And, as my brother continued, after picking me up to take me out of town, he said, “After all, wherever Santa Claus lives must be nice. How many elves do you have, and are they really green?”
“The help is on the dark side, as you might imagine. Physically this is an excellent neighborhood, which is actually benefitting from urban gentrification. In fact, the hipster that owns three of the Hamilton business pays a neighborhood janitor and pays the overtime rate for a beat cop, an on duty BPD goon looking out for the good drunks of Hamilton and Harford roads.
"I rate this as a sketchy area, two hundred yards over the hill down to Route One is the Boned Zone, where a group of young thugs tried to do me in six weeks ago. And, as nice as this area looks, when I crossed Walther Boulevard at White Avenue, they stopped dead as if I was Moses walking between the God-restrained waters of the red Sea. Which tells me, there is somebody that has laid claim to my nice looking neighborhood, who these dudes were afraid of. This suspicion is bolstered by the twenty or so circular search pattern passes made over this five-by-five block grid every single day and night.
“Although some of these houses are mansions being homesteaded be yuppies that ran so far northeast to get away from Baltimore that they ran into Filthadelphia, most of the really large old orchard houses that were built about a hundred years ago have been broken up into halfway houses and section eight rentals. It’s not a war zone, just somewhere you need to be wary after dark. As soon as we get a riot again, the cop will get pulled, the patrol officers will be pulled, the chopper will be elsewhere, and it will be the post apocalypse again.”
As we approached Fleet and Belair, a mere mile and a half away, he said, “What about this?”
“Everyone you see on the street is black, meaning if you are attacked in broad daylight no one will call the cops, even though most of them are not criminals. That is Overlea Station, a major transfer point, and the eastern terminus of the Fifteen Line, which is the third worse bus line of the sixty or so in Baltimore. It is routed through dozens of subsidized housing sights, past the Baltimore Courthouse, through a portion of East Baltimore that looks like a movie set for Twelve Monkeys, and, on its way out here crosses the Twenty-two, the Thirty-three, the Forty-Four and the Fifty-Five, all cross town bus lines that link hospitals and courthouses—the Twenty-two actually turning around at Mondawmin—where the riots were—and ending at Bay View Hospital were the biggest methadone distribution ring is based at Eastern and Ponca.”
As we crested Overlea Station, and looked up hill to Taylor and Belair, he said, “What about here, and that hill up there?”
“We are just leaving the Boned Zone, which ends at that black bar on the corner, next to the bus station, where Dela Rose’s used to be. I’ve seen two daylight gang stompings there on the sidewalk in Thirteen and Fourteen. The hill up ahead is where the Fifty-five—which links the County court houses and county hospitals with their attendant treatment centers, with the available subsidized housing in the County. The Sketch Zone ends there and we are then in the promised land, where you want to be, the only angry negroes in your field of vision wearing NFL jerseys and making millions.”
“Exactly, Bro,” he declared, That’s why I’m not spending the night at your place. How about some crabs and beer?”
And just like that, we hit I-695 and Harm City was left, like an ugly skank, nursing a warm beer at the local dive, begrimed and best forgotten in our rearview mirror.