Top Golf Coming Soon at Stockholm & Warner Streets

Top Golf Coming Soon at Stockholm & Warner Streets

Wednesday promised to be hot and windy, so perfect conditions for a bike ride, I guess. I woke up feeling just so sad. There’s so much sadness right now, and it hits me in unpredictable waves. I had to give a presentation at noon, so I just hoped I’d get all my tears out by then so I could talk with a solid voice for an hour to UMBC colleagues and students. I managed to do that, and, as always, spending an hour with smart people talking about smart things lifted my mood, in spite of the nerves that preceded it. I hardly ever get nervous about anything, so even that part was surprising.

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Looking up Gay Street Toward Baltimore Street

Looking up Gay Street Toward Baltimore Street

Monday’s weather was perfect for a bike ride–sunny, cool enough, light breeze–and I had time to take one. I hopped on and headed downtown to see what the previous few nights of unrest might have left on the streets. I saw quickly that one thing that was left was a whole bunch of cops. I zipped down Maryland and saw a group gathered in the courtyard by University of Baltimore, and then walking in a group up Cathedral, taking a right on Chase. And then there were cop cars and vans on almost every street.

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Looking Down the Pier at Fells Point

Looking Down the Pier at Fells Point

Monday was Memorial Day, and instead of hanging out with family in Michigan as planned, the ladyfriend and I were home in Baltimore, as usual. I’m still at home almost all the time. I go out every day for some exercise and sunshine, and once every ten days or so I go to the grocery store, but otherwise my life is completely home and online.

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Peeking Through the Fence at Lexington Market From Paca & Lexington

Peeking Through the Fence at Lexington Market From Paca & Lexington

Here we are, another week into quarantine. I regularly ask my students in our online course meetings if things are getting harder or easier. A. said a few weeks ago that things are mostly just getting weirder, and I totally agree with her. I remain in total disbelief that this is happening.

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Housewerks Salvage at Bayard & Hamburg

Housewerks Salvage at Bayard & Hamburg

I was feeling kind of blue on Monday, not for any real reason, but you know how it is. I find that all my irritation, frustration, anger, fear, despair…it gets laser focused on some tiny thing in my life that isn’t important at all in the scheme of things, but in a moment can get me so down. Right now, it’s the part where we got a new couch in January, it was delivered at the start of the lockdown, and the legs don’t fit, and so we’ve got a fancy couch sitting on the floor, and we may be sitting on the floor for months and months.

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Looking Down 33rd Street From Elm Street

Looking Down 33rd Street From Elm Street

Every day is the same, and the sameness is grinding. I’m incredibly routinized in general, and it took me only a few days to have a brand new quarantine routine. I still get up at the same time every day, but instead of commuting to work I read a book for awhile and then dither around on the internet. I next join my 8am Zoom Cat Chat group and then my Zoom writing group and attempt to put words on the page for two hours. That’s what I’m doing right now–putting words down for a little bit of time every day. This morning’s words are here.

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Charlcote House at Charlcote Place & Greenway

Charlcote House at Charlcote Place & Greenway

I can’t tell if this stay-at-home thing is getting to feel normal. I’m not gripped with fear and panic like I was three weeks ago, but I still can’t look more than a few days ahead. I’ve got to snap out of that at some point, because this isn’t only a present disaster. It’s a past disaster–we see that in the disproportionate rate of death facing communities long marginalized from access to the things that make your immune system strong: access to primary health care and nourishing food, time for sleep, and the financial ability to actually stay at home.

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Looking Up at Friends in a Window at Chesapeake Commons at Howard & Centre Streets

Looking up at a window at Chesapeake Commons at Howard & Centre Streets

It is an absolutely beautiful day in Baltimore, and it sucks to have to spend most of it inside. Outside feels increasingly dangerous to me. I think it’s the new relatively new call to wear a mask when outside. It’s an acknowledgement that this virus is invisible and could be hanging in the air anywhere, that not even standing all by yourself on a street corner is guard against it. And the masks we’re told to make ourselves, out of cotton, maybe with a coffee or furnace filter stuck in there, will only stop a relatively small percentage of those viruses from getting in. Wear a mask, but not a mask that actually works, because those are (absolutely rightly!) for folks working directly with patients.

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Blue Skies Over McKeldin Square at Pratt & Light Streets

McKeldin Square

I didn’t have a lot of time for a bike ride on Friday, thanks to a writing date, a phone call, and a couple of meetings that broke up my day. Friday was the end of week three of this stay-inside-work-from-home business, and parts of my life are moving along in deceptively normal ways. The deception is that it’s normal.

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Flowering Trees at Riggs & N. Carey Streets and Along Blythewood Road

Flower trees at Riggs & N. Carey Streets

I took a bike ride on Friday, heading over to Bolton Hill to peek through the window and say hi to S., who has been on total lockdown and under the weather for nearly two weeks. She also promised a lot of good looking flower trees–my favorite spring treat–in exchange, and I was not disappointed. I also got to use the protected bike lane along Mount Royal Avenue for the first time. It’s great that it’s there, but it’s so short. Alas.

After I left S.’s place, I made a quick stop at the hardware store–it was closed–and then rode around West Baltimore for a bit. Because I haven’t been riding much other than to go to and from work, I hadn’t been over here in quite awhile. The quick changes of Baltimore neighborhoods are especially stark in Bolton Hill, where a few blocks later you are in Marble Hill, and then you’re in West Baltimore, one of the most disenfranchised parts of the city. I can’t describe the shift, but trust me–it is profound, and dissonant.

I rode around with no real destination, taking turns when I wanted to, looking to see if I could see what COVID-19 looks like here, but it just looked like a spring Friday afternoon–flower trees like the ones in this picture blooming, people out strolling, small crowds near the doors of corner stores, people sitting on their stoops. I said my how you doin’s, got the nods back, and one guy yelled after me, “Hey, is it bike party?” I yelled back, “Personal bike party! Just me on my bike!” White people riding bikes over here likely mostly only happens when it’s Bike Party.

I remembered my first bike ride to the Poe House in southwest Baltimore. I couldn’t find it and just kept pedaling up and down the blocks until a guy yelled out, “It’s right over there, end of the block.” No reason I’d be there other than that. Racial and class segregation is real here, and if you don’t see it, you aren’t looking.

My next trip outside was my long run on Sunday–a whole six miles. My habit is to start my run going uphill to save the downhill for the second half of the run, so I’m often running up into Guilford and Roland Park. These neighborhoods are on another planet from where I was biking on Friday. Mansions, expansive lawns tended by people who don’t live here, tidy private gardens, street names like “Greenway,” “Rugby,” and “Tuscany,” it’s hard to believe I’m just a few miles from home.

I took this picture of flowering trees as I ran down Blythewood to see where it ended:

Flower tree and fancy house along Blythewood

The background for this tree is so different than the one in my other picture. What COVID-19 means up here is so different from what it means over there. A virus doesn’t discriminate, but people do, and some of us have roomy homes to shelter in, big yards to exercise in, ways to safely and comfortably be outside, access to health care that sets us up to survive the virus better than others. A six mile circuit from my house will swing me through 20 years of life expectancy. That was true before this virus, and I fear it will be true after, if we don’t use this crisis to make a different world. I know others plan to use this crisis for an even greater consolidation of wealth.

Today Governor Hogan declared a stay-at-home order. I can still run and ride my bike alone, so I’ll still be out there. And I am exceedingly aware of the privilege I have for my worry to be whether or not I can do those things. Figuring out how to pay rent, how to get groceries when you aren’t supposed to take public transit, how to teach kids while working from home yourself, how to take care of oneself when sickness hits…staying at home means such different things to people, and remembering that will hopefully help us help each other in the ways we need to be helped. So many cracks to fall through right now, we have to step lightly.