14 June, 2006

I like Baltimore.

I have this vague sense I'm not supposed to. It's supposed to be a faintly ridiculous place, or declasse, or dirty…I don't quite grasp why I'm supposed to be a little embarrassed about it, but I definitely get the sense that I should be, from somewhere or other.

Well, fuck you, collective consciousness. I've only been there three times, but each time I felt like I'd visited home. Don't get me wrong, I like DC, I feel at home here, but it is, for me, a new way of being a city. Baltimore isn't new like that. It's much more like my hometown.
What prompted this? This weekend I attended Honfest, which was a street fair that could have been copied wholesale from any such fair in any summer weekend in Chicago. (You'd just need to add a lot more pink and hairspray than Chitown is used to:

Around Honfest

For more of what Honfest is about I direct you towards the Honfest 2006 Flickr photo pool.) I had a great time. I just enjoyed myself, non-analytically, out with friends making pictures in the beautiful weather, and comparing it to DC, or Chicago, or anything didn't enter into the day.
Then I turned a corner and saw the below. Faithful readers may recall that not two weeks ago I was bemoaning DC's lack of vintage clothing stores. What's pictured here is just the sort of thing I had been looking for. If it'd been a musical I'd have burst into song. I might have anyway, in fact; I don't remember. 😉 vintage1

(It's too big on purpose; it's just no good small. Sorry.)

I've tried many times to describe what it is about Baltimore that I'm attracted to, and it never seems to come out right. For example, a few months ago I mentioned on Flickr that I wanted to take pictures of stuff like abandoned factories. I had used the phrase "urban blight" in musing about whether Baltimore would have such things, since DC didn't seem to. A minor contretemps ensued (there was a lot of "Senator, I've worked in Anacostia. I've lived in Anacostia. And Senator, you don't know from Anacostia!"). In short order I stopped trying to explain myself and just fricking went to Baltimore.

As close as we got to urban blight that day. Well, that and the drug deal I inadvertently photographed.

What I was trying to get at was evidence of an industrial base that time had passed by, and seeing those racks of clothes, something clicked into place about why that particular feature of a city seemed so important a trait to me. Because of industry and its echo and the social patterns it imposes, Baltimore is a city where people die after living their whole lives. DC is where you go to work, and when you're tired or done, you leave and settle down elsewhere. It's been that way for over 200 years. So when Grandma dies and you have to empty her closets and you just dump everything in her house to someone who resells it to the vintage store buyers, you are emptying them in places like Chicago and Baltimore, not places like DC.

I wonder if that makes any more sense than my other attempts to describe me and Baltimore. (The hour would indicate no.)


3 Responses to “confession”

  1. Lark Says:

    Oh sibling, I understand. I like Tacoma, and I’m not supposed to either. Tacoma is totally Seattle’s Baltimore.

  2. Dr. Birdcage Says:

    Well, I’ve liked B’more every time I’ve had a chance to visit, I think for some of the same reasons, though I’d associated it with a baseline NE city familiarity. Buuuuuut, here’s a recent discovery via the newish job: the stats don’t really bear out DC as transient. There’s a certain percentage of peeps who come in to get their internship on or be an aid in Senator whatever’s office, but the departure rate is (proportionate to the rooted) in the same ballpark as most other cities. Which makes sense– I knew tons of people who stayed in New York for a while and then moved someplace else (including, eventually and sadly, myself). There are a lot of rooted communities with families who can trace their roots in the neighborhood back four and five generations (par example, LeDroit Park). I’ve always had the impression that DC was a particularly transient city, but I think part of it is that we live in Adams Morgan, where that demographic congregates. But when I think of my friends who are district residents, they are divided pretty evenly between a) people who moved here, like me, in the last few years; and b) people who’ve lived here a decade or more.

    Okay. I’m off the soapbox now.

  3. John Says:

    I guess I’ve never really not liked a city. Cities have people and people are interesting. It’s even possible to like Atlanta.

    It didn’t occur to me that one should be embarassed to like Baltimore though. I’ve always thought there’s something inherently cool about it — largely due to the fact that it was a great port at a time when sea commerce was everything. And the Poe thing.

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