Dentist Harrisonburg Blog 5 - Reflections on Baltimore

Piercing the bubble:


Dear Shawn,


I kept your September 7, 2013 article from the Baltimore Sun on my desk.  It has bubbled to the top of my pile of paper yet again.  Greetings, my name is Doug and I lived in Baltimore City for 5 years while I was a student.  Before that I visited Baltimore City often.  My Dad’s parents lived on Delaware Ave in Pimlico and my mother’s Dad lived on South Paca Street in SWEBO (South West Baltimore)  before he and my Grand ma moved to Halethorpe.  I lived at 866 West Lombard Street while I finished Pharmacy School and Dental School at the University of Maryland.


You are lucky to be alive.  I personally knew of three classmates who were mugged at gun point.  Two were male friends.  One told me he could see the copper tips of the bullets in the revolver facing him inches from his face.  Another was a very petite Vietnamese immigrant who thought she left gun violence behind when she left South East Asia.  She never walked alone again in Baltimore after her mugging.


Just outside the dental school was a hot dog salesman named Manny.  Manny saved me on many a day when I did not have time or money to get anything for lunch but one of his steaming ‘all beef’ dogs and a soda.  A mugger shot Manny in broad day light.  Last I heard he was paralyzed and being cared for by his brother.


My mother’s Dad used to take me on the bus from his home in Halethorpe to Lexington Market for shopping.  We usually would watch a movie at the Hippodrome or visit the old Memorial stadium for a game before we took the bus back to his home.


I used to play on a lot in Pimlico with a couple of cousins when I visited my grandparents.  This was before 1965,  I know this must seem like a very long time ago but was just a little before President Johnson’s great war on poverty.  Trillions of dollars were spent to eliminate all the suffering that went along with poverty.  Now, Pimlico is a war zone and I wouldn’t dare take a little kid to Lexington Market.  Despite the well-intended programs forwarded by our government Baltimore is wallowing in crime and misery. 


I am writing this because your piece hit a nerve.  I am a true Baltimorean.  I really love Baltimore and have so many great memories from my time there.  I believe your story about making friends with the mugger having a starter pistol might even be true, Baltimore has always been that quirky kind place. 


As you study at Hopkins I ask you to open your mind to the idea that ‘massive public investment’ may be just the thing to put the final nail in the coffin of Baltimore.  Government programs, after considering the changes in Baltimore from 1965 to today, are not the answer.

The vibrant Baltimore of my youth was a place of work.  The ship yards, steel mills, breweries, rail road and freight ports were teaming with men and women who went to work each day.  Steep corporate taxes, vexing regulations and an education system that has failed have chased out companies, families and jobs.  Private sector jobs.  The kind of jobs that supported a family living in a nice brick row house like those in Patterson Park or in SWEBO.  Now Baltimore is down and out.


 Inner city dwellers still know how to run a business; the drug markets thrive, I have been told.  But other businesses; crab shacks, dress shops, pharmacies and grocery stores are gone. 

Take a drive one day west bound on Lombard Street or drive along North Avenue.   Look at the faded signs in Yale Heights and Irvington. Consider it an exercise in recent archeology.  Think about those businesses and the hopes and work of the people who owned them.

Millions of dollars in government spending won’t help Baltimore.  Real opportunity will. Policies and programs that bring private corporate investment back to Baltimore will bring jobs.  I hope it won’t take you as long to learn this as it took for me.


Good luck with school and your writing. 


Doug Wright