So my whole ‘how I started living in Baltimore’ ditty (see below post) began because I was reading the City Paper’s annual “Best of Baltimore” issue. Gliding through the issue I began laughing at the sheer ridiculous loveliness that is this city. Highlights follow. “Best Brand Mismanagement” (“The 21st century’s corporatization of undergraduate higher education is the latest disappointment in the American Dream’s Ponzi scheme…”); whoever wrote this, I love you! I hollered when I saw the picture accompanying “Best Reason for an Asteroid to Hit Our Planet” (two words: tagged deer). I was happy to see “Best New Shoe Store,” I’d been wondering what For Rent Shoes was whenever I’d drive up my old block on Cathedral. I thought it meant shoes were for rent. It didn’t help that the store space where For Rent Shoes now resides has rotated through several unsuccessful businesses during my nine years living on that block. Next up was “Best Chicken Box” (BCB) which tickled my fancy mostly because chicken boxes, like half-n-half (iced tea/lemonade aka Arnold Palmer, not coffee creamer), are Baltimore- specific. If you are a Baltimore resident who has never heard of a chicken box you have either been here for a short amount of time or don’t feel comfortable in the less than visually stimulating locales where many chicken box establishments reign. The fact that BCB is a Best of Baltimore category is testimony to its fried tastiness (note: don’t let any chicken box place add ketchup or else it will look like your chicken is swimming in red gravy).
I know Baltimore is a special place and I constantly run the emotional gamut from full on hatred to mad love. I’ve listed things I hate first so I can wrap with positivity.
Witnessing a Baltimore Sun corner sales guy, squatting, pants down behind a dumpster dropping logs; dog-owners pretending they didn’t see their dog dropping petite deuces in tree boxes; the random homeless woman sitting on my stoop like it’s her living room, complete with burning Glade candle; the heron addicts weeble-wobbling all over the city, particularly in front of Lexington Market where I frequent Faidley’s (banging crab cakes) and Berger’s Bakery (this is a good/bad scenario); retinas burning with the plethora of stretch pants screaming over massive thighs and bellies and hoping to avoid broken car windows-Mt. Vernon is littered with curbside aquamarine glass.
Food-chicken boxes, crab cakes and Berger’s-oh my; ART ART ART-this city is ‘bout it when it comes to the creativity, don’t sleep Baltimore is full of amazing artists; murals galore-abandoned buildings, parking garages and concrete walls have not escaped colorful storyboards; the Billy Holliday statue on Pennsylvania Avenue; John Waters sightings; Artscape (the largest free arts festival in the country!); Charm City Circulator-free commuter bus and water taxi (make sure it’s marked as the circulator or else you’re paying); affordable apartment rentals-in my new spot I pay $865 for a two-bedroom in an apartment complex behind Seton Hill-the area scares the delivery guy from Strang of Siam (lots of section 8/MLK adjacent aka non-Huxtable black), poor thing is so frightened he darn near throws the food through the door, meanwhile nothing’s happening, just kids playing outside.
The moral of this ramble is that I’m torn. Something that might help is a new city slogan or a vintage one, Charm City. I get that, scratch beneath Baltimore’s gritty surface and you have a pretty magical place. Forget The City that Reads or Believe (in who/what?). There is A LOT that needs to be improved and plenty to love, but if you don’t like it kick rocks or do something about it…like I keep promising myself I will. For now, I’m helping to enrich the burgeoning art scene by earning my MFA at UB. So thanks to City Paper for inspiring me and in the words of Big Freedia “You already knnnnoooowwww!” (pssst…if you don’t know about Big Freedia, ya better ask somebody)