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Ethical Beef • The Return of the Poetry Scene • Go Geothermal? august 2008 issue no. 50

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50 ISSUE

Shocking tales of drama and intrigue from...

Jessica Anya Blau • Andria Nacina Cole • Tim Kreider • Richard O’Mara • Jim Sizemore w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m a u g u s t 0 8

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To give, please call 410-837-1800 or visit goodwillches.org.


experience

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fiction: guest editor: julie

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7 steps to an

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MARCH/APRIL 2004

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the greening

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guest editor: Robert Sirota

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trading black ties for community ties: baltimore’s new philanthropists

guest editor: tyson tildon

gabrielli

eco-rehab

dragons

architecture of spirit: the visionary’s visionary

ter

on the wa

meet Gray Rock

of baltimore

Visionary

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B A L T I M O R E

9

7

Jed Dietz, Guest Editor

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writing the city

does baltimore have a sound?

n tekwo th Lab One wi gy One on opolo Anthr : Urban Home

Eric Utne, guest editor

Lafaye tte

Notes Liner Urban

the literary issue guest edited by alice mcdermott

moeller guest editor martin

up and coming Neighborhood: The final waterfront frontier?

itor

Out There: MICA Grad Animates LA

Home: Building with Straw in Mount Washington

Sport: Disc golf

Coming Attractions: Skizz Cyzyk, Katie O’Malley, and Steve Yeager with Maryland Film Festival Picks

Neighborhood: Scenes of Little Italy

Food: The new spice

the new waterfront

instahouse

your dreamhome delivered

double talk

guerilla picnics

john glassie on john glassie

summer in a straw

Designers: Small Roar and Zvezdana

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Can We Sustain a Culture of Ownership? – Jonathan Rowe 1

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building baltimore’s brand

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drumming to a different beat meet the shoe shine king

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B A L T I M O R E ’ S

C U R I O U S

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jone

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Baltimore’s Biotech Revolution

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Say Bye-Bye to BGE

Your home’s energy alternative

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F O R

ECO-CHIC: THE GREEN MOVEMENT GETS HIP U MY SO-CALLED (VIRTUAL) LIFE: CONFESSIONS OF A MYSPACE A THE LABYRINTH IS BACK: LES HARRIS’ NEW MUSEUM U END OF AN ERA: WHY THE AMISH ARE LEAVING AMISH COU

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Will Your Vote Count? The Diebold debate

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B A L T I M O R E ’ S

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BALTIMORE UNWRAPPED: THE ULTIMATE URBANITE GIFT GUIDE • CREATIVE COMPOSTING: HOW TO GET STARTED

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B A LT I M O R E ’ S

C U R I O U S

F O R

B A L T I M O R E ’ S

issue no. 33

WHY BALTIMOREANS DON’T TALK ABOUT IT

B A L T I M O R E ’ S

issue no. 31

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issue no. 27

issue no. 28

2006

THE RACE THING

F O R

march 2007

C U R I O U S

2007

B A L T I M O R E ’ S

january

F O R

2006

C U R I O U S

2006

B A L T I M O R E ’ S

december 2006 issue no. 30

november

october

issue no. 27

F O R

T H E P R E S E RVAT I O N I S S U E

Fifty years in South Baltimore

2006

C U R I O U S

B A L T I M O R E

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C U R I O U S

B A L T I M O R E

with guest editor Lea Gilmore

2006

2006

THIS MONTH’S GUEST EDITOR KARRIE JACOBS | COMING OF AGE IN COLUMBIA AN ESSAY BY STEPHEN AMIDON DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH A SURPRISING FIND FOR FOODIES | OFF THE GRID MARYLAND’S NEW SOLAR HOUSE

fluid movement bureaucrat gone wild

the spirituality issue

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are suburbs the new cities? are cities the new suburbs?

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what does it mean to believe june

january

B A L T I M O R E

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the two-minute commute living above the store

B A L T I M O R E

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guest editor ellen lupton on design

B A L T I M O R E ’ S

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50 ISSUE

charm city style

F O R

eat like a native a chesapeake feast

moving on up

riches reveals baltimore’s rowhouse reinvented town fells point’s new spanish

Encounter: Superheroes with a Hip-Hop Beat

People: 20 Baltimoreans on the rise

Gilchr ist, gu est ed

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B A L T I M O R E

issue no. 12

Is Baltimore an Emerging Film Town?

issue no. 11

no.

no.

no.

The New American Dream

View of Delft: Carl Dennis

when can we swim in the harbor?

2005

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Home: Create Your Own Art Gallery

2005

B A L T I M O R E

8 Eco-Friendly Products for Your Home

Film: The End of Suburbia

1 june

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may

2005

2005

2005

B A LT IM O RE

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march

february

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january

B A LT IM O RE

MAY/JUNE 2004

JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2004

ded in America

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2004

fiction: How Leini Lan

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F O R

B A L T I M O R E ’ S

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THE ROAD TO R & B: HOW SONNY TIL AND THE ORIOLES CHANGED POP MUSIC • CELLULOID CITY: AN INDIE FILM REVOLUTION

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COMING CLEAN OUR NATIONAL OBSESSION WITH ONLINE CONFESSIONALS

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OWNINGCYBERSPACE

MODERN MAKEOVER INSIDE THE LIVING CLASSROOMS’ LATEST BUILDINGS

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ellen lupton on why net neutrality matters

ellen lupton on why net neutrality matters

THEMARRIAGEMISSION

The Lack of Common Courtesy:

MOVEABLE FEAST A NEW TAKE ON FREE-RANGE FARMING

the push to get baltimoreans to tie the knot

THEMARRIAGEMISSION the push to get baltimoreans to tie the knot

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A Sprawling Problem:

The first in a series on development in Maryland

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Soul Food with a Heart:

Why aren’t we nicer to each other?

Vegetarian Southern cuisine

80 Years in Duckpin Country:

Patterson Bowling Center celebrates a milestone

BAD NEWS: AWARD-WINNING JOURNALIST TOM FENTON ON MEDIA AND DEMOCRACY FAMILY HEIRLOOM: THE RARE APPLES OF REID’S ORCHARD

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DANCING WITH THE UNDEAD: A NIGHT AT THE ZOMBIE PROM POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGES: BALTIMORE TURNS THE CAMERA ON ITSELF may 2007

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Is this the future of environmentalism?

C U R I O U S

B A L T I M O R E ’ S

C U R I O U S

Baltimore, One Tale at Time

a property trading game of chance?

F O R

issue no. 38

F O R

Stories from the Stoops:

saving the city’s secret wilderness

B A L T I M O R E ’ S

C U R I O U S

are we there yet? making sense of mass transit

F O R

B A L T I M O R E ’ S

C U R I O U S

november 2007 issue no. 41

B A L T I M O R E ’ S

october 2007 issue no. 40

F O R

HISTORIC PRESERVATION

september 2007 issue no. 39

august 2007

C U R I O U S

issue no. 37

B A L T I M O R E ’ S

july 2007

F O R

issue no. 36

issue no. 35

june 2007

may 2007

issue no. 35

Exclusive excerpt! Paul Hawken’s latest book • A Grand Idea: How the Masonic Temple was sav

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F O R

B A L T I M O R E ’ S

C U R I O U S

back to school with andres alonso

“Good deeds done dirt cheap is charity. What we need is good deeds done smart.” —Robert Egger, co-founder of the National Nonprofit Congress

Efad[We ergo,

The Transformation Baltimore at work, then and now

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Farm Fresh: Farm Fresh: The Downtown Market Turns The Downtown Market Turns 3030 Building Tall in Texas: Building Tall in Texas: Austin’s Plan to Hogtie Sprawl Austin’s Plan to Hogtie Sprawl

MARYLAND MARYLANDGOTHIC: GOTHIC: CAN ALLIANCE SAVESAVE THE BAY? CANAN ANURBAN/AGRO URBAN/AGRO ALLIANCE THE BAY?

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baltimore, one tale at a time

CONDUCTING CREATIVITY

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New Fiction from Stephen Dixon

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Inside Hampden’s Police Station Rehab • Richard O’Mara on the Tyranny of the Smile

B A L T I M O R E ’ S

may 2008 issue no. 47

F O R

B A L T I M O R E ’ S

C U R I O U S

F O R

B A L T I M O R E ’ S

In Defense Of Family Dinner • Unprotected Landmarks • The End Is Nigh!

Ethical Beef • The Return of the Poetry Scene • Go Geotherma may 2008 issue no. 49

july 2008 issue no. 49

50 ISSUE

C U R I O U S

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city rites

memory, meaning, and the rituals that shape our lives

The Games That We Play

Three from the Heart Rafael Alvarez on hometown love Deborah Rudacille on the chemistry of affection Mat Edelson on fathers and sons

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Wine and Dine: Uncork Our Expanded Food Section Inside a Doublewide: Are Two Rowhouses Better Than One?

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Who Wants Pie? • My House of Straw • Are We Gotham or Metropo lis? june 2008 issue no. 48

C U R I O U S

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january 2008 issue no. 43

The Secret Lives of Screen Painters • Identity Politics: What You Should Know About DNA Sampling

F O R

Exclusive excerpt: Manil Suri’s new novel Rumble in the woods: Mount Washington’s bike path standoff Page turner: Building a better library

Richard Serra at Sparrows Point

The Critics Have Spoken: Music, Books, Film, and More in Our New Arts Section

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Naked Truth: I Survived Life Modeling • You Bet Your Life: Downtown Casinos?

Special Issue: Crime & Violence 1

The Animal Issue

Shocking tales of drama and intrigue from..

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contents

august 2008 issue no. 50

f e a t u r e s 36

keynote: the real thing interview by david dudley

patsy sims of goucher college’s creative nonfiction program lays down the law on making it up.

41

42

true stories edited by susan mccallum-smith

our annual summer story issue offers five tales standing somewhere along the line between fact and fiction.

46

42

bubbe and zeyde

46

the storyteller

48

klaatu barada nikto

50

the stabbing story

52

small crimes

by jessica anya blau

by richard o’mara

by jim sizemore

by tim kreider

by andria nacina cole

d e p a r t m e n t s 9 50

on the cover:

illustrator deanna staffo’s hardboiled imagery was inspired by pulp novels of the 1950s.

editor’s note print the legend

13

what you’re saying

17

what you’re writing

21

corkboard

23

the goods

who’s bigger?

saying yes: exchanging vows, sharing cultures, holding on

this month: virgins, fleas, and beauty queens

rack and roll. plus: sheer whimsy, a dog’s life, and healing hands

w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m a u g u s t 0 8

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urbanite august 08

YOUR FACE IS SPECIAL. THAT’S WHY IT’S OUR SPECIALTY.

Board Certified: The American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Johns Hopkins Teaching Facility


august 2008 issue no. 50

contents 29

baltimore observed the power of one ten years with osi-baltimore’s community fellows by rebecca messner

31

after father mike a local parish loses its charismatic leader by c. fraser smith

33

29

gardening on the edge how one man’s front yard became edible art by brennen jensen

57

space journey to the center of the earth getting comfortable with geothermal heating by scott carlson

61

water, water everywhere a rehab that welcomes a rainy day by amy novotney

65

57

71

the drawing board a far-out port

eat/drink good cow, bad cow a kinder, gentler steak by martha thomas

77

reviewed: the brass elephant and tark’s grill

79

wine & spirits: rosé revival

81

the feed: this month in eating

83

art/culture wordplay the ivory towers and back alleys of baltimore’s poetry scene by michael yockel

plus: return to forever, kosher with salsa, and all the news that’s fit to monumentalize

65 98

eye to eye urbanite’s creative director alex castro on photographer andrew nagl’s precocious vision

this month online at www.urbanitebaltimore.com:

video: a short film by chris rebbert photos: scenes of artist fritz haeg’s edible estates project resources: more on geothermal heating and cooling recipes: who wants potato salad?

71 w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m a u g u s t 0 8

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Issue 50: August 2008 Publisher Tracy Ward Durkin Tracy@urbanitebaltimore.com Creative Director Alex Castro Editor-in-Chief David Dudley David@urbanitebaltimore.com Managing Editor Marianne Amoss Marianne@urbanitebaltimore.com Senior Editor Greg Hanscom Greg@urbanitebaltimore.com

11201 Garrison Forest Rd /Owings Mills, MD 21117 410.484.2413 www.ExploreNature.org

Staff Writer Lionel Foster Lionel@urbanitebaltimore.com Literary Editor Susan McCallum-Smith Literaryeditor@urbanitebaltimore.com Contributing Writers Michael Anft, Charles Cohen, Mat Edelson, Richard O’Mara, Martha Thomas, Sharon Tregaskis, Mary K. Zajac Editorial Interns Sheena Gebhardt, Lara Streyle

Who’s got the juice? Coming Next Month Power, People, and Progress.

Design/Production Manager Lisa Macfarlane Lisa@urbanitebaltimore.com Traffi c/Production Coordinator Bellee Gossett Bellee@urbanitebaltimore.com Designer Jason Okutake Staff Photographers La Kaye Mbah, Jason Okutake Production Interns Megan Brohawn, Chris Sausto

www.urbanitebaltimore.com

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urbanite august 08

Web Coordinator/Videographer Chris Rebbert website@urbanitebaltimore.com


photo by La Kaye Mbah

courtesy of Ken Royster

courtesy of C. Fraser Smith

photo by Kristine Henry

contributors As a senior reporter at the Chronicle of Higher Education, Scott Carlson writes about architecture, energy, business, and sustainability. His work has also appeared in the Baltimore Sun, City Paper, Utne Reader, Dwell, and Style. He lives in Rodgers Forge with his wife, Kristine Henry (an occasional Urbanite contributor), and two kids. Researching his article on geothermal heating and cooling systems (“Journey to the Center of the Earth,” p. 57) gave Carlson some pause. “The story made me look at my little front yard in a whole new light,” he says. “I very well may [install one in my own home]—if I can find $20,000 lying around.” C. Fraser Smith has been a Baltimore Sun reporter, columnist, and editorial writer since most of this magazine’s staff was riding Big Wheels. He is currently WYPR’s senior news analyst, and his most recent book, Here Lies Jim Crow: Civil Rights in Maryland, was released this year by Johns Hopkins University Press. This month, he wrote about banished Saint Leo’s priest Mike Salerno (“After Father Mike,” p. 31). The story presented a vexing challenge, he says: “Was Father Mike run out of town because the Church couldn’t afford another scandal? The Little Italy community certainly wouldn’t tolerate child abuse, but it didn’t want to sacrifice Father Mike to an unproven accusation.” Photographer Ken Royster is an associate professor of art at Morgan State University. His photographs have appeared in local and national publications, and in such venues as the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Institution, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, and Dallas’ African American Museum. For this month’s issue, Royster captured the dream-like quality of Andria Nacina Cole’s short story “Small Crimes” (p. 52). “To interpret this story, I had to draw upon my gut reaction,” he says. The result is an intentionally hazy and moody photo-illustration. Editorial intern Lara Streyle is a Timonium native and a senior at Indiana University-Bloomington. In 2007, she worked as a general assignments reporter and the arts beat reporter for the Indiana Daily Student. Last spring, she traveled in Europe with fellow IU journalism students, re-tracing the footsteps of fellow Hoosier and WWII correspondent Ernie Pyle. Streyle will graduate this December with degrees in journalism and communication and culture. She wrote about Timonium’s Massage Envy and Ellicott City’s Charity’s Closet in this month’s “The Goods” (p. 23 and 25).

editor’s note

Halfway through his autobiographical Vietnam War chronicle The Things They

Carried, Tim O’Brien makes a startling admission: The stories he has been telling about his experiences in the war—vividly recalled first-person accounts populated by utterly authentic events and characters who live and die before us—didn’t happen. It’s not that O’Brien was trying to pull a fast one. The title page blares “A Work of Fiction.” At several points, the narrator all but begs readers to disregard our senses and consider the whole thing pure invention. Still, we don’t believe him. The author really did serve in the war, after all, and his buddies in Alpha Company, to whom the book is dedicated, are so finely drawn that they could only be flesh and blood. In the end, we accept the veracity of what O’Brien writes because it feels true, despite his demurrals. At one point, he explains why: He makes the distinction between what he calls “happening-truth” and “story-truth,” which, he insists, may be the more authentic of the two. “Absolute occurrence is irrelevant,” he writes. “A thing may happen and be a total lie; another thing may not happen and be truer than the truth.” For those of us here in the reality-based community (to borrow that useful phrase coined by an unnamed Bush Administration aide to dismiss the concerns of journalist Ron Suskind and his colleagues), the notion that imaginary events can be more true than real ones is a difficult one to swallow. Journalists are supposed to be content in our world of facts, and, indeed, we expend no small amount of energy trying to convince subjects and readers alike that we’re not all inveterate liars. “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend,” goes the famous line from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, spoken by a gruff newspaper editor who decides not to debunk the tale of a mythic gunfight. The implication is that we prefer cherished myths to untidy and imperfect reality. The popularity of that line is probably more a testament to the low esteem in which the media is held than an accurate gauge of how often the precept is actually applied. Which, come to think of it, might be one of the reasons newspapers are in such trouble lately; perhaps a dose of story-truth would do some good. Despite the banishment of short fiction from general-interest publications over the last decades, Urbanite has long been committed to showcasing the region’s best storytellers. Great fiction can explain things that journalism can’t, and it needs a consistent, public venue. This summer, we’re tweaking the traditional beach-season fiction issue idea by mixing in some nonfiction as well. The five tales in our “True Stories” package (p. 41), selected and edited with the able help of Urbanite literary editor Susan McCallum-Smith, are all seeded with nuggets of authenticity, to varying degrees. As readers, you can negotiate your own rapprochement between story-truth and happening-truth, or just enjoy each story for what it is: a tale worth telling. Starting a new magazine, as many a publisher can attest, is a feat of invention of a whole different order. Still harder is keeping one going, especially these days. Most publication start-ups last about as long as tapas restaurants or NFL careers. So dust off those time capsules and give us a hand for beating some odds: You hold in your hands the soon-to-bea-collector’s-item fiftieth issue of Urbanite. The magazine debuted in January 2004 as a twenty-three-page black-and-white bimonthly. The publication has evolved since then—turn to page 4 and you can track this journey via cover art—but some DNA remains. Among the highlights of that inaugural issue: a comic rendering of urban planner David Rusk’s 1995 regionalist manifesto “Baltimore Unbound,” drawn by the cartoonist Tom Chalkley. That mix of the accessible and the wonkish is still a part of today’s Urbanite (we even have a cartoon in this issue). Stay tuned for issue 100, due to arrive in October 2012. —David Dudley

w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m a u g u s t 0 8

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Issue 50: August 2008 Publisher Tracy Ward Durkin Tracy@urbanitebaltimore.com General Manager Jean Meconi Jean@urbanitebaltimore.com Chief Financial Officer Carol Coughlin Senior Account Executives Catherine Bowen Catherine@urbanitebaltimore.com Susan R. Levy Susan@urbanitebaltimore.com Account Executive Jackie Wezwick Jackie@urbanitebaltimore.com Advertising Sales Assistant Carol Longdon Carol@urbanitebaltimore.com Sales/Accounting Assistant Iris Goldstein Iris@urbanitebaltimore.com Advertising Intern Mallory Varvaris Marketing Kathleen Dragovich Kathleen@urbanitebaltimore.com Marketing/Administrative Assistant La Kaye Mbah LaKaye@urbanitebaltimore.com Marketing Intern Ally Oshinsky Founder Laurel Harris Durenberger Advertising/Editorial/Business Offices P.O. Box 50158, Baltimore, MD 21211 Phone: 410-243-2050; Fax: 410-243-2115 www.urbanitebaltimore.com Editorial inquiries: Send queries to editor@urbanitebaltimore.com (no phone calls, please). The magazine is not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts or artwork. Urbanite does not necessarily support the opinions of its authors. To subscribe or obtain assistance with a current subscription, call 410-243-2050. Subscription price: $18 per year. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission by Urbanite is prohibited. Copyright 2008, Urbanite LLC. All rights reserved. Urbanite (ISSN 1556-8105) is a free publication distributed widely in the Baltimore metropolitan area. If you know of a location that urbanites frequent and would recommend placing the magazine there, please contact us at 410-243-2050. Postmaster: Send address changes to Urbanite Subscriptions, P.O. Box 50158, Baltimore, MD 21211.

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di f f e r e n c e


what you’re saying

photo montage by Chris Rebbert

What’s Fair is Fair

Where the Wild Things Were I enjoyed Greg Hanscom’s story and Jefferson Steele’s photographs on urban ecology (“Where the Wild Things Are,” July). I live in Locust Point, three blocks from Fort McHenry, and I walk there often. Recently, the Maryland Port Authority clearcut a north-facing slope of land in order to replace a chain link fence. Prior to the clearcut, there were numerous trees and plants. The small oasis served as a site for nesting birds, and, given its proximity to Fort McHenry, as an additional stopover on the migratory flyway. Since the clearcut, water now runs down the slope and pools at the bottom, creating a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Of course, there are now no trees for birds, and it is all a hideous, barren eyesore. I would like the Port Authority to replant the slope. Since Locust Point’s iconic tree is the black locust, I thought that would be a good suggestion. Between the trees, I was thinking milkweeds, to support migratory monarch butterflies. Also, I’ve seen two Mediterranean house geckos (Hemidactylus turcicus) around my house on walls or (in one case) a dirt floor where insects are found. These nifty little lizards with large eyes and suction-cup feet are voracious predators on roaches, camel crickets, and other insects they may find, and serve as excellent natural means of bug control. They are very elusive. (I’ve been in my house five years and have only seen two.) According to herpetologists, Baltimore is the northernmost range of their domestic invasion. —Richard Karel is working on a master’s degree in herbal medicine at the Tai Sophia Institute in Laurel.

I have lived near the Baltimore Country Club on and off for five years. There is a strange animal that lives around there that makes horrifying noises in the middle of the night. I have heard it several times recently at around 3 a.m. The other night, my cat was out at that time. I heard the screeching sound and stepped outside. I called to my cat, who seemed to be in a confrontation with this beast in the middle of my apartment courtyard. My cat came to me and I saw the animal trot away. It had the bearing of a wild animal, seemed very strong and healthy, and trotted almost like a deer or horse. It was a little larger than my thirteen-pound cat but with longer legs and a more upright head. I thought it might be a gray fox, but it lacked a bushy tail. I have heard a recording of a fox’s cry, which sounded like a savage screech. The animal’s bearing and its cry make me think it is not a stray pet dog. Any ideas? —Ann Margaret Russ is a teacher who lives in Roland Park. Greg Hanscom replies: Tom Scollins of TS Wildlife Control says the beast is “definitely a red fox. It is very typical for the younger ones to make blood-curdling screeches at night. They talk to each other that way. The cat is lucky, though—good thing for nine lives.” Scollins says one of the best ways to get rid of a fox is to make sure there’s no food around for it. He has known people to adopt an urban fox, setting out a bowl of dog food. “They feel sorry for it,” he says. “But the fox grew up in the city. It’s all he knows. It’s not as if he suddenly landed from Montana.”

On the July 2008 “Corkboard,” you describe Artscape “as the “largest free public art festival in the country.” This may be an “apples to oranges” comparison, but I was involved with the first Ann Arbor Street Art Fair in 1960, and, having gone back from time to time since then to observe its growth, I can attest to the accuracy of this current description from the AASAF: Established in 1960, the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair is the Original of a collective of concurrent art fairs bringing four days of outstanding visual art to downtown Ann Arbor. Named the “Number One Art Fair” in the country in 2004 and a Top Ten Fair in 2005 and 2006 by the readers of AmericanStyle magazine, the Street Art Fair has long pursued selecting and presenting the highest quality original art to its patrons. The four Ann Arbor Art Fairs draw more than 500,000 art-enthused citizens from across the nation. In the art fair wars, it is some comfort to note that everybody wins. —Harry A. Henshaw has lived in Monkton for about four years, having relocated from the Midwest. He’s a consultant in corporate industrial/brownfield property use and redevelopment with the Towson office of Colliers Pinkard.

Clarifi cation Jerry Raitzyk, director of the Chesapeake Juggling Institute, stopped by our office to request a correction for Tony Buechner’s letter (July) regarding the Hampden-based jugglers club to which both men belong. The correct name of the group, which meets every Thursday night at 7 p.m. at the Roosevelt Recreation Center, is B’More Juggle.

We want to hear what you’re saying. Email us at mail@urbanitebaltimore.com or send your letter to Mail, Urbanite, P.O. Box 50158, Baltimore, MD 21211. Please include your name, address, and daytime phone number. Letters may be edited for length and clarity. You can also comment on our website (www.urbanitebaltimore. com/forum).

w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m a u g u s t 0 8

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—Marianne Amoss Rebuilding has begun in the crime-ravaged neighborhood of Oliver. (See “Raising Oliver,” May ’08 Urbanite.) In May, workers erected the first five homes in the Preston Place development, known by locals as the “ New Oliver.” Eleven moderate- and low-income buyers have qualified for funding to buy homes, says Reverend Calvin Keene, a project proponent whose church, Memorial Baptist, sits across the street from the new houses. Baltimoreans United in Leadership and Development, or BUILD, is working with dozens more to put financing in place. The developer,

update

photo by Kavita Vijayan

On a humid June evening, about seventy-five architects, planners, students, and regular folks crammed into the lobby of Load of Fun Studios at Howard Street and North Avenue. Their task: To begin to plant the seeds for an urban design center for Baltimore. According to Klaus Philipsen—co-chair of the AIA Urban Design Committee, one of the night’s organizers, and a recent “Drawing Board” contributor (see Urbanite’s July issue)—the idea for an urban design center has been percolating in Baltimore for years, but was recently revived by planning director Douglas McCoach. Design centers can be found across the world. In Paris, the Pavillon de l’Arsenal educates citizens about architecture and development through exhibitions and publications. The San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR) brings together neighborhood leaders, government officials, planners, and architects to discuss the needs of the city. “Many of them are perceived to be a place where, between the public and architecture, there’s nothing but air,” Philipsen says. “One of the aspirations for the [Baltimore] design center is to give the public more of a sense of being empowered to actually influence architecture and urban planning.” At the meeting, several participants, including former Urbanite editor-in-chief Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson (now a freelance journalist), presented concepts for what the urban design center might look like and do. The attendees then broke into small groups to brainstorm, with a representative from each group shouting out ideas and hopes for the center. This fall, planning will continue, with the formation of workgroups to pursue funding and to map out possible scenarios, and another public brainstorm. “I am not sure yet how we will proceed,” says Philipsen. “It really is still emerging.” Visit www.alterurban.com/bdc.htm to see transcripts and notes from the June 26 brainstorming session, and for information about future meetings and developments.

State Senator Nathaniel J. McFadden (left) and Reverend Calvin Keene of Memorial Baptist Church spoke at a gathering to celebrate the first homes in the Preston Place development in Oliver.

TRF Development Partners Baltimore, plans to build seventy-five new homes and rehab forty-seven others. “We’ll be there for two years,” says company president Sean Closkey. “Every couple of months, we’ll sell five more units. It’s a consistent and predictable amount of investment, and that’s what we believe neighborhoods need.” On a sunny June morning, lifelong resident Tony Worrell sat on a stoop, waiting with his wife for her bus. He looked across the street at the new houses rising from a patch of vacant land. “It’s been down so long, it looks kind of funny,” he said. He thought for a moment and added, “It’s going to be a real nice neighborhood.” As of early July, three people had been murdered in Oliver this year, all of them young men either 19 or 20 years old, but citywide, the streets have quieted. In the first six months of 2008, the Baltimore Sun reported 104 homicides in the city—down from 153 in the first half of 2007. “If that trend continues,” wrote Sun reporters Annie Linskey and Nick Madigan on June 29, “the city could register the lowest homicide rate since 1988, a year before crack cocaine-fueled violence hit America’s inner cities.” Meanwhile, in Chicago, the murder rate is up 13 percent over last year and the innovative anti-violence campaign CeaseFire is fighting for its life. CeaseFire is the model for the Safe Streets program now underway on Baltimore’s east and west sides. (See “Murder, Interrupted,” Urbanite May ’08.) Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich yanked $6.2 million in state funding from the project last year, forcing it to dramatically reduce the numbers of “violence interruptors”—many of them ex-convicts—working to defuse violence in the streets. According to a study released by

Northwestern University in May, CeaseFire had reduced shootings in hotspot neighborhoods by 17 to 24 percent. —Greg Hanscom After a still-protested firing by public radio station WYPR in February, Marc Steiner— the guest editor of Urbanite’s August 2007 issue—has packed his bags and his penchant for stirring conversation and taken them to WEAA-FM (88.9) at Morgan State University. “We’re going to be consciously focused on how to make the show appeal across racial and generational lines,” he says. The first broadcast on WEAA, on May 19, was a twohour evening call-in session discussing school violence with guest Andres Alonso, CEO of the Baltimore City Public School System. This month, Steiner plans to broadcast from the Democratic National Convention in Denver. The show currently airs on Wednesdays at 9 a.m.; it will move to 5 p.m. daily starting September 8. Also on WEAA, 2008 Urbanite Project participant Mario Armstrong, host of the technology show The Digital Spin, will interview representatives from both Republican and Democratic camps about how political conventions and campaigns use technology. Starting this month, streaming videos of the program will appear online at www.Mario Armstrong.com. Outside the world of news, he plans to open a free technology summer camp for underprivileged middle-schoolaged children at Morgan State in the summer of 2009. —Lara Streyle

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urbanite august 08

3201 st. paul street, baltimore, md 21218 410.243.0324


Saying Yes

photo by Jocelyn Mathewes

what you’re writing

At age 3, my parents sat me down for

“The Talk.” I couldn’t say the word “adoption,” but felt swept along by its undertow. By 10, I could recite the definition verbatim. By 13, I exhibited the emotional “symptoms.” Regardless of the stage of acceptance I reached, one message resounded: YOU BELONG TO SOMEONE ELSE. As with all children, the question “Where did I come from?” arose, but I was spared the litany of traditional responses received by most. Instead, my parents chose to remain decidedly short on answers regarding my origins. They cautiously sidestepped my curiosity until I was old enough to realize these questions were neither welcomed nor rewarded. Frustrated by their avoidance, I devised an elaborate fantasy world to distract myself. Depending on what was popular at the time, my biological mother ranged from Wonder Woman to Cyndi Lauper. In my teens, I had the sudden realization that the gap in David Letterman’s teeth was an identical match to my own. Alternately, I envisioned a tearful reunion with my biological mother in an airport—no, on national television—my mother’s only words a mantra of “I should never have given her away.” I would never tire of her heartwrenching stories of an empty life. Reality finally broke through when I was 18. Under the dull fluorescent lighting of an Arkansas K-Mart, I approached a woman showing a sincere lack of enthusiasm, her arms outstretched only to the pile of women’s lingerie strewn before her. Her head rose to meet my presence.

“Can I help you find anything today?” This was her real-life mantra. “Yes.” —Lisa Shaw splits her time between Front Royal, Virginia, and Baltimore’s Pigtown neighborhood. She’s working on a book about life as a Native American adoptee.

On a winter afternoon in 1988,

my mother took me to church for my second act of confession. I was 8 years old, and my mother told me my sins. “You forgot to brush your teeth last Tuesday,” she said. “And last Wednesday, I told you to put away your Popples and you didn’t listen.” Because a massive snowstorm had come through the week before, she bundled me in snow gear that swished against the wooden pews. She pointed to an open confessional and nodded her head. I entered, knelt down, and after reciting “Bless me Father …,” I listed my sins. Then, I remembered something my mother hadn’t told me. “We missed church last Sunday,” I said, “because of the snow.” “Did you play in the snow?” I knew he was angry, but I couldn’t lie. Lying was a sin. “Yes,” I said. “Did your mother play with you in the snow?” She had pressed buttons into my mittens, told me that I must be the one to give my snowman eyes. I had said it was a snowwoman, and her name was Chris. My mother’s name.

“Yes,” I said. To be fair, I cannot remember his exact words, but I do remember “mother” and “bad Catholic” and “If you played in the snow, you could’ve walked to church.” I left, and heard my mother’s Hail Mary whispers before I saw her in the third pew from the back. The sound of swishing snowsuit against wooden pew caused her to look up. I knelt beside her and began my own whispering, but her hand clutched my chin, turned my face. She said, “What’s wrong?” much louder than I would’ve liked. I told her everything. I reminded her which confessional I had entered. She walked to the door and stood outside it. I was afraid she would enter, but she didn’t. After that, I continued my catechism and was confirmed as Elizabeth in the spring of ’94. In high school, I accompanied the organist with my flute every third Sunday. My mother and I continued to attend church every week until the day before I left for college. But that was my last confession. —Angeline Lester is a native Baltimorean.

“Stop the car!”

We had just passed the most beautiful girl I had ever laid eyes on. My buddy slowed the Plymouth ragtop and I jumped out. Susan and her girlfriend were startled by my sudden intrusion, but after a brief introduction, my plea for Susan’s phone number was granted. I then disappeared as fast as I had arrived. So began the summer of 1957, when we w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m a u g u s t 0 8

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what you’re writing two teens developed our first important relationship ever. Susan and I were inseparable— “going steady,” as it was called then. Proms, dances, parties, cruising the drive-ins, and occasional family picnics. The dances all had names like the “Stroll” and the “Madison,” with singers like Elvis, Pat, Jerry, Buddy, Fats, Johnny, and Patsy, and groups like the Bobbettes, the Diamonds, the Del Vikings, and the Everly Brothers. It all seemed so perfect; nothing could keep us apart. Then it happened: Susan’s dad had a job offer in another state. The family had to move. Our world collapsed. Later, I joined the Navy, and Susan started college. We had no communication for thirty-seven years. In 2000 the planets all lined up once again, and Susan and I began a new relationship, cautiously this time, without the majestic expectations of youth. Our “cruising” now consisted of trips to the Inner Harbor, Ocean City, and Havre de Grace. On the way to Havre de Grace one day, we managed a side trip to Swan Harbor. Walking to the waterfront on such a beautiful day with such a beautiful woman inspired me to ask Susan, “Will you marry me?” Once again Susan granted my wish and said yes.

her breakfast. “Cereal? Eggs?” she asked the French girl, holding up cartons and boxes. They looked at each other, puzzled. My two years of French suddenly evaporated. Emmanuelle was tall, wiry, and timid. “Chocolat chaud?” she asked repeatedly. After she went upstairs to retrieve her FrenchEnglish dictionary, it occurred to me that she was referring to hot chocolate. That was just the beginning. For the entire time that Emmanuelle was with us, she kept asking us to take her to “Le McDonald’s,” where she would suck ketchup out of the packet before eating a French fry. Emmanuelle later learned that besides “Le McDonald’s,” there was also “Le Wendy’s.” My mother learned that French fries, French toast, and French dressing weren’t necessarily French cuisine. My family learned about Catholic Mass, and Emmanuelle learned how emotional African Americans could get during Sunday church service. On the Fourth of July, we took Emmanuelle to watch the Inner Harbor fireworks from the shoulder of I-395. It was one of the few moments during our time together that didn’t require translation on anyone’s part.

—George Waldhauser is working on a historical composition of memories and verbal records of his family’s move from Germany to the United States. He and Susan celebrated seven years of marriage in May of this year.

—Baltimorean Kimberly S. Williams writes fiction, poetry, and essays, and is planning on publishing a collection of poems and essays later this year. She is a volunteer instructor for the Writing Outside the Fence workshop held at the Re-Entry Center at Mondawmin Mall. The names in this essay have been changed.

“Who is interested in hosting an ex-

This January, I was in the inten-

change student this summer?” Mademoiselle Eisen, my eighth-grade French teacher, stumbled to the front of the classroom, holding a bunch of packets. No one raised a hand. “Allons-y, etudiants,” she whined. “We have more than thirty exchange students coming to Maryland this summer, and we need host families.” Half of me was genuinely interested in hosting an exchange student. The other half of me felt sorry for Mademoiselle Eisen. I don’t remember which half raised my hand, but before I knew it, she had dropped a packet on my desk. That afternoon, I anxiously waited for my mother to come home from work. I knew she would be just as excited as I was. “An exchange student?” my mother sighed as she flipped through the packet. She had only half a year of junior high school French. “Do you realize the amount of responsibility there is in hosting someone from another country?” The morning after Emmanuelle’s arrival, my mother fretted over what to fix for

sive care ward. I could not breathe without machines and steroids. The me I knew was hunkered down in some inner space, poised and waiting for something—for what, I was not sure. The sounds of sucking machines and phrases of medical jargon filtered down to this inner me. I listened detached and curious. At times I would reach a higher level of awareness and feel the desperation of my body struggling to breathe and trying to answer questions the doctors asked. I also thought I heard the phrase “He might not make it.” During one semi-conscious period, I was aware that my grown children from out of town were visiting me. I wondered why they had made the trip to Baltimore. They should have known that the word “critical” did not apply to me. I heard prayers and soft-sounding words, and felt warm touches. At one point, something was pressed into my hand. My fingers knew what it was. Slowly my fingers moved along the rosary beads. The fingers remembered how to say the rosary. When I was a small child I played daily at my friend’s house and when it was time to go, his

mother always asked me to join their family in saying the rosary. I always said yes. At another time, a cell phone was placed against my ear, and I heard one of my granddaughters in Cleveland say that she wanted me to tell her stories about our family in the old days. I said yes. Someone asked me to come to a summer barbecue; again, I said yes. Somewhere it was decided that I would be able to pray, tell stories, and party this summer. I agreed with that. —Herb Johnson, a resident of Basilica Place, is a storyteller, community activist, and aspiring writer.

We want to know more about what you’re writing. Join managing editor Marianne Amoss for a live workshop on personal essay writing at the Baltimore Book Festival, on September 27 in the CityLit tent.

“What You’re Writing” is the place for creative nonfiction from our readers. Each month, we pick a topic. Use the topic as a springboard into your own life and send us a true story inspired by that month’s theme. Only nonfiction submissions that include contact information can be considered. We reserve the right to edit heavily for space and clarity, but we will give you the opportunity to review the edits. You may submit under “name withheld” to keep your essay anonymous, but you do need to let us know how to contact you. If you’ve already changed the names of the people involved, please let us know. Due to libel and invasion-of-privacy issues, we reserve the right to print the piece under your initials. Submissions should be typed (and if you cannot type, please print clearly). Only one submission per topic, please. Send your essay to Urbanite, P.O. Box 50158, Baltimore, MD 21211 or e-mail it to WhatYoureWriting@urbanitebaltimore.com. Please keep submissions under four hundred words; longer submissions may not be read due to time constraints. Because of the number of essays we receive, we cannot respond individually to each writer. Please do not send originals; submissions cannot be returned.

Topic

Deadline

Publication

Blood Weight Gods

Aug 6, 2008 Sept 8, 2008 Oct 6, 2008

Oct 2008 Nov 2008 Dec 2008

w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m a u g u s t 0 8

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Plays ThaT engage yoUR mind, heaRT, and gUT. The Matchmaker By Thornton Wilder Sep 10–Oct 5

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?* By Edward Albee Oct 22–Nov 30

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Caroline, or Change

Book & Lyrics by Tony Kushner Music by Jeanine Tesori Dec 10–Jan 18

Fabulation

or, The Re-education of Undine

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corkboard

Station North Flea Market

Aug 2, 9 a.m.–2 p.m.

Flea markets are the perfect places to turn your what-was-I-thinking into someone else’s I-can’t-believe-my-luck. Now through November, two city blocks in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District are devoted to exactly these types of exchanges on the first Saturday of each month. For sellers, a space and table cost just $10 each; buyers can ogle and peruse for free.

W. North Ave. between Maryland Ave. and Howard St. 410-962-7075 www.loadoffun.net/fleamarket.html

Otakon

Aug 8–10

An otaku is a Japanese youngster obsessed with technology, but, Japanese or not, if you’re a fan of action-packed anime cartoons, then the fifteenth annual Otakon is for you. It’s where you and 22,000 of your new best friends will enjoy, among other things, costume contests, anime-inspired video-making competitions, and the U.S. debut of Japanese anime themesong rockers JAM Project.

Baltimore Convention Center 1 W. Pratt St. $55 ahead of time, $65 at the door; children 8 and under free www.otakon.com

Virgin Mobile Festival 2008

Aug 9–10

For two days this summer, Baltimore will arguably become the epicenter of the music world. This year’s list of performers at Virgin Fest includes Bob Dylan, Kanye West, Foo Fighters, Chuck Berry, KT Tunstall, Stone Temple Pilots, and more. Between sets you can gamble on telecast horse races, enjoy crabcakes and cocktails, and take in some art across Pimlico’s 140 acres.

Pimlico Race Course 5201 Park Heights Ave. $97.50 single-day general admission, $150 two-day general admission www.virginmobilefestival.com

32 Bit Gen Gamer Fest

Aug 16, 6 p.m

Relive Pac-Man’s single-minded quest for food, the Mario brothers’ turtle-flipping exploits, and other classic gaming moments during the 32 Bit Gen Gamer Fest. Attractions include video game art and music tributes and a ten-monitor console where you can play some of your favorite early titles.

Creative Alliance 3134 Eastern Ave. $15, $12 students and members 410-276-1651 www.creativealliance.org

Maryland State Fair

Aug 22–Sept 1

The “Eleven Best Days of Summer” return for the 127th year with children’s rides, live horse racing, food and drink, and contests galore. Show the world your canned meat masterpiece during the Great American Spam Championship or pre-heat your oven for the Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crust Pie Baking Championship. On opening day, teenage entrants in the Miss Maryland Agriculture 2008 competition vie for this year’s crown at 7:30 p.m. in the Cow Palace Show Ring.

Maryland State Fairgrounds 2200 york Rd. $8, $3 children 6 to 11, children under 6 free 410-252-0200 www.marylandstatefair.com

Baltimore Summer Antiques Show

Aug 28–31

Poet Percy Bysshe Shelley’s famous lines “Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” could be the slogan for the 28th annual Baltimore Summer Antiques Show, the largest antiques show of the season anywhere in the country. With 550 vendors from around the world, you can gawk at the jewel-encrusted opulence of centuries past or, for the right price, take it home with you.

Baltimore Convention Center 1 W. Pratt St. $12 unlimited admission 561-822-5440 www.baltimoresummerantiques.com

Photo credits from top to bottom: photo by Sherwin Mark; photo by Bellee Gossett; photo by Nabil; no credit; photo by Edie Bernier; photo courtesy of the Baltimore Summer Antiques Show

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[ M OV E

IN

]

SEPTEMBER 2008. Lounge in the sky 19 stories up. Step out to restaurants, a fitness center and wine club right at home. Zip onto I-95 just 2 minutes away. Nowhere else in the world exists a condominium like Silo Point. 24 stories of steel, glass and state-of-the-art technology transformed from an abandoned grain silo. Move in this September, or for

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urbanite august 08


the goods

COMPiLed bY LiONeL fOsTer

Traffi cking Tickets When you’re putting on an event, getting people there is half the battle. Some local groups—the Baltimore Improv Group, Fluid Movement, and the Baltimore arm of the 48 Hour Film Project— have recently turned to Seattle-based Brown Paper Tickets (www. brownpapertickets.com) for ticket-selling support. Vending tickets through BPT’s website is free; event producers just have to register. BPT then sells tickets by phone and online (optional bulk printing and mailing services carry a nominal cost). Ticket buyers fare well too, paying one of the lowest service fees in the industry—$.99 plus 2.5 percent of the ticket price. And as part of their not-just-for-profit philosophy, BPT donates at least 5 percent of their profits to charity. co

Pap rown y of B ur t e s

k er Tic

et s

—Marianne Amoss

© Nikolai Tsvetkov | Dreamstime.com

Dog Days Here’s a recipe for a happy dog: Drag yourself out of bed early, grab an old towel and a cup of coffee, and pile into the car with your pooch. Then slip away before rush hour sets in. Just thirty minutes southeast of downtown, in Pasadena, is John H. Downs Memorial Park (8311 John Downs Loop, Pasadena; 410-222-6230; www.aacounty.org/recparks/ parks/downs_park). It’s your dog’s ticket to summer bliss: a 100-footwide stretch of sand known as the Dog Beach, where canines can run free and frolic in the Chesapeake Bay. As dog owners know, it’s hard for a Chesapeake Bay retriever of modest means to find a legal swimming hole in his namesake body of water these days, but at Downs, for the cost of a $5 daily parking fee ($30 for the year), your dog is soaked and smiling. Be forewarned that only dogs are allowed to swim, and that the Dog Beach can be a zoo on summer weekends, when two thousand people flock to the park daily to picnic, play volleyball, and lounge on the grass during one of the Sunday concerts at the park amphitheater. —Greg Hanscom

During her career as a fashion consultant, Ellicott City resident Jeannette Kendall found that her clients kept having a problem most of us could only hope for. After she’d shown them exactly what styles and colors suited them best, they had no use for many of their old clothes. “I’d just end up giving them to charity,” says Kendall. So seven years ago, she decided to start a charity of her own that would put those items to use. Her nonprofit, Success in Style, gives free work wardrobes, fashion advice, and interview coaching to women in crisis to help them start or land a new job. Now, Success in Style is using the non-business-attire donations it receives to stock Charity’s Closet (9090 Frederick Rd., Ellicott City; 410-750-6475; www.successinstyle.org). Each item in Charity’s Closet’s wide range of women’s and juniors’ casual and formal attire costs just $5. The volunteer group of teenage girls that runs the store will help you complete an outfit or donate some of your own used clothing. Open Sat 11 a.m.–3 p.m. —Lara Streyle

courtesy of Jeannette Kendall

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Rack ’Em Up

the goods

courtesy of SportsWorks

No, the Maryland Transit Administration is not spending your money on tricking out its buses with vanity grilles—those are bike racks. The Rack and Roll program (410-767-8749; www.mtamaryland.com/ resources/bikesonmta) will equip the MTA’s entire 700-bus fleet with two-carrier bike racks by September. The new racks—a common sight on the buses of other major cities—effectively shorten the distance between you, that once-distant bus stop, and connections with already bike-friendly light rail and metro lines. Loading a bike is simple: After you’ve alerted the driver, approach the rack from the curbside. (Make sure you’ve removed all loose objects from your bike, like water bottles and locks.) Place your bike in the open space closest to the bus and raise the padded hook so that it catches the highest point of the front wheel. Then grab a seat on the bus and enjoy the ride. —Sheena Gebhardt

photo by La Kaye Mba

h

XX/XY Though there probably aren’t any studies on the issue, it’s likely that the average man has spent entire days of his life waiting in smallish, brightly colored chairs while his partner shops for clothes. Now, a new local clothing retailer is offering an alternative. In May, mother-daughter team Patty Pearson and Jennifer Solomon opened a pair of boutiques on their Federal Hill property: Whimsy, for women, and Reason, for men (1033 S. Charles St.; 410-234-0204; www.whimsyreason.com). (The contrast, Solomon insists, is in no way meant to be offensive: With the name Whimsy already chosen, they needed a catchy, one-word title for its counterpart.) It’s an effective pairing. On the first floor, Whimsy shows off the breezy elegance of lines like Plenty, Twinkle, and Beth Bowley in colorful dresses, tops, and pants. Upstairs, Reason offers simple but stylish T-shirts, jeans, and jackets from Ben Sherman, Penguin, Modern Amusement, and more. What’s next? Football in the same time slot as soap operas? A bit of wrestling to liven up aerobics? One can only hope. Open Tue–Sat 11 a.m.–7 p.m., Sun 11 a.m.–4 p.m. —Lionel Foster

Rub It In

© Yuri Arcurs | Dreamstime.com

Massage is, if you’ll forgive the pun, often a touchy subject. Between the price tag and the stereotypical overeager cabana boy, many people simply say, “No, thanks.” But a national chain with a new location in Timonium is encouraging people to think again. Massage Envy (2442 Broad Ave.; 410308-0400; www.massageenvy.com) offers fifteen licensed and trained therapists skilled in seven different styles of massage, at prices that won’t leave you sore. For $49, first-timers get one sixty-minute session. (Factor in ten minutes for disrobing and a consult with a therapist to discuss any aches, injuries, or medications; you end up with fifty minutes of therapeutic massage designed to meet your specific needs.) If you decide you want more, $59 per month gives you one monthly session plus half-price additional sessions (that’s $49, half of the nonmember $98 rate). Membership includes family discounts, but you don’t have to share: It’s called “Envy” for a reason. —Lara Streyle w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m a u g u s t 0 8

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The Power of One

big ideas photo by La Kaye Mbah

Shaneka Wolford, 13, speaks defiantly into a video camera, one hand on her hip, shifting her gaze as if addressing a wide audience. “I’m black, I’m strong, I’m a survivor. I am a student, I am an aunt, I am a cousin, I am a sister. I’m 13. I am a middle-schooler, I am an eighth-grader … I am going to be successful, I am going to be proud of myself, I am going to be a lawyer, I’m going to be famous. I’m going to be a diva, I’m going to be a mother, a wife, and another aunt. I am going to be a role model. I am me. Me. And that’s all I can be.” Wolford is one of more than 560 young Baltimoreans who take part each year in Wide Angle Youth Media, a program started by media educator Gin Ferrara who, in 2001, received an eighteen-month, $48,750 Baltimore Community Fellowship. The fellowships, an initiative of Baltimore’s branch of billionaire George Soros’ multi-national foundation, the Open Society Institute (OSI), aim to foster “audacious ideas” from enterprising individuals who seek to empower the city’s disadvantaged residents and communities. Now, the fellows, and OSI-Baltimore, which celebrated its tenth anniversary this spring, are in the hot seat. Soros only intended to fund the organization for five years. He extended his gift for three more years in 2003. In 2005, seven years and more than $50 million into the project, he told OSI-Baltimore he would contribute another $10 million to the cause—but only if the organization raised $20 million from other sources by 2010. Two and a half years into this effort, OSI-Baltimore has raised just over half of that. That leaves almost $10 million to go. “We have to dig deep,” says OSI-Baltimore Director Diana Morris. OSI has seven offices around the world, from New York to Budapest, but OSIBaltimore is the only branch that pours its resources into a single city. Morris explains that Soros saw Baltimore as a good place to better understand the dynamics within urban centers. Baltimore’s relatively small size and strong community associations suggested that an infusion of philanthropic money could make a real difference, she says. “You can just get a lot more work done with that existing infrastructure. You have real partners,” she says. “There was also good public-private partnership, and OSI knew those partnerships would lead to bigger, more sustainable changes.” OSI-Baltimore set out to tackle three main issues: helping Baltimore youth succeed, reducing the social and economic costs of incarceration, and tackling drug addiction. Partnering with city agencies and other funders, it has established a core of six “innovation” high schools—smaller, theme-

baltimore observed

Yes we can: Open Society Institute-Baltimore Director Diana Morris says her organization works to create the sense that individual Baltimoreans can help fix the city’s woes.

oriented educational environments. It has worked to revise parole guidelines so that more eligible prisoners get parole in a timely manner, which saves tax dollars and allows former inmates to get on with their lives and back to their families. And it has pushed to expand treatment for under- and uninsured drug addicts. But perhaps the most innovative OSIBaltimore initiative is the Community Fellows program, which takes up 14 percent of the organization’s $5.7 million annual budget. The program is like a smaller-scale, local version of the MacArthur Foundation’s “genius grants,” and it is unusual in the foundation world, because the money goes directly to an individual recipient, rather than an organization. It raises the question: Can a pack of independent visionaries solve Baltimore’s seemingly intractable problems? Past fellows have started Chefs in the Making, a program that provides culinary training to former victims of homelessness, drug addiction, and crime, through the Dogwood restaurant in Hampden; Velocipede, a community bike project in Station North; and the Book Thing of Baltimore, the free book distribution center in Charles Village. Bonnita Spikes, a fellow in 2005, used her grant to bring together families of murder victims and prisoners convicted of murder in a fight to abolish the death penalty. Shantel Randolph, of OSI’s class of 2007, created Foster Youth Incorporated to facilitate teenagers’ transition out of foster care and into lives of self-sufficiency. Seven years after Gin Ferrara received her fellowship, Wide Angle Youth Media has become far more than an after-school program. In 2003, Wide Angle won $10,000 to

produce a segment of the nationally broadcast PBS documentary The Way We See It: Youth Speak Out on Education. In 2005, the program launched the first annual “Who Are You?” Youth Media Festival at Center Stage. The Community Conferencing Center, established by 1998 fellow Lauren Abramson, facilitates communication between crime victims and the young perpetrators and their families. Nearly seven thousand Baltimore residents have used the program, says Abramson, and in 95 percent of all cases, people have come up with their own solutions to crime-related problems. Cheryl Casciani, of the Baltimore Community Foundation, calls the Fellows program “extraordinary … While they’re addressing these intractable problems, they’re also nurturing this network of social entrepreneurs.” And yet not all OSI-funded projects make a lasting difference. “A lot of projects didn’t take off like the Community Conferencing Center did,” says Community Fellowships Director Pamela King. According to a recent survey of more than ninety fellows, past and present, just 30 percent of the fellows’ projects continued as originally conceived. Another 30 percent evolved into something related, and 15 percent were absorbed into another organization. The remaining 25 percent ended, or the fellows left the area. For some fellows, life just gets in the way. Corinne Meijer had to abandon her Child Development-Community Policing Program to live closer to her family in Washington, D.C. The program is now under new leadership. “It’s one of the challenges—how to sustain the effort,” says Richard Rowe, a 2000 fellow who continues to work with his original w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m a u g u s t 0 8

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The Community Fellows program is like a local version of the MacArthur Foundation’s “genius grants.” It raises the question: Can a pack of independent visionaries solve Baltimore’s seemingly intractable problems? Asked about the number of OSI fellows who abandon their projects, Dorfman replies, “If OSI is funding people with the idea of really testing out risky, edgy ideas, then these are fine numbers. A sizeable percentage are succeeding.” And regardless of a program’s success, fellows say they take away valuable lessons. After leaving Baltimore for D.C., Meijer was picked up by the nonprofit mental health agency Community Connections, and asked to start a children’s services program. It is now one of the largest outpatient mental health providers for children in the District. “I attribute my success more to that year [as an OSI fellow] than all those years of grad school,” says Meijer, who has a Ph.D. in clinical community psychology. Julianne Franz, whose CityTheatreWorks project ended when funds ran out, says, “The fellowship gave me new hope. It steps in where the world—the adult world, the career world, even the social justice world—struggles to support the individual visionary.” Ultimately, Morris says, it’s this sense of hope and empowerment, as well as real progress, that OSI-Baltimore seeks to foster. “People feel really overwhelmed by these issues—they’re complicated, they’re technical,” she says. “People have to believe that we can collectively have success in these areas. We really can make progress.” ■ —Rebecca Messner

COMMUNITY

baltimore observed

photo by Jason Okutake

cause of empowering young men, but whose original program, Habitats for Success, has since ended. “The fellowship ends, some folks hit reality and say, ‘I gotta go back to work.’ We’re all trying to pay our bills.” Morris says OSI-Baltimore is working on a program that will evaluate the fellowships more vigorously. “But the role of philanthropy is to take calculated risks,” she says. “Philanthropy doesn’t just make safe bets.” Aaron Dorfman, executive director of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy in Washington, D.C., agrees. “Too few foundations really take risks,” he says. “Many are very risk averse. They give only to established groups. They often seek to put BandAids on problems rather than being bold and seeking to solve the problems.”

Heartbroken: Placards in Little Italy show the community’s support for the former Saint Leo’s priest, who is accused of sexually abusing a teenager more than thirty years ago.

After Father Mike The popular Italian card game briscola, or brisk, invests trick-taking power in one suit chosen at random. If you’re holding cards of that suit, you take every trick no matter the face value of your opponent’s cards. Until last year, parishioners of Saint Leo the Great Roman Catholic Church in Little Italy learned the game from the church’s charismatic pastor, Reverend Mike Salerno. One got the feeling that Salerno, with his thick black comb-over and Brooklyn accent, got just a hint of enjoyment from the thought that the Church didn’t appreciate having one of its priests teaching card games. Then, last fall, officials of the Pallottine Order, of which Salerno is a member, contacted the pastor while he was visiting family and told him not to return to Saint Leo’s. Salerno had been charged with sexually abusing a teenager in New York—more than thirty years earlier. Church officials said that Salerno neither confirmed nor denied the charge, but he could not stay in Baltimore. There had been too much humiliation for the Catholic Church: rapacious and incorrigible priests who had been allowed to continue their depredations; accusations against some 4,400 American priests; and more than $1 billion in compensation for victims. In the eyes of the Church, Salerno was guilty until proven innocent. He was swept into seclusion near New York City. The extended Saint Leo’s community, which reaches far beyond the tight boundaries of Little Italy, was crushed. No one could believe it. Not Father Mike, they were sure. He’d been there for almost ten years without

a murmur of scandal. He’d brought Saint Leo’s back from the ecclesiastical dead. So many city parishes had withered in the outrush of suburbanization. Father Mike gave Saint Leo’s standing-room-only Sundays. Eight months later, the hurt endures. “He’s in prison prematurely,” says Anthony Gambino, owner of Ciao Bella, a Little Italy restaurant. He is speaking figuratively—Father Mike is not facing criminal charges—but his statement reflects the predominant feelings of his neighbors and customers. “He was good for this community. And all of a sudden someone with a vendetta from thirty years ago makes an accusation and he’s gone?” John Guerriero, head of the Saint Leo’s Church Council for the last ten years, says a Church investigation is underway. He predicts the charges will come to nothing, but even so, he says there is almost no chance that Father Mike will return: The Church couldn’t defend a decision to send him back, and the Church holds all the power cards. So Father Mike is gone from Saint Leo’s and from the card tables in the school basement. But, in a sense, he’s still there. His name comes up in conversations. People chuckle at memories of the diminutive priest who wrapped his Sunday homilies in stories of growing up in a tight Italian family. He brought his message down from the altar. He liked being closer to his flock. He paced the center aisle at Saint Leo’s, moving halfway to the back of the hall, telling stories that brought great, un-Sabbath-like belly laughs. If he spotted a person seldom seen at church on Sundays, he might bark, “What are you doing here? It’s not Christmas.” He spoke of life in a way people felt and understood; he saw their lives in his. w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m a u g u s t 0 8

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Lawn art: Clarence Ridgley in his yard, now an art installation by artist/architect Fritz Haeg.

Gardening on the Edge On a blustery day last February, internationally known artist/architect Fritz Haeg took a tour of Baltimore front lawns. The lanky 38year-old, whose studio is in a geodesic dome in the Los Angeles hills, pulled his jacket tight as he visited nearly a dozen yards; he was looking for one that was “iconic,” “conventional,” and “American.” Haeg had come not to admire a lawn, but to destroy one. Baltimore was to be the next location for one of his “Edible Estates.” In his book, Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn, he dubbed the concept “a place-responsive landscape design proposal … a conceptual land-art project … a defiant political statement … and an act of radical gardening.” Haeg had created these high-concept installations in yards from New Jersey to London, and in early 2007 Baltimore’s Contemporary Museum commissioned him to create an Estate here. The museum sought out homeowners willing to have their front yards transformed into art. Haeg poked around several prospective candidates with little enthusiasm. Then he reached Clarence and Rudine Ridgley’s trim brick home in the city’s Callaway-Garrison neighborhood, just north of Forest Park. Clarence, a nighttime supervisor at a plastic bottle factory, had run across the Haeg proposal online. He’d been looking to do something different with his yard. “I had zeroed in on blueberry bushes,” he said. Haeg liked the yard—and its affable owner—right away. “I liked everything about it,” the artist said later over hot tea. The project “will really stand out on his street. You will be very aware that something radical has happened.” Haeg, who grew up mowing a lawn in Minneapolis, created his first Edible Estate in 2005 in Salina, Kansas. The artist was dis-

turbed by the way the 2004 election seemed to divide the nation into Red and Blue camps. He saw front lawns as something that both united us and kept us apart. “The front yard is just an enormous amount of space that we dedicate to something that has no function and actively isolates people from any sort of public realm,” he said. “This is a very strategic intervention on a piece of land where public and private meet.” Two months later, over a long weekend in late April, Haeg arrived at the Ridgleys’ house with more than forty volunteers, including several Maryland Institute College of Art students. They joined the Ridgleys’ friends and family in a cross between a community cookout and an Amish barn raising. The workers buried the Ridgleys’ grass beneath mounds of rich compost donated by the city and installed plants, many provided by Mount Washington’s Green Fields Nursery. Clarence got his blueberries, along with twenty-eight other types of fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Where the Ridgleys’ front lawn had been, there was now an organic garden. Six weeks later, photos, tales, and a video of the making and maintaining of the Ridgleys’ Edible Estate became part of the Contemporary Museum’s Cottage Industry show, which runs through August 24 (see www.contemporary.org). A photo of the yard appeared on Time magazine’s website. On a balmy summer afternoon, Clarence trotted down his front steps to inspect the progress of his art installation. A few baseball-sized tomatoes were beginning to redden but weren’t ready for the salad bowl yet. The finger-sized zucchini were likewise too small for eating, but he hit pay dirt at a nearby beet patch, pulling up a handful of plump, bulbous roots. “I’ll cook these tonight,” he said. “My mother just gave me a recipe for them.” Past Edible Estates have sparked controversy. In some communities—parts of Columbia, for example—strict land-use covenants prohibit front-yard vegetable gardens. “Neighbors sometimes see the gardens as something wild and unwelcome,” Haeg said. “They represent anarchy to some people.” Up Clarence Ridgley’s way, however, all had been warm and welcoming. Many of his neighbors had worked wheelbarrows and shovels on planting day. “Yeah, my neighbors love the garden,” Clarence said with a grin. “They send their kids over here to eat my strawberries.” ■

e ncount e r

baltimore observed

photo by Leslie Furlong

Since his departure, Saint Leo’s has taken a hit on Sunday mornings. There are vacant seats in a sanctuary where every seat was once filled. Attendance is “good, but not real good,” says Father Salvatore “Sal” Furnari, one of Father Mike’s successors. “We’ve lost some but we hope to bring them back. They’re still part of our family.” Parishioners give as much enthusiasm as they can to Father Sal, a former advertising man who moved into the priesthood late in life. But following Father Mike isn’t going to be easy. “Who’d want that job?” asks a businessman who knows the neighborhood. “It’s like playing shortstop after Cal Ripken.” Change may have been inevitable, says Guerriero: Father Mike himself often suggested that his superiors might move him to another parish. And there was another thing. “He was giving away a lot of money,” Guerriero says. “He paid tuition for some kids. If you needed a refrigerator he’d get you one. And he paid the volunteers. He was very generous, but you can’t be taking in $10 and giving away $20.” Church elders had taken their financial concerns to Father Mike a day before he was removed from the parish. Guerriero says the church has managed to balance its books again—barely. Father Sal and Father Louis “Lou” Rojas, the other parish priest, now sweep the floor as well as serving Communion. It could be worse, says Father Lou. If church attendance falls sharply, “we could lose our priests. If there is no priest, there is no Eucharist. If there is no Eucharist, there is no church.” So the faithful come back. As much as they mourn the loss of Father Mike, they worry about Saint Leo’s. Their church has to survive. On a recent Sunday morning, at the bottom of the steps, below the bronze plaques honoring important Little Italy families—the Matriciannis, the Picas, and others—parishioners shake hands, embrace, and ask about each other’s health. The eddying crowd moves off toward the Sons of Italy Lodge just down the street. A Saint Leo’s youth group called “Hearts and Hands” is raising money for summer camp and other programs. Father Mike helped create the group. Three young women have arranged the fundraiser. A spaghetti supper with salad and dessert is $8. They’ll raise a few more dollars selling cakes they baked. There’s a silent auction with items numbered in order of likely preference. A basket of beauty products is number thirteen. Number eleven is a set of tickets to an Orioles vs. Yankees game. Number one is a framed picture of Father Mike, still innocent in the eyes of the faithful. ■ —C. Fraser Smith

—Brennen Jensen Web extra: See more photos of the Ridgelys’ yard at www.urbanitebaltimore.com.

w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m a u g u s t 0 8

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w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m a u g u s t 0 8


The Real Thing

Nonfiction guru Patsy Sims on the virtue of playing it straight In te r v i ew P hoto graph

b y by

E

mbellish much? You’re in good company. The nonfiction bestseller lists are littered with questionable memoirs; a host of unscrupulous scribes have been taken to task lately for stretches, overreaches, and outright fantasies. Most notoriously, there was James Frey—he of A Million Little Pieces, the 2003 memoir that purported to chronicle a spiral into addiction. In 2006, after it was revealed that several episodes in the book were fabricated, Frey earned a televised spanking from Oprah Winfrey and a lead role in the rogue’s gallery of literary fabulists. The incident spawned a national conversation about what constitutes authenticity in autobiography—a discussion that Frey, interviewed this June by Vanity Fair as he flogs his new novel, Bright Shiny Morning—isn’t interested in. “I could care less what they call it. The thing on the side of the book means nothing,” he told writer Evgenia Peretz. “It’s just a story.” Standing athwart this trend is Patsy Sims, who would say— politely—that what you call your book does indeed mean something. Sims directs Goucher College’s MFA program in creative nonfiction. The “nonfiction” part is fairly straightforward: It’s the “creative” part that gets people in trouble. Sims is something of a fundamentalist on defending the line between “inventive” and “invented.” Her 2001 book, Literary Nonfiction: Learning By Example, picks apart stories by Tom Wolfe, Joan Didion, John McPhee, and other heavyweights, with annotations explaining the devices and techniques that a storyteller can use to animate the bare facts of reporting without resorting to, as Sims says in her decorous Southern accent, “shenanigans.” It’s a bag of tricks that Sims learned in a long career as a newspaper reporter in cities from Philadelphia to her hometown of New Orleans, where she tried her hand at ambitious storytelling in the early 1970s while reporting on the lives of sugar cane workers in southern Louisiana for the States-Item newspaper. Inspired by the creative liberties taken by James Agee in his poetic, nontraditional account of sharecropper farmers, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, Sims produced a newspaper series written in chapters, like a novel. The serial was published as a book, Cleveland Benjamin’s Dead!, in 1981. Despite the woes of the newspaper industry, Sims insists we are in a golden age for other forms of narrative nonfiction. “This is the hot genre,” she says. “Look at the popularity of these reality shows. There’s something fascinating to people about things that aren’t made up.”

Q

Let’s say I’m a fiction writer who wants to write nonfiction. What can’t I do?

A

A nonfiction writer can do anything the fiction writer can do, except make it up. Some writers—memoirists more than literary journalists—think you can fudge. I happen to be a purist; I think you can’t

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fudge without letting the reader know. You have a contract that, when they start reading your story and it’s labeled nonfiction, they think they’re reading the truth. But there are things writers can do if they want to play around. You can say things like, “I couldn’t help but imagine what it would be like if this would happen.” Go ahead and play, but let the reader know what you’re doing.

Q

Say you’re setting a scene in a historical account, and you want to talk about the weather. How much leeway do you have?

A

I don’t think you can rewrite history—you can’t say it was this way if you don’t know. If there were newspapers and weather reports, you can do the research and use that. You’re treading on dangerous territory if you start saying things you really don’t know. I would find ways around recreating things that I couldn’t reconstruct very carefully.

Q

Do you find that students now set the bar on this distinction differently than they might have a generation ago?

A

Nonfiction writers are being held to higher standards now. I think we’re also talking about it more because so many of these [literary hoaxes] have happened lately. The thing that kind of boggled my mind about [the] James Frey [scandal] was you would have thought that, after all that to-do, people would have shied away from [embellishing their autobiographies]. And then you turn around and people come back and they do it. It’s always the same: “I think I’m not going to get caught and I’ll just fudge a little bit.” We’ve tried to show students ways they can write a good story without making it up. Your reputation as a journalist is one of the most important things you have. If you take those liberties and you fool the reader, you’re risking your reputation; once you’re found out, I’m not sure you can ever regain that respect.


keynote

Q

You really do get knocked out of the priesthood if you make stuff up. Although, people do re-emerge …

A

I really found it disappointing when Frey came back and got a contract for a novel. It sort of sets a bad example for the students—you try to teach them that crime doesn’t pay.

Q

There’s a famous quote regarding Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72, which George McGovern’s campaign manager called “ the least factual, most accurate” account of the election. Can you ever write something that involves a certain amount of invention but is still legitimately nonfiction?

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A

The line comes when you start making it up, and then you switch over and say it’s fiction. Look at James Agee, who was, stylistically, one of the most inventive writers that I’m familiar with. I teach him because I like to show students how far you can go without making it up. I don’t think that not being able to make it up hinders you or keeps you from being creative. You might have to work a little harder at pulling things off. But that can be fun. It’s a challenge. To me, when it works—and you can feel it when it’s working—it’s sort of like being up on a high-wire. But even when it’s going well, it’s not easy. I don’t think there’s anything harder than writing. Sometimes people say to me, “Oh, writing is so easy!” And then you read their stuff and think, well, maybe it ought to be a little bit harder.

Q

Have you ever been tempted to use a certain amount of, I don’t want to call it invention … Were there instances that you thought, Boy, if only that person had said that at that moment, or, If only something else had been happening at that time?

A

I’m probably a hardliner here. When I did this book on sugar cane workers in south Louisiana, at that point I was deeply affected by and influenced by Agee. Maybe I went a little bit off the deep end. I took an afternoon out under some trees in sugar cane country with a group of workers. They were talking about how bad their lives were, and it became this wonderful dialogue. It struck me that what they were saying was like a play. So I wrote that chapter in the form of a play and did stage direction and set the scene. But it was all true.

Q A Q

But was it absolutely verbatim?

Yes, I had a tape.

Now, when I do, for example, a Q&A like this, I’ll talk to someone for an hour or two and edit that down to 1,500 words, which is a lot of compression. Things get cut and rearranged, and at times this process feels a little like playwriting.

A

I didn’t use everything that was said—I certainly had to cut— but it wasn’t that I rewrote a quote. I think what you’re asking is an interesting question. I hadn’t really thought of that. It seems to me that the one thing that you have to do is that you don’t change what the person is saying—you’re not putting that quote out of context and making it seem like something else. I’ve been on both sides of the table. There have been times when somebody interviewed me for a story and totally put words in my mouth. Why did they do that? I didn’t say that. It doesn’t even sound like me.

Q A

Is it disturbing to be on the other end?

Yeah, it is. It does bother me when somebody makes up a quote.

Q

Have you ever been called out on doing that to somebody else?

A Q

No. Never been accused of misquoting anybody.

What do you think of writers who drift back and forth— journalists who turn into novelists and vice versa? Are you suspicious of novelists who write nonfiction that seems a little too perfect?

A

I think that there’s something to be gained by maybe not making a career of the other genre, but trying your hand at it. A fiction writer can learn something from a nonfiction writer—the reporting and the interviewing. They could use those skills to enhance their fiction. Likewise, I think the nonfiction writer can write better nonfiction by being familiar with the fiction writer’s techniques. When I was at the University of Pittsburgh, I developed a course called “Fact or Fiction.” I’d have students read writers who worked in both fiction and nonfiction. The point was to show them how one genre might influence another. In the case of Hemingway, you read The Sun Also Rises, and then you read [his memoir] A Moveable Feast, so you see where his stuff came from. When Hemingway was in the Spanish Civil War, he sent these dispatches back to magazines. And they were sent as nonfiction, as journalism. Then, later, he rewrote them and sold them as fiction. Then he had some that he didn’t rewrite—he just changed the title. And there were at least a few that he didn’t even change the title. He wrote it first as reporting, then sold it again as fiction.

Q

There are a lot of conversations these days about what newspapers can do to save themselves, and many say that one thing they can do is make the stories more fiction-like.

A

It seems to me that the better papers are the ones that are investing in this kind of writing. The Portland Oregonian, for example. They do these long series, and take years to do them. I think newspapers are making a mistake by not doing more of that—this is something they can do that the Internet and television can’t.

Q A

How do you maintain interest over a lengthy series?

You have to work at drawing the reader in at the beginning. If you don’t have them in the first paragraph, you’re not going to have them at the end of the page. And you have to keep holding back a carrot, to force the reader to keep going. That takes a lot of thought and planning, but it forces you to be creative. The thing about this kind of nonfiction is that, through the sheer beauty of your language, you get people to read about things they never thought they were interested in. To me, that’s one of the real strengths of the form. ■

—David Dudley is Urbanite’s editor-in-chief. w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m a u g u s t 0 8

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narratives while considering how you feel about each, should you discover it to be true or false. (For answers, see page 55.) Jessica Anya Blau’s “Bubbe and Zeyde” opens our selection. Fiction surely, for who would endure such grandparents? Then again, if it’s true, how would a family feel to be portrayed like this, warts and all, on the page? The title character of Richard O’Mara’s “The Storyteller” is so exquisitely realized he has to be “real,” yet isn’t the manufacturing of exquisite realism the bedrock of successful fiction? So too with the 1950s South Baltimore portrayed by Jim Sizemore in “Klaatu Barada Nikto,” a world constructed with such verisimilitude that it feels, on some level, to be as solid as the sidewalk outside your front door. As for graphic artist Tim Kreider, he’s a tricky one. “The Stabbing Story,” even if it proves to be pure fiction, will have made Kreider’s points about the slippery nature of truth and the duplicity of human nature. And finally, what are we to make of Andria Nacina Cole’s “Small Crimes”? When fiction is so tragic, should I feel ashamed about enjoying it? Yet, if it turns out to be fact, shouldn’t someone grab a baseball bat and track down neighborly Mr. Charles? Without knowing where true north is, we as readers, and as citizens, can get lost. Nevertheless—and at the risk of sounding contradictory—although creative nonfiction owes allegiance to verifiable facts, it does not own the monopoly on truth about the human condition. Whether cross-my-heart or make-believe, none of these pieces feels anything other than completely, utterly true. —Susan McCallum-Smith is Urbanite’s literary editor.

Compiled by Rebecca Messner and Greg Hanscom w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m a u g u s t 0 8

illustration by Deanna Staffo

In March of this year,

a half-Caucasian, half-NativeAmerican writer named Margaret B. Jones published her memoir about her traumatic upbringing as a foster kid and gang drug runner in South Central L.A.—except she isn’t, and she didn’t. The price Jones (or, I should say, Margaret Seltzer, which is her real name) will pay for attempting to cash in on the current demand for “reality” entertainment is that no one will ever believe another word she writes—truth or fiction. To not be believed; is there a worse punishment for an artist? Even in these profane times, when we peruse the cover of a book, we expect a little truth in advertising. Thankfully, because of the First Amendment, we are free to write whatever we like, though I would argue we are not free to label it however we like. Honoring the sacred contract between reader and writer ensures that mysterious alchemy between reader and page, in which language transcends mere words and becomes art. And when a writer violates that contract—stops our heart with a true story that turns out to be a lie—we feel rightfully betrayed. To label a book fact or fiction is to place a compass in the reader’s hands. Verifiable facts are true north, and each consecutive deviation takes the reader further into the realm of fiction. So what happens when you don’t know whether you’re reading fact or fiction? We asked five writers to share selections from their work, without defining whether their tales would be fiction, nonfiction, or a hybrid of the two. We invite you to enjoy these

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Bubbe and Zeyde BY

J ES S I CA

P H OTO G R A P H

Anna and I decided that our brother, Emery, should scrape

BY

the hardened cloak of bird shit off the TV room couch. Ace, who liked to perch on the iron curtain rod above the couch, was Emery’s, after all. We were cleaning the house for my grandparents’ annual December visit; even my parents were helping out—a fact that made the chores seem festive. Four years earlier, when I was 8, Anna was 11, and Emery was 4, Anna and I had been given charge of both the house and our brother. Our mother, Louise, with a cigarette burning in one hand and a cup of coffee steaming in the other, had decided she was done being a housewife. “I quit,” she had said. And that was that. I handed Emery the paint scraper while my sister and I spent a good hour with a wire trashcan until we caught Ace. After banishing him to his cage on top of the washing machine in the garage, my mother took on the kitchen floor with a wire brush and bucket whose water I changed every five minutes or so. The white linoleum surfaced from under the putty-gray coating like a magic act, like the miracle of finding a Picasso under an amateur painting of a tearful clown bought at a garage sale. By the Saturday morning of Bubbe and Zeyde’s scheduled arrival from New Jersey, the entire house smelled fabulously, chemically, sterile. My father, whom everyone called Buzzy, sat on the green chair in the TV room, leaning into the kitchen trashcan, rummaging through the stuff Anna had thrown away, while Louise sorted the new bedsheets (the old sheets hadn’t been laundered in months and were shiny with a slick layer of dirt). As in other years, Emery would sleep on a nest of blankets on my bedroom floor, and Bubbe and Zeyde would sleep in Emery’s room using his bed and a fold-out cot, which was kept in the garage between their visits. Louise, a burning cigarette dangling from her mouth, stared down at Buzzy, who was reading a crumpled piece of paper. “Buzzy,” she said, shifting the bedsheets from one arm to the other, and pulling out her cigarette, “fuck the trash, get the plants.” “Anna may have thrown out the receipt from the oil change on the car last week, I can’t find—” “GET THE FUCKING PLANTS!” We all looked at my mother, silenced by the suddenness of her anger. She lifted her cigarette hand and pushed a sweaty strand of brown hair out of her eyes. “They never go in the backyard,” Buzzy said. “And chances are they won’t even recognize they’re marijuana plants.” Emery looked up from tidying the Masterpiece game; he was separating the painting cards from the value cards. “We have marijuana plants?” he asked. His eyes were oversized, brown grommets; his hair was a blond rag mop. “No,” Louise said, calmly, “we don’t have marijuana plants.” “Marijuana’s against the law,” Emery said. “It’s illegal.” There was a certain oddness whenever Emery spoke while

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the entire family was present. What I thought of as our original family— Buzzy, Louise, Anna, and me—was such a noisy, bickering group that there never seemed to be room for Emery’s tiny voice. “How do you know it’s illegal?” Buzzy asked. “We talked about it in school.” “You talked about marijuana in school? What the hell kind of a school are you in that you talk about marijuana in third grade?” “We talked about drugs. Marijuana is a drug.” “Jesus-fucking-Christ,” Louise shifted the weight of the sheets in her arms. “Marijuana is harmless! And yes, we have marijuana plants because I smoke marijuana!” I turned from polishing the sliding glass door and leaned toward my brother. “Don’t tell your teacher or your friends, OK? Or Mom will go to jail.” “For chrissakes, Portia!” Louise snapped. “Nobody’s going to fucking jail—this is California! Now come help me put sheets on the beds, and Buzzy, cut down the fucking plants!” “But the buds are just a few days from being fully ripe—” “Portia! Take these!” My mother dumped the sheets in my arms. I tilted the sheets over the trashcan and blew off a perfect cylinder of cigarette ash. It left a gray stain, like the smudgy streaks that imply speed in a cartoon drawing of running legs. “Where are the marijuana plants?” Emery had a worried little openmouthed scowl. I imagined a picture forming in his brain, sketched by his favorite illustrator, Richard Scarry, of dog police pulling up in a black-and-white paddy wagon and hauling off our parents. “They’re surrounded by the lemon trees,” Buzzy said. “No one can see them.” Emery slid open the glass door and ran into the backyard. “Poor little guy,” my mother said, and she walked out after him. Buzzy got up and followed, so Anna and I went too, the pile of sheets still in my arms. Emery was in the middle of the stand of six-foot-high marijuana plants. He had bent one down to the ground and was trying to break it at the base of the stem. The plant bounced as he pushed on it with his dirty brown bare foot. “OK, OK,” Buzzy said, moving Emery aside. “We’re going to lock them in your mother’s studio where Bubbe and Zeyde will never see them.” “IT’S AGAINST THE LAW!” Emery wailed. Fat tears rolled down his face. My mother and I began to laugh. Buzzy sighed, knelt, and began to dig each plant out at the roots.

My grandmother, Bubbe, was the size of kids a grade below

me. She wore a nifty pink skirt-suit with shiny square-heeled pink shoes. Her curled white hair had a sheen so glossy that I could see it from the w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m a u g u s t 0 8

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courtyard terminal of the Santa Barbara Airport. Bubbe had stopped while descending the airplane stairs to smile and wave at us. Buzzy groaned and waved back. “There she is,” he said. The only person who dreaded Bubbe and Zeyde’s visits more than my mother was my father. He claimed his parents were loony: his mother a meddler, his father a braggart. “Cookalah!” Bubbe shouted as she crossed through the open arch into the grassy courtyard. Zeyde was right behind her, shaped like a penguin and wearing his usual bow tie. Zeyde’s hair was black and slick, his nose looked like a crow’s beak, and his skin was darker than Buzzy’s, as dark as my sister’s skin. My grandmother grabbed me and gave me hollow smacking kisses on the cheeks and the forehead. Then she pulled my head down to her sloping bosom and rocked me back and forth. When she was done, I was passed over to Zeyde, who had just finished kissing my sister. “Look how they’ve grown!” Zeyde said, and he laughed in a sharp, whining rhythm that sounded like a boat engine working to turn over—AH heh heh heh, AH heh heh heh heh—a sound that belonged to my grandfather in the way that a bubbly rumble belongs to a Harley Davidson motorcycle. Emery was kissed last and with far less enthusiasm. Bubbe and Zeyde had never taken to him—as if having my sister and me was enough and Emery was just one child too many for their tastes. We all piled into our blue station wagon to drive home. Bubbe and Zeyde sat in the backseat with Anna between them and me on Zeyde’s lap. Emery asked if he could sit on Bubbe’s lap, but she said no, he’d wrinkle her skirt, and so Emery was tossed into the wayback where he stuck his head over the edge of the seat and watched us, like a dog.

Bubbe unpacked the two hard, blue suitcases in Emery’s room. She moved quickly, humming and smiling, like a little windup toy. Propped against the mirror on Emery’s dresser were two paintings by Zeyde that he’d given us for Hanukkah a few years earlier. One was a bald baby in a bath. When we had unveiled this painting, Zeyde put a fat brown finger on the canvas and said, “Can you believe I got the water to look just like water?!” When the next painting had been opened, I’d said, “Oh, I like that pirate!” and my parents and grandparents had laughed. “That,” Zeyde had pointed at the ceiling in a gesture of erudition, “is Moshe Dyan.” “Is he a pirate?” I had asked. The man did have an eye patch, after all. “HE,” Zeyde had paused to give weight to his words, “was a great leader of the Jewish people.” “A great leader of the Jewish people!” Bubbe had repeated. We kept the paintings of the baby in the bath and Moshe Dyan behind Emery’s dresser between Bubbe and Zeyde’s visits. Anna was the one who always remembered to pull them out. “Cookalah, Cookalah,” Bubbe said, and slipped a twenty dollar bill in my palm. “Thanks, Bubbe!” I shoved the bill down into my shorts pocket. “Use it in good health.” She smacked some kisses on me again. “Now where’s your sister?” “I’ll get her. Do you want Emery, too?” “No, no, shhhhh ...” Bubbe raised a crooked finger to her lips and looked around like a spy. Knobby gold rings tilted on her hand, as if the rocks were too heavy to sit upright. I brought my sister back to Bubbe just as my grandmother was about to change into her housecoat. “Cookalah, Cookalah,” she said. “Shut the door!” 44

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She had removed her bra and stood in the middle of the room with her giant breasts plummeting to somewhere below her waist. I thought about my own breasts, which had just started to grow and had no fold; about my mother’s breasts, which had a fold but faced forward, staring the viewer in the eye; and then about my grandmother’s breasts, each like an orange sitting at the bottom of a net bag. I decided just then that I would never go braless: I would bind my growths so tightly that they would never stray, bounce, coil, or release. Bubbe tucked a twenty into my sister’s palm. “Do you want your housecoat?” I asked. A pink shapeless shift on a wire hanger hung from the closet doorknob. “Yes, yes, but first I have presents for you girls!” Bubbe clapped her hands together and flashed her gold teeth. I stared at her teeth as a way to not stare at her breasts. Bubbe lifted some shirts from Zeyde’s suitcase and pulled out two white plastic grocery bags. “One for you,” Bubbe said, “and one for you!” Then, thankfully, she reached for the housecoat. My sister and I sat side by side on the bed and opened our bags. “Use them in good health! God bless!” Bubbe said. “And share!” In my bag were white pens, perhaps a hundred, with “Bank of Trenton” written on the side. In my sister’s bag were about fifty plastic accordion-folded rain caps that appeared to be little more than Saran Wrap with a string. They also had “Bank of Trenton” written on them. Anna unfurled a rain cap and put it on. It looked like she was preparing her head for refrigeration. “They fit in your purse, see?” Bubbe said. “I never walk out the door without one.” “That’s cool,” Anna said. “Yeah, really cool,” I said. “Use them in good health!” Bubbe said. Emery burst into the room. “Your grandmother’s getting dressed!” Bubbe pushed him back out the door and shut it tightly behind him before buttoning the last button on her housecoat. “I don’t have anything for him,” she whispered. “He’s a little boy! What can he do with a pen or a rain cap?!”

Zeyde had already taken up his usual spot on the green chair in

front of the TV. “Sweethearts, come here, come here!” He slapped his knees with his palms. Anna sat in the corner closest to Zeyde. I collapsed on his lap, and tucked my head under his neck. At 12 I was still a snuggler, somehow both aware and unaware that my body was no longer a potbelly-centered ball of flesh. I had slimmed out, flattened in the middle, widened at the hips, and had outgrown my training bra from sixth grade, yet I still moved through the world like a child. Zeyde shifted me onto his left knee as he dug into his right front trouser pocket. He slipped a twenty dollar bill into my hand and kissed me on the cheek. “Use it in good health,” he said, then he leaned over, shot a glance at Emery who was sitting on a stool at the counter separating the kitchen and family room and, through a fake handshake, passed off a twenty to Anna. It was a gesture I later recognized in the Godfather movies. Meanwhile Bubbe had set out a plate of TastyKakes and a glass of milk for each us. TastyKakes weren’t sold in California, so she loaded her suitcase with them each year. Buzzy and Louise came in through the garage. They looked guilty. I assumed they’d been wrangling the marijuana plants in my mother’s studio, roping them upside down, like corpses hanging by the ankles.


“Sarah,” Bubbe said to my mother, “they love the TastyKakes! You want to try one?” My grandmother was the only person who called my mother Sarah—the name Louise adopted when she converted from atheism to Judaism in order to marry my near-Orthodox father. My father often spoke, with yearning in his voice, of a three-year period of Shabbot dinners, Yiddish bandied about, and regular attendance at services at the Hillel temple at Columbia University while Buzzy was in law school and Anna was a baby. By the time I was 4 and we’d moved to California where Emery was born, the only remaining Jewishness in Louise was her frequent use of Yiddish, mostly to crack herself up and to baffle Anna, Emery, and me. Hers was an Orthodox conversion, however, indelible in the eyes of Jewish law, a one-way street, rendering her permanently Jewish whether she liked it or not and making her children indisputably Jews. “It’s Louise,” my mother snapped. “L-O-U-I-S-E.” “Yes, yes.” Bubbe smiled, clapping her hands together. “Sarah, sweetheart, you want to try a butterscotch one?” My mother walked into the kitchen to prepare dinner. My sister normally cooked, but Anna didn’t know the laws of keeping kosher, so Louise was reinstated as the cook each year during Bubbe and Zeyde’s three-week visit. “Yetta,” she said to my grandmother, “I put your fleishig dishes over here and your milship dishes here—” My mother pointed to two sets of plates, bowls, and silverware stacked up on the counter, one set for dairy foods and one for meats. “I’m making fish tonight and baked potatoes—” “Half a potato for me, dear,” Bubbe replied, clapping her hands, “and you can use butter with fish—” “I know,” Louise said, “I know, I know.” There wasn’t anything about being Jewish that my mother didn’t seem to know. Bubbe hovered, watching Louise cook, clapping her spindly, bejeweled hands as if there were music playing somewhere. When the tune she hummed melded into “Bésame Mucho,” Zeyde leapt up from his chair in the family room, shuffled into the kitchen, and sang harmony with her, one arm around her miniscule shoulder, his long, dark head pressed against her little white head as they held the last note, both mouths open—his a cavernous, sunken cave; hers a bed of gold jewels among ivory stones. My mother leaned against the counter and stared at them as she tapped out an unfiltered Camel, lit it, and exhaled slowly, releasing a cloud that settled over my grandparents.

I was eating a bowl of Grape-Nuts at the kitchen counter when

Bubbe came downstairs carrying a laundry basket filled with the family’s dirty clothes. The house, blissfully, remained clean during Bubbe and Zeyde’s visits, because Bubbe didn’t like to go outside and spent most of the day wiping up after the family and doing laundry that she would sort and fold on the couch in front of the TV. My mother walked into the kitchen wearing a red chenille bathrobe. She poured a cup of coffee and, before taking a sip, pulled a cigarette out of her robe pocket and lit it. “Want some coffee?” she asked. The skin around her eyes was always puffy in the morning, little fleshy life preservers that sat like glasses on her face. “I don’t drink coffee,” I said. “In Europe,” Zeyde said, lifting his pointer finger, “children often drink coffee!” “It’s yucky,” I said. “Then how ’bout a cigarette?” My mother winked to let me know she was kidding.

“In Europe it’s very fashionable to smoke cigarettes,” Zeyde said. “But not at age 11!” “I’m 12 now,” I said, and my mother grinned. She tossed a cigarette across the counter where it rolled into the side of my bowl of GrapeNuts. Zeyde looked down at it but he didn’t laugh; he didn’t even smile. Bubbe was still at the couch sorting the colors from the whites, when Emery came into the room wearing his red dump-truck pajamas, his blond hair standing up in choppy little tufts. He went to the TV, turned on Sesame Street, and sat cross-legged on the floor. Anna and my father came into the kitchen. Buzzy didn’t drink coffee but Anna did on occasion, so she poured herself a cup and stood beside my mother, cigarette smoke snaking across her face. “Harry!” Bubbe shouted to my grandfather from the couch. “Look!” She was holding a pair of my pink floral underpants, turned inside out and pulled taut. “Look at this!” She walked over, held the underpants under Zeyde’s face, and pointed at the white streak across the center of the crotch. I prayed she was pointing out the weave of the cotton, the color of the flowers, the thick bands of pink elastic around the leg holes. I decided I’d tell them they were my friend Denise’s underpants—left here the last time she had slept over. My father stopped pouring his Grape-Nuts and leaned his head over to see what Bubbe was fussing about. My sister darted her eyes between Bubbe and me. I swallowed barely chewed Grape-Nuts that scraped against my throat like fish tank gravel. Zeyde pulled his glasses out of his front shirt pocket, put them on, and stared down at my underpants. “Those are Portia’s underpants,” Anna said, sharply. “So!” My head was instantly clogged with a scorching fuzziness. I couldn’t think clearly enough to deny the fact. “She has discharge!” Bubbe said to Zeyde. “God bless, Portia’s in puberty!” My mother laughed so hard she had to lean over the sink to spit out a mouthful of coffee. It felt as though I were watching her from above—I was a tiny, burning fire ant, hanging from the ceiling. “What?” Buzzy said. “You have to examine the laundry before you wash it?! You gonna show him the shit stains in Emery’s underpants?!” “Yetta!” Zeyde said, removing his glasses. “You don’t need to look at her underpants to see that she’s in puberty, look at her breasts!” I remained suspended on the ceiling where I could see even myself: motionless, blank-faced, skin flushed from an internal fire that beat away at the outward calm. “Yes, yes!” Bubbe grabbed my cheeks, my underpants still clutched in her hand. She kissed me once, smack on the lips. “She’s been blessed with breasts that, God willing, will grow bountiful like her grandmother’s!” My mother was still laughing over the sink. Anna put down her cup, her mouth a thin, stern line, then went to the laundry basket to dig out her own underwear. When my sister left the room, her underpants secured in her fists, I dropped off the ceiling back into my smoldering body and casually followed her out. My pose fooled no one; I could hear my father scolding his mother as I headed up the stairs.

The whole family filed into the station wagon to escort my grandparents back to the airport. Bubbe and Zeyde sat in the backseat with Anna in between them; Emery and I were loose in the wayback, tumbling into one another each time Buzzy took a turn too quickly. At the airport, Anna and I limply raised our arms and waved as Bubbe and Zeyde ascended the steps to the sleek Pan Am jet. When they reached the top of the stairs, Zeyde put one arm around Bubbe, lifted his hat, and waved it. They looked sadly off-color in the blaring Santa Barbara sun, like a Polaroid that would eventually fade into a ghostly fog. n w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m a u g u s t 0 8

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The Storyteller BY

R I C H A R D

P H OTO - I L LU ST R AT I O N

“I worry about getting old,” said Art Geiselman, as we

sat in the Swallow at the Hollow, our smoky local in North Baltimore. “I don’t want to be one of those guys who come up to you in places like this and says, ‘I used to be a newspaperman myself.’” In the late 1960s, you could hardly attend a social affair without running into one of these. Most were in public relations, or sinecured in this bureaucracy or that. They were ordinary guys like Art and me, eager and expectant, who had passed through the traditional rigors imposed upon all beginners in the craft of newspapering. But back in the day, newspapering promised little more than the fun of doing it, especially for those getting obviously older, and with children to educate. Their defection to public relations, lobbying, and advertising we understood: The seductions of a generous expense account, an office with a desk, even a carpet, were strong. Also, some weren’t really newspapermen at heart, rather dilettantes out to ornament their resumes and go on to “better things.” We who stayed on rejected the word “journalist.” We didn’t think of ourselves as “media.” We didn’t like that adjectival gong, “professional,” attached to the simple noun that attested to what we were—reporters, reporters with a fundamentalist loyalty to the meaning of words. (A professional is one who gets paid for his or her services, like a dentist, lawyer, prostitute. The word doesn’t guarantee good service.) Art escaped the fate he feared by hanging on, working for so long he went almost directly from the newsroom into a home for the foggy of mind, and forgot for good that he ever was, at one time, a newspaperman himself. In other words, he avoided the gray days and tasteless hours, the purposeless leisure of retirement—or at least most of it. Art was an investigative reporter, born to that specialty. He was also a baritone who loved the opera. He sang in barbershop quartets; he was an actor in community theaters. He was genuinely folksy, whitehaired and beamish, faintly hick-like. He packed a harmonica and would play without much encouragement, which he didn’t often get. There was something antique about him. He didn’t read a lot of books, as I recall. But he sure read the hell out of newspapers, along with pages by the thousands that related to his work—the stuff you find in public files, land records, and such. For eleven years he labored for little pay on a muckraking daily in York, Pennsylvania: eleven years of uncovering shady deals among local politicians, judges, and others who connived with the town Babbitts in their legerdemain; eleven years exposing the small-town corruption of cops. For this work he was awarded a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard in 1964. After that, he came to Baltimore’s Evening Sun, drawn by a better salary, a byline (he told me he never got one in York), and bigger fish to catch.

O’ M A R A BY

M A R C

A L A I N

Art had a soft though assiduous approach toward the targets of his investigative curiosity. He told me once he could still have lunch with some of those sent to jail through the agency of his work. He was charming. You might say he took charm to a higher level; you might also say he sometimes took it to a lower one. He could be blatantly unctuous, his false bonhomie so obvious it would evoke piteous contempt from the more clever of white collar thieves, who thereby opened themselves to the danger of his insinuating inquiries. But Art, when being false, was at his most sincere. I once went with Art to a hearing of the state parole board in the Maryland House of Correction in Jessup. A doddering convict in his 80s, resident there and at similar institutions for more than half a century, was pleading his release. A hardened bank robber and killer in his youth, he had aged into an arthritic cripple, obviously contrite for all the crimes he could hardly remember having committed. He was Clarence B. and all he wanted from life, he said, was to breathe the air of freedom in his final years, which were obviously already upon him. Clarence B. sat on a stool in a windowless room, its walls the color of old bone, trimmed in correctional gray. Around him sat a horseshoe of men in dark suits. Clarence, his face burled by time, his body hunched like that of a peasant trying to diminish his physical presence before his betters, made his case, then shuffled out. The group had listened with practiced indifference, then turned and began to whisper to one another. “Well? A decision?” Art shouted against the silence and in the direction of the board chairman, he of the flying blond hair, peanut butter tan, a smooth man got up in a yellow tie and white linen suit. He was a political appointee from the Dixieland of Southern Maryland, as some referred to it those years. “With such people y’all can’t tell,” said the chairman. “Not long ago we let a 90-year-old cat burglar out. A week later he was caught in somebody’s basement.” The leader of men adjusted his tie and enjoyed the laughter his remark had tickled up among everybody in the room. To the five or six reporters present, he said, “I’ll give our decision right now, if y’all agree to withhold the information until seven o’clock tonight.” It was an attempt to manipulate the news cycle, to get his story a bigger play in the larger morning papers, the Sun and the Washington Post. I was writing editorials for the Evening Sun at the time, and wouldn’t be able to get a piece out until early the next morning anyway. But Art had a couple of hours before the copy deadline on the Evening Sun’s final. He could phone a story in from the prison. Art rejected the chairman’s offer. “I’ll find out on my own,” he mumbled, and left the room. continued on page 92 w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m a u g u s t 0 8

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Klaatu Barada Nikto BY

J I M

P H OTO G R A P H

Dried sweat made white lines on the colored men’s

skin, which was not just brown, but had purple and blue in it, even some green, especially in the shadow parts. Their muscles bulged from the stuff they moved: lumber, vegetables, crates of oysters. New sweat washed away old and changed the line patterns on their chests and backs like a crazy Picasso couldn’t make up his mind. The men did a song I couldn’t make out, but the tune kept perfect time with how they moved on the gangplank. When they went from the bright sunlight into the shadows they got to be invisible, but their song kept on, lower, and mixed in with the clang noises from the shipyard, the bells and horns and whistles off the ships. Wave sounds came up from the pier pilings and brought the oily water smell to my nose, a sharp chemical odor, soft at the edges. A white bay steamer waited for sunset to sail. Rows of skipjacks with furled sails the color of old ivory, cleaned of oysters, fish, crabs, corn, and melons from across Chesapeake Bay, rocked in the tide.

Later, at Wilson’s Light Street newsstand under the restaurant awning, next to Cross Street Market, I asked him about shadows in movies. Big mistake. I expected he’d preach about movies that had important messages for U.S. citizens, but instead he went off on his own subject. “Indulge me on this, Andy,” he said. “Popcorn has two flavors. Ever notice that? On top popcorn tastes one way, but on the bottom of the bag it’s different.” I knew that, but it never came in my brain to mention it. I decided to play him some. “Why is that, I wonder?” “Gravity,” he said. “Because it’s heavier, butter sinks to the bottom.” Wilson smiled. “Go ’head, tell me I’m wrong.” I just nodded. Sometimes Wilson tried to shame me with his words, the strangest talk of any person I knew, white or colored. Right then a girl strutted up the sidewalk across the street. Wilson saw her and hollered, “Hey, Shirley!” She stopped, looked over. “Yeah, Fool, what you want?” “How you doin’, babe?” “I’m all right.” “Good! Good!” Wilson gave her his one-hundred-watt smile. “Doin’ all kinds of shit myself just to avoid other shit.” He paused dramatic, then, “Where you goin’ at?” “Store.” Then Shirley got prissy fast, hands on her hips. “Why?” “You got a dollar?” “Yeah, so what?” “On your way back, Sweetness, bring me a pair of socks.” Shirley looked at Wilson like he was crazy—slowly shook her head—smiled and went on. Wilson started to sing, mostly to himself: Blow it, preach it,

S I Z E M O R E BY

J.M.

G I O R DA N O

Say a taste tonight. Make it talk tonight. Blow that shit, man— Work it on out. Then he turned my way. “Don’t mind me, Andy—I lost what little sense I had three girlfriends ago.” He pointed at Shirley, halfway down the block. “Pay attention,” he said. “See what I did there?” “Was that supposed to be funny?” “Gals like it when you tweak ’em.” Wilson put his arm around my neck like he was my buddy. “The other thing you should know is this: The Beacon has the best popcorn of any theater in Baltimore.” Wilson laughed big again. “Look and learn kid,” he said, “look and learn.” Wilson was this colored kind of guy who looked like Satchmo but not fat. I figured he was 13 or 14. Maybe 16. Hard to say with colored people because they looked younger than they really were. And for a long time I couldn’t tell them apart, either, but later I figured that was dumb. Colored people are as different as you and me. If you can’t see that you don’t have eyes. But all that off to one side, sometimes Wilson did drive me nuts with his wise-ass ways—expert on everything, crazy stuff. Like he claimed white people couldn’t dance, said they just “vacillate” to the music. Is that even a real word? When I called him on it Wilson backed off and said yes, he’d agree that white people were born with the same rhythm as colored people, but they were scared of it. Scared of it? I did him like he did me and just changed subjects. “Well,” I said, “Bob Hope is great on the radio.” “Hope does the same material every week,” Wilson said, “only the names change.” “Jack Benny’s good.” “Who’s he think he’s kidding with all those stupid hair jokes?” “Burns and Allen?” “They still on?” “You like anything, Wilson?” “Only radio joker with half a brain is Fred Allen,” he said. “Allen’s smart and funny.” “I don’t get that guy.” Wilson smiled. “Of course you wouldn’t, Andy.” Now what did he mean by that tone of voice—some kind of disrespect? Anyways, my secret job was to learn all I could about the newspaper business. I watched how Wilson kidded people and made change and such. He didn’t seem to mind that I hung around, but he didn’t volunteer information, either. The wind shifted and rain started. We moved his stacks of papers to the other end of the awning to keep dry. He took a News Post and opened it to the movie listings. After five minutes of no talk Wilson continued on page 92 w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m a u g u s t 0 8

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Small Crimes BY

A N D R I A

N AC I N A

P H OTO - I L LU ST R AT I O N

She’s wearing

a too-small wedding dress that squeezes her like Aunt Plum when she’s drunk and in the mood with no man to touch. From behind, she’s a lumpy, lacy thing with shoulders broad as the moon when it’s not shamed and shines full. She has nowhere to go, but that’s because she’s 14 and the daughter of Lawrence Gaither, who believes in raising a certain kind of woman (six before her—all married, the majority clean), and she cannot leave the house except inside her own head, even, and especially, on Saturday mornings when the other neighborhood children are sitting on their porches being common. Like most days without school or a trip to the branch library, she’s sitting in front of the television—black and white and small enough to be carried at her hip if she gets the feeling and dares defy her father to watch it outside on the concrete steps where any and everyone can see. Once, he caught her. And did nothing more than lift his pant leg to climb right past her like she were the railing itself. That and not say her name ’til the Fourth of July one month later. But today the television’s screen is blank and she has nestled her button nose into knotted hands. Over and over again she is chanting the name Charlie. The photograph above the television is almost as tall as the wall it hangs from. Charlie. It, like the television, is black and white, but a full forty years older. Of her parents standing beside a short-stacked, indistinct wedding cake, it folds in at the corners, despite the frame, as if it to hug itself. It has hung, unmoved, through three mistresses not old enough to remember King’s murder, through the suicide encouraged by those mistresses, through rape, through an illegitimate child neither named nor kept nor spoken of since. Her father, in a light-colored, welltailored suit, looks satisfied, and her mother, behind him, duped. (Of this picture, he says, “My! Look at Ella. See that look on her face? If that ain’t love I don’t know what is.”) Outside the windows pure white wilderness and all the rest of Buffalo sit. Of the six sisters before Dot, not one girl, ugly or not, has left this house unmarried, let alone a whore. Not one. Sweet Charlie. Dot’s suffocating in this wedding dress, the only one to have been plump in it or not on the verge of marriage, but it’s what she has, and she knows enough to give the day some weight. You should have seen how her father used his body to mop the floor when he’d found that Juanita, the third youngest, had been raped. “What good is she now?” he’d screamed on all fours. If not for the Smith boy who cared far less about a spoiled wife (the rape brought the unnamed son) than the roundness of her ass and the utter beauty of her jaw line, Lawrence might’ve died of grief thirty years too soon. If it were Dot’s choice, she’d wear a full-length gown with pencilthin heels tall as the sun is far away. But her father is careful about his money, sleeps with it shoved in the very center of his box spring, and only ever buys things he can afford flat out. Anyway, what would she ask him? “Can I have a new gown, Daddy? One that teases the floor

BY

C O L E

K E N

R OYST E R

when I walk and hugs me good in the middle so I can go on and make love with your fine friend, our neighbor, Mr. Charles?” Charlie. They have done everything short of making love, but that’s Charlie’s doing. He’s tasted her there, with his 50-year-old mouth, because that can be forgiven, and she knows, because he’s told her, that it tastes like pickles or tomatoes, depending on the season. And he loves either. Naturally, she’s tasted him back, because that’s not sex at all, but when asked, “What’s it like?” she says, “Skin,” or if she’s swallowed, “Silk.” Charlie. According to Melody and Harmony, fraternal twins who live two blocks over—so poor they swap two hand-sewn shirts—Charlie will not want to be bothered with panties. They’ll inconvenience him. He may walk away and then where would she be? Exactly where she started. New. He’ll want her like a bowl he can dump himself into. Open. And anyway, does she want her virginity tossed away like theirs? On no particular night in no particular way in no particular clothes? “What about Ella’s wedding dress?” Dot asked the twins three days back when the snow was young. And Harmony said, “How come you call her Ella and not Momma?” “Because that’s her name.” Dot looked Harmony square in the eyes. Anyway, they thought the idea of a wedding dress perfect, but warned her about what to do underneath it. “Wear panties if you want,” Melody said. “See where that lands you,” said Harmony. And though she is sure Charlie would wait for her to peel off panties, she believes the twins. They were right about kissing—how it’s nasty and good all at once—and they were right about his age not making a difference where true love matters. And especially … especially about her body craving his like he was pure sugar. Charlie. He had better hurry. Charlie, Charlie, Charlie. Her father will be home in exactly one hour and thirty-three minutes, and won’t stop short of gutting him if he is found on top of her where her father thinks only Wonder Woman underclothes or sheets or her own hands with toilet paper should be. Charlie knows that as well as she does. He saw, like she and all the rest of Leroy Street, her father drag Bridget’s crush out the house by his ankles. Saw his head hit each step with six thuds that changed things permanently. Charlie knows the boy never spoke good English after that. Please, Charlie. Don’t you go chicken on me.

Lawrence works every Saturday, even if there’s a graduation to attend or he hits the number for four weeks’ pay or even if he’s bent over sick with pneumonia. He says they need the money, though Dot’s counted what’s stashed and knows better. What he means is she drives him crazy with her nearly pretty, not necessarily ugly, self. She is the mirror image of her mother—dead two and a half years—only shorter and rounder, and looking at her too long means remembering. It creeps w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m a u g u s t 0 8

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Dot out. His staring with that faraway look. Who wants to be gawked at knowing the gazer’s considering the corpse you resemble? Knowing he’s aching to the marrow over his part in the matter? After seven hundred seventy-six Charlie’s, the man arrives shivering from the cold. Only forty-nine minutes left, and she does not match as beautifully with the small fair dress as she did forty-four minutes before when she was still honey-colored and horny. “What happened? I told you two thirty.” She raises her shoulders to shrug, but mostly to force her embroidered sleeves down her arms— give him more of her to look at. He does not answer that. Instead he runs up on her like he wants to jump inside her skin and live there. He puts his hands all over her and she cannot keep up. This is exactly why she loves him—for being tangible. She can bite off pieces of his love and hold them in her cheeks to taste later when he’s gone. When he’s finished making a mess of her lipstick and dress, he tells her he is hungry and thirsty and needs someplace comfortable to sit. By now, her inner thighs are damp. What does he mean hungry and thirsty? Can’t he see she’s ready and warm? She pours him homemade juice and chases it with rum, like Lawrence does in the mornings. She slams the pot on the stove—­­impatient with yesterday’s spaghetti, the noodles and sweet sauce collected like bits of blood and bone. He sits on the couch and combs his chest with trembling hands. He looks her way, but he won’t speak. She wants to tell him to grow up. That in thirty-seven minutes her father will come and blow a hole in his head, and if he wants her at all, he had better take her now, at the stove making his meal. All he needs to do is lift her dress, to move and hold the taffeta with one hand, and there, with the other, he will find nothing at all, just her welcoming bowl. Between him and the lonely woman staring down at her from the wedding photo, Dot’s ill. Everyone in the room—Charlie, her dead mother, she herself—is damn scared of Lawrence. Charlie eats slow as honey pours. Drinks like the juice is lead—as if it should hit every rift in the roof of his mouth before he swallows. “What you put in this?” “Puerto Rican rum.” She never takes her eyes off him. He is the color of wheat bread and unshaven. She sits right close. So close he can’t get his fork to his mouth without feeling her titty against his elbow. And when there are only nineteen minutes left and he still has yet to finish his food or take a finger across her thigh, he says, “I can’t do this, Dot. Can’t do it.” “Don’t do that to me, Charlie.” As if 14-year-old Dot is all woman and been here ten times. “I can’t do this.” As if 50-year-old Charlie hasn’t had one year to prepare. He says it again. “Can’t do it.” And her heart sags low, kissing her stomach. “Can’t.” Down lower, nearly hanging from her ribs. “I can’t do it, Dot.” And he gets up to leave her there, with her heart damn near collected in her shoe. She lifts that plate, still heavy with the blood and bones, to throw, but doesn’t. It would mean spaghetti slipping down the walls after itself and bits of glass between her toes. It would mean she hates him. “Don’t you remember what we said last night? On the telephone?” She puts the plate down. There’s a tight bulge in his pants, like he is collecting quarters. “I remember,” he says, then his eyes gloss over. He is the kind of man that always cries and watching him is both amusing and painful. “I wish I had a camera right now,” he says, “so I could take a picture of you in that stupid dress.” But he isn’t callous. No word has any par-

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ticular pitch. The sentence is as bland as the spaghetti almost thrown against the wall. “Don’t you do that, Charlie.” She sees him picking a fight. “You said you would make love to me.” “What’s wrong with you?” he asks. “I love you.” “This ain’t right.” “Sure it is.” She pulls her dress down over her breasts, big and ripe as honeydew. “I got no business here.” She takes his old man handsome hand and puts his pointer finger into her mouth. “How you know to do things like that?” He pretends to want to know, but this is not the time to tell him. “Well, come on.” He takes back his finger. “We need to get this thing started if we gonna be done in time to miss Lawrence. He’ll be through this door any minute wanting his drink and paper.” He’s trying to be cold, trying to make her curse him, but there’s no use. There is love clogging his throat. She lifts her dress so that it is gathered at her hips in a bunch of pasty ruffles. She stands exposing her fat legs all the way to where they meet in a glorious V. She has only had hair there for a season and it is not tame. Both she and Charlie find this funny and say things like, “Bet it’s enough to braid.” “I know plenty of men slept with girls exactly your age. Some two, three years younger,” says Charlie and he pulls his belt back on itself. “OK,” says Dot, and she lifts that dress up over her stomach. “Worse things is going on in this world right now. Things way worse than a man making love with a girl that really want it in the first place.” “Uh-huh.” “It’s worse things going on right now while we here thinking about what we might do.” With the wedding dress hiked she is still round, but soft. Any boy her age would be displeased with her folds; a young boy wouldn’t rest his hands between them and tell her how much she feels like home, but Charlie is twenty years past young with eyes that see things in a beige light. When there are only twelve minutes to go, she pulls him by those handsome hands into the bedroom to the right—the one all those good sisters slept in.

In nine minutes, Lawrence might shuffle through the door, high off of Georgia, the new, peach-smelling woman at the plant. He’ll put his hat on the hook. Pour himself three shots. Drink them like tea. Run his bare feet across every plank of the wood floor, not even knowing his daughter’s there, getting grown. If the liquor hits him hard, he’ll stand beneath the photo of him and his wife and see it for what it is. Ella will look, in his drunken state, as she looks to everyone else: suicidal. He’ll get angry with her and call her “weak” aloud, and decide (this too aloud) that his wife is simply unimportant. Eventually he’ll scream, “What I still got you on my wall for anyway?” While Lawrence is asking his dead wife questions, Charlie can put himself back together and Dot can clean everything up. She won’t have to worry about the bedspread so much as returning the wedding dress to its plastic shield in her father’s bedroom. Lawrence will not go into his daughters’ room drunk. All over there are mirrors and he is a short, dull man, shorter and duller when drunk. While he considers ways to remove the frame from its wall, Charlie can slip right past. He might as well be Lawrence’s shadow if the liquor hits quick enough.


Photo by lIndsay FlemIng Photo by karl e. Perry selF-PortraIt by tIm kreIder courtesy oF rIchard o’mara

Her father gets home a full sixty minutes late, and Dot is sure this means Georgia has been fooled onto her back. She is dressed in slacks and a shirt, her hair pulled off her forehead so that she is all eyes and cheeks, and she is standing there on Lawrence’s snow-covered porch, with her legs shoulder-width apart, and her hands inside her pants pockets. She is on the top stair and Melody and Harmony skip every other one below her. They are underdressed because they are poor, while Dot is missing hat, gloves, and coat because she’s a woman now, and warm. The girls are staggered so Lawrence can’t give the stairs a straight go. He tries stomping around them but the steps haven’t been cleared and his anger is lost on the snow. “Evening,” Dot says, anyway, and he gives no “Evening” back. He goes inside to fill himself to the elbows with Puerto Rican rum and the twins look at Dot like she’s drowning. “You crazy?” they say over and over on top of each other. And Dot is as cool as if she were not youngest of the Gaither clan. As if she were not a member of the Gaither family at all. She’s already told the twins about Charlie. Described the lovemaking as something dying between her legs. Already called the film left across her stomach “sex” and had that description sharpened by them and named “cum.” Already told them about the wedding dress hanging, un-cleaned, back in its plastic cape. Of pounding Charlie’s back and falling out of love just that easy. But not of revelations. Not of finding out firsthand what drives your father to cheat. To dictate and cause frail women to hold guns to their heads. And use them. “You not scared?” the twins ask, staggered. “Scared of what?” Dot stares in their eyes a pair at a time. “Scared he’ll beat you … put you out … never talk to you again.” “Uh-uh,” she says. And takes the palm of her hand across her hair. Inside herself, where the twins can’t see, Dot considers Ella. She feels as messy as her mother was when they found her, measuring blood with her open mouth (her eyes thrown so far back into her busted head they seemed not eyes at all, but white backdrops worth painting). Only her mother’s mess was cranberry-colored and overwhelming and Dot’s feels like nectar— translucent and strange. She just almost cries for her mother. Just almost. The tears well up so high it’s a wonder they balance. So high if she breathes in the levees will collapse. But she pulls it together and the tears get swallowed back down to live inside her. Lawrence hasn’t the courage to question her, she knows. She could always say, “You killed my momma, you dirty old dog.” At 14, she knows men are not capable of doing themselves what they require of others. Not capable of keeping their dicks in their pants no matter the consequence. Not a suicidal wife, not an underage girl, not one thing on this whole mighty earth can keep them from giving in. How Ella live so long and not figure that? ■

courtesy oF JIm sIZemore

Except that Charlie starts up with his crying and slows everything down. Tears big enough to fill a cup drop and open wide all over Dot’s breasts. She slams her fists against his back. “Shut up. Shut up, Charlie. Shut up!” Three minutes left and she doesn’t know if she’s a virgin or not. She can’t tell if the pile of skin between his legs where firmness just was means anything. His penis seems discouraged now. Lenient. And for the first time, she feels like a girl. “Get out of here, Charlie.” Dot sends the crying fool to the wind, not caring if he meets Lawrence on the snow-covered concrete steps and they wrestle like boys. Not caring if they lose their balance and lives over one another.

Jessica Anya Blau is the author of The Summer of Naked Swim Parties (Harper Perennial, 2008). She is currently teaching at Johns Hopkins. “Bubbe and Zeyde” is fiction, an excerpt from a novel in progress titled Home for the Heart Attack.

Andria Nacina Cole (pictured here with her daughter, Sol) has degrees in creative writing from Morgan State and Johns Hopkins universities, and has published stories in Urbanite and Sensations Magazine, among others. “Small Crimes” is fiction.

Tim Kreider’s cartoon “The Pain— When Will It End?” has run in the Baltimore City Paper since 1996. Two collections of his work, The Pain— When Will It End? (2004) and Why Do They Kill Me? (2005), have been published by Fantagraphics Books. His essays have appeared in the New York Times, Film Quarterly, and The Comics Journal. “The Stabbing Story” is based on a real incident.

Richard O’Mara served thirty-four years on the Baltimore Sun, during which time he wrote editorials and was a foreign correspondent in South America and Europe, a feature writer, a Washington correspondent, and the foreign editor for twelve years. “The Storyteller” is a nonfiction account of his friend and former Sun colleague, the late Art Geiselman. Jim Sizemore is a cartoonist, photographer, and writer who, from 1943 to 1952, lived on South Hanover Street, South Charles Street, Light Street, and William Street, all in South Baltimore. Since 2003, he has lived on East Fort Avenue, also in South Baltimore. “Klaatu Barada Nikto” is fiction, one of several short stories adapted from an unpublished novel.

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A L S O I N S PA C E : 61 Water, Water Everywhere The new Herring Run Watershed Center saves both water and money

65 The Drawing Board Fred Scharmen reinvents the waterfront

Journey to the Center of the

EARTH

BY SCOTT CARLSON

P HO TO GRAP HY BY DANI E L SHE A

geothermal systems tap the energy in the earth to heat and cool homes

E

d Hord gives the faintest wry grin as he gestures to his driveway. “So,” he says, “what do you think of the geothermal?” He’s joking, of course, because there is nothing to see. Far beneath the crushed gravel of his car pad, loops of high-density polyethylene pipes containing a water-and-alcohol mixture extend down some three hundred feet through dirt and rock, where temperatures stay a constant 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Hord’s geothermal system uses that constant temperature to heat and cool his house, saving up to 70 percent of the energy used by a conventional furnace or air conditioner. But outside Hord’s house, there is no wacky gizmo making a statement about energy efficiency or environmental sensibility—no solar panels or wind-powered turbines. With nothing to see or hear, it’s no wonder most people aren’t familiar with geothermal, even though it is generating a lot of buzz in green-building circles. Hord was familiar with geothermal technology from his work as an architect and principal in the Baltimore firm Hord Coplan Macht. But after he decided to install it in his own home, he got puzzled inquiries about it from friends and neighbors. “People would say to me, ‘Are you plugging into the magma?’” he says, chuckling. “It’s surprising how little people know about it.” Both the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy have said that geothermal represents a huge untapped energy source for the country. China recently passed the United States in geothermal installations, mainly because of its size. Austria and Sweden lead the world in per capita geothermal installations; in Sweden, most

What lies beneath: Installing the underground pipes of a residential geothermal system can be expensive, but over time, the investment can pay off.

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Underground movement: Contractor Scott Lawrence (above) helps bury hundreds of feet of polyethylene pipes for a Ground Loop geothermal project. Inside the basement (below), the pipes are attached to a unit that is hooked up to a forced-air system.

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heating is provided through geothermal, according to Jim Bose, executive director of the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association. Michael Cullum discovered geothermal more than twenty years ago, after his father told him to look into it as a new service to offer in the family’s heating-and-air-conditioning business. After traveling to Fort Wayne, Indiana, to learn about geothermal from WaterFurnace, one of the major manufacturers of geothermal equipment, he was sold on the technology and started his Darlington, Maryland-based geothermal company, Ground Loop. “There are billions and billions of BTUs in Mother Earth,” he says. “We could heat and cool the entire world with what’s in the ground.” But it took time for homeowners to see the technology’s potential. “Eighteen years ago, I was starving,” Cullum says. “People would look at me like I had three heads when I was trying to talk to them about geothermal and saving a little money on their energy bill. But now with energy prices going through the roof, the activity has picked up tremendously.” Cullum will do about a hundred installations this year, and some of his recent work has been large-scale commercial projects, like a library in Finksburg that will have a system with thirty holes, each four hundred feet deep. (Baltimore City is also getting into the act: The Church of the Redeemer, on Charles Street in Roland Park, is planning to put in a geothermal system.) Interest in geothermal has grown so much that it’s sometimes hard to find a welldriller who can do a job. “It’s a bottleneck and it’s going to get worse,” Cullum says. “We are begging them to get holes into the ground.” But geothermal is still a mystery to the average person, probably because it’s complicated and somewhat counterintuitive. Everyone asks the same question, says Cullum: How do you get 80-degree heat out of ground that’s only 55 degrees? Here’s an oversimplified explanation: Geothermal is essentially tapping into solar energy that the ground has absorbed. A geothermal unit inside the home, which looks a lot like a conventional furnace, pumps an antifreeze solution through pipes out the foundation wall and into the ground. (The pipes are merely embedded in soil and rock, not touching magma, as some assume.) In the summer, liquid coming from the house is warmer than the ground; it sheds its heat into the ground and comes back to the unit cooler. In winter, the liquid picks up heat in the ground and brings it back to the unit. The unit is usually hooked up to ductwork for a forced air system, blowing warm or cool air, depending on the season, through the house. Energy from the geothermal system can also be used in a home’s hot-water system or in radiant heating.


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Geothermal taps into solar energy the ground has absorbed. A geothermal unit inside the home pumps an antifreeze solution through pipes buried in the ground. Depending on the season, the system can be used for either heat or cooling.

Because no fossil fuels are burned, geothermal is touted as clean, although the system does use some electricity. WaterFurnace markets its geothermal products with various “convenient truths” that praise geothermal as an antidote to climate change. But installing a geothermal system comes with some challenges and limitations. One is space—you need room to either drill down into the earth or to dig trenches to bury pipe. Piping can go into the ground horizontally, in trenches six feet deep, or vertically, in wells drilled hundreds of feet down. (There is also “horizontal boring”—that is, drilling horizontally under foundations—but it is the most expensive drilling technique, used only in desperate situations.) Urban areas are particularly challenging for geothermal welldrillers, because of existing infrastructure, both above ground and below. A drilling rig is not easy to maneuver down Baltimore alleys. “I tell people if you can’t get a school bus parked in your back yard, it’s going to be very difficult,” Cullum says. “If you give me an area that is twenty feet by twenty feet, I can heat and cool any household. But I have got to be able to get my rig in that spot. I don’t have a helicopter that can drop in my rig.” The other major hurdle: It’s pricy. A geothermal system for an average home can run $20,000 to $30,000, or more, depending on the drilling conditions, the number of holes needed, the condition of a home’s ductwork, and so on. The State of Maryland has just started offering a $3,000 tax break for renewable energy installation; some counties, like Howard County, offer up to $5,000 in addition to the state tax break. Still, geothermal’s cost is enough to make a homeowner think twice.

Also, it’s important to work with companies that have extensive experience with geothermal; inexperienced installers can make mistakes like drilling holes that are too shallow or too close together, which can decrease a system’s efficacy. And homeowners should evaluate the size of their home and their current energy use when considering geothermal; although

“There are billions and billions of BTUs in Mother Earth,” says Ground Loop owner Michael Cullum. “We could heat and cool the entire world with what’s in the ground.” there is a guaranteed energy savings, it may be farther down the road if, for example, your house is poorly insulated. But those who have tried the technology say it will pay off. Caleb Kelly installed geothermal in his Cockeysville home in 2006. While his neighbors’ energy bills shot up following Constellation Energy’s rate hike, his remained flat, and he’s stopped using his woodburning stove. He sees his geothermal unit as a way to contribute to American energy independence. “Eventually, we’re going to run out of oil,” he says. Ed Hord hired Fallston-based Watervale Heating and Air Conditioning to install his geothermal system after propane went from $1 a gallon to $3 a gallon. “I said, ‘That’s it. I’m

sick of sitting back and watching the prices go up.’” He estimates that his geothermal system, which cost about $30,000, will pay for itself within ten years—or sooner, if energy prices continue to rise. One of the unanticipated benefits of the geothermal system was that he could get rid of two noisy air-conditioning condenser units that sat rumbling outside his house every summer, disturbing the tranquility of his secluded, wooded property near Robert E. Lee Park, off Falls Road. Now that he has personal experience with geothermal, he would like to try it with other projects—in particular, he is advising Jubilee Baltimore on the possibility of using geothermal for an artists’ housing project in Station North. He hopes that mortgage agencies will consider the long-term energy savings of geothermal and not balk at the up-front costs. Even if the initial costs are higher, “at some point, you make money,” he says. Of course, he’ll still have to find a way to maneuver a rig into a city block. “I’m just saying, let’s see if we can get a drilling rig in there,” he says. “Why not?” ■ —Scott Carlson wrote about straw bale buildings in the June Urbanite.

Web extras: To see a demonstration of how geothermal works, go to www.groundloop. com/simulator.htm. For photos of Ed Hord’s geothermal installation, go to http://hordgeo.notlong.com

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THE PARKE AT MT. WASHINGTON IT’S LIKE SUMMER CAMP FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY.

BEAZER.COM

When you live at The Parke at Mt. Washington, there’s always something wonderful for the whole family to do. Cannonballs in the Olympic-sized pool. Riding bikes around the cul-de-sac. Movie nights at the clubhouse. Tennis tournaments on the two community courts. Cookouts on the patio and making s’mores in the fire pit. And, of course, shopping and dining in nearby Mt. Washington Village any time. Come discover the only new community in Mt. Washington. While there’s still plenty of summer left to enjoy it.

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B y am y novotne y

P hotograph y b y J A S O N O K U T A K E

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Water, Water Everywhere The Herring Run Watershed Association’s new headquarters is both budget- and water-conscious As executive director of the Herring Run Watershed Association (HRWA), Mary Sloan Roby spends most of her time planning stream clean-ups, tree plantings, and educational programs that focus on improving the environmental and aesthetic qualities of the forty-four-square-mile Herring Run watershed. This month, she’ll get some additional assistance from her refurbished Belair-Edison office space, a former bakery building at the end of a group of rowhouses that HRWA has transformed into its new green headquarters. Located at the corner of Belair Road and Pelham Avenue, less than half a mile from Herring Run Park, the 2,800-square-foot Watershed Center manifests the organization’s watershed restoration mission, which involves water conservation and stormwater management. Nearly 65 percent of the rain that falls on the building’s green roof is retained by hardy, low-maintenance plants and soil, with the remaining 35 percent being diverted to a 350-gallon cistern in the building’s basement. Unless there’s a prolonged drought, the building’s two dual-flush toilets draw all of their water from that cistern. On the second floor, a composting toilet collects and processes waste, which is used to fertilize the green roof, and stormwater planters outside the building’s new handicap-accessible entrance treat rainwater before sending it downstream. “Being that we’re a watershed organization, I really wanted our new building to focus on water management,” Roby says. Staff offices are scattered throughout the building, and there’s classroom space on the first floor, plus a kitchen and conference room

Under construction: The new Herring Run Watershed Center, scheduled to open this month near Herring Run Park in Belair-Edison, is one of the first buildings in Baltimore City to achieve silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

on the second level that are available for visitors and neighborhood residents to rent out for meetings. The $622,000 redevelopment project—completed by Hampden-based Baltimore Green Construction—incorporated a host of environmentally friendly materials and appliances, including double-paned windows, motion-detector lighting, an on-demand tankless water heater, ecologically responsible lumber, and insulation materials made from soybeans, corn, and recycled denim. These

green technologies should reduce the building’s overall energy use by at least 30 percent. The refurbished building—one of the first in Baltimore City to achieve a silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating from the U.S. Green Building Council—is proof that going green doesn’t require unlimited resources or a large amount of space, says Darragh Brady, a senior associate with the Baltimore architecture firm Ziger/Snead and the Center’s project

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Last year, the Urbanite Project brought together seven teams of unexpected collaborators and asked them, “What would you do if there were no boundaries? What concern—either here in Baltimore or globally—would you confront if nothing stood in your way?”

imagine the possibilities.

This year, we will again include Urbanite readers in the project. Those selected will be invited to join an Urbanite Project team and work with other participants who represent a wide range of fields and professions, from art and architecture to science and education. To apply, go to www.urbaniteproject.com.

Tell us who you are and why you should be a part of this special annual issue. Applications are due August 15, 2008.

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Interior Design Made Easy

The Home Buying Process: Tips and Tricks

Homebuying Incentive Programs in Baltimore

Renovating your New Home in Baltimore

Wednesday, August 13 6 PM –7:30PM Central Library

Saturday, August 16 10:30AM –12:30 PM Roland Park Branch

Wednesday, August 20 6 PM –7:30 PM Central Library

Saturday, August 23 10:30AM –12:30 PM Roland Park Branch

Are you a “do-it-yourselfer” who wants your home to reflect your own personal taste? Join Live Baltimore for a workshop that spells out the principles of design and how to apply them to any room or the whole house.

Eliminate common mistakes associated with finding and financing a home. If you’re planning on purchasing a home in the next 3 to 12 months, this workshop can protect your investment.

In Baltimore City in particular, today’s homebuying market offers many lucrative incentives. Learn about all there is out there, from tax incentives to downpayment and closing cost programs.

Whether you’re buying a fixerupper or renovating your existing home, Live Baltimore offers tips on everything from finding an affordable city property suitable for renovation to financing the project.

urbanite august 08


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Left: Executive director Mary Sloan Roby (left) and project manager Darragh Brady on the green roof. A percentage of the rain that falls on the roof is funneled into a storage tank, sterilized, and used in two of the building’s toilets. Above: Stormwater planters, shown here during construction, have since been filled with gravel and soil to treat rainwater before it rushes downstream.

manager and architect. “We took a simple urban building and renovated it under a tight budget, in a way that was much more sustainable and that really fit with the organization’s mission,” she says. Had its budget been larger, HRWA might have considered adding photovoltaic panels to the roof and installing a more efficient HVAC system to reduce energy use even further, but the group did the best with the resources it had, Brady says. To keep costs down, HRWA had to get creative at times: When the group found out that renting a crane to load dirt onto the building’s green roof would eat up half the budget, green roof subcontractor Michael Furbish had the dirt delivered to the sidewalk outside the center, and used a ladder hoist and buckets—plus lots of able-bodied helpers—to move the dirt instead. “Every project has its own story,” says Furbish, founder of Baltimore green building firm Furbish Company. “This organization wanted to speak [to] respect for the waterways, so we worked to make it as affordable as possible for them.”

The building will enable HRWA to better educate and engage residents from the fiftyplus Baltimore City and Baltimore County neighborhoods it serves, says HRWA board member Sarah Bur. The new classroom, offices, and meeting rooms will allow the group to

The 2,800-square-foot Watershed Center manifests HRWA’s watershed restoration mission, which involves water conservation and stormwater management. add staff and attract more volunteers to the organization, plus offer lessons in environmental stewardship to Northeast Baltimore public school students. “There’s been a hole in terms of environmental education centers on the northeast side of the city,” Bur says.

“We’re hopeful that this new center will allow urban kids to get more exposure to nature and [learn] how to take better care of it.” This fall, the group also plans to host an environmental lecture series for local builders and residents on topics such as greening one’s home, building a rain barrel, and reducing energy use. And HRWA will occasionally open the building to area homeowners who are curious about energy-saving, affordable greenbuilding techniques. “It’s our hope to make sustainability a household word in the Herring Run watershed and beyond,” says Roby. ■ —Amy Novotney wrote about sprawl and smart growth in Maryland in the January 2007 issue. The public open house of the Watershed Center will be held in late September. Check www.herringrun.org for more details.

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The Drawing Board

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SHIPPING NEWS A DIFFERENT KIND OF WATERFRONT DEVELOPMENT

Baltimore is growing. Literally. To keep the shipping channels open, the Maryland Port Administration dredges between four and five million cubic yards of material out of the bay every year. They need a place to put it. For decades, that place has been Hart Miller Island (left) at the mouth of the Back River, but after 2009, newer dredged material will be placed along the Baltimore coastline at Masonville Cove, creating new urban waterfront land. The Port Administration thus finds itself in a unique situation: It is the only landowner in the city with the ability to make new waterfront real estate. Current plans for Masonville Cove call for a new shipping terminal at the site. This new land could be engineered to handle more than just shipping space. As industry moves along the water from the center of the city to its edges, people eventually follow. In Baltimore, people are now living in once-derelict warehouses, factories, piers, and grain silos. If this trend continues, the shipping terminals of Dundalk, Curtis Bay, and now Masonville could someday be home to thousands. How can the structure of this place accommodate multiple systems that change over time—not just from shipping to housing, but also the fallow period in between?

shipping terminals are defined by the standard dimensions of shipping containers: ten, twenty, and forty feet long. these boxes are stacked and sorted by large wheeled cranes. the sizes of the cranes, the boxes, the ships, and the wide asphalt field of an average terminal are globally standardized. Pavement is only necessary where the cranes roll through. taking inspiration from permeable open-cell concrete pavers, this proposal calls for a system of concrete planks sized precisely to the edges of the boxes and the wheels of the cranes.

photo by La Kaye Mbah

courtesy of www.WorldIslandInfo.com

Got an idea about how to build a better city? Draw us a picture.

Fred Scharmen has studied infrastructure on the bike paths of Los Angeles and in the park systems of Baltimore, the ports of Scandinavia, and most recently, the deserts of Inner Mongolia. In addition to freelance writing, art, photography, and research, Fred is a designer at Ziger/Snead Architects.

most terminals are mostly empty, most of the time. an open structure allows the clear areas to be planted with sunflowers and other crops. as space for containers shrinks, planted areas grow, pulling heavy metals out of the soil and providing plant matter for biofuels.

residential development moves down the waterfront, and the bones of the old container terminal become the foundations of houses built among the sunflowers. the sizes of the cranes and containers are translated to pedestrian streets and alleys, and the standard dimensions allow basic building components to be mass-produced. the final phase of this evolving industrial-to-residential development: a new citywithin-a-city built on lines not unlike baltimore’s traditional sixteen-foot-wide rowhouse fabric.

To submit an idea for the Drawing Board, e-mail editor@urbanitebaltimore.com. w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m a u g u s t 0 8

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TURN A NEW PAGE WITH THE PRATT CONTEMPORARIES

The Pratt Contemporaries is a new group of young and dynamic cosmopolitans who support and seek awareness of the Enoch Pratt Free Library.

Members receive exclusive access to Baltimore’s lively literary and social scene.

COME CHECK US OUT! For more information about membership and events contact Sharon Connell at (443) 984-3850 or sconnell@prattlibrary.org

Where can you pick up Urbanite for free? Catonsville, Columbia, Downtown, Dundalk, Ellicott City, Federal Hill, Fells Point, Harbor East, Mount Vernon, Pikesville, Towson

Visit our website for a complete list of locations. www.urbanitebaltimore.com

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S P O N S O R E D

S E C T I O N

photo courtesy of the Maryland Mentoring Partnership

S P E C I A L

Making a Life-Changing Connection The Maryland Mentoring Partnership is working to transform the state of mentoring

“When mentoring happens on a massive scale, a community can change its behavior in a matter of days.” —Maryland Mentoring Partnership executive director Selwyn Ray

Above: Merrill Lynch mentor Bill Hugo with Crossroads school mentee Ronald Carney

Wireless Home, Inc, a Verizon Wireless

retailer, began operations in January 2007. Since then, owners Bill Baldwin and Alan Webb have opened ten stores in Maryland. A central part of their business plan has been to firmly establish Wireless Home in the communities around their stores. Among other things, this means giving back to charitable organizations. “Whether it’s schools, youth sports programs, or mentoring organizations, it is important to us as members of the community to support worthwhile nonprofits,” says Webb. “Our employees appreciate it, and it’s just good business.” Since 1999 (with a three-year hiatus while living in Atlanta), Baldwin has been a member of the board of the Maryland Mentoring Partnership, a nonprofit organization that works for the advancement of youth mentoring statewide. With young people struggling to overcome the challenges of juvenile crime, poor public education, and a host of other social ills, the promise offered by such one-on-one personal connections with adult mentors has never been more essential. “Mentoring works. And the Maryland Mentoring Partnership has been at the forefront of promoting effective mentoring throughout the state,” says Baldwin. “I am very proud to be a part of this organization, and to support the work that they do on behalf of our youth.”

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photo courtesy of the Maryland Mentoring Partnershp

Guiding Light

Maryland Mentoring Partnership executive director Selwyn Ray on the power of positive mentoring Interview by Jackie Frank

“I believe that we, as an organization, get as much value out of mentoring as the mentees. Our mentors … have learned to work as a team, putting both a program and a budget together and then delivering. For the mentor leadership group, working/ leading the program could not have been a better development tool.” —Ralph Arnold, COO, Monumental Life Insurance Company

“We need to put in place a mechanism for bringing caring, competent adults … into contact with children who can develop the mindset and learn the skills to thrive in this tough world.” —Warren Green, President and CEO of LifeBridge Health

Selwyn Ray, executive director of the Maryland

Mentoring Partnership (MMP), doesn’t want people to see mentoring as anything special. He wants mentoring programs to become built-in fixtures—in business, government, the arts, and the public sector. To that end, Ray, 51, oversees an organization that serves as advocate, resource, catalyst, and clearinghouse to help develop and support quality, sustainable youth mentoring programs across Maryland that can help guide young people as they navigate their way to adulthood. MMP’s goal is to match 84,000 youth with mentors by 2010. In the past four years, it has increased mentor pairings by 21 percent, bringing mentor relationships to 52,000 young people statewide. Trained as a lawyer, Ray joined MMP in 2002 and was named executive director in November 2007. Early on, he knew a legal career wasn’t for him, and decided to pursue work that would help young people in a tangible way. Ray sees mentoring as a replacement for the sorts of positive influences—close-knit neighborhoods, quality public schools, professional apprenticeships—that once helped point young people in the right direction. “A mentor can’t compensate for what didn’t happen at home or in school,” Ray says. “But a mentor can help a young person in not giving up on themselves or their dreams.” Q: How do you define a mentor? A: A mentor is essentially a guide and a trusted friend who helps an individual transition through life. A mentor listens, a mentor reflects, and a mentor expresses hope for an individual. We have precious little of that guidance and wisdom being expressed to young people. A mentor tries to make a young person feel comfortable with themselves by endorsing and acknowledging their value. When that doesn’t happen, a young person may turn elsewhere for validation—go astray and end up in a horrible situation. A mentor is not a parent; a mentor is not a social worker; a mentor is not a psychologist or an ATM machine. A mentor is a window through which a young person can look to get a different perspective on life. Q: How does the Maryland Mentoring Partnership support mentoring? A: We mentor the mentoring programs. Through our mentoring toolkit, we assist in the design and vision of a program, and provide the training to guide the program to launch. We recently helped Sinai Hospital and LifeBridge Health with a program they devised for

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middle school students. The hope is that this type of connection will create a culture whereby other hospitals will say, “We need to do that, too.” We also offer help to mentors if they’re having a problem. Somebody might call and say, “Help—my mentee’s not listening to me.” We remind them that mentoring is a relationship that requires care and nurturing. The most important thing is to talk it out and find out what’s going on. A lot of the challenges we face are because of poor communication. If mentors listen, they will get insight into where they can go next in the relationship.

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people up above the noise and confusion of some of the communities in which they live. Through mentoring, they are exposed to an environment that says, “You can be a part of this, too.” If it doesn’t happen, we’ll continue to have a workforce that’s ill prepared and angry at their inability to succeed. I’m not saying that mentoring is the ultimate solution to violence and juvenile misbehavior. Young people receive information from many places. If it’s not good information, we have to supplement that with the positive influence that can come from a mentor. That mentor’s voice, on many occasions, may be the only positive voice a child hears.

Q: Do you find interest in mentoring increasing? A: Most definitely. Because of the disintegration of the family, and because schools and neighborhoods aren’t as strong as they used to be, mentoring has momentum these days. There’s a need, and there’s more money for mentoring in federal, state, and faith-based grants. And another reason a buzz around mentoring exists is because we are realizing that we have shortchanged our young people. Mentoring—that replacement of what used to be there naturally—has come into the picture because of need. Q: Did you have a mentor? A: My first mentor was a 75-year-old retired postman who mentored me when I was 9 years old. He taught me gentleness and honesty, and he did one of the most important things a mentor can do—he listened to me. Now one of my mentors is John Carroll Byrnes, a retired Baltimore Circuit Court Judge who is on MMP’s board. I was his law clerk and we’ve remained connected ever since. He gives me advice about public speaking and tells me when he thinks I’m doing things well and points out areas for improvement. Q: You’ve often described mentoring as a “sound investment.” What do you mean by that? A: It costs maybe $1,500 a year to support a mentoring relationship. It costs a minimum of $34,000 a year to incarcerate a child. Research has shown that mentoring reduces criminal behavior and substance abuse, and increases school performance. I’m talking about investing early so we don’t have to spend money later. Q: What role does mentoring play in building a qualified workforce?

photos courtesy of the Maryland Mentoring Partnership

A: I think the corporate world has an obligation to support the development of its workforce through mentoring programs—not necessarily to divert youth from delinquency, but to raise young

Q: Can you talk about your experience as a mentor? A: I met my mentee in Park Heights when I was a community organizer. He was 12, and I was 31. He’s a very talented artist, and I would marvel at his artwork. Mom and Dad were absent from his life. His grandfather said to me, “Whatever you can do for him, I’d really appreciate it.” One night he called me and said he was having nightmares. He had seen someone get mugged and shot, and couldn’t stop thinking about it. So we talked about it until he felt better and he could go to sleep. That might seem like a small thing, but this was a child who didn’t have a mom or dad to talk to. He also had some trouble in his community because he’s a very kind and gentle soul, but because of the environment he grew up in he felt he had to act strong and tough to maintain a certain image. I said, “You can be a gentle giant and still be respected in your community.” Today he’s working for the sanitation bureau, and is married with a lovely family. He doesn’t carry a gun and he didn’t get tangled up in drugs, even though that was everywhere around him. But he had a voice saying to him, You don’t have to go that way. Q: What does the future of mentoring look like to you? A: Mentoring needs to become a natural part of who we are as a society—in government, in business, everywhere. We need to bring mentoring to scale and have leadership in all sectors speak to its importance. We don’t need to lay blame on Maryland’s schools, parents, businesses, churches, synagogues, police departments, or governments. We need to all come together and say, “We’re all responsible for our young people.” Mentoring relationships have to become necessities, not luxuries.

Get Involved: To learn more about how to start a mentoring program at your company or organization, go to www.maryland mentors.org.

Why Mentor?

Members of the Baltimore office of the Saul Ewing law firm who participated in a mentoring program were asked, What did you get from the experience?

“It takes me out of the cocoon in which I live. It also puts a face on the issues of Greater Baltimore.”

“Sometimes we lose that feeling of ‘purpose’ in our everyday lives as attorneys in a big law firm because we are mostly representing wealthy corporations.”

“Without this experience, I had no true concept of how needed a mentor program was, and how appreciated it has turned out to be.” w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m a u g u s t 0 8

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good Cow, Bad Cow In search of the ethical steak by Ma r th a T h o m a s

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Wine & spirits

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the Feed

Grilling 101

The Brass Elephant and Tark’s Grill

In the pink

This month in eating

photo by Jason Okutake

Straight from the heart: Martha Thomas compares grass-fed beef (on the left) to its corn-fed counterpart (p. 73).

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Cattle call: Black Angus calves at Roseda Farms leave the pasture after ten months to fatten up on grain.

Good Cow, Bad Cow In search of the ethical steak

By Martha Thomas

I

’m standing on a grassy hillock in Monkton, seeing visions of Pamplona. They’re not exactly running, but a few of the thirty or so Black Angus cattle trotting toward me are indeed bulls—I spot a few with the telltale knob that differentiates an uncastrated male from a steer. But these animals—please don’t call them cows—stop about ten feet from where I stand and gaze at me with mild curiosity. They seem pretty content. And that’s what I’m here for: to meet some happy bovine, or “beeves.” (As it turns out, this is the only word that encompasses both the animal, with all its various gender alterations, and its eventual use.) Most of these animals are destined for slaughter—or processing, to use the beef industry’s preferred term—and any one of them could show up on my plate a few months from now. The life they have here on this bright green pasture—and the journey they take to my table—is part of the puzzle I’m trying to work out. I get that I’m an omnivore, that my

teeth, my digestive system, and my nutritional needs were designed with a certain amount of animal protein in mind. I’m not here to worry about the ethics of eating animals or even fret about what the inside of a slaughterhouse (oops, processing plant) looks like. Instead, I’m looking for answers to another dilemma: Can someone who’s concerned about the environment justify eating beef, a foodstuff that uses such a disproportionate amount of resources in its production? After all, producing eight ounces of beef can take up to 6,500 gallons of water. And each beef calorie calls for eleven to seventeen calories of feed and uses 33 percent more fossil fuel to produce than a calorie derived from a potato. Belching and flatulent livestock, moreover, account for 16 percent of the world’s annual production of planetwarming methane. So, earlier this summer, at about the time the enticing scent of smoke and seared meat started drifting from backyard decks in my neighborhood, I set out in search of beef I could consume in good conscience. I visited two local farms, both raising natural, hormone-free beef. One, Hedgeapple Farms in Buckeystown, just outside of Frederick, raises cows that eat nothing but grass. They travel no farther than a hundred yards—from one side of the road to the other—to munch on a mix of fescue, clover, alfafa, and orchard grass in carefully managed pastures before making the final journey to Smucker’s Meats in Mt. Joy, Pennsylvania, at about 16 to 18 months of age. The second farm is Roseda Black Angus Farms in Monkton. Here the calves graze in pastures until they are about 10 months old and then are sent to a local feedlot, where they fatten up by eating silage—a mix of alfafa, hay, and corn—from feeding troughs for another six months before processing. My conceit was to compare grass-fed to corn-fed, and I will admit that it was a fixed race: I’d already decided that grass was the way to go. Raising beef on grass in a “closed system” (meaning they live, eat, and poop in more or less the same place) just seems superior to the feedlot approach from environmental, nutritional, and ethical perspectives. Grass-fed beeves are not part of the agricultural industrial complex that involves moving mass quantities of corn to feedlots and dealing with the odiferous and nitrogen-filled excrement that pollutes the water supply (and has been known to find its way to baby spinach leaves). Carol Galloway, an analyst for the Environmental Protection Agency, agrees. “[Feedlots] can involve huge distances transporting grain to cows, and then moving the waste,”

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—Martha Thomas wrote about fruit pie in the June Urbanite.

How to Grill Beef Preheat grill, scraping off any old crusties. Trim off any excess fat around the edge of the steak. Brush a little regular olive or grapeseed oil on meat, then sprinkle with salt and pepper or the seasoning of your choice. Start meat on high heat, then adjust for thickness. A cold, 1-inch-thick steak should cook 3 to 5 minutes on the first side, then 3 minutes on the flip side for medium rare. A steak is rare when you can see the juices start to weep through the top cooked side. The leaner the meat, the less juice. Remove steak from grill and allow to rest on a platter for ten minutes. Tips: Cook right-out-of-the-refrigerator meat with a lower flame for a little longer than if the meat is at room temperature. A grass-fed piece of beef tends to be more dense and less fatty, so cooking time may be less. Remember, you can always put underdone meat back on the grill, but you can’t undo an overcooked piece of meat. For burgers: Don’t over-handle the meat. A quickly formed burger that is flat, or a tad raised around the edge, will cook more evenly than a “meatball” shape that has been overworked. “Lunch in the Garden” Steak Salad Leftover steak, served with a little crusty bread to mop up with, is perfect for a summer lunch or dinner salad. White balsamic vinegar Olive oil Mixed greens Sliced steak Roquefort cheese (or your favorite) Mix olive oil and white balsamic vinegar, 2 to 1, to taste. Toss greens with some thinly sliced red or sweet onion. Grind some black pepper over the top and lightly toss. Drizzle the dressing over the salad, toss again, and place on dinner plates. —Tips and recipes by Sandy Lawler, chef-owner of Feast at 4 East Web extra: More recipes at www.urbanitebaltimore.com. w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m a u g u s t 0 8

photo © Gualberto107 | Dreamstime.com

test, I took home packs of six-ounce ground beef patties from each farm for a taste test. Even my vegetarian boyfriend, Dan, griller by virtue of being male, could see the difference between the two patties on the grill. The all-grass Hedgeapple was deep red; ruby juice pooled on its surface. The “corn-finished” burger was more pinkish and took longer to cook. It also had a buttery flavor that my un-credentialed tasters tended to prefer over Hedgeapple’s entirely grass-fed beef. Chewing my grass burger, I pondered its flavor—dark and earthy, like the smell of spring soil turned over with a shovel or the damp mat of grass at the bottom of a haystack. Perhaps, like artisanal cheese or good Scotch, the taste of proper beef must be acquired; maybe grain-fed beef is the frozen strawberry daiquiri to grass-fed’s sharp and peaty single-malt. Many a customer who tries Hedgeapple Farms’ beef, according to executive director Scott Barao, says, “This is the way meat used to taste.” A week or so later, my friend Sandy Lawler took a break from the frenzy of opening her new Mount Vernon restaurant, Feast at 4 East, to grill up a pair of boneless ribeye steaks from the two farms. She found the grass-fed chewier, and possessed of a deeper flavor. “I like that richness,” she said. “But I think most of us are used to the milder, fattier flavor [of the grain-fed].” Lawler lived in Chicago for thirty years, and has eaten many a well-marbled steak. But she’s a convert to grass, not only on account of the taste. “Wouldn’t it be nice if this were the trend?” she asked. “If we saved our pennies, ate meat less often, and were more holistic about the whole thing?” She may be onto something. Will Hueston worked at the University of Maryland for five years before going to the University of Minnesota, where he is director of the Center for Animal Health and Food Safety at the College of Veterinary Medicine. Even in our era of global food shortages, Hueston says, “We could meet the protein demands of the world by reducing portion sizes.” Hueston is also in favor of getting to know your food. When he was young, his grade school class took a field trip to a slaughterhouse (this was in the days before euphemisms). “We saw the live animals; they showed us the hanging carcasses and how hot dogs were made. Then we had a cookout.” These days, Hueston raises a couple of grass-fed beeves, and yes, he gives them a bit of corn sometimes. “I want to see them in the evenings, so I go out with a little corn and they come running. They sure seem to think it’s candy.” ■

reCiPe

EAT/DRINK she says. “It’s an artificial setup where the nutrients don’t go back to where they are taken from.” Says Margaret Mellon, director of the food and environment program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, “A cow’s greenhouse ledger—meaning the pollution that can be attributed to its existence—is much worse if it is corn-fed.” Bovines are ruminants, built to eat grass. Corn, says Mellon, is “candy for cows—it’s too rich. It causes liver disease and changes the pH balance in their guts.” Cows raised on grass are healthier than their cornfed counterparts, so antibiotics are rarely necessary, and they are allowed to grow at a natural rate, so hormones aren’t an issue. Moreover, their meat is healthier. The Union of Concerned Scientists recently reported that “grass-fed beef and milk contain higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, the socalled beneficial fats.” Kate Clancy, author of the study, wrote that “even partially replacing grass with grain can reduce the levels of beneficial fatty acids in meat and milk.” Mellon did put to rest one of my concerns: the ethics of having so much land devoted to producing a high-end product. Even the richest pastures, like Hedgeapple’s, can sustain only one animal per acre, while farms that aren’t as rigorously managed need three or more acres per head. “Lots of pasture land isn’t suited to crops,” she says. The grassfeeders “can eat low-quality forage and turn it into food for humans.” At the same time, the corn used to feed Roseda cattle isn’t necessarily the stuff of soft drink or ethanol production (or human food for that matter): During my visit, director of operations Mike Brannon handed me a Ziploc bag filled with silage—chopped-up stalks and leaves and stray corn kernels. It’s what his beeves eat in the feedlot, he told me, not the golden kernels I’d seen in documentary films streaming from silos into railroad cars destined for factory farms in the Midwest. It’s OK to be conflicted, counsels Concerned Scientist Mellon. “There are a number of different features to look at: How long are they on corn? If a system doesn’t rely on antibiotics, they are probably not grainfeeding too long, in a feedlot that isn’t too crowded.” In other words, there’s a big difference between an operation like Roseda, which doesn’t use antibiotics, and the beef factories that take 205-day-old calves from their mothers, fatten them on sugary corn, pump them up with medications, and use their meat to supply fast-food restaurants and stock grocery store freezer cases. But what about the taste? We Americans have been conditioned to value “marbling”— the swirls of fat, derived from a corn-rich diet, that give beef its buttery flavor and juicy texture. To put the two approaches to a taste

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photo by Jason Okutake

The pachyderm roars: A new chef lands at the Brass Elephant.

Chef Andrew Maggitti is doing a pretty good job of putting his stamp on the Brass Elephant menu without alienating the restaurant’s core clientele. This is a place that has long strained close to the summit of the city’s food hierarchy, balancing on its reputation as one of few white-linen places that served well-prepared, Mediterranean-inspired plates in a Gilded Age setting. The Elephant is oft-praised for the genteel décor of its Mt. Vernon townhouse—ornate teak woodwork, Tiffany glass, and yards of marble. But these days, it’s a little too easy to see the worn tracks in the hotel-lobby-like carpeting, the toomany-layers of paint on the filigreed plasterwork. And in spite of the energy of its new chef, who has shot the place through with zest as fresh as the bright orange pepper coulis alongside a hunk of glistening red seared tuna, a certain fustiness still lingers. Maggitti can show an appropriately delicate hand: The carpaccio is diaphanous and shimmers with olive oil; artichoke ravioli with fresh, sweet peas swim in a clear broth laced with herbs and topped with prosciutto, seared for a salty crunch. But his Italian sensibilities may hit you over the head in other dishes. A

summertime special of dense bison osso buco, its rich, sweet sauce thankfully soaked up by nice firm risotto, may have been part of an “eat-in-season” menu, but it seemed more suited to a season, say, six months from now. When a meal is expensive—and the Brass Elephant is right up there amid the local herd—you expect a little more. Appetizers arrived staggered. A soup order was forgotten. “Bruschetta” appeared to be identical to the soft slices of white that came on our bread plates, only run through the toaster. But this remains a special occasion place, and patience is in order. Desserts are certainly worth waiting for, and are satisfyingly old-world: a chocolate cake is mousse on steroids, with a dark chocolate crust and a pool of crème anglaise with swirls of raspberry sauce. The jiggly panna cotta is cool and slides down your throat like your mother’s custard on a sick day. There’s something, after all, to be said for nostalgia. (Dinner Tue–Sun, brunch Sun. 924 N. Charles St.; 410-547-8485; www. brasselephant.com.)

RE V IE W ED

EAT/DRINK

The Brass Elephant

—Martha Thomas

Just six months old, Tark’s Grill feels like it’s been here for ages: It’s the edible equivalent of an expensive but well-broken-in sweater. Luthervillians will recall this space, secreted within the placid shops at Green Spring Station, as the onetime home of Harvey’s, which served for years as the well-heeled neighborhood’s canteen and clubhouse. Tark’s seems to be filling that role again, judging by a boisterous Friday night crowd: The bar is packed, and the courtyard tables outside are wracked by spasms of air-kissing at new arrivals. The dining room—clubby, deep red, and decked out with photos of Olde Baltimore—is barely more sedate. There’s a merry din of good cheer amid the closeset tables; expect your neighbors to lean over to chat. Why is everyone so happy? The service—solicitous without being stiff —might help explain the bonhomie, as the food alone isn’t the sort to inspire passion. Tark’s doles out American comfort eats (pot pie, meatloaf) and masculine chophouse fare with a retro vibe and a solid, if unspectacular, competence. It’s like eating in a good 1960s hotel restaurant, or the set

of Mad Men, minus the unfiltered Chesterfields. Crunchy fried scallops channel a Kennedy-era Howard Johnson’s, and the hippest menu item, a cold “crabatini” salad in a lush dressing, doesn’t stray far from its vintage crabmeat cocktail roots: Only a whisper of wasabi gives away the decade. Among the entrees, butter and salt provide the dominant flavor notes for a pleasant rockfish fillet on a pale pool of beurre blanc, and “Tark’s Signature Grilled T-Bone,” cooked past the requested rare and seasoned only by a stray peppercorn or two, proves to be a monotonous chew. But Tark’s hits its marks on the side dishes—perfect shoestring fries, bright spinach in cream—and the dessert menu hides a seriously old-school treat: hot milk cake, a moist and dense sponge confection that your grandmother probably knew how to make. Like the restaurant itself, it’s hardly a bold leap into the future, but perhaps that is what this part of town needs. (Lunch and dinner daily, brunch Sun. 2360 Joppa Rd., Suite 116, Lutherville; 410-583-8275; www.tarksgrill.com.)

photo by La Kaye Mbah

Tark’s Grill

Meat and greet: Tark’s Grill draws crowds in the county.

—David Dudley w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m a u g u s t 0 8

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© Loveliestdreams | Dreamstime.com

Got a problem with pink wine? Get over it.

Pretty in pink: Dry rosé is a far cry from white zin.

D

uring the 1970s and ’80s, then-mayor William Donald Schaefer’s formidable boosterism apparatus cranked out loads of hokey civic promotions. “Pink Positive Day” ranks among the rankest. The historical record is mercifully scant, but Pink Positive Day—April 30, 1984—was concocted in part to dispel the citizenry’s collective funk after the departure of the Colts for Indianapolis a month before. How could civic self-esteem be restored? An official day of good vibes would be decreed. Pink garments would be worn. Pink balloons would fly. Pink boutonnieres would be pinned to lapels. Pink water would flow from city fountains. And, presto! We’d feel good about being Baltimoreans again. Even by Schaefer-era standards, the concept seemed a little flimsy. At least it would only last a day. Except for the curbs, of course: Part of the fun involved painting city curbs pink—mostly along Charles Street, as I recall. They started out the color of Bazooka Joe bubblegum. As weeks wore on, they grew steadily grungier, like a bad hangover. Whose bright idea was this, we asked? And what were they drinking? Many people whose gateway wine was white zinfandel look back on their former fancy with a similar feeling. Although rosé probably dates back to the ancient Greeks, its sales skyrocketed with the introduction of sweet, easy-drinking products like Sutter Home White Zinfandel in the 1970s. Sutter Home’s white zin was initially fermented dry. When an accidental “stuck” fermentation left one batch with residual sugar, Sutter Home discovered that the sweet version was vastly more marketable. White zinfandel’s popularity crested in the 1990s, and some brands retain a strong

By Clinton Macsherry

niche. In 2006, white zins from Sutter Home and Beringer were two of the four best-selling wines in U.S. restaurants. But its overall market share has declined significantly as American palates have shifted away from sweet wine. Like it or don’t, but say this for white zin: It saved acres of fine old-growth Zinfandel vines from being torn out at a time when the market for traditional zin had tanked. A prejudice against pink wine lingers, but sales trends indicate we’re quickly rediscovering the crisp pleasures of dry rosés. They’re a remarkably diverse bunch. Often associated with the south of France, dry rosés have in fact become part of almost every wine region’s repertoire. Colors run the spectrum from onionskin to salmon to candy-apple red. Traditionally made from workhorse grapes like Grenache and Sangiovese, rosés now incorporate more exotic varieties like Malbec, Servadou, and Zweigelt. Although not typically complex, they burst with summery fruit flavors and finish dry, with only occasional wisps of tannin. Those faint tannins offer a clue to the rosé-making process: Most of a red wine’s tannin and virtually all of its color come from contact with crushed grape skins. (With few exceptions, both red- and white-skinned grapes yield clear juice.) The longer the contact, the greater the extraction of pigment. In some cases, vintners bleed a portion of pink wine from a larger quantity destined to become red. (This saignée method also intensifies the remaining red-to-be.) Or they remove the grape skins altogether after achieving the desired coloration. In rare instances, producers blend finished white wine with a small amount of finished red. Made with the saignée technique, Le Rosé de Pavie Macquin 2007 ($14, 13 percent alcohol) hails from an esteemed chateau of the same name in the St.-Émilion subregion of Bordeaux. Like its red big brother, Château Pavie Macquin, it comprises 80 percent Merlot, 18 percent Cabernet Franc, and 2 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. It shines bright reddish pink, sort of like a watermelon sourball. Its scent of freshly washed berries carries hints of earth and rhubarb. Light- to medium-bodied and almost spritzy, it packs a fresh strawberry punch, with touches of red apple peel and spice on the long finish. Properly chilled, dry rosé makes a perfect coping mechanism for sticky August evenings. You can find an array of excellent examples locally for $10 to $15. Pair one with a crabcake or barbecued chicken. If that doesn’t cure an aversion to pink wine, nothing will. ■ w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m a u g u s t 0 8

W I N E & S P IRI T S

EAT/DRINK

Whole Lotta Rosé

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Homes of Distinction. Agents of Integrity. For full details on these featured homes and our complete listings go to ywgcrealty.com Brandon Gaines, Marc Witman, Michael Yerman, Cindy Conklin & Bob Merbler

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PRATT & CHESTER BUTCHER’S HILL 2103 E. Pratt Street Only 5 remaining. These elegantly appointed homes offer 2,900 square feet of living space, a two car garage, hardwood floors, a professionally appointed chef’s kitchen with stainless steel appliances, wine cooler, and granite countertops, stunning views of the Harbor from three outdoor living areas. www.PrattandChester.com From high $600’s

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Spectacular 2-level penthouse, completely renovated by the owner, boasts Rita St. Clair decor. Entrance foyer opens to a breathtaking 2story, 48' living room/dining room combination boasting American cherry paneled walls, Kahrs floating floors & a full wall of windows! 700-sq ft terrace is a garden of eden. Huge master bedroom suite with state-of-the-art bath! Built-ins everywhere! Closets galore & too many other features to mention! $1,950,000 MICHAEL YERMAN 410.583.0400

Jimmy Grieves designed this architecturally important contemporary home as his primary residence.The current owners have expanded and enhanced this magnificent example of modernism. Cook's kitchen, 30ft great room, stunning master bedroom suite, 4 car garage, wine cellar, living room with 2nd story overlook, den/library & 3 wood burning fireplaces. Incredible views of Lake Roland from floor to ceiling windows! This is sculpture! Major Price Adjustment to $1,595,000 MICHAEL YERMAN 410.583.0400

Available immediately! Unpack your bags and enjoy a maintenance free lifestyle. 6 year old home with all the bells and whistles. Fabulous first floor master bedroom. 3 master suites, a cooks eat-in kitchen, first floor family room and dynamite private yard with waterfall & fish pond. Great lower level, built-ins, coffered ceilings all just seconds to 83. $725,000

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Not a cookie-cutter renovation! Just off Sharp Street on quiet section of Montgomery, this home is loaded with charm! Bright living room with 18' vaulted ceiling, FP & skylight. Kitchen with beamed ceiling & exposed brick walls, huge loft-style MBR plus 2nd BR & den/office. Great blending of old & new! Wood floors thruout. Fenced courtyard with koi pond & 3rd floor 12'x8' deck with awning! $372,500 TED STEWART 443.632.0780

Brewer’s Hill-New 20' wide luxury townhomes with four finished levels and 2 car side by side garage. Three bedrooms, two and a half baths, two balconies, granite, stainless steel appliances, marble foyer, wood floors, 10' ceilings and huge 5th level roof decks with unmatched water views. From $499,900 www.BrewersPeak.com KIM KING 443.223.8363

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Prices Starting at $659,000 with $15,000 towards closing costs

urbanite august 08

SARAH TAYLOR 410.627.1988


courtesy of Morton’s The Steakhouse

T H E FEED

EAT/DRINK

This Month in Eating Baltimore International Festival The city celebrates cultural diversity with a weekend of music, crafts, performances, and international eats: The menu spans Cameroon to the Ukraine, with stops for jerk chicken, crepes, and the exotic regional dish known as pit beef. Noon–9 p.m.

Aug 2–3 Poly/Western campus 1400 W. Cold Spring Ln. 410-396-3141 www.baltimorecity.gov/ifest

Cooking Classes at Williams-Sonoma Monday nights at the Towson Town Center mall mean cooking demos from chefs, courtesy of food-gizmo retailer WilliamsSonoma. August’s classes focus on backyard barbecue, cocktail fare, flavors from Provence, and panini-making. $45 per person, 7 p.m.–8:30 p.m.

Aug 4, 11, 18, 25

Maryland State BBQ Bash ’Cue hounds converge on Bel Air for this street festival centering on the Maryland State BBQ Championship—fifty competition barbecue teams battle it out in the chicken, pork ribs, pulled pork, and beef brisket categories. Noncombatants can just load up on smoked meat. Fri 4–10 p.m., Sat noon­–10 p.m.

Aug 8­– 9

FestAfrica The re-titled FestAfrica2008 (formerly known as the Naija Festival) offers a rare taste of West African street food like suya—spicy beef-on-a-stick. Other highlights: a “FestAfrica Top Chef ” cooking contest, live Afrobeat music, dance, games, and a health fair. Admission is $5; free for children under 10. Sat and Sun noon–8 p.m.

Aug 9­– 10

Morton’s “30 Wishes for 30 Years” Campaign When is a hamburger worth twenty bucks? When five of those dollars go to the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Every Sunday through September, Morton’s The Steakhouse will offer a $19.78 prime sirloin burger inspired by the one that led to the creation of the upscale steakhouse chain back in, yes, 1978.

Aug 9, 16, 23, 30

Saint Gabriel Festival Little Italy’s two-day salute to summer features food from the neighborhood: pasta, pizza, porchetta, Italian sausage, and buckets of old-school red sauce. Between calzones, check out the bocce tournaments, dancing, and live music. Sat and Sun noon–8 p.m.

Aug 16–17

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Photo: Kate Turning

-Time Magazine

On SAlE nOW!

September 30 - October 12 Hippodrome Theatre

Buy your tickets for Wednesday, October 1, and $5 of every ticket sold will go to benefit the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure! Use the Password: KOMEn Ticketmaster.com • 410.547.SEAT • Box Office (Mon-Sat 10a-5p) • Groups (20+) call 866.577.7469 To learn more visit myspace.com/BaltimoreHippodrome

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Due to the nature of live entertainment; times, dates and performers are subject to change without notice. All patrons, regardless of age, must have a ticket. No refunds or exchanges. Tickets subject to service charges and handling fees.

urbanite august 08


art/culture 85 THEATER

Martha Thomas on the Baltimore Playwrights Festival

87 MUSIC

Lionel Foster on the return of Return to Forever

Chapter and verse: Baltimore poets Femi “The Dri Fish” Lawal, David Beaudouin, Joseph Harrison, and Olu Butterfly Woods (standing, left to right) gather with David “Native Son” Ross, Kendra Kopelke, and Julie Fisher (seated) at Gaslight Square in southwest Baltimore

89 Museum

Greg Hanscom reports on D.C.’s Newseum

89 Books

Susan McCallum-Smith goes deep

Wordplay Poetry is blossoming again in Baltimore. Why? b y m i c h a e l y o c k el p h ot o g r ap h b y l e o h o war d l u b ow

I

n the introduction to the 2003 book Mortification—a hilarious collection of recollections by writers who have suffered sundry humiliations and indignities during readings—editor Robin Robertson notes the disproportionate number of poets among his seventy contributors. “The whole enterprise of writing poetry is a de facto folly,” observes Robertson. “These people devote days to single lines and years to preparing each slim collection, and then publish their work into a yawning maw of indifference.” While no rational poet (an oxymoron, perhaps) would contest Robertson’s jibe, most nonetheless persevere at their craft. This cer-

tainly holds true for the passel of poets now active in town, whether decorously ensconced in the academy or seizing the stage for openmike readings. Poetry thrives in Baltimore— and, to varying degrees, it always has, dating to the early 1830s, when Edgar Allan Poe cranked out verses here. In his 1985 book Maryland Wits & Baltimore Bards, local historian Frank Shivers Jr. chronicled a cavalcade of eminences who have toiled in the city, some settling in for the long haul (Ogden Nash, Josephine Jacobsen), some passing through (Andrei Codrescu), and some relocating elsewhere after growing up here (Adrienne Rich, Karl Shapiro). “I think Baltimore is a propitious

place for writers,” observed Jacobsen, who died in 2003 and whose very early and very late poems were published in April 2008 in the chapbook Contents of a Minute. “It has a distinct personality, does not seem as impersonal as many other cities, and has a heavily mixed ethnic population.” In modern times, Baltimore’s poetry culture has gone through what poet David Beaudouin, founder of Tropos Press and the lit journal The Pearl, calls a series of “waves and troughs,” periods of frenzy and quiescence. After erupting in the late 1970s/early 1980s and again in the early 1990s, the city’s poetry landscape has evolved into something of a w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m a u g u s t 0 8

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6/13/08 11:45:41 AM


art/culture

photo by Sam Kittner

Balkan nation, with pockets of activity coexisting but seldom intersecting. “In terms of neighborhoods and cultures and races and literary preferences,” notes Beaudouin, “people tend to hang out in their little groups.” These include Johns Hopkins University’s Writing Seminars program (featuring professors/poets Dave Smith, Mary Jo Salter, Greg Williamson); a churning hip-hop/spoken word scene (The 5th L, Olu Butterfly Woods); the prankster, outré element represented by the Shattered Wig Review (ringmastered by Rupert Wondolowski); the elegant verse of formalists such as Joseph Harrison and JHU’s Williamson, who, together, established a U.S. beachhead in the city for U.K.-based Waywiser Press in 2004; and Michael Ball’s i.e. series, which offers readings by what Beaudouin terms “academic rebels from the postmodern language school.” For the past three years, poet and stayat-home Parkville mom Julie Fisher has attempted to bridge these islands of poetry through her website, www.poetryinbaltimore. com, and regular readings at Minás Gallery in Hampden, inviting writers to post their work online while corralling disparate representatives from the city’s mini-scenes onto the same bill. Last year, she inaugurated a monthly reading series, Load of Poetry, at Load of Fun in the Station North district. Fisher’s two series include an open-microphone component, wherein attendees sign up to read before or after the event’s featured poets. “I thought, ‘If we find each other, maybe we can make it a stronger community,’” she says. “It’s fun to mix it up.” A scene’s strength “hinges on the ability of poets to get out into the open and read, because that’s really their only public forum,” says Beaudouin, who has read at the i.e., Load of Poetry, and Minás series in recent months. “I think that there is a genuine quality of writing-where-you’re-from here. In terms of the raw versus the cooked, they may tend to be more of the raw type—less tutored in the ways of poetry than their academic peers. But sometimes I find that preferable to listening to the drone of perfectly formed poetry in the academy.” Joseph Harrison, a Baltimore resident for twenty-five years, doesn’t drone: He recites his work from memory in an engaging, undramatic, clearly enunciated voice accented with a Southern twang (he was raised in Virginia and Alabama). Both he and Williamson offered poems from new collections published by Waywiser—Identity Theft and A Most Marvelous Piece of Luck, respectively— earlier this year at several local venues. While Beaudouin suggests that Waywiser’s Baltimore connection can only enhance the city’s poetry bona fides, Harrison allows that the publisher likely has more of a national impact than a local one, given that one of its principal endeavors—and Harri-

Late edition: The strange, sad, and spectacular Newseum opened in April.

MUseUM

Extra! Extra!

The Newseum, 555 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.; www.newseum.org Today’s Word: “Newsoleum.” It’s Stephen Colbert, star of Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, lampooning the half-billion-dollar Newseum, the latest addition to Washington, D.C.’s repository of repositories. “Joke’s on you, journalists,” Colbert says. “The construction of this museum effectively marks the end of the news.” As usual, there’s a serious note behind Colbert’s clowning. The daily newspaper, long the flagship of American journalism, is circling the drain: Newsroom layoffs are rampant and young people would rather eat their iPods than read a daily paper. (A study conducted this June by Baltimore’s ContextBased Research Group found that people aged 18 to 34 are turning to “fake news” such as The Colbert Report for their information.) And Colbert is not alone in pointing out that the Newseum is a monument to a dying industry. “Imagine opening a museum in Philadelphia in 1776 extolling the glories of colonial rule, or in Hollywood in 2007 celebrating the promise of the VHS tape,” wrote the Sun’s Chris Kaltenbach this April. Several observers have pointed out that the museum’s seventy-four-foot marble facade, engraved with the words of the First Amendment, looks an awful lot like a tombstone. Even so, the new Newseum, which stands across Pennsylvania Avenue from the National Gallery of Art, is a sometimes stirring testament to the value of the free press. Among the highlights: a gallery of front pages that document moments of glory, tragedy, and disgrace. “We Shall Overcome! 200,000 Voices Will Be Heard!” exclaims the August 31, 1963, Baltimore Afro American; “Dr. King is Slain by Sniper: Looting, Arson Touched Off By Death,” reads the April 5, 1968, Commercial Appeal of Memphis, Tennessee. The

July 4, 2004, Lexington Herald-Leader features a story that begins: “CLARIFICATION: It has come to the editor’s attention that the Herald-Leader neglected to cover the civil rights movement. We regret the omission.” A walk through the gallery is a trip through history in the present tense—the events still undigested, the emotions still raw. And that’s just one exhibit in the sevenstory, 250,000-square-foot Newseum, which was built by the nonpartisan Freedom Forum and underwritten by just about every large news corporation and family in the country. There are fourteen main galleries and a host of smaller display spaces, including an “interactive newsroom” that allows visitors to star in their own TV newscasts, a “four-dimensional” movie theater, and artifacts ranging from a spike H.L. Mencken used to “kill” newspaper stories to slippers worn by the original Wonkette, blogger Ana Marie Cox. At times the Newseum feels like an act of journalistic hubris, but at least its curators have a sense of humor: That Colbert Report clip plays in a loop with other news spoofs on the fifth floor; the bathroom walls are decorated with headline gaffes. In the end, it’s the simple things that hold the power here: stories from frontline war correspondents, for example, or the gallery of Pulitzer-Prize-winning photographs. And on the sidewalk along Pennsylvania Avenue, there are printouts of the day’s front pages from newspapers nationwide. It’s an intimate, and surprisingly varied, glimpse of the challenges facing people in different parts of the country—and a reminder of the ability of the news, in whatever form, to put our lives into context. —Greg Hanscom w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m a u g u s t 0 8

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Staging my own wardrobe malfunction at the office holiday party?

marisa is living proof that pop music can make you do crazy things. if you or someone you know is dealing with a pop addiction, there is hope. WTMD 89.7. STOP THE POP INSANITY.

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Listener supported radio from towson university

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art/culture

photo by Lynn Goldsmith

son’s role with the house—is conducting the annual Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize. Awarded since 2005 in honor of the celebrated American poet who died in 2004, the Hecht Prize was copped in 2007 by Gaithersburg’s Rose Kelleher, whose work was selected by twotime Pulitzer Prize winner and former U.S. Poet Laureate Richard Wilbur. Kelleher won $3,000, and Waywiser will publish her collection Bundle o’ Tinder on both sides of the Atlantic this fall. Harrison says that Waywiser attracts mostly serious, formalist work—but that doesn’t mean “rigid or stiff,” he emphasizes. “We’re interested in whatever we get, as long as it seems to us to be well-written and original … particularly if it has a sound that we haven’t quite heard before. “There’s increasing interest these days in meter and rhyme,” Harrison adds. “The worm does turn. [Formalist poetry] has been out of style for so long that some of its virtues— rhythmic structure and artistic rigor—are felt to be missing by many readers and writers of contemporary poetry. If you can show younger poets how to do these things, they feel that they’re being taught a definite skill that they can use, rather than just [telling them] something vague like, ‘Put more bodily fluids in your poem.’” Bodily fluids swirled through the work and, often, the lives of the city’s poetry scenesters in the late 1970s and early ’80s. “It was pretty Wild West,” recalls Beaudouin. Back then, Andrei Codrescu, Anselm Hollo, Daniel Mark Epstein, Sandie Castle, and Joe Cardarelli presented their work at MICA’s station building, the Maryland Writers Council headquarters on Franklin Street, and Second Story Books on Charles Street in Mount Vernon. Augmenting these Baltimore-based poets were regular readings by imported heavyweights such as Allen Ginsberg, Amiri Baraka, and Alice Notley. (I once saw/heard Ed Sanders, best known as one-third of the satirical 1960s rock band the Fugs, recite poetry at MICA while accompanying himself on a mini-keyboard he’d built into his necktie.) The poetry scene that blossomed in coffeehouses and galleries during the early ’90s featured “a different flavor, a cultural richness,” Beaudouin remembers. “It brought in more of the spoken-word element and a little bit of performance. But the most exciting part of it was the fact that it was the first time— and, really, the only time—that there was a crossover between black and white poetry in this town. It was an extraordinary opportunity to broach that self-prescribed separateness, these invisible boundaries in our city.” Those boundaries between the African American and white scenes persist today, but for David “Native Son” Ross and Femi “The Dri Fish” Lawal, who front the poetry/ spoken-word/hip-hop group The 5th L, the clannish nature of Baltimore’s poetry culture

Forever men: Al Di Meola, Stanley Clarke, Chick Corea, and Lenny White of fusion supergroup Return to Forever

MUsiC

Meet Me at the Mothership

Return to Forever at Merriweather Post Pavilion, Aug 4 at 8 p.m. In 1996, I had the privilege of playing second trumpet with the Baltimore City College High School Knights of Jazz. Those evening rehearsals in the band room made it clear to me that I would never pass for Wynton Marsalis’ twin, but as I struggled through a half-century of jazz standards, I gained a greater appreciation for the music. Twelve years later, I can scat—alas, I sold my trumpet—almost every note of my favorite song from our difficult repertoire, pianist Chick Corea’s “Spain.” “Spain” sounds like the soundtrack to a flamenco dancer’s funeral. In the first minute or so, bassist Stanley Clarke bows out a deep, long moan on upright bass while Corea caresses a reluctantly hopeful melody out of his Fender Rhodes electric piano. Then, all of a sudden, the whole thing breaks into a party. Clarke lays down his upright and plucks out a quick, tricky two-step on electric bass, Corea works the keys like a madman at a calliope, and flautist Joe Farrell soars over it all. Electric bass? Electric piano? For acoustic purists this was completely against the rules. But this wasn’t traditional jazz. This was jazz fusion. Jazz fusion, a marriage of jazz and, often, rock music, flourished after the 1969 release of Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew. Davis, an innovator among innovators, incorporated funk rhythms and rock-style amplification in an album released literally a day after Woodstock. Corea and drummer Lenny White were part

of the Bitches Brew sessions, and in 1972, they formed part of what would become a rotating cast of phenomenal musicians in the fusion group Return to Forever. For five years, before disbanding in 1977, RTF delighted fans and dismayed many a critic with their blend of Latin music, jazz, and rock. They toured again briefly in 1983, but this summer’s reunion tour, including an August 4 performance at Columbia’s Merriweather Post Pavilion, is the first time they’ve played together in twentyfive years. RTF freaks from Minneapolis to Budapest are going bananas, including those like myself, born after Corea and friends broke up. Two-and-a-half decades later, Return to Forever’s intergalactic spaceship music (sample song titles: “Hymn of the 7th Galaxy” and “Theme to the Mothership”) still sound vibrant and fresh. Whether you’re a wouldbe Earthling musician or a Martian, the skill needed to execute these fiendishly complex compositions is made clear, riff after dizzying riff. Which is why I’m now so torn about hearing them live: It could be too painful a reminder of why I put down my horn. —Lionel Foster For tickets, go to www.merriweather music.com. w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m a u g u s t 0 8

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It’s a perfect place for a traditional afternoon tea, a dinner featuring Bertha’s mussels, or a night of jazz or blues.

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Everything but the clothes. Come visit the newest addition to Fells Point. Selling women’s shoes, accessories, handbags, and gifts!

Hometown Baltimore with a shot of Bailey’s. A great low-key place to hang out and have fun with plenty of atmosphere to keep it lively.

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An emporium of household art. Pick up anything from a drink stirrer to an ornate fountain in, as the name implies, an eclectic style. 723 S. Broadway 410-675-5105

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Combines the best of sports bar and casual restaurant, into a different kind of neighborhood gathering place, where friends and family can gather to grab a bite, watch the game, or just enjoy a beer together in a lively atmosphere. 718 S. Broadway 410-342-4222 www.greeneturtle.com

Fells Point Main Street. Over 50 independently owned businesses. Local owners, local flavor. Be somewhere, not just anywhere. Shop, dine, play in Fells Point.


—Michael Yockel wrote about duckpin bowling in the June Urbanite.

art/culture

photo by Philip Laubner

stems more from stylistic preferences than any other factor. “There is some [racial] division,” notes Ross, “but I think it’s because people are either unaware that there are other things going on, or they’ve found a spot that they are comfortable with, and they stick there.” Lawal concurs, theorizing that various poetry styles have developed and become entrenched at individual venues as the number of spaces offering verse has increased. “People have created their own environments,” he asserts. “Everybody has their own clique, even within the black community. White poets might not feel as accepted in a black venue because the [poetic] language is slightly different.” Now, after hunkering down for more than a decade, the city’s poetry scene might finally be poised for a wavelet, if not a tsunami, of activity, with the various tribes gradually—glacially—bleeding into each other. A few months ago, for example, Load of Fun hosted a gathering co-headlined by Clarinda Harriss, reading feisty yet frolicsome feminist-tinged work, and J.R. Shorter, who suffuses his achingly personal poems with a palpable poignancy. Before the readings by the featured poets (white woman, black man), a veritable Benetton Nation of open-mikers held forth, with attendees pulling their chairs together into a circle, supportgroup style. The quality of the non-billed poets’ work, not surprisingly, veered hither and thither. A young black woman recited verse that earnestly recounted her personal stumbles while brimming with optimism for the future; a young white guy who would have blended in seamlessly at a Star Trek convention graphically chronicled his physical relationship with his girlfriend (unembarrassed, she beamed adoringly from an adjacent seat); and a middle-aged white man strode determinedly around the circle as he recited the lyrics to the haunting Billie Holiday song “Strange Fruit.” Each elicited polite-to-enthusiastic responses. Poet Kendra Kopelke, program director of the MFA in Creative Writing and Publishing Arts program in the University of Baltimore’s School of Communications Design, interprets such diverse assemblies as indicative of an improving atmosphere, detecting something of a positive disturbance in the city’s poetry force. “It seems more accepting to me, right now,” she observes. “There’s more variety— ages, styles—and part of that is because of the Internet. There’s a greater ability to let people know, instantly, about readings. I don’t get much of a sense of attitude here; the slam poets, the academic poets, spoken word artists, formalists, language poets—I think everyone accepts everyone else. Which, really, is the way it ought to be.” ■

The look of love: PS Lorio’s Gay Deceivers, about a wife endeavoring to get her husband’s attention, is one of the plays at this year’s Baltimore Playwrights Festival.

T H e aT e r

Play Dates

The Baltimore Playwrights Festival, at area venues through Aug 31 Attending any of the Baltimore Playwrights Festival’s ten productions can be a great way to experience Baltimore’s dynamic community of playwrights. What? You didn’t know you were living in a city of playwrights? Rich Espey is living proof. Chair of the festival for two years running and author of five produced plays, including this year’s Helena Troy, Espey says the festival is a grab bag: “Not everyone is going to like everything they see, but it’s very entertaining.” It’s also a great way to check out Baltimore’s small venues: the Audrey Herman Spotlighters Theatre, Fells Point Corner Theatre, Mobtown Theater, and the like. Each of the ten participating theaters takes on a play, pulls together director and cast, and stages a full-blown production. Espey, who teaches science at the Park School, has written a farcical play-withina-play about a theater company committed to producing only classic works. Desperate to win a grant for new playwrights, Helena Troy’s protagonist pens a play about a woman who disguises herself as a man in order to sail to Troy. Only she writes it in the style of the ancient Greeks, and tries to pass it off to her boyfriend, the company producer, as authentic. “It’s a high comedy with mistaken identities and gender politics,” Espey says. Espey’s Hope’s Arbor, performed in the festival in 2006, was produced in June by a company in Brooklyn, New York. Espey calls the play, about a girl who runs away from her boarding school, a “coming-of-age story for the age of technology,” and it’s been extensively re-worked since its Baltimore premiere. The festival, says Espey, gives writers a chance to see their words and characters brought to life, and many playwrights continue to work

on their scripts throughout the production process. “Developing a play is a multi-year process,” Espey points out. Miryam Madrigal is a first-time BPF playwright: Her Kosher with Salsa sat in a drawer for twelve years, from the time Madrigal finished it as a graduate student at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. She left her playwriting life to get married, live in Israel, have four children, and eventually settle in Baltimore, where she decided recently to dust off the script. Inspired by her experiences, the play is about a Mexican Catholic man who converts to Judaism, and the barriers he and his beloved face when they try to plan a wedding. It’s a kind of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner meets Father of the Bride, I’m guessing, though the main characters are Orthodox Jews, and the action takes place in a Melrose Avenue women’s clothing boutique. Madrigal, who grew up in a Mexican Catholic household in suburban Los Angeles, met her husband through a traditional matchmaker—long after she had converted. Like her characters, Madrigal doesn’t want to be put in a box. “I think of myself as an evolving, Jewishly minded person,” she says. And that’s the message she wants her play to deliver. “As an American, you can almost create yourself. But when we take the time to get to know one another, we’re not that different.” —Martha Thomas For more on the plays and performances, go to www.baltimoreplay wrightsfestival.org.

w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m a u g u s t 0 8

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Summer Reading for Active Minds

Live from CENTERSTAGE… it’s Friday night!

• Happy Hour Drink Prices • Restaurant Samplings • Live Entertainment • Before EVERY Friday performance

here Lies Jim Crow Civil Rights in Maryland C. Fraser smith

Ask for the Urbanite discount.

“While the book elaborates on Maryland’s role in the beginning and end of the Jim Crow era, the most compelling aspect of the book is the stories Smith gleaned from dozens of interviews with Marylanders, black and while, who lived with segregation and fought to end its practices.” —Baltimore Sun

410.332.0033 www.centerstage.org

$29.95 hardcover

hiking, Cycling, and Canoeing in maryland A Family Guide • second edition Bryan maCkay From Assateague to Swallow Falls, from the Susquehanna River Trail to Rock Creek Park, Maryland offers a wealth of recreational opportunities in a remarkable variety of natural settings. $20.95 paperback

The Johns hopkins

University press 1-800-537-5487 • www.press.jhu.edu

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art/culture

Field Goals

by susan mccallum-smith

Illustration by Maira Kalman, from The Principles of Uncertainty

Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing by Ted Conover (First Vintage, 2000) The Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman (Penguin Press, 2007) When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris (Little, Brown and Company, 2008) My Sister, My Love by Joyce Carol Oates (HarperCollins, 2008) The Little Book by Selden Edwards (Penguin, 2008)

I

magine a football field, fiction at one end and fact at the other. And let’s put some players in the game. There goes Ted Conover, steamrolling toward the nonfiction end zone with Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing. Conover spent a year in the maximum security facility as a rookie prison officer, or “newjack,” patrolling its infamous A block, “twelve feet shy of the length of two football fields,” and housing 684 always-bored, frequently scared, often-psychotic inmates. Conover doesn’t fumble facts in order to make the game more exciting, resulting in a non-sensational yet tense read. The newjack experience conjures up soldiers in Iraq: “a group of men who could only be reactive, not proactive, and who spent day after day, as one officer said, ‘waiting for the other guy to take the first swing.’” The entire system is designed

not for the rehabilitation of inmates, but to ensure no officer gets “cut.” Between descriptions of getting “shitted down,” Conover tells Sing Sing’s history, revealing the favored torture of the 1850s to be the cold-water bath, because “it left no disfiguring marks.” Here, too, the electric chair was perfected, through a process of smoky-bacon trial-and-error using human guinea pigs. Outside the former death house, the newjacks’ daily grind still goes on, hours of mindnumbing boredom interrupted by episodes of paralyzing terror—not unlike supporting the Baltimore Ravens. Meanwhile, Maira Kalman ignores the game; she sits, singing to herself, on the thirty-yard line, customizing her helmet into a hat. Her deliciously fruity and macabre The Principles of Uncertainty dawdles alone in the ditzy zone of imaginative memoir. Kalman, best known for her illustrations in the re-issued grammar-slammer The Elements of Style, kept a spotty diary between May 2006 and April 2007, in which she captured the defining influences of her life in a candy-colored free association that would have tickled Freud’s fancy. Walking sticks and baroque chairs and unusual obituaries, tablecloths and lunch counters and superlative tassels, sloe-eyedSlav portraits and capitalized text—these are a few of Kalman’s favorite things. Acting as counterpoints are hints of a difficult relationship with her father, the tragic death of her husband, the Holocaust, and the cultural consequences of Stalin’s decision about who should be “extinctified.” Still, Kalman insists, weaving a feather boa through her faceguard, we should “keep calm and carry on,” and then we won’t feeeeeeeeel sooooo baaaad! Slap-bang at midfield stands David Sedaris, trying to decide which team he’s on. Despite my nags about truth in advertising, I forgive Sedaris any embellishments in his new collection of essays, When You Are Engulfed in Flames, as long as he makes me laugh—his rants are as salaciously enjoyable and salt-pinched as gossip from a bitchy friend, and their plots unfold like Chaplin movies, with our hero perpetually jammed in life’s machinery. My favorite is “That’s Amore,” a tender character study of Sedaris’ unsympathetic New York neighbor. When Helen meets Sedaris and his partner, Hugh, she “unfurl[s] a few thick fingers, the way you might when working an equation: 2 young men + 1 bedroom – ugly paneling = fags.” Helen likes to listen to a radio station Sedaris labels “K-WOP,” as all the singers are Italian, and she likes to shout at people,

“Ya mutt, I’ll mop the fucking floor with you.” Still, after her death, Sedaris remembers the one time she said “please”—“her voice catching on the newness of the word.” I turn my back on Sedaris (he’s hyperbole-ing about me already) and head down to the fiction end where Joyce Carol Oates signs autographs on the sidelines. Superstar Oates attracts so much lucre to the game that her publishers have decided she no longer needs coaching, which is unfortunate because her latest, My Sister, My Love, is all bling and no substance or speed. A clunky satire of the JonBenét Ramsey murder case, My Sister, My Love follows every twist of that tabloiddrenched tragedy. Several years after 6-year-old skating star Bliss Rampike is found murdered in her family’s basement, her elder brother Skyler shares his memoir with us. And yes, life with the Rampikes is as dysfunctional and tacky and riddled with Ritalin and convenient religiosity as you feared. When Mummy Rampike tearily declares during a TV interview that, despite having primped her little girl in lipstick and glitter like a ten-dollar whore, “I was putting my own children at risk, in the presence of a pedophile, and I had no idea,” you may begin to subscribe to Mengele’s ideas about who should be allowed to breed. Oates, at her athletic peak, can tackle a character in one line, but she bodyslams the Rampike family and their Caucasian McMansion lifestyle so hard, without empathy or reflection, that it feels like literary sadism, and her satire collapses. This reader was tempted to yell “Hey, ref! Throw the flag!” Meanwhile, Selden Edwards rumbles toward the fiction end zone with his steampunkpowered The Little Book. This imaginative debut about ’70s pop idol Wheeler Burden and his time-traveling adventures in 1897 Vienna arrived with a note from the publisher saying it was one of the greatest books he’d ever read. Really? Better than Lolita? Better than Middlemarch? Nope, it’s not; nevertheless, it entertains like a jazzed-up Jules Verne. Burden bumps into both his ancestors and Sigmund Freud in the Ringstrasse cafes (a lethal combination) and struggles to ensure that he doesn’t say or do anything that would prevent the future unfolding “exactly as it was meant to.” His time-traveling father is similarly perplexed: “I get confused with tenses,” he says. “I don’t know whether to say is, was, or will be.” When a rookie is this talented, we need to forgive a little hype. So there goes Edwards, right into the end zone. Touchdown! ■ w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m a u g u s t 0 8

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The Storyteller continued from page 47

After the door closed, Blondie told us they were freeing the old man. His release was driven not by humaneness but by raison d’etat: “It costs too much to keep him.” We all spilled out of the room and I saw Art, poised by the window, notebook in hand, head right for Mr. Chairman, who seemed a little nervous. Knowing the uses of flattery, Art drenched the fellow in compliments. I saw him point out the bright tie, watched the faint grin of vanity steal across the man’s face. Art just kept talking. He touched, with manifest reverence, the sleeve of the linen coat; he actually tugged on the chairman’s forelock. I then saw the man’s lips move. Whatever was said brought an immediate sting of regret to his face. His hand went to his mouth, as if to retrieve the words he had just uttered, or stem the flow of similar ones. Art turned away; his oily smile had fled his face. We both moved to the telephone. “How’d you get it?” “Told him he looked like Kirk Douglas.”

Following a strike at the Sunpapers in 1970, Art went to WBALTV, where he pursued his investigative work. He lasted three years, then moved to Washington’s WTOP and lasted less than one. Though he had the looks of a TV anchorman, the stories he covered required some prolonged attention, for which television audiences are not known. Art said he got fired because he burned the feet of influential advertisers. I understood. In 1973, he joined the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin. When it sank beneath him nine years later, he swam to Philadelphia’s Daily News, stayed briefly, then went back to Washington where, mortified, he signed on with the Washington Times. Within a year he moved again— all the way to the Albuquerque Journal. There he spent the last fourteen years of his career doing—guess what? Gotcha stories. Rousting the pols; disturbing the peace of the police. Our last conversations of a coherent sort occurred on the edge of his retirement, and back in Baltimore. I asked how he intended to live out his golden years now that all the dragons were slain. “I’m going to write my memoirs,” he announced.

For reasons I’ve never examined closely, that seemed not right for Art. “Everybody else does it,” he said, perceiving my hesitation. “I’ve got a roomful of material.” Art had saved every story he ever wrote. His clips, crammed into boxes, were moldering like the Dead Sea Scrolls in their cave. I decided to keep quiet. He was flying high, fueled by the prospect of living his life all over again. “It’s all there, in the stories,” he said as I left. A week later, we came together again. He was unhappy, though freed from the grip of exaggerated hope. “It doesn’t work,” he said. “My life is in those stories.” And then he added, as if this terrible question had just arrived in his brain: “If they’re my life, why are they so dead?” “Hard question.” “Don’t reporters write the first drafts of history?” “Maybe just the notes.” (The words I spoke—my own thoughts—began to scare me a little.) “These are facts, man. Real facts.” He seemed to be entering a rage. “They are reality!” “Can’t facts be dull? Reality boring?” “But these clips are my life. How could they be so dead?” “Relevance,” was my answer. “It has such a brief shelf life.” (Who was this speaking with my voice? Why had I let this conversation get to this point?) “What d’ya mean?” “Art, remember, we dealt in ephemera—stuff that never lasts, or stuff that just came along, went away, then came back again.” (That’s probably why we had to go back to it every day.) Art grinned and indicated, with a directional tilt of his head, the well-worn path to the Hollow. Some years later, I visited my friend in a hospital in Carroll County, with lots of trees around it. It seemed that shortly before moving into the place, he had revisited the idea of writing the story of his life. He managed about seventy pages, his wife told me. Then the darkness came. I tried to talk to him about the fun we had when we were young and reporters at large. But, like me, he wasn’t a newspaperman any more. I couldn’t even distract him from his oatmeal. ■

Klaatu Barada Nikto continued from page 49

finally said, “Andy, you seen Panic in the Streets with Richard Widmark and Jack Palance?” “Yeah,” I said, and right there I thought I had him. “Palance plays the bad guy, see—name of Blackie. This doctor chases him because—” Wilson looked surprised. “A doctor chased him?” “Thought you seen it.” “Didn’t say I saw the damn thing, wanted to know if you did.” “Yep, caught it at the Echo on Fort Avenue. See, Widmark plays this health doctor and he’s gotta find Palance because Palance has the plague …” “Shut up!” Wilson hollered. “Shut yo’ fat white mouth!” He laughed. “Don’t ruin it for me, Andy—Christ!” “I didn’t tell the plague details. That’s the real story.” Wilson put his finger on his lips. “You gotta see Palance,” I said. “Face like Frankenstein. There oughta be a law against that much ugly in public.”

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Wilson smiled. “Sounds good” was all he said. I had won. For once I shut him down.

At nighttime Wilson had it easy, all he did was sit on his stacks of newspapers under the awning and customers came to him. Shipyard workers like Daddy, bookies, businessmen, politicians, judges and lawyers, strippers from the burlesque clubs up on Baltimore Street. They came for the late editions and the big deli sandwiches and kosher pickles, or the prime rib dinner for $3.25. Wilson was on another big-time movie rant. It was my fault because I said Africa Screams was the best Abbott and Costello movie ever made. Wilson came right back at me with, “That’s just a jerky takeoff on a 1930 documentary called Africa Speaks.” “So?”


“Since they got popular, Abbott and Costello mix in old stuff with new stuff. It’s a trick to confuse the American movie public. Tell me I’m wrong.” My ears got hot and my brain went mushy—that lasted five seconds, then I got mad. Who did he think he was to dispute my word? “Nobody with five brain cells would call it a comedy,” Wilson said, and smiled like he knew he had it all over some hillbilly kid up from Virginia. “It’s delayed reaction, overreaction, predictable, predictable, predictable.” Some guy he knew came by and Wilson got more big in his moves, talked different. “How you doin’, Slick!” “Ain’t nothin’ to it!” the other guy went. “You makin’ it?” “Hey, man, gettin’ there!” Wilson slapped his leg. “Gettin’ there!” The other guy went, “Down on it!” “Yeah,” Wilson laughed. “Down on the end of it!” They jabbered in African for what seemed like five minutes, until the other guy went off. Wilson turned back at me, but before he could say a word I got in my two cents’ worth. “Paper says Africa Screams is number one box office. Why, the fat guy does—” Wilson interrupted with, “Just stupid Abbott and Costello delayed reaction gags. For instance, in the lion cage it takes Costello—” “Costello is the fat one, right?” Wilson did a slow-motion double take at me. “Hey, if you can’t even tell them apart—” “I know one’s fat and one’s thin, it’s only the names mix me up. Anyways, people laugh so hard they pee their pants!” “Yeah, fans eat that shit up.” Wilson yawned again, then glanced around. “Look, Andy, check out The Boy With Green Hair playing at the Garden. That’s a movie! “Boy with what?” “Green hair.” Wilson laughed. “It’s a symbol.” Wilson took a big pause. “The Boy With Green Hair has an important message for American citizens—it’s a bombshell that has hit Baltimore City—a bombshell!” I kept my peace and he kept on. “See, it’s a fable—which is sort of like a fairy tale. See, this kid’s a social outcast because he’s different. Green hair, but it could be anything.” Wilson cut his eyes at me, sort of squinted to see if I followed what he said. “Like wrong color skin for instance?” Another dumb pause, then nicer. “No bad jokes and half-naked savages, like in Abbott and Costello. Take my word, Andy, The Boy With Green Hair is an A-Number-One bombshell that has hit this town.” The bus pulled over at our corner. Mike, this girl who dressed like a boy so the state law would let her sell newspapers, she was across the way with an armful, and must have figured it was her turn, her bus. While she waited for the light to change I quick grabbed my stack and jumped up. “How about when Abbott and Costello join the French Foreign Legion?” I yelled back at Wilson over my shoulder. “In the desert they see a mirage, a kid selling newspapers. They ask how come he’s there and the kid says, ‘Can I help it if they gave me a bad corner?’” Wilson didn’t laugh, and I told that joke good. I jumped on the bus and flipped newspapers out to sell. Out the back window I saw Mike run across Light Street after the bus, yelling, mad as hell.

After school me and Mike watched Blind John tap, tap, tap, across the street, trip on the curb, and go splat on his face. Mike laughed. At first I didn’t, then I did. But not as much as she did. Blind John got up but didn’t know which way he was. He turned left and left and left again. He paused, spun right, and paused again, then he went off toward his house on Barney Street.

“Now how did he know which way?” I said. Mike said, “Blind people got radar we don’t, Andy.” That night I went everywhere in our house with eyes closed, upstairs and down, even in the dark basement, which didn’t make a difference because I was being blind. Nobody home but me. I felt everything. It took forever but I didn’t care. I put my hands on every stick of furniture and everything else, even food in the icebox—and Momma’s underwear, which was thin and slippery and snagged on my fingernail. It was too beautiful, too beautiful. I loved being blind. I felt everything.

Next day on the corner—I asked Wilson had he seen Where the Sidewalk Ends? Wilson, being Wilson, said, “Yes, but the real question is, Was it any good? And should I apologize if I didn’t like it?” He didn’t know anything about that movie and proved it when he went into a fake know-it-all speech about not-important details, using fancy showoff words like “directorial intent,” for God’s sake—which I bet he didn’t know what it was any more than me. But he left out how they’d made the city look at night, wet streets, lampposts, three kinds of beautiful shadows—light, dark, and darker. Four if you count pitch-black. Wilson must have seen my smirky face, so he changed off the subject and stuck his fist straight at my head, and hollered, “Klaatu barada nikto!” I froze, couldn’t figure him out. “Say it, Andy,” he said. “Say ‘Klaatu barada nikto!’” Wilson jumped on his stacks of papers, one foot on the News Post and the other one on the Sun. He was off-kilter because the stacks were uneven, but he did a bunch of bounce-squats like Cheetah. “Say it, Andy! Say it!” “Tell me what it means.” “Trust me, white boy.” His fist was still in my face. “Say ‘Klaatu barada nikto,’ then we bang fists. It’s a greeting.” “From Africa?” “From outer space.” “What?” “Just do it, goddammit!” I did like he said, we banged fists and said it together, “Klaatu barada nikto!” Wilson laughed and fell on his newspapers, sprawled flat out, his eyes all wet, tears down his cheeks from laughter. My knees went soft and I slunk to the sidewalk next to him. We laughed for five minutes with no idea why, like hyenas in the jungle. The next day at school me and Mike watched Blind John at his table across the cafeteria. He was alone. He somehow found the ketchup bottle by feel—the square shape, Mike said—and checked the edge of his plate with the first finger of his other hand, then slid the finger in towards the middle until it touched his hamburger. He undid the ketchup lid, poured some on, and only spilled a little. “You know, Andy, I think he likes you,” Mike said. “We’re sort of friends, yeah.” “No, I mean he really likes you.” “Sort of buddies, sure.” “Blind John is a fairy nice guy,” Mike said, and laughed. “Was that supposed to be a joke?” I said. “Ha!” Mike said. “He’s a flat-out fag.” “Don’t be stupid! Blind is all that’s wrong with him.” “Watch his walk,” she said. “It’s girl steps. Listen how he talks.” After school Blind John was on the corner with a crowd of kids who could see—he didn’t spend time with blind kids if he could help it. I went by and bumped him just for meanness’ sake. “Hello, Andy,” he said. In a different voice I said, “’Scuse me,” still trying to fool him. He touched my face and smiled. “Nice to see you, Andy.” w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m a u g u s t 0 8

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How did he know? My footsteps? What else? How I smelled? I stuck my nose in my armpit and got the answer.

Wilson said I had to see it, so that’s why when Blind John asked me to go, I went. Wilson claimed that The Day the Earth Stood Still was another bombshell movie to hit Baltimore. He said after I saw it I’d understand why we had to duck under our school desks once a month for atomic bomb practice. “Also, Billy Gray is your twin brother,” he said, “right down to the freckles and messy red hair.” A flying saucer from space lands in Washington across from the Capitol Building. It comes down with crazy music and gets surrounded by Army guys with guns. I put my mouth close to Blind John’s ear and whispered, “It’s night. Beautiful shadows. The flying saucer is silver and—” Blind John cut me off with a little grunt. Next thing in the movie a nervous soldier shoots the alien guy in the shoulder, and his robot, Gort, disintegrates their rifles. The tall alien tells a government man, “We have come to visit you in peace and with goodwill.” His name is “Klaatu” and he sounds like a radio news guy from England. “I merely tell you the future of your planet is at stake.” He also says, kind of snotty, “I’m impatient with stupidity. My people have learned to live without it.” Later—Klaatu escapes from the hospital and goes to live in a rooming house with Patricia Neal and Billy Gray so he can learn humans better. Klaatu tells her his name is Mr. Carpenter and she believes it. I whispered to Blind John, “You can tell she likes him.” “It’s that background music,” Blind John said, “plus the music in his voice—she lets him seduce her with it.” “Seduce her?” “She’s unhappy—a widow—she’s lonely.” “But he’s an alien from outer space!” “So what?” Pretty soon Klaatu—Mr. Carpenter—he stops the electricity in the whole world for thirty minutes to teach us a lesson. The crazy music comes back. I told Blind John how the pictures showed everything on the planet screeched to a halt, but he just sighed. “Patricia Neal looks worried,” I whispered. Blind John squirmed in his seat. We both stayed quiet until the part where Klaatu gets shot again. “Patricia Neal looks sad,” I said. And then, all of a sudden, Blind John threw a handful of popcorn in my face, popcorn I had paid for out of my newspaper money. “Why’d you do that?” “I ain’t deaf! I know from her voice and the music how she looks.” Klaatu tells Patricia Neal to run to the spaceship and say to the robot, “Gort, Klaatu barada nikto!” She asks Mr. Carpenter what it means but he says never mind and dies. Later Gort brings Mr. Carpenter back to life on the spaceship. At the end Klaatu makes a big speech to warn us to be good before it’s too late. The movie had real good shadows but didn’t make sense. If we were about to blow ourselves up with atomic bombs, why would Klaatu want to burn us up to save us? But at the end Blind John was on the edge of his seat and had a tight grip on my arm, one fist at his mouth. “Beautiful!” he said. “Patricia Neal was transformed!” “Big deal,” I said. “Her guy gets back on his spaceship and leaves.” “Yeah, but now she feels loved.” I shrugged. “Didn’t get that part.”

Wilson claimed there were five white boys in South Baltimore named Andy, all of them weird, and all but two were either ugly or stupid, or both. He didn’t say where I fit in, but he did say I wouldn’t know a good movie if it hit me. Turned out I was hit—by a pickup truck, not a movie. The truck came down Charles Street when I ran between parked cars, rushing to get Daddy out of Lombardi’s bar before he spent his pay. When I woke up in the hospital Miss Flower, the night nurse, was holding my hand. She was big-boned but not fat, with coal black hair, pale skin, and she wore huge rings and laughed real big. From my eyebrows up was mostly bandages, and under that were scalp stitches front and back. I tried to picture how the doctors worked the needle and thread, like Momma sewing on a sock hole. I was “in traction,” Miss Flower said—my legs tied in ropes with counterweights to keep them up. She claimed I was lucky, that I had a concussion and some cuts, but no cracked skull. “But you’ll live,” Miss Flower said, “mean as you are.” People came and went. Momma came to visit on a Sunday—but no Daddy, Daddy never did come. Kids from school did. Blind John did, found his way somehow. Mike came a bunch of times but never stayed long. She acted funny though, more like a girl, and I noticed she was starting to get titties. Seemed like they made her nervous. “When you get better,” she said, “we’ll go to the movies,” and she batted her eyes like Kathryn Grayson in a musical. All I did was nod. When you got hit by a truck, people took notice. You were an automatic hero. Wilson came to see me once and stayed just long enough to mystify me. Claimed he didn’t like how the nurses looked at him. No surprise there—he had a chip on his shoulder for white people in general. Told me he wouldn’t trust most of them farther than he could throw them over Cross Street Market. At first Wilson stayed on his side of the room and stared at me. There was a chair over there but he leaned on the wall. Then, after a while, he said, “My blood commanded I come, Andy.” “Huh?” “My blood talks to me, tells me what to do.” “Yeah, right.” “Tells me right from wrong. I hear the voices and know what the African gods expect from me.” He smiled. “This time they wanted me to visit a banged-up white boy.” I kept quiet. “When Africa speaks,” Wilson said, “I listen.” I started to laugh but caught myself because I wasn’t sure it was a joke. Then Wilson laughed big and said, “Don’t you get it, white boy?” “’Fraid not.” “Think about it,” Wilson said. I just shrugged. “Africa Speaks? The movie?” Wilson moved closer to my bed, his eyes shifting from my face to my head bandages. He reached out his hand and smoothed down what messy hair there was sticking out. “What do you say, Billy Gray?” he said. “What?” I said. Wilson rubbed my head softly, and said, “Klaatu barada nikto?” I said it back. “Klaatu barada nikto.” Then we said it together—“Klaatu barada nikto, Klaatu barada nikto, Klaatu barada nikto!”—and banged fists. ■

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M A R K E T P L A C E

got green wood? we do!

Fresh and creative thinking tastes better!

Reclaimed Heart Pine Plantation-grown Teak Certified Mahogany Plantation-grown Lyptus Reclaimed Chestnut And more!

Featuring gourmet pizza, pasta, salads, and middle eastern entrees

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www.freestatetimbers.com

Roland Park Victorian Canton waterfront condo Mount Vernon brownstone Bolton Hill townhome Mount Washington modern BECAUSE CITY LIFE IS A WONDERFUL LIFE Avendui Lacovara 410-235-4100 443-326-8674 (direct) alacovara@cbmove.com

Ayni Health Alliance at

AYNI (eye-knee) = Sacred Reciprocity

Your center for professional holistic healthcare in Owings Mills including Holistic MD, Acupuncture, Massage, Nutritional Counseling, Psychotherapy, Clinical Hypnotherapy, wellness classes and much more! 410-356-2169 www.aynihealthalliance.com

Roland Park at Cross Keys

BOUtIqUe

BCBG • BCBGirls

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MAX AZRIA

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We offer an amazing selection of beads, silver, tools, chains, gemstones, books, classes & crafts that will delight everyone on your gift list!

Store Hours 11AM - 6PM MON - SAT 318 CHARLES ST. BALTIMORE, MD • 21201 STORE # 410.244.1288 FAX # 410.244.1588

Manufacturers of Fine Window Treatments 3500 Parkdale Avenue Baltimore, MD 21211 410-342-6663

Open 7 Days - 10:30 to 6:30

501 N. Charles Street 410.837.2323 www.beadazzled.net

• • •

stimulate your mind stimulate your mind put your values into action soothe your spirit meetJews Jewsof ofdiverse diverse backgrounds find background Special Holyday Join us forHigh Services in the offer Park, newcomers Friday,for July 14 & August 11.

25012501 EutawEutaw Place inPlace Historic in Reservoir Historic Hill email: office1@bethambaltimore.org Reservoir Hill phone 410-523-2446 email: info@bethambaltimore.org

phone: 410-523-2446 bethambaltimore.org bethambaltimore.org

NEOPOL Baltimore’s ONLY smokery, specializing in smoked seafood and meats, savory cheese pies, gourmet foods, smoked seasoning salts and chef’s supplies. Belvedere Square Marketplace Baltimore, Maryland 21212 Tel: 410-433-7700

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900 Cathedral Street Baltimore, MD 21201 410.962.8859 www.kyropizza.com 11am – 11pm

It’s A Great Time to Buy Real Estate… Are You Looking to Sell? Are you curious to know what your home is worth? I’d be happy to give you this information at no cost or obligation. I have buyers looking to purchase, as well as sellers looking to sell. **Investors, there are great deals, large and small, for you as well.** Give me a call and lets get started! For available listings, see my website at www.TheMACTeam1.com Valerie McNeal, CRS, GRI The MAC Team of RE/MAX Sails 410-814-2455

Maharishi Enlightenment & Invincibility Center

London’s

Broadway Drapery

BYOB

Transcendental Meditation® classes

Effortless • Immediate Benefits Eliminate Stress Maharishi Vedic Approach to Health(SM) Non-invasive • Safe Prevention-oriented www.BaltimorePeacePalace.org Baltimore@GlobalCountry.net 410-625-3696

Distinctive Homes and Additions Designed and Built One at a Time. 410.559.0000 x121 www.AshleyHomes.com MHBR No: 126

EHO

MHIC No: 39601

Roastery & Retail Shop Open Tuesday thru Sunday Fresh, locally roasted coffee, loose leaf teas and brewing accessories. 3003 Montebello Terrace Baltimore, MD 21214 443-992-4388 www.zekescoffee.com


Residental/Commercial “Obscuring the line between art and decorative painting”

Beer, Crabs, and Decks ROSS’

410 • 243 • 4182 www.geministudiospainting.com

Travel with breathe books to India Sept. 2008! see details at: http://breathebooks.com/ bookstore_travel.php From Chakras to Shamans, Music to Meditation, Zafus and Zabutons, and over 30 events a month for your mind, body and spirit. See our classes and workshops at www.breathebooks.com.

RA

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breathe books

Things to do.

People to meet.

B H O US

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Quality Custom Interior Painting, specializing in faux, decorative, Murals, painted furniture, and art.

BAJA BLUE JUMBO CRABS Check out the size. You won’t believe it. Dine In or Carry Out • BYOB Catering and Delivery • Wholesale Crabmeat

410-288-1200 - 7 DAYS 1109 North Point Road, Dundalk

Problems to solve.

Open: Mon - Sat 11-7 pm | Sun 12-5 810 W. 36th Street | 410-235-READ

Your Antique Auction Source Our next auction September 14 & 15th Visit us online for details

908 York Road, Towson 410.828.4838 antiques.alexcooper.com

No matter who you are, no matter where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.

First United Church, UCC

Worship: Sunday 10:45 am Holy Communion celebrated the first Sunday of each month

www.firstuniteducc.com St. Sebastian Independent Catholic Church Mass: Sunday 4:30 pm & Wednesday 7:00 pm

www.saintsebastiancatholic.com Rev. David B.G. Flaherty, Pastor 1728 Eastern Ave., Baltimore 443.691.9800

Come Together. As Urbanite readers, you are active in your community. Now you can collaborate more effectively with your peers online. Create a free group website today. Visit www.collectivex.com/x/urbanite

• Art Jewelry •Jewelry & Bead Supplies • Beading & Jewelry Classes • Painting & Drawing Classes • Beading Parties for 6 yrs. & up •Beads & PMC

www.adornment.net 3600 Clipper Mill Rd., Suite 130 Baltimore, MD 21211 410.662.6623 Hunt Valley Tile and Stone GOOD DESIGN MAKES A DIFFERENCE Consult an AIA architect. AIABaltimore www.aiabalt.com 410.625.2585 11 ½ W. Chase St. Baltimore, MD 21201 The American Institute of Architects

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eye to ey e

Great things come in small packages. you have to excuse the size of this photograph: The artist could not find a larger version. I am showing it, nonetheless, because it is an image that exhibits a very mature eye, and one that has held me under its spell for a few months. There are balances and lines of force in this image that I relish: Its composition is, to my eye, faultless. Or perhaps it is just the complementary colors or the geometry. The photographer, Andrew Nagl, lives and works in Baltimore. “I took it for the view,” he says. “I liked how the shadow was being cast directly to the left of the tower. It is an unusual view not normally captured. Most people look outward from a tower, not directly down.” Andrew was 13 when he took this photograph. A visit to his website will assure you that it wasn’t just a lucky shot. —Alex Castro

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andrew nagl Tower, Daytona Beach, Florida april 2006 digital image www.acphoto.net


Summer Sounds at the Square Enjoy Baltimore’s best block party every Friday evening 6-9pm Live music, gourmet food and drink Special thanks to: Bass Ale, Stella Artois, Bud Light, Loyola College of Maryland and Urbanite

Located at the corner of Belvedere Avenue and York Road, adjacent to the Senator Theatre

The Neighborhood Shops and Restaurants Bratt Décor Cloud 9 Clothing Daedalus Books & Music The Dutch Connection Egyptian Pizza Grand Cru Greg’s Bagels The House Downtown Lilac Bijoux Lynne Brick’s Women’s Health and Fitness Matava Too The Medicine Shoppe Nouveau Contemporary Goods Ryan’s Daughter Simply Noted Starbucks Sweet Papaya Techlab Photo Imaging Tuesday Morning

one of a kind The boutiques, restaurants and market at Belvedere Square— an outdoor shopping destination unlike any other place in Baltimore, featuring the best in home furnishings, fashion, gifts, services, books, music and of course, gourmet foods.

{ Featuring }

Please join us for traditionally prepared food; breads, soups, salads, sandwiches, pastries and cheeses. All made right here at the Square. atwaters.biz | 410.323.2396

www.belvederesquare.com

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540 East Belvedere Avenue Baltimore, MD 21212 410.464.9773

Developed and Managed by Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse | Williams Jackson Ewing | Manekin | Hawkins Development Group

Belvedere Square Market Atwater’s Bon Bon’s Ice Cream Ceriello Fine Food Earth’s Essence Ikan Seafood & Sushi Market Bakery Neopol Savory Smokery The Peanut Shoppe Planet Produce

Grand Cru features 45 wines by the glass, tasting flights, wine-friendly snacks, artisnal draught beers & a hip, knowlegeble staff. grandcrubaltimore.com | 410.464.1944


$35.95 Economy Proof Menu includes your choice of Soup or Salad, Select Entrees and Accompaniment. Available Sunday & Monday all evening; Tuesday through Saturday 5:00PM - 7:00PM

ANNAPOLIS - EASTPORT | 410.990.0033 | 301 SEVERN AVENUE NOW SERVING LUNCH ON FRIDAYS BALTIMORE - PIER 5 | 410.230.0033 | 711 EASTERN AVENUE BALTIMORE - WATER ST | 410.783.0033 | 600 WATER STREET PIKESVILLE | 410.837.0033 | 1777 REISTERSTOWN ROAD NOW SERVING LUNCH ON FRIDAYS

VISIT US ONLINE AT SERIOUSSTEAKS.COM | VALET PARKING AVAILABLE 100

urbanite august 08

Profile for Urbanite LLC

August 2008 Issue  

50th Issue; True Stories: Shocking Tales of Drama and Intrigue; Ethical Beef; The Return of the Poetry Scene; Go Geothermal?

August 2008 Issue  

50th Issue; True Stories: Shocking Tales of Drama and Intrigue; Ethical Beef; The Return of the Poetry Scene; Go Geothermal?

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