January 8, 2007

In Defense of Bmore

Why does my city get a bad rap from geographic supremacists?

Adam Rosen

Riding comfortably in a limousine, a group of art-world sophisticates dispatched from New York abruptly interrupts their bantering to marvel at a tired rowhouse in one of Baltimore's less desirable neighborhoods. "It's almost sexual!" gasps a turtlenecked member of the entourage, flabbergasted by the sight of the simple rectangular housing unit, the city's historical counterpart to New York's Lower East Side tenement. One man's trash, as they say, is another man's treasure, and "Baltimore"—both the concept and the place—is the latest discovery of New York art society.

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- World
- posted on Feb 22, 07

I wrote the scathing piece (Balti-less) as a tongue and cheek take on the worst the city had to offer. Ironically, or not if you got the original intent of my article, I agree with almost everything you wrote in your piece ‘In Defense of Bmore’...well except the part where you essentially called me a New York snob "sophisticated into submission".
I do believe comparing our takes on the city is akin to the comparison of apples and oranges. You’re talking Hampden, I was talking Lexington market. You’re talking Legg Mason and I'm talking the Upper Deck. I guess that's why it was a defense piece?
Less we forget I'm a small town girl from Northeastern PA (pizza without standing) I know what it's like to live in the shadows of the bigger city. New Yorkers are flooding the areas around where I grew up as weekend get-aways, charmed by the six dollar hair cuts and people who still teach their 9-year-olds to hunt small game.
I know nothing about art, film, or being a New York elite. I do know about hometown pride (both small town Tomato Capital of the World and New York attitude) and safety, neither of which Baltimore can truly boast. My piece was venomous and written in a hyperbolic tone, yes. I just can't take everything so seriously. But did I lie?
Also, let's keep in mind that Baltimore is a big city, miles upon miles, incorporating a variety of different neighborhoods from scary to miraculous. I still make the trip to the outer edges of B'more to see my specialist at Hopkins, she's hands down the best in the field, but that doesn't mean that I still couldn't be afraid to walk to my building from the parking lot at night. Apples and Oranges my friend, apples and oranges (or Guns and Hopkins; Heroine and Ravens, Stabbings and Bay View Medical Center...)

- World
- posted on Feb 23, 07

Andrea -

I too agree with much of what you said, and can't reasonably find fault with many of your points. (Though I found it odd excoriating a place on the basis of parallel parking abilities). In fact, I bet you noticed that I didn't rebut most of your accusations. You are correct – like its corporate namesake, ESPNzone and its Inner Harbor confines are predictably sterile, in the formula of Times Square, Fisherman’s Wharf, et al. But what of good old Lexington Market? As gentrification increases, the likes of Applebee’s and Fuddruckers can only proliferate ever more –– so archetypically old-school and un-commercial Lexington Market has reason to be exalted. I hold it in similar esteem to Hampden.

While utilizing a major player like Legg Mason to make a point may be imbalanced – as you say, “comparing apples to oranges” – I think it’s a fair card to play. If someone hates on NY because of how filthy the subway is do you extol the superior virtues of the Long Island Railroad? No, you bring out the big guns. You mention the Flatiron Building; Chinatown; even Scarlet Johansson, if you must.

At any rate, the bulk of my dissension lay more in what I perceived to be fairly standard - and unfortunate - outsider protocol: dwelling excessively on the city's bad points while making nary an effort to unearth its, er, charms.

The intent wasn't to admonish you personally, just the cosmopolitan out-of-towner (or even more insidiously, those would-be cosmopolitan out-of-towners from other second or third tier cities) whose mind is made up before they even cross city limits. Again, you're completely right – I don't know anything about you. And it wasn’t my intention to go after you as a snob. I look at it more like your piece set the stage and perfectly introduced the topic. Extrapolating from there, I could highlight the most extreme examples of this behavior (at least the ones I'm most familiar with) and use that as object of my ire.

And on the issue of hometown pride…I’d have to respectfully disagree. Just one example: reporting on Nancy Pelosi’s recent ascendance to third in line for Presidential succession, the Sun writes:

“All of Little Italy seemed to have turned out yesterday for what one observer called 'The Return of the Prodigal Hon.' "


Article by Adam Rosen

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