Now that I am grounded, I find my special joy in reading about the good old days, when I would walk the streets, deliberately aimless walk the streets of Baltimore. Here are two accounts of 2017. The first one a night-, the other a day-time walk.
In front of The Grand Hotel, a young woman tries to get rid of her wannabe lover. The attire of the personage is giving away a recently had fancy dinner. She is getting away from him, he stays in touch, laughing. As I am within two feet, he tries to kiss her on the mouth, and she is struggling to deflect his lips. Still, he manages to press his onto hers. Her eyes, I can see her eyes. Slowly walking away from them, I hear her speak up, for me to witness: „No, I have to go home. Goodbye!“.
„Motherfucker, no English, yeah, Motherfucker, no English!“ One of the usual suspects keeps yelling at me. I am turning my head, only a few degrees, so I would see it coming, in case he decides to get physical hold of me. Even from this angle, I can see, he cannot get up from the ground, physically.
I acknowledge a man standing on the corner of Baltimore Street and Charles. We say ‚hello‘ and give each other a smile. I am only passing by, his stench is breathtaking but I don’t want him to know.
At the harbor, book-sellers pack their product back into boxes. It s the last night of the Baltimore book festival. A man makes me stop, I shall take books for free, otherwise they will be recycled. The amount of books to be thrown away is astonishing. Three other people join in, digging deep into the five square foot container. The situation is insane and I keep going.
At the Cross Street Market, four or five people are asking for money, one of them with dignity, declaring he needs it in order to get shitfaced. Young men at the corner are talking way too loud, explaining the world to young girls. A Ravens game has just ended. Apparently they won.
In Locust Point, a middle aged man and a middle aged woman have an argument. Their intoxicated faces cannot clearly pronounce the words addressing the issue. Their intoxicated bodies cross the street, Baltimore style, too slow, at an all too shallow angle. Very few cars on the streets in Baltimore, on a Sunday night, too few to actually endanger their lives. They stop in front of the Southwestern Saloon, he hands a cigarette to a young man, hanging out at the stairs. The third character spends the time admiring his own sneakers until he gets up, following the couple. They meet again around the corner and the transaction process is finished. His friend, partner or competitor for selling dope comes along, I am afraid of being subject to his furor due to my obvious curiosity. He has a cute little dog, I can smile at while passing by.
Next to the Cross Street Market on Light Street, a drunk homeless man trips over a younger drunk homeless man. They yell at each other. Unknown who of them felt better afterwards.
A man on Light-Street is curious about my camera. Upon recognizing my foreign accent, I inform him about my mother tongue. He gives me a pat on the shoulder, fraternizing, while his two friends are closing up. Within thirty seconds, he manages to let me know that Muslims are a real big problem everywhere in the world and that the Germans at least should have the expertise to deal with them – considering how well they handled the Jews. Going home.
Underneath several crossovers, where the Highway meets the city, close to the Farmer’s Market that, every Sunday, bridges parts of the city otherwise being well separated by that very highway: tents. I see a young woman crawling out, scratching her tattooed buttocks. She walks towards another tent. I don’t see how she takes her piss but that’s what she does. A hundred meters further north and south we find vegan soap and the Baltimore Sun. Later, several people asking for money will say thank you, although I will have said: „Sorry, I don’t have any change to spare.“ This, obviously, is a good day. Even if, for example, in the evening hours three guys in front of St. Paul’s church will yell at me: I shall acknowledge their existence.
I am taking a detour. It enables me to see the tents. There is no way to leave the viaduct-like structure. It is leading East and West on a gentle curve, over other streets and misplaced homes, and in between high rises. There is nothing here but a low concrete wall and railings that allow for the view over of city. The railings are expecting the most daring of all subjects – he or she who is desperately trying to flee the scene. Yet an extra foot of wire on top of the fence is supposed to avoid any additional mess 10 meters below.
It all ends at the crossing of Orleans and Gay. To the left, where Gay becomes Ensor Street, I can see the leftovers Old Town Mall. In a seemingly distant past, this pedestrian mall was situated in the middle of things. Its guardian is the Firehouse Tower, a recently refurbished building in almost unethically good shape – compared to the neighboring structures.
Five years ago, when I first found this mall by accident, I was very surprised. None of my acquaintances at that time had ever heard of it, or, if they were Baltimoreans by birth, had forgotten that it exists. They had not set foot into this part of the city for quite a while. I, now, have not seen it for about three years. To my surprise, it might not have changed at all. I do not actually dare to judge, whether anything has changed or not. I still lack the finesse of telling apart the finer grades of degradation. Ah, a barber shop, I remember being open three years ago, now is closed.
What I can tell is that colors of a sign stating ‚change‘ have withered and this – it being a sign, alright – could just be the clue I was looking for.