Celebrate Black Lives Sign in Patterson Park Along Eastern Avenue Near Lakewood

I’ve been spending a lot of time looking down lately. Classes started last week, and I have been busily prepping classes and fretting about prepping classes. If you live on social media, which I do, you’d think a semester of remote learning for college students was the end of the world, especially for professors. For me, it’s just what we’ve got to do for public health, and let’s all do our best to make the best of it. Look around, read the room: it’s fine. (Except when it’s not–access issues have never felt more urgent, but that’s another blog post.) That doesn’t mean I wasn’t wringing my hands the last couple weeks, but now that the semester is underway, I’m just trying to get in a rhythm and swing of things.

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Vacant Homes at Lanvale & N. Patterson Park

Blight at Lanvale & N. Patterson ParkIt was another spring-like fall day in Baltimore on Tuesday, and I had a few spare hours in the afternoon for a bike ride. I left the house with vague plans for ice cream, but I took a left instead of a right at the intersection of the grocery store and hardware store, and ended up heading south and east on streets I’m not used to–the very best. Continue reading

Blue Skies and Twiggy Trees at Patterson Park

Blue Skies and Twiggy Trees at Patterson ParkI’m on spring break, and oh, it is a beautiful thing. Winter was a rough go this year, and it just feels so good to feel sunshine past 7pm, even if as I write this we are under a winter weather advisory for tomorrow. Whatever, Tuesday was beautiful, even with the howling winds. My ride started heading east, because I’m usually heading west. I took the whole lane because fuck, it’s a holiday (but really because that’s the safest way to ride on 33rd Street), and headed toward Clifton Park. Continue reading

Greenery at Patterson Park in East Baltimore

Greenery at Patterson Park in East BaltimoreFriday morning was so, so much rain, pouring out of the sky, waking up the cats, and actually necessitating the closing of two whole windows in order to keep the bed and the record player dry–we’ve got our priorities in line over here. I had the luxury of hibernating inside, so I did that until the rain stopped, the clouds cleared out, and it was all blue sky and clean air, our city given a good shower to rinse off our pretend summer from the previous week. Yep, time for a bike ride. I started up the hill for a lunch date with myself and then back down, the vague idea that I could maybe get an ice cream cone in Canton and still make it back to Harbor East for Godzilla–these are the hard choices of the first day of summer vacation. And then I remembered I am a member at the Reginald Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture–why not stop on my way and see what’s new? Continue reading

Looking West from the Patterson Park Pagoda

Looking West from the Patterson Park PagodaI woke up early, drank a quick coffee and ate a quick piece of toast, and then hopped on my bike for a quick ride from Butcher’s Hill to Fort McHenry to meet up with the rest of the (relatively) early risers for this year’s Defender’s Day historical bicycle tour with Baltimore Heritage. I got to do part of the narrating this year, and we had A. along to change flat tires, something he is really good at. I talked about what started the war, when we started memorializing it, why we memorialize some parts and not others, and E. talked about how privateers are just pirates with government contracts, why you might not want to build row houses out of wood, and the other forts in the city that aren’t Fort McHenry. Continue reading

View to the West of Patterson Park From the Tiny Lake

View to the West of Patterson Park From the Tiny LakeAnd sometimes you take three days off of bicycling because your dear sister is in town, and she’s a runner, so you happily walk and take the bus and hope N. will pick you both up and drive you around town. Today, though, what I really needed was to get back on the bike. I didn’t get a chance to ride around until the evening, when I hopped on the bike and headed down to Mount Vernon for a meeting. In a shocking turn of events, especially for a Monday, the meeting ran short, so I had plenty of time to ride around town. I headed down to the main post office because I’ve never been inside that behemoth of Brutalist architecture, plus also I wanted to put a letter in the mail. Continue reading

Empty Storefronts in Baltimore’s Old Town Mall at Gay & Orleans

Empty Storefronts in Baltimore's Old Town Mall at Gay & OrleansI’m back in Baltimore, and after some cat-snuggling and email-answering it was time to head out on the bike. Oh, Surly, I missed you! We made a quick stop in the neighborhood for a sandwich before heading down the hill and taking a right on Gay Street for a slow trip through the abandoned Old Town Mall. This place is just a few blocks off the main downtown drag, but it might as well be in, well, east Baltimore. I snapped this picture while pushing my bike along, and it felt like a ghost town. I idly wondered if they might make this an Ole Tyme Ghost Town or Colonial Williamsburg-type tourist destination–what’s the difference? Or will it someday be that–urban disaster tourism, a la New Orleans? I continued along, saying my how-you-doins (I missed those–the west coast doesn’t share this neighborly ritual) and noting the couple of storefronts that have managed to stay open, and then I was back on a bike lane and pedaling along through east Baltimore and down to Fells Point to stare at the water and then heading to O’Donnell Square for frozen yogurt before heading home through Patterson Park and back up the hill. It just felt good to be out there and on the bike, good to be home. I really, really like this place, from the parks and bike lanes to the Old Town Malls–all of it.

Crowds of Bicyclists at Patterson Park

Cyclists Resting at Patterson ParkSo, I mostly like to ride a bike alone. I think. I mean, I usually ride a bike alone, and I love riding a bike, so I must prefer to ride alone, right? But then I started riding with one other person, or maybe two, and that was really fun, especially when we got to stop for lunch. The group ride from Ocean City was some of the most fun I’ve ever had on a bike…hmmm, maybe I don’t only want to ride alone. And then there’s Baltimore Bike Party, a growing event that can have over 1,000 riders tracing the streets of Baltimore–that’s a whole different ballgame, and I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be into it because of crowds and fear of getting locked up with other riders and not being in charge of the route and all that jazz. When R. asked if I was really going (every month I say I’m going to go, but I never do),  and if so, could we go together, I figured now was as good a time as any to challenge my own assumption that as much as I love the idea of a massive bike parade through this fine city, it’s not really for me. Continue reading

Scrap Metal at Cambridge Iron and Metal Recycling Center at O’Donnell & S. Haven

Scrap Metal at Cambridge Iron and Metal Recycling Center at O'Donnell & S. HavenFinally, I had an afternoon free enough to ride a bicycle around, so after work and talk and work, I took the Surly out for a ride. We went down the hill with traffic and then a left and a right and a left again to Fells Point and past all the new construction, gravel pits ringed by facade walls saved for history. A quck snack and I was off again, toward Patterson Park for loops with seemingly all the dogs and babies in Baltimore, plus soccer and softball and kickball leagues, all divided by age and race and income, it seemed. I headed east through Highlandtown and the dead end at Haven Street, which leades to all the really good stuff, like this, piles and piles of discarded metal bits and sheets, from what, I’m not sure, but cameras are watching, so don’t even think about it. I went under an underpass, no idea where I would shoot out, and rode around a development ringed by its own gravel pits, surprised to find the kickball demographic there. We had talked in my class that day about how places are temporary resolutions of struggle, and I wondered what will happen as that demographic hits up against the manufacturing corridor, and who will have to move where. I’m guessing the heavy metal that has been piling up since 1909 will be a hard limit, but you never know. And then I was in Greektown, found again. I pedaled back toward home on signed bike routes and a date for pizza with friends, happy to have been lost, if only for a short bit. Getting lost feels like home, and its good to be here.

White Picket Fence and Houses at Orville & Chase

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I am still under the weather with a pesky cold probably picked up from my germy students, but I’m leaving town without my bicycles for much of the next two weeks, so I had to get a decent ride in today to stave off the fussiness that takes over when I can’t pedal about. I headed down the hill and took a left on Biddle to see where it would dead end. I finally ran into Edison Highway, took my right, and then a quick left and past stacks and stacks and stacks of something-I think roofing material-and one of Baltimore City’s storage and repair facilities for city vehicles. The snowplows are out on the street, but I’m assuming that’s for show, because I’m not ready for snow. I followed the dead end signs to the dead end, got off my bike, and walked us around the barrier. A couple guys were working an a car. They popped their heads up, and one said, “If you’ve made it this far, you’re almost home.” It took me a few minutes of riding around the neighborhood to figure out what he meant: I had survived black neighborhoods and was home in the white neighborhood. Shudder. The lawn signs were all No on 6 (our same-sex marriage act), and though I’m certainly no fan of aligning life chances with the arbitrary achievement of grabbing a supposedly permanent monogamous romantic relationship (that we do that is so weird, if you think about it), those signs are really just voting no on queers existing. Nothing but bigotry, really, and this white picket fence is just putting lipstick on that pig. This was Armistead Homes, formerly public housing turned into co ops after war housing was no longer needed. They can vote on who is allowed to live there, and surprise, surprise, the neighborhood is over 87% white. I rode around but quickly found my way out and snakes through Northeast Baltimore until I was back in the segregated neighborhoods that have become familiar to me in my regular rides. And then I was on Gough, Lombard, Pratt and Fait~though not in that order~and I was back in Fells Point, a quick stop at the gym, and up the hill to home. It was a good ride that left me thinking about the difference between the fates of public housing complexes~much to learn there. Good thing I get to teach about it next semester. I wonder how long I’d have to live here before finding this little northeast neighborhood if I didn’t ride my bike around aimlessly.