Walking through Baltimore, I find myself judging people and speculating on their nature in this world, trying to predict what they’ll do, where they’re going, why they’re doing it. Up until now, I reserved judgment only for people who had caused me harm, whether it was making fun of me, being mean to me, etc.
Walking through other cities does not elicit this response from me, but I conceive that the vacation effect is a big part of it. The only reason that I am judging people at such a rate is that I am depressed because of events in my life that also happen to take place in this city. For example, my involuntary celibacy due to the rigor of my self-imposed daily autoflagellation via studying. The incessant crime reports, and they’re the crime reports that I nonchalantly forget about, because I live here, and the dreams of going to a school in a perhaps more care-free zone.
Walking in Minneapolis (probably 1 million times safer than Baltimore) was carefree. I had intense amounts of work to do, but I was carefree. Things were in general cleaner, prettier, and newer. Baltimore has to deal with the fact that it is a city that died in the 1980’s and is slowly trying to recover. There are construction projects left and right — every day there are articles about Baltimore’s revitalization and efforts to make the city a place to want to come to, a place that you want to raise your kids, a place where you want to walk a few blocks to get to the bank.
On a given eight block walk, I will probably be asked for money eight times. I do not know how I feel about this. Most of the time, I do not have cash, which in reality is a dumb thing to do in a poorer city like Baltimore, where vendors are less likely to accept credit cards. If I have it to spare then I’ll give it to them, but I cannot help but wonder what they are going to do with the money. I’ve heard it all in the past few weeks, from “I just got out of prison and I need to take a train home tomorrow,” to people prefacing it with “I ain’t broke man but…” My friends tell me stories about their parents who immigrated here, and how the parents behave once the family visits the country of origin. One of my friend’s mom is quite vicious to the beggars, because she feels that she knows the name of the game that they play. My friend’s father is more apt to help them out, because pennies to us is a week’s worth of sustenance for them, even if they are playing with our heart strings by doing a masterly begging performance (they have to).
On a walk I think about all that I have, and how I wish I could have more – then I glance 100 feet ahead and see the homeless person attempting to make eye contact with me. I am rarely bold enough to look them in the eye, because they remind me of how much I can disappoint myself – and how lucky I am that I have the ability to be disappointed in myself.