It’s been a week…again. We lost Gil Sandler yesterday, though WYPR plans to run his Baltimore Stories every Friday for the foreseeable future. We hit 300 homicides on Wednesday. There’s a 7 year old boy missing and someone turned in a rocket launcher through the gun buy-back program. I spent three minutes on the phone being screamed at by a very angry parent and then cried for the subsequent two hours. And in her irrational rant with which I could not possibly disagree more, I hear the plight of this city. I hear frustration and ire and an inability to restore and sadness and resignation and misguided action and biting the hand that fed you and misunderstanding when someone is just trying to make things better.
Poor Baltimore, you’re so tired. You’re old and creaking. Your veins are swelling and exploding, arteries are clogged and rotten. Water main breaks abound and with winter beginning today, that’ll only increase as you get cold and 200 year old pipes freeze, expand, and swell beyond their encasings. It adds up, doesn’t it?
You have an irregular heartbeat in the form of a city government tripping over its own ego and stabbing in the dark at problems that go so deep with blindfolds made of the hunger for power.
The arthritis in your joints, at the intersections of people who stayed apart for centuries, is where the cartilage has worn away but instead of healing together there’s clashing. Your bones click as you try to move forward and layers of synovial fluid pops, a reminder that you’ve been here for hundreds of years and movement and change come with audible reminders of your stagnation, your stuckness, your old bones and natural inclination toward the way things have always been.
Your vision is blurred from tears, being poked in the eyes, and several lost fist fights. It’s hard to see what you need when you can’t actually see. When you can’t see the intersection of Penn and North or the blood stains over east. Do you see the people who are trying? Trying to make their lives better, trying to make your people better, trying to make you better? Not to mention your hearing. Surely it’s past its prime and fading. Is it drowned out by whirrs and dirt bike vrooms?
You’ve had a headache for years. Each murder is another concussion slamming your brain against your skull. Another lost resident. Another person who maybe hadn’t been given a chance at something better.
But Baltimore, you’re not dead yet.
You’ve still got 611,648 souls that look to you to rest their heads each night. Do you need a diet? Therapy? A massage? Antidepressants? A stiff drink? Probably all of this and a lot more. But it’s possible. And there are people who care. People who see your ailments and come up with Neosporin and Bengay and ice packs in the form of nonprofits, ideas, vigor, and optimism. You’ve still got a pretty face in your 19th century architecture, the birds in your parks, the public art that adorns your streets, walls, and most unlikely nooks.
Baltimore, you can’t give up because we haven’t. We the renters, the homeowners, the out of towner transplants, the apologists, the celebrants, the generational residents, we are here. And we need you to be a home. To open up those grandma arms and cuddle us against a fluffy bosom. Make us feel appreciated and welcome and lucky to be yours.
So as we look to 2019, Baltimore, make this year different. Make this a year with a life record rather than a murder record. Make it a year in which you come out of your elderly fog and you start to feel better. We start to feel safer. Make 2019 a year of positivity and love and growth. Make it a year where you don’t let people make fun of you for being “murdery” or backwards. Make it a year in which people proudly say, “I’m a Baltimorean.” Make it a year when the Orioles win the pennant. Okay, that one was a joke.
Make it a year that people look to Baltimore, from around the world, and say, “Look at Baltimore. She has her problems. But she knows how to heal herself and lift up her people.”
I believe in you, Baltimore. Of course, it’s really up to us, isn’t it?
PS: How to help: