Thursday, May 31, 2007

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Monday, May 07, 2007

Baltimore - in pictures


I didn’t quite “get” Baltimore.

I liked it though. A lot. Like every other city, I found it fascinating. And Baltimore, by every definition, is a city – it looks like a city, it sounds like a city, it smells like a city. Compared to Baltimore Richmond is but a small town. But unlike Richmond, Baltimore didn’t greet me with a warm and inviting welcome. I found that there was something dark and ominous about the city, uninviting, almost menacing. It’s a tense city. Charged. Eerie in a way that you know that there is a whole lot more to it than you see on its surface. It’s shielded. Closed to outsiders. But then, I only got to spend less than two days there.

Of course two days wasn’t long enough to get to know the city. I didn’t see but a sliver of it. However, from what I saw, I know I will be going back, not once or twice, but several times, in hopes that one day I will finally “get” it. Or at least know the place well enough not to get lost in its maze of streets.

A few sketchy remarks based on less than two days’ of observations:

Downtown Baltimore is impressive. Big, old, crumbling buildings, crazy traffic with constant honking and jaywalking – so much like Yerevan. Mount Vernon is truly beautiful. Quieter, quainter. With magnificent churches, eclectic little rowhouses. Mix of Georgian, Edwardian, Romanesque, Beaux Art, Tudor and Gothic styles. The Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University is here. University of Baltimore is here. It has theatres and concert halls, museums, galleries and a number of shops. And a train station. Probably the most impressive part of Baltimore, from what I got to see during my short visit.

Inner Harbor, on the other hand was windy and disappointing in its cardboard and plastic touristy fakeness.

Jonestown and parts of Little Italy reminded me of certain districts of Yerevan (Armenian readers picture Nork-Marash, except less hilly and no tuff).

I did not get to check out Johns Hopkins campus – bummer, but I did get to hang out at a strip of restaurants/bars crowded with University of Baltimore students. Eclectic, to say the least.

Wheelchairs – I’ve never seen so many homeless in wheelchairs – a very sad sight.

Streetcars! And trams – last time I saw one was before trams became completely extinct in Yerevan – this one looked just as beat up and shabby as the ones that used to shake the streets of Yerevan. Except they were white. I don’t think white is the best color for trams, do you?

Steam- steam coming out of every crack on the ground – is hell geographically located underneath this city?

And many tense, unsmiling faces…

There wasn’t really enough time to see a lot, between aimless walks and constantly getting lost and wandering to parts that we knew we should have better kept away from. And this time, both due the lack of time and plain common sense, I stayed away from one of the greatest weakness of mine in any given city – the slums. Maybe it was the reputation of the city that had preceded itself, or maybe because I got way too many warnings before going on this trip – I did resist the urge of letting my curiosity guide me further than a few steps towards what seemed like a sketchy neighborhood. My curiosity, in fact, has landed me in very absurd, and not always safe situations on more than one occasion in the past. Getting in trouble in Baltimore simply sounded like not a very good idea.

I did like Baltimore. But I can’t quite picture myself living there. It just does not have the feel of home. And I am not bitter enough and tough enough to be able to withstand or even welcome its guarded tenseness. Baltimore, in fact, struck me as a bitter city, bitter, and yet pleasing, just like cigarette smoke.