Well it’s a freezing Saturday night in Baltimore. Michael Showalter and I are doing a show at the Otto Bar, a rock venue we’ve played several times before. As you may have heard, the Baltimore/DC area has received many feet of snow over the last week. The snow is piled up in huge treacherous mountains along every street, making driving slow and walking almost impossible. Did that stop me from taking my daily run? It did. Do I ever take a daily run? I do not.
Baltimore is one of those cities that looks perfectly reasonable if you stay within certain small radii. In our case, that means about three blocks in every direction from our hotel. Within that three blocks one can buy all manner of fudge, ice cream, and coffee concoctions. Just past it is a big store called “Scratch and Dent,” which sells anything the proprietors can find that has either been scratched or dented. I wonder if they sometimes buy new merchandise and then beat the shit out of it before putting it out on their shelves. After the “Scratch and Dent” block things seem to go steadily downhill. But I turned around and walked back to the hotel because it was cold and because I was scared.
Having driven through Baltimore before, I know there are areas of the city that are like post-Katrina New Orleans, only without having been through a flood: block after block or ruined, abandoned and derelict buildings. At least New Orleans has an excuse. I don’t know what happened here. Something awful. The most likely explanation is a recent zombie invasion but I feel like I would have heard about that.
Last night we were in Philadelphia, which is a much better town than Baltimore but still no Shangri-La (unless you count the cheese steaks which are actually better than the kind you find in Shangri-La, which tend to be made out of healthy but bland rainbows). I like Philadelphia. It’s quaint and historic, which is usually a good combination. I hope to be quaint and historic myself one day, like Ben Franklin, himself a Philadelphia resident before he went off to Paris to diddle French ladies.
How is it that other world cities manage to age gracefully while American cities get wrinkly, saggy boobs pretty much as soon as they hit puberty? Rome, Paris, London, Tokyo. All old cities who have problems but still seem to retain their charm. They are Sophia Laurens compared to our Lindsay Lohans. Maybe our cities are just going through an awkward stage and will re-emerge after they have a little work done.
In the meantime, I’m not giving up on you, Baltimore. We can turn this thing around. Maybe not this century, but soon. But while we’re waiting could you please turn up the heat?