Anyone can love a perfect place. Loving Baltimore takes some resilience. – Laura Lippman
It’s not always easy to love Baltimore. It takes a while to warm up to you and it may disappoint you from time to time with its traffic and ongoing fight against crime and poverty, but if you stick it out, you’ll find it’s well worth the ups and downs. Every time I meet someone new, this is, without fail, part of the conversation: “Where are you from?” “Baltimore.” “So you grew up in The Wire?” “Ugh.” There’s a reason people associate Baltimore with violence. I won’t sugar coat it. It’s a major problem. But beyond the Barksdale Crew and Omar, Baltimore is so much more. It’s a place where families grow and stay forever. Where you walk down the street and see your eighth grade English teacher, your high school classmate, you’re cousin’s best friend who you met at party, your aunt’s friend who cuts your hair, and your childhood lacrosse coach. It’s a place so full of charm that you just can’t shake it. It’s where the endearment “honey” is shortened to “hon” but comes out with the “h” heavy with breath and the “o” twisted into some sort of infinity symbol. Maybe try YouTubing it – I’ve never quite mastered verbal descriptions of pronunciation. It’s a place where people who may originally come off as gruff, turn out to be the types who would do anything for you when you’re in a jam and they’ll serve you the best crab cake ever made.
When I was growing up just outside of Baltimore, I didn’t spend much time downtown except to visit the Aquarium and Camden Yards, eat massive massive meals in Little Italy, and visit my great grandparents near Patterson Park. When I was growing up, downtown Baltimore was not a place for little kids. Youth basketball games at Frederick Douglas High School had to end before sundown so that all could make a safe exit and nighttime activities were totally off limits.
Today, however, so much has changed. Baltimore still deals with a sizable crime problem. But it’s now also a vibrant center of young professionals, young families, farmers’ markets, and fantastic restaurants. It’s a place that has retained the gritty character of an old steel town and a certain no-nonsense blue collar charm. With this comes a strong sense of community and pride. It’s a place where every little kid at the pool has a lacrosse stick in hand, every one is decked out in Under Armour, and Mr. Boh is a household name. It’s known as Charm City and The Land of Pleasant Living. The city benches say, “The Greatest City in America” (they used to say, “The City that Reads,” but then actual statistics convinced the city to change it….). In my opinion, it’s all I’d ever want a city to be. It has Maryland blue crabs, Old Bay (we even put it in our beer now…nice one Flying Dog!), the Orioles, Cal Ripken Jr., the Ravens, Berger Cookies, Little Italy, Federal Hill, Canton, Fells Point, Mt. Vernon, Harbor East, Hampden, and Vaccaro’s…because cannoli. What more do you need? Also, they just built a Chik-fil-A in Canton, so there’s really no reason to ever leave the city now.
I love Baltimore.