Fleeing Baltimore is an upcoming documentary about how screwed up the City is, and how people are abandoning it for saner locations. Recently there was an editorial in the Sun about ditching downtown for the County.
Yeah, I get it. Yesterday morning I took out the recycling and found that someone had thrown loose and messy trash into my recycling can. As I transferred this gloppy concoction to a more appropriate container, I found a 2-foot long dead rat mixed in. That’s Baltimore! Later in the afternoon I was sitting on our stoop reading when a commercial panel truck pulled up. There were two men in the cab, aged guys in uniforms, and there was some commotion in the vehicle or I’d never have even noticed them. They fumbled around cussing and laughing and then a rough-looking young woman in tights and a half-top climbed out directly into my flowerbed. Magnum condom wrappers, a tiny liquor bottle, and some Wendy’s trash followed her. She staggered away, already on her cell arranging how to meet her next client. So, yeah, I get it–Baltimore is deeply flawed. It’s a mess, a tragedy struggling mightily to escape its ruinous decrepitude.
But I love it. The cost of living is very affordable–you can get a gigantic Victorian row house for about 20% of the price you would pay in DC. There are exquisite restaurants all over town, and many of them are inexpensive, inventive, and exciting. The theater scene is aggressively innovative, there are really amazing local bands and singer/songwriters, and we have a world-class symphony. The Walters Art Museum, the AVAM, and the BMA are amazing resources. The markets at Broadway, Hollins Street, and Lexington are fantastic, the farmers markets are wonderful. There’s a lot of history here, of course, and the architecture provides little glimpses of the glorious place this once was. We have fantastic parks with green space, bike trails, the Harbor, and a thriving arts community. AND an NFL and an MLB team if sports are your bag. You have easy access via I-95 to Philly, NYC, DC, Richmond–there’s completely rural areas within 30 minutes of downtown, including several gorgeous state parks. The beach is three hours away, there is a convenient international airport and you can take light rail there.
I moved downtown five years ago already knowing Baltimore’s challenges. They are daunting. But is B’more more fucked up than the rest of the US? I don’t think so. I think, in fact, that the energy transforming many of Baltimore’s awful neighborhoods is an indication that we can be cutting-edge in decades to come. We’re already familiar with where the rest of the US is heading, which is to third-world status: been there, done that! We are turning it around slowly, but things are looking up. The murder rate has fallen dramatically, the schools are improving, actual human beings are winning seats on the City Council. We’ve toughed it out and as your community loses its industries and becomes over-run by crack/meth/heroin dealers you can shutter your house and move away, or put iron bars on your windows and think about how you can bring your city back. B’more might prove inspirational some day, instead of serving as the punchline to misguided DC elitist jokes.
Perhaps one day I’ll regret watching those who flee Baltimore, and wish I was one of them. I hope not, because right now I really dig living here.