Community Gardens in “Eager Park” in Middle East at Durham & Chase

Community Gardens in "Eager Park" in Middle East at Durham & ChaseIt was a shockingly beautiful day, and I spent much of it on my bike, skirt waving and bare arms under a sunny sky. For the first time in a very, very long time I was on my bike with nowhere in particular to go. My first stop was in Station North for a long overdue lunch with R. We parted ways in the early afternoon, and I headed down the hill, taking the first left I could from Guilford past Mount Royal, on Biddle Street, to snake my way south and east, south and east to see the sights of east Baltimore on a perfect day. Neighborhoods change fast over here, and so many of them are filled with vacant homes, boarded up, smashed-out windows, signs of the flood that’s been hitting here for decades. The day was the kind that brings folks out of their homes in every neighborhood, though, so the streets were filled with people sitting on their stoops, kids on spring break scootering up and down their streets, and the occasional sidewalk grill pumping out hot dogs for the rest of the block. I said my how you doin’s, smiled at the thought of how many days just like this I have in my future, and had flashes of riding around New Orleans–I get those whenever it’s warm again after a long winter, my body remembering the ride out St. Claude in every cell. And then I was in Middle East, in that park they put in here after tearing up the neighborhood for new development. I rolled up to a picnic table and sat down to snap this picture of the raised bed against the ever-rising Johns Hopkins behemoth. Now, I love a good community garden–who doesn’t? There’s something unsettling about this one, though. Maybe it’s the police floodlights on the edge of the park, or the boarded-up houses to the right that have cheery facades painted on them to pretty them up as they wait their turn on the chopping block as EBDI does its business. Sure, we haven’t built the new housing we promised you, but hey, here’s a garden! They’re even rebranding this neighborhood, changing the name from Middle East to Eager Park after a branding company came in to shine up the place. When they were picking a name, the developers wanted to make sure the new name wouldn’t have “‘unhelpful associations,’ meaning it had to avoid “connections to places, people or organizations with reputations that could damage or overshadow the positive associations we want to create — e.g. not Wire Park, Conflict Park, or Middle East Park.” The places we live, where we have our histories and our roots, sometimes they’re just rebranded, as if a few raised beds can put the community in the community garden. Turn around, though, and the losses are right there. And then I got back on my bike, zig zagged to froyo, sat in another park to watch dogs, and then headed home. Good to see you again, Baltimore.

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