“Just witnessing a Baltimore ritual. I’ve lived here all my life and never visited Poe’s grave, much less seen the Visitor. That’s akin to never going to Fort McHenry or watching the Orioles play.”
“Bunch of bums.” Rainer frowned. “I hate the American League.”
“Where did you grow up, Detective?”
“Jersey. I’m a Mets fan. Remember 1969?”
“You’ve got my DOB in front of you, you do the math.” Her voice was nonchalant, but Tess seethed at the question. Her father and his five brothers had schooled her carefully in the key dates of Baltimore sports history: 1958—Colts win the championship; 1966—Orioles sweep the Dodgers; 1972—Frank Robinson traded; 1979—The “We Are Family” series in Pittsburgh; 1984—Colts leave town in the middle of the night in a Mayflower moving van. But 1969?—1969 was Pearl Harbor times three, a nadir in Baltimore sports history imprinted in every native’s genetic code. The Colts’ loss to the Jets, the Bullets’ loss to the Knicks, the Orioles’ loss to the Mets. Tess might not remember the year, but she had relived it at the 20th mark, the 25th, and the 30th, and would probably be around for its 50th. And it would probably still hurt.
– Laura Lippman, from In A Strange City
Laura Lippman writes better about Baltimore than I could ever hope to; she writes about Baltimore the way my heart feels about the city, the way the fingerprints of being a native lurk in bruises under my skin. In A Strange City is her Tess Monaghan novel about the Poe Toaster, a tradition that Lippman may have sadly predicted the end of (the “original” Toaster has not appeared in several years). Salon has a gorgeous, heartrending piece about the city’s appropriation of Poe’s name for its benefit without upholding his legacy, and I recommend reading it.
I am from Baltimore. I will never write about the city with the grace and honesty that Lippman does, but I tried a few weeks ago. Regardless of anything, I am rooting for the Ravens today, because I am from Baltimore, and I am a Ravens fan. Go Ravens. Bring home another ring. Your city needs it.