Vacant Homes at Lanvale & N. Patterson Park

Blight at Lanvale & N. Patterson ParkIt 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

Indian Pavillion at Pratt & Penn

Indian Pavillion at Pratt & PennTuesday 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.

Community Gardens in “Eager Park” in Middle East at Durham & Chase

Community Gardens in "Eager Park" in Middle East at Durham & ChaseIt was a shockingly beautiful day, and I spent much of it on my bike, skirt waving and bare arms under a sunny sky. For the first time in a very, very long time I was on my bike with nowhere in particular to go. My first stop was in Station North for a long overdue lunch with R. We parted ways in the early afternoon, and I headed down the hill, taking the first left I could from Guilford past Mount Royal, on Biddle Street, to snake my way south and east, south and east to see the sights of east Baltimore on a perfect day. Continue reading

Inside a Wall at Ostend & Light

Inside a Wall at Ostend & LightFriday 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

Mural and Blighted Building at Monument & Howard

Mural and Blighted Building at Monument & HowardTuesday’s ride downtown to meet the shuttle to work was a chilly one. It was that kind of cold that makes your eyes water and freeze over, the kind that makes the cold of the helmet buckle almost painful against red skin. The good thing about biking, though, is after about ten minutes, you’re all warmed up, and that takes the edge off. It took more like fifteen minutes on this early morning, but it just felt good to be back on the bike and part of the world in that way that is so very specific to being on a bike. Continue reading

Boarded Buildings in Old Chinatown at Park & Mulberry

Boarded Buildings at Park & MulberrySunday’s ride took me down the hill to meet N. for some work. We’re co-teaching a class, which I’ve never done before and now want to do all and every time, and we’ve got our students putting together short pieces for the radio. The students are doing all the work–the research, the writing, the interviewing, the recording–and on Sunday our job was to go to the places they’ll be talking about to gather some ambient noise to add to their pieces. I locked my bike up in Mount Vernon and we gathered the recording equipment and headed out on foot. Continue reading

Remnants of the Weaving Bee at Chase & Barclay

Remnants of the Weaving Bee at Chase & BarclayI’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

Demolished Building at E. Preston & N. Washington

Demolished Building at E. Preston & N. WashingtonI spent my Saturday standing on the corner of 33rd and Ellerslie up in Waverly, bike leaning against a street sign, cheering on the gazillion runners taking part in the Baltimore Running Festival. My sister’s running the NYC marathon at the end of the month, and watching her train and knowing her story, well, I know that every single one of the runners passing by me that day had a story, too. I’m pretty much a marshmallow, so that thought had me choking back tears as I clapped and wooted for a good two hours before finally tearing myself away for a much-needed bike ride. Continue reading

Baltimore Cemetery Against Blue Skies at Belair Road & North Ave.

20140907_163321Sunday was just perfect. The temperature dropped from 93 to 78 degrees, and the humidity fell with it. I got my work and chores done early and had nowhere to be, and finally got a bike ride in that wasn’t driven largely by the place I had to be. I had something to return to a store that has an outlet in Canton, so I pedaled off with a vague plan to head southwest, and that’s what I did, joining the traffic on Harford Road before taking right after right after right on my way downtown. I managed to turn on streets I’m not sure I’d been on before, and I watched as the blocks turned from rows of matching brick to vacant flat-faced row houses to that series of car washes on the blocks in Middle East. Continue reading

Looking East Past a Blighted Factory at West Lafayette & Spedden

Looking East Past a Blighted Factory at West Lafayette & SpeddenFinally, a dry day without ice on the roads, plenty of sunshine, nowhere to be, and no cold or flu dogging me! Oh, it was good to be back on the bike. It took about two minutes flying down the hill on Maryland Avenue to get that smile on my face I get when I feel at home and most myself–when I’m on my bike headed nowhere in particular. After a brief stop to pick up this week’s coffee I decided to go left instead of right and was quickly tracing new streets in West Baltimore. Continue reading