Gentry and Cafes
“I have no home to go back to.”
~Friend from Reisterstown
I have been making a recent effort to explore the neighborhood cafes around the area whenever I get a chance. I recently had some coffee at BAMF Cafe (1821 N Charles Street) in Station North, On the Hill Cafe (1432 John Street) in Midtown near MICA, and Park Cafe & Coffee Bar (132 McMechen Street). I won’t pretend to be a coffee connoisseur despite the obscene amount of coffee that I drink on a regular basis. While I will be unable to comment on the selection of coffees at these cafes I can comment on the atmospheres. BAMF seemed to be a place for those comic book and video game nerds. Even the menu items were named after objects of nerd-dom like the Tesseract or Hyrule. On the Hill and Park Cafe and Coffee Bar were more of the traditional hipster style bars in what felt like a more residential area. On the Hill had a wider variety of menu food items whereas Park Cafe and Coffee Bar felt like a minimalist European espresso lounge that furnished small spaces with clean industrial decor.
Reflecting on this, I understand that this is part of my social class. While I know that I am a socially flexible being who can fake his way into different groups, I am the most comfortable at a cafe or a friend’s house with the kitschy decorations or hipster minimalism. It’s a social class where transporting myself in the city involves a tiered-system: biking somewhere is my first thought, taking public transportation is my second, and Uber/Lyft is my last choice.
The other night I felt like I was interacting with an old friend whom I like, but who also lives in a much nicer locale in Mt. Vernon. He told me that he preferred the nicer bars and restaurants in the area as opposed to the sketchier and more hipster-infested areas of Hampden. For example, we started the bar-hopping at Owl Bar in the Belvedere Hotel and moved onto Brewer's Art. I didn’t even bring up that Remington represented an even greater and diverse neighborhood in between areas. Right now, my people are those who are disgustingly open-minded to a fault. It’s gotten to a point where our jokes consist at poking fun at ourselves and the ignorance of the LGBTIQ+ friendly, ambiguous racially privileged Baltimorons who can’t connect with denizens of adjacent neighborhoods let alone those from the suburbs.
I’ve gotten the notion that people in Remington see Hampden as already gentrified, whereas Mt. Vernon folk see Hampden as an up-and-coming neighborhood, while those in Fed Hill, Fells Point, and Canton see anywhere outside of their bubble as an unknown Baltimore that doesn’t give forth any incentive to visit. I crave diversity and not being consistently surrounded by those who look like me, talk like me, and think like me. I have a mirror and my own self for that. Rather, I prefer knowing that there are families, troubled youth, generous graduate students, and hipsters all living in the same area looking to make it in an oft-forgotten neighborhood.