Small Town Revelations

I’ve spent the last five days traveling to, hanging out in, and traveling home from Ohio where I went to visit my best friend.

It’s not often I go away. With four kids spanning the ages of 1-14 years, I don’t really have a lot of chance for skipping town and going on trips. But, it occurred to me that my last trip, which coincidentally was to Ohio to said friend as well, was over 11 years ago. That’s right, people. The last time I went away without my family was almost a dozen years ago. So, I felt I was due a little vacation.
Because my husband is one smart cookie, he agreed.
The goals for the trip were pretty simple: spend some time alone, reconnect with my friend, and do things I can’t do with kids. And I think I successfully pulled that off. We stayed up all night three nights in a row in front of a campfire, drinking, singing, laughing, and sawing down trees at 2am by the light of an iPhone flashlight app (Revisit the drinking part for a suitable explanation of the sawing part), and stayed out all night on the last night with some friends.
Of course I also did things during the day, like visiting a thrift store–because I am a thrift  store junkie–having a big cook out with her family where I ate assorted vegetables and chips–the sacrifice of keeping kosher, and tagging along to her place of work.
Ohio is a funny place. Or I should say that particular part of Ohio. It’s beautiful! Just really-fucking-OMG beautiful. But, also funny. It’s a small town right outside of Lancaster, or so I was told, and along with that small town charm inevitably comes some measure of small town thinking. I found that most people I met hadn’t ever left Ohio while others hadn’t been further than Indiana or West Virginia. Nobody I met had been to Maryland nor DC.
Though my friend and I do share the same name, which we erroneously thought would make it easier for new acquaintances to remember mine, this did not prove to be the case for everyone–especially a guy I met for the first time named Brad.
After being called “hey you” most of the night, and everyone once more pointed out that I did indeed have a name, whatever it might be, he decided that it would just be easier to call me “Maryland”. Apparently state names are easier to remember than people names for native Ohioans. I don’t know. I didn’t ask, but it didn’t take long until that became the accepted way of addressing me. Fair enough. I could handle being called Maryland for a night. So I answered to it.
Soon we are sitting around talking and the questions regarding Maryland (as in the state, not myself) arise. What do we do for fun there? How long have I lived there? Am I originally from Ohio? (Oh, honey. No, no, no.) And where is it, exactly?
Now I don’t pretend to be a geography genius here. I find it difficult to list the 50 states in rhyme the way I once did in grade school. And damn if those tiny New England states don’t trip me up–I mean you guys are just so mushed up together, ya know? It’s hard to tell where one begins and the other ends. I’m sorry, it just is. There, I said it.
But, I do think Maryland, though small itself. Should be easily placed because of it’s location near the nation’s capital.

As I was saying, they all want to know where Maryland is, so I begin to explain. It’s on the east (that much they knew–whew!), it’s nearby Virgnia and Pennsylvania (they had a general idea where those were) and right next to DC.

“So, do you live in Baltimore?”

Now let me stop one more time to briefly explain something to those who may not know this little fact about Maryland: Baltimore is indeed in Maryland. There is no contesting that fact. Any map will prove me right. But, see, the thing is, and I say this with all due respect, it’s an entirely different type of Maryland. Baltimore is nearly it’s own state. With it’s own ways and it’s own customs and it’s own sense of well, let’s say, pride. And definitely it’s own history.  Baltimore has Baltimore food, Baltimore dialect and Baltimore news. Baltimore has news papers which talk 95% about the latest happenings in Baltimore, and 5% about anything else.

Basically, Baltimore is Baltimore. And the rest of Maryland is in some weird way, more of less a  suburb of DC, for lack of a better explanation. I would get into how it was not always that way and explain to you the vast differences between eastern, western, northern and southern Maryland, but frankly it would take too long. So, let’s just leave it at that.

If you want to email me because you think my explanation of either Baltimore or Maryland is wrong, don’t bother. I’ve lived here for 31 years and in four different counties. I win. And it’s my blog. So, basically, na-na-na-na.

Whenever I’m out of Maryland and someone learns I am a Marylander the first question is always, “oh! You’re from Baltimore?!”
That’s all fine and good. Easy enough mistake to make. But, what I don’t understand is conversations which go something like this:

Native Ohioan: so you live in the capital of Maryland?
Me: no, I that’s a Annapolis–which is east. I live closer to DC.
Ohioan: well where in Maryland is DC? Is it close to Baltimore?

Me: no, DC isn’t in Maryland.
Ohioan: wait, DC isn’t the capital of Maryland?
Me: no, DC is not in Maryland.
Ohioan: then why is it the capital?
Me: it’s the capital of the United States, not Maryland.
Ohioan: Whoa. Really? I thought it was in Maryland.
Me: if it were in Maryland that would mean that the capital of the United States would be governed and represented by Maryland.
Ohioan: *blink blink blink*
Me: DC is a federal district, not a state.
Ohioan: so it’s a commonwealth like Pennsylvania?
Me: Not. It’s just DC. The capital of the nation.
Ohioan: But how did it get the land?
Me: if memory serves, part of Maryland and Virginia gave up some land for it. But it was in Philly for a while, though I don’t honestly remember a lot about that.
Ohioan: Whoa. It used to be in Philly? That’s in Pennsylvania, right?
Me: yes. A very long time ago.
Ohioans (as a crowd had by this point formed): so DC isn’t a state?
Me: correct.
Ohioans: well damn. We had no idea. I’ll be. Whoa. Mind, blown.
Later that evening:
“hey Maryland!”
“I got it!”
Awesome! Tell me!
“Maryland isn’t a state! It’s a separate entity! Because the president lives there! See? I remembered!”
Good job, buddy. Good job.
This isn’t to shame Ohioans. As it stands I am situated on a bus next to a real life Ohioan. I don’t for a second think her to be anything but the intelligent human being I’ve come to think of her as over the course of our many little bus chats we’ve shared over the last few hours. It’s just that, like I said, along with the small town charm of well, small towns, often comes small town thinking. *shrug* That isn’t always a bad thing either. I mean DC is one of the most pretentious places in the world. It honestly drives me batty. Someone is always trying to show you up on how educated they are or how much money they make or where they went to school…  But my whole time in Ohio the only thing I was shown was a good time.  I have respect for that.

All in all, it as a fantastic visit. Good company. Good talks. Lots of laughter. Singing. Goofing off. Good wine and, well,  not so good food–because frankly it’s hard enough to eat kosher and gf in Nofreakingwheresville, Ohio. Taste wasn’t my highest priority.

So thanks, Ohio!  I will try not to be a stranger. And next time? I’ll bring a map along.