Did you guys get a load of this risbile travel piece in today's Washington Post?
It's written by a guy named Marc Fisher who LITERALLY still bases his opinion of our town on the Randy Newman song "Baltimore" that was WRITTEN IN 1977.
This has to be one of the most bizarre travel pieces I've ever come across. It would be one thing if the writer was from, I dunno, Norway or something, and had outmoded views of Baltimore, based on strange snippets of pop culture (The Wire, old John Waters films, a 1977 song) that came wafting his way across the pond. But Fisher lives ONE TOWN OVER!! He acts like his sojourn into Baltimore is some sort of perilous, heroic journey—like a risky assignment in a wartorn nation.
A few choice quotes from the piece (with our reaction, in paranthesis):
"I’ve always been torn about Baltimore. I’m mystified by Washington fans who lustily add an Orioles “O” to the singing of the national anthem at Nationals Park. I have about as much interest in news from the next big city up the Northeast Corridor as I do in, say, Pittsburgh." (THEN YOU, SIR, ARE THE IDEAL PERSON TO WRITE A BALTIMORE TRAVEL PIECE!)
"But I never got into the true-grit romance of Baltimore. Those black billboards that Martin O’Malley put up around town when he was mayor, urging his dispirited constituents simply to “BELIEVE,” struck me as more pathetic than stirring. I loved HBO’s “The Wire,” especially the episodes written by Washington novelist George Pelecanos, but its depiction of Baltimore didn’t exactly make me pine for the place, let alone want to pop up for a weekend getaway." (IBID) (ALSO, GOTTA LOVE THE WASHINGTON CHAUVINISM THERE. YES, THOSE WIRE EPISODES WRITTEN BY THAT D.C. WRITER WERE THE BEST, NOW THAT YOU MENTION IT!)
Before that, he says that his usual reaction to Baltimore is "get me a Bromo." (WHAT. A. CARD.)
"So when the Travel editors suggested that I check in on our neighbor to the northeast, I admit to a certain grumpiness, informed by decades of hearing Randy Newman’s pained wail (“Oh, Baltimore, man, it’s hard just to live”) in the back of my mind and by a pesky allergy to all things John Waters. (I enjoy a great beehive hairdo as much as the next guy, but camp, ultimately, is as empty as Baltimore’s rubble-strewn vacant lots.)" (AS OPPOSED TO WASHINGTON D.C., WHICH HAS NO CRIME, NO VACANT LOTS, AND CERTAINLY NO PROBLEM WITH ABJECT AND CONCENTRATED POVERTY).
Later, he marvels over all the free parking: "Even here, in tourist central, street parking is plentiful and, yep, free on weekend evenings. Randy Newman got one thing wrong in his anthem to Baltimore’s dysfunction: “Hard times in the city / In a hard town by the sea,” he writes. “Ain’t nowhere to run to / There ain’t nothin’ here for free.” (IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING, ALL OF FISHER'S OPINIONS OF NORTH CAROLINA ARE BASED ON THE 1922 SONG "CAROLINA IN THE MORNING.")
Then he goes to Harbor East: "Even in decline, Baltimore has managed to add some glitz to its grit. Harbor East, just east of the Inner Harbor, is the kind of high-end real estate development that city governments love because they generate revenue, even if true urbanists sigh at such clusters because they look and feel the same from city to city." (EVEN IN DECLINE?!? DON'T THEY HAVE FACT CHECKERS OVER AT THE POST?)
He does have a couple of lovely meals (Ouzo Bay and Woodberry Kitchen) and then hangs out in Hampden. With seemingly no knowledge of the controvery surrounding Cafe Hon and its depiction of working class Baltimore, he expresses relief that its "beehive of kitsch doesn’t infect the entire neighborhood."
Finally, he heads back to the safety of Washington D.C., grateful that he'll never be forced to make this daunting pilgrimage to the mean streets of Baltimore again:
"I end up caring a lot less about what’s real and what’s kitsch than I do about the comfort of a town that has managed to stay easy and open despite the evident urban tensions of class, race and development. Baltimore is changing, but so far it’s still affordable, distinctive and grounded. I wouldn’t want to live there, but what a place to explore." (SERIOUSLY, MAN, YOU'RE LIKE THE MAGELLAN OF TRAVEL WRITERS. THANK GOD YOU MADE IT HOME SAFELY!!! DON'T LET THE LOMBARDI TROPHY HIT YOU ON THE WAY OUT!!)
Image courtesy of The Washington Post