There is a saying in Baltimore that crabs may be prepared in fifty ways and that all of them are good.
Baltimore has been called "Washington's Brooklyn" (In case you are wondering, that isn't a compliment). Sportswriter Mark Kram, a city native, once wrote that his hometown was anonymous "even to those who live there." It is a place Philadelphia residents look down on with disdain - and the symbol of their city is a bell with a crack in it as long as your arm. Who knows from Baltimore?
In the middle Seventies city officials decided to burnish the city's image. Plans for Baltimore's renewal were on drawing boards, but any campaign needs a hook. Pop. What can be more persuasive to sneering throngs than a new nickname?
Two days ago I watched Baltimore recede, my seat in a creaking, aged 737 affording a magnificent view of the busy corridor connecting Charm City with Washington. Clearly visible as we climbed were the iconic buildings constituting the seat of our Federal government - monuments to the collective wisdom (and failings) of generations of leaders. Somewhere along the freeway tucked just below the port tail surface, our youngest and her son drove to their beautiful home in Perry Hall.
In my quick four day adventure we visited our middle child (living with her husband in Silver Spring) and then met them at an Orioles game. While my beloved Rockies prepare for the off season relieved they will not lose one hundred games, Charm City's team took the field assured of a top spot in the playoffs. A packed house greeted us, a long line leading to that Camden Yards delicacy - a crab mac and cheese-smothered hot dog. Yes, it was decadent, with rich sauce and a sweet, tender, generous portion of the local blues. We took our seats, me next to three year old Graham. He ate his hot dog with gusto while his mom explained baseball to her older sister. After a Red Sox homer in the top of the first - "How many points is that?" the budding lawyer asked. Midway through the game another spectator turned and said "You two are amazingly funny!" Their infectious laughter and spirited banter warm a father's heart.
Too soon I was packing. After a trip to "FUNdamentals" where somersaults and bouncy houses offered a cornucopia of toddler delights we went home to prepare for my departure. But wait.... It was too soon to surrender to the inevitable.
An hour later my young grandson and I had read all of the license plates in the neighborhood. He led me by the hand, marching from one mailbox to the next, proudly calling out their numbers. We saw a helicopter, waved to the mail carrier and had a bit of a spill. We were away long enough that his mom texted, wondering where we had gone.
All of that was disappearing behind me. The unseemliness of a grown man - a career police officer nearing retirement - sniffling at panoramic Maryland. But, they are hardly tears of sorrow. We have raised three fine children, who have met and married honorable people. After three wonderful grandsons (two of whom live in Greater Denver with our oldest and his wife) our youngest is poised to deliver a little girl - Greta James Gaffney. We pray for her every night.
Four hours later I was safely home. I am, in every sense of the word, charmed.