Monday, May 4, 2015

My Trip To Baltimore, Spring 2004

I have visited Baltimore, once.  During my first go-round with Washington, D.C., my father-in-law visited and offered to take me and my then five-year old son to Camden Yards to see the Orioles. We went by train and then switched to a street-car for the ride across town to the ballpark.

As we waited at the train station, the signs of extreme decay abounded: dirty walkways, scattered trash, menacing thugs, loud drunks, crazy-eyed hookers, normal human beings hustling by in a hurry always looking down, straight down at the pavement in front of them, lest they catch the eye of one of the obvious predators.  We stood together, quietly, until the street car came.

After about four stops, a very tall black man, well-dressed in an expensive-looking overcoat got on with a bunch of other passengers and stood next to me, hand on the over-head strap.  I was standing, my father-in-law and young son sitting on the inward-facing bench seating, my curly-blond, blue-eyed son so young his entire legs stretched before him on the seat without even hanging over the edge.

About two stops beforehand my father-in-law had already adopted what I had already dubbed the Baltimore Normies Ground Stare.  As more and more shifty people got on the street-car, he retreated inward into an evermore deferential pose.  I, however, was my usual self, as I had learned many painful lessons about showing fear in such situations.

Painful lessons, but one must admit, well-taught.

I was standing facing my father-in-law and son--that is, towards the side of the car, while the black man in the overcoat was facing the front of the car.  However, after a few minutes, he surprised me by turning his entire body around so that he was facing not me, not my father-in-law, but my son.  He looked down, his eyes burning into the oblivious little boy, burning with such an intense hatred that even I, who had long since thought he could not be surprised by the savages among us, was taken aback and for a few seconds thrown off of my game.

I took a small step forward and leaned in to say something to my father-in-law.  I don't remember what, because it didn't matter, I simply wanted an excuse to insert my frame between the man's face and my son.  I then straightened up and looked at the man; he was still staring daggers at my little boy, seemingly oblivious to everything else around him, his eyes shining with intense hatred.

He took another small step towards my son.  And that was it.  I had learned lessons, hard ones, and I wasn't going to let something happen to my son because I was afraid of giving offense or being seen as racist.

"Hey," I said to the man, only to immediately hear my father-in-law whisper quickly "don't make a scene Kevin, it's okay".  I ignored him.  Things were not okay and at this point the black man was hovering over my son, still fixated on him, his face still twisted with raw hatred.

"Hey,' I repeated, and as his eyes shifted to me, I then lowered my voice and ensured that his eyes and everything else would stay with me, away from my son, saying "I don't know what your problem is and I don't give a shit. You are going to get off this car at the next stop or I am going to kill you, right here, right now."

And we stared at each other. And I think there was something in my voice, in my demeanor, something about the way I stood, something.  But he believed me.  And when we got to the next stop a few minutes later, he exited the car backing up, keeping his eyes, with their hatred, fixed directly on me.

And we got to Camden Yards.  Trash everywhere, middle-class people acting as if they lived in the coolest city in the world, but still keeping their eyes downcast even in the safety of the ballpark, inside its Oriole orange gates.

And when we left, trash blowing along a cold Spring night's wind, a Baltimore cop barked at me as I crossed a street with a green light and inside a cross-walk.  (After all, I was holding the hand of my very tired, but happily stuffed with cotton candy and giant pretzels five-year old).

"You can't cross there," croaked the cop, in broken English.

"It's a cross-walk," I said.  "Where should we cross?"

"Over there," he said, pointing to a make-shift cross-walk less than 5 yards from the proper one, marked by miniture orange traffic cones, and, unlike the proper cross-walk, directly in a lane of heavy car traffic.

His partner, a young Black woman, looked at me with bored eyes.  I had reached my limit for the day.

"What a shithole of a city you have here!," I said to her, smiling as I walked away, knowing that like Berkeley-Oakland, I would never, ever be returning.

"Gee, thanks," she said.

I wonder what she thinks of it now.

In any case, I see the Baltimore Orioles have finally found a solution to the problem of playing baseball in the middle of barbarian territory.


  1. No legal concealed carry in Maryland.

    Which means if you're going to carry you might as well use a suppressor... i ain't sayin', I'm just sayin'...

    1. Heh...uhm, I've yet to find a holster that would adequately conceal a suppressed pistol....maybe a shoulder holster with the hammer jammed up in your arm pit? :-)

    2. So you've been looking too, huh... ;)

      That's one Google search I'm going to do on someone else's computer...

      There is an episode of Sons of Anarchy where a character draws out a suppressed pistol... I'll have to go back and see exactly how he was carrying.

  2. What a horrible thing to have been directed at your little boy. I'm glad he was unaware of the entire incident.

  3. Only part of Baltimore that I recall with any fondness was the Inner Harbor, where my headquarters periodically scheduled national meet ups. Of course, that would not be in winter, for those they'd always pick Fargo, ND, or summer, when they'd opt for Dallas or Arlington TX.

    1. "Of course, that would not be in winter, for those they'd always pick Fargo, ND, or summer, when they'd opt for Dallas or Arlington TX."


  4. I don't carry, in part because of this incident. I thought at the time that my son was in imminent danger of death or serious harm; thus my threat. But, I also knew at the time that in any aftermath the reasonable man standard could have worked against me. I'm sure I was correct, but I'm also fairly sure that I would have been second-guessed, and everyone else on the train wouldn't have supported me. In short, I simply avoid all possibility of issues to the very best of my ability so that I don't have to ever be in that position again. Not a good solution, but it's one I'm okay with so far.

    1. In Baltimore it's a non-issue - you can't carry, basically.

      However, I think you played it just fine - shooting someone is pretty much a last resort, one which you didn't need here.

    2. I do carry in my home state and those that have reciprocal CPL agreements. That pretty much eliminates the northeast coast and Illinois...and part of the west coast.

      That said, in 40+ years I've never drawn my pistol or revolver in any instance where it was obvious (have drawn it in anticipation and kept it down by my leg, pointed downward...usually in a dark or dicey place) but I am well trained in how to do so if necessary, dating all the way back to 1964 and Model 1911 pistols. I shoot targets for a minimum of 50 to 100 rounds every other Saturday...usually joined by my daughter.

      That said, if anyone with a CCW or CPL does draw and fire...just figure your life is in the toilet for 2-3 years minimum, even if charges are dropped. You WILL be arrested, for the action you took, not for the permit. The police are not going to just make a "justified" judgment call on the scene unless it is one of those rare cases that is blatantly obvious....usually they will err on the side of investigating first, both sides, then filing a report...and that does not happen over night.

      Jourdan...for the record you handled that incident very well...a combination of courage and body language awareness. Had you been carrying and used lethal force under circumstances you described, the police would been hard pressed to cal it "justified" unless a physical attack occurred first and there was evidence aplenty of it. You took the right course, which is often harder to do than pulling a pistol...which at the moment you do that it evens the playing field, so to speak...e.g., the opposition now knows for sure what's what. A lot of folks get shot with their own gun due to hesitation after drawing it. If you are not 101% confident there is no other choice but to draw and fire immediately, leave that pistol on your hip & concealed. That way you retain a critical edge in self-defense, surprise, should the incident deteriorate to a no choice state.

    3. The issues I cite above are among those that make me not an advocate of "open carry" where everyone and his kitty cat knows you have a weapon on your hip. Some one might decide to surprise you from behind and take your weapon. Even where it is allowed I prefer concealed. It puts me at less risk in general. Is some one else feels "safer" with an exposed weapon, that's their business... but I'll keep mine concealed, which is the sane way to me, as a civilian now, who did open carry when in most soldiers did in their time. War is different than back home down on the block.

    4. The kitty cats know you're carrying regardless. They know everything. They just don't care. :D

    5. Kitty cats always know it all and seldom care, that's true. Actually, my favorite side arm is a bulky .45 ACP model so most anyone that is partially observant can see the "lump" on my hip if I'm not wearing a long jacket. Covered only by a shirt tail it isn't very concealed per se, but it is less in-your-face provocative to my way of thinking. In tee-shirt only weather I will carry a small 9mm and it is still pretty obvious...even under a Duluth Trading long tailed tee which is all I own these days...hate plumbers' butt.