I loved The Sun's April Fool's Day essays and letters, from the liquor board inspectors who are afraid to go to bars at night ("What the jobs takes") to the letter writer from Pasadena who does not wake up in the city each day but knows what is needed to keep the millennials from moving away ("What millennials need from Baltimore"). Some of the older residents wish these outsiders had never moved here. They take over the neighborhood and pay no mind to what's important to the residents who were born and bred in the city.
The "come here's" have few social skills and no clue about how to live a few feet from neighbors. They have brought thousands of dogs who poop and pee on the sidewalks. The urine gets washed into the gutter and then to the sewer and the harbor's water. One old lady observed that "they don't know what a broom is," much less how to use it. Pavements that were swept clean in blue collar days from the front wall to the middle of the street are now littered with trash, animal droppings, cigarette butts and liquor and soda containers. Take a walk on trash pick-up day, which requires the use of a can with a tight-fitting lid, and you'll see garbage in plastic bags littering the sidewalks. One day, I woke up to find a large pizza box on the trunk of my car. Millennial detritus.
I've been offering up street-corner pop quizzes for a couple years to see what they know about the city. "It's where the Delaware River meets the Atlantic Ocean," one millennial told me as we stood at the harbor's edge. Another assured me that, "the Patapsco is nowhere around here."
I asked a young man what Fell's Point used to be like before all the upscale restaurants and bars opened. "There was nothing here! Admiral Fell came and built all this up." Never you mind the fake name, created by my old friend Jim Widman back in the 1980s who came to Baltimore at the behest of William Donald Schaefer and cleaned up and opened that old building.
One young man told me that it takes several days for a big ship to get from the Inner Harbor out to the Atlantic Ocean. Another is certain it takes an hour. The raw sugar for Domino comes in by barge from Africa, they say, and the clay for the old brick houses downtown came in by ship.
In Patterson Park, dog feces is a constant problem, according to this week's neighborhood blog posts. After the garbage men leave, residents check to see who left a bag of feces in the bottom of their large trash containers. Lazy dog walkers. The bags of feces have to be picked up and placed inside large plastic bags for the next week's collection. Otherwise, the feces of someone's dog sits in the can and stays there.
Millennials who work on the north side of the river park on the south side for free and take the free water taxi. It's better than paying to park in the garages at upscale Harbor East near Legg Mason where they work. Their cars litter the neighborhood in Locust Point like unwanted invaders, claiming precious space. In the evening, it's not unusual to see car trunks being cleared of trash by dumping it in Hull Street's gutters. Curbside parking there is used on weekends as a long-term parking garage. If there is restricted parking in Federal Hill and a couple is using one car for a weekend excursion out of town, then the streets of Locust Point will serve as a place to park the second car. It's such a safe neighborhood!
And then there are the trains! Those 85-car-long trains use the surface streets to reach the industrial piers. While walking one day, I saw traffic at a standstill and noted a frustrated driver going nowhere. I asked her why she had chosen to move to Locust Point. "Because it's Mayberry," she replied. I told her it stopped being Mayberry the day she moved in.
Those trains work 24 hours a day and adversely impact the quality of life of newcomers. One young man objects to their whistles and the clatter of steel against steel as dozens of cars move oh, so slowly, to and from the piers. He wants the whistles that blow warnings at each of the intersections muted. One hundred forty-two years of moving trains and not a complaint until now, when a new young man arrives. I'd rather he leave than the trains.
I've scarcely touched on parking in the old neighborhoods around the river. Daily headaches, parking migraines, are part of the hassle of city living. At the City Council, residents feel that our representatives favor businesses that employ millennials. The city parking authority doesn't do its job until it gets the nod from politicians. Long time residents lose points at this game.
Jammed into a small spot at the lunch counter of a new restaurant on 36th Street in Hampden, I said hello to the lady sitting on my left. Learning that she was new to Baltimore, I noted how much the area had changed and quoted a lady in the neighborhood to illustrate how profoundly these changes have affected the older residents. "There is nothing here for the people of Hampden anymore," she sadly said. "All my friends have moved away. I'd leave tomorrow if I could." The stern response I heard from the woman on my left was: "Do you know who you are talking to?" and she indicated her husband, sitting on her left. "He's the president of Johns Hopkins University!" Like the adverse affects of a drug one might take to get better, the side affects of all this gentrification are real. They're not listed on the medicine label but nonetheless devastating to some.
Zippy Larson, Baltimore