I took my bicycle to DC last weekend. I used public transportation to get there and back, and while riding around DC, I ate lunch at a restaurant, sitting outside, pulling my mask down just for bites. It felt like being a tourist at the end of the world. The place was empty, except for the gloriously alive Black Lives Matter Plaza by the White House and the streams of local runners making their pretty much everywhere. I don’t know how they do it in the middle of the day, but there you go.Continue reading
I haven’t blogged in awhile, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been biking. It’s absolutely biking season in Baltimore–cooler temps, still light out after six, and besides, biking is the best way to get around. Most of my rides have been to and from work or to and from the place where I get my haircut, but at least once a week I’ve managed to take the long way and get just lost enough.
It’s summertime, summer school is over, and this is the time when I tend to get restless and glum. I work best when I’ve got stuff to do, so if I’m not careful, unscheduled time can get the best of me, stealing from me this valuable time to let my mind range freely, read new things, and make new connections. I’ve learned this over the past zillion summers, so I make sure to schedule things work, writing, and relaxing-related. Today’s schedule featured a bike ride over to the Be Free Floating in West Baltimore for my second trip in their sensory deprivation tank.
On Saturday morning I packed the Brompton into its suitcase, headed to the airport (thanks for the ride, ladyfriend!), and flew to Detroit for a few days of bicycling and learning about how another postindustrial city is doing its public memory. It’s pretty much a dream vacation for me–bikes, cities, history, bikes, waterfronts, history, beer in the afternoon–magic. I spent my Sunday getting my bearings. I first walked around in circles for almost a full half hour before finding my way to the coffee shop and bakery that was two blocks away. Then I went a couple miles out of my way trying to find my first stop: the Detroit Historical Society. Eventually I found it, and I locked up Brompty to a well-designed bike rack, and headed inside.
Friday was a hard day. Alton Sterling was shot and killed by police while selling CDs outside a convenience store. Philando Castile was shot at a traffic stop, his girlfriend filming as her 4 year old child sat in the back seat. These were the latest two in a year that has already seen over 500 people shot and killed by police officers. And then shots rang out in Dallas, more people dead, more lives plunged into the heavy ocean waves of despair. Layers upon layers of loss, each one all about politics, and also about the individuals with lives cut short, the people who loved them left, after the cameras turn off, with the void of death. It’s so very permanent, and the grief will never ever fully subside. It is so, so sad, and angering, and it makes me want to melt down all the guns and freeze time until we can figure out how to uproot what Judith Butler calls schematic racism: the settled notion that all Black people are a threat and all white people need constant police protection from them. There’s a lot of other stuff we need to do, too, but that’s what was on my mind as I headed out on a bike ride on Friday.
School’s out for summer–or until summer school, anyway. I’ve still got plenty of grading and summer course planning to do, but I started the week jubilant with the feeling that yes, I made it through that tough semester, the students survived and learned some things even if I wasn’t at my best, and I’ll never have to do the first semester after my dad was killed ever again. That part is both happy and sad–happy because days are so much better than they were at the start of the term, and sad because as time passes, he’s still gone. It’s nuts to me that he’s dead and doesn’t even know it. But I digress.
It was another spring-like fall day in Baltimore on Tuesday, and I had a few spare hours in the afternoon for a bike ride. I left the house with vague plans for ice cream, but I took a left instead of a right at the intersection of the grocery store and hardware store, and ended up heading south and east on streets I’m not used to–the very best. Continue reading
Thursday’s ride took me all over town, up to the Arcadia neighborhood in the other side of Lake Montebello to talk about what the city might look like of we prioritized the quality of the soil and worked out way up from there and then down to Southwest Baltimore for a ride around that neighborhood and a reminder of the power of MLK Avenue to slice a city in two, and then up to Charles Village for coffee with a filmmaker and a chat about what, if anything, has changed since theorist. My answer: I don’t know. It was the perfect day for a ride, all sunshine and blue skies, and I was grateful to have so many places to be and a bike to ride to get between them. West Baltimore was so unlike the other places I rode to and through on this day– so many vacant properties, so few throughways to the city on the other side of the street, so many different scars from urban renewal and subsequent attempts to renew again. I snapped this picture of advertising on the side of one of the many crumbling buildings over here. Steve Jobs changed everything, I think that movie argues. Lots of things changed everything, I thought, depending on who and where you are and what you’re looking at. What do people see when they see this place, and what change it’s visible to whom? I capped off the day with a drink before riding back home, best Thursday in awhile.
Tuesday saw me back on the commute, riding down the hill and right and down and right and right again to the bike racks at the University of Maryland Medical Center. It’s all car dodging until the left onto Eutaw when I hit what my head calls “the ped zone.” The Westside is bustling at this time of the morning, and the pedestrians are the least predictable of us all. I respect the refusal to honor the supposed god-given rights of cars, even though it can be frustrating to have to dodge everybody when I have the right of way. And every morning I think to myself, can we stop pretending like this part of West Baltimore is dying on the vine. It’s the busiest part of the city bar the Inner Harbor, at least in my experience.
But anyway, I locked up my bike next the rack that has a lock locked onto it–is some bicyclist saving that rack with his lock, and why do I never lock up to that rack even though it’s public and you can’t “save” it–and got on the shuttle to campus for a long day of busywork until the shuttle ride back to the city. I had to pee the second I got off the shuttle, and since we’ve built a world in which even though we all have to pee, we can only pee if we’re in our own home, workplace, or in a place where we’ve purchased something, I popped into a coffee shop on Pratt Street, bought an 85 cent bag of cheese curls, and peed in their upstairs bathroom before walking back to my bike, stuffing said cheese curls in my mouth at a truly astonishing rate. I snapped this picture on my walk when I noticed the words “Indian Pavilion” running down what appears to be an empty building next to a parking lot. First thought: Worst Indian pavilion ever. Second thought: What’s an Indian pavilion, and why would there be one on Pratt Street? Turns out this used to be a restaurant, back in the 1990s. I’m not sure when it closed, or if it has been/is/will be something else, but it was a good reminder, again (Baltimore has no shortage of this particular reminder), how close busy and vibrant always is to the scars of failed capitalism. And then I licked the cheese dust off my fingers, got back on my bike, and rode up the hill to home.
Friday was one of those perfect bike riding days, first up to Roland Park for a therapy appointment and then back down the hill to treat myself to a grilled cheese sandwich and fries before riding up to Federal Hill to meet O. and her mom at her art studio where they were working on a project that is taking a precision and patience that I could never show. I stopped early on Light Street to lock up at a real rack and take a leisurely stroll up the hill. Federal Hill is all bars and restaurants and specialty dog stores and frozen yogurt and vape shoppes, what what is left after gentrification–or urban change, as I’m starting to call it in my head so I don’t jump to conclusions just based on a word–pushes on through. Continue reading