To Baltimore with Love

Name: Kiana Boroumand

Year: Class of 2020

Hometown: Baltimore, MD

Intended Path of Study: Sociology and Writing Seminars

To Baltimore with Love

“Baltimore is warm but pleasant…I belong here, where everything is civilized and gay and rotted and polite.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald.

***

For as long as I can remember, Thursday nights in July and August have been reserved for watching outdoor movies on the Hill and picnicking under the stars with strangers. Federal Hill is beautiful, but it’s most beautiful on these nights— when the crowd goes quiet and all eyes are on the 30-foot wide screen held from above by a giant golden hand outside of the American Visionary Arts Museum.

Adam Kurtzman’s Giant Golden Hand via avam.org

Adam Kurtzman’s Giant Golden Hand via avam.org

This season of Flicks From the Hill begins with Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, a reputable classic and unequivocally my favorite John Hughes film (come at me, Breakfast Clubbers).We got here early to find prime outdoor-screening real estate, but both of us are regretting it.

“I can’t deal with this weather anymore,” my friend groans. “What if I die of heat exhaustion before I ever get to see a 30 foot projection of Matthew Broderick circa 1980s?” She fans herself dramatically. I don’t blame her. We’ve been out all day, and while the temperature’s gotten slightly cooler, it’s still 90 degrees and so, so humid. If it were another movie, another summer, for that matter, we might not have been so adamant to stay— but we’re on a mission. We’re trying to do as many Baltimore-y things as possible before we have to leave for college. It’s a last hurrah of sorts for her and a re-inauguration of sorts for me.

“As much fun as this is,” she begins, “I’m really, really ready to leave. I’m excited about college.” She pauses, looks at her watch, then says, “Praise the lord! It’s finally nine.” The movie begins, and Ferris starts advising us on how to skip school. It’s cheesy, how often John Hughes has him breaking the fourth wall, but we laugh along anyway because we love it. It’s summer, and this is what we’ve been waiting for.

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And we’re not the only ones. The crowd laughs in anticipation of jokes that haven’t happened yet and cheers every time Ferris gets away with something (i.e. constantly). When Cameron momentarily stops kicking his dad’s Ferrari, somebody yells, “FINISH IT!” And when the car goes flying out of the glass, everyone claps. A few minutes later, when the film ends, we’re all clapping again. Everybody I meet eyes with is smiling. Federal Hill is beautiful, but it’s most beautiful on these nights.

***

My parents are getting sentimental. Well, more than they already were.

There was a Gilmore Girls rerun on TV this morning, “The Lorelais’ First Day at Yale,” and five minutes into the episode, my mom started crying. Later, I asked my dad if we had any ice cream, and his face dropped. “It just hit me how much I’m going to miss our gelato runs,” he said. “Dad, you realize I’m moving a few minutes away, right?” He paused. “It’s just won’t be the same.”

So here we are. It’s dusk, and we’re eating gelato on a street corner in Little Italy. I look at my mom, and she smiles in a way that reminds me of our late night gelato run back in December, after I had just found out I was officially Hopkins-bound. Everything seemed so weightless: the soft breeze, the cotton-candy pink sky, the echoing sounds of laughter through the air. It felt like the universe was on to something.

It was on to this. Tonight. Another cool breeze. A different flavor of gelato. The tangible feel of the future. My parents, proud and excited and looking at me with love in their eyes.

Later, we go for a walk, and, in a clichéd gesture of Italian-American-ness, someone in the neighborhood begins to play Dean Martin. “Volare” seeps into the night, and warm air embraces us. It’s not nearly as humid as it was during the Ferris Bueller screening two days ago, and it’s the perfect amount of quiet.

Then my dad goes: “You know what song’s been stuck in my head, lately?”

I brace myself—I mean, really brace myself because, knowing my dad, it’s probably an ABBA song. The matter at hand is whether it’s “Dancing Queen” or “Fernando.” When he says it’s the former, I ask the million dollar question: “Dad, why do you like ABBA so much?”

“They’re fun! You can dance to their songs, and music,” he pauses, then sings this last part, “is about having the time of your life!”

I groan, “Dad, no.” But it’s too late. It’s almost midnight, and my father has shamelessly broken out into “Dancing Queen.” I roll my eyes, laugh, and it’s all so familiar: his singing it, that I forget I’m seventeen. Instead, I’m eight or nine, thinking about how far away and exciting seventeen sounds.

And then it dawns on me, as if it’s some new piece of information, that it’s July already and I’m two weeks shy of eighteen—that I have to seize the moment, can’t just give up this opportunity. So I sing along. Sing and dance through Little Italy with my dad while my mom just laughs at us.

“Cheers to ABBA,” I tell the night.

“Cheers to our daughter,” my mom says.

“To our daughter,” my dad echoes. “And to Hopkins!”

***

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It’s basic logic. Sunday morning means brunch, and brunch means Miss Shirley’s; it’s Sunday, so my friend and I are at Miss Shirley’s. In the spirit of getting as much out of Baltimore as possible this summer, we’ve been here so many times we practically have the menu memorized. After we order, she tells me about the classes she signed up for and her seemingly-sane roommate and the coffee shops near her campus. I don’t need to tell her about the coffee-shops near mine — we’ve been to all of them already. She’s excited to leave, which I understand, but I’m excited to stay.

When we’re finally served, she looks down at her plate and sighs. “You know, I’m going to miss this.”

“Miss Shirley’s?”

She nods, “Miss Shirley’s, and, well, you know, Baltimore.”

And then we’re both smiling because we realize, here, in this, one our favorite cafes, our last summer before college, her moving hours away and me only minutes, that Baltimore, in all of its weird, eccentric glory, with all of its weird, eccentric charm, will always be with us. Regardless of the next four years. Regardless of the years after that.

I raise my glass and say what I forgot to last night, “Cheers to Baltimore.”

Baltimore from atop a ferris wheel

Baltimore from atop a ferris wheel

Cheers to playing short-lived games of poker around the mahogany table in the BMA’s Horse Room (or, more officially, English Sporting Art Exhibit) before getting told to please stop. Cheers to Papermoon and Preakness, to pink flamingos and the Patterson Park pagoda. To the Miracle on 34th Street, Light City, Artscape. To Sherwood Garden and Honfest and the Kinetic Sculpture Race.

Cheers, again and again and again, to Baltimore—

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And, of course, to being a blue jay.

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