Girl fights and crowds watching them have no place in the neighborhood

Hampden Column

September 10, 2012

Twenty minutes before September's First Friday, people came rushing into my store, Atomic Books, saying, "You need to do something. There is a crazy fight going on outside."

I immediately walked outside and noticed I didn't need to do anything. Baltimore's finest were already on the scene.

From what I could discern, it was a Hampden girl fight. If you have not seen one of these, it's hard to explain. I have been in my share of altercations. I have seen a lot of fights. But there is nothing more terrifying than a Hampden girl fight. It is unbridled viciousness.

As a dozen police cruisers rolled up, and a couple of paddy wagons, a crowd of about 75 folks on both sides of Falls Road gathered to gawk. The result was a traffic jam.

"Looks like a couple of idiots decided they needed to beat each other up," I hollered to an old friend stuck in traffic.

The crowd turned and gave me a "What did you just call us?" look. Obviously, I was just referring to the knuckleheads who feel like whatever personal dramas and grudges they have in their lives are worth creating such a public scene over.

I just shrugged. Then an onlooker said, "Some people sure are nosy."

"Nosy?" I bellowed. "Look around you. Do you see this crowd? Do you see the police cruisers with the flashing lights? Do you see the small army of police standing here to maintain order? Do you see the traffic they're caught in as a result of this? How is wanting to know what's going on here even remotely nosy?"

"You should move," someone in the crowd suggested.

"I've been here for 12 years," I said. "Don't you think a more reasonable solution would be stop beating each other senseless on our streets?"

"This is Hampden," someone else offered.

And there it was. The excuse of insipid low expectations. The excuse of passive acceptance. The excuse of low self-esteem.

Well, I'm officially announcing that "This is Hampden" no longer works as an excuse for bad behavior. In fact, from now on, it works the other way.

Let's use it more in this context:

"Why did you just help that person?"

"This is Hampden."

Let's try that for a while, and see where it leads. If there was more of Hampden being used as a positive instead of a negative by those who wrongfully think they have some kind of ownership of the word by way of birthright, maybe there'd be fewer girl fights tying up traffic, bringing out police and causing an embarrassing spectacle.

On Sept. 20, the Atomic Fiction Series will host beloved local author Laura Lippman for a conversation, signing and reading to celebrate the release of her new book, "And When She Was Good."

Parking Day will take place on The Avenue on Sept. 21 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Several parking spots are reclaimed as makeshift parks. Numerous groups are participating and each have different plans for their space. Be sure to walk on over and check out what's going on. For more information, visit

On Sept. 27, lo-fi legend R. Stevie Moore plays the Golden West Café, 1105 W. 36th St., with Horse Lords and Spitting Images. This is rare opportunity to see a musical legend and a heavy influence on more bands than I have column inches to name.

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