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.

Looking Toward Oakenshaw from 33rd & Oakenshaw

Looking Toward Oakenshaw from 33rd & Guilford I don’t know if you’ve heard, but I’m a runner now. I started running on the treadmill at my Orangetheory classes last year, just thirty seconds or so at a time. And then I kept running, getting up to sixteen slow minutes in class. Then I decided to take it outside in August to see if I wanted to be a runner yet. I’ve been on this road-to-running many times in my life, but maybe this time it would stick. Not that it has to. My dad was an asshole about a lot of things, including “fitness,” but in his old age had mellowed. If it doesn’t feel good, don’t do it, was the advice he gave me in the past decade or so. If I didn’t enjoy running, I wouldn’t do it.

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Guilford Reservoir From East Coldspring Lane & Reservoir Lane

Thursday was my birthday, my first one without an expected text from my dad telling me how proud he was of me and suggesting that maybe my 41st birthday ought better be thought as the start of my 42nd year. Coming into the day fresh off his memorial service in Boise didn’t make that any easier: I am acutely aware that he is gone and not coming back, and that’s still really, really sad. But then I woke up Thursday morning feeling celebratory–I’m alive, it’s great to be alive, I’m living an incredibly lucky life, and I wouldn’t change mine for anybody else’s, no way, no how. That’s a pretty great feeling, one worth celebrating by going out to breakfast with a friend, picking up a fresh flower gift from the local florist, writing a little about my dad, and then taking a bike ride.

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Shiny New Asphalt on 26th Between Charles & St. Paul

Shiny New Asphalt on 26th Between Charles & St. PaulTuesday’s ride took me up the hill and east to Morgan State for a conversation on the Marc Steiner Show about The Wire–about how even though it’s a great television show, it can’t tell the full range of stories about what make this city tick, and the many ways folks work to make it tick better (or worse). It was a good conversation with smart people, and a reminder to me that if you don’t have someone there to talk about women, women fall right out of the discussion. Patriarchy’s a real thing, which means I’ll never be out of a job, amirite? Continue reading

Looking Toward 35th & Greenmount From Southway

Looking Toward 35th & Greenmount From SouthwayTuesday’s ride kept me mostly in the neighborhood, down the hill to meet K. for lunch and a good shared rant session, and then back up the hill to Abell to meet R. for some co-catsitting and a conversation about our Very Big Project that we both needed to break down to be a whole lot smaller so as to avoid that familiar “oh shit, it’s due” feeling. In between there I talked on the phone with J. about renting her house in Waverly starting in August. N. and I need a bigger place, and a friend of a friend heard this house would come open then, and you know how it goes. Our renting her house solves a whole bunch of problems for her and for us, so it looks like we’re moving up the hill come August, and I couldn’t be more excited. Continue reading

Rows of Brick Houses at Rexmere Road and Chestnut Hill Avenue

Rows of Brick Houses at Rexmere Road and Chestnut Hill AvenueSpring is here, finally, and oh, it felt good to be out on the Surly on Wednesday, skirt waving in the wind, sun on my face! That whole rebirth-in-spring business isn’t just for bunny rabbits and Jesus Christ–it’s for bicyclists, too, even those of us who ride year round. I started my ride heading up the hill and to the right for a trip to the dentist before heading to Lake Montebello for a few laps with a slew of pedestrians and one very, very cute puppy: “He’s not as good as he looks–he already ate two pairs of shoes!” Continue reading

Mansion Behind Gates at Greenway & Charlcote Place

Mansion Behind Gates at Greenway & Charlcote PlaceThere’s nothing like a few days of sub-freezing temperatures to remind a girl how warm 40 degrees really is, and I was happy for the warmth on my free Friday afternoon. I took the Surly up the hill for a sandwich and with no other plans for the evening, I just kept going straight up the hill with the vague goal of going north and west enough to avoid getting caught in the Loyola parking lot. I know, I know, I could check a map and follow some directions, but where’s the fun in that? Continue reading