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Property Tax Revolt• Clifton Mansion’s Slo-Mo Makeover • A Whale of an Obsession december 2008 issue no. 54

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december 2008 issue no. 54

contents

f e a t u r e s 38

keynote: the messenger interview by lionel foster

c. ali sharif, newark’s public relations whiz, on how to sell a troubled city back to its people

41

the transformers

46

the one-percenter

38

meet six hometown heroes who are working to make a difference in their neighborhoods.

by michael anft

loyola university economist stephen walters has ruffled feathers in city hall with his call for radical property tax cuts. is the plan too good to be true?

d e p a r t m e n t s

41

11

editor’s note

13

what you’re saying

17

what you’re writing

21

corkboard

23

the goods

change up

crab feast

gods: losing faith, the dating deities, and all dogs go to heaven

this month: a short run, a long drive, and the last day of the year

the unforgettable fireplace. plus: the age of wireless, old-school apparel, and grand theft auto

46

on the cover: photography by la kaye mbah; design by alex castro

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Issue 54: December 2008 Publisher Tracy Ward Tracy@urbanitebaltimore.com Creative Director Alex Castro Editor-in-Chief David Dudley David@urbanitebaltimore.com Managing Editor Marianne K. Amoss Marianne@urbanitebaltimore.com Senior Editor Greg Hanscom Greg@urbanitebaltimore.com Staff Writer Lionel Foster Lionel@urbanitebaltimore.com Literary Editor Susan McCallum-Smith literaryeditor@urbanitebaltimore.com Contributing Writers Michael Anft, Scott Carlson, Charles Cohen, Mat Edelson, Clinton Macsherry, Richard O’Mara, Martha Thomas, Sharon Tregaskis, Mary K. Zajac Proofreader Robin T. Reid Editorial Interns Malene K. Bell, Salma Warshanna, Andrew Zaleski Design/Production Manager Lisa Macfarlane Lisa@urbanitebaltimore.com Traffi c/Production Coordinator Belle Gossett Belle@urbanitebaltimore.com Photography Interns Aisha M. Khan, Shelby Silvernell Staff Photographer La Kaye Mbah Web Coordinator/Videographer Chris Rebbert website@urbanitebaltimore.com

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december 2008 issue no. 54

contents

d e p a r t m e n t s 29

baltimore observed bohemian sunset the end of the copy cat building? by marianne k. amoss

29

31

update: bay versus epa, hard times hit nonprofits, and talking design

35

talk to me a soul survivor stays on the air. by mary k. zajac

53

space disorder in the house once the summer estate of johns hopkins, the clifton mansion is now an ornate ruin with an uncertain future. by greg hanscom

57

eat/drink scrambled emotions when memory met salami by andrew reiner

53 63

reviewed: crush and the hamilton tavern

65

wine & spirits: the dry season

67

the feed: this month in eating

71

art/culture in the belly of the whale an artistic obsession goes online. by margaret guroff

plus: a chorus line returns, christmas gets medieval, and sally hemings gets her say

65 79

the scene: this month’s cultural calendar

82

eye to eye urbanite’s creative director, alex castro, on julie jankowski

this month online at www.urbanitebaltimore.com:

video: in the studio with radio dj moon man

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Editorial inquiries: Send queries to editor@urbanite baltimore.com (no phone calls, please). The magazine is not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts or artwork. Urbanite does not necessarily support the opinions of its authors. To subscribe or obtain assistance with a current subscription, call 410-243-2050. Subscription price: $18 per year. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission by Urbanite is prohibited. Copyright 2008, Urbanite LLC. All rights reserved.

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Urbanite (ISSN 1556-8105) is a free publication distributed widely in the Baltimore metropolitan area. To suggest a drop location for the magazine, 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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photo by La Kaye Mbah

photo by Shelby Silvernell

courtesy of Margaret Guroff

contributors

Freelance writer Margaret Guroff lives in Washington, D.C., where she serves as the health editor of AARP The Magazine. The former managing editor of Baltimore magazine, she also plays bass in the rock band the Charm Offensive, teaches nonfiction writing at Johns Hopkins University, and maintains a website she created for Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick— www.powermobydick.com. As she explains in her essay on the power of cultural obsession (“In the Belly of the Whale,” p. 71), this isn’t Guroff ’s first brush with outsized fandom. “I lost count of how many times I have seen Grease 2,” she says.

Aisha M. Khan, one of Urbanite’s fall photography interns, has a BFA in photography from Maryland Institute College of Art. Her assignments for this month’s issue sent her to merchants in Mount Vernon and Federal Hill (“The Goods,” p. 23) and Lanham, Maryland, for a portrait of the Moon Man, WKHS radio DJ Willie Bacote (“Talk to Me,” p. 35). Khan was as captivated by the Moon Man as his fans are by his old-school R&B show. “I could have been done in just a few minutes,” she says, “but I was so caught up in what he was saying that I ended up staying for four hours.”

Urbanite editorial intern Andrew Zaleski is a sophomore at Loyola College in Maryland, where he studies English literature and journalism and edits the op-ed pages of The Greyhound, Loyola’s student newspaper. For this issue, Zaleski wrote about OnStar’s Stolen Vehicle Slowdown technology (“The Goods,” p. 25), a service that brings unwitting car thieves to a crawl as they try to speed away. “I want to get into a high-speed chase just to try it out,” he says.

editor’s note

Election night, Mount Vernon. Photograph by Holden Warren.

On the night of November 4, there was a lot of talk in America

about departed family members who hadn’t lived to witness the events unfolding on TV screens and in the streets following the presidential election. In my household, that character was my father, who passed away a few months ago. A retired academic and unreconstructed liberal, Dad was outspoken about politics; as his health failed, he grumbled mightily that his golden years were being filled with “illness and Republicans.” One of our last lucid conversations was about the freshman senator from Illinois who was giving Hillary Clinton such fits in the primaries. Even at that stage, he could see in the man who would be president the prospect of a figure who would be, as Colin Powell and many others later noted, “transformational.” Transformational is a modifier that’s being bandied about enthusiastically these days. Even if one subscribes to the Great Man theory of history, which holds that societies are shaped not by massive social forces but by charismatic individual leaders, Barack Obama is facing some seriously outsized expectations. (OK, Mr. Transformational Figure—get changin’!) The idea dates to Thomas Carlyle’s 1840 On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Hero in Divinity, which divided great men into six classes—among them priests, kings, gods, and, perhaps self-servingly, “Men of Letters” (and, yes, they’re all men, from Odin to Oliver Cromwell). Studying the lives of such titans, Carlyle maintained, offers “some glimpse into the very marrow of the world’s history.” What’s more, hero-worship makes the heroworshipper a little more heroic. “We cannot look upon a great man, however imperfectly, without gaining something by him. He is the living light-fountain, which is good and pleasant to be near.” Historians have lately dismissed Carlyle’s great-man fetish, which feels both anachronistic and kinda fascist-creepy. But, as anyone who watched an Obama or Palin campaign rally—or say, a Michael Phelps parade in Towson—can attest, even populist Americans aren’t immune to the allure of deifying mere mortals, of finding in real, imperfect people “the divine relation … which in all times unites a Great Man to other men.” Of course, my hero might be your villain, and probably is. Thanks to our polarized electorate, those rare characters whose feats are lionized by more than half the country probably did something spectacular but fairly meaningless (swimming quickly, for example). Left comparatively uncelebrated are those whose feats amount to basic good citizenship, the kind of quieter transformational figures that we profile in this month’s cover feature (“The Transformers,” p. 41), and that we intend to keep gathering in coming issues. Thomas Carlyle might disagree, but we think there’s something to be gained by looking upon people whose accomplishments have re-shaped only the world outside their front doors. Early in the morning on November 5, I watched on television as the president-elect stood in Grant Park in Chicago amid much pomp and triumphalism—a flag-draped stage, a crowd of 100,000 people. “Change has come to America,” he boomed, a proclamation both stirring and a little alarming. Translating that promise into something meaningful is an endeavor that exceeds the ability of one man, no matter how great. It’s a job that falls to all of us—as participants in history, not just witnesses. Change, like charity, begins at home: Tell us what you’d like to see in Urbanite in 2009 by filling out our reader survey online at www.urbanitebaltimore.com. —David Dudley 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 8

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what you’re saying I strongly feel that ANYTHING that informs, encourages, and supports people during times of serious illness is beneficial— likewise for anything that encourages people to be proactive with their health or that aids research, education, and voluntarism.

photo by Chris Rebbert

—Nina Tou is a graphic designer in Baltimore.

Callinectes Sapidus I am sharing this poem, written last year. Seemed appropriate! (“Hard Times in Crab Country,” November) Beautiful swimmers moving gracefully, from side to side, electric blue bottom dwellers hiding in salty waters of coastal bays eating eelgrass and sea lettuce, called the fabric of life in Maryland and Virginia bringing tourists from around the region and beyond to enjoy a taste of summer.

And we—in bibs—pulled them apart ceremoniously savoring each delicate morsel until we were one with the empty shells. We talked about other ways to eat the beautiful swimmer and someone asked my mother for the recipe and she said: one pound of Maryland crab meat one cup of seasoned bread crumbs one large egg ¼ cup mayonnaise ½ teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon pepper 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce 1 teaspoon dry mustard And butter for frying.

Remembering when we bought a dozen of them and set the cauldron to boil then heard terrified scratching sounds from the large brown paper bag

You make them into patties and fry until brown and this way you don’t think about the blue, beautiful swimmers, swimming free.

My friend picked them out gingerly—one by one— and plunked them in the pot and put the metal lid on with a bang.

—Kay Weeks has written three books for younger audiences, the most recent of which is Sticks and Stones, Skin and Bones.

But the steam opened it for a moment and that was when the biggest one crawled out and skittered across the floor while a few of us cheered him on—escape! Back to the sandy floor! But it was no use; back into the pot he went. When fully cooked the crabs turned crimson red

Sick of It All I find the article “Sick Chic” (October) disturbing. Obviously there is no substitute for support of one’s friends and family when going through a medical crisis. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in August, and the love and affection of those close to me has meant more than I can say. However, during my journey, I have found that five intelligent friends of mine either do not get regular mammograms or are late in scheduling them. I have also learned that there are not enough women to participate in breast research studies nationwide (visit www.armyofwomen.org).

Unhealthy Attitude Is David Dudley the same City Paper leftist from the past? Why are you libs so in love with everything European? Please take some time and show me where America’s health care “ranks far back in the pack among industrialized nations” (“Editor’s Note,” October). Sadly, you slam free-market health care but never say a word about our disgraceful public schools, which ARE far behind the world. That’s what you get when pandering, appeasement, and political correctness overrule common sense and principles. You conveniently failed to state that out of the forty-seven million uninsured Americans, many are illegals, many are children already under a state plan, some are self-employed and might not register because they are on their spouse’s plan, and others simply choose not to purchase insurance. Forty-seven million is a lie and nothing more than clever propaganda. You also failed to mention that people from all over the planet come here because the care is faster and far superior. I haven’t heard about Americans going to Canada and waiting nine months for coronary angioplasty. Your agenda and ideology is apparent. Everything you mentioned sounds so wonderful and probably makes you feel good because others will assume you are a caring person. That’s fantastic, but Vinnie DeMarco’s payment plan, with which you agree, is the same old liberal strategy. More taxes on businesses, more taxes on goods that are already taxed to death, and more taxes for high-income earners (liberal code word for the hated rich). Let’s punish success and achievement. Brilliant! —Thomas Sjolander is director/owner of ProGymSystems. He lives in Abingdon.

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. Please include your name, address, and daytime phone number. Letters may be edited for length and clarity. You can also comment on our website (www.urbanitebaltimore. com/forum).

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GODS

what you’re writing

Every day

Mamelly ambled down the path next to my house, her large, matronly frame leaning on a rough branch rubbed smooth where she grasped it. As the others in the village stared unabashedly at my white skin, she just smiled and patiently let me stumble through the language. Mamelly spoke slowly and deliberately. I was certain she held all the answers to life. When she asked about my family one day, I showed her pictures. She pointed to my mother, and my stomach clenched as it always did. I explained, in the Malagasy way, “She’s already dead.” I don’t know why I thought a village that sees lots of death would be numb to it. Mamelly’s eyes and mouth fell open, and I realized how naïve I had been. Her empathy enveloped me more strongly than people at home whom I had known my whole life. A few days later, I returned from an overnight trip to another city. When I opened the

door to my house, something wasn’t right. My mosquito net was gone. I saw my clothes strewn all around the room, and ripped, open envelopes and boxes. Then I realized everything else that was missing—my bike, my backpack, my music, my books … goddammit, I thought. Somebody broke into my house. I had only been here a few weeks. Why would someone do this? Couldn’t they see I was trying to help them? Word spread quickly in my village, especially because I went to my neighbor’s house crying. I spent the day in the mayor’s office leaving a report and figuring out how to get word to my organization. Later that evening, my hand was still shaking as I carried a bucket of water back to my house. I felt Mamelly before I saw her. She was standing in the path, shaking her head. “I am sorry,” she said. “People here are bad.”

I nodded and tried not to cry. “God and your mother are looking down on you,” she explained. She slowly made her way up the path. I had never really been a believer in any god, but at that moment, I wanted desperately to believe for us both. —Kara Panowitz served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Madagascar, where she met Mamelly. She is a writer, teacher, and filmmaker in Baltimore. that little saying that goes, “Dog is God spelled backwards.” I realize that this is hardly enough to make the two interchangeable, but I appreciate the comparison. Dogs are well loved and worshiped by many people. Some human lives revolve around dogs. The dog is essentially

I always liked

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what you’re writing good and is disappointed when we misbehave. Cruelty makes the dog very sad. He wants you to be happy because then life is grand. He will never leave you and is thrilled to be invited into your home. Sounds a whole lot like what I learned in Catholic school about God. My 15-year-old dog lost his ability to walk last week. I knew he was living on borrowed time. He was an extremely sweet and loving dog even by Golden Retriever standards. The vet came to the house, and we gathered around Francis, who was lying on a blanket under the magnolia tree. His passing was peaceful, but we are still quite sad. There is a big gap in the space where Francis lived. My parents, also Catholics, argued throughout their married life, which included all of my childhood. Divorce was only mentioned when a scene got really ugly, and my mother tried to make my father sorry by threatening to leave him. Long and painful silences were routine. I remember coming home one day from high school, and no one said anything, but our little dachshund ran to me happy and excited. As I bent down to pick her up, I felt loved. I wept on whatever dog was available during my painful teenage years. I knew I had soaked a dog good when I smelled the wet dog smell. When I longed for a second child but was divorced and attending nursing school, I ended up with three dogs. They were my babies, and my daughter considered them her siblings. Francis was the last of those dogs. I miss him, but I think he is with my mother. In heaven, with God. —Terry Barrick lives in Westminster with her husband and two daughters. A registered nurse, she works at Northwest Hospital in Randallstown as the interim clinical leader in the subacute unit. She loves animals, working with the elderly, and a really good book.

Despite the cold

and hard seat of the back pew, I was comfortable. A couple of my friends in our youth group whispered to each other as I stared at the dark green carpet at my feet, half asleep. “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us,” the pastor exclaimed, holding two pieces of Eucharist in his hands. “Therefore let us keep the feast, alleluia!” the congregation replied all at once. It was time for Communion, and, as usual, I was anxious to get out of there. During the service, I couldn’t help but look at all the people throwing themselves at the mercy of a god. Outraged at how willing the masses were to submit themselves to a higher being, I felt a

sense of disgust for how pathetic these people were. They appeared as nothing but sheep to me, just doing the same thing that human beings have been doing for centuries. How could they do this when the only proof of his existence was written in an ancient book? But maybe that was it. Maybe it was that you just have to believe in this. But how can I believe in something that presents itself as nothing more than a fictional character in a book? Perhaps I just haven’t been around long enough to have a reason to believe. —Rob Mitchell is a senior at St. Paul’s School.

“Gods,”

plural, can only mean one thing—false gods, since the Universe is coordinated by a unified Divine Spirit. Pathetically, I know about false gods all too well, in human form. My addiction was to perceived messiahs, individual or group. After being attracted—read “losing good sense”—to those who projected power, certainty, dogmatic fronts, and even triedand-true New Age personas of “compassion” and “higher consciousness,” I threw myself into their directives. One claimed himself a prophet and bandied about a Biblical namesake. He offered love and acceptance if only I could agree to see the world, where everyone was defective save for him, through his eyes. Then a group with which I felt I was embarked on a common journey mouthed all types of platitudes as long as I succumbed to their ethos; but once I expressed real needs of my own, they brought down the gate and vanished. First Truth: Many times, those that claim the loudest to be “spiritual” are in desperate need of convincing themselves they do not have more primal, id-like, lower selves, as we all do. Second Truth: All that glitters, upon closer examination, may be fool’s gold. Third Truth: Instead of prostrating yourself at someone else’s altar, stand tall and find your own bright, shining light. The Real God put this in you, and no false gods can take it away. —Joyce Wolpert, a dance/movement therapist in private practice in Baltimore, values movement and writing as expressions of the essence of life’s complexities.

I went out

on a date last night. A few hours after a reasonably good time in Hampden, I texted my date and said, “ur really cute.” I heard no response. So the next

morning, I wrote again: “Did you have a good time last night?” This was my date’s response: “I did—you are a good guy. I just don’t think we fit quite right.” And that was that. The end of her and me. The dating gods are toying with me at this point. I am attempting to meet people again after being in a committed relationship for several years. I’m having a tough time mainly because I feel and think like a needy dog. What I mean to say is I’m having trouble relaxing amidst intense cravings for companionship and attention. Tonight, I will get on my knees and pray to the dating gods. I will ask for another chance at love and pray that they forgive me for times when I hurt people who truly loved me. As always, they won’t answer. But what they will do is send me little memos in human form, like earlier today, when they used a secretary to tell me, “If I had a daughter that wasn’t married, I would want you to date her.” ■ —Todd Stanzione is 26 years old and lives in Towson.

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

Topic

Deadline

Publication

Migration My Partner Safe

Dec 8, 2008 Feb 2009 Jan 6, 2009 Mar 2009 Feb 10, 2009 Apr 2009

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Enjoyable People • Happy Faces Good Times

Tony Kushner

Caroline, or Change

Book & Lyrics by Tony Kushner Music by Jeanine Tesori Directed by David Schweizer The Pearlstone Theater

Dec 10–Jan 18 ABOUT FACES GIFT CERTIFICATES

CANTON | TOWSON | TIMONIUM PIKESVILLE | SALISBURY

ABOUTFACESDAYSPA.COM

Louisiana, 1963. Can the promises of the Civil Rights Movement reach as deep as the overheated basement domain of Caroline Thibodeaux, a maid who works for the well-meaning Gellmans and struggles to keep her bitterness in check? Featuring CENTERSTAGE Associate Artist E. Faye Butler in the title role, this thrilling, awardwinning musical takes on race, faith, money, latkes, and change— powerful, terrifying, and loose. And the washing machine sings a mean Motown.

www.centerstage.org 410.332.0033

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1

10/10/08 2:29:20 PM


corkboard

Radio City Christmas Spectacular

Dec 2–7

After seventy-five years of high-kicking synchronicity at New York’s Radio City Music Hall, the Rockettes have become a holiday season favorite for millions of people around the world. The famous dance line stops in Baltimore for six days as part of a twenty-three-city tour.

1st Mariner Arena 201 W. Baltimore St. Tickets start at $31 410-347-2020 www.baltimorearena.com

Antietam Memorial Illumination

Dec 6, 6 p.m.

The Union and Confederate armies suffered 23,000 casualties after twelve hours of fighting at the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862. One hundred forty six years later, Antietam is still the bloodiest one-day conflict in American history. During the twentieth annual Antietam National Battlefield Memorial Illumination, 23,000 candles—one for each soldier killed, wounded, or missing—line a 5-mile-long driving tour.

Antietam National Battlefield, Sharpsburg Tour starts at Route 34 entrance Free; donations accepted 301-432-5124 www.nps.gov/anti

Squidfire Holiday Art Mart

Dec 7, noon–6:30 p.m.

If Santa had a weakness for sea creatures and cartoons, he’d can the elves and shop exclusively at the Holiday Art Mart, organized by Baltimorebased apparel company Squidfire. Stock up on Squidfire’s signature tentacled T-shirts, plus gifts and goodies from the dozens of craft artists.

Lyric Opera House 140 W. Mount Royal Ave. Free 410-327-3300 www.squidfire.com

Victorian Holiday Cardmaking

Dec 13, 1 p.m.–3 p.m.

Stiff as they may have seemed in their waistcoats and corsets, the Victorians had a weakness for ornately adorned scrapbooks and homemade cards. This holiday season, you too, gentle reader, can dress your dearest affections in Victorian-style ribbons and color with the help of Evergreen Museum curator Jim Abbot. Materials provided.

Evergreen Museum and Library 4545 N. Charles St. $5 includes museum admission, free for members; registration required 410-516-0341 www.museums.jhu.edu/evergreen

Solstice Run

Dec 20, 8:30 a.m.

Celebrate the shortest day of 2008 with a gentle 5-miler through some of the most scenic sections of Druid Hill Park. Unlike the tortuous path of June’s Dreaded Druid Hills 10K, the Solstice Run eases racers past the Mansion House, Druid Lake, and the Howard Peters Rawlings Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.

Druid Hill Park 800 Wyman Park Dr. $15 day of race; pre-race discount www.baltimorerunning.com

Noontime New Year

Dec 31, 9:30 a.m.

Port Discovery turns the last day of the year into a family-friendly educational experience with its fourth annual Noontime New Year: An International Celebration. Each year, the event transports participants to a different part of the globe. This year’s cultural programs and performances highlight Italy.

Port Discovery 35 Market Place $11.75; children younger than 2 free 410-727-8120 www.portdiscovery.org

Photo credits from top to bottom: no credit; courtesy of the National Park Service; illustration by Kevin Sherry; courtesy of Shelby Silvernell; illustration by Cari Buziak; photo by Ken Stanek

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liberal arts

Join our community of great thinkers. The Master of Liberal Arts (MLA) Program at Johns Hopkins University thrives on the curiosity, passion, and diversity of its students and faculty. The MLA curriculum is rooted in the classics with an eye toward the contemporary. Students can explore mythology, art, literature, politics, sustainability, film, music, and much more. Our program offers a flexible, part-time format with courses in the evenings and on Saturdays. Take advantage of rolling admissions and apply online anytime.

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COMpiLEd bY LiONEL fOsTER

Something in the Air

co

Congratulations! For those of you who have been dying to download episodes of The Wire while walking your dog, the future is now. September 29 saw the launch of Xohm (www.xohm.com; 1-877-GET-XOHM), a high-speed mobile broadband network from Sprint, presently available only in Baltimore. Known as a WiMAX system (think Wi-Fi on steroids), Xohm offers the speed you expect from a plugged-in broadband connection, but through the air. With download speeds of between 2 and 4 Mbits/second and higher, Xohm can run circles around many other wireless Internet services. To access the network, you’ll need a bit of WiMAX hardware ($59.99 for a portable device, $80 for a home server) or one of a growing number of laptops and other mobile devices with WiMAX equipment built in. There are no annual contracts or cancellation fees; $45 gets you unlimited mobile access for one month.

te ur M OH tX in pr fS

o sy

—Lionel Foster

photo by Aisha M. Khan

Canine Couture In the world of super-sized pet stores and monotonous retail chains, little boutiques like Doggie Style (1130 Light St.; 410347-7575; www.doggiestyle2.com) are a breath of fresh air for dogs and humans alike. The nine-month-old store goes beyond polyester doggie beds and plastic-packaged snacks of mystery meat to indulge your pooch’s inner fashionista. There are faux leather jackets adorned with bling, plush loveseats and beds in zebra and leopard prints, and peppermint paw rub and a facial for $35—plus freshly baked all-natural doggie treats (including frosted cookies and cannolis) that you might be tempted to nibble when nobody’s looking. —Malene K. Bell

Named for its address, Baltimore Gallery 321 (248-259-0096; www.baltimoregallery321.com) opened in October in a nondescript brick building on the corner of West Madison and Eutaw streets. But gallery director Allison Pasarew and owner Christa Ingalls aim to make the gallery a lively addition to the community. The 2,000square-foot exhibition space will feature both local and national artists, mostly in exhibits that revolve around a chosen theme. December’s show has a financial-crisis twist: Dubbed the “Ben Franklin Show,” it will consist only of works priced at $100 or below. (The show’s opening is scheduled for December 6, 7 p.m.–9 p.m.) Pasarew and Ingalls also plan to help support local nonprofits such as My Sister’s Place through classes and fundraisers. —Marianne K. Amoss

photo by Aisha M. Khan

Art with a Heart

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Flame On The warm glow of a real fireplace can be as rustic and elemental as, well, fire itself, but it’s not exactly the most eco-friendly way to pump heat into your house. Most of the BTUs go up the chimney, along with plenty of soot. Behold the 21st-century fireplace—a sleek, flueless contraption lit by denatured alcohol. The striking Australian Eco-Smart fi replace stakes out the high end of the market (go to www.ecosmartfire.com for local availability). The Mount Washington green design outlet workingwonders (1416 Clarkview Rd., Suite 100; 410-828-0113; www.working wondersus.com) carries several other bio-fuel models in styles that range from traditional to space-age bachelor pad, with prices that range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. Some are inserts that can convert that long-dormant rowhouse fireplace into the real thing; others hang like flat-screen TVs. “If you’ve got an empty wall,” promises workingwonders founder BethAnn Lederer, “in twenty minutes you can have a fireplace.” —David Dudley

Calling All Cars © Sean Gladwell | Dreamstime.com

In Baltimore City, the Maryland Vehicle Theft Prevention Council’s latest statistics show that 6,276 vehicles were stolen in 2006. One possible solution: OnStar’s new Stolen Vehicle Slowdown (SVS) technology (www.onstar.com). An addition to OnStar’s existing Stolen Vehicle Locator Assistance feature, SVS is available on select 2009 model year GM cars. It allows equipped vehicles to be slowed remotely, enabling police to apprehend fleeing car-snatchers, and maybe avoiding a few of the roughly thirty thousand highspeed car chases that occur in the United States each year. As OnStar service line manager Brad Williams says, “We don’t want any vehicles becoming missiles on the highway.” That’s good news for everyone driving I-83. —Andrew Zaleski

photo by Shelby Silvernell

Flashback Whether you want to dress like Jackie O or Michael Jackson, the Clothing Warehouse (1211 S. Charles St.; 410-244-6554; www. theclothingwarehouse.com) is the new place in town for vintage. The first location opened in Atlanta fifteen years ago. Now, there are branches in states such as Texas, South Carolina, and Maryland, where Mark Sincevich and wife Linda Petursdottir set up shop this summer. “People who wear vintage are time travelers,” Sincevich says. The handpicked pieces of classic vintage for both men and women—from dresses and cowboy boots to jeans and sunglasses—are organized by color and category, making the 1,500-square-foot store easy to navigate. Baltimoreans can also sell or donate their own classic get-ups to the store. —Salma Warshanna 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 8

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THE “BEST OF BALTIMORE” ALL IN ONE PLACE. HAMPDEN IS YOUR ONE-STOP SHOPPING FOR BUYING LOCAL HOLIDAY GIFTS, INDIE FASHION, INCREDIBLE DINING, CUTTING EDGE SALONS, AND RELAXING SPAS.

WHAT’S HAPPING IN

Shop

breathe books 810 W. 36TH ST. 410-235-7323 breathbeooks.com doubledutch Boutique 3616 FALLS RD. 410-554-0055 doubledutchboutique.com Earth Alley 3602 ELM ST. 410-366-2110 earthalley.com Eye Candy Opticianry 900 W. 36TH ST. 410-889-0607 eyecandyop.com Fleckenstein Gallery & Archival Framing 3316 KESWICK RD. 410-366-3669 fleckensteingallery.com

fotopopART 813 W. 36TH ST. 410-235-0808 fotopopart.com

Spirit India Boutique 3549 CHESTNUT AVE. 410-261-5563 spiritindiaboutique.com

Golden West Café 1105 W. 36TH ST. 410-889-8891 goldenwestcafe.com

In Watermelon Sugar 3555 CHESTNUT AVE. 410-662-9090 inwatermelonsugar@verizon.net

Sturgis Antiques 3554 ROLAND AVE. 410-262-5383 sturgisantiques.com

Grano Pasta Bar, LLC 1031 W. 36TH ST. 443-869-3429 ginositaly.com

Ma Petite Shoe 832 W. 36TH ST. 410-235-3442 mapetiteshoe.com

The Pearl Gallery 826 W. 36TH ST. 410-467-2260 thepearlgallery.com

Milagro 1005 W. 36TH ST. 410-235-3800 shopmilagro.com

Live Well

Minás Gallery & Boutique 815 W. 36TH ST. 410-732-4258 minasgalleryandboutique.com Mud and Metal 1121 W. 36TH ST. 410-467-8698 mudandmetal.com Paradiso 1015 W. 36TH ST. 410-243-1317 info@paradisohampden.com Red Tree 921 W. 36TH ST. 410-366-3456 redtreebaltimore.com

Sprout: An Organic Salon 925 W. 36TH ST. 410-235-2269 sproutsalon.com

One Wellness Spa @ Bikram Yoga Hampden 911 W. 36TH ST. 410-243-2040 onewellnessspa@googlepages.com

Eat/Drink

Common Ground Café 819 W. 36TH ST. 410-235-5533 David’s Restaurant 3676-A FALLS RD. 410-662-7779 Small & Large Catering Parties Dogwood Restaurant 911 W. 36TH ST. 410-889-0952 dogwoodbaltimore.com

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE HOLIDAY EVENTS AT HAMPDENMERCHANTS.COM

Events

December 5, 2008 FIRST FRIDAYS IN HAMPDEN participating merchants host events, parties, special sales, stay open late, etc. December 7, 2 pm MAYOR’S CHRISTMAS PARADE A Baltimore tradition featuring Mummers, marching bands and, of course, Santa. December 3th & 14th, 20th, 21ST SANTA VISITS HAMPDEN Bring your camera for photo opportunities and your wish list for our favorite visitor from the North Pole.


If these

ed Tree

walls

could talk,

we’d listen to them too. We believe carefully listening to the client is the foundation on which a well designed space is created.

Home furnishings, stylish accessories, and artistic goods from around the world and around the corner.

Best of Baltimore 2007 and 2008

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Inside Out Designs, Inc.

is committed to providing quality design for commercial spaces at affordable prices for projects of all sizes and budgets. inside out designs, inc. | 3446 chestnut avenue baltimore, md 21211 | 410.662.4414

Craig Flinner Gallery

vintage posters custom framing -Wide selection of handmade mahogany furniture -exquisitely crafted Italian leather line -Eco-friendly upholstery line -Gifts for everyday and the holidays 921 West 36th Street, Baltimore, MD 21211 Located on “the Avenue” in hampden www.redtreebaltimore.com 410-366-3456

antique prints and maps

1117 W. 36th Street 410-727-1863 • www.flinnergallery.com

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You might ENJOY your work MORE if getting there was this much FUN.

DawouD Bey: Class Pictures at the Contemporary Museum Dec. 13–Feb. 21

The all new

F 650 GS. It’s as responsive as it is responsible.

Portraits Re/examined: “Old Fashioned Customer Service for Cutting Edge Technology”

Visit

Bob's BMW today for a TEST RIDE.

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Mac Repair • Laptop Repair PC Repair • Data Recovery

a DawouD Bey PRojeCt at the walters art Museum Dec. 13–Feb. 15

$49 Simple Repairs (In Store) $99 Complicated Repairs (In Store) $149 Max Labor Charge (In Store) $85 Per Hour House Call

410 685-2808

www.EliTheComputerGuy.com 855 N. Howard St (Antique Row) Monday - Friday 8am - 8pm

Store Store LTD Store LTD Store 11/30/07 LTD 11/30/07 LTD 11/30/07 1:24 11/30/07 1:24 PM1:24 1:24 PM Page 1:24 PM Page 1 PM Page 1 Store Store LTD LTD 11/30/07 11/30/07 1:24 PM Page Page 11 11 Store LTD 11/30/07 1:24 Page 1 Page Store LTD 11/30/07 1:24 PM PM Page 1 PM Store LTD 11/30/07 1:24 PM Page 1 Store LTD 11/30/07 1:24 PM Page 1

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Style Style Style Style Style Style Style Style Style Style Client:Store Client:Store Client:Store Client:Store Ltd Ltd Ltd Client:Store Client:Store Ltd Client:Store LtdLtd Client:Store LtdLtd Client:Store Ltd Client:Store Ltd Sales Sales Sales Rep:Maggie Sales Rep:Maggie Rep:Maggie Rep:Maggie Sales Sales Rep:Maggie Rep:Maggie Sales Rep:Maggie Sales Rep:Maggie Sales Rep:Maggie Sales Rep:Maggie Issue:Jan/Feb Issue:Jan/Feb Issue:Jan/Feb Issue:Jan/Feb 08 0808 Issue:Jan/Feb Issue:Jan/Feb 08 Issue:Jan/Feb 08 08 Issue:Jan/Feb 08 08 Issue:Jan/Feb 08 Issue:Jan/Feb 08 Designer:BW Designer:BW Designer:BW Designer:BW Designer:BW Designer:BW Designer:BW Designer:BW Designer:BW Designer:BW Proof Proof Proof Date:11/30 Proof Date:11/30 Date:11/30 Date:11/30 Proof Proof Date:11/30 Date:11/30 Proof Date:11/30 Proof Date:11/30 Proof Date:11/30 Proof Date:11/30 1st1st Revised 1st Revised 1st Revised Revised Proof Proof Proof Date: Proof Date: Date: Date: 1st 1st Revised Revised Proof Proof Date: Date: 1st Revised Proof Date: 1st Revised Proof Date: 1st Revised Proof Date: 1st Revised Proof Date: 2nd 2nd Revised 2nd Revised 2nd Revised Revised Proof Proof Proof Date: Proof Date: Date: Date: 2nd 2nd Revised Revised Proof Proof Date: Date: 2nd Revised Proof Date: 2nd Revised Proof Date: 2nd Revised Proof Date: 2nd Revised Proof Date: 3rd Revised 3rd Revised 3rd Revised Revised Proof Proof Proof Date: Proof Date: Date: Date: 3rd 3rd Revised Revised Proof Proof Date: Date: 3rd Revised Proof Date: 3rd3rd Revised Proof Date: 3rd Revised Proof Date: 3rd Revised Proof Date: 4th Revised 4th Revised 4th Revised Revised Proof Proof Proof Date: Proof Date: Date: Date: 4th 4th Revised Revised Proof Proof Date: Date: 4th Revised Proof Date: 4th4th Revised Proof Date: 4th Revised Proof Date: 4th Revised Proof Date: contemporarymuseum www.contemporary.org

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something for them . . .

something something something something for for everybody for everybody for everybody everybody something for me . . . something something for for everybody everybody something for everybody something for everybody something for everybody something for everybody something for everybody T H H T E H EH S ES E T S T O O T R O R E O R ER LT ELT E LT LT D DD T H E T O R E LT D TT H ET S TS OS RT E LT D T H E S T O R ED LT D

www.thewalters.org

T H E S T O R E LT D

VILL VA IL GLE V AI G O LV L E FIA LO C G LR F E AO G C O S E R F SO O C S K FR S EO C YK S R SE S OY B SK S A SE LT B Y KA IS E M LT YB O S IA R MLT B EO AM R I LT M E DO IM R 2D E O 12 RM 2 1 E1 D 02 M2 1 D1 02 21 10 210 V IL V II L G E O G F C O R F C S R S K S E Y S Y B A LT B IM M LT OIIR M O M R E D M 21D 1 11 02 VA IL GL E OL FA C R K EO Y S BK A LT IR M OA R E M D 2 1 022 VILL GL EA O FA C R K EOY S BS A IE M OS E D 2E 1 1 02 V L L AO GSE ESO OS FS C R O S SLT K E Y S B A LT M O2 R E M D 2 1 21 10 0 VILLAGE OF CROS E1 Y3 S B A LT I M3 O R2 E M3 D 23 1 21 0 4S1K 4 0 4 02 1 4 3 3 01 20 2 3 2 3 2 5 3 3 03 2 5 0 25 05 0

0 0 3 3 53 05 01 3 23 32 2 3 53 02 4 14 014 3 24 31 2 33 52 02 4 1 0 3 2 3 2 3 50 0 THE STORE LTD 410 323 2350

VILLAGE OF CROSS KEYS BALTIMORE MD 21210 410 323 2350

28

urbanite december 08

Dawoud Bey, Boy Eating a Foxy Pop, (Brooklyn, NY) 1988 Portraits rE/ExaminEd: a dawoud BEy ProjEct is presented by the Contemporary Museum in collaboration with the Walters Art Museum. The project was made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services. Additional support is provided by Carol and Alan Edelman, Sayra and Neil Meyerhoff, and The Paige Family Foundation. dawoud BEy: class PicturEs is organized by Aperture, a not-for-profit organization devoted to photography and the visual arts. Lead support for the Contemporary’s presentation of dawoud Bey: class Pictures is provided by Nancy and Tom O’Neil and Provident Bank.


aLsO iN b a LT i M O R E ObsERVEd:

baltimore observed

31 Update The bay versus the EPA, hard times for nonprofits, and talking design

35 Talk to Me

photo by Shelby Silvernell

R&B DJ Moon Man keeps the beat.

All signs point to yes: Equal parts artist incubator and party spot, the anarchic Copy Cat building stands at the brink of gentrification.

dEVELOpMENT

Bohemian Sunset Drive through Station North these days and you’ll see the evidence of a neighborhood on the rise. The 100-acre arts district, which sits northeast of Penn Station, is flanked by areas that have suffered from years of disinvestment. But here, bars, restaurants, theater companies, and music and art venues are now cropping up, and there’s activity on the streets, even after dark. At the center of Station North, more symbolically than geographically, is the Copy Cat building, the former warehouse that has long served as an affordable home for neighborhood artists. The red brick behemoth, standing at a slightly elevated point on Guilford Avenue, draws its nickname from the billboard for the Copy Cat Printing Company that once stood on its roof. Today, it holds up the official Station North sign, faded and spray-painted in three places with the word “Love.” One could say that Station North—which is bounded by Greenmount Avenue to the east, the railroad tracks to the south (Penn Station, however, is not in the district), Howard Street to the west, and 20th Street to the north—was founded on the Copy Cat. J. Kirby Fowler Jr.,

president of the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore and a member of the Station North Arts and Entertainment Inc. board, says the building and its inhabitants were integral to winning arts district status in 2002 under then-mayor Martin O’Malley. The designation allows the city to use tax credits to lure businesses and investment. “If the building was not full of artists,” says Fowler, “[the neighborhood] would certainly lack the charm that exists there.” But as the district gains steadier footing, its ragtag flagship building is teetering on the edge of gentrification, leading some to ask, if the Copy Cat as we know it disappears, what will happen to Station North’s artists? Built around the turn of the last century, the more-than-200,000-square-foot structure was once home to the Crown Cork and Seal Company. Charles Lankford, who also owns the Copy Cat Annex (see October ’08 Urbanite), has been its sole owner since 1983. He was running a computer company out of the building when, as an experiment, he rented out some of the fifth floor as low-rent art studios. Some of the artists started living in their studios, leading to a 2001 lawsuit filed by the city to get the building up to code. Lankford eventually had the building’s zoning changed to office/residential, and now it serves as live/work space for several

hundred residents, many of them painters, photographers, architects, and musicians. Arts collective Wham City (and its most well-known member, musician Dan Deacon) got their start in Baltimore in the Copy Cat, although they have since relocated. Entering through one of the green metal doors that face Guilford Avenue, a visitor can either climb the wooden stairs or take a chance on the squeaking, clanking elevator. Upstairs, nondescript doors open into spaces Andy Warhol would have loved: wide open lofts with high ceilings and large paned windows that expose a view of the city, laid out like a pop-up book below. Some apartments are more polished than others, but there are common threads: drywall partitions for bedrooms, collections of screenprinting or band rehearsal equipment, mismatched furniture, free-standing bars, and the occasional tire swing hanging from the ceiling. Not surprisingly, the building has developed a reputation for rowdy parties and loud music shows. (There’s a “NO RAVES” clause in leases.) “It’s kind of like a free-for-all down there,” says Abu Moulta Ali, president of the New Greenmount West Community Association. “If they have one working bathroom, they’re fine.” Lankford, the owner, has often clashed with tenants and city code enforcers.

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City housing inspectors who toured the building in March found fifty-four code violations— many of them created by tenants, they said. “Overall, is the building safer than it was ten years ago? Yes, definitely,” says Jim Vose, chair of the board of the nonprofit Station North Arts and Entertainment Inc. “But there are definitely things there that are not right.” Lankford says his goal is to provide affordable housing for artists. Rents range from $450 for a small apartment to $2,200 for the larger units, which are usually shared by three or four people (at least officially—it’s common to squeeze in six or seven residents, several of whom are likely not on the lease). But keeping up with the code requirements is costly, he says. “It’s a very expensive building to heat, and electricity costs have gone way up.” He has evicted a lot of problem tenants, he says, and annually spends $12,000 on graffiti removal and $10,000 to repair damages. (The Wham City members were “the party animals,” he says. “They graffitied everything.”) Still, despite concerns about the building’s condition, residents insist that the open layout—they often access their apartments through their neighbors’—and lax rules create a friendly and productive community, one that holds as many potluck suppers and life drawing classes as it does all-night parties. “[The Copy Cat] allows artists and creative types to flourish and do what they want with limited interference,” says Joe Rabinowitz, an architect who lived with his wife in an art-filled 2,000-squarefoot loft for five years (see July ’06 Urbanite). Michael Farley, a senior interdisciplinary sculpture major at MICA, says the building is a safe haven and a breeding ground for art. “Whole new art movements, new kinds of

baltimore observed Tidal Wave The nonprofit Chesapeake Bay Foundation says only court intervention can push bay restoration efforts off the shoals. (See November ’08 Urbanite.) On October 29, the foundation, joined by fishing groups, threatened to sue the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to enforce the Clean Water Act and meet deadlines set under a 2000 cleanup agreement. To avoid a court battle, the EPA must set in place regulations and funding to remove the bay from its list of “impaired waters” by 2015—a task that will have far-reaching implications for bay-polluting farms, power plants, and cities. The foundation also asked for the release of funds set aside under the 2008 Farm Bill to stanch nutrient and sediment runoff. President George W. Bush has blocked their release. “It’s mind-boggling that [EPA officials] are not advocating for the release of this money,” says foundation President William Baker. “We could have [pollution] reduction by next year’s growing season.”

U p d aT E

photo by Shelby Silvernell photo by Shelby Silvernell

“Whole new art movements, new kinds of music [are being invented in the Copy Cat],” says former resident Michael Farley. “The way people write about lower Manhattan in the ’70s and ’80s, they will write about Baltimore in the 2000s.”

music [are being invented in the Copy Cat],” he says. “The way people write about lower Manhattan in the ’70s and ’80s, they will write about Baltimore in the 2000s.” When rumors began circulating last winter that Lankford planned to sell the building for transformation into smaller, higher-dollar apartments, residents were concerned. A core group of four, plus a rotating cast of about ten others, tried to form a tenants’ union, gathering several times from January to March to share food, cigarettes, and beer. But the freethinking Copy Cat crowd proved resistant to organization. (When asked why she and her friends hadn’t attended a tenants’ union meeting, one resident said simply, “We have lives.”) The activists had heard of other artists banding together and buying their buildings, but they weren’t sure how to begin, or whether they could find the capital and the support from other residents, who often cycle in and out of the building unpredictably. They considered approaching the city for help, but were afraid officials would condemn the building. Notes from one meeting say, “IF ALL ELSE FAILS: A massive artist protest including dancing banana and all the trannys in the city to picket … and invite all press and tv.” Eventually, the rumors of a sale died down, and with them went the efforts to organize tenants. But the wolf is still at the door. Lankford says he has no sales agent or contract on the Copy Cat, but he indicates that he would entertain an offer. Joe McNeely, executive director of the Central Baltimore Partnership, believes that the building’s sale and redevelopment is inevitable. The partnership, along with the Charles North Community Association and the Baltimore Development Corporation, just released a new master real estate development strategy for Charles North. The plan will encourage the city to partner with private property owners to create large-scale, mixed-use commercial and residential development, making Charles North the premier transit-oriented development in Maryland. McNeely says one of his goals is to find new housing in the district for the Copy Cat’s artists before the development begins. “If we don’t do it now,” he says, “it’ll be too late.” Several alternatives are already in the works. On the 1600 block of Latrobe Street, one block north of the Copy Cat, East-West Properties has rehabbed two strips of alley houses, leaving them mostly unfinished, with plywood and cement floors, exposed bricks and beams, and raw sheetrock walls, plus artist-friendly amenities like slop sinks. All are rented at $875 per month, and their tenants include MICA students and professors, and at least one working artist. The New Greenmount West Community Association has tentative plans to develop ten scattered rowhouses into affordable artist housing, using the same formula as East-West. In the 1500 block of Greenmount Avenue, the nonprofit neighborhood revitalization group Jubilee Baltimore, working with the Philadelphia-based

Conversation Piece A few of the organizers of Baltimore’s fledgling urban design center (see August ’08 Urbanite) are inviting graphic designers and architects, environmentalists and citizens to talk about “what the city is and what it could be,” says Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson, Urbanite’s former editor-in-chief. Each conversation revolves around a theme, such as accommodating Baltimore’s smaller population. Anyone can sign up in advance or volunteer on the spot to give a five-minute slideshow or talk, which is followed by freeform discussion. Conversations are held at the Windup Space at 10 W. North Avenue on the first Wednesday of the month (this month, December 3). Join Design Center Baltimore’s page on Facebook.com or go to www.baltimorecenterfordesign.com, scheduled to go live late this month. Tough Going More signs of economic woe: Foundations have watched their assets plunge by up to 45 percent just as requests for grants have risen, according to a survey by the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers. (See December ’07 Urbanite.) Half of the foundations surveyed are reevaluating their priorities; some will focus on narrower issues and geographic areas, while others will fund fewer new projects. But it’s not the end of the world: Nationwide, foundations gave $37 billion in 2006, according to the Giving USA Foundation, and individuals gave $223 billion. Says Grantmakers Executive Director Betsy Nelson, “In hard times, Americans dig deep.” ■

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Reinvestment Fund, plans to start construction in January 2010 on rowhouses and an apartment building that would include common studio and gallery space and a roof deck—a design that was influenced by focus groups of area artists. The apartments will have “loosely defined” floor plans, says Charlie Duff, Jubilee’s president, and be “as open as building codes allow.” Duff projects that rent will start around $700 a month, and wants to guarantee that the rents will remain affordable. “Even though the Copy Cat is great, it doesn’t necessarily serve all parts of the artist market,” says Station North Inc.’s Vose. “We want to build the artists into the neighborhood across the board, not just in one location.”

Shake. Turn Page.

Joe McNeely of the Central Baltimore Partnership says one of his goals is to find new housing in the district for the Copy Cat’s artists before the development begins. “If we don’t do it now,” he says, “it’ll be too late.” But not everyone has given up on saving the Copy Cat. One local developer, Kim Forsyth, says she has approached Lankford with a plan to improve the building and keep it affordable for current residents. So far, he has turned down her offers. Artspace, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit development group, has considered taking on the Copy Cat, and while the group decided the project lacked necessary city support, its November 2007 report states, “… we believe this building should remain in consideration until circumstances dictate otherwise.” For the time being, at least, the meltdown of the real estate market seems to be holding the Copy Cat in its current limbo. Regardless of who owns the building, Lankford says, “There’s no likelihood that anything is going to happen for four to five years, with the market doing what it’s doing.” Michael Farley, who moved out of the building this fall due to a dispute with Lankford, hopes that’s true. He spent the summer of 2008 on an independent urban studies trip to Spain and Morocco and has become interested in the writings of urbanist Jane Jacobs and the work of the Situationists, a group of 1960s European artist/activists who were inspired by Marxism. “I think that space informs actions,” Farley says. “[The neighborhood] needs the Copy Cat as the focal point. A cultural movement needs critical mass that you don’t get living in a house next to someone else.” ■ —Marianne K. Amoss

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baltimore observed

Soul survivor: Veteran DJ Moon Man broadcasts from an Eastern Shore high school.

ENCOUNTER

Talk to Me It’s a little past five o’clock on Friday afternoon at WKHS radio, and the Moon Man is on the air. Candy, Candy, she’s on the Moon Man. Talking that talk and walking that walk. Trying to do a little good in your neighborhood. Here are the Bar-Kays. There’s a slight huskiness in his voice, a dash of soulful swagger. As he finishes, the first note of the aching Stax single “(If Loving You is Wrong) I Don’t Want to Be Right” insinuates itself over the airwaves. This is a version you don’t hear much—the Luther Ingram rendition from 1972 was the bigger hit—and it’s a funky start for the Moon Man. Over the next two hours, he exhorts listeners to call in as he spins the soul staples of another age: Mary Wells and Sam Cooke, the Falcons and the Temptations, Clarence Carter and Maxine Brown. You’re listening to WKHS, 90.5 FM, Worton/ Baltimore. Right now we’re smoothin’ and groovin’ right here in your hometown. Rhythm and soul and solid gold. Worton is nowhere near Baltimore. It’s outside of Chestertown, on the Eastern Shore, home to Kent High School’s WKHS radio, 90.5 FM, a 17,500-watt station with a 60-mile listening radius. Tune in during the school year and you’ll hear students picking their way through news stories and playing Coldplay songs. After the kids go home, the evenings feature shows like Voices From the Hallway (vocal groups from the ’50s and ’60s) and Roadtrippin’ (jam bands and psychedelic rock) hosted by volunteer DJs with monikers like the Nite-Al and Martin Q. Blank. Moon Man caught the Sunday night oldies program on WKHS, In the Thrill of the Night, driving home from a DJ gig in Philly one night.

He called the station the next day to ask for a job. That was two years ago. “At the time, we had no openings, so I put his name down for future reference,” says the former station manager, Steve Kramarck. Then Charlie Coleman’s Classic Country spot on Friday afternoons opened up, and Kramarck gave Moon Man a call. “He gives us something that really is not heard much anymore,” he says. “Especially not in our area.” Pick up that phone and call a friend, call a neighbor, and tell them the Moon Man is on the radio. I met Moon Man last spring, when I was guest-hosting the rock show that follows the Moon Man’s program. In person, he’s smaller and rounder than he sounds on the radio, a quiet and courtly guy who is guarded about his private life. I ask if we could meet at his Catonsville home studio, where he pre-records much of his program. He demurs, suggesting instead the Bob Evans on Route 40. When I ask what to call him in print, he tells me to use Moon Man. Folks at WKHS and several other stations say the same thing. “He said, ‘Just call me Moon Man,’” recalls Sean Foster, an account executive at Philadelphia’s WURD-AM, which carries Moon Man’s program on Saturday evenings. “I think it’s just easier for him that way.” “He’s mild-spoken,” explains Foster, “but when that red light comes on, he transforms into a music machine.” He becomes the Moon Man. Taking you back, back to your roots. Moon Man with Southern soul and solid gold. “I like any song that tells a story,” Moon Man says. That means “Southern soul”—retrosounding contemporary R&B from such artists as Tyrone Davis, Denise La Salle, and Marvin Sease—and “solid gold”—chestnuts from the

old Atlantic, Motown, and Stax labels. But these aren’t the songs popular on commercial urban radio. “They won’t allow it,” he says. “And if I can’t play my own music, I don’t want to work.” By his telling, Moon Man has had a colorful career behind the mike. Born Willie Bacote in tiny Florence, South Carolina (the nickname came from a girlfriend’s girlfriend, who called his shaved pate “a cute little moon head”), he started as a weekend DJ at Florence’s WYNN in 1960, playing what was still known as “race music.” Performers would often drop by to promote their songs; one of them, a singer named James Brown, urged Moon Man to move to a bigger city. So Moon Man moved to Wilmington, North Carolina, and talked his way into a country-western station, where he sold his own advertising and supported himself by washing dishes for fifty cents an hour. He integrated a white station in Charlotte and worked at a Richmond R&B station, where the Ku Klux Klan tore down the tower to keep race music out of the community. Then came stints in D.C., Memphis, Detroit. By 1973, his old friend James Brown had decided he was going to buy a radio station in Baltimore—WEBB, 1360 AM—and Moon Man worked there for twelve years, followed by WOL in Washington and a syndicated TV dance show called Soul of the City. WURD General Manager Kernie Anderson first heard about Moon Man when he was a college student in D.C. in the ’70s. Now he’s carrying Moon Man’s show, even though WURD isn’t a music station. “The vast majority of our programming is telephone talk, but what Moon Man was offering is so unique, we needed to find a place for him on the station,” he says. “If we don’t play it, who will?” So Moon Man keeps working. Each Friday, he makes the 150-mile round trip to Kent County with two CDs of programming. He prerecords much of his material to get his trademark effects, such as the reverb-heavy intro proclaiming “From Memphis to Jerusalem and all around the world. Doin’ it with the Moon Man.” Throughout his shift, he switches the mike on to sing along with a chorus, give the station ID, and, like all WKHS DJs, urge folks to call in with requests, or just say hi and spread the word. If you include the commute, it becomes a long shift, not to mention an unpaid one. But Moon Man is a man on a mission. “If I’m there long enough, people will hear the music,” he says. “You’ve got to educate your audience. All that music is going to be lost. I’m here to save it.” ■ —Mary K. Zajac Web extra: See video of Moon Man on the air at www.urbanitebaltimore.com.

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The Messenger C. Ali Sharif, Newark’s political PR whiz, talks about rebuilding government from the citizens up. I n t erv i e w

by

P h oto g r a ph

I

by

T e j u s

Fo st er S h a h

n 2006, a 37-year-old, Yale-educated lawyer named Cory Booker became mayor of Newark, New Jersey. Expectations could not have been greater. Many hoped that Booker, a former Stanford football star and Rhodes Scholar, would not only turn around the struggling city ten miles west of Manhattan but also be the standard-bearer for a new breed of urban leaders—young, black, charismatic figures who, decades after desegregation, could point the way forward for cities with a vision that cuts across race and class. To help articulate his vision, Booker hired 6Sixty Group, a public affairs communications firm founded by C. Ali Sharif, who was also the son of his campaign manager. Some charged the new mayor with cronyism, but Sharif, 48, stood by his credentials. After fifteen years at the New York Times, several of which he spent managing the newspaper’s art department, in 1999 he founded Diversified Media Design, a corporate marketing and communications firm whose clients included Nautica Kids, AT&T, and recording artist Mos Def. Sharif worked with his father, longtime Newark power player Carl Sharif, on Booker’s campaign, and he doesn’t apologize for his political pedigree. He says he worked on his first campaign when he was 8 years old, licking stamps at the headquarters of his father’s campaign for the south ward seat in Newark’s Municipal Council. What began as a communications contract quickly expanded beyond a website to a branding exercise designed to return the government of this notoriously poor and corrupt town back to its people. Dubbed “Q Life” for its emphasis on quality of life issues, the communications program was conceived to facilitate an ongoing conversation about five things that government and residents agreed needed to be prioritized: public safety, economic development, community engagement, child and family well-being, and government reform. Under Sharif ’s plan, residents could create their own user accounts on the website and receive automatic updates from City Hall. For the citizens without Web access, “street teams” would make sure important pamphlets and flyers reached community leaders, who then passed them on to their churches, mosques, and neighborhood associations. Finally, monthly forums would allow residents to communicate with government officials face-to-face. Two years into the Booker administration, however, Q Life has yet to be fully implemented, and some are blaming the messenger. Sharif spoke with Urbanite about technology, civic engagement, and managing big expectations.

person.” She said, “Look at the streets. They’re a mess. Look at these kids hanging on the corner over there. Did you hear about the kid who just got shot the other day? That’s a damn shame.” I knew the kid. He worked in my family’s restaurant, and he got shot on the street with my nephew standing right next to him. She talked to me for half an hour. I stayed there and listened to her about how absolutely disappointed she was in everybody who was in elected office. She voted all her life, and this time she thought that she might not vote out of protest because she’s just so disgusted that nobody seems to be able to do anything about our community. She said, “Is the sum total of our leadership a group of vipers who simply preys on people for their own ambition?”

Q

Some Municipal Council members have complained that 6Sixty Group was given too much money and didn’t deliver everything it promised. The new website, which still isn’t fully functional, seems to be the biggest bone of contention.

It seems like one of the fundamental challenges today, for cities and for the whole country, is to restore people’s faith in government.

A

A few years ago, I was canvassing for a candidate in Irvington, New Jersey, and this old lady said to me, “I ain’t votin’ for a damn

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Q A

Where did you begin in trying to overcome this kind of disenchantment? During the mayor’s transition period we invited community members to come and talk about what they wanted to see for their city. Hundreds of community members came out. Everybody, by and large, said, “The city’s doing a horrible job. We don’t talk to government. We don’t get anything from anybody unless somebody’s running for office.” We went through all those findings and scheduled interviews with [city government] department leaders. Everybody had a different sense of what was necessary, and there was no mechanism to bring all of the ideas together. During that time, the mayor started a quality of life initiative, which was about victimless crimes. How do we stop graffiti? How do we stop people from peeing on the sidewalks? It’s by and large what had happened in New York when [former mayor] Ed Koch was there. We looked at that and said, “New York is a completely different environment. It has a business and economic district, which is going to benefit from this quality of life push. That doesn’t exist in the city of Newark, so here’s an opportunity for us to take the quality of life idea and expand it with the idea that everything a municipality does should be about protecting and establishing quality of life for its residents.” That was the genesis of Q Life.

Q A

No one understood the difference between whether the website is functional and whether it provides information. If there wasn’t content on the website, people thought 6Sixty hadn’t done its job. The ven-


keynote provide a way for the community to take responsibility for itself, then it will survive any leader.

Q

For many communities, decent public service provision is simply the norm. If I’m an overworked and underpaid resident of Newark, or any other troubled area, why should I work that much harder to get what others enjoy by default?

A

In communities that work, the members of the community have taken on individual responsibilities for that community and for their households. This program is the jumping-off point. Q Life gives residents the responsibility and ownership of their community so that this level of engagement becomes less and less necessary over time.

Q

Barack Obama’s presidential campaign seemed to do nationally what Q Life is trying to do at the city level: Use communications technology to mobilize and encourage political engagement. For community organizers, what will the legacy of the Obama campaign machine be?

A

dor can’t generate the content. We begged and begged for departments to provide new content. There was no way to convince them to give it to us, so the site went up without all of the content. Once it went up, things started to shift. The departments that had younger staff were the ones that were more engaged. The departments that had older staff we still had to convince. There’s still a ton of functionality there—audio, podcasts, video—that people are just not used to.

Q

Are there residents who think that having a city government use branding exercises and focus groups and fancy websites is just a little too slick?

A

Yes, it is slick, but it works. We figured we’d take the best of these techniques and use them in ways that citizens could understand. It is really about information and a belief that people have the power to change their lives if they have the information necessary. We always understood that Cory [Booker] wasn’t going to be there forever. Four years, six years or so, and he’d be out. It can’t be about Cory. It has to be about the community. If we make it about the community and

I think that the overwhelming success of the Internet in Obama’s election means a couple of things. Many younger It is really about people have become part of the process. They’re going to start information and running for mayor and state a belief that people legislature, and the Democratic Party is going to make this have the power to technology available to them. change their lives [Previously,] all black politicians had were their offices. if they have the We haven’t figured out how to turn that political leadership information necessary. into private sector leadership, so they had to stay forever. We’ve held onto power for so long now that we have disenfranchised an entire generation of political leaders, but the young people are saying, “You don’t understand the technology. You don’t understand how this works. Thank you for providing the way for us, but it’s now time for you to step aside and let us take over.”

Q

You talked about the Obama campaign’s effect on local politics, but what about national politics? Will he be able to run this communications machine from the Oval Office?

A

No. Not at all. He’s already told people, “I can’t do this from the White House. What I can do is help inspire and help set the tone so that in local municipalities folks are geared up, and they understand what they need to do. Change doesn’t happen from the top down. It happens from the bottom up.” He’s been saying that from the beginning. ■

—Lionel Foster is Urbanite’s staff writer. 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 8

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e h T s r e m r o f s n a r T A K AYE BY L P HY

M BAH

P HOTOGRA

Baltimore is famously known as a city of neighborhoods, one that sometimes seems more like a loose confederacy of independent nation-states. But the ties within those neighborhoods bind: Our loyalty to the block, and the city’s limited ability to chip in, mean that transformative change is often driven on the street level. One person can still make a difference here. That’s the thinking that inspired the profiles in this issue. We went searching for neighborhood heroes—people fighting for and inspiring change in parts of town that needed it. What follows is a small selection from the flurry of nominations we received from nonprofits and community organizations around town. We put these individuals forward with the understanding that none of them act alone; they simply provide the spark. Perhaps their stories will incite you to act as well. Starting next month and throughout the coming year, we’ll continue to profile these transformational figures in every issue of Urbanite. We welcome your suggestions. Send nominations to editor@urbanitebaltimore.com.

B y

B i l l

T h o m p s o n

p h o t o g r a p h y

b y

Making Baltimore a better place, one block at a time

d av i d

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

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Three years ago, when mathematician Bill Clewell left his tenured professorship at the University of Baltimore to become a full-time home renovator, many of his colleagues wondered if he was making a miscalculation. At 60, even he admitted he might only have another five years of hammering and dry-walling left in him. But Clewell was not new to construction. He’d built his own vacation home. He and his wife, Anne, had renovated several homes in the city. And this son of a Lutheran minister was on a mission: to make one small part of Baltimore safer and more prosperous. So he and Anne started looking for properties to renovate. In December 2004 they bought three adjacent houses and worked with a friend to buy

a fourth, all on the even side of the 1800 block of Barclay Street in Greenmount West. Three of the four properties were in terrible shape. Floor joists had rotted and buckled, crashing into ceilings below. Clewell and his crew had to rebuild from the basement up, navigating a maze of city permits and regulations as they went. The surrounding neighborhood had also seen better days. When a police officer drove through the open-air drug market that convened in the small park immediately behind one of his homes, Clewell chased down the car and asked the officer why she hadn’t done anything about the drug activity. “Don’t you know the neighborhood you bought into?” she asked.

But the Clewells were undeterred. In December 2006, they sold 1810 Barclay to a pair of artists who finished the renovations themselves; 1816 is occupied, and 1818 Barclay is finished and up for sale. Along the way the Clewells bought two more houses on the block. With nearly $400,000 invested, the couple has either bought or renovated seven of the twelve homes on their side of the street and hopes to sell each of the remaining three to families who will help stabilize the area. “Money has not driven us at all,” Anne says. “The most important thing is to rebuild this block.” —Lionel Foster

The Rehabbers Bill and Anne Clewell Greenmount West

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It was Baltimore’s poster child for urban destitution, cheek-by-jowl with one of the most renowned medical institutions in the world. By 2001, decades of disinvestment, poverty, and crime meant that thousands of East Baltimore residents in the neighborhoods surrounding Johns Hopkins Hospital struggled at or below the poverty line, often on blocks where nearly every other house was abandoned. The sheer scale of decay, it seemed, provided the perfect opportunity to start over, to redraw sections of East Baltimore from scratch—which is essentially what East Baltimore Development Incorporated (EBDI), the quasi-governmental corporation vested with power to transform eighty-eight acres into a $1.8 billion biotechnology park and new worker housing, proposed. “I didn’t know anything about the plans,” recalls area resident Donald Gresham. But when he learned about them a few years into the planning proces, he says, “I was mad.” Gresham is president of Save Middle East Action Committee, or SMEAC, an organization founded in 2001 to advocate for residents within the redevelopment area. Since its inception, SMEAC has been the voice of a community almost left for dead. The

The Neighborhood Activist Donald Gresham East Baltimore

Richard Anderson started fixing vehicles for Baltimore Gas and Electric in 1971. Today, he’s one of the overseers of the company fleet, but he still tinkers with his pickup truck and a Triumph Spitfire he bought twenty years ago as a hobby. “As a mechanic, your job is to take something that is broken or designed poorly and make it work as it should or better,” he says. “That seems to be my lot in life.” Since 2001, Anderson’s biggest fix-it project has been his South Baltimore neighborhood of Brooklyn and neighboring Curtis Bay. As board president of the nonprofit Brooklyn and Curtis Bay Coalition, Anderson has been a driving force behind rehabbing the old Polish Home Hall on Fairhaven Avenue, once a thriving gathering spot back when the shipyard, dry dock, and chemical companies kept locals at work. The coalition is in the process of building a block of environmentally friendly, affordable worker homes, and creating an environmental education center in a pocket of waterfront that was cleaned up to mitigate a nearby dredge spoils dump.

group successfully pushed for demolition practices that kept dust and debris off the sidewalks and out of people’s lungs, earned two seats for area residents on EBDI’s board, and, round after round, negotiated relocation compensation packages for residents. To date, 437 families have been relocated, with buyouts averaging $160,000, although most of the houses were worth less than $30,000. EBDI has also provided assistance in finding new homes for residents and helped acquire the credit needed to buy them. While SMEAC has held rallies and marches denouncing EBDI’s handling of the largest neighborhood redevelopment project in Baltimore’s history, Gresham does not see himself and his fellow volunteers as obstructionists. “We’re fighting not the project,” he explains, “but its effects on the rest of our lives.” Now in his second term as president, Gresham says SMEAC is a model for disadvantaged communities worldwide that are being pushed aside to make way for economic progress. His message is radical for its simplicity: “When [developers] go into a community, the community should be first.” —L.F.

Richard Anderson

Brooklyn and Curtis Bay

The Fixer The group has also set out to revive Brooklyn’s moribund commercial center, where, not so long ago, people lined up for blocks on Friday nights to get into Gunning’s Crab House on Hanover Street. Gunning’s closed a few years back, but the Charm City Bowl duckpin lanes are still open, and a few new businesses, including a green building outfit, have set up shop. Anderson envisions Brooklyn again becoming a destination for people from across the Patapsco who will come to partake of eateries and produce stands, fish off the nearby bridges, and attend the annual Lead Sled Festival, a classic car show he started in 2005. Asked why he sticks with it, Anderson recalls a scene from the 1989 TV miniseries Lonesome Dove, in which Robert Duvall, playing a Texas Ranger, is talking to a young prostitute who has dreams of leaving her hometown for California. “Life in California is still just life,” Duvall says. Adds Anderson, “I don’t think there’s anywhere that’s utopia. It’s what you make of it.” —Greg Hanscom 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 8

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Mark Washington grew up on the streets of East Baltimore. “There were a lot of misspent days of a wasted youth,” he says. He was lucky to stay out of jail. A knack for sales and a little good luck led him into a legitimate career as a stockbroker, however, and when he eventually returned to the streets, it was “to help undo some of the problems I perhaps helped create.” Today he is executive director of the Coldstream Homestead Montebello Community Corporation, affectionately known as “CHUM.” Washington is often seen patrolling his blighted eastside community in his white Lexus, wearing a well-worn hoodie and a backwards O’s cap, honking and hollering hellos—and enlisting residents to help clean up trash. He started five years ago in an illegal dumping ground behind the 1700 block of Montpelier Street. After a frustrating meeting with city officials, who (not for the first time) promised to help, Washington called a friend who owns a construction company. Armed with a bulldozer, a group of volunteers tore into the mounds of garbage, tires, and abandoned cars. Within a

The Community Organizer Mark Washington Coldstream Homestead Montebello

There’s always that one house in the neighborhood, the one where all the kids seem to hang out after school. On Queensberry Avenue in Park Heights, just a furlong from Pimlico Race Course, that place was the neat brick-front rowhouse of Nargas Hyman’s grandmother. Hyman’s oldest son, Frank, would meet his friends there—sometimes twenty or thirty of them—to shoot hoops in the backyard, eat hot dogs, and play Nintendo. Hyman, a single mom and a registered nurse, liked that she could keep an eye on them there, but it bothered her that they weren’t doing their homework. “Next time you come,” she told the kids one evening, “bring your books.” That was fifteen years ago, and Hyman’s ad-hoc basement homework center is now a nonprofit program called B-SPIRIT- A2Y, which stands for (deep breath) Brothers and Sisters Providing Information Relevant to Inspire and Motivate the African American Youth. In 2007, it moved around the corner to a scruffy, secondfloor room on Belvedere Avenue that includes a bank of donated computers, a well-thumbed library of math and science books, and home-

week, the city had prodded the property owner to finish the job. Since then, Washington and his organization have created safe routes for kids walking to school, shuttered corner stores that harbored drug dealers, and, working closely with the police, driven gangs out of the parks and streets. They’ve cleaned up an outbuilding on the campus of Baltimore City College high school and turned it into offices, meeting rooms, and a recreation center and computer lab for local kids. And they’ve sponsored sports events and movie nights in nearby Clifton Park—not a place you would otherwise want to be caught after dark. The group is now working with philanthropists and developers to rehab abandoned houses and resurrect the local real estate market. Washington’s first challenge, he says, was to “create a brand for CHUM as a self-reliant, can-do community.” Now he’s trying to use that brand to entice people back to a part of the city that has been left behind. —G.H.

Nargas Hyman Park Heights

The Super-Mom made posters explaining medical terminology (several B-SPIRIT grads have gone on to jobs in health care, including Frank, now 25 and working at nearby Sinai Hospital). Three evenings a week, Hyman drills neighborhood kids (including her younger son, Jamal, 12) on math, science, history, and health with the help of a half-dozen young adult mentors—themselves alumni of the program. Perhaps most importantly, the kids, ages 7 through 18, get a safe harbor in a neighborhood buffeted by crime and poverty. The program, run entirely out of Hyman’s pocket until 2005, is now partially supported by grants from the Abell Foundation and the Family League of Baltimore. But there’s not enough funding for food, for the restaurant trips or roller-skating nights that Hyman organizes to reward kids for good attendance, or even for a sign for their new building, where she dreams of opening a jobs and resources center for adults in the vacant first floor. “There’s so much more we could be doing,” says Hyman. “It’s not just about the kids; it’s about the families.” ■ —David Dudley 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 8

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The One-Percenter B y

Mich ael

p h oto g r aph

Anft by

Le o

Howa rd

Lub o w

F

or Stephen Walters, the fireworks started on the day after the Fourth of July. He and a longtime academic partner, Johns Hopkins economics professor Steve H. Hanke, had just published a piece in the Wall Street Journal’s right-leaning opinion pages that castigated Baltimore’s high property tax rate and the politicians who uphold it. “Blame Taxes for Baltimore’s Rot,” the story was headlined. The authors claimed that Baltimore largely lives down to the image portrayed in TV dramas such as The Wire—that of a bombed-out, crime-ridden wasteland. The word they chose to describe the city: “hellhole.” City officials and development leaders swiftly fired off letters of rebuttal to the Journal. Leaders of the Greater Baltimore Committee wrote that Baltimore was undergoing an economic renaissance, and that the place Walters and Hanke described isn’t the real Baltimore, but “a Gotham city that wouldn’t just need a tax cut, but caped crusaders” to save it. Mayor Sheila Dixon, practically shaking with anger, told reporters that the story was “misleading and distorted.” Walters and Hanke might as well have kicked the municipal dog. Months later, city leaders still bristle. “It’s in no one’s interest to mischaracterize Baltimore,” says Andrew Frank, deputy mayor for neighborhood and economic development. All of this commotion strikes Walters, a professor of economics at Loyola College in Maryland, as missing the point. A well-published academic with a certain German-intellectual bearing (tall, thin, goateed, wirerimmed specs), Walters doesn’t consider himself an ideological warrior, and the article’s many references to Baltimore’s woes—crime, vacant housing, and the steady migration to the suburbs—were not intended to drag the city further into the abyss. He just wanted to point the way out. “People don’t want to hear negative things about Baltimore,” Walters says. “Our job, as we see it, is to contribute to the well-being of the whole city.” And what, they wondered, is so bad about paying less—much less—in taxes? Why shouldn’t property taxes be lowered enough to encourage investors to pump ducats into a decaying inner city? “We wanted to make the point that there are two Baltimores: the taxbreak Baltimore and the tax-broken Baltimore,” Walters says. “Despite the millions of dollars poured into the waterfront with the help of tax breaks, most of the [economic] indicators are way down. And that’s scary.” Walters’ apostasy, in other words, is questioning the foundation of Baltimore’s revitalization strategy, the technique pioneered decades ago to build Charles Center and the Inner Harbor, and honed since by the Baltimore Development Corporation: Lure deep-pocketed developers with tax breaks and cushy eminent domain deals on property. Walters isn’t the first to say it, but while downtown has prospered, much of the rest of the city—the part that hasn’t gotten any break in taxes—has crumbled. In a report called Baltimore’s Flawed Renaissance that was published in June by the Institute for Justice, a libertarian public interest law firm, he and co-author Louis Miserendino noted darkly, “If Baltimore is a revitalization success story, one really does not want to see a failure.” But behind the white-hot rhetoric Walters sometimes uses (hello, hellhole), there lies a potentially transformative idea: By mimicking mas-

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Down and out: Self-described “tax revolutionary” Stephen Walters and his collaborators have caught heat from City Hall for questioning the city’s time-tested economic development strategy, which they say has lavished resources on downtown while ignoring the rest of the city. “We wanted to make the point that there are two Baltimores: the tax-break Baltimore and the taxbroken Baltimore,” he says.


Loyola economics professor Stephen Walters thinks he’s found a way to slash the city’s property tax rate roughly in half. Is anybody in power taking him seriously? 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 8

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sive tax-cut plans that succeeded decades ago in Boston and San Francisco, Walters argues, Baltimore could reap massive infusions of new cash and create a vibrant cityscape that improves everyone’s standard of living. Given the city’s inability to turn itself around, isn’t it time to try something? And is anybody who matters listening to this guy?

For such a troublemaker, Walters seems likable enough. Sitting in his office high up in Loyola’s Sellinger Hall, he lays out arguments that are well-considered and reasoned. He realizes that it’s not

it’d be good for pre-law,” he says—and decided to make the dismal science his major. He also began a political metamorphosis. “I was your basic long-haired leftist in college. I started to move away from that when I’d go to anti-Vietnam-War demonstrations and see that my fellow travelers were chiefly interested in keeping themselves out of harm’s way,” he says. “They didn’t catch the contradiction that ‘evil government’ had served up that war, and yet government was generally the solution to all other social problems.” Grad school at UCLA firmed up his antipathy toward governments—particularly Democratic-led ones. Only when they were reined in from their tax-reaping, free-spending ways could they be useful. Proposition 13, the late-1970s California tax revolt led by

Proposition 13, the late-1970s California tax revolt led by bulldog-faced activist Howard Jarvis, inspired Walters further. Although many Californians say that Prop 13 has been a disaster for public education in the state, Walters credits it with reviving a great American city. his career he’s putting on the line. “I don’t make my living running for public office,” he says. “I understand City Hall’s reluctance.” Walters has also steered clear of radio smackdowns since the Wall Street Journal piece, favoring instead to make his points in the relative cool of City Council committee meetings and in print. “I’m a libertarian, not a right-wing ideologue,” he says. Still, critics point to a lack of comparative data for other cities and their tax rates in Walters’ work as a sign of ideologically directed scholarship. Walters regularly cites The Wire for its true-life depiction of down-at-the-heels Baltimore, but he doesn’t blame manufacturers for leaving the city for places with lower-paid workers, as Wire creator David Simon does. Likewise, the usual suspects credited with hastening “white flight” decades ago—desegregation, riots, the allure of new homes in the suburbs—don’t factor into his public analysis either. For Walters, it’s all about taxes. The argument is appealingly simple: Progressively higher city taxes led to the disinvestment that helped chase away factories in Baltimore and other grime-and-soot towns, he says. The examples of Boston and San Francisco, now-thriving cities where state laws forced a rollback of property tax rates in 1979 and 1982, respectively, are exhibits A and B in what he and Hanke call “the 1 Percent Solution.” He wants the city to cut property taxes by more than 50 percent, slashing rates from the current 2.27 percent per $100 of assessed value to 1 percent, which is about the average current rate in surrounding counties. The whopping imbalance currently makes it difficult for Baltimore City to compete for large unsubsidized developments. It’s a plan that could backfire disastrously if investors fail to buy into a reduced-tax city, as Walters envisions. That would force big cuts to city services and invite the wrath of a public that would blame City Hall for betting the ranch on his plan. But Walters and co-author Miserendino say they have a way to overcome a temporary shortfall in tax dollars that the city would face. “I’m trying to be a tax revolutionary here,” he says. “I’m not just trying to lay out the problem and then walk away.” The revolutionary was born not long after growing up in working-class Salem, Massachusetts, toiling in a restaurant at 14, then grunting through factory jobs to save for college. While at the University of Pennsylvania, he took an econ course—“Someone said

bulldog-faced activist Howard Jarvis, inspired him further. Although many Californians say that Prop 13 has been a disaster for public education in the state, Walters credits it with reviving a great American city. Ditto that for “Prop 2½,” the Massachusetts law that forced Boston to live on a 2.5 percent property tax rate. “People now think of Boston and San Francisco as superstar cities,” he says. “They don’t remember they were all disaster and decay and crime. They were worse than Baltimore in the 1970s.” After grad school, Walters moved to Baltimore to teach at Loyola, living in Federal Hill and Ednor Gardens with his wife, a Baltimore County elementary school teacher, and two sons (both are now in college). He saw the city’s problems firsthand during his years here in the ’80s and ’90s. He moved the family to Lutherville after crime, including a murder, hit too close to home. Although he fled the city, he says these fears are part of what drives him to help fix Baltimore. “I love cities, and I especially want to see Baltimore thrive, prosper, and grow,” he says, without a tinge of cynicism. “I’ve always loved cities, and I want them to get better. It’s why I went off to college in a struggling city [Philadelphia] and, frankly, it’s why I teach in Baltimore instead of California.” Now 54, Walters does more than rile up city leaders. He teaches urban economics at Loyola, where he serves as an advisor to the student-run Adam Smith Club. His collaborators say he’s a dedicated researcher. “When you work with him, you know something good is going to come from it,” says Hanke. “He’s not the type to waste your time or his.” Walters has also made a name for himself nationally as a sports economist, developing a system of metrics for evaluating athletes’ performance. An article he co-wrote in the Journal of Sports Economics in 2003 created waves in its field, and Walters has consulted with several pro teams, including the Boston Red Sox. “I was the guy who helped persuade Dan Duquette [then the Red Sox general manager] to sign Johnny Damon [in 2001],” he says proudly of the star centerfielder, now a Yankee. Walters also served as a consultant to former Orioles General Manager Syd Thrift in 2002, advising him to make a play for outfielder Hideki Matsui. In the end, the Yankees outbid the O’s, but not before digging a little deeper into their pockets. “I’ve always been satisfied with the fact that I cost the Yankees more money,” Walters says. 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 8

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In September, Walters testified before a committee appointed by City Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in July to devise ways to reduce the property tax rate. Long a sore thumb in the city’s portfolio, the rate had already been the subject of study for a “blue ribbon panel” appointed by Mayor Sheila Dixon late last year. In the spring, that group offered a heaping handful of suggestions— everything from casino gambling to increasing the city’s take from the state piggyback income tax to taxing owners of vacant houses. The aim was to keep reducing the tax rate by two cents each year— as had been done since 2006, leading to a total of $32 million in tax relief—until the tax rate approached an even 2 percent. That would still be twice the number Walters is pushing for. But the inflated 2008 city budget, made up in anticipation of declining tax revenue and state aid, stopped that hopeful trend. Walters took advantage of his moment before the city’s key players, laying out his case with bar graphs and charts showing rising and falling lines of property taxes and populations in Baltimore and San Francisco. The latter city’s population loss changed direction around 1980, when tax reduction, Walters claims, brought people back. Baltimore’s population line continued to trend downward, the result of what Walters calls “a half century of ‘capital punishment.’” “When you treat capital badly”—taxing it, in other words— “it leaves.”

councilman and chair of the special committee for property tax reduction. “But the bottom line is we’d still have to cut.” In order for the Walters plan to have a chance, the city charter would need to be amended and the mayor’s office would have to buy into the plan. Then, the city would need to announce several years in advance that taxes would soon be slashed. The announcement itself, Walters and Miserendino say, will spur development, and recordation and real-estate transfer tax revenues would go up accordingly. The city would put these funds in a lockbox to gather interest until the property tax cut takes effect. Eventually, those funds could pay for services when property tax revenues plummet, until more and more property owners make up the difference. (In the case of San Francisco, that took about eight years.) Frank, the deputy mayor, describes another, less happy scenario. If Walters’ plan were put into action before it had saved enough to cover shortfalls, the city would lose about 60 percent of what it receives in taxes on real estate—about $380 million out of a total budget that, including all sources, adds up to $1.4 billion. For the sake of comparison, the city spends $230 million each year on police and $200 million on schools. “If he’s wrong and the base doesn’t grow, we’d have to lay off police, firefighters, sanitation workers, and teachers,” Frank says. “There’s no doubt that lowering property taxes would spur investment. But it’s very difficult to get to the point where we’re competitive with the surrounding counties. Absent that

Andrew Frank says he’s willing to hear Walters out. He was impressed with “how cordial and conversational” the professor was at the September City Council committee meeting. “I was surprised he was the same guy who called Baltimore a hellhole.” Some of Walters’ listeners, including 11th District Councilman Bill Cole and Council President Rawlings-Blake, expressed genuine interest, Walters says, but he now seems to have limited expectations for his odds at getting the city to sign on to his vision. “The city and its development agency [the BDC] have a very strong reason to maintain the status quo,” he says. “They are vested with incredible power to decide who gets tax breaks and who doesn’t. Why would they give up all the prestige and power they’ve accumulated in favor of cutting taxes?” Ryan O’Doherty, director of policy for Rawlings-Blake, offers another take. When capital is fleeing, the economy is tanking, and the real estate market is toast—like, for example, right now—it’s very difficult to slash taxes. “We believe this is a problem that needs to be fixed, but the timing isn’t exactly optimal,” O’Doherty says. Not so, says Walters. “Now is exactly the right time to do this,” he says. “If there’s any time to spur investment by cutting taxes, this would be it.” Others say timing isn’t the issue; distance is. “The problem is that his plan is just such a huge leap,” adds Jody Landers, the former city councilman and current executive vice president of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors who headed the blue ribbon panel on property taxes. “The real question isn’t whether it’s desirable to do this, but how do you get there?” One first step endorsed by City Hall is tapping into the coming flood of slots revenue to knock 12 cents off the city property tax rate. “The mayor understands the issue, and she’s already cited slots revenue as one way to help with this,” says Cole, the 11th District

level playing field, we have to be more strategic in seeking out these private/public partnerships”—translation: tax breaks. Frank shoots more holes in Walters’ argument: “We’re already below Boston’s 2.5 percent, so that’s not a fair comparison. And San Francisco received a good bit of state money [about $90 million] to help it transition through Prop 13. If something appears to be too good to be true, it usually is.” But Frank says he’s willing to hear Walters out. He was impressed with “how cordial and conversational” the professor was at the September committee meeting. “I was surprised he was the same guy who called Baltimore a hellhole.” As for Walters, he’ll continue to push for change, here and elsewhere. He’s in the midst of putting together a book on the decline of the American central city. (You can bet Baltimore will get another star turn there.) And he remains a determined guy with a Big Idea, waiting for a municipality that wants to roll the dice. “It’s a mission. But it’s not my only one, and it’s not restricted to Baltimore,” he says. “If the pols here won’t listen, there are plenty of other places with similar problems that deserve similar medicine.” And he’ll continue his search for a politician willing to administer it. “Whatever leader has the courage to do this, I would submit, vaults to national prominence. If anyone could engineer a turnaround like San Francisco or Boston has,” he says, with a twinkle in his eye, “they’d automatically become a hero.” ■ —Michael Anft wrote about the snack food industry in Hanover, Pennsylvania, for the November issue. 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 8

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space Damage control: Water seeping in through a leaky roof has ruined ornate plasterwork in Johns Hopkins’ historic dining room.

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Forgotten treasure: Restoration carpenter Chris Wilson points to a mural of the Bay of Naples unearthed in Johns Hopkins’ historic summer home, the Clifton Mansion.

“The original estimate—I think it was done around 1998—said [restoring the building] was going to cost five to six million,” says Chris Wilson, a carpenter with the nonprofit Civic Works who has been working on the building for the past decade. “My best guess is that it’s going to be closer to $20 million.” Upon his death in 1873, Hopkins left the university trustees $3.5 million and his 500acre Clifton estate in what was then unincorporated countryside. Historical accounts suggest that Hopkins assumed the university would be located at Clifton, according to University archivist Jim Stimpert. But the trustees turned instead to the Homewood area, two miles to the west. The story has it that they made the switch because housing and transportation were available at Homewood, but Wilson guesses the decision had more to do with Clifton’s proximity to the city’s brewing district and watering holes unbecoming to its highbrow students. (“One of the occupational hazards of the job is that I’ve become a Hopkins historian,” he says.) In any event, following Hopkins’ death, the university turned parts of the Clifton estate into playing fields for its sports teams. The mansion became the locker room. In 1895, the city bought the property, adding tennis courts, a swimming pool, a golf course, and the Lake Clifton High School. The mansion served as the Parks and Recreation headquarters for a time, and an office for the park police, as well as the golf course pro shop and a soda fountain. By the time Civic Works moved into the mansion in 1993 (paying a dollar a year in

rent), the building had suffered a century of insults. Since then, the youth work corps has struggled to hold the line against the forces of entropy and decay. Wilson, who built stage props and window displays in past lives, has made headway on the interior with help from a merry band of unpaid grunt laborers. They’ve painstakingly stripped the paint from the majestic black walnut staircase and uncovered a mural in the stairway that shows the Bay of Naples, with Mount Vesu-

“I find it really amazing that neither the university or the med school have shown any interest in preserving the last remnant of their founder’s lifetime,” says Wilson. vius smoking on the horizon. (Wilson learned of the mural, which was buried under up to nine layers of paint, from an 1871 newspaper story.) They’ve unearthed and re-created stenciled designs on walls and ceilings. The original dining room, which had been turned into a men’s bathroom, was restored as a meeting space. Wilson has also rebuilt the observation deck on the roof of the tower, which offers a commanding view of the city and the harbor—if not, as legend has it, the capitol building in Annapolis.

From the outside, however, the mansion looks little better than it did sixteen years ago. The city chipped in to replace the main roof, but the porch roof is still a sieve—thus the rotting pillars. Cost estimates put the price of a new roof at $200,000. Wilson thinks he could do it for considerably less, using new roofing technology and volunteer labor, but the money has yet to materialize. In 2007, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places, but the listing hasn’t brought in any additional preservation money. The work to date has been funded—to the tune of $1 million— by state and city dollars, small grants, and donations from the heirs of both Hopkins and his fellow merchant banker, Henry Thompson, who built the original home in 1801. Wilson admits he’s frustrated with the lack of support from one quarter: “I find it really amazing that neither the university or the med school have shown any interest in preserving the last remnant of their founder’s lifetime,” he says. University engineers did do a pro-bono structural report on the tower, but Amy Lunday, Johns Hopkins senior media relations representative, says the Homewood House and the Evergreen House, both of which are operated by the university as museums, “are our primary concerns.” At this rate, Wilson guesses it could take another fifty years to fully restore the Clifton Mansion to its former glory. He seems content to chip away at the work, but he better finish the tower first. “I probably won’t be able to climb many steps in fifty years,” he says. ■ —Greg Hanscom is Urbanite’s senior editor.

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59 Scrambled Emotions

The breakfast club

by A ndre w Re i ne r

61 Recipe

Scrambled eggs with salami

63 Reviewed

65

photo by La Kaye Mbah

67

Holidays on ice: Clinton Macsherry toasts non-alcoholic cocktails (p. 65).

Crush and the Hamilton Tavern

Wine & Spirits Mastering the mocktail

The Feed This month in eating

continued on page 95 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 8

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Scrambled Emotions A father, a son, and a breakfast that bridged worlds by andrew Reiner

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had a love-hate relationship with eggs as a child. I stopped eating my mother’s deviled eggs when I learned that I was ingesting a whipped, stillborn chick, accentuated by a dash of paprika. The sole exception was when my father made his favorite breakfast, eggs scrambled with salami (or, if we were out, corned beef). My father first cooked all of his meats slightly, so the generous chunks of salami oozed a sheen of briny fat that mixed with the eggs. For a long time, I thought that scrambled eggs and salami was my father’s unique concoction. But, just as he borrowed his peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches from

Elvis Presley (Rock and Roll Sandwiches, he called them), he stole this breakfast dish from one of his favorite luncheonettes, a place in Pikesville called the Galley in the Alley. My father only took my brother Bear and me to the Galley when we were very young, probably because he knew that we wouldn’t judge the people or the place. At first I loved the Galley. As we waited for our food in the early mornings before school, the steam from the heavy white coffee mugs in the hands of middle-aged and elderly men mingled with their musky aftershave and formed a sort of warm, paternal miasma. What made the Galley most

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welcoming, though, was the smell of cooked which were covered with posters that admeats—corned beef, pastrami, salami. All vertised such Jewish cultural exotica as Sam kosher, of course. Moss, the host of a local radio show about My family never set foot in a synagogue Yiddish expressions. I also became aware that unless we had to for a wedding, funeral, or it wasn’t just cuss words that salted the Galbar mitzvah; we couldn’t read Hebrew or ley’s air—it was Yiddish, a language neither of pronounce the words correctly. The only nod my parents ever invoked in our home, where we gave to holidays was an accelerated, allmy siblings and I woke up to Christmas trees English Seder during Passover and a lone Heand chocolate Easter bunny tableaus. This brew prayer over the candles during the first language sounded as if it came out of sheep’s night of Hanukkah. Despite our tenuous conhorns halfway across the world; I felt as if I nection to Judaism, I felt at home in places might as well have been in synagogue. like the Galley, at least for a while, where the Not too long after I became aware of kosher meats reminded me that I was part of such things, I told my father that I didn’t something larger outside of my home, somewant to go to the Galley anymore. I didn’t thing that didn’t occur when I walked into realize it then, but I felt like an outcast amid other diners and was hit by the smell of bacon these men who lived on the fringe themselves. and ham. This didn’t seem to bother him too much. By The other thing that felt right was the that point he had embarked on what would clientele. Even though the Galley was situated become a lifelong passion for cooking and near Reisterstown Road—Pikesville’s Rodeo seemed content to cook his own breakfasts. Drive—it was an oasis From his mid-40s until his for the more déclassé death at 79, he spent his elements of local Jewish watching cooking By the time I was 10, I days culture: men in polyester shows on PBS, trying to covered with dandruff, the dishes he saw, became aware that it replicate hair slicked with Brylespecially the Italian ones. creem, cussing with not sure why, but for wasn’t just cuss words I’m working-class grace and the remainder of his life reading the Daily Raccooked only one dish that salted the Galley’s he ing Form over eggs and that could be considered kippers. These weren’t remotely “Jewish”—kasha air—it was Yiddish. the kind of people my with pasta bows. parents, both Jewish and By my teens I had college graduates, socialized with on Saturday sworn off scrambled eggs and saved salami nights. But my father, who dressed as if he for sandwiches. I didn’t eat scrambled eggs stepped out of Esquire, spent his days around again until a few years ago while I was visitsuch men because, like many of them, he was ing some friends in Maine one summer, a few a tin man—a seller of aluminum siding. months after my father had died. I awoke one My father was embarrassed about this night, starving at 3 a.m., my beer dinner at part of his life, which was why he never took a nearby microbrew pub having worn off. I my older siblings to the Galley in the Alley. snuck out and drove until I found an all-night Looking back, I can imagine the anxiety my sub shop that featured, among other things, a father must have felt on those mornings. On sub filled with scrambled eggs with salami. the one hand, he loved sharing his favorite I sat on a stool by a window that looked foods and restaurants with his family, but a out into the dark, vast Maine night. Out on trip to the Galley also meant sharing a part of the road, the headlight from a motorcycle his life with his sons that he gladly shut the bobbed through the darkness. As the steam door on at the end of every day, a part that he drifted up from the eggs, I gazed at the would remind us not to repeat in the car ride headlight cutting through my reflection and to school. quietly recited the only Hebrew prayer I have “I don’t want to hear either of you talkever known, the one we invoked over the ing like those guys, do you hear me?” he’d tell Hanukkah candles. It was part benediction, my brother and me. Until the day that he said part Kaddish. ■ this, I wouldn’t have known that such dissonance existed in him about his work life, or —Andrew Reiner teaches writing at Towson the Galley, for that matter. University and in Johns Hopkins University’s By the time I was 10 or so, my attention Odyssey program. This is his first story for expanded to take in the walls of the Galley, Urbanite.

Scrambled Eggs with Salami 3 large eggs 3 tsp milk (soy milk is also fine) or water 3–4 slices salami, cut into small chunks or strips 1 tbs butter for frying

RECipE

EaT/dRiNk

Heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Whisk the eggs (with a whisk or fork) with the milk (or water) until frothy and evenly colored. Melt the butter in the heated frying pan. Once the butter melts, pour in the whisked egg mixture. Add salami as soon as the eggs settle. Scramble by pushing eggs toward the center; tilt the pan and let the uncooked mixture run to the sides where it can continue frying. For fluffy eggs, use a spatula or wooden spoon. Continue until eggs are just set—don’t overcook. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Kasha with Pasta Bows 3 onions, diced 2 tbs cooking oil 2 cups kasha (buckwheat) 1 large egg, beaten 4 cups chicken stock 2 cups uncooked small bowtie pasta Sauté onions in cooking oil over mediumhigh heat until translucent. Pour kasha in with onions and stir until well mixed. Add beaten egg to kasha and onions and cook, stirring constantly to prevent clumping as the egg sets. Lower flame to medium and add 2 cups of chicken stock; stir it in and let it cook down. Once liquid evaporates, lower heat and add remaining chicken stock. Cover and cook 30 minutes. Meanwhile, cook pasta in boiling salted water until tender; drain and remove. Add cooked pasta to kasha and mix well. Serves 4–6. —Recipes adapted by Andrew Reiner, with gratitude to mr.breakfast.com and Recipe Zaar

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Grape nut: Crush chef/owner Daniel Chaustit

Naming your restaurant Crush is a risky move, especially in this part of the world, where the moniker suggests rush-hour traffic, not grape harvesting. Crush moved into the former home of Taste in Belvedere Square in late summer, leaving much of the nauticalinspired décor intact. And while the tomatosoup-colored walls and brass embellishments still feel contemporary and upbeat, the overall effect is a sensation of déjà vu all over again. Chef Daniel Chaustit, formerly of Christopher Daniel in Timonium (which still bears his name), promised a casual place with a focus on wine. The menu has all the usual suspects: crab cakes and grilled salmon, a New York strip and roasted chicken. While the entrees hardly qualify as cheap eats (most are on the high end of the $18 to $30 range), there’s a well-rounded selection of sandwiches—burger, BLT (basic and with salmon), crab cake, and French dip with Gruyère. The chef ’s creativity seems to reside among the appetizers, which lend themselves to hearty grazing: lamb chops with cashews and Chinese barbecue sauce, grilled shrimp with grit cakes, a

tender duck confit with wilted spinach and bleu cheese. And salads—spinach with pumpkin seeds and blueberries, baby arugula with poached pear and candied pecans—can be supplemented with shrimp, crab, chicken, or beef tenderloin. While the rest of the menu is punctuated with pleasures (particularly in such desserts as a root-beer float with a selection of cookies and a mini-bundt pineapple upside-down cake with caramel sauce), there are also serious disappointments—a dry and blackened burger accompanied by fast-food-style skinny fries, a gummy lobster mac ’n’ cheese with too little of the much-anticipated shellfish. And the restaurant’s wine-centrism is questionable: Asked about a wine choice, one server returned a blank look and then summoned not a sommelier, but a fellow server, who was obviously busy with her own tables—odd for a restaurant that, at least nominally, celebrates the grape. (Lunch and dinner daily. 518 E. Belvedere Ave.; 443-278-9001.)

REViEwEd

Crush

—Martha Thomas

The chowhounds are loose on Harford Road: A once-undistinguished strip of carry-outs and bars in Northeast Baltimore now hosts a handful of nifty eateries of pronounced ambition. Joining the party is the Hamilton Tavern, which opened late in the summer, across the street from fellow newcomer Clementine. Owners Tom Creegan (who is also a Brewer’s Art partner) and wife Felicia Carter rehabbed the once-nondescript neighborhood drinkery with an eye toward the upscale-rustic. The walls are hung with farm implements and antique tools (that giant rake-thing over the bar is a set of oyster tongs), perhaps to suggest the kitchen’s locavore leanings. It’s corner-bar-as-agrarian-fantasy, with a touch of late-1970s T.G.I. Fridays. Patrons seem split equitably between eaters and drinkers, and there’s an air of communal goodwill around the whole enterprise: The boomy, hard-surfaced room gets fearsome loud, but it’s a cheerful roar—the sound of a bar in harmonic resonance with its neighborhood. Chef Sarah Thall’s menu is brief and expertly calibrated for this crowd—populist tavern fare made from enlightened ingredients. The bacon cheeseburger boasts beef

from nearby Roseda Farms, loosely packed and satisfyingly meaty, and the ratio of meat/ bread/toppings is nearly ideal. (Only the thick-cut bacon, sweet as smoked candy, threatens to unbalance the equation.) A fried catfish po’boy could have used a fatter fish—it’s a dainty portion, especially if you’re used to a carry-out-style lake trout spilling out over the bread—but it’s hard to fault the execution: crisp, greaseless catfish filets and a tangy remoulade on an crusty roll. There’s an ever-changing chip-and-dip of the week (i.e., cheesy-rich shrimp, perfect for sharing with a few pints of on-tap Resurrection Ale), and a laudable handmade integrity to even the humblest menu items. Housemade chips are honest slices of fresh-fried potato; a grandmotherly bowl of chicken soup is rich with tarragon-scented broth. Even the bathrooms at Hamilton Tavern are inspired. The men’s room is wallpapered with pages from boozy male scribblers (Hemingway, Bukowski, Mencken); in the women’s room, you can read Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf. (Dinner Wed–Mon. 5517 Harford Rd.; 410-426-1930.)

photo by La Kaye Mbah

The Hamilton Tavern

Rare deal: A local-beef cheeseburger and housemade chips at Hamilton Tavern

—David Dudley 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 8

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Document6

11/11/08

12:25 PM

Page 1

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Sauce on the Side

eat/drink

In this season of indulgence, raise a glass for the non-drinkers

Hatchet job: Temperance advocate Carrie Nation took her campaign against strong drink to dramatic extremes.

N

o one likes being lectured. Or so you’d think. Public service ads touting the virtues of abstinence may be swimming against the tides of adolescent rebellion, pop culture, and the Dionysian side of human nature, but they have prodigious staying power. Nancy Reagan’s 1980s-vintage “Just Say No” still reverberates. Previous generations spawned their own media catchphrases, mascots, and contrarians. Temperance movements in the United States date back to the early 1800s. An 1846 lithograph by Nathaniel Currier called The Drunkard’s Progress: From the First Glass to the Grave became an icon of the cause. In the mid-19th and early 20th centuries, organizations such as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and the Anti-Saloon League helped pave the way for Prohibition. Claiming divine guidance and wielding a hatchet, Carrie Nation left a trail of destruction through Midwest barrooms in the early 1900s. Meanwhile, publicans and barflies circulated the counter-slogan “All Nations Welcome But Carrie,” and freethinkers tweaked teetotaling bluenoses. Oscar Wilde famously quipped, “Work is the curse of the drinking classes.” On general principle, I usually side with Oscar. But while there are surely good reasons to drink, there are often more compelling reasons not to. Rather than trying to make indulgence unappealing, why not make temperance more tempting? Designated drivers (bless them), relatives in recovery, pregnant co-workers at office parties, no-carb dieters— all these unsung heroes merit our respect and a place at our seasonal celebrations. It’s the time of year when smart hosts make sure their bars feature some tasty mocktails.

Good mocktails, like their alcoholic counterparts, exceed the sum of their parts. There are more than a dozen competing etymologies of “cocktail,” but most imply an admixture of ingredients that creates something different than its constituents, if not necessarily better. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that current trends in mixology have gotten pretty silly: Keep your chocolatinis and your pomegranate cosmojitos, thank you. But that doesn’t undermine the precept that a cocktail involves a bit of alchemy. Bourbon and soda is just a mixed drink. A Manhattan takes you someplace else altogether. There are standard and dry versions, but in its “perfect” incarnation, a Manhattan blends whiskey (try straight rye instead of bourbon, if you can find it) with equal splashes of sweet and dry vermouth and a touch of bitters. Shaken on ice, strained into a stemmed cocktail glass, and garnished with a cherry and a lemon twist, it puts me in the mood for Gershwin and holiday lights on Fifth Avenue. I have some friends who are too old for the juice boxes but still well under drinking age. It’s easy enough to concoct potable entertainment for their parents, but I sense the youngsters’ boredom with the usual lineup of soft drinks. When they’ve come as guests too, I like to mix drinks for them. It’s no surprise that they appreciate being taken seriously. If you have grenadine and maraschino cherries on hand, you’re halfway toward two mocktail classics: a Shirley Temple (with ginger ale and orange juice) or a Roy Rogers (with cola). I know I shouldn’t impose hangups from my childhood on today’s youth, but I always found these kiddie cocktails condescending, and I avoid serving them. Most kids I know would consider the Virgin Mary (a booze-free Bloody Mary) more punishment than refreshment. Its name also invites embarrassing questions—kids have radar for them— that I’d rather not have to evade. Ditto for the mocktail called Safe Sex on the Beach. I usually try to customize. Once when my young friend Laura came to visit with her parents, I squeezed fresh juice from an orange, shook it with club soda, added bitters for a dash of mystique, then poured it with froth and drama into a margarita glass, topped with a ribbon of orange peel. I christened it “Cocktail L’aurange.” She pronounced it “way better than Orangina.” Kids haven’t yet become jaded by cocktail theater. Shakers, garnishes, rimming powders, and glassware still hold their magic. But I draw a line at paper umbrellas. Somebody has to be the grown-up. ■

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w i ne & s p i r i t s

courtesy of Brown Brothers, Sterling, PA

By Clinton Macsherry

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t h e f ee d

eat/drink

This Month in Eating Compiled by Martha Thomas Chef’s Expressions’ “Best of the Best” dinner The menu for the final monthly wine dinner hosted by local catering pros Chef ’s Expressions has been culled from the most popular dishes and wines served throughout the year. The five-course meal (plus hors d’oeuvres and desserts) includes wild mushroom crepes, coconut-crusted South African cod, and grilled bison flank steak, each paired with wine. $99.95 plus tax and service. 6 p.m.

Dec 4 Gramercy Mansion 1400 Greenspring Valley Rd. 410-561-2433 www.chefsexpressions.com

Hots for Tots Chili Cook-off The Mid-Atlantic branch of the national Chili Appreciation Society International (CASI) joins forces with the party-for-a-purpose Jimmy Buffet fans of the Ocean City Parrot Head Club for a chili cook-off behind the Greene Turtle in Ocean City. Area restaurants, ringers from CASI, and regular home cooks will battle for prizes. Proceeds go to Worcester County families in need. Admission: $10 or a toy for the Worcester County Sheriff Association. 1 p.m.–4 p.m.

Dec 7 West Ocean City Greene Turtle 9616 Stephen Decatur Hwy. 410-520-2100 www.ocphc.com/chili_cookoff.php

Sotto Sopra Truffle dinner Recessione? Che recessione? Sotto Sopra chef Riccardo Bosio claims that the sky-high $1,000-per-person tab for this “dinner of a lifetime” will all go to food costs: ten deep-pocketed guests will enjoy white truffles from Italy, Osetra caviar, Kobe beef, lobster, and, of course, champagne and fine Italian wines. “I just wanted to go against the grain,” says Bosio, who believes Americans should do what Italians do during hard times: “We spend all our money on food and clothes. That’s why we live with our parents till we’re 40.” 7 p.m.

Dec 10 Sotto Sopra 405 N. Charles St. 410-625-0534 www.sottosopra.us

Japanese Cooking Class William Matsuzaki, chair of the modern languages department at St. Paul’s School for Boys, also teaches Japanese for the Roland Park Country School’s Kaleidoscope program. His segment on Japanese cooking was so popular that the program’s organizers suggested a spin-off. Participants in the four-hour class will prepare such traditional cold-weather dishes as sukiyaki, tempura, and soba, and then, of course, share the meal. $70. 11 a.m.–3 p.m.

Dec 13 Roland Park Country School 5204 Roland Ave. 410-323-5500 www.rpcs.org

Boxing Day High Tea Sarah Beth Cassel’s day job is doing promotions and marketing at the Elkridge Furnace Inn. But on Boxing Day, Cassel, who studied acting at UMBC, will dress in Victorian garb to read an abridged version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol during the restaurant’s English-style high tea. Expect the traditional spread: scones with clotted cream, along with a selection of sweets and savories. $26.50. One seating, 12:30 pm.

Dec 26 Elkridge Furnace Inn 5745 Furnace Ave. 410-379-9336 www.elkridgefurnaceinn.com

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Hooked: Illustrator Rockwell Kent’s pen-and-ink drawings for a 1930 edition of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick helped inspire a revival of the book’s popularity.

art/culture 73 MuSic

Mary K. Zajac on Renaissance holiday music

75 thEatER

In the Belly of the Whale

Martha Thomas on A Chorus Line and Trixie and Monkey’s Fourth Annual Holiday Spectac-u-thon

Why did I create my online shrine to Moby-Dick ?

77 bOOKS

My moment of clarity came too late. Sunk into an armchair near the library stacks last June, my defensible space scattered with dictionaries, encyclopedias, and concordances of 19th-century terms, I glanced out the window and saw the 21st century passing me by. Bicyclists tootled along brick pathways; couples lounged under trees; the very young and the very old took their halting steps. And there I was, teeth chattering in the over-conditioned air, embellishing the embellishments on a contraption nobody wanted: my future online annotation of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick.

79 thE ScEnE

Susan McCallumSmith on family ties This month’s cultural highlights

copyright © 1930 by R. R. Donnelley & Sons, Inc. and The Plattsburgh College Foundation, Inc. All rights reserved.

by M aR G aR E t G u R OFF

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its athletes devoted,” he writes. “To be obsessive is to be American.” To Davis’ mind, some of the pain suffered by those with obsessive-compulsive disorder may be due to the sense that their thoughts and behaviors are weird and pathological, rather than just exaggerated manifestations of the common mindset. In a time when we’re encouraged to sanitize gym equipment, drink eight cups of (filtered) water daily, and perform various other acceptable ablutions, he asks, “are we fooling ourselves pretending that it is we who are normal and that those who are pathological are the ones who do some or all of these practices at home in secret?” The notion of obsession as a mental (as opposed to spiritual) problem didn’t even arise until the 19th century, Davis writes. With the Industrial Revolution came a division of labor, and the ideal of the “Renaissance man” of many talents gave way to the ideal of the specialist. Universities and professional guilds reorganized to help people develop a sole expertise. This shift helped bring about rapid developments in science, medicine, and technology, but these gains were thought to come at a cost. In 1810, a French psychiatrist identified a new pathology called “monomania,” a harmful obsessiveness brought on by intense focus on one train of thought. It was a disease that caused itself, and within twenty years, it was one of the most commonly made psychiatric diagnoses. By the time Melville identified monomania as Ahab’s major malfunction, the disorder was giving way to such complaints as neurosis, hysteria, and, later, OCD. But the bifurcated notion that obsession is a problem—and a precondition of success— has endured. Our CEOs, athletes, artists, and politicians are admired for their extraordinarily dogged pursuit of a particular goal. Our weirdos, fanatics, conspiracy theorists, and tongue-depressor collectors, not so much. That guy who recently announced that he’d read the 59-million-word Oxford English Dictionary cover to cover? Your call. Does it make a difference that he just published a book about this effort? One distinctly modern form of obsessive weirdoism is fandom: becoming so devoted to a work of art that you want to augment or even inhabit it. Out of this impulse was born the Klingon Language Institute (www.kli.org), the phenomenon of “fan fiction” (unauthorized stories by civilians advancing new plotlines of beloved films and TV series), and also, one might argue, my ever-growing Moby-Dick website, which now includes not only a full annotation but also links to artwork, poems, movies, and even cartoons based on the book. It’s one thing to fixate on your own masterpiece, as Melville did. (While he was

art/culture

photo by Wil Kir, courtesy of the Peabody

Suddenly, the whole project seemed like a horrible idea. There were already multiple annotations of Melville’s 1851 whalingadventure-cum-encyclopedia. Sure, none of them were online, and none went into the level of detail I’d needed in order to understand the book last spring, after a friend convinced me to read it for the first time and I got poleaxed by the deadpan brilliance of the first chapter. But was the lack of a Web annotation— and my own weird affection for the book— really enough reason to spend three months (and counting) annotating the thing? We’re talking 566 pages of freaky metaphysical fiction, jammed with archaic words, new coinages, whaling terms, and namechecks of a choir loft full of scientists and philosophers, each of whom I would gloss with a clear, economical sidenote. My project, I suddenly realized, was ridiculously vast, too big for a person with a full-time job. Like the book’s narrator, Ishmael, I doubted I was up to the task: “What am I that I should essay to hook the nose of this Leviathan!” I might have quit, if I hadn’t already been 95 percent done. Except for the holes I had gone to the library to plug, the notes had come into being almost automatically, the byproduct of my Googling every other word during a long, obsessive slog through Melville’s mighty tome. Obsessive: There it is. You don’t have to have read Moby-Dick to know how meta my situation was. Captain Ahab—fixated on killing the white whale that had sheared off his leg—long ago escaped the book’s bindings and entered our culture as the quintessential Man Obsessed. Any quarry pursued past reason we call by the whale’s name. So I was already fast (i.e., attached via harpoon and rope) to my own Moby Dick, Moby-Dick. I finished my research and, in a monthlong dash, posted the whole mess at www.powermobydick.com. Scrolling through the site’s color-coded sidenotes, I felt a little proud, a little relieved, and very, very sheepish. This book was not the first cultural icon I’d gotten hooked on—ask David Cassidy—but it was the first one for which I had created a shrine: a shrine to the icon’s amazingness, and to my own obsession with it. When we talk about obsession, it’s usually like it’s a bad thing. People take medicine for it. Tragic heroes can’t snap out of it. “What cozzening, hidden lord and master, and cruel, remorseless emperor commands me,” Captain Ahab asks. And yet, as University of Illinois professor Lennard J. Davis points out in his new book, Obsession: A History (University of Chicago Press, 2008), modern life would be unrecognizable without obsession. “We live in a culture that wants its love affairs obsessive, its artists obsessed, its genius fixated, its music driven,

Rockin’ the sackbut: The Peabody Renaissance Ensemble in action

MUsiC

Old School

Peabody Renaissance Ensemble Holiday Concert, Dec 11 and 12

For those tired of umpteen choruses of Handel’s Messiah, the Peabody Renaissance Ensemble offers a more novel take on the holiday concert. Under the energetic direction of Peabody faculty and Baltimore Consort member, Mark Cudek, the twenty-one-yearold ensemble made up of Peabody students, Hopkins staff, and alumni will present Puer Natus in Bethlehem: A German Christmas at Peabody’s Griswold Hall. Honoring the 400th anniversary of the first German communities in the New World, the concert features the music of German composer Michael Praetorius (1571–1621) and some of his contemporaries, performed by a chorale of eighteen singers, a lute band, and a recorder consort, among others. Eight members of the ensemble are early music majors, and, along with experiencing the pure vocals of soloists such as Elizabeth Hungerford (who played Dido in Peabody’s production of Dido and Aeneas last year), one of the thrills of this concert is seeing and hearing unfamiliar period-reproduction instruments such as the theorbo (described by Cudek as “a lute on steroids”) and the memorably named proto-trombone called the sackbut. The program includes several suites of dances from Praetorius’s Terpsichore, and Cudek also promises recognizable Christmas carols such as “Es ist ein Ros entsprungen” (“Lo, how a Rose E’er Blooming”) and “Joseph, lieber Joseph mein” (“Joseph dearest, Joseph mine”). Frohe Weihnachten! —Mary K. Zajac For tickets, call 410-659-8100 ext. 2 or e-mail boxoffice@jhmi.edu.

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Generously sponsored by Howard Brown, The Alvin and Fanny Blaustein Thalheimer Exhibition Endowment Fund, and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Generously supported by Constance R. Caplan, Suzanne F. Cohen and the Suzanne F. Cohen Exhibition Fund, Stiles Tuttle Colwill and Jonathan Gargiulo, Nancy Dorman and Stanley Mazaroff, Ellen W. P. Wasserman, BMA Friends of Modern and Contemporary Art, Sandra Levi Gerstung, an anonymous donor, Amalia Dayan and Adam Lindemann, Sylvia Cordish, Andrew and Christine Hall, Monroe Denton, Aaron and Barbara Levine, and Lin Lougheed

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Work 1972–2008

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—Margaret Guroff lives in Washington, D.C., where she is health editor of AARP The Magazine. This is her first story for Urbanite.

art/culture

photo by Paul Kolnik

holed up writing Moby-Dick, a neighbor worried that his “morbid excitement [would] soon injure his health.”) Many would say it’s something far less worthy to fixate on another person’s masterpiece. But here, too, the distinctions break down, because everything is based on something. Melville himself was a fan, of his friend Nathaniel Hawthorne. After bonding with the author of The Scarlet Letter, he tore up the lighthearted whaling yarn he’d been working on and set to work crafting something deeper. He also borrowed liberally from earlier whaling texts and real-life stories. The result may not have been as daft as a new X-Files episode written by a fan, but it is on the far side of the same emotional continuum—both are powered by the drive to exalt and augment what has come before. And, in so doing, to create something new. Not to give away the ending, but things don’t turn out so well for Ahab. You’ve got to wonder what the book’s impact would have been if Melville had made the captain into less of an oddball and more of a worldbeater. We may get a glimpse of such an alternate reality in a few years, when Universal releases its new film version, said to boast an action-packed “graphic-novel sensibility” and an Ahab who has been described as “more a charismatic leader than a brooding obsessive.” (Collective response of Melville snobs: Yikes.) In the meantime, there’s my peculiar little website. I’ve been feeling better about the whole thing since strangers started finding it and e-mailing me. Some write to thank me for the boost; others are looking for specific, obscure bits of Melvilleana, such as which translations of the Bible the author may have owned. (Beats me.) But many just want to talk about their own relationship to this overwhelming, transporting book with someone who’ll understand. Wrote one visitor, “I feel reconnected to my own personal Tahiti.” As you may know, Moby-Dick was a critical and commercial failure in Melville’s lifetime; in fact, it ruined his career. He lived forty more years and died in near obscurity; his New York Times obituary even got his first name wrong. It wasn’t until after his death that scholars rediscovered the book and heralded its genius. So you’d think I might be less sensitive to whether my own, far lesser work is read or appreciated. If something’s good, it’s good. Right? And yet the more frequently I hear that my website has helped someone (or, let’s be honest, that it has impressed someone), the less I worry that I’m on the wrong side of the line between obsession and what, in America, we call success. ■

That ’70s show: The Hippodrome revives A Chorus Line.

T h E aT E R

Singular Sensations

A Chorus Line at the Hippodrome, Dec 2–14 Trixie and Monkey’s Fourth Annual Holiday Spectac-u-thon at Creative Alliance, Dec 20

When A Chorus Line opened at the thenedgy (and deeply broke) Public Theater in 1975, it was a phenomenon. The stories of seventeen wannabe Broadway stars, developed in a series of workshops with real-life “gypsies” (as chorus members are called), remains as close to documentary as the American musical has ever come. Eight of the original cast members played versions of themselves: There was the girl whose passion for ballet replaced her father’s love, a boy who had taken his sister’s place at dance class, the girl whose figure—or lack thereof— precluded her from jobs. The production itself was a hit and quickly moved to the Shubert to become one of the longest-running shows in Broadway history. It closed in 1990 but returned in 2006, and the national tour of the revival will stop at the Hippodrome December 2–14. Baayork Lee, who played Connie Wong (the 4-foot-10 dancer) in the original, restaged the choreography for this production. Preparing for the play, says current cast member Julie Kotarides, wasn’t so different from the way she envisions the original was developed. “We’d sit around and talk about our experiences so we could relate to the show,” says Kotarides, who grew up in Perry Hall and attended Baltimore School for the Arts and the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. She plays one of the dancers cut in the first scene. “I have to be bad,” she says. However, as an

understudy, Kotarides had to prepare for the possibility of playing four other, substantial parts. During the Baltimore run, on December 11, 12, and 13, Kotarides will play Diana—who sings “What I Did for Love” and “Nothing”— for a few days while a cast member is on vacation. A Chorus Line, she says, “definitely takes place in the ’70s, but all the same issues, passions, and worries ring true today.” If you’re nostalgic for old-time burlesque, look no further than Trixie Little, who, along with partner Evil Hate Monkey, will bring the fourth annual Trixie and Monkey’s Fourth Annual Holiday Spectac-u-thon to the Creative Alliance on December 20. The production will include a naughty variation on The Nutcracker, a visit from New-York-based burlesque star Miss Astrid, and Dr. Lukki, who, Trixie reports, “dresses as a Christmas tree. And then strips.” The hirsute Monkey will dance to Fiddler on the Roof en pointe and don his Santa suit at intermission to pose for pictures with audience members. —Martha Thomas For tickets to A Chorus Line, call 410-547-SEAT or go to www. broadwayacrossamerica.com. For tickets to the Holiday Spectac-uthon, call 410-276-1651 or go to www. creativealliance.org.

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Celebrate the season at Hometown Girl with the best of Crabtown, hon! Baltimore cards, prints & apparel, local foods, cookbooks & gift baskets, fun & nostalgic toys and books for all ages...and complimentary gift wrap!

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The Colts’ Baltimore

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b oo k s

A Life in Books b y Sus an M c C a l l um - S m it h

Next stop, Wonderland: Original illustration from Alice

The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition, introduction and notes by Martin Gardner (Norton, 2000) The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (1967), graphic novel by Andrzej Klimowski and Danusia Schejbal (Self Made Hero, 2008) State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America edited by Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey (Ecco, 2008) The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family by Annette Gordon-Reed (Norton, 2008)

W

hen I was 4 years old, my mother took me to apply for my first library card, and every other weekend we returned to the library to swap our books, because reading, Mum said, was how we engage with the world. Regardless of such bounty, though, it was Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass that dominated my early reading. I wanted to be Alice—specifically, the Alice visualized by her original illustrator, John Tenniel. After tying on my granny’s apron, I’d clamber on top of her antique dressing table, squish my cheek against its tarnished mirror, and peer into the topsy-turvy world on the other side. Martin Gardner’s marvelous The Annotated Alice affirms the genius of Carroll, né Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, and the tales he wrote to entertain his child friend Alice Liddell. Carroll was convinced that children are smart, delight in nonsense, and have an elastic capacity for fear and the absurd. His inventions are as fresh and controversial as ever—the stoned caterpillar; the sneezing, abused pig-baby; the casual violence of the Queen of Hearts. Gardner unravels the chess game embedded in Through the Looking-Glass and lovingly dissects every pun, limerick, and allusion in his leisurely, rambling annotations.

The familiarity of Tenniel’s drawings has not diminished their power, and the less-replicated surprise anew—the delicate Bread-and-butterfly, Alice’s attempt to pull the White Knight feet-first from a ditch, and the lady-sheep knitting behind the counter of her wool shop. It wasn’t until my late teens that another book so captured my imagination—Mikhail Bulgakov’s Stalin-era masterpiece, The Master and Margarita, which has been re-issued in a graphic adaptation by Andrzej Klimowski and Danusia Schejbal. Bulgakov’s absurdist comedy of a mysterious magician’s visit to 1930s Moscow is combined with a re-imagining of Christ’s crucifixion in a manner that guaranteed its censorship in the Communist USSR and condemnation by religious groups worldwide. While Klimowski’s black-and-white illustrations have a certain sly power, Schejbal’s clumsy pastel interpretation of the Pontius Pilate subplot is amateurish and scrappy. By all means appreciate this version’s eye-candy cover, but read the novel instead. Bulgakov’s vaudeville romp masks a metaphysical debate about the interdependent relationship between good and evil, which is not best served by this graphic quickie. The parallels he draws between the struggle of conscience endured by a Moscow novelist nicknamed the “Master” and that endured by Pontius Pilate are not easily shaded by crayon alone. By characterizing the devilish magician as not the enemy of the Christ figure but rather his ally and instrument, Bulgakov suggests that omnipotent beings, or governments, are as responsible for darkness as they are light. Such magical realism wasn’t Mum’s thing. She loved history and family sagas, and her selections were meaty; thickness held no fears for her. She had a fascination with the United States that began long before her youngest daughter settled here, stirred by crazy Aunt Susan (yep, that’s the one I’m named after), who stole ashtrays in Vegas, and Uncle James, who drove Henry Ford’s Rolls Royce. Alistair Cooke’s America and Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind, or such James A. Michener doorstoppers as Chesapeake and Centennial, often appeared on her bedside table, bookmarked with neatly folded candy wrappers. After I emigrated, she traversed the historical sites of the Eastern seaboard blabbing like a tour guide while I trailed behind, 4 years old again. I’ve been trying to imagine her response to State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America, edited by Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey—an engaging, if spotty, collection of fifty essays written by contemporary American writers. She would’ve appreciated the more factual contributions, such as Dave Eggers’ recitation of the glories of Illinois, rather than Myla Goldberg’s reflective thoughts on Maryland’s complex relationship to civil rights, because she wasn’t that keen on writers who, to paraphrase E.M. Forster, ran up and

art/culture down ladders in their own insides. As a teenager I was often told that I could sulk about the meaning of life after I’d tidied my room. Annette Gordon-Reed’s The Hemingses of Monticello would have been more her thing, because it really does have a whopping story inside it once you dig it out, although Gordon-Reed seemed determined to bury it under a hectoring tone. If she reminds us once that slavery was an abomination, she reminds us a million times, in a manner that implies she not only thinks readers are dim but also that we lack human empathy. She needn’t have worried. The story of America’s third president and first biracial First Family illustrates two current concerns—our nation’s schizophrenic relationship to race and our love affair with credit—with eerily prescient acuity. Several facts sting like a slap. In order for slavery to work, English property laws had to be changed to a more accommodating American version, so that inheritance no longer transferred from father to child, but from mother to child, thereby ensuring that any children of slave-owners and their slaves had no property rights and could be sold. Because “Dusky Sally” was the daughter of the slave Elizabeth Hemings (who had also had children by Jefferson’s father-in-law), Jefferson’s wife, Martha, and his mistress, Sally, were actually half sisters. Martha found herself in the insidious but not uncommon predicament of owning her own siblings. Gordon-Reed also explores a belief widely held by Jefferson and his contemporaries, which may still make some Americans squirm today: that mixing blacks with whites “improved black people,” somehow making them more acceptable and less threatening. Finally, Gordon-Reed tackles the great Jefferson enigma—how could someone articulate so exquisitely the rights of man while continuing to own slaves himself? Jefferson was being, she argues, a typical Virginian, a typical American, “for whom indebtedness was a way of life.” Not only did Jefferson not want to free his slaves for personal reasons of affection and loneliness, but he also couldn’t afford to. “It is there,” Gordon-Reed concludes of Monticello, “that we can find the absolute best, and the absolute worst, that we have been as Americans.” I have a photograph of my mother striding across the gardens of Monticello, holding on to the crown of her sun hat, like Scarlett. This is how I like to remember her—vigorous, curious, opinionated—and not as implied by the books I recently found lying untouched on her bedside table, naked of candy wrappers. I had missed the first hint a few weeks ago that a soul was disengaging from the world when she said, “You know, I’m so tired, I can’t even be bothered to read.” ■

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Photo Credit: Walter Iooss

On SAlE nOW!

December 2 - 14 • Hippodrome Theatre

BroadwayAcrossAmerica.com • 410.547.SEAT • Box Office (Mon-Sat 10a-5p) • Groups (20+) call 866.577.7469 To learn more visit myspace.com/BaltimoreHippodrome

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

urbanite december 08


t h e sc e n e : d e c e M B E R HOLIDAY EVENTS

Tinsel Town Brace yourself for a month of seasonal rites. Some highlights: The Baltimore School for the Arts updates its annual performance of The Nutcracker with new choreography, costumes, and sets (Dec 5–7 and 12–14. 712 Cathedral St.; 443642-5165; www.bsfa.org), while the Moscow ballet sticks to its Russian roots at the Lyric (Dec 19–21. Call 410-547-7328 or go to www. ticketmaster.com for tickets. 140 W. Mt. Royal Ave.; www.lyricoperahouse.com) The Peabody Ragtime Ensemble plays a decidedly populist holiday concert featuring the naturally comical tuba and euphonium on Dec 12 at 8 p.m. at the Creative Alliance. Donate a non-perishable food item to Adelante Familia’s food pantry and get $3 off admission. (3134 Eastern Ave.; 410-276-1651; www.creativealliance.org) Dancing Santas, flying reindeer, the African Children’s Choir, and Christian vocalist Sandi Patty round out the lineup for the Holiday Spectacular with the BSO. Dec 12–14, 17–21, and 23. (1212 Cathedral St.; 410-7838000; www.bsomusic.org) The Maryland State Boychoir’s annual Festival of Lessons and Carols heralds the story of the birth of Jesus with readings from the Bible and the singing of carols. It’s

modeled on the nearly century-old festival at King’s College Chapel in England—and it routinely sells out, so get your tickets early. Dec 14, 20, and 21. (3400 Norman Ave.; call 410-668-2003 or e-mail info@maryland stateboychoir.org for tickets.) The Stoop Storytelling Series Holiday Hoopla has enough action to fill a wraparound porch. Special guests such as local indie band Wye Oak and the Baltimore Westsiders Marching Band join this seasonal cavalcade of yarn-spinners, including occasional Urbanite contributors Rafael Alvarez and Violet Glaze and 2009 Urbanite Project participant Maria Broom. Dec 15, 8 p.m.; cocktails and music start at 7 p.m. (Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, 1212 Cathedral St.; 1-800-838-3006; www.stoopstorytelling.com) Sing along as the Baltimore Choral Arts Society performs Handel’s Messiah. Music director Tom Hall is your coach; musical scores will be sold in the lobby. Dec 19 at 7:30 p.m. at Goucher College’s Kraushaar Auditorium. (1021 Dulaney Valley Rd.; 410337-6000; www.goucher.edu) Sick of Christmas? Greet the New Year with St. Ignatius’ nondenominational interfaith service that brings together cantors, readers, and leaders of area Jewish, Islamic, and Christian congregations. Dec 31 at 8:30 p.m.; music starts at 8 p.m. (740 N. Calvert St.; 410-727-3848; www.st-ignatius.net)

art/culture

EXHIBITION

Fair Fight Courage: The Vision to End Segregation, the Guts to Fight for It traces the origins of Brown v. Board of Education to a lawsuit filed by residents of a South Carolina town of the “separate but equal” policy of their children’s schools. The traveling exhibit is at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum through March 1, 2009. (830 E. Pratt St.; 443-2631800; www.africanamericanculture.org) THEATER

A Softer Side The late British playwright Sarah Kane was infamous for her shocking yet poetic depictions of tortured characters and situations. Single Carrot Theater stages the Baltimore premiere of Crave, her most lyrical (and least violent) work, Dec 4–21. (120 W. North Ave., in the Load of Fun building; 443-8449253; www.singlecarrot.com) INDIE MUSIC

Spot On Political rocker Ted Leo leaves the Pharmacists behind to play a solo gig at Gspot: Audio Visual Playground on Dec 12. A week later, go back for the Gspot’s ninth anniversary party, featuring Brooklyn-based bands Yeasayer and Chairlift. (2980 Falls Rd.; 410-889-6767; www.gspotavp.com)

In the Round

Round Robin top off their seven-city tour with two home shows at Sonar. The bands all set up in a circle; each plays a song, then passes to the next band. “Eyes Night” on Dec 18 is made up of the dreamy and theatrical, such as Beach House, neo-folker Lesser Gonzalez Alvarez, and comedian Ed Schrader. “Feet Night” on Dec 19 is meant to provoke riotous dancing, with electronica dude (and event founder) Dan Deacon, post-punk trio Double Dagger, and mash-up artist Smart Growth. (407 E. Saratoga St.; 410-783-7888; www.sonarbaltimore.com) JAZZ

Bye Bye Birdie Before he embarks on a promised retirement at the end of the year, legendary bassist Joe Byrd (who played alongside his brother, Charlie, in the Charlie Byrd Trio for more than four decades) performs two shows at An Die Musik Live, on Dec 27 at 8 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. (409 N. Charles St., second floor; 410385-2638; www.andiemusiklive.com) ART

Shape Shifter The newly renovated Gallery Four in the H&H Building reopens with a group installation and painting show called Asterism, a term for stars that form a recognizable pattern but are not an official constellation. Through Jan 10. (405 W. Franklin St., fourth floor; www.galleryfour.net)

Twenty-two of the bands in the Baltimore

At the Jewish Museum of Maryland until Jan 4, Dateline Israel captures contemporary life in Israel through video art and photograhy. Exhibited works include The Blessing (above), a digital chromogenic print by Barry Frydlender of a group of Orthodox men and boys at a holiday picnic. (15 Lloyd St.; 410-732-6400; www.jewishmuseummd.org)

courtesy of Andrea Meislin Gallery, New York

Compiled by Marianne K. Amoss 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 8

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Tide Point Early Childhood Education Center Serving children 6 wks to 5 yrs. MSDE approved Creative Curriculum used, supplemented by frequent field trips and enrichment programs. A service of the

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eye to ey e

For centuries we have looked up in the night sky and imposed order on what we see. We have also been inspired by its mystery. Satellites, GPS systems, and Google maps now allow us to do the same looking down at our home planet, and the results of this new perspective are often startling. Baltimore artist Julie Jankowski’s recent work addresses our experience of connection, location, and the systems that define these within our technologically driven culture. She says, “GPS, Amsterdam is an interpretation of an image generated by global positioning imaging devices. The original, digital image was developed as a study of urban travel patterns. GPS devices were mounted on pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists traversing the city of Amsterdam, to track and visually record their journeys.” Her subsequent response to this mapping, using, as she says, “the pre-historic medium of paint, and the handmade,” produces works that are at once somehow familiar in their man-made order and yet frightening in a surreal way. While reveling in the patterns and force of the painting, we simultaneously ask ourselves, “What are we making down there? Is this the earth I walk about every day? —Alex Castro

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julie jankowski GPS, Amsterdam 2006 21 x 24 inches oil on linen


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

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urbanite december 08

December 2008 Issue  

Local Heroes, Property Tax Revolt, Clifton Mansion's Slo-Mo Makeover, A Whale of an Obsession

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