Washington Post travel writer holds nose, visits Baltimore

wp baltimore bohemian

DC writer concludes Baltimore is almost as hip as Washington. But, oh, wouldn’t want to live here!

Photo by: Katherine Frey, Washington Post

There’s a decent story buried in yesterday’s Washington Post travel piece about Baltimore – author Marc Fisher gets a porchetta-and-provolone panini at Trinacria, catches Ian Hesford of Telesma playing a didgeridoo in the Bohemian Coffee House and joins one of those Bromo Seltzer tours where you go inside the clock tower.

But the stinky cheese of condescension just completely gums up this journalistic panini. It’s everywhere:

“And my usual reaction to Baltimore — Get me a Bromo — fades away, at least for the moment.”

“I have about as much interest in news from the next big city up the Northeast Corridor as I do in, say, Pittsburgh.”

“Early stage gentrification,” he says, of Station North.

He allows as how, “even in decline, Baltimore has managed to add some glitz to its grit,” but of course at the Harbor East Greek restaurant Ouzo Bay “The crowd is noticeably Baltimore — older, more casually dressed, whiter and heavier than you’d find in a similarly priced spot in Washington.”

“I enjoy a great beehive hairdo as much as the next guy, but camp, ultimately, is as empty as Baltimore’s rubble-strewn vacant lots.”

And here’s his kicker:

“Baltimore is changing, but so far it’s still affordable, distinctive and grounded. I wouldn’t want to live there, but what a place to explore.”

Brunette with Personality

At The Brew, we occasionally like to take note of how Baltimore is perceived, framed and marketed by these out-of-town travel writers, but we’ve mostly looked at the evolving iconography found in New York Times pieces. (They’ve gone from “tall ships” to “Cafe Hon flamingo” to a hipster hoe-down at the Windup Space.)

The Times may not get it completely right but they’re secure enough in their own city-hood that they don’t have to lay on the snark. Anyway, commenters like mobtowngirl are giving it right back.

“DC is the hot blonde girl who waxes herself nearly bald, went to Penn, and works in communications for a prestigious nonprofit. Baltimore is the brunette who still plays D&D, argues about philosophy on Reddit, and has a taste for kink,” she writes.

“Baltimore will never try to be DC, much as some travel writers might like it to be so. Thank goodness my adopted hometown has a personality, even if that personality is too scary for the article’s author.”

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  • BmoreFree

    I found this article last night. The authors tone made reminded me of why I go to work in DC but come home to Baltimore to live. 

    • Michelle Yvette Jackson

      I moved here over two years ago from DC and quit commuting to work in DC six months ago.  Houses are cheaper in Baltimore, but that’s it.  My taxes are higher (Balt. has state and city tax), energy cost is twice as high (BGE rips people off), internet, tv, transportation, healthcare, food and everything else cost about the same as DC.  It ain’t cheaper and services are not better.        

  • Jake

    They have a point about Station North. In a few years it will be just another gentrified neighborhood in which none of the artiststheaters in the area can afford to rent. :(

  • Rocky_Ground

    No mention of women scrubbing their rowhouse steps? huh…

  • Scrapple66

    Remember when DC’s crematorium broke, and then the fridge in the mourge broke, so they had like 80+ corpses piled in the morgue in the middle of summer and no way to deal with them? Don’t let the shiny museums fool you– DC’s disfunction as a city makes Baltimore look like Stockholm. Don’t want to visit, explore it, or work there for even double the salary, thankyouverymuch.

    • robin baker

       Even at double the salary, you couldn’t afford to live htere!

  • Kelby Brick

    Reminds me of a short article I wrote for the Baltimore Sun a number of years ago.

    • Shaneia Stewart

      Nice Kelby!  And your article was written on my birthday!  Double Cheers!

  • Shaneia Stewart

    They just don’t get it and thankfully it’s ours to keep and not theirs to get.. Baltimore belongs to us.. the people that help build, maintain and appreciate the raw and individual energy that it gives.. whether they get it or not.. we’ll keep it just the way it is.. thank you. that is all.

  • RickFromBmore

    DC has always had an inferiority complex. Imagine being the capital of a country and being maybe the ninth or tenth most interesting and culturally advanced city in said nation. I mean, what have been the great cultural and social contributions of DC? Leaving the sheer ugliness of our national politics aside I would say that DC has given Americans maybe 2 or 3 things of note – “straight-edge” white hardcore punk (although LA probably has a better claim), Go-Go music (nice, but not exactly Detroit Techno or the Kansas City blues), and Color-Field painting (remember that boring crap from the 70s by Kenneth Noland, etc.?) So, um, not exactly New York City in terms of cultural import. Or Los Angeles. Or San Francisco. Or Chicago. Or Boston. Or Philadelphia. Or, well, just about any major American city you can think of. Strange how despite the obscene wealth that comes with the city’s ravenous political class, it is a cultural wasteland and a damn sight ugly to boot (find me a city with more sheer low-rise concrete ugliness outside of the former Soviet Union). Imagine San Francisco, but with no history of cultural exceptionalism, no Jack Kerouac or Jerry Garcia or Harvey Milk, no perpetual blue skies and warm Pacific breezes, no cable cars and hippie chicks, no reputation for experimentation and sexual abandon, no bustling waterfront or seals on Pier 39. And you know what you get? DC. All tech geeks, trust fund hipsters and $3000/month studio apartments. And what REALLY burns me is that what good things the District does have (Metro system, fantastic museums, etc.) is all the result of federal largess (i.e. my tax dollars and yours as well.) Look, everyone hates DC except people in DC. It blows six ways from Sunday. If we had any sense we would move our national capital to New York or Boston or Chicago or some place more appropriate for the world’s most powerful nation. So, when someone from DC knocks B-More take it as a compliment. Bask in their condescension and faint praise. Remember that their football team is named after a racial slur and isn’t even located within city limits. Remember that their very existence as a polity is born of ancient political needs and short sighted compromises. They are inorganic, fraudulent, uninspiring, parasitic. They are the residents of DC – a City of Total Suck.

    • malpaso

      Rick, this is the one thing you and your ilk will never understand. You’ve got it exactly backwards. I live in DC and really don’t care about your opinion (sorry) and rarely think about your city. Trust me, there’s no jealousy involved. You can have it all, enjoy it and live a happy life up there. Great, more power to you. But it’s guys like you who, when I mention where I live, roll their eyes or drop a verbal tirade like your post above. You rip who you call trust-fund hipsters. Well, here’s a newsflash: The quirky, blue-collar city with a heart-of-gold act is tired. You come off as sneeringly smug. So, remember, when someone from “BMore” knocks DC, we don’t get angry, we just move on with our day. 

  • Gordon Steen

    Let’s face it. DC is not Baltimore, Paris or NYC. Some people will hold that against DC. I will still visit DC on occasion even though the parking sucks. Love that Metro, but I wouldn’t want to live there. Baltimore isn’t superior, it’s just more audacious.

  • davethesuave

    I, for one, do not care.  Any more words are a waste.

  • trueheart4life

    Our own mayor has absolutely NO appreciation for BMore’s charm and I don’t expect many aliens get the genesis of it’s charm … It’s like no other place in the world and I’ve been just about everywhere and there ain’t NO place like my home town Baltimore … Luv it or leave it!!!

  • ushanellore

    Both cities have their charm.  Washington is marvelous.  I love its gardens, the lovely blooms even at the beginning of winter they wreath the plants and uplift the spirit.  I am crazy about Calder’s work–so massive and stunning–on the National Mall.  The broad boulevards, the great restaurants, the international festivals, the music, the National Zoo, the shifting exhibits in the Smithsonian, the historic houses, the little nooks and corners, the diversity, the cherry blossom festival, the architecture–I could stand all day looking at the beauty of some of Washington’s buildings–to me Washington is glorious.  All the world comes to it.  The only thing truly inglorious about Washington are the politicians. They have to be ignored–these misfits who dare to blot their environs have to be forgotten.

    And Baltimore–i love her too.  She is a city like a small town.  Her museums are treasures and they are free on certain days.  She hides quirky characters.  She hosts a marvelous film festival.  The Charles Theater is where I go when I am bored out of my wits.  It never fails to give me food for thought with its many unusual film offerings.  Baltimore’s music scene is unique.  The Maryland Book Festival, Artscape, and the moving museum exhibits–all these offerings make Baltimore more eclectic than people imagine it to be.  There’s plenty of culture in Baltimore for the taking and a lot of it is free.  And sports fans will have a lot to say about the Ravens and the Orioles–they lend the city their own brand of luster.  Quite a few restaurants in Baltimore dish out memorable dining experiences.     

    But Baltimore and DC have their crime and grime problems.  Not easy to live in either city.  And that detracts from their appeal.   But what city is perfect?  I can take a city’s blotches with its beauty spots.     

  • glsever

    This author is the epitome of why I hate DC – the people.  They are snobby wanna-be socialites with no character.  Their only contribution is making folks from Columbia (MD) seem tolerable by comparison.

    • Gerald Neily

      I agree, Glsever, it’s the people. But most of them are not really DC people. They’re from all over the country and come to DC because of the politics, power and deals, the same things that repel normal folks. The current media coverage of the “sequestration” has been sickening. Everyone wants to make it sound as bad as possible. No one even talks about real solutions. The presumed solution would be to renege on the “fiscal cliff” deal they just finished making and raise taxes yet again. So basically everything anyone says has been to point out their own incompetence, lack of vision and leadership. And somehow all this makes them feel important.

  • Matthew Riesner

    Almost no one who lives in DC is from DC. DC is a fake city full of transients that completely lives on federal funding with almost no trade and has never had an industrial past. If you want to see a real capital city go to Istanbul, New Delhi, Beijing, or London. Baltimore is a real city with real roots and is founded in trade…DC is not a real city!!!

  • SilverSpring1

    Since no one else has pointed this out, Fisher is a native New Yorker…which shouldn’t matter EXCEPT he brought this into the story himself (talking about Yankee fans taking over Camden Yards as a good thing).  On the Fisher snark scale, while Balt. may be below DC, they clearly both are well south of his NYC ideal.

    Blame for this probably belongs w/Wash Post editors (if they still have any on staff).  No need for this attitude in a travel section story, particularly w/so many folks in their readership area…which shrinks by the day…either living/working/playing in Baltimore.

    • Gerald Neily

      Thanks SilverSpring. You’ve just reinforced our observation that DC’ers are usually not from DC. And NYC’ers think the world revolves around NYC. I actually think the blame DC game has gone too far when Obama can keep up his whirlwind “Blame Congress” (aka Republicans) campaign tour when, as Harry Truman said, the buck stops with HIM.

      Now those tactics are pervading everywhere. There’s not much difference between SRB’s campaign to close rec centers and cancel pensions (with nary a Republican in sight) and Obama’s threat to lay off air traffic controllers, all while the 98% of unmentioned pet endeavors are sacred. Or as Kim Truehart so eloquently put it this morning, “No plan, No goals, No objectives, No measures of effectiveness … It’s just a simple 10-Year Aspirational Vision ya’ll.”

  • Arabella_Woodhope

    DC is overpriced, overhyped and overpopulated with effete snobs. Hie thee back to DC, Marc Fisher. I left the DC suburbs for Baltimore twenty-some years ago and haven’t looked back. DC is a nice place to visit, but who would want to live there?

  • Archphips

    As an immigrant (26 years ago) I find the DC- Baltimore bickering amusing and a bit provincial. One can like Baltimore without putting DC down, no? Of course, I had a free choice and I picked Baltimore even back then, when both cities were a real mess. DC probably more so with Marion Barry exclaiming for all to hear “she set me up that bitch”. 

  • Archphips

    totally agreed, Gerry, we need to look at Balto-DC as one metro region that needs to function in tandem. Regarding MagLev, it died from its own weight, that is an apt way of putting it, and I’d say “rest in peace”.
    Rather than a very fancy, very costly non-networked one-of-a kind super-fast connection (MagLev) it is way more effective to modernize MARC and make it together with the Viriginia commuter trains an effective regional metropolitan rail system. In combination with SEPTA and New Jersey Transit, this would be a network reaching from New York to Richmond, parallel and not competing with Amtrak as the long distance carrier.

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