A couple weeks ago, the Washington Post published a travel article about it’s neighbor only 30 miles to the north, Baltimore, MD. The author wrote through the lens of a condescending jerk Washingtonian, thematically comparing Baltimore to what I assume he thinks as superior DC. He spent the long intro talking about how grumpy visiting and writing about Baltimore made him, he called Baltimore’s “fine diners” fat:
The crowd is noticeably Baltimore — older, more casually dressed, whiter and heavier than you’d find in a similarly priced spot in Washington.
Then he ended the article by concluding that he wouldn’t want to live there. (I think that statement was just for good measure because the definition of a “travel article” is not to go on the search for your future home). The backlash from Baltimore came quickly, illustrated clearly through this article entitled Post Travel Story Reminds us Why We Hate DC from the Baltimore City paper.
In a way, the “exchange” comically personifies the collective feeling each city has for the other. Washington people might visit Baltimore occasionally (but usually to the touristy Inner Harbor and Fells Point), they don’t think much of it and they have this view that the city is a culture-less danger zone (thanks to the Wire). Baltimore on the other hand has a decided disdain for it’s neighbor to the South thinking of Washingtonians as uppity government-types. Like most generalizations, neither is completely accurate, but I do think Baltimore is working against a reputation much harder than that of DC’s (again, thanks to The Wire). But, I might also say that once you get to Bmore, there’s a lot more to it than one would think through stereotypes. I know this from experience. A year ago I moved to Baltimore from living in Washington, DC for 5 years. I’ve spent the last year trying to convince all my friends in DC to move to Baltimore, because, at least for me life got a lot better when I moved here. DC was not for me.
When I moved to Baltimore, I was ready for a new experience and I was intent on treating my new home as both a resident and a traveler. This perspective has given me a bit of a starry-eyed love for the city. The thing is, though, I feel that most Baltimoreans have that feeling about their city as well. I think the backlash against Marc Fisher’s WaPo article demonstrates less disdain for DC and more of an incredible pride for Baltimore. I have never lived anywhere where people try to convert others into loving their hometown as much as Baltimore does. A former student of mine who was born and raised in Baltimore told me how it’s a little tradition to go away for college and bring fellow classmates back to Baltimore to live (Charm City transplants and converts!). Of course the Ravens winning the Super Bowl this year heightened the hometown pride (you couldn’t go anywhere without seeing purple), but I just think it brought that pride to a national audience.
Cliché as it sounds, “charming” is exactly the way I would describe the city. I love walking around my neighborhood (Butcher’s Hill) and the neighboring more touristy areas (Fells Point) and admiring the colonial architecture. It’s only fitting that the neighborhood watering hole always seems to have craft beer and amazing sea food (I always choose the mussels). Baltimore also has an incredible Farmers Market scene which has become my weekly routine year-round.
From Frederick Douglass to the War of 1812, Baltimore is steeped in history and it has evolved differently in every neighborhood. Baltimore is diverse, but segregated and deals with tensions rooted in race and class and between big institutions and the local community. But, there are many people working to confront and overcome those challenges. People everywhere in this city are full of passion and are working for good and for social change.
I imagine this will be the first of many loving posts about my current home. Those DC folks not willing to make it up this way are missing out on some serious awesomeness. But you are always welcome and I – and other proud Baltimoreans – are always happy to show you the charm of our fair city.