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How Much is that Number in the Window?

A full week has passed since Baltimore’s own NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) began an insipid campaign to reduce the number of Baltimore City homicides. Details later. Suffice it to say, I would expect nothing less from an organization who not only cleaves to a horribly outdated and politically incorrect moniker, but also fails to advance its stated goal of relocation to the nearby nation’s capital.

When they started this revolutionary plan of action, the murder tally in Baltimore City stood at 178, give or take, depending upon whom you asked, and whether Teetoe tried to give Peanut’s woman a ride home from that wild block party.

As previously noted, Pigtown’s crime situation is out of control. Not that local crime has ever been tolerable, but around the time Martin O’Malley threw his hat in the ring for governor (this, mind you, after only three years as Baltimore’s mayor), violent crime took a decided turn for the worse. Just yesterday, two police officers were shot in a neighborhood populated by a mixture of working-class and affluent residents. About a month ago, only blocks from the Inner Harbor, a mother returned home from work to discover her 15-year old daughter slashed to death in a bedroom. For almost a decade, gang activity has escalated to new lows.

The problem is compounded by delusional residents who believe their civic duty requires releasing violent offenders back out on the streets. Police commissioners come and go in a bizarre musical chairs twist. Pausing to catch their collective breath, officials anoint the next great white hope, only to snatch the throne away as the latest set of alarming statistics surface.

The numbers are fugly. Baltimore occupies a top spot second only to Detroit, Michigan as the most violent city in America. Time and time again, outsiders pound this dubious distinction into our collective unconscious. Like war veterans participating in Memorial Day ceremonies with concealed battle scars, it’s hard to be proud, but we try.

What are local institutions doing to combat the problem? Not too long ago, the NAACP helped effectuate positive social reform in America. Not so much anymore. Perhaps I shouldn’t gripe about the apparent demise of the NAACP and its declining influence. After all, I’m not a card-carrying member. Oh, what the hey.

“Your leaders have sold you out, man.”

There. No putting that genie back in the bottle.

Sorry, but African-Americans generally are the worst affected by violent crime because they lack responsible leadership. Every other immigrant group in America has been able to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and live the American dream through hard work, determination, and community support. Those who achieve a modicum of success set up institutions and services dedicated to the care and welfare of their own. Those in need of assistance take until they are able to give back. The cycle continues throughout each generation until gradually, collective life improves. If you don’t believe me, just look at the Italians, the Russians, the Koreans, or the Latinos.

For some reason, these concepts never caught on in the African-American community. One-parent households are the rule rather than the exception, contributing to higher levels of promiscuity and use of recreational drugs. Those in the lower echelons largely rely upon government support. Muckety mucks encourage such dependence because it helps them retain positions of power. Unfortunately, it does very little to help downtrodden African- Americans. And so, the cycle of poverty and crime continues with no foreseeable end in sight.

What did the questionable leadership at the NAACP propose to help stamp out escalating city violence? Well, it wasn’t responsible parenting. It wasn’t even increased construction of recreation centers to get younger kids off the street. No, these fine illustrious people at the N-double A-C-P recently urged Baltimoreans to post the current number of homicides in the windows of their residences and businesses. Hoo boy. Criminals, better watch your backs.

As if. As of today, give or take where you hear it and the status of Peanut’s woman, the homicide tally stands at 183. Wonder if there’s anyone left in the city still foolish enough to post that.

Baseball Hall of Fame Inducts Cal Ripken, Jr.

The year was 1997. Bill Clinton began his second term as this nation’s 42nd president. The Simpsons became the longest running animated series on prime time TV. Drive by shooters killed popular rapper, Notorious B.I.G. And, it was the last time the Baltimore Orioles ended the regular season with a winning record.

Ten years? Fo’ real?

Apparently, yes. Gone are the glory days of the black and orange. As far as my childerns’ generation are concerned, dem O’s are a bunch o’losers.

What went wrong? I have no idea. Nor do I plan to speculate.

I grew up in the golden age of the Orioles and the Baltimore Colts. Brookes Robinson was so popular one of my elementary school classmates was named after him. In 1983, the Orioles had just won the World Series. I watched with pride as they staged a Mardi Gras-esque parade through the streets of Charm City with Cal Ripken, Jr. at the helm. My heart swelled with pride.

Today, dem O’s couldn’t claw their way out of a wet paper bag. Our beloved Colts play for another, ahem, unmentionable city (Ravens rule!). And O’Malley still hasn’t fixed utility costs that continue to spiral out of control. How is a battle weary Baltimoron supposed to deal?

Countdown to Cooperstown!

That’s right. This morning, the Iron Man, Cal Ripken, Jr., Baltimore’s own homespun hero, will be inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Cal is just the right mix of legend, consecutive games record holder, and genuine nice guy. In an honor bestowed upon select few, this exclusive club accepted his bid on a first round vote. Can anyone resist those baby blues?

Thousands of victory-starved devotees are currently swarming Cooperstown. These people are intent upon savoring the moment like a cool drink of water on a desert afternoon. Sadly, I will not be among them, but I can hear almost the thunderous applause.

Stand up and take a bow, Cal Ripken, Jr. I hear that people who think Charlestown Community resident, Al Blackburn, resembles you also believe in the Tooth Fairy. No matter what they say, or think, they cannot dispute your stature as the genuine article. A role model and hero.

Thank you for once again instilling pride in the hearts of beleaguered Baltimore fans. This day has been a long time coming.

Baltimore Premieres Hairspray Hooplah

My temples are starting to throb. Yep. I’m starting to get a headache. I know I can’t stop the beat, but could you please turn down the volume?

Baltimore hasn’t felt this much celebrity buzz since John Travolta and Joaquin Phoenix came to town. Oh yeah. Ladder 49. Filmed in Pigtown. Of course, that was before Martin O’Malley and the General Assembly cut funding for Maryland’s fledging film industry. Wasn’t that supposed to be a division of The Department of Business and Economic Development? No wonder director Adam Shankman filmed the Broadway version in Toronto.

Poor little Charm City. Right when this latest incarnation of Hairspray goes mainstream Hollywood, Baltimore gets blackballed from its own tender story of overweight hons, Dick Clark wannabes, and civil rights riots. You gotta love a town like that. Takes a licking and keeps on ticking.

I heard Hairspray progenitor John Waters gave Shankman carte blanche on production. As great as Waters is, I’m a little peeved. I think he compromised the location because Hollywood power games aren’t his cup of tea. As reflected in films like Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, and Desperate Living, John has been and always will be quintessential Baltimore . His claim to fame is sticking with a genre he invented when Tarantino was pre-pubescent. If Edith Massey was alive to see what Hairspray has become, she’d lock up the Owl Bar and throw away the key.

Speaking of Hollywood mind games, none of the local premiere hype mentions John Travolta or his lovely wife, Kelly Preston. I hope their conspicuous absence isn’t related to all the mean-spirited blogging. After Saturday Night Fever, I will always have a soft spot in my heart for John. Zac Efron, Amanda Bynes, Nikki Blonsky, Brittany Snow, Elijah Kelley…they’re all very nice, but not in John’s league. Love ya, Vinnie!

I have to think Queen Latifah may show. Reports of P. Diddy in town and living large are starting the make the rounds. That and a surprise appearance by Nicole Richie at an Annapolis fast food restaurant. When do celebrities like that ever come within partying distance of Pigtown? There must be more in the works than meets the eye.

Dare I dream of Michelle Pfeiffer or Christopher Walken sightings? Now that would be something worth jumping the light rail to Charles Street. Then again, the thought of fighting celebrity hungry masses for a fleeting glimpse of Tinseltown satellites only contributes to the pounding between my ears.

With everyone inundating downtown, this may be the perfect night to catch Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. May not even have to pre-buy the tickets.

Good Night Baltimore

Just when the Hollywood intelligentsia start gearing up for the movie premiere of Hairspray (the Broadway musical version), Baltimore City’s crime problem blazes out of control. The last time the city took this much heat was The Great Baltimore Fire of 1904. Well, maybe not that far back, but close. I wonder if Brittany Snow plans to attend the premiere without her bodyguards.

The streets of Pigtown are out of control. Mayoral candidates now bandy about the idea of marshall law. Marshall Freaking Law for cripes sake! Are these people brain dead?

I’m a born and buttered Baltimoron, and the first to crack wise about her hometown roots. Hons, dem O’s, seafood, Preakness, the Inner Harbor, Nipper the dog, the Bromo Seltzer Tower…I have a symbiotic relationship with all things Charm City. Baltimore is who I am and what I love about America. It’s a big city comprised of many neighborhoods and community groups, a small town that simply got too big for its britches. There’s a feeling of belonging in Baltimore I can’t put into words. I haven’t really found that anywhere else and believe me I’ve tried.

But Baltimore sure has its problems — rampant deadly crime for one. It’s gotten pretty darn bleak out there. I’m genuinely afraid to walk around my neighborhood at night. And I live in Baltimore County.

Complaining isn’t going to change things, but maybe it will help open a dialogue. This town needs some practical solutions, not drivel from vote mongering political candidates. Perhaps if residents cared more about civic pride than partying on city streets and killing one another, this little town could turn itself around. Like that little engine chugging and puffing, “I think we can…I think we can…”

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