Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Relaxation tips for the afternoon MTA commute

The scene: Late afternoon mid-week, waiting for the bus in East Baltimore. At 5:00 exactly, professionally-dressed women begin to trickle out of an office building and, one by one, make their way to the bus stop. After the usual greetings and salutations, I notice the woman next to me pull a forty out of her stylish purse.

Wait, what? I turn and look again. Yep, she's sippin' on a 40oz King Cobra. Then I notice that many of the other women chatting and laughing in the bus shelter are doing the same. ...So all these office-workers have been just carrying alcohol around with them in their purses all day? Like, they've been sitting at a desk working on a spreadsheet with a bottle of malt liquor under the desk? Do lots of people do this?

Seriously, WTF? I must have crashed the pre-party for the bus ride. Actually, this is the only occasion I've caught the 5:05 bus, so I'm left wondering if there there's a daily bus-stop-happy-hour ritual in effect or if I'd stumbled across some sort of special occasion or secret holiday of some sort.

Either way, it's the little moments like this that make Baltiless the greatest city in America.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Driving in 'the Greatest City in America'.

A little Google-narcissism brings to my attention that this blog is not the first to label the city 'Baltiless'. A still pertinent article from April lets someone else help in channeling the misery:

Having only experienced the joy of the Greatest City in America since September, I can't even imagine what the author went through after two years.

By far, the most on-point gripe is that of traffic. Now what is this, Baltiless? This ain't no literacy - we already know that 20% of residents read at or below a 5th grade level. These are driving skills. This should be instinct. We've already covered the abandoned cars, but even before they're tossed aside like glass roses after a kickin' Baltiless party, these cars are a hazard. Red-light running? Gets done like it's a lucky charm. The rule of the road seems to be that cops admire the cockiness it takes to blow through a red light without even speeding up enough that they are loathe to pull you over for it.

In fact, the more I think about, the more I'm thinking this might be actually be the law in Baltiless. Not only is it done at every intersection every time ever always, but the one time I tried to blend in with the populace and run one of my own I was cut down by the man. Must have been the Virginia plates. Even if those hadn't betrayed my outsider status, he could probably sense my indecision. Luckily, despite the egregious nature of the offense, he didn't give me a ticket, but did give me more than a warning. His advice, shouted threateningly through the car window at the next stoplight?

"The first car through the light after it turns red? I can overlook. The second one? I can overlook. But three is too much. Don't run red lights in my town."

...Or, more accurately I suppose, at least be sure you are one of the first two cars to run the red light in his town.

Saturday, December 23, 2006


The basement of the building where I work is a secured location for some sensitive activity. The people who work there must perform disgusting and heart-breaking labor for poverty-level wages in what is possibly the most dismal setting imaginable. The stench is so thick that the air is nearly palpable. Needless to say, people who get stuck working here are all products of the (in)famous Baltiless school system. Somehow I end up spending lot of time down there as well, and have gotten friendly with some of the workers.

One day, a man whom I'll call "Joe" sidled up to me to ask "There's something I want to look up on the internet, but I don't know how to spell it. If I tell you the word, will you write it down for me?" I agreed.

He leaned forward and whispered the word. "Silencer." I was a little taken aback, but I went ahead wrote it down. After a moment, I, perhaps unwisely, asked why he was researching silencers. Joe shushed me and hurried off down the hallway.

I spent a few days pondering this and considering doing a little internet research of my own on "accessory to murder". I had to wonder if there would be any further developments.

I didn't have long to wait. Soon after, Joe approached me again with the same request. What could it be this time? "Body disposal"? "Plea bargains"? "Venezuela and extradition policy"? He told me the word he needed to look up. "How do you spell duplicity?"


Baltiless: Maryland's rusty iron curtain

Recently I had occasion to share a meal with three coworkers, all immigrants from countries either currently or recently communist, none renowned for their standard of living. There was "Ivan", from Ukraine,"Ksusha" from Azerbaijan, and "Bob" from China. Talk quickly turned to our beloved adopted city. For the record, it's difficult to fully appreciate this conversation without imagining the appropriate thick accents.

began "I have never known a more awful city! What is it they call it? The charming city? HAH!" Ivan added that he'd never seen an uglier city; all three, having spent most of their lives surrounded by communist concrete block architecture and dire poverty, readily agreed.

Over lunch, Ivan began pointing out random buildings in the inner harbor. "I could live there! 500, i think. What you think, Ksusha?" Ksusha think 600k, but he insisted that, no matter what the sign said, it was actually 500. Next, he'd point to a new building and continue his speculations. This went on long enough to make everyone else at the table at the table to start feeling pretty uncomfortable.

Finally, after treating us to an analysis of just about every building on the horizon, Ivan began to laugh and exclaimed "Oh nooo, nooooo! I could NEVER live in Baltimore!" Turns out he lives in DC. He pointed out that DC has its problems as well, i.e. the Southeast, Anacostia is only one section of DC, whereas Baltimore is terrible throughout. No one was swayed by the notion that
Baltimore was just a failed city. "To be a failed city, you have to have tried" Bob flatly stated. However, when I compared Baltiless to a 3rd world country, all three immediately and enthusiastically agreed.

Their criticism was dead-on, but perhaps my favorite description of Charm City came from a chance encounter in the produce section at a Giant supermarket. A woman shopping for corn was indignant at Giant's prices. As she put it, "Fifty cents an ear? Daaaaaaaaamn. This ain't no Beverly Hills."

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Childhood in Baltiless

Children playing in the shadow of the shell of a burnt-out and abandoned building.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Today's Baltilesson: when driving through Baltiless, invest in AAA.

In a bid to find employment outside the drug trade, I work outside of Baltiless. I drive a lot. From Baltiless to Washington, D.C. and then on to the teeming orchards and fecund meadows of Northern Virginia. Of course, everything is teeming and fecund when you're no longer in an area 'Prone to Dense Smoke'.

But the curious thing is just how often cars are abandoned between the two cities.

Not just broken down mind you, but outright abandoned. No emergency flashers, no bystanders, no tow-trucks, no police cars. It'd be unfair to only notice the misfortune that some travelers have to break down on an major highway - but why abandoned, why Baltiless? This only happens within a 15 mile radius of the city. Considering the high cost and 'expert' car inspection that Maryland demands, I'm surprised any cars break down at all. Are these all joy-riders too lazy to return their catch or strung-out meth-heads too busy to get the car removed? Inquiring minds want to know.

Rarely do I see a car within the Beltway broken down so and I can't remember the last time I've seen such a spectacle in Virginia. So we'll play a little game. Every broken down car between the Beltway and any destination in Baltiless is +1 points. Every car within the Beltway is +0, but it'll still be listed. Every car in Virginia will be -1 points. Can Baltiless win more points than it has murders? This coming year will tell us.

It's a bit of a headstart, but we'll begin with this last week:

Total cars in the Baltiless 'Metro': 8 (6 in one night!)
Total cars within the Beltway: 1
Total cars in Virginia: 0

Actually, even a city like Baltiless is unlikely to repeat the performance of a few weeks ago. It may not be fair, but damn it, I came up with the idea, I'll bend the rules how I want. There were three broken down cars in the exit ramp of I-83 (the one for 28th St to be specific). That really should count double. But we'll just add it to this week's total.

So the grand total is:

8 + 3 = 11!

Congratulations Baltiless!