Construction on the Clifton Mansion in Clifton Park on St. Lo Drive

Construction on the Clifton Mansion in Clifton Park on St. Lo DriveWednesday’s windy bike ride took me up the hill and over to Clifton Park to check out progress on the Clifton Mansion, currently receiving a $7 million face lift. It was originally built as a farmhouse by a merchant who also captained an artillery during the War of 1812 and then converted into an Italianate mansion by Johns Hopkins, who used it as his summer home–if he’d ridden a bicycle, he totally could have moved his summer home farther out, just saying. Continue reading

Row House Held Up By Wood Contraption at Hollins & Fulton

image

Today’s ride took me from Charles Village out to UMBC for another day of my winter session class. I was in a good mood after a productive morning, so I pedaled happily along, using that easy peasy gear for hills into the headwind and reminding myself that I wasn’t in a race, not at all. I decided to vary my route a bit to avoid Monroe’s speedy traffic, so I took a left on So. Carey and a right on Hollins. I stopped to catch my breath and take a picture of this row house just before Fulton that is all strutted up so it doesn’t fall in the street. Construction is a seriously creative endeavor! This street mostly looks like Brooklyn to me, and few of the houses look like vacants to me, though the surrounding streets certainly have their fair share. A woman stepped out of her house and asked me if I was just in the neighborhood to take pictures of vacant houses. We struck up a conversation–rehabbing this house has been on hold for months due to danger of collapse, her wife just quit smoking, I quit smoking years ago, isn’t it great, do I want a ride, etc. Turns out she runs a life coaching business and is putting together a mentorship program for girls at local schools, and I have a bunch of students who might make great mentors and who also might be in need of some life coaching. I sense a win. I got back on my bike and thought about how these sorts of encounters and contact are impossible in cars. Walkable and bikeable neighborhoods are just better for life itself. I got to campus, choked down lunch, taught about globalization, economic restructuring, and the production of poverty in the Third World before getting back on my bike and rolling past the detritus of Baltimore’s own structural adjustment on my way back home.

Row House Held Up By Wood Contraption at Hollins & Fulton

image

Today’s ride took me from Charles Village out to UMBC for another day of my winter session class. I was in a good mood after a productive morning, so I pedaled happily along, using that easy peasy gear for hills into the headwind and reminding myself that I wasn’t in a race, not at all. I decided to vary my route a bit to avoid Monroe’s speedy traffic, so I took a left on So. Carey and a right on Hollins. I stopped to catch my breath and take a picture of this row house just before Fulton that is all strutted up so it doesn’t fall in the street. Construction is a seriously creative endeavor! This street mostly looks like Brooklyn to me, and few of the houses look like vacants to me, though the surrounding streets certainly have their fair share. A woman stepped out of her house and asked me if I was just in the neighborhood to take pictures of vacant houses. We struck up a conversation–rehabbing this house has been on hold for months due to danger of collapse, her wife just quit smoking, I quit smoking years ago, isn’t it great, do I want a ride, etc. Turns out she runs a life coaching business and is putting together a mentorship program for girls at local schools, and I have a bunch of students who might make great mentors. INteresting! Let’s talk! I got back on my bike and thought about how these sorts of lovely happenstance meetings are impossible in cars. Walkable and bikeable neighborhoods are just better for life itself. I got to campus, choked down lunch, taught about globalization, economic restructuring, and the production of poverty in the Third World before getting back on my bike and rolling past the detritus of Baltimore’s own structual adjustment on my way back home.

Empty Lot and Row House at Lafayette & Fremont

We had another unseasonably warm day today, at least in my estimation, so after a busy morning, I hopped on my bike and headed to campus to take advantage of what they keep telling me is one of the last few warm days before winter really gets here. I flew down the hill and then made the Park Avenue climb to Lafayette and took my left. It’s amazing how quickly the neighborhoods change along this street. Once you cross Eutaw Place, for example, it’s like you’ve entered a different universe. On the ride back I was struck by how once I left Marble Hill for Bolton Hill, the asphalt turned that smooth black of brand new road. When Crossing Pennsylvania Avenue into West Baltimore is even more pronounced. All of a sudden the trees disappear, as does the stately red brick, replaced by row after row of abandoned row house. I snapped this picture of a row house at Lafayette and Fremont (which is not the same as Fulton–I made that mistake once, and it took me a looong time to correct it). This empty side suggests another row house used to be cuddled up next to it, those patches maybe marking windows, or just the shared walls. Off in the distance more and more of these vacants line up, but some of them are redone and occupied. How hard it must be to share the neighborhood with these, and the empty lots filled with crumbled buildings and trash that dot the neighborhood. So often when I’m riding around Baltimore I wonder, where did everybody go? I know, I know, the suburbs, but where did everybody go, and what are we going to do with all these empty and decaying blighted properties? I continued my ride, and when I got to Arbutus, just a couple miles further, I was reminded again of how many different cities are all butted up against each other in this place, some of them just ghosts.

Christmas Lights on a Row House on Hollins & Pulaski

It was cold out and I’ve got a little cold, but sometimes you just need to ride your bike, so I decided to put on my fancy wool top (thanks, Pops!), tights, long sleeved socks, and some gloves (thanks, S.!) and pedaled over to campus. The sun was out and I traced my regular route, thinking about my first visit to Baltimore. Continue reading

Block of Empty Rowhouses at Oliver & Brentwood

I woke up this morning to gray skies and the promise of rain for the rest of the weekend, so I hopped up, sucked down a breakfast smoothie (thanks, E., for the gifts!), and took the bike over to Collington Square Park to meet Odette Ramos, candidate for City Council from the 12th district for a bike tour of the district. Continue reading

Cinderblocked Vacants on Calvert & 21st

image

I really, really wanted to go on a long bike ride this afternoon, but just as I finished up my work for the morning the skies opened up it started raining sideways. Sigh. I spent the afternoon running errands by car until riding to Mt. Vernon to meet V. for dinner. Man, riding in the post-rain cool evening air, flying downhill, feels so, so good. It’s uphill on the way home, but I ak already used to that part. I took Calvert tonight, and stopped at 21st to snap a picture of these vacant row houses. The blight here is intense, and it changes block by block–just a couple blocks either way from this one are fully populated, but here, lots of empties. Usually they are closed up with plywood, but this cinderblocking seals them off so completely, they are like ghosts. I wonder when the blight will seem like a normal part of the background, or if it will always feel a little bit like a ghost town here.