Flowering Trees at Riggs & N. Carey Streets and Along Blythewood Road

Flower trees at Riggs & N. Carey Streets

I took a bike ride on Friday, heading over to Bolton Hill to peek through the window and say hi to S., who has been on total lockdown and under the weather for nearly two weeks. She also promised a lot of good looking flower trees–my favorite spring treat–in exchange, and I was not disappointed. I also got to use the protected bike lane along Mount Royal Avenue for the first time. It’s great that it’s there, but it’s so short. Alas.

After I left S.’s place, I made a quick stop at the hardware store–it was closed–and then rode around West Baltimore for a bit. Because I haven’t been riding much other than to go to and from work, I hadn’t been over here in quite awhile. The quick changes of Baltimore neighborhoods are especially stark in Bolton Hill, where a few blocks later you are in Marble Hill, and then you’re in West Baltimore, one of the most disenfranchised parts of the city. I can’t describe the shift, but trust me–it is profound, and dissonant.

I rode around with no real destination, taking turns when I wanted to, looking to see if I could see what COVID-19 looks like here, but it just looked like a spring Friday afternoon–flower trees like the ones in this picture blooming, people out strolling, small crowds near the doors of corner stores, people sitting on their stoops. I said my how you doin’s, got the nods back, and one guy yelled after me, “Hey, is it bike party?” I yelled back, “Personal bike party! Just me on my bike!” White people riding bikes over here likely mostly only happens when it’s Bike Party.

I remembered my first bike ride to the Poe House in southwest Baltimore. I couldn’t find it and just kept pedaling up and down the blocks until a guy yelled out, “It’s right over there, end of the block.” No reason I’d be there other than that. Racial and class segregation is real here, and if you don’t see it, you aren’t looking.

My next trip outside was my long run on Sunday–a whole six miles. My habit is to start my run going uphill to save the downhill for the second half of the run, so I’m often running up into Guilford and Roland Park. These neighborhoods are on another planet from where I was biking on Friday. Mansions, expansive lawns tended by people who don’t live here, tidy private gardens, street names like “Greenway,” “Rugby,” and “Tuscany,” it’s hard to believe I’m just a few miles from home.

I took this picture of flowering trees as I ran down Blythewood to see where it ended:

Flower tree and fancy house along Blythewood

The background for this tree is so different than the one in my other picture. What COVID-19 means up here is so different from what it means over there. A virus doesn’t discriminate, but people do, and some of us have roomy homes to shelter in, big yards to exercise in, ways to safely and comfortably be outside, access to health care that sets us up to survive the virus better than others. A six mile circuit from my house will swing me through 20 years of life expectancy. That was true before this virus, and I fear it will be true after, if we don’t use this crisis to make a different world. I know others plan to use this crisis for an even greater consolidation of wealth.

Today Governor Hogan declared a stay-at-home order. I can still run and ride my bike alone, so I’ll still be out there. And I am exceedingly aware of the privilege I have for my worry to be whether or not I can do those things. Figuring out how to pay rent, how to get groceries when you aren’t supposed to take public transit, how to teach kids while working from home yourself, how to take care of oneself when sickness hits…staying at home means such different things to people, and remembering that will hopefully help us help each other in the ways we need to be helped. So many cracks to fall through right now, we have to step lightly.

Looking West From Eagle & Brunswick

20170530_122348 Tuesday’s ride took me over to Bolton Hill for a morning meeting, and with nothing on the calendar until an afternoon meeting downtown, I got to spend a couple of hours tooling around West Baltimore on my bicycle. I started by heading west on Mosher and decided I’d ride that street until it ended. But then I ran into a small park that I couldn’t bike through, so I went around on Mason Street, then McMechen, then back the other way on Eutaw and then zipped through an alley  and over on Madison before going the wrong way down Mosher for a block (sorry, everybody) until I could head west on it again. Bolton Hill has itself blocked off from the rest of West Baltimore by some pretty heavy street-level infrastructure.

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Construction at Franklin & N. Stricker Street

img_20161020_143115 I haven’t blogged in awhile, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been biking. It’s absolutely biking season in Baltimore–cooler temps, still light out after six, and besides, biking is the best way to get around. Most of my rides have been to and from work or to and from the place where I get my haircut, but at least once a week I’ve managed to take the long way and get just lost enough.

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Storefronts at West Pratt & Ackworth

Storefronts at West Pratt & Ackworth It’s summertime, summer school is over, and this is the time when I tend to get restless and glum. I work best when I’ve got stuff to do, so if I’m not careful, unscheduled time can get the best of me, stealing from me this valuable time to let my mind range freely, read new things, and make new connections. I’ve learned this over the past zillion summers, so I make sure to schedule things work, writing, and relaxing-related. Today’s schedule featured a bike ride over to the Be Free Floating in West Baltimore for my second trip in their sensory deprivation tank.

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Drug Free School Zone at West Lanvale & Fremont

Drug Free School Zone at West Lanvale & FremontFriday was a hard day. Alton Sterling was shot and killed by police while selling CDs outside a convenience store. Philando Castile was shot at a traffic stop, his girlfriend filming as her 4 year old child sat in the back seat. These were the latest two in a year that has already seen over 500 people shot and killed by police officers. And then shots rang out in Dallas, more people dead, more lives plunged into the heavy ocean waves of despair. Layers upon layers of loss, each one all about politics, and also about the individuals with lives cut short, the people who loved them left, after the cameras turn off, with the void of death. It’s so very permanent, and the grief will never ever fully subside. It is so, so sad, and angering, and it makes me want to melt down all the guns and freeze time until we can figure out how to uproot what Judith Butler calls schematic racism: the settled notion that all Black people are a threat and all white people need constant police protection from them. There’s a lot of other stuff we need to do, too, but that’s what was on my mind as I headed out on a bike ride on Friday.

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Greenery Along the Gwynns Falls Trail In Gwynns Falls Park

Greenery Along the Gwynns Falls Trail In Gwynns Falls ParkIt was a beautiful sunny summer weekend, the ladyfriend was on a much-needed out of town adventure with herself, and I had absolutely no plans. That’s some perfection right there, and I spent the Sunday of it riding my bike around. I left my house at high noon, all lotioned up with sunscreen and nowhere in particular to go. I had it my mind to maybe hit SoWeBo Fest, so I rode south and west and west to avoid my regular work commute route but to be heading in generally that direction. And then I was pedaling through west Baltimore on an old commuting route I used to take when I first moved to Baltimore. I decided to see if that bridge on Old Frederick Road had been replaced, and once I got there and saw that yes, it had been, I was on the Gwynns Falls Trail, so why not take it to the end?

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Advertising on S. Fremont & Vine

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Thursday’s ride took me all over town, up to the Arcadia neighborhood in the other side of Lake Montebello to talk about what the city might look like of we prioritized the quality of the soil and worked out way up from there and then down to Southwest Baltimore for a ride around that neighborhood and a reminder of the power of MLK Avenue to slice a city in two, and then up to Charles Village for coffee with a filmmaker and a chat about what, if anything, has changed since theorist. My answer: I don’t know. It was the perfect day for a ride, all sunshine and blue skies, and I was grateful to have so many places to be and a bike to ride to get between them. West Baltimore was so unlike the other places I rode to and through on this day– so many vacant properties, so few throughways to the city on the other side of the street, so many different scars from urban renewal and subsequent attempts to renew again. I snapped this picture of advertising on the side of one of the many crumbling buildings over here. Steve Jobs changed everything, I think that movie argues. Lots of things changed everything, I thought, depending on who and where you are and what you’re looking at. What do people see when they see this place, and what change it’s visible to whom? I capped off the day with a drink before riding back home, best Thursday in awhile.