Looking up at UM School of Dentistry at Baltimore & Pine

Looking up at a metal sculpture that stands out against tall glass and brick buildings. From this vantage point, I feel overwhelmed.

The weather has turned to fall, and I’m so incredibly grateful for it. I’ve run three times a week for most of the summer, and though I acclimated to the heat and humidity enough to not feel like I had to puke at the end of every run, it never got easy. So much of my body’s energy was working to keep me from overheating that little was left for the actual running. I found it all deeply uncomfortable, but I got enough good feelings out of it for it to have been worth it.

Now, it feels like I was swinging with a loaded bat for the past few months. I went for a run this morning, and I could keep my heart rate under control, even though I was running a minute faster than usual and going uphill. I’m sure I didn’t look like a gazelle, but I sure felt like a gazelle, and how I feel is definitely the most important thing, so i welcome and embrace the coming gazelle days, for sure.

The weather also makes bike riding easier, though riding in the summer heat and humidity is something I’m very used to doing. Also, on a bike you create your own breeze, so it’s so much more comfortable with running. And it’s more fun to ride in fall weather, so when the ladyfriend told me to get out of the house and on my bike yesterday, that’s what I did.

I wasn’t sure where I was headed after the quick stop at the post box around the corner, but I knew I’d head down the hill. I decided to check out downtown, see if it feels like people are “back to normal” yet.

I rolled down the hill, up, down again, and then into the Lombard bus/bike lane to University of Maryland Medical Center on Greene Street, just like the old days when this was my commute. The UMBC shuttle is up and running again, albeit on a more sporadic schedule. I stared at the stop for it, went down to MLK and looked up and down, didn’t see it. I love not having the commute I used to have, but I’d give anything to get back to it anyway.

I walked my bike up MLK for a block and then took a right on Baltimore, trying to get to a spot quiet enough to FaceTime with my sister. I flipped the camera around and showed her what I was seeing. That’s MLK down there, I said. The other side doesn’t look at all like this side, I said as I spun my phone to face up toward Greene Street. One side has money, the other side doesn’t. MLK cuts the city in half, and what side you land on makes all the difference.

And then I paused and looked up, snapped this picture of a metal sculpture against the brick and glass of University of Maryland’s School of Dentistry (the first in the country!). It was like being blocked in, and as I walked up Pine I had that sensation of being on a college campus, cut off from even the most immediate surroundings.

And that’s exactly what it’s like down here–you can be mere blocks from West Baltimore and all its marks of displacement and abandonment and have no idea. There are several blocks on the east side of MLK that are literally walled off. The geography divides and cuts and distributes resources, and both sides bear those marks.

I have written about this before, and I think about it every time I’m riding downtown or leading a walking tour with students or getting off the shuttle early to walk to my bike, all things that happened so much more often in the Before Pandemic days. Tuesday’s ride was a good reminder that I’ve got to keep riding my bike around town. It’s how I know I live here, and how I remember how many different lives are being lived in this place we all call Baltimore.

I rode home as fast as I could, just to see how fast I could go, not fast, but plenty fast for me. I’m grateful for time, health, and cooler temps and the runs and rides in my future.

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