It’s flower tree season in Baltimore, and because I don’t have allergies, it is my favorite season. I have lived here long enough to have my favorite spots–the pink ones that always seem to bloom first in front of the University of Maryland School of Nursing; the puffy white trees in front of the old phone company building that is now apartments on 31st and Guilford; the tunnel of pink ones that make the ride up Charles or Guilford spring magic. And then there’s this bunch of trees, right where Fallsway and E. Monument Street meet.
I have spent a whole lot of time looking at these trees and this park as I wait at this red light as cars speed east or north during rush hour. Sometimes people are giving out food in that park. I’ve seen picnics there, tents, parked police vans on the lawn, trash, and fenders thrown from accidents over to this open space. There are a lot of lives going on in that triangle there.
Across the street from here is a congregate living shelter that has only just reopened. I’m not sure if it is for overnight housing, or just for day services. Behind here is the lot for towed cars–I’ve helped bust one out of there some years ago. Catty-corner from here is the Penthouse Club, used to be Scores. They dress up the concrete lions outside for the holidays. Heading east from here will take you through just a couple of the prisons and jails in this little area; heading north, as I always do from here, takes you past the rest.
There’s so much happening on these few streets, reminders of the individualization of social disorder. Homelessness and incarceration put individuals under surveillance, in cages, or in lines, but the causes of these things are structural. We won’t cage ourselves out of poverty and the effects of it, no matter how many buildings of cages we build here, under the bridge to the freeway, sandwiched between the wealth of Johns Hopkins and the wealth of downtown.
It’s all complicated and hard, but these trees bloom every spring, just like this. Just beautiful. The red light turned green, and I did a slow and tired Tuesday ride back up to home. One problem with riding the same route over and over again is you can stop seeing things, so I’m grateful for the spring punctuation that makes me look at this stretch again and anew.