This weekend was the Star Spangled Celebration, Baltimore’s party in honor of the bicentennial of the Battle of Baltimore near the end of the War of 1812. Francis Scott Key wrote the lyrics to the Star Spangled Banner that night (or inspired by that night), and even though it didn’t become the national anthem until 1931, you’d think the way we’ve been acting these days that the country was founded that very night by this very song. I’ve been super interested in how we remember this unmemorable war since I started biking out to Chalmette National Battlefield, where they act like the war was the birth of a happy multiracial country just because Creole folks fought alongside Jean Lafitte (not just a pirate–a slave trader, but they always leave that part out) at the Battle of Orleans. Then I got to Baltimore, where the Battle of Orleans is a footnote and the whole war is about this one battle and the flag and the song. Continue reading
Monday’s ride was a similar zippy one down to the corner of Lombard and Greene to pick up the shuttle for my ride to work. I did some niggling and adjusting on my new pannier rack system, successfully solving the heel strike problem from last week. It was a long teaching day before a surprisingly short wait for the shuttle back into the city. I was happy to see a familiar face–V. from student affairs was giving the shuttle a try–and I sat next to her for a surprisingly short drive back to my bike. Sometimes the traffic let’s up. I got off early, took the slow stroll back to my bike. I stopped to snap a picture of this plant growing out of a brick wall. I’d checked out this wall from the shuttle earlier as we rode part, because I think there’s a cemetery up there. I hadn’t noticed it before–the bike’s to short to see over the wall, and why would I ride this way to cross MLK anyway? New routes, new views, and even the fancy med school can’t keep the plants out of the walls.
Sunday was just perfect. The temperature dropped from 93 to 78 degrees, and the humidity fell with it. I got my work and chores done early and had nowhere to be, and finally got a bike ride in that wasn’t driven largely by the place I had to be. I had something to return to a store that has an outlet in Canton, so I pedaled off with a vague plan to head southwest, and that’s what I did, joining the traffic on Harford Road before taking right after right after right on my way downtown. I managed to turn on streets I’m not sure I’d been on before, and I watched as the blocks turned from rows of matching brick to vacant flat-faced row houses to that series of car washes on the blocks in Middle East. Continue reading
It was another week of mostly commuting as I get back in the swing of on campus work again. Friday was another trip on the new shuttle, and I took that easy morning route, snaking through Waverly and Abell on my way to Maryland Avenue for a speedy straight shot down to Lombard for a right into the bus/bike lane and the few blocks to Greene. I got there early because I don’t yet know how to get to a public transit stop any other way and waited. I took this picture of the layers of old buildings against each other and idly wondered if when they were new anyone thought they’d be this old someday. Will our new buildings last like these? Did anyone argue they were ugly or out of place with the existing architecture our displaced too many people? Will someone in 100 years stare at the new casino and wonder the same things? And then the shuttle came and there were meetings and meetings and a too-long wait for the ride back and a better ride home than last time. I finally see what all the fuss is about, Park Ave. I wonder how long until this all seems the normal way to get around.
Classes started last week, just as they have for the past ten years I’ve been teaching. There’s always something different–a new syllabus or classroom, a new office or a new class blog, and always there are new students, familiar but different, and each group has to find its own chemistry. Sometimes, though, a new semester means something earth-shatteringly new that makes everything different. Like this past week, when I got an email the day before the new semester began announcing a free shuttle service between downtown Baltimore and UMBC. Wow. This is a game-changer for so many of us–or at least enough of us to justify the expense and to make them keep the shuttle line. My excitement was not without some reservation. Continue reading
I’ve been away from the blog for a bit, not because I haven’t been riding my bike, but because I’ve been writing so much for other things, and it turns out there are only so many words in me. And then I was in Boise for a week, sans bicycle, and then right back in Baltimore and back to work. And then there was Thursday, and I got to ride my bike all over, first up to Roland Park. I took Keswick this time, and enjoyed the interval training of its rolling hills. And then it was back down the hill, a couple of stops, and then the new casino and its massive collection of bike racks right by the valet parking. How can this be that they actually built in room for several dozen bicycles? At the casino??? Continue reading
Monday’s ride took me up to Hampden. I only moved a mile and a half away, but the way to Hampden is entirely different. The neighborhood is tucked away behind Wyman Park and Johns Hopkins makes it kind of hard to get to. This was awesome for the mill owners who set up shop there and only hired native-born white people and wanted to remain separate from the African Americans and white immigrants in the rest of the city, and for the white folks who want to remain segregated today, but for those of us just trying to get a straight shot to the acupuncturist’s, it’s really a hassle. Continue reading