Ryan Homes Towns At Eager Park in Middle East, Baltimore

20160913_132701-1 I had a day with no deadlines on Tuesday, a rare one in the past month. That meant I got to spend my morning finishing up a task I’d been avoiding for a few weeks, and then I hopped on the bike and headed south and east to complete one of those tasks I am middle class enough to do: register for TSA Pre Check so I can be one of those people I have been sneering at for the past couple of years who bypass the serfs on their way to the front of the airport security line.

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Decaying Homes at Ashland & Castle

Decaying Homes at Ashland & CastleSchool’s out for summer–or until summer school, anyway. I’ve still got plenty of grading and summer course planning to do, but I started the week jubilant with the feeling that yes, I made it through that tough semester, the students survived and learned some things even if I wasn’t at my best, and I’ll never have to do the first semester after my dad was killed ever again. That part is both happy and sad–happy because days are so much better than they were at the start of the term, and sad because as time passes, he’s still gone. It’s nuts to me that he’s dead and doesn’t even know it. But I digress.

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Demolition on Castle Street in East Baltimore

Demolition on Castle Street in East BaltimoreFriday’s ride took me down the hill early to meet D. for coffee and a planning session for an independent study we’re working on together. We got to talking about how it feels to walk around Baltimore, what we so on foot that we don’t see in a car, and how at odds our rhetoric about movin’ on up is with the streets between here and there. And then we walked, me pushing my bike, east on North Avenue to the Great Blacks in Wax museum, where we wondered at the juxtaposition of Dred Scott and George Washington, the Middle Passage and Ancient Egypt and FUBU, and what the lawn jockeys were doing standing with Henry “Box” Brown. We parted ways a couple of hours later, her for a walk back west, and me for a ride downtown and east so I could clear my brain with fries and some college basketball. I zig zagged my way and found myself in the East Baltimore of the Hopkins redevelopment–Middle East. This area changes every day, it seems, but also nothing ever seems to change, except on this day, when the vacant homes were fenced off. I snapped this picture of a block filled with the brick piles of demolition, a last row of houses still standing. The pile smelled of the must that is in the very cells of some of these neighborhoods, and it held the signs of life still lived there–curtains, mattresses, kids’ toys, broken chairs. Rising behind them is the new development–a glass cube ready to hold students and young professionals who can walk to their new community garden guarded over by police lights and visit the corner store with a security guard standing on the store’s corner. I took a slow tour of the few blocks and thought to myself, “Hey, Re/Development, your bones are showing.” And then it was Butcher’s Hill and down the hill to Boston Street and a whole different world. Baltimore, you sure don’t hide your shit.

Live 929 Student Apartments at Ashland & N. Wolfe

Live 929 Student Apartments at Ashland & N. WolfeI wasn’t in much of a mood for a bicycle ride, but N. gave me a task to be completed at the new Target, so I followed her instructions and hopped on the bike for a ride to that suburb-in-the-city, Canton Crossing. As soon as I was on my bike I was glad I was there, riding on the slightly foggy streets on a much warmer day, feeling that speed that comes from freshly-pumped up tires. I decided to take an early left, before Mount Royal, to see if I could get myself lost. I found myself zig zagging around Greenmount Cemetery, past new-ish housing developments with their brightly-colored doors that never quite hide the signs of capital’s abandonment, but they look pretty, and then going up and down the streets of northeast Baltimore, past row after row of abandoned row houses and other houses decked out with balloons and signs–two new baby girls and a baby boy came home to East Baltimore this weekend. Continue reading

Holiday Decorations at Stoneyford Run & Stony Lane

Holiday Decorations at Stony Run Lane & Stoneyford RoadI didn’t get a bike ride in on Sunday, but I did manage to go for a nice long morning walk with S. and J. We were all tired from the previous night’s dance party, so we decided to make our Sunday morning hike a walk around our neighborhood. Walking is many times slower than biking which means a whole different kind of looking around. Walking just requires and enables a different kind of attention altogether. We walked around Charles Village checking out the new mural going up on 26th and Maryland before taking a right for a trip through the Johns Hopkins campus and its Italian sculpture garden. Continue reading

New Buildings, Blight, and an Empty Lot at Washington & Eager

Buildings at Eager & WashingtonOh, it was a beautiful day in Baltimore. I lazed about in bed for too long before pushing through the crowds at the craft fair across the street and then grading, grading, grading at the coffee shop. When I met my grading goals the sun was out and it felt oddly warm for the last day of November. By the time I made it onto my bicycle the sun was on its way down–days are getting so ridiculously short. I headed down the hill and took the first left I could after getting south enough to not get trapped by the cemetery. Continue reading

Facade Under Construction at Broadway & Pratt

You know how sometimes you’re reading the perfect book at the perfect time? That’s happening to me right now, if in 30 minute chunks between my other work. After finishing up some teaching tasks this morning, I settled into the next chapter and read about criticisms of the historic preservation movement that elevated the look of things over the sense of place and community, that froze neighborhoods in a golden age, forgetting the people who actually lived there. Continue reading