Last night, I walked outside, into a Maryland night that swiftly filled me with nostalgia, reminding me why I love the state. I think that most people probably don’t think much about Maryland; it’s not notably big, laughingly small, or particularly controversial. But I moved here with my family when I was 10, lived here all the way through college, and have returned for blocks of time as an adult. Even though I now live on the other side of the country, the state is undoubtedly a central part of me.
So in that quick moment of walking outside, all of that love smacked me quickly in the face. And so I figured that I should probably share it. Maryland doesn’t really get much airtime, so here are, in no particular order, eight reasons why I love the Old Line State:
- Summer nights – Even though I adore the cool evenings of northern California, the truth is that for me, the definition of a summer night will always mean weather still warm enough to wear a t-shirt and shorts, maybe breaking a sweat even then. It invites cold drinks and sitting outside, the insulation of humidity offering what feels like protection from the rest of the world.
- WTMD – Possibly the greatest radio station I know, save for the Country Legends station in Houston (because sometimes, I need some Johnny Cash, followed by some Patsy Cline, followed by some Kenny Rogers, while the sky stretches wide and open above me). 89.7 is broadcast out of Towson and – luckily for me – streamed online as well. It has fantastic music and solid community involvement; I’ve happily been a member for years.
- Coffee shops – Sometimes I think that part of the reason why there seems to be a hipster highway between Portland, Oregon and Baltimore, Maryland is because of the coffee shops (although, really: which came first, the hipsters or the coffee?). Some of my favorites: Dooby’s, Spro, Carma’s, and Artifact.
- The soundtrack – Set to the tune of “O Tannenbaum” (i.e., “O Christmas Tree), the state song is actually entitled “Maryland, My Maryland.” At Camden Yards, get ready to belt the “O” in our national anthem, and sing “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” at the 7th-inning stretch. In the fall, listen for the crunch of fallen leaves; and anytime on the Eastern Shore, the sound of waves slapping the beach provides a soothing backdrop to fellow tourists playing and chatting.
- Other summer things – Lightning bugs. Thunderstorms. Corn. Crab feasts. Warm-water beaches. Dumser’s. Snowball stands. Air conditioning. Double-headers. Justifiable laziness.
- Quirkiness – The state, for all its traditions, also has some funny characteristics, which can perhaps be summed up by acknowledging the State Cat (Calico), the State Crustacean (Maryland Blue Crab), the State Sport (Jousting), or the State Drink (milk…yes, really). Besides that, there is the loyal following for Natty Boh, which isn’t even made in Maryland anymore; the fact that the name of the Baltimore Ravens comes from a poem; and annual events – like HonFest and the Renaissance Festival – that bring out their own masses, some of whom are nearly fanatic, each and every year.
- Natural beauty – The 42nd-largest state in the country is made up of only 10,460 square miles, but there is a ton of gorgeousness packed into that small space. Beaches, mountains, rivers, rolling hills: the state has it all. Deciduous trees make for a fantastic landscape in the fall, snow silences everything in the winter, the flowers of spring pop onto the scene with alarming grace, and the summer – with all its big thunderstorms and constant humidity – is almost obscenely lush.
And finally, the eighth reason why I love being in Maryland:
- Family and friends – You know who you are. Thank you for being you. No matter where I live, or how long I am gone, you make Maryland always feel like home. (I realize this is a cheesy ending, but nearing the end of a wonderful visit back east, I can’t help but say it!)
There are many more things I could add to this list (I haven’t even mentioned Berger cookies!), but it’s time to post this sucker and get outside. The spring flowers are blooming, I’ve got plans with my best friends, the Orioles play this afternoon, and I couldn’t ask for more from this little powerhouse of a state. Maryland, my Maryland, indeed.