Monday, March 28, 2011

Venturing Out: a Baltimore Weekend

I love bricks, stacked up neatly, carefully smoothed, holding in people and wallpaper and dogs; I love the smell of old buildings, because somehow they all smell like church, or Christmas dinner, or the cracked spines of my favorite books.  I love Baltimore, even though I live in and do love Columbia, and I love the way the sun shines through fine particles of dust and lights up hardwood floors like fire.

This weekend I went to visit my grandmother for our regular Friday afternoon meetup.  I love visiting Grandmere - we always have a lot of fun, good conversation, and at the end, a lovely dinner.  We went to the Walter's Art Gallery's gift shop and did a little poking around, which is always enjoyable.  It was nice to be surrounded by beautiful things, something that I cherish.  Grandmere and I then made a flourless chocolate cake, which was a little bit closer to a chocolate pudding with meringue on top (but delicious nonetheless).

Later in the weekend, George and I went to the Helmand, again in Baltimore, with my parents and sister and a group of friends.  Ah!  Fine dining.  The Helmand is a favorite of Grandmere's and holds many good memories for me.

So why am I writing about Baltimore?  Where's the HoCo?

I'm still a hon.

I think what I miss so much about living in the city is that the city has a feel to it, a distinct somethingness, a character, while being a place of anonymity at the same time.  In the city I can be nameless, but the city itself has a name; a flavor on my tongue; a fierce, sharp beauty; a danger as hard as concrete; a pleasure as crushing as pink magnolias and pear blossoms.  The sweet smell of almost-rot.

I'm not saying that these feelings might be impossible in Columbia.  Maybe I haven't lived here long enough to make those associations.  Maybe I haven't experienced Columbia at all.  But there's something that I'm missing, some little piece of myself that I can't locate.  I guess - it's like going to a shopping center but looking for something else entirely.  I like being close to stores like Target and convenient eateries like La Madeleine, and it's certainly a lot more convenient than having to travel 30 minutes outside of the city for a cheap pair of jeans.  But I'm longing in my heart for something that has a taste, for something alive and vibrating.  Again, I wouldn't trade my life here, my memories with my parents and little sister.  Being here is worth it.  Raising my future children here is worth it.

I hate it when people ask me if I'll move back to the city and then judge me when I say, no.  Everyone has this opinion of Columbia that makes it sound like there's no "there, there."  As much as I hate that attitude, I might be victim to it myself.  Is there something I'm missing because I don't expect to find it?  Or is there truly something, something real that hasn't grown here?

I want nightclubs, and museums, and art galleries, and festivals.  I want convenient public transportation.  I want to see people walking, and I want to walk.  I want to pass people and say, good morning, or how's it going, or how about this weather.  I want to open my windows and let sounds stream in with the sunlight, people laughing, tires spinning, music blasting; I want to walk down the street and see women with little shopping carts, kids on bikes, gardens and iron rails; I want to put on high heels and dance.

I want Columbia to be my home, really mine, and I don't want to feel like there's no life here.  Right now, I'm going to sit on the porch in the ungodly cold, drink peach tea, play jazz, and read a trashy novel.  Because maybe I, maybe people like me, can bring some of that glittering brightness here, and make it home.          


  1. Alice,
    Great to see a new blog in the neighborhood. Your concern about there not being a "there there" was the focus of efforts to develop a "New Columbia." We're strapped in and hoping for the best, but I think there are a lot of things to be excited about, especially for those of us that grew up here.

    I've lived in both city and suburbia. With Columbia, there is a lot of "life" and "energy", but it is dispersed. I can only imagine what it would be like if Victoria, Union Jack's, and Iron Bridge were all within walking distance of the lakefront on a Friday night. But for right now, that energy is spread out so much that there is no synergy...and the lake is a home for ducks.

  2. @HoCoRising: Thanks for the comment - my first ever! I'm glad that there are other people who are interested in this issue. Can't wait to hear more about the "New Columbia."

    I know that there are places of life and vitality in Columbia - and I think you're right, if they were closer together, it would make that liveliness more apparent. I'm sure that, as I continue to live here, more places of energy will pop up. I'm really looking forward to that.