PDA

View Full Version : Baltimore???



RSned05
05-17-2010, 08:52 PM
Hey,


I am writing a novel where my MC moves to Balitmore. I was just wondering if anyone could kind of describe the climate/culture/etc. of that general area.




Thanks

Rebecca

Elizabeth Holloway
05-17-2010, 11:23 PM
I was born and raised in Balmere, hun.

Climate: Warm, sometimes plain old hot, summers. Temps: 80's-100's.
Cold, unpredictable winters. Temps 10's-50's. All forms of precipitation.

Baltimore culture is a mixed bag. It really depends on where you are, and who you know. There are very affluent parts of B-more, and very poverty stricken areas. There are crime-ridden areas and areas where I would feel safe sleeping with my doors unlocked. What specifically about Baltimore's culture would you like to know?

RSned05
05-18-2010, 12:30 AM
Well, my MC moves there to start her life over. She opens up a bakery/cafe. She isn't really rich, more along the lines of middle class. Do you have any ideas as to what would work?

aadams73
05-18-2010, 12:34 AM
I realize you're probably looking for more personal experiences, but you may try the wikipedia entry for Baltimore (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baltimore). There's a lot of info there including temperatures month by month, and some history.

PeterL
05-18-2010, 12:40 AM
If you want your character to try to restart in Baltimore, then you might want to go there or study it as much as you can. Unless Baltimore is essential for some other reason, you might want to switch to a city that you know fairly well.

Elizabeth Holloway
05-18-2010, 01:29 AM
I'm not really sure what you need. Starting a bakery/cafe and a new life in Baltimore as a middle classed citizen is certainly feasible. Are you looking for locations? Street names? Areas where a coffee shop/bakery would do well? I could see something like that doing well in Fells Point, Mount Washington or Charles Village, just to name a few. Are you looking for local pride, traditions, ways of speaking, landmarks?

Baltimore is a very diverse city with lots of little nuances that make it what it is. Have you ever visited the city?

Linda Adams
05-18-2010, 01:47 AM
Try hitting the newspaper: http://www.baltimoresun.com/ When I want to research an area, I subscribe to email headlines for the local news. Gets an interesting flavor of what goes on.

The Washington Post is another possibility--they also carry Baltimore news. The Preakness was big news recently because they changed their beer policy.

Ravenlocks
05-18-2010, 06:03 AM
Watch The Wire. Granted, it won't tell you much about upper-middle-class life, but it will give you some of the city's flavor.

I grew up south of Baltimore, and I can testify that the summers are hot and humid (we're talking 90s and HIGH humidity; you need AC), and the winters are generally cold (40s-30s would be my guess at average temps, with usually a week or two in the 20s or lower) with some snow (anywhere from a dusting to a lot). There's often a thaw somewhere in February. You get about four beautiful clear days with blue sky in the spring and four in the fall. August is the hottest month. Most years the warm weather starts about April and continues at least through September, although I can remember at least one Thanksgiving when I was outside with just a sweater on, no need for a coat.

Watch your spelling. It's Baltimore.

mtrenteseau
05-24-2010, 06:15 AM
Watch The Wire. Granted, it won't tell you much about upper-middle-class life, but it will give you some of the city's flavor.

Homicide: Life on the Streets is also a good Baltimore-based show, and it's not quite as gritty.

It might be interesting to have your character watch some John Waters movies before moving to Baltimore - most if not all of them are set there. The ones set in the sixties make it clear that Baltimore had a very Southern mindset back then, and the trashier ones would leave your character ready for just about anything.

Shady Lane
05-25-2010, 01:05 PM
I agree, watch The Wire.

I'm from just outside D.C., but Baltimore to me feels a lot like Providence, RI, if you're familiar with it at all. An important part of Baltimore, IMO, is its relationship to the water. The inner harbor is one of its most well-known areas.

augusto
05-25-2010, 04:00 PM
Seems to me the movie Diner was set in Baltimore, late fifties-early sixties.

nitaworm
05-25-2010, 05:44 PM
Okay, Baltimore is so much more than the Wire. It's vibrantly mixed with many races, black, white, hispanic, jewish. It's rich in culture, but is an old city. There's the waterfront areas, places to shop. Houses are jammed packed together and there are parts that are gritty...even the clean parts have a bit of an edge to them. If you have more direct questions, just ping me.

Elizabeth Holloway
05-26-2010, 01:04 AM
Okay, Baltimore is so much more than the Wire.
Yes! You took the words right out of my mouth.

DoomieBey
05-30-2010, 01:56 AM
I was born and raised in Washington, DC, and currently live in Laurel Maryland. I visited B-More often during the late 80's as a teen (when I was a thug); and now in my early 40's as an advocate to mentor at-risk youth. I've hung out in the most dangerous sections, and networked in the most affluent.

I may be able to offer some insight as an outsider-neighbor. One of the things that has always intrigued me was how drastically different life is between Baltimore and DC. One spoken sentence can give one an indication of where the speaker is from. The dress is different, job opportunities, life style in general.

Yet, the two cities are just under a 30 minute ride from each other, harbor to harbor!

Email me if you're interested, and I'll share some of my experiences and memories that you may be able to incorporate in some way - at no risk of libel (lol).

Sarpedon
05-30-2010, 05:01 AM
When I first visited Baltimore the most striking thing I found were the rowhouses: mile after mile of tiny brick houses, some no more than 15' wide each with a set of steps up to them. I'd not seen anything like it in the USA before. The whole city is like that. Some rowhouses have two stories, some have three. Many of them are abandoned and boarded up. People sit upon the steps of these houses and while away the day. That is, where there are any people.

There are a great number of vacant buildings in Baltimore. Old breweries, defunct industries, and so forth. I did my architecture master's thesis on the adaptive reuse of one such defunct former brewery there.

Virtually every building is brick.

Few people know that Baltimore has a subway system. Like many subway systems in the USA, it was built because 'everyone was doing it' and didn't have adequate planning to make it a truly successful system. There are only a few lines, and they do not go anywhere important, much like LA's subway system.

The streets there are in generally poor condition. I first explored the city by bike, and was soon sore and covered with scrapes. Many streets are brick. Others are poorly maintained.

Another thing that struck me was the religious life of the city. There are many splendid old churches in town. Few of these are owned by the sects of their original builders, however. You will see many a billboard advertising unique, independant churches, which occupy these old churches. Most of these billboards feature pictures of the church's pastor, who is invariably a man in a very expensive suit. One such church was near my thesis site, and I observed it along with the rest of the surroundings, and found it curious that the pastor was accompanied by what appeared to be uniformed bodyguards.

The city harbor features many fascinating tourist attractions: there is the new aquarium, which I have never visited, but supposedly was built to rival the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. There are also several museum ships in the harbor, which can all be visited for a modest price, which I did. There is a WW2 vintage submarine, a similarly old coast guard cutter, a freighter, and a moveable lighthouse. Don't miss these things if you go; the price is very modest. There is also a high mound which once contained a fort. It is now a city park. There is also Fort mchenry, which is further out in the harbor, the bombardment of which inspired Francis Scott Keye to write 'the Star Spangled Banner' Most of the affluent areas, such as they are, are around the harbor. Another easily recognizable structure is the 'Shot Tower' which is a building which, during the Civil War, was a munitions factory. The way it worked was this: Molten iron was conveyed up to the top of the tower, then dropped ten stories into a pool of water. As it dropped, the iron would assume a spherical shape, and the water would cause it to harden in this shape. These iron spheres would then be collected and used as cannon balls. This tower is an easily recognizable landmark in the city.

DoomieBey
05-30-2010, 05:14 AM
RE: Post by Sarpedon:

Yep, I can vouch for most of what you've written. Of course many of my experiences were during the years that I walked on the "dark side" {in Darth Vader's voice} as a young adult.

Though there are many subcultures there, it's not as shades-of-gray as one might expect. You are either amongst the middle class, or caught up in the madness of the criminal element (open illegal drug markets). I have visited the Baltimore Aquarium, which is beautiful, as well as the African American museum. Many Washingtonians come to Baltimore because of what the harbor offers; but not so much as (we) used to since DC has built a newer version of it's own harbor.

And the folk there are by-and-large friendlier than you may find in downtown DC, where everyone is in a hurry. Not like New York, but certainly "faster" than Baltimore. People in Baltimore are more willing to give you directions, and engage you in conversation (even in neighborhoods that are considered dangerous).

**My uncle lives in Plymouth, MN. He's employed by General Mills. I've been inside for a tour, and it's unbelievable!



@RSned05:

Try to stay away from giving your characters jobs that are flashy or adventurous - as this is not what Baltimore is known for. I would suggest going online and checking out the classifieds for about 3 consecutive weeks to get a feel for what's in demand. And don't leave out the abundance of one-way streets {whew!}. To a newcomer to the city, it's a nightmare - even for Map Quest. You turn down the wrong street, and you'll end up nearly 10 blocks away from your destination, because of the distance you'll have to drive to get back on track. That's how you'll come to find out that people there are cooler than you may expect. They'll glance at your tags, or gauge your accent, and do what they can to assist.

Sarpedon
05-30-2010, 05:53 AM
That is true, the Baltimorians are friendly. While doing my thesis research I was repeatedly offered drugs for sale, but I was never mugged or even felt threatened, and I was in the very poorest of neighborhoods. Though of course I'm as meek and mild as a lamb, and obviously an outsider.

DoomieBey
05-30-2010, 06:10 AM
Hmm, I suppose offering illegal, addictive drugs that could possibly lead you down a road of heartache and untold embarrassing compromises could qualify as acts of "friendliness" (lol). Be assured that many dealers would be happy to get you hooked if they thought they'd somehow benefit financially in the long run. Glad you made it out okay.

Well, RSned05, here's yet more entrees to your buffet of Baltimore backdrop...
That is true, the Baltimorians are friendly. While doing my thesis research I was repeatedly offered drugs for sale, but I was never mugged or even felt threatened, and I was in the very poorest of neighborhoods. Though of course I'm as meek and mild as a lamb, and obviously an outsider.

WritingIsHard
09-15-2012, 01:03 AM
I finally decided that I’m setting my urban fantasy novel in Baltimore, so now I’m engaging in thread necromancy! I’m going to do a lot of research (yes, I have read David Simon and watched the Wire/The Corner/Homicide ;) ), obviously, but I wanted to get a writerly perspective too. Hopefully there are folks from Baltimore still around who will answer my questions.

1. Is there something so characteristic that it will make you go “yep, this is Baltimore” if you read it in a book?
2. Are there any stereotypes about the city that get on your nerves, or mistakes you see in books set in the city? Come to think of it, any recommendations of books set in Baltimore that do a good job of portraying the city would be very much appreciated.
3. What’s winter like in Baltimore? I’ve seen the Wikipedia climate section, but how does it look “on the ground”? Is snow common? Does it stay on the ground for long or does it turn into winter slush? If it’s 5 degrees Fahrenheit and snowing for three days, is it just bad weather or does it make the news?
4. I’m looking for a neighborhood for my main character to hang her hat. The ideal of ideals would be somewhere old, cheap, diverse, not all that clean-tidy-safe, and if at all possible, near water or/and train tracks. I’m considering Locust Point but am really not sure.
5. How segregated is the city? I saw different opinions, from “a lot” to “not so much”, and am rather confused. I’d rather hear a writer’s testimony :)
6. What are the common animals you see around the city? Are there a lot of stray animals? Pigeons/crows/some other birds?
7. Are there specific architectural monsters that are iconic for the city? Saint-Petersburg has sphinxes and griffins all over the city, for example. Anything like that in Baltimore?
8. Are there any interesting urban legends? Maybe places that strike you as particularly “magical” or weird that you know of?

And, finally, if anyone will agree to be my Baltimore-related expert so I can pester them in PM with more inane and gushy writerly questions, I will be extremely happy, provide mad props, acknowledgements, firstborn – anything you ask, basically ;).

ULTRAGOTHA
09-15-2012, 01:17 AM
Nobody looks before crossing the street. They just walk out in front of you. Very unnerving.

Snow is not uncommon. Lack of snow is not uncommon. Summers are hot and humid.

The DMV is insane. It took me calling my state legislator to get my driving license and cars registered. Despite what documents their handout said they needed, they refused to take any. They told my wife her current, valid passport was not sufficient ID because it didn't have any visa stamps in it! Argh.

ironmikezero
09-15-2012, 09:29 PM
Need a little truly eerie for your tale?

Research Edgar Allan Poe's grave in Baltimore, and the mysterious visitor who, on the anniversary of the writer's death, leaves cognac and roses at the tomb.

For the first time in 61 years, the visitor failed to appear in 2010... The mystery deepened.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/7032133/Mysterious-visitor-to-Edgar-Allen-Poes-grave-disappears.html

backslashbaby
09-15-2012, 10:18 PM
My brother has lived there for years, and I've visited, so I'll try here :)


I finally decided that I’m setting my urban fantasy novel in Baltimore, so now I’m engaging in thread necromancy! I’m going to do a lot of research (yes, I have read David Simon and watched the Wire/The Corner/Homicide ;) ), obviously, but I wanted to get a writerly perspective too. Hopefully there are folks from Baltimore still around who will answer my questions.

1. Is there something so characteristic that it will make you go “yep, this is Baltimore” if you read it in a book?

The harbor, I'd think. The look of it is distinctive, if you check tourist guides.

2. Are there any stereotypes about the city that get on your nerves, or mistakes you see in books set in the city? Come to think of it, any recommendations of books set in Baltimore that do a good job of portraying the city would be very much appreciated.

Dunno :)

3. What’s winter like in Baltimore? I’ve seen the Wikipedia climate section, but how does it look “on the ground”? Is snow common? Does it stay on the ground for long or does it turn into winter slush? If it’s 5 degrees Fahrenheit and snowing for three days, is it just bad weather or does it make the news?

Snow is pretty common, but not nearly as common as farther up north. Over a foot is certainly common enough, and it can stick around for half a week easily. Longer than that and bigger snowfalls are less common but do occur some years. A three day snowfall would only make the news if it were cold enough to accumulate and build up inches, or if it were a particularly icy storm.

4. I’m looking for a neighborhood for my main character to hang her hat. The ideal of ideals would be somewhere old, cheap, diverse, not all that clean-tidy-safe, and if at all possible, near water or/and train tracks. I’m considering Locust Point but am really not sure.

Oooh, I don't know. My brother used to live near his art college (MICA), and his place was old and cheap and diverse. I forget about train tracks, but I'm very unobservant in real life :) His building was old and cool-looking.

5. How segregated is the city? I saw different opinions, from “a lot” to “not so much”, and am rather confused. I’d rather hear a writer’s testimony :)

There are certainly sections that are primarily poor African-American, but Black folks can also be found everywhere else. Well, I don't know every neighborhood by any stretch, but it's not a segregated city, if that makes sense.

6. What are the common animals you see around the city? Are there a lot of stray animals? Pigeons/crows/some other birds?

Pigeons, I know. Otherwise, dunno :)


7. Are there specific architectural monsters that are iconic for the city? Saint-Petersburg has sphinxes and griffins all over the city, for example. Anything like that in Baltimore?

There's a clock tower or something on Charles St. I'm sure there are more ;) There aren't gargoyles on houses or anything cool like that that you see in some European places, no.


8. Are there any interesting urban legends? Maybe places that strike you as particularly “magical” or weird that you know of?

Dunno :)



And, finally, if anyone will agree to be my Baltimore-related expert so I can pester them in PM with more inane and gushy writerly questions, I will be extremely happy, provide mad props, acknowledgements, firstborn – anything you ask, basically ;).

I sent you my brother's email, but he's an odd one. If he's interested, he'll be awesome. If not so much, then he'll not even respond, probably. He's fun; no worries :) But he's a bit of a New Yorker from his time there, lol. Don't be offended if he's not a sweet as me :D

ArtsyAmy
09-16-2012, 12:45 AM
Just a thought: Since you're not really close enough to make a drive to Baltimore for a day of research http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/icons/icon10.gif , maybe you'd want to try contacting Baltimore's tourism office and see if they can help you.

I'm about an hour-and-a-half away, and have visited the aquarium there two or three times. The harbor area is nice, but after we missed the turn to get back on the highway toward home, we soon were in an area that was very different. But most U.S. cities I've visited are similar--go down a couple blocks from the upscale areas, and the scene is quite different.

HappyWriter
09-17-2012, 01:23 AM
I moved from a relatively rural area to a suburb outside of Baltimore about 5 years ago. Hopefully some of my new-to-the-area perspective can be some help with your stories!

- Baltimore's football team is the Ravens- however in 1984, Baltimore's previous football team, the Colts, moved very suddenly (overnight!) to Indianapolis. There's a lot of support for the Ravens, but one of the things I noticed when I moved here was that there are still lots of hurt feelings about what happened with the Colts.
- I can't eat crabs (I know! It's sad :( ) but from what I hear, they are EXCELLENT here. Lots of crabshacks, lots of signs advertising crabs for sale throughout the area, I've been to lots of parties where it starts by spreading butcher paper on the tables and spilling out some steamed crabs and little wooden hammers on the table.
-On a related note, Old Bay seasoning is available virtually everywhere around here :)
- This is more specific to moving from a rural area to the Baltimore area, but one of the things I noticed was that there is a lot of pretty heavy traffic here. Lots of one-way streets in Baltimore proper, lots of rush hour traffic in general.
- The HonFest and the Preakness are two local events I hear a fair bit about- I've never been to either, though.
- When people come visit us here, they often want to see the Inner Harbor and the Baltimore Aquarium- both of which are awesome! Those are big attractions to the area.

Hope some of that can be helpful to you! This is just what sticks in my head about things that I noticed when I moved here. I think Baltimore would be a great setting for a story- good luck with yours!

ironmikezero
09-17-2012, 11:25 PM
Ever wonder why Baltimore's current pro football (US) team is called the Ravens? - hint- another link to Poe...

WritingIsHard
09-23-2012, 07:46 PM
Thank you for answering, folks :) I'll look into the Poe thing.