An Anonymous Marylander Says "You Can't Go Home Again"—The Baltimore Of His Childhood Is Gone
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Re: Eugene Gant's article "What Will Come Of The Race War That Roils The Streets Of Baltimore?"

From: An Anonymous Marylander [Email him]

I am a regular reader and am writing principally because the past Baltimore evoked in Eugene Gant 's article is one that I intensely, if very partially and incompletely, remember.

My family left Baltimore in 1980, moving to another town in Maryland, when I was eight years old. My earliest youth was not spent in the ethnically mixed neighborhood Eugene Gant describes—Hampden?—but in the more or less homogenous and WASPish (except for a scattering of Jewish professionals) precincts of Roland Park.

Race was never discussed at home, much less among the children of the neighborhood, but I clearly remember the kindness and generosity shown the black fruit vendors, housekeepers and postmen who worked there.

I also remember the frisson of astonishment my child self experienced each time we descended Charles Street and the population abruptly darkened. It seemed, and indeed was, another world. I recall the smell of the McCormick spice company, was there for the opening of Harborplace, walked with my father on summer nights to Memorial Stadium for Orioles games, the cheers rising all the way to my bedroom window when we stayed at home.

As I said, my family did not move far and so I had occasion to revisit Baltimore over the years. Nothing really astonished me as I did so. The past receded, the veils of ignorance and then of innocence fell. I returned a year ago with my foreign fiancé, wanting to show her the place where I had spent my childhood.

It was bound, I realized, to be a disappointing experience, though I was surprised at the sadness of it all. Part of that was how lawless and uncivil it all seemed: several aggressive encounters on the streets of downtown with blacks apropos nothing, the hint in Fells Point and elsewhere of creeping Latino colonization and associated gang life, the sadness of the old neighborhood, which, in addition to being totally devoid of children—we were legion back in the day—displayed signs of neglect that are entirely foreign to my childhood memory of the place.

Part of this, I realized, was just an inevitable fact of age and dislocation. Part of it, though, seemed to me yet another indicator of the combined effects of demographic change, mismanagement and bad policy.

You can't go home again, in Thomas Wolfe's phrase. This is doubly true in Baltimore and all of those other places where decades of bad policy have borne their fruit, irrevocably.

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