Sunday, July 1, 2018

Reflecting on my Last Days in Baltimore, June 28, 2018

It’s felt like a month of last chances. Last moments to take it all in before the move.
Twenty-five years ago, after finishing my first round of graduate school, work brought me to this Charm City. Twenty-five years later, work now causes me to leave and head north to South Jersey, a bedroom community of my home town of Philadelphia. Work has been a huge part of my life in Baltimore. It has shaped my world view; yet, the lasts that weigh most heavily on my heart have nothing to do with work. Yes, I lead my last service a few weeks ago after 25 years of service to the Baltimore Jewish community. A Bar Mitzvah ceremony was a fitting finale. I gave one last Cabaret performance downtown at Germano’s Piattini singing theatre gems and opera ballads not only with full voice but with full heart surrounded by loving friends. I still have a few couples that I’ll be back to marry, but the rest of our meetings will happen via FaceTime or Skype. The miracles of technology. I took my last voice lesson. I gave my last voice lesson. I studied with local Baltimore colleagues one last time.
       Despite the significance of these professional lasts, these final moments aren't the ones leaving me most teary and contemplative. No, it's moments like these:
I drove my daughters batty with my determined intent to drive the 25 minutes to The Cow for the best Italian ice ever one last time despite there being a perfectly acceptable place less than 2 miles from home. Even though I can count on one hand how many crab cakes I’ve eaten during my time in Baltimore – let alone my life, I just HAD to get one before I leave, and not just any crab cake, one from Pappas, the place my “Baltimore Dad” took me to have my first. I was filled with sentimentality as I shared the experience of hopping around downtown Baltimore via water taxi one last time with a friend who had never been. It’s always fun to show off that side of Charm City to tourists. I eagerly agreed to one more dinner out with my girls at our favorite local sushi place. I’ll miss our Chiyo outings, even my girls’ relentless teasing about my need to plug the Prius in at the neighboring light rail station. I voted at my daughter's alma mater, Pikesville High, one last time.
I literally welled up during my last morning run through the neighborhoods that run along Smith Avenue. I dove into my last Baltimore crossfit workout yesterday remembering that it was here, in Baltimore, where I became a gym rat. Once music became my profession, I needed a new hobby. (First item on my to-do list: find a new gym). And today, just before the movers arrived to load the truck that will take all of my belongings to New Jersey, I took that familiar walk down the hill to The Mill for a cup of joe. As I nursed my decaf Americano on the walk back up the hill, my mind wandered back to a question asked of me months ago, “how can you possibly move when you live on Penny Lane?” My new home is lovely, and I’m looking forward to the journey forward, but seriously: Weaver Drive or Penny Lane? I’m not sure I’ll ever have such a perfectly poetic address. A musician who lives on Penny Lane. It doesn’t get much cooler than that. Hell, even the foreman overseeing the loading of the moving van just stopped and asked why I’m moving. “It’s such a beautiful place, a great street,” he noted.
Sometimes you just have to go where the work (and the paycheck) takes you. And, even when you have an amazing job like I do, one that allows me to be present during sacred and intimate moments of people’s lives. One that allows me to connect deeply with the world in remarkable ways. One that allows me to get paid to sing and make incredible music (while living in one place no less)! Still, the most important moments, the ones that carry me forward are the mundane daily experiences we all share in some way. Those varied and miscellaneous moments of life not only experienced with family and friends, but the plethora of tiny interactions and encounters with strangers, these make us human – these matter most.
Work brought me to Baltimore 25 years ago, a quarter-century. I’ve lived in Baltimore longer than any other town or city. It’s hard to pick up and leave. It’s hard to start anew at this stage in life. But, I’m confident that despite all of the lasts, I’m not leaving anything of value behind. I'm carrying them with me. The lasts. The poignant reminders of the roots and connections made throughout my time in Baltimore, they will sustain me as I begin to make glorious new moments of connection.
Thank you, Baltimore, for all of the firsts, middles, and most of all, for the lasts.