taking the passive out of passive-aggressive

Sunday, December 05, 2004

The Hampden Christmas Parade was today, and it was full of things that people think are really Baltimore and things that are really Baltimore. There's a difference, you know:

Fake Baltimore: crabs (the kind you eat, not the kind you catch)
Real Baltimore: crabs (the kind you catch, not the kind you eat)
Most people from out of town think it's quaint and amusing that we eat arachnids, and generally want to make the attempt themselves, as though they are visiting a bunch of slack-jawed yokels from a country far, far away. Little do they realize that most Baltimoreans spend more time trying to get rid of crabs than cracking them open with a mallet. In fact, sitting on the sofas of strangers is known to be a dangerous activity. Upholstered products are generally the only things we Baltimoreans DON'T pick up out alleys on bulk day.

Fake Baltimore: "Hons" and beehive hairdos (or really anything else stolen from late John Waters)
Real Baltimore: Hookers who don't even bother to dress sexy, and sometimes even wear slippers
The "Hon" phenomenon seems to have been entirely handcrafted by Hampden gentrifiers, who watched Hairspray one too many times and thought "here's our marketing hook!" It involves loudly dyed beehive hairdos and cat's eye glasses, as though Baltimore fashion is actually forty years out of date instead of five. You will never see a non-ironic hon anywhere in this town. And if there really ever were such a thing, it is now their granddaughters--in sweatpants and looking bleary-eyed at 10am--who hang around on streetcorners in Hampden, either selling their "charms" or pushing strollers around. But hey, those women don't make for cute parody. Instead, they make us wonder why our city provides inadequate daycare and has such a high poverty level--which is a total drag to even think about. So let's go get dressed up in a waitress outfit, HON!

Fake Baltimore: The current mayor, the one who looks so handsome
Real Baltimore: All the old mayors, especially the one who used to scream curses at people
The new Mayor is handsome and imbued with the kind of suave charms that Bill Clinton used to have--and about as much self-control. No matter, his petty affairs are nothing compared to the true mayors of yesteryear. Shaeffer, who used to get dressed up in an old-fashioned bathing suit and inner tube, for instance, was a lovable anachronism, unless of course you were on the other end of his screaming, frothing rage. Baltimore's about as corrupt, politically, as Huey Long's Louisiana, but you'd never know it now from the way we venerate Mr. Rock N Roll, with his good haircut and yuppy wife. Bring back Hilda Mae Snoops!

Fake Baltimore: Barry Levinson
Real Baltimore: "The Wire"
Yeah, yeah. John Waters, whatever, yawn. You'd think, talking to people from out of town, that John Waters is the only resident of Baltimore City. "Oh, you're from Baltimore! JOHN WATERS!" Jesus, give it a rest. Gross-out factor or no, John Waters is closer, in pure sentimental schmaltzy bullshit, to Levinson than he is to say, Todd Solondz. Can we just take Waters off the table here? I don't fault the man his vision--it's not his responsibility that for some reason, everyone seems to accept it as The True Face of Baltimore--but I'm dearly tired of it all. And Barry Levinson, God in heaven. Have you seen one of these movies? I would love to believe that Jewish Baltimore in the '50's was as charming as a Barry Levinson movie, but let's not pretend these films are about Baltimore either, regardless of our desperate yearning for civic pride and outside validation. Instead, the Wire, the only mass-market vision of Baltimore that admits that black people actually live here--and some of them even have influence and power! A plus: no "hons". Points marked off because the accents are more Queens than Highlandtown, but who the hell cares--"Bawlmerese" is another of those fake Baltimore things, anyway.


At 7:14 AM, Blogger sweetney said...

dude, i was there!! how did we miss each other???

also, what night are you free this week? jamie's gonna be late every night pretty much, so the choice is yours. hit me email stylee. xo


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