By Craig Lee
Though I spent much of my adolescence and college years in the suburbs of Philadelphia, I never lost touch with my Baltimore roots. I used to wear my O’s cap into school on rainy or snowy days, proudly sporting my black and orange in a sea of blue and red Phillies fans. My classmates would notice the cartoon bird brandishing a hat and a smirk and would usually say things like “Oh, you’re from Baltimore? I love the Inner Harbor!” To those of you brand new to the city, please understand that not all of the approximately 623,000 residents of Baltimore live at the Inner Harbor. In fact, very few people live at the Inner Harbor. Baltimore hosts a wide array of neighborhoods and is as diverse, if not more, than any other city on the East Coast. It is a microcosm of the world.
I spent my childhood in the eastern stretches of the city, in a neighborhood called Bayview, by way of Dundalk. Yes, you guessed it – the neighborhood of Bayview sits in the shadow of the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Campus. As a child, I used to think Bayview, Greektown, Highlandtown, Camden Yards, and the Maryland Zoo were the collective pieces of the puzzle that made Charm City, as if they had swallowed the rest of the city to form super neighborhoods. These neighborhoods were what I knew and they seemed so large to me with so much to explore!
When I moved back to the city as an adult, my eyes were truly opened to the diversity of Baltimore. And, of course, I realized that Baltimore was much more than three neighborhoods, a baseball stadium, and a zoo. Even more, I became aware of just how quirky this city is. The history is far from normal, the city is in a constant state of limbo as being a northern or southern city, and the neighborhoods give the feel of a collection of small towns as opposed to sections of a city. We tout heroes such as Frederick Douglass, Edgar Allan Poe, Harriet Tubman, and Babe Ruth (He may have played for the Yankees, but he’s ours). We have row homes upon row homes, and some of them we’ll paint in vibrant colors for blocks. Blue crabs and pit beef are delicacies, but our food scene has exploded over the past several years to be one of the most diverse on the East Coast – there’s a little something for everyone. We love our O’s and Camden Yards is arguably one of the most beautiful stadiums in the majors. We proudly claim to be the home of the beehive hairdo and we’ll welcome you with a “Hey, Hon!”
Bored on a Tuesday? Go to a punk show on the floor of an Asian fusion restaurant or walk across the street to a bluegrass jam session. Need an art fix? Artscape is one of the largest art festivals on the East Coast and happens every summer or visit one of the many museums or art galleries. Want to elope with your pet? Yes, there is a pet wedding in Remington that happens once a year (don’t worry, the only paperwork you have to complete is the sign-up sheet at front door and it’s not legally binding).
I told you it was quirky.
Each neighborhood has its claim to fame and its own quirk. In Fells Point you find young professionals and students weaving about narrow brick-laden streets and 300 year-old buildings. In Mount Vernon, you’re welcomed by historical homes, the Washington Monument, and the internationally known Walter’s Art Gallery. A quick adventure north brings you to the home of pink flamingos, HONfest, and 36th street (known as “The Avenue”), otherwise called Hampden. A few blocks away from the School of Nursing is Patterson Park, a sprawling piece of green-space where residents in the surrounding houses love to take their dogs for walks (in Baltimore, it’s hard to go half a block without seeing a dog). These neighborhoods are just the tip of the iceberg.
And let’s address the elephant in the room. We know many people outside of the city have a perception of Baltimore.Outsiders claim it’s too violent, downtrodden, and an overall scary place. The uprising was unsettling and many major news stations covered the negative point-of-view of the events. We know about the popular shows like Homicide and The Wire and the crime characters they portrayed. But ask a Baltimorean or a fellow student, faculty, or staff member. This city has so much more to it than fictional crime shows and bad press. How about the community leaders who came together to help end the uprising? What about the businesses and young professionals who move to Baltimore for that “Goldilocks” feel of the city (not too big, not too small)? The city represents the world. People from different nationalities, economic statuses, and religions settle in the ubiquitous row homes, work in the businesses downtown and throughout, and raise their families in the many diverse communities and neighborhoods of Baltimore. Thriving universities and struggling public schools could be blocks from each other and they will work together to make each institution better.
As a student, you’ll become a part of this city. You’ll have opportunities to volunteer and work in the East Baltimore community that the School of Nursing calls home. You may end up living in one of the many vibrant neighborhoods Baltimore has to offer. In this series, we’ll explore northern neighborhoods such as Hampden, Remington, and Charles Village; walk along the harbor in Canton and Fells Point; venture to the south at Federal Hill and Locust Point; and so much more!
Let’s find out just how charming quirky can be.