Peeking Over the Wall at St. Paul Cemetery at O’Donnell & Bonsai Streets

A small old brick building is set against a blue sky. A low brick wall extends along the sidewalk. On the other side is a cemetery.

This 2020 election has been a real doozy. I spent most of last week glued to the TV or Twitter while telling myself that neither of those things were helping. I was so exhausted on Wednesday, but woke up to roll into three straight hours of engaging with other people, something I was frankly in no shape to do. I wandered around for the rest of the afternoon in a daze, feeling like an empty husk of a person. I cannot control what I cannot control–and wow that includes the outcome of a presidential election, but the stakes are so high I struggled with the mindfulness practices that usually help. It’s like when I got cancer; “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” stopped soothing anything.

I stumbled through Thursday with my intrepid students who showed up to my optional classes, some to talk about the reading, others to just be with each other. My refrain to them (and to myself): No matter what happens, we have each other. We have to keep figuring out how to really and truly have each other. No one is coming to save us.

Friday was another day of zombie-ing through meetings, though the anxiety was starting to wear off. And then Saturday. I was out on my porch enjoying a frightfully warm November morning when N. and B. popped over from their walk to say hi. J. came out on his porch, D. and R. too, and then all the neighbors. I love neighbors and porches more than I can express. And then people started cheering, and we learned the election had been called. The ladyfriend grabbed our cowbell to ring as we celebrated a great anniversary present. Nothing’s over, and Biden and Harris certainly aren’t here to save us, but honestly, overturning the ban on immigration from majority-Muslim countries alone makes the outcome worth celebrating.

The neighborhood was full of joy, reanimated every time a car drove down our street and honked or cheered out their windows. I had a drink before noon, and for someone who barely drinks at all, that was a big deal. I decided to take a bike ride to see what other parts of the city were doing. I was getting texts with videos and the sounds of Brooklyn and DC from my siblings, and I wondered if Baltimore was spontaneously gathering, too.

My first stop down the hill was War Memorial Plaza, because you can usually find a group gathering there on days without big news, too. There were a couple small pockets of folks, but no crowd gathering. I headed south and east, through Jonestown and Perkins Homes and Patterson Park, which was absolutely packed. I rolled through Highlandtown and Canton, wondering at the few Trump flags flying. I wonder if those hanging those flags understand how for a lot of us, that’s a flag of hate and violence. I wonder if they could even hear that.

I stopped at Haven Street to take some pictures, and a line of cyclists rode through on a group ride. We rang our bells at each other, and someone yelled my name, though with all the masks I am not sure who it was. (Hi, friend-I-did-not-recognize!) I considered joining them, but I was having such a lovely time being on my own on my bike that I took a right instead.

A left on Boston Street, over the railroad tracks, a right on Ponca to Holabird, past the Amazon warehouses with flaggers directing traffic into their parking lots, and then I was at Broening Highway. The asphalt here is smooth as ice, and I took the bike lane to its end. I took a right at O’Donnell and made the parking lane a bike lane. I was a little bit lost. A little bit lost is my very favorite way to be.

I stopped to take this picture of St. Paul Cemetery and its fall colors, because I thought it was beautiful, and I hadn’t seen it before. There’s so much I haven’t seen before, and the bike ride reminded me that there’s still so much of Baltimore I want to explore. I love this city.

And then I hopped back on, negotiated the cars at the travel plaza without getting hit, and started for home. I zig zagged through east Baltimore, saying my how-you-doin’s to the many people sitting on stoops and sidewalks enjoying the perfect weather by shooting the shit, grilling, and washing cars. Such a lovely Saturday in Baltimore.

When I finally rolled home I was tired out, which was just what I needed. I was still elated at the election result, but I was also reminded by my ride that no matter who the president is, Baltimore will still look like it does. Amazon will still be one of the few places hiring in town. The forced displacement of people from East Baltimore will still have happened–and will still be happening. The massive inequalities of wealth that you can see in just a mile or two in Baltimore will keep on widening as the pandemic means some of us safely work from home while others are paid pennies to risk their own lives to deliver us pretty much anything we want. The global pandemic is still here, as is capitalism, doing its work.

There is so much still and always to do. And Saturday was a day of joy for many people, and you’ve got to catch it when you can. It’s far too fleeting, and without it, how would one keep going? To celebrate doesn’t mean to forget long histories and local challenges and the need to take care of each other.

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