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.

Old and New Buildings at Central and Eastern

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Today’s ride took me through the mist down to Harbor East for a dip in the pool before heading back up the hill to the library for an oral history presentation about the Civil Rights movement (yes, it has earned all caps) in Baltimore. It wasn’t raining, exactly, but the air was all water, and so were my glasses after just a couple blocks of riding. Through it, I saw this scene at Central and Eastern, old brick building dwarfed by the Legg Mason monument to its own capitalist success and the condos behind it, where Legg Masoners can afford to live, layers of urban development stretching to the horizon, and I wanted heritage programs that taught me not what used to be here, but why it isn’t here anymore and instead we’ve got this. A quick swim and lunch and back up the hill for stories. I love stories, and these were new ones, to me, including one by a woman who gave birth to a perfect baby boy she wanted as much as you wanted your child, but hers was taken away because a white woman giving birth to a black baby was a crime. It took two years to get that baby back. And she’s still here, telling her story on stage-it just wasn’t that long ago. So many people have put their lives right at the knife edge for me to have had a day like this one. Thank you, and fight on.