that city kicked my ass

last week, i had to suddenly get to baltimore for work.  by the end of it all, my head felt like this picture.   and my mood was this exact shade of black.

on a short break, i forced myself to walk to guss woolens, which at a sunny 10AM was a sketchy walk.  i was rewarded with a couple of beautiful linen remnants.  the peeps there were lovely, as were all of the peeps in downtown baltimore, let me make that clear.  they were some of the sweetest city peeps i've ever met.  but the city itself was an entity, and it was hard to get along with.  throw a stone, hit an abandoned building.  hell, flick a stone with little to no effort.  in my search for sustenance, i found a KFC, a caribou coffee, and fresh fast!, a buffet bar joint posing as health food.  mostly sauced meat and iceberg lettuce.  and for those of you who've seen the wire, they weren't joking.  at least not where i was.  they didn't dress that shit up AT ALL.  i don't see how they shot that show there, because all of that is REALLY GOING ON.  how did they keep reality from getting confused and jumping in with the actors?

i came home sick.  i can't remember the last time i was sick.  and in august?!  i do not get colds in august!

i firmly believe health is connected to stress, and downtown baltimore stressed me way the F out.  i think if i lived there, i wouldn't live long.  it made me think about the towns i've been to, and how i've felt in them.  seattle, for instance.  more rain than you can shake a stick at.  by default, i should not like it there.  but it was during the christmas season, and that town lit itself up like a megawatt lighthouse to keep everyone in the spirit.  free coffee and warm smiles on every corner.  cleveland: awesome.  dallas.  holy crap.  when i was there, the sidewalks rolled up at 3pm and that was that.  but the sky went on forever.  

and of course there's new york.  last week i was in a love/hate with it, more towards the hate end.  but i think every new yorker feels that way.  you'd have to be a little crazy not to;  i mean, when you're living with 1,634,795 of your closest friends in cramped quarters, someone is bound to piss you off once in a while.  but now i'm happy to be back home.  even the dinnertime procession of garbage trucks didn't bother me last night.  merci, baltimore. your people are lovely, and your country of wealthy neighbors should be doing more to help your city reflect them.

what towns have struck a chord with you, be it minor or major?

(ps: the next oona does it! is up, finished on the train ride home from baltimore.  and yes, it's that dark pinhead of a thing up there.)


  1. I've never lived in any very big cities, but I think I like it that way. My home town is around 150,000 people in the middle of the plains so everyone has space to stretch out!

  2. I'm sorry Baltimore was so sketchy - I only remember the aquarium, and if I recall, there were very pretty fish there.

    I understand the way you feel about NYC's population - sometimes people are allupinmyface and I need my SPACE ... not an easy thing to find in Chicago. That's when I go visit my parents in my hometown, smell some fresh cut grass, and then head back to the city, all detoxed and fresh. Let me know if you need some fresh cut grass relaxation and I'll find you a candle or something...maybe Mama Grand can send you some actual clippings.

    Cheers to you, girlfriend. I hope you get some time to detox and rest from your trip. Your dress turned out fabulously, as always :)

    Word verification: sessed. When you are stressed and have been drinking, you are sessed.

  3. I love cities. Since I grew up near it, I have a soft spot for Detroit and all its ghosts. It makes you sad and hopeful at the same time--like anything can happen. People never think to visit it, but Antwerp Belgium has to be the friendliest European city I've ever visited. (Also lived there.) Old men whistle songs to themselves in the streets. People remember your name after one meeting. No one runs, everyone strolls. It's just plain happy and that gets into you.

  4. Hehe. New York scared the crap out of me. I think I could walk around the streets of Manhattan for a month without even going into a single shop. It would've been better to have a native guide, of course, I had absolutely no idea where to go or what I was doing. If I try really hard I can almost imagine living there, but not raising a family. I know people do it, there were kids and parks all over the place. I just don't know HOW.

    I pretty much only travel for work, though, so I feel like I don't see much of the towns I visit---I tend to spend my days inside conference centres or museum basements. Prague was nice, and surprisingly navigable with zero Czech-speaking skills. I liked it better than Vienna, although Vienna was very pretty and touristy and has awesome museums. I still have no clue about London; I felt like a gopher running around on the tube popping up here and there. Bath was pretty but a bit boring; Bristol was not as pretty but more fun (that might just have been the company, though). I felt like my IQ went up ten points just hanging out in Cambridge. Calgary wants to be Dallas, and the faux-cowboy thing gets old pretty fast, as does the urban sprawl. I did like Austin, it seems like a pretty cool town despite being in Texas. The college football stadium was scary, though. I think it seats more people than there are in my entire home town. Pittsburgh endeared itself to me as my first day there we stumbled, entirely on accident, on a humongous zombie apocalypse event. Montreal was pretty awesome (even though I totally missed the fabric district), but again the company helped.

    Glad you're home same and (mostly) sound. Stress will totally do a number on your immune system. Although I have kids, so any ailment at any time of year is fair game. Get well soon! :)

  5. Sorry that Bawldimore was crap to you. I used to live there, too, and I know how you feel. They call it Charm City but - shivers- what is so charming about it?

    At least, the downtown part. The part where I lived wasn't too terrible.

    NYC still scares the bejesus out of me, even after five years of living in Philadelphia.

  6. You know, Oona, in my former career I traveled to every city in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic as well as a few more in the Southern states just south of the Mason-Dixon Line many, many times over. I tried to let you know what to expect in Baltimore without bumming you out too much because I knew you had to go there for work too.

    Do you remember that part of Boston we drove through when you were there? The part that looked like a set right out of a dystopian novel? But Boston has its grand areas too. Newberry St., the Commons, Faneuil Hall, just to name a few. I always considered Baltimore, on the other hand, to be Maryland's equivalent of Bridgeport Connecticut. Both blighted cities in two of the wealthiest areas in the nation. There is simply no excuse.

    I'm sorry to hear nothing has changed much since the days I traveled to Baltimore. The people are truly warmhearted, courteous, and friendly. But the city itself...

    It's a sign of the continuing decline of American civilization, and civilization in general, IMO. It's sad and all so totally unnecessary. I listened to a segment on WNYC yesterday afternoon with Leonard Lopate and the author of a book I've got to get a copy of, "Ethical Wisdom: What Makes Us Good" by Mark Matousek. Fascinating stuff. You can hear it at this link if you like:

    Information on the physio-psychological underpinnings that make up the basis of society, ethics, our thought processes and interactions. The author is a 25 year practicing Buddhist and the insights he shared are why I say the decline we're experiencing is so unnecessary.

    Meg, stressed slurred = "sessed"! That's hilarious. I think I may have found myself in both those states more times than I'd like to admit, in the distant and not too distant past, and probably later this afternoon too, hopefully.

    I'm glad you're back in New York, Oona. Feel better soon and don't be stressed out. When you do feel better be sure to take a little time out with Ruggy and get "sessed" together instead.


  7. I'm a city girl - actually a Brooklyn girl. Usually, it's the tourists/day trippers who bug me, not the locals.

    Oddly, I was in Bmore last week too and no one could tell me why it's called Charm City either. I stayed in the Inner Harbor and thought that it had been cleaned up quite a lot since the last time I was there - about 10 yrs ago.

    I'm lucky enough to have traveled a fair bit and I like most cities, but especially the ones where people walk a lot and there is outdoor life - pretty much anywhere in Europe (London, Edinborough, Athens, Paris, Venice, Barcelona, Seville, Madrid, Rome, Florence...)Hong Kong, Taipei, Macau, Montreal, Toronto, Chicago, Boston, DC, SF, Seattle...

    I don't get LA or cities where there isn't much street life - where people drive everywhere. I find it desolate. I spent a weekend in downtown Denver feeling like I was about to be beset by a horde of hungry zombies because I was the only thing on the street - there was no street life or traffic. But the only city that has ever truly scared me is Memphis. (shudder) Worse than hungry zombies.

  8. My favorite city is still my hometown. It's a pretty awesome city: Saint Paul. Minneapolis is okay (I guess.. I mean, if you have to live there...), but St Paul is chock full of awesomeness.

    I also liked living Manhattan. Manhattan is super-great if you're an introvert, because you can be super-lazy and still experience about a billion things in one day with virutally no effort towards interacting with others.

    That's my kind of city.

    LA is clearly hell on earth.

    (word verification: "barryo"... that's like, if your friend Barry is a hip daddy... you can call him "Barry-o!".

  9. I know what you mean about Baltimore-- my sis moved there a few years ago, and it's sad to see what must have once been a beautiful city struggle with so much unemployment and crime.

    I'm in a CONSTANT love/hate thing with NYC-- I either feel like I'm on top of the world and can conquer anything, or I'm screaming for someone to book me a seat on the next flight outta town! It's a like-nowhere-else place.

    I have a soft spot for Chicago since it's the big city I grew up near. I loved the architecture, trying to sneak into blues clubs, and the friendly openness of the people.

    Here's where I'm gonna get controversial-- I'm an LA lover! I went to college there, and it was my great escape from the drudgery of my boring midwestern life! I felt like a pioneer! I loved LA's kookiness, and I loved feeling like I was on a movie set everywhere I went! I know, I know, I'm a lousy fake New Yorker...

  10. I'm a big nerd for The Wire. I think I've only been to Baltimore once as a kid to the aquarium, so that doesn't really count. Currently living in a small city in Germany (Hannover). I love the vibe here----not too crowded but lots going on. I love walking and biking instead of driving everywhere. This summer I was in Berlin and boy, that place has such a crazy fun buzz. I just posted about the creative energy there----I felt like I could ride it.

  11. Baltimore had a very similar effect on me the first time I visisted. It's the kind of city I don't like, with big buildings and streets and not really nice to walk in. And I love walking everywhere. I'm European, after all! (I'm pretty sure I'd hate LA.)
    At the very end of my stay in the USA Baltimore made up for it with its railway museum, though.
    I did not like NYC very much - Manhattan is so not my cup of tea (except for Central Park), but I liked Brooklyn. Downtown Annapolis was the best. It's small and historic, and I like that a lot.

    Brno strucks a chord with me, and this summer, Tartu did. Two university cities, I guess it has something to do with it. They do have things in common. Like, a park on a hill in the city centre, and fun and imaginative street art: Pictures and thoughtful writings instead of your run-of-the-mill graffiti.
    And Liepája. I was there just two days and already it felt like home. If I spoke Latvian, I would love living in Liepája. Everything is consistently unpredictable in Liepája, including the weather. No, it doesn't make sense. The only predictable thing in Liepája is that there will be wind.
    Neither of them is the major city in their respective countries. All of them I'd call imaginative cities. I think that's what makes me like them.

  12. Oona, what a FANTASTIC question! I love reading about people's personal experiences with cities!

    I grew up outside of Boston and have always had a soft spot for what I call Urban Grit (or UG for short). Urban Grit is what a city has when things actually happen there...when thousands of lives are in process.

    My favorite cities have always been Philadelphia and New Orleans. For the same reason @Amy likes Detroit - they have a mesmerizing mix of ghosts and possibility. While I live in Baton Rouge, about 70 miles west of New Orleans, I do get there quite a bit. There are so many sources of inspiration between music, cuisine, Mardi Gras, the bayou, rebuilding, preserving history, the pleasure culture, the Catholic culture, and of course -Voo Doo. I was once driving downtown when two police officers stopped in front of me at a stop light. I was confused for a moment before realizing that they were holding traffic for a jazz funeral. The parade was enormous and the music was loud. We waited 20 minutes for it to pass. Celebration and sorrow - its a life affirming mix.

  13. Sorry to hear you got sick! Yes, stress definitely suppresses the immune system, and summer sniffles, eugh! the worst.
    I think if I ever visited Baltimore I'd be sure to get myself into trouble trying to track down John Waters. The people ARE said to be very nice- did they call you hon a lot?

    Cities I love…. Dublin! Quite cold, and we were told to expect it might be a bit rough. But the people were SUPER friendly and wanted to chat with us as soon as they heard our accent, in stores, on the buses, at the ATM. Wanting to know how we were finding it, we must come to this pub. Mum spent several pleaseant evenings in various pubs necking Guinness and nattering with men in their twenties, a novel experience as ladies in their late fifties would get very little play in the hipster pubs of Melbourne (though nor does she frequent them it must be said). There was a beautiful central city garden, called St Stephens Green, which we nicknamed St Sleep-it-off's because a surprisingly large population of well-dressed people seemed to kip there overnight. The Liffey river threaded through the city and was bounded by a boardwalk. People baring arms and legs in a nod to slender shards of sunlight poking through the grey promenaded, stopping intermittently to look down onto a viscous, oily-brown opacity floating half-submerged furniture and takeaway packaging. Put me in mind of Melbourne's Yarra, though narrower. The ROUGH element we'd been told to be wary of was monstrous when it came: in an area where the houses were pretty but had not so much as a flowerpot or bench left in their front yards, my sister and I were pursued through several streets by a gang of five-year-old hooligans, swearing like wharfies, and inexplicably refering to us as 'Shivaun' over and over again as we half-ran. Don’t laugh, we were really frightened- what would we have done if they'd started throwing rocks at us or had knives? We weren't even comfortable yelling at them. We just sort of yell-whispered in horrified stupefaction "Go away! Leave us alone! We're not called Shivaun!" I think I could be really happy living there.

  14. I feel the same way about Baltimore! We drove through a couple years back and then watched The Wire. Eerie how well they captured that place. Cities that have charmed me in the past couple years include Boston and Austin, but my heart truly belongs to the country. Maine, Vermont, or somewhere out West:) Hope you feel better!


    ~ molly: that's exactly what i'm missing :)

    ~ meg g: and that's exactly what i do! when i can. mama ruggy has sent wild herb cuttings in the past when we couldn't actually get to country living. (oh, and "sessed" has been officially adopted by the balloonian contingent.)

    ~ amy: i know what you mean about detroit. it's a slower sort of sadness there. i love your description of antwerp!

    ~ tanit-isis: a bad ass like you? who carries her essentials in her cargo pants? girl, you must let me show you the city. your city list is crazy--and your IQ jumping up in cambridge: PERFECT. totally true!

    ~ meg n: love your icon! i read in the hotel pamphlet, they call it charm city because a mayor said it, and it stuck. he had little to no evidence to support the nickname...

    ~ big daddy: a veritable fount of information! i'm saving that link for a sewing day. quite possibly this hurricane weekend. and i made the EXACT same connection between baltimore and bridgeport, or b-po. same place, just bigger. but boston. ah, boston. there was definitely some sketch going on, but highly avoidable. i loved that town.

    ~ clio: yeah, no one knows why. they just use it and hope it will make things appear better, methinks. i'm with you, i like to walk! LA was impossible for that. i agree about denver, gorgeous but tumbleweeds! memphis? interesting. it always makes me think of that lyle lovett song.

    ~ beangirl: you lived here? i may have walked the same streets as you? my mind is blown. st paul is sooo much cooler than minneapolis. ( and i thought you were going to go with the obvious barrio. but that would be a slap on the face to your level of genius.)

    ~ gingermakes: a "nowhere-else-place", i like that. i am SHOCKED about your love for LA!!!! you're making me see it in a different light.

    ~ emilysmith: oh, i LOVE berlin. i have to go check out your post! okay, really, wire nerd: it is all there. they probably didn't even have to have a set decorator.

    ~ hana: oh, i can't see you in baltimore, with all of the walking you do! i love your pictoral posts on the cities you visit. it's like being there :). i always think i should do one about NY, a la your posts, but i have to see it through different eyes in order to do it!

    ~ lizzy: isn't it cool to read all these city comments? i want to put them in a book! yours especially is beautiful. i've always wanted to visit new orleans; that mix, especially after katrina, it must be a very tangible place to visit.

    ~ emilykate: so, you're writing a novel, right? because this was gorgeous and funny and lovely and beautiful. SERIOUSLY.

    ~ daughter fish: all they did was point and yell action. vermont....my shoulders drop just thinking of it...

  16. Being from Baltimore I can say the problem is that most of the residents use the city for work then turn a blind eye to it's issues after five when they are on their way to the suberbs. Gus is a gem of a shop. I worked a block away at the library for the blind.
    I tend to judge most places by its drivers, Dallas and anywhere in Virginia are the worst I've encountered. Even worse then new york because at least in new yorK they have a rhyme and reason to their madness.

  17. Manhattan made me totally crazy, even though I only stayed for a few days. I need to see the sky when I look up (so, yes, I loved Central Park and SoHo and the Village). Berlin is the city I'm in love with the most. Always laid back, dancing between shabby student charm and hip artsy Macbook chic. I also love Sydney, it feels kinda like Berlin, but warm, sunny and there are beaches! :)

    PS: That dress is very awesome!

  18. Love, love, love Montreal with its European vibe.
    NYC will always be my most fave, it is just so non stop full of life.

  19. Hey Oona :-) I'm just discovering your blog as I'm blog surfing for sewing inspiration. So far I love it! You are so charismatic, and I like your work.

    This post made me laugh since I live in Baltimore, lol. It is a very quirky "love to hate this place" city. I trash talk it all the time, but there is a certain charm to this place too (atleast some parts)

    Looking forward to reading more of your posts!


  20. I've never been to Baltimore, but plenty of other cities. I pretty much hate the city I live in now (Boston, or Somerville...though I do have a teensy bit of 'ville pride creeping in). I just hate the culture, the attitude, the almost everything, and maybe a lot of it has to do with my ambivalence toward this town being the closest city to where I grew up, and the lame kids who flocked here after high school. Yes, Imasnob. We're also here mostly for my hub's job & proximity to family. Moved here from Austin, which I totes love, and have a ton of friends there. But that city is rapidly changing, good & bad. I adore Montreal, and can't believe I missed a fabric district! It's navigable, beautiful, old & new. I love NYC, but I feel like it's too late for me to move there. St. Petersburg & Moscow will forever hold special places in my heart, as will Velikiy Novgorod. We recently spent a day in Savannah, and it was full of mystery and beauty, with this canopy of moss closing in on you, almost every intersection in the historic district had a little square park, and some cool grit in the outer areas. But I got a little freaked out during an exchange in a bar. I couldn't tell if someone was telling a tall tale, or being really, utterly racist. Benefit of the doubt? On a sunnier note, during a four day stay in Seattle, I encountered only one 20 minute drizzle. Bizarre.

    Oh, and I'm with Shawnta re: drivers. Which says a LOT about Boston.

  21. Oh, and because it's not a city I forgot. But I recently visited friends in the OC. Gross. I wish they hadn't moved from SF, which was beautiful & mysterious with its fog. But I couldn't get a handle on the people there. It was weird. The friend I was visiting with & I would wander around all day, then all night. But at night, the streets would be empty...where was the nightlife, because I was surprised at just how metropolitan it felt in the daytime? And the homeless there are a rare form. No, I'm not being inconsiderate :)


i thankya truly for taking the time to comment, i love a good conversation-- and hope you know my thanks are always implied, if not always written!