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.
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.
Tuesday’s ride took me over to Bolton Hill for a morning meeting, and with nothing on the calendar until an afternoon meeting downtown, I got to spend a couple of hours tooling around West Baltimore on my bicycle. I started by heading west on Mosher and decided I’d ride that street until it ended. But then I ran into a small park that I couldn’t bike through, so I went around on Mason Street, then McMechen, then back the other way on Eutaw and then zipped through an alley and over on Madison before going the wrong way down Mosher for a block (sorry, everybody) until I could head west on it again. Bolton Hill has itself blocked off from the rest of West Baltimore by some pretty heavy street-level infrastructure.
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.
It was another beautiful late winter day in Baltimore, sun shining and just a little bit warm, so I treated myself to a bike ride to campus. I had plenty of time, so after wooshing down the hill and taking a right and then a left through Bolton Hill, I followed some new streets through West Baltimore as I vaguely angled toward Arbutus. I was stopped at the light at Lafayette and Argyle, I think, and watched a little police profiling go down. Continue reading
We had another unseasonably warm day today, at least in my estimation, so after a busy morning, I hopped on my bike and headed to campus to take advantage of what they keep telling me is one of the last few warm days before winter really gets here. I flew down the hill and then made the Park Avenue climb to Lafayette and took my left. It’s amazing how quickly the neighborhoods change along this street. Once you cross Eutaw Place, for example, it’s like you’ve entered a different universe. On the ride back I was struck by how once I left Marble Hill for Bolton Hill, the asphalt turned that smooth black of brand new road. When Crossing Pennsylvania Avenue into West Baltimore is even more pronounced. All of a sudden the trees disappear, as does the stately red brick, replaced by row after row of abandoned row house. I snapped this picture of a row house at Lafayette and Fremont (which is not the same as Fulton–I made that mistake once, and it took me a looong time to correct it). This empty side suggests another row house used to be cuddled up next to it, those patches maybe marking windows, or just the shared walls. Off in the distance more and more of these vacants line up, but some of them are redone and occupied. How hard it must be to share the neighborhood with these, and the empty lots filled with crumbled buildings and trash that dot the neighborhood. So often when I’m riding around Baltimore I wonder, where did everybody go? I know, I know, the suburbs, but where did everybody go, and what are we going to do with all these empty and decaying blighted properties? I continued my ride, and when I got to Arbutus, just a couple miles further, I was reminded again of how many different cities are all butted up against each other in this place, some of them just ghosts.
A couple of cold days in a row made today’s 38 degrees and sunshine feel downright balmy. After finishing up a little of this and that at home, I layered up and hopped on the bike to head to campus. It was so warm I didn’t even need my fancy pants gloves! I flew down the hill on Maryland, went around that growing sinkhole just on the other side of North Avenue (can we at least spray paint around the thing?), and then up through Bolton Hill and Marble Hill. Continue reading