July 18, 2006

Baltimore Random

I love the fact that Baltimore is grungy enough to have a sizable homeless population, but quirky enough that they hang their shirts to dry after washing them in the river.
There are two sites I've experienced in Baltimore that I've not seen in other cities. First, many of the larger streets have medians. Yes, I've seen those in other cities. But in Baltimore, there's almost always someone selling something or raising money along the median. This is by no means an inner-city phenomenon. In the 'burbs one sees cheerleaders with buckets fundraising for a trip to some competition. In the city sellers offer flowers, cold water, newspapers ranging from the Baltimore Sun to Nation of Islam, and kids raising money for team uniforms. To combat this open-air market, the city is now building medians with a steep incline from the curb to a narrow strip on top with plants and trees. With nowhere safe for the hucksters to perch, the medians become anonymous and orderly. Has anyone seen this in other areas? Or is this just another quirk of this quirkalicious town?

The other curiosity (as in, 'honey, why ARE they doing that?') are the many people who stand along the street one arm raised with a flapping hand. This was a great party question for the first three years we lived here. My boss thought they were all drug dealers. I thought it was Baltimore's hitchhiking wave. Jrex refused to speculate. A few months ago, the mystery was solved. I gave a ride to a new guy who's been coming to church. He's in a two year rehab program in the city and grew up in Baltimore. We passed a young guy with his hand in the air and I asked C. if he knew what it was about. "Yeah, that's called 'hacking'. It's like a cab service. You gotta be careful though cause once you agree to terms, you have to go where they want you to go. You can get caught up in some bad stuff that way, but you gotta do it once you agree. Them young girls is the worst. Don't go picking them up cause you don't know what trouble you might get into."
I've been trying to take pictures of both phenomenon, but you know the rule--don't shoot and drive (ha! Sadly a neglected rule in this town). I got some scary looks when I stopped to take the tshirt picture. Knowing how violent Baltimore can be, taking a picture of a hacker might not be advisable.

What are the quirks where you live? Anything that makes you shake your head and say, "Only here in rural Connecticut..."?


k said...

Honey, nothing interesting happens in rural CT. ;-)

Here in rural CT, tractors have the right of way on the roads, and if you want to pass it's good etiquette to wait until the tractor driver waves you over--even if you've had a clear shot for the last quarter mile.

There is also some tacit understanding that the pre-dawn hunters can cut in line at the one coffeeshop in town for their morning coffee, much to the annoyance of the joginistas back from their daily 4:30 a.m. constitutional. Nothing says "Move the hell over" like a 6' tall man in camo and a bird gun.

Something tells me that these things, however, are not specific to rural Connecticut.

bg's Little Sis said...

Here in my small city in Virginia it is not unusual to see Appalacian Trail hiking nomads come to the downtown mall area and be homeless folks for a week or two to get some spare change and cash for their next leg. There are some local churches that have set up "Trail Hiker" kitchens for these folks specifically. They provide hot meals, showers and cots for the hikers to use during the busy trail hiking times of year. A month ago one hiker seemed especially down on his luck and was selling some of his gear to just buy a bus ticket home. Poor guy succeeded in a week.

OTR sister said...

In Seattle you can park facing either way on the street. I think it is a holdover from when it was a small town, it is just weird to see it in a big city.

Dogs are allowed on buses. And you basically can ride the bus for free - the drivers are mandated to not challenge you. But most people pay because we're polite like that.

And no one honks at each other. You may sit through two light-cycles and you still won't honk because that's rude. After our last earthquake I was driving home with a friend and we sat behind a car in the right hand lane for awhile until we realized it was a parked car.

Everblest said...

In my part of rural CT, we don't have many tractors...ya know these rocky hills are poor farm land. But we have rivers, and rivers have these things sticking out of them - fishermen. Fly fishermen, as far as you can see up and down the river - so if you are traveling on East River Road or West River Road you need to watch carefully for fishermen crossing the road. The other weird quirk is the culture of stupidity. There are people I have met that love their own stupidity and brag about it and go out of their way to cultivate it. After Amherst... I still don't know what to do with that one.

jen said...

Well, here in K'stan we have many interesting things...
Such as: women cleaning their homes by dumping buckets of water on the floor and wiping it up with a squeegie (or better yet, just bringing the hose INTO the house to clean); no visible lanes on roads, which means that what would be a two lane road in your town is a four or five lane road here; spending time with local friends can involve being told that you are fat, lazy, or don't know the language very well.
And yes, people do sell thing in the medians along the road. Usually they are kids selling Kleenex with a fruity scent.
Just like Baltimore. :)

Misfit Hausfrau said...

I think you would be better to tell ME about the whole Cincinnati quirk thing since I will have only been here 14 months when we lave in 2 weeks. Also, I lived in Subarbanville, so I know you don't get the true flavor of a city like I have in other places.

In Pittsburgh it was all about the dialect:"Yinz guys going Ott n'at?"
translation: Are you guys going out?

OTRgirl said...

I LOVE the fact that k picked up on the reference and wrote back right away. Each of these stories is so evocative and fun.

Angie said...

When I lived in Columbia, SC, you could could pass on the right while sitting at stop light or approaching a line of cars waiting at a light (pass on the shoulder).

It's seemed like a very renegade sort of thing, sort like, "Get the hell out my way, will you? I've got places to go?" But after living there for a while, I just realized that probably, it was that for the longest time the CITY that I was living it wasn't a CITY at all - it has been more rural, and so passing like during busy traffic would have been okay. It was probably just a localized habit that was never dropped as the city developed. So, when in Rome...

Fast forward to when I moved back to Ohio, and started to do the same thing out of habit?! NO, NO, NO! Not only is it not recommended, I remembered that it's illegal. I didn't get a ticket or anything, but I remembered WHY it's not recommended. See - if not EVERYONE does it...it's dangerous. Dangerous boils down to illegal, you know?

Ah Carolina...(as Angie drifts off and goes there in her mind...)