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Baltimore Living

Best Reason to Live Here

Because of What We’re Not

Posted 9/22/2004

We’ve labored long and hard over this very question in years past: Why Baltimore? And we’ve made some kinda sincere and sorta lame attempts to define the whatever-it-is that makes us call Baltimore home: Because we’re so cool (2001), the architecture (1996), one degree of separation (1997), it’s cheap (1999), the neighborhoods (2000), it’s cheap (2002), Baltimore needs you (2003), blah blah blah.

Thing is, if we really wanted some toothsome smile of a catch phrase to describe where we lived, we’d live someplace else. Not hating on the “Greatest City in America” marketing plan one bit. It’s just that what Baltimore believes makes Baltimore great might not be the same sorts of things that supposedly make other cities great.

You see, we like Baltimore’s surface scowl. We like that Baltimore isn’t hold-your-hand user friendly. You have to want to get know Baltimore. You have to want to figure out where things are, how to take public transportation from one place to another, when a hand signal means a guy’s hailing a gypsy cab or slinging product, when you need to put the club on the steering wheel, where it’s cool to walk by yourself at night and where it’s not so cool to walk around at all.

We like that Baltimore knows it isn’t perfect and needs to improve many, many things about itself. But we love that Baltimore doesn’t try to hide its imperfections, sometimes even taking civic pride in them. In his April HBO special Never Scared, Chris Rock mocked the so-called threat of Iraq with what could be misconstrued as harsh jab at Charm City: “If they’re so dangerous, how come it only took two weeks to take over the whole country? You couldn’t take over Baltimore in two weeks.” Damn straight, skippy.

You’ve got to make your own peace with Baltimore before Baltimore opens up to you, and we like that such effort typically keeps out the undesirables. Nobody moves to Baltimore to make it big, make a name for him or herself, or be the big fish of our small pond. The Inner Harbor and a few other instances notwithstanding, we don’t have Corporate America retail hell slathered up and down our city’s streets. We’ve got our share of froufrou nosheries and clubs, but Baltimoreans don’t head out to act like the fast and cool, sitting around drinking fancy shit. Hell, we have neither the fast nor the cool. We have the employed, the alternatively employed, and the unemployed, people who moved to Baltimore for whatever reasons and who stayed because you can do whatever you do without people poking around your business or judging you for it.

And, OK, recently we have witnessed some Washingtonians venturing beyond the Beltway and trying to get a piece of the affordable living here in Bodymore, Murderland, where the crime is high and the rent is low, but fuck ’em. Somebody has to pay those outrageous prices in Canton, Federal Hill, and Locust Point. And if the rising real-estate market just so happens to enable our homeowning Hampden friends to sell and then buy twice as much house, all the better.

So the next time somebody asks what’s so great about Baltimore, don’t answer right away. If you sense that they just don’t get it, that they’re genuinely Baltimore baffled, don’t say a thing. Just shrug, let them make some stupid joke about how “weird” it all is, and let them return to their homes in New York, San Francisco, Bethesda, or Arlington no word to the wise. But if you see that somebody who has spent a few days around town and starting to recognize the urban land of pleasant living we have here, don’t just give it away. Look ’em square in the eye, place a single finger over your lips, and say, ‘Shhhhhhhhhhh.”

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Other Awards for Best Reason to Live Here:

You're already prepared for the collapse of society, 9/16/2009

The Eternal Return, 9/17/2008

Crime, 9/19/2007

To keep it from being taken over, 9/20/2006

We Can’t Wait To See What Happens Next, 9/21/2005

Baltimore Needs You, 9/17/2003

It's Cheap, 9/18/2002

We're So Cool, 9/19/2001

Neighborhoods, 9/13/2000

It's cheap, 9/15/1999

One degree of separation, 9/17/1997

The architecture, 9/18/1996

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