With the publication of the Baltimore Travel Guide we have had some comments and questions as to blue zones—which are the places you want to be, if, that is, you want to be, or somehow find yourself in, Baltimore.
The most common question is how can a single two-lane street demarcate a hunting ground from a desirable location?
As crazy as it sounds, many people who will choose to mug you will choose not to do so if you are even fifty feet beyond their psychological safe zone.
The other concern is well made by Nero the Pict, a man with a deep Baltimore history, in the following comment:
“Sweet highly accurate take on what’s what in Baltimore...Great job on the contents and graphics. Only two minor points. I would list Bolton Hill in the Yellow category. It might have its affluence going in its favor. The reality is that it's pocket of Eloi surrounded by projects. The architecture and lack of street lights make it a no go zone for pedestrians after dark. It might look safe but it isn't always. Basically an Oasis for stick up artists. Druid Hill is a dicey proposition that at least warrants a yellow rating. Surrounded on all sides by shady shit it is the perfect happy hunting ground for some latter day Iroquois war parties. Lots of blind spots and places to hide.”
What Nero gave here was a good tactical occupancy assessment. The Guide is not an occupancy risk assessment, but is focused on the needs of travelers.
Buy a house in Bolton Hill?
Blue means that the people who live there and for whom the businesses are intended will not attack you. In other words, standing in front of a fried chicken joint will get you mugged quicker than standing in front of a Christian book store.
The most dangerous criminals will come and get you from across town in a car.
Most violent crimes, however, are acts of opportunity committed by people who regularly inhabit or traverse an area. There are many neighborhoods that had similar housing values to Bolton Hill that we yellowed because projects were laid in behind them, with their backs to highways and train tracks, meaning that the project dwellers have to traverse the upscale area to get to bus lines and commercial areas. Such a forced egress situation is a not present here.
As for Druid Hill, surrounding areas being bad have no effect unless there is a forced egress aspect to the urban planning. Fortunately there are no ebonic Tree Ents to mug you here, only those who come hunting, so clear out before dusk.
Looking at Bolton Hill from the perspective of North Avenue [Freddie Gray’s main drag] we look to the West and see Sandtown [the deep ghetto] and to the north and see Reservoir Hill, which is a gentrification disaster. Do not assume this guide is suggesting that you should live or work in any of these locations. Instead imagine that you got in an argument with your wife while driving down I-83 to the Inner Harbor for an Orioles game and that she dropped you off on North Avenue.
First of all, you deserve it, because you have not yet purchased and read Your Trojan Whorse!
Do you head East down the worst street in Baltimore hoping that you run into a gay white man or Mexican selling flowers before the Asquith-Endsor Crew uses you for dog bait?
Do you head west down the worst street in Baltimore into the worst Ghetto on the East Coast?
Do you head up into Reservoir Hill past the gangs of hoodlums drinking malt liquor and smoking blunts, hoping to make it to—oh, shit, they barred the church doors, caged the bars and padlocked the cage!
Or, do you head up into Bolton Hill hoping that you could flag down a Good Samaritan before the homeboys following you from the bus stop at the base of Reservoir Hill catch up with your slow ass?
The reason we made this map—arguing every block of the way, it seemed—was so anyone from out of town who had been unwise enough to visit Harm City, might have the information necessary to choose the lesser of four evils, kind of like a four-way American presidential election, knowing in that moment that the gods never had any intention of giving you a good choice, because that wouldn’t be any fun at all up on the trash heap of ages that is Ebonic Olympus.