So Baltimore’s got this thing coming up called the Grand Prix. They’re blocking off a bunch of streets downtown, the ramp onto 395, a light rail station, and effectively cutting off a main artery through town–all traffic will now go on MLK–and then some Indy cars will come race around the 2+ mile course while the rest of us just try to stay away, unless, of course, we can afford the $20-$895 tickets, plus $30 to park non-Indy cars. Continue reading
The new semester starts this week, and I am a busy, busy bee. I worked and worked and worked from the second I woke up, and by the time I got home, I was exhausted. And that’s the perfect time for a bicycle ride. Really, a bike ride just brushes all that other stuff away, and that’s what I did as I zipped around the neighborhood, saying my how you doin’s and taking the sidewalk on that sketchy turn onto Bonaparte, and took Broadway from North Avenue down to Fells Point. I had no idea that’s where the street ended–I’m still new in town. Continue reading
I woke up this morning to gray skies and the promise of rain for the rest of the weekend, so I hopped up, sucked down a breakfast smoothie (thanks, E., for the gifts!), and took the bike over to Collington Square Park to meet Odette Ramos, candidate for City Council from the 12th district for a bike tour of the district. Continue reading
After a long day waiting for this, listening to that, and setting up my wireless network, I hopped on the bike and rode down to the harbor to see what folks were doing to prepare for the hurricane that’s coming. I took a left on Pratt only to be stopped by a car in my bike lane. Grrrr. Turns out it was a car waiting to load up on sandbags–my bad. The city trucked sand down to the harbor and folks were lining up in their cars to take turns shoveling. I rode over to Fells Point and ran into some serious gridlock–same thing. I snapped this picture, and I wasn’t the only one taking it. People were milling about, watching, some having better ideas about how to organize the sand distribution, others remembering the last time a storm came through here. But mostly folks were pretty sure they could organize the sand distribution better. Not me–please never put me in charge of any kind of disaster management. I can barely organize my cats. I hope these sandbags keep these people’s homes and businesses dry this weekend. I rode back up the hill as the sun was going down, hoping that wasn’t my last ride for awhile.
After another long day at the new job I got on the bike and headed downtown for my first trip to the Whole Foods to get frozen berries and flax seeds for my breakfast, but mostly I just needed a bike ride to shake off the whole sitting-at-a-table-and-listening thing. I rode home up the hill in a super easy gear, all loaded down with the stuff you get when you go shopping hungry. The ride home quickly turns from tourist harbor to the outskirts of downtown to emptiness. I stopped to take a picture of the building at Fallsway and Madison. It is ringed with barbed wire and has rusted-out windows on one side and the tiny slits in the walls on the other, because it’s a prison. I figured it was a jail, it being practically in downtown Baltimore. Turns out it’s a supermax prison, where people are confined to cages 23 hours a day, 24 on the weekends. They are allowed no physical contact, ever; visits are through plexiglass, and time outside of cages is spent alone, one day inside, another day outside, one hour a day, five days a week. We do that to people, to human beings. I am ashamed of us. And I’m going to spend the foreseeable future riding by here on my bicycle all loaded up with blueberries, brewer’s yeast, and vitamins, pedal, pedal, pedal. I’m going to have to think about this one. So should you, because there’s a supermax prison somewhere near you. Baltimore just isn’t hiding its one.
Oh, the sun is out today, so I hopped on the bike with my computer and headed to Hampden to get some work done. I am still new in town, so I couldn’t manage to find a coffee shop with wifi and ended up back in my neighborhood after a loop around Roland Park’s mansions. Afterward I headed to the start of the Jones Falls Trail to practice going between my first and second chain rings on the switchbacks up to Druid Hill Park. I did a lap around the reservoir before following the signs to Baltimore’s Model Safety City. It’s a miniature downtown with lots of complicated intersections and blind driveways to help kids learn safe pedestrian and bicycling techniques. Be still my heart! I continued up the hill to some tennis courts and this pool filled with dirt and grass. The park has built a memorial to the history of segregation at Druid Hill. Back in 1918 the Young Progressive of Maryland and the Baltimore Tennis Club put on an integrated match. When city officials stopped it, the players sat down on the court in protest. They took the city to court, but the courts threw the case out. In 1918. How do I not know that history? it matters. I snapped this picture of Pool 2, which B. told me about. I am used to cities covering over their segregationist pasts, but here we remember. But let’s not pretend segregation’s over, because it’s not. Take a bike ride around your town. The ride home was downhill, and I flew–what goes up, must come down.
I really, really wanted to go on a long bike ride this afternoon, but just as I finished up my work for the morning the skies opened up it started raining sideways. Sigh. I spent the afternoon running errands by car until riding to Mt. Vernon to meet V. for dinner. Man, riding in the post-rain cool evening air, flying downhill, feels so, so good. It’s uphill on the way home, but I ak already used to that part. I took Calvert tonight, and stopped at 21st to snap a picture of these vacant row houses. The blight here is intense, and it changes block by block–just a couple blocks either way from this one are fully populated, but here, lots of empties. Usually they are closed up with plywood, but this cinderblocking seals them off so completely, they are like ghosts. I wonder when the blight will seem like a normal part of the background, or if it will always feel a little bit like a ghost town here.
I had one of those frustrating days where you are on hold for 45 minutes to no avail after being tranferred multiple times, getting more teary with every subsequent operator. Hint: Verizon’s on strike, cancel, but give yourself a couple hours to do it. Anyway, it was finally time for me to flee the house, so I tossed my National Parks Passport in my bike bag and flew down the hill to the Baltimore Civil War History Museum, because there’s nothing like a little popular history to take my mind off the Kafka-esque world of telephonery. Half of the museum is devoted to remembering the Pratt Street riots, which happened as the Union sent troops south through Baltimore at the very start of the war. The city was full of Confederate sympathizers, and they attacked the soldiers as they transferred trains, shedding the first blood of the war. I snapped this picture of their diorama of the events while standing under the sound umbrella-thingy with its gunshots and crowd noises. Then there was the display about the Underground Railroad (not really a railroad) and Henry “Box” Brown who shipped himself to freedom (get in this box and see how it might feel!–that part was creepy). It’s an odd nostalgia. Later, when I was reading about the 1968 uprisings in Baltimore at the bookstore, I wondered if we’ll ever have a museum to that, reenactments, nostalgia that at least reminds us of the ways the social, political, and economic choices made that led to the riots continue to shape our everyday. And then I rode over to the stadium to watch Ravens fans pour in for the preseason, the beat goes on, the beat goes on.
After a quick ride to the coffee shop to avail myself of coffee and the internet while finishing up a few quick revisions on an article, I rode down to the Inner Harbor to meet the new colleagues for a get-to-know-you lunch. Baltimore is a hilly place, as I may have mentioned, so the ride down is just that, and it’s speedy. I whipped around to the bike lane on Pratt, only to be stopped by a truck in my bike lane, and it wasn’t the only one. Sigh. I snapped a picture of a couple of men guarding a sign and stopped to ask them about the Cordish Company and what they are up to that is so shameful. Turns out they are developers who are developing lots of properties in the harbor area and around the city. They subcontract to nonunion labor, undercutting wages for everybody. Then the guy had to throw in a comment about “illegals,” and I thought to myself, hey, eyes on the prize. The trouble’s obviously this Cordish fellow, though theguy also said the man himself is a good guy, it’s what he does that sucks. Well, ok. I took a right on President where folks were protesting the labor practices of another company. this whole economic downturn is used far too often as an alibi to further erode labor rights. Why are the same people always being asked to tighten their belts, when they barely have any holes left on the thing? It’s immoral. Oh, and the chances you are going to stop to ask a follow up question when driving a car are about zero–another good reason to ride a bike, even if it is uphill to get home.
Today’s ride took me over to Hampden–the long way, because I never know where I am in a new city–to meet B., a friend of a friend, for coffee and a chat. It was lovely. He is all full of civic pride and boosterism, and he sounds like a terribly engaged teacher. We have a date on the weekend to visit a museum. Perfect. He left me with a bag of tomatoes from his local community garden and vague directions to Druid Hill Park. I followed the signs, and then the other signs, and then I was pedaling around a reservoir and staring at a foxy blue sky and Baltimore’s impressive urban tree canopy. I snapped this picture looking out over my new neighborhoods, feeling like yes, ithis place works for me. I continued my ride through the park, arguing with gears, getting lost, only to discover it’s just a loop, passing mansions and burnt out shells of old lives, because this is Baltimore. I pedaled home with that good feeling that for me only comes from a bike ride. Yep, that was exactly what I needed.