It is April in February, which means many days of breaking my father’s rule to never start a bike ride in the rain. That’s generally good advice, but that would mean a whole lot of time waiting for buses, and when the weather keeps spitting rather than downpouring, I’m generally up for the risk. I’ve been riding in lots of rain, just with my raincoat on and that little cycling cap that I used to think people wore to look cool when riding a bike, but which I now understand is pitched just right to keep the rain off my glasses. So yeah, I’ve been looking like a cyclist lately, and one willing to get soggy in order to maintain some modicum of control over where I’m going, and when I’m going to get there.
It had been far too long since I got a ride in that took me on streets I don’t know well to nowhere in particular. Those are the rides that help me feel most like myself, and without them, I was starting to feel not quite at home with myself. Friday afternoon found me with some unexpected time to myself, so I headed west to see what I might see.
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.
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.
Thursday at 10am, that’s what time the judge in the bench trial of Caesar Goodson was set to rule. Thursday at 10am, the third trial of the cops indicted in Freddie Gray’s murder. Gray was walking around his neighborhood that day in April 2015, and then he was chased by cops, dragged into a van, driven several stops, and arrived at the police station with a neck that “felt crumbly, like a box of rocks.” And yet here we are, more than a year later, a mistrial and an acquittal, and nobody thought this next decision would be anything but an acquittal. Folks are blaming the prosecutor, the police, the media, “the system,” and here we are, another acquittal announced 23 minutes late.
Saturday was another lovely spring day framed by the ugliness of being in a city under martial law. I spent the day catching up on this and that, and then I was back on the bike, heading south and east and south and east again, through Clifton Park, East Baltimore, and down to Patterson Park for an art opening at the Creative Alliance. It felt like a regular spring Saturday in spite of it all–people sitting out on their porches and stoops, kids playing ball disturbingly close to car traffic, folks running car washes out front of their homes. Continue reading
I had a bunch of meetings on Friday, so after spending the morning doing a wee bit of writing, I hopped on the bike and headed down to the west side to catch the shuttle to work. Because the police state that is Baltimore-under-curfew is confined to only certain neighborhoods, my ride downtown through Charles Village, Station North, and Mount Vernon was fairly cop-free, until I took the right and left toward Lexington Market. Continue reading