Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked

World

April 17, 2006

Balti-less

The worst city in America, crab cakes notwithstanding.

A. Anushko

Crab cakes. That's all most people could think of when I would tell them I lived in Baltimore, Maryland. Some time during my two years in the heart of the "city"—a dismal stint that ended this summer—I realized why: There's nothing else worth knowing. Sure there’s the Inner Harbor, which some would have you believe deserves a spot in the same sentence with the crab cakes. But for those who live within walking distance—not that anyone walks anywhere in Baltimore; it’s too dangerous—the harbor consists of overpriced chain restaurants, an ESPNZone that closes at 11:30, and several shops with T-shirts bearing the clever line, "I’m crabby, Baltimore, MD." When I moved to Baltimore, I asked someone if there were good restaurants in the area. Yes, they said. There’s a Fuddruckers close by, and there’s also an Applebee’s, but that’s far away. How far? Oh, about three miles.

map
Get me out of here.
But let's say you've heard about a bit more than just those crab cakes, maybe from reading some glossy, city-produced brochure. Fells Point, Federal Hill: They’re quaint areas, right? No. Fells Point consists of modern-day trash bars and second-rate restaurants lining old-world brick roads and a body of water that often leaves residents knee-deep during hurricane season. The clientele in Fells Point also leaves something to be desired. I was once hit on by a fellow bar patron with the line “Hey, I got a tab.” Federal Hill, I liken to that chestnut, “Good from afar, far from good.” It looks nice as you’re driving towards it. However, once you’re there, you’re trying to figure out how to leave. It consists of bars, most of which contain underage kids from Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland branch campuses, several restaurants that might as well be chain places, and the Funk Box, which on occasion hosts acts such as Lenny Kravitz. Capacity is something like 56 people, though, so no one ever really gets tickets. And forget finding a parking place. Apparently mastery of parallel parking is not a requirement to get a license in Maryland. For that matter, neither is using your blinker, nor staying in your lane, nor obeying any other traffic laws.

Speaking of traffic violations, anyone who’s ever driven through Maryland on a major highway has probably seen more brake lights than you'd spot at senior-citizen discount day at the local Stop & Shop. The thought process of your average Maryland driver: 'Eek, someone’s merging onto the highway; I better hit my brakes. Oh! there’s an accident on the other side of the road; I better hit my brakes and gawk. Ahh, police car; I better slow down to 45 miles per hour in a 65 zone, even though I was only going 60 to begin with.' Forget any entries to the Beltway: People drive the same route everyday and they know their 695 exit is a left exit, but here they are, in the far right lane. Blinkers: Why bother? 'Those no-turn-on-red signs be damned: Aren’t all turns made on red? Red? Oh, that light was red? Hm, well, eight cars are going to go through, anyway. Oh, I’m blocking the box. Isn’t that what all of the space in the middle of the intersection is for, my car? '

In addition to dodging the world’s worst drivers—yes, they're worse than New Jersey's—you must deal with the sometimes-present Marc Trains and light-rail trains, running along the main streets, with little regard for cars nor pedestrians, weaving in and out of lanes, because, well, that was the smart way to build a commuter rail. Although I see many Marc trains during specific hours (never on weekends), I have yet to find many people who ride them. As far as I can tell, the stops are limited, the time schedules screwy, and the routes useless to half of the city. Although the Baltimore metro gets the top prize for uselessness: It's one straight shot under the city for 15.5 miles, with only 14 stops.

Then we have the light rail. Traffic signs directing you to Camden Yards all contain the disclaimer “Did you consider light rail?” Why, yes, I did consider it, but since they stop running for the night when they’re scheduled to stop, extra innings be damned, I said, "hell's no" to light-rail. Suppose you do commit to light rail, and you stop to buy your kid one of those "I’m crabby" T-shirts. You might miss the last light-rail, which, mind you, often times happens before dark, and you’re stranded in the city. Sure, they say it may run until 9 on the weekends or 11 on the weekdays, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to get back to the location of your car during those times. No thanks, no light-rail. I’d rather pay $25 to park in a parking lot so full that I have to wait for 20 other cars to leave before I can even attempt to maneuver my car out and then wait one hour to go the three blocks to the 95 entrance because people don’t know how to drive.

Alas, those are the good sections of Baltimore. By now everyone has heard of the "Stop Snitchin'" video. Google words like "Baltimore," "police," and "drugs." You’ll find whole websites dedicated to people’s personal crusades against the drug trafficking in their neighborhoods and tales of lookouts who should be honorary police officers, they have the system down so well. But Baltimore BELIEVES. Or so the city's black banners would have you think. Its war on drugs consists of banners and bumper stickers asking people to believe we can get Baltimoreans off drugs. The campaign stops there. Perhaps because they realize the best revenue the city pulls in is from the sale of crack cocaine and heroine (Baltimore’s own website notes it is the heroin capital of America), and the recirculation of that drug revenue on strippers at the Goddess, more drugs, and the best crab cakes at the Upper Deck. For other failed campaigns, see the earlier push to put slogans like “Baltimore: the city that reads” on park benches. Unfortunately, it turned into the “Baltimore: the city that breeds" or "... reads ... at a third-grade level," or "... reads ...porn” campaign thanks to locals with some spray paint and a good sense of humor.

Alas, Baltimore, you had potential: the greatest baseball stadium ever built; a possibly picturesque harbor, save for the bodies washing up on shore; and the proximity to D.C. and Philly. But you have failed miserably, ranking high only on lists like the nationwide homicide list (No. 3). Your school system is a debacle, your government is plagued by scandals, and your police force is less effective than they’re portrayed on HBO's The Wire. You are truly Balti-less.

A. Anushko

A. Anushko is a graduate student at Fordham University studying Applied Developmental Psychology.







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Comments

- World
- posted on Aug 23, 07
alexandra Ford

I don't know. I'm from Baltimore, and I love it here. I wouldn't say I'll never leave, but I do find it to be a decent city. I guess it varies from person to person.

- World
- posted on Dec 11, 07
chris woetzel

can i just say something....you are sort of right,however you think it is homicide no.3,honey i grew up on north avenue.baltimore is by far the most dangerous city in the country there's an average of 312 ppl that literaly just dissapear the media is also not getting a sent of the seriousnous of this city if the country needed an enima THERE IS YOUR RECTUM!! no joke

- World
- posted on Dec 11, 07
jamal kearse

you are absolutly right but i slang dope all my life i am 34 everybody in this city either been shot or know someone who has i havent but it would take till tuesday to count the niggers i know who have but you gotta know the world is a ghetto and we are its tenaments

- World
- posted on Feb 06, 08
Mike

I lived in several East Coast cities including DC and Baltimore. Baltimore has problems but the same problems exist in parts of all Northeast cities. Baltimore just doesn't cover up these problems as well as DC and NYC. I love watching the Wire and it is a true depiction of SOME neighborhoods in Baltimore. The wealthier neighborhoods downtown are nothing like the Wire. They are fun, livable, and affordable for the Northeast. I have lived in DC and I would actually say that Baltimore is safer given that I can afford to live in the safe places of Baltimore while if I lived in DC I could only afford the ghetto.

- World
- posted on Apr 27, 08
One who knows

Ah yes, but once again the author has proven that she is one who has so little to complain about but complains much.


Article by A. Anushko

A. Anushko is a graduate student at Fordham University studying Applied Developmental Psychology.

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