Baltimore

This isn’t like Brooklyn!

Last night, attended the reading of WORMS at the Bell Foundry, with J, A, A, J, L, and I, to hear M and others read.

One gentleman distributed cards to the audience with lines of a poem on them, so that we could read along in unison. (Greek chorus!) Another, who was very quiet, had people friendlily calling out “Louder!” and then “Higher!” and “Lower!” about halfway through. Everyone was laughing and in a good mood.

The guy stopped reading and looked up and was like, “This isn’t like Brooklyn.” You got that right…

I love the Foundry and the spirit of Baltimore events like this. I also attended the Free School dance with the Bellvederes last weekend, and that was equally fun and non-intimidating in spirit. People turn up. A good time is had. No one is a jerk. These are things that make me want to stay in this place.

I am halfway through the second and last year of my MFA, after which I will probably be cast to the four winds again like a rolled die, unless I find a job here.

I started feeling nostalgic for Baltimore from the moment S. picked me up at the train station and drove me north on Charles. I remember looking out the window of his second-floor bedroom over a canopy of trees (I was house-sitting for him, the first month I lived here) and thinking to myself, “Two years. Two years.” Two years to figure some things out, without the constant freelance pressure of what I was going to do next knocking at the door.

This city has persuaded me of its excellence. It’s not just that the Sems is a wonderful MFA. It’s not just that the people in this program are great people. It’s not just that Single Carrot has become an artistic home. It’s not just Baltimore Yoga Village, and the Free School, and the Bell Foundry, and Wham City, and the Annex. It’s all these things together. It’s that Baltimore is a great place to be. The city’s spirit and the people in it.

As my inbox is full of thankfulness-related messages from arts organizations and the politicians (“Dear Dara, California Democrats have a lot to be thankful for this year…”) asking for money, I want to be thankful for this place.

BLIEVE, HON.

Happy Thanksgiving, Baltimore. You will always be the first place where I found out I was going to have a poem published, the first place where I carried a turkey on the light-rail in a suitcase, the first place where I chugged a pint faster than a very large man at Trivia Night. I’ve made good and bad decisions here. I’ve written good and bad poems. And now you’re going to be the first place where I cook my own Thanksgiving turkey. Bottoms up.

I am only just managing to write poems about LA and Portland and Denver now that I’ve left them behind. I look forward to, some day, being able to write a Baltimore poem.

There is a magnificent Jeffrey Eugenides story that begins something like “For X years, Chicago had given (name of character) the benefit of the doubt.” Baltimore has given me more than that. It has given me the benefit of its singular BLIEF.

I like to think of my life as a series of identifications with cities. I spend so much time with the Greeks, who were so taken with their own cities and regional differences–and then, after that, my next major literary camp is with Austen’s folks, who are equally enamored of their own little regions. (Wessex! Shropshire! Bath!) LA and SF are always going to be my principal cities, but Baltimore is the place I’ve spent the greatest amount of time after the cities of California.

It feels right that as I am thinking these things, today, I have received a summons for jury duty. I’m looking forward to it–that is, if I can get the date moved to when I’m back in town.

Happy Thanksgiving, Baltimore. Happy Thanksgiving, friends near and far, in many cities. Here’s believing in you.

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