Folding Chair Locked to a Street Sign at Charles & 23rd

Folding Chair Locked to a Street Sign at Charles & 23rdI’ve been riding my bike around a lot lately, though I haven’t been writing about it. My bike is just my everyday, as it’s been, the way I get from here to there and back again. School started last week, so that means the commute is back, down to the shuttle stop, a ride the rest of the way, and then reverse. On Friday I took my bike with me on the shuttle–love that front bike rack–so I could ride the whole way home, a quick stop at the casino for some payday action, a leisurely ride back home via the Gwynns Falls Trail. Continue reading

Community Gardens in “Eager Park” in Middle East at Durham & Chase

Community Gardens in "Eager Park" in Middle East at Durham & ChaseIt was a shockingly beautiful day, and I spent much of it on my bike, skirt waving and bare arms under a sunny sky. For the first time in a very, very long time I was on my bike with nowhere in particular to go. My first stop was in Station North for a long overdue lunch with R. We parted ways in the early afternoon, and I headed down the hill, taking the first left I could from Guilford past Mount Royal, on Biddle Street, to snake my way south and east, south and east to see the sights of east Baltimore on a perfect day. Continue reading

Trash at St. Paul & Mount Royal

Trash at St. Paul & Mount RoyalThe weather’s better, so I’ve been on my bike basically every day. Unfortunately, though, that’s mostly because I have to be to get where I’m going. I’m never sick, but I’ve come down with a case of tonsillitis that just won’t go away. My tonsils are so inflamed and swollen that my primary care physician (yes, I have one of those! they’re awesome!), who never shows even a stray emotion betrayed one with a raised eyebrow and a toneless statement: “I have to admit those are larger than I expected.” They’re practically touching, and just a little bit of talking or heavy breathing, such as caused by biking uphill, for example, clogs the tiny throat hole that remains and makes it hard to breathe. It’s not exactly a recipe for pleasant biking, but there you go. Tuesday’s ride was a quick one down the hill, the bike doing all the work, and I was plenty chipper with my good mornings and how-you-doin’s. I shouted my apologies that I had no tools to help the guy dealing with a dropped fender and wondered why that guy was walking in shorts when it was still in the 30s until I noticed it was my friend C. walking to work, so I yelled my confession that I’d just run a red light. I didn’t get it all the way out, my throat clogged by its own self, but it mostly just felt great to be a part of the world.

The ride back was less fun. I was tired out, because being sick can tire you out, so I just put myself in an easy gear and took my time. I got off the bike to walk across the intersection of St. Paul and Mount Royal. I peered over the railing to watch the cars zooming underneath on I83, glad not to be in a car, at least. I snapped this picture of all the trash accumulating back there. What makes a person just toss their trash here instead of walking it to a trash can? What flavor Cold Stone did that person enjoy? How thirsty were you that you chugged that water and just threw the bottle over your shoulder? Or did the trash all blow in from somewhere else? There’s not a bus stop here, so why would someone stand on this particular corner and throw things here? And will it ever be cleaned up? Littering’s the worst, even when it’s just a bit out of sight, like this pile. And then I was back on my bike, a slow pedal home, eyes up. Here’s to feeling better soon.

Public Phone at 20th & Charles

Public Phone at 20th & CharlesIt was a cold and windy day, but the sun was out and there was no risk of rain, so I finally got to take the bike out for a little spin. It was a short one, just over and down the hill to lunch and the coffee shop so I could get some work done and also maybe, just maybe see some real live adult people. I’ve been snowed under by the grind of teaching every day, and it felt great to get out of my house and my office and wake back up to the city. Continue reading

Flower Buds and Plastic Bags Waving in the Wind at 24th & Saint Paul

Flower Buds and Plastic Bags Waving in the Wind at 24th & Saint PaulFriday was a windy three-meeting day that stuck me inside when I really wanted to be outside, riding my bike. Then again, I also like having my job, so that day’s ride consisted of a speedy ride down the hill to the train station–I was running late in that way you run late when you’ve got five hours of meetings ahead of you–and a slow ride home to enjoy the early sense of spring. Continue reading

Staring Up at Public Housing at 22nd & Charles

Staring Up at Public Housing at 22nd & CharlesWednesday was beautiful but windy, and after a morning bike ride to Waverly and back to meet with R. and O., I spent the day inside, starting a new book and catching up on rest after a busy Tuesday. And then N. came home and asked if I wanted to go on a walk. Why yes, yes I would! I followed her lead up the hill and over and up and over, passing road construction on Charles, dogs walking in Wyman Park, non-Zip Car cars parked in Zip Car Only parking at Johns Hopkins, and the Jones Falls, that part you will never see if you stay in your car, or if you never get off your bike. She took me zig zagging down to Falls Road–those switchbacks are easier on foot than on wheels–and down to what counts as a waterfall in Baltimore City. Continue reading

Temporary “Mural” by Greenpants at the Open Walls Baltimore Opening Reception at Metro Gallery in Station North

Temporary "Mural" by Greenpants at the Open Walls Baltimore Opening Reception at Metro Gallery in Station NorthThe temperatures have dropped again, spring break is over, and most of today was spent being a grading machine after yesterday was a wash–thanks, food poisoning! None of that meant I didn’t get to ride the Surly one last time before heading back to classes. I took her out for an afternoon ride around Waverly, running errands and remembering how important it is to remember gloves, and then out for a second ride, a short one down to Station North for the opening reception of the Open Walls Baltimore (OWB) project’s second year of events. OWB is a giant art project in the Station North neighborhood of Baltimore, which was designated an Arts & Entertainment district in 2002. That designation means tax benefits for redevelopment that targets artists, and tax breaks for artists who choose to live in these districts. The designation encourages new people to move into neighborhoods that are seen to be struggling due to a lack of residents, or, at least, a certain kind of resident. The arts district is great for tons of people–for artists, small business owners, and anyone who wants to see a vibrant creative scene get nourished in their city. And of course it has its problems–housing designated for artists is another kind of segregation, and isn’t that what we don’t want? And there’s the fear of gentrification–who wants to keep renting to non-artists when the real money’s in redeveloping and calling it “artist’s housing”? As the neighborhood becomes a site of value, property taxes also go up, and folks who have owned and lived in the neighborhood for a long time can find themselves priced out of their own homes. Like anything, it’s always more complicated than just saying YAY! ART! Same goes for OWB. It is a wonderful project that brings street artists from all over the world to paint ridiculously wonderful murals on some of our many, many empty walls. Who wouldn’t be excited by that? Well, there’s the part where murals and street art have become the sign of a blighted neighborhood; others argue that the project should employ some of the many Baltimore-based street artists who certainly have their own stories to tell on these walls of ours. Or maybe murals should be designed with community input–we’re the ones who move among them, after all. And then there’s the part where this year’s selection of 14 murals includes only one painted by women. One. In 2014. Wow. Now, it is certainly true that Station North Arts and Entertainment supports many women and trans artists in other ways through funding projects in the city, but OWB is what they’re known for, and that other support doesn’t change the fact that only one mural–and these things are huge and permanent–will be painted by women. The art world has a long history of just this sort of thing–check out these folks for evidence and some good history of this persistent problem. Tonight’s bike ride took me to the artistic intervention by the collective Greenpants. They projected their short video on the wall of the building that held the OWB reception, and it was howlingly good–funny, on point, and drawing attention to a thing we’re not supposed to notice–that yes, it’s all men, again. I watched a few rounds, chatted with the crowd, and then got back on my bike and headed up the hill to home, glad to live in a city that has such art, and such critical artists, and is willing to have these conversations. Now if they could just turn the heat on.

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