Blue Water and Skies from Fort McHenry

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but it’s incredibly hot out. It might be a global pandemic and a revolution, but everybody’s still happy to also talk about how it’s hot out. In Baltimore this past weekend should have been Artscape, the biggest free arts festival in the country, but it was cancelled, of course. Artscape is always on the hottest weekend of the year, and this year was no exception. (PS This week in July is statistically the hottest every year, so it’s not just Artscape that makes it so hot, but clearly it’s mostly Artscape.)

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Tree Growing Out of a Storefront in Old Town Mall Between Monument & Forrest

Tree Growing Out of a Storefront in Old Town Mall Between Monument & ForrestSaturday was picture-perfect, and I spent the latter part of it on the bike with O., who brought a map to lead us on a tour of trees in northwest Baltimore. O. is a smarty pants artist, really clever and creative, and she’s doing a project you’ll just have to wait to find out about, but let me give you this hint: the tree canopy varies neighborhood by neighborhood, block by block, and trees take an awfully long time to grow, so you can bet something fishy’s been going on for an awfully long time. We said our how you doin’s as we biked around Middle East, Butcher’s Hill, Patterson Park, and other neighborhoods, stopping at tree after tree, talking about how grant money let’s some people profit from the misery of others and can create perverse incentives to keep that misery going; whether or not you can escape the narrowed vision of being born rich; what happens when we aestheticize blight; how that one patch of green in an alley in Middle East could feel so peaceful; if seeing that cute little groundhog meant winter was really, truly, finally over; and, among other things, how proud we are of quitting smoking, because that was pretty much the hardest thing ever, on a personal level. Addiction must be experienced to be understood, and it is outside of all your rational arguments, choices, ideas for solving it. I snapped this picture as we rode through Old Town Mall, bustling, in parts, on this perfect Saturday. Most of it, though, looks like Night of the Comet, many years on, including this storefront with a tree growing out of the window. I wonder if McHenry Row will be the next generation’s Old Town Mall, or if we fancy today’s development is immune to the total disinvestment that leaves places like this in its wake. And then we parted ways as I took my left to home and she kept up the hill, both of us, I think, feeling very fortunate that we get to see this hard city together.