Flowering Trees at Riggs & N. Carey Streets and Along Blythewood Road

Flower trees at Riggs & N. Carey Streets

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.

After I left S.’s place, I made a quick stop at the hardware store–it was closed–and then rode around West Baltimore for a bit. Because I haven’t been riding much other than to go to and from work, I hadn’t been over here in quite awhile. The quick changes of Baltimore neighborhoods are especially stark in Bolton Hill, where a few blocks later you are in Marble Hill, and then you’re in West Baltimore, one of the most disenfranchised parts of the city. I can’t describe the shift, but trust me–it is profound, and dissonant.

I rode around with no real destination, taking turns when I wanted to, looking to see if I could see what COVID-19 looks like here, but it just looked like a spring Friday afternoon–flower trees like the ones in this picture blooming, people out strolling, small crowds near the doors of corner stores, people sitting on their stoops. I said my how you doin’s, got the nods back, and one guy yelled after me, “Hey, is it bike party?” I yelled back, “Personal bike party! Just me on my bike!” White people riding bikes over here likely mostly only happens when it’s Bike Party.

I remembered my first bike ride to the Poe House in southwest Baltimore. I couldn’t find it and just kept pedaling up and down the blocks until a guy yelled out, “It’s right over there, end of the block.” No reason I’d be there other than that. Racial and class segregation is real here, and if you don’t see it, you aren’t looking.

My next trip outside was my long run on Sunday–a whole six miles. My habit is to start my run going uphill to save the downhill for the second half of the run, so I’m often running up into Guilford and Roland Park. These neighborhoods are on another planet from where I was biking on Friday. Mansions, expansive lawns tended by people who don’t live here, tidy private gardens, street names like “Greenway,” “Rugby,” and “Tuscany,” it’s hard to believe I’m just a few miles from home.

I took this picture of flowering trees as I ran down Blythewood to see where it ended:

Flower tree and fancy house along Blythewood

The background for this tree is so different than the one in my other picture. What COVID-19 means up here is so different from what it means over there. A virus doesn’t discriminate, but people do, and some of us have roomy homes to shelter in, big yards to exercise in, ways to safely and comfortably be outside, access to health care that sets us up to survive the virus better than others. A six mile circuit from my house will swing me through 20 years of life expectancy. That was true before this virus, and I fear it will be true after, if we don’t use this crisis to make a different world. I know others plan to use this crisis for an even greater consolidation of wealth.

Today Governor Hogan declared a stay-at-home order. I can still run and ride my bike alone, so I’ll still be out there. And I am exceedingly aware of the privilege I have for my worry to be whether or not I can do those things. Figuring out how to pay rent, how to get groceries when you aren’t supposed to take public transit, how to teach kids while working from home yourself, how to take care of oneself when sickness hits…staying at home means such different things to people, and remembering that will hopefully help us help each other in the ways we need to be helped. So many cracks to fall through right now, we have to step lightly.

Two Bikes Snuggling Under a Flower Tree at Druid Hill Park

Two Bikes Snuggling Under a Flower Tree at Druid Hill ParkThe park was buzzing with folks enjoying the 80+ degree day–walking dogs, teaching kids how to ride bikes and scooters, handholding and necking and springtimeromancing, jogging, picnicking, engagement-photo-shooting, and just generally being outside. I rode my bike there to meet N., who lo and behold got herself a bicycle that morning. Oh, what magic! What fantasy futures of riding together to the ball game and to get ice cream and out to the water to count ducklings! I’m happy to ride by myself–I prefer it, generally, because the bike is the one place I can reliably be alone, but also with strangers–the contact zones of the city open up when you get out of the car. Continue reading

Flower Trees at Roland Avenue & Northern Parkway

Cherry Blossoms at Roland Avenue & Northern ParkwayI remember when I first got to New Orleans, and I was quite certain that I had never seen a more beautiful place on earth, at least when it came to the everyday flora. It’s all banana trees and palms and brilliant azaleas and oh my, it is just so pretty there. Baltimore, well, it take a minute longer to grow on you–or at least me. But then there was fall, winter, and then springtime. The flower trees flower in waves, first the white crabapples, then the pink cherries, and then, well, I have to wait to let the parks and streets remind me. Continue reading

Flower Buds and Plastic Bags Waving in the Wind at 24th & Saint Paul

Flower Buds and Plastic Bags Waving in the Wind at 24th & Saint PaulFriday was a windy three-meeting day that stuck me inside when I really wanted to be outside, riding my bike. Then again, I also like having my job, so that day’s ride consisted of a speedy ride down the hill to the train station–I was running late in that way you run late when you’ve got five hours of meetings ahead of you–and a slow ride home to enjoy the early sense of spring. Continue reading

Flowery Trees at Oregon & Link in Arbutus

Flowery Trees at Oregon & LinkWednesday was meant to be a day with a real-ish bicycle ride, but I had to be on campus all day for an evening trip with S. to D.C. for a truly bizarre evening event. Solution: take Brompty in S.’s car for a ride between meetings! Well, best laid plans, right? A meeting turned into another meeting and then I only had two hours to ride and then we got stuck in the elevator on the way downstairs. Continue reading

Pink Carnation Flower Tree at Druid Hill Park

image

I had a busy last few days of the week and didn’t get a ride in, and I am going out of town for the weekend, so this morning I decided I best get in a quick pedal in order to preserve my sanity. I put on some bike shorts and a jacket made especially for bicycling, marvelled at how much faster that outfit made me feel, and headed up the hill and over to Druid Hill Park. I did a number of laps and thought about what you get to see if you do the same ride over and over again. I watched the leaves on these trees turn brown and fall, waited as they stayed all twiggy, watched them turn green with buds, and then burst out in two rounds of flowers. Now they.are this, puffy pink popcorn balls, row after row. On the other side of the round is a row of blighted buildings that have been crumbling, and today I noticed the one on the end~the roof has fallen in. I have a feeling I’ll be watching the trees change and buildings fall and maybe get built for a long, long time. I did my last lap and zipped down the hill to home. Yep, when in doubt, take the bike out.

Flower Detritus at Guilford & McAlister

As I’m sure you know, we’ve all been having a heat wave of science fiction proportions. Yesterday in Baltimore it was EIGHTY FIVE DEGREES. That’s summertime weather, and we’re just on March’s downhill. I loved having that weather for my week off. I got in some wonderful bike rides, and Thursday’s trip to DC was a feast with all those cherry blossoms and 15 miles of strolling through neighborhoods, monuments, and museums (a perfect situation for a tiny clown bike, I must say). This morning, though, started with a thunderstorm and rained off and on all day long, giving it the feel of spring instead of summer. Continue reading

Flowering Tree at S. Ellwood & Hudson

I woke up early this morning with an overwhelming desire to play hooky, and I grumped around for awhile until giving in to the senioritis. After a trip to school for some lazy research and a faculty meeting it was time to get on my bike and out in this 80 degree blue sky day–oh, it was perfect out there. Continue reading