View From a Bridge Over Spa Creek in Annapolis

View From a Bridge Over Spa Creek in AnnapolisLast week featured plenty of bicycle riding, and I even managed to get lost in the Pen Lucy and Hillen neighborhoods. I love getting lost, and I love that I seem able to do so no matter how long I ride around a city. You just have to make a different turn and be willing to go up the hill, and I’m easily willing to do those two things. Saturday, though, was all new. My ladyfriend threw her back out almost two months ago, but she’s finally up and moving around again, and we got to break in the double bike rack. Continue reading

The Field at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Downtown Baltimore

The Field at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Downtown BaltimoreSunday’s bike ride took me and the Surly downtown for a historical tour of Oriole Park and Camden Yards, another hit brought to us by the folks at Baltimore Heritage. To be honest, I was a tired out bicyclist after Saturday’s ride, and if I hadn’t booked this tour weeks earlier, I might have chosen to stay home and rest up with all the homework I saved for the very last day of spring break (yep, teachers do that too), but I’m glad I went. Continue reading

The Old Mechanic Theater Near Charles Center in Downtown Baltimore

image

Friday’s ride took me out in impressive heat to tag along with E. and C. for a test ride of Baltimore Heritage and Bikemore’s new urban renewal history-by-bike tour. E. and C. are just my kind of nerds, proven again as we all donned our helmets and took the lane on a pedal from Mount Vernon Square down to Shot Tower, over through the squares of the business district, over to Lexington Market, and up to State Center at Eutaw and Lafayette where I got to learn more about the building that reduced me to tears trying to find a way in. I learned a ton, and you will too if youtake the ride on a hopefully cooler day in late August. A couple of highlights for me: urban renewal projects often had their roots in much, much earlier urban planner fantasy worlds, but now federal funds were available to make them come true, which also helps explain some of the truly outsized results~see, for example, the ginormous main post office in what was to have been the Shot Tower industrial park. I also learned about Brutalist architecture, and what happens when money dries up before the building’s done~hint: now it really is just stacks of concrete. I took this picture at Mechanic Center, of the old Mechanic Theater that will soon be torn down. Rumor was Mr. Mechanic bought out all the old theaters and closed them to direct traffic to his place, but it wasn’t quite so planned as all that. When he couldn’t fit a helicopter on stage for Miss Saigon he had his own comeuppance, and the Hippodrome was born. Or something like that. His theater is on its way down to make room for another round of development as the city continues to try to figure out how to rebirth itself. Hopefully it will leave at least traces of its past, as in the last round that kept buildings like the ones in the background of this picture. The other thing I learned is something it’s hard not to know if you bike around this town and pay a teensy bit of attention. Urban renewal was also about renforcing and enabling even more impressive forms of racial segregation. I thought about that at our most bustling stop on the tour: the transit station at Howard & Lex. There are lots of calls to revitalize the Westside, but to these eyes it looks pretty vital, the street full of people, but maybe not the sort of people city planners want bustling around the city center. This stuff has long, old roots, and the drug war is an old, old alibi. I don’t think we’ll solve the heroin and cocaine problem in this city by building a Superblock over there. But I digress. It was a great tour that taught me whole bunch of new stuff I need to learn about. And old stuff, like bring a lot more water than you think you need on a day as hot as this one, and yes, sunscreen works.

Plexiglass Flag On The Star-Spangled Flag House at Pratt & Albemarle

Well, it wasn’t all sunshine and blue skies like yesterday, but I was still excited to hop on the bike this morning for a ride around town. I headed to Hampden for brunch and some light reading and then to the Jones Falls Trail to snake my way downtown for a visit to the Lewis Museum and their new Dandy Lion exhibit. Continue reading

Nat Philbrick in the Poe Room at the Pratt Library on Cathedral & Mulberry

Today’s bike ride took me down to Fells Point to meet V. for coffee and work–she wrote about women’s human rights, I graded papers about gender and social construction–before heading up to the library for a talk. I haven’t figured out a good way to get from Fells Point and points east to the west side without getting trapped between cars on Charles Avenue, so I took the long way around via the friendly bike route via Fallsway. Continue reading

Presentation at Red Emma’s Bookstore and Cafe in Mt. Vernon

 I spent the day at work and stopped into the gym to get some exercise in out of the rain. Surprise, surprise, though, the sun came out this afternoon! Well, maybe not the sun, but the rain was gone, so I took the bike and flew down the hill to see Dulcey Lewis’s presentation of her senior thesis research on the Lesbian Avengers at the anarchist collective coffee shop and bookstore.
The place was packed and I enjoyed listening to the Avengers being talked about like an ancient cult–I guess the early 90s are a historical netherworld in some circles. We have got to remember our histories, and I’m glad folks are on the case. I stayed after to mix and mingle, went for a beer and a snack with V., and then rode back up the hill in the cool breeze of September in Baltimore, a lovely Friday night in the bag.

Ken Burns at Loyola’s Nunemaker Auditorium

I love Ken Burns. Or, rather, I love his documentary films. I started watching them last summer, and they are just so good. I know the critiques: he is all nostalgia and no politics; he pretends to tell full histories, but he leaves out vital voices; he romanticizes the Confederacy, letting that reunionist Shelby Foote be the expert. The list goes on, but I am not really interested in that particular brand of cynicism when it comes to his films. Continue reading