The Chicken Box

I started this blog to write about the things that are making me happy. That’s what I still write about here, but I’m not as good at writing about the little things anymore as I once was. Now it’s mostly recapping things I’m doing that make me happy like seeing concerts and going to the theatre.

This year is destroying me. I have reached David Simon levels of cynical about the human race. If you know anything about David Simon you know this is not a good place to be in. I know there must still be good in the world, but most days I’m hard pressed to find it. Even the instances where you see people doing good the other side of the story is that there’s something horrible that they’re fighting against.

This is all my long way of saying that I’m going to try and be more conscious about writing about some of the smaller things in the world that are good, make me happy, or just put a smile on my face instead of just recounting what’s going on in my life. Maybe focusing on some of those things will help me feel like the world is not just a giant pile of garbage.

I’m starting off with something goofy that makes me smile. In Baltimore there’s something called a chicken box that you can pretty much buy at any corner take out. It consists of a couple pieces of fried chicken, a piece of bread (maybe a roll), fries and often comes with a half and half to drink.

There’s a local convenience store called Royal Farms (colloquially known as the Farm Store or the RoFo). They are famous for their fried chicken and of course they sell a chicken box. There’s a really old arena in downtown Baltimore that was for awhile known as 1st Mariner Arena. After that bank went under it went back to being called the Baltimore Arena for awhile until Royal Farms paid for the naming rights about a year ago.

It took about 2 seconds for people in Baltimore to start referring to the arena as The Chicken Box. It delights me because it’s so perfect as evidenced by the fact that you never have to explain. People automatically know what you’re talking about if you say an event is at The Chicken Box. I love it.

Hampdenfest 2015

My neighborhood has two street festivals every year: HonFest in June and Hampdenfest in September. Although HonFest is much bigger and more well known, Hampdenfest is by far my favorite of the two. I like the fact that it is more low key and really about the neighhborhood businesses and organizations. I missed Hampdenfest last year because I was out of town for a wedding. I was very sad about it, especially as Future Islands played. I was happy to be back this year though.

As with any good street festival there were lots of food options. I went out and wandered around checking out all the booths for awhile. I didn’t buy anything, but did get some lunch and some kettle corn to eat while I watched The Ginger Blossoms perform. They are an all red-headed Gin Blossoms cover band fronted by women. The fact that the vocalists are female gives the songs a little bit of a twist, but other than that they’re just a straight out cover band. I very much enjoyed listening to them. I wasn’t a huge fan of mid to late 90s and early 00s rock. Those were my high school and college years and I’m given to understand that means I should have fond memories of the music of that time and be nostalgic about it. I really do not though. Despite my general apathy towards that music, I really did like the Gin Blossoms at the time and owned some of their CDs. I had kind of forgotten how many songs of theirs I liked until I heard them all played yesterday. It was a fun stroll down memory lane.

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I ended out the day watching the toilet bowl races. Think soap box derby except that all the vehicles look different and somehow have to incorporate a toilet into them. It’s always an enjoyable event and people can come up with some pretty impressive vehicles. I was kind of annoyed that they didn’t do all the safety practice runs until the advertised even start time. Next year they should really do that beforehand. We spent an hour waiting around for the actual races to start and thus wound up leaving before the end because we didn’t want to keep hanging around out in the hot sun that long.

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As usual it was a fun day. I look forward to next year’s.

Artscape

Artscape is a large arts festival held every year in Baltimore. it’s billed as America’s largest free arts festival. It’s always the third weekend in July, which means that it’s always pretty much the hottest weekend of the year. Hence the reason that in the 15 years I’ve lived in Baltimore I’ve only been a couple of times. The last time I went was two years ago (I think. Last year seems to recent.) when a friend who used to live right on the edge of Artscape had a party in conjunction with it. We were only out at Artscape for a short time before it started pouring rain, so I didn’t even see much of it that year. I don’t even remember when the last time I went prior to that was. At least since the last time I went where I got to see the entire thing I’m pretty sure Artscape has at least doubled in size.

In some ways it’s your typical street festival with lots of vendors and food booths. Of course at this most of the vendors are artists. There are also a lot of other art related things going on though. There are several music stages outdoors where bands play. You also have other more classical musical performances in some of the theatres surrounding the area as well as dance and theatrical performances. Yesterday there was something with many actors from The Wire performing monologues written by Baltimoreans about their experiences in the unrest surrounding the death of Freddy Grey. The line to get into that was insane as I figured it would be so I didn’t even try to go. There is also a variety of performance art and larger art installations around the festival.

A couple of friends were going down yesterday and I decided that since I didn’t have anything else going on and I hadn’t really done the whole Artscape thing in awhile that I would brave the heat and crowds and go. Plus I feel like I’ve been traveling so much this summer that I have barely spent any time with most of my friends, so I decided rather than sitting inside on my couch I should get out and see some people. It was a fun, although very wilty time. It definitely reminded me of why I never go to Artscape. It’s just too dang hot. It was cool to walk around and look at everything and enjoy a little bit of the music. We didn’t go into any of the performances held in any of the theatres. I don’t think I’ve ever actually done that because I never pay close enough attention to the schedules for those things. It might have been a good idea to get out of the heat for awhile, but oh well. It was a fun afternoon, but unless by some miracle it’s not stupidly hot I’ll probably decide to sit Artscape out for a number of years before I go back again.

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Baltimore

I have thought long and hard about writing this post and gone back and forth on it. Certainly nothing I’m about to write about is making me happy, but this is the space I have created for extended thoughts online so here it lives. I moved to Baltimore just shy of fifteen years ago to go to graduate school. I never planned to stay once I was done with school, but here I remain thirteen years after I vowed to leave. Baltimore has become my city and my home. It’s doubtful I’ll ever leave. I have seriously thought in the past few weeks unrelated to anything that has happened in the news recently about where else I would be willing to move, and ultimately I really haven’t been able to come up with anywhere else I would rather call home.

What is currently happening in my city breaks my heart. I am heartbroken. I feel hopeless that there is a way that we are going to find a way out of this, this something that has its roots in things that are so systemic and go back so far that it’s hard to imagine change can come. I feel helpless because I don’t know what to do. I don’t know where I fit in or how I can help. I recognize that the Baltimore I get to live in is not a Baltimore that many of this city’s residents know. It’s not right. It has never been right, and I understand why we’ve ended up where we are. It doesn’t mean I’m not devastated to see the city I love being destroyed.

I’ve spent more time following the situation on Twitter and Facebook than is probably healthy. I’ve seen so many posts and Tweets and ReTweets from people in Baltimore, but also from people who aren’t and many whom I’m guessing have never set foot in this city. Everyone has opinions and everyone thinks they are right. I watched a lot of love, but I’ve also seen a lot of hate and lack of compassion. I’ve seen people slammed for expressing their opinions both in support of the residents of Baltimore who are acting out their frustrations and for those supporting the law enforcement on the ground. There is hate and hurt and anger and fear on all sides, and it makes me sad that we have forgotten that every single one of these people is a fellow human with human emotions both good and bad. One of the reasons I seriously thought about not writing this was because I didn’t want to have to deal with the fall out from both sides of people telling me I’m wrong and I don’t understand and all the myriad other things that I’ve seen over the past few days.

I decided I don’t want to stay silent though. I have no answers. Mostly all I have is hurt. I don’t know where my place is. I don’t live in these neighborhoods. Even though many of these places are not far from me, I don’t live what these people live. I’ve seen posts from white people who want to show their support and go in and help and I’ve seen posts from black people asking the white people to not try to come in and play savior. I don’t know what the right answer is. Doing nothing seems wrong, but so does jumping in the middle of something that isn’t my fight and I will never have a way to truly understand because I have never lived it.

So I will continue to pray for Baltimore and all the people in it. I will pray for peace and for reconciliation and a way forward that is better than the way we’ve come from. I will stay in the city I love. I will continue to stay in the city and not move out to the county despite higher property taxes and worse services. When Mondawmin Mall, the site where the worst riots started, reopens I will continue to shop there just as I did before. I will continue to support organizations in this city that are fighting to make it a better place each and every day. I love Baltimore and I stay because I believe in it. I don’t know what the next few days and weeks will bring, but whatever it may be I will be here. At the moment I don’t know what else to do, but that’s what I have to offer for now. It may not be enough. I know it’s not.

Springtime in Baltimore

It is no secret that I hate winter. Give me the warm weather over cold weather any time. As much as I love Baltimore for other reasons I do have to say that it doesn’t have the best weather. We have cold winters and usually stupid hot and humid summers with only a few weeks between them where the weather is actually nice. Those few weeks can be glorious though, and the fact that they are so hard won makes them even more special. The last few weeks Baltimore has been bursting out in color as the trees have gone into bloom along with the daffodils and tulips. I don’t ever remember living anywhere with so many flowering trees. The streets are just lined with gorgeous flowers right now. I love how they just appear out of nowhere too. One day the tree branches are just empty sticks and then you wake up the next morning and they are full of blossoms. It’s a glorious few weeks. Springtime in Baltimore also means tulips in Sherwood Gardens. The weather on Saturday was absolutely beautiful and I had intended to walk over there then, but my plans got derailed when friends called and asked if I wanted to meet them at the park with their kids. I did that instead. Sunday the weather was cooler, breezy, and cloudy but still nice enough to walk over. Seeing the tulips up in people’s yards made me figure this weekend was probably going to be their peak, so I wanted to make sure and make it over. I’m glad I did because I was right. As usual there were a few beds lagging behind, but probably about 80 percent of them were in full bloom. With the trees still holding most of their blossoms it was a beautiful sight, and the weather certainly didn’t put a damper on people getting out to see them because there were tons of people there. I can only imagine how crowded it must have been on Saturday. I know in a few more weeks things will be hot and sticky, but for now I will relish the beautiful flowers and the beautiful days.

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Easter weekend

This weekend my husband’s sister, her husband, and their kids came down to Baltimore for the Easter weekend. They got here on Saturday afternoon. Somehow they missed their exit off the highway and wound up in downtown Baltimore. Serendipitously they called us to tell us that and we told them to just stay there because we were planning on heading down to the aquarium anyway. We hopped in the car and got down there before they even made it out of the parking garage we directed them to.

After grabbing a quick lunch we headed to the aquarium along with apparently everyone else in Baltimore. It was probably the most crowded I have ever seen it. It was definitely more crowded than when were there at a similar time a few weeks ago. Apparently everyone decided to bring their Easter visitors to the aquarium. The kids definitely enjoyed looking at all the fish. Even though they don’t do official dolphin shows anymore, we did get to see them doing some enrichment activities with the dolphins this trip.

Eventually though the only animal Ryan and Lily were interested in seeing was our cat, so we headed back to our house. Scout was not as excited to see them. She spent most of the weekend hiding in the basement aside from when she ventured out to try and get some food or Paul dragged her out so the kids could pet her.

Sunday morning we headed to the zoo for their Easter Bonanzoo. I had only been to the zoo one previous time many years ago and it was raining. The weather was better this time, but I didn’t see much of the actual zoo. The kids were much less interested in seeing animals at the zoo than they were looking at the fish. They were more interested in the carousel and the little train ride. I did get to see the polar bears though, which really is the only thing I care about anyway.

When we first got to the zoo though we did all the Easter Bonanzoo activities. They had an Easter egg hunt and lots of little games you could buy tickets to play. There was also some big bouncy train thing that both kids said was their favorite part of the zoo when I asked them.

They pretty much packed up and headed back to New York right after we got back from the zoo. It was a great Easter weekend. I hope yours was full of fun and family too.

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Snow Day Redux

You will recall my recent post on the weekend snow day that I got. I had pretty much given up on getting a snow day that got me off of work at this late date in the season. It’s not unheard of to get snow this late in Baltimore, but a snow storm in March big enough for work to close is rare. I was happy to get a day off of work where I didn’t have to think about going anywhere or doing anything. I actually have a staycation planned for next week to use up some vacation time and the week is already pretty full (including actually going to work for a meeting, boo!), so a day where I’m obligated to just stay home is always welcome.

It was also a great day for neighborliness. Before we got a chance to get out and shovel our sidewalk this morning our neighbor 2 doors up did it in conjunction with the neighbor between us and the two rental houses she owns on the other side of us. I returned the favor a couple of hours later. Then our next door neighbor shoveled. My husband got the next round. Then we never had to shovel the walk again. The next two times I was literally all suited up to go out and shovel the 2 neighbors were each outside shoveling our sidewalk when I opened the door to go out. Although we’re friendly enough to say hi if we see them and know their names, we’re not friends with our neighbors so it was a nice little moment.

Now that I’ve had my snow day I’m definitely ready for spring to get here fast. The record low temperature of 8 degrees does not make me hopeful that winter is on its way out though.