When you ride a bicycle or walk you have to pay really close attention to the surfaces you are traveling on, especially in places like Baltimore where the infrastructure is aging and, in many places, in serious disrepair. When you’re driving you have to do this too–you don’t want to break an axle or whatever dropping into a giant pothole–but cars can handle a lot more than bike wheels and feet. I know my regular surfaces really well–the sinking manhole cover just across 25th Street, the ever-present piles of horse shit on that one curve of Fallsway cycletrack, the rough asphalt where they buzzed out some paint lines on Biddle just west of Broadway.
I’ve been out of town, in South County St. Louis, for a couple of weeks, no bike in sight. It was good to be there with family, especially since part of what we were doing was saying goodbye to my wife’s grandmother. Gma was much beloved, the kind of grandma who took every grandkid on a solo date before school started, for food and a show. A devout Catholic who said the rosary every single day, she was delighted to have two queer granddaughters and their wives join her for Christmas Eve mass last year, her only request: “No kissing!” Continue reading
Thursday’s ride took me all over town, up to the Arcadia neighborhood in the other side of Lake Montebello to talk about what the city might look like of we prioritized the quality of the soil and worked out way up from there and then down to Southwest Baltimore for a ride around that neighborhood and a reminder of the power of MLK Avenue to slice a city in two, and then up to Charles Village for coffee with a filmmaker and a chat about what, if anything, has changed since theorist. My answer: I don’t know. It was the perfect day for a ride, all sunshine and blue skies, and I was grateful to have so many places to be and a bike to ride to get between them. West Baltimore was so unlike the other places I rode to and through on this day– so many vacant properties, so few throughways to the city on the other side of the street, so many different scars from urban renewal and subsequent attempts to renew again. I snapped this picture of advertising on the side of one of the many crumbling buildings over here. Steve Jobs changed everything, I think that movie argues. Lots of things changed everything, I thought, depending on who and where you are and what you’re looking at. What do people see when they see this place, and what change it’s visible to whom? I capped off the day with a drink before riding back home, best Thursday in awhile.
I’ve been riding my bike around a lot lately, though I haven’t been writing about it. My bike is just my everyday, as it’s been, the way I get from here to there and back again. School started last week, so that means the commute is back, down to the shuttle stop, a ride the rest of the way, and then reverse. On Friday I took my bike with me on the shuttle–love that front bike rack–so I could ride the whole way home, a quick stop at the casino for some payday action, a leisurely ride back home via the Gwynns Falls Trail. Continue reading
I know, I know, I could let some air out of my tires, get snow tires, ride slowly, and do fine on roads with some ice and snow remaining on them, but I could also just not ride the few days a year when there’s ice on the roads in Baltimore. Yeah, that’ll work, but I’m still not going to drive if I can help it, so I layered up and walked up and over to Waverly to meet O. and R. on Saturday. Yeah, I might rethink that decision next time, because the streets, especially the better-travelled ones, were mostly clear–wet, but not icy. The sidewalks, on the other hand, were treacherous ice sheets, glistening their evil eyes up at me as I made my way slowly and carefully, making sure of each footing before lifting another foot. The sidewalks were iced over because unlike the public property of the streets, sidewalks are the responsibility of individual homeowners, and apparently either individual homeowners don’t know that, or don’t care. The sidewalk in front of my house was iced up because I guess I was waiting for the landlord to deal with it. By the time I slid my way home that evening, though, I realized I had better remove enough ice for folks to pass easily. I chipped away, slowly but surely, and this morning it is starting to melt enough to make way. As I was chipping away, though, I wondered why we have individualized this particular collective infrastructral issue and not decided instead to spend our social wage to make easy passage for everyone, not just drivers. Because walking was truly dangerous yesterday, and how can it be that we make passage so dangerous, especially for those for whom walking is challenging in the first place? But hey, at least the roads are clear.
I spent Saturday walking to the bus to the museum with N., followed up with a reverse route to home by way of fried pickles and wings at Harborplace at the Inner Harbor. N. was driving back the way we came for A.’s annual Ladies Harvest Party, but she suggested I ride my bike instead. Good call. I layered up with my fall/early winterwear, strapped on my reflective safety belt, flipped on my front light, and I was zipping down the hill. Continue reading
Friday was a day of riding errands, first up the hill to get lunch and then over to Hampden and then back home for a quick rest before heading back over to Waverly to meet R. for a little scheming. I lifted my bike into her living room and we headed back toward Greenmount Avenue on foot to take pictures of the sides of buildings. Would any of these make a good location for a short film projection? What we do about the windows? Would that be high enough? How do we get people to look this way as they travel by instead of that way? Continue reading
Wednesday was the first day of classes, and oh, I was excited! I love the first day of school–all the books are new, no one is behind on the readings, all the grandmothers are still alive, and we are all full of hope for an exciting semester of learning together–at least that’s how it feels to me. I get so excitable, though, that I’m pretty much exhausted at the end of just two classes. I drove my car home in the post-teaching haze, rested up for just a bit, and then I hopped on the bike for a slow pedal up and over to Waverly to see R. and her new house, a bike ride I expect to take a lot in the next year. Continue reading
Tuesday started out a shady and soggy mess, but all was cleared up in the afternoon, just in time for a quick bike ride around the neighborhood. I rode up to one of many entries in the Charles Village Sandwich Shoppe Wars (Quiznos was rightly the first casualty), lunched, and then continued on up the hill and over toward Roland Park to meet S. for coffee. I am up in this neighborhood all the time, but for some reasons, this was the first time I’d noticed the monument set back behind the trees circling that tiny sliver that gets to be called a park. It’s a monument to the Confederate women of Maryland, “The Brave at Home” who “In Difficulty and Danger/Regardless of Self/They Fed the Hungry/Clothed the Needy/Nursed the Wounded/and/Comforted the Dying.” Continue reading
I left my car in Federal Hill on Friday, so today I had to ride my bike over there to fetch it. First, though, an early ride to Waverly to meet J. and C. to tend our young beehive. Bees are amazing. Their wings are lace-thin and always moving, and the whole hive vibrates, hums, and gives off a waxy heat. Today we tried to redirect some of their combing and in the process, had to remove some comb (and got to taste the honey), delicious.