Charm City

Charm City The bitter winds blow off the Chesapeake as we drive the Uhaul down the old cobblestone street toward our new apartment. My stomach flips with excitement. I’m actually moving to Baltimore. Charm City. The City That Reads.

(At least this is what all the bus benches claim, but I’m sure many would argue.). The city where a young George Herman Ruth, Jr. swung a stick at a small rubber ball in front of 216 Emory Street and nineteen years later, after signing a contract with the Oriole’s, adopted the name Babe. The city where in 1826, an 8 year old Frederick Bailey retreated from the chains of slavery by learning to read and 21 years later, as Frederick Douglas, published the North Star, an abolitionist newspaper. The city where once upon a midnight dreary Edgar Allen Poe pondered, weak and weary and suddenly there came a tapping at his chamber door.

The city where Marci Koch, an aspiring artist at 27, unpacked a Uhaul on a brisk wintry day in March of 1999. Various structures of different shapes and sizes decorate the Inner Harbor. At night, the darkness defines the scattered brilliance of towers, glowing wonders reflected in the water. The Lord Baltimore Hotel, once the tallest building in Maryland, glows gold, noble and proud. The king on a giant chessboard. The Legg Mason building stands at his side, his reigning Queen.

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The Bromo Seltzer building glows blue, dark and mysterious. The slender, square pillar resembles a castle. Clearly his rook. And the others scattered about, his bishops, knights, and pawns. Sprinkled upon red brick sidewalks, restaurants, shops, galleries, and hotels display dazzling signs that flicker and flash.

Barnes and Nobles, Planet Hollywood, ESPN Zone. The Hyatt, The Hilton, The Sheraton Hotel. The Aquarium, Science Center, and Port Discovery Museum. A huge red and yellow neon guitar sits on top of the Hard Rock Cafe. The strings blink back and forth vibrating in the night sky.

I imagine if it was real, all of Baltimore could hear it playing Big City Nights by the Scorpians. The sounds of the city create a symphony. The soprano squawks of seagulls, saxophones that compliment the deep sounds from ships in the harbor- a long, drawn out stroke upon the thickest string on the cello. People chat and laugh with various voices- flutes and French horns, clarinets and trumpets. Cars creep along Pratt Street and honk in F major. The crack of the bat at Camden Yards, the roars, cheers and chants; high hats, timpanis, cymbals, and bass.

An orchestra led by a grand conductor, larger than life, Liberace perhaps, as tall as Godzilla, smiling down, in a dazzling suit, holding his rhinestone baton. Baltimore. A kaleidoscope of cultures. Where a senator sips Dom Perignon in front of a grand fire as a beggar shivers outside her door and scrapes change for a beer. Where your mailman speaks Chinese and your trashman speaks German.

Where, in front of the Havannah Club, men in three piece suits and slicked-back hair open doors for elegant Hispanic ladies dressed to swing to the sounds of salsa. Where one block over, steroid junkies, not easily swayed by a pretty smile, sternly guard doors that seep rhythmic sounds of techno at the Baja Beach Club. Where athletes break records and musicians make them. Where poets write verses and yuppies buy them. A medley of shapes, sizes, creeds and colors. Moving about, this way and that, unsettling, ever-changing.

My new apartment is in Fell’s Point. A quaint area located in Southeast Baltimore. Its streets have seen triumph and tragedy. First established in 1763 by Colonel Edward Fell’s, the port welcomed slave ships; kidnapped African Americans were sold at auction downtown. But, it was also home to many free black workers, including Anna Murray, the woman who assisted in the escape of Frederick Douglas and later married him.

My place rests along Bond Street, named after Ann Bond, Colonel Fell’s wife. Just one block from where Frederick Douglas taught himself to read. I unpack the Uhaul and take a deep breath. My lungs fill with bitter cold and the smell of fresh bread, thick and pleasing, permeates the air. It radiates from the H&S Bakery twenty-four hours a day and travels about five blocks in every direction. What a wonderful smell to get used to.

I look up at the grandeur of buildings surrounding me. I look around at the neighbors and tourists aside me. I listen to the yells from the bar across from me. What a wonderful city to get used to. Engineering Reports.