Saturday, December 23, 2006

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."

No comments: