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:
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.