My mom just gave me a bumper sticker for Christmas (don’t worry, she gave me something else as well). Surprisingly, it might have become my favorite present of the holiday season.
In plain black lettering on a white background, it reads: “Baltimore: Actually, I like it.” Simple, no frills, no pictures, no fancy words — very Baltimore and very true.
At its core, the phrase is defensive. Many of us who live in and around this city are constantly defending it, and we surprise some people in doing so. They read the headlines, watch the news stories and form an opinion. An opinion that is often not a good one. Unfortunately, they don’t visit so they don’t know the good parts and are sometimes skeptical when we share all that Baltimore has to offer.
They cannot believe it when we admit that Baltimore has problems — high crime rates, problems with trash and a troubled school system — but is actually still a pretty great place to live.
I was reminded of that one recent morning when I looked out my window at how beautiful the city looked after a few inches of snow. For some reason, the scene reminded me to see the potential in my hometown. The sun rose over a sparkling, frosted paradise long enough to symbolize hope before the snow turned to slush and melted away. Isn’t that how Baltimore is? Glimpses of almost perfection that catch our eye and inspire our imagination but disappear too quickly.
When people from Baltimore defend our city to outsiders, we talk about the obvious and the practical reasons to like Baltimore, like the city’s proximity to New York and Washington, the world-renowned medical facilities, the excellent universities, our sports teams with the feathered mascots competing in Major League Baseball and the National Football League and the tourist attraction of the Inner Harbor. There are also not so obvious charms to our beloved city that one might not know if they have never been. We have historical sites, a thriving arts scene, quirky neighborhoods and famous residents.
The recent snowfall reminded me of how Baltimore’s climate is also one of its better attributes. We get the best (along with some of the bad) of all four seasons. Many places have just one long season without much variation, but not Baltimore. We get four, solid different seasons and that is a wonderful thing. Spring brings warmth, new growth, flowers and great opportunities for outdoor play and enjoyment of walks in parks. Summer brings heat for swimming, splashing and cookouts with family and friends or visits to the beach. Fall introduces another change with leaves turning colors, crisp mornings and beautiful sunsets to accompany the start of the school year. And then there is the current season, the winter months. The snow can make the city look like rows of gingerbread houses and provides hours of sledding and snowball fun for kids. As a child, turning on the television (before the internet existed) on a snowy morning to see if school was closed had to be one of the most exciting things in the world for me.
Baltimore has snow days (take that Florida!) and leaf piles, spring flowers in Sherwood Gardens and summer nights at Camden Yards. We have storms but not much fear of hurricanes or tornadoes that haunt various parts of this country on an annual basis. We have snowfall and we have freezing cold, but not for extended periods of time that keeps one inside for days on end, like in the north. We have hot and humid August days, but not blistering heat that dries the countryside and causes wildfires like the ones Australia is experiencing now and are all too common in California. We get just enough of the bad parts of each season to allow us to enjoy and appreciate the wonderful parts.
And so when I looked out the window on a recent snowy morning, I thought about the huge problems that Baltimore needs to solve. But I refuse to give up because I realize what those who do not live here don’t know — Baltimore also has huge potential and hidden beauty that reveals itself when you least expect it, like a snowy winter morning.
And that is why I like Baltimore, actually. Thanks, Mom, for a great Christmas present.
David Clapp (firstname.lastname@example.org) is president of Rowland Ventures, a small investment firm in Mt. Washington; he lives in Ruxton.