I remember the first ride I took on a bicycle up the hill to Charles Village, pedaling away on a rented three-speed from the Mt. Vernon hotel, on my way to see about a family about an apartment. It was a slog in the hot July weather and new-to-me “hills,” and wow, the neighborhoods seemed to change quickly. I got to Guilford and North, took a wide right into the left hand turn lane just like a car would do, and continued on Guilford to the T at 21st Street. The lot was empty except for a few houses, and a sign declared the site ready for redevelopment. A glance to the right, and I remember thinking that this was a very different place from New Orleans, but also very much the same–people were here, they are still here, but some of them are missing, and the place bears the many marks of their leaving. And then I moved here, and I ride up and down this hill many times a week; it is just the way I get from here to there and back again. This means I forget to look right sometimes, head down, thinking about what’s for dinner at the top of the hill. Monday I pedaled east and instead of taking my right down the hill, I kept riding to see what’s over there now. Now it’s a pile of rubble, houses blown down, detritus waiting to be moved away by those cranes. Further east and there are more and more vacant row homes, and I wonder what will become of them. When I got home I did a little research on the group that sign at the T said was responsible for all this. People’s Homesteading Group is revitalizing this area, grassroots up, providing job training, rebuilding help, and greening the neighborhood of Barclay with gardens and art and the things that make a neighborhood a neighborhood. I’m not sure if they’re responsible for this particular pile of rubble, but regardless, a little research and it became clear that this is not a bike-through site; it’s a home. Again I’m reminded of the importance of looking up and out, and yeah, take your bike for a ride.
Keep open, the windows of your mind. But you hardly need that advice.