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 didn’t have to go in to campus on Wednesday, so I spent my morning answering a thousand emails and grading a thousand this and thats until it was time to head downtown to meet C. for lunch. I took it easy, letting the bike carry me down the hill and to the left, down the Fallsway bike path and left again through Little Italy before taking a right on Central Avenue to enjoy that weird shifting bike lane down to our lunch date. Central Avenue has a bike lane that feels like nobody really planned it, they just thought they’d throw down some paint. I appreciate that after crossing Fleet, it shifts to the middle, between the straight and turn lane, but cars still don’t seem to expect me to follow that lane. And then it runs next to back-in parking and ends up taken over by the front of all those cars. Like I said, it’s a great idea to have a lane here, but yeah. I locked up my bike to a parking meter, because bike racks are still a rare thing around these parts, though there are plenty of bikes riding all over downtown. C. and I had a lovely lunch, spent mostly with him answering my zillion questions about Zipcar. He works there now, and it turned out I had a lot more questions than I thought I did about car sharing. Who cleans the car? What happens if I report low gas in a car? Is the extra insurance really worth it? (I decided that I’m finally middle class enough to start buying my way out of risk–quite the revelation.) Who names the cars? Who joins up? How do you talk folks into sharing instead of buying a car? Did they give him that logo jacket, or did he have to buy it? (They gave it to him.) And then I got a tour of the office–all open floor plan, filled with bikes and Red Bull, I even met a couple of the guys who keep all those cars clean–it was like seeing behind the curtain. I love my car share membership, even though I don’t use it all that often. Every time I go to book a car I see the actual cost of driving, and I have to stop and think: do I really need a car to do what I’m about to do? Almost always the answer is NO, but sometimes the answer is yes, and I book my car, a little extra time to go through a drive thru, because that’s what cars are really for, if you ask me. Zipcar means I don’t have to own a car, but I can still drive a car if I need to–total win, and I wish everyone would give up their cars–doesn’t yours mostly sit around all day anyway?–and jump on board with the sharing plan.
And then I wandered around the neighborhood, checking out the construction at Harbor Point(e), already missing the open view of the water, now obscured by the tall buildings going up to provide more expensive housing for people I am not entirely sure exist. I stopped at the Whole Foods for some bulk groceries and got back on the bike to head home. It’s the time of year where every ride feels like nostalgia for summertime when I take these rides much more often, and it was good to be on another old route. And then I had to jog into the traffic lane on Central because the bike lane is now valet parking for the Hyatt, another building that’s blocking the view. Talk about a total buzzkill. Urban change is always happening, whether we call it gentrification or development or something else, and loss is always a part of that change. For me, this is what the losses looked like on Wednesday–not the biggest ones by any means, but losses nonetheless.
I’m still swamped at work in advance of a conference this weekend, so alas, Sunday’s bike ride had to end in getting some work done. Fortunately, A. needed a delivery of some packages from campus, and she lives out in Federal Hill, so I used that errand as an excuse to stretch my legs a little. It was unseasonably warm–the other cyclist waiting at the light at 32nd and Greenmount agreed that our jackets meant we were both overdressed–and I happily let the breeze touch my bare legs as I sped over and down the hill. Continue reading
Saturday was picture-perfect, and I spent the latter part of it on the bike with O., who brought a map to lead us on a tour of trees in northwest Baltimore. O. is a smarty pants artist, really clever and creative, and she’s doing a project you’ll just have to wait to find out about, but let me give you this hint: the tree canopy varies neighborhood by neighborhood, block by block, and trees take an awfully long time to grow, so you can bet something fishy’s been going on for an awfully long time. We said our how you doin’s as we biked around Middle East, Butcher’s Hill, Patterson Park, and other neighborhoods, stopping at tree after tree, talking about how grant money let’s some people profit from the misery of others and can create perverse incentives to keep that misery going; whether or not you can escape the narrowed vision of being born rich; what happens when we aestheticize blight; how that one patch of green in an alley in Middle East could feel so peaceful; if seeing that cute little groundhog meant winter was really, truly, finally over; and, among other things, how proud we are of quitting smoking, because that was pretty much the hardest thing ever, on a personal level. Addiction must be experienced to be understood, and it is outside of all your rational arguments, choices, ideas for solving it. I snapped this picture as we rode through Old Town Mall, bustling, in parts, on this perfect Saturday. Most of it, though, looks like Night of the Comet, many years on, including this storefront with a tree growing out of the window. I wonder if McHenry Row will be the next generation’s Old Town Mall, or if we fancy today’s development is immune to the total disinvestment that leaves places like this in its wake. And then we parted ways as I took my left to home and she kept up the hill, both of us, I think, feeling very fortunate that we get to see this hard city together.
The weather today was perfect for bicycling, so I dragged myself out of my Saturday lazy bed and took the Surly down the hill for a quick run through the gym and then back up the hill to home for lunch before heading back out and down the hill again to the Baltimore Book Fair. I love books and I love fairs, and though I miss the baby animal barn, this event’s kind of made for me. Traffic was terrible in Mt. Vernon, so I got off the bike and walked a few blocks before locking up to a street sign. The lack of bike parking in Mt. Vernon, a biking and walking neighborhood, is pretty amazing. But anyway. I got myself a soft serve cone to put a little “fair” in the occasion before settling to hear Dean Spade and Laura Whitehorn speed through some big, tough questions to the delight of (most of) the crowd. After some wanderings and some snack with some very old friends-like, we used to watch General Hospital together friends-it was time to get back on the bike and head home. I snapped this picture on my way, of one of those Easter Island heads sharing an empty lot with an old bed frame that I think is art too. There used to be a sign advertising new condos here, but that’s gone; maybe the condos are on their way. Today’s ride was mostly about transportationn, but the great thing about being on a bike is that you can stop, get off, and check out this art. Now, who knows where it came from?
It is really cold here in New Orleans. I’m just not used to this stuff. My poor little frozen fingers, clamped over the Surly brake hoods! I was just claiming it couldn’t possibly be too cold to bike. And it won’t be here in New Orleans, but shoot, it was cold out there today, and I’m going to whine about it! Continue reading
So I’m riding my bike back from dinner with K. and some grocery shopping when I pass this street sign at the corner of Louisiana and Camp. It is warning drivers to park for no more than two hours (my failure to follow this sign has resulted in some pretty hefty fines this month). This sign was also home to that bike from several weeks ago that had been locked up there for months and months. Continue reading