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I love you Baltimore June 9, 2008

Posted by mandsrix in Baltimore Ricks.

As the residency application deadline approaches I have come to realize that this may well be our last year in Baltimore. I’ve been writing some memoirs of our time here entitled “Livin’ in da ‘Hood: a guide to urban Baltimore”. I’ve been including some of our stories with the N&B but I thought I’d also post them here in case some people (like us) no longer have an N&B subscription. So here are the first two sections- maybe Jonathan and Tine shouldn’t read these, I think they are applying at Hopkins.

Crime in da ‘Hood: For most people, it is the fear of crime that keeps them from living in Baltimore city. During our stay here we have only had two incidents. So here is what we have learned:

1990s Dodge minivans will be stolen by groups of local teenage boys because they are notoriously easy to hot wire. However, those teenagers will be easily caught by the police when the cops notice a 1990s Dodge minivan driving erratically with smoke pouring out from under the hood. Apparently, teenage boys just don’t have the same finesse that my (Sarah’s) brother does for junker vehicles. The van was returned with little damage other than the fact that my brother had to start it with a screwdriver from that point forward. We all bought clubs (devices which immobilize the steering wheel unless unlocked with a key) for our vehicles to prevent future theft.

Teenage boys in Baltimore apparently carry around bolt cutters just for fun. It has nothing to do with the fact that they are standing outside your garage doors that are secured only with padlocks and they certainly weren’t the cause of those suspicious noises you heard coming from just outside the garage. If you follow these boys home and tell their mamas what they’ve been doing, the boys will call you a snitch and their mamas will call them names that can’t be written in a publication such as this.

Shopping in da ‘Hood: There are many ways to obtain goods unique to our Baltimore neighborhood. Here are a few examples:

If you want ice cream, say no more, you’ve come to the right place. Our neighborhood ice cream truck runs 9 months out of the year beginning in March and lasting until November. The ice cream truck drives down our street at least 5 times daily and has been known to park on our street corner. Sometimes for over an hour. With the music on. There is nothing more pleasant than hearing nursery rhymes played at loud volume right under your open window. Indeed, whoever drives this truck seems to be quite the go getter. This truck may be heard as early as 7 am and as late as 10 pm. However, in the evening and late night hours the music changes to a rap beat complete with record scratches. We are not sure what the truck sells when playing this music, but we suspect that it is not ice cream.

Also unique to our ‘hood is a man we have deemed “the yard sale man”. The yard sale man is to be seen standing in his small corner yard amid a cloud of cigarette smoke selling his wares every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, weather permitting. He throws wide the doors of his little shed and proudly displays an array of objects of questionable origin. Sometimes his merchandise is new, sometimes it is used but it always thematic. Where does it all come from? We don’t know, but past themes have included: grills (all shapes sizes and conditions), window ac units, patio furniture, mirrors, bedside tables, plastic plates, cups and utensils. In a pinch, we once purchased plastic plates and cups from him. He seemed very nice and even held his cigarette behind his back for me (Sarah), he said, since I was pregnant at the time. He gave us a very good price and the transaction seemed innocent enough, but we always feel a little guilty when we reflect on our purchase. Were we, in fact, supporting a black market trade in picnic ware? We may never know.

Our house was built in the 1930s and the basement used to be a neighborhood grocery, or so we are told. The current neighborhood grocery is a couple of blocks down and has a huge sign touting “We sell beer on Sunday.” However, we choose to use the larger, but still authentic, grocery store several blocks away named “Food Depot”. Food Depot carries most items that you would expect from a large grocery store and has fantastic prices but it is also unique in several ways. Firstly, it is perhaps the only grocery store in which someone yelling out “Hey look everybody, there’s a white girl in the black market!” would cause everyone in the produce section to whip around and gawk at me (Sarah) selecting cucumbers. One might also notice that while it is difficult to find the romaine lettuce, huge bins of collard greens and kale take pride of place. Music playing in the store may include rap, gospel or oldies. Persons inside the store may bring in their own table and sell their products such as “Black Soap: soap for Black skin”, t-shirts bearing gospel messages (my favorite is one with the McDonalds golden arches that says, “My Jesus, I’m Lovin’ Him”) or the names of R&B artists, a vast array of perfumes and handbags, CDs of the music being played in the store, etc. Also inside the store you will find specialty departments such as the Pharmacy Depot and Liquor Depot. We actually love our special grocery store. My only complaint is that the employees are less than helpful if you can’t locate an item. When asked about the location of yeast one employee responded, “Yeast? What’s a yeast? I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout no yeast!” No, apparently you don’t.



1. sockcrazy - June 10, 2008

Wow! Urban Baltimore is way different than Utah. I am glad that you have survived it. I hope that you have enjoyed it, too and not just survived it.

2. Robert - June 10, 2008

Love these stories, Sarah!

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