The city is mannered and muscular, cultured and crude, sedate and swinging, crumbly old and sparkling new, beautiful and damned ugly. It's a great place to go with your sweetheart, your drinking buddy, your spouse, your children, your shipmates, your garden club, your dominatrix. It's Bawlamer, Balmer, Baldimer, Baltimore, the city that won't quit.
All eyes turn to Baltimore on Preakness weekend, but even its principal boosters concede the city suffers from a second-city complex, its place in the sun shaded by the power and prestige of the neighboring national capital. After even a few visits, a Washingtonian may wonder why.
Our Federal City, like Brasilia, exists by a deliberate act of creation. It serves The People rather than its people, and should the seat of government be removed to Peoria, Washington would revert to a village on the Potomac. Baltimore was built as a port and a passageway into the interior, grew because it made things the young nation needed and endures because it has soul as well as brains, and a heart as well as muscle. Crabtown's facade may be less imposing, but it has flesh and bones that Washington lacks.
One example of the difference between the two cities will stand for all time: In 1814, when the British marched on Washington, we fled and they sacked the -- as opposed to our -- town. But Baltimore fought, and nobody struck the flag that flew over Fort McHenry, the same one that now hangs in the Smithsonian as a symbol of, er, our valor.
We kept Baltimore in line during the Civil War by virtue of the batteries of cannon mounted on Federal Hill above the harbor, but you can't keep a great town down forever. Our rivalry is one of commerce now, and Baltimore seems to have weathered the crisis of inner cities by hauling mightily and cheerfully on its own bootstraps. The decline of heavy industry continues, but a boom in tourism is filling much of the gap.
Redevelopment of the waterfront is what brought the city to everyone's attention, but in fact the Inner Harbor is not a whole lot more than a splendid shopping mall. Now visitors who have done the harbor are learning to turn inland, and finding that the rest of Baltimore is fun, endlessly interesting, inexpensive and uncrowded.
Here's a sampling of those other attractions.