July 2007 Issue

Page 1

july 2007

B A L T I M O R E ’ S


issue no. 37



H HO OW W TT H H EE A A RR TT SS BB RR EE A A TT H H EE LL II FF EE II N N TT O O TT H H EE CC II TT YY m e e t ba lt i m o r e ’s b o r at • m a r i n a ls o p o n t h e n e x t sta g e o f t h e b s o

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cover design by Marc Alain

july 2007 issue no. 37



B A L T I M O R E ’ S


issue no. 37

f e a t u r e s

july 2007

july’s cover: The cover image is a collage created by New York-based artist Marc Alain. The center figure is Marin Alsop, new music director of the BSO.


H HO OW W TT H H EE A A RR TT SS BB RR EE A A TT H H EE LL II FF EE II N N TT O O TT H H EE CC II TT YY m e e t ba lt i m o r e ’s b o r at • m a r i n a ls o p o n t h e n e x t sta g e o f t h e b s o

the score will the baltimore symphony orchestra’s incoming maestra bring new life—and new audiences—to the meyerhoff? by stephen nunns

there is a certain buzz in the air at the bso these days. there are lots of reasons for the turnaround—and plenty of people to thank for it. however, the public face of the newly invigorated bso is undoubtedly marin alsop, the orchestra’s twelfth, and newest, music director.


joy division the healing power of collective merriment by david dudley

there is a certain resonance to the idea that modern urban existence offers few chances to properly cut loose with our fellow citizens. part of the blame must lie in the paradox of city living itself—the fraught state of being simultaneously attracted to and menaced by the stranger multitudes around us. wealth and class disparities in baltimore remain profound; the veil of civilization is thin enough around here: why, with many urban areas struggling to maintain the basics of a civil society, invite the unbound mob into the streets? and sell them beer?


the baltimore ten a tear-out cultural calendar by lionel foster

out of the hundreds of amazing events that take place in baltimore every year, the urbanite staff picked its favorites—special events that make us say, “wow, we’re glad we live here.”

w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j u l y 0 7


AkoyA South SeA tAhitiAn Nature at Her Finest.


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urbanite july 07

Since 1856, The Authority on Pearls

departments july 2007 issue no. 37


what you’re saying


what you’re seeing


what you’re writing




have you heard …


food: chillin’ with soup

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

photographs from the streets of baltimore, submitted by readers

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

six not-to-miss events around town

people, places, and things you should know about

during the long, hot days of summer, nothing cools you down like a bowl of cold soup by anne haddad



baltimore observed: the soho effect in a creative-class economy, cities are increasingly banking on artists to save neighborhoods. can station north cash in without selling out? by elizabeth a. evitts


encounter: shooting borat in which owner of local persian restaurant dresses up as borat with goal to attract customers attends urbanite photo session by karen houppert


space: fresh air two ambitious nonprofits are looking to architects to draw inspiration— and air—from the great outdoors by elizabeth a. evitts

61 57

sustainable city: shifting gears safer cycling in baltimore by shannon dunn


out there: talking trash a toronto woman tries to go one month straight without making a single piece of garbage—and succeeds by marianne amoss







eye to eye

books, bands, exhibits, and more

further reading on topics covered in this issue

a closing thought, curated by creative director alex castro

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Urbanite Issue 37 July 2007 Publisher Tracy Ward Durkin Tracy@urbanitebaltimore.com Creative Director Alex Castro General Manager Jean Meconi Jean@urbanitebaltimore.com Guest Editor Margaret Footner Managing Editor Marianne Amoss Marianne@urbanitebaltimore.com Senior Editor Karen Houppert Karen@urbanitebaltimore.com Copy Editor Angela Davids Editorial/Marketing Assistant Lionel Foster Contributing Editors Elizabeth A. Evitts, William J. Evitts, Susan McCallum-Smith Editorial Interns Heather Rudow, Svetlana Shkolnikova Design/Production Manager Lisa Macfarlane Lisa@urbanitebaltimore.com Traffic/Production Coordinator Bellee Gossett Bellee@urbanitebaltimore.com Designer/Photographer Jason Okutake Contributing Photographer Gail Burton Production Intern Lindsay MacDonald Web Coordinator George Teaford Administrative/Photography Assistant La Kaye Mbah Senior Account Executive Susan R. Levy Susan@urbanitebaltimore.com Account Executives Abber Knott Abber@urbanitebaltimore.com Kristin Pattik Kristin@urbanitebaltimore.com Alex Rothstein Alex@urbanitebaltimore.com Bookkeeper/Sales Assistant Michele Holcombe Michele@urbanitebaltimore.com Marketing Kathleen Dragovich Kathleen@urbanitebaltimore.com Marketing/Sales Interns Lindsay Hanson, Henry Kerins Founder Laurel Harris Durenberger Advertising/Editorial/Business Offices P.O. Box 50158, Baltimore, MD 21211 Phone: 410-243-2050; Fax: 410-243-2115 www.urbanitebaltimore.com Editorial inquiries: Send queries to editor@urbanitebaltimore.com (no phone calls, please). The magazine is not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts or artwork. Urbanite does not necessarily support the opinions of its authors. To subscribe or obtain assistance with a current subscription, call 410-243-2050. Subscription price: $18 per year. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission by Urbanite is prohibited. Copyright 2007, Urbanite LLC. All rights reserved. Urbanite (ISSN 1556-8105) is a free publication distributed widely in the Baltimore metropolitan area. If you know of a location that urbanites frequent and would recommend placing the magazine there, please contact us at 410-243-2050. Postmaster: Send address changes to Urbanite Subscriptions, P.O. Box 50158, Baltimore, MD 21211.


urbanite july 07


Any great work of art revives and readapts time and space, and the measure of its success is the extent to which it makes you an inhabitant of that world—the extent to which it invites you in and lets you breathe its strange, special air. —Leonard Bernstein, American conductor, composer, and pianist


The only things in my life that compatibly exist with this grand universe are the creative works of the human spirit. photo by Mitro Hood


I’ve been fascinated with Baltimore’s evolution as a city since I was a kid. Family dinners were often centered on conversations about Baltimore—my public school, crime in my neighborhood, the “dollar houses” that led to the transformation of the Otterbein neighborhood. One event I’ll never forget is when the tall ships sailed into the Inner Harbor for the first time. The year was 1976 and I was 11. At the time, I did not understand the significance of these ships coming to Baltimore. But people were excited and it seemed to be a big deal. I was not particularly interested in ships, tall or short, but my family visited the neglected Inner Harbor to mark the occasion, along with what seemed to be everyone else in the city. I remember walking along the waterfront, a place that always had been rumored to be filled with rats and rotting wharves, and noting the throng of people juxtaposed against this normally desolate place. I remember little else, and certainly nothing about the ships themselves. But I was really fascinated with something my mother said at the time: “Wouldn’t it be great if it were filled with people like this all the time?” On one level, I did not understand her longing. Crowds were, well, crowded. But on another level, even at that young age, I knew that there was a connection between what my mom was saying and the very health of my neighborhood. In essence, this was my first lesson in community development. It started with a simple idea: Why not have more people walking around our city center? Since then, the lessons have been many. But perhaps one of the greatest lessons that I have learned is that a city can be energized through events. In the case of the tall ships, there were many great leaders behind the occasion and they understood precisely what they were doing: igniting civic pride through a significant event. This was an important precursor to the eventual funding and building of the Inner Harbor as we know it today. As we contemplated how to approach our “air” issue, we turned to Margaret Footner as our guest editor, who, through her extraordinary leadership, has grown one of Baltimore’s most energizing organizations, The Creative Alliance, which takes a unique approach to reviving a neighborhood through the arts. It has been so successful that it has energized the city itself. To many Baltimoreans, art is like the air we breathe. With Margaret’s guidance, we focused our attention on the events and the organizers that are breathing life into the city today. In David Dudley’s piece, “Joy Division” (p. 50), we explore some of our zanier events and the people behind them, meanwhile unraveling some of the reasons why we celebrate. In Stephen Nunns’ piece, “The Score” (p. 48), we meet Marin Alsop, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s new music director, who is already infusing a more traditional arts organization with new ideas. And to ensure that we all get to join in on the fun, Lionel Foster has created “The Baltimore Ten” (p. 55)—the events at the top of our list for a steady diet of joy in the city. —Tracy Ward Durkin

—Ansel Adams, American photographer

Any form of art is a form of power, it has impact, it can effect change—it can not only move us, it makes us move. —Ossie Davis, American actor, director, and playwright

To have the sense of creative activity is the great happiness and the great proof of being alive. —Matthew Arnold, British poet and cultural critic

Art is the child of Nature;

yes, her darling child, in whom we trace the features of the mother’s face, her aspect and her attitude.

—Beck, American musician

A sincere artist is not one who makes a faithful attempt to put on to canvas what is in front of him, but one who tries to create something which is, in itself, a living thing. —Sir William Dobell, Australian painter

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behind this issue

photo by La Kaye Mbah

courtesy of Freeman Rogers

photo by La Kaye Mbah

David Dudley David Dudley returned to Baltimore this April after several years living in Montreal, Canada, and Ithaca, New York. A former senior editor at Baltimore magazine, he was most recently the associate editor of Cornell Alumni Magazine and is currently a contributing editor at AARP The Magazine. Dudley began his journalism career in Baltimore as a staff writer at the City Paper. For this issue, he wrote about public celebrations and why they matter to urban dwellers (p. 50). Dudley lives in Wyman Park with his wife and daughter. Stephen Nunns Stephen Nunns is the director of the MFA program in Theatre Arts at Towson University. His articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Village Voice, and a number of other publications. For four years he was an associate editor at American Theatre magazine. Before moving to Baltimore with his family last year, Nunns lived in New York for fifteen years writing, directing, and performing in theater pieces at a variety of downtown theaters. He is currently completing a doctorate in performance studies at New York University, where his focus has been the intersection of performance, First Amendment rights, and American pragmatism. For this month’s issue, he profiled the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s new music director, Marin Alsop (p. 48). Freeman Rogers Freeman Rogers is from Travelers Rest, South Carolina. He has written for several magazines, including the Oxford American, and the Hendersonville, North Carolina-based Bold Life. His poetry has appeared most recently in Slate and Measure, and he’s an assistant editor of the Baltimore-based Smartish Pace poetry journal. Currently Rogers works as a reporter and columnist for The BVI Beacon newspaper in the British Virgin Islands, where he moved after he left Baltimore last summer. His writing first appeared in Urbanite in the September 2006 issue, in which he wrote about pigeon fancier Fran Weber. He writes regularly for the “Recommended” department; this month, he reviews poet Morri Creech’s latest book (p. 65). Svetlana Shkolnikova Editorial intern Svetlana Shkolnikova is a rising junior at the University of Maryland, College Park, majoring in print journalism with a concentration in government and politics. Born in Belarus and raised in Baltimore, she hopes to write about issues that spark her interest, ranging from tales of ordinary people doing extraordinary things to coverage of music and the arts. Shkolnikova writes for numerous publications on her college campus, including newspapers geared for the Jewish population and the Asian American population. After graduation, she plans to volunteer and travel around Europe before possibly heading off to graduate school to pursue a degree in international relations.

Baltimore native

Margaret Footner is the executive director and cofounder of the Creative Alliance. The Creative Alliance grew out of Footner’s cafe/gallery in Fells Point, a charming neighborhood eatery that served up delicious local food and local art. Megan Hamilton (now Creative Alliance’s programming director) and artist Dan Schiavone ran the exhibition space, called Halcyon Gallery. But the trio’s plans soon outgrew the space. “Each of us had ideas that stretched beyond a traditional gallery,” says Footner. “We shared a belief that Baltimore produces a wealth of underappreciated high-quality art, and as a huge resource for our city, our artists deserve recognition and support.” They founded the Creative Alliance as volunteers with big ideas and few resources, and they quickly learned the value of collaborating to get more done with less. When the group moved to Highlandtown to rebuild the Patterson Movie Theater into a multi-arts center and neighborhood revitalization project, Footner sold her restaurant to work fulltime as the Creative Alliance’s director. Since opening in 2003, The Patterson has acquired a reputation for giving space to fresh and unexpected performances and performers in many genres, from film to music to dance to visual arts, and for bringing arts to the community through classes and partnerships with other organizations. Supporting artists with workshops and opportunities to exhibit, perform, screen, and offering live/work studios, The Patterson has provided a spark for urban renewal in the Highlandtown neighborhood, and a spark for the city’s arts community. “We wanted to present artists in many media and encourage cross-fertilization and collaboration,” says Footner. “Believing that art should be a part of everyone’s everyday life, we liked being neighborhood-based and working with our community to make fun, beautiful, wacky things happen. And with my background in education, I wanted to get kids involved.” Footner has been especially interested in seeing the intersection of artists and community. When approached by the Urbanite staff to be the guest editor for this issue, she was immediately taken with the idea that artists and all creative people breathe new life into the city. “I love the metaphor,” she says. “Whether it’s the Sowebo poster auction, the Gee’s Bend exhibition at the Walters, a BSO concert, studios at Clipper Mill, spoken word at Teavolve, or mask-making in an after-school program, art inspires and connects us. “But whether you’re an artist or not, creative expression is as vital as clean air for our well-being. Our beauty, our truth, our intelligence, our wit—we need them like oxygen. And we need to exhale them into new forms and ways of doing things.” Footner believes that, through creative expression, the landscape can be altered. “You can make things happen.”

photo by Jason Okutake

courtesy of David Dudley

with guest editor margaret footner

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what you’re saying

july 2007

B A L T I M O R E ’ S


issue no. 37


Lead the Way Excellent job on the urban/agro alliance story (“The Final Frontier,” May 2007)! Does my heart good to see this coverage after so many years working on it. Maryland, with its particular history and geography, has the opportunity to be a leader in this area and show the country how it’s done. —Carol Bird is a consultant and lives in Crownsville, where she sails and is a member of the Severn River Association.


H HO OW W TT H H EE A A RR TT SS BB RR EE A A TT H H EE LL II FF EE II N N TT O O TT H H EE CC II TT YY m e e t ba lt i m o r e ’s b o r at • m a r i n a ls o p o n t h e n e x t sta g e o f t h e b s o

I picked up a copy of your magazine for the first time today. I was particularly struck by the article “Shipping News” by Elizabeth A. Evitts (June 2007) because it discusses the land on Greenmount at Oliver that was once owned by my great-greatgrandfather James Pentland (1820–1902). He was a Scotch-Irish florist and had a large brick house as well as extensive gardens on the property. He called his business Greenmount Gardens. The property was auctioned off around 1900 when he closed his business and downsized. James was an industrious fellow: He supported the Confederacy during the Civil War, served in the Maryland State Legislature in the late 1860s, and was one of the directors of the Maryland Institute College of Art for more than thirty years. He is buried in Green Mount Cemetery. I’ve attached a unique nineteenth-century photo of his house and property taken during the winter months, probably in the 1880s or so. I’ve also included a photo of James Pentland as well. He was said to resemble Andrew Jackson! —Gary B. Ruppert is chief of rheumatology at Mercy Medical Center. He lives in Otterbein.

courtesy of Gary B. Ruppert

A Greenmount Legacy

Correction We mistakenly identified last month’s cover artist. The cover concept was conceived by Creative Director Alex Castro and constructed out of composite photos and other design elements by Designer Jason Okutake.

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

w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j u l y 0 7


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the rev. dr. jamal-harrison bryant has been working with other churches and business owners to ensure that adolescents will have recreational and employment opportunities available to them throughout the summer. Bryant has remained at the helm of the entire project, creating the campaign and seeing it through to fruition. He feels confident that “Stop Sinning” will be successful and is determined to “jump in front of the bullet” to save his city. And in order to save the city, says Bryant, “the church has got to go to the streets.” As full as his plate may be, the “Stop Sinning” campaign isn’t the only event on Bryant’s itinerary—in the coming months he will be traveling and speaking at various locations in the United States, the Bahamas, and Barbados. But loyal parishioners need not feel abandoned: Aside from his live broadcasts and downloadable MP3s, Bryant’s inspirational messages can be sent to registered users via free daily voicemail messages. The man himself, though a little harder to reach, will certainly return home to Baltimore at the end of his travels, where the ministry began and continues.

photo by Mitro Hood

Since being featured in Urbanite’s March 2005 “Up and Coming” issue, the Rev. Dr. Jamal-Harrison Bryant, founder and pastor of the Empowerment Temple AME Church, has put his abundant energy to a new task. In May, he launched a “Stop Sinning” campaign designed to bring about a dramatic decrease in Baltimore City’s murder rate. This campaign is in direct opposition to the “Stop Snitching” credo that discourages witnesses of crimes from divulging information to police. A publicity postcard for “Stop Sinning” reads “The Blood is on Our Hands,” proclaiming that every Baltimorean has a role to play in this fight to make the city safer. Bryant and his congregation have launched several programs aimed at chipping away at Baltimore’s violent crime rate. The Empowerment Temple’s congregation raised $30,000 to finance an aggressive gun buy-back on June 1. Firearms were accepted from gun owners, no questions asked, and purchased for between $75 and $250, depending on the type of gun. Also, in a component of the campaign known as the “Hood Invasion,” volunteers from the Empowerment Temple will be trained to go into Baltimore City neighborhoods this summer to patrol, mediate, and talk with youths about nonviolence. In addition, the Empowerment Temple

—Saaret E. Yoseph, a former editorial intern, recently graduated from UMBC.

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what you’re seeing Welcome to the new “What You’re Seeing” department. This is the place for photography that captures the true spirit of Baltimore, showing the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the sad—and don’t forget the wild, zany, and spectacular! Each month we will choose a topic; you send us one photograph that speaks to that subject. Along with your photograph, please include a brief description of the image along with your contact information. For more information on how to submit your photograph, please visit www.urbanitebaltimore.com/wyseeing. PLEASE NOTE: By sending us a photograph, you are giving us full permission to publish the image in its entirety. This permission extends to the models and/or subjects in the photograph. It is essential that all people in the photograph be aware that the image may be published. Please read the limited license agreement on our website, www.urbanitebaltimore.com/wyseeing.

Show us …


Publication Date

A Peaceful Place The Oddest Thing A House with Character The Strangest Car

July 20, 2007 Aug 17, 2007 Sept 19, 2007 Oct 26, 2007

Sept 2007 Oct 2007 Nov 2007 Dec 2007

Visit www.urbanitebaltimore.com/wyseeing for more information on how to submit your photograph.

A Bad Hair Day by Brian George

I took this photograph on Broadway in Fells Point this spring, early on a Saturday morning. These are residents of Fells Point who were happy to be outside and enjoy a beautiful spring day. I sensed their relaxed vibe and as I walked by I knew that I had an opportunity to take an interesting photograph. Fortunately, I was able to snap the picture at the right moment. This couple, and even the girl hiding her face, enjoyed having their photo taken, and I was inspired by their friendly, fun, and uninhibited attitude. —B. G. w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j u l y 0 7



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July 11th

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July 18th

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July 25th

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








Serendipity Origins White Lies

July 20, 2007 Aug 17, 2007 Sept 14, 2007

Oct 2007 Nov 2007 Dec 2007

photo by J. M. Giordano


ANTICIPATION We’re in the car,

my husband and I, and the road in front of us is lined with others moving as slowly as we are. In another hour or so, we will get to the train station, and my husband will drop me off for another hour’s travel. I have made this trek every workday for a year now. Since we bought our house in Baltimore, I have seen my hometown only in the early mornings as I fumble for the car door and in the evenings when I meet my husband and dog outside Penn Station. If I ever saw Baltimore in the daylight, I’m not sure I’d recognize it. But we made a deal, and my turn is coming up. In August, I’ll be a full-time Baltimore resident and fulltime student at the law school just three miles from our house. There will be no more trains, buses, or subways. No more living between places. In the mornings, I’ll wake up later, maybe even go to a gym or take the dog for a long walk. Without the rigidity of the past year’s schedule, I feel like I could do anything. Beside me, my husband stiffens. Every car length brings him closer to something new, too. At 25, he’s never been a sole breadwinner or housekeeper, but


soon he’ll be both. At law-school orientation, an upperclassman told him, “Don’t worry—she’ll be home for dinner a couple times each week.” My husband can handle dinner for one, but on mornings like this, when I catch him staring out our car window, I know the absence he’ll feel most. I’m his everyday road buddy, the dashboard DJ. This trip is about to get even longer.


—Christie Church is an editor in Washington, D.C., and will be a first-year student at the University of Baltimore School of Law this August.

neon lights, and the twirling plastic ice-cream cone on the roof. Wow. What had I missed? Frozen custard: a new concept for me and the other occupants of the ’38 Chevy. The eyes of my younger brother and I followed that big plastic cone until it disappeared. Our chorus: “Mom, can we get frozen custard on the way home?” Mom and Dad made it clear to both of us. “If you are both really good boys today, we will stop on the way home.” The impossible happened that day. Two young boys, 5 and 7 years old, did not fight, argue, or get dirty, and both showed up on time for lunch and dinner. Not one time did Grandmom refer to us as the Katz and Jammer Kids. A full day of behaving had taken its toll on us; it was a struggle to stay awake until, once again, that magnificent sign—Frozen Custard—appeared in the distance. “Mom, we were good all day, remember what you said!” The chorus made another plea: “Can we get a frozen custard?”

CIPATION The trip to Grandmom’s shore seemed the

same as always to me, an anxious 7-year-old boy. Not many changes had taken place in the last years of WWII. With my eyes closed I could have detected where the landmarks were … the rickety bridge, the train tracks, the main highway. But my eyes were open today. Something had changed. Something had replaced the farmer’s fruit stand. Gleaming steel,

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The Chevy slowed and swung into the parking lot, faces beamed, and we struggled to get over Mom’s seat as she leaned forward. Dad made it clear only one of us would accompany him inside to assist with the frozen custards. It was me! The interior made you feel like you were on the inside of a pinball machine—chrome and lights everywhere. I could not see over the counter, so Dad ordered two chocolates, two vanillas. Quickly there appeared three chocolate and one vanilla frozen custards. Piled high, they came from a machine; no scooping needed. But, wait, there was some discussion between Dad and the guy behind the counter. Dad said, “I said two of each, you have three chocolate and one vanilla here. The guy said, “I heard you say three chocolate, sir.” The battle continued as I watched both chocolate and vanilla frozen custard slowly drip over the edge of the cones. Then it happened: “Keep your frozen custard. We will go somewhere else.” Dad took my hand; my other hand was empty. —George Waldhauser is a Baltimore native. He had loved it but left it, and after a thirty-year absence he returned and married his first love, Susan.

I’m 40 now. For the past fifteen years I’ve

prayed, waited, and anticipated the moment I would meet my bride-to-be. I told myself that I would never want to meet her on an Internet dating site. I thought dating sites were for desperate people. I guess I was desperate—I joined one on the advice of a friend. (Actually, I joined three.) After meeting and then befriending one special woman for a month, we started dating on January 4 of this year. Last Saturday, in Havre de Grace, while standing on a dock overlooking the Susquehanna River, I knelt on one knee, pulled out a three-karat diamond ring, and asked her to marry and grow old with me. She said yes as she looked at me, otherwise speechless and utterly surprised. In retrospect, I now realize that I pulled off one of the greatest surprises in modern history. All that’s left to say is that God is faithful and gave me a wonderful gift. I can hardly wait to meet my bride at the altar and say I do. —Marlowe Wright is a Baltimore native who writes in his spare time and is currently writing a book on Christian spirituality.

I am not sure

that I would consider what I am feeling anticipation. I am feeling a nervous, apprehensive, nail-biting, stomach-turning, panicky waiting, possibly, but not anticipation. The word anticipation sounds so positive, like the way a child awaits summer vacation or Christmas.

What I feel is more like the sensation of sitting in a sterile waiting room of a dentist office for about nine months, anxiously biding my time, before he pulls a troubled tooth. But it won’t be too painful, as former patients try to reassure me; a huge needle will be placed in my spine to numb me. And when the tooth finally comes out, I will get to take it with me and wait on it hand and foot for at least eighteen years in return for unconditional love. That is, of course, until it becomes a teenager and decides it hates me for ruining its life. It will stop talking to me until it needs money for school, bail money, or a sitter for its own pulled tooth. If I am lucky, when I am old, it will carefully screen my nursing-home possibilities and visit me once a month. Maybe it will even come cheer me on at my shuffleboard tournament. I wish I could use the word anticipation, but all I can come up with now is this bad-tooth-pulling analogy for impending motherhood. But I do anticipate that my outlook will change. —This essay was written in the waiting room of an OB/GYN office as the writer awaited her first appointment. Her outlook has since changed. She is due in September.







Pittsburgh in February

in the late 1950s was as cold as it was dark. By four o’clock in the afternoon the streetlights were on to pierce the darkness created by the soot and ash from the mills. We looked forward to the little bit of lightness that came with the snow, even though the white covering did not last long. Soon the soot covered the white, making even the snow a dark grey. As I recall those long, dark days of what seemed to be a never-ending winter, one thing I do remember was looking for something to look forward to. My memory has it as a Monday. We were through and past the Sunday afternoon dread (the uneasy feeling of another week of certainty about to begin). There would be basketball games on Tuesday. The noise of the games, and sneaking a few cigarettes in the boys’ bathroom while we talked about all we would do when the weather changed, would be worth the wait.

I was trudging my way along the frozen alley behind Mary Street, just about to where it joins Margaret Street. Almost to the corner that I would round to get to Grindy’s grocery (to get a half-pound of summer bologna so Mom could fry it for our lunchtime sandwiches), I stopped. I wasn’t really thinking of anything, except everything that might be some day. I paused and tilted my face to feel the sun. Closing my eyes, I could almost hear the splashes and laughter from the nearby pool that were months away. At my feet, I noticed a crevice in the snow. I watched a thin stream of water, which had been ice since the November freeze. It was clear and clean. I could even hear it moving as I stooped down to follow its path through the snow to Margaret Street. And as I watched the water melt the snow, it uncovered the alley beneath—and a Popsicle stick, partially stuck in the snow. Reaching down, I freed the sign of summer gone and moved it out into the stream, and I watched it float to the end of the alley to search for spring. —Joseph Chamberlin, a poet and writer born in Pittsburgh, is finding his voice in Baltimore and continues to root for the Steelers. This piece, he says, was not inspired by Carly Simon’s song “Anticipation.”

The late, great Harry Chapin, in

his song “Greyhound,” sang, “It’s got to be the going, not the getting there, that’s good.” Our vacation in Cancun, the week before Christmas, lived up to my expectations and I was totally relaxed. I did not look forward, however, to the long trip home, having to deal with three different airports, connecting flights, security scanning, immigration, and the “treat you like cattle” mentality of cash-strapped airlines. Anticipation immediately began turning into reality when, having arrived early as instructed to the crowded and disorganized Cancun airport, we learned our flight was delayed. The benefits of sun, surf, sand, and service were rapidly evaporating. Finally, we were loaded (two Bloody Marys later) and airborne. As our flight passed over Florida, our pilot told us to look out the left window. Suddenly a space shuttle dropped into our view at a point just off our left wing. On its return to Earth, it re-entered the atmosphere as we passed, and it continued to fly a course parallel to ours for several minutes until it sank into the cloud cover. What a remarkable sight. And what a privilege to see something very few others have or ever will get a chance to witness. Harry was right. I wonder what tomorrow will bring? ■

—Richard A. Berman is a lifelong resident of Baltimore who enjoys traveling with his wife of thirty-two years and has learned to expect the unexpected.

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CORKBOARD CORK St. Cecilia Deaf artist Joseph Grigely tackles the notion of listening to music, as he puts it, “with the sound turned off ” in the St. Cecilia exhibit at the Contemporary Museum. Named after the patron saint of music, the show connects seeing words with hearing them, and explores how the two affect our understanding.

100 West Centre Street Through August 22 Suggested donation for adults $5, students $3 410-783-5720 www.contemporary.org

A Festival of Plays

During the twenty-sixth annual Baltimore Playwrights Festival, theater troupes perform new, original works. The two-month festival starts July 5 and features performances of nine of the seventy-five scripts submitted for consideration. Twenty other scripts will be given public readings.

Go to www.baltimoreplaywrightsfestival.org for dates, times, and locations of performances

FILMS ALFRESCO Starting this month in Little Italy, every Friday evening through August 31 is devoted to Italian-themed movies, with the outdoors as the theater and the skyline as mood lights. Entertainment begins at 7 p.m.; films start at 9 p.m. and include classics such as Moonstruck and American Graffiti and new hits like The Da Vinci Code. Folding chairs are provided, but you may want to bring your own, as they run out fast.

Intersection of High and Stiles streets Free www.littleitalyrestaurants.com

Making Beautiful Music Together Music meets art this summer in the “Jazz in the Sculpture Garden” series at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Listeners can bring a picnic dinner or take advantage of the Jazz + Dinner program (for an extra fee, enjoy a three-course meal served on the terrace during the concert) while taking in performances by critically acclaimed jazz musicians like Lafayette Gilchrest and Vincent Herring.

10 Art Museum Drive Select Saturdays in July and August; go to www.artbma.org for dates 7 p.m. Jazz: BMA members $18, non-members $25 Jazz + Dinner: BMA members $63, non-members $70 Call 443-573-1701 for tickets

ARTSCAPE, ALTSKAPE, WHARTSCAPE Artscape brings musical and theatrical performances, indoor and outdoor visual arts exhibitions, crafts, film, fashion, and more to the streets of Baltimore. Don’t miss the companion festivals: Altskape, which features an edible-art auction and exhibition curated by Ace of Cakes star Duff Goldman, and other events; and Whartscape, which includes a variety of musical performances.

July 20–22 Go to websites for locations, times, and other information: www.bop.org (Artscape) www.loadoffun.net (Altskape) www.whamcity.com (Whartscape)

ROCK PIMLICO … AGAIN The Virgin Festival takes over the Pimlico Race Course for a second year. The two-day musical extravaganza brings to Baltimore performers like M.I.A., Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Modest Mouse, The Police, The Beastie Boys, Amy Winehouse, The Crystal Method, Matisyahu, and more.

5201 Park Heights Avenue August 4 and 5 Gates open at 10 a.m. and show ends at 10 p.m. both days www.virginfestival.com

Photo credits from top to bottom: photo by Dan Meyers; photo by Amy Jones; photo by Lindsay MacDonald; courtesy of the Baltimore Museum of Art; courtesy of Baltimore Offi ce of Promotion and Arts; no credit

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If you’ve ever dreamed of your films debuting at Sundance, you’ll be happy to hear about the Creative Alliance at The Patterson’s newest facility for filmmakers. Opened June 1, the CAmm Cage and Media Lab are offering both amateurs and auteurs equipment for film production and editing at affordable rates. The Media Lab (to be used for workshops and small screenings) has five high-speed Macs loaded with the full Final Cut Studio, Adobe Creative Suite 2, web-design applications, and more. Upstairs, the CAmm Cage offers 16mm and Super 16mm film, video, and HD video cameras for rent. With the

microphones, sound recorders, and light kits available, users will be able to outfit an impressive day of shooting. According to Phil Davis, the facility’s dayto-day manager, the CAmm Cage and Media Lab have been eight years in the making. “It started with a poll of people in the Baltimore film community: Do we need something for artists, for indie filmmakers? The answer was yes, and it’s finally come together.” To see the list of available equipment, rates, and other details, go to www.creativealliance.org. —Lionel Foster

Car Sharing … Johns Hopkins University is putting green living into first gear with the introduction of four Flexcars to the Homewood Campus. The low-emission hybrids became available to anyone in need of a car for hire in March. The cars are stored at Hopkins; it is likely that students will use them the most, but anyone who registers with Flexcar can take advantage of the service. In addition to being environmentally friendly, the cars are priced to accommodate smaller budgets. After paying a $35 application fee, $9 per hour ($6 per hour for the first three months) covers everything else, including insurance and 24-hour

roadside assistance. According to Davis Bookhart, director of Hopkins’ Sustainability Initiative, “Studies have shown that each shared car has the effect of taking fifteen personally owned vehicles off the road.” If the program is successful, it could help relieve parking congestion in Charles Village and other parts of Homewood and cut back on Baltimore’s contribution to global warming. Go to www. flexcar.com/JHU. —Heather Rudow

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Day Trip … You knew that our first president was a soldier and revolutionary, but did you know that he was also a commercial whiskey distiller? One of the newest additions to the historic Mount Vernon, Virginia, estate is a painstakingly researched reproduction of George Washington’s whiskey distillery. Opened in March, the facility was part of the original Washington farm and a remarkable example of how General Washington’s genius extended beyond the battlefield. (In the years after his presidency, Washington earned the distinction of being the most

successful whiskey producer in the young United States, charging 50 cents per gallon for his common stock whiskey and twice that for a premium variety.) Whiskey enthusiasts will find the distillery an attraction in itself and a great stop along the larger American Whiskey Trail, which winds its way through New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Go to www.mountvernon.org. —L. F.

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The menu at Petalo’s Restaurant boasts all the classic Italian fare one would expect, but owners Sam and Becky Hassan (of Afghan Kabob on South Charles Street) have ventured beyond the peninsula to include dishes from other parts of the Mediterranean. Open almost three months, Petalo’s has devoted itself not only to great dining (indoors and out on an expansive patio) but also to local causes: Tuesday night is charity night, with twenty percent of total sales donated to organizations such as House of Ruth and the Greenebaum Cancer Center. The menu is filled with everything from spaghetti

Bolognese and fettuccini alfredo to hummus and baba ghanoush. The cheese tortellini in vodka sauce is fantastic, as are the homemade lamb kebobs, which are smoked and spiced to perfect tenderness. Lunchtime dining includes much of the dinner menu, but also features chicken, lamb and beef gyros. Open Mon–Thur 11:30 a.m.–10:30 p.m., Fri–Sat 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m., Sun 11:30 a.m.– 10 p.m. 1002 Eastern Ave; 410-685-0055; www. petalosrestaurant.com —Hellin Kay

Magazine … If your dog could read, it would be online now subscribing to The Bark, a full-color, bimonthly magazine devoted to all things canine. Now ten years old, The Bark first yipped in Berkeley, California, as a local newsletter fighting for a leash-free recreational space. It has since gained 100,000 readers, an impressive list of contributors and columnists (two of which hold PhDs), and a reputation as The New Yorker of dog magazines. Recurring sections include columns devoted to pet nutrition, health, and behavior. Though the doggy puns make an appearance every other page or so, the content is thoughtful

and insightful: One recent feature examined ways to avoid turning the family pet into a casualty of divorce proceedings. The full content from the print edition is not available online, but a web-only e-zine and blog are excellent, free complements. The Bark is available locally at Chow, Baby! Pet Supply (3512 Keswick Road; 410-235-2469). Go to www.thebark.com. —L. F.

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Social Networking … Although the Internet certainly has its pitfalls, one of its advantages is that it can bring together people who might not ever meet, with great results. One Web-based service in particular has committed to that concept. Meetup.com is an online community active in more than two hundred countries and, quite possibly, somewhere near you. Its goal is to connect people who share the same interests. After completing a free registration, members are


directed to a network of groups in their area. According to the site, there are more than three hundred groups in the Baltimore area alone, with members brushing up on their German, rallying around political candidates, perfecting their photography skills, and engaging in numerous other activities. Go to www.meetup.com. —L. F.

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Chillin’ with Soup During the long, hot days of summer, nothing cools you down like a bowl of cold soup

Above: Give summer guests three cool options: gazpacho, vichyssoise, and buttermilk soup (clockwise from top).

During the muggy days and nights of my childhood summers on the south shore of Lake Michigan, I participated in the ritual of putting a meal on the table for family and guests. There was very little lastminute cooking—and sometimes none. My Lebanese mother and aunts simply pulled Tupperware containers out of the refrigerator and spooned hummus, tabbouleh, cheese, olives and crudités onto serving plates, arranging them with drizzles of olive oil and sprigs of parsley. One of the women would have the job of making khyar ib laban (khi-YAHR ib LUH-buhn), a cold cucumber-and-yogurt soup that is an absolute staple in a Middle Eastern kitchen during the summer. The woman making khyar ib laban always stood out to me as a calm counterpoint to the bustle of the kitchen. At the counter, she diced cucumbers, mashed garlic with a mortar and pestle, and combined it all in a deep bowl. She then poured a generous amount of yogurt over the mixture, and added enough water to thin it to a proper consistency—“proper” being a relative term. Some made it thick, some made it thin, and each argued her way was best. (I have created my own versions of this dish, sometimes adding extra fresh mint, sometimes

putting in the spices used to make the Indian yogurt dish raita: cumin, black pepper, and cayenne.) I’m sure my mother remembers more laborious prep work than I do, but summer seemed to be a time when food was as refreshing as it was nourishing. My mother told us that foods with cold yogurt would actually make us cooler, and they did. At some point in human evolution, in nearly every part of the world, the native inhabitants came up with their own version of a cold soup to counter the blazing heat of summer and make use of the fruits or vegetables of the season. Yogurt-cucumber soups, for example, like khyar ib laban, are prevalent throughout the Middle East and India, where yogurt is sometimes referred to as curds or buttermilk. These countries have warm climates and long, hot summers, but food and hospitality are so important that the cook of the house does not slack off just because it’s hot. In the United States, gazpacho is probably the most famous cold soup. It is Spanish, but often said to be introduced to Spain by the Moors. (There’s that Middle East connection again.) It originated from a need to use up yesterday’s leftover bread. As bread becomes stale (not moldy, but dried out), it can soak w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j u l y 0 7


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Ronald H. Lipscomb President


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up the flavor of something else, such as tomato. Today, because the intense flavor of ripe tomatoes is so popular, most cooks will minimize or omit the bread, except for serving garlicky croutons on top. (In Spain, salmorejo is a popular variation on gazpacho, with more bread pureed into the base, and chopped eggs and Serrano ham sprinkled on top just before serving.) But regardless of the amount of bread, gazpacho will always have tomato in it and usually cucumber and green pepper. Garlic and onion are a must, as are some kind of acid (lemon juice or red wine vinegar) and herbs (cilantro and/or parsley). Today’s cooks continue to make it for the same reason that old-world cooks did: It’s a great way to use what the garden is giving up in abundance or to take advantage of the multicolored tomatoes at the farmers’ markets. Serve gazpacho as a simple puree, or add diced vegetables to the puree for texture. Better yet, supplement the soup with a plate of finely diced tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, and sweet bell peppers (any color you like), along with croutons, and let your guests spoon whatever they like into their soup bowls. Gazpacho proves that cold soups are not always quick and easy, unless you’re a whiz at skinning tomatoes and chopping vegetables. But cold soups at least require no cooking over a hot stove, with some exceptions: Vichyssoise is one that needs about thirty minutes at the stove, but it is so worth it. Un-

like gazpacho and khyar ib laban, vichyssoise is not an old-world recipe, but more of an early twentiethcentury fad from European restaurants and resorts. It is actually simple to make: potatoes and sliced leeks cooked soft in broth, then pureed and enriched with cream. In her book How to Cook a Wolf, M. F. K. Fisher, America’s most literary cookbook writer, wrote of vichyssoise: “There seems to be something about its robust delicacy, its frigid smoothness, its slightly vulgar but so dainty sprinkling of chives on the white surface, that makes even young-ancient metropolites with sinus trouble or other occupational diseases forget the age they live in, and sit back refreshed and quiet for a minute or two.” In that cookbook, Fisher, who was writing in the middle of the last century, names another one of her favorite recipes: a cold buttermilk soup with shrimp and cucumber that requires no cooking, unless you cook the shrimp yourself. She found it to be most well received if she avoided telling her guests what was in it. “If I tell the smiling people who sip at it that it is made with mashed shrimps and especially buttermilk,” she writes, “they wince, gag, hurry away. So I say nothing, and serve it from invisible hogsheads to unconscious but happy hordes.” Buttermilk is still a controversial thing that most people either don’t like or think they don’t like.

Other than in baking, I hadn’t even tasted it until I tried it recently to test Fisher’s recipe. The taste was pleasant, similar to a mild yogurt. And like yogurt, buttermilk is actually milk to which a culture has been added so that it thickens to a silky liquid. It has a slightly acid tang that works well with cucumber or fruit. I grew up with only one kind of cold soup, but as the summer goes on, I hope to expand my repertoire. I aim to track down a source of fresh English peas so I can cook and puree them into minted pea soup within days of their harvest, before the sweetness fades. I am interested in the cold borsht, schav (sorrel leaves), and sour cherry soups of Eastern Europe. And I hope to learn to make fresh fruit soups, with the bountiful cherry, berry, and melon harvests this summer. Whether they are cooked or not, my favorite thing about cold soups is that they require no lastminute heating—not even a zap in the microwave. When it’s time to eat, you just recruit a few helpers to pull things out of the refrigerator and artfully arrange them. Ladle out the cold soup into cups. Drizzle some olive oil on top of the gazpacho, sprinkle chives on the vichyssoise, or stir mint into the khyar ib laban, looking and feeling as cool as a cucumber. ■ —Anne Haddad is a regular contributor to Urbanite’s “Food” department.

Recipes From Anne’s kitchen: These are basic formulas that I have arrived at by making these soups over and over again. No batch ever comes out exactly like another, but they all turn out great. —A. H.

Khyar Ib Laban Combine ¾ cup plain yogurt, ¼ cup cold water, one pressed clove of garlic, and salt to taste. Add a teaspoon or so of chopped fresh mint, or a large pinch of dried mint that you crush between your palms, right into the bowl. Chop one or two small, fresh pickling or English cucumbers (peeled or unpeeled), and add to the mixture. It can be eaten immediately, but is best when allowed to sit in the refrigerator for at least one hour or up to three days. Yields one serving.

Gazpacho 3 or more very ripe tomatoes, skinned, cored, and seeded (If you don’t have very ripe tomatoes, it is better to use some canned tomato—juice and all—with the fresh.) ½ English seedless cucumber, peeled and diced (If using a standard waxed cucumber, remove seed and pulp before dicing.) 3 cloves of garlic, pressed or finely chopped ¼ small red onion

2 slices of day-old hearty white or whole-wheat bread, crusts removed Handful of fresh parsley or cilantro Juice of one lemon or lime Tablespoon of red wine vinegar, or more to taste Salt and cayenne pepper to taste ¼ cup or less olive oil Put all ingredients into the blender, and blend until no large pieces remain. Taste, and adjust seasonings. If the tomato flavor isn’t pronounced enough, you can add more tomato, or even tomato juice. Chill for at least an hour. If you’re in a hurry, blend 3 or 4 ice cubes into the mixture for a quick chill. To serve, ladle into bowls and provide a selection of chopped vegetables such as more tomato, cucumber, and red onion, as well as green pepper. Other traditional toppings include chopped hard-boiled egg, chopped Serrano ham, and garlic croutons. Yields approximately one quart.

Vichyssoise 2 large potatoes, peeled and sliced 2 large leeks, white and very light green parts only, washed and sliced crosswise (Make sure to wash sand out from between each layer.) 2 tablespoons butter

2 cups (approximately) water or chicken or vegetable broth ½ to ¾ cup heavy cream, or up to 1 cup half-and-half Salt and white pepper to taste Fresh chives, snipped crosswise with scissors In a large pan (6 to 8 quarts), melt the butter and add the sliced potatoes and leeks. Sauté on medium heat, stirring constantly until they begin to soften. Do not brown them. Add enough water or broth to come just to the top of the potatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer; cover and cook for about 20 minutes, or until potatoes are soft. Remove from heat. If you have an immersion blender, use it to blend the soup right in the pot, taking care not to get splashed by the hot, thick mixture. Otherwise, allow it to cool so that you can safely transfer it to a blender and blend until completely smooth. You may have to do this in batches. Add cream or half-and-half until you get the texture you like, but do not blend just beyond the point where the mixture is smooth, or the potatoes could take on a gluey texture. Then add salt and white pepper to taste. To serve, ladle into bowls, and sprinkle the top with chives. Yields 6 to 8 servings. —Recipe consulting and food styling by cookbook author Kerry Dunnington

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baltimore observed

by elizabeth a. evitts

photography by helen sampson

Th e S o H o E f f e c t

In a creative-class economy, cities are increasingly banking on artists to save neighborhoods. Can Station North cash in without selling out?

Above: A block of empty rowhouses in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District sits near the Copy Cat Building, which houses artists in live-work lofts. Most artists in the district rent, and they are already worrying about being priced out as the neighborhood becomes more attractive to investors.

By now it’s a well-worn cliché in the American city: A handful of industrious artists move into a neighborhood others spurn, they invest sweat equity and creative vision, and their efforts lead to development and to their ultimate demise. Priced out, they move on to the next neglected neighborhood, the next run-down warehouse. Call it the SoHo effect—where once there was an artist’s loft, now there is a Gap. Governments have gotten wise to the gentrification that artists stimulate and are increasingly developing incentives to formalize what was once an organic process. Officially designated “arts and entertainment districts” are fast becoming one of the key tools cities use to breathe life back into disinvested neighborhoods. When it works well, these districts can link disparate artistic and community efforts. They also create a friendly environment for artists and residents alike to access special tax benefits usually reserved for professional developers. Without careful oversight, though, artists can become the frontline troops who clear the path for others to come in behind and reap the benefits. Walking through Station North, which celebrates its fifth anniversary this year as the city’s inaugural arts and entertainment district, it’s clear that things are changing here. Spanning the communities of Charles North, Greenmount West, and Barclay, and located near Penn Station, the district is witnessing a burst of activity after decades of

decline. Small businesses are popping up: new galleries on Charles Street, a bike cooperative on Lanvale, a new cafe that caters to the growing number of people who work in the area. There are also several larger-scale development projects. The former North Avenue Market is now being transformed by Center City Incorporated into affordable retail and office space for local business, according to developer Mike Schecter. Down the block, the Maryland Institute College of Art took over a building at the corner of North Avenue and Howard Street. This sits across North Avenue from the Load of Fun warehouse owned by Sherwin Mark, which is occupied by a lively group of artists and professionals. Washington, D.C.-based Somerset Development Company and Riverdale International, Inc. saw the grand opening of their Station North Townhomes on North Calvert Street. Designed by Baltimore architect Klaus Philipsen, the homes are fetching prices from $360,000 to close to $500,000. Architect and developer Ed Hord of Hord Coplan Macht, along with several additional development partners, invested more than $10 million to convert the 1929 Railway Express Building near Penn Station into lofts and commercial space. That project is scheduled to open at the end of 2007. The list goes on and on. This flurry of activity has some wondering about the future of the district. Will it become the mixedw w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j u l y 0 7


The Architecture of the Quilt

| June 15–August 26 |


Baltimore, MD |

urbanite july 07



Mary Lee Bendolph, Blocks, strips, strings, and half squares (detail), 2005 | Gee's Bend: The Architecture of the Quilt has been organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and Tinwood Alliance, Atlanta. The Walters venue is presented by The Women’s Committee of the Walters Art Museum with additional support provided by Willliam R. & Wendyce H. Brody, Vernon A. Reid, James H. DeGraffenreidt, Jr. and MychelleY. Farmer, M.D., Wendy Myerberg Jachman and Jennifer Myerberg, and the William L. & Victorine Q. Adams Foundation.

| A Celebration of African American Art |


Roy Crosse gardens behind his Westnorth Studio in Station North. Crosse has invested a significant amount in capital into his home and land, but he has not qualified for tax breaks.

use, mixed-income neighborhood it aspires to be? Or will it go the way of SoHo? At Westnorth Studio in the 100 block of North Avenue, artist and owner Roy Crosse sits in front of a cluttered desk and remembers when he first moved to Baltimore in 2002. Crosse has since invested significant money into his rowhouse and its main-floor gallery, hosting a series of shows over the last five years and serving on various community boards. Crosse epitomizes the type of person this district says it wants to attract—a talented, seasoned artist and curator who is willing to invest both in

From the beginning, Kirby Fowler says, the goal for Station North was “gentrification without displacement.” property and community relations. Crosse, who has lived in a number of arts-driven communities from Toronto to Brooklyn, believes that the district’s greatest success to date has been its ability to communicate across traditional neighborhood lines and to articulate a shared vision based on inclusivity and entrepreneurship. The community wants a mix of incomes and businesses, one that supports existing residents while integrating artists and outside investment. “All of the individual entities and community groups are actually starting to talk to one another and work together,” Crosse says. An ad hoc group of Station North and Charles North business owners meets every Thursday at Joe Squared Pizza on North Avenue, for example, to talk about what it takes to make the neighborhood a good place to live, work, and do business.

What has been less successful, according to Crosse and others in the neighborhood, have been efforts to procure real benefits for low-income families and artists. The plan was to provide affordable housing and work space for artists and residents, but the incentives that are in place do not exactly support that goal. Benefits in arts districts vary from place to place. In Maryland, the State Department of Business and Economic Development designates certain neighborhoods “arts and entertainment districts” and gives them three specific tax breaks. Artists who live and work in the district are offered property-tax credits on qualifying renovations, can apply for an income-tax credit when they make money on their art, and are given a waiver of the admissions and amusement tax charged by the city (benefiting ticket-selling businesses like The Charles Theatre). But these incentives do little for the artists and low-income residents currently in the district, many of whom have trouble qualifying to buy in the first place. For example, SCOPE, a City project created to offload vacant City-owned property, offers dilapidated homes in the area at extremely low prices. However, to qualify, buyers must be pre-approved not just for the sale price, but also for the hundreds of thousands of dollars that the City estimates must go into renovations. “The incentives are nice, but city and state officials don’t quite understand the particular reality of an artist,” Crosse explains. In fact, traditional economic development models don’t always work when trying to foster a true arts district. Many loans don’t take into account an artist’s inventory of supplies, for example. “If you’re a plumber, your tools are considered assets,” he notes. “Banks rarely recognize artist’s supplies in that way.” This makes their assets seem even lower. Those residents lucky enough to own a property, like Crosse, often have difficulty qualifying for those rehab and historic tax benefits, many of which require that the work be completed within a short time frame (Hord Coplan Macht, for example, must complete their Railway Express project by the end of the year in order to get their historic tax credits). “It depends on having a lot of cash up front,” Crosse explains. “I’ve poured lots of money into my building, but it has happened over time and it doesn’t fit into existing incentive patterns. None of us have qualified for the development incentives for our properties, and few of us make enough money to take advantage of the sales-tax breaks.” Places like The Charles Theatre, which sell tickets on a daily basis, certainly benefit from the tax breaks. However, “most artists don’t sell a piece of art every week,” Crosse notes. “The incentives are there, but they are not particularly strong,” adds Nancy Haragan, executive director of the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance. Haragan, along with Crosse, is a board member of Station North Arts and Entertainment, Inc., which was incorporated in 2004 to help promote and market the district. “This is the one area where all of the arts districts in the state need to come together and discuss the reality, because you have to be doing continued on page 68 w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j u l y 0 7


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urbanite july 07


by karen houppert

photography by sam holden

Shooting Borat In which owner of local Persian restaurant dresses up as Borat with goal to attract customers attends Urbanite photo session As a New Yorker who recently settled in Baltimore, I spend a lot of time reflecting on and characterizing the city for old friends. There is one description in particular that resonates: “New Yorkers are weird and they know it,” filmmaker John Waters is alleged to have said. “But Baltimoreans are weird—and they have no idea.” It’s an assessment of the city that is, well, irrefutable sometimes—particularly if you happen to be quietly supping at Jason Bulkeley’s Persian restaurant, the Orchard Market & Cafe, when Jason morphs from his professional, slightly balding self into the garrulous, garish, bumbling movie character Borat and then settles himself at your table to regale you with stories of his backward homeland. Borat is, of course, the movie that swept the country in November 2006. Starring British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen as a fictional journalist from Kazakhstan who treks to the United States to report on the superpower, the satire mocks both the repressive government in the small, central-Asian country Kazakhstan as well as the homophobia, anti-Semitism, and misogyny alive and well in the “U.S. and A.” When Urbanite’s own vast network of far-flung foreign correspondents discovered this Borat impersonator at an otherwise innocuous restaurant deep in the wilds of the county where it lay hidden in a thicket of strip malls (at 8815 Orchard Tree Lane in Towson), we were intrigued enough to invite him in for a photo shoot.

On a sunny day in May, photographer Sam Holden, Urbanite Creative Director Alex Castro, and I are shooting the breeze in a downtown photo studio as we await the arrival of our subject. The Eastern Avenue converted warehouse is spacious, cool, calm. For a minute. Suddenly, in bustles Jason, with a huge cardboard box in his arms. It is piled high with brass samovars, Persian rugs, pillows, a wig, four brass tea cups, an elaborately carved wooden cane, makeup, two fur hats, aviator-frame glasses, an empty can of RockStar Energy Drink—and the room shifts into hyperdrive. Speaking in the rapid-fire diction of an auctioneer on coke, Jason grabs the reins of the photo shoot and runs. “If you want we can put this samovar in the background and I can wear this fur hat because you know Borat is always wearing things that are so out of season like this grey suit I bought from that shop in Towson—do you know it—called Ten Car Pile Up on York Road where the owner found me the most perfect ’70s grey suit, don’t you think?” he says, pausing only long enough to inhale and draw out his suit for us to admire. He dives back into his box of props and assumes

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the trademark bad accent. “Here, I have a nice-a flag from my country. Maybe I wear-a this around my shoulders? But don’t hide-a my face? This-a my best feature, no?” Before Alex or Sam can get a word in edgewise, Jason has arrayed all his Borat accoutrements on the floor around himself in a semicircle of glittering ephemera, monologuing all the while about how he might best use each of these items. The average person usually sips the energy drink, RockStar, that Jason confesses being addicted to; he clearly mainlines the stuff.

Bustling in and out of the dressing room, in and out of costumes, and in and out of character, Jason talks energetically throughout the entire photo shoot. And somewhere in this monologue that has us flitting from Kazakhstan to Towson and back again, I am able to collect a few biographical details about Jason. I learn that Jason, 42, used to be in the Air Force, that he was a Russian linguist, that he used to be in the National Security Agency but can’t be anymore because he married an Iranian woman and no longer has clearance. I discover that he has owned his Persian restaurant since 1997 and that sometimes, because it is

tucked away in a strip mall behind a strip mall, attracting new customers is hard. I learn that he has lots of loyal old customers, though, many of whom hail from Russia and Central Asia. When he first saw Borat, he laughed so hard, he tells me, he almost had a heart attack. “This guy was all the customers I had ever served rolled into one!” he says. “Of course, I had drunk four RockStar energy drinks before the show, which I don’t advise.” (RockStar is enhanced with “the potent herb milk thistle,” I realize from reading Jason’s can label while he is in the dressing room, and it is “scientifically formulated to speed the recovery time of those who lead active and exhausting lifestyles—from athletes to rock stars” and maybe even restaurant owners who impersonate stars.) I’m told that everybody’s gotta have a gimmick in the restaurant business these days to bring in new customers: “Being Borat on Wednesday nights after the belly dancer finishes her act has doubled my business!” Jason crows. Finally, I’m told, it has been hundreds of years since the Puritans settled here, but Americans are still Puritans at heart. Jason watched Borat seven times in those first few weeks when it came out because he loved the message: “Hey, lighten up!” Jason, a big Monty Python fan (like, hmm, 99.9 percent of males his age), says he likes the way Baron Cohen

combines broad slapstick that has you laughing at him, but also laughing at your own pent-up repression and anxiety. Those are all the official reasons that drove Jason to dress up as Borat and ad-lib for his customers or to settle himself at a table of revelers to deliver his own heavily accented birthday wishes. Unofficially? “It’s always an adventure to dress up and pretend to be somebody you’re not.” As our photo shoot is winding down, the photographer asks Borat to turn, so he can get a last shot from the other side. “Like-a this, you want?” Borat says, swinging all the way around to stick his butt out toward the camera. “I do anything for-a money! But do not touch-a!” A wiggle of his butt, a few clicks of the camera, and he’s off for the dressing room to deconstruct himself, emerging moments later as a plain, slightly short man in khakis and a white shirt whom you’d pass a million times in the Towson Town Center mall and never even notice. “I guess I just like to do weird things that haven’t been done,” Jason says—a rare moment of understatement—as he puts the last of his props in the cardboard box and goes. ■ —Karen Houppert is Urbanite’s senior editor.

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by elizabeth a. evitts

rendering courtesy of Ziger/Snead


An architectural drawing of the Harry and Jeannette Weinberg Outward Bound Leadership Center, scheduled to be complete in Leakin Park in 2008. The building, designed by Ziger/Snead, includes vaulted ceilings and carefully placed windows to encourage air flow and reduce the nonproďŹ t’s reliance on forced air.


urbanite july 07

fresh air

fresh air

Two ambitious nonprofits are looking to architects to draw inspiration—and air—from the great outdoors By late afternoon, the thermometer hits eighty. Driving through the city, heat vapor rising off asphalt, you can see two camps of drivers: those with all the windows down, hair blowing in the wind, and those with their windows up, hair blowing from the AC. It’s the first truly hot and humid day in Baltimore, marking the transition from spring to summer. For many, it’s decision time: hope there’s still some spring weather to be had and leave the windows open; or seal up the car, the house, and the office, and start the summertime whir of air conditioning. Turning onto the winding and lushly green Windsor Mill Road, skirting the edge of Leakin Park, you can feel the temperature start to drop, a good reminder of what a few shade trees can do to mitigate that urban-heat-island effect. As you enter Leakin Park off of Eagle Road, the cooling continues as you wind deeper into the woods past the historic buildings of what was once the Crimea Estate, home to railroad baron Thomas Winans. The estate’s Orianda Mansion and the accompanying buildings that Winans erected—including a chapel and a carriage house—still stand some 150 years after being constructed. Today, the Baltimore chapter of Outward Bound, a national nonprofit dedicated to exposing kids to life-altering outdoor experiences, occupies several of these historic buildings. A young Outward Bound instructor coils ropes after a session on a tall climbing wall, which is nestled amid the mature tress and forsythia bushes. In the distance, just past a thick stone building that is the current home to the Outward Bound staff, David Starnes, executive director of the Baltimore Chesapeake Bay Outward

Bound Center, stands on a balcony looking over freshly turned soil. Ground has just been broken for the new Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Outward Bound Leadership Center, scheduled for completion in January 2008. The building will provide bathing facilities for students returning from expeditions; increase storage capacity for additional equipment and clothing to serve more students; and create added office and meeting space. When it came time to design the new facility, Outward Bound commissioned Baltimore architecture firm Ziger/Snead. “Design of the building was to be simple, low-maintenance, and to use as much natural flow of air for heating and cooling as possible,” Starnes explains. Ziger/Snead drew inspiration from the neighboring historic structures, which utilized design techniques, such as cupolas, to increase air flow in the days before air conditioning. Inside the 1850’sera Orianda Mansion, for example, two sets of winding staircases flank a main entry hall, sweeping up four stories to a fifth-level cupola where hot air rises and is trapped. During warmer months, windows are opened to let the hot air escape, essentially creating a chimney effect that drafts air from the lower floors up though the home and out the top. Ziger/Snead mimicked that approach in the new building. The structure itself will be a timberframed barn that will literally be raised by an Amish barn-builder sometime early this fall. With stone columns at the base, the building is in context with the existing structures on the site. Inside, an open floor plan includes vaulted ceilings and high windows that can open and close in response to the weather.

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urbanite july 07

courtesy of The Maryland Historical Society

The Orianda Mansion, once a part of the Crimea Estate and now a part of Leakin Park, was built with a cupola to allow fresh air to flow through the home.

“All of the windows are operable and you get a lot of good cross ventilation,” Steve Ziger says. “We toyed with the idea of not having any air conditioning in the building at all, but the real issue in Maryland is humidity. People were concerned about papers and computers and believed that there were going to be days when they needed some air conditioning. But we don’t think they’re going to use it often.” Starnes agrees. “We tend to be pretty tolerant in our office spaces about how much energy we use,” he says. “We’re looking forward to the building being ventilated well and I anticipate turning on the air only during the hottest and most humid days.” This is not the only project incorporating natural ventilation for Ziger/Snead. The firm is also designing the new headquarters for the Parks & People Foundation at Auchentoroly Terrace, a nine-acre parcel between Druid Hill Park and Mondawmin Mall. The complex, which is in its initial design phase now, will include program space for staff, community resource spaces, and a new learning center for visitors. The architects were tasked to design a LEED Platinum complex, which is the strictest standard for green building in the LEED system of certification. If successful, it would only be the second LEED Platinum building in the state, according to Brian Jonas, project architect. The grounds at Auchentoroly Terrace currently include a historic stone building that was severely damaged by fire. The architects will rebuild that stone house, and stabilize another smaller carriage house. They will connect the main stone building to the new learning center via a glass-enclosed walkway. It’s this walkway that’s key to the natural ventilation of the structures. More than just a connective path from one building to another, this space will act as a passive solar room that will generate heat and create a stack effect similar to that of the Crimea Estate buildings by allowing that heat to draw out of high windows.

“With the stack effect, warm air rises and creates negative pressure at the bottom of a building. This negative pressure draws outside air through gaps in the building envelope. You can enhance the stack effect by creating large openings at the highest point in the space to allow warm, unwanted air to escape and to induce fresh airflow through the space,” says Michael Babcock. Babcock is a project manager with EMO Energy Solutions in Falls Church, Virginia, an energy efficiency and sustain-

What we expect out of our buildings is somewhat unrealistic. If we’re going to make natural ventilation work, we all have to reevaluate what a building should do. We have to be more accepting of temperature fluctuation. able design consulting company that works with residential and commercial clients. Babcock is helping Ziger/Snead analyze the most efficient way to naturally heat and cool the new buildings. (EMO is also available to provide residential homeowners with energy audits.) One of the additional benefits of this preliminary design, Babcock explains, is that the architects utilized the topography to their advantage. Ziger/ Snead began by working with the landscape and orienting the building and the windows to work with, not against, the site’s environment. This basic architectural approach is often overlooked nowadays because technological advances have made it easier to design around nature. Las Vegas is perhaps the

epitome of this—a lushly decadent city born out of a desert where one of the top attractions is an elaborate fountain show. But we are beginning to learn that nature ultimately demands recompense. (Recent reports state that Las Vegas will run dry by 2015 if it doesn’t begin to pump in water from other places.) Technology has essentially usurped one of our more valuable assets: common sense. If you orient a building into the sun, for example, it is going to be harder to cool that building. “What we expect out of our buildings is somewhat unrealistic,” says Babcock. “If we’re going to make natural ventilation work, we all have to reevaluate what a building should do. We have to be more accepting of temperature fluctuation.” Part of the simple genius behind the Ziger/ Snead design is that it marries common sense with the latest in energy-saving design. “The interesting thing is that a big piece of the new building is below grade in a cool environment,” explains Don Posson. Posson is a managing principal with Vanderweil Engineers in Alexandria, Virginia, and it will be his responsibility to make the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems in the structures work. Posson, who has also partnered on other green projects, like the LEED Platinum Chesapeake Bay Foundation headquarters in Annapolis, explains that by using things like earth ducts, the architects will help control the temperature naturally and more efficiently. “The ground is at a fairly constant temperature, so instead of bringing air in through the window, you bring it in through the earth,” he explains. “You also get the thermal mass of the earth around you, providing a more constant ventilation temperature to the building, warming the air in the winter and cooling the air in the summer. This is a geothermal process using the energy from the sun normally stored in the ground.” Both Posson and Babcock say that more clients are expressing interest in energy-saving techniques, but requests for natural ventilation are still rare. “If you are going to do natural ventilation, you have to commit to it,” Babcock says. “Once we change our expectations, though, then we can really make a dent.” Back at the Orianda Mansion, Starnes is giving a tour of the historic home and showcasing its natural ventilation. Climbing the many floors to the cupola, Starnes pauses halfway up to grab an apple from the kitchen where Outward Bound instructors make their meals. In the soft tea-light glow of dusk, Starnes looks out over the verdant treetops of Leakin Park. Fat bumblebees hover and bounce just outside the window. “The weather just changed,” he says, noting that summer might finally be upon us. He lifts one window and the impact is instantaneous—a heavy air stream flows up the winding stairs and through the opening. “I guess it’s time to open these for the season,” he says, hooking the window frame onto a latch in the ceiling. Starnes, it seems, is ready to commit. ■ —Elizabeth A. Evitts writes about architecture and design for the magazine.

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urbanite july 07

The Score






Will the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s incoming maestra bring new life—and new audiences—to the Meyerhoff? D uring a recent Baltimore Symphony Orchestra rehearsal, conductor Marin Alsop swiftly put the orchestra through its paces. Despite the general informality—shorts, capri pants, and T-shirts were the casual order of the day—the musicians were all business as they moved through the closing section of Edward Elgar’s “Cello Concerto in E Minor, Opus 85.” Alsop, looking the most formal of the lot in a white satin shirt and black pants, swayed and moved rhythmically and semaphorically in time to the slow tempo. Meanwhile, the soloist, Alisa Weilerstein, rocked back and forth behind her instrument, her long hair flailing; her grimacing and emotionally charged bowing more reminiscent of a heavy metal guitarist playing a solo than a classical musician moving through a piece of early-twentieth century music. The music moved suddenly into the final section, with Weilerstein and the orchestra charging through the allegro portion until the piece came to a dramatically turbulent—and quick—close. Weilerstein looked ravished, but pleased. The musicians jovially smiled and chatted quietly with one another. Alsop coolly peered down at her score. “You really don’t have to rush that ending,” she said in a brisk, businesslike manner to the assembly. “Let’s run that one more time.”

ThereAfteris ayears certain buzz in the air at the BSO these days. of declining attendance at the orchestra’s Baltimore home base, the twenty-five-year-old Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, accumulation of a hefty eight-figure debt, and an incredible shrinking management team (within a single year the organization lost its president and CEO—who had been in the job for only a year-and-a-half—as well as the chair of its board and vice president/general manager) it finally looks like one of America’s top ten orchestras is back on track. For one thing, the financial picture looks brighter. In the spring of 2005, the orchestra took $27.5 million of its $90 million endowment to get itself out of a $16 million hole and provide cash reserves for the 2006–2007 season. Meanwhile, veteran classical music administrator Paul Meecham took over the reins of president and CEO. And in September of last year, management and musicians came to a relatively quick agreement on a two-year contract that kept the orchestra’s fifty-two-week schedule intact. Then this spring, in celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Meyerhoff, the BSO received a $1 million grant from the PNC Foundation to offer all subscribers an unheard-of rate of $25 per seat per performance for the 2007–2008 season—cutting the average subscription cost by 40 percent. Not surprisingly, the number of new subscribers has jumped to three times what it was last year at this time. Add to that a rash of new recordings—including a recent release of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring that was number one on iTunes’ classical

music charts—and an eight-program deal next year with XM Satellite Radio, and you have an orchestra that is, by all accounts, on the upswing. There are lots of reasons for the turnaround—and plenty of people to thank for it. However, the public face of the newly invigorated BSO is undoubtedly Marin Alsop, the orchestra’s twelfth, and newest, music director. Alsop doesn’t pick up the baton on a fulltime basis until September, when she conducts her inaugural programs featuring Mahler’s “Symphony No. 5” and contemporary American composer John Adams’ Fearful Symmetries. But she knows BSO well. After all, while she continued to lead the Colorado Symphony (where she had been music director for twelve years and continues as conductor laureate) and serve as the principal conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony in the United Kingdom (a post she’s held since 2002), she has made a concerted effort to be a presence this past season, conducting six weeks of concerts with the BSO. It’s big news that Alsop is the first woman to be made musical director of one of the top ten orchestras in the U.S., so these days it’s pretty much all-Marin-all-the-time. Just about every BSO ad in the Baltimore Sun features Alsop’s face (Marin looking thoughtful; Marin looking intense; Marin looking blissful). Her mug is ever-present, even in press materials for programs she’s not conducting. She even made a spur-of-the-moment appearance on the first morning that this season’s cheapo tickets went on sale, schmoozing with future subscribers, posing for photographs, and handing out doughnuts to hungry ticket buyers, some of who had been standing in line for two hours before the box office opened. “The board made a very smart decision when they appointed Marin Alsop,” says Meecham. “Of course, she’s a great conductor. But she also represents the next generation of musical artists. And she’s a real advocate for reaching out to the next generation of audiences too.” Clearly, Marin Alsop is ready for Baltimore. The question is, is Baltimore ready for Alsop?


ˇ New World Symphony. Alsop he orchestra now goes into Antonín Dvorák’s moves the musicians through specific trouble spots in the score. “No,” she says to the string section at one point. “I want the sense that it’s moving. I don’t want to push you, but it’s feeling a bit ‘notey’ in there.” The third time around, Alsop says, “Good—that’s it.” One of the violinists leans over and speaks quietly to her. She nods and smirks a little. “Yeah, yeah, I know,” she says. “But I’ll take whatever I can get.” She turns back to the full orchestra. “Okay, let’s go to four before 44. It’s not working, so let’s fix it.” continued on page 69

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urbanite july 07

photo by Sam Holden

the healing power of collective merriment

joy division b y

For nearly fourteen years, Carole Carroll has been the lead organizer for an annual fundraiser of considerable local renown called Night of 100 Elvises. The show is built around a singular, irresistible notion: The continent’s finest Elvis tribute performers (not “impersonators,” please) trade stage time with raucous Baltimore-area bands to plumb the depths of the King’s back catalog. (One of the rules of the show—which now sprawls across two nights—decrees that no song can be repeated.) Tickets are $50 each, but the thousand-plus attendees—a pan-generational mix of Elvis faithful, younger rock-scene types, and assorted local characters—are encouraged to consume heroic quantities of food and drink as they sample the three floors of live music and Elvis-themed entertainment. The event is held in Southwest Baltimore’s Lithuanian Hall, a stately monument to this hard-luck neighborhood’s immigrant past, and the venue contributes its own cultural incongruities to the proceedings, via the gallons of sweet viryta—a homemade honey liqueur of vague Lithuanian-American provenance—dispensed to unwary partygoers in the wood-paneled basement bar. At some point late in the evening, says Carroll, things tend to reach a peak. Maybe it’s when one of the more accomplished Elvises scales the high notes at the end of “An American Trilogy,” that big Vegas-era showstopper. Maybe it’s when the all-female Graceliners—a troupe of matronly Canadians in rhinestoned jumpsuits—ascend the stage for their eagerly anticipated set. But eventually all the heat and smoke and sideburns and Baltic moonshine combust into a kind of benign madness that Carroll has dubbed “The Roar,” and if you stand out in the cold December air on the sidewalk off Hollins Street, you can feel the building tremble under its sway. “People are so out of their minds with joy and happiness that there’s a roar out on the street,” she explains. “It’s like a train racing down a hill. There’s no stopping it.” In conception and execution, Night of 100 Elvises serves as a distillation of Baltimore’s idea of a good time: the low-budget DIY glamour, the

davi d

du dley

mash-up of oddball ingredients, the abundance of beer and fried food, the embrace of kitsch so fervent that it achieves a kind of purity. There is an actual charity element to all this (the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center gets the net profits, and CD sales and raffles benefit Hungry for Music), but the goodwill that suffuses the evening is of a more cosmic nature. Years ago, I played guitar in a band that donated its services to this cause, and the seven minutes we spent onstage bashing out a two-song set (“Long Black Limousine” and “Polk Salad Annie”) were among the most memorable in our otherwise undistinguished musical career. But this was more than just a good gig; it was a glimpse of a better world, a thousand strangers welded into one under a seven-hour siege of music and honeyed liqueur. “We want people to feel like they can’t take any more,” says Carroll. “People tell me that this is their New Year’s Eve.” The social value of partying is a difficult thing to quantify. (Not so the costs, of course.) In her recent book Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy, the writer and social critic Barbara Ehrenreich argues that humanity has an innate psychological need to gather in groups, bond with strangers, and exult, a need that has been systematically squelched in recent centuries. She fingers several villains in this drama—industrialization, Western imperialism, the rise of global capitalism, fundamentalist religious movements, and a rogue’s gallery of post-Reformation fun police. Under the banner of progress and civilization, these forces—typically social elites resisting any breakdown of class boundaries—have stamped out or co-opted the seasonal festivals, street carnivals, impromptu dance parties, and assorted ecstatic rites that once sustained the masses. The unintended result: a host of social problems, including an “epidemic of melancholy” that swept Europe in the eighteenth century, a thriving modern industry in antidepressants and other pharmaceutical mood interventions, and the steady erosion of connectedness and community values as we retreat further into our solitary electronic amusements. We

“People are so out of their minds with joy and happiness that there is a roar out on the street,” says the organizer of Night of 100 Elvises. “It’s like a train roaring down a hill. There’s no stopping it.”

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now live, Ehrenreich declares, in a “postfestive era,” one in which opportunities to experience the healing power of collective merriment are typically limited to sporting events, rock concerts, or other commercial enterprises. This may be news to the average American college student, who does not seem to suffer from a dearth of ecstatic rites. But for the rest of us, there is a certain resonance to the idea that modern urban existence offers few chances to properly cut loose with our fellow citizens. Part of the blame must lie in the paradox of city living itself—the fraught state of being simultaneously attracted to and menaced by the stranger multitudes around us. Wealth and class disparities in Baltimore remain profound; the veil of civilization is thin enough around here: Why, with many urban areas struggling to maintain the basics of a civil society, invite the unbound mob into the streets? And sell them beer?


Molly Ross, the artist/ impresario who helms the Great Halloween Lantern Parade in Patterson Park every October, is a passionate advocate for the community-building potential of what she calls “the celebratory arts.”

photo by George Hagegeorge

ocal history does not lack for legendary shindigs. Free State settlers came from more festive stock than the dour Protestants who landed elsewhere. Federal Hill once billed itself as “the neighborhood named after a party”—a reference to a grog-fueled observance of the state’s ratification of the U.S. Constitution held atop the hill in 1788—and the British retreat from Fort McHenry in 1814 inspired such citywide revelry that some of the more pious defenders were scandalized. A more buttoned-down affair is credited by many with helping heal the psychic scars inflicted by the white flight and racial unrest of the late 1960s. First held in 1970, the grandly titled Baltimore City Fair invited a broken and frightened populace to venture back downtown and moon-bounce together for an afternoon; improbably, it worked. A decade later, Harborplace birthed the “festival marketplace” idea—a sort of permanent street fair trapped in a shopping mall—and a constellation of municipal what-

Seeing red: A squaw applies Dan Van Allen’s warpaint at the Inter-Tribal Powwow.


urbanite july 07

everfests around town now span the sweltering months. (The City Fair, having outlived its purpose, faded away in 1991.) Regardless of ethnicity or address, by August they all start to look and smell the same: Here, the undercooked-chicken-on-a-stick booth; there, the Caribbean steel drum band. But do not take them for granted. “There’s research that shows that these kinds of festivals really do increase the health of a community,” says Steven Rivelis, a business consultant who founded the Charles Village Parade ten years ago. A field of academic endeavor called community psychology, he says, offers abundant proof of this effect, detailing exactly how the collaborative exercise of organizing and putting on such events serves to stitch neighbors to each other and to the larger city around them. “They create a certain gestalt about how things happen. Taking over the streets is a collective action.” A former Planned Parenthood lobbyist, Rivelis and wife Linda Brown Rivelis launched their firm, Campaign Consultation, Inc., in 1988 to advise businesses and nonprofits on the finer points of corporate citizenship and communitybuilding. He is also, clearly, a man who loves a parade: He organized his first fundraising march in junior high. “I don’t even remember how it happened. I just started doing it.” The Charles Village version came about a few years after the Rivelises were hired to advise the Charles Village Community Benefits District’s neighborhood improvement efforts, with Rivelis’ involvement with the parade as a citizen volunteer. Held on the first weekend in June, the parade formally kicks off the two-day festival, and it is an ad-hoc affair, full of homemade costumes, invisible-baton twirlers, and neighborhood guys marching with gardening tools. Nevertheless, the event has proven to be an effective means of maintaining the area’s recent rebirth. “Neighbors get on committees together, and that connectedness keeps growing,” Rivelis says. “Those of us who’ve been doing this for a few years have a lot of stories. People come to Charles Village to watch the parade and then say, ‘Hey, those are nice homes.’ Then I see them next year and they live here.” Molly Ross, the artist/impresario who helms the Great Halloween Lantern Parade in Patterson Park every October, is an equally passionate advocate for the community-building potential of what she calls “the celebratory arts.” Her Halloween extravaganza is a regional phenom, with 1,200 participants processing through the nighttime park with elaborate candlelit lanterns. The marchers—most of them neighborhood residents—create their lanterns in free workshops at the Creative Alliance, sponsored by Ross’ studio, Nana Projects. Last year, 3,500 people came to participate or watch. “It’s a beautiful experience in the moment, but the impressive thing is the impact it has months later,” she says. Part of that effect is the simple enchantment of seeing the familiar transformed. The parade succeeds merely by bringing children and families into a large city park at night, offering residents the chance to reclaim otherwise disputed territory, if only for a few hours. Last month, Ross hosted a “Parade School,” teaching visiting community organizers how to save the world through stiltwalking and giant puppetry. A spectacle such as the one that Ross oversees may represent a massive investment in time and labor, but the payoff, Ross insists, is incalculable. “It’s a doorway

photo by Mitro Hood

The Great Halloween Lantern Parade transforms the familiar and, by bringing children and adults into a large city park at night, allows residents to reclaim otherwise disputed territory.

into other things happening—people talking with each other, working with each other.” Not all mass celebrations, of course, can claim such a lofty social agenda. One of Baltimore’s biggest parties is also among the most explicitly Dionysian, the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico. On paper, it’s difficult to argue that the storied Preakness has any redeeming social benefits. It lumbers into view each May, a bloated Goodyear Blimp of corporate events and commercial sponsorships deployed in the service of a day of drinking and gambling. And yet, if the weather is pleasant and no horses get themselves killed, an afternoon at Old Hilltop—even amid the Hobbesian humanity of the infield—can be a joyous thing, a blessed release from normative behavior, a beery communal rite with 120,000 of your new closest friends. “You don’t need to go to church to pray,” says Dan Van Allen, the artist and community organizer whose métier is the pursuit of what French sociologist Émile Durkheim dubbed “collective effervescence”—the sacred energy generated by a properly motivated gathering of like-minded souls. For years, Van Allen oversaw the Sowebohemian Arts and Music Festival, the Memorial Day weekend bash that fills the streets near his Hollins Market home. He’s also the founding spirit behind the Inter-Tribal Powwow, held a few weeks before the Sowebo Fest at Ferry Bar Park, an isolated strip of industrial beachfront near the Hanover Street Bridge. Free, unpublicized, and only nominally legal, the Powwow is ostensibly a fundraiser for the Arabber Preservation Society (another Van Allen project), but it began life in 1988, as a boat-launching party for a homemade outrigger canoe Van Allen had built. “We pretty much cobbled it together with vans and a beer truck and some umbrellas we found on the beach,” he says of the show. Two decades later, the Powwow has made only incremental steps toward middle-aged respectability. A generator provides power for a procession of bands clanging away on two stages, and a few vendors sell food and drinks. There are a few portable toilets, and the remote site is now

bordered by a Wal-Mart, but the shaggy, anarchic Road Warrior vibe persists. As does the name, a bit of Native American cultural appropriation that reflects Van Allen’s inclusive tendencies, or perhaps his Iroquois great-grandfather. The tribes that gather here are indeed a varied lot: middle-aged bikers, costumed ravers and hippie kids, alternadads toting toddlers. Despite his word-of-mouth approach, Van Allen is concerned that the Powwow is too popular now, too much like every other street festival in town—he wants to cut one of the music stages next year, and emphasize the art installations. “It’s a misconception to think of these festivals as parties. I consider them cultural events.”


n my twenties, an appearance at the Powwow was a ritual obligation among my peers, even when the changeable spring weather and lack of amenities made the event something of a physical ordeal. This year, after a lengthy hiatus, I again ventured down the lonely road past the Wal-Mart to meet some friends by the river. Instead of the usual plastic bag full of cans of beer, I brought my 3-year-old daughter. This was not the novelty I expected: It was a rare perfect day, with a stiff breeze off the Middle Branch, and packs of other children romped along the beach, oblivious to the freakery around them. Were all these kids here ten years ago? And had it really been ten years? A man in a giant rabbit head wandered by. “Look at the bunny,” my daughter said. A bit later, the rabbit head reappeared on top of a speaker cabinet, on fire. We left before the sun set, when things get strange. But she said she had a good time, and next year, we’ll probably come back. This, Van Allen says, is as it should be. “It’s very instinctive to have these annual things,” he says. “It helps us keep track of our lives, and our futures.” ■

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Fluid Movement’s Water Ballet

High Zero Festival

July 21, 22, 28, 29, 2007 You never know where you’ll see this performance troupe. One year Fluid Movement is re-enacting Charles Darwin’s struggle for scientific credibility in It’s a Wonderful Species; but no sooner have performers learned to walk on dry land than they’re back in the water synchronizing dog paddles for an aquatic take on Tolstoy’s epic, War and Fleas. These site-specific works are performed in wet and dry venues across the city, so if you’re in Baltimore, consider yourself a guest on their set. (fluidmovement.org)

September 24–30, 2007 Every September, musicians from around the globe descend upon Baltimore to celebrate the experimental and to challenge what we traditionally consider music. A Japanese artist may connect his heart to a hi-powered bass amp via a stethoscope and a computer, or a local performer may “play” a block of dry ice with piping hot cymbals. Just about anything goes. The only thing that doesn’t fly is convention. (highzero.org)

The Great Halloween Lantern Parade October 27, 2007 The spookiest night of the year has evolved into a celebration of community in Patterson Park. More than a thousand costumed revelers bearing painted lanterns parade through the park. Crowds await their arrival for the grand finale Magic Lantern Show, where artists blend shadow puppetry and Victorian magic-lantern techniques to illustrate epic stories on a forty-foot-high screen. “The challenge,” says Megan Hamilton, program director for Creative Alliance, which cosponsors the event, “was to think of a way for people to claim the park as their own after dark.” It’s worked. By the end of the night, fear has been replaced by a shared sense of wonder. (nanaprojects.com)

By Lionel Foster

Out of the hundreds of amazing events that take place in Baltimore every year, the Urbanite staff picked its favorites. These are the events that make us say, “Wow! We’re glad we live here.” Open Studio Tour October 20 & 21, 2007 Baltimore is often admired as a city without pretension. This may explain why more than one hundred artists open their workspaces to total strangers every year for School 33 Art Center’s Open Studio Tour—and if Jody Albright, School 33’s director, has her way, you’ll never see them all. “Inevitably you end up talking to one artist for hours,” she says approvingly. And hey, there’s always next year. (school33.org)

Maryland Film Festival A Monumental Occasion December 6, 2007 In a city where residents stock up on milk and toilet paper at the slightest chance of snow, it is all the more remarkable that hundreds of people happily endure the cold for the lighting of the Washington Monument. Carolers, civic leaders, and celebrities join the crowd as fireworks illuminate the nighttime sky. Considered the kick-off event of the holiday season, little has interrupted it in thirty years—except, well, the occasional snowstorm. (godowntownbaltimore.com)

Illustration by Okan Arabacioglu

May 2008 Not every visitor to Baltimore can boast about the great time he or she had on an impromptu pub crawl with John Waters, but that’s exactly what some Maryland Film Festival directors walked away with last year. The festival seems to engender just these types of interactions. No prizes are awarded. There aren’t even any categories—just the best and most diverse films organizers could find under the non-negotiable requirement that each director appear live to discuss his or her film. And if John Waters is buying, who wouldn’t stop by? (md-filmfest.com)

Night of 100 Elvises November 30 & Dec 1, 2007 For one weekend every year, Baltimore rivals Graceland. Elvis fans, Elvis-styled bands, and Elvis tribute artists from as far away as Germany sing, dance, and drink themselves into a frenzied Elvis fever. “You just about go crazy,” says event cofounder Carole Carroll. After thirteen years of perfectly pitched mayhem, the King is—don’t you dare say “would be”—incredibly proud. (nightof100elvises.com)

Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race May 3, 2008 When our fossil fuels run dry, veterans of this race will be prepared. Contestants use nothing but manpower and imagination to propel their vehicles across pavement, water, mud, and sand. Lasting as long as a baseball double-header, the race is not for the weak. Or for anyone dead-set on “winning” in the conventional sense: Inventive bribes for the officials are encouraged and the most prestigious award goes to the team that finishes in the middle of the pack. (kineticbaltimore.com)

Sowebohemian Arts and Music Festival May 25, 2008 The Sowebohemian Arts and Music Festival is arguably the biggest house party in Baltimore. It is hyper-local, with much of the talent drawn from the neighborhood. Here, submissions are not vetted and art is not judged. Last year, in another nod to populism, the coordinators added an open-to-all parade to “spotlight the inner artist in all of us.” (soweboarts.org)

Charles Village Parade and Festival June 7 & 8, 2008 For one day every year, Charles Villagers—from school children to cheerleading chickens to invisible-baton twirlers frantically dropping and tossing their imaginary sticks—band together and march the wrong way up Saint Paul Street. “For me it’s always been symbolic to go against the traditional flow,” says parade founder Steven Rivelis. “It’s a visible demonstration of owning your own city and owning your own pavement and owning your own community”—any way you please. (charlesvillage.net) ■

—Editorial interns Heather Rudow and Svetlana Shkolnikova assisted in researching this article.

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sustainable city

by shannon dunn

photography by jason okutake

Shifting Gears

Safe r c ycli ng in Ba lti mor e

Penny Troutner has an uncommon lament: “My son Marshall turned sixteen last September and we’re trying to get him to get his license. But he says he doesn’t need it because he doesn’t see any point. There’s no place he needs to go that he can’t go on his bike.” Of course, the teen’s perception of Baltimore is colored by growing up with a mother who’s an avid cyclist, an owner of a bike shop, and the first chair of the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Committee in 1998. But, if things go as planned, her son’s experience may some day prove typical. In May 2006, the Baltimore City Planning Commission unanimously adopted its Bicycle Master Plan, an aggressive program of improvements that will create a network of striped bike lanes, clearly marked signs, links to existing public transportation, and increased bicycle safety education. Road repair began last summer, and the City is continuing its work this summer on Phase 1, the College Town Network—connecting Johns Hopkins, Loyola, College of Notre Dame, and Morgan State—which will be fully functional by the fall 2007 semester. Today, with close to $2.5 million in funds in place and the April 2007 hiring of Eva Khoury as the city’s first Pedestrian and Bicycle Coordinator, the ambitious plan is designed to make Baltimore as bike-friendly as Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., by 2012. “A lot of specifics still need to be hammered out,” says Troutner, “but we’re still feeling very positive about the future.”

Greg Hinchliffe, who replaced Troutner as the chair of the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Committee in 2004, notes that the neighborhoods of Baltimore— many of them comprised of tidy grids of one-way side streets with relatively low traffic volume—make the city a fine place to ride already without much improvement. “Unfortunately, neighborhoods are often separated by hideous barriers, most of them man-made,” he says, referring to the highways and other arterials designed to maximize the volume and speed of cars that chop up the city’s neighborhoods. That can make moving from one part of town to the next on a bike very difficult, Hinchliffe says. Currently, there are 4.7 miles of on-street bike lanes and 13.8 miles of off-street bike paths (shareduse trails) in the city, but the new plan bumps those numbers up considerably, creating a 450-mile system of bike lanes and off-street paths that are designed to connect all of Baltimore’s neighborhoods to recreational and employment opportunities within the city. Ultimately, Baltimore’s bike path will link to the East Coast Greenway, a city-to-city trail system that, when complete, will connect 3,000 miles of paved paths from Maine to the Florida Keys for cyclists and hikers by 2010. But physical improvements to the roads are only part of the solution. Aside from the obvious problems posed by potholes, uneven pavement, and bike tires that get stuck in sewer grates running parallel to the curb, there is an even greater danger: cars. Michael McShane, a philosophy professor at Loyola College who rides his bike to work, complains w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j u l y 0 7




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that cyclists are regularly forced out into the moving traffic. “You have to ride far enough out in the lane so that people can’t door you,” he says, explaining that getting “doored” (colliding with an opening car door while on a bike), and being harassed by disgruntled drivers are common experiences for cyclists here. “People in cars will drive right up behind you and honk. Or they yell things. ‘Get off the road!’ is a big one. There’s a lot of nasty aggression out there. When you’re on a bike, you are vulnerable—cars are big machines.” Indeed, the local injury statistics for pedestrians and cyclists are frightening: According to the Maryland Highway Safety Office a pedestrian is injured by a car once every four hours in the Baltimore region; a third of those injured are under 16; more than a dozen bicyclists are injured in the Baltimore region each week; bicycle and pedestrian deaths, injuries, and property damage cost the state an estimated $850 million a year. With this as a backdrop, the new plan is full of safety strategies geared toward making it safer for cyclists to take to the road. If the plan can make cycling safer, the hope is Baltimoreans will abandon their cars and take to their bikes—instead of leaving this the exclusive bailiwick of serious adult cyclists. In McShane’s case, he is both a serious cyclist and an enthusiastic advocate of broadening the practice. Growing up one of seven children in Lincoln, Nebraska, McShane learned the value of a bike early on: “We literally couldn’t all ride in the same car,” he says. And with no expectation of receiving a car for his sixteenth birthday, McShane got around on his bike. He went on to ride his bike all through graduate school in Philadelphia, then in Italy, and now in Baltimore. “I feel great when I get to work. I love that I get there on my own power.” For McShane, who also owns a car, this is an empowering choice. Not all city residents have that luxury. “Almost half of Baltimore residents don’t have access to a car,” says One Less Car’s Executive Director Richard Chambers, insisting we have an obligation to consider their needs as well. One Less Car, a local nonprofit, has been in the thick of bike advocacy for years and was instrumental in lobbying for the passage of the state’s 2001 Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Bill. Meanwhile, beyond formal government initiatives, there have been some grassroots efforts to make

Baltimore a bike-friendly town—from all different quarters. For example, the Velocipede Bike Project aims to get “affordable bikes into the hands of people of modest means” via a bike co-op that uses donated, second-hand, and landfill-bound bikes to teach bike repair and maintenance. Membership is open to anyone who wants to learn, in exchange for a monthly fee of $33 or three hours of labor at the workshop. In addition to the services the Lanvale Street co-op offers, fully inspected and refurbished bikes are available for sale from $5 to $200 (there’s typically a two-week wait). Founded in 2005 by Beth Wacks, who is the only full-time salaried employee, Velocipede is quite literally putting the necessary

“Almost half of Baltimore residents don’t have access to a car,” says One Less Car’s Executive Director Richard Chambers, insisting we have an obligation to consider their needs as well. biking tools into the hands of the community. She is one of the eight 2006 Open Society Institute fellows working in Baltimore under an 18-month grant designed to help good, creative community-building projects see the light of day in underserved communities. “As the city becomes more gentrified, traffic is only going to get worse,” Wacks says, seeing her project as marching lockstep with what she hopes will be good city planning. “We need to get the people who are building roads to take bikes into consideration from the beginning.” Other community activists tackle the issue from a different angle. Greg Cantori, executive director of the Marion I. & Henry J. Knott Foundation and board member of One Less Car, hopes to introduce Baltimore to a concept called Ciclovia, after a weekly event in Bogotá, Colombia. For more than twenty years, the city of Bogotá has closed streets to cars every Sunday. Literally translated from the Spanish meaning “bike path,” the weekly festival-style event Cantori plans for Baltimore would modify car usage along mapped routes one day a week. Roads would be shared by pedestrians, cyclists, inline skaters, and strollers—basically anything moving slower than

5 miles per hour, including cars. (Of course, special considerations are taken for emergency vehicles and buses.) Everyone would have access to their residence or place of business during the event, and all intersections would remain open and operate normally. Cities like Ottawa and Paris have done this, and this May, El Paso, Texas, held its first Ciclovia. Cantori is quick to explain that the expanded and alternative use of the city streets would raise awareness about the environmental impact of all kinds of transportation, not just bikes: “I see Ciclovia creating the groundswell of supportive advocates who will demand much better walking and biking and transit accommodations—let’s not forget our wheelchair users—in everything our region does.” Aside from his utopian aspirations for the event, Cantori sees an event like Ciclovia as giving a lift to the local economy. Increased pedestrian traffic could bring a renewed prosperity to downtown areas that are all but shut down on the weekends. By having people out of their cars and actually on the streets, Cantori predicts that the weekly event would stimulate consumer spending in a new way: “Ciclovia will make attendance at a Ravens game look small in benefits to the retailer.” ■ —Shannon Dunn, a graduate of the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars, is the author of several books for children.



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by marianne amoss

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tAlkinG tRasH A Toronto woman tries to go one month straight without making a single piece of garbage—and succeeds

Garbage, trash, waste, litter—whatever you call it, there’s no denying that it’s everywhere. Almost everything we use creates trash, from convenient individually wrapped snacks to children’s toys enclosed in layers of plastic. Consider the amount of trash you create preparing just one meal. What if you cut all that extra packaging out of the equation? Is it possible to eliminate trash from our lives? Toronto couple Sarah McGaughey and Kyle Glover took on that challenge. Beginning in 2004, they attempted to go thirty-one days in a row without making any garbage. They also launched a blog (nomoregarbage.wordpress.com) to track their progress. The project proved to be very difficult, and their record was only twelve trash-free days in a row. But, it should be noted that they filled just two large trash bags during their two-year effort. The duo then took a yearlong break to research better ways of accomplishing their task. This year, McGaughey and Glover relaunched the project. McGaughey achieved thirty-one days trash-free on February 23, and Glover on March 2.

Urbanite talked to McGaughey in May about the project, how her pregnancy affected its outcome, and the couple’s plans for the future.

Q: What does it take to cut out trash? You can’t participate in the culture of convenience at all. You have to have everything pre-planned or it doesn’t work.

Q: For example? On an average shopping day, I would start getting ready about 9 in the morning. I put together a backpack full of bags. We did reuse plastic bags and I also made some bags out of a material like the one that is used for wind pants. So I would get together all the bags and all the containers and hop on my bike. We have a market area in Toronto called Kensington Market that has a lot of specialty shops, where

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we could get cheese with absolutely no packaging, for example. It’s about a half-hour ride there, and shopping would take two hours. I’d go to the front first and weigh the containers, and then I could fill them with whatever I needed. Containers were usually for things like maple syrup or peanut butter and things like that. We did the same thing for cleaning products—there was a place we could get cleaning products in bulk. By the end I’d have a full, pretty heavy backpack. I’d bike home and put everything away. It’s quite a chore and a lot of people couldn’t imagine doing it. But I kind of enjoy it; it’s a nicer shopping experience than going to a big store, although it definitely takes longer.

Q: Do you think that you would have had

a much harder time doing the project if places like the market weren’t nearby?

I think those places always exist; you just have to find them. That’s why we were able to do it after three years. We had all that time to do research.


So this project became like a full-time job, in a way. I have a background in art—I went to school for fine art. I picked this up as a performance art project. It’s like the “artist’s life” kind of project. In this kind of project, you don’t necessarily have a product, but sometimes you do (in my case there’s the blog and photographs), but mostly it was the action of accomplishing something in your life. Often it’s something extreme. The idea of the extreme—absolute zero—was more performance art than it was an environmental project, because it didn’t make the most sense environmentally. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that people do it to the extreme except for the learning experience, because there are some parts of being so extreme that are not necessarily the best answer for the environment. For example, the company we got organic milk from is an awesome family-run company that does a lot of good for the environment. But we had to stop getting our organic milk in glass bottles because of the small plastic safety tab on the top. So instead we made rice milk and almond milk, but you can’t grow almonds or rice in Canada, so that had to be shipped. That was a problem.


What difference did your pregnancy partway through the project make? How did you adjust your expectations?

I changed the rules. We’d gone the longest ever with no garbage. Suddenly I had a cotton ball, a needle, and a Band-Aid, and all the things from the pregnancy test, and I was going to need anti-nausea pills that came with a little safety seal. Completing the project was going to be impossible. Either I can start over at day one, or I can change the rules. So I decided to change the rules and I allowed an exception for medical garbage. Also, when I became pregnant, I was extremely sick. I was vomiting all the time. People suggested soda crackers and PowerAde, but I couldn’t do it because of the packaging. We attempted to make our own soda crackers but it wasn’t the same. People think it will be really hard to do once we have the baby. We realize that we will have less time when the baby comes and are trying to do as much preparation as possible so that we can make as little garbage as possible, despite being busy and sleep-deprived.

Everything’s connected, so when you’re thinking about the environment you really have to think of every aspect rather than just the garbage.

Q: What did you do about menstrual products, toilet paper, and the like?

We used toilet paper made from recycled paper and wrapped it in recycled paper. I used reusable cotton maxi pads, and I also used sea sponges until I found out they were actually animals. I was about to get a Keeper [a reusable menstrual cup] when I found out I was pregnant, so I decided to wait until I would need it again. [There is a detailed blog entry about this at nomoregarbage.wordpress.com/2007/01/09/ what-I-do-in-the-bathroom.]

Q: What conclusions have you drawn? In our society right now it’s almost impossible to be garbage-free because of the way we’re set up. Some large things would have to change at the top—the way things are manufactured, the way we buy things. And there has to be balance to everything. Everything’s connected, so when you’re thinking about the environment you really have to think of every aspect rather than just the garbage. In order to be garbage-free and more environmentally friendly I found I ended up going a lot more grassroots. I realized that if I buy stuff locally

and know the person who makes it or grows it, then I can get garbage-free products that are also organic or environmentally friendly in some other way.

Q: What kind of criticism have you heard? If we did end up with garbage during the first two years, we would try to make it into artwork to give it another life. For example, small stickers on fruit—we incorporated them into collages and greeting cards we create. People would read about that in the articles written about us, and they would get the impression that we were just handing off our garbage. But the second time around, this January, we decided that even if it had another life it was still considered garbage. So our goal became to try to make absolutely zero trash. Another thing was that some people said that because we were so green we were actually hurting the environmental movement, that people would look and say, “In order to be an environmentalist, I have to be a freak like these people.” But we just continued because this was something we were doing for ourselves. Other people didn’t have to do it.

Q: What are your plans for the future? We plan to continue to reduce [filling one small bag of garbage every three weeks] and we are saving money to buy land and build a sustainable cobb home in the country somewhere. We don’t have any plans to do zero garbage again until that dream has been realized.


What can you recommend to others who might want to follow your example? Doing this project made us aware of how much garbage we actually make. If you did a garbage inventory, like the way you keep track of your money to do a budget, that would be really helpful. Choose a length of time, perhaps a week, and record every piece of trash, whether in a notebook, on a blog, or with photos. There are lots of little things you can do to be prepared ahead of time, like having cloth bags in your backpack or your car. There’s not really a need to take a plastic grocery bag ever. If you can do stuff like have reusable things instead of disposable—I use a handkerchief, for example. I know not everyone is into that; some people think it’s gross. But any little change that you’re comfortable with helps a lot. ■ —Marianne Amoss is Urbanite’s managing editor.

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By Robbie Whelan “I’ve been singing since I was little,” says Eva Castillo, “but I never wrote a song until college. I just picked up a guitar at a party one night, and all I knew were the chords to a few covers, but a friend of mine told me I should write my own stuff.” Her first song took only a few hours on a Saturday morning to write. Her sixth song— the first one she was really proud of—was a soft-spoken piece of conversational flirting that starts with the lines, “Do you wanna hear my secret? / I’ve got a crush / Your face your smile the clothes you wear / I can’t get enough …” Something for a J.Crew summer line commercial, perhaps, but fun, playful, and most importantly, well composed and satisfying in its pop sensibilities. That song, “Pure Intimidation,” is the last song on her 2005 EP Day By Day, and once she wrote it, the Virginia Beach native and Mount Washington resident decided that it would be the new standard for her compositions. This has been a decidedly good policy. The bulk of Castillo’s recorded material—the mid-tempo funky “I Can’t Stay,” the gospel-tinged backing oohs of the final bridge in “I Don’t Have a Chance,” or the somewhat jagged entreaties of “Ever Change”— paints a picture of a remarkably talented songwriter, despite her apparent stumbling into the craft. Castillo’s singing sounds like what Christina Aguilera’s would be if she were playing what people these days are calling “organic” soul music—lots of oohs and extended vowel sounds from a strong set of pipes, but backed by an all-acoustic three-piece combo (Jake Leckie, upright bass; Alan Munshower, drums and the Cuban cajón drum; Blake Mobley, keyboard). Without any formal training, Castillo writes multipart songs full of jazz chords and tight, overdubbed vocal harmonies that sound complex, but still light. The band has laid down eleven tracks for a new record to be released this fall. Produced by the group’s bassist, the new songs are more upbeat. In concert, they still throw in a cover or two—their waltz-time soul version of Weezer’s “Say It Ain’t So” is particularly fun. “I don’t want to be so depressing, like what people typically think of when they hear ‘singer-songwriter,’” says Castillo. “I write songs about chasing the boy, about staying happy, about being thankful. It won’t bring you down.”

photo by Jas

on Oku ta

—Robbie Whelan is a regular contributor to the “Recommended” department.


By Michael Paulson

Eclectic in the truest sense of the word, Wholphin is brought to us by the good people at McSweeney’s. This quarterly DVD magazine features a variety of films from all over the world that touch on a dizzying array of subjects. A recent issue includes Swedish animation, violently poetic research footage of trap-jaw ants, and a French short involving ennui, existentialism, and lobsters. Perhaps the most powerful piece in Issue 3 is a documentary about a 13-year-old Yemeni girl, Nejmia; she joyfully eschews the veil while roaming the streets and debating the men and boys she

encounters with a sharp, feisty intellect. Mr. Show’s Bob Odenkirk comes through with a hilarious short chronicling a night gone hideously awry thanks to a dead bee and a cigarette. Other entries either fail or baffle completely, but Wholphin is a welcome assurance that the medium of film is thriving creatively outside the multiplexes. You can preview Issue 4 at www. wholphindvd.com. —Michael Paulson is an English teacher at the Friends School. He is a regular contributor to Urbanite.


By Freeman Rogers What would happen if a legendary musician and hero of Greek myth were plunked down in the twentyfirst century? Poet Morri Creech delights in this sort of question in his new collection, Field Knowledge, published by Baltimore- and London-based Waywiser Press. In “Last Days of Orpheus,” Creech, who teaches at McNeese State University in Louisiana, imagines the musician in a modern-day apartment: “He sulked or

slept, an old man / in a rented room whose face no one recalled / from record sleeves or posters of the band; / who kept to himself, thick-waisted, a little bald.” At his best, Creech gives us similar takes on other characters we’ve met before, like Job’s wife and Andrew Marvell’s “coy mistress.” On the whole, this collection speaks our language: Field Knowledge is a fresh, entertaining ride through history.

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European soccer often exemplifies our human need to find a common enemy. Recently, while watching a particularly acrimonious match between two long-standing foes, my friend muttered, quoting an Arab proverb: “Me against my brother; my brother and I against my cousin; my brother, my cousin, and I against our tribe; our tribe against the foreigner.” When, in Andrew O’Hagan’s novel Be Near Me (2006), the new priest arrives at the parish of Dalgarnock in Scotland, the “tribe” of locals treats the Scottish-born but Oxford-educated Father Anderton as an unwelcome foreigner. Decimated by Thatcherism and globalization, rife with divisive IRA and Orange sympathizers, Dalgarnock is characterized by the ringleader, Nolan, who simmers with self-entitlement, believing the world owes him both a job and respect. But, “Respect isn’t a thing you just get,” Anderton retorts, “like free school milk. People earn respect by their actions.” Ironically, it is Anderton who’s unable to control his actions; while counseling local youths, he becomes beguiled by a handsome delinquent. A scandal ensues, to the secret delight of the community that salivates over the prospect of a priest’s behavior matching the most hackneyed of stereotypes. Anderton’s nemesis and his redemption is his housekeeper, Mrs. Poole, their friendship forged by their mutual isolation from their respective communities. Both are warned to toe the line or risk being ostracized but, Anderton argues, “ultimately that’s what everybody is, a person on their own.” O’Hagan’s intelligent novel marries clarity of style with intent, and I read it in a single mesmerized sitting. I’d have suffered debilitating numb-bum if I’d tried to do that with New England White, Stephen L. Carter’s current follow-up to his best-selling The Emperor of Ocean Park. Reading it after Be Near Me was akin to switching cuisines mid-meal— O’Hagan’s delicate omelet quashed by Carter’s

humungous goulash—though both share a liberal thematic seasoning of them and us. Julia Carlyle suffers from black guilt. The daughter of a wealthy African-American family, she has never had to struggle like many others of “the darker nation,” and she feels ashamed of hating hip-hop and finding poor black neighborhoods scary. “Torn afresh between her egalitarian pretensions and her innate snobbery,” she smarts when her black friends accuse her of being “an Oreo cookie—dark on the outside, white on the inside.” She is married to the charismatic narcissist Lemaster Carlyle, president of a college in Elm Harbor, in the heart of New England whiteness. After the body of Professor Kellen Zant, a renowned economist and Julia’s former lover, is found one snowy night, Julia retraces Zant’s steps before his murder, peeling back layers of black society to reveal struggles between old money and new, cotillion sororities and civil rights activists, Baptist preachers and gentlemen’s clubs, each of which have a different black agenda. They demand to know if the Carlyles are “with us or against us,” and some, while wanting to exploit the Carlyles’ wealth and influence, condemn them for it “on the insidious theory that their success was evidence of their disloyalty.” Carter’s stirring of so many plot ingredients sometimes left my taste buds confused and gave the book more final chapters than a geriatric rock band. Yet it was compelling even when I didn’t quite believe it. No doubt it will be a smash hit and spawn a Dateline special on black secret societies—even though that would entirely miss Carter’s point, which is: To what do we owe our greater allegiance—our independence or our community? Of course, the success of corporations depends on our attempts to do both—to act as team players while sating our individual greed. In the slicing new satire Then We Came to the End, Joshua Ferris makes the inspired decision to narrate his novel about fact, rumor, and existential angst using the collective “we.” “We” are the employees of an advertising agency, “buttressed by advanced degrees and padded by corporate fat,” who “loved killing

time and had perfected several ways of doing so.” “We” text our friends, graze Internet porn, and wander hallways clutching papers in a charade of busyness, searching for gossip and bagels. Then the dot-com bubble bursts, our client numbers decline and—one at a time, without rhyme or reason—“we” are fired. Some leave with dignity; others are frog-marched, legs kicking, out the door. “We” cluck our tongues with sympathy, relieved it wasn’t us, then pillage their offices for stuff we’ve coveted—swivel-ier chairs, mini-golf sets, dog-eared copies of Fast Company. The book begins as a series of apparently disconnected watercooler vignettes, which converge into two narrative threads: the struggle of Lynn, the boss, to find meaning in her life as she battles an illness; and the menacing actions of officeweirdo Tom. The novel hurtles toward its conclusion, making the reader queasy with dread despite giggling at the office high jinx. Then We Came to the End calls to mind Saul Bellow’s skinny masterpiece of fifty years before, which dealt with the same big existential question (“What is the point?”) and reached the same conclusion. In Seize the Day (1956), Tommy Wilhelm, despised by his father, brow-beaten by his wife, unemployed and broke, struggles and fails to get out of his own way due not to a poverty of pocket, but to a poverty of imagination and self-awareness. As Bellow once said, “A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.” Ferris would agree, considering his smart characters piddle away their days tweaking mediocre marketing campaigns for products they barely respect, though he’d term this practice (more concisely if less eloquently than Bellow) as “polishing the turd.” —Susan McCallum-Smith is Urbanite’s literary editor.

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The SoHo Effect continued from page 37 pretty well to take advantage of tax breaks,” she says. With the upswing in private investment and the fact that most artists rent and do not own, there are growing concerns over whether this will remain a truly inclusive neighborhood. “The goal of Station North is to balance the richness of having all kinds of people living in this community—artists who have common cause with the poor residents, and need a good place to live and work—and balance that against the real interest that this be a thriving place for people of all income levels to live,” Haragan says. “It’s a tricky line to walk.” J. Kirby Fowler Jr., who is now the president of the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, worked in the O’Malley administration five years ago when neighborhood groups applied for the Station North “arts district” designation. He counseled them through the process and later helped form Station North Arts and Entertainment, Inc., a board he

by Roulac Global Places, a California-based real estate consulting firm, the arts now represent at least four percent of our country’s asset base. “The arts represent eight trillion dollars,” he says. And folks want to live near artists in pedestrian-friendly communities. “The market reality is that there is far more demand for what I call walkable urbanism than there is supply,” Leinberger says. “And where there’s a lot of demand and little supply, prices go up.” Haragan and the board at Station North are sensitive to this. “There are these buildings in Baltimore that are traditional spaces to have affordable studios—H & H in West Baltimore, Copy Cat in Station North, and the Broom Factory in Canton,” Haragan says. “In our dreams, we would try to figure out how to preserve these privately owned buildings for the artists, but it’s not that clear to any of us now how to make that happen.” Leinberger is blunt. “Quite honestly, aside from selective intervention with tax-credit housing, you

New businesses seem to open every day in Station North: The Metro Gallery at the corner of Charles and Lanvale opened in June.

currently sits on. From the beginning, Fowler says, the goal was “gentrification without displacement.” The city has invested lots of “sweat equity” into helping condemn neglected properties and in offering streetscaping assistance. There are also plans to acquire additional vacant properties for redevelopment, he says. The Baltimore Development Corporation, for example, works with the community on streetscaping and property acquisition efforts and is looking to create more private-public investment opportunities. “A sea change is occurring,” says Paul J. M. Dombrowski, director of planning and design for the BDC. “I think the identity of the area as an arts district is encouraging a whole new clientele of investors. New people are looking at the area, people who would not have looked at it before.” With the neighborhood reaching a tipping point, the time may be ripe for additional public investment to ensure that Station North can succeed without displacing the very entities that make it a rich, vibrant urban neighborhood. It could be a wise investment for the city, particularly in light of the tangible and intangible impact artists have on urban areas, an impact that promises to increase in the coming years. Christopher B. Leinberger, a visiting fellow with the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution, has been analyzing the impact of the arts on the built environment. According to a study


urbanite july 07

just have to accept that this is a capitalist society,” he says. “If you create a place that’s special, it will go up in value.” There are some models, however, where government and nonprofit partnerships have worked to offset the SoHo effect. Both Leinberger and Crosse point to Paducah, Kentucky, a city that created an award-winning incentive program. In Paducah, the Artist Relocation Program, which is run in part by the city’s planning department, has enticed more than seventy artists from major cities all over the country to move to their downtown with incentives and tax breaks, including things like one-hundredpercent financing and a $2,500 grant for architectural services and other professional fees. Here in Baltimore, Station North Arts and Entertainment, Inc. is in conversation with Artspace, a Minneapolis nonprofit that has been similarly successful at developing properties in arts districts while preserving their affordability. Moving forward, Crosse is cautiously optimistic about the next five years. The arts district designation has given the various communities an outlet for a shared vision he says. “Now we need to do a better job of letting agencies know how they can help us make this vision a reality.” ■ —Elizabeth A. Evitts writes about architecture and design for the magazine.

The Score continued from page 49


lsop comes to the classical music world naturally. She was born in New York City, where her father, LaMar, was concertmaster for the New York City Ballet for thirty years and where her mother, Ruth, continues to play cello in that orchestra. “On a certain level, I guess I had no choice,” says Alsop, who started piano lessons when she was 2 and took up violin at the ripe old age of 6. “My parents were very music-oriented. It was hard for them to deviate from that focus.” She was 7 when she enrolled in the Juilliard pre-college division, playing violin in the prep orchestra. She continued to study violin through her school days—along with a detour into classical guitar in her teens—until she enrolled at Yale University in 1972 at the age of 16. “I was always interested in a lot of things,” she says. “Even now, I’m interested in sports, languages, literature. I probably would’ve been a math major at Yale if I’d stayed.” However, in her sophomore year Alsop realized that Yale wasn’t for her. “I was too young to manage that kind of intense environment,” she says. “I’m such a perfectionist, I needed to constantly get straight A’s just to be happy.” Moving back to New York, Alsop became involved in the New Music scene that was percolating there in the mid-1970s. At 17, she performed in the premiere of Steve Reich’s Violin Phase, a hypnotic example of “systems music” that consists of a single phrase played by four violins that slowly and subtly begin to move out of phase with one another during the piece’s sixteen-minute duration. “Minimalism was in its infancy,” she says of the period. “And I was always attracted to the music of my time, whether it was New Music, or jazz, or pop.” Soon, she was back at Juilliard, eventually graduating with a masters in violin performance at the age of 21. After that, she worked as a freelance violinist in New York, playing everything from classical concerts to jazz clubs to commercials, and eventually landed a gig with the Philip Glass Ensemble. However, in the back of Alsop’s mind, there was always a keen interest in conducting. “I’d always known I wanted to conduct,” she says. “It was just a question of figuring out a way to make the transition. I mean, it’s not as if people are about to pay you to conduct if you’ve never done it before.” So, while playing with the New York Philharmonic and the New York City Ballet, along with Broadway shows like Sweeney Todd and Showboat, Alsop began quietly training herself as a conductor on the side. This meant long nights studying scores, inviting friends over to her apartment for impromptu concerts with her at the baton, and volunteering to sub at recording sessions when the conductor was late or failed to show up. “I’d try to ingratiate myself and seize every opportunity,” she says. In 1979, she began taking conducting lessons in earnest with the late Carl Bamberger. But it soon became clear that if she wanted to pursue conducting, she was going to have to create an opportunity for herself. In 1984, she started the Concordia Orchestra, a group dedicated to presenting contemporary American classical music, jazz, and “crossover” orchestral works. Though Alsop is somewhat self-deprecating about Concordia—she says it was “moderately successful for eighteen years” and refers to it as “a bit of a vanity project, a little like self-publishing”—it was clearly important to her development. “It was a consistent outlet for me to experiment,” she says, though she acknowledges that putting together an ensemble from scratch, incorporating it as a nonprofit, and establishing a repertoire was a tremendous amount of work. “I don’t know that I’d want to do it now,” she says, “but I was 27 years old and had a lot more energy.” T he orchestra is still working on Dvorák. ˇ Alsop has disappeared off stage to quickly listen to a recording of the last section they had been working on. Without the maestra at the podium, the musicians wander about, shooting the breeze, checking out each other’s instruments, and making a glorious, disorganized noise, independently blowing, bowing, and beating out a cacophony vaguely reminiscent of the ending of the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life.” Finally, Alsop reappears, sipping a bottle of soda. Almost immediately the Meyerhoff becomes completely quiet. All eyes turn to the maestra.

“It really sounds great,” she says reassuringly. “But, violins, there’s really too much edge to the sound. If we could just vibrate a bit, especially in the fortissimo part.” She stares at the score for a moment and then continues. “I think the trumpets are correct and everyone else is wrong,” she says. “In bar 58, we’re simply late. Let’s do it one more time and then we’ll move on.” She raises her baton and then, almost as an afterthought, adds, “I promise.”

D espite the fact that she has been referred to as a “superb self-promoter,” Alsop has been quoted as saying, “I don’t feel the need to be liked.” As such, she can at times be a somewhat prickly subject to interview. For example, during our conversation, I toss Alsop a softball question about her style of conducting. “Your style has been described as ‘punchy’ and ‘energetic’…” I begin. “Who said that?” she interrupts. “Uh—well—various reviewers,” I stammer. “Well,” she says dismissively, “if you’re going to depend on the opinions of reviewers, I pity you.” O-o-o-kay. She continues, still sounding a wee bit annoyed. “I don’t think that there’s such a thing as specific styles. Of course, everyone’s different—it’s all about gesture and body language—but asking me about my ‘style’ is like me asking you, ‘How do you shake hands?’ You don’t know. It’s instinctual.” Later, by e-mail, Alsop directs me to a BBC link that broadcasts a recent performance of Bartok’s one-act opera Duke Bluebeard’s Castle that she conducted with the Bournemouth Symphony. During that concert, Alsop explicated—in a somewhat less crotchety manner—her views on conducting to the audience. “Part of my job as a conductor,” she said, “is to get into the inner psyche and get very close to these composers whose music I’m recreating for you. And I think it’s important to feel an intimacy with the composer. “Bernstein used to say to me that a composer spends his whole lifetime writing the same piece,” she continued. “And I understand that to mean that those fundamental questions that each of us has as human beings remain with us for our whole lives. And we try to answer them in so many different ways.” “Bernstein,” of course, is Leonard Bernstein, the famed composer and conductor of the New York Philharmonic. In 1988, after four years of developing her conducting chops with Concordia, Alsop won a conducting fellowship at the Tanglewood Music Center in Lenox, Massachusetts, where she became Bernstein’s student. Studying with Bernstein was a seminal moment for Alsop, who had been a fan of the late conductor ever since attending one of the Philharmonic’s children’s concerts when she was 9 years old. “It was one of those lifechanging relationships,” she says. “He was my idol growing up in New York. w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j u l y 0 7



urbanite july 07

He took on this legendary stature for me. And then I got to know him, and he was as great as I imagined. He validated who I was and was monumental in my development.” Alsop’s only regret is that their relationship was so shortlived; Bernstein died in 1990—only two years after they met—from a heart attack brought on by emphysema. The mentorship with Bernstein opened many doors for Alsop; it was in the same year that she was offered a full-time position as an associate conductor of the Richmond Symphony. Soon there were debuts with the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic; appointments as music director at the Eugene Symphony in Oregon and the Long Island Philharmonic; an appointment as music director of the Cabrillo Music Festival in Santa Cruz, which is dedicated to new music (a post she continues to hold); the music directorship at the Colorado Symphony; a position of creative conductor chair with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra; and finally, the gig at Bournemouth. In the years following Bernstein’s tutelage, “Things moved very quickly,” Alsop says. But while the Bernstein connection may have helped her professionally, it’s easy to see that his influence extended way beyond that for Alsop. Bernstein was, of course, a populist who blithely blurred the distinctions between high- and low-brow, the popular and classical. He was comfortable in the various worlds of Broadway, ballet, opera, and classical music. He also went out of his way to open up the rarified world of classical music to the general populace, in part through musical education—notably on the 1950s cultural television program Omnibus and his televised Young People’s Concerts from the Philharmonic. But he also made classical music accessible through a larger-than-life personality and an exuberant podium style. Upon his appointment as music director, he also, notably, pulled the New York Philharmonic out of its doldrums, improving its quality, revitalizing its repertory and attracting new audiences. Clearly, Alsop is following her mentor’s lead not only in her approach to her career but also in her selection of programming at the BSO. This is a season that manages to embrace both the time-honored and the avant-garde; the scholarly and the popular; the straightforward and the challenging. Though Alsop is dedicating a substantial part of the season to that old stalwart Beethoven (the orchestra will tackle all nine of the symphonies in a single season—a first for the BSO), his music will be nestled in among the sounds of eleven contemporary composers, including John Adams (of Nixon in China fame), Tan Dun (who won an Oscar for his score for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), and HK Gruber (whose opera/cabaret/performance art piece Frankenstein!! will arrive shortly before Halloween). Many of the composers will conduct their own works. There is also a populist pedagogy at work. Alsop has regularly offered what Meecham refers to as “Q-and-Alsops” after her concerts, but this year, the BSO will also offer a “Composers in Conversation” series, in which Alsop and each composer will head down the street to the Baltimore Theatre Project to have informal talks about the works. Meanwhile, Alsop—a fan of forensic television shows—has developed a two-night presentation called “CSI: Beethoven,” where she will chat with various experts about Beethoven’s physiological condition and how his deafness may have affected his later compositions. In true CSI form, she is even planning to have a lock of the composer’s hair in the lobby exhibition. Add to this old favorites such as Berliotz’s Symphonie Fantastique, Ravel’s “Concerto in G Major” and Mahler’s “Symphony No. 5,” mixed up with a showing of Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights (with the BSO playing Chaplin’s original score), members of Broadway’s Beatlemania performing orchestrated versions of the Fab Four’s greatest hits, and a Valentine’s Day weekend performance by Art Garfunkel, and you have a season that would have made Bernstein proud. Finally, Alsop, in true Bernsteinian fashion (remember dinner parties with the Black Panthers?), has already displayed a social conscience, something that should be de rigeur for arts leaders in a hardscrabble town with the second-highest murder rate in the United States. At a recent Johns Hopkins Community Breakfast, Alsop announced that it was her dream to create a kind of musical Big Brother-Big Sister program, where BSO

musicians would mentor at-risk Baltimore students for free, creating a mini-orchestra. “Music is a unifying language,” Alsop says when I ask her about the plan. “Everyone alive has access to this art form. That’s the philosophy behind all of this, and I believe it wholeheartedly.”

W hen I ask Alsop why she decided to take the job with the BSO, she answers sarcastically: “Because of the warm welcome they offered me.” Alsop is referring to a minor frisson that took place in 2005, soon after she was offered the position at the BSO. At that time, the seven musicians who served on the search committee balked at the news of her hire. They claimed that ninety percent of their fellow musicians believed that the search needed to continue. Rumors swirled around the reasons for the musicians’ displeasure. Eventually, Alsop offered an olive branch to the musicians by listening to their grievances. By most reports, the musicians now seem to be pleased with Alsop’s presence. “Morale is very high,” says Meecham. “You have to realize that two years ago this institution was hurting very badly. If an orchestra doesn’t seem to be working well then things can turn negative. I think that’s what happens if the finances aren’t stable—people get a little crazy.” From Alsop’s perspective, working with the BSO makes sense. “I felt that my guest-conducting here had been extremely successful,” she says. “I was impressed with the quality of the orchestra. Also, being from the East Coast— geographically, Baltimore appealed to me. “But there’s more to it than that,” Alsop continues. “I felt that I could bring certain things to the table. Like recordings—the orchestra hadn’t recorded in nine years. Also, its audience had fallen off and there was a general impression that things had become a bit stale. I felt that the orchestra was really good and I thought I could help them on their ascent. “It’s important,” she adds, “for me to feel like I can make a difference.”


ack at the Meyerhoff, Alsop has moved the orchestra twice through a portion of the finale. To the untrained ear, it sounds majestic, but Alsop is not content. “Winds, in 71, please don’t exaggerate that phrasing—ba da da …” She sings the part. “It’s not original, anyway. It’s more like ba-a-a-da-a-a-da-a-a … “And brass,” she says turning, “you can afford to articulate a bit more. I think it’s the room. Ready?” The orchestra moves through the section one more time. The winds indeed stretch out the part of the score she referred to and the brass section, standing almost at attention, hit their notes with a beautiful and clear eloquence. Alsop moves them through the piece’s effervescent ending, finishing on a final chord that she adeptly fades to stillness. The usually staid Alsop smiles broadly. “Perfect. Lovely.” she says. “Let’s move on.” ■

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65 Recommended Music: To hear MP3s of songs by Eva Castillo and her band and find out about their next show, go to the group’s MySpace page (www.myspace.com/ evacastillo). Magazine: Wholphin is available from www.wholphindvd. com and locally at Atomic Books (1100 West 36th Street; 410-662-4444; www.atomicbooks.com). Poetry: To order a copy of Morri Creech’s Field Knowledge, go to the publisher’s website at www.way wiser-press.com.

57 Shifting Gears Read more about the Bicycle Master Plan (and download its final version) at www.ci.baltimore. md.us/government/planning/bikeplan.html. Baltimore’s Velocipede Bike Project is located at 4 West Lanvale Street; go to www.velocipedebikeproject.org for contact information and shop hours. Read more about One Less Car’s mission and advocacy at www. onelesscar.org. Keep up on the construction of the East Coast Greenway at www.greenway.org. Read more about Ciclovia at www.ciclovia.org.

photo by Helen Sampson

44 Fresh Air For more information on how to naturally vent your own home, or for advice on how to make your home more energy efficient, contact EMO Energy Solutions (www.emoenergy.com; 703-205-0445). To learn more about the Winans’ Crimea Estate and Leakin Park, go to www.leakinpark.com. For more information on the Baltimore Chesapeake Bay Outward Bound Center, go to www.outwardboundcompass. org. To learn about the programs offered through Parks & People, go to www.parksandpeople.org.

To read about Baltimore’s Station North Arts and Entertainment District, see page 35.

What do our stories say about us? Coming Next Month: Guest Editor Marc Steiner, host of The Marc Steiner Show on WYPR, joins us as we look at the power of stories.

www.urbanitebaltimore.com w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j u l y 0 7


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(across from the Aquarium) 410.347.9898

breakfast lunch catering 400 East Pratt Street (across from the Aquarium) 410.347.9898

open Monday - Friday

open Monday - Friday 6:45 am - 4:00 pm 6:45 am - 4:00 pm www.bohemecafe.com www.bohemecafe.com

Baltimore artifacts.objects.

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full circle The Ron Howard Sales Team


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Operating Hours Mon. - Fri.: 7 am - 5 pm Sat: 9 am - 2 pm *Breakfast till 11 am, Lunch till 5 pm Brunch on Saturdays & Sundays: 9 am - 2 pm

1000 Hull Street Baltimore, MD 410 837 0073

You haven’t been to Lillies yet? Gourmet Food Beautiful View Daily Food and Drink Specials Ample Free Parking Hours: Mon-Fri 4-10pm Dinner Sat & Sun 11-3pm Brunch 3-11pm Dinner 500 Harborview Drive, Baltimore, MD 21230 Phone 410 230 0704

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urbanite july 07


If yo in e con at (4

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eye to eye

On first looking at this photograph, I was reminded of the interior paintings of Vermeer, a seventeenth-century Dutch artist. Without the people, of course. Perhaps it was the use of light, or the attention to the details of life, but on looking closer, I realized that what seems to be an ordinary situation is anything but. Perspective is all mixed up: the objects, flattened, inhabit place but not space. Rich MacDonald, a Baltimore artist who has been working at a Bronze Age burial tumulus in Albania the past four summers, says, “This photograph is part of an archaeologically inspired investigation into what objects—their function, origin, and relationship to one another—can reveal about their owners. Specifically, this process involves taking dozens of photographs—from varying, strategic positions in relation to the objects in each space—and integrating these pieces into a seamless, orthographic-view photo. The process shares much in common with that of surveying and mapmaking; the difference is that light fields, rather than 3-D coordinates, are the recorded entities.” —Alex Castro


urbanite july 07

Rich MacDonald Baltimore, Maryland 2005, 2006 Archival print 40 x 60 inches

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