GOOD

“To Baltimore, My Beloved Crabtown”

The Wire’s Rafael Alvarez knows he could be kissing Baltimore’s cheek for the last time.

My Beloved Crabtown,


I could live anywhere in the world—in storybook capitals or pastoral hamlets greatly desired—but, God help me, I choose to cohabitate with you.

You are, by far, the longest relationship of my life; nearly six decades save for a brief fling in Hollywood.

[It was just money, baby—didn’t mean a thing.]

To abide you—a salty old broad with harsh edges and ridiculous hairdos; the way your progeny throws trash from moving cars and believes the best way to cross the street is to walk (in fuzzy slippers and pajama bottoms) directly into traffic…

To put up with all of your bullshit I pass our assignations inside a sanctuary sculpted from more comforting material.

The evening sun setting over the Patapsco River—where Francis Scott Key wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner” 200 years ago—fires pink and orange, a thousand shattered panes of the shuttered bottle cap factory at the end of my block.

But in the morning, as I lay supine before the city of my fancy, it warms stained glass brilliant with all the good things.

People willing to lend a hand when their own cupboards are bare; aging, lion-hearted stevedores holding the door to the coin laundry for young women comforting their children in Spanish; tugboats churning past the 120-foot by 70-foot Domino Sugar sign while saints sweep the sidewalk in front of the St. Jude Shrine—you are not hopeless, Lovey, no matter what the TV says. Just a venial sin or two away from Lexington Market.

On land donated by Revolutionary War hero John Eager Howard, the market dates to 1782: a bazaar of grilled kielbasa, fresh roasted peanuts and true crab cakes, delicacies as big around as a softball, deep fried or broiled to a golden brown, the lump back fin of callinectes sapidus—beautiful swimmers of Chesapeake lore—bound with the merest dusting of breadcrumbs.

I write to you all hopped up on love and mercy, for despite the frequent atrocities (east to west, some staged outside those same market doors), everybody does the best they can.

Don’t they?

Love for your hard-headed belief that hard work (both underground and legit) will carry the day, though your bounty of plentiful jobs—good pay, good benefits—is long diminished. And mercy for those who missed every boat that passed your way.

Four miles east of Lexington Market, I pour my heart into an old reporter’s notebook over a plate of French fries and gravy at G&A Coney Island Hot Dogs, just around the corner from a library marked by a bust of native son Frank Zappa on a stainless steel pillar.

This is the Holy Land of my imagination, where my family—Polish on Mom's side, Dad's parents from Spain and a part of Italy called Western Pennsylvania—has lived since the 1920s; where my grandmothers bought me baby clothes near a popcorn store that made its own caramel and a blind man sold pencils while drumming his fingernails against a meatloaf pan, the sound his fingernails made becoming deeper as the tray filled with nickels and dimes.

Love for rebirth: a Peruvian restaurant specializing in rotisserie chicken now sends the smell of fire-roasted fowls onto Eastern Avenue where the popcorn store once filled the air with hot caramel.

Mercy for the left-behinds: the blind man has been replaced ten-fold by beggars, all of whom can see.

Yet passion can be a many splintered thing and, dear Crabtown—del mio cuore as they say at the century old DiPasquale's market two streets away from the hot dog diner—let me be clear.

Though many tens of thousands of my fellow Baltimoreans are hostage to your often lethal charms, I am not. They do not have the luxury of storing up treasures of amber narrative with which to build a cathedral. Or the middle-class option to leave it behind if reality intrudes on make-believe one too many times.

I have been lucky in love—unharmed for many a year while cruising every corner of your 92 square miles—but I don't underestimate you.

I know that anywhere, at any moment, I may be kissing your cheek for the last time.

Yours,

Rafael Alvarez

Rafael Alvarez is a fiction writer and screenwriter who learned the craft of storytelling as a young reporter on the City Desk of the Baltimore Sun and wrote for the first three seasons of HBO drama The Wire. His latest collection of short storieswhich won praise from James McBrideis Tales from the Holy Land.

Tweet and instagram us with #GOODCitiesProject to share your love for your city.

Articles
via The Howard Stern Show / YouTube

Former Secretary of State, first lady, and winner of the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton, sat own for an epic, two-and-a--half hour interview with Howard Stern on his SiriusXM show Wednesday.

She was there to promote "The Book of Gutsy Women," a book about heroic women co-written with her daughter, Chelsea Clinton.

In the far-reaching conversation, Clinton and the self-proclaimed "King of All Media" and, without a doubt, the best interviewer in America discussed everything from Donald Trump's inauguration to her sexuality.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
Pixabay

Offering parental leave for new fathers could help close the gender gap, removing the unfair "motherhood penalty" women receive for taking time off after giving birth. However, a new study finds that parental leave also has a pay gap. Men are less likely to take time off, however, when they do, they're more likely to get paid for it.

A survey of 2,966 men and women conducted by New America found that men are more likely to receive paid parental leave. Over half (52%) of fathers had fully paid parental leave, and 14% of fathers had partially paid parental leave. In comparison, 33% of mothers had fully paid parental leave and 19% had partially paid parental leave.

Keep Reading Show less

Bans on plastic bags and straws can only go so far. Using disposable products, like grabbing a plastic fork when you're on the go, can be incredibly convenient. But these items also contribute to our growing plastic problem.

Fortunately, you can cut down on the amount of waste you produce by cutting down on disposable products. And even more fortunately, there are sustainable (and cute) replacements that won't damage the environment.

Coconut bowls


Cocostation

Who says sustainable can't also be stylish? These cute coconut bowls were handmade using reclaimed coconuts, making each piece one of a kind. Not only are they organic and biodegradable, but they're also durable, in case your dinner parties tend to get out of hand. The matching ebony wood spoons were polished with the same coconut oil as the bowls.

Cocostation Set of 2 Vietnamese Coconut Bowls and Spoons, $14.99; at Amazon

Solar powered phone charger

Dizaul

Why spend time looking around for an outlet when you can just harness the power of the sun? This solar powered phone charger will make sure your phone never dies as long as you can bask in the sun's rays. As an added bonus, this charger was made using eco-friendly silicone rubber. It's win-win all around.

Dizaul Solar Charger, 5000mAh Portable Solar Power Bank, $19.95; at Amazon, $19.95; at Amazon

Herb garden kit

Planter Pro

Put some green in your life with this herb planter. The kit comes with everything you need to get a garden growing, including a moisture meter that helps you determine if your herbs are getting the right amount of food to flourish. All the seeds included are certified to be non-GMO and non-hybrids, meaning you can have fresh, organic herbs right at your fingertips.

Planter Pro's Herb Garden Cedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazonedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazon

Reusable Keurig cups

K & J

Keurig cups are convenient, but they also create a ton of plastic waste. These Keurig-compatible plastic cups are an easy way to cut down on the amount of trash you create without cutting down on your caffeine. Additionally, you won't have to keep on buying K Cups, which means you'll be saving money and the environment.

K&J Reusable Filter Cups, $8.95 for a set of 4,; at Amazon

Low-flow shower head

Speakman

Low-flow water fixtures can cut down your water consumption, which saves you money while also saving one of the Earth's resources. This shower head was designed with a lighter flow in mind, which means you'll be able to cut down on water usage without feeling like you're cutting down on your shower.

Speakman Low Flow Shower Head, $14.58; at Amazon

Bamboo safety razor

Zomchi

Instead of throwing away a disposable razor every time you shave, invest in an eco-friendly, reusable one. This unisex shaver isn't just sustainable, it's also sharp-looking, which means it would make a great gift for the holidays.

Zomchi Safety Razor, $16.99; at Amazon

The Planet