I've been in a lower-working-class suburb of Baltimore for more than six months now. Here's the report: It's boring.
Some readers will score me for putting down the working class, but there are interesting proles and dull proles, and what ya got here are the dull ones. This place needs more foreign nationalities -- South Americans, Vietnamese, Pakistanis, Martians, whatever. We need their strange music and funky foodstuffs. This place has none of that. No Jews, either. I miss them.
Nobody has any eccentricities. Nobody has any ambitions. Nobody understands any clever remark. Nobody can comprehend why anyone would take an interest in ANYTHING other than sports, work, eating, procreation, cars and fixing up the house.
I expected to find a few outsiders. You know what I'm talking about: The young person who dresses funny and reads actual books and refuses to fit in with his prole peers and dreams about moving to New York where he can recite poetry in a semi-public garret at 3 a.m. to a bunch of black-clad poseurs smoking clove cigarettes. Well, those kids don't exist out here. All you get are the kids who make fun of the outsider kids, only they have no outsider kids to make fun of.
How did a blanderized burg like this ever spew forth folks as cool as Edgar Allen Poe and H.L. Mencken?
There are a few sinister individuals skulking around these narrow streets, but none of them seem novel or noteworthy. Yes, the beer-swilling shaven-head barechested tattooed merchant marine types do have a certain creep factor, but it's a dull
creepiness. If only Smilin' Jack were still around...!
Nobody here joins cults or goes looking for UFOs or pretends to be vegan or collects animal skulls or worships "the Goddess" or builds houses out of beer cans. You can't even find geeks who collect Star Wars toys and design costumes for ComicCon. As much as you may look down on those jerks, you miss 'em when they're gone.
What people do here is smoke. Babies come out of the womb smoking. Cats and dogs smoke. Birds swoop down out of the trees to swipe cigs from the babies. This is all very different from L.A., where smoking has pretty much run its course. (Back in the 1990s, I used to say that anyone still smoking was either a prostitute or an actor. Now it's just the actors. Nearly all actors smoke, except for the guy who played the Cigarette Smoking Man on The X-Files
You can't buy liquor from gorcery stores here. If you want to buy a goddamned beer, you have to go to a small, shabby-looking liquor store designed to convey an ambience of criminality, where they make you feel like you're buying heroin or AK-47s or eight-year-old sex slaves, and where you'll receive baleful don't fuck with me because I'll mess you up
glares from the barechested tattooed deckhand described earlier.
A local law stipulates that every uttered sentence must contain the word fuck
. The gerund "fucking" is simply a signal that a noun is about to arrive: Hey, gimme the fucking wrench so I can fix the fucking car. Like, fuck. It's all fucked, and I don't fucking know the fuck why. No, Jimmy, you don't get no fucking ice cream because you were fucking obnoxious in fucking church and you totally fucking ruined it for fucking everyone who fucking wanted to fucking listen to the fucking sermon. So fucking fuck you you fucking fuck.
I have it on good authority that the original title of Poe's most famous story was the "The Black Fucking Cat." However, I've seen the original MS of "The Star-Spangled Banner," and I can report that there is not a single fuck in it. Then again, Francis Scott Fucking Key was from fucking Annapolis.
Yesterday, I got out of these environs. My ladyfriend had earned a little extra, so she invited me on a date.
We "crossed the bridge" and visited the attractive suburb of Glenn Burnie. Apparently, in this town the term "crossing the bridge" -- i.e., the amazing Francis Scott Fucking Key Bridge -- connotes a class divide, just as people in the San Fernando Valley speak of life north and south of "the Boulevard."
Glenn Burnie reminds me of what the Valley was like before overcrowding ruined everything. Call me a snob, but I like it in GB. The people are still kind of dull, but they tend to be more physically attractive, and they appreciate wordplay. I found a thrift store with an amazingly good selection of books with a top price of $2.49. Good titles, too -- not just J.K. Rowling, Glenn Beck and Jesus Wants Your Brain
by the Reverend Marvin Mindkiller.
Wonder of wonders, we stumbled across a top-notch family-run Mexican restaurant. People who leave the southwest expect never to eat good Mexican grub again. Well, Mi Pueblo
on the Richie Highway has the best quesadillas I ever laid tongue on. For under ten bucks, I got a superb plate of authentic chicken Mole Poblano, and the portion was generous enough to see me through a second meal. Ask for the spicy tomatillo sauce that they normally don't hand out to gringos. The hand-painted bathroom sinks
alone justify a trip from Tennesee, or at least West Virginia. (And no, I did not get a free marguerita for this endorsement.)
In L.A., the best, most authentic Mexican grub is found in cheap places with lots of flourescent lights and a jukebox that blares at rock concert volumes at all times. The jukebox, alas, is part of the culture. I visited a lot of these places when I dated a deaf girl, but my other ladyfriends have preferred the dark, candle-lit family-run joints where the proprietor usually offers some interesting fare alongside the usual combo plate stuff.
I don't eat out much these days, what with the poverty and all. But for a few blessed hours, I felt like I was back home in L.A.
Then we stopped by a Starbucks. There wasn't a single person writing a screenplay on a laptop.