The magic of Baltimore is a mixture of old roads and new buildings, of ships quiet on the harbor and cars honking on the streets, of the glittering of a thousand lights in the night and the brilliant warmth of one light in the day, and of people, people, people everywhere and of every sort. It’s the sort of magic which gets into my blood and makes me see potential for story on all sides.
It’s here, in the young man with the blue eyes and red beard, wearing tattoos for sleeves and Converse for shoes; and it’s there, in the old man with the black skin and white smile, playing on a shining gold saxophone while a little girl dances and the uncountable braids on her head and the black fringes on her boots dance too.
It’s in breakfasting five stories up with a grand view of sky and sea and ships and structures; it’s in a lobster dinner served in a restaurant down a narrow street and up a narrow stair, a restaurant heavy with the rich darkness of Old World elegance; and it’s in the taste of Greek fries covered in feta cheese, bought from a blue food truck and eaten while sitting on the warm edge of a lifeless concrete water fountain, under towering buildings and a dazzling sun.
It’s in feeling beneath my feet the deck of a ship that witnessed the Civil War and both of the World Wars; and it’s in seeing across dark chilly waters the lights of the US Navy’s new stealth destroyer, sailing up the harbor with an escort of blue-lighted police boats to be commissioned as the USS Zumwalt.
It’s in drivers with strange accents and smooth city-driving skills; it’s in walking for miles on sidewalks and piers; and it’s in cruising over night waters on harbor taxi boats.
It’s in a hotel lobby all gray and yellow and black and white, filled with chairs and sofas and book-laden tables; a lobby with a Starbucks at one side and a wall filled with vinyl records at the other. It’s in the dark green Irish pub with the unpronounceable name across the street, and it’s in the shiny white mall inside the hotel itself.
It’s in narrow steps set in the sidewalks and laced with iron railings, leading down to basement doors; and it’s in balconies of apartments almost in the sky.
There is one place here that holds less potential for story and yet deserves its place in my affections because it is filled with stories complete. Several blocks from our hotel is a building that used to be a power plant and is now a Barnes & Noble Booksellers. Between the coffee shop inside, the escalators leading up to the second floor of book-heavy shelves, and the smokestacks converted into tiny round rooms with infinite ceilings, it is quite the most charming large bookstore I have yet had the privilege of entering.
When the days we have been so generously given are over, there must be a little sadness mixed with my gratitude. There will be other cities, and I have not yet found a city that does not hold some kind of magic for me. But I have fallen a little bit in love with this Baltimore, with its pervasive harbor and its underlying history and the music which seems endlessly to fill all of its air. No other city can be quite like it, and even if I do come back I will not see it through quite the same eyes. So I smile and I sigh, and I leave a tiny corner of my heart here as I do in every place where I find a touch a magic.
Baltimore, it’s been a delight. Thank you, and goodbye.