Stockholm in Baltimore…

Over the last decade, and many flights to Texas, I found myself gradually becoming more of a visitor in Texas than a resident. The sites that were once home have changed over the years and become foreign. I even told my sister a few months ago that my life in Texas sometimes feels like someone else’s fading memory. It would be insane to sum up what is now 10 years as of September 2018 since I moved to Maryland, but I’ll give it a shot.

Earlier this year, I wrote about how 2008 was very difficult for me after my divorce was finalized and Abby moved to Maryland. I was an absolute wreck for the next 8 months. It was only after I saved some cash, found a roommate on Craigslist, packed up what l could fit into my car and made the somewhat blind leap to Baltimore to be closer to her, did things get better…somewhat.

I had a 2007 Kia Spectra. This was the car that made the 1500 mile trek with me from Texas. That was the only real bond I ever had with the god damn thing. I bought it brand new. It was supposed to be a midsized sedan, but it felt small…really small…like it came with 20 clowns, small. I hated that fucking car. I got bamboozled by the salesman into buying it because I was in dire need of a vehicle and he knew it. The monthly payments were incredibly high and so was the interest rate.

Long story short, it took some time to find a decent paying job in Baltimore. Money was tight and I couldn’t swing the car payments. A few months after settling in Baltimore, my Kia was repossessed. One particularly freezing night in January 2009, I heard a truck outside my apartment. I took a peek out the window to see that my car was about to be repossessed and towed away. In a panic I ran out into the 20 degree cold and approached the tow truck driver. You could tell this guy was ready to defend himself as I’m sure he’d seen the crazy look of many confrontational people before me, ready to put up a fight. They wanted their car. They needed their car. I slowed down my approach with raised hands showing there was no ill will.

Still a little jumpy he said, “Hey man, I gotta take the car. I don’t want any problems.” I nodded and, like Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive when he catches up with Harrison Ford, replied “I don’t give a fuck about the car. I’m GLAD this fucking thing is gone. Can I just get my daughter’s things and car seat before you haul it away?” The guy looked perplexed. I guess he’d never seen anyone welcome him and have an indifferent attitude about the whole situation before. Or maybe he’d seen The Fugitive and appreciated the inflection. He allowed me to get Abby’s stuff before taking the car.

I’m usually not one to find a silver lining. I’m not a glass half full kind of guy. When something like a car repossession happens, it induces stress and panic. But I wasn’t stressed. I didn’t panic. Instead, I learned how to use the Baltimore Public Transit System.

I learned when and where I had to be to catch the bus to get to work. I learned (through many mistakes) which buses took you into Baltimore’s shadiest neighborhoods (there are a lot more than you’d think). I sat at bus stops through unforgiving winters and rather tame Baltimore summers (compared to Texas in July). But I also got to know Baltimore on a level that no tourist, or even some lifelong residents, were acquainted with. Even stranger than that, I grew an appreciation for Baltimore as I got to know it.

I’m not sure how it happened. After losing a few jobs, having my bike stolen, being 1500 miles away from family, somehow, over time, I came to know Baltimore as home. But at the same time, I got to see Abby almost every other weekend, and having her in my life again trumped whatever Baltimore could ever throw at me. It paled in comparison to the perpetual discomfort I felt when Abby wasn’t around.

Last week, I flew back to Texas to visit my sister and family. We had our first (of hopefully many) game night on Saturday. Sitting at a table with my little sister and cousins felt just like old times. It’s a thing of beauty to see that no one missed a beat, like we picked up exactly where we left off. I couldn’t have asked for a better night.

But on Sunday as I flew over Maryland and caught a view of Annapolis, I couldn’t help but feel at home. I used to think I’d still feel like a stranger to Maryland even after living there for years. I thought I would be calling Texas home for the rest of my days. Ironically, it’s the other way around now. Stranger than that, I’m thinking about where I’m going to live next. It won’t be Maryland. But I know I won’t be hanging my hat in Texas either – are you fuckin kidding me? It’s hot as FUCK there! West Coast? Somewhere in the mountains, maybe?

Moving to Maryland has been an eye opening experience. It showed me that this world, specifically my little world, is a lot bigger than I thought it was. Does this mean I now wear Ravens gear and root for the Orioles? Well, let’s not get crazy.

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