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B A LT I M O R E ’ S

december 2006 issue no. 30

F O R

C U R I O U S

Baltimore Unwrapped: The Ultimate Urbanite Gift Guide • Creative Composting: How to get started The Road to R & B: How Sonny Til and the Orioles Changed Pop Music • Celluloid City: An indie film revolution

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Give the Gift that is COOL - FRESH - RAW... Blue Sea Grill Gift Cards Now Available New Year’s Eve Reservations Now Being Accepted Tis the Season to Party! Private and Semi-Private Rooms Now Available

“Voted one of the 50 Best Restaurants in Baltimore." Baltimore Magazine, “50 Best Restaurants”; February 2006

Restaurant Row at Market Place 614 Water Street, Baltimore www.BlueSeaGrill.com 410.837.7300 Complimentary Valet Parking

Oh, the weather outside is frightful...

...but our prices are delightful! Visit us today and cozy up with books & music at up to 90% off list price.

5911 York Road Baltimore, MD 21212 410-464-2701 Special Holiday Hours from Nov. 25 - Dec. 23 Sun.-Thurs. 10-9 Fri.-Sat. 10-10 Across from the Senator Theatre salebooks.com

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Dædalus Books warehouse outlet

9645 gerwig lane columbia, md 21046 410-309-2730 Special holiday hours from Nov. 25 - Dec. 23 Sun.-Thurs. 10-7 FRI.-SAT. 10-9


New Destinations BENJAMIN LOVELL SHOES CITY SPORTS HANDBAGS AND THE CITY HARBOR NEWS NOUVEAU CONTEMPORARY GOODS SPA SANTÉ

Great Favorites

Holiday Lights,

Holiday Night. Saturday, December 2. From 6PM – 10PM, the eleven square city blocks of Harbor East will be alive with holiday activity. From the Marriott Waterfront dock, watch one of Baltimore’s greatest traditions —the Lighted Boat Parade. Then head to Harbor East to enjoy special promotions and discounts, exciting food and drink, and great holiday gift shopping. Shops will be staying open late for the celebration. Holiday Lights. Holiday Night. It ís one sure way to get in the holiday spirit.

BIN 604 CHIU’S SUSHI CINDY WOLF’S CHARLESTON CINGULAR WIRELESS COURTYARD BY MARRIOTT DRIFTWOOD FLEMINGS PRIME STEAKHOUSE & WINE BAR GAINES McHALE ANTIQUES & HOME GRILLE 700 THE HARBOR BANK OF MARYLAND HARBOR CLEANERS HARBOR EAST DENTAL INNER HARBOR EAST MARINA JAMES JOYCE IRISH PUB & RESTAURANT KOSMOS LOUNGE MARRIOTT WATERFRONT THE OCEANAIRE SEAFOOD ROOM PAD PAZO THE PROMENADE AT HARBOR EAST RIGANO’S ROY’S SOUTH MOON UNDER SPINNAKER BAY TACO FIESTA THE URBAN ADVENTURE CO. THE VUE WATERFRONT DELI WHOLE FOODS MARKET

Coming Soon ARHAUS FOUR SEASONS HOTEL AND PRIVATE RESIDENCES LANDMARK THEATRES LEBANESE TAVERNA

Eat. Drink. Dine. Live. Shop. Play. Stay. www.harboreast.com w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m d e c e m b e r 0 6

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Jewelry as unique as your love‌

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Classic styles to love forever

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Since 1856, The Authority on Diamonds


Live Exceptionally.

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This is an artist’s rendering only, and based on current development plans which are subject to change without notice. Pricing subject to change without notice. No guarantee is made that the facilities or features depicted will be built, or if built, will be of the same type, size or nature depicted. The developer expressly reserves the right to make any modifications, revisions, and changes it deems desirable in its sole and absolute discretion or as may be required by law or government bodies. Scenes may include artists’ renderings, and may be of locations or activities not on the property. All renderings, designs and other depictions are based on current development plans, are for the purpose of illustration only, and are subject to change without notice. This ad does not constitute an offer to sell real estate in any jurisdiction where prior registration or other qualification is required and further information cannot be provided (unless we have already complied with such requirements). MHBR No. 4761 “We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of Equal Housing Opportunity throughout the Nation. We encourage and support an affirmative advertising and marketing program in which there are no barriers to obtaining housing because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin.”


december’s cover:

This month’s cover is a photograph of a white pigeon in the hands of Baltimore pigeon fancier Fran Weber. Weber was featured in the article “Flight Club,” which appeared in the September issue of Urbanite. The bird’s name is Little Ann.

december 2006 issue no. 30

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cover photo and portrait of Weber taken by Jason Okutake

f e a t u r e s

baltimore unwrapped from accomplished local artisans to mom-and-pop shops stocked with distinctive wares, baltimore is a treasure trove of unique gift options by charisse nichols

this holiday season, look to the main streets for thoughtful and distinctive gifts. urbanite gets you started with twenty-one picks for everyone on your holiday list.

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the road to rhythm & blues on a cross-country journey, a music lover discovers how baltimore’s sonny til and the orioles helped set the course for rock and roll. so why do so few remember their name? by robbie whelan

a tiny photograph in a remote memphis museum spurs a journey back to 1940s baltimore and the boys who launched what became the doowop sound. robbie whelan introduces us to the oldest surviving member of the orioles, who talks about coming of age when the r&b acts on west baltimore’s pennsylvania avenue spilled onto the corners every saturday night at closing time, when a gritty form of pop-blues was making its way onto the charts.

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drinks with the warden over bourbon and pabst blue ribbon, a son learns about his father’s career at the state penitentiary by jason tinney

a few christmases back, jason tinney’s father sat in a chair by the woodstove, watching flames chew into logs. as the room filled with that wonderful smoky smell, he told jason of his days as warden at the penitentiary. these were stories jason had never heard before.

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With our healthy, eco-friendly focus, bluehouse is your natural choice for home furnishings and design, housewares, mattresses, and renovation materials, such as wood flooring and low-VOC paint. Just ask Baltimore magazine, who gave us their “Best of Baltimore” award for “Best Use of Recycled Materials,” or CityPaper, who made us part of their “Best Organic Lifestyle Shopping Extravaganza” – both in our first year! And as the holiday season fast approaches, please keep in mind that bluehouse is also your source for beautiful and stylish gifts that are better for the planet and better for your loved ones. That makes you look better, too.

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departments

19

what you’re saying

23

what you’re writing

27

corkboard

29

have you heard ...

35

food: out of africa

december 2006 issue no. 30

got something on your mind? this is the place for feedback from our readers

original, nonfiction essays written by our readers. this month, the topic is “grace.”

six not-to-miss events around town

people, places, and things you should know about

cooking up comfort food reminds a ghanian family of home mary k. zajac

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baltimore observed: celluloid city with two new films and more on the way, a local production company proves that baltimore is ripe for moviemaking anne haddad

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encounter: zippy’s code one woman’s quest to show the hidden side of baltimore sheri j. booker

51

space: life imitating art how a former office-furniture warehouse turned art space is transforming a neighborhood alice ockleshaw

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sustainable city: compost and the city is composting an option for urban dwellers? fern shen

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out there: the heart of seoul how one metropolis reclaimed the river that ran through it gabriel kroiz

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recommended

89

resources

94

eye to eye

51

books, bands, exhibits, and more

further reading on topics covered in this issue

a closing thought, curated by creative director alex castro

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Baltimore’s Most

imore’Extraordinary s Most Addresses. ary Addresses. Magnificent Model Open! $25,000 toward Options!*

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Prestigious, gated community of luxury villa townhomes with 2-car garages, up to 4,800 s.f. of living space, first floor owner’s suites and full luxury features. Located in desirable Falls Rd. corridor 2 mi. from Greenspring Station and 2 mi. from Mount Washington Village with easy access to I-83 and 695.

I-83 N. to Exit 17 (Padonia Rd. W). Go 1 mile to right on Roundwood Rd. Free to Sales building RecCenter Roominside andRoundWood Lower LevelRidge Full IBath for ata #12240. Limited Weekdays, 9-5. Weekends, 12-5. 410-252-3797. MHBRModel! 4663. Time.* Baltimore’s Most Breathtaking Decorated

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From City: I-83 N. to Exit 10A (Northern Pkwy.) to left on Falls Rd. 2 miles to left on Newstead Lane. From County: I-83 S. to Exit 23B (Falls Rd.) to left at signal at Falls Rd. 2 miles to right$25,000 on Newstead Lane. Appointments, telephone 410-821-0383.toward MHBROptions 3722.

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appointments in an established neighborhood with a town’n country feel. Final Opportunity! Near Towson business district and university, dining, shopping, schools Special Incentives for Immediate and downtown Baltimore.Occupancy!

Brick-front garage townhomes with three finished levels and luxury standards such as granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and hardwood flooring in LR and DR. In an established neighborhood with a town’n country feel. Near Towson business district and university, dining, shopping, schools and downtown Baltimore.

I-695 to Charles St. to left on Bellona to Stevenson Lane. Weekdays, 9-5. Weekends, 12-5. 410-377-6896. MHBR 3732.

I-695 to Charles St. to left on Bellona to Stevenson Lane. Weekdays, 9-5. Weekends, 12-5. 410-377-6896. MHBR 3732.

Sales conducted from RoundWood Ridge. Directions/hours above. Stunning Model Open! 410-252-3797. MHBR 2015.

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From City: I-83 N. to Exit 10A (Northern Pkwy.) to left on Falls Rd. 2 miles to left on Newstead Lane. From County: I-83 S. to Exit 23B (Falls Rd.) to left at signal at Falls Rd. 2 miles to right on Newstead Lane. Weekdays, 9-5. Weekends, 12-5. 410-821-0383. MHBR 3722.

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Prestigious, gated community with prime homesites backing to woodlands still available. Villa-style townhomes with 3 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, garage and up to 4,000 offiliving Brick-front garage townhomes with s.f. three nishedspace. levels and luxury

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Brokers Welcome

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Urbanite Issue 30 December 2006 Publisher Tracy Ward Durkin Tracy@urbanitebaltimore.com

“America’s Top Restaurant” Zagat Survey; 2006

Creative Director Alex Castro General Manager Jean Meconi Jean@urbanitebaltimore.com Editor-in-Chief Elizabeth A. Evitts Elizabeth@urbanitebaltimore.com Guest Editor Matt Lake Executive Editor Heather Harris Heather@urbanitebaltimore.com Editor Marianne Amoss Marianne@urbanitebaltimore.com Copy Editor Angela Davids/Alter Communications Contributing Editors William J. Evitts Joan Jacobson Susan McCallum-Smith Contributing Writer Jason Tinney Contributing Photographer Gail Burton Design/Production Manager Lisa Macfarlane Lisa@urbanitebaltimore.com Traffic/Production Coordinator Bellee Gossett Bellee@urbanitebaltimore.com Designer Jason Okutake Web Coordinator George Teaford Administrative Assistants Catrina Cusimano La Kaye Mbah

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Senior Account Executive Susan R. Levy Susan@urbanitebaltimore.com Account Executives Rebekah Oates Rebekah@urbanitebaltimore.com Bill Rush Bill@urbanitebaltimore.com Marketing Kathleen Dragovich Kathleen@urbanitebaltimore.com Interns Christina Bittinger Sheri J. Booker Vanessa Hudson La Kaye Mbah David Meinrath Saaret E. Yoseph 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 the editor-in-chief (no phone calls, please) including SASE. 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 2006, 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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editor’s note

quotes

it is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that

matters , in the end.

the life of our city is rich in poetic and marvelous subjects. we are enveloped and steeped as though in an atmosphere of the marvelous; but we do not notice it. —Charles Baudelaire

photo by Sam Holden

—Ursula K. Le Guin, American novelist and poet

Kilometers are shorter than

miles . save gas; take your next trip in kilometers . —George Carlin, American comedian

driving through the city the other day I got lost. I thought south was north, thought I knew how to right myself and that the street at the end of the block would be one way—going the other way. I fumbled around in the glove box for my map of Baltimore and then remembered that I don’t own a map of Baltimore. I missed a chance to turn around, almost ran a red light, and I cursed. I cursed a lot. I’ve been lost in many cities. It’s par for the course, in my mind. I have no inner compass and an aversion to asking for directions, but I always figure it out. I’m the tourist scrutinizing the map on the sidewalk. I cannot, however, remember the last time that I got lost in my own city. I realized, suddenly, that this place I’ve called home for most of my adult life is still, at times, foreign. It was disorienting. It was humbling. It was really cool. Like ants, we travel in well-worn paths and forget to notice what’s happening around us. We live in our heads. When was the last time I looked up? Looked around? Remembered how I got from Point A to Point B? So I abandoned my bubble and started noticing the buildings around me. I was no longer driving down the classic Baltimore avenue, with the staccato of rowhouses in my peripheral vision. There were bungalows. Bungalows with fat-columned porches. I pulled over and walked around the residential streets. It began to rain leaves, a steady stream of red and orange and yellow. It smelled like wet earth. Deflating Halloween pumpkins were giving way to holiday decorations. It was beautiful and I wished I had my camera. I felt like a tourist. I’m used to getting lost in foreign cities and finding my way out again; it’s a wonderful way to know the place. I learn the intricacies of the public transit, decipher the pattern of the streets; I absorb my surroundings, seeking landmarks for direction. That attention to detail means that I see on a different level. But at home, day-to-day, I most often miss the simple beauty of the familiar in front of me. This city can, at moments, shock me into awareness despite myself. Almost every time I drive up Mount Vernon Place past the Peabody Institute at night, I am struck by the elegant spiral staircase in the conservatory building, framed like a photo in the leaded glass window. It looks like a delicate shell, a natural wonder unraveling, and it reminds me of the beauty that the human mind and hand can create. Moved by just this sense of exploration and rediscovery, our creative director, Alex Castro, went out into the city this fall, camera in hand, to film (in the words of Baudelaire) the “poetic and marvelous subjects” of our daily lives. From the peanut man at Lexington Market to the revelers at the Irish Festival, Alex and his team started a dialogue with perfect strangers, asking questions about their lives and the city we inhabit. He then edited hours of footage into short films, which you can now see on our website and, for a limited time, on the big screen at The Charles Theatre. These films invite us to begin to discover the unknown in the commonplace, to see what’s hidden right in front of us. To begin, all you need to do is get lost. Don’t worry. You’ll find your way home.

long day? / from morn to night ,

—Elizabeth A. Evitts

my friend.

the soul of a journey is liberty , perfect liberty, to think, feel, do just as one pleases . —William Hazlitt, British literary critic and humanist

the longest journey is the

journey inwards . —Dag Hammarskjöld, Swedish diplomat, former secretary-general of the United Nations, and winner of the 1961 Nobel Peace Prize

what people forget is a journey

to nowhere starts with a single step , too. —Chuck Palahniuk, American novelist and journalist

does the road wind uphill all the way? / yes, to the very end. / will the day’s journey take the whole

—from the poem “Uphill” by Christina Rossetti, British poet


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urbanite december 06


contributors

behind this issue with guest editor matt lake

One of Urbanite’s two fall editorial interns, Sheri J. Booker is a poet and writer pursuing a master of fine arts degree in creative nonfiction at Goucher College. Booker published her first book of poetry and short stories, One Woman, One Hustle, in 2003. In January, she will move to South Africa for two years to work as an editorial assistant for Amazwi Writers, which helps rural women ages 24 to 34 develop their writing skills. She will also serve as codirector of its U.S. sister organization. Booker wrote about Baltimore tour director Zippy Larson for this month’s “Encounter” (p. 45).

photo by Jason Okutake

Charisse Nichols For nine years, Charisse Nichols has worked in various capacities at Center Stage, most recently as the GenNext director. Charged with attracting young adults to the theater, she has created new advertising campaigns and produced the multicultural arts awareness event Project_One, which premiered in March. The Easton native and current Mount Vernon resident has worked as a professional model and taught runway classes in Baltimore and New York. Stylish and tapped in to the boutique world, Nichols scoured the city for gift recommendations for this issue (“Baltimore Unwrapped,” p. 57).

photo by Marshall Clarke

Robbie Whelan A bit of wanderlust and that halcyon-days desire to save the world has taken Robbie Whelan to Tamil Nadu, South India, where he is working as a reporter for Dasra, an NGO consulting group. By day the Pittsburgh native and frequent Urbanite contributor does projectplanning and capacity-building. By night, he sweats through cumin and tikka and learns how to play the veena, an instrument similar to the sitar. Whelan’s writing has appeared in Baltimore’s City Paper, Pittsburgh City Paper, The Brooklyn Rail, Blender, and Time Out New York; his journey through the annals of Baltimore’s musical past can be found in “The Road to Rhythm & Blues” (p. 64).

photo by Jason Okutake

Saaret E. Yoseph Saaret E. Yoseph, Urbanite’s other fall editorial intern, wrote about artist Adrian Lohmüller for “Update” (p. 19) and Organic Soul Tuesdays for this month’s “Have You Heard …” department (p. 29). The Washington, D.C., native is pursuing a bachelor of arts degree in English with a minor in Africana studies at UMBC. In 2005, Yoseph founded unDECIDED magazine, which focuses on inspiring community activism and bridging cultural and racial divides among college students. She is fluent in Amharic, an Ethiopian language; Yoseph is of the first generation of her family to be born in the United States.

Matt Lake has worked in a variety of fields while traveling a 9,000-mile loop around the world. He has overseen public housing renovation projects in his native Britain, edited magazines in San Francisco, and launched technology websites such as CNET and search.com. Lake is now a writer living in Pennsylvania, and his published work has gotten around as much as he has, with articles appearing in publications as varied as The New York Times, Family Circle, and Entertainment Weekly. Lake’s love of both travel and the unusual found a perfect home when he began editing Weird N.J., a book that offers wacky destinations and folklore lessons for those with a case of wanderlust. Lake then set his sights on the Mason-Dixon Line, and he began chronicling the states of Pennsylvania and Maryland in his own books. Weird Maryland hit the shelves earlier this year.

photo by Caroline Craig

photo by Jason Okutake

Sheri J. Booker

As the holiday

season gets underway, we often find ourselves traveling to places out of a sense of duty, which sucks all the fun and adventure out of being on the road. Journeys drag on, and the age-old question “Are we there yet?” gains new strength. To head this question off at the pass, consider this conversational gambit to liven up the mood of your co-travelers. Ask them this: “If you could have any superpower, what would it be? And why would you want it?” Although this is actually a probing question that calls for a deep self-examination, the superhero question has just the right touch of whimsy to draw most people out. The trouble with it is that on long journeys, the answers tend to sound similar: Bored travelers want to be able to fly, to run really fast, to adjust the speed of time, to beam themselves from one place to another … anything that will get them to their destination sooner. My answer’s always been different. Until recently, I wanted the ability to navigate without consulting a map. Part of the reason is that if there’s a wrong turn to take, I’ll usually be the one to take it. But if you happen to be SuperNavigator, there are no wrong turns. You can use your super-navigation skills to turn any mistake into a detour. But there’s a little more to being SuperNavigator than covering up your mistakes: The real reason for wanting a supercharged homing ability is more positive. When you take away the chore of navigation, you can turn your attention to really enjoying wherever it is you find yourself. Enjoying the here and now has always been the challenge, especially for people whose main form of travel is the commute. Tourists see a city or region with a different pair of eyes than its native sons and daughters do. I’ve lived in many different cities in two different countries, and I’ve observed how places seem to change when you live in them a while. Tourists or visitors go somewhere specifically to take it all in, and they are turned on to everything about a new place. For them, the sensory treats of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor are about as intense a variety of experiences as they can imagine. After you’ve lived here for a while, different things come to the fore, and you find yourself making little treats for yourself, such as taking a zigzag path to the Enoch Pratt Library so you can walk past the giant dog on top of the Maryland Historical Society. And when you turn into an old lag who’s been here for years, you have a completely different point of view, seeking out Sunday afternoon walks through Druid Ridge Cemetery to take in the Victorian statuary and the vacant plinth where Black Aggie used to sit. It’s all one city, but how you look at it makes all the difference. Incidentally, I wound up buying my superpower. With a satellite-navigation unit plugged into my car’s cigarette lighter, I can find my way pretty much anywhere, and take as many wrong turns as I like along the way. So I’m working on a new answer to the superhero question …

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The live jazz at Taste on New Year’s Eve will be improvisational. (Everything coming out of the kitchen is well rehearsed).

Internationally renowned jazz master Greg Hatza and the Greg Hatza ORGANization will be ringing in ‘07, with Chef Ann Nault accompanying from the kitchen with 3- and 4-course dinner options. Food starts at 6:00 and the music starts at 9:00. But it all starts when you call or visit our website for a reservation and all the details.

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Wh e r e d i d t h e l a s t 3 6 5 d ay s g o ?

It’s hard for us to believe that it’s already been a whole year since we’ve moved to our fabulous harbor east showroom. It’s been quite a year indeed,

and we couldn’t have done it without your support, patronage and great taste in decor. But so much more has changed than our address. We’ve created a whole new Gaines McHale experience. Walk around our new home and you’ll see we’re more than just fine European antiques, you’ll see inspiring ensembles of old and

new working harmoniously to create a rich, inviting decor. Look closer and you’ll see a wider array of finely crafted reproductions that will make you do a double-take, an expanded selection of new upholstered furniture, and all the accessories that add that extra little bit of charm. And if you don’t see exactly what you want, you can have it custom made. We encourage you to come down and experience it for yourself. We hope exploring our new home will help you rediscover yours.

First Anniversary Sale

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urbanite december 06


update

what you’re saying

Your Space We want to hear what you’re saying. E-mail us at mail@urbanitebaltimore. com or send your letter to Mail, Urbanite, P.O. Box 50158, Baltimore, MD 21211. Submissions should include your name, address, and daytime phone number; letters may be edited for length and clarity.

performance by Beth Ashton; photo by Benjamin Shipley; collage by Adrian Lohmüller

Adrian lohmüller

Thanks for the Memories Your photographic spread on St. Stanislaus Church (October) did justice to the interior of this Fells Point icon. Anna Santana’s professional photos captured perfectly the precious interior’s details and she is to be commended for her work. Gutting the interior of this building for a school that has plenty of other options for expansion is unconscionable. I also take issue with the photo caption that implied that “dwindling membership” closed the church in 2000. The parish at the time had between three hundred to four hundred members with no debts, a fat savings account, and a knack for fundraising. I believe the reason the Archdiocese of Baltimore closed the church was more a case of corporate consolidation—that is, more parishioners in fewer buildings. St. Stan’s was doing fine and serving the community quite well. Instead of increasing membership in nearby parishes, overall enrollment is down because three hundred to four hundred people have not bothered to register anywhere else. —Dan Kuc is an interior designer who lives in Fells Point. Don’t Trust Technology In the August issue, Jenny Wierschem’s review of the book Seven Fires really hit home for me. Not the part about the book, or about the fires—but her review’s closing comments that suggested that our society could be putting too much faith in technology. This concept has haunted us for decades, and I’m convinced that many recent events are giving ever-increasing evidence for her premise. Many people have suggested that “too much faith in technology” was the underlying theme of the movie Jurassic Park. Sure, we can create awesome technology, but being human, we always forget about some minor detail (like a T. Rex) that ends up biting us in the rear. Just think about what happened in our world, a few years before the 1993 release of Jurassic Park:

In 1986, we had not had a nuclear reactor go into meltdown for several years. And some people got so complacent about it that one government let their inexperienced staff run a middle-of-the-night test where they cycled a reactor’s coolers on and off until they blew the top off Chernobyl. We see headlines about airline pilots, made complacent by millions of dollars worth of “idiotproof ” instruments, showing up to work drunk. Each of us, surrounded by our air bags and antilock braking systems, drive a several-ton piece of equipment at a mile-a-minute while engrossed in a distracting cell-phone conversation (or a BlackBerry e-mail check) that risks our lives, the lives of our passengers, and those of the motorists around us. The good news is that we can embrace technology’s limitations without becoming Luddites. We will always need to balance our reliance on technology with our humanity—and with a healthy dose of our innate skepticism. That’s easier said than done, but I have seen rays of hope. If a Seven Fires sequel is written, it won’t include a chapter about me sitting through a fire alarm, assuming that the building’s technology is giving a false positive, or about me having faith in technology that will control the fire. I will be putting my faith in the ability of my feet to move my ass out the door. —Jim Maguire is the president of WindCurrent, which provides clean renewable power to commercial, nonprofit, educational, and governmental organizations across the country. Correction There’s a rule in journalism that says to double check the spelling of a person’s name, even when it’s Smith. That’s especially important when it’s spelled Y-o-un-g. We misprinted the name of Joseph Young, one of the founders of the blog Baltimore Interview (www. baltimoreinterview.blogspot.com) as Joseph Smith in our November “Have You Heard ...” department.

Art has always been a medium for change. It captures our interest, sparks ideas, and encourages discourse. Adrian Lohmüller’s work is a perfect example. His piece “Maryland Office of Public Apology” was featured in Urbanite’s April 2006 article about the challenges of being a pedestrian in Baltimore, “Navigating Urban Space.” While his work was not directly addressed in the text, a photo showed Lohmüller dressed as a municipal employee, displaying an official-looking sign from the fictitious state office. His sign, which he installed on Edmonson Avenue, drew attention to the fact that the needs of Baltimore’s pedestrians are being ignored. His most recent work, “fecalCOMMERCE,” again focuses on the relationship between people and their environment. Featured in the Material Matters exhibit at Maryland Art Place that closed in September, Lohmüller’s “fecalCOMMERCE” utilized signs, maps, stencils, and even footsteps to lead citizens to rarely found public restrooms around the city. Citizens were encouraged to participate in the artwork by asking actual municipal employees where they could take a bathroom break without encountering a “customers only” policy. “Some participants were looked at as if they just asked for a trapdoor to moon,” Lohmüller says. Participants were also asked to document their experiences through photographs (see above) and send them to Lohmüller for his gallery display. Lohmüller, a native of Germany, has an international perspective on the dynamic between people and cities. He believes that the public transportation system in Berlin is better-organized and more pedestrian-friendly than Baltimore’s, but he thinks the public restroom situation there is in need of some intervention. “I’m planning on setting up some cheap, handmade shacks. I don’t expect them to be used a lot, but they will pronounce the idiocy of commercializing these necessary human pressures,” he says. Lohmüller moved back to Berlin earlier this year and orchestrated his fecalCOMMERCE project from there, but he considers Baltimore his second home. Perhaps you will see his work on display again in one of Baltimore’s galleries. Maybe you will casually observe it while walking along the streets of Baltimore City. Or, you might even be a part of it—a walking, talking means for change. —Saaret E. Yoseph


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what you’re writing

photo by Laurie Flannery

gr ace r a c e Standing still, the camel is a gangly tangle of legs with a ham-hock head, a squat body, and a whip-sharp tail. Kneeling, he blends into the dusky landscape, a breathing sand dune smelling of hot leather and sandalwood. Walking, he jerks along unsteadily, each leg following its own clunky beat. But a camel at full gallop truly resembles a “ship of the desert.” All flowing motion, his neck stretches forward, balancing his body’s crossing of the sandy plain. His front legs kick out with a small stutter; his back legs lift his spine and hips. His body curves into an arch then lengthens underneath, each foot planted with deliberate precision and weight. The rider adapts to the camel’s smooth rhythm, relaxing the grip around the saddle. A sprinting camel is harder to stop than an eighteen-wheeler. Once, I took a slow camel ride in the desert, led by an Egyptian guide. My appreciation of the pyra-

“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 have the right to heavily edit 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 to What YoureWriting@urbanitebaltimore.com. Please keep submissions under four hundred words; longer submissions may not be read due to time constraints. Due to the number of essays we receive, we cannot respond individually to each writer. Please do not send originals; submissions cannot be returned. The themes printed below are for the “What You’re Writing” department only and are not the themes for future issues of the magazine itself. Topic

Deadline

Publication

What You Believe But Can’t Prove Second Chance Laughter Possession Anticipation

Dec 15, 2006 Jan 19, 2007 Feb 16, 2007 Mar 16, 2007 Apr 13, 2007

Mar 2007 Apr 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007

mids was eclipsed when we were overtaken by three camels galloping at full steam. —Gynene Sullivan is a graduate student in publications design at the University of Baltimore.

Every day

my neighbor, Grace, picks up my paper from my front lawn and props it on my porch by the door. Every trash day, she picks up my trashcan lid from wherever the garbage men have tossed it and puts it back on the can, neat and straight. Every day, she gets dressed up in her nice clothes and does her errands. After I moved away to New York City, I would come back to this house sometimes and I would always see Grace. She would hurry from her porch to give me a hug and ask, Are you moving back? And I would laugh and say, No, I don’t think so, because

at that time, in my mind, Baltimore could never hold a candle to New York. Yet, over the three years that I was gone, Grace never stopped asking me, and finally, one day, I said, Yes, I am coming back. I came back clean and was able to be filled up with the light and brightness of a new beginning— a new beginning that I earned the hard way. And so I continue to live my life, living in a house next door to Grace, living a life full of grace, in Baltimore. —Laurie Flannery is an artist and jewelry designer happily making her way through life in Baltimore.

I smiled when I saw the folded note tucked under the wiper blade on my windshield, thinking an old girlfriend had spotted my pickup.

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Nope, my passenger window was smashed. My gym bag and briefcase were gone. The note was from a woman across the street who had seen what had happened and left her phone number. “Tall guy,” she said, giving a description, “wearing a baseball cap.” I asked which way he ran off. He couldn’t carry my stuff far—my bags weighed a ton. In suit and tie, I peered in Dumpsters and crawled around alleys. Hey—a pair of socks, two blocks from my truck. At 14th, I found my phone book beside a brick wall. Then, behind an oily trash bin, my briefcase. No cell-phone charger, no glasses, but at least I wouldn’t get fired for losing the paperwork from my new job. An hour later I gave up. It was 11 p.m. At the crossing, I met a homeless guy pulling a torn piece of luggage on wheels and carrying trash bags of clothes. We talked. He told me had been visiting his father in North Carolina and they didn’t get along. I told him the sad tale about my truck. I carried some of his trash bags to the church steps where he slept. Then I noticed something. “Dude, those are my headphones.” “No, man, these are mine.” “Bullshit.” I told him what CD he was listening to. “Yeah, it’s yours.” My new buddy, Sean, then pulled out my cellphone charger. I realized he fit the description I’d been given. “Sean, I just need my glasses,” I said. “I’m not going get anybody in trouble.” “Yo, I didn’t take anything. I found it by the Dumpster behind Popeyes where I go to pee. Aren’t a lot of places to pee ’round here.” “I know. Just get in my truck and show me where you found my CD player.” I brushed the broken glass off the seat. “C’mon, I’ll give you a ride back and $5 or $6.” No luck, he couldn’t—wouldn’t—point me to where my gym bag was. Near midnight, I dropped him off at a convenience store and gave him $7. While he was inside buying a sandwich and cigarettes, a friend of mine, a social worker, called. I told her I’d caught the guy who broke into my truck, and we had a lot in common: lost relationships, lost jobs, lost homes, and hospitals, jails, and addiction. I asked her for phone numbers of places where he could get help. I dropped Sean at the church steps and handed him the numbers. I don’t expect he used them, but I hope, one day, he will. —Ron Cassie is currently employed as a writer in Baltimore. Previously he swung a hammer, pedaled a bike, and poured drinks for a living.

In 1984 I served a one-month rotation in the medical photography studio at the Univer-

sity of Texas in Galveston, as part of my training to become a registered biological photographer. Each semester, the studio shot the yearbook photographs of the medical students, a nice respite after documenting people without an eye, a leg, or some other anatomical part. That’s when Grace from Maternity Nursing walked in. Her lips wrapped themselves around words perfectly, making it easy for me to lip-read and hear her with my hearing aids on. After snapping a few frames of her gorgeous smile, I mustered the nerve to say, “Visit us again.” A week later she came by and asked if I’d like to get together for a barbecue on the beach. After work, I jumped on my bike and followed the directions to her house, only to discover that her father and her brother were coming along too. It was a balmy November evening, and at low tide we rode together in Grace’s Mercedes convertible over hardpacked sand and parked a few feet away from the Gulf. Grace’s father and brother lit up the Hibachi while she and I threw a Frisbee around. By the time the hot dogs were cooked it was past dusk. I sat on a rock munching my food, looking at Grace’s dark profile. I couldn’t see her lips or her smile. I couldn’t communicate. Back at her father’s house, we sipped coffee in an awkward silence. Her father asked me, “Do you go to church?” “Uh, no. Not really.” “I see.” I said goodnight. I rode away on my bike, Grace’s smile forever etched in my mind. —Willy Conley (Registered Biological Photographer #319) is a professor and chairperson of the theatre arts department at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., when he’s not photographing images of grace in nature.

he stands in the doorway, tears streaming, holding his soaked underwear. “Mommy, can you get me some pants?” “What happened?” “It was an accident. I was so excited about watching Jimmy Neutron, I forgot to use the bathroom.” “Son, we’ve talked about this,” I say. “You are 5 years old!” “I’m sorry, Mommy.” “It’s okay, but when you feel you have to go, you must stop watching the television and go to the bathroom.” Hours later, the accident behind us, we begin making a house out of sponges. Suddenly, I feel the urge to go. I race upstairs. He chases me. Yet, no matter how I try to hold it, I’m too late. “Must be the pregnancy,” I mumble to myself, removing my wet underwear in the bathroom.

“Mommy, let’s finish our house!” he shouts outside the door. I put on my bathrobe. “Mommy had an accident,” I say sheepishly, opening the door. “It’s okay, Mommy,” my wise son says. “Next time you have to stop making art projects and go before you feel the pee coming out.” —Catania Blake is a freelance writer and a homeschooling mother of three in Baltimore.

During the 1960s my sister left Washington, D.C., where she and her underground artist boyfriend had been staging anti-Vietnam war protests. They drove in an old U.S. mail truck to a commune in southern Indiana. My sister and her boyfriend ran the commune store and milked the commune’s seven goats. My parents and I flew from Baltimore to Indianapolis to visit the commune, where we found my sister emaciated from a diet of brown rice and vegetables. In the communal living room, the guys playing poker attempted to be amiable by asking my father to join in. Now, my father has played poker much of his life, and as a CPA, he is tack-sharp at figuring numbers in his head. And, of course, he was the only player not flying high on beer or dope. My mother, sister, and I sat demurely in the back and watched the game. My father seemed like one of the regular guys—knowing “when to hold them and when to fold them.” Bidding ensued; chips were won and lost. Smoke billowed as a hookah was passed around. Each man inhaled—except for my father. He received the pipe on his left and passed it on, without fanfare, to his right. By now most of the chips had settled in front of him as the other players were becoming increasingly woozy. Some of them began to write him IOUs, pledging their bikes, their TVs, and even their chickens and goats. Now that my father had amassed everything of value to them, he began to “lose” it all back. Little by little, we saw their IOUs being torn up and the chips becoming more evenly divided. I don’t think I’ve ever had greater respect for my father than at that moment. He proved himself “a real mensch,” a decent human being, and he gave my sister the support and acknowledgement she needed at that time in her life.

gra c e —Anonymous

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Best of Baltimore 2006

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CORKBOARD CORK Explore the Theater of South Africa The South African Play Festival, presented by Run of the Mill Theater and held at the Baltimore Theatre Project, continues through December 31. Events include main stage performances of two plays written during apartheid, staged readings of contemporary South African plays, dance performances and workshops, and a panel discussion on the state of theater in that country.

45 West Preston Street See Run of the Mill Theater website for event and ticket information General admission $16; students, seniors, Baltimore Theatre Project subscribers, and Baltimore Theatre Alliance members $11 410-796-1555; www.runofthemilltheater.org

I Challenge You to a Tennis Duel The annual Mercantile Tennis Challenge once again brings tennis veterans and rising stars to Baltimore for a day of play to benefit the Baltimore Community Foundation. This year, the players include International Tennis Hall of Famer Martina Navratilova and the world’s No. 1-ranked doubles team, twins Bob and Mike Bryan.

1st Mariner Arena, 201 West Baltimore Street Dec 6, 7 p.m. $20–$100; group rates available for groups of ten or more For ticket information, call Ticketmaster (410-547-SEAT) or 1st Mariner Arena (410-347-2006), or go to www.tennischallenge.org

A Monumental Occasion The 35th annual lighting of the Washington Monument features appearances by Duff Goldman and other area celebrities, a holiday village featuring food and crafts vendors, entertainment, and a fireworks display.

Sing in the Holidays The world-renowned Morgan State University Choir, directed by Dr. Eric Conway, sings spirituals, carols, and gospel music, as well as Bach’s Magnificat and John Rutter’s Gloria.

Launch Party New Baltimore-based emerging nonprofit Prism officially launches this month with an exhibition of handmade silk shawls by Madagascar’s Firaisankina Silk Weavers Cooperative. The organization is dedicated to supporting communitybased art and media projects in underdeveloped or developing countries. The showcase is cosponsored by Art on Purpose and the Megaphone Project; shawls may be purchased by attendees.

Mount Vernon Place, 600 block of North Charles Street Dec 7 Event begins at 5:30 p.m.; entertainment begins at 6 p.m.; lighting occurs shortly before 7 p.m. 410-244-1030 www.godowntownbaltimore.com

Murphy Fine Arts Center at Morgan State University, 2201 Argonne Drive Dec 10, 4 p.m. $10–$25; group rates available for groups of twenty or more For tickets, call the Murphy Fine Arts Center (443-885-4440) or Ticketmaster (410-547SEAT), or visit www.ticketmaster.com

The Cork Gallery, fourth floor of the Cork Factory 1601 Guilford Avenue (enter on Federal Street, ring buzzer #9) Dec 12, doors open at 7 p.m. RSVP to jgordon@prism-media.org www.prism-media.org

Talking about History Meditate on Baltimore’s industrial past with the Baltimore Museum of Industry’s 25th Anniversary Conversation Series. Each event is led by an experienced storyteller. The series continues in December with a discussion of H. L. Mencken’s Baltimore with author Marion Elizabeth Rogers; following the discussion will be a reading of Mencken’s Christmas Story. Conversations continue into the spring; see website for details.

1415 Key Highway Dec 12, 6 p.m. (museum opens at 5:30 p.m. for touring) $10 per person; BMI members free 410-727-4808 ext. 146 www.thebmi.org

Photo credits from top to bottom: courtesy of Run of the Mill Theater; courtesy of the Mercantile Tennis Challenge; photo by Mitro Hood; photo by Jay Baker; courtesy of Jack Gordon; courtesy of the Baltimore Museum of Industry

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have you heard . . .

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Open Mike … known spoken-word artists in Baltimore, maintain a lively and free-spirited open-mike environment. There, in the “home of independent underground,” one can dance, get a reasonably priced dinner or dessert, check out local artwork, and even grab the mike for an impromptu performance. Begins at 7:30 p.m. every Tuesday, $5. 218 West Saratoga Street; 410-358-6484. —Saaret E. Yoseph

Fashion … The gears in local designer Lacey Kalivoda’s brain are turning 24-7. She’s so immersed in design, it isn’t unusual to find her excitedly sewing and feverishly sketching at four in the morning. Right now she is making a name for herself with her own brand of whimsical garments and accessories called— what else—Kalivoda. The Severn native’s wearable creations range from colorful jewelry and hand-knit sweaters to cute shoes and, in the future, skirts and other women’s apparel. Items are skillfully crafted, yet have a charming homespun feel. The Cabin Sweater, a cross between a shrug and a sweater,

photo by Jason Okutake

photo by La Kaye Mbah

Bored with mainstream art and popular music? Hoping to find a place to show off your spoken-word skills? Try going underground. Below the streets of Baltimore City, you’ll find Organic Soul Tuesdays, a haven for local and little-known performers. The weekly event is produced by BlackOut Studios and takes place at the 14Karat Cabaret (a program of Maryland Art Place). It was founded by James Collins and Olu Butterfly Woods in 2001 to provide a platform for area talent to share their art. Hosts Olu Butterfly and Archie the Messenger, both well-

creates a cozy cocoon around the wearer. Her delicate Tea Earrings (pictured at right) are created using a special lace-making technique that dates back to the nineteenth century. Kalivoda is currently working toward her associate degree in fashion design at Baltimore City Community College. Kalivoda’s goal for the future, she says, is to get paid to be creative. Pieces from Kalivoda’s line can be found at Shine Collective in Hampden and through her own website, www.kalivoda.com. —Alissa Faden

photo by La Kaye Mbah

Restaurant … In October, Trinidad natives Chuck Lochan and Donna Baboolal opened Trinidad Gourmet in Waverly. While the restaurant doesn’t have a sit-down license, patrons can munch on spicy goodies at the counter, washing it all down with Jamaican soda. Much of the menu is made up of traditional roti platters in small and large sizes; the roti, a bread similar to pita, is topped with anything from smoked herring, eggplant, and fried plantains to pumpkin and cabbage. The lunch and dinner roti platter is topped with potatoes, chickpeas, and a choice

of shrimp, goat, beef, chicken, or vegetables; it’s served with hot peppers or mango, habañero, or tamarind sauce. Prices start at $1.90 for breakfast and range from $6 to $9 for lunch and dinner plates. All the food is made fresh daily and the proof is definitely in the curry. The food is fast, affordable, and delicious. Open Mon through Sat 7 a.m.–7 p.m. 418 East 31st Street; 410-243-0072. —Hellin Kay

Have you heard of something new and interesting happening in your neighborhood? E-mail us at haveyouheard@urbanitebaltimore.com.

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urbanite december 06


have you heard . . .

courtesy of William Stevens

V ir tu a l O ffi c e … Freelancers and small-business owners just starting out often lack the kind of support provided by an office environment. Vircity, a “virtual office in the city,” has opened in the Can Company in Canton to provide all kinds of services to people who can’t afford to lease their own workspace. It offers meeting space, administrative assistance, individual workstations, copiers, marketing consultation, and Web and e-mail hosting. As an added bonus, Vircity

can receive packages from all carriers on behalf of registered clients and hold them in a secured area. Fees vary, depending on the frequency and number of services needed; see the website for more details. 2400 Boston Street #102; 410-522-5888; www.vircity.us. —Marianne Amoss

O n lin e C h ild re n’s L ib ra r y … In our increasingly mobile world, holding on to tradition while also being open to other ways of life can be important. The International Children’s Digital Library, formed in 2002 by a research team at the University of Maryland, aims to make available reading material that can achieve both these goals. The website offers digital versions of published, printed kids’ books in more than thirty languages. Children were involved in the designing of the site, which is easy to navigate and requires no software downloads. Simply search the site by identifying desired characteristics like language, subject matter, length, or country of origin, and a list of available digitized

books—many of them award winners—pops up. The books, which are meant for kids ages 3 to 13, appear in the language in which they were written; some are available in more than one language. Although not everyone can read every book on the site, just flipping through a book written in a foreign language reveals something about an unfamiliar culture. Go to www.childrenslibrary.org. —M. A.

P o p C u ltu re … Atomic Books co-owners Benn Ray and Rachel Whang have a lot to celebrate lately: In October, they put out the newest offering from their publishing company Atomic Book Co., a book called I Keee You!! A Collection of Overheards. The postcardsized paperback is an illustrated compilation of material from the Overheard section of Ray’s website, www.mobtownshank.com. The site, and the Atomic Books weekly e-mail ’zine, have listed bizarre and often hilarious snippets of conversations overheard by innocent passersby since 1999. The book is funny and a little sad, like the situations it illustrates. Also

in October, the couple opened their new store, Atomic Pop, located a few blocks from Atomic Books. The spare, clean store carries DIY craft kits, artist books, limited-edition urban art toys, handmade art ’zines, and comic art, as well as art, craft, photography, and design magazines, freeing up Atomic Books to focus on, well, books. “The primary thrust of the new store is objects—the handmade plushy dolls, the craft kits, the designer art toys,” says Ray. I Keee You!! is available at Atomic Books: 1100 West 36th Street; 410-662-4444; www.atomicbooks.com. Atomic Pop: 3620 Falls Road; 410-366-1004; www.atomicpop.biz. —M. A.

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urbanite december 06


food

by mary k. zajac

photography by gail burton

Out of Africa Cooking up comfort food reminds a Ghanian family of home

Above: Theresa Ayiwa with a plate of her favorite comfort food, homemade kelewele

In Theresa Ayiwa’s native Ghana, roadside stands sell kelewele, a crispy fried plantain dish so evocative of her native land that she now prepares it as her “little treat” when she misses home. “Everybody loves kelewele in Ghana,” she says. “The joy is walking up the street and waiting for it,” she recalls. “It’s so tasty when it’s hot. You stop, get a little piece, and eat it as you walk.” Today Ayiwa, 59, lives in a tidy Towson condominium, where she cooks the dish (pronounced kehlay-weh-lay) as she has in the three other countries besides Ghana where she’s lived. “Now I make it after church on Sunday,” she says, “and all my children make it when they really, really miss home.” “Tell me what you eat and I’ll tell you who you are,” goes a current maxim. And for immigrants from any country, food is often the one connection to home they can replicate abroad. In some cases, so-called ethnic food has become so pervasive in American culture that we forget that pasta was once the province of southern Italians, and tacos weren’t always a fixture on the mainstream fast-food circuit. The foods of Africa, however, remain mysterious to many of us, even while the number of Afri-

cans in Baltimore is growing. Africans from Nigeria, Zaire, Kenya, the Sudan, and Ghana are especially visible in several of the city’s Catholic parishes like St. Matthew’s Catholic Church in North Baltimore and St. Ignatius Church downtown, where Ayiwa is a communicant. Her variations on native dishes from Ghana sometimes show up at the hospitality buffet after Mass or at the dinner table of the resident Jesuit priests at Loyola Blakefield in Towson where Ayiwa works as a cook. Take the peanut butter soup, a Ghanianinspired casserole made with peanut butter, chicken drumsticks, fresh ginger, tomatoes, and onions, which she makes for the Jesuits. Ayiwa also adds potatoes and Brussels sprouts to the soup, though she’s quick to point out that those additions are purely untraditional and frowned upon by some Ghanians, including her adult daughter. “Everyone has their own way of making peanut butter soup,” she says. “But my daughter, she wants to stick to the Ghana way.” Getting the right ingredients for peanut butter soup or kelewele hasn’t always been easy for Ayiwa, who has lived in the United States for eleven years but also spent brief periods away from the Brong-

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Ahafo region where she was born and the city of Accra where she has lived most of her adult years. She lived in Leeds, England, nearly thirty years ago while her husband was attending school, and then lived in Guam in the early 1990s, helping her daughter run a small business. Wherever she has lived, cooking African food has been a way for Ayiwa to feel connected to her roots. “I’ve made kelewele in all the places I’ve lived,” she says. “It is the comfort food that is easy to prepare. Ginger is all over the world. So is the onion. In Ghana we use little shallots, but when you’re away, you do differently. You get [to a new place], and you so much want to eat it, so you do so much to find it, and you substitute if you can’t find it.” Finding plantains in Leeds in the 1970s, for example, wasn’t always easy, she says, because “there weren’t many African stores, and you couldn’t find plantains very often unless you went to an Indian store.” In Guam, too, finding plantains was a problem. “We couldn’t find plantains, but locally, people grew different kinds of bananas, including cooking bananas,” Ayiwa says. “You don’t get the same taste—it’s not as sweet—and when you fry them, you don’t get the same crispness.” Making kelewele in Baltimore is less of a challenge. There are several African grocers along Harford Road, south of Northern Parkway, and the ingredients used to make the dish—plantains, onion,

BEFORE

When Ayiwa turns the plantains out of the skillet and onto paper towels, the fruit has turned a deep orange-red, like pumpkin flesh, with small dark specks where it has browned in the skillet. The plantain is soft and chewy on the inside, and the spices have almost caramelized on the crispy outside.

She runs the dish under a small stream of water, tossing the plantain mixture with her hands, before adding a single layer of the fruit to a small skillet of hot, light olive oil, which she covers, lifting the lid only to stir the plantains. As it cooks, the paprika gives off a waft of spice, a little bit of ruddy earthiness mixed with the golden notes of olive oil. And when she lifts the lid, a sweet, starchy fragrance not unlike butternut squash fills the small kitchen. When Ayiwa turns the plantains out of the skillet and onto paper towels, the fruit has turned a deep orange-red, like pumpkin flesh, with small dark specks where it has browned in the skillet. The plantain is soft and a little chewy on the inside, and the spices have almost caramelized on the crispy outside. The sweetness of the fruit is tempered, almost as if Ayiwa has added lemon juice, though she hasn’t. It tastes like a sweet potato or a yam. “Yes,” she says. “Sweet yams.” As she fries the second batch, she says that Nigerians and Ivoirians cook plantains in the same way, but don’t use spices. And, she seems to say, what is kelewele without the spices? “I guess we invented kelewele,” she says with a grin. ■

a substitute for hot pepper (like jalapeño). “I’m a real African,” she says with a laugh, “but I don’t really like hot, hot spice.”

—Mary K. Zajac wrote about Binkert’s Meats and its homemade German sausages in the September issue.

ginger, garlic, and chili pepper—are generally readily available. “My African friends laugh,” she says, “because sometimes you can find bigger, fatter plantains here than in Africa!” To make the kelewele, Ayiwa cuts plantains into chunks and, for expediency’s sake, coats them with a mixture of dried ginger, onion and garlic powders (though fresh ingredients mixed in a blender can also be used), and paprika. The latter is

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baltimore observed

by anne haddad photography by sam holden

Celluloid City With two new films and more on the way, a local production company proves that Baltimore is ripe for moviemaking

A few Baltimore-born filmmakers have made the leap to motion pictures that score at the box office, making movies that even your grandparents might have seen. But are we going to call it a day with John Waters and Barry Levinson? Let’s hope not. The two talents most likely to join that club in the next few years are Steve Blair and William Whitehurst. Blair and Whitehurst had written a few scripts between them, and were hoping to sell them to companies in Hollywood. Instead, they joined forces in 2004 and helped each other film their own scripts. The result has been feature-length movies that are good enough to debut at major film festivals, and accessible enough to play at the multiplexes. They feature well-known actors who live in both worlds— indie and Hollywood. Now, Whitehurst and Blair are shopping their completed movies around to distributors, and they hope to soon have more scripts in the hopper.

Twenty-some years ago, Whitehurst was a Gilman School student who wanted to make movies, and Blair, who went to St. Paul’s School, was one of the few other kids Whitehurst knew who was also interested in film. They lost touch after graduation in 1986. Whitehurst moved to New York City for a time to act while Blair worked in local film and commercial production. Flash forward to 2001, when they happened to meet again at a screenwriting workshop at Johns Hopkins University. When the formal workshop ended, they and a few of the other writers continued to meet in a kind of screenwriters’ salon to critique each other’s work. After a series of script options and leads that went nowhere, Whitehurst and Blair started to think about producing their own movies here in Baltimore, eventually starting a production company called B’more Pictures in 2005. Whitehurst’s Mentor came first. The film stars internationally known actor Rutger Hauer, who plays the title character, a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and professor whose career has stagnated and who becomes involved in a tense triangle with his two favorite students. Mentor premiered at the

B’More than you can be: “Codfish King” Steve Blair lures movie stars to the area for just $100 per day.

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RE A LTO R


The actors of I Do & I Don’t, from left to right: Bryan Callen, Alexie Gilmore, Jane Lynch, and Matt Servitto

Tribeca Film Festival in New York last spring, then went on to show at the Maryland Film Festival in May and the Hamptons International Film Festival in October, and is currently in negotiations with domestic and international distributors. I Do & I Don’t, a comedy written and directed by Blair, who has written for Urbanite, was shot this summer and is currently in post-production. The movie is about an engaged couple who, as a prerequisite for marrying in the bride’s church, must complete a prenuptial crash course with a fortysomething couple. Actor Jane Lynch (The 40-YearOld Virgin, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby) costars with Matt Servitto (The Sopranos) as

the hilariously dysfunctional mentor couple, bitter and jaded after seventeen years of marriage. Grant Rosenmeyer (The Royal Tenenbaums) plays their 15-year-old son.

I love doing smaller movies because a lot of the time, those are the scripts that take chances. The film opens at the wedding, as the priest asks the young bride whether she takes this man to be her lawfully wedded husband. She answers with, “I do … and I don’t.” The groom, in voice-over,

then fills in the viewer through flashbacks about the month leading up to the wedding. For a chance to have a well-developed leading role in a quality script, a lot of big-name supporting actors would not only come to Baltimore, they’d come here for a fraction of what they’re paid in Hollywood. When it came time to pull together a cast and crew for I Do & I Don’t, Blair offered an egalitarian $100 per day for everyone, from the production assistant to the stars. They all accepted. “I had to call in some favors,” Blair says. “Some people had to choose between working on my film and another job that might have paid three, four, or five hundred a day.”


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A few days before shooting began in August, the actors arrived in town for a “table read.” They circled around a big table in an under-air-conditioned sixth-floor conference room in Charles Village. The mood was upbeat and casual. Servitto, in particular, was already making the lines his own, getting laughs from the eighteen actors and crew there. “I love doing smaller movies because a lot of the time, those are the scripts that take chances,” says Servitto. “I try to do one student film every year. I don’t get paid on those. But you never know who the next Spike Lee, the next Jim Jarmusch, or the next Ed Burns will be.” Lynch heard about the part after Blair’s casting director approached her agent. “This character has an arc and a journey she goes on,” she says. “I get to put a little more thought into it and map out the journey.” But not too much thought. Indie films have a certain appeal that is built into the necessary economy of it all. Talladega Nights was shot over three to four months, Lynch says. I Do & I Don’t was shot in twenty-three days, making for a pace and intensity that Lynch finds artistically satisfying. “Most of my friends are actors because they love the work. So we go where the work is good,” says Lynch. And the work is good here. For the last two years, Baltimore has made the list of top-ten cities for independent filmmakers in MovieMaker magazine. The Maryland Film Office now boasts more

than 650 union card-carrying film professionals living and working in the state. That doesn’t include the three thousand Screen Actors Guild members. Whitehurst and Blair, who used many of the same crewmembers on both films, draw on the experience of this large pool of talented professionals who have honed their skills working on the Hollywood blockbusters that come to town (think Die Hard with a Vengeance) and television series such as David Simon’s The Wire. Whitehurst and Blair, along with their producing partner, local businessman Jeff Eline, decided it was time to leverage these local commodities and start raising money locally. The team began working

Most of my friends are actors because they love the work. So we go where the work is good. with local arts supporters who have the means to create a mutual or venture capital fund that would allow investors to spread their risk over, say, four films, instead of one at a time. It’s a novel idea for Baltimore, but it recalls the very origins of the studio system in early Hollywood and the creation of United Artists. “Investing in a movie is a really risky proposition,” Whitehurst says. “So what Steve and Jeff Eline and I are looking to do is create a venture capital fund with a mission statement to make several

films. Every investor in the fund is a part owner of each film. So if we raise $10 million, we would make four films for $2.5 million. And if we end up with three bombs and one success, everyone could still do very well.” Blair envisions a way that even small investors with $1,000 can get involved, as with a mutual fund. “There’s plenty of money right here in this state,” Blair says. “We want to try to tap into those people. We have the talented crews here, we have incredible locations, and the [city and state] film offices are really helpful. All the elements are here except distribution.” Scott Carter, Blair’s assistant director on I Do & I Don’t, says those elements came together well with this film. “You just don’t find a script like this and a crew like this and a cast like this in a local production, working for next to nothing,” Carter says. “Steve has created so much good karma, and he’s such a professional, that he has been able to bring all of this talent to the project. I came to work every day with a director who knew exactly what he wanted.” And what these filmmakers want next is to grow B’more Pictures into a viable outlet for producing and distributing quality local films. “We’re all from here, so we take a lot of pride in the city,” says Whitehurst. “I’ve had more movement in my film career in Baltimore than I did in New York.” ■ —Anne Haddad is a cinephile and a regular contributor to Urbanite.

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encounter

by sheri j. booker

photography by mitro hood

Zippy’s Code One woman’s quest to show the hidden side of Baltimore

Above: Zippy Larson on one of her many tours, surrounded by Kimberly Sheridan’s mural, “Release from the Clinical”

Pouring rain threatens one of Zippy Larson’s infamous Baltimore tours, but no one flinches. Not Zippy, whose excitement kept her awake the night before. Not the thirty-eight seniors who registered for her tour months ago. Rain or shine, the group wants their money’s worth, and Zippy wants to guide them through “her” Baltimore. Zippy’s Baltimore is not limited to the usual tour hotspots, like the overexposed Inner Harbor. In fact, she purposely avoids those areas, opting to focus on hidden jewels like Gaines McHale antiques and home store and Greektown’s Ikaros Restaurant. With twenty years of nursing experience, a year in real estate, and a “how to” book in her repertoire, Zippy shows her groups what it takes to become one of Baltimore’s best tour guides. On the day of a recent tour, rain is coming down in droves. Zippy walks from her Fells Prospect residence to the corner where she waits to board the tour bus that is running a few minutes behind schedule. She does not carry an umbrella. Instead, her fashionable fedora with a pink flower attached is keeping her dry, along with a gold-trimmed trench coat and matching gold sneakers. In one hand she has a shiny purple cane given to her by one of her friends, and in the other a small tote. She boards the bus, whispers a few instructions to the driver, and then grabs the microphone to introduce herself. Without hesitation she begins to spill encyclopedia-worthy facts about the city that

she studies daily. Heads turn and look through the foggy bus windows at the three-story homes with eyebrow windows on Fleet Street. Zippy shows off her real estate skills as she explains the architectural structures of the overpriced homes in Fells Point, the property taxes for that area, and Johns Hopkins Medicine’s ongoing expansion on the east side of the city. After a quick breath she discusses the history of the three-story Baltimore homes built after the Civil War. Zippy is not just a tour guide; she is a historian who thrives on details. “Slow down, Tony,” she directs the bus driver, making sure that the passengers see everything she’s describing. In many ways, Zippy’s personal history contributes to the richness of her customized tours. Zippy has spent most of her years in Baltimore, but the two years she spent with her husband in Iran in the late seventies were life-changing. Surprised and impressed by the Iranians’ knowledge of politics and American history, Zippy decided she wanted to learn more on those subjects and immediately enrolled in a liberal arts program upon returning home. After two courses in Baltimore history at the University of Baltimore, Zippy found her muse. “How do I spend lots of time steeped in this?” she wondered to herself before vowing to become an expert in all things Baltimore. Zippy’s Iranian experience echoed in her mind throughout a ten-year independent course of study w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m d e c e m b e r 0 6

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November 12-December 4, 2006

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America. And it does.” It’s through Zippy’s gifts of negotiation and gab that she has been able to talk her way into businesses and even homes, like that of personal collector Philip Baty. After reading an article about Baty’s house in a local newspaper, she called the listed number and asked when she could come to visit his home. Although he doesn’t open his doors to the general public, Zippy convinced Baty to open them to her tours. Today, he allows Zippy to bring her tour groups to view his collection of ephemera and stunning replicas of jewelry worn by the Duchess of Windsor, who happened to live three doors down from his Mount Vernon home. Visitors are also welcome to view his other artifacts, including a piano once played by ragtime pioneer Eubie Blake and the intriguing, almost frightening, mural painted by Kimberly Sheridan, called “Release from the Clinical,” which covers his entire bathroom wall with colorful killer dragons and other violently bizarre images. Zippy’s success in several different fields is attributable to her lifelong roles as student and teacher. Her relentless curiosity and understanding of people allow her to create exceptional customized tours. “I’m the Hong Kong tailor,” she says, describing her commitment to meeting her tour groups’ individual needs. With skill and enthusiasm, Zippy makes her tours a perfect fit. ■

Zippy leads her tours through the home of collector Philip Baty.

for another reason as well: It was in Iran that she had learned the important art of negotiation. While there, she wanted to buy a ring from a jeweler averse to lowering his prices. She and her husband left the jeweler’s store without the piece that she desperately wanted, but a few minutes later the jeweler sent someone to bring her back for negotiations. She returned, exchanged a few words with the jeweler,

and he again offered the same price. Zippy was still unwilling to pay that price. The jeweler then invited Zippy and her husband into the back room where he made tea and had her sit and talk with his mother. After a few hours of socializing, the jeweler dropped his price. It was then that Zippy realized negotiating was not just about money, but giving attention, time, and energy. “I wondered if that would work in

To schedule a custom tour with Zippy Larson, visit www.zippytours.com.

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With sophisticated good taste. Features unique & original . Designer fashions & accessories. Whimsical folk art & decorative home furnishings. All for giving or keeping. Again presents the design classic . 410-323-2350

â&#x20AC;&#x153;Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s no other shopping place quite like it!â&#x20AC;? The finest in American & European clothing and accessories for children. Voted one of the Top Ten Childrenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Shops in the country by Child Magazine and Best Childrenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Store 2005 by Baltimore Magazine. 410-435-2676

Fine contemporary womenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s sportswear, career wear and dressy separates ... with a fun and fabulous selection of cutting-edge accessories and jewelry to personalize and complete your look. 410-532-9645

Largest selection of antique, estate, and one-of-a-kind jewelry. We purchase and consign, custom design and repair. John Rinker Master Jeweler on site. www.heirloomjewels.com 410-323-0100

Women's specialty stores provide the most discerning customers with recognition as individuals-- offering high quality customer service as well as unique and luxurious products. The results are a very special shopping experience. Harper's Bazaar is proud to recognize RUTH SHAW as a STYLE LEADER.

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Womenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s speciality store provides the most discerning customers with recognition as individualsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;offering high quality customer service as well as unique and luxurious products. The results are a very special shopping experience. Harperâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Bazaar is proud to recognize RUTH SHAW as a STYLE LEADER. 410-532-7886


Chezelle specializes in womenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s sizes 14â&#x20AC;&#x201C;24 and carries designer art-to-wear and upscale sportswear collections. Knowledgeable and friendly staff make your shopping experience fun and effortless. 410-532-6442

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A full-service hair salon specializing in color, cutting, and styling, as well as facial treatments, waxing, nail care, and makeovers. Styling for wedding parties, large and small. Complete wedding packages available. 410-435-9400 Under New Ownership

Join us for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or cocktails. The home of the â&#x20AC;&#x153;power breakfastâ&#x20AC;? is also a comfortable stop while power-shopping in the Village! www.radisson.com/baltimoremd 410-532-6900

George Howard Ltd. features fine menâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s clothing and sportswear from the worldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s foremost designers. Selected to Esquire Magazineâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Best Of Class A-List for 10 consecutive years. 410-532-3535

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Donnaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Coffee Bar & CafĂŠ, Crossroads Restaurant, and Truffles & Tea offer a delicious selection of dining fare for lunch,fare dinner & in between. Enjoy Cross Keys offers abreakfast, selection of dining for breakfast, lunch, dinner... and in between â&#x20AC;&#x201D; COMPLIMENTARY DONNAâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S COFFEE in du theJour courtyard ... DonnaĘźs Coffee Bar & CafĂŠ, Crossroads Restaurant, TrufďŹ&#x201A;es & Tea, and Crepe (seasonally). Every Saturday in December while you shop (11 amâ&#x20AC;&#x201C;3 pm) Outdoor seating is available for al fresco dining. 410-323-1000 410-323-1000

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urbanite december 06


space

by alice ockleshaw photography by nancy froehlich

Life Imitating Art How a former officefurniture warehouse turned arts space is transforming a neighborhood

Above: A group of Load of Fun’s resident artists outside the building, with owner Sherwin Mark (sixth from left, in gray shirt)

Last May, on the 100 block of West North Avenue, Baltimore performance arts group Fluid Movement gathered more than twenty-five adults on the sidewalk outside of its studio at the Load of Fun Studios and Galerie for a hula hooping fundraiser. Local children stood watching, and buses slowed to a near stop as drivers shouted words of encouragement. “It felt like guerilla performance art,” says Trixie Little, a burlesque dancer and one of the event’s organizers, “but it was just hula hooping.” Despite its modest objectives, the four-hour fundraiser for Fluid Movement’s upcoming water ballet represented the new energy and quirky vibrancy that is now associated with Load of Fun’s community of artists. A year after moving into new studio spaces in the 24,000-square-foot former office-furniture warehouse, the group of twenty-four eclectic visual and performing artists are infusing life into a long-neglected stretch of the city’s Midtown neighborhood. “In the artistic community, I just think there is power in numbers,” says Little, “and when artists gather together, wonderful things happen.” Its name (a few cleverly selected letters from the sign of the prior owner, Lombard Office Furniture) notwithstanding, Load of Fun is more than just fun and games. Since owner and manager Sher-

win Mark began renting his building to artists in November 2005, he has earned a reputation within the local development community for creating a viable and replicable model of neighborhood renewal. By offering raw, affordable work space to artists, Mark, also an artist, has struck a rare combination of financial feasibility and community presence that is helping to transform the neighborhood. “What Sherwin has done is create a terrific model of how other people who have large spaces can be helpful to the artists and create activity around the building without spending a lot of money,” says Will Backstrom, who, as vice president for Community Reinvestment Act lending at Bradford Bank, provides real estate and development advice for people interested in investing in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District (the statedesignated, arts-based incentive zone in which Load of Fun resides). Perhaps no one is more pleasantly surprised by the role the building has come to play in the area than Mark himself, who attributes the success to a seeming stroke of bad luck. After falling in love with the three-story building in 2004, he purchased it one year later. “It was at a point in my life where I decided I had to do this for my own personal well-being,” he says. “Not for gobs of money, but just because I w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m d e c e m b e r 0 6

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—Alice Ockleshaw writes regularly about architecture and design.

Counter clockwise from top left: Bart O’Reilly, Renee Tantillo, Spoon Popkin, Stephanie Czyryca and Connie Wheeler, J. Gavin Heck, Jesse Berger, and Gloria Mack

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urbanite december 06

illustration by Warren Linn

knew it was going to work.” His intent was to transform the building into approximately eight live/work units. When he applied for the state historic tax credit he needed to finance the rehab, however, he was turned down. “Suddenly, I was stuck with a building I’d have for a full year before I could re-apply for the tax credit,” says Mark, a native South African who teaches photography at the Maryland Institute College of Art. He did some light construction, such as erecting walls and improving safety and ADA compliance, and then posted advertisements for no-frills, lowrent studio space at MICA and on artists’ websites. “People started flocking in,” says Mark, who fully leased the building in two months. The building itself was a draw for many of the artists, who include found-art artist Spoon Popkin and painter Jerry Prettyman, who operates his gallery in his rented space. The early 1900s automobile showroom offers a functioning car-size freight elevator and loading docks that provide easy movement of supplies, high ceilings and large windows for good ventilation and natural light, and the original car showroom that now functions as a gallery. “Load of Fun has this fresh-start feeling, like anything can happen, it can go anywhere—a feeling that was harder to find among other studios around town,” says sculptor Jesse Berger, who commutes to his studio from Washington, D.C. Since its opening, Load of Fun has hosted a variety of workshops and events such as ALTscape, a festival that coincided with the city’s Artscape, and it routinely provides meeting space for organizations such as Poetry in Baltimore and Showroom, an experimental music and performance group. “The building is full of so many fun, interesting people,” says Little, who rents a 2,000-square-foot space complete with a trapeze. “I love how every time I go there, there is some new art on the walls, installation, building project, band playing, poetry reading, or bizarre impromptu fashion show. It’s a totally inspiring creative environment.” So much so that it’s inspiring change even outside of its walls. MICA has recently located some of its graduate studios in a building across the street from Load of Fun, and other local businesses are beginning to buy property in the area. As the neighborhood grows, the market for live/work space will likely grow, and Mark and his building stand to benefit from his early investment, says Charlie Duff, executive director of the Midtown Development Corporation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reviving the area. “It is here that Sherwin’s genius shows itself,” Duff says. “Everything that he has done to Load of Fun now will have value when the use of the building changes. The building has ecological succession built into it.” For now, Mark is sticking with his current plan: provide artist space and in turn, change the neighborhood. “It has a dynamic,” he says. “I could go and get a tax credit and make condos and it wouldn’t change the neighborhood. But this does.” ■


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urbanite december 06


baltimore unwrapped BY CHARISSE NICHOLS

P H O T O G R A P H Y B Y J A S O N O K U TA K E

From accomplished local artisans to mom-and-pop shops stocked with distinctive wares, Baltimore is a treasure trove of unique gift options. Urbanite gets you started with twenty-one picks for everyone on your holiday list. w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m d e c e m b e r 0 6

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Slang Flashcards Sideshow, the gift shop at the American Visionary Art Museum, is packed with quirky, fun items that should satisfy the hard-to-buy-for, like teenagers. Try the Slang Flashcards, which contain words like “wanksta” (a person with no street cred, or a “wack gangster”). $14 (there’s no admission fee to go only to the gift shop); 800 Key Highway; 443-872-4926; www.avam.org.

wine rack

Known for their jewelry and apparel, The Store LTD carries many local designers. They also carry home decor, like this elegant wine rack. Made from two tones of bent wood, the curving design is compact and stylish. $95; Village of Cross Keys; 24 Village Square; 410-323-2350.

jewelry

For handcrafted, one-of-a-kind jewelry, check out Gina Tackett’s silver, gold, and platinum designs. Tackett’s pieces are sold locally at Mud and Metal in Hampden and Zoe’s Garden in Fells Point; you can also contact the designer to inquire about custom designs. Cuff, $425; tribal choker, $580; 410-235-7784; atokad77@msn.com.

Letter p res s Des i gn

The art of the handwritten letter is back and Gilah Press and Design, owned by Kat Feurerstein, offers original letterpress designs. Pre-made cards for many occasions are available for $4 a piece, or you can create personalized note cards or flat stationery for the wordsmith on your list. Custom design starts at $350, and includes 100 each of the card and the envelope. 3506 Ash Street; 410-746-9059; www.gilahpress.com.

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urbanite december 06


Handcraf ted Lamp

After a trip to India in 2001, Maggie Ball and Larry Fask decided to share the art and culture of the country with their Baltimore neighbors. Spirit India Boutique and Gallery specializes in “Indo chic” and carries unique items like this lamp handcrafted from rocks from the foothills of the Himalayas. Various sizes, $24–$44; 208 Main Street; 410-5268080; www.spiritindiaboutique.com.

Tattoo

If a friend has been waffling about getting a tattoo, push him or her over the edge with a gift certificate from Read Street Tattoo Parlor. Owner Seth Ciferri recommends that gift certificates be large enough to cover the cost of an average-size tattoo. And if the recipient gets cold feet, no worries—the gift is transferable, so you can use it to decorate your own skin. $50 minimum; 882 Park Avenue; 410-523-4657; www. readstreettattoo.com.

Aper iti f G l assware

For the person on your list who likes vintage, try Retropolitan. Owner Cindi Ryland fills her Ellicott City shop with reasonably priced yet refined apparel and home items, like an original print Gucci scarf or a set of six aperitif glasses ($85). 8006 Main Street; 410-461-0701; www.retropolitan.net.

gift basket

Every year, Bin 604 designs gift baskets that range in price and content. It’s hard to go wrong with “The Duet” ($79), pictured here, which features a bottle each of Pazo Red and Pazo White, along with olives, gourmet cheese, crackers, and a wine key. Other arrangements are designed for the martini-lover (the “Merritini” for $139/$99) and the man’s man (the “He-Man,” at $299, includes a magnum of wine, sausages, and copies of the 2006 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and Cigar Aficionado). 604 South Exeter Street; 410-576-0444; www.bin604.com.

handbag

Handbags are always in style and doubledutch boutique in Hampden carries a wide range, like this $98.95 clutch, made from skateboard decks and satin, by New York designer Beck(y). For extra holiday savings, shop during their monthly happy hour on the first Friday of December and receive ten percent off everything in the store, including stylish dresses and sweaters. 3616 Falls Road; 410-554-0055; www.doubledutch boutique.com. w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m d e c e m b e r 0 6

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C a r Was h

With snow comes salt, which can wreak havoc on a car’s underbelly. A gift certificate to WashWorks will have any auto-owner heaving a sigh of relief. The crew is well known across the city for friendly service, and they will wax and buff the recipient’s car to perfection. Gift certificates are available in a variety of increments, ranging from $9.95 to $164.95. 2030 North Howard Street; 410-837-9274; www.washworksonline.com.

Books

There’s nothing like a good book, especially when it sells at overstock prices. Daedalus Books & Music also carries CDs, magazines, and DVDs in a wide range of genres. You can find staples like Joy of Cooking as well as books from local writers, books on tape, and NPR music compilations. 5911 York Road; 410-464-2701; www.daedalusbooks.com.

Knitting Classes

Knitting is a great cold-weather activity, but it can be mystifying to newbies. A Good Yarn’s owner Lorraine Gaudet makes learning fun. She offers instruction in her store, and a package of four beginners’ classes costs $85 and includes all materials. For the experienced knitter or crocheter, you can pick up some skeins of colorful yarn. 1738 Aliceanna Street; 410-327-3884; www.agoodyarn.com.

Trip to the Spa

An About Faces Day Spa and Salon gift certificate is perfect for the person who needs a break. A new location opened this fall in the city at Canton Crossing, to bring the number of Baltimore-area locations to four. Services range from manicures to fullday spa getaways, with gift certificates starting at $50. 1501 South Clinton Street, third floor; 410-675-0099; www.aboutfacesdayspa.com.

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urbanite december 06


Italian Delicacies

In a tiny rowhouse in Little Italy, Il Scalino is filled to the brim with exceptional Italian delicacies. From their vat of imported olive oil (the deli periodically rotates oil from various regions in Italy) to the tidy packets of Miscela d’Oro coffee, the knowledgeable staff can help you fill a gift basket for a complete Italian meal (and while you’re there, you can pick up prepared foods from their deli for your own holiday feast). This set of Goccia Umbra brand extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar is $19.99. 313 South High Street; 410-547-7900; www.ilscalino.com.

men’s t-shirts

Gentei is a men’s boutique that carries rare sneakers, apparel, and limitededition toys—the perfect spot to shop for the skater or hip young man. This season, Stüssy tees like this one make a comeback. $25–$45; 1010 Morton Street; 410-244-8961; www.shopgentei.com.

MUSIC

For the discriminating music lover, head to An Die Musik, where owner Henry Wong and his staff can help you choose from their wide selection of classical, jazz, and world music. The boutique music store, which also has a performance space on site for live concerts, is stocking extra Ella Fitzgerald, Diana Krall, and Renée Fleming for the holidays. $16.99–$18.99. 409 North Charles Street; 410-385-2638; www.andiemusiklive.com.

birthday kit

Pretentious Pooch is a fun place to pick up something for the cat or dog fanatic. Try the Birthday Kit ($19), which includes a scarf, four party hats, four invitations, four paw-print-shaped balloons, and one bone-shaped candle. Or pick up a dog-friendly cake in either banana carob chip or apple spice ($16). 1017 Cathedral Street; 443-524-7777; www. pretentiouspooch.com.

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NEW FLOOR PLANS WITH SUN ROOMS, DINING ROOMS, DECKS AND PATIOS JUST RELEASED!

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Legos

The folks at family-owned Shananigans Specialty Toy Shop are saying that Lego is tops again, especially the Star Wars sets. If you’re buying for a Luke or Leia fan, grab Jabba’s Sail Barge; if the recipient likes the dark side, try The Imperial Star Destroyer, which includes Darth Vader and Storm Troopers. $74.99–$99.99; 5004 Lawndale Avenue, Suite B; 410-532-8384.

Custom Corsets

For an extravagant, personalized gift, consider custom corsets by Jill Andrews Taylor. An experienced draper and costumer at Center Stage, Taylor crafts corsets to match the wearer’s taste, and she’ll give you a gift certificate for the service so your loved one has something to open. $450–$600; 410-662-6838; www.jillandrewsgowns.com.

Natty Boh Gear

The one-eyed wonder has taken over the skyline of Baltimore and made a triumphant return as our favorite beer icon. What better way to celebrate than with your own Natty Boh accessories? An ice bucket, emblazoned with Mr. Boh, comes filled with coasters, two pint glasses, and a bottle opener, so you can party Baltimore-style anytime. $34.99; Natty Boh Gear; 1624 Thames Street; 410-296-4327; www.nattybohgear.com.

Paintings

Longtime friends Kacey Stafford and Carmen Brock always dreamed of opening a store together, and in October, with their husbands, Scott and Ben, as co-owners, that dream came true. Red Tree stocks everything from soy candles to dining room tables, but the holiday steal has to be the paintings by Baltimore visionary artist Shawn Theron. Painted on reclaimed wood, these colorful works of original art sell for as little as $30. 921 West 36th Street; 410-493-0670; www. redtreebaltimore.com.

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the road

to

Rhythm& Blues

ON A CROSS-COUNTRY JOURNEY, A MUSIC LOVER DISCOVERS HOW BALTIMORE’S SONNY TIL AND THE ORIOLES

HELPED SET THE COURSE FOR ROCK AND ROLL. SO WHY DO SO FEW REMEMBER THEIR NAME?

collage courtesy of Diz and Mildred Russell

BY ROBBIE WHELAN

It was a hard drive from Oklahoma to Tennessee—flat and dry and full of strip malls. We finally pulled off the road in West Memphis, Arkansas, one of those dieselsmelling towns attached like tumors to the sides of bigger cities, their only attraction the free HBO in the motel. We checked into the Relax Inn, and set out to explore the Land of the Delta Blues. A high-school buddy and I were halfway through a cross-country journey this past summer. It turned out to be a quest very much about music, with a soundtrack to suit each locale. We pumped Los Super 7 on the car stereo through the saffroncolored southwest, Da Backwudz in the Dirty South, and some Gillian Welch Southern gothic along the road to Rowan Oak, William Faulkner’s former home in Oxford, Mississippi. On the way into Memphis the next morning, something in the air said “soul,” so we popped Otis Redding, Eddie Floyd, and The Astors into the CD changer and headed for town. Later that day, we walked out of Graceland thoroughly bored with the plastic product that Elvis has become, and asked where we could get some barbecue. That’s how we discovered Soulsville, USA, and the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. Inside the museum were exhibits highlighting the late 1950s and early 1960s, when Isaac Hayes cruised Memphis in his gold-plated Cadillac, when Steve Cropper, the guitar player from Booker T. and the MGs, cowrote “Knock on Wood” and “In the Midnight Hour” late-night over whiskey in the same hotel where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot. Drifting through the museum, one small photo caught my eye. Tucked in the corner, in the middle of a display about the R&B clubs on Beale Street, was a picture of a band called Sonny Til and The Orioles, performing to a crowd of swooning young ladies. The caption said they were from Baltimore, and the rapt faces of the audience suggested that they were superstars. That tiny photograph spurred a new journey for me, back to 1940s Baltimore and the boys who launched what became the doo-wop sound. It would lead me to the oldest surviving member of The Orioles, who talked about coming of age when the R&B acts on West Baltimore’s Pennsylvania

Avenue spilled onto the corners every Saturday night at closing time, when a gritty form of pop-blues was making its way onto the charts, giving birth to rock and roll. Sonny Til and The Orioles, I soon discovered, are considered pioneers of rhythm and blues. So why, sixty years after their singles topped the charts, are they so largely forgotten?

Sonny Til was born Earlington Carl Tilghman in Baltimore in 1925 and started singing at amateur shows at West Baltimore’s Avenue Cafe in the late 1940s. Til executed the new sound of the day, what was called “vocal group music,” a precursor to doo-wop, R&B, and soul that sprang out of the a capella tradition of gospel quartetsinging in black Baptist churches. These groups sang a three- or four-part harmony behind the crooning of a charismatic lead singer. Opinions differ on whether Til was actually the most talented singer around, but one thing is certain: Sonny Til was an electric performer. At the Avenue Cafe, Til found other talented guys to back his strong vocals: bass player (and bass vocalist) Johnny Reed, baritone George Nelson, tenor Alexander Sharp, and guitarist Tommy Gaither. In 1948, Til rounded up this crew and formed a group called the Vibranaires. Deborah Chessler, a local salesgirl and songwriter, became the Vibranaires’ manager, and in April of 1948 she got them a big break singing on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts, a New York-based variety show that was a huge success. Contestants who appeared on the applause-meter show included Patsy Cline and Tony Bennett (while then-unknowns Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley didn’t make the cut). Bursting with confidence, the group recorded a few demos over the next three months, which Chessler took to New York and used to get them a deal with the newly formed record label It’s A Natural (later just “Natural”). In July they recorded six songs in their first studio session, including their first No. 1 R&B chart single, the Chessler-penned “It’s Too Soon to Know,” a w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m d e c e m b e r 0 6

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“The biggest vocal group was The Ink Spots, and The Mills Brothers were popular too, but they had more of a white audience,” says Marv Goldberg, a writer and historian of early rock and roll who interviewed The Orioles for his “R&B Notebook” article series published in 1999. “Sonny Til and The Orioles were different. Til was very handsome. By all accounts, when he got on stage he made love to the microphone, and the girls would just go wild.” “It’s Too Soon to Know” hit No. 13 on the pop charts and was a “race record” that earned a significant white audience. It set off a five-year string of hits that peppered the top of the R&B charts and more than once crossed over to the pop charts, carrying The Orioles through national tours, building a huge fan base, and leading to them being honored at Harlem’s famous Apollo Theater in 1950. “I think it was time for the less-polished sound,” Goldberg continues. “Everyone was singing in the same mold. The Orioles weren’t singing black pop music; they were doing something new.” According to Goldberg, a lot of the singers in early black pop groups had studied music in college, and it came through in their sound. Sonny Til and The Orioles sang more laid-back R&B. Listening to their old records now, it’s hard to imagine their sound ever seeming “new”—it’s all doo-wop syllables and familiar pop harmonies undulating under Til’s strident, tenor solo voice, like dozens of familiar oldies groups from The Skyliners to The Temptations—but when you listen to it alongside a group like The Ink Spots, the difference is stark. Sonny Til had unvarnished soul. More bird-named groups followed. After The Orioles, the two biggest vocal groups in Baltimore were The Cardinals and The Swallows. As vocalgroup harmony evolved and by the late fifties came to be called doo-wop, dozens of groups like The Penguins, The Cleftones, and The 5 Royales took cues from The Orioles, and traces of Sonny Til’s influence can be heard even further down the line in the music of The Drifters, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, and other early soul stars. Late in 1950, Gaither, Nelson, and Reed crashed one of the group’s touring cars into a diner on the side of the road in Essex. Gaither was continued on page 85

s photo

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romantic ballad that Til crooned with starry-eyed passion. Before they began recording, they made a last-minute name change. In honor of Maryland’s state bird, the Vibranaires were now The Orioles (sometimes billed as “Sonny Til and The Orioles”). “It’s Too Soon to Know” had an impact like a slap in the face. Never before had a pop group sung a love song so directly and honestly. Sonny Til’s main influences, Nat King Cole, The Ink Spots, and The Mills Brothers, performed polished, dreamily orchestrated jazz ballads in which sentiments of pain, love, or loss were rather sanitized. Til, on the other hand, sang the part of the doubting, suspicious lover—“Is she foolin’? / Is it all a game? / Am I the fire or just another flame?”—with a passion that matched his words. But at the same time, his delivery was conversational, informal, with nothing of the neat polish of his predecessors, and no one had ever heard that before. The earthy street-corner sound of the city—what was still classified in Truman’s postwar America as “race” music, with its challenge to uptown politeness—was coming to the mainstream and The Orioles were cutting-edge. One has to put one’s self in the shoes of a pop fan at the dawn of the 1950s to understand aurally why Sonny Til and The Orioles were so important.

The Sonny Til Mix Tape Nat King Cole “Honeysuckle Rose” Sonny Til idolized this controversial and massive pop star, whose career spanned the swing, doo-wop, and early rock and roll eras. Til’s voice didn’t actually sound a lot like Cole’s, but you can hear him imitating the earlier singer’s inflection, especially on dramatic, easy-on-the-ears ballads like this one. The Ink Spots “Java Jive” Although they were a black group, The Ink Spots catered mainly to a white record-buying audience, and it’s easy to see why. Pleasant and toe-tapping though it is, there’s nothing at all threatening or even challenging about this 1940 song, not even when the whitest group of all time, The Manhattan Transfer, covered it thirty-five years later. The Ravens “Count Every Star” This Harlem “bird group” may have pre-dated The Orioles, but they didn’t have nearly the appeal of Sonny Til’s boys. What they lack in charisma, however, they make up in starry-eyed crooning and elegant, perfect harmony. The Orioles “It’s Too Soon to Know” Their 1948 breakthrough hit, this record no longer sounds all that revolutionary, but former Rolling Stone editor and musicologist Greil Marcus likens its impact upon its release to Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” in that no one had heard anything like it before. Listen to how the singers are in complete control of the emotional tone

Left: Taken in 1981, this photo shows Sonny Til’s last performance before his death. Til is seated on the left; Billy Taylor, Diz Russell, and Gerald Holeman, from left to right, sing in front of the band. Right: Gerald Holeman, Billy Adams, Frank Todd, Stoney Williams, Sonny Til, and Diz Russell (from left to right) in 1957, dressed for their performance “Call of the Wild”

of the song, almost completely independent of the sparse instrumental accompaniment. Also, note Sonny Til’s earnest wail as he let’s the final syllables of “Though I’ll cry when she’s gone / I won’t die ...” fade away in the back of his throat. The Orioles “I Cover the Waterfront” This song is a perfect example of why rock and roll is rock and roll and not just pop. It’s a bluesy, brooding, gritty number that shares nothing of the dream-like impotence of many of Nat King Cole’s sterile swing-band arrangements. The Orioles “I May Be Wrong” And here is The Orioles’ pop side—a swinging, upbeat dance tune that isn’t the “Negro racket” that scandalized white parents in the 1940s and 1950s, but sounds like something more than just ballroom fodder. The Orioles “Crying in the Chapel” Covered by Elvis Presley, among other people, this is The Orioles’ biggest late-period hit, recorded after their tragic car accident but before Diz Russell joined the group. It’s slow, melodramatic, and beautiful. The Orioles “Hold Me! Squeeze Me!” This is my favorite Orioles song, and something of a guilty pleasure. I’m a sucker for good one-liners and blatant innuendo, which is just what the first line of the opening

verse (“Some like whiskey, some like gin / some like a woman that is tall and thin”) and Sonny’s promise to make his girl “holler ‘Daddy, don’t stop!’” provide. The Drifters “Money Honey” If The Orioles truly did get buried by the success of other groups, then this is one of the records on top of the mound. Lead singer Clyde McPhatter, the new vocal-group golden boy, belted out his throaty-voweled tenor until this song was the biggest R&B hit of 1953. The Coasters “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” They may be known mostly for “Yakkety Yak,” but The Coasters are one of the most successful groups to ride The Orioles’ direct wake. Started in 1949 in Los Angeles as The Robins, this bird group outgrew their original record label in 1955 with this smash hit, and went on to be one of the best-selling groups of the 1950s. Sam Cooke “You Send Me” It’s tempting to think that if The Orioles and other similar artists hadn’t been on the radio in the late forties and early fifties, Sam Cooke would never have made his transition from gospel to pop with this ground-breaking 1957 single, after which there was no chance of the Chicagoan “Father of Soul Music” turning back. —Robbie Whelan w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m d e c e m b e r 0 6

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memoir

Drinks with the Warden B y

M

J a s o n

T i n n e y

y 1910 farmhouse has a fire-engine-red woodstove with a glass-plated door so you can sit and watch the flames. When I moved in three years ago, my father and I became neighbors of sorts; he lives just a short drive up the road. That first December, as autumn moved into winter, my father did a very neighborly thing: He offered to bring over some firewood. With his truck unloaded and Merle Haggard’s Goin’ Home for Christmas playing on the stereo, we stacked the wood in the space behind the stove. “This is great,” he said. “I’d stack as much as I could back here. That way it will season.” My father can be intimidating, laconic. He looks like a boxer—stout and well built, shaved head, tan, tattoos, grayish-brown goatee, and sharp hazel eyes. He looks like someone who can handle himself in a brawl. But that night, standing before a well-organized supply of wood, he looked like a man who was happy to be where he was. “Well, let’s fire it up,” he said. I lit the stove, poured a couple bourbons, and grabbed two Pabst Blue Ribbons from the fridge. After all, it was the holiday season. “Pabst Blue Ribbon?” he said. “I haven’t seen this since I was a kid.” Maybe that’s how it all started. He sat in a chair by the stove, rocking gently back and forth, watching the flames chew into the wood, listening to the wood crack, sipping his bourbon. As the room filled with that wonderful smoky smell, he told me of his days as warden at the Maryland Penitentiary. These were stories I’d never heard before. “There was an inmate there,” he began, “a drag queen who was partial to blue chiffon scarves—they called him Kitty Jones.” He paused, and then continued. “Some Christmas lights that I’d authorized putting on Christmas trees in the dining room had all been stolen.”

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The lights were recovered, and a correctional officer came to my father to report the news. As my father told it, the conversation went something like this: “Warden, you know where we found some of those lights?’” “No, where?” “Kitty’s cell.” “Really?” “You think that’s good? One time we found an aquarium in there.” “How can that be? How did an aquarium get in here?” “Like everything else, Warden—through the front door.” My father leaned back and laughed. “That’s one of the greatest lines of all time,” he said. “Through the front door!” He wasn’t sure if the aquarium story was true, but “if it could be had, Kitty had it. Kitty Jones was the Mae West of the west wing.” For forty years my father has worked in the field of corrections. His last twenty-three have been in the private sector, managing health care programs in correctional facilities throughout the country. But in the 1970s and early 1980s, he was assistant warden of treatment at the state penitentiary in Baltimore. In 1977, at just 28 years old, he was the youngest assistant warden ever appointed in Maryland in what is now the oldest operating prison in the United States (opened in 1811). As the assistant warden of treatment, he was responsible for education, medical, religious, and counseling programs. He worked in tandem with the assistant warden of custody, but treatment and custody didn’t always see eye to eye. “The institution,” he said, “is divided into security and rehabilitation. Can you achieve corrections in the punitive environment? That’s the philosophical rub. Corrections serves two masters: It serves the need to protect the public from a bad guy, and it serves the need to make people better so they don’t do it again. Treatment and custody: Those two aren’t compatible all the time.” He leaned forward. “I’m 28 years old, and I’m going into the Big House, so to speak, and I’m going in there to change the world. I was as green as grass. Constant head-butting. The treatment warden was treated like a second-class citizen; all these hard, old-line veteran security guys were always trying to take me to school. So it made for interesting dynamics.” He paused. After setting his glass next to the stove, he opened the small door and pushed and prodded the burning logs with the poker, sending fireflies of amber into the chimney, and shut the door. “What occurs inside a prison everyday has more to do with man’s inhumanity to man. You’re talking about human beings incarcerating other human beings. In spite of what the government puts around—you know, ‘this is our philosophy’—you’ve still got Joe Blow correctional officer, who may be in a lousy marriage, who may be up to his ears in debt or have eighty-seven different pressures on him, coming into contact every day with some convicted felon who’s mean and angry. I don’t care what policies you have—or what your philosophy is. If you put real people who have real issues in that pressure cooker, down there where the rubber meets the road, there’s potential for bad things to happen.” He looked into his glass. The ice had melted. “You want another one?” I asked. “Yeah. Can I get some more ice?” In the kitchen, I filled the glasses and realized I was in new territory with my father—a man I’d known for more than thirty years, a man I sometimes didn’t understand. When I returned to the living room, I feared he’d be ready to talk about something else, something more conversational, something that carried less weight like, “What do you want for Christmas? Is there anything you need?” “How’d you get into all of this?” I asked, handing him his refill.

He sighed and looked up at the ceiling and then into the fire, as if the answer might be there. His closed his eyes. Perhaps there was a glint of doubt as to why. But he took a drink and began to talk. “The climate of the day,” he said. “You had the Kennedys and Martin Luther King—that whole social, political movement that existed back in the sixties. A lot of people wanting to do something good for other people. I guess there was a part of me that got caught up in that.” He had graduated from the University of Maryland in 1971 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology with an emphasis in criminology and criminal justice. As a student, he had been employed as a caseworker with the Prisoners Aid Association of Maryland, a Baltimore-based nonprofit organization that assisted convicts and ex-convicts, as well as their families, with any number of problems, from housing to employment. From 1967 to 1969, he had been assigned as a caseworker to the Maryland Penitentiary and the Baltimore City Jail. He glanced at me and smiled. “You don’t know what you don’t know until you get into something,” he said of his student days as a caseworker. “I felt like I was doing good things. It was exciting. In retrospect, I realize how dangerous it was, and probably how ill-prepared I was to deal with some things.” While working with the Prisoners Aid Association, he came across the case of a book salesman from Baltimore who’d traveled to California on business and had gotten into a dispute over a hotel bill. He was arrested and charged with “defrauding an innkeeper.” The book salesman also happened to have bipolar disorder and was sent to a correctional facility for inmates with mental illness. “So this middle-class professional guy from Baltimore finds himself in this spiraling nightmare. He goes out on a business trip, and the next thing he knows he’s in a jailhouse in California, and while he’s there, he gets into some beef with another inmate, and this other inmate runs a broom handle through his eye. “The family comes to the Prisoners Aid Association. I write the governor of California, who at the time was Ronald Reagan. I laid out what had occurred—that this guy had no prior criminal record in Maryland, he had a mental health issue, and the circumstances that led him to be incarcerated in California. We indicated that we were working with the family and would assist in any way we could if the governor would see fit to give him clemency, and let him come home where we would supervise him. Long story short, he was released and came back to Maryland. I was inundated with free books from this man for years after that happened.” A log snapped in the stove, and together we watched as a fresh set of flames sprung to life and danced around the burning wood. “It was so weird,” he said, softly, “that some rookie, some college kid, could write a letter to the governor of California and get a Maryland citizen released.” When I was 8 years old, my father took me to the prison for the first time. As we walked along the perimeter, beside the steel fences wrapped with razor ribbon, I could hear the inmates shouting from their small cell windows. My father stopped, turned to me, and said very calmly, “They’re not yelling at you. They’re yelling at me.” At that moment, I knew exactly where I stood with my father. Decades later, as we sat in front of the woodstove, I had a similar feeling. He swirled his drink, and shook his head. “You know,” he said, “I hadn’t thought about that stuff for years.” Maybe it had something to do with two guys stacking wood, drinking bourbon, and listening to Merle Haggard. Or maybe it was the Christmas lights hanging on the front porch that had made my father think of Kitty Jones. ■ —Jason Tinney is a regular contributor to Urbanite. He wrote about Adam Fassbender and his car in the November issue.

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Botani . Fresh botanical goods. From funky cut flowers, plants, and herbs to all-natural candles, soaps, aromatherapy, and eco-friendly stationery. Come in, make an arrangement, and cut your own soap!! 846 W. 36th Street • 410-889-4025 • flowers@botani846.com

breathe books.

From Chakras to Shamans, Angels to Aromatherapy, and Music to Meditation, we offer eclectic and meaningful gifts. Join us on December 25 from 1 pm to 5 pm for our annual gathering of people from all traditions. Open daily. See www.breathebooks.com for details.

810 W. 36th Street • 410-235-READ

Chellé Paperie.

Fine paper products and custom stationery design. At Chellé Paperie, we give paper personality. Sparkling personality. Your personality. From invitations to announcements to holiday cards, we invite you to indulge in self expression.

851 W. 36th Street • 410-366-6333

Dogwood Deli. Delicious, sustainable cuisine with a local and seasonal focus. Includes smoothie and juice bar, artisanal sandwiches, locally made ice cream, and “gourmet to go” meals. coming soon . . .

moder n lines & indie designs apparel & accessories

dou b ledutch BOUTIQUE

911 W. 36th Street • 410-889-0952 • www.dogwooddeli.com

doubledutch boutique.

Modern lines and indie designs, showcasing emerging designers through an inspired mix of clothing, jewelry, handbags and other darling notions. Come visit us at the “top” of the Avenue. “Best reason to shop in Baltimore” —Baltimore Magazine, 2006. “Best Women’s Clothing Store” —City Paper, 2006.

3616 Falls Road • 410-554-0055 • www.doubledutchboutique.com

410.554.0055 info@doubledutchboutique.com 3616 Falls Rd. at the Avenue in Hampden

Golden West Cafe. “Green chile, green chile, green chile! A million New Mexicans can’t be wrong.” Open Wed–Mon 9am–10pm, Bar open till midnight. Closed Tuesdays. 1105 W. 36th Street • 410-889-8891

ReNew Day Spa.

Rejuvenate the Body. Refresh the Mind. Respect the Earth. Personalized skincare, massage, nail care, and pre/post-natal/infant services. Incorporating Eastern and Western methods, using organic products in an eco-friendly environment. Opening Fall 2006.

843 W. 36th Street • www.renewdayspa21211.com

Holy Frijoles.

Simple but substantial mexican fare. A menu with variety. We use only the finest chicken breasts and flank steaks and prepare our salsas fresh daily.

908 W. 36th Street • 410-235-2326

Hometown Girl.

Celebrating Baltimore urban life for twenty-five years! Browse our wonderful selection of Baltimore books, art, apparel, and foods ... enjoy hand-dipped ice cream sundaes, shakes, and espresso drinks in our “Parlor of Sweets.”

1001 W. 36th Street at Roland Ave. • 410-662-GIFT • www.celebratebaltimore.com

In Watermelon Sugar. Specializing in unique

products for your home, bath, and body. Scents for every palette. Colorful aprons, frames, furniture, cards, and more.

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3555 Chestnut Avenue • 410-662-9090 urbanite december 06


Ma Petite Shoe .

Artisanal chocolate from around the world and European shoe designs. Voted “Baltimore’s Best Shoe Store” and “Baltimore’s Best Chocolate Gifts.” Specializing in unusual savory and spiced chocolates! Open 7 days a week!

832 W. 36th Street • 410-235-3442 • www.mapetiteshoe.com

Milagro.

Fabulous Holiday gifts from around the globe arriving everyday. Christmas ornaments from Mexico. Carved wooden angels from Guatemala. Clothing from Nepal. Pottery from Colombia and Bulgaria. Jewelry from Mexico, India, and Baltimore!

1005 W. 36th Street • 410-235-3800 • milagrobaltimore@yahoo.com

Mud and Metal. Come visit our BIG, NEW space with the best gifts for all the best people in your life! Ceramics, metal, jewelry, glass, fiber, and paper! OPEN DAILY with extended holiday hours: Mon–Wed 10am–6pm, Thurs–Sat 10am–9pm, Sun 10am–5pm. 1121 W. 36th Street • 410-467-8698 • www.mudandmetal.com

New System Bakery & Café. Offers breakfast and lunch in its new café along with the old favorite fresh baked goods. Call to order your holiday cakes today! Open Mon–Fri 6am to 6pm, Sat 7am–5pm. Chestnut and W. 34th St. • 410-235-8852 • www.newsystembakery.com

Discover

ampden

Oh! Said Rose.

Unabashedly girly gear. Voted “Baltimore’s Best Jewelry” and “Baltimore’s Best Place to Splurge” for our flirty clothing designs, accessories, and gifts. Home of the Hampden Charm School. Open 7 days a week.

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Paradiso. An antique lover’s dream. Blending Old World elegance with vintage modern style. Exquisite period furnishings, fine craft, decorative arts, jewelry, gifts. Open Fri–Sat 11–6, Sun 11–4, or by appointment. 1015 W. 36th Street • 410-243-1317

Red Tree. Home furnishings and artistic goods from around the world and around the corner. From furniture to jewelry, wall art to handbags, you’ll find a variety of creatively designed goods. Now Open! 921 W. 36th Street • 410-366-3456 • www.redtreebaltimore.com

The Pearl Gallery. An affordable luxe destination

shop filled with the newest–hottest–latest accessories. Shop our Christmas store for holiday treasures and gifts for the most discriminating shopper. Visit online at www.thepearlgallery.com.

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sustainable city

by fern shen

photography by michael northrup

Compost and the City Is composting an option for urban dwellers?

Above: Lewis Sharpe (center) and the other gardeners of the Duncan Street Community Garden in East Baltimore

If you live in the city and are thinking about composting, talk to Gloria Luster for inspiration. The abandoned lot near her West Baltimore home was plagued with terrible soil, hard-packed yellow clay, and the remnants of a termite-ridden house when she began tilling it in 1981. But Luster remembered what she learned from her grandfather, who grew vegetables in his East Baltimore backyard. “He used to put all the dead vegetation in this little pile. Every now and then he would stir it. He never threw anything away,” says Luster, an 80-yearold master gardener and master composter. “Soil is like a bank,” Luster remembers her grandfather saying. “You keep taking things out of it, but you’d better make some deposits. Otherwise, it’ll be bankrupt.” Luster had to make more deposits than most. The community garden she and her neighbors eventually established on city-owned land (called Gardens of Hope) encompassed three rambling acres, so Luster needed more on her compost pile than just her own dead plant stalks, potato peels, melon rinds, eggshells, and other household waste. “I had a van, and I would go out with it and collect the bags of leaves people put out for the city. Human hair—I got that from a barbershop. Coffee grounds—I got them from the 7-Eleven at Park Heights and Northern Parkway,” she recalls. “People thought I was nuts!” She even got manure— composters’ gold—from the stables maintained by the city’s arabbers. What Luster made was classic compost: the dark, crumbly, nutrient-rich material produced when organic matter decomposes. The process, which makes heat, is speeded up by the presence of

bacteria, worms, and other small critters that break down the organic material. The faster the composting, the hotter the pile. By adding it, little-by-little, to the soil over the twelve years she maintained the garden, Luster created a fertile place where the neighborhood grew tomatoes, zucchinis, eggplants, collards, beans, flowers, and more—enough to enjoy and to donate to church food banks and needy neighbors. But what about stench and vermin? Can you really compost in an urban backyard without annoying your neighbors? “When you do it properly,” Luster says serenely, “there will be no odor and no rats.” Skeptical would-be composters who are not blessed with a three-acre plot—or generations of handed-down urban gardening wisdom—should turn to “Mr. Compost.” That’s how some folks refer to Al DeGray, a master gardener/composter who is part of the Urban Agriculture program run in Baltimore by the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension. DeGray, who gardens in the city, can tell you all the reasons why composting makes sense. For one thing, it cuts down on the amount of garbage you put into your sink disposal, onto the landfill, or up through the chimney of a trash incinerator. “It takes several gallons of water to push one gallon of kitchen scraps down your sink,” DeGray says. Homemade compost also helps you avoid using chemical fertilizers to improve your city soil, which may contain anything from lead and heavy metals to septic seepage and construction rubble. Oddly, composting is legal in Baltimore City, while in partly rural Baltimore County, kitchen waste cannot be composted—only leaves and grass w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m d e c e m b e r 0 6

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and such are legal fodder for the pile or bin. (Kitchen wastes may be consumed by worms through vermicomposting, or buried for “soil incorporation,” according to county codes.) City residents are advised to “please use your common sense and keep your compost out of the reach of rats,” says Kurt L. Kocher, a spokesman for the Baltimore City Department of Public Works. Lewis Sharpe and the other gardeners at the Duncan Street Community Garden in East Baltimore put their compost ingredients into sturdy blue plastic barrels with lids. You’d never guess there was such a lush green oasis just off East North Avenue, in a neighborhood plagued by drinking, drugs, and boarded rowhouses. One pretty fall morning, Sharpe, 67, tossed some dead bean stalks into one of the barrels and explained how composting helped them transform the one-acre plot. “When we started turning over this soil in 1989, we found cans, bottles—everything except money!” he says. Now there are ten plots planted with pole beans, tomatoes, collards, sweet potatoes, peppers, herbs, eggplant, squash, and corn, along with apple trees, grapes, and a very healthy harvest, this year, of blackberries. What they don’t eat, they donate to two churches: First Faith Temple Baptist and Horizon Zion Baptist. “I’d rather use compost than fertilizer—that stuff will kill you, give you cancer,” Sharpe says. “People got enough trouble without that.” To make good compost, DeGray explains, use this simple equation: Brown stuff + Green stuff + Air + Water = Compost.

“ I N T I M AT E SURROUNDINGS”

By “browns,” composters mean drier, carbonrich material like shredded newspapers, dry leaves, straw, hay, wood chips, dead branch trimmings, etc. By “greens,” they mean juicier, nitrogen-rich stuff like grass clippings, fruit and vegetable wastes, coffee grounds, and manure (cow, horse, sheep, rabbit, chicken). Until you’re ready to use them, “green” kitchen wastes can be stored in a closed plastic container, under your sink, perhaps, or in the freezer. What not to add to the pile: dog or cat manure, bones and other meat products, dairy products, cooking oil, or wood ashes. Colored glossy paper (like advertising inserts) and printer paper also are not good. Getting the right carbon-to-nitrogen ratio may take a little fiddling around. Your pile is damp and sweet, but not warm? Add more greens. It’s wet and stinky? Mix in fluffy browns, like straw or leaves, to dry it out. Water your compost and mix it around once a month. How to mix it? Buy yourself a pitchfork, city-dweller, and indulge all your Green Acres fantasies! Open piles can work in the city, according to DeGray, if kitchen wastes are covered with enough leaves or other dry material and are buried deep within the pile to discourage odors, flies, and rats. But those with small yards and potential rat problems should not include kitchen wastes, or they should go with a closed bin. Ready-made, critter-proof composters, some of them with rotation cranks, can be purchased online or at garden stores, but you can also make them. At the composting demonstration area at Cylburn Arboretum (past the mansion, in the back) DeGray points out his top choice for the urban

do-it-yourselfer: a regular residential thirty-gallon plastic trash container. Round holes are cut into the sides for ventilation, and a PVC pipe (also with holes drilled into it) projects up through a hole in the lid (to vent out the heat). About every two months, dump it out and set the completed compost aside. Take the undecomposed remains and mix it with more moistened leaves and grass and then pitchfork it back in. The completed compost can then be used in your garden or as mulch. Cylburn has many other examples of composters’ ingenuity. There’s a rectangular wood-andchicken-wire bin, one made from big plastic syrup barrels from the Pepsi plant, another made from wooden pallets that DeGray got from a place that sells ceramic tile. There’s even a compost “tea”making display. (It’s a closed water-filled container with a leaf-filled mesh bag steeping inside. The “tea” can be used as a foliar spray or added to the soil by diluting one part “tea” from the barrel with two parts water.) Checking the temperature on all these brewing batches (including one that’s pushing ninety degrees), DeGray is a sort of chef de compost. What charges him up is the gardeners’ version of the reduce/reuse/recycle mantra, a philosophy he hopes to spread. “I tell people, whatever comes into my house or yard, rather than send it off in a truck or to the dump or down the drain, I turn it into something good,” he says. “What’s here, stays here.” ■ —Fern Shen is a Baltimore-based freelance writer. She wrote about Baltimore’s biotech industry in the July issue of Urbanite.

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out there

courtesy of Seoul Metropolitan Government

by gabriel kroiz

The Heart of Seoul How one metropolis reclaimed the river that ran through it

Above: A daylighted and dynamic Cheonggye River. The river was once covered by an elevated expressway.

Imagine a serious candidate for mayor of a major metropolis promising to remove the arterial expressway serving the city center, restore the river below it, and encourage auto commuters to use alternative means of transportation. In 2002, Seoul, Korea’s Myung-Bak Lee did just that. He took seriously the citizens’ expressed commitment to reducing the city’s future negative environmental impact and won the mayoral election on his promise to remove the Cheonggye Expressway and daylight the river below. His reason, simple enough, was to make Seoul a more beautiful and sustainable city as it entered the twenty-first century. Today, where there once was a highway there is now a flowing river, and Lee is considered a contender for South Korea’s presidency. How could this happen? Seoul is a city of twelve million people and world-class traffic congestion. At stake were twelve lanes of traffic that carried

170,000 commuters from the eastern suburbs to the central business district within a block of city hall. The project was expected to cost $360 million, and the desired net result was a river with a pedestrian path and two lanes of local traffic on either side. The history of the Cheonggye River during the twentieth century is common to urban rivers worldwide. The growth of industry and the influx of population early in the twentieth century brought about the decline in the ecological health of the river and ultimately created dangerous sanitary conditions. This and the rise of automobiles led to the covering of the river in stages beginning in 1958. The 5.8 km elevated expressway, considered a showpiece of Korea’s advancement in 1972 when it opened, had become an eyesore and a barrier. By the turn of the century, the aging infrastructure required significant and costly repairs, and the areas surrounding the expressway were lagging behind the develop-

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ment of the rest of the city. What was once considered a lifeline to the city had ironically become the site of greatest disinvestment. To contemplate this and other urban problems facing the city, Seoul sponsored the Seoul Development Institute (SDI), a think tank founded in 1992 to research and develop government-planning policy. With clarity of vision reminiscent of Daniel Burnham’s turn-of-the-nineteenth-century plan for Chicago, SDI addressed the problems of aging highway infrastructure, citywide traffic and transportation failures, and economic disinvestment at the city core through the Cheonggye River Restoration Project. The river project solved the immediate need of repairing the elevated highway and the surface road

sides of the river. At one end they anticipate the linear expansion of the financial district and at the other the creation of an entire new town on the site of some of the city’s worst post-Korean War housing developments. Not lost on the mayor and planners of the Cheonggye project was its implication for cities around the world. In conjunction with the opening of the river in October 2005, Seoul held a World Mayors Forum attended by mayors and planners from global cities including Moscow, Beijing, Bangkok, and Athens to discuss urban sustainability and revitalization. “While recent urban development in cities across the world renewed hopes for a more prosperous future,” says Mayor Myung-Bak Lee, “urban

The sustainability of restoring the river has been criticized, and it is interesting to contemplate where its value lies. The original river had, in fact, dried up, and the water now flowing is pumped in from the nearby Han River. The immediate benefits of a restored ecosystem with plants, birds, fish, and other wildlife are of ecological value, as is the conversion of auto commuters to public transportation commuters. The real value, however, is the anticipated transformation of the downtown district surrounding the river. This area, which is the historic center of the city, has the greatest number of jobs, restaurants, and cultural and entertainment amenities; it also has one of the area’s lowest resident populations. The Jongno district, to the north of the river, is reported

by removing them altogether. The real feat, however, was the overall improvement of Seoul’s traffic conditions. Planners speculated that private automobiles would ultimately be unable to solve Seoul’s transportation needs. The 170,000 commuters no longer using the Cheonggye Expressway were part of a larger problem that was addressed in 2004 through the citywide restructuring of the public transportation systems. Fares for buses and subways were integrated under a single system. Buses were rerouted to be more direct, and numbered and color-coded to be easier to understand. Dedicated transit lanes along the major arteries now allow buses to move more effectively than cars. There are even high-tech features such as an online trip planner and a GPS system that allows riders to check their arrival times by personal digital assistant or cell phone. In exchange for the $360 million price tag of the Cheonggye River Restoration Project, Seoul’s government anticipates $12 billion in new investment. A redevelopment map shows several miles of new waterfront development opportunity on both

problems, such as environmental degradation and social segregation within cities, have become challenging issues.” A highway over a river running

to swell tenfold with the influx of 1.8 million people during office hours. The result is a situation in which more than twenty-five percent of all auto trips are toward the downtown, representing a significant waste of time and energy that planners hope to eliminate. Since the completion of the Cheonggye River restoration, residential development once found anywhere but downtown is beginning to thrive there. The center city is being transformed into a place where people live, work, and play. The visionary element of the project is the model for how cities can progress toward the creation of livable and beautiful urban centers. Seoul presented a happy marriage of economics, transportation, and sustainability, and demonstrated tremendous civic competence in its execution of the Cheonggye River Restoration Project. ■

By the turn of the century, the aging infrastructure required significant and costly repairs, and the areas surrounding the expressway were lagging behind the development of the rest of the city. through the heart of downtown is a motif common to mid-century urban planning around the world. As these structures age, many cities will begin to weigh the cost of maintaining them against the benefits of removing them.

­ Gabriel Kroiz of Kroiz Architecture is an award— winning designer and preservationist working in both Baltimore and Seoul.

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One day, I will travel the world singing Italian arias. Today I am a vocalist studying music at Carroll Community College. My teachers at Carroll know me by name, and they understand my dream. With their help, I am moving closer to realizing my ambition. Jamie Lippy | Class of 2007 | Carroll Community College

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recommended

MUSIC

This has been a superlative year for new music. Not since 2001, which yielded such milestone recordings as The Strokes’ Is This It, and Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, which the band independently released online that year, have there been so many albums that constitute fresh artistic statements. The current vintage’s outstanding releases, in no particular order, include the latest by The Twilight Singers, Cat Power, Drive-by Truckers, Built to Spill, Neko Case, Pearl Jam, Sparklehorse, The Decemberists, The Hold Steady, Gov’t Mule, Sonic Youth, Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins, and The Flaming Lips. New outfits like Gnarls Barkley and Band of Horses released debut efforts that portend bright futures. One of the most talked-about releases is Bob Dylan’s Modern Times. Rolling Stone deemed the album a “classic,” giving it a rare five-star designation. Meanwhile, Dylan’s label and iTunes have created a buzz that would have us believe that Modern Times should be counted among the artist’s greatest albums. Should we believe the hype? Not entirely. Modern Times is a fine album, but it doesn’t measure up to 1997’s Time Out of Mind, which compares favorably to Dylan’s other magnum opuses, or even

2001’s remarkable Love and Theft. Modern Times doesn’t lack for quality material; “Spirit on the Water” and “Ain’t Talkin’,” for example, hold their own in the Dylan songbook. The album’s critical flaws are its flat production value and stunted musicality—a damning indictment given that Dylan describes his current band as his best ever. Nevertheless, Modern Times provides further evidence that Dylan still has a lot to say artistically—and much of it is well worth hearing. Indeed, no figure in popular music has remained so artistically vital for so long. Neil Young and Van Morrison come close, but not very. Meanwhile, the Rolling Stones, whose last great album, Some Girls, was released more than a quarter of a century ago, continue to barnstorm arenas charging upwards of $350 a ticket. The Who, who embarked nearly two decades ago on what the band touted as the reunion tour (not to be confused with the “farewell” tour of 1982), now routinely play Las Vegas and headlined this year’s Virgin Music Festival. For his part, Dylan continued his tradition this year of playing minor league ballparks where tickets often fetched less than $50. In so doing, he brought

POETRY

By Freeman Rogers

photo by Karen Patterson

Poets since Homer have found inspiration in cities, and contemporary Baltimore’s bards are no exception. In “View of Baltimore from Green Mount Cemetery,” Joseph Harrison contrasts the idyllic, fenced-in resting place of the city’s elite with its surroundings, where “whole blocks are boarded up, burned out.” In the subtle ode “Labor Day,” Ted McNulty creates a figure at once heroic and tragic in lonely “Iggy Jones, old boilermaker,” who hangs a flag outside a rundown rowhouse next to a Baltimore shipyard. In “Charles Street, Late November,”

photo by Jason Okutake

By Robert C. Knott

forth a new batch of songs that are to be celebrated not because they come from a seminal artist, but because the songs themselves have significant merit in the context of today’s music scene. Whereas all but a few of the artists who emerged in the sixties struggle to remain relevant, Dylan, seemingly quite naturally, remains essential.

Erica Funkhouser writes of “a friend on the edge of death” who finds in a busy Baltimore afternoon the optimism to purchase a pocket calendar for the coming year. In “The Mockingbird Is Imitating Life,” Greg Williamson describes a man who walks out into the city on New Year’s Eve and discovers not the redemptive nightingale of poetic tradition, but a mockingbird, perched on a surveillance camera at Royal Farms, “mocking the car alarms, going like, / ‘Whoop, whoop, whoop, whoop, whoop.’” These poets find the charm in the city—and in life—without sugarcoating the darker side.

ART

Styrofoam peanuts—pesky, handy, environmentally unsound. Dan Steinhilber’s installation and video, the first exhibit in The Baltimore Museum of Art’s Front Room series, transform conventional associations in bold and surprising ways. With the help of cleaning machines, the artist enacts various windstirred adventures. The video, shot with a hand-held camera, maps the movement of a leaf blower as it propels a flood-like rush of peanuts through every nook and cranny of Steinhilber’s home. In the installation, the viewer is deluged by the sounds of the peanuts, which suggest dead leaves blowing around.

Human influence is eerily absent, and machines on timers take over: Leaf blowers endlessly disturb a corner mound; robotic vacuum cleaners forge ever-changing paths directed by dangling floor dryers. With doses of mischief and irony, Steinhilber posits an alternate world where the familiar assumes new functions that pit order against havoc. From this showdown, a wondrous beauty emerges, along with a guarantee that daily chores will never be the same.

courtesy of Dan Steinhilber

By Sarah Tanguy

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recommended

literature By Susan McCallum-Smith

’Tis the season of thick books. To avoid muscle strain, I’ve hired a bloke with beefy forearms to stand by on my doorstep and await the arrival of Thomas Pynchon’s new novel, Against the Day, purported to be over one thousand pages long. Already sulking heftily on my desk is the four-hundred-page Thirteen Moons, Charles Frazier’s 2006 follow-up to his National Book Award-winning Cold Mountain (1997), a novel so torturously detailed I was tempted to garrote the main characters with my bare hands to avoid any more descriptions of early dawn light etching the exquisite spindling on an acorn. I confess I’ve read no further than the cover of Thirteen Moons; it describes another epic of one man’s journey through uncharted wilderness back to the woman he loves. They really shouldn’t give literary prizes to novelists; it just encourages them. Talking of prizes, poor wee Philip Roth must be sulking in the woodshed now that the Nobel Prize in Literature has gone to Turkish author Orhan Pamuk. Pamuk’s prodigious talent is best sampled in his 2004 novel, Snow, a debate about the existence and nature of God masquerading as a whip-smart thriller set within modern-day Turkey as it struggles between liberal Western values and Islamic fundamentalism. Great writers have a tendency to wash dirty linen in public; therefore, some of Pamuk’s compatriots are unenthusiastic about his win, due to his literary explorations of Turkey’s role in the Armenian massacres and the oppression of Kurdish minorities. Nevertheless, Pamuk will accept his Nobel, unlike Russian writer Boris Pasternak, who won it in 1958 but was “persuaded” by the Soviet authorities to turn it down. Pasternak died in

1960, having witnessed the international success of his 1957 book, Dr. Zhivago, banned inside the Soviet Union, but spared the sight of Julie Christie portraying his beloved Lara in a sixties Hon hairdo in David Lean’s mushy adaptation (the movie that also gave fantasy-fodder to women from Cairo to Poughkeepsie in the delectable form of Omar Sharif, founding member of the famous Gap-Tooth Triumvirate, along with Madonna and Condoleezza Rice). A book worthy of the epithet “epic,” Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago is Gone with the Wind for intellectuals, a more readable, albeit colder, Cold Mountain. And who can resist sleigh bells, turnips, civil war, and balalaikas come holiday time? And come holiday time with the in-laws, who can resist thoughts of murder? Not one book but two about Dr. Hawley Crippen, a man who believed divorce was for wimps, have hit the stores. John Boyne’s (thick) novel Crippen fictionalizes the flight of the wife-murderer and his mistress across the Atlantic in the S.S. Montrose in 1910, while Erik Larson’s (thicker) nonfiction release, Thunderstruck, covers the same watery territory while adding the parallel story of Guglielmo Marconi, whose invention of wireless communication led directly to Crippen’s arrest. Although Boyne’s novel is an enjoyable romp, Larson’s gift of entertaining the reader with startling facts grounded by meticulous research, as illustrated in his 2004 blockbuster, The Devil in the White City, makes his the better book, proving yet again that fact trumps fiction every time. The dedication inside Larson’s book is taken from J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, and fans of the boy who never grew up will be delighted by its first officially sanctioned sequel. In 1929, Barrie gave the copyright to Peter Pan to the Great Ormond

Street Children’s Hospital in London; in 2004 the hospital launched a competition to find an author with a sufficient infusion of fairy dust to continue his adventures. In Geraldine McCaughrean’s winning novel, Peter Pan in Scarlet, the Lost Boys of Neverland must leave the disturbing Here and Now of the 1920s to help Mrs. Wendy rescue Peter from an unthinkable maturity. McCaughrean’s marvelous sequel has an ageless appeal and maintains the dark, unsettling tone of Barrie’s original. If you need another reason to pick up this book—beyond its entrancing prose, delightful cover, and charming illustrations—half the proceeds from its sale benefit the children’s hospital. Time to take a hot toddy to Beefy Forearms on the doorstep: The tome from Thomas “Get Thee to an Editor” Pynchon has, as yet (praise the Lord!), failed to arrive. ■

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The Road to Rhythm & Blues continued from page 67

killed, the others dragged from the wreckage unconscious. Nelson left the group a year later. Still, The Orioles kept on touring, adding replacement members and shuffling their lineup. Gaither’s death affected Til profoundly, and he began performing a new song called “Pal of Mine” in memory of the lost guitarist. The Orioles continued to be popular through the early 1950s, touring with Duke Ellington and other greats, and scoring top-ten hits with “Baby Please Don’t Go” and the gold record “Crying in the Chapel,” later covered by Elvis Presley, among others. But by the middle of the decade, The Orioles were fading and the original lineup was suffering. Manager/songwriter Deborah Chessler quit in 1954, burned out. New groups copied and improved The Orioles’ sound, and worked cheaper. By the end of 1955, the remaining members of the original group disbanded.

On a hot August day in 2006, the Reston Town Center, a monumental and strikingly clean suburban commercial complex outside of Washington, D.C., is hosting one of those “Remember when?” doo-wop revues. The seventh or so reincarnation of Sonny Til’s Orioles is set to play. Since Til died of diabetic complications leading to a heart attack in 1981, nostalgia concerts have been a way for younger singers to have some fun while spreading the word about the all-but-forgotten Orioles. But it’s a long journey from Beale Street and the Apollo. Albert “Diz” Russell, now in his seventies and blind, toured with the group when they were still a popular road act. “Sonny Til was one of the greatest R&B singers of all time,” he says over a beer before the Reston concert, “but I didn’t like him when I first met him. See, we were dating the same chick.” Russell first ran into Til around 1951 in St.

Louis, where both were spending quality time with a young lady named Adell Chapelle. Russell was doing some gigs with his group, The Modern Sounds, a vocal quintet from his native Cleveland that leaned more toward jazz than pop. They met again two years later in New York City, after The Modern Sounds became The Four Jays and blew Cleveland in a rickety Buick belonging to Aaron “Tex” Cornelius, one of Russell’s bandmates. “My momma gave me $30,” says Russell, “and told me, ‘This is all the money I’ve got. Go find your fortune or whatever, but if you run out, you better learn how to make hamburgers.’” After breaking down in Pennsylvania, borrowing money in Atlantic City, and living for days off of stale donuts in the Lower West Side of New York, Russell and The Four Jays abandoned their car by the Hudson River, tossed the tags, and headed up to Birdland, the famous Broadway jazz club, to find work. What they found was scat-cat Eddie Jefferson, an old singing buddy from their days of rehearsing at the Cleveland YMCA, who took them immediately for an audition with none other than Duke Ellington himself, in his office in the Brill Building. Ellington was so impressed that he set them up with a gig at Snookie’s, a midtown Mafiaowned Italian joint at 47th Street and Broadway. From there, The Four Jays moved up to amateur shows at the Apollo, where they scored a management contract with Bobby Shiffman, son of the nightclub’s owner. The Four Jays became The Regals and began performing regularly. In 1955, Sonny Til was still fresh from the breakup of his original lineup when he walked into the Apollo as The Regals were performing. He liked what he heard so much that he approached Bobby Shiffman, and in a few days, The Regals became Til's new backup band. Life on the road with Sonny Til was quite the

ride, recalls Russell. He remembers the frenzy of their female fans at one of Russell’s first shows in Connecticut. “I didn’t know about this business of girls tearing off your clothes and all this. Our bodyguard, a boxer named Detroit Carson, told me, ‘Don’t go outside. Stay backstage.’ We had gold tuxedos with gold stripes down the side, and I said, ‘Shoot, I’m gonna go get myself a hot dog.’ I went down through the audience, and those girls got my watch, my jacket, my rings, everything. Til made me pay for a new suit after that.” Traveling in Til’s “big, pretty, white fishtail Chrysler,” they covered the “Chitlin’ Circuit,” a network of black clubs from New York down to Florida and New Orleans, then back up the Mississippi to Chicago. Famous enough to play the white clubs in downtown St. Louis as well as the black clubs across the river, The Orioles still had to stay in black hotels and eat in black establishments. “With prejudice going on,” says Russell, “you were caught between Las Vegas and the Chitlin’ Circuit.” Soon, other groups started selling far more records, and a new type of pop, called rock and roll, captured the record charts. Promoters could hire nine or ten vocal groups to play a review for the same $1,000-per-show fee The Orioles demanded. Til hid the group’s financial woes, telling them that things were going okay. Then one day in 1960, Russell checked out of his hotel room at a Midwest tour stop and went to put his clothing in the Buick. The car was gone. Til’s money had dried up, and the repo man had finally come. Russell walked away from The Orioles on the spot. Nowadays, this “pioneering” group is hardly mentioned in histories of Baltimore music, taking a second seat to Cab Calloway, Eubie Blake, and Billie Holiday in the pantheon of Mobtown music legends. Why aren’t The Orioles a household name, when some of their contemporaries, like continued on page 87

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The Road to Rhythm & Blues continued from page 85

The Drifters, are? Why aren’t they regulars on oldies radio? Kenny Schreiber, former host of 89.7 WTMD’s Echoes from the Past and a Baltimore resident for the last thirty years, has a theory. “It was radio airplay,” says Schreiber. Sonny Til’s prominent lead voice, Schreiber notes, was a change from the battling two-part leads of the earlier pop groups, and The Orioles may have even been the first “vocal harmony group.” While The Orioles’ sound remained consistent, their fans’ tastes did not. After a certain point in the mid-1950s, “there was almost nothing played on the radio by Sonny Til and The Orioles. They weren’t as radio-friendly or commercial-sounding. They were just so laid back,” he says. Marv Goldberg has a different theory. “I can tell you exactly what killed The Orioles. I said that Sonny Til was in the right place at the right time; the girls loved him, and the guys wanted to do what he was doing, but that was 1948. In 1951, along came The Dominoes with Clyde McPhatter, and Clyde McPhatter totally knocked Sonny Til out of the water. After Clyde McPhatter came along, the only monster hit The Orioles had was ‘Crying in the Chapel,’ and Clyde McPhatter led The Dominoes to tons of chart hits, and did the same with The Drifters.” Diz Russell agrees that the competition just got too stiff, and The Orioles lost their market clout and top-dollar bookings. But before they faded, they paved the way for everything that followed them in popular music. Their sound was the new sound, the incoming crash of R&B, without which there would be no James Brown, no Otis Redding, no Sam Cooke, no Elvis and beyond. Like so many innovators, The Orioles created a wave that others rode better than they did. In 1995, The Orioles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as “Early Influencers.” Terry Stewart, president of the Hall of Fame, explains that “The Orioles had a huge impact with the young black audience. They had a fresher sound ... it was more emotional.” Stewart traces The Orioles’ line of direct influence at least to The Dominoes, The Checkers, The 5 Keys, The Robins, and The Coasters. Rock historian Greil Marcus has said that The Orioles’ first big hit, Chessler’s “It’s Too Soon to Know,” was a revolutionary anthem on the order of Elvis’ “That’s All Right (Mama).” The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame website describes it as “a watershed recording in the history of American vocalgroup music.” The Orioles, in fact, helped to spawn rock and roll, that wonderfully American amalgam grounded heavily in rhythm and blues. Sonny, Deborah, and the soulful boys belong anywhere but buried in the stacks of Baltimore music history. ■

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35 Out of Africa

81 Recommended

Writer Mary K. Zajac recommends the following stores for African spices and ingredients: KAF African Foods (6110 Harford Road; 410-444-0058), Afro-Tropical Food Market (5845 York Road; 410464-0700), and All Nations International Food (6401 Kenwood Avenue; 410-866-6888).

Art: Front Room: Dan Steinhilber runs at The Baltimore Museum of Art through Feb 18, 2007 (10 Art Museum Drive; 443-573-1700; www.artbma.org). Admission to the museum is free.

73 Compost and the City For general information about home and garden care, see the University of Maryland Home and Garden Information Center website (www.hgic.umd. edu); there is information on composting there. The New York City Compost Project (www.nyccompost. org/how/index.html) contains lots of practical information on composting in small urban spaces. Cylburn Arboretum is located at 4915 Greenspring Avenue; contact the staff at 410-367-2217 or www. cylburnassociation.org.

Poetry: Joseph Harrison’s poem “View of Baltimore from Green Mount Cemetery” can be found in his 2003 book Someone Else’s Name. “Labor Day” by Ted McNulty appeared in the spring 1994 issue of the journal Ploughshares (www.pshares.org). Erica Funkhouser’s poem “Charles Street, Late November” was originally published in the fall 2005 issue of Sou’wester, and it is reprinted on the Poetry Daily website at www.poems.com/charlfun.htm. “The Mockingbird Is Imitating Life” appears in Greg Williamson’s 2001 book Errors in the Script. Books of poetry from all authors are available at www.amazon.com.

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1001/1003 N. Charles Street Baltimore, MD 21201 410.752.7133 W\RWS27GQ`OTbaĂ&#x201A;O`bWabP]]YaĂ&#x201A;VO\R[ORShW\Sa Q][WQP]]YO`bĂ&#x201A;^]^QcZbc`Sb]ga !$ 4OZZa@RĂ&#x201A;0OZbW[]`S;2  Ă&#x201A;"!$$" eeeOb][WQP]]YaQ][

1026 S. Charles Street Baltimore, MD 21230

Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t Mess with Tex-Mex!

Phone 410.752.3810

Sample items from our authentic Tex-Mex menu. Enjoy Classic Margaritas, Sangrias and Cerveza!

Fax 410.752.0639 ccscorks@aol.com www.corksrestaurant.com

Located at 1003 N. Charles Street in Mt. Vernon 410 752-3333

CITY LIMITS SPORTS BAR HOURS

8 E Preston Street Baltimore, MD 21202 410.244.1020

Sunday - Friday 4 p.m. - 2 a.m. Saturday 11 a.m. - 2 a.m. www.citylimitssportsbar.com

1700 E. Fort Avenue Baltimore, MD 21230 410-244-8084

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John Steven Ltd. Tavern hours: 11am till 2am - Mon thru Sun Restaurant hours: 11am to 11pm - Sun thru Thurs 11am to midnight Fri & Sat 1800 Thames Street Telephone: 410-327-5561 www.johnstevenltd.com

ALL DAY... AND ALL NIGHT Coffee Bar & Pastries Breakfast Brunch & Lunch Dinner Small Plates MARTINIS & FROZEN DRINKS Free Internet

101A 2400 Boston Street Baltimore, MD 410 327 9889


Cacao Lane Resturant

8066 Main Street Ellicott City, MD 21043 Tel: 410.461.1378

www.cacaolane.net

JUDGE’S bench

Monday - Thursday 4pm-2am Friday - Sunday 11:30-2am

8385 Main Street Ellicott City, MD 21043 410-465-3497

Johnny’s Bistro on Main • • • •

tapas private events wine bar now open speciality fare with a creative touch

8167 Main Street Ellicott City, MD 21043 phone:410-461-8210 www.johnnysbistro.com

Jerry’s Belvedere Tavern “Where Good Friends Meet for Good Drinks and Eats”

5928 York Rd Baltimore, MD 21212 (410) 435-8600

Bertha’s Restaurant & Bar Dinning Hours: Sun-Thurs 11:30 am-11 pm Fri-Sat 11:30 am-12 am Bar Hours: Mon-Sun 11:30 am-2 am

734 South Broadway 410-327-5795 www.berthas.com

ALESSI WATCHES

Knoll Vitra Kartell Moroso Alessi Flos

Our Alessi shop-in-shop features a large selection of watch designs for men and women by Ron Arad, Jorge Pensi, Karim Rashid, and Patricia Urquiola to name a few. Gift box included. We now offer free gift wrapping year-round!

410 433 1616 homeontheharbor.com 1340 Smith Avenue Baltimore MD 21209 In historic Mt. Washington Mill next to Whole Foods

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eye to eye

Why, in this unusual presentation, can I practically hear the hoofbeats, the cries of war, the fields suffering clashing armies? It is only hair on a resin head, isn’t it? Yet, somehow I am given just enough information to spark my imagination, but no more. If art at its best takes to you places unexpected, exposes you to parts of yourself previously unexperienced, then this work is powerful indeed. The artist, Johannes VanDerBeek, was born in Baltimore and is a former student of The Baltimore School for the Arts and Cooper Union School of Art and Science. He presently works and lives in New York City and is one of the directors of the Guild & Greyshkul Gallery. Fascinated with people’s perception of events, he focuses on culturally readable signs, symbols, and forms that he reconfigures into impossible realities. About this work, he says, “I was interested in this type of image of formalized warfare because of its spatial qualities. I wanted to work with this scale so that at some point in the distant background of the image the proportions lined up so that one hair is equal to the size of one human head.” —Alex Castro

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The Battle of Waterloo Johannes VanDerBeek 2003 Wax and human hair 11 x 8 x 6 inches www.guildgreyshkul.com


2007 CARS AT LESS THAN 2006 PRICES. IT’S WHAT MAKES A SUBARU, A SUBARU THE ALL-WHEEL DRIVE 2007

SUBARU OUTBACK 2.5i WAGON AMERICA’S SPORT UTILITY WAGON AUTOMATIC

28 mpg HIGHWAY

����� HIGHEST GOVERNMENT CRASH TEST RATING

06 M.S.R.P.

$25,795

07 M.S.R.P.

-$24,595

PRICE ROLLBACK

$1,200

MFG. INCENTIVE

+$750

DEALER DISCOUNT

+$1,455

TOTAL SAVINGS

$3,405

(1) Total Savings are verses M.S.R.P. of comparable 2006 models. (2) Based on 2006 EPA Fuel Economy Estimates. (3) Government Star Ratings are part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) New care Assessment Program (NCAP). See safecar.gov for more details.

Remember All Roads Lead To PENN! THE ALL WHEEL DRIVE SUBARU OUTBACK 2.5I WAGON Rugged. Versatile.

Responsive. So you can drive with confidence — rain or shine, off-road or on. And while the Outback has the highest rating in all government crash tests,* it also has standard road-gripping all-wheel drive and a boxer engine for balance and control. Because a vehicle should help you survive an accident; but it should also have the reflexes to help you avoid one in the first place. *Based on NHTSA 40-mph offset frontal crash test, 31-mph side impact test, and 20-mph rear impact test. The ABC’s of Safety: Air bags. Buckle up. Children in backseat.

subaru.com

North Point Blvd. & Kane St., I-95, Exit 59, Eastern Avenue or I-895 Exit 12 Lombard Street

410-633-9000

Toll Free 1-800-736-1296 • www.pennsubaru.com RETAIL SERVICE HOURS: M-F 7 am - 6 pm Sat. 8 am - 3 pm w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m d e c e m b e r 0 6

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Choose Pella and lower your energy bills without lifting a finger. Every day you live with drafty, old windows and doors, you’re wasting hard-earned money. So don’t wait; let Pella replace them and save NOW! • Conserve your energy - we’ll do the work. We’ll even haul your old windows and doors away. • We can fit your style and budget.

save your energy

Windows of opportunity thrive at Pella®. Go online to kc-pella.com to see how you could enjoy a career at Pella®.

866-211-3781 www.dc.pella.com * Does not apply to Proline®, Impervia®, Thermastar® products. Other restrictions may apply. See store for details. Must be installed by Pella professionals. Not valid with any other offers or promotions. Valid for replacement projects only. Financing available for qualified customers. Offers expire December 31, 2006. MHIC #38731.

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December 2006 Issue