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.