Friday’s ride took me down the hill early to meet D. for coffee and a planning session for an independent study we’re working on together. We got to talking about how it feels to walk around Baltimore, what we so on foot that we don’t see in a car, and how at odds our rhetoric about movin’ on up is with the streets between here and there. And then we walked, me pushing my bike, east on North Avenue to the Great Blacks in Wax museum, where we wondered at the juxtaposition of Dred Scott and George Washington, the Middle Passage and Ancient Egypt and FUBU, and what the lawn jockeys were doing standing with Henry “Box” Brown. We parted ways a couple of hours later, her for a walk back west, and me for a ride downtown and east so I could clear my brain with fries and some college basketball. I zig zagged my way and found myself in the East Baltimore of the Hopkins redevelopment–Middle East. This area changes every day, it seems, but also nothing ever seems to change, except on this day, when the vacant homes were fenced off. I snapped this picture of a block filled with the brick piles of demolition, a last row of houses still standing. The pile smelled of the must that is in the very cells of some of these neighborhoods, and it held the signs of life still lived there–curtains, mattresses, kids’ toys, broken chairs. Rising behind them is the new development–a glass cube ready to hold students and young professionals who can walk to their new community garden guarded over by police lights and visit the corner store with a security guard standing on the store’s corner. I took a slow tour of the few blocks and thought to myself, “Hey, Re/Development, your bones are showing.” And then it was Butcher’s Hill and down the hill to Boston Street and a whole different world. Baltimore, you sure don’t hide your shit.
Safety Signs in Storage at 26th & Charles
Wednesday was another commute in a long week of commutes in crazy weather. I misread the reports and decked myself out for a monsoon, plastic pants and all. Yeah, I didn’t quite need those. The commute went off without incident, to and from, until I started up Charles from the station to home. Charles has been under construction for awhile now, inching closer and closer to North Avenue. This is a main drag of Baltimore’s White Stripe, and it was in terrible condition–time for a real fix, inconvenient and dusty as it might be. Continue reading
Tangles of Freeways Seen From the Middle Branch Trail of the Gwynns Falls Trail
It was sunny, dry, and over freezing, and I had a whole lot of errands to run, so I got to pull out the Surly and go for some rides today. It took less than a block on the bike to feel at home; I love Brompty, and she’s made life without a car so much easier, but oh, Surly, that’s my home bike. The first leg took me just a bit up the hill to Waverly to meet with O. and R. to talk about art and history and girls and cats. And then it was a zippy ride down the hill to meet with D. to drink coffee and talk about material culture and museums and representation and race. And then it was a slow pedal back up the hill for lunch with J. and to talk about the War of 1812 and the difference between “slave” and “servant” and what happens when you use them interchangeably. Yeah, I’ve got a pretty good life with pretty good people in it, and then it just got better. Continue reading
Crane in the Sky at Fleet and S. Central
Monday was crisp and beautiful, and oh it felt good to get out on a bike ride! I had errands to run, so I took the Surly and pedaled down this hill to Harbor East for some groceries before heading to Canton for a much-needed haircut (though I got the $17 hair “cut” I paid for–oh well). I hadn’t been in this part of town in awhile, because the weather’s been terrible for biking, and when it’s good, I kind of just want to go to a circle ride freely around it–Druid Hill Park, Lake Montebello, etc. Everything’s the same, mostly, and it felt good to feel at home. Continue reading
Road Work at 25th & Charles
Thursday’s ride was a repeat of Wednesday’s, but with an earlier start for a stop at the mechanic’s to move my car from the lot to the street to wait for its final ride over the Rainbow Bridge. It was freezing, and the guy said I must be “Ravens Strong” to ride my bike this morning. Well, sir, you just might be right. Now, if you were actually me, standing there wearing twelve layers of everything and knowing the sweat was going to start about 5 minutes into this little project, you might not be impressed, but hey, I’ll take it. The rest of the commute went smoothly, and the bike got me some good conversation with some MARC workers on the way home. The pedal up the hill from the station was a slow one, especially as I navigated the thick sand-like piles of salt at Charles and North. (Go on, go bike through sand. It’s a slow and wobbly go!) A water main burst the previous night, and that is not the first one, not by a long shot. We travel these streets without thinking about what’s underneath, but what’s underneath is clearly in a whole lot of trouble. But hey, they’d fixed it by mid-afternoon and covered it over with a big black rectangle of asphalt, so I guess we are good to go. I kept riding and stopped to take this picture at Charles and 25th, another patch job over another broken something. This project’s been going on for awhile, and I’m not sure what’s going on, but it is another of the many signs around here that what we don’t see beneath our feet is in serious trouble. The complaints are always about traffic, not about our crumbling infrastrucre, for which traffic is barely even canary yellow, much less the canary coal mine. And then I was home, stowing Brompty in the basement, kicking off my shoes and filling my water bottle from the tap and settling in to forget it all with some low quality television. Nothing to see here, folks, nothing to see here.
Casino Under Construction From the First Bridge on the Gwynns Falls Trail Behind Ravens Stadium
Last week’s heavy workload and heavier rains conspired to keep me off the bike for far too many days, so I was happy to have an open afternoon and cloudy but dry skies today for a longer ride. I headed up the hill for lunch and some football before heading down the hill to see what the football fans were doing at the stadium–hint: leaving early–and then I dodged traffic cones and wide-turners on my way to the Gwynns Falls Trail. It finally really feels like fall, but the greens are still mostly green and the overgrowth is still overgrown. Continue reading
Leaking Water at 36th & Falls Road
The rain stopped today, so I stayed dry on my ride up to Hampden to meet N. for beer, fried things, and some football. We got there early to grab seats, and we waited for the sports bar–a place covered in televisions and filled with purple jerseys–to turn up the sound. A guy asked if they’d turn on the sound, and the server asked, “Which game?” I think this might be a sports bar opened by hipsters who don’t actually watch sports, but once we were all sorted, we were set. Continue reading
Preparing to Pour Cement at Bethel & Fleet
It was another gray day in Baltimore, and as soon as I got on the bike I felt raindrops. They weren’t the kind of raindrops that stayed–those would come later–and it felt good to just be flying down the hill in less than full summer heat. I rode down, took my left and my right, dodged some mail trucks, took another left and a right, and I was retracing familiar steps. I thought about why these familiar steps are never in the west–I blame MLK (the street, not the man)–and then I parked my bike and ate the kind of breakfast that you know you’re supposed to think is amazing, but really you shouldn’t have to ask that many times for a biscuit that’s more like a very, very plain crumbly muffin with jam that just doesn’t hold up. On my way I stopped to snap this picture of construction in Fells Point. It’s almost time to pour the cement, I think, the ground traced with steel bars. There are cranes in the sky down here. Every time I see cranes in the sky, I remember that’s what they said about New Orleans–there would be cranes in the sky, but that didn’t happen. Something else is happening there now. I walked down to the pier, sat and watched the water taxi come and go, and then it was back on the bike to the Inner Harbor and around to Locust Point for a couple of errands before a speedy trip home. Those last few miles were my favorite of the day, up and down, up and down, hitting my stride, waving my hellos.
Scrap Metal at Cambridge Iron and Metal Recycling Center at O’Donnell & S. Haven
Finally, I had an afternoon free enough to ride a bicycle around, so after work and talk and work, I took the Surly out for a ride. We went down the hill with traffic and then a left and a right and a left again to Fells Point and past all the new construction, gravel pits ringed by facade walls saved for history. A quck snack and I was off again, toward Patterson Park for loops with seemingly all the dogs and babies in Baltimore, plus soccer and softball and kickball leagues, all divided by age and race and income, it seemed. I headed east through Highlandtown and the dead end at Haven Street, which leades to all the really good stuff, like this, piles and piles of discarded metal bits and sheets, from what, I’m not sure, but cameras are watching, so don’t even think about it. I went under an underpass, no idea where I would shoot out, and rode around a development ringed by its own gravel pits, surprised to find the kickball demographic there. We had talked in my class that day about how places are temporary resolutions of struggle, and I wondered what will happen as that demographic hits up against the manufacturing corridor, and who will have to move where. I’m guessing the heavy metal that has been piling up since 1909 will be a hard limit, but you never know. And then I was in Greektown, found again. I pedaled back toward home on signed bike routes and a date for pizza with friends, happy to have been lost, if only for a short bit. Getting lost feels like home, and its good to be here.
A Crane in the Sky in Downtown Boise
Today’s ride took me down the hill to meet the other half of the family for a little pre-ride lunch before hitting up the movies. Well, I got the lunch in, but I spent my ride time on the phone, pushing my bicycle along Harrison before sitting myself down on a park bench in that little traffic circle that leads to State Street, Albertson’s, or Boise High. And then the phone call was over for good and I got on the bike and pedaled through downtown and over to BODO, which used to just be 8th Street but is now all fancified with an Urban Outfitters, fancy coffee, and a movie theater. I locked up the bike with the lock I brought from home, uncritically cried my way through the movie (I needed that), and then rode back to home, a quick stop for another phone call from a park bench in The Grove. I snapped this picture from there, crane in the sky over that hole that has been downtown for as long as I can remember. In some ways all places are the same, projects unfinished because somebody ran out of time, money, permission, or something, but there’s always hope (or dread) that cranes will return. It was a short ride today, but I needed it. I’m back to Baltimore tomorrow, and I can’t wait to take the Surly out for a long ride, just the two of us.