It’s raining in Baltimore, and I find myself reflecting on my first four weeks in the city.
Baltimore isn’t what I expected, not that I’m entirely sure what it was that I was expecting. Five weeks ago, I was living just past the edge of suburbia in semi-rural New Jersey, a place full of farms, open fields, and dense, green mid-Atlantic forests. Lots of people don’t lock their doors there. The loudest noises at night are the cacophony of chirping crickets and tree frogs. Things were calm, normal, my days were predictable. I knew my life would change once I moved to this city and started nursing school, but I couldn’t have predicted just how much.
The City and I are in the awkward first stages of our relationship. We’re not quite sure what we think of each other, we’re a little hesitant to begin to form an attachment, we’re still feeling each other out. Baltimore, well, she has a bad reputation, and although I wanted to believe that she was more than the storylines on ‘The Wire’ or the violence on the local news, I felt sure that I would never feel fully at ease within her boundaries.
Yet, I find myself becoming more and more susceptible to her charms…
First, there are the people, like the guy that rides his bike up our street just about every afternoon, belting Bob Marley and always willing to give you a smile. The older gentleman sitting on his stoop, greeting me with a wave and critiquing my back-in-angled-parking (I’m getting better, he says!). There are random people always happy to give you a “hello, how ya doin’ hon?” There are pets, including Midnight, the cat on the block who makes frequent visits, persistently demanding attention… but it’s ok, because he’s cute.
Then there are the sounds. Sure, there are distant sirens and helicopters zipping to and from hospitals. But there are also the giggles of kids playing in the back alley spaces a few doors down. And the folksy guitar player on the street in Fells Point, second only to the jazz trombone player Friday night on Charles Street. There are dogs barking in Patterson Park, overheard conversations while walking to school, the call of the araber selling fruit out of the back of a slowly-moving pickup truck, and the drum corps of the marching band practicing a block away.
And don’t forget the places. The early-morning, sleepy hustle-bustle of the farmers market under the Jones Falls expressway on Sundays (Best. Peaches. Ever). Softly rolling hills in Patterson Park that reveal paths full of joggers, walkers, and dogs. Victorian architecture, cathedrals and museums in Mount Vernon. Pubs and cafes and an overall fishing-village feel in Fells Point. Dive-bars on just about every corner in Upper Fells. The mid-day view from the cafeteria on the 9th floor of the School of Public Health. Beautiful, sunset walks at the Inner Harbor.
But best of all, there’s the quirk. The railings at the house on the corner, bronze sculpted into twigs that end in hands clutching the brownstone steps. Painted pastoral scenes on window screens all over the city. A big, free-form crocheted “Do Not Park Here, Please” sign outside what must be an ambitious crafter’s home. Beehive hairdo’s in Hampden. Bizarre rodent-of-unusual-size sculptures on the south side of Patterson Park. The violin-playing frog in the School of Nursing’s courtyard.
The longer I’m here, the more it feels like home.