Row House at Presstman & N. Carey

Row House at Presstman & N. CareyThis is a post about what I saw when I rode my bike around last Saturday morning. I got up early to ride over to Carver Vo-Tech High to judge some high school debate with BUDL. I rode past the Waverly farmer’s market, already bustling with shoppers at 7:30am. I watched cars treat red lights like they were bad suggestions, because I guess on a Saturday morning nobody’s watching. I passed the crowds outside the methadone clinic on Maryland Avenue, because addiction doesn’t take weekends off. I pedaled past the riders waiting early to be first on the Bolt bus, and then through the quiet streets of Mount Vernon. I took a right past Meyerhoff Hall, where the symphony plays, and then west of MLK, on Dolphin. I stopped to check my maps before taking my right on McCulloh, left on Presstman, watching as the old glory of Druid and Marble Hill, of Pennsylvania Avenue, gave way to the steady decay of a neighborhood laid waste by political, economic, and civic abandonment. No, it’s not really abandonment. That makes it sound like folks just left, but the policies of urban renewal purposely slated neighborhoods like this one for destruction, and this bike ride was a reminder that those policies continue to reverberate. And then I was at the high school, locking up my bike, judging a couple rounds of smart high schoolers making strong cases that we should rebuild our coral reefs if we want life on earth to continue. I was totally convinced we should do that, though neither affirmative team running that case won the round they were in. Debate, man–it’s not just about the best idea, and that’s pretty scary when that rule translates into real life. The bike ride home was a reverse tour, and I stopped at the corner of Presstman and N. Carey to snap this picture of a row house standing alone. I’m not sure where it’s neighbors went, or where the people who used to live here went. But this house is still here, and people are still here, and the settled assumptions that white people and capital shall not go west of MLK continues to make just this kind of difference. This is what I saw on my bike ride last Saturday. And then, like everybody else, I was sitting, waiting to hear whether or not Darren Wilson was going to be indicted. I watched as the state set up its police in advance of the announcement, because they know this shit is terrible, and they know it is only the use of force that can force people to keep eating this shit. And the announcement came down, and the resistance that is always there, steady, made itself visible, and the few narratives of this single event dominated the talk cycle, and the rest of us waited for it all to quiet down a little so we could get back to shopping and eating and taking pictures of our cats, and I wanted all of us to have to take some history classes, because how do we end up in a world where Darren Wilson can tell us Michael Brown “looked like a demon” and thus required him to shoot to kill, and how does this world keep spinning on just like this? It’s a long story, and I am reminded of that on every single bicycle ride through Baltimore City, because look at this place. No, really look at it.

DO NOT DRINK Water Fountain at Baltimore Polytechnic High School

do not drinkI love not having a car, but Friday was one of those days when having a car would have been kinda great. I had an appointment up in Roland Park and then had to be out in the suburbs at UMBC and then back in Roland Park to judge an evening debate tournament. And I was out of coffee. In a car, I just would have made the rounds, but on a bike it felt like climbing hill after hill after hill, always needing to leave a little early to get to the next thing on time. And I didn’t have a chance to get coffee until 1:30 in the afternoon, on my way home to swap Brompty back out for the Surly. But you know what? As I climbed up Roland Avenue for the second time, I realized how lucky it is to want to ride my bike, to take such joy in the feel of it all, and to live in a body that lets me do it. Continue reading

“Excuses Are Tools of the Incompetent” Sign at Carver Vo-Tech High School at 2201 Presstman Street

wpid-IMG_20140329_144215.jpgI rode my bike a lot last week–it’s how I get around 90% of the time–but I didn’t write, giving my typing hands a rest. I saw some good stuff while off the blog: another round of snow, the first crocuses of this slow-in-coming spring, suburban potholes being paved over and city potholes growing wide enough to see the brick of past roads showing through, and, on Saturday, another debate tournament. It was spitting rain when I got up that morning, a little more when I got on the bike to head to Carver High for my first high school competition. Continue reading