I had a ticket to the Sugarloaf Crafts Fair and decided to use it on Sunday. That’s my Day of Rest, so I didn’t feel like riding all the way out there, opting instead to take the bike on the light rail for a little weekend multimodal commuting. It was easy peasy, a station less than a mile from my house, six or so stops to a station less than a mile from the fairgrounds. There were no bike racks, but I still got to park right in front for a whirl through aisle after aisle of jewelry, wooden spoons, metal art, and homemade drink mixes that will turn that bottle of wine into a refreshing summertime slushie. I made a stop on my way out for a drink and some tater tots at the local sports-watching establishment to round out my day in Timonium, and then I headed back to the light rail station. And then a guy let me know the trains weren’t stopping at that station for some reason, I’m guessing so they could get down to Camden Yards to collect the disappointed fans from the O’s game I’d just finished watching at the bar. Sigh. Continue reading
I love not having a car, but Friday was one of those days when having a car would have been kinda great. I had an appointment up in Roland Park and then had to be out in the suburbs at UMBC and then back in Roland Park to judge an evening debate tournament. And I was out of coffee. In a car, I just would have made the rounds, but on a bike it felt like climbing hill after hill after hill, always needing to leave a little early to get to the next thing on time. And I didn’t have a chance to get coffee until 1:30 in the afternoon, on my way home to swap Brompty back out for the Surly. But you know what? As I climbed up Roland Avenue for the second time, I realized how lucky it is to want to ride my bike, to take such joy in the feel of it all, and to live in a body that lets me do it. Continue reading
I teach Gender and Women’s Studies, so I spend a lot of time talking about gendered representations and how screwed up they are. I read a lot of student papers about how fucked up it is that 98% of the images of women we see have the body type of maybe 3% of the country’s population. I nod, I make my checks and check-pluses, I concur wholeheartedly as students get critical about this stuff, sometimes for the first time. I’ve been teaching this stuff for over ten years, and I have to admit, sometimes it turns into white noise. Continue reading
Monday was a stunner, so I was even happier than usual to be on bike for appointments that took me to Federal Hill and Locust Point. The ride started early as I made my way down the hill and up the hill to meet O. and R. for a day in the art studio. We had decisions to make on a project we’re working on, so we made them and then made our way to a neighborhood restaurant for a sushi lunch and story swap. If you can get R. to tell you her stories about her trip to Seward, Alaska, do it–oh, what magic! And then we parted ways and I took the lane on Fort Avenue over to Locust Point and the weird mall that I’m inexplicably in love with for a ahircut and grading marathon until it was too much not to be outside and on bike. I rode over to Fort McHenry to do a lap around and see what the other lovers of spring with nowhere to be were doing. There was a bit of a jam on the far side of the park as folks had gathered to pay very close attention to some ducks. I got off my bike to join them–this was clearly a crowd I could relate to. “This is the closest I’ve ever been to a wild duck!” one woman exclaimed. She was right. These ducks were nonplussed at our presence. We chatted together for a good ten minutes about our new feathered friends: Do they mate for life? Are those two “together”? When will we get ducklings? How is it so cute when the wiggle their little duck butts? And the the duucks were in the water and on their way, and so was I, grateful for strangers and the opportunity for friendly exchange with my fellow species. And again happy to be on a bike and in the world instead of blocked off from it, on a freeway where everyone is a faceless threat instead on an open, friendly, interested fellow traveller.
Saturday was picture-perfect, and I spent the latter part of it on the bike with O., who brought a map to lead us on a tour of trees in northwest Baltimore. O. is a smarty pants artist, really clever and creative, and she’s doing a project you’ll just have to wait to find out about, but let me give you this hint: the tree canopy varies neighborhood by neighborhood, block by block, and trees take an awfully long time to grow, so you can bet something fishy’s been going on for an awfully long time. We said our how you doin’s as we biked around Middle East, Butcher’s Hill, Patterson Park, and other neighborhoods, stopping at tree after tree, talking about how grant money let’s some people profit from the misery of others and can create perverse incentives to keep that misery going; whether or not you can escape the narrowed vision of being born rich; what happens when we aestheticize blight; how that one patch of green in an alley in Middle East could feel so peaceful; if seeing that cute little groundhog meant winter was really, truly, finally over; and, among other things, how proud we are of quitting smoking, because that was pretty much the hardest thing ever, on a personal level. Addiction must be experienced to be understood, and it is outside of all your rational arguments, choices, ideas for solving it. I snapped this picture as we rode through Old Town Mall, bustling, in parts, on this perfect Saturday. Most of it, though, looks like Night of the Comet, many years on, including this storefront with a tree growing out of the window. I wonder if McHenry Row will be the next generation’s Old Town Mall, or if we fancy today’s development is immune to the total disinvestment that leaves places like this in its wake. And then we parted ways as I took my left to home and she kept up the hill, both of us, I think, feeling very fortunate that we get to see this hard city together.
The week of bike riding got considerably better after Tuesday, and Wednesday’s ride was cold, sure, but the sun was shining and the sky was blue. I dressed aspirationally, again, so shivered my way up to Abell and back down and around to Locust Point for a day at McHenry Row. That place is so weird–a hint of the suburbs plopped down in the middle of things, but from an American point of view, it sure is convenient. I spent my day doing things that didn’t need to be done, and then I headed home. I stopped for a quick turn around Riverside Park. There was a cop playing catch with his service dog, a couple of high schoolers who looked to be spending their spring break high on the weed, and that was about it. I snapped this picture of the public pool, still dry and empty of swimmers. Soon, soon, and yes, public pools for all! We have allowed ourselves so few shared resources–libraries, roads, and parks–and in Baltimore, even these feel under attack. If we’re going to have a state, I think I’d prefer a state that keeps parks and pool and libraries open, instead of one that funnels cash to the rich on the fantasy that they’ll pay for this stuff out of their own sense of goodwill. And then I pedaled home, put on a sweater, and was on to the next one.
Spring took a holiday on Tuesday, trading the 80 degree sunshine for cold wind, rain, and ice. I figured it couldn’t be serious and dressed entirely inappropriately, like one of those college kids who wear cargo shorts and flip flops as their year-round uniform, except mine is a skirt, t-shirt, and sweatshirt for those really wintry days. The morning commute was fine–the humidity and remaining warmth meant I got sweaty inside the ol’ rain coat, but otherwise, meh. Oh, but the commute home–the worst of the winter, really, proving the old adage from my pops that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. Fortunately, Brompty brought her rain gear and weathered it all fine. And in the end, I made it home, where I got to take a hot shower and cuddle up with some cats , and it felt all the better for the yuck outside. Yep, the worst day on the bike is better than the best day in the car.
N. texted to say she wished she was riding her bike today, a most excellent sign for a happy future on a bicycle, and I agreed, but she had to work, and so did I, so there you go. Fortunately, I bike to work, so I *did* get to ride on this blustery day. I zipped down the hill, folded up the bike, and got on the afternoon train. It’s a different train then. The commuters are already where they’re going, so this was all tourists and first timers, and I felt myself getting all superior and get-it-together-people like a real jerk. I took a deep breath, put down my Candy Crush machine, and looked around, wondering what we’re all missing now that we’re staring at our screens instead of idly chatting while we wait. And then it was my stop, a quick unfold and I was on my way, stopping to snap a picture of this corner that’s got itself all blinged out for spring. This is my first spring biking past this corner, and I made a note to myself to watch it this year for a full season of changes. So much new right now, so much new.
The park was buzzing with folks enjoying the 80+ degree day–walking dogs, teaching kids how to ride bikes and scooters, handholding and necking and springtimeromancing, jogging, picnicking, engagement-photo-shooting, and just generally being outside. I rode my bike there to meet N., who lo and behold got herself a bicycle that morning. Oh, what magic! What fantasy futures of riding together to the ball game and to get ice cream and out to the water to count ducklings! I’m happy to ride by myself–I prefer it, generally, because the bike is the one place I can reliably be alone, but also with strangers–the contact zones of the city open up when you get out of the car. Continue reading
Saturday was another sickeningly sweet day, so when N. suggested a trip to the spring flower show at the Rawlings Conservatory in Druid Hill Park and asked if I wanted to meet her there on my bike, the answer was an easy YES. I pedaled out without even a just-in-case sweatshirt, and I wasn’t the only one out there. The whole city seemed to have emerged in shorts and t-shirts and sunglasses, and I was happy to join them. I beat N. to the park, because bikes are faster than cars, especially when the car gives a guy who just missed the bus a ride to the train station–N. is such a peach. Continue reading