Can you feel it?
Right now, all over the city of Baltimore, college students are wailing and gnashing their teeth as they prepare for final exams and submit final projects and portfolios. The nationwide Adderall shortage is not helping things.
Then, can you hear it?
Those same students hit the road, Uber and Lyft doors slamming as they head out of town (via plane, train, or automobile) or even out of the country for a month and change.
And, briefly, the city is mine!
I can go see a movie without advance tickets or planning, go buy bagels without it feeling like the fall of Saigon, and generally enjoy the cultural life of Baltimore city in a timely and frictionless way.
Soon enough, however, a new season lurches into gear. Holiday season.
As a Baltimore native, there is nothing I dread more than the opening of Christmas street.
For years, I thought the underground came to a dead stop during the holiday times. Shows and performances just weren’t happening. This was especially noticeable in the “every night a show” frenzy of the middle/late aughts, and it is true that many of the creative folks I ran with would head home, as Baltimore is often not where their family is located.
There is city activity, sure, but it involves, a Fitzgerald put it in The Great Gatsby, folks “conduct(ing) themselves according to the rules of behavior associated with an amusement park.” On holiday, they might go see a movie or check out a show or go to that local restaurant they heard about. They want what they want now and could they please speak to the manager?
I know money is on the table, and many creative folks work service jobs to pay the bills, but I do the above things routinely. These are my everyday activities, not just for one season. I somehow manage to never ask to speak to the manager. I suspect these suburban interlopers would find this puzzling.
It turned out the “dead stop” was not as dead as I thought it was. As the years progressed, I caught wind of other events, off the books and private. My whole life revolves around attending shows and performances, so it took some socializing and sleuthing, but, soon enough, I discovered an entire other holiday landscape.
The most memorable of these was a potluck gathering at “gone-but-not-forgotten” underground venue Floristree. A close second was the Yule Ball, organized by the initial residents of the “can you believe what that spot is like now?” Bell Foundry. Both organized by groups of friends, both shifted (mostly) away from performance to simply being together, they were the layer and level of revel I was missing. After, I could get back into that crowded chaotic line at The Charles Theater to see the most recent Oscar-bait with a sound rejoinder to the “nowhere feeling of holidays”, a phrase I did not come up with but very much felt upon seeing it tweeted in 2012.
So, yes, the underground landscape is about to shift into “Holiday mode”. Keep your eyes open and ears peeled and you may catch wind of its glimmer and heartbeat. And, if you can’t find anything fitting your vibe, organize your own event. I will do my best to attend.