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February 22, 2013 3:19 PM   Subscribe

An article in the Washington Post (featuring MeFi's own Sonascope!) about a visit to Baltimore has the Charm City locals seething. Some in the capitol don't think much of it either.
posted by josher71 (109 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
I live in Baltimore. I actually visited DC last week and was pleasantly surprised that I wasn't accosted by current and former mayors looking to buy crack! Good on you, DC!
posted by capnsue at 3:25 PM on February 22, 2013 [21 favorites]


I had just passed through Baltimore and now i'm a bit upset I didn't remember to ring up Sonascope.
posted by The Whelk at 3:27 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Did you at least take advantage of the plentiful cheap and/or free parking, The Whelk?
posted by dersins at 3:30 PM on February 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sometimes I like to park even when I don't need too. Just a little treat for myself.

I only know one person who has visited Baltimore for pleasure. The Highlight of her trip was being followed by a sketchy looking dude on a highway overpass at night who got real close to her and then shouted BOO! And ran away giggling.
posted by The Whelk at 3:32 PM on February 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


The truth hurts, man
posted by spicynuts at 3:34 PM on February 22, 2013


The city that readsbleeds... I keed, I keed!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:34 PM on February 22, 2013


Where's Sonascope in that?

(no, really - it would be nice to have that pointed out for those of us that don't know.)
posted by mephron at 3:35 PM on February 22, 2013


Joe Wall, the tower’s facility manager — he’s the guy who puts colored gels on the clock’s lights to celebrate important occasions — is leading a free tour of the Clock Room, complete with the story of the tower’s heyday (a 20-ton blue bottle of the headache remedy sat atop the building), its decline (a stereotypical Baltimore tale of neglect and despair) and its renaissance (reborn as artists’ studios).

Joe Wall = Sonascope. (Sorry!)
posted by josher71 at 3:37 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


The city that readsbleeds... I keed, I keed!

Actually, at the time Mayor Kurt Schmoke put up that slogan, Baltimore had the highest teen pregnancy rate in the country (or close enough.) So, I grew up reading it as:

The city that reads breeds...
posted by ennui.bz at 3:38 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


My favorite Baltimore slogan (and there are many) is "Baltimore: The Greatest City in America.".
posted by josher71 at 3:43 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've visited Baltimore for pleasure! My parents took us just far enough around the Inner Harbor for us to stand outside the aquarium and do nothing. I had a headache. Then I bought a t-shirt at the Political America store, which I could have purchased in Chicago. The end.

(But their airport is a pretty great bargain, especially compared to the North Korean monstrosity that is Dulles.)
posted by Madamina at 3:45 PM on February 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


My wife, Jody, and I start off with a test that any decent city should pass in a flash: A sandwich you can’t find anywhere else.

DC does not pass this test. As far as I can tell from my two years in DC, the only uniquely DC foodstuffs are half-smokes and jumbo slices.
posted by ActionPopulated at 3:47 PM on February 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm not certain that Yankees fan is qualified to write about either Baltimore or DC, really, but I was pleasantly surprised at his seeming literacy. Good on 'im!
posted by Navelgazer at 3:49 PM on February 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


My favorite sign when visiting Baltimore was, "Welcome to Baltimore, hon". The "hon" was graffitied on to the sign. It was not until I was trying to eat my way through that it made more sense.
posted by jadepearl at 3:50 PM on February 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


No discussion of Baltimore is complete without FUCK YOU, BALTIMORE!
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:52 PM on February 22, 2013 [9 favorites]


I visited Baltimore for pleasure! Stayed at a B&B near Inner Harbor. Tried to fine Poe's house, on foot. Got way lost on the west side, and had corner boys staring at me and my then girlfriend and obviously thinking, "Those white folks are too stupid to even hassle, let alone rob." Saw an Araber, which was cool, because otherwise I would have though Hoimicide made that up.
posted by old_growler at 3:52 PM on February 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've visited Baltimore for fun. It was fun, except when we drove through a run down part that made me re-consider the notion of stopping at every stop sign/light.

I'd go back.

My great-uncle left the mountain farm in Southwest Virginia to work in the yards of Baltimore at the outset of World War 2 and still recalls enjoying paying a dime to hop on the trolley car and simply riding it all over the city on its circuit for as long as he wanted.

As a kid, the Orioles were the closest major league team and so four to five times over a span of 10 years, my dad would drive me up to see them play, first at their old field and then later at Camden Yards (which played the role of the home of the Cleveland Indians in Major League 2).

Yep, I'd go back.
posted by Atreides at 3:58 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've visited Baltimore for fun lots of times. And not just the Inner Harbor. There's excellent food to be had elsewhere and some pretty neighborhoods. Plus my aunt and uncle used to live there until divorce and retirement.
posted by tavella at 4:01 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Reminds me of when Philadelphia was branded the "sixth borough" by the New York Times.
posted by madcaptenor at 4:01 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Camden Yards is nice looking, but Memorial Stadium was truly embedded in its neighborhood, much like Wrigley and Fenway are. Was there the last year it was open, again for a pleasure trip, to see a friend who was then going to Johns Hopkins for grad school.
posted by old_growler at 4:02 PM on February 22, 2013


Liked this from the article:
Of course, Baltimore isn’t all art studios and hipster shops. We zip over to the National Pinball Museum...
So it has hipster museums too!
posted by salishsea at 4:03 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I also know one of the guys who started Video Americain. Baltimore is a great town, and that writer is an asshole in search of free parking but not any soul.
posted by old_growler at 4:04 PM on February 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


So it has hipster museums too!

Ironically(?), it used to be in DC but it was too expensive so it moved to Baltimore.
posted by josher71 at 4:06 PM on February 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


This was making the rounds among some Baltimore friends today. They were not pleased. I don't think my suggestion to calm down and chug some Natty Bohs helped.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 4:06 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I really, really, really liked Baltimore. I wasn't there for long, and I didn't get to see much - mostly the harbour - but I felt very comfortable there, and would go out of my way to go back.

DC is the hot blonde girl who waxes her­self nearly bald, went to Penn, and works in com­mu­ni­ca­tions for a pres­ti­gious non­profit. Bal­ti­more is the brunette who still plays D&D, argues about phi­los­o­phy on Red­dit, and has a taste for kink.

I lol'd hard.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:07 PM on February 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think more travel writing should use the availability of inexpensive parking as its primary metric of evaluation. I can't think of anywhere I've ever gone where the cost of parking didn't make or break the visit.

Well, except for New York. San Francisco. Berlin. Montreal. Seville. Rome. Madrid. Hong Kong. Toronto. Miami Beach. Guadalajara. Philadelphia. Bangkok. Delhi. Melbourne. Singapore ...
posted by gompa at 4:08 PM on February 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


I've been to Baltimore several times on business, and always staying downtown and in Fell's Point, or on Federal Hill. I like what I have seen of the city.

Was struck when attending an Orioles game against the Red Sox by the reality that like half the season's tickets at Camden Yards are owned by Boston fans. Apparently is is cheaper (let alone actually possible) to buy a season's ticket at Camden and nonly use it for the Red Sox games, than it is to go see the team in Boston. I had no idea where I was last June when the Orioles won the game 8-3 and the crowd walked out dejected. I guess the pother tickets are held by Yankees fans.

Baltimore airport...meh. It is linear. When you come from Toronto, the gate and the baggage claim are at opposite sides of the line. And the train downtown is back where the gate is. So you have to walk about five miles just to leave.
posted by salishsea at 4:10 PM on February 22, 2013


(Fave Baltimore moment, besides the duck tour...and the artichoke dip...):

"What are the Ravens?"
"A football team."
"Why 'Ravens'?"
"I dunno. Edgar Allan Poe?"
"What?"
"Yeah, he's buried around the corner.")
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:12 PM on February 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Gompa...I was once on a meandering road trip through Alberta. Ran into a guy in Drumheller who asked me where I was going next. I said "Calgary." he said "Nah, don't go to Calgary. Go to Brooks."

"Why should I go to Brooks?" I asked.

"Free parking."

We went to Brooks.
posted by salishsea at 4:13 PM on February 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


There's a sort of provincialism that a lot of DC establishment-types have that makes them impervious to Baltimore's charms. Baltimore is a city. It has people that live, work, and operate in the city, which has a port, dozens of distinct urban neighborhoods that are great to go out to, and activity that has bustled along for generations. DC is basically a place that orbits entirely around its role as the capital, and its "neighborhoods" are, with a few exceptions, effectively residential suburbs that serve the inner government-and-monument core. The idea that a city could operate in any other way is inconceivable to the WaPo reporter.
posted by deanc at 4:14 PM on February 22, 2013 [11 favorites]


My wife and I spent our honeymoon on the otherwise-unoccupied second floor of her aunt's row house in the Fells Point area. I really enjoyed it, but there were obviously parts of town that I Did Not Want To Be In when not passing through in a vehicle.
posted by mrbill at 4:17 PM on February 22, 2013


Baltimore's magic happened again for me last summer. Kid was still in derby, so to practice on the road, I took her to open skate here (technically in Dundalk, but whatever.) We found the place in a run-down industrial neighborhood. The building from the outside looked as if it had closed down in 1978. Then inside was a beautiful, spacious maple rink, bright lights, a mix of skaters from kids and teenagers clunking around, to derby girls (and guys- btw, how awesome a name is the Harm City Homicides?), to a couple of seriously talented... um... roller-breakdancers? doing impressive dance moves in the middle of the rink.
Anyway, the experience just said Baltimore to me. Tons of talent and energy, not a lot of marketing.
posted by pernoctalian at 4:19 PM on February 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


Baltimore: The center of the Hon-belt.
posted by 445supermag at 4:20 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


My two sisters and I went to Baltimore last weekend to see Flashdance, the Musical! at the Hippodrome. We grew up in DC and mostly currently live in the vicinity therein, so Baltimore is usually a daytrip - but this time we made a weekend of it. After a little too much pinot grigio, we ended up rockin' out with some mega hair flipping moves in an old waterfront factory late one night, but then the Barnes & Noble manager kicked us out.

Flashdance was actually really good. It hits Broadway in the Fall, but touring in the mean time. It was like oh my god totally tubular!
posted by raztaj at 4:24 PM on February 22, 2013


The amusing thing to me is that Baltimore is only like an hour from DC; I've driven father for lunch. East-coaster types are so weirdly provincial.
posted by octothorpe at 4:28 PM on February 22, 2013 [12 favorites]


West coasters are werido travel freaks who freely budget three hour transit times to get a taco.
posted by The Whelk at 4:32 PM on February 22, 2013 [19 favorites]


Baltimore is also just three hours and free wifi with wine from NYC by train so maybe I should come up woth areason to visit again.
posted by The Whelk at 4:33 PM on February 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


yes, it's very weird here on the west coast. stay there, i hear it's fantastic. something about free parking? sounds exciting.
posted by gorestainedrunes at 4:37 PM on February 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've visited Baltimore for pleasure! I think it's a great city. My favorite stop was the American Visionary Art Museum. How can you not love a museum based on the premise of exploring the boundary between "vision" and insanity?
posted by Superplin at 4:38 PM on February 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Back when I lived in DC and got the WaPo in dead-tree version, I could guarantee that if I read a column in the Metro section that made me shake my head or say WTF, it was inevitably written by Marc Fisher. I don't know if it's just an affected persona or if his true personality is a crotchety 80-year-old man that was hard-done by life, but oh boy his writing gets under my skin.

He's been at the paper forever and keeps getting to write columns, so SOMEONE must like his writing, but to me it's like the unpleasant mating of Slate's contrarianism with a particularly smug and nasty outlook on life.
posted by iminurmefi at 4:39 PM on February 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


I was going to post one of my favorite things about B'more when I saw this:

Health Department closes Berger Cookies for operating without a license

WHAT
THE
FUCK

(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:40 PM on February 22, 2013 [10 favorites]


There's a sort of provincialism that a lot of DC establishment-types have that makes them impervious to Baltimore's charms.

D.C. Imagine a city populated solely* by the kid in your high school who ran for class president and lost. If that's not your vision of hell, you're gonna love D.C.

*may only be applicable to white people
posted by Diablevert at 4:49 PM on February 22, 2013 [16 favorites]


DC is basically a place that orbits entirely around its role as the capital, and its "neighborhoods" are, with a few exceptions, effectively residential suburbs that serve the inner government-and-monument core. The idea that a city could operate in any other way is inconceivable to the WaPo reporter.

I think there are people who move in these spheres and for whom this is true, but having lived and worked in and near DC for a while now there are DEFINITELY "neighborhoods" in DC. They might not be places the reporter visits particularly often but I know plenty of people who live in Washington who don't work for the federal government or have anything to do with it. There are people from a wide range of demographics and economic backgrounds who live in a sort of parallel DC where we all occupy the same city as the government people and lobbyists and contractors but have profoundly different experiences of it.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 4:50 PM on February 22, 2013 [11 favorites]


Camden Yards is nice looking, but Memorial Stadium was truly embedded in its neighborhood

I spent a moderate chunk of my childhood living just a couple blocks down from the stadium. Walking down to peer through the gap in the outfield to watch the game (and occasionally scoring free tickets from nice people/men possibly misguidedly hitting on my mom?) was one of my favorite memories of childhood. I'd keep track of the game by cheers and boos from my bedroom (except for the '88 season when they opened 0-21; it was very quiet that year).

Camden Yards, as far as I can tell, is not really a stadium but instead a clever scheme to funnel money from Yankees and Red Sox fans into Peter Angelos' pocket.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 4:56 PM on February 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


As someone who lived and schooled in DC and also lived in Maryland (and often visited Bmore), I can say that Baltimore has it's very shady sides. So does DC. I loved both places but find a lot of the transient newcomers to DC (mostly white people) to be deeply annoying. They moved into places that they knew nothing about and would almost always be the first to talk shit.
posted by RedShrek at 4:57 PM on February 22, 2013


There's definitely some narcissism of small differences here: we're talking about two large-but-not-massive mid-Atlantic cities with some great free museums and too much poverty. That being said, Baltimore has a world-class research university (Hopkins) and Washington has K Street; Baltimore has a champion football team named after a Poe poem and Washington has a loser football team with a name so racist I try to avoid saying it when possible; and only one of these cities was built on a drained swamp. Also, I like Natty Bo and the idea of a city where I could someday afford to buy a house if I wanted to live there without being a lobbyist for Northrop Grumman or Scalia's cardiologist or something.
posted by sy at 5:02 PM on February 22, 2013 [12 favorites]


(But their airport is a pretty great bargain, especially compared to the North Korean monstrosity that is Dulles.)

BWI sucks for DC. Dulles sucks more. But National? National is the best airport ever. It's small, uncrowded, RIGHT downtown, and it even has a Metro stop! No airport parking necessary! What's not to love?

I refuse to use the new name. An airport named after the guy who fired all the air traffic controllers? And they say Republicans don't get irony.
posted by leotrotsky at 5:07 PM on February 22, 2013 [30 favorites]


What new name? it's always been National .

NOW AND FOREVER.
posted by The Whelk at 5:10 PM on February 22, 2013 [23 favorites]


Anyone who has an "allergy to all things John Waters", as the Washington Post's correspondent admits he does, is dead inside and can therefore safely be ignored.
posted by Len at 5:13 PM on February 22, 2013 [26 favorites]


I visited Baltimore recently....on Google Earth. I randomly landed in some neighborhoods away from the Inner Harbor and what I saw in the street view was pretty shocking. Miles and miles of abandoned and boarded up row houses. It is such a sad sight. It just screams "no more manufacturing jobs here, but we've got lots of drugs and despair". I sincerely hope that those neighborhoods do indeed undergo a revitalization.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 5:13 PM on February 22, 2013


I stopped reading once I got to this:

I enjoy a great beehive hairdo as much as the next guy, but camp, ultimately, is as empty as Baltimore’s rubble-strewn vacant lots.

Yeah. This guy can fuck right the hell off.
posted by medusa at 5:15 PM on February 22, 2013 [9 favorites]


He does not understand camp at all.

However I was in a room with lots of Baltimore men and I thought, man I just read the white guy Baltimore accent as totally gay because that's how John Waters talks but it's not fair to all these lady loving Baltimore straights who sound like total camp consulers to me and here they are talking about Ladies and babies and like, living thier lives and I'm all " you people sound gay ti me!" screaming.
posted by The Whelk at 5:21 PM on February 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Are you on your iPad again?
posted by ocherdraco at 5:41 PM on February 22, 2013


I've been to Baltimore many times, because I have friends who live there. There is astonishingly amazing food to be had. I have to admit to a sneaking sympathy for the author in regards to parking - the first thing I noticed when moving from Chicago to Charlotte was that the airport parking in Charlotte was ten percent the price of that at O'Hare.
posted by Daily Alice at 5:56 PM on February 22, 2013


Sorry Baltimore, I swear this article does not reflect the views of actual DC natives, who find B-more delightful, if a bit terrifying at times. If it helps I found this on Marc Fisher's wiki page:
"Marc Fisher (born 1958 in New York, New York..." which I'm sure we can ALL agree means he can go hump a "Subway" train.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:10 PM on February 22, 2013 [2 favorites]



Of course, Baltimore isn’t all art studios and hipster shops. We zip over to the National Pinball Museum...


I had no interest in visiting Baltimore until I found out it had a national pinball museum.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:11 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


You'd love Baltimore the most Scarecrow.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:12 PM on February 22, 2013


To read Fisher's rapture over free parking in Baltimore, you would think D.C. parking meters accepted payments only in blood instead of quarters and dimes.
They still accept dimes? What'ya get at 17th & PA for a dime? A minute and a half?
(Been away a while...)
posted by MtDewd at 6:19 PM on February 22, 2013


I like Baltimore. Even the neighbourhood ms scruss lived in — Hollins Market — was pretty neat, if officially scary as fuck.
posted by scruss at 6:28 PM on February 22, 2013


I dunno, Baltimore sounds kinda cool. Like Austin before the dellionaires and carpetbaggers. I visited once, a zillion years ago, to stop by Poe's grave and I think have a softshelled crab something or other. I would go back, especially since the parking situation seems to have been all sorted out.
posted by dejah420 at 6:28 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


They still accept dimes? What'ya get at 17th & PA for a dime? A minute and a half?

3 minutes, actually. 1.5 minutes for a nickel. ($2/hr)
posted by deanc at 6:32 PM on February 22, 2013


especially compared to the North Korean monstrosity that is Dulles

Let's not hate! I love Dulles ... for an airport. Great Saarinen design and it's easy to get around in. Easier than Atlanta, anyway (Want to talk about hell ...)

Imagine a city populated solely* by the kid in your high school who ran for class president and lost.

I am that kid. Never lived in DC, though. That loss discouraged me for life.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:49 PM on February 22, 2013


Man I lived in Baltimore for almost 13 years and I had no idea that there was free parking. I sure as hell hardly ever found any. When I worked at the Walters we all used to run out and move our cars every two hours so as not to get ticketed and yet even so, eventually the boot would come to us all.
posted by mygothlaundry at 6:50 PM on February 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Baltimore native here, and both really pleased and a little surprised by those who visited the city for fun. I lived in the greater DC area for a little over a year, a summer of that in northwest DC, and noticed a few significant differences between the two cities.

For one, DC had a pretty great mass transit system; buses and subways, everywhere. Baltimore had buses, sure, but a single metro line and a single light rail line. Baseline starting wages for entry level things, like restaurant work, were also higher. On the other hand, the effect of monuments and federal buildings looming over large, sterile expanses of grass left me cold. Baltimore, for all its brokenness, had at the time a vibrant art scene, a number of small bookstores that sold work on consignment, and a pretty tight-knit, supportive small club music scene. Maybe if I stayed in DC longer I would have been able to find these things, I'm pretty sure. But some intangible quality or qualities were missing when I was in DC that makes the difference between a seat of administration and a city.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:57 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Man I lived in Baltimore for almost 13 years and I had no idea that there was free parking. I sure as hell hardly ever found any.

It used to be, anyway, that the annual Best Of issue of City Paper would have a Best Free Parking category.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:58 PM on February 22, 2013


As a Baltimore resident, I'm pretty sure the author got away with not paying for parking in several of those locations. That said, there is a parking lot near Johns Hopkins that still has meters where you can get 2 hours of parking for a quarter.
posted by postel's law at 6:58 PM on February 22, 2013


DC is the hot blonde girl who waxes her­self nearly bald, went to Penn, and works in com­mu­ni­ca­tions for a pres­ti­gious non­profit. Bal­ti­more is the brunette who still plays D&D, argues about phi­los­o­phy on Red­dit, and has a taste for kink.

The writer is the asshole that needs to be sewn shut, before he spews forth more misogynistic shit.
posted by discopolo at 7:22 PM on February 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I grew up in the DC suburbs and spent weekends going to Orioles games before the Nationals came back to town.

So for me, Bawlmer was always an exotic, interesting, and fun place. Still is.

Like that time me and Johnny skipped work and drove to see the O's listening to nothing but Bruce Springsteen's "Hungry Heart" on repeat. Good times.
posted by bardic at 7:24 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I refuse to use the new name. An airport named after the guy who fired all the air traffic controllers? And they say Republicans don't get irony.
posted by leotrotsky

We've taken to calling it "Medgar Evers," after hearing my boyfriend's coworker call it that. Much more appropriate than the current name.
posted by troika at 8:36 PM on February 22, 2013


discopolo: That particular comment came from a commenter to the story with the moniker of "mobtowngirl," not the writer.
posted by raysmj at 8:49 PM on February 22, 2013


(Oh and, an aside: Medgar Evers airport is an actual airport, in Jackson MS. Jackson-Medgar Evers. For the record. Also BWI is nice.)
posted by raysmj at 8:55 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I refuse to call it Thurgood Marshall. It will always be BWI to me.
posted by RedShrek at 8:58 PM on February 22, 2013


I live in Washington, which, for me, is probably the most livable city in the East, but I've always found that Baltimore has a certain charm and vitality that DC lacks.

As for the article, the best I can say about it is that it's not another Washington Post hack job in their 56,384-part series on "DC vs. New York".
posted by bcarter3 at 9:08 PM on February 22, 2013


Man, it bums me out when I see people reflexively dissing one city or the other just because they're being compared. Both places have endemic problems, but both also have a lot to enjoy and I--living in one of DC's more rapidly-changing neighborhoods--keep thinking I need to get to B'more to visit more often.

As for the article, the best I can say about it is that it's not another Washington Post hack job in their 56,384-part series on "DC vs. New York".

And those are still not nearly so bad as the NY Times' steady stream of "oh, look, DC finally has a modicum of culture worth peering at!" articles.
posted by psoas at 9:13 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


DC has *surprisingly strong* local theater. And regional theater. I've actually never seen a bad live in DC, which is more then I can say for some places.
posted by The Whelk at 10:42 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've wondered if Baltimore has a worse-than-it-deserves reputation because I95's Baltimore stretch runs through the industrial part of the city. It does look pretty bleak from the highway.

A lot of outsiders I've spoken to seem to not believe me that there are fantastically nice parts of town. Which I guess has it's advantages; if I tried to buy a house equivalent mine in DC, I wouldn't be able to afford it.

Baltimore is bigger (bigger than DC, actually) and more varied than people think. And I've been in parts of DC has bad as any Wire-induced Baltimore nightmare. DC is cool and all, but the only reason to ever go there is for stuff you can't do in Baltimore, and being a Maryland native, I'm pretty well stocked-up on the Smithsonian.
posted by spaltavian at 10:50 PM on February 22, 2013


My family is from Baltimore, from an unfashionable not-gentrified neighborhood that I nevertheless romanticized from my mother's recollections; I have a strong sense of "homeland" with the city. I grew up in the 'burbs not far away, and I don't pretend to be "from" the city, but most of my close friends went to high school there.

And I don't love Baltimore. I think it fucked up at lot, over and over, with money-grubbing "urban renewal" that was largely racist and short-sighted and damaging. I think it's a more provincial and less charming than it's often represented to be.

But, What The Fucking Fuck with this writer on his high horse with his personal issues all over the place. From DC?!?? Are you fucking kidding me? The division between rich and poor in DC makes Baltimore look like a egalitarian, walkable, brilliantly functional paradise. And by the way, does he even live in DC proper? And has he been to any other cities? Is he interested in facts? ZOMG.
posted by desuetude at 11:39 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


So it has hipster museums too!

Ironically(?), it used to be in DC but it was too expensive so it moved to Baltimore.
posted by josher71 at 7:06 PM on February 22 [3 favorites +] [!]

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the pinball museum is about to (hopefully very temporarily) close[PDF].
posted by zoinks at 11:49 PM on February 22, 2013


I lived in DC for about ten years, have been in Baltimore for about fifteen now. I am glad to go to DC often still for work and pleasure.
DC folks seem to perceive a rivalry that Baltimoreans aren't even aware exists.
We love you, Washington. You are great in so many ways, and we are happy to have you as a neighbor. Just relax. We live in Baltimore. Yeah, on purpose! It's okay.
posted by zoinks at 11:58 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Okay last comment from me here.
We had a fantastic Baltimoree meetup a while back hosted by sonascope bringing us up into the guts of the clocktower mentioned in TFA and out onto the roof. Someone wondered aloud if this may have been the first(?) Meafilter meetup where everyone had to sign a release form for safety.
Anyway if anyone wants or needs to come through feel free to stay in sixteen tons and my guest room. Mefi mail.
posted by zoinks at 1:00 AM on February 23, 2013


This article has an "old man yells at cloud" feeling about it. But people from DC that want to consume culture probably have a ton of reasons to drive up to baltimore already. When I was in high school it was to go to warehouse raves or strange minimal sound art things.

I am glad that Pittsburgh manages to get shit on in this article too.

Last time I was in Baltimore, I was chatting with a friend about videogames in a coffee shop, and some recruiter from a defense contractor tried to hire me. Still too close to the beltway for my tastes, I think.
posted by jonbro at 2:00 AM on February 23, 2013


The writer is the asshole that needs to be sewn shut, before he spews forth more misogynistic shit.

I see you RTFA good.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:26 AM on February 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Man, I do NOT get the Dulles hate, but I guess maybe that's because my typical trip home includes Charles de Gaulle right before (or right after when coming back).

Anyway, I want to echo Superplin's recommendation of the Amercian Visionary Art Museum. Really just a fantastic place.
posted by solotoro at 2:36 AM on February 23, 2013


Does D.C. have a song as great as Streets of Baltimore? I don't think so.
posted by maurice at 3:57 AM on February 23, 2013


I won't go into any details on the article because being too candid on such things tends to get me in trouble. One of the catches of being the facility major domo of my second of Baltimore's most iconic places (I was the facility manager at the American Visionary Art Museum prior to taking on the Tower) is that grousing and musing about the nature of people in places becomes astonishingly public astonishingly fast.

I am not, as it happens, a Baltimorean. My mother was, my grandmother was, and much of my family is, but I grew up in a log cabin under nineteen hundred year-old oaks across from a steer farm in the charmingly named Scaggsville, Maryland, which takes its name from the Scaggs family, which farmed most of the countryside when it was still countryside. I was born at GBMC, spent my first two years in Hamilton, and then we headed South and set up our circus tent at the old Bertling farm.

Where many people can say, reflecting on their wayward youth, that they'd come of age in some little town in the middle of nowhere, I'm proud to say I came of age in an island of rural, smalltown, and suburban living in the middle of somewhere, because Scaggsville (and Laurel, where I live now) is almost perfectly centered between Baltimore and Washington. Hop on 95 South and you're in DC in about a half hour, and take the exit for 95 North and you're in Baltimore in the same time.

The thing is, my affections are split, even now that I'm responsible for the upkeep of my second iconic piece of architecture in my comfortable Northern neighbor city.

Baltimore is still alive with the voice of my late grandmother, who used to park us on the plastic covered seats of her souped-up '68 Camaro with an aftermarket air conditioner that jammed into our knees and drive us down to the then-ruinous Hippodrome to watch Pam Grier movies before pointing out the Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower and explain how she used to believe the bluebird of happiness lived in the giant rotating blue bottle that capped the building until 1936.

Washington is the city of museums and the magical Metro, with its sixties futuristic (and still beautiful, in my mind) stations, and the city where I was an unknown opera star for twenty years with the Washington Opera and where I was narrowly grandfathered into drinking age, so I was able to start sneaking into gay bars when I was out on my own at 17. Washington was where I spent many happy hours on the gorgeously scenic roof of the Kennedy Center with binoculars, watching a man dancing in an apartment in the Watergate.

Baltimore was a working city, full of factories and docks and the low, scraggly architecture of construction underway, and Washington was the idealized project of L'Enfant, an early lover of iced tea, as evidenced by the ubiquitous traffic circles he hastily drew into the city plan to disguise where he'd put his glass down on the map. The streets of Baltimore unfurl in endless rows of small houses, and DC is more gentry, and more likely to be the setting for grand old apartment buildings from the city's building boom early in the last century.

I get around on the MARC train, which is irritatingly limited to runs in the morning and evening rush times, but for a Washingtonian or a Baltimorean alike, you can take a day off work, pay seven bucks each way for the trip, and have a nice day trip in your neighboring city. In DC, museums are everywhere and free, and in Baltimore, there's the harbor and nifty neighborhoods and little quirky things that couldn't exist in DC because of the cost of living there. DC is refined and elegant, with peculiar delights like the Temperance Fountain and the wonderful, wonderful Rock Creek Park and the zoo.

In more wayward days, my high school girlfriend, Lurleen, and I would be at the roller rink, lazily looping the room to the tune of "Rock With You," and when the boredom dug in, she'd often suggest an old favorite routine.

"Let's go make people uncomfortable," she'd say, circling me backwards on her beat-up orange thrift store roller skates as I lumbered along, happy enough to stay upright in the rink.

"Yeah, okay. Where?"

"Let's go to Washington."

"We always go there."

"People are funnier in Washington," she'd say, and she was right. Our favorite unsettling game was simple enough. We'd go to a place where people were standing around and then she'd stand uncomfortably close to them, without comment or any sort of special activity, and wait for them to get anxious. No more, no less, and goddammit if it wasn't a shitload of fun for a lazy afternoon. Watching the increasingly panicked look of discovery when someone would sense the presence of a gangly Olive Oyl slip of a girl in pink heart-shaped glasses was just...man, I could really do with a bit of that right now, in fact.

In Baltimore, she'd basically be treated as a sort of irritating horsefly, to be scowled at and swatted. It seemed more mean than fun, though you'd have the occasional glorious what-the-hell moment, like when she sidled up to a large woman on North Avenue, whose response was to shriek, "I told you, bitch—what goes in lockup ain't playin' here!" In DC, people's eyebrows would slowly rise, and then the awkward dance of trying to escape this skinny nightmare would begin. We were assholes, but boy, did we have fun.

In DC, I had a brief career as a stripper at a bar that a stadium landed on like Dorothy Gale's house. In Baltimore, fifteen years and a hundred pounds later, a man gave me his card after watching me disco dancing in a monk's habit and I had a brief late-life career as a novelty stripper.

In Baltimore, I'd go road farming with friends, observing the splendid plumage of the transgender prostitutes on Calvert Street. In Washington, I'd roam the roads in my Citroën GSA with the a James Bond feature—the car came with "75" plates (Paris, baby!) and I had my American plates on little chains so when I crossed into DC, I'd stop, open the hatch, flip the US plates in, and drive around like a freaking moron in what the police assumed was a diplomatic car. Cheap Baltimore parking was nothing to me, because a hydropneumatique Citroën can't be booted or towed once the accumulator sphere is no longer pressurized and the car's sagged to the ground, so there were times I was running late for rehearsals at the opera and just dumped the car on the sidewalk at the Watergate, returning to find angry notes under the wipers that read "FUCKING DIP TAGS LEARN TO PARK!!!"

There's just so much in each place. DC's an easier sell, because it's tidier, except in the areas they sort of pretend don't exist, and Baltimore requires a bit more investigation. The "hipster" criticism that's so in vogue of late is bandied about in Baltimore, and frankly, it's cranky middle-aged bullshit from a culture that's decided that youth culture is, just like it was in the fifties, the enemy of all good citizens. Step into a place like the H&H Building, where fun, stupid, pretentious, wonderful art is happening, and if you're not reminded of New York in 1983, it's because you weren't in New York in 1983.

I don't get the insular nature of people. Hell, Virginia's gross, but it doesn't stop me from enjoying the lavish Vietnamese wonderland that is Eden Center. During my Los Angeles romantic entanglement, I was shocked to find how few Angelenos had ever bothered to visit Watts Towers or the abandoned zoo, let alone going to Sepulveda Dam to act out the end credits to Buckaroo Banzai with their friends.

Maybe we need a Metafilter Magical Mystery Tour. Who's got a bus? Alternatively, I've got a giant pickup truck. Is it illegal to drive with a dozen people sitting on hay bales in a truck?

People just get too comfortable with their own little spaces, and when they travel, they get on planes and fly off to faraway places, never getting to know the weird and wondrous things in their own back yards. Maybe if you get out and just walk your neighborhood, you'll find that someone's built their own crude concrete homage to Jamaica.

"Joe, let's go make people uncomfortable. I stole a box of clown noses from the joke store."

"What are we going to do with stolen clown noses?"

"We're going nosing. It'll be fun. Get the Datsun."

It was, too. It was even fun when, in the commission of what would have been an absolutely perfect nosing, the woman being nosed took exception and chased us until we darted into the Metro station and fell down the Dupont Circle escalator, which is one insanely long escalator to fall down in a jumble of arms, legs, and stolen noses.

We all need to get out more.
posted by sonascope at 4:44 AM on February 23, 2013 [41 favorites]


I can't believe I worked downtown for 20 years and never saw the Temperance Fountain!
posted by MtDewd at 5:57 AM on February 23, 2013


Metafilter: I told you, bitch—what goes in lockup ain't playin' here!
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 6:34 AM on February 23, 2013


Any Baltimore mefites heading to see the Johnathan Richman show this evening?
posted by josher71 at 7:40 AM on February 23, 2013


I've got a giant pickup truck. Is it illegal to drive with a dozen people sitting on hay bales in a truck?

Working on the universal principal that unusual things quckly become invisible, just outfit everyone with chin-strap locked top hats and you'll be fine.
posted by The Whelk at 8:11 AM on February 23, 2013


That article is laughably bad. No New Yorker should ever be a travel writer.

Really the thing you need to know about his reporting instincts is that he had sonascope at his disposal but did not change course to write an article about sonascope's view of Baltimore.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:31 AM on February 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


The reminds me of my frustration several years back when I was pitching a travel show to several of the big cable channels using the residual halo I had from my it's-complicated with a Discovery exec. Was pushing the idea of a show I tentatively called "Nowhere Man," and the conceit was to use a travel journalism approach to exploring the world in your backyard. I pitched a few concepts, like stuck-in-traffic travel, or on-the-way-to-the-grocery-store travel, or travel-inside-your-head-like-Sister-Wendy travel, but I got a sort of blank stare. One of these days, I may try to do some of those as a podcast or something.

People really aren't super keen on travel that doesn't resemble the brochures, alas.
posted by sonascope at 9:11 AM on February 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


My grandmother grew up in Baltimore. She lived in Mt. Washington when it was still farmland. And the city proper when her father owned a restaurant on Pennsylvania Ave. She spent her adult life in Woodlawn and Catonsville. She's 92 now and is living in Catonsville.

The last time I visited Baltimore, my brother, sister-in-law and I wanted to do touristy things and see the Inner Harbor, etc. Grandma, not having really seen much of Baltimore for at least the last decade told us to drive downtown using Frederick Ave instead of taking the Beltway. She was insistent it was better and we figured why not. It was like driving through a scene from The Wire. Boarded up row homes, people hanging out on stoops and corners... The drive would have confused my Grandmother in a multitude of ways.

It's amazing how Baltimore, from one block to the next, can go from boarded up row homes to a gentrified block in a blink of an eye as you drive by.

And years ago, I had the best Italian food ever in Baltimore's Little Italy. Baltimore is worth visiting for pleasure just from that experience alone. Also, crabs.
posted by backwords at 9:14 AM on February 23, 2013


Usually you get crabs when traveling from overly friendly locals.
posted by The Whelk at 9:25 AM on February 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Instead of revisiting old favorites such as the American Visionary Art Museum

Reading the article did make me realize that I've still been thinking of the Visionary Arts Museum as "the cool new place down by Rash Field' almost two decades after its creation, and was shocked that it could be described as an 'old favorite.'
posted by Dr.Enormous at 9:55 AM on February 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Since y'all like Baltimore and I like you, I'll share a bit of vanished Baltimore in the voice of my grandmother, Cora. These were recorded in the early mid eighties, when she was in her late early seventies.

Cora, the blister, and the cow flop.

Core, the clubfooted cousin, and the barrel.

Cora and the Devil.

I still hear her voice sometimes when I'm walking in the neighborhood around the Tower, telling me about the blue bottle and the bluebird of happiness.
posted by sonascope at 10:15 AM on February 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


Gawd that travel writer was pretentious. But isn't the whole genre based on tramping around in other peoples' living rooms and making grand Universal inferences about The Other from what you find there? (Incidentally, this is why I am having so much trouble with OK Cupid... No, please, show me another profile where someone has based their entire identity on the cultures they've spent tourist dollars in.)

I’ve lived in Shirlington, Takoma Park, Silver Spring, and Capitol Hill. [...] DC is the hot blonde girl who waxes her­self nearly bald, went to Penn, and works in communications for a prestigious non­profit.

Shirlington: Virginia (White, wealthy)
Takoma Park: Straddles both sides of the Maryland border. (White, wealthy)
Silver Spring: Maryland (White, wealthy)
Capitol Hill: Is in an entirely different world than the rest of us. (White, wealthy)

The general theme here is that people love to make myopic generalizations based on extremely biased experience.

DC does not pass this test. As far as I can tell from my two years in DC, the only uniquely DC foodstuffs are half-smokes and jumbo slices.

And mumbo sauce! Don't forget mumbo sauce. Fair enough, though, DC's food scene is pretty uninspired and most of the best bets are transplanted from elsewhere (falafel, ethiopian, empanadas and pupusas). Taylor Gourmet is a DC original, but was founded by Philly transplants to bring Philly here. The gentrification isn't really helping. The hyped food places like food trucks and localvore are over-priced and over-crowded. I mean, I went to frickin' Pittsburgh and found better, more inspired restaurants than DC. (Hey, nothing wrong with Pittsburgh. Send us some of your restaurateurs, please.)

For what it's worth, in DC "tourist" is the worst pejorative that you can give a human being and Marc Fisher is one heck of a tourist.
posted by Skwirl at 10:47 AM on February 23, 2013


Takoma Park: Straddles both sides of the Maryland border. (White, wealthy)
Silver Spring: Maryland (White, wealthy)


Outside of the downtown areas, both Silver Spring and Takoma Park are more Latino, working class. White professionals in either of these towns are going to move straight to Bethesda or Potomac if they are the wealthy kind or Burtonsville or Columbia if they're the more middle class kind.

Not to mention that Capitol Hill was pretty sketchy up until the last 10-15 years or so.
posted by deanc at 11:48 AM on February 23, 2013


DC native here, grew up in Hyattsville but also lived in Adams Morgan and Arlington. We had a saying abot Charm City,
Washington has Class but no Style, whereas
Baltimore has Style but no Class.
posted by Rash at 11:51 AM on February 23, 2013


I just found this take down of the whole idea of the new "It City". Some choice bits from the article to offend your local sensibilities:

it’s usually driven by the popular media and young people, two groups whose experience with the more interesting things in life isn’t often what one would call comprehensive.'

As in all It Cities, Portland’s status is codified by its need for recognition from outsiders, embellished by how effectively it commercializes that attention, and sustained by the intensity of its need to prove that you don’t have to live in New York or L.A. to be surrounded by awesome musicians, world-class theater, and pretentious Sazerac culture.

Except that you sort of do.

posted by Seymour Zamboni at 6:31 PM on February 23, 2013


Really surprised at the DC grar.

I've lived in DC proper (Southwest, very close to the ballpark) for 18 months now and I love it here. The costs suck, but I have realized that I'm a walkable-city person. If it would just stop raining and the Nationals go to the Series I think my year would be totally made.
posted by Thistledown at 6:59 PM on February 23, 2013


I live in Baltimore, work in DC. The article was just too stupid to respond to. Read it, shrugged, forgot about it.

DC is a fun place to visit, especially if you leave before you need to eat. Baltimore, on the other hand, is a great place to eat. We also have some great museums, very different from the Smithsonian (AVAM is amazing), although you have to pay for them. Trinacria is not the best place in the city for sandwiches, by far. 34th street...sheesh, just stay away. It is the "Leave it to Beaver" view of what white Baltimore used to be.

I live a block from the headstone of the guy who invented the Ouija board. If you aren't amused by stuff like that, you probably wouldn't like Baltimore.
posted by QIbHom at 10:36 AM on February 27, 2013


Wait, so what's the best place for sandwiches?
posted by josher71 at 11:47 AM on February 27, 2013


Isabella's in Little Italy, DiPasquale's in Highlandtown are both better. Trinacria often has out of date stuff in their store, and I'm not convinced it doesn't get in to the sandwiches, too.
posted by QIbHom at 11:49 AM on February 27, 2013


Never been to Isabella's but DisPasquale's is very good although Trinacria often has hot bread which I like.
posted by josher71 at 11:50 AM on February 27, 2013


Feed the Scene is the original "Band & Breakfast" started by Charm City resident Rachel Taft. Taft is the founder and essentially the one-woman show behind the organization that feeds and houses bands touring through Baltimore, all completely free of charge.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:27 PM on February 27, 2013


Thanks CIS. Hadn't heard about this at all.
posted by josher71 at 9:50 AM on February 28, 2013


Rando Questio: I have Monday off and thought I'd zip up from DC to Baltimore for the day, but it looks like all the museums I was curious about are closed Mondays. What other during-the-day sights and to-dos do people recommend? (Guy, traveling solo.)
posted by psoas at 1:39 PM on March 1, 2013


psoas, if you drink, Bad Decisions is the place to go.
posted by troika at 2:00 PM on March 1, 2013


Family Feud
How do you attempt to establish your street cred as a world capital when you're actually nothing more than a second-rate city, even by the regional standards of the Northeast corridor, much less the global stage?

Well, you certainly don't do it by comparing yourself to London or Tokyo, that's for shit sure.

Instead you take the coward's way out. You flash the bully's calling card. You shoot fish in a barrel. You find the nearest city that's a little bit weaker than you and try to beat it up.

You mock Richmond for being full of hicks. You dismiss Baltimore for being poor. You caricature the relatives you most fear being associated with, vainly hoping to distance yourself from them, praying that a good lampooning will allow you to elevate yourself by stepping over them.

A classic example of this shallow smarm reared up a couple of weeks ago when Washington Post Senior Editor Marc Fisher authored a travel piece on Baltimore. The article's tone is so drenched in arrogance, the prose so dripping with condescension, that you quickly forget you're reading newspaper of national standing.
...
So allow me then to take aim at Marc Fisher and The Washington Post, and know that my barbs are tipped with neither ignorance nor envy.

Now here's the thing. What Fisher's piece truly revealed, in all of its ironic glory, was not Baltimore's supposedly quirky shortcomings and buffoonish little victories, but rather Washington's own provincialism.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:36 AM on March 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


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