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j anuary 2005


i s s ue no . 7

8 Eco-Friendly Products for Your Home Home: Create Your Own Art Gallery Film: The End of Suburbia

View of Delft: Carl Dennis

The New American Dream Eric Utne, guest editor

Can We Sustain a Culture of Ownership? – Jonathan Rowe w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j a n u a r y 0 5



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Urbanite Issue 7 January 2005



“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Publisher Tracy Ward Durkin

– Mahatma Gandhi

Managing Editor Elizabeth A. Evitts

elcome to the first monthly edition of Urbanite! We launch into the

new year with color and an expanded editorial line-up. In these pages, you will

Guest Editor Eric Utne

find a number of new regular departments: Baltimore Observed will highlight architecture, design, and city life, and our Home column will feature unique

Copy Editor Angela Davids/Alter Communications

living spaces. Sustainable City will provide insight into environmental lifestyles, while the Out There column introduces you to something We were especially honored when one of our heroes, Eric Utne, agreed to guest edit this inaugural monthly issue, which explores the

Art Direction Castro/Arts LLC

Marsh all Cla rke

extraordinary happening outside this city.

Art Manager Ann Wiker

theme of the New American Dream. As founding publisher of Utne magazine (previously Utne Reader) twenty years ago, Eric is no stranger to providing visionary leadership in the media. Eric’s most recent venture, Cosmo Doogood’s Urban Almanac: Celebrating Nature & Her Rhythms in the City, is a modern version of Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac. It is close to our hearts as it provides urbanites a playful day-to-day

Advertising Director Jeff Stintz

Administrative Assistant Bellee Gossett

guide designed to awaken us to the pleasures of nature while living in the city. But more than the magazine and his new book, Eric has profoundly influenced the lives of untold many due to his leadership in jump-starting the cyberspace “salon” movement. For Urbanite, Eric manifests the spirit of conversation, the simple belief that dialogue can lead to transformation. In this New American Dream issue, Urbanite sought not just to report on an emerging new dream, but rather to initiate the conversation about what we, as city dwellers, hope for the future. Are our past goals

Interns Kate Stevens Robbie Whelan

Founder Laurel Harris Durenberger

still relevant? Are we happy with where we are going? You will find the theme played out in a series of articles, a photo essay and the poignant poetry of Pulitzer Prize winner Carl Dennis. You can eavesdrop on the conversation of a diverse group of Baltimoreans as they discuss the American Dream, and ponder the larger questions posed by Jonathan Rowe regarding the impact of our culture of ownership on the commons, the space where our many conversations begin. We hope that you will pick up where we left off and initiate your own dialogues. As your conversations begin, we would love to hear about them. n

— Tracy Durkin

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Advertising/Editorial/Business Offices P.O. Box 50158, Baltimore, MD 21211 Phone: 410-243-2050; Fax: 410-467-7802 Editorial Inquiries: Send queries to the managing editor (no phone calls, please) including SASE. The magazine is not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts or artwork. Urbanite does not necessarily support the opinions of authors. To subscribe or obtain assistance with a current subscription, call 410-243-2050. Upcoming Themes: February: Music March: Up and Coming April: Film May: Home June: Water July: Independence Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission by Urbanite is prohibited. Copyright 2005, by Urbanite LLC. All Rights Reserved. This publication is FREE and is distributed widely throughout Baltimore City. If you know of a location that urbanites frequent and would recommend placing the magazine there, please let us know by contacting us at 410-243-2050.


contents 9 guest editor’s note

photo by Jefferson Jackson Steele

Alex Castro Alex Castro, Urbanite’s art director, is an artist and architectural designer whose work is in the collections of the National Gallery of Art, the Baltimore Museum of Art, and the Brooklyn Museum, among others. His firm, Castro/Arts, is presently working on the Baltimore Immigration Pavilion, a condominium project on the water in Fells Point and the Celia Cruz exhibition for the Smithsonian Institution.

Eric Utne

11 corkboard 12 have you heard… 14 slow food

Steve Blair

16 neighborhoods: locust point

photo by Mark Dellas

Carl Dennis

Miriam DesHarnais

Carl Dennis has authored nine books of poetry, including New and Selected Poems, 1974-2004 (Penguin, 2004). His previous book, Practical Gods (Penguin, 2001), won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Recipient of the Ruth Lilly Prize for his contribution to American poetry, Dennis is artist in residence at the State University of New York at Buffalo, and a faculty member of the MFA program in creative writing at Warren Wilson College.

18 home is where the art is Alice Ockleshaw

22 encounter: silk road to diyarbakir Kelly Parisi

24 baltimore observed: making connections Stuart Sirota

courtesy of Jonathan Rowe

Jonathan Rowe Jonathan Rowe is the director of the Tomales Bay Institute, which aims to revive the concept of the commons. He is a contributing editor for the Washington Monthly and YES! magazines and a former staff writer at the Christian Science Monitor. He hosts a public affairs show on KWMR-FM in West Marin County, California.

26 common ground Jonathan Rowe

30 reclaiming america’s stepchild


William J. Evitts

34 the new clubbing Ed Bellafiore

37 poetry: view of delft

illustration by Cornel Rubino

Cornel Rubino Born in New York City, Cornel Rubino attended Parsons School of Design and the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence, Italy where he remained for eight years painting. A curator, teacher and lecturer, he is a winner of the 1999 Society of Publication Designers Award and the 1997 Communication Arts Illustration Annual Award. His work is seen regularly in The New Yorker, The Washington Post, The Atlantic Monthly, The Boston Globe, Bloomberg and Gourmet. Rubino lives in Baltimore and teaches at MICA.

photo by Marshall Clarke

Lizzie Skurnick Lizzie Skurnick has written on books, publishing and culture for The New York Times Book Review, Washington Post Book World, New York Magazine, The Baltimore City Paper, and many other publications. She teaches writing at Johns Hopkins University, and a chapbook of her poetry, Check-In, is forthcoming from the Caketrain imprint (

Carl Dennis

38 conversation

Steven Rivelis

39 facts


40 out there: the european dream Joan Jacobson

41 sustainable city: the green room Lizzie Skurnick

42 in review cover illustration: Yanel de Angel and Alex Castro

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what you’re saying Not Funny The MONDO BALTO cartoon in the November/ December issue was very negative! You could have had a great article on Weinberg, Krieger, Bloomberg or Goldseker, describing how wealth was accumulated and why and how each of their families became philanthropists. The cartoon convicted all of these men. That is very unfair, without explanations. How can you character assassinate James Rouse without an explanation? He developed Cross Keys in the mid-1960s. Was this terrible? Was it terrible to make a profit? You do not want to share poverty. You can share wealth. Was Columbia a mistake? I was upset and ready to throw Urbanite in the trash. However, I thought better and decided to continue on. All the remaining articles were excellent, very appropriate and calmed me down. —Phillip Lee lives in Parkville and works as an engineer in Canton.

Diversity Having been a resident of Baltimore all of my life, I really enjoy the magazine and its interesting focus on a variety of topics. However, as an African American citizen, I do notice a lack of representation in the magazine. In the last edition, there was a group of the city’s foundation leaders and philanthropists [Conversation: “Philanthropy in Baltimore: Four Perspectives”] but there was no mention or representatives in the discussion about the black philanthropists or giving organizations, such as Associated Black Charities. My husband and I are in our forties and in many ways are the first full generation to benefit from the civil rights movement. We were the children

of Martin Luther King’s dream. As we entered into adulthood, many of us pursued the dream of bigger and better homes, cars, and luxury vacations. We have gotten these things at a dear cost to ourselves. After surveying our lives, my husband and I decided to pursue a different American Dream and have made many changes ranging from career to moving to a smaller house. With this issue concerning the new American Dream, I am hoping that there will be some participation from the black community. It would be a real inspiration to those of us in the city looking for like-minded people and activities that support the concept of simplicity. —Adrienne Jubilee lives in Upper Park Heights and works for Adoptions Together . Editor’s Note: Urbanite strives to represent all of Baltimore in its pages and we appreciate your feedback. A member of the African American philanthropic community was invited to join our conversation, but the individual failed to show the day of the event. The Associated Black Charities was noted for its work in our feature story on giving, on pages 16 and 17. We hope you will enjoy this issue’s Conversation, found on page 38. n

What’s on your mind? Urbanite encourages its readers to write—and it does not have to be all about us. We want to hear what you’re saying. Send your mail, including name, address, and daytime phone, to Mail, Urbanite, P.O. Box 50158, Baltimore, MD 21211. E-mail us at Mail may be edited for length and clarity.

for inner and outer beauty

urbanite january 05

There are those who will say that the liberation of humanity, the freedom of man and mind is nothing but a dream. They are right. It is the American Dream. —Archibald MacLeish, poet

We must stop talking about the American Dream and start listening to the dreams of Americans. —Max Beerbohm, writer

People are so busy dreaming the American Dream, fantasizing about what they could be or have a right to be, that they’re all asleep at the switch. Consequently we are living in the Age of Human Error. —Florence King, novelist

A great wave of oppressive tyranny isn’t going to strike, but rather a slow seepage of oppressive laws and regulations from within will sink the American Dream of liberty. —George Baumler, author

I look out at it and I think it is the most beautiful history in the world. … It is the history of all aspiration not just the American Dream but the human dream and if I came at the end of it that too is a place in the line of the pioneers. —F. Scott Fitzgerald, novelist

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Do I dare live out the American Dream? —Homer Simpson, cartoon character

If the American Dream is for Americans only, it will remain our dream and never be our destiny. —Rene de Visme Williamson, author

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“Eh Bien you like this sacred pig of a country?” asked Marco. “Why not? I like it anywhere. It’s all the same, in France you are paid badly and live well; here you are paid well and live badly.” —John Dos Passos, novelist

g u e s t e d i t o r ’ s n o t e

by eric utne

I had a dream. I awoke the morning of the presidential election with an uneasy

photo by Kelly Rogers

feeling that my candidate, for whom I, and especially my kids, had worked so hard, for so many months, was going to lose. I thought about how estranged I felt from all those people who were voting for the other candidate, how alien their reality seemed to me. But then an idea came to me that gave me hope. I found myself imagining a sister-city program between red states (and counties) and blue states (and counties). What if my entire block met regularly, say once a month, with residents from a neighborhood that voted for the other candidate? Could we get to know each other beyond the polarized positions presented by the candidates? If we spent some real time together, could we come to share a common sense of reality? Could we find each other’s essential humanity? Would we discover what the founders of America believed to be true—that the greatest wisdom lies in the whole, when all the voices are heard? Later, a friend told me that she had been feeling this same sense of alienation from “people who are different from me.” So, months before the election, she started attending Bible study classes in a church that she would not normally attend. She goes “incognito,” without acknowledging her sense of being different, in hopes of finding a sympathetic understanding of her fellow citizens. So far, she says, the jury’s still out. This is what we need to do to rekindle the American Dream. We need to reach out to people who are different from us and listen to them as deeply as we can, to understand their reality, to feel their hopes and dreams, as well as their pain, as though those hopes and dreams and that pain are our own. If I’ve learned anything in nearly 25 years of marriage, of which more than I care to admit was

spent in couple’s therapy, it’s that I’m not going to get anyone to understand and listen to me until I understand and listen to them. I can spend hours, days and years trying to get someone to understand me, but until I really make a sincere attempt to understand them, nothing will change. Ben Franklin said, “The destiny of America is not power, but light.” Emerson believed that the Divine Soul “inspires all men,” not just those of one political or religious persuasion. Martin Luther King Jr., five years after his famous “I have a dream” speech, said on the eve of his assassination, “Some began to … talk about the threats … But it doesn’t matter to me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop … And I’ve seen the promised land. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” The principal task of the twenty-first century will be the creation of real community, learning to see beyond the differences that divide us, to the essential humanity that illuminates and unites us all. I suspect this won’t be accomplished through well-meaning interfaith councils and the kind of earnest sister-city conversations I woke up pining for on election day, as important as they may be. I suspect it’s going to take something bigger, like sudden environmental collapse and climate change, to get us to reach across the abyss and begin to work together with people who are different from us. Until then, maybe some of us at least could start talking with our neighbors. If there’s a little friction, we may find that where there’s heat, there’s often light. Who knows; we may find we have more in common than we thought. n —Eric Utne is the founder of Utne magazine. He recently published Cosmo Doogood’s Urban Almanac: Celebrating Nature & Her Rhythms in the City. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife and their youngest of four sons.

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urbanite january 05


The New York Traveling African Film Festival Over two days, the Baltimore Museum of Art will show eight films produced in nine countries and written in six different languages that highlight some of the best in African contemporary cinema. The subject matter ranges from Senegalese organized crime to illicit love affairs in Burkina Faso. The series is designed specifically to bring African film to American audiences. BMA auditorium 10 Art Museum Drive Jan 22 and 23 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Free with museum admission 410-396-7100

of Suburbia” ing: “The End Urbanite Screen 0 a barrel, approaching $6 crude oil rapidly of ice pr the ith W onition of a gloomy prem Greene presents y or eg Gr er ak filmm o live style of those wh gas-guzzling life the for e m co what is to of an era for predicts the end sprawl. His film in the suburban entalists and s that environm urges the reform d an s ian rb bu su oil dependency ars—reduce our en making for ye be ve ha ts tis scien reening. e for a special sc late. Join Urbanit before it is too eatre The Charles Th reet St 1711 N. Charles January 19 ds 7:30 p.m. on of the procee $10 with a porti ore Green Week ltim benefiting Ba 410-243-2050 www.urbaniteba “A Real Nigga Show” Writer and director Troy Burton has assem bled a fine cast that includes local talent and stars of the HBO series The Wire, including Robert Chew, for a two-weekend stand of ensemble comedy and “choreo-poematics.” The program explores past and present perceptions of the country’s “most powerful colloquialism,” the n-word.

Alison Krauss Few country ac

ts have blurre d the lines of glitzy Nashville coun try, furiously fiddle d bluegrass, and old-timey mou ntain music as well as Alison Krauss. She wa s an Illinois state fid dle champion as a young woman , and that wa s before people disco vered her gorg eous singing voice . She has reco rded nine albums with her band Union Station, severa l of which ha ve gone gold and platin um, and was a key collaborator on the O Brothe r, Where Art Thou? proje cts. Meyerhoff Sy m 1212 Cathedra phony Hall l Street Jan 17 7:30 p.m. $41.75 410-783-8100 w w w.ticketm

Theatre Project 45 West Preston Street Feb 3–Feb 13 Thursday–Saturday at 8 p.m. $16 general admission, $11 seniors and students 410-752-8558

Babe Ruth Bi rthday Bash He may have been the Yank ees’ greatest slugger, but the Bambino was bo rn in Baltimore , and the museu m that bears his name is one of the biggest and best spor ts museums in the country. Th e annual bir th day fundraise r is particularly exciting this ye ar because the Babe Ruth Museum is ex panding into a new location at Camden Ya rds (to be calle d Spor ts Legend s at Camden Ya rds). The party will feature ap pearances by members of th e Orioles lineup and other local sports celebrit ies, open bars, ho t dogs, peanut s, and other baseball fare to munch on while you ming le with your favor ite athletes an d watch footag e of the Orioles ’ glory days. Camden Yard s Warehouse 6th Floor 333 West Cam den Street Feb 11 6–9 p.m. $30 for museu m $35 for non-m members embers 410-837-4636 w w w.baberu m

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d E an TAG e cial TERS he Cycl N n E er, so C form a’s Kitche ing t r k e a p e , in h Br a n lm rhm of E now wei-A ywright ionally k and the t mi K Kwa t, and pla rrills, na e Bloods istoric is h h he e activ qeela S ringing t ing of a hous A n b s g i in s in open civic k e r jo d h o n t a w r , fo ily is m for h together or a foru tice, fam erience f s p Crips e Treaty,” peace, ju ness. Ex ts while f c e is “Pea issues o d forgiv word ar t hand to n e an lp on th nsibility, y spoken remain o e can he b s o resp mances nization ys that w a a r per fo unity org tion on w ore. a m im t m l m r Ba fo co ide in le” in prov the cyc k a e “br E TAG ter a t TERS CEN tone The r t Stree e ls Pear or th Calv 700 N r y 15 a .0033 Janu . 0.332 .m ll: 41 a c t 2-5 p r sea Free er ve you s To re

New Ceramics by the Staff of the Glasgow School of Art Famous for the stark, revolutionary design style of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the Glasgow School of Art has breathed life into its tough, lowland Scottish industrial hometown the same way the Maryland Institute College of Art has cracked Baltimore’s gruff urban shell by bringing vibrant artistic minds and movements into the city. MICA’s January exhibition is the result of a 20-plus year collaborative effort between the staffs of both institutions. Rosenberg Gallery, the Brown Center 1301 Mount Royal Avenue Jan 10–March 27 Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Free. 410-225-2300

w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j a n u a r y 0 5


have you heard. . .

Shoes… If J Shoes were a music group, they would be playing the small clubs and taking them by storm. They have an understated cool, a casual hip. For men, chocolate-colored embossed leather is the twentyfirst century answer to loafers. For women, fun prints and casual shoes and kitten heels for dressier styles. Born in the UK six years ago, J Shoes made their debut in the States in 2002, first in New York and then through high-end boutiques such as Fred Seagal in L.A. Their main distribution and sales office for the U.S. is right in Baltimore and they now sell through Ma Petite Shoe in Hampden, where you can find styles for men and women. The spring collection hits the shelves this month. Ma Petite Shoe; 832 West 36th Street; 410-235-3442; or www. —Kate Stevens

photo by Marty Catz



urbanite january 05

The inspiration for Pazo, the Charleston Group’s latest culinary destination in Fells Point, came from chef Pete Livolsi’s Sicilian heritage. The restaurant’s hearty tapas menu, with small plates of grilled calamari in green apples and braised veal cheeks with pumpkin, was inspired by a recent trip to the Campania region of Italy. Livolsi and co-owner Tony Foreman traversed the countryside finding traditional recipes and spectacular wines, while Livolsi’s own rendition of his grandmother’s sauce brought tears to the eyes of distant relatives. (Be sure to ask them about the meal they enjoyed with winemaker Salvatore Molettieri at a farmhouse in Taurasi.) Dishes range from $3 to $12, wine is plentiful and affordable, and the best part: The kitchen stays open till 1 a.m. Pazo; 1425 Aliceanna Street; 410-534-7296 —Elizabeth A. Evitts


Photos by Adam Pollard

Many times buildings throughout the city sit stagnant, waiting for rehabilitation. Last summer the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore offered a unique opportunity for local artists to use the fallow 30 South Calvert Street building as gallery and studio space. A group of fifteen visual artists were selected to take residence at the three-story building downtown, which is being offered rent-free for six months. Painters, T-shirt designers, and sculptural fashion artists will use the top two floors for studio space and the ground floor for exhibition and retail space where they will sell their work and wearable art (like Adam Pollard’s T-shirts, pictured here). Current Gallery; 30 South Calvert Street; —K.S.

photo by TJ Moyer

Books… On a Wednesday morning at Lauraville’s new Red Canoe Children’s Books & Coffee House, a father in a corner alcove reads to his son, who sits perched on his dad’s knee. Walls are painted with a blue sky and a leafy-green forest design, and racks are piled with picture books, nursery rhymes, and classics by the Brothers Grimm and Shel Silverstein. Upstairs, two toddlers chase each other in circles in front of the shelves of young-adult titles by Gary Paulsen, Katherine Patterson, and Lemony Snicket. Downstairs, there is a small café with an old-fashioned checkered floor, where you can order home-baked carrot cake and sip Italian sodas or locally produced ginger pear tea. Nicole Selhorst, a former schoolteacher and one of the Red Canoe’s owners, says her book shop is a resource for the community where parents can meet other parents and chat over a cup of coffee while their kids read, learn, and play. Selhorst publishes a Red Canoe newsletter, “for kids, by kids,” and the shop hosts writers like Baltimore’s own Jonathon Scott Fuqua. Selhorst says, “The idea is to build a community through literacy, critical thinking, tolerance, and invention.” 4337 Harford Road; 410-444-4440; —Robbie Whelan

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by steve blair

Slow Food

An international movement could change the way you eat.

When I first heard of Slow Food, I envisioned my grandmother’s beef burgundy stewing in her cast-iron braiser for half a day. Turns out, Slow Food is actually an international movement of “eco-gastronomes,” a growing number of folks who not only enjoy good food and wine, but also support the slow life. In short, Slow Food is everything fast food is not. Increasingly, we are limiting ourselves to quick meals of processed foods and microwavable fare. This affects not just our physical health, but also the quality of our lives. There was a time not long ago when meals were about sitting and talking and enjoying good company. Somewhere, efficiency became our mantra and saving time our golden rule. Gone are the days when we would drop by


urbanite january 05

to pay a visit to family and friends and linger over food and conversation. Maybe we’ve halted these gatherings out of respect for each other’s privacy, but in short, it’s just made us more isolated people. Advocates for the Slow Food Movement wish to change all this and get us back to a place where our top priority is sharing life’s simple pleasures with those we care about. It began with the founding of an association in Italy in 1986 and now includes more than 60,000 members across five continents. The Slow Food International manifesto states that the twentieth century saw the birth of the machine, which spurred us to become slaves to speed. Real culture, it says, is about developing taste rather than demeaning it, and our best defense to encroaching “fastness” is doses of sensual pleasure and long-lasting enjoyment. It is no

big surprise that the international association chose the snail as its symbol. National associations, like Slow Food USA, now encourage small gatherings with one goal: to slow down our fast-paced lives and relish the simple pleasures while supporting artisanal food producers. They developed events called conviviums, a word derived from convivial—to be fond of feasting and drinking with good company. A convivium is as simple as a trip to an apple orchard or taking the time to learn your grandmother’s time-tested recipes (like that beef burgundy). So how do you begin? Participating in Slow Food on your own can simply mean starting a weekend morning at a farmers market and picking up local cheese and produce. Support the local

EVERYMAN THEATRE coffee brewers, like Key Roasters (www.keyroasters. com), and skip the Starbucks. For your kids, replace prefabbed chicken nuggets and the blue box from Kraft with homemade chicken tenders and mac-n-cheese. This fall, a group of friends drove out to Howard County to a pumpkin patch. We brought home our selections and one pumpkin was used to make pasta for that evening’s dinner. Once a year, an Italian family I know invites family and friends over to make homemade ravioli. Their goal is to make enough pasta so that participants can take a few dozen home to freeze for future dinners. You can continue to eat slow while out on the town. Here in Baltimore, restaurants involved in the movement offer uncompromised, leisurely meals that celebrate seasonal produce and quality preparation. The Brewer’s Art in Mount Vernon handcrafts Belgian-style beers and the nearby

January 14 – February 20, 2005 Previews January 11, 12, 13 Directed by Donald Hicken Co-Produced with Rep Stage Valerie Lash, Artistic Director & Baltimore School for the Arts Wednesdays through Sundays Ticket prices: $15–$28 Box Office: 410-752-2208


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Advocates for the Slow Food Movement wish to change all this and get us back to a place where our top priority is sharing life’s simple pleasures with those we care about.

THE CHILDREN’S HOUR by Lillian Hellman







W e o h r T k e T v o Us a e L

Abacrombie Restaurant creates a menu around traditionally prepared local ingredients. In East Baltimore, Dangerously Delicious Pies makes more than fifteen varieties of homemade pies daily, while the chef at Peters Inn in Fells Point changes her menu weekly depending on what’s fresh in the local markets. To learn more about Slow Food, all you need to do is search the shelves at a bookstore, as a slew of books have hit the market. One in particular, The Pleasures of Slow Food by Corby Kummer (Chronicle Books, 2002) explains the movement and features more than forty uncomplicated recipes using local handmade ingredients and traditional cooking methods. n p. 46

—Steve Blair wrote about local holiday food traditions in November/December. Culinary questions can be directed to him at


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by miriam desharnais

t n i o P t s u c o L


urbanite january 05

photography by helen sampson

Miss Grace Guarino, Pythias Alexander Jones Jr., and Samuel Louis Pfefferkorn. The Levy Soap factory, Procter & Gamble, and Chesapeake Paperboard. The immigration piers. These are names of people, companies, and places, gone from South Baltimore’s Locust Point. They have all died, departed, or otherwise disappeared. But in getting to know the neighborhood, I hear sounds of these names, watch people gesture towards locations where things used to be, and I get double vision: What came before forms halos around what’s here now. Asking residents in Locust Point what makes the place special gets some of the expected answers. The neighborhood is minutes from downtown, a short water taxi ride from Fells Point, and some streets are as pretty as those in nearby Federal Hill. The combination of good restaurants and outstanding harbor views mark it as the sort of place ready to be swept up in the urban development fairytale that often ends with yuppily ever after. A 2000 Baltimore Sun article described the area as being “one development away” from the sort of frills that would make it the next Canton. The article accurately predicted that home prices would double over the next four years. Yet Locust Point has qualities that set it apart, both figuratively and literally. Accessible by car only via Fort Avenue, the Point’s character has been shaped by a degree of geographic isolation. It rests on a peninsula that ends at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine and it really isn’t on the way to anywhere else. Scott Sheads is a Fort McHenry National Park Service Ranger and historian specializing in local history. He’s written several books about Baltimore and Fort McHenry and lives minutes from the park. He says location shaped Locust Point’s development. “Railroads were built because of the ports,” Sheads says. “During the Civil War, this was one of the main supply depots for the Union army. Both the water and the railroads surround Locust Point and limit its expansion.” Those railways and docks are still very much in use today. South Locust Point is a hub for transporting forest products. The 90-acre marine terminal in North Locust Point is part of a port system that is number one in the U.S. for “roll on, roll off ” cargo such as construction vehicles and tractors. A friend told me she comes to the tip of Fort McHenry whenever she wants a reminder that Baltimore really is still a port city. Still, the scale of operations on the piers is not what it used to be. Garris S. McFadden, longtime union member and president of Longshoremen’s Union Local 333 on Hull Street, remembers the port before shipping technology changed and industry left the area. “There were fifteen to twenty ships at one time [and] the factory smoke might hinder your vision,” McFadden says. “We’d haul great big slabs of copper, with over 150 people working on one ship.” McFadden also remembers those now deceased. He produces the obituary for longshoreman Pythias Alexander Jones Jr., who died in September 2004 at 87. Later, I meet Rita Marshall at a floral shop and she tells me about Miss Grace Guarino, a former school teacher who passed two years ago at the age of 102. “She taught four generations of my family,”

Marshall says about Guarino. “Everyone at Southern [High School] knew how to sing all the verses of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ because of her. Even during the Second World War she’d get letters from soldiers thanking her for teaching them.” I’m surprised at first by how many people, in the course of a short conversation, want to tell me about individuals from the neighborhood who’ve passed away. But then I realize that it makes sense to list your people, to remember the folks you’ve

While so many American towns seem like little more than highway exits lined with strip malls, the continuity between generations stands out here. worked with and learned from. It’s what’s important about your community. While so many American towns seem like little more than highway exits lined with strip malls, the continuity between generations stands out here. An above average number of senior citizens means that even during the day there are people sitting on the stoops of formstone houses chatting. And most people own those stoops. As of the 2000 census, 74% of Locust Point residents were homeowners and 86% of the neighborhood was born in Maryland. Families of German, Irish, and Polish descent make up more than 70% of Locust Point’s ethnicities, reflecting the fact that the neighborhood was our country’s second largest point of entry for new Americans in the early twentieth century. Of the nearly one million people who disembarked at Locust Point, many chose to stay in Baltimore and a good number stayed right here where industry was active. The Baltimore Immigration Project’s Web site or the Preservation Society’s “Ellis Island in Baltimore” walking tours are ways to learn more. Another reason folks seem awfully focused on the past these days is that things are changing in Locust Point. Procter & Gamble, Bethlehem Steel, the Chesapeake Paperboard Company, and Allied Signal Chemical are all gone. New developments rise in their shadow. “The soap factory turned into a tech park. Grain terminals are being turned into luxury condos,” Scott Sheads says with a sigh, referring to the Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse Tide Point office park and to the controversial “Silo Point” renovation by Patrick Turner and Mark Sapperstein. Sheads doesn’t want to see Locust Point become a busier, Disney-er version of itself. “We just need the basic necessities of day-to-day living,” Sheads says. “No mega marts … anything but more townhouses.” Businesses that cultivate philanthropic relationships with the community, provide jobs to locals, or meld with the area’s history, tend to get the warmest

reception from longtime residents. Phillips Seafood’s World Headquarters is now housed in the former Coca-Cola plant. Pfefferkorn’s Coffee Company, a family-owned Baltimore business and the new Baltimore Cupcake Company are seen as a return to a time when the area hosted a greater number of small businesses. Louis C. Pfefferkorn moved his company to the area in 1996. He pauses during an explanation of the differences between arabica and robusta coffee to look around his small factory. His grandfather was in the local grocery business but it was his aunts and his father, Samuel Louis Pfefferkorn, who made the coffee business take off by installing a roasting plant in 1925, the year Louis was born. He thinks Locust Point is improving: “It’s coming up, I believe.” Mandy Hagen agrees. Hagen is an event designer and co-owner of the flower shop Green Leaf Designs, which opened in January of 2004. Hagen sees a need to be reverent of the past while looking forward. “[The grain silos] won’t just be acres of unused property,” Hagen says. “The [condo] design is cool and they’re preserving the side so that you can see the grain silos and that it was a place people worked in.” As we chat, Hagen hollers to a man driving by. “Hey, Mr. Cole! See my art project?” She points to a tree outside that she’s wrapping with copper wire, “It’s visionary art, right here in Locust Point!” What draws fire is the sort of development that threatens to throw off balance the needs of the community by increasing traffic and population without any discernable benefit to old-timers. Skyrocketing property values are good news only for those planning to someday sell. For many, including those on a pension, the sudden increase in property taxes is a challenge. Walking down Hull Street, I can see both construction and multiple moving vans. Scott Sheads is concerned about the impact of the new arrivals: “Whole families with traditions, people who’ve lived here all their lives are replaced by people with new values, a different way of living.” Sister Catherine Cress of Our Lady of Good Counsel works to bring the generations of longtime residents together with the newcomers. Her office is full of photos of local kids from birth to high school graduation, and it tells the story of a life of connection and community involvement. “People don’t like change, especially change that affects the whole tenor of their community,” she says. “But what I’ve found is that anybody who has moved in has become an asset.” Looking at the signs of transition in the neighborhood it’s easy to see what she means. While there’s the sort of awareness of outsiders here that no Neighborhood Watch program could hold a candle to, locals are not unfriendly to newcomers. A waitress asking where I live nods gravely and pats my hand when I say Hampden. “Oh, sweetie, you came a long ways.” And so, it seems, has Locust Point. Sister Catherine hopes the change here can be one of gains, rather than just laments about losses. “I want to see that we keep all that’s good from the past,” she says. “I want to see people reach out and welcome one another. I believe we can work together and that this can stay a good and p. 46 viable community.” n —Miriam DesHarnais lives in Hampden. She wrote about Waverly for our September/October issue. w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j a n u a r y 0 5


h o m e

by alice ockleshaw

photography by michael northrop


Baltimore residents turn private living spaces into public galleries.

Top: Cindy Rehm and Bill Sebring’s living room is as much an attraction as their Spare Room gallery. Bottom: Brendan Edwards carved out a gallery from a 4,000-square-foot warehouse in Mount Vernon. Pictured with Zita Thomas.


urbanite january 05

Opposite: Scenes from Rehm and Sebring’s home. Center image shows artist Temple Crocker in the Spare Room.

The first floor of Cindy Rehm’s Waverly

Room. Artist Temple Crocker has transformed the

subgroup of Baltimore’s art scene who are providing a

home is crawling with strangers liberally looking

126-square-foot bedroom into Tell Me Window, an

more personal forum for free art to the community.

through her things. Several are gathered in her

exploration of the body as a holding house.

Closer to downtown, Brendan Edwards sits in an

kitchen, commenting—between bites of cheese and

Downstairs, Crocker enthusiastically fields

sips of wine—on the lime green walls and polka-dotted

questions about the symbolism of the keys she has

same thought. “My contribution is the building,”

basement door. Some have ambled into the bright

strung from Spare Room’s ceiling, while 38-year-old

he says, gesturing around his apartment, part of a

red living room to examine the vintage television,

Rehm and her live-in boyfriend, mathematician

former chop shop in Mount Vernon. “I help to create

mold of bottom teeth and Ouija board on the mantle.

Bill Sebring, do the entertaining. Their guests, who

an experience.”

In the warmly lit foyer, others are marveling at a

range dramatically in age, are made up of friends of

porcelain deer, an array of old dolls and religious

the couple, friends of the artist, and newcomers

Zita Thomas, who lives with Edwards in their sparse

sculptures, and a kitschy painting of horses among

interested in seeing the year-old installation space

and airy concrete apartment, describes life with him.

the artwork and knickknacks that cover nearly every

for themselves. The latter are often prone to confusion.

“Things are always changing here,” she says.

inch of Rehm’s otherwise traditional Baltimore home.

“People come in here all the time and ask me,

entirely different type of home—and expresses the

“An experience,” is exactly the way his girlfriend,

The 28-year-old Edwards is a freelance audio/

“Is this the installation space?” laughs Rehm, a

visual specialist by trade, but embraces a host of

the real attraction—the reason for these probing

teacher of art and art theory at the University of

other titles, including artist, landlord, writer, architect,

visitors—is actually upstairs.

Maryland, Baltimore County. Although she dutifully

social activist and carpenter. His 4,000-square-foot

directs them upstairs, “I like that the entire house is

property, which includes his own apartment, a gallery,

like an installation,” she says.

and the apartment of his tenant (painter Seth Adels-

Looking at them, one would never know that

It’s the last Saturday of October, and for Rehm and the sixty or so people who will walk through her house that night, it’s the monthly gallery opening for her guest-room-turned-installation-space, Spare

This sentiment is common among Baltimore’s reigning home-gallery owners—a small but growing

berger), boasts a 3,000-pound homemade concrete sink, custom-designed kitchens made from salvaged

w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j a n u a r y 0 5


school and hospital materials, and a sleeping loft he made from angular colored wood and concrete. The gallery space, called Seed/Vector, recently

Offering something different to Baltimore is a goal Edwards and Rehm share. Sebring says, “There’s not a huge performance and installation art community

had its highly successful first show, Systems Codes

here. Cindy is a real advocate for that particular art

Chaos. According to Edwards, the opening, which

form, so she’s committed to providing one of the only

featured paintings from a number of local artists

spaces like it in Baltimore.”

including Adelsberger, drew close to 1,000 people.

Rehm fields twenty-five to thirty proposals

Paintings were hung throughout both the expansive,

for just eight openings a year. Her rationale for the

white-walled gallery and the apartments. Like Rehm,

space’s popularity is simple: “The room has a quality

Edwards found the appeal was as much about his

that a gallery space wouldn’t have,” she says. “The

home as the artwork in it.

artists have free reign to do what they want, and it is

“The goal of both the art and the space is to

a pleasure for them to come to work.”

change the human experience,” says Edwards, a

Edwards phone rings constantly with proposals

wild-haired intellectual prone to philosophical

and inquiries about his space, and although he has

digressions punctuated by slightly crazed laughing.

not yet settled on a theme, he says the next show will

“This place is really constructed around living. I hope

feature more types of art and performance to create

that people who come through here see a different

an even greater experience than the last one.

kind of home—one that is open, well-lit and natural to your mind.”

“The goal is to get ideas out,” he says. “Not by forcing people, but by inviting them into my home.” n

For Edwards, the gallery space was an integral component to creating an artists’ community, an

—Alice Ockleshaw covered housing and transportation

idea he had while in Argentina two years ago. “I saw

for the Chicago Reporter before moving to Baltimore

the United States as a place without a culture,” he

two years ago. She now lives in Canton, and works as

says. “I was tired of talking about things and not doing

a writer and media relations manager for an international

anything about them, so I came back to Baltimore and

architecture firm. She recently completed a book for

started buying property. I began by buying the biggest

Penguin Publishing.

building I could, right in the middle of town.” Today, he owns three converted buildings on the block and

Photographs: Scenes from the Seed /Vector gallery.

leases the apartments to artists and writers. “I’m trying to create a different kind of art community for the city,” he says.

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urbanite january 05

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MAKE YOUR HOUSE A GALLERY If you’d like to join the ranks of home-gallery owners, follow these tips. Find a Space “It was an interesting room, and I thought, ‘Why not open this up to artists?’” says Rehm, who has also toyed with turning her basement into a performance space. “If you have an empty space, the biggest challenge is making the decision that you’re going to open it to art.” But understand that the event—and the attraction—will be about more than the gallery space. Edwards says, “I don’t think about living in this space and not living in the gallery. I live in all of it, and it’s all part of the show.” Promote, Promote, Promote Sebring credits Rehm’s organizational skills with the popularity of Spare Room. “A lot of people in the art world are really disorganized,” he says. “Cindy’s been able to generate quite a bit of buzz.” Fliers, press releases and taking advantage of artists’ contacts are imperative to drawing a crowd.

Get cool stuff that doesn’t come in a crate or a barrel.

Throw a Good Party Rehm and Edwards offer their events entirely free of charge. Like Rehm, you can ask the artists to provide their own food for guests. Last year, she sold matchbooks designed by various artists to raise money for wine and beer. “We throw a great party,” Sebring says. “People keep coming back because it’s a nice mix of people and a fun place to hang out.” If you’re lucky, you might find someone to donate libations. Tony Green of Hampden’s Wine Source caters Seed/Vector’s events for free. Looking for some inspiration? Even the food can be art. For his next show, Edwards plans to feature Green’s installation of rare artisanal cheese. Feel Passionate Despite the hard work of the evening, the most difficult time for Rehm occurs after the opening. “It’s heartbreaking for the piece to go down,” she says. “But that’s part of feeling passionate about temporary art.” For Edwards, the best way to approach art in your home is to really celebrate it. “Don’t get weighed down by the minutia,” he says. “Just open yourself up to the creativity.”

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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 j a n u a r y 0 5



by kelly parisi

photography by marshall clarke

Silk Road To Diyarbakir The door to Lokman Balaban’s shop, Silk Roads, is usually open. On fair weather days Balaban moves a few items outside for display—a Turkish tribal rug, a kilim cushion, a wide, shining copper pot filled with sale items. At the foot of South Ann Street, the Fells Point water taxi delivers boatloads of passengers to his front door, and the shop has prospered. But this coming summer, after eleven years in Baltimore, Balaban is returning to Turkey. “I love this country,” he says, then adds, referring to the most recent presidential election, “I don’t want to be in a place that’s going in the wrong direction.” Wearing a blue knit shirt and a pair of khakis, Balaban sits behind his cluttered desk and ponders politics, religion, his fiancé, and their plans for a future in the largely Kurdish region of eastern Turkey. “My American Dream was based on the TV show Dallas. It came on Sunday nights. I watched it with my sisters. In my neighborhood we had a saying: When somebody did something bad, we’d say: ‘Don’t act like J.R.,’ but if someone was good we’d say: ‘He’s so good; he’s like Bobby.’” Balaban leads me outside the shop, and with a wave of his arm directs my attention to a tall house on Thames Street, a narrow brick building adjacent to the historic Robert Long house (the oldest existing residence in Baltimore). “That’s where I had my first shop. The day I moved in, I went to hang a rug on the wall, and the owner screamed, ‘You can’t put a nail in that wall; it’s 200 years old!’” Just 21 and fresh to Fells Point, Balaban had been perplexed. “Two-hundred years?” he said, shaking his head. He set down the hammer and chuckled. The


urbanite january 05

idea that a nail could hurt a 200-year-old wall was hysterical to the man whose hometown, Diyarbakir, had been settled 5,000 years ago. On his arrival to Baltimore, Balaban’s attitude was to adapt, fit in, learn the language (which he did brilliantly), work hard and contribute. “In that way, what is good for me is good for everyone else,” he says. One night, he sat at the bar in the Wharf Rat, soaking in his new neighborhood. The police entered and he froze. He was terrified because he didn’t have his ID badge, which you must carry everywhere in Turkey. “If you’re caught without it you are taken to jail,” he says. “Then I remembered I was in America, and I’d heard these things didn’t happen here.” The police went to the end of the bar and he relaxed. “It was all very friendly.” He admits that September 11 brought a change to that friendly attitude, and the air was piqued with uneasiness. One day two police officers walked into Balaban’s shop. What do they want with me? he wondered. They had one important question: Had anyone said anything nasty to him? “Here the cops serve you. Over there, they own the state; they are the state,” says Balaban. Even still, he has decided to return home. “For a child growing up in Turkey, America was as far as you could go. When I left Turkey, I felt I was at rock bottom going up,” he says. “Now, after this election, I feel like America is at the top and going down. You want to be in a place that’s moving in the right direction; now Turkey is on the ascendant.” Balaban is disappointed that so many people automatically associate his religion of Islam with

Osama bin Laden, yet admits that, “Outside the United States most people think the majority of Americans are pro-Bush.” His American fiancée, Meghan Rasmussen, was the first to suggest the move. “She really loves Turkey. Whenever we visit, my family surrounds her like she’s the messiah.” Rasmussen will work in the mayor’s office in Diyarbakir on a program in conjunction with Syracuse University called Global Europe, which she largely designed. She will track and monitor the transition of new laws that Turkey has agreed to in order to help the country get into the European Union. Balaban thinks Turkey will gain entry into the European Union in twenty years or so. “The EU is going to have to take a big risk for Turkey, and they are not sure it’s worth it. Turkey is not the West and it’s not the East, and it’s not an Arab country—a lot of people don’t realize that. Turkey has an ‘ID’ crisis; always has, always will.” As he thinks about leaving, there is a poignant moment when Balaban elegantly sums up his eleven years in Baltimore. “America’s greatest gift to me was allowing me the freedom to think; to have ideas; to follow through on those ideas. This kind of creativity and mental freedom would not have been possible in Turkey. What I take back is a mind that’s been opened, strengthened, inspired. And that,” he says, “is not a reversible thing.” n —Kelly Parisi lives in Canton where she is working on her next novel. She often passes Balaban’s store on her daily walk.

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baltimore observed

by stuart sirota

images courtesy of urban advantage

MAKING CONNECTIONS Can Baltimore reinvent itself as a network of vibrant neighborhoods and destinations linked by public transit?

Imagine a city where it’s possible to live in a wide variety of urban neighborhoods, each with its own unique character and feel. Now imagine that your home is a short walk from a pedestrian-friendly center with an eclectic mix of businesses. This is your neighborhood’s heart and soul, where a tightly woven network of streets is lined with shade trees and attractive buildings next to broad sidewalks. This is where you shop for groceries, drop off dry cleaning, go to the post office, get takeout, or just sit and relax at a café or sandwich shop. This neighborhood center also contains a plaza or small park with a fountain or gazebo where people enjoy gathering for special events like farmers markets and performances. At the heart of it: an attractive transit stop that serves as a convenient gateway to other destinations in the city. Work and school, specialty stores, restaurants, museums, theaters, nightclubs, sports venues, parks, homes of friends and relatives, are all accessible. These destinations are themselves clustered around other stops along the transit system and are connected to each other like pearls on a necklace. Some destinations are regional, such as a central business or cultural arts district, while others are of more modest scale, serving primarily local neighborhood needs.


urbanite january 05

Walking up to your neighborhood transit stop, you wait a few minutes before boarding a clean, attractive transit vehicle, which takes you quickly and comfortably to your destination of choice. Sound far-fetched? Anyone who hasn’t spent time recently in one of North America’s transit-oriented cities, such as New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, or San Francisco, will probably have a hard time envisioning this scenario. Yet, this describes what virtually every American city, including Baltimore, was like until roughly 40 years ago. Since then, America essentially traded in it’s walkable, transit-oriented neighborhoods and towns for a new paradigm of suburbanization built around the automobile, in which walkability and transit became the first casualties. The unintended societal, environmental, and economic consequences began to be widely understood during the 1990s. As traffic congestion and sprawl continue to erode the quality of life for many people, the search for an alternative has led to a renewed interest in places that are—not surprisingly— walkable and transit-oriented. Increasingly, Americans of all ages and backgrounds are seeking out more sustainable, livable urban lifestyles. Baltimore is no exception. The demand

for housing downtown and in urban neighborhoods surrounding downtown and the Inner Harbor is happening at a pace that was unimaginable a few short years ago. Not only has reinvestment accelerated in popular neighborhoods like Federal Hill, Fells Point, and Canton, but it is also spreading to areas that just a few years ago, were considered to be struggling such as Mount Vernon, Charles Village, and Reservoir Hill. As these positive developments continue to unfold, however, one thing is becoming clear: Much more needs to be done to make public transit attractive to the new breed of urbanites who are settling in Baltimore, not to mention those already living here. It is also paramount to attracting workers and businesses that are increasingly seeking to relocate to cities with good transit service and street life. Robert Dunphy, a senior fellow at the Urban Land Institute (ULI) in Washington, D.C., has a suggestion. In September 2004, Dunphy wrote an op-ed for The Baltimore Sun under the title, “Connect Renewal to Transit” where he noted the clear disconnect between land use and transit in Baltimore. Dunphy and other ULI fellows had studied Baltimore’s emerging Station North Arts District and they urged public entities to do more to facilitate “transit-oriented development,” or TOD. TOD is an emerging concept that refers to building pedestrian-friendly development projects around transit stations and is seen as an important tool in integrating transit within cities. TODs, by their nature, encourage transit ridership and help reduce dependence on automobiles. TODs mix homes, businesses, and other uses within walking distance of transit, in much the same way older neighborhoods were designed. Dunphy and other ULI fellows outline the concept in their new book Developing Around Transit: Strategies and Solutions that Work. While TOD is a relatively straightforward concept, getting it developed can be a major challenge. The rules that have governed development over the last forty years, even in urban locations, have all but prohibited the kind of mixed uses on which TODs are based. Involvement of public agencies in helping facilitate the process and communicating the benefits of TOD is essential. “Part of the problem is, transit doesn’t seem to go where people want to go in the city,” Dunphy says today. “Promoting development in the area that the transit does go, places that are tough to develop, requires some special incentives. The challenges are whether to follow the [real estate] market or to try and shape the market with some special strategies,” Dunphy adds. Baltimore can look to a number of other key cities that have been actively pursuing TOD strategies: Boston, Seattle, and Portland, Oregon. Each has been proactive in promoting development at and near transit, and have had varying degrees of success in revitalizing older urban neighborhoods and attracting new residents. Closer to home, the Washington, D.C. region, particularly Arlington County, Virginia, is now looked to as a national model for promoting redevelopment around its Metrorail stations in the Roslyn-Ballston corridor. There are a number of practical steps that can occur in Baltimore to maximize the potential for becoming a transit-oriented city:

Leverage development opportunities around existing rail stations. Baltimore’s Metro Subway, Light Rail, and MARC systems contain many suburban park-and-ride lots, which could be redeveloped as exciting mixed-use neighborhoods. There are also numerous locations around existing stations in urban areas that have underutilized land around them with little activity. Efforts to identify and encourage development at suitable locations could also be explored. This could also include assessment of zoning around stations and making necessary adjustments to permit appropriate TOD.

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Plan for “development-oriented transit.” In 2001, the Maryland Transit Administration developed the Baltimore Region Transit Plan ( and is now moving forward with planning two priority lines, the Red and Green lines. As these new routes are being planned, potential stop locations are being studied. The locations selected for transit stops will play a key role in determining to what extent the lines will be integrated with the surrounding communities and in creating additional TOD opportunities. Historic buildings and urban fabric should be seen as an asset in making transit stops community focal points whenever possible.

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urbanite january 05

How can we sustain community in a “culture of ownership?”

COMMON GROUND by Jonathan Rowe photo by Karen Patterson My wife’s village in the Philippines consists mostly of bamboo houses,

pervades daily life there. No it’s not idyllic. People being people, feuds and

perched on hills that rise gently from the rice fields. The hills are lush, the fields neat

animosities are not unknown. But the webs of mutual support are strong. An

and well-tended; one almost forgets how poor these people are, in Western terms at

international study found that Filipinos are among the happiest people in

least. My wife’s father gets about $750 a year for his crop, which is a lot compared to

Asia despite their statistical poverty. I cannot help thinking that those paths

the sharecroppers who have little besides the rice they eat and the clothes they wear.

through the rice fields point to one reason why.

Life is not easy. Until recently there was no electricity; and even now

The paths, and the sense of community they help produce, also help

people lug water into their homes and carry fifty-kilo sacks of rice on their

explain something that has been happening here in the United States—

backs. Yet there is a sense of sufficiency and contentment that is seldom

namely, the growing effort to reclaim the commons in all its many forms.

found in the United States. For one thing, there is time—to visit, or rest, or

The commons is the part of life that is not the market or the state, but in a

help a neighbor. Daily life is not a grim march to the metronome of clocks.

sense belongs to us all. It includes both nature and society—the atmosphere

There is also the abundance of nature—the coconut, banana and mango trees, the sweet potatoes and swamp cabbage, the chickens, goats and pigs that fill the yards. Most of all, there is the rice, which is both livelihood and

and oceans, the languages we speak, the public spaces we inhabit, the accumulated knowledge and culture we inherit, and more. Over the last century, the commons has been disappearing at an

sustenance, the center of everything. Rice is serious business. Practically

accelerating pace. The belief has been that progress lies always in the

every grain is accounted for. Yet the rice fields are productive in another way

direction of more private accumulation and gain. The result has been

as well. By unspoken agreement, from time beyond memory, people in the

environmental degradation, social breakdown, and so much unhappiness that

village can walk across the narrow dikes that define each farmer’s land, to get

people resort to drugs in increasing numbers just to feel okay.

to where they need to go. Private property becomes to this extent a commons, and boundaries that divide tend also to tie people together. In other words, the fields help produce community as well as rice, and this is both reflection and reinforcement of a social cohesion that

Life is telling us something. It just might be that our frantic efforts to grow the market have reached a point of diminishing returns, and that the task now is to find ways to reclaim and reinvent the commons that has been lost. •••

w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j a n u a r y 0 5


The market today may be the nation’s object of reverence. But the commons was

effort and investment of the entire society—and from the gifts of nature as well.

much more on the minds of the Europeans who actually settled this land (let alone the

This is true equally of invention and the arts. Each work builds on

people who were here already). The concept of property that the early settlers brought

what has come before, and earlier concepts of property acknowledged this.

with them was not the walled fortress that ideologues today espouse. Rather it was

Benjamin Franklin was no slouch when it came to a dollar. Yet he never sought

a permeable membrane that sought to reconcile the parts with the whole.

a patent for his numerous inventions. “As we enjoy great advantages from

The first New Englanders built their towns around commons, which were

the inventions of others,” he said, “we should be glad to serve others by any

shared pastures for grazing cows. They often clustered their homes together

invention of ours.” He established the nation’s first lending library to seed

in villages, the better for security and social intercourse (which were seen as

the commons of knowledge and invention. What we now call “intellectual

aspects of the same thing.) They farmed contiguous fields outside of town for

property,” Franklin deemed a part of the community.

much the same reasons. In Maine and other states, private woodlands were

Today such sentiments seem to come from another galaxy. The corporate

open to others for hunting or cutting wood, unless the owner fenced them.

economy has re-engineered the pathways of daily life from a community into

The Massachusetts Colonial Ordinance of 1641–1647 declared that “any man

a market. Most Americans now live in suburbs conceived as staging areas for

People are saying, in effect, “Wait a minute. The market can’t have everything. This space is ours.” … may pass and repass on foot through any man’s property,” to fish or fowl at

consumption. We move about in the hermetic enclosure of cars, and shop

common ponds.

in malls designed to exclude anything that could interfere with a buying

This concept of property is not a quaint relic of a simpler time. It was based

mood. “We have a boundless field before us,” wrote Herbert Hoover, an early

upon an economic truth that economists today tend to ignore—namely the

and tireless promoter of suburban development as the nation’s first secretary of

symbiosis between the private and the common, the parts and the whole. Private

commerce. “There are new wants which will make way endlessly for newer wants.”

property could not exist without a society that honors and protects it. More,

Then we barricade our attention in the electronic cocoons of Walkmans and cell

the value of any given property derives largely from the whole. Take the Trump

phones, for example. Family car trips once were occasions for storytelling that built a

Tower from Manhattan and put it in the middle of Nebraska and The Donald’s

narrative bond between generations. Now kids sit in the back and watch videos instead.

net worth would tumble. The value of his property—of any property—is the

(And people wonder why parents have trouble communicating with their kids; and

result not just of the owner’s own effort and investment. It arises also from the

why, despite all their electronic devices, Americans feel lonely and depressed.)







The life, laughter and love of George Burns and Gracie Allen

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Columnist Liz Liz Smith Smith –– Columnist

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urbanite january 05


“The most

One reason for the belligerent and self-righteous tone of politics today is that people don’t have to talk anymore with those they don’t agree with. They just retreat to their cocoons of the likeminded where all they hear is echoes of themselves, and so lose the capacity to listen to—let alone tolerate —anyone who thinks differently. Step by step, in these and many other ways, the paths through our rice

consciously at least—the neighborliness of front stoops and porches if you’ve never experienced them. Yet something still stirs. It is as though the aggressive enclosures of recent decades have aroused something latent in the human psyche, something that does not want to be controlled, structured or manipulated

fields have become walled corridors of one. The result has been social and

for commercial ends, and that cares about nature and about generations to

emotional impoverishment amid great piles of money, and an increased need

come. Perhaps it is the West’s version of the yearning for freedom that broke

for government to address problems that no longer are met through natural

through the concrete of the former Soviet state.

social process. The safest neighborhoods are those in which neighbors are watchful and tight-knit, not those that have the most police.

The environmental movement probably is the most prominent example, but there are many others. There is the growing movement to stop the

The same economic arrangements that are enclosing us are destroying the common spaces we used to share. The giant Coke bottles that now stand atop

intrusion of advertising into every nook and cranny of our lives. People are fighting ads in schools and on the Internet, the renaming of stadiums and

Take the Trump Tower...and put it in the middle of Nebraska...The Donald’s net worth would tumble. the left field wall in Boston’s Fenway Park are more than an advertisement.

public places for corporations, the blare of TV ads in airport terminals and

They are symbols of a dominance of a kind that extends to just about every

on buses. The issue isn’t just nuisance. Something more is at stake. People

corner of the society. From patent claims to body parts and the gene pool,

are saying, in effect, “Wait a minute. The market can’t have everything. This

to proposals to auction school classrooms to the highest corporate bidders,

space is ours.”

there is a pervasive grabbiness that is causing the private to devolve into its linguistic root privare, which is Latin for to deprive.

In cities, people are reclaiming public spaces from the tyranny of cars. A group in Portland, Oregon called the City Repair Project is turning local


intersections into commons. Neighbors have installed street furniture and art

Most of life is habit. As these changes have crept into daily life, they

and are working with the city to give pedestrians more space. There

have become a new normal. We generally cease to notice, especially younger generations that do not remember anything different. You don’t miss— DPB-2004-0226 Jan. Urbanite


11:02 AM

Continued on page 45

Page 1

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Legislative Voice

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urbanite january 05

d l i h c p e t s ’s a c i r e m a reclaiming How will d e e c c u s s e i t i c when we’ve d e v e i l e b s y a alw they can’t?

by william j. evit ts illustration by cornel rubino

In one of the more colorful and famous things ever said about cities, Thomas Jefferson likened them to a disease. A pox, he said, on the body politic. He set this tone at the dawn of the republic, and we’ve viewed the city through bile-colored glasses ever since. Jefferson’s anti-urbanism blended politics, economics, and sociology. A revolutionary who had battled and bested a mighty empire, he believed that small was safe. Power spooked him, and the bulwark against concentrations of power was a republic of yeoman farmers, independent lords of their own sustaining acres, beholden to no one. Cities, by contrast, were populous, volatile accumulations of wealth on one hand and landless masses on the other. The tiny United States (population 3.9 million at the first census) hadn’t yet grown a Paris or London, and Jefferson wanted it to stay that way. Jefferson was a bundle of contradictions, and his views on cities illustrate this well. He had a cosmopolitan intellect coupled with a remarkable education, loved the arts (he played violin), and was a serious student and practitioner of architecture. He enjoyed Paris immensely. But at the level of abstract w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j a n u a r y 0 5


thinking about how people should live, he rejected cities until the last decade of his life. After the War of 1812 ended in 1815, Jefferson relented a bit because he saw that America needed trade independence from Europe. Since manufacturing and commerce needed cities, he reluctantly softened his attitude. But the city remained for him at best a brutal necessity for keeping foreign entanglements at bay. Even with that limited endorsement, the elderly Jefferson was more generous in his view than the Romantics and Transcendentalists who came soon after. Thoreau famously took to the woods at Walden Pond. Emerson, who feared New York City, titled his groundbreaking essay, “Nature,” and later declared, “In the woods is perpetual youth.” Like Jefferson, Emerson found guilty pleasures in the polish of the city, with its clubs and intellectual life, but like Jefferson he found real virtue elsewhere. By the Civil War, Baltimore was a revealing example of what American attitudes toward cities had wrought. Fueled by immigration and commerce, Baltimore’s population more than tripled between 1820 and 1860. Neglected, envied, even feared, the city was a showcase of arrested civic development. The rural-dominated state legislature fought changes to the Maryland constitution that might give Baltimore political power equal to its size. Its physical shape was randomly formed. Its municipal services were laughably deficient. The police were unprofessional political appointees without uniforms. Fire-fighting companies were essentially street gangs entrusted with a public function. And the prevailing view was that this was as it had to be, because this was a city. Rural commentators sneered at Baltimore. “Outrage and rowdyism appear to be on the increase in Baltimore,” sniffed the Baltimore County Advocate in 1852. More sympathetically, it added, “The people of Baltimore are drowning out their existence by breathing the impure air of the city.” An Annapolis editor viewed Baltimore with “shame and disgust.” Rural contempt might be chalked up to politics, or envy, but even Baltimore’s residents wrote off their city. John Pendleton Kennedy was a leading Baltimorean in 1850, a lawyer who also operated a grain mill in Ellicott’s Mills, wrote novels, and corresponded with the elite

Read & Company

of pre-Civil War America. He was a director of the new Maryland Historical Society, and his elegant home on the southeast side of Mount Vernon was a city social center. But his respect for Baltimore was reserved for its mythic past—in effect, the time before it became a real city—and he sighed that the place had “sadly retrograded.” Meanwhile his novels extolled pastoral life as a balm to “a man who has felt the perplexities of business.” Baltimore, it seemed, was necessary for business but worthless otherwise.

We may, in fact, be on the leading edge of a time when people live in cities because that’s where real community is found. Baltimore newspapers bluntly disparaged their own city. The Baltimore Clipper predicted a flight to the suburbs. The stately Baltimore Sun advised young people to stay away from “the refinements, the luxuries, and the vices of city life.” By the twentieth century Baltimore’s refinements, luxuries, and vices briefly found a champion in H. L. Mencken. Mencken was the anti-agrarian. In place of Jefferson’s beloved yeoman farmer he saw, “a mundane laborer, scratching for the dollar, full of staphylococci, smelling heavily of sweat and dung,” a dolt who dominated politics

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urbanite january 05

and thereby made the U.S. a “buffoon among the great nations.” But the whole meaning of Mencken was that he was a contrarian. If Mencken exalted the city, it was certain that the vast majority of Americans did not. Twentieth century visionaries and planners have extended the long chain of disapproval of cities. They revealingly tried to sweep aside the city as it was and replace it with something impossibly different. Asked what should be done with Pittsburgh, Frank Lloyd Wright snapped, “Abandon it!” He came by his inclination to destroy and start over through his apprenticeship with Louis Sullivan, who reshaped the architecture of the American city but nonetheless regarded cities as “representing … miscarriages of democracy, … certain phases of degeneracy afflicting our land.” Proponents of parks loved them because they were islands of not-city within the city. Jane Jacobs, in The Death and Life of Great American Cities, was unique because she saw promise in the actual evolved, organic American city. So, here at the opening bell of the twenty-first century, how can we snap the cycle of our self-fulfilling certainty that cities are a civic boil needing to be lanced? We begin by slapping ourselves awake to the underlying prejudice against cities in America, becoming fully aware of what Lewis Mumford (himself a critic of cities) called “the great unrecorded hum” of background ideas so basic we barely notice them. Once the scales drop from our eyes, we can consciously set out to replace pastoral idealism with a rationale for our city. What could a city be once we think of it as a possibility instead of a chronic problem? It helps that cities are no longer just stepchildren of economic necessity. In the Web-wired global economy, businesses can be anywhere, and though clustering businesses in cities is still useful, it is no longer essential. Cities are now free to become real communities, aggregations of people who choose to live there and to develop both themselves and their surroundings to maximize life. We see the beginnings of urban-by-choice in the cultural creatives who pick communities for their tolerance and inspiring mix of people and potential. We note, with surprise, that people are retiring to cities instead of the Sunbelt. We may, in fact, be on the leading edge of a time when people live in cities because that’s where real community is found, and their daily commute to work flows outward to bloodless office parks past the beltway. Accepting the pastoral prejudice of our past blinds us to the city’s situation. The very visible problems of Baltimore may turn out not to be the fault of the urban environment itself. They are instead the effect of social and economic strains in our culture that happen to work themselves out most visibly in cities—which is importantly different from saying that the city itself caused these strains. Chronic urban problems are also the effect of two centuries of reflexively approaching the city as an affliction. That is a Jeffersonian “self-evident” truth we can now set aside. n —William J. Evitts is the author of three books on American history, including A Matter of Allegiances, Maryland from 1850 to 1861.

“I was attracted to Clipper Mill for a number of reasons; the location, the architecture, and the support we received from Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse. This space is perfect for designers, artists, and craftsman. Clipper Mill creates an environment where we can bring the value of the worker and the designed craft to the forefront of the community.�

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The New Clubbing We’ve noticed it. Have you? People are rediscovering ways to gather, to be in a community with their friends and neighbors. All across the city, clubs are forming—knitting circles, cooking circles, board game nights. It’s reminiscent of generations past. Photographer Ed Bellafiore set out to capture these new gatherings with a camera symbolic of the events themselves: The Lomo Kompakt Automat. Invented in Russia in the 1980s, this sturdy little point and click was rediscovered in 1991 by a group of restless Viennese students. They snapped a few rolls and were hooked. The images had a haunting, human quality and the Lomographic Society International was born. Founded on the belief that daily life can be captured in simple, poignant ways, the ever-expanding family of Lomo cameras puts art into the hands of all. Join the club and snap away.

The original Lomo Kompakt Automat Camera

p. 46

The ActionSampler’s four lenses capture one image in one click, in split second intervals.

The Colorsplash has multicolored filters so you can flash your world with a vibrant hue.


urbanite january 05

Instant Warhol. The Pop 9 replicates the same image nine times with each shot.

Bridge, canasta, cribbage, and hearts... card game nights are back.

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Crafternoon... Knitting circles are popping up all over town. Here, a group of friends gathers at a home in Mount Vernon.

—Ed Bellafiore lives downtown and is the art department director for HBO’s The Wire.


urbanite january 05

View of Delft

Johannes Vermeer’s View of Delft in the permanent collection of the Netherland’s Mauritshuis.

In the view of Delft that Vermeer presents us The brick facades of the unremarkable buildings Lined up at the river’s edge manage to lift the spirits Though the sky is cloudy. A splash of sun That yellows some gables in the middle distance May be enough to explain it, or the loving detail Vermeer has given the texture of brick and stone As if he leveled each course with his own trowel. Doubtless stones in Cleveland or Buffalo May look like this on a day when the news arrives That a friend is coming to visit, but the stones in the painting Also put one in mind of the New Jerusalem, A city we’ve never seen and don’t believe in. Why eternal Jerusalem when the people of Delft Grow old and die as they do in other cities, In high-ceilinged airy rooms and in low-beamed Smoky basements, quickly, or after a stubborn illness, Alone, or surrounded by friends who will soon feel Delft To be a place of abandonment, not completion? Maybe to someone returning on a cloudy day After twenty years of banishment the everyday buildings Can look this way or to someone about to leave On a journey he isn’t ready to take. But these moods Won’t last long while the mood in the painting Seems undying, though the handful of citizens Strolling the other side of the river are too preoccupied To look across and admire their home. Vermeer has to know that the deathless city Isn’t the Delft where he’ll be walking to dinner In an hour or two. As for your dinner, isn’t it time To close the art book you’ve been caught up in, Fetch a bottle of wine from the basement, and stroll Three blocks to the house where your friend is waiting? Don’t be surprised if the painting lingers awhile in memory And the trees set back on a lawn you’re passing Seem to say that to master their language of gestures Is to learn all you need to know to enter your life And embrace it tightly, with a species of joy You’ve yet to imagine. But this joy, disguised, The painting declares, is yours already. You’ve been longing again for what you have.

“View of Delft” can be found in New and Selected Poems 1974-2004, a career-spanning collection of poems from Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Carl Dennis (Penguin Books, 2004). It was originally published in Practical Gods (Penguin Books, 2001).

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c o n v e r s a t i o n

Acacia Asbell is a native Baltimorean and skilled high school debater from Frederick Douglass High School.

KC Burton is a senior associate at the Annie E. Casey Foundation where he works to engage philanthropy partners. KC grew up in Baltimore.

Jocenay Harvey is a Frederick Douglass High School junior. She is captain of the Baltimore Urban Debate League, president of the Student Government Association, literary editor for her school paper, and an ROTC member.

america is the land of ambiguity, success, destiny, ideas, democracy, illusion, and freedom. Tthese diverse perspectives were delivered by an equally diverse group of baltimoreans who came together recently to explore the rhetoric and reality of this month’s topic: TtheAamerican Dream. as a nation founded more on shared ideals than common ancestry, it is critical for citizens to reach out across like groups to share concerns, frustrations, and obstacles, as well as joys, accomplishments, and opportunities. in so doing, we can better understand the dynamics that divide us, more fully leverage the elements that unite us, and advance a collective vision for our future. but, we are at a critical juncture. Demographics are changing, the political landscape is shifting, economic structures are being altered, and social problems—locally and globally—are growing more complex. Despite our country’s wealth, intelligence, creativity, and technological advancements, we still live in a city and nation in which our citizens go to bed hungry, live in poverty, and are homeless, sick, murdered, undereducated, addicted and unemployed. ahead lie the potentials of america’s greatest ideals: individual rights, liberty, justice, happiness, security, freedom, collective responsibility, harmony, and community. yet, in order for the american Dream to be realized by all Aamericans, we need to join together to enhance appreciation of each other’s unique perspectives and work together to ensure that each member of our community benefits fully from our nation’s founding principles.


urbanite january 05

by steven rivelis

Billy Twigg grew up in Catonsville and has lived in the city for the last ten years. Billy is founder and president of Alexander & Tom, Inc, an interactive marketing communications firm located in Canton.

photography by sam holden

Andreas Spiliadis is a literature teacher at Forest Park High School, a Baltimore Urban Debate League coach, a Charles Village resident, and co-owns the Black Olive.

Dayvon Love is a senior at Forest Park High School. He works part-time while also competing in the Baltimore Urban Debate League. He hopes to attend Emory University next year.

Aminasahra Warsame came to the United States from Somalia several years ago. She has been a caseworker for refugees and currently works for Baltimore City Public Schools as support to Somali Bantu refugee children.

Steve Rivelis, CEO of Campaign Consultation, Inc. facilitated the conversation in his Charles Village office.

URBANITE: As a nation, do we need to have a shared vision with shared core values and shared beliefs?

can still try to make the educational system work better. It’s more about respect.

LOVE: I would say no. By trying to make society have one uniform culture, there is no room for people to be individuals, there is no room for people to express themselves, and that usually causes people to rebel.

URBANITE: But what happens if one person’s worldview collides with another person’s right to exist?

BURTON: That is a layered question. We have some existing values that make us a nation. We call them the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, etc. We believe in certain freedoms. But within that, we must respect the ability to pursue free thinking, to have different beliefs that are valued equally. TWIGG: We have a core set of beliefs that are more humanist than just “American.” Across different religions we have basic beliefs … to live a good life, to take care of the people around you. But we find ourselves now fighting over some of the smaller differences in our moralistic beliefs. We just got through an election where it looks like we’re going to be more divided then we are together. URBANITE: If we each have a different set of values, do we run the risk of pulling in so many different directions that we never get anywhere together? LOVE: I don’t necessarily think that if you have opposing values in something that you can’t coexist. I associate with a lot of people who don’t have the same values as me, that doesn’t mean that we can’t have the same goals. If one person really supports the No Child Left Behind Act and someone else doesn’t, together they

BURTON: Freedom is both concrete and an illusion. Concrete in the sense [that] we know that’s the thing we value and try to perpetuate. The illusion [happens when] it runs up against somebody else’s definition of freedom. Those points have to be negotiated, that’s part of what humanity is. We all negotiate with work and church and school because we would do it a different way if we were left to our own to do it. URBANITE: Is “making it work best for everyone” what we should be striving for? Is that the American Dream? BURTON: I don’t think there’s an American Dream. I don’t think the vast majority of people are out there saying, “I’m working to make sure everybody has exactly what I have in terms of their life experience.” It’s more about how can I have whatever my view of the dream is and as I bump up against people, am I willing to negotiate? There is an American ethic that is about the pursuit of prosperity and happiness and things of that sort, but I don’t think it’s so collective. The American Dream is an illusion. TWIGG: It’s not the “American Dream,” it’s the American opportunity. You have the chance to come to America, start on the same footing as the guy next to you, go out

and work really hard and end up with something. It doesn’t mean we’ll wind up with the same thing; you wind up with something and it directly correlates to your efforts. Education is really the key. BURTON: That doesn’t take into account the intentional obstacles that some people put up to other people’s opportunity. It’s just not a level playing field. WARSAME: Because America is a land of opportunity, people only worry about [their] success. I hope one day people will not only care about themselves, but about the person that they’re sitting beside. When they move up in the world they can also bring someone else up in the world. URBANITE: What other aspirations do you have for this country? WARSAME: I hope America can be a nation that is more aware of what is going on around the world. And not put all of its trust in the American media. That’s a major weakness right now. The media doesn’t serve to educate people, especially the young people who don’t know what’s going on along the way. TWIGG: We need to be fair. We all have different skill sets when we start off in this life. So what? We’re all different. We’re all on the planet for different things. I would like us to have a clean set of rules that would be our parameters ... so that all people have a fair shot. And, I think we have done a really good job at it. URBANITE: So, if you could write all of the rules, what would they be? SPILIADIS: I agree [that] the rules should be the same for everybody. But I strongly disagree with Billy on how well we have been doing. In Baltimore, for example, if you are a student from a very poor community, if you are attending a zoned high school as opposed to a magnet high school, you see vast differences in the amount of resources for your education. And this makes the playing field so uneven that it is really hard to address the American Dream in a realistic way. URBANITE: Here are some of the things I have heard thus far pertaining to the American ideal: Opportunity, people caring about each other, being more united, having an opportunity to go from rags to riches, giving back to society once you make it, a greater understanding of other cultures both internationally but also within our own society, being more open minded, being fair, and having fair rules. How do these ideals align with your American experience? LOVE: The reality of the American Dream is based on your community and who you are. Certain individuals from certain communities have made their way to success by having the means to do what they want. So it really can’t be a uniform dream. BURTON: The real issue has to do with connectivity. What are the sets of connections that you have that enable you to realize opportunities around you? And by connections I do not necessarily mean just people.

It’s your faith connection, your connection to going to one school versus another, it’s a connection to public dialogue. Today, if you have a connection to the Internet, then you’re in a whole different realm of access than people who don’t. SPILIADIS: One of the problems with the competitive nature of the American Dream is that it ends up leaving a lot of people behind, no matter how you cut it. You can look at this from a global perspective as well. We think of America as a thriving country, but oftentimes it is at the expense of the rest of the world. And so, at the heart of the idea of the American Dream is something that is very negative and egotistical. We need to reevaluate this by looking at [it] not as an individual dream but rather a collective dream, one where success would mean the success of a community of people being able to address basic issues of human rights, adequate healthcare, adequate education, adequate housing. Until we start to address these issues the American Dream for me is truly an illusion. TWIGG: The American Dream to me is not this ragsto-riches accomplishment. I was born here, I got an education here, and I can raise a family here. You can buy a house and you can have some place safe to live. That might be our greatest accomplishment. We built a place where if you follow the rules you’re pretty assured that the government or some other rogue element isn’t going to come steal your house and your family. The rest of the world would like to have what we have in terms of just freedom and safety and governance. ASBELL: Many people dream about success because they don’t have success. Many people dream about being rich because they don’t have the riches. TWIGG: I wish somebody would stand up and say it’s not all about getting rich; it’s about getting happy. URBANITE: What do we as a society need to do and what can you as an individual do to move us from where we are today to where you would like us as a society to be? ASBELL: As a society we need to focus on those people who sit out the most and make sure that their dreams even have a chance of coming true. As an individual, I cannot worry about myself so much; [I] also have to think about how I can help someone. HARVEY: I want to tutor someone and help them know that college is there and that they can get a full scholarship if they work hard and are dedicated.


compiled by tracy durkin

“The American Dream” 95% of all Americans believe that everyone should have an equal shot at the American Dream. 56% of all Democrats, 61% of all Independents and 76% of all Republicans believe they are personally living the American Dream. Of those Americans who believe that they are not living the American Dream, 53% are African American, 36% are Hispanic, and 32% are Caucasian. Americans’ most frequent definition of the American Dream: financial stability and living in freedom. Among the least frequently mentioned definitions of the American Dream: feeling safe, and believing in God. When asked to identify the most serious barriers to achieving the American Dream, poor public education is mentioned most frequently, followed by not being financially secure. 81% of all Democrats feel that the American Dream is becoming more difficult for average people to obtain. 53% of all Republicans agree. 60% of all Americans believe that the distribution of money and wealth in this country is basically unfair. 39% of adults living in cities are most likely to agree that where they live negatively affects their ability to achieve the American Dream. Only 19% of adults living in suburbs agree. 72% believe that the government should actively work to help Americans achieve the American Dream. Source: National League of Cities: The American Dream in 2004: A Survey of the American People. Survey instrument and full report is made available on their website:

BURTON: The work ethic is the path to the American Dream. If each one of us helps one person—I can find one kid that I can help out on an internship or a job opening—that’s a great start. If everyone helped one extra person we’d be in pretty good shape. LOVE: There’s a division between those who have and those who don’t have and I think that’s branched out into stereotypes. People think that if you come from Continued on page 44

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out there

by joan jacobson

European The American Dream Washington economist and social theorist Jeremy Rifkin’s latest book is full of provocative one-liners about the American Dream’s fall from grace: Americans, he says, have become poorer, overworked, more violent, less concerned with the environment, and more obsessed than ever with possessions. In The European Dream: How Europe’s Vision of The Future Is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream (New York: Tarcher, 2004), Rifkin writes, “On all social levels, the dream is losing its cachet, casting many of its former believers adrift. One-third of all Americans say they no longer even believe in the American Dream.” On the other hand, he describes a new European Dream as a near-utopia in the twenty-five countries that make up the European Union. Citizens have a

use a “litmus test” for choosing presidents they see as having succeeded in “the Dream,” he says. Jimmy Carter transformed from peanut farmer in Plains, Georgia, to head of state. Bill Clinton rose from Hope, Arkansas. And though George W. Bush “grew up with a silver spoon,” he still came from the small town of Crawford, Texas, and was perceived by voters as being a product of the American Dream, Rifkin says. “I suspect that what happened in this election is that Bush captured the American Dream vote,” explains Rifkin. Voters cashed in on Bush’s “swim or sink, tough it out, fight evil forces” mentality. Conversely, “Many people who voted against Bush would believe in the European Dream. I wrote the book for Americans to see there is another

The U.S. homicide rate is four times higher than in the European Union and nearly one-fourth of the world’s prisoners are locked up in the United States. While his book is a best-seller, especially in Europe and the “blue states” that voted for Senator John Kerry, Rifkin is not without his detractors. The New York Times called the book flawed, unpersuasive and “ponderous in style and pretentiously theoretical.” But the graduate of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, who has lectured around the world, says he has come to his conclusions carefully after 20 years of working on both sides of the Atlantic. While Rifkin says he prefers some qualities of America’s go-it-alone mentality (rather than the European penchant for passing the buck) he is blunt

“One’s freedom is secured by belonging, not belongings.” “global consciousness” toward ending war and protecting the environment. Everyone has health care and long, paid vacations. For Europeans, he writes, freedom is not found in the autonomy of the individual, but in access to communities. “One’s freedom is secured by belonging, not belongings,” he writes. From a vantage point across the ocean, the European Union might as well be on another planet. Consider this: To join the union, a country must disavow capital punishment. The United States would never pass muster. Urbanite interviewed Rifkin by phone shortly after the 2004 presidential election and asked how his view of the crumbling American Dream fits into the reelection of George W. Bush. While so many Americans no longer believe in the dream of rising from rags to riches, voters still

’ S B A L T I M O R E


dream emerging in Europe,” says Rifkin, who is no fan of the Bush White House. In fact, journalists called him shortly after the election to say they had spoken with Americans who were already planning to move to Europe. The loss of the American Dream—what he describes at its core as “the individual. Lone Ranger on the horse” —has been decades in the making. “That dream had very strong cachet until early 1960. Today the dream’s completely unraveled. We rank twenty-fourth among industrial nations in income and equality [for wages]. That’s disgraceful.” His book is replete with statistics backing up his premise: 17% of people in the United States live in poverty, compared to 10% in Spain and 8% in France. U.S. childhood poverty ranks second to last among developed nations.




urbanite january 05


about many of America’s shortcomings. “Europe focuses on human rights. That’s not on the radar screen in the heartland of America.” He also finds irony in America’s religiousness, when so many Europeans don’t believe in God. Rifkin’s book notes that 82% of Americans say God is important to them, yet they are more likely to solve the world’s problems by going to war. And while half of Danes, Norwegians, and Swedes say God doesn’t matter to them, they are more likely to find peaceful solutions to conflict. “If Jesus Christ would come back to the world, he’d find his flock more in tune in Europe than in America,” he said. And since America’s anti-Bush faction lost its bid to stop poverty, war and a disintegrating environment, “What do we do now?” he asks. He answers: “Have a soul searching discussion around the U.S. about the [two dreams] and ask questions. What is worth salvaging from the American Dream? You can’t go it alone. The old idea that you can be an island to yourself, the cowboy on the horse, doesn’t work. Even Bill Gates isn’t immune to a computer virus or terrorism.” The solution to America’s selfishness, he says, is for its citizens to take the European Union’s beliefs to heart. But that’s a tall order. If America were to join the European Union, even in spirit, we would have to abolish capital punishment, do our part to curb global warming, and start taking responsibility “beyond our shores” Rifkin writes. And, adds Rifkin, “We’d have to wage peace.” n —Joan Jacobson is the co-author of Wised Up: A Mobster’s Gritty True Story Of Murder And Revenge On The Mean Streets (Pinnacle Books, 2004).

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The Old Fashioned Milk Paint Co.’s Milk Paint mixes milk protein, lime, clay, and earth pigments in an array of pleasing, natural tints. Available locally through Gaines McHale Antiques & Home (836 Leadenhall Street; 410-625-1900;

Hampden’s La Terra carries Laville picture frames. Crafted from 150-year-old cypress harvested from abandoned plantation buildings, Laville donates 1% of all profits to Habitat for Humanity (4001 Falls Road; 410-889-7562).

FLOR is the swank substitute to toxin-emitting carpeting. The modular carpet system is washable, easily reorganized, and can be shipped back to the company for recycling. Available through Federal Hill’s Home on the Harbor (1014 South Charles Street; 410-234-1331; or through InterfaceFLOR (1-866-281-FLOR;

Nouveau Contemporary Goods stocks lessthan-precious metals that serve as excellent accent pieces. At the Canton location, Grace Gunning’s reliquary boxes creatively recycle heavy-gauge machine copper (514 East Belvedere Avenue; 410-962-8248; or 2400 Boston Street; 410-342-7666;

Fells Point’s Ten Thousand Villages stocks nothing but environmentally friendly, sustainable products, all crafted by international artisans. You’ll find garden furniture and planters from Vietnam, cut-metal sculptures from Haiti, and wall hangings from Calcutta (1621 Thames Street; (410) 342-5568;

Madison, Wisconsin’s Eco-Friendly Flooring offers smart alternatives to depleting hardwood forests. Bamboo is a durable, competitively priced alternative, while cork is great for noise absorption. Their low-tox linoleum is biodegradable, hypoallergenic, and antistatic. The company ships anywhere in the United States and provides e-quotes for home projects (866-250-3273;

Philadelphia-based MioCultureLab’s geometric V2 wallpapers are sleekly architectural tiles created from 100% recycled waste paper (215-925-9359;

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in review

by lizzie skurnick, kerr houston and lily thayer

Exhibit Sanford Biggers: both/andnoteither/or Running through January 15, 2005

Mandala of Co-Option, 2001 Resin, light-mirrored turntables, mixed media Courtesy of the artist


Carl Honoré, In Praise of Slowness: How a Worldwide Movement Is Challenging a Cult of Speed (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 2004) It’s not the junk food that’s killing you. Not the ozone layer. Not that you don’t jog three miles a day, take enough vitamins, or know what your qi is, much less how to balance it. Nope. According to Carl Honoré, author of In Praise of Slowness, the cause of your dissatisfactions and those of the industrialized world at large is the same thing responsible for its strength and success: speed. Honoré ascribes his own moment of revelation to the time that he, a busy foreign correspondent, came across an article about the book One-Minute Bedtime Stories while leafing through a newspaper at the airport. Initially thrilled at the prospect of avoiding his nightly tussles with his two-year-old son via “Hans Christian Anderson meets executive summary,” Honoré is abruptly appalled by his time-wad impulses. In parenthood, life, love, and work, he has become, he suddenly sees, “Scrooge with a stopwatch.” But where another father might only find a personal failing, Honoré sees global indicators of a deadly trend. To bolster his perceptive argument, he assembles a dazzling array of cautionary tales,


urbanite january 05

ranging from the rise of stress-related absences and obesity to rampant drug use and unused vacation time to “keep up” at the office. Still more chilling are statistics on the number of annual “overwork” deaths in Japan (143) to the putative cause of the crash of the Exxon Valdez (lack of sleep). And the cult of speed is not only literally fatal, Honoré tells us—the rush also saps life from the living. “All of the things that bind us together and make life worth living—community, family, friendship—thrive on the one thing we never have enough of: time.” But the news is not all bad. Honoré’s work is less a jeremiad against our speeded-up culture than an appropriately leisurely exploration of the myriad ways the Slow Movement is changing the way we live for the better. The author takes us from an Austrian village of dedicated “decelerators” to the Slow Food Movement, started in Italy. Worldwide, he details, towns and countries are putting a stop to speeders by the use of fines, speed bumps and mandatory workshops for offenders, while a new Slow City Movement, also based in Italy, contains fifty-five pledges for urban living that put the siesta to shame. (A local boasts his town is a place “to relax, to think, to reflect on the big existential questions.”) Slow cities have even leaked nearby: In the Kentlands neighborhood of Gaithersburg, Maryland, “every detail is calculated to slow people down, to encourage them to stop, mingle and smell the roses.” Honoré makes it clear that he’s not against the wonderful things speed has given the world—the breakthroughs in science and industry that have made our lives “wonderful and liberating.” But, he cautions, “when you accelerate things that should not be accelerated, when you forget to slow down, there is a price to pay.” Readers, take note: That’s a lesson straight from Honoré’s own wallet. While researching In Praise of Slowness he fell victim to his own adversary. The result? He received a speeding ticket. n —Lizzie Skurnick

Ah, 1974 … the year that Carl Douglas’s funky “Kung Fu Fighting” spent several months atop the R&B charts and that Muhammad Ali flatly stated, “I am not a Negro … I am an Asiatic black man.” And it was in 1974, too, that Sanford Biggers—as we learn in an 8mm home movie that forms part of his current one-man show at the Contemporary Museum—was playing in Southern California as a four-year-old. Apparently, though, even a young Biggers was not immune to the polycultural pollens in the air, and his show accents an abiding interest in the longstanding overlaps between African-American, Asian, and even Jewish cultural and visual traditions. For the most part, Biggers seems to be primarily intrigued by broad similarities in form, or theme. In Danpatsu (2003–2004), we watch as Biggers, seated in a grove of trees, has his dreadlocks shorn in a restrained ceremony that recalls the retirement of a Sumo wrestler, even as it also evokes a jettisoning of Rastafarianism. Similarly, in a small world… (1999), home movies of Biggers and of the artist Jennifer Zackin are edited and projected in a manner that loosely aligns the childhoods of the two artists: Both enjoy Thanksgiving meals, or pedal tricycles. Base accidents of geography and ethnicity don’t obviate, the piece suggests, a tendency towards superficial consistencies in quotidian activity, or ritual. Such work edges towards the celebratory instead of the critical, for it renders subtler differences peripheral. At the same time, however, Biggers’s work can suggest the beginnings of a materialist critique. In the video installation Hip Hop Ni Sasagu (In Memory of Hip-Hop) (2004), he melted down sterling silver hip-hop jewelry purchased in Japan, and had it recast in the form of a bell. The piece thus reduces commercial bling-bling to a pure, bright ring, and it invokes the simpler, unalloyed days of early hip-hop. One might also recall the long tradition of cannons rendered into bells, as the violence of global capitalism is reworked into material that extends an ancestral tradition. But Biggers’s work is ultimately optimistic, impressed with generic similarities, and finally stands in the tradition of the Japanese Peace Bell, presented to the United Nations by Japan in 1954 cast from coins collected by children from 60 countries— and which throws an inevitably communal light over his later project. None of this necessarily damns Biggers’s work, which is often visually arresting, and which points to worthwhile questions about the complex relations between traditional modes of artistic production and late capitalism and globalization. Finally, the very fact that the show is mounted by the Contemporary is a source of delight. Organized under Executive Director Thom Collins (formerly senior curator at Cincinnati’s Contemporary Arts Center, where many

Jill Ellen Smith

—Kerr Houston lives in Hampden and teaches art history at the Maryland Institute College of Art.


The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream (The Electric Wallpaper Company, Toronto, Ontario, 2004) Gregory Greene’s documentary The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream opens with mid-century footage of the American suburbs—images full of good cheer, stability and “happy-go-spending,” accompanied by a jaunty soundtrack. But the dark strains of the documentary’s own subsequent soundtrack remind us that this is an illusion. As this well-made, if single-minded, exposé points out, the suburban way of life is in serious peril. The resources that made it possible—abundant fossil fuels—are running dry. The reason for the coming scarcity of oil is fairly simple: Oil production naturally follows a bell-curve. According to the energy experts and activists interviewed for the film, the world’s supply of natural gas and oil may have already peaked, or entered the “arc of decline” as one expert puts it. We don’t actually know how

much oil we have left, but it’s probably not enough to support the world’s needs at the current rate for much longer, and it’s definitely not enough to support the expanding industrial economies of countries like China and India. The film’s outlook is grim, but it does suggest some real solutions. We cannot keep driving our SUVs without expecting to pay a price. According to experts like Matthew R. Simmons, an investment banker to the energy industry who advised Dick Cheney’s 2001 Energy Task Force, price will be everything, from exponentially higher fuel prices—already a reality—to more frequent brownouts and blackouts, to full-scale, ongoing and inescapable recession. Yet the answer is not as simple as selling the SUV or investing heavily in hydrogen power. Our whole economy is now driven by fossil fuels. Our basic household goods come from 12,000 miles away in China and have to get here somehow. The mighty panacea of hydrogen power seems a lot less mighty when you realize that it takes almost as much fuel-based energy to generate the steam needed for hydrogen power as hydrogen can supply itself to the end-user. “The age of the 3,000-mile Caesar salad is coming to an end,” argues James Howard Kunstler, the film’s most sardonic voice. As the era of plentiful oil winds down, he and others argue, we will depend less on goods shipped from across the world and produce shipped from across the continent (à la Kunstler’s 3,000-mile Caesar salad), and more heavily on local sources of power and goods. The deep irony is that our abuse of natural and industrial resources may actually force us to return to a pre-industrial kind of life, based on smaller-scale, community-oriented retail, agriculture and power generation. Of course, some of this must be taken with a grain of salt. With the exception of Simmons, the experts interviewed come from outside the energy industry; and all, including Simmons, are united in their conviction that the oil supply has peaked—an idea that is still being heavily debated within the mainstream energy community. And there’s a little bit of cross-border finger-pointing going on here: The End of Suburbia is a Canadian production. Are the suburbs likely to become slums within our lifetime, as Kunstler argues? Probably not. But are we all going to have to take a very hard look at the way we use resources? Absolutely. And sooner rather than later. n


of these pieces were shown earlier this year), the show is a welcome statement of the institution’s rejuvenated relevance. Biggers will also produce a new performance and video in collaboration with the choir of Baltimore’s Douglas Memorial Community Church and gamelan musicians from UMBC. The music will be performed on January 9 at the Douglas Memorial Community Church. The Contemporary Museum; 100 West Centre Street; 410-783-5720; Thursdays–Saturday: Noon–5 p.m., Sunday–Wednesday: By appointment. n


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Join Urbanite for a special screening of The End of Suburbia at the Charles Theatre, 1711 North Charles Street. January 19 at 7:30 p.m. $10 with a portion of the proceeds benefiting Baltimore Green Week. Seating is limited. Call 410-243-2050 for details.

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city schools you won’t be as competitive as someone outside the city. They see that you’re from the inner city [and assume] you’re not as good. So it is about hard work, but no matter how hard some people work, they still won’t have it as easy as others. What I can do? I’m a teacher’s aid and I go from classroom to classroom. A lot of [students] have the mindset that, “I’m at a zone school and I’m not going to be competitive, so why bother?” My obligation is to help show people that it’s possible for them to achieve. I use myself as this example, as someone who comes from that same background. WARSAME: There is something that’s at stake now. There is a danger of taking everything for granted, including living in peace in the United States. It happened September 11 and there is no guarantee that it’s not going to happen again. The best way to succeed in this country is to bring people together and educate them. Check up on your neighbors or work with some frustrated teenager who would like to be a successful young person. For some, it is not their choice to be where they are. They would like to get out but they don’t have the resources or the support. So many people are just one missed paycheck away from becoming homeless. SPILIADIS: We have a long way to go in this country before we have a true sense of equality and opportunity. The key is to look for ways to end hatred, racism, homophobia, and anti-Semitism. In order for that to happen, we need to have continuing dialogues like this one. As far as my personal goals, I see that giving young people a voice becomes a very powerful tool in our struggle to make a better world. I believe as a teacher I can create a huge difference by empowering others. BURTON: America can close the gap between what it wishes to be and what it is if we start to have a better discourse [like] these kinds of moments [where] Americans


Baltimore Observed continued from page 25

of different walks of life share in an honest and open fashion. We have more discourse via media, and the messages that are coming out seem to be intentionally vitriolic, divisive, and anger laden. We remain divided because we’re getting a steady diet of a conversation that divides us.

Make good design a priority. Urban design standards can ensure that new development near existing and future transit stops is walkable and transit-oriented.

What I can do is multifaceted. In my work environment I convene people quite frequently so I can [foster] opportunities for open dialogue. In my personal life, I can write more. I can speak more. I can talk to a neighbor across the porch more. I can serve as a community example by putting my faith to practice [by] caring for other people, serving other people, and being open-minded. n

Link transit to neighborhood identity. Baltimore is known as a city of neighborhoods, and its transit system should be structured in a way that strengthens these identities. Transit stops that are integrated into neighborhood centers can create attractive focal points. Simplified route structures that provide direct connections between neighborhood centers can further enhance the entire system.

Conversation facilitator Steven Rivelis is the CEO of Campaign Consultation, Inc., one of the top 100 inner-city companies in the U.S. according to Inc. magazine. He can be reached at

Make transit a part of Baltimore’s image. Think of the art deco scroll that tops the Paris Metro or the iconic red circle of the London Underground. Transit stations, signage, and information should have a unifying look as part of one system, rather than separate modes. Transit should be a recognizable “brand.”

Read more from this month’s conversation at

• •

Baltimore has an excellent base of transit advocates and design professionals who all understand the important connection between development and transit. The Citizens Planning and Housing Association (CPHA) and the Baltimore Neighborhood Design Center (NDC) are actively working with the various agencies planning our transit system. Decision-makers should engage all stakeholders and provide opportunities for ongoing dialogue and collaboration. n —Stuart Sirota, AICP, is an urban planning and development consultant, and is founder of Envision Baltimore, the online resource for promoting walkable, transit-oriented neighborhoods in Baltimore. He can be reached at

illustration by Cornel Rubino

Conversation continued from page 39

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urbanite january 05



Rowe continued from page 29 was much sneering in the upscale media over Epcot, Florida, the Disney Corporation’s attempt to build a housing development on the traditional village model—often called the “New Urbanism.” Yet Disney had to turn buyers away, so great is the hunger for human connection and a sense of place. There are kindred efforts to reclaim the community of the mind. Scientists are resisting the conversion of university research labs into patent factories for corporations. They want a commons of knowledge, not a clutter of walled patent fiefdoms. The spread of Linux, the computer operating system developed through a commons on the World Wide Web, bespeaks the desire to create and share without government restriction or private claim. Something big is brewing here, a new commons movement, and the next turn of the wheel in the quest for human freedom. Centuries ago, when our current economic thinking took shape, private property emerged as the banner of freedom against arrogant royal rule and an overweening state. To a degree it still is of course. But yesterday is not forever. Banners become burdens; yesterday’s answer becomes today’s problem. Today it is private property that has become overweening, especially in its conscienceless corporate form. The answer is not an allencompassing state—a coercive and authoritarian we. It is, rather, a different kind of property— common property—that exists alongside the market and provides an antidote to its excesses. The new commons movement is challenging the Berlin Wall of market enclosure. It seeks an outlet for the we side of human nature that the market increasingly represses. ••• Once, back in the village, we were walking across the rice fields late in the afternoon. It was near dusk,

and the fields were starting to dissolve into the haze. If Whistler had painted rice fields instead of harbors, it would have looked something like this. A figure appeared walking toward us on the next dike. It was Grace, a slender woman who, I had noted previously, has the erect carriage of a dancer. Now I saw why: She was walking the narrow path with a big sack of rice on her head. Grace’s lot has not been easy. Her husband—my wife’s cousin—was killed in a brawl and now she raises their five kids alone, as a sharecropper. Yet for all this Grace has a big smile and ready laugh. On our first day she had appeared with a bag of vegetables from her garden. We Americans withhold from our abundance; people like this give generously from their lack. Later, I asked my wife how Grace could be so happy. An American in her circumstances would feel victimized and deprived. My wife gave me her Can’tyou-Americans-understand-anything sigh. “People look after her,” she said. “She is not alone.” If we wonder why we feel so depressed with all our plenty, and why social problems grow faster than the means to meet them, we might give some thought to the paths of daily life, how they intersect with those of others, and where they ultimately lead. A society that defines all and everything as private is one that ultimately collapses into a black hole of me. If the task of recent centuries was to establish what belongs to each, then the task of the current one is to restore and protect what is common to all. A version of this article originally appeared in the Christian Science Monitor and Hope magazine.

The Commons: What Is It Really Worth? The commons is everywhere yet it is functionally invisible. Economists disparage it, the media ignores it, government indicators





economic “growth” and gain. A park doesn’t count, economically, until you fill it with concession stands. Quiet doesn’t add to the GDP, but cell phones and car alarms do. So how to rescue the commons from its invisibility? At the Tomales Bay Institute we asked ourselves what a corporate annual report would look like if it were written for stakeholders in common assets instead of for shareholders in corporate assets. The result was our State of the Commons 20042005 report, which is available at www. (See also our companion website www.onthecommons. org.) The next step is to replicate this project at the local level. If you would like to explore this further, please contact me at:

—Jonathan Rowe

next month

Guest Editor, Lafayette Gilchrist, musician and teacher, joins us as we explore the city’s musical landscape: Does Baltimore have a sound?

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Peter’s Inn 504 South Ann Street; 410-675-7313;

Green Leaf Designs 1143 Hull Street, 410-347-3983;

Slow Food—page 15

Neighborhoods: Locust Point—page 17

Home Is Where the Art Is—page 21

Slow Food® Membership organization, philosophy, education, news, events, merchandise, and activism. International: National: Baltimore: baltimore.htm

Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine End of East Fort Avenue, 410-962-4290;

The Spare Room Email for events.


Maryland Department of Agriculture Extensive list of farms open to the public, by county.

Baltimore Observed: Making Connections—page 25 The Baltimore Immigration Project Preservation Society 812 South Ann Street; 410-675-6750;

The New Clubbing—page 34 Phillips Seafood’s World Headquarters 1215 East Fort Avenue; 443-263-1200;

The Brewer’s Art 1106 North Charles Street; 410-547-6925;

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January 2005 Issue  

The New American Dream

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