I'm no longer a Baltimorean (or, as some cruel folks put it, a Balti-moron). That quirky little city on the Patapsco has its merits, to be sure--great restaurants and neighborhoods, gobs of marinas and maritime culture, a remarkable aquarium, a fantastic visionary arts museum, and a world-class symphony orchestra. I could go on, but I won't, because I'm an Annapolitan now.
Yes, back in November I became a bona fide work-here-live-here-vote-here-recycle-my-trash-here Annapolitan. And Ilikeit--even more than I thought I would. Of course I knew I'd love the short commute. The trip is now one-thirty-sixth of what it used to be: one mile instead of 36 miles. And, for the first time ever in my working life, I can pop home for lunch. Let me repeat those lovely words:I can pop home for lunch. Yes, miracle of miracles, I can be home in less time than it takes to heat up a chicken breast in the office microwave.
I expected all that, but I didn't expect the suddenly heightened sense of belonging, of being home, of truly being an Annapolitan. (And that very word has a lovely ring to it, does it not? I think so, which is why I've already used it three times, four if you count the headline.) Of course I'veworkedin Annapolis for a long time--nearly 14 years--and I've gotten to know the place fairly well. But I see now that I've only known it in a shallow Monday-through-Friday sense. I see now that because I merely worked here, instead of both working and living here--and shopping here and going to the movies here and owning a home here and buying cat food here--I've kept a sort of emotional distance from the place. Yes, I agree, that's an odd thing to say about a place, but there it is; those are the best words I can find for how it feels to both live and work here now.
And then there's the matter of Annapolis's sheer . . . Chesapeakiness. It's just so much more Chesapeakey than Baltimore. Some will take issue with that, I'm sure. How dare you, sir! they'll say. Baltimore not Chesapeakey? She's the queen city of the Bay, sir! She's as Chesapeakey as it gets! And of course I accept that, up to a point; Charm City is very much a part of the Bay's history and culture and aura. But it's acity. It's Baltimore. So it can only be Chesapeakey in a . . . um, city-like, Baltimorey way. Know what I mean? (Yes, I know, I'm throwing around some fancy words here, but try to keep up with me.)
Annapolis, on the other hand, fairly oozes Chesapeake mojo. There are maritime businesses on every corner and boatseverywhere--in driveways and parking lots and backyards and of course in the marinas, those little groves of aluminum trees that grow at the edges of the countless creeks you find at the ends of countless woodsy dead-end streets. I haven't found a good Afghani restaurant here yet, but that is offset by the fact that I can, on any given Saturday morning, walk the few blocks to Bay Ridge Road and buy a dinghy.
I suppose it boils down to this: For all those years, leaving Annapolis every night and heading up I-97 to Baltimore, it always felt vaguely wrong, like going off the reservation or wandering away from the home fires at night. On the contrary, leaving work and heading for my spiffy little condo, exactly one mile away, feels quite right. That said, I think I'll pop home for lunch.