“….When Baltimore Gleamed in Supernatural Ecstasy”

Name: Amanda Jean Boyle

Year: Class of 2011

Hometown: Armonk, NY

Major: Writing Seminars

***********************************************************************************************************************************************************************8(title from “Howl” by Allen Ginsberg)

I’ve been spoiled.  I’ve lived my whole life in the suburbs north of New York City, less than an hour away, and while I have visited many other cities in the States and abroad, New York is still easily my favorite.  I knew I wanted to attend a city school and it’s one of the multiple reasons why I chose Johns Hopkins University. And I knew that Baltimore is no New York, but I decided I wouldn’t hold it against the Mid-Atlantic hub.  On the contrary, I was excited to discover the glory that Baltimore had to offer underneath the glaring crime statistics that my mother continually harped upon.

So I did my research.  Baltimore’s motto used to be “The City that Reads” and their football team, the Ravens, was named after Edgar Allen Poe’s (a one time resident of Baltimore) poem.  Ah, intellectualism! I thought.

I knew even before I arrived on campus that the campus itself had a distinctly non-city feel.  The campus is very beautiful, and you can barely tell that you’re in a city.  The surrounding area isn’t especially happening city life either, it’s a bit more of a residential part of Baltimore.  But I discovered that Hopkins provides very helpful (free!) public transportation, like the escort vans, the JHMI shuttle and the Collegetown shuttle, that make it easy to get to other parts of Baltimore and the surrounding area, like Towson.

I was ready to explore my new city.  My first Baltimore experience was at Bma the Baltimore Museum of Art, which is essentially on campus.  I had spotted the museum both times I had visited Hopkins before attending, but never went in.  I was pleasantly surprised by what I found.  The BMA has a very impressive collection, including Warhols, Cézannes and a whole roomful of Matisses.  I’m an avid museum-goer, and have been to the BMA multiple times.  Another museum of note in Baltimore is the Walters Museum, which is in the Mount Vernon neighborhood.

My second Baltimore experience was on the Day of Service that was part of orientation.  This is when we went with our floor to different parts of Baltimore for community service.  For those who chose to come to Hopkins in fall of ’08, I highly suggest participating in the day of service.  A lot of people on my floor chose to skip the activity, but I really enjoyed it.

My floor’s activity was to help out with the planting of a neighborhood memorial garden.  The garden was next door to a house where an inspirational Baltimore family once lived.  The family had worked hard to rid their neighborhood of the drug dealers that hung around, leeching on the residents.  Because of their actions, the family—the two parents and all their children—were murdered.  This is the sort of story that gives Baltimore its bad reputation.  The family’s old house was made into a center for the local children to go to after school in an effort to keep them “off the streets”, as it is said, and the small garden was started as an additional memorial.

Hampden1One great neighborhood that I have discovered is Hampden, a suburban area a twenty-minute walk from campus.  The area came to my attention when my Student Advisor mentioned it as a great place for vintage stores.  Hampden has this nostalgic feeling to it, as if it’s stuck in a decade far before my time when people sat on their front stoops and said “good afternoon” to those who walked by.  Ottobar

As for nightlife in Baltimore, I’ve been to the Ottobar and Sonar.  I saw DJ Shadow at Sonar over Intersession.  Baltimore isn’t a hugely popular stop on tours for bands, but Brand New, Girl Talk and M.I.A. have all been through town since I’ve been here.  Then there’s the once a year nightlife insanity of Fell’s Point on Halloween, where I’m convinced that half the state of Marlyand goes on Halloween.

I hope I’m not close to done with exploring Baltimore.  I’ve heard about a small but worthwhile jazz scene, but unfortunately a lot of the clubs are twenty-one and over, and I missed the Radical Book Fair this last fall.  Also, I’ve never been to the weekly Saturday farmer’s market downtown.  I’ve got time to make my way around.  In addition, I’m trying this semester to become more involved in community service projects around Baltimore, which I think is one way that I can personally improve my second home.

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