Baltimore, you gun-crazed, crabby, syphilitic, drug-sucking date raper...

So today we get the news that Baltimore has dropped from 6th to 12th most dangerous city in America. A Kansas-based city and state factoid research company called the Morgan Quitno press published their annual list of dangerous cities, and has Baltimore dropping behind Washington, Camden, N.J. and Flint, Mich. This is something like the Bluth Company's ascendancy from "Don't Buy" to "Risky" on Arrested Development, and will be welcome news to a lot of folks in the city of lowered expectations.

What didn't get mention is that Baltimore made the cut in The Absolutely Worst Places to Live in America published by the less-scientific Dave Gilmartin, just recently dumped on our laps by Thomas Dunne Books. Mr. Gilmartin polled people for six months about their experiences with disagreeable cities, compiled the anecdotes and filled in the gaps of his admittedly lazy reportage with his wit, and the result reads like a windshield-view tour written by sarcastic college boys. Baltimore is either the Inner Harbor and Canton...or the war-ravaged Wire sets of that place of "poverty, rampant drug use, and non-existent opportunity one mile away." There is truth in that, but there's also a lot in between. The extreme contrast suits his reverse-Epcot depiction. Hell, read it for yourself:

Baltimore, MD
Charm City

Population: 651,154
Unemployment: 6%
Median Household Income: $30,078
Violent Crime Rate: 2,419.6
Actually Charming: No
Ideal for: Black Market Gun Dealers, People Who Like to Eat Crabs and Get Crabs, Syphilitic Prostitutes, Drug Runners, TV Cops
Cultural Highlights: Auto Theft, STD Clinics, Getting Mugged on the Steps of Your Own Home, Overpriced Crabs, Foam Parties/Date Rapes

Nestled between the slightly more dynamic cities of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. (these things being relative), Baltimore is a realm of burned-out ghettos and diminished expectations, where entire neighborhoods are better left avoided and wolfing down a pile of blue crabs passes for high culture. Baltimore is the go-to city for television producers interested in capturing the very essence of urban strife, as police operas like Homicide; Life on the Streets and The Wire vie to outdepict the grit, grime, and general horrors of downtown Charm City. Detroit may get the most press, but it's Baltimore that boasts the nation's highest big-city murder rate. Meanwhile, murder convictions have plummeted to an all-time low, due mainly to the fact that witness intimidation (i.e., more murder) is something of a local cottage industry.

Like many cities in the throes of self-delusion, Baltimore fixates upon its tourist district, the Inner Harbor, at the expense of the city's more pressing concerns. A waterside enclave of dining, nightlife, baseball, shopping, and fireworks, the Inner Harbor bills itself as "an authentic Baltimore experience," which may come as some surprise to those mired in lives of institutionalized poverty, rampant drug use, and non-existent opportunity one mile away.

Baltimore has the STD and HIV rates of a third-world country.
-- Kyle Bernstein

Let me tell you about Bawlimer. Bawlimer, Merryland, that is. It's good if you like crabs. It's bad if you have crabs. It thinks it's a cutting-edge city. They've spent millions on the Inner Harbor. I wonder, what is the Inner Harbor? It's like Disneyland in the middle of Afghanistan. Every once in a while people come out of their caves, only to find out that the number-one sport is not the Orioles, it's not the Ravens, it's dodging bullets.

Why, just the other day I had my purse snatched by a drive-by purse snatcher. He jumped out of a car in broad daylight and tore it right off my arm. I got the plates . . . and, of course, it was a stolen car.

On the other hand, we've got Johns Hopkins, the number-one medical institution in the world, plus Sheppard Pratt Hospital,, one of the top-ten psychiatric facilities in the United States. So if you're sick or insane, Bawlimer is the place to be.
-- Micheline Birger

Baltimore: the city where people get mugged in church.
-- Michael Tully

Not only do park benches in Baltimore say "The Greates City in America," but they're usually covered in pigeon shit and draped with at least one passed-out homeless person.
-- Ryan Brosa

Wishful thinking by the Chamber of Commerce: "Baltimore: The Greatest City in America."

It Happened Here!
On October 3, 1849, Edgar Allen Poe was discovered on the streets of Baltimore, "delirious and in great distress," according to reports from the scene. Four days later, the writer was dead, a demise popularly (though perhaps not quite accurately) attributed to the ill effects of drunkenness. Today, Poe is something of a favorite son, remembered by the city's Baltimore Ravens football team and its endemic substance abuse issues.