:: When I was in my early twenties and living in Baltimore, I was not at my best. I was suffering, sometimes a lot. Sometimes it’s hard to think about.

I lived in Baltimore many years ago. I earned my master’s in creative writing here. When I was riding in from BWI, my Lyft driver, who is relatively new to the area (2 years? 3?) was asking me about what the city was like when I used to live here, back when Fells Point not only was crappy but looked crappy as well.[1]

[1] Note: I loved Fells Point. It was a shitty shithole where you could get beer for 2 dollars and shoot pool with bent sticks on uneven tables with dudes who were your dad’s age. There wasn’t a hipster in sight. “Hipster,” the term, didn’t exist yet when I used to hang out in Fells. You didn’t eat the food unless you wanted to get sick, and you certainly didn’t date anyone you met there. But now there’s a HYATT and the beer is all CRAFT and costs TEN DOLLARS a pint. How is this even Fells Point. I’m feeling sad about these changes right now.

I’m here in Baltimore for research, and to visit with a friend. She traveled all the way here from a far flung part of East Asia for a conference. Yesterday, while my friend was at her conference, I walked from our hotel adjacent to Camden Yards (that pic up top is from our hotel room window) all the way to Fells Point for a thing.[2]

[2] Note: The thing will be the subject of another blog essay post shortly.

The walk was amazing. I love walking in places where I’m traveling. I don’t know why people don’t do this more if they are able. I will never understand “the bus tour.” (Again, if one is able. I am able, therefore I walk. I recognize this privilege.)

But more importantly, walking through Baltimore 17 years after I left felt like archeology. I kept unearthing memories as I went along, buried under new high-rises and tourist traps.

A tile mural in Baltimore's Little Italy

A tile mural in Baltimore’s Little Italy

And of course, all the memories from that time came flying back. The relationships, friends and lovers. The work I was doing at the time, both vocational and avocational. All those memories came zipping to the surface. Simply crossing Charles Street and looking up the hill yanked them up from the deep.

The problem was, not all of those memories were good. Many of them were not. When I was in my early twenties and living in Baltimore, I was not at my best. I was suffering, sometimes a lot. Sometimes it’s hard to think about.

The memories, then, are good and bad. But that’s what memory is about. How it lurks. How it surprises you.

But then, at the end of the day yesterday, something wonderful happened. I had these memories that I had unearthed, and I also had a friend whose friendship is so strong that we fly around the world to see each other.

I shared these memories with my friend who didn’t know me in my twenties. I opened them up for her like a flower, and we appreciated them together, with distance, and love, and forgiveness for the flawed person I was then. And we could love her, and comfort her, and toast to her.

Memory, and friendship, and forgiveness, and love. What a potent mixture that is.

Did you like this essay? You might like my latest book, Life of the Mind Interrupted.

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