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.

View Over the Fence at Webster’s Dead End in Federal Hill


Today’s ride took me down the hill and back up another hill to my favorite new strip mall in Locust Point where I locked up to a rack before spending the day getting a massage, going out to lunch, talking to S. on the phone, and eating frozen yogurt as I tried to circle around an argument for this thing I’ve been writing all summer. It’s scary sometimes, the point where you have to stop making Interesting Observations and start making larger sense, and I have to take very good care of myself so I don’t scare myself away from that part of writing. I finally managed to figure some stuff out while waiting for the rain to stop, scribble, scribble, scribble, and then it was time for a celebratory beer, some grousing about the USA men’s basketball team~holding for the last shot of the half when you’re up by 33 is just tacky~and then I pedaled over to A. and J.’s for wine, good food, chatter, and more Olympics action. I stopped to take this picture before I got there, at the end of Webster. You call it Webster Court, but all you’ve got is this half fence to keep a distance between you and freeways and waste treatment plants. And then a groundhog scurried by and I was reminded that a lot of things are willing to make a life right at the edges. I rode home late at night, for me, and realized it has been awhile since a warm night ride alone, which meant the sense memory was all New Orleans. It didn’t make me miss that place, though; it made me happy that I can still access that feeling of being the only person on the streets, flying by with my skirt waving, my own breeze cooling me down. Oh yes, that is a nice way to spend a summer evening.

Crumbling House on a West Baltimore Corner

It was another beautiful late winter day in Baltimore, sun shining and just a little bit warm, so I treated myself to a bike ride to campus. I had plenty of time, so after wooshing down the hill and taking a right and then a left through Bolton Hill, I followed some new streets through West Baltimore as I vaguely angled toward Arbutus. I was stopped at the light at Lafayette and Argyle, I think, and watched a little police profiling go down. Continue reading