That’s a couple of workers gawking and taking pictures of a bunch of rats in the alley.

Baltimore has been a shock, there’s no question. I’ve spent the last five years in one of the most livable cities in the world. Baltimore is , I would guess, quite a ways down that list. The potholes. The overflowing dumpsters. Whole blocks of retail boarded up and falling down. Even on the waterfront most of the shops are empty. And I’ve noticed that there isn’t a crane visible anywhere… they’re not building anything in this downtown area.

The people are struggling as well. I’ve seen so many homeless people shambling around. People with terrible health problems picking in the gutters for cigarette butts. And even the people I interacted with as a business traveler… workers in restaurants and the hotel, cab drivers… seemed dispirited or angry or just out of it. I’ve recently celebrated a birthday, so I’m even older and therefore even grumpier about the shortcomings of the next generation… but still, this seemed extreme.

And yes, I sat at an outdoor restaurant the other night and watched the rats scurrying back and forth, and I’ve seen them two other times just out and about.

I have no idea how much of this trouble is COVID, but I’m sure it’s been a factor. But even before COVID, Baltimore was known as a tough place. It calls itself The Charm City, but some powerful magic charms are surely needed.

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