Surviving in Baltimore for over six decades and leaving a safe home life at a young age, I was blessed with an abundance of silly luck. I escaped Not a big escape, more like a secret departure. Let’s say I’ve come to some hard conclusions. Back then driving around or just driving through towns. A collective petty consciousness, it’s quite obvious that they are all cookie cutters, copies of the entire nation’s business plan. The rubber stamp stencil, the curbside mall attraction, the copied highway mediocrity. I was a city dweller, not a city guerrilla, a city dweller and a daydreamer. Baltimore was no exception to this feeling of not fitting in anywhere. Now I live in the country and don’t have to blend in with nature. The trees don’t care.
Living comfortably enough to feel less faded and less emotional. Stunned by the bad information of the monotonous, harmful newsfeed. In the end, I’m a poster child for the disenfranchised youth who are running out of golden years. Wanting nothing more than freedom, all rights to free speech and fair gameplay. Growing up in Baltimore gave me a protective outer skin, a hard shell to protect my delicate inner ego from invaders and usurpers. Coming from a small town like Baltimore makes for an unvalidated inferiority complex compared to cities like NYC, DC and Philly. Who can take on the big ones? The Real Cities. It was easier to separate people in a small town. Segments of a social order that never conform to the norm.
A precocious child who gets into trouble and never wants to “grow up” to become an adult character. Stuck with all the responsibilities that come with being an adult, mature and responsible. Instead, I create my own reality in the business of everyday living. Accumulated enough to make ends meet until the next day. A wanderlust to knock through life as a casual observer. An unwilling spectator in a city of dreams and ignorant dreamers. The ideal that every person should have equal opportunities to achieve wealth through hard work, courage, determination and initiative. If you work hard and save, you too can reach the pinnacle of success in the great experiment. To advance, a coin toss. The greatest big lie I observed began no earlier than expected, early in my school days, witnessing the flaws and cracks in an imperfect system. Some called it democracy. We know it as capitalism.
As I roamed the streets of Baltimore, I discovered the other like-minded dreamers. The crooked optimists who shared my ideas about how things were going. It wasn’t an official playbook, that maxim of staying the course, sticking to the line, keeping your nose clean, and being a productive member of society. Like the classic country song “Streets of Baltimore,” which has been covered by many over the years, the young girl in the song ran away down the streets of Baltimore, lured by the colorful lights. I also had different versions of this sad sob story. The attractions along with its shabby repulsive nature too. Traveling through a town that wasn’t really mine, that belonged to no one, even though it was born and raised by my immigrant family, unaccustomed to the opportunities this tiny town had to offer.
I never really felt welcome in the social classes living there. It was a longstanding tolerance. My presence was like you were here, make the most of it. Stay in your seat and mind your own business. Not fitting into the normal scene of creating my own with others who shared the dissatisfaction and disappointment that those stubborn teenage dilemma days brought. Always late to the party, this venture was considered a triumphant resounding success. A dreamy pseudo-world where everyone admired and looked up to achievements and achievements rather than condemning reality, great sour jealousies that ruefully plagued the years. School was a place where you had to fit in or be scorned as being different. Like Church without God in the God factor. But we didn’t want to be like everyone else. Maybe we thought we were unique. My rejection of them hastened theirs. It is a reaction to inaction. Nobody I knew wanted to be part of the broken system. I don’t care how many pachyderms you cram into the parlor, it’s still a room full of elephants and shit.
If you look at the white marble steps in the above photo by Aubrey Bodine, you can see the equality. This is a repetition of the finite distance. Pure white marble block excavated in the 18th century, mainly from the Beaver Dam Quarries north of town. Taken to the streets of Baltimore by horse and cart. Block after block of avenues and streets, terraced houses and public buildings alike. Thousands of stoops where generations sat and chewed the fat. Bending down, telling tall tales, spinning yarn. Busy friends, nosy neighbors and relatives. A story of ours set in stone.