Wednesday, October 28, 2009
24 HR DINER
Sip & Bite, a 24 Hour Diner located on the corner of Boston St. and Van Lill St. just east of Fells Point, is a second home for many college students and Baltimore residents, old, young, black, white, Italian, Jewish, Hispanic, Asian, Greek, transsexual and even disabled. And often around 2 in the morning a parade of prostitutes will come flocking in with their clientele, they are always welcome. And no matter what time, 1 in the afternoon or 3 in the morning people are always eating, talking, laughing, working or just enjoying the candid atmosphere of the 24 HR Greek American Diner. At night it becomes a small nook of warmth and nourishment, attracting all kinds of people who merely have the desire to eat.
Outside, the night sky is colored orange with purple exhaust and can be especially dangerous here in Baltimore. Paper bags full of empty beer cans roll back and forth across the empty avenues keeping time track of the time. Blue lights persist, a stagnant row of desolation receding into the distance. Bulbous heaps of clothing breathing against the sides of broken buildings, sirens echoing just around the corner and smashed glass that sits on the brick ground occasionally crunching underneath the wheels of a steady paced car. The night is long and its city is undesirable.
So I come to realize Baltimore as a daytime city, where most of its pedestrians, at least in central Baltimore, are commuters from the county and the surrounding suburbs, and at night when they begin to filter out in long lines of traffic and leave their paperwork and their offices behind, they also leave behind the city, making many neighborhoods quiet and empty; at night.
But nightlife does exist in Baltimore, for one, the prostitute, male and female, can be found on many corners all over the city but probably isn’t inclusive of too many people. And of the same nature, there is the Red Light district just north of the Inner Harbor, which generates a fairly consistent buzz throughout the night. There are several theaters around the city with showings as late as 10:00, The Apex Theater on Broadway, which always has 2 new adult films, The Charles just below North Ave which plays many independent and foreign films with revivals every week and The East Inner Harbor Theater just below Eastern Avenue’s western dead end, that plays Hollywood hits. And there are many music venues like Sonar and Ramshead down by the Inner Harbor or The Ottobar up on Howard and 26th or The Hexagon, The Windup Space, Joe Squared, Zodiac, Single Carrot Theater and Load of Fun all of which are in the Station North Arts District. And there are also the DIY venues, like The Copycat, The Annex and The H&H building but even still, these places create only temporary atmospheres whose visitors will eventually dissipate back into their remote and separate dwellings. And so the beauty of the 24 HR Diner and its main attraction as a reliable home for people to come and to eat and to relax for as long as they want and whenever they want creates an atmosphere that is essentially never ending and expands through all of the various demographic shifts throughout the day and into the night and back. This infinite atmosphere is highly conducive to the arsenal of inclusion because of its role as a permanent and active dining establishment for the entire city.
Not to get me wrong, all of the theaters and venues do bring people together, but they’re all generally and exclusively inclusive of specifically and consistently similar groups of people; they bring people together of the same age, ethnicity and cultural interests so that there isn’t much diversification and I would argue then a lack of inclusion. The 24 HR Diner has the capability to appeal to everyone, always, infinitely.
The 24 HR Diner is gritty, cheap and quick and in a city can be made fairly accessible to everyone. Its purpose is to serve hot food whenever and for whomever (as long as they have money), but places like Sip & Bite have become much more than simple eateries. The 24 HR Diner has created a culture for itself and each 24 HR Diner has its own family of customers who treat its tables like a second home and its employees like relatives, but it remains constantly open to new customers, truckers driving long distances, or even urban wanderers (?). The 24 HR Diner’s simplicity is its beauty; it relies on the basic human instinct that humans need to eat. Most of all, the 24 HR Diner is comforting, it provides a place of refuge and escape, a place where there are other people, even in the darkest hours of the night.