Staring Up at Public Housing at 22nd & Charles

Staring Up at Public Housing at 22nd & CharlesWednesday was beautiful but windy, and after a morning bike ride to Waverly and back to meet with R. and O., I spent the day inside, starting a new book and catching up on rest after a busy Tuesday. And then N. came home and asked if I wanted to go on a walk. Why yes, yes I would! I followed her lead up the hill and over and up and over, passing road construction on Charles, dogs walking in Wyman Park, non-Zip Car cars parked in Zip Car Only parking at Johns Hopkins, and the Jones Falls, that part you will never see if you stay in your car, or if you never get off your bike. She took me zig zagging down to Falls Road–those switchbacks are easier on foot than on wheels–and down to what counts as a waterfall in Baltimore City. I’ve been down that way a zillion times, but because there’s no bike path down to the deck overlooking the water, I’ve just never been that way–an excellent reminder to mix it up, because things look different at a walking pace. Like this high rise public housing complex in Station North. I usually notice it only from a distance, the blue of it against the blue sky. I thought it was painted blue, but up close you can see the blue’s the underskin, and now it’s getting its exoskeleton on. And then I think this one’s for sale. Baltimore is selling a bunch of its public housing, because it can’t afford the simple upkeep of the places. That’s a funny thing, though, this “can’t afford.” I mean, we can afford huge tax breaks for giant corporations. We can afford to deepen the harbor to let the huge ships that are being built to conquer the newly-deepened Panama Canal. We can afford to build new prisons on top of our old ones. We can afford blue light cameras and speed cameras and 4-6 cameras on every city bus. We can afford what we choose to afford, and what we choose to afford is never housing, even though housing is a human right. The idea is that the city and state haven’t been able to keep up these buildings, but private corporations will be able to do so. Again with the strange faith in private corporations! Is there any proof private entities “can afford” to offer quality affordable housing? Point me that way, please. And then we finished our walk home, a helpful reminder to slow down, look up, and listen more carefully, because this city’s rumbling.

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