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.

Friends and the Aquarium

Yesterday I got spend the afternoon with my friend Erin, her husband, and their 6 year old son. They came down from Philly for the afternoon so we could have a chance to visit before they have their second child next month. Usually when we get together I’ve gone up to Philly, so it was fun to have them come down to Baltimore this time.

After grabbing lunch in our neighborhood we headed down to the aquarium. If you’re not familiar, Baltimore is actually home to the National Aquarium, so it’s one of the better aquariums I’ve ever been to. Since we figured at some point in the next year we’ll wind up going to the aquarium again with our niece and nephew we went ahead and bought a membership since you only have to go twice for that to pay off. The extra bonus of that was getting to avoid the ticket line and also go in whenever we wanted to. The tickets at the aquarium are timed so you can’t just walk up to the window, buy a ticket, and immediately enter unless you’re a member. It was definitely nice to be able to do that yesterday since we weren’t sure exactly when we would get down there.

It had been a few years since I had been to the aquarium for a proper visit, though Paul and I did go down for a behind the scenes tech tour in the past year or so. I hadn’t realized until yesterday that they had stopped doing the dolphin shows. I know that they’ve been considering removing the dolphins from the aquarium, but I hadn’t realized that even though they were still there at this point they had discontinued the actual shows. You can still seem them swimming around in the pools, but they don’t do a show like they used to.

It is a still a great aquarium though and it was fun to walk around and see all the fish and spend some time with friends.

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Playing Catch Up

I’ve been really busy lately both with work that is kind of overwhelming at the moment as well as actually doing the fun activities I’m going to write about in this post and thus have had no time to spend here writing about anything. Here’s a quick look at some of the fun things I’ve been up to lately.

1. This past Saturday was the annual holiday party that one of my groups of friends holds every year. For a decade we rented out the upstairs bar at Max’s for a few hours of fun every December, but time moves on and there are now too many kids to make that an option. Last year we thought we found a good alternative that was family friendly by renting out the Women’s Industrial Kitchen, but that sadly closed and ruined the chances for that again this year. Instead of undertaking the difficult search for another venue that would be good for our group in it’s current configuration our friends Kevin and Tracie decided to just go ahead and hold the party at their house. It was a different dynamic, but it was still great fun to hang out with friends that I don’t always see as often as I’d like. Most of them have moved out of the city and have kids now, which means that a lot of the time I only see most of them when there is a party. I wish that wasn’t necessarily the case, but I get it. We still kept with tradition and held our white elephant gift exchange. This year I came home with Brewopoly, which is essentially a beer themed Monopoly game. Paul came home with something called The Whole Brain Game, which I brought home from this same gift exchange 2 years ago, never played, and brought back last year. Whoever it took it home last year obviously brought it back this year. I suspect I know what one of our gifts for next year will be.

2. Sunday was a very busy day. It started off with my friend Carissa’s annual birthday/parade brunch prior to Baltimore’s Mayor’s Christmas parade. It was fun to hang out with an almost entirely different set of friends from Saturday and of course to watch my favorite parade in the world. I have said many times in the past that I love that parade so much. It’s so perfectly Baltimore with it’s random assortment of people and things. I don’t care about some big, fancy, polished parade I just love the heart that is this parade. We headed straight from the parade to meet our friend Heather for dinner at Alewife. Speaking of friends I normally don’t see enough, it had been quite some time since I had gotten to hang out with Heather outside of our most recent book club meeting. She doesn’t have any kids, but she commutes to DC for her main job and then takes on 85 other side jobs so she is always busy. We added on a ticket to Newsies at the Hippodrome to our season tickets for her, so we met up for dinner and then went to see the show. I saw the movie once when it first came out many moons ago, so I didn’t really much about it. I enjoyed the show though aside from the family (of all adults I might add) that were annoyingly disruptive coming in late, going to the bathroom, and the person sitting next to me reeking of marijuana. I don’t really know what their deal was.

3. Monday night was one of my book clubs. I was hosting this month and had us read Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 by Francine Prose. I had heard an interview with the author on NPR and thought the book sounded really interesting. We pretty much all agreed that the concept was intriguing, but it failed in execution. Too bad. I always hate when I pick a book for book club that isn’t that great. We had a delicious dinner, a good discussion, and white elephant book exchange so not all was lost.

4. Tuesday night I headed down to DC with my friends Heather and Karen to see Pop Culture Happy Hour Live. I’ve been to 3 of the 4 live shows they’ve done in DC. Sadly I had to miss the last one because I was out of town. They had been selling out their space at the NPR Headquarters in a matter of seconds, so this time they moved to the Sixth and I Synagogue. There were probably about 3 times the number of people, which gave the show a good energy. I definitely laughed a ton, and really enjoyed being there. Unfortunately because of coming from Baltimore and the need to snarf down dinner once we got into DC, we weren’t there when the doors opened at 6, which meant we had to sit up in the balcony. My view from the balcony was almost on par with my view during their first live show where I was standing in the back of a standing room only event in the middle of a pop up NPR store next to their old headquarters. This time I could only really see Barrie Hardymon. If I craned my head the right way I could sometimes see Glen Weldon’s face while he was talking, but mostly just his torso. Stephen Thompson and Linda Holmes were pretty much out of view for me. I appreciate that the larger venue allowed for more people to attend. When they asked at the beginning how many people had and hadn’t seen a live show before the people who hadn’t been able to attend in the past far outweighed those of us who had. Hopefully maybe they’ll be able to find a venue that supports the right number of people as well as provides everyone in attendance with a decent view. Even if I couldn’t see very well I still had an excellent time and am glad I went.

Star Spangled Spectacular Weekend

September 10-16 Baltimore is celebrating the 200th anniversary of the writing of the Star Spangled Banner by Francis Scott Key at the end of the Battle of Baltimore at the end of the War of 1812. You may recall that two years ago Baltimore hosted Sailabration to commemorate the beginning of the War of 1812, which designed to initially end in this week’s celebration, which is being billed as the biggest event that Baltimore has ever held. We went down to visit the ships and see the Blue Angels two years ago on a Friday afternoon. It worked out well, so Paul and I decided we would both take a half day of work on Friday and go down again this year when it would hopefully be a little less insane than it was bound to be on the weekend.

We didn’t go on as many of the ships this year because Paul didn’t want to wait in line. Based on the amount of time we had I don’t think we would have really had time to go on any additional ones anyway. Paul had looked at the list of ships ahead of time and decided he wanted to check out the NOAA vessel the Okeanos Explorer. When we got there we discovered they were doing official guided tours and so you had to sign up for a time. Since we were down there early enough we actually got signed up for one, but not until 2 hours later. We walked around and looked at the rest of the ships docked in the Inner Harbor and grabbed lunch.

Then we walked over to Federal Hill and got up there just in time for the Blue Angels to start their practice runs for the shows they were doing over Ft. McHenry Saturday and Sunday. Even just during practice they are incredibly impressive. I’m sure the actual show is even more so. One of the local TV news people got a ride in one of the jets earlier in the week and apparently passed out. I would probably vomit and then pass out. Some of those dives are crazy! They are crazy fast too. I kept trying to get a picture of the planes flying by the flag in the center of Federal Hill because I thought it would be a really cool shot. I have about half a dozen pictures of the flag with the Blue Angels just outside of the frame instead. I did get one picture that I really like though with the Blue Angels in formation flying right above the Pride of Baltimore II as it’s sailing out of the harbor, so I’ll have to settle for that one I guess.

After the Blue Angels we walked back over to the Okeanos for our tour. They told us about the work they do on the ship mapping the ocean floor and how their remote operated vehicle (ROV) works. It was a much more in depth look at the ship than you normally get when you get to walk around the main decks. After that tour we walked over to Fells Point and took a walk around the H.M.S. Argyll, a Scottish warship, that was docked at the Broadway Pier. I was highly amused that their uniforms involved shorts and knee socks because that just seems so Scottish to me.

We headed home after that and got stuck in some crazy traffic. Obama stopped at Ft. McHenry on his way to a fundraiser in Baltimore County and it happened to be right at Friday rush hour, so it pretty much FUBARed traffic around the entire metro area for several hours. A drive that usually takes us 10-15 minutes took us 45. I did not make it home in time to take the shower I had planned on before going out to dinner for a friend’s birthday. Hopefully I wasn’t too stinky.

Saturday sadly was rainy for most of the day, which is too bad given that it probably would have been the biggest day for the event if the weather had been nice. Luckily the weather did eventually clear up enough that the Blue Angels were able to fly about an hour and half after their scheduled start time, so it wasn’t a total wash for people who braved the rain. Happily for us the rain was long gone by plans for the evening. As part of the celebration Baltimore hosted the Star Spangled Spectacular concert, which was televised nationally on PBS’s Great Performances. If you missed it live last night, sometimes they put them up online, so you may be able to watch it later. The concert was hosted by John Lithgow and Jordan Sparks and featured a number of performers from all genres of music including Train, Melissa Etheridge, Kristin Chenoweth, Little Big Town, Denyce Graves-Montgomery, Kenny Rogers, Pentatonix, Smokey Robinson, and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. It ended in the largest fireworks display that Baltimore has ever put on and certainly the largest that I’ve ever seen. There were actually so many fireworks I was a bit overwhelmed. We were right in the middle of the six barges where we were located so I couldn’t decide which direction I should be looking. I think I might like my fireworks displays a little more subdued.

We had lawn seats of the concert, which actually worked out really nice for us. Because of the need to almost immediately switch back and forth between acts they had a second stage set up on the lawn. We had a great view of both stages from where we were, while I’m guessing people inside the pavilion had a poor view of the lawn stage if they could actually see it at all aside from what they were projecting on the screens on the main stage. Sometimes it pays to have the cheap (which in this case were not actually that cheap) seats. Each act sang 2 songs, so it gave you just a little taste of everything. Some people it made me really want to see more of live like Melissa Etheridge and others like Train reminded me why I don’t care about seeing them again. I realized last night that this incidentally was the third time I’ve unintentionally seen Train in concert because they happened to be playing with someone else I wanted to see. The first time was in a tiny little club where I went to college where they were the opening band, and no one had even heard of them yet. It was right before they hit it big with “Meet Virginia”. Anyway, I digress. It was a fun concert, and I’m glad we went.

It was a wonderful weekend overall. It was nice to see Baltimore on the national stage for something good for a change especially with all the recent bad publicity with Ray Rice and the Ravens.

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