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.
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.
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.
Friday 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.
It 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?
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.
Saturday was a most excellent day to be on a bicycle. That’s hardly the point, but it’s just true: when there are multiple protests and rallies going on around the city, plus the rest of things to do on a weekend, a bike is the best way to move quickly and easily, especially as cops and cars start blocking entrances and exits. I thought about this, about how car culture makes protest culture that much harder because we become so easily immobilized, as I inhaled a stack of blueberry pancakes at the diner on the corner before biking over to Sandtown-Winchester for the first gathering of the day to remember Freddie Gray, killed by Baltimore City cops almost two weeks prior.