Baynard Woods Reading at SoWeBo Fest at S. Carlton & W. Baltimore Street

Picture of a white man in salmon pink pants, a blue t-shirt, and a blue button up over the top of it. He's standing at the end of a long platform set up on grass that leads to a stage where string musicians are setting up. There are tents on either side, and a kid standing with a hula hoop. The sky is bright blue with just a few puffy white clouds.

It’s summertime in Baltimore, and SoWeBo Fest is back after a two year covid hiatus. I slathered myself with sunscreen and hopped on the bike to check out the scene and take the new North Avenue cycletrack for the first time. North Ave is generally a death wish on a bike, but the new paint and concrete curb got me feeling all brave. I don’t trust anybody at any intersection, and I doubled down on that for this ride, slowing, stopping, waiting, waving my arms, yelling. I know that being seen is no guarantee, but it’s what I have.

And then I was back on my regular West Baltimore route–west on Lafayette, up, down, up, down, take a left when you feel like it, cross the Highway to Nowhere, go south and west until you see crowds or Hollins Market, and then you’ll be at SOWEBO Fest. I rolled up to the market, took a left to the bike racks, and was instantly in a puppet show. I gave V. a squeeze, wandered around, said my hellos until I settled against a set of stairs by myself to listen to a Baltimore rock band and people watch.

And there was so, so much watching, so many different kinds of people out and about. Sharing space with strangers, can’t be beat in my book. I swayed along, clapped, did some wooing, and then it was time for a funnel cake and a dj, and then over to hear my friend read from his book Inheritance: An Autobiography of Whiteness, coming out in June. So many hellos to so many people I haven’t seen in so long, all of us sweating and breathing, eyes darting to see who else can be seen. Spilly was there with his hula hoops, hooping, getting us all to give it a go. An older man I had just met dropped a bunch of old man wisdom on me, told me to be careful, promised the stars are aligning for good communication, just gotta wait, words from an old hippie who reminded me of my dad. There were musicians accompanying Baynard, reading on this stage on a hot day in west Baltimore. Just go with it. I will read his book and hear him read it for us so many times, but this was the first time, and I was glad I was there.

And then it was time to head home, slowly but surely up the hill in heat that would feel temperate when the next couple of days threw a hot haze over everything. In through the basement, up the stairs, everything soaking wet, a cold seltzer, a ceiling fan on high, and summer is here.

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