville, NY which was more like urban suburbia, then made my way to Los Angeles which was like high-gloss lacquered-finish suburbia, so after all that to end up in Baltimore- whose city motto used to be Charm City but seems more like a gritty crime thriller- is special. I wish city leadership would consider bringing that moniker back, because as grimy as it can be there are some magical moments (like my finding this apartment and eating a good lump crab cake with just enough filler to keep it together) that make Baltimore unique and fascinating. Share one of your special city or suburbia moments with me and come on folks in the suburbs, I know you have stories too, like watching people in a Wal-Mart or Target parking lot all dash for the parking spots closest to the door, cutting off fellow drivers and flipping you the bird in their attempt to walk the fewest steps as possible.