Thursday’s bike ride took me out in the city’s first Code Red Heat Alert day of the summer. Code Red means it’s going to be really, really hot, and you should probably just stay inside in a place with some ac. It also means that if you use less energy you get credits on your utility bill, so I was pretty excited to spend the day in somebody else’s air conditioning while the nickels rolled in at home. Sure, paying you to not use energy when you need it the most is sort of a scam to cover over weak infrastructure, but I’m a sucker.
I’ve been working and working and working lately, totally overwhelmed by work. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been riding my bike, but it does mean I’ve largely been riding to work, to meetings, to acupuncture appointments, and to dinner and drinks and play when I can sneak it in. Grades are in for the spring semester, though, and summer school doesn’t start until Wednesday, so by Saturday afternoon I started to feel the loosening of vacation and a glimpse or two of the me that emerges when I have time to get just a little bit bored. And today the rain let up and the winds died down, and I got to take a bike ride just to see what I might see.
It was my birthday last Thursday, and I was a bit apprehensive about it, my first without my dad. Firsts are tricky, or so I’ve heard, so I didn’t make any big plans for the day in case what I wanted to do was sit in bed and cry. That’s not what I wanted to do, waking up in a celebratory mood instead. I decided to keep it going on Friday with another vacation day, this time for a bike ride. I set out without a real plan, except a vague desire to collect my free Birthday Burger at Red Robin down in Canton. I zig zagged my way there, got a burger that I ended up paying for–don’t worry, the free one’s on my card for later this week–and then decided on a whim to bike over to Dundalk. Getting there’s a bit of a pain–Holabird Avenue’s not exactly bike-friendly–but once you’re there it’s a dream of wide bike lanes and quiet streets. I made my way slowly over there and took the lane on Holabird to avoid that close-call feeling as cars imagine they can pass you even when they can’t. I went past the Amazon warehouse where all the magic happens, noted its ample bike parking and wondered if the company doesn’t have the clout to get a bike lane in front, and talked my way through the truck traffic before making my right on Dundalk Avenue.
School’s out for summer–or until summer school, anyway. I’ve still got plenty of grading and summer course planning to do, but I started the week jubilant with the feeling that yes, I made it through that tough semester, the students survived and learned some things even if I wasn’t at my best, and I’ll never have to do the first semester after my dad was killed ever again. That part is both happy and sad–happy because days are so much better than they were at the start of the term, and sad because as time passes, he’s still gone. It’s nuts to me that he’s dead and doesn’t even know it. But I digress.
It 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
Friday’s ride took me down the hill early to meet D. for coffee and a planning session for an independent study we’re working on together. We got to talking about how it feels to walk around Baltimore, what we so on foot that we don’t see in a car, and how at odds our rhetoric about movin’ on up is with the streets between here and there. And then we walked, me pushing my bike, east on North Avenue to the Great Blacks in Wax museum, where we wondered at the juxtaposition of Dred Scott and George Washington, the Middle Passage and Ancient Egypt and FUBU, and what the lawn jockeys were doing standing with Henry “Box” Brown. We parted ways a couple of hours later, her for a walk back west, and me for a ride downtown and east so I could clear my brain with fries and some college basketball. I zig zagged my way and found myself in the East Baltimore of the Hopkins redevelopment–Middle East. This area changes every day, it seems, but also nothing ever seems to change, except on this day, when the vacant homes were fenced off. I snapped this picture of a block filled with the brick piles of demolition, a last row of houses still standing. The pile smelled of the must that is in the very cells of some of these neighborhoods, and it held the signs of life still lived there–curtains, mattresses, kids’ toys, broken chairs. Rising behind them is the new development–a glass cube ready to hold students and young professionals who can walk to their new community garden guarded over by police lights and visit the corner store with a security guard standing on the store’s corner. I took a slow tour of the few blocks and thought to myself, “Hey, Re/Development, your bones are showing.” And then it was Butcher’s Hill and down the hill to Boston Street and a whole different world. Baltimore, you sure don’t hide your shit.
I wasn’t in much of a mood for a bicycle ride, but N. gave me a task to be completed at the new Target, so I followed her instructions and hopped on the bike for a ride to that suburb-in-the-city, Canton Crossing. As soon as I was on my bike I was glad I was there, riding on the slightly foggy streets on a much warmer day, feeling that speed that comes from freshly-pumped up tires. I decided to take an early left, before Mount Royal, to see if I could get myself lost. I found myself zig zagging around Greenmount Cemetery, past new-ish housing developments with their brightly-colored doors that never quite hide the signs of capital’s abandonment, but they look pretty, and then going up and down the streets of northeast Baltimore, past row after row of abandoned row houses and other houses decked out with balloons and signs–two new baby girls and a baby boy came home to East Baltimore this weekend. Continue reading