Who Loves the Electric Car? • Downsizing the Arts • How to Feed a Mob june 2009 issue no. 60
STREET FIGHT The Future of Getting Around
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june 2009 issue no. 60
the transportation issue
the accelerator 30 keynote: electric vehicle advocate chelsea sexton on how to save the american auto industry interview by marc steiner
32 road rage
hang on: bike riders and drivers face off over the rules of the road.
named conspire 36 athestreetcar trolley disappeared from baltimore’s streets a half-century ago. has its time come again?
by michael anft and john ellsberry
departments note 7 editor’s long may you run
9 what you’re saying fashion faux pas
you’re writing 11 what getting there: goodbye to grandpa, a $10,000 ticket, and growing up too soon
this month: talking about race, a two-wheeled tour, and neighborhood parties
17 the goods: ziplines ahoy! plus: inuit eyewear, speed dating for babysitters, and vintage poster repair
23 baltimore observed life in the shadows
when immigrants are crime victims by jason policastro
this month online at www.urbanitebaltimore.com:
27 speak easy
recipe: matthew sercombe cuts down his asian coleslaw recipe
29 southern comfort
rants: more bikes vs. cars
retired restaurateur morris martick picks up the check. by michael anft
high schoolers help out in the big easy. by donna m. owens
a suburban home’s modern makeover
on the air: radio: urbanite on the marc steiner show, weaa 88.9 fm june 17: weighing the odds for a streetcar revival june 22: crime and the hispanic immigrant community june 24: chelsea sexton on our plug-in future
by amanda kolson hurley
49 the drawing board: no more highway to nowhere 51 eat/drink
here comes everybody
the strangely calm world of cooking for huge crowds by martha thomas
55 reviewed: la famiglia and zhongshan 57 wine & spirits: the big chill 59 the feed: this month in eating 61 art/culture
arts on the run
can cultural organizations weather the recession?
on the cover:
photo of car courtesy of www. smartusa.com; photo of bike by brion mccarthy, apparition studios; bike courtesy of light street cycles
by john barry
plus: a view of the patapsco, the trials of youth, and this month’s cultural calendar to eye 74 eye urbanite’s creative director, alex castro, on the night sky w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j u n e 0 9
Issue 60: June 2009 Publisher Tracy Ward Tracy@urbanitebaltimore.com Creative Director Alex Castro
Summer is the
General Manager Jean Meconi Jean@urbanitebaltimore.com Editor-in-Chief David Dudley David@urbanitebaltimore.com
season of choices
Managing Editor Marianne K. Amoss Marianne@urbanitebaltimore.com Senior Editor Greg Hanscom Greg@urbanitebaltimore.com Literary Editor Susan McCallum-Smith firstname.lastname@example.org Proofreader Robin T. Reid Contributing Writers Michael Anft, Scott Carlson, Charles Cohen, Mat Edelson, Lionel Foster, Clinton Macsherry, Tracey Middlekauff, Richard O’Mara, Andrew Reiner, Martha Thomas, Sharon Tregaskis, Michael Yockel, Mary K. Zajac
WOMEN USE THIS REJUVENATING TIME OF THE YEAR TO TRANSFORM THEIR APPEARANCE. Let our doctors and consultants guide you through the many choices. Stop by or call to learn more about our springtime beauty treatments.
Editorial Interns Natalie Sherman, Andrew Zaleski Design/Production Manager Lisa Van Horn Lisa@urbanitebaltimore.com Traffi c Production Coordinator Belle Gossett Belle@urbanitebaltimore.com Production Interns Shelby Silvernell, Tasha Treadwell Senior Account Executives Catherine Bowen Catherine@urbanitebaltimore.com Susan R . Levy Susan@urbanitebaltimore.com Lois Windsor Lois@urbanitebaltimore.com Account Executive Rachel Bloom Rachel@urbanitebaltimore.com
WE ALSO OFFER A VARIETY OF nOn-InVASIVE LASER TREATMEnTS FOR THOSE SUMMER LEgS.
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urbanite june 09
Founder Laurel Harris Durenberger Advertising/Editorial/Business Ofﬁ ces P.O. Box 50158, Baltimore, MD 21211 Phone: 410-243-2050; Fax: 410-243-2115 www.urbanitebaltimore.com Editorial inquiries: Send queries to email@example.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 2009, Urbanite LLC. All rights reserved. Urbanite (ISSN 1556-8105) is a free publication distributed widely in the Baltimore metropolitan area. To suggest a drop location for the magazine, please contact us at 410-243-2050. Postmaster: Send address changes to Urbanite Subscriptions, P.O. Box 50158, Baltimore, MD 21211.
photo by Lindsay Mize
courtesy of Joyce Hesselberth
contributors Illustrator Joyce Hesselberth is a founding partner of Baltimore-based design firm Spur Design. Her work has accompanied long-running columns in the Washington Post Magazine and Yoga Journal and has been recognized by American Illustration, Print, the Society of Publication Designers, and the Art Directors Club. Hesselberth also blogs about child-friendly activities at www.kidbaltimore.com. For this month’s Art/Culture feature (p. 61), she illustrated a report on the economic challenges faced by the city’s arts community with an image of a painter pursued by a saw blade. “It’s a serious topic, but there’s a little bit of playfulness that I think is fun to bring to the table,” she says. Jason Policastro is a PR coordinator at a major university in the D.C. area and a freelance writer who has focused on issues relating to crime in his native Baltimore. His work has appeared in the defunct Baltimore Examiner and the newly launched Investigative Voice. For his story “Life in the Shadows” (p. 23), Jason partnered with his friend, Colombia native Andres Bobadilla, who helped translate for Policastro as he stepped into the world of the undocumented immigrant day laborer.
As a good American,
I dutifully attend every auto show I can. The year’s version was held in the winter, a chrome-bright display of consumerist defiance amid that season’s flurries of economic woe. It was the first for my daughter, who, at 4, was just beginning a lifetime of automotive appreciation. She did what kids do at car shows: clambered around what we now know to be the world’s last new Pontiacs, demanded French fries, and looked in vain for the rumored live appearance of Barbie. The dads—and it was mostly dads—did what dads do: sit in as many cars as possible. It’s hard to explain what we are doing as we gaze appraisingly out these unfamiliar windshields, fiddling with knobs. Clearly we are not even remotely contemplating buying a car, if the automotive industry’s spectacular nosedive is to be interpreted correctly (the world’s largest carmaker, Toyota, reported losing $7.7 billion in the quarter that ended March 31, out-losing even General Motors). But we must still believe in them and what they represent: power, speed, beauty, freedom. Chelsea Sexton, the electric vehicle advocate who talks to Marc Steiner in this month’s “Keynote” interview (“The Accelerator,” p. 30), notes with some frustration that this “innate Route 66 cultural thing” has contributed to the American resistance to limited-range electric vehicles. We want to be able to haul ass and put some serious distance between our problems and ourselves. Running out of juice after 40 miles just doesn’t do the job. Puzzling over the logic-defying market for gut-busting SUVs, the great Los Angeles Times automotive critic Dan Neil coined the term “contingency anxiety” to explain the disconnect between our vehicles’ capabilities and the way in which they are typically used. Definition: “The fear that one day, someday, you will be called upon to do something extraordinary in your vehicle.” Given our typical transportation needs, even a sensibly scaled modern car is a wildly over-engineered appliance, its tonnage and brawn glorious overkill. Most urban autos spend their lives poking around car-choked city streets at average speeds that hover just above a fast jog, toting a sole occupant about in imperial splendor. If logic were our only guide, we’d all ride bicycles and Segways and cheerfully subsidize mass transit. But to deny the allure of the idea of the private automobile is to deny human nature. Currently India and China are racing to crank out enough crude little proto-cars to satisfy the nascent automotive lusts of their huge populations. The planet shudders, but they’re coming anyway. So, like the addicts we clearly are, let’s first admit that we are powerless before our disease. Car freaks, accept that your sweet rides extract a hideous toll, and start to use them accordingly. Likewise, mass transit partisans should understand that their visions of a carfree future (or the sylvan car-less past) are at odds both with the current reality of Baltimore City, which is no longer dense enough to support the public transportation system it once boasted, and with something fundamental in the American character: the enshrinement of personal mobility as an inalienable right. An enlightened transportation future, in other words, might require both sides to abandon some of their cherished myths. In that get-along spirit, here’s a quick exercise in driver’s education. In “A Streetcar Named Conspire” (p. 36), Michael Anft and John Ellsberry examine the prospects for an electric rail revival and discover that neither past nor present are exactly what they seem. We also asked bicycle riders to open a (mostly) polite dialogue with their motorized counterparts over how to properly share the right of way (“Road Rage,” p. 32). In a more perfect Baltimore, there would be room for us all—bike commuters, transit riders, and even the dead-enders in their Pontiacs—collectively yearning for that glimpse of open American road. —David Dudley
Is it getting hot in here? Coming Next Month: Sex and the city 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 n e 0 9
Art on Purpose presents
LIFE’S HARDEST THINGS Join us for the opening event at
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Celebrate art and issues important to Baltimore City youth. Featuring work from dozens of Baltimore City middle and upper school students from Art on Purpose’s Art Leadership program at four city schools—Afya Public Charter School, Baltimore Freedom Academy, Civitas School, and Learning Inc. Using art to bring people together around issues and ideas For more information www.artonpurpose.org This advertisement made possible by:
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urbanite june 09
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what you’re saying
photo by Chris Rebbert
ery $100 million in venture capital targeted to green industries, approximately 250,000 new jobs could be created. Thus, if our nation accelerated the emerging transition to a cleaner economy, millions of jobs associated with the construction of green buildings and alternative energy could be created. As exciting as these projections may be, they will only become reality if each of us as individual consumers make the decision to change how we live, and build sustainable practices into what we do every day. New jobs—be they green collar, blue collar, or some other color—really don’t grow on trees. Our willingness to reduce, reuse, and recycle will help to create the demand that is the only surefire way to guarantee the creation of green jobs—jobs that could offer many Baltimore residents the chance to be productively working and better able to support themselves and their families. A Fashion Don’t I was disappointed with “The Goods” section in the May magazine. While a few of the finds were fabulous (the turquoise sandals from Ma Petite Shoe), I was mostly just bored with the maxi dresses, seersucker suit, and seersucker bikini. Anyone in Baltimore who wants to wear Lilly Pulitzer likely already knows where to find it. I was disappointed that your magazine didn’t use the opportunity to expose readers to affordable and unique finds outside of the Northern Baltimore neighbors you showcased. There are plenty of great stores in my neighborhood of Federal Hill—Zelda Zen, with its fabulous and affordable jewelry and gifts, and babe and Whimsy/Reason, which both offer unique, fashionable, and reasonably priced apparel. Given the precarious economic situation facing most Baltimore residents, I would have expected the column to be done with a little more consideration for the city’s “ressionistas.”
he can’t help but wonder why society abandons or ignores children who act the way he once did.” My thought is—now brace yourself— that capitalism maintains an underclass, white or black, and its “safety net” is never so airtight that many don’t fall through. The criminal justice system I owe my salary to puts the small frys away so that society is fooled into thinking something is being done against crime. Even though a few big guys are caught— like Madoff, the Ponzi scheme guy—in my view most politicians and persons in power maintain a basically unfair system. And those on the right—fundamentalists, Limbaugh, or WBAL radio types—get sucked in by this scheme every time, attacking liberals and the left with whom they could be partners in a struggle to change things. —Dave Eberhardt, Baltimore
—Noelle Evans, Baltimore
From the eds.: We second your enthusiasm for Federal Hill retailers (we profiled babe in March 2008 and Whimsy/Reason in August 2008). Look for us to add more stores in different city neighborhoods to our next shopping guide, coming in August.
I read with interest your recent article “A Greener Shade of Blue” (April), which highlighted the emerging growth in Baltimore City of green or environmentally driven employment opportunities. As policy makers and citizens-at-large have made it a priority to promote a sustainable, environmentally responsible future, not surprisingly, there has been heightened interest on what impact these efforts may have on the job market. As reported in a November 2007 Time magazine story, the Cleantech Group, an organization that tracks green investment, conducted a 2007 study indicating that for ev-
Crime Story Re: the fine book review of Eager Street by Andrew Zaleski (May): As one who has worked on Eager Street for thirty years (at the jail), I was struck by one comment: “Jones says that
—Jeffrey Smith, Nottingham Use the Force While our family lives in the county, we have been aware of Debra Evans’ work for many years (“A Better Tomorrow,” February). She’s a force to be reckoned with, someone who embraces diversity in every form and loves people both for who they are and what they can become. Same thing for the city: She sees what is there and loves it. But she goes further. She not only believes it can become something better, but is also willing to do what it takes to make sure that is so. —Deborah Plutzik Briggs, Hunt Valley Correction We neglected to credit three photographs in the May story “The Invisible City.” John Ellsberry took the photo at the top of page 45. J.M. Giordano took the photo at the bottom of page 45 and the photo on page 47. Urbanite regrets the error.
We want to hear what you’re saying. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or send your letter to Mail, Urbanite, P.O. Box 50158, Baltimore, MD 21211. Please include your name, address, and daytime phone number. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.
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urbanite june 09
410-878-3087 • bwmc.umms.org I-97 & Route 100-Exit 15
photo by Tasha Treadwell
what you’re writing
GETTING THERE Six months before Grandpa died, my brother drove him down to the Cape. My dad had rented a house on one of the freshwater ponds nestled between the ocean and the bay side of the New England peninsula. My grandmother had been gone almost a year, and for Grandpa, at 90, life had turned into the challenge of filling up the hours of each lonely day. It was brave of him to leave his familiar routine and travel to a place reminiscent of a time he and Grammy had spent together, raising their five children. I wondered if he thought it might be his last time visiting the Cape. The days were lazy and easy. My father and I swam laps around the pond, peering down, imagining what lived below the point where the water grew colder and darker. All the while, Grandpa rocked in his chair on the wooden porch with the sun easing him into sleep. As I dried my skin in the sun, I woke Grandpa and asked him if he had seen me swimming. He told me that I looked like a beautiful mermaid. I kissed his soft, aged cheek and told him that I loved him. On Grandpa’s last day at the Cape, my mother and I drove him to his favorite beach on the bay side. He shuffled over to a bench and sat looking out over the gentle, rippled water. The sun was beginning to set, and seagulls soared up and down in the early evening air. Grandpa sat quietly, watching the day end. He was ready to return home. That night on the porch, I sat with my mother reflecting on Grandpa’s visit. We
spoke in hushed tones, keeping the noisy summer frogs and crickets from hearing us. For the first time, my mother talked freely about when my grandmother was sick. She said that Grandpa would sit by my grandmother’s bed and just cry. “Don’t wait too long, dear,” was what my mother heard Grammy tell him just days before she died. Tears stung my eyes, warm and salty, sliding down my cheeks to my lips. I squeezed my mother’s hand, and we were still, quietly knowing that Grandpa was well on his way to getting there. —Susan Avillo Scherr is a gerontological nurse practitioner residing in Baltimore City.
Getting there was always a challenge when I was working in the Middle East as a Baltimore Sun correspondent in the 1970s and 1980s. To get from one side of the Arab-Israeli conflict to another, you had to go through a neutral country. The nearby Mediterranean island of Cyprus was a favored transit point. Cyprus had nice beaches. The food was good. The culture was interesting, with an ethnic Greek majority population that mixed (not always happily) with the minority ethnic Turkish community. The Ledra Palace Hotel in the capital, Nicosia, was a handsome throwback to the era of British rule. One could sip a brandy sour poolside oblivious to the underlying historic enmity between the Greek and Turkish populations.
On July 15, 1974, all that changed. A group of Greek nationalists seeking annexation to Greece overthrew the non-aligned regime of Archbishop Makarios. Inevitably, Turkey would act to prevent a full Greek takeover of the island. Every correspondent in the region needed to be there, but the airport was closed. In Beirut, we searched desperately for a way to the war zone. Finally, we found a rusty old tanker whose captain agreed to take us to the Cyprus port of Limassol for $10,000 cash. I gave him the money, and a mob of international correspondents clamored onto this tub for the overnight voyage. At Limassol at sunrise the next day, the Cypriot port chief demanded to know who we were and what we wanted. “We are here to see Nikos Sampson,” replied an indignant British correspondent, using the name of the coup leader. The cop shrugged and placed us in a local hotel under armed guard. The next day, we enraged journalists dared the guards to shoot us and bribed a bus driver to take us to the Ledra Palace Hotel in Nicosia. We would be the hotel’s last civilian guests. At dawn on July 20, Turkey invaded the island with a 30,000man force. The fighting raged even on the grounds of the hotel, which was evacuated and now is the headquarters of the U.N. peacekeeping force. My expense account for that month had this item: “Freighter to Cyprus: $10,000. No receipt.” Eventually I collected money from everyone on the boat to repay the Sun, but the suspicion that I had somehow made a profit on the deal dogged me for years. What ingratitude! —G. Jefferson Price III retired from the Baltimore Sun in 2004 after a thirty-five-year career as reporter, foreign correspondent, and editor. He lives on a horse farm in Glyndon.
Even though it is a clear night under a full moon, there are no other diners on the patio besides the four of us. It is quiet, and the air feels sharp. The downtown district of D.C. sleeps around us. If there were a head to this table, Sharmi would be sitting there. She used to be the mother of our bunch. Beside her is Brian, the nice guy who always hailed cabs and opened doors. Across from me sits Neal, our lovable clown. But we are no longer the rec-league coed soccer team reputed to forfeit games because too many of our players were hungover. Dinner once consisted of 25-cent wings at some bar right after the 5 p.m. w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j u n e 0 9
He thinks he’s just slowing down with age. * * * What he doesn’t know is that shakiness and stiffness are both early signs of Parkinson’s. He doesn’t know that he’ll become a patient of the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center, where an experienced team and the latest medications will enable him to manage his symptoms for a number of years. And he doesn’t know that when the time is right he’ll have Deep Brain Stimulation surgery to significantly improve his quality of life.
N E U R O S C I E N C E S
w e h e a l . w e t e a c h . w e d i s c o v e r. w e c a r e .
umm.edu / p a rkin so n s | 800 - 492 - 5 5 3 8
exodus from our respective offices. We’d figure out what each person owed, reminding each other to add tax and tip, and then stumble back to our group houses or rent-controlled apartments. We could rarely afford cabs. We’d joke about what we’d do once we had money— the home we’d decorate, the vacation we’d take. We talked about the bosses we were sure we were smarter than and plotted ways to get ourselves in their desks in three years’ time. Now, Sharmi has a company expense account that reimburses her up to $65 a meal, Brian is late because he couldn’t leave work before 8 p.m., and Neal is training employees beneath him and waiting to apply for his MBA. We discuss renovating the homes we just bought and where to invest our retirement funds. We no longer worry about muggings because we live in the nice parts of town. Stories of flirtations and hook-ups are now replaced with stories of how we met “the one.” In the open space, I feel choked. I want to retreat to that place where we used to say “one day,” not “right now.” Instead, I drink the sauvignon blanc Brian chose because of its vintage and take an appropriate-sized bite out of our shared appetizers. I nod at my friends’ recounts of the last four months of their lives. I slide into a role I’m not sure fits, but it’s the only one that’s left when you’ve arrived where you’re supposed to be.
Did you hear about the great deal I got on my new car?
—Annie Nguyen, an English professor at the Community College of Baltimore County, lives in Fells Point.
“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 previously unpublished, nonfiction submissions that include contact information can be considered. We reserve the right to edit heavily for space and clarity, but we will give you the opportunity to review the edits. You may submit under “name withheld” to keep your essay anonymous, but you do need to let us know how to contact you. If you’ve already changed the names of the people involved, please let us know. Only one submission per topic, please. Send your essay to Urbanite, P.O. Box 50158, Baltimore, MD 21211, or e-mail it to WhatYoureWriting@urbanitebaltimore.com. Submissions should be shorter than four hundred words. Because of the number of essays we receive, we cannot respond individually to each writer. Please do not send originals; submissions cannot be returned. Topic
Tall Tale Hard Lesson Shelter
June 8, 2009 Aug 2009 July 14, 2009 Sept 2009 Aug 10, 2009 Oct 2009 w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j u n e 0 9
Sure. Everybody knows where to go for a great deal.
You need this. More fun. Less money. Maryland Mountains.
A family stroll along the C&O Canal.
Ride the legend and enjoy a 32 mile round trip on the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. Enjoy first class dining, caboose charters, murder mystery and Christmas Trains. Excursions run May - December. Call for group and Fall Foliage specials. 1-800-TRAIN-50 or visit www.wmsr.com
Family Adventure At Rocky Gap Resort
Rocky Gap Resort has placed the Family Adventure Vacation within your reach by giving you the choice of booking more than 20 great adventures on-line with your package. Free night lodging with three and five day stays. 1-800-724-0828 or visit www.rockygapresort.com
urbanite june 09 12050 ACT Urbanite June.indd 1
5/4/09 2:15:29 PM
Talking About Race
June 4, 7 p.m.
As the second event in its new series “Talking About Race,” Open Society Institute-Baltimore brings University of Maryland law professor and civil rights lawyer Sherrilyn Iﬁll together with journalist Gwen Iﬁll—yes, they’re cousins—for a discussion called “Talking About Race Now: How to Build Success Without Forgetting the Struggle.”
Enoch Pratt Free Library 400 Cathedral St. 410-234-1091 www.soros.org
Charles Village Festival
There’s no parade or 5K run this year, but the party is still on: The 13th annual Charles Village Festival includes a tour of neighborhood gardens, kids’ activities, beer and wine, food, and two stages of live music.
29th and Charles sts. www.charlesvillagefestival.com
Don your best beehive for HonFest, Hampden’s irony-soaked annual celebration of working-class Baltimoreana. There’s the annual Miss Hon competition, an art contest, live music, food and wares from local businesses, and more.
36th St. between Falls Rd. and Chestnut Ave. www.honfest.net
Tour Dem Parks
Get a bike’s eye view of Baltimore’s green spaces on the annual Tour Dem Parks ride. Cyclists can choose a 12-, 20-, 35-, or 64-mile ride through Patterson, Carroll, Clifton, and Druid Hill parks, plus some lesser-known spots. The event, which beneﬁts local friends-of-parks groups and nonproﬁts, ends with a barbecue and live music.
Ride begins and ends in Carroll Park in southwest Baltimore $35 adults, $50 adult couples, $15 children up to 16, $5 children up to 10 www.tourdemparks.org
Every year, a few blocks of Charles Street in Mount Vernon turn into the exuberant Baltimore Pride parade and block party. Also that weekend are the Twilight on the Terrace party at the Baltimore Museum of Art on Friday night and Sunday’s Baltimore Pride Festival in Druid Hill Park.
The Inner Harbor becomes a beach for the annual City Sand competition, where designers and architects compete to create the best sand sculpture. This year’s theme is “Edgar Allan Poe.” Kids can build their own castles in a special sandbox; after the awards ceremony, the party continues until 11 p.m. with live music.
Harborplace Amphitheater (between the Pratt St. and Light St. pavilions) www.harborplace.com 410-332-4191
Photo credits from top to bottom: photo by Bruce Weller; photo by Rory Flanagan; courtesy of Marty Katz; photo by Chris Jones; courtesy of Baltimore Pride; courtesy of Harborplace & The Gallery
w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j u n e 0 9
Your favorite seagulls want you to call
1-877-BAYSPAN orvisit BAYBRIDGE.COM
Check in before you leave to cross the Bay Bridge for current traffic conditions.
Martin O’Malley Governor
Anthony Brown Lt. Governor
Don’t wing it. Plan ahead. 16
urbanite june 09
It Takes a Village
photo by Tasha Treadwell
The best thing about Village Coffee and Tea in historic Dundalk (3 Commerce St.; 410-285-7270; www.villagecoffeehouse.blogspot.com), says owner LieAnne Navarro, is the clientele—from the kids wanting hot chocolate after school to retirees from the bank next door. “There’s a variety of different people that come in, and they have to rub elbows with each other.” Some regulars, Navarro says, come in several times a day: “It’s the unofficial living room.” A native of California and a selfdescribed “coffee geek,” Navarro, 21, purchased the shop last March. Village offers a variety of coffees, including organic and farm-direct (and the secret recipe Dundalk Blend), all roasted by Highlandtown’s High Grounds. In true coffee shop style, there are board games and free Wi-Fi, plus weekly open-mic and music nights. When no official entertainment is on the bill, customers often pick a tune on the guitar that hangs on a wall. —Marianne K. Amoss
Need someone to restore that Rosie the Riveter poster to its 1940s glory? Look no further than Sei Petersen and the Poster Repair Company (1810 Maryland Ave.; 410-5917758; www.posterrepaircompany.com). Petersen learned the craft from his print dealer stepfather and, in 1988, began returning vintage posters to their original splendor. Poster restoration is an intensive process: Peterson soaks the poster in a de-acidifying bath to remove dirt or stains, then wet-mounts it onto a sheet of rice paper, which is then affixed to cotton or canvas backing. For a typical 27-by40-inch poster, he charges $50 for mounting, with a $40an-hour restoration fee. See the website for a full listing of rates; poster restoration by appointment only. —Andrew Zaleski before (above) and after (right)
courtesy of Poster Repair Company
photo by Nancy Froehlich
Eyes Wide Shut Maverick and Goose rocked aviators. Kanye West sports shutter shades. But the latest in eyewear fashion was popular long before Tom Cruise sat in an F-14 cockpit. Behold slanties (www.slanties.com), handcrafted sunglasses based on those worn by ancient Inuits on the Arctic tundra. The specs, made from wood and reinforced with fiberglass, hit the Baltimore scene in April as a project by four local artists—Ben Turner, Gabriel Snyder, Erin Barry-Dutro, and Heidi Gustafson—who produce every pair of slanties in Turner and Gustafson’s home basement. “They’re conceptually different,” Turner says. “Their function is minimal, but slanties’ impact and visual presence is bold and confrontational.” The artists only plan to make slanties through this summer; buy them online at the slanties store for $75 in mahogany, maple, walnut, or padauk. —A.Z. w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j u n e 0 9
urbanite june 09
High Wire Act
courtesy of Terrapin Adventures
The Terrapin Adventures challenge course in Savage, Maryland (8600 Foundry St.; 301-725-1313; www.terrapinadventures.com), is a jungle gym on steroids. There’s a 330-foot zip line, a 43-foot climbing tower, and ropes courses four stories high with names like “Heebie-Jeebie” and “Leap of Faith.” Co-owner Matt Baker says he came up with the idea in 2004 while touring the rainforest in Costa Rica. He spent four years planning, then quit his job as a health care consultant in time for the April opening. The business, located in the Savage Mill antiques mall (the challenge course is in the old millrace outside), caters to businesses trying to build team spirit, moms and dads who can’t abide birthday parties at Chuck E. Cheese, and anyone looking for a little guided adventure. Terrapin also offers mountain bike and kayak tours, nature hikes, and river tubing. The goal, says Baker, is “clean, outdoor fun.” —Greg Hanscom
The Gift of Time
photo by Tasha Treadwell
Now celebrating its 70th year, Gundy’s Gifts (739 Deepdene Rd.; 410323-3388) dates back to a store that opened on Park Heights Avenue in 1939. Current owner Diane Lochte, who has worked at the store for twenty-eight years, calls Gundy’s a “mini department store”—one-stop shopping for everything from serving bowls to shaving kits, with jewelry at the counter and gift wrapping at the back. “We know our customers by name,” she promises. Some recent finds: tiny, shiny, hot pink baby mocs from Trumpette; beaded and animal-print miniskirt aprons from Heavenly Hostess; and a generous selection of crab-related gifts for the summertime vacationer doling out Baltimore-themed gewgaws. “People truly come in on their way to a party or a function,” Lochte says. “You can find a present, get it wrapped, and be gone, all in five minutes.” —Sondra Guttman
A standard “speed date” is three minutes, but some relationships need more time. Enter Sitters Connect LLC . The new Catonsville-based company organizes events that function like networking socials, bringing collegeage babysitters and families together in a single location for seven-minute interviews. Other businesses also match sitters to families, but Sitters Connect owner and founder Barbara Miller says allowing parents to vet wouldbe sitters themselves is more likely to produce a satisfactory outcome. “The whole crux of this business is the social relationship,” Miller says. “I wouldn’t just let a company pick someone out, because they don’t know my kids.” Since the launch in December, Miller has hosted three events for about thirty clients total (and found a summer sitter for her three boys, ages 8,10, and 13). To register for an event ($75 for parents, free for potential sitters), go to www.sittersconnect.com. —Natalie Sherman
photo by digitalskillet | istockphoto.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 n e 0 9
SPEC IAL SPO N SO R E D S E CTI ON
FREE RIDE Looking for a better way to get around downtown? Starting late this summer, the city’s new ﬂeet of hybrid buses will be going your way. a brand-new transportation system is coming to the downtown area late this summer 2009. to better connect Baltimore residents, workers, businesses, and visitors, twentyone hybrid ecosaver IV buses will circulate on three downtown routes, seven days a week—with no fare or boarding fee. the circulator routes will run south to north from the Inner harbor Visitor center to Penn station, and east to west from harbor east to the B&O Railroad museum. With buses arriving approximately every ten minutes, the circulator system is planned to connect with amtrak, maRc, Light Rail, metro subway, mta bus lines, two water connectors (maritime Park to tide Point and canton Waterfront Park to tide Point), and parking garages located on the fringes of downtown. each new ecosaver IV bus uses hybrid technology, cutting greenhouse gas emissions by half. as part of mayor sheila Dixon’s vision for a “cleaner, Greener, healthier, and safer Baltimore,” the downtown circulator joins other transit-related initiatives—including building more bike lanes and on-street bicycle parking, developing the Jones Falls trail, and repairing city streets through Operation Orange cone. the backbone of any great city is transportation. By expanding and increasing the effectiveness of Baltimore’s current and future transportation routes, these programs will be able to enrich the city across the board—by promoting business, tourism, and overall community involvement.
For proposed downtown routes and more information, visit www.yournameyourride.com.
urbanite june 09
Mayor Sheila Dixon talks about how the downtown circulator ﬁts in with a cleaner and greener Baltimore. Q: What will visitors, residents, workers, and others in Baltimore see unfolding within the next couple of months? a: We’re excited. For close to two years, we’ve felt it was important to come up with a way for visitors as well as residents to get around in the downtown area. We want to show them that we can get them out of the car and make it easy to get from Point a to Point B. connecting to the circulator will help you to look at an alternative, whether it’s Light Rail or metro subway or the maRc train from D.c. We have now an increase of tourists coming to the city, and we
want to help try to make it easier for them.
Q: How long did it take to get this part of your “Cleaner, Greener, Healthier, and Safer Baltimore” initiative to shift from your dream to a reality? a: We started this effort in spring 2007, and in a little bit more than two years, the concept came to reality.
Q: How will the circulator help Baltimore residents and those who work in the city? a: By taking public transportation and connecting to the circulator, you can save on gas and wear and tear on your car. We hope that people who might not
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normally take the Light Rail or subway might say, ‘hey, I’m going to park my car and try it out,’ when they ﬁnd out that they can hop on this free bus once they get into the city. Because of the routes that we designed within the new system, you could save time in your commute and save money on parking. the circulator will also help businesses that run within the line.
Q: Baltimore will be the ﬁrst city in the nation with a hybrid shuttle ﬂeet. How does the presence of this ﬂeet ﬁt into the City’s other sustainability initiatives? a: One huge initiative that we are working on is a community compact. We are about to design the Red Line [a 14-mile east-west transit line running from the Johns hopkins Bayview medical center to Woodlawn]. We’ve been working on it now for the
past year and a half. It’s been a long-term initiative, but when it’s ﬁnished, we will have another great mode of transportation to connect with the circulator. the water connector is another connecting piece: If you live in Locust Point, you can take the water connector to one point and then get on the circulator to get down to the B&O Railroad museum or go down to canton. hopefully, people will start taking the circulator and thinking about other ways to get around than just getting in the car. We’d like to reduce the number of singleoccupant vehicles that go into the downtown area. this service has that potential. the circulator also will help us in achieving another goal. We’d like to make downtown more pedestrian-friendly—particularly by pulling vehicles off the road. all of this is wrapped around the environment, and making it better and safer in the downtown area.
Baltimore City Department of Transportation Director Al Foxx explains how the circulator works. Q: How were the three circulator routes and two water connector routes determined? a: the routes that we picked needed to go where we had the greatest potential to decrease congestion and where the parking opportunities were. Before we ﬁnalized the three routes, we talked to businesses, parking authorities, and other stakeholders and community leaders. We wanted to have the connectivity between parking venues, tourists, and businesses to get to one another.
Q: Will the EcoSaver IV hybrid buses on the circulator lines replace the buses currently running with the MTA? a: no, they will not. this circula-
tor service will supplement the mta. the mta does a good job getting people to the downtown area. Once people are in the downtown area, we want them to be able to get around.
Q: The City estimates that the average annual operating cost for the three proposed circulator routes will be approximately $5 million. How does this operating cost match up to similar bus lines that other cities are currently running? a: We went to other municipalities that run a similar service and looked at their costs, and $5 million is pretty much in line. We did a comparative analysis to make sure that we were in line with what the norm was.
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baltimore observed a l s o i n b a lt i m o r e o b s e r v e d :
27 Speak Easy
29 Southern Comfort Baltimore students help out in the Big Easy.
photo by Tasha Treadwell
For Morris Martick, the bar is closed.
Jumped: On the streets of Baltimore, criminals often prey on Hispanic immigrants.
Life in the Shadows Eduardo Gutierrez was stepping lightly. It was a spring evening in 2005. He had just picked up a chicken dinner at Popeye’s on the corner of Fayette and Broadway and was heading home after a long day spent painting houses. In his wallet, he had $200—two days’ wages. Then Gutierrez, whose name has been changed for this article, heard footsteps behind him. When he turned and saw a man sprinting in his direction, he moved to the edge of the sidewalk to give the man room to pass. An instant later he was jarred to the concrete, an arm around his throat and a fist in his side. He looked down to see the feath-
ers from his down jacket exploding into the air. His attacker had a knife and was trying to stab him. “I thought, ‘This is it, I am going to die,’” Gutierrez says. “I could only think of my daughters.” He had come to the United States from Honduras in 2001, when they were just 3 and 6, to earn higher wages that he could send home to them. As he lay sprawled on the cold concrete, he was convinced that he had seen their faces for the last time. The attacker dragged Gutierrez to his feet, with the knife held against his side. A woman appeared, punched him in the mouth, and ripped the chicken dinner from his hand. The man took his wallet. Finally, Gutierrez was able to break free and escape, largely unharmed.
Asked if he notified police of the attack, Gutierrez replies, “No. What’s the point?” Crime targeting Hispanic immigrants made headlines last May, when a 19-yearold Guatemalan man named Carlos Adolfo Santay-Carillo was stabbed to death at a Catonsville gas station while on the way to the hospital for the birth of his son. But for every crime that makes headlines, Gutierrez says there are dozens that go unreported. He says his girlfriend’s purse was snatched by a group of adolescents, one brandishing a knife, while he struggled to unlock his front door. His girlfriend’s son was smacked in the mouth with a pipe, losing three teeth. A friend and fellow Honduran has been attacked four times in the past three years, Gutierrez says, most recently by a group of w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j u n e 0 9
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urbanite june 09
baltimore observed Paper Cuts
u p d at e
eight men just steps from his house near file complaints against officers if necessary. Patterson Park. And the federal Immigration and Customs Hispanic immigrants are frequently Enforcement agency has mounted a national targeted for street crime in American cities. billboard campaign called “Hidden In Plain Day laborers operate in a shadow economy, Sight,” which encourages citizens to report where they are often paid under the table, suspected human trafficking. in cash. Many are in the country illegally Here in Baltimore, the city State’s Attorand are reluctant to use U.S. banks or report ney’s Office last August hired Evelyn Vargas, crime to the police for fear of deportation. In a bilingual advocate, to help immigrant crime neighborhoods like Upper Fells Point, home victims access the city’s legal system. Vargas to many of Baltimore’s new Hispanic resivisits victims in hospitals, helps them navidents, Friday is payday and the worst day to gate the courts, and runs workshops designed be caught in the street; predators know their to help recent immigrants avoid being tarpockets are full. geted for street crime. In October, her office Immigrants’ rights groups point out that sponsored a forum that drew police, service the federal and state governments, as well providers, clergy, community leaders, and as local police, have an obligation to protect concerned citizens. As a result, Vargas says people whether they’re that more victims in this country legally or are contacting her not. In 2000, Congress “We are collaborating with for assistance, and passed a law that promforums are being the police department, the planned across ised visas to immigrant crime victims who aided the city. schools, the community police investigations. But Still, as the this February, the AsHispanic populacenters, even attending sociated Press reported tion in the city festivals to educate the that while more than continues to grow 13,000 immigrants had (Elizabeth Alex esLatino community on the agreed to cooperate, timates that there options that are available only 65 had received viare 22,000 Hispansas, known as “U visas,” living in Baltito them,” says Evelyn Vargas, ics in return. more), mistrust of “I think the biggest a bilingual advocate with the the criminal justice barrier to educating the system persists. city State’s Attorney’s Office. “We are collaboratimmigrant community about U visas and their ing with the police “The need is huge.” rights as victims of crime department, the is the fundamental lack schools, the comof trust that members of this community munity centers, even attending festivals to have for the police department,” says Elizaeducate the Latino community on the opbeth Alex, senior manager of the Baltimore tions that are available to them,” Vargas says. office of CASA de Maryland, the state’s largest “The need is huge.” immigrant advocacy group. On a bright Saturday morning in FebruBaltimore City Police Department ary, a crowd of mostly Hispanic men gather spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi says both at the 7-Eleven on South Broadway, huddling the police department and the mayor’s office in small groups, waiting for a work truck to have Hispanic liaisons—and that city police pull in and offer a day’s work. These men leave federal law enforcement up to federal have been deceived many times, and the presofficials. “There are agencies that do immience of a reporter with a notepad draws hard gration. There are agencies that do policing stares. But slowly, they begin to tell their stoon the streets,” Guglielmi says. “We like to ries—stories of being cheated out of a day’s stay in our lane.” work, of having their homes invaded, their In other cities, bridging the gap berelatives attacked. The prevailing sentiment tween immigrants and law enforcement has is that the Hispanic immigrant community is generated some creative thinking. The Hiscompletely ignored. panic Interest Coalition of Alabama, based “It is good that we are talking to him,” in Birmingham, set up a 24-hour Spanish a man named Leonel says of the reporter. language crime victim hotline that helped “Maybe someone will help us.” ■ solve the murders of five Hispanic men last —Jason Policastro August. Fairfax County, Virginia, Police Chief David Rohrer has created “citizen police Andres Bobadilla translated interviews for academies” to teach immigrants about what this story. police do, how to report crimes, and how to
Here’s a headline you may have seen before: “More Layoffs at the Baltimore Sun.” (See Urbanite, Feb. and Sept. 2008.) Ten years ago, the Sun employed about 420 people in its newsroom. As of May, that figure is down to 148. Sixty-one editors, reporters, photographers, and designers were shown the door on April 28 and 29. Some veterans were told to leave the building in the midst of editing stories; others learned of their firings only when their computer accounts were deactivated. The cuts preceded a major newsroom reorganization, with traditional roles giving way to novel new job titles such as “director of audience engagement” and “head of visuals.” It’s all part of the Sun’s plan to converge print and online operations and build a cheaper “platform-neutral newsroom,” according to a May 1 memo to Sun staff. The Sun’s parent corporation, the Chicago-based Tribune Co., filed for bankruptcy in December 2008. Baltimore-Washington Newspaper Guild members protested the cuts—and the harshness with which they were meted out— with a one-day “byline strike.” About fifty staffers withheld their bylines in the newspaper’s May 6 edition. “We wanted people to know that the way our people were treated was completely unprofessional,” says technology reporter Gus Sentementes, a guild representative. “We don’t understand why it was done this way, and we don’t expect it to be done this way in the future.”
Hospital Food, With a Difference The new farmers’ market at the University of Maryland Medical Center is significant for more than just its West Side location. The market—held in the park across the street from the hospital’s Paca Street entrance on Tuesdays, 10:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m., from May to October—is part of a growing partnership between local growers and health care providers who see the connection between fresh, local foods and healthy humans. So far, five Maryland hospitals have agreed to host farmers’ markets in a statewide project of Maryland Hospitals for a Healthy Environment (see Urbanite, Oct. 2008). At the inaugural West Side market, farmers peddled fruits and vegetables, cheeses, eggs, poultry, seafood, bread, and ice cream. “There’s a handful of people who don’t get it. They’re like, ‘Where are the tomatoes?’” says cardiac intensive care nurse Denise Choiniere, UMMC’s environmental health coordinator. (Answer: They’re not in season yet.) Nonetheless, marketgoers cleaned out the shelves, she says. “All the farmers said they did better than expected.”
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photo by Andrew Nagl
Table for one: Retired restaurateur Morris Martick talks about history because, well, that’s what he’s got.
Speak Easy Morris Martick looks like the ghost of a longshoreman—the stocking cap creased yet fallen, the blue sweater moth-eaten. His restless 86-year-old body defies time and gravity, forming a moving exclamation point of bone and flesh. The old place on West Mulberry, hard between the ruins of Howard Street disaster and the skeletal remains of what was once the city’s Chinatown, is empty and colder than the springtime air outside. He still lives here, as he has pretty much every year of his life. But Martick’s work is done—no more trips in his pickup truck to food wholesalers and specialty bakeries, and fewer conversations with folks who would ring the doorbell to gain entrance to one of the city’s most wellhidden nooks. Sure, a few old friends stop by for his homemade bricks of pâté. But the days of wine and bouillabaisse are over. Martick’s Restaurant Francais closed in August 2008. In every way except the physical one, the man has moved on. “It’s the endgame,” he says. That’s sad enough to make a visitor yearn for a drink from the bar, where the bottles of Old Granddad and Pikesville Rye still beckon. Four stools held together with electrical tape sit before it. The restaurant beyond is there, too: the linen-draped tables that Martick made himself, still set and topped with neatly folded red napkins; the six stained-glass win-
dows (also homemade); the tin ceiling and stainless steel walls, both a bit less shiny. It’s like the whole place is preserved in amber, waxed away for Martick’s next incarnation to discover and re-animate. The story of Morris Martick and his late, great eatery will soon get a fuller treatment. Paul Bartlett, a local poet and cook, is shopping a book project; filmmaker and artist Kathy Krampien plans a documentary. But for now, Martick takes a few moments to sit and reminisce about the days when his establishment was the place for reporters and assorted midtown bohemians to dip their bills, presided over by a sometimes-gracious, oftencantankerous host. It seems fitting to do this while Martick’s still looks like Martick’s, minus the people who made it crackle with its own peculiar energy. Except one. “My parents came here in 1917 to escape the pogroms in Poland. They came into Ellis Island and then came south to Baltimore. My mother said she walked all over Baltimore to find this place. When you were a foreigner in a strange land, you needed a place where you could live and work. Like all immigrants, me and my two brothers and two sisters grew up in poverty. My mother was the driving force. She was a matriarch who worked hard. My dad was incompetent and not very smart when it came to American ways. “After my parents had opened a grocery store, they figured out they couldn’t make any money at it. So they became bootleggers and opened up a speakeasy in the back. Mulberry Street was cobblestone then. The Mafia
guy they dealt with would fill a 20-gallon jug with moonshine. They’d rebottle it and sell it. Once, a plainclothes officer came in and my father sold him a drink. My father went to federal prison for that for a year. “It was different down here then. There were about five hundred Chinese in Chinatown, lots of hotels, and the stores over on Howard Street. The horse stables were still over on Tyson. The arabbers used them. Black people lived in the alley streets. During the day, they were servants to the Park Avenue gentry. All these people were around. Look outside here now and what do you see? There’s nobody out there. But back in the ’30s, there were people everywhere on the streets. “After Roosevelt ended Prohibition, my mom applied for a liquor license. All of the people who ran illegal joints were the first to apply for licenses, and they got them. It was a working-class bar for years. It wasn’t a private club, like for the hoity-toity. There was no entertainment, just pure alcoholism. Workingclass men would come in the morning and down a few before work, then take a pint with them to get them through the day. “Some time after the war, we started attracting a different—and I usually get in trouble for saying this—intellectual or elite crowd. The whole reporting staff of the Sunpapers and the News American hung out here—Russell Baker, R.H. Gardner, John Goodspeed. If an editor wanted to find a reporter, he’d call here. The guy who wrote Rebel Without a Cause [Robert M. Lindner] was here. The bar would get pretty crowded, even mid-week, with artists and teachers. “We were the first bar to have art shows. It all started because I had artists who liked to come in here to drink. Most of my staff came from the Maryland Institute. I hired so many students from there that one of the deans called me to thank me. We had a Dixieland band play here; no one else was doing that then. One time, Harley [Brinsfield, of jazz radio and sandwich shops fame] came in here with Billie Holiday. There was a law against serving black people drinks back then. So, of course, I poured her a drink and she sang. Leonard Bernstein would come in and play piano. “Even then, this area was the hub of the city, you know, before shopping malls. Business was steady. But I really got tired of the drunks. So I closed the bar. I should have put the building up for sale back then, instead of dealing with all this now. But I told everyone before I left [in 1967] that I was going to come back and start a French restaurant. “I missed the riots of 1968 because I was in Paris. But when I got back, I boarded all the w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j u n e 0 9
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baltimore observed windows up because I was worried it could happen again. “I opened the restaurant despite not knowing anything about the business. I learned as I went. I had worked for a restau-
rant in Paris, which had this really simple menu. I learned nothing. So when I got back here [in late 1968], I hired a French chef. On the first night, the Sun reviewer is here and telling me that they’ve been sitting for an hour and haven’t even seen a waiter. The cook turned out to be a drunk. So I taught myself to cook and got a tank to keep live trout in. One day I walked downstairs to find the tank had burst and the fish were all laying there, dead. Yeah, it was fun. “We didn’t do much business those next few years. Sometimes I’d go two or three days without a customer. But around 1980, I got some good newspaper reviews, and people started coming in. I did everything but wait the tables then. It was very hard work. I’d get up early, shop for the ingredients, and prep the kitchen. I’d open at 5 and stay open until the last customer left, around 11 or so. To this day, I don’t know why I did it.” Martick motions to one of his two heavy black rotary phones. “Now, people call up, and I have to tell them that we’re closed.” He opens a letter from a local lawyer that a mail carrier just dumped through the slot. The letter says that the city housing department wants him to scrape peeling paint off the exterior, repaint it, and open his doors to city inspectors to show them he is no longer operating a business. Given the look of the place, that might be difficult. Dressing up the outside would cost him more than his monthly Social Security check, he says. But Martick thinks he has the endgame strategy figured out. “I think I can sell the place. That’s the next step,” he says. “I mean, I’m 86 and a half. What’s my future?” ■ —Michael Anft
photo by Tasha Treadwell
I taught myself to cook and got a tank to keep live trout in. One day I walked downstairs to find the tank had burst and the fish were all laying there, dead.
Helping hands: Veronica Berruz and high school students Taja Childs, Montez Shuron, and Tearra King (from left to right) spent spring break volunteering in New Orleans.
Southern Comfort It’s a balmy spring afternoon in New Orleans, and inside the Dragon Café, a soup kitchen in the basement of St. George’s Episcopal Church in Orleans Parish, volunteers dish up red beans and rice to a steady stream of people who’ve stopped in for a hot meal. New Orleanians began coming here for food and fellowship shortly after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast in August 2005. Nearly four years after the levees broke, they’re still coming. “We rely on our volunteers to help feed ’em,” says café manager Stan Jahncke. “And around spring break, we usually get students from all over the country.” Today, several of the volunteers hail from Baltimore. Their leader is Veronica Berruz, 24, who is in her busy final year at the University of Maryland School of Law. She’s come here before with law school classmates, but this time she’s brought along four students from Baltimore Freedom Academy, a small public high school in East Baltimore that emphasizes leadership and social justice. “I wanted to expose my students to the world outside of Baltimore,” says Berruz, who has been teaching a class in activism at the high school as part of her legal training. “My goal was to broaden their perspectives so that they might begin to think critically about the world and about their own families and communities.” Most of the students had never been on an airplane before; at least one had never
traveled outside of Baltimore. Over the course of a week, the teens and their chaperones (including Veronica’s younger sister, Sophia Berruz, a Howard County teacher) juggled multiple volunteer projects, working in tandem with Relief Spark, a nonprofit that links volunteers to service projects throughout New Orleans. Besides helping out in the soup kitchen, the students painted, worked in a garden, and read to elementary school students. They volunteered at a community center in hard-hit St. Bernard Parish. And on the final leg of the trip, the group installed about 150 free energy efficient light bulbs in homes through a nonprofit called Green Light New Orleans. “There’s still so much left to do,” Berruz says. “I mean, you can’t repair the devastation of something like [Katrina] in four years.” One of Berruz’s students, 15-year-old Alexis Evans, said she “attached” to the cause “because if that happened to Baltimore City, I would want others to help me out.” Asked what she’d tell her friends back in Baltimore, 16-year-old Tearra King paused. “You know, we met a lot of kids,” she said. “And most of them were a lot like us.” ■ —Donna M. Owens Each month, Urbanite profiles people and programs that are transforming the city, one block at a time. To nominate a transformer, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j u n e 0 9
The Accelerator Electric car advocate Chelsea Sexton on the past, present, and future of personal mobility Interview by marc steiner photograph by andrea bricco
n the mid-1990s, General Motors assigned a young Saturn salesperson from Los Angeles named Chelsea Sexton to help market its “car of the future,” the all-electric EV1. Sexton loved the slippery little two-seaters—which were only leased, not sold, to their drivers—but GM cancelled the program in 2001, eventually wresting the vehicles from their leaseholders and destroying them. The saga of the doomed EV1, chronicled in Chris Paine’s 2006 documentary, Who Killed the Electric Car?, transformed Sexton, who played a prominent role in the film, into a full-blown electric vehicle activist. She’s the co-founder of Plug In America, a nonprofit advocacy organization trying to accelerate the deployment of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, and a consultant for Paine’s sequel documentary, Revenge of the Electric Car, currently in production. In April, WEAA radio show host Marc Steiner talked with Sexton, who lives in car-crazy Los Angeles, about the future of personal transportation, how the American auto industry can still save itself, and the allure of torque.
urbanite june 09
At GM, you helped market the EV1, and now you’re the founding executive director of Plug In America, which wants one million electric vehicles on the road by 2012.
Yeah, I’m a car girl.
How does that fit with so many other people in the environmental movement, who I would say are almost anti-car? You know: “ Kill your car. Get on the bus.”
This whole movement—whether it’s the alt fuels movement or the environmental movement or the energy security movement— collectively have been the best circular firing squad I have ever seen. It’s been pitted as an either-or scenario. Either better cars or mass transit; either electric vehicles or plug-in hybrids. Am I pro-car? Sure. I’m a girl that likes horsepower. I don’t want to get out of my car and I don’t think we’re going to yank people out of theirs. So, given that we love our cars, I want them to be as clean, as fun, and as cool as possible. But it also doesn’t mean that a car is the right tool for every job. We need to make each segment of transport as efficient and logical as can be. And transport includes feet and bicycle wheels. I’m very aware of this expectation—“If you’re really a good enviro, get out of your car and ride the bus.” But, you know, I’m a geek first. Certainly I find the Tesla [Roadster, an all-electric, two-seat sports car,] wicked fun to drive. Very impractical.
I have a friend who just bought one. They’re amazing cars. But they also cost more than $100,000.
They’re not for everybody. But we have a coming generation of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids that are $25,000 to $40,000, which is still not cheap but a lot more doable. With plug-in hybrid technology, you might have 40 miles of electric range and a hybrid backup. So Monday through Friday you might not use gasoline at all. But if you want to drive to Vegas on Saturday, you still could. Other people might get pure electric cars, or rent one, or use car share. Those are the sorts of models that we need to transform the way that people think of their cars.
President Obama has talked about his desire to improve mass transit and passenger rail. We used to have a wonderful rail system in America that took you everywhere. Here in Baltimore, you could go anywhere by electric trolley. That’s gone, but it could come back, if we want to invest.
Without question, this is not a technology problem. It’s an issue of will. There is no new technology that would be required to build out a rail system, or to build electric cars, or to do more mass transit inside of the city. All of these things have been done, will be done, and we’re creating better ways to do them. There’s no chicken/egg problem. It’s completely inside of ourselves. Do we want to take the time? Do we want to spend the money? There comes a point where you have to think big to get big.
Q A Q
Let’s look at the American auto industry for a moment.
Do we have to?
What’s going to become of this industry, and how is that going to affect America?
continued on page 70
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illustration by Harry Campbell
“Share the Road”—and that’s an order! The message is printed in bold letters on bright yellow signs, accompanied by a pictogram of a bicycle. Since the city planning department completed its Bicycle Master Plan in 2006, these signs have been popping up around town, along with bike lanes painted onto some streets and those lane-less bike icons, or “sharrows,” that are supposed to alert motorists to bikes ahead. But sharing isn’t easy, particularly when we’re all in a rush. So we invited a few drivers and cyclists to sound off on why. What we found was that while both groups indulge in self-righteousness on the roads, neither is particularly well-behaved. Tales of berated bicyclists
urbanite june 09
abound, but still, the ire directed at rules-flouting two-wheelers is not always undeserved, says Nate Evans, the city’s bicycle and pedestrian coordinator. “It drives me up the wall to see cyclists blow through stoplights and stop signs, and near-misses with pedestrians,” he says. “They’re just reinforcing the stereotype that angry drivers have. We want to break that cycle.” In that spirit, we offer a little venting from both sides about what it’s like to “share the road,” and, from Evans, the rules of the road for cyclists. For more opinions, visit our website, www.urbanitebaltimore. com. To throw in your two cents, e-mail email@example.com.
Bicyclists and drivers face off over the rules of the road. Can’t we all just get along?
Get Your Bike Off My Road My onetime home, Portland, Oregon, is a wealth of innovative transportation solutions. One of my favorites is bike racks on the buses—a trick the MTA has recently adopted, and thank goodness. Anything to keep those things off the roads. Bicycles— like rickshaws, roller skates, and pogo sticks—are a quaint technology best left in the 1950s, or Asia. Many folks believe there is something about two-wheeled transport that amplifies the self-righteousness in human beings, something about gravitational harmonics intermingling with the brain’s snoot receptors. But I ride a two-wheeled conveyance and have been unaffected by this blight. Of course, my two wheels came with a motor, making them fit for travel on public roads. I think a more rational explanation is that Spandex doesn’t allow excess arrogance to radiate naturally through the body and instead squeezes it out the mouth. By the way, I love Batman and the Power Rangers too, but I don’t feel the need to dress like a low-rent super-villain with a foam hat and tap shoes. Does all of that gear make a difference for you? This isn’t the Tour de France—it’s rush hour (or it is for the rest of us). I’ll support anything that makes you less slow, but that 3/100th of a mile-per-hour you’re gaining doesn’t seem to be worth the CFCs generated shipping your space suit from Indonesia. Listen, I ride I-695 on a 400-pound motorcycle, surrounded by crazy cagers talking on their cell phones and text-messaging their friends to complain about the guy shaving in the Honda next to them. I understand the frustration about and danger of automobiles. But it is nothing like the exasperation of sitting behind a herd of bicycles creeping along at a pace that would anger the Amish. When I am on the road, it’s because I am trying to get somewhere. It’s great that this is playtime for you, and you have time to kill. But some of us have places to be. Getting caught on a two-lane road behind the Wyman Park Pedalphiles or whatever you call yourselves is the first circle of hell. The rest of us are burning fifty times the fossil fuels we would otherwise and getting a head start on an aneurysm while fighting the urge to engage in enhanced passing techniques. The cyclists will whine that bikes are a legitimate form of transportation. Well, so are kayaks, and we don’t allow those on
Charles Street. I personally like to make my way around my house on an office chair using a toilet plunger as an oar. It’s clean and efficient and keeps me in shape, but I don’t think I should get my own lane on the freeway. Ban bicycles from the roads today! If they were in a hurry, they’d be driving. So put them on the sidewalks where they can battle pedestrians. That’s a fairer fight anyway. —Jim Meyer is a stand-up comedian, roller-derby announcer, Hampdenite, and core member of Thee Unholy Swarm Motorcycle Gang
“I love Batman and the Power Rangers too, but I don’t feel the need to dress like a low-rent super-villain with a foam hat and tap shoes.”
Of Darwin and Idiot Drivers Dear Jerk: Asking a question that requires neurons in your lizard-sized brain to fire is probably a waste of time, but here goes anyway: Why did you thrust a beefy arm out the car window and strike me while I was laboring up steep Hilltop Road near Patapsco State Park? Coward that you are, you sped off. I was enraged but not surprised. Virtually all of the idiot drivers I’ve encountered are, like you, young and male. Most follow the same playbook: They yell “F--- you!”, flash a middle finger, and drive on. Because not a single offender has ever stopped to offer an explanation, I can only speculate on the possible motivations: • They’re angry because they just flunked a high school GED exam by misspelling “cat.” • The sight of a man in Spandex inspires doubts about their sexuality that they can resolve only by uttering the main two words in their vocabulary. w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j u n e 0 9
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urbanite june 09
ROAD RULES You probably know these—at least, you should—but clearly it
bears repeating. Nate Evans, Baltimore City Bicycle and Pedes-
trian Coordinator, offers a quick refresher in Urban Biking 101. For
more information, go to www.ci.baltimore.md.us/government/transportation/ and click on “Bike Baltimore” in the left column,
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Bud Light prices have shot up, limiting their daily intake so much they suffer unpredictable withdrawal symptoms. Back to you, Jerk. I know you won’t see this because you don’t read anything classier than a liquor store price list. If I could talk to you, it would be to express this thought: Fear Darwin. You are an evolutionary anomaly, having nothing in common with the vast majority of drivers who pass me safely and civilly, sometimes with a five-fingered wave. One day, your type will be extinct. —John Fairhall is a former Baltimore Sun editor currently working at a nonprofit news organization in Washington, D.C. He lives in Catonsville and rides a black 2008 Trek Madone 5.2.
“I was honked at while riding north on Washington Street, crossing the intersection onto St. Lo Drive in Clifton Park, by a car that was running a red light.”
Good Bikeways Make Good Neighbors I appreciate my car as much as the next person. I thrill in my ability to get in my petroleum-powered, 3,000-pound hunk of metal and plastic and ride from my home to that secluded spot at the beach or in the mountains in the course of a few hours. How fortunate I am to be able to travel so efficiently! But efficient transportation means different things in different environments. In the city, most drivers are trying to get from point to point, usually less than five miles away, and they spend more time braking for stop signs or sitting at traffic lights than taking advantage of their vehicles’ ability to devour great distances at high speeds.
1. Always ride with (in the same direction as) car traffic.
2. Stay off the sidewalk. It’s illegal to bike on the sidewalk in Baltimore.
3. Obey all traffic signs and signals, just as you would in a car. 4. Ride 4 feet away from parked cars to avoid being “doored.” 5. When it’s safe, keep right to allow faster traffic to pass.
6. Use eye contact and hand signals to communicate with drivers. 7. Use a headlamp or bike lights and rear reflectors at night. 8. Wear a helmet and bright clothing for safety.
Bikes are better suited for urban transportation. Businesses recognize this reality; just look at bike messengers. They know bikes can more efficiently navigate distances in an urban environment than a car can. We all know about that crazy bike messenger careening between lanes, running red lights, totally disrespecting traffic law and thumbing his nose at cars. But drivers can be just as ill-mannered. One early afternoon, I was riding south on Guilford Avenue, where there are four lanes, all going in the same direction. I was riding as far right as possible when from behind me there came a sudden, sustained honking. (Some say it is polite to tap your horn when coming up behind a biker to let them know you’re there. But this was no “tap,” and I’m not a fan of the idea anyway.) It was a psycho woman in a minivan speaking on a cell phone, still finding the time to mouth “Get off the road!” through the rolled-up window as she leaned on the horn. Another time, I was honked at while riding north on Washington Street, crossing the intersection onto St. Lo Drive in Clifton Park, by a car that was running a red light. Apparently I was in the way. I am not a supporter of “sharing the road,” however. Putting bikeways on the roads in the same lanes as cars, as Baltimore currently does, is clearly not a viable solution. There is not enough space for cars to pass by bikes safely. Add to that parked cars pulling out or opening doors, cars pulling in to park roadside, doubleparked cars and loading trucks, and buses pulling in and out, and even the experienced biker has a lot to pay attention to. It would be safer for everyone—even the crazy, careening bike messengers— if we had clearly marked bikeways that were respected by traffic laws. These are what we urbanites ought to be getting impassioned about. Let’s try to unclutter our urban environment and plan safe, convenient, healthy, and much more efficient alternatives to car transportation! ■ —Rolla Chng, a former civil engineer, spent five years as a business owner of the Cadet Taekwondo martial arts academy.
Web extra: More vehicle venting at www.urbanitebaltimore.com.
w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j u n e 0 9
Waiting for his ride: At torney David Funk chairs the Charles Street Trol ley Corporation, which is leading the battle to return streetcars to the streets of Baltimore. 36 u r b a n i t e j u n e 0 9
A STREETCAR NAMED
CONSPIRE Charles Street boosters have turned to a curious would-be savior, one that was chased out of town a half-century ago: the humble trolley. Has the streetcar’s time come again?
photo by John Ellsberry
BY MICHAEL ANFT AND JOHN ELLSBERRY
When David Funk steps out of his law office at 36 South Charles Street and looks south, he sees Inner Harbor tourists. If he turns around and shifts his gaze up Charles Street, he sees the asphalt rise. The crest is a natural barrier against exploring the city, he says: “People don’t walk up that hill.” Several blocks north, in Mount Vernon, Henry Hagan sees parking lots, some decaying older buildings, and lots of traffic that needs “calming.” The president of Monumental Life Insurance Company on Chase and Charles streets, he wants an economic engine that will pump up to $1 billion of new investment into the Charles Street corridor. “We’re at a disadvantage at trying to maintain our vibrancy here,” Hagan says, citing new biotech and residential projects to the east and west. And if you see Kristin Speaker, executive director of the Charles Street Development Corporation (CSDC)—the nonprofit group entrusted with enhancing prospects for the
w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j u n e 0 9
In the loop: The proposed route for a reborn Baltimore streetcar line.
urbanite june 09
photo by G.J. Voith
city’s major north/south artery—on a corner a mile or so farther north in Charles Village (the CSDC’s headquarters is actually back downtown in Charles Center, but bear with us), you’ll hear how the neighborhood needs help eliminating vacant lots—some kind of innovation that will bring in the cash necessary to make the best use of the corridor’s real estate. The three of them, along with a dozen or more others from the ranks of developers, museum chiefs, neighborhood associations, restaurateurs, retailers, and universities, have decided that progress on Charles Street depends on rolling backwards in time. They want a 7-mile, fixed-rail streetcar loop running north from the Inner Harbor up Calvert to Redwood, turning on Charles to go up to Johns Hopkins University’s Homewood campus. The line will return to the harbor via Maryland Avenue and the streets it becomes as you travel—Cathedral, Liberty, and Sharp—with a turnaround on Conway Street that sends the trolley back to the Inner Harbor visitors’ center. Streetcar advocates say that the trolleys will deliver residents, harbor tourists, shoppers, and carloads of cash to Baltimore’s grand old boulevard as they roll along in the right-hand lanes of streets along the route. Kittelson & Associates, a consulting firm they hired to prepare an engineering report on the streetcar idea, predicts 2.5 million riders per year. Like streetcar proponents in dozens of other cities that are either building or planning back-to-the-future trolley lines, Baltimore’s heritage rail enthusiasts are following a trend set by Portland, Oregon, whose modern streetcar system—the first since the 1940s to use new vehicles—inspires wide-eyed reverence among transit fans. More than $3 billion in investment has sprung up within a couple of blocks of Portland’s trolley line since it opened in 2001, according to Portland Streetcar Inc., the nonprofit corporation that manages the city-owned system. Property values nearby have shot up, and ridership has remained strong and steady.
A streetcar in Baltimore, backers say, can go one better. “Baltimore has something that Portland doesn’t—cultural institutions that anchor the corridor,” says Funk, a senior partner at Funk & Bolton and chair of Charles Street Trolley Corporation (www.charlesstreet.org/trolley), the entity formed in September 2008 to continue the work of a group that has kicked the tires on the streetcar idea for the past five years. “But there are a lot of underdeveloped properties. If Charles Street is going to become a really vital area, it will need something to pull it together. We think a streetcar will do that.” His group’s search for a way to return people to Charles Street is also soaked in irony, he concedes. Urban centers had the life sucked out of them in the ’50s and ’60s, as the automobile—and the forces that promoted it—signaled the death of the streetcar. But the virtues of oldschool electric rail remain as plentiful as cars stuck in downtown traffic: Studies have shown that fixed-rail cars draw 30 to 40 percent more
illustration by Newlands & Company
riders than buses and much more related investment. They’re also “quieter and less offensive than buses,” Funk adds. The trolley would attract new high-density residential development, increase retail traffic, and encourage some of the city’s 11 million visitors to take a ride uptown. “There’s no great thought that the trolley will supplant cars,” Funk says. “Our focus is on urban livability.” Nationally, this new generation of streetcar projects have proven to be useful in drawing in money and people, eliminating car trips for local residents, and knitting a community together, says Jim Graebner, chair of the streetcar subcommittee of the American Public Transportation Association, a trade group in Washington, D.C. “Plus, they’re fun. People just get on them to enjoy the ride,” he says. “There’s no other type of public transportation like that.” When talking about the Charles Street streetcar, it’s useful to spell out exactly what it isn’t. The trolley isn’t part of the MTA’s Red Line, the
ambitious mass transit project due to run 14 miles from Woodlawn to Hopkins-Bayview by 2016. Currently, City Hall and the Greater Baltimore Committee favor a plan for the Red Line dubbed Alternative 4C, which involves light-rail trains traveling underground through downtown, emerging in East and West Baltimore. Light rail systems such as the current Maryland Transit Administration’s Light Rail are generally faster, bigger, and more intrusive than trolley lines: The long trains of light-rail cars can’t share the road with traffic, as streetcars can. The MTA is supposed to decide what form the Red Line will take this summer. The Charles Street streetcar is also not the “downtown circulator,” the city’s yetunnamed free shuttle bus service that will run low-emissions hybrid buses along three downtown circuits, including one up Charles from the harbor to Penn Station, starting later this summer. Is there room for all three projects? The city seems to think so, though the trolley, once built, would probably eliminate the shuttle service. “We see the shuttle as a test as to whether there’s a market for the trolley—and not as a threat to it,” says Jamie Kendrick, deputy director of the city’s transportation department. “For one thing, the trolley will serve a different clientele, one that might want to end up farther north than Penn Station, at Johns Hopkins or in Charles Village. For another, the trolley will be able to draw investment because of the permanency of the rails. That’s key.” A trolley might fit in nicely with the city’s various sustainability initiatives, supporters add. An electric streetcar line is a greener alternative to gas-powered cars and buses—though its small scale means that it wouldn’t take a very big bite out of the city’s carbon footprint. Besides, the Trolley Corp. and the city have some green problems of their own. Specifically, getting enough of it. Consultants estimate that it would take $160 million or so (in 2008 dollars) to construct the trolley—peanuts compared with the Red Line, likely to land well north of $1 billion, but a hefty tab nonetheless. Almost all of that will come
w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j u n e 0 9
urbanite june 09
courtesy of Enoch Pratt Free Library, Central Library/State Library Resoure Center, Baltimore, Maryland
bus, which is full of allegedly scary lowlifes. Projects like this should never be allowed to proceed.” Trolley backers aren’t surprised by the dissent. “We know there are certain people who are dead set against this,” Funk says. “They think there is some kind of conspiracy going on.” It’s not the first time the C word has been coupled to the streetcar.
By the time the last streetcar limped up York Road in November 1963, no one was exactly shocked. “People still loved streetcars— even at the end,” says Jerry Kelly. “But you could see what was happening. We were losing the core of the city to cars.” End of the road: By the 1950s, electric rail use in American cities was in sharp decline as private cars and diesel buses sent the surviving trolleys to the scrap yard. This 1963 scene shows a streetcar sharing Fayette Street with other traffic.
from taxpayers, with some help from tax-break financing from the city and, possibly, a levy on Charles Street businesses. The Trolley Corp. has so far raised $50,000 in private donations, and the city has committed $800,000 in planning funds, says Funk. But raising construction money is another chore entirely. “We definitely need to come up with a plan for capital costs,” Funk says. “Every other issue we have is workable. We need to have a financial consultant come up with a plan.” Mayor Sheila Dixon opposes any localized tax that resembles the special benefits district fees residents in some neighborhoods pay; she also prefers not to meddle with the city’s already meddlesome property tax rate. What’s more, she wants to make sure that streetcar enthusiasts don’t siphon off federal funds intended for the Red Line. City officials don’t blanch, however, when noting that city and state money might be used almost exclusively for the trolley project. The Trolley Corp. has already received conditional support for tax breaks and parking revenue from the city to pay operating costs. “Look, there’s not a single public transportation system nationwide that is privately funded,” Kendrick says. “You’re going to need public money to make this work.” The streetcar fits right in with the city’s thinking, he adds: “We like to have one project in construction, another in engineering, and a third in planning. The streetcar is still in the planning phase.” But the potential for massive taxpayer subsidies is already enough to stop some people from feeling the Trolley Corp.’s build-it-and-theywill-come enthusiasm. Is this public transportation or an economic development tool? If it’s more the latter than the former, then why should the rank-and-file from across the state prop up some of the city’s wealthier addresses? “I see economic development along Charles Street as a good idea, but is this the right way to go about it?” says Ed Hopkins, a retired systems analyst for the Space Telescope Science Institute, board member of the Remington Neighborhood Alliance, and self-described gadfly. Hopkins came out against the project a couple years ago, when there was serious talk of taxing low-income people in his neighborhood, among others along the communities that edge Charles Street, to pay for it. He calls the streetcar “a gated trolley” and maintains a website— www.trolleytrouble.org—to lay out the case of the opposition. “Baltimore really needs solid mass transit. That’s where the money should go—not this Gucci streetcar line,” Hopkins adds. “The idea that [the Trolley Corp.] has is that people will like a streetcar better than a
he story goes that in the early 1920s General Motors President Alfred Sloan dictated a memo that would circulate among GM managers, Phillips Petroleum executives, Standard Oil big shots, glass and rubber companies, and bankers. Sloan had a $65 million deficit staring him in the face and a country that was well served by rail lines. About 90 percent of Americans traveled daily by rail to get around cities: 15 billion trips a year. Only one in ten owned a car. So Sloan and his confederates waged war on electric rail. Organized crime thugs shook down rail managers, purchased street railways, and sent the trolleys to the scrap yard. Bankers were paid off to persuade their rail clients to convert to buses and shift their lending practices accordingly. Politicians and transit company officials were given Cadillacs for playing along with the scheme. GM formed several transit companies, most notably National City Lines, that bought out existing transit lines and converted them to buses. At least that’s the story Bradford Snell, a former counsel to the U.S. Senate, still tells. A 1974 report Snell put together on GM’s alleged anti-competitive practices figures prominently in the corporate biography of GM he plans to publish with Alfred A. Knopf within the next two years. Even though a federal jury in 1949 returned a $5,000 verdict against GM, Firestone Tire and Rubber, and other companies (and fined their executives $1 each), GM has long denied any involvement. Perhaps more surprisingly, so have fans of Baltimore’s old streetcars. Even though National City Lines made its presence known here, local streetcar historians say GM hardly killed the streetcar, at least not by itself. Baltimore’s streetcar business—Charles Street folks take note— was always a chancy one. In 1859, the city got its first horse-drawn rail line. It wasn’t until 1885 that Leo Daft opened the country’s first commercial electric railway line, which originated at 25th and Oak (now Howard) streets. But its electrified third rail was a safety menace, so the juice was turned off and the horses led back out of the stable. In the 1890s, a brief but remarkable effort by the Baltimore Traction Company led to a cable car system driven by a huge network of steam-driven cables that moved at street level between the rails. A large wheel that spun at a building at Druid Hill Avenue and Retreat Street yanked the cars around at 6 miles per hour. Within a few short years, electric rail competitors—mostly notably the United Railways and Electric Company—forced it to convert to overhead wires. By the turn of the century, electric rail car lines were combined and extended into one extensive system, fueling the development of new “streetcar suburbs” such as Roland Park. But not long after Henry Ford’s first assembly line in 1908, internal combustion started competing with—and gaining on—electric rail. “Jitneys” and independent, gasoline-fueled buses ran ahead of trolleys, stealing riders. Cities began to plan for the Age of the Automobile: In the Baltimore of the 1930s, w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j u n e 0 9
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“I started thinking that a streetcar might be a good way to get tourists up Charles Street,” Rouse recalls. “My goal has always been to return Charles Street to what it was when I was a kid.” Years later, Henry Hagan, inspired by the Portland model, decided that a streetcar might rein in traffic on Charles Street better than making the street two-way, as was then being discussed. Streetcar partisans have since spent five years courting support from forty institutions and neighborhood groups. Funk says the project now has conditional support from Mount Vernon residents who worry about construction dis-
courtesy of Portland Streetcar Inc.
“They’re a scam,” says Randal O’Toole, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. “In Portland, my former hometown, they built a streetcar to spur investment after building a light rail system to spur investment. Really, none of it has worked.” Trolley revival: The modern streetcar line that opened in Portland, Oregon, in 2001 was the first in the country to use new, Czech-made vehicles such as this.
new bridges, like the Orleans Street viaduct or the span over Wilkens Avenue, were forbidden to carry rail traffic. In 1933, United Railways filed for bankruptcy and reorganized to become the Baltimore Transit Company. During World War II, war rationing cut down on automobile use, and streetcars enjoyed a last hurrah. Baltimore Transit Co. ridership reached its zenith in 1943, when workers heading to war plants sardined their way into streetcars. “Streetcars boomed then, so the Transit Co. brought old cars out of mothballs,” says Jerry Kelly, a 75-year-old streetcar aficionado who volunteers at the Baltimore Streetcar Museum. This is the era that supplies most of the current streetcar nostalgia, but it was brief. National City Lines, the GM-backed conglomerate, bought majority shares of the Transit Co. in 1946, when the company was shedding riders as servicemen returned home looking to start new lives—preferably ones with cars and suburban homes. “No one wanted to live in the city anymore,” Kelly says. “The buzzword around 1945 was ‘free wheeling’ instead of ‘fixed wheeling.’” As development pushed outward, the expense of extending rail lines was unjustifiable. In the 1950s, the city’s traffic grid was reworked by hotshot engineer Henry Barnes to get people in and out of the city as quickly as possible. Barnes complained that the trolleys got in the way of his beloved parking meters. “I often said I didn’t mind streetcars,” he once declared, “except for the fact that they ran on the street.” By the time the last streetcar—the no. 8—limped up York Road for its final run in November 1963, no one was exactly shocked. “People still loved streetcars—even at the end,” Kelly says. “But you could see what was happening. We were losing the core of the city to cars.”
altimore’s streetcar story lurched back to life in 1997, when Jimmy Rouse, son of mega-developer James Rouse and the owner of nowvanished Louie’s Bookstore Café in Mount Vernon, was serving as president of the Historic Charles Street Association. In the 1980s, Rouse had benefited from a rubber-wheel trolley-like bus that ran from the harbor up Charles, depositing tourists at the restaurant for lunch. But then-mayor Kurt L. Schmoke’s budget slashed the program’s tires, so to speak, hurting businesses.
ruption and overhead wires. (Such fears kept the old streetcars off the cobbled streets for Mount Vernon; the original line diverted around the historic neighborhood.) The Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association, the Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore, and Johns Hopkins University are on board as well. With a pro-transit White House and a host of recession-fighting public works projects coming down the pike, Trolley Corp. partisans think they have momentum on their side. “We’ve got about a 70 percent chance of this happening within the next five years,” Hagan says. On April 29, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) introduced a House bill to fund urban streetcar projects called the “Federal Streetcar Revitalization Act of 2009.” Baltimore wants a piece of that action. “If everything went perfectly and we quickly captured federal money, we could get a shovel in the ground in two years,” Funk says. The line could start running within two years after that. But is the Trolley Corp’s route the best place to build it? Gerald Neily, a former Baltimore traffic planner and a veteran of the design process for MTA Light Rail in the 1980s, suggests some tweaks. As proposed, the streetcar comes within blocks of the Light Rail on its parallel southbound journey back downtown. “Personally, I’d rather have it go all the way down on St. Paul Street, so you wouldn’t have to worry about redundancy,” says Neily, who writes about urban planning for the news site Baltimore Brew and on his own blog, Baltimore InnerSpace. (He also co-authored this issue’s transporation-themed “Drawing Board” proposal on page 49.) More ambitiously, Neily wants to run the streetcar into an underground transit terminal at Charles Center, where it could link up with the subway, Light Rail, and the Red Line. He also proposes a northeast extension of the line from Johns Hopkins down the wide, tree-lined median of 33rd Street and on up Loch Raven Boulevard to Morgan State University. Such a college-to-college connection would turn the line from a cute tourist-conveyor into a serious uptown transit option. But Neily’s larger concern is that the Charles Street trolley would be unlikely to play well with existing MTA bus or light rail—because it’s not an MTA project. The Trolley Corp. is mulling various governance options for the line, which could be owned and run by the city, by a nonprofit corporation, or by a public/private streetcar authority that combines the two. But MTA authority isn’t being considered, and Neily says that’s a mistake: “You have to have oversight by one agency. continued on page 71
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urbanite june 09
A suburban home gets a modern makeover BY AMANDA K O LSON H U R L EY
photo by Bob Creamer
Rancher redux: Architect Chris Pfaeffle’s renovated Towson home is notably more modern than its neighbors. The exterior combines original brick and new siding, and the slanted roof over the front porch is galvanized metal—perhaps the first detail a visitor’s eye picks out as categorically non-suburban.
photo by Bob Creamer
rchitect Chris Pfaeffle is an expert in adaptive reuse, the art of making old buildings new again—as in such condo projects as Silo Point, a 1920s grain elevator in southwest Baltimore, and the Malt House, a pre-Civil War warehouse in Little Italy. That may explain why, in 2003, he was drawn to a rundown 1950s rancher in Towson. The house was a mess, he recalls, with a slop sink in one corner of the first floor. Its three bedrooms were tiny, and the upstairs was, in local parlance, “clubbed”— outfitted with ’70s-style wood paneling and shag carpet. But Pfaeffle, the founder and principal of Baltimore-based architecture firm Parameter Inc., could perceive the potential for a modern family home in the dated rancher. He and his wife, Sally, liked the area—especially the schools their sons Ben, 11, and Zac, 8, would attend—and the price was right. “We pretty much showed up and bought it,” he says. What followed was an ambitious renovation-and-addition project that lasted three years. An overhaul of the first floor was about halfway complete when the family moved in from their old Anneslie house. Pfaeffle spent weekends putting up metal studs and Sheetrock in the basement. Then came the most dramatic changes. “We blew the top off in January , then put [a new second story] on, and then did the pool out back.”
Details, details: In the backyard, large pavers rest on a carefully orchestrated bed of multi-colored gravel. “We couldn’t find one that we liked, so we had them mix up three [batches],” Pfaeffle says. w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j u n e 0 9
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All according to plan: The rehab was carefully attuned to Pfaeffle’s vision, from the open floor plan down to the decorative wall that separates the entryway from the living room while preserving sight lines.
Today, the 3,900-square-foot house stands out from—but doesn’t show up—its neighbors, most of which are, in Pfaeffle’s phrase, “serious ranchers” built of stone and slate on goodsized lots. In fact, the house sticks closer to its roots than its façade would suggest. Even the yard, with its well-tended grass and original stone path, confirms that Pfaeffle wasn’t looking to revolutionize suburban living, just to refine it. You might expect an architect known for loft-like spaces to insist on a wide-open plan and sky-high ceilings in his own house, but Pfaeffle embraced the space for what it was. “Ranchers are cozy little houses,” he says. “You can kind of see through the whole house, yet there are a lot of intimate little spaces.” The new first floor plan bears this out. A decorative wall with open niches separates the entry area from the living room without blocking sight lines. Straight ahead from the front door, in the middle of the floor plate, was once a bedroom; Pfaeffle turned this dark space into a dining room—the room his family uses least. Out of the dining room flows the kitchen, which becomes an informal dining area and, making an L-turn, a family room. Although there are no doors separating them, these areas feel distinct, partly because the dining area and family room are located in a new back addition where Pfaeffle was able to raise the ceilings. Now the boys play Wii and talk to their grandparents on Skype here.
Back through the dining room, there’s another trio of connected rooms—an office, a bathroom, and a guest bedroom. “This is a multigenerational house,” Pfaeffle remarks. “If a family were to buy this, the grandparents could have a [suite] here.” Up the stairs, which are tucked between the living room and kitchen, Pfaeffle builds spatial drama with a series of smart architectural moves. At the top, you notice that he’s removed a corner of the floor, exposing the joists, and that he’s extended the original chimney, creating a sense of verticality. A group of windows, high enough to preserve privacy, washes the corner in natural light. The narrow upstairs hallway, used as a gallery for family photos, leads to the master bedroom suite and the boys’ bedrooms and their surf-themed bathroom. In most gradeschoolers’ rooms, chaos reigns, but orderliness—“there’s a place for everything,” Pfaeffle says—prevails here, too. There are metal boards for displaying artwork (taping it to the walls is verboten) and original Eames chairs that are free of toys or clothing. The master suite, which Pfaeffle wanted to be sumptuous and hotel-like, has a four-poster bed, a separate dressing room, and a bathroom with a steam shower and soaking tub. Like most architects, Pfaeffle obsesses about details. Throughout the house are the results of his close collaboration with custom
metalworker Matt Ludwig, who fabricated various pieces—precast concrete-and-metal sink counters, metal shelves, and a translucent Shoji-style door that hides the laundry area— based on Pfaeffle’s sketches. In the basement, which contains a mudroom (the tidiest one you’ve ever seen, with a system of blue bins for storage), a gym, a playroom, and locker-style bathrooms, the architect squeezed storage into every cranny and improvised a ceiling made with panels of Plexiglas and Homasote (recycled-paper wallboard), to avoid dreaded acoustic tiles. The backyard attests to his exacting standards. Board-and-batten-style siding and brown fencing tie the carport, storage shed, and pool area together. Bamboo, yuccas, and crape myrtle—“big, hearty monocultures”— are strategically deployed. Behind the back porch is a “runway,” or organizing zone, to buffer the house from the pool (which is higher than, and on an angle to, the house). All in all, both house and yard offer a vision of suburban idyll as less-than-radical chic. “Originally, I was the scourge” of the neighborhood, Pfaeffle says, although he didn’t take it personally. (“People just hate modernism.”) But now, “they all come by and say they love my house.” ■ —Amanda Kolson Hurley is a senior editor at Architect magazine. w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j u n e 0 9
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The Drawing Board
Got an idea about how to build a better city? Draw us a picture.
rendering and photo by Peter Tocco
Vision quest: As plans for the East/West Red Line are firmed up, the public can use BaltiMorphosis.com to propose ways of transforming Route 40 (above), along which the Red Line will run, into a vibrant, transit-oriented corridor (left).
can the Red Line heal the hole in the heart of West Baltimore? As Baltimore prepares for the Red Line, which would provide a long-missing East/West rail link to Baltimore’s transit system, some fear that the Maryland Transit Administration and the City of Baltimore’s tentative plans are falling short of the mark. Our new website, BaltiMorphosis.com, aims to show that the Red Line is an opportunity to redevelop one of the city’s worst planning disasters, the West Baltimore Franklin-Mulberry neighborhood, through which the Red Line will be running. We believe it is a bad idea to simply place the Red Line on the median between the existing U.S. Route 40 lanes with little or no other improvements to the ditch, sometimes called “The Highway to Nowhere.” It would be much better to convert the ditch into a full-scale, mixed-use transit corridor. BaltiMorphosis.com invites the public to suggest creative ways to do this. People can download a 3D starter model of the ditch, redesign it, and send back images to be displayed digitally, thereby opening up a discussion. Our starter models (which are compatible with the free version of Google Sketchup) include a two-block stretch that has been redesigned to include four lanes of highway traffic, two lanes of Red Line track, a 10-foot bike path, and
a local three-lane street with wide sidewalks ideal for pedestrians and new transit-oriented development. From there, the public can add any elements they wish, from low-rise, village-style residential buildings and shops to high-rise office towers and a nightclub district. People can model their own buildings or select a free sample building from Google 3D Warehouse, via the Google Sketchup toolbar. BaltiMorphosis hopes to tap into the rich vein of creativity that lies dormant in the community, particularly among young people. We hope to get all people, young and old, more interested in the community vision planning process and ultimately help them feel more vested in their neighborhood, a necessary step if Franklin-Mulberry is to revive. This nearly 40-acre site has the potential to become a world-class transit development (leapfrogging the city’s general transit plan, which is probably generations away from world-class status). It could become a regional magnet for culture and business, in part because of the many transit choices it would offer. We cannot afford to let this opportunity pass.
gerald neily (left) is a former transportation planner with the baltimore city department of planning who currently writes for baltimorebrew.com and baltimore Innerspace.blogspot.com. columbia resident peter tocco (right) is an independent graphics specialist who does cad, illustration, websites, and graphic design for planners, architects, and developers. his website is www. plainview3d.com.
To submit an idea for The Drawing Board, e-mail email@example.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 n e 0 9
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Oliver Henry needs 1,200 chicken breasts for lunch. He eyes two rolling carts—each with seventeen trays—and pulls out a calculator. “Let’s see.” He scans the top tray: six breasts abreast, six down. “Thirty-six times seventeen times two. I have twenty-four over right now, which is just about right.” In truth, 1,280 lunches had been ordered, but Henry knows to count on a certain number
of no-shows—what he calls the “Q factor”— and has eighty hunks of chicken on hold in the walk-in, just in case. And then there are the last-minute vegetarian requests. “Three percent,” he tells me. “We tend to gamble right to the money in this economy.” Some professional chefs might name their hand-forged Kramer knife as their can’tlive-without kitchen tool. For Henry, sous chef in charge of banquets at the new Balti-
more Hilton, it’s his calculator. “I don’t count to 1,200 for anyone,” he says. Lesson one in cooking for a crowd: Math skills are as important as knife skills. Today’s lunch is for the National Society of Black Engineers, which is holding its annual meeting at the Hilton all weekend. This Friday in February is probably the busiest since the hotel opened in August, according to Robert MacDonald, director of banquets. w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j u n e 0 9
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eat/drink “We’ll probably do about 7,500 covers in three days,” he guesses. That’s 7,500 plates of food, not including all the eating going on in Hilton’s Diamond Tavern or the 757 rooms. I’d expected the chaos of a Food Network kitchen—clattering sauté pans, gouts of flame, a red-faced chef barking orders. But at 8:30 a.m., the vast banquet kitchens are eerily quiet. A half-dozen young chefs stand at a long table assembling hundreds of tiny bouquets of vegetables, chatting as they finagle clutches of broccolini and red pepper into zucchini-slice rings. Walking back to the office of Executive Chef Christian Gallice, Henry’s boss, I see similar scenes of unhurried industriousness. Pastry kitchen workers cut loaves of bread pudding into triangles; plates of baby spinach in the “garde manger” kitchen receive a smattering of dried cranberries, walnuts, and mandarin orange segments. Lesson two: Feeding the masses, as Gallice told me earlier, “is all about organization.” The chef, who trained at the Culinary School at Bonneville in the French Alps before coming to the United States in 1980, isn’t afraid of crowds: His previous job was executive chef at the Tysons Corner Hilton. Gallice is the first to admit that “you can’t compare banquet food to a restaurant where you’re paying $90 for the entrée.” He avoids complicated presentations or fragile ingredients, but says the food at Hilton events is better than average: “We don’t compromise on quality.” Today’s meal is seared chicken with cilantro in a citrus mojo sauce, basmati rice with toasted coconut, and the aforementioned vegetable bouquets. The spinach salad with balsamic vinaigrette and the dessert (bread pudding with white chocolate and bourbon vanilla sauce) will be placed on the tables before the guests are seated. Once Gallice shows up, he’s relaxed. Feeding 1,280 guests is another day at the office. Earlier, he’d laughed when I asked to shadow him through a huge meal for, say, four hundred: “Four hundred? I’d come in late and leave early.” On a day like today, with everything in place, he might be able to catch up on paperwork. It’s Chef Henry who bears most of the stress. He jabs a sheaf of papers tacked to a bulletin board. “This is the ‘fire’ list—all the things getting cooked and what time,” he says. The mojo sauce, a fairly stable concoction of citrus, onions, and chili, was prepared three days ago; the cilantro glaze for the chicken, two days ago. The rice goes on at 9:45, though the coconut was toasted on Tuesday. The chicken, seared last night to give it grill marks, will be baked in two shifts. “We’ll start our plate-up at 10:45.” By 10:30, the rice is steamed, and the vegetables are in their warming boxes. Gal-
lice and Dwayne Rouse, executive sous chef and second-in-command, hover over a plate. A 6-ounce piece of chicken rests in a circle of rust-colored mojo sauce. There’s a small heap of rice and the vegetable bouquet alongside. Rouse, chin heavy in his hand as he leans over the plate, idly agles the chicken toward the rice, then shifts the vegetables away. The plate just doesn’t look plentiful. I wonder if a garnish would help. “No,” says Rouse. “We’ve got the starch, the protein, the vegetable. We don’t need to add anything else.” I also realize, duh, it might be a challenge to create 1,200 pieces of orange or avocado at this point. Lesson three: No last-minute improvisation. Instead, the two chefs decide to amp up the rice serving and expand the pool of sauce to cover more of the plate. It’s time to move. There will be four stations, each responsible for three hundred plates. “That’s about five plates a minute,” he calculates. Per station. One plate every twelve seconds. Five times four is twenty, times sixty is 1,200. One hour. The kitchen takes on a festive atmosphere as the table is washed down, the warming cases (or “Presscors,” after the company that makes them) are wheeled in, and four giant pots of sauce are set down, surrounded by stacks of plates and metal bins of rice and coconut. The marketing department has sent down a couple of hotel sales reps to pitch in on the assembly line. We outsiders tie aprons over our street clothes, cover our hair with nets, and pull on gloves. Groups of five split off to stand at each station; I almost expect to hear a starting gun. And we’re off, swirling ladles of sauce to make nice round pools and plopping down ice-cream scoops of rice. I settle into my task, placing the chicken breast just so (pointy side piercing the pile of rice), and learn to yell “Chicken!” in a sharp, clear voice when my supply runs low. Someone whisks a fresh pan over just in time. Each finished plate receives a steel hood and is put back in the Presscor. “That’s it!” Henry hollers, and the clatter subsides. It’s all over. I take off my plastic apron and gloves and head to the ballroom, where a corps of waiters in black jackets carry loaded trays to the tables. The full ballroom of guests barely notice when a server stumbles and drops a dozen meals—rice, mojo sauce, and chicken sprayed across the patterned rug in the Hilton ballroom. So much for the Q factor. Back in the kitchen, it’s quiet. Tonight, the engineers will gather again and eat more chicken, but for now the kitchen crew is on break. Yvonne Thomas, a chef who stood beside me on the line, puts together a plate for herself from our morning production. How does it taste? Not bad, and better than the your average rubber-chicken con-
vention meal. If I were eating this in a restaurant, I’d want the walnuts on the salad toasted, I’d find the rice a little blah, and I’d have sent the chilled bread pudding back to the kitchen for a zap in the microwave. But it’s a heckuva lot better than I could do for 1,200. ■ —Contributing writer Martha Thomas once cooked a dinner for twenty people.
Extra Helpings Matthew Sercombe, a food production manager with the Greater Baltimore Medical Center (GBMC), was one of 219 employees chosen by mega-caterer Aramark (which also operates the GBMC food service) to work at the Beijing Olympics last summer. Aramark rotated about eight hundred menu items over the course of the games, going through 1,434,000 pounds of fruit, nearly 2 million eggs, and more than 4 million portions of rice. Here are Sercombe’s prep tips for feeding a big crowd: • If you have a recipe for one, you can usually multiply it. Online conversion sites allow you to enter a recipe to increase the number of servings. But watch out: If you pack your oven, meats will cook more slowly. • Pasta can be partially pre-cooked: Undercook it, so you can still see a small white circle in the center of each noodle. Finish it off in boiling water for two minutes. • Order your prep tasks according to food safety risks, beginning with fruits and vegetables, ending with meats and shellfish. • Try blanching—a quick boil followed by an ice-water bath. For a grilled asparagus salad, Sercombe would choose thick stalks, blanch, and then toss with olive oil and roasted garlic before putting on the grill for color. • Make pastry dough ahead of time and refrigerate. If you are baking rolls, bake until they have about 10 minutes left to go, then freeze. Finish baking defrosted rolls just before serving. —M.T.
Web extra: For Matthew Sercombe’s recipe for Asian coleslaw, go to www.urbanite baltimore.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 n e 0 9
urbanite june 09
photo by La Kaye Mbah
All in the family: La Famiglia’s Dino Zeytinoglu
It might look the same, but it certainly smells different. Step into the sleek TuscanyCanterbury space recently vacated by Brasserie Tatin and prepare to be greeted by a deep, garlicky fug, a whiff of old-school Italian. La Famiglia fashions itself as a sort of homier North Baltimore resurrection of the Little Italy stalwart Boccaccio, which closed last summer. Former Boccaccio maître d’ Dino Zeytinoglu owns the new restaurant and presides over the dining room in fine style; he boasts that he transplanted much of the staff from that haunt, and indeed, there’s some theatrical Little Italy attitude served along with the marinara. But La Famiglia has a more relaxed, neighborhood vibe: The waitstaff doesn’t seem quite so primed to push the specials and fleece the tourists, perhaps because there are fewer to fleece. Much of the clientele seems to have strolled over from the prosperous residential streets nearby; the parking valet looks lonely, even when the house is full. Billed as Northern Italian, the menu takes a sure-footed tour of traditional favorites— osso buco, risotto, lots of pasta. “Zuppetta Mista”—an old Boccaccio favorite, if memory serves—is a garlic bomb: a pile-up of tender
mussels and clams soaking in a briny, basilstrewn tomato broth. Seafood also dominates the specials: Whole roasted bronzino is carefully deboned in the kitchen before serving, perfectly fresh, and sauced in a butter-wine brew that doesn’t swamp the delicate flesh. Baby-cow fans will find the inevitable veal chop, appearing here in a fairly restrained 14ounce version plated on its edge, like a shark fin, for a bit of visual drama. Saltimbocca alla Romana gets an unfussy and satisfying treatment, the simple little prosciutto-and-sagetopped cutlets just seared and gilded with velvety white-wine reduction. La Famiglia doesn’t have nearly the ambition (or the price point) of its more operatic Inner Harbor rival Cinghiale: the wine list here, for example, is noticeably modest (and thin on interesting Italian bottles), and there’s nothing on the menu that will haunt your dreams if you don’t order it. But it’s affordable, eager to please, and sings the standards well, right down to the flaky closing cannolli. (Lunch and dinner Mon–Fri, dinner Sat and Sun. 105 W. 39th St.; 443-449-5555; www.lafamigliabaltimore.com.)
Zhongshan served with excruciating enthusiasm, does little for palates in search of something more inspiring than their corner carry-out. A “curry triangle” appetizer, highlighted in red for spicy on the menu, has little zing; in spite of a lovely presentation, the aforementioned noodles are mostly soggy and overcooked. Crispy duck with vegetables is gamey and tender, but dull, and the whole fish is a variation on that theme, though less greasy. In most American cities, the touristy notion of Chinatown is really just a façade for what lies beneath: Foodies hope to discover places where General Tso never set foot. Zhongshan may yet rise to the occasion, especially for diners who succeed in penetrating the alternate Chinese menu. Asked for a dish from this list, a waitress responded with a happy nod—and redirected the questioner back to the English version. Press on. (Lunch and dinner daily, karaoke till 3 a.m. 323 Park Ave.; 410-223-1881.) —Martha Thomas
photo by La Kaye Mbah
Amid the faded remnants of Baltimore’s old Chinatown on Park Avenue—the painted sign for the long-gone China Inn, pagoda-style awnings here and there—everything about Zhongshan is bright and shiny and new. Colorful murals are laid atop gilt embossed wallpaper; eels, fish, frogs, and turtles swim in tanks in the vestibule. The restaurant’s March opening had fans of serious Chinese food buzzing, not only for its historically resonant location but also for its promise of real dim sum, a rarity locally. It’s hard not to share that excitement: One wants very much to love the food, especially after being greeted by the exuberantly solicitous hostess and waitstaff. The spare ribs are enthusiastically recommended—and they’re quite good: meaty, coated in a jammy sweet sauce. The dishes that come later are as bright and shiny as the interior décor, from the strip of radish garnish, curled to look like a red poppy, to the crisp snow peas and broccoli that embellish a plate of fried noodles with scallops and shrimp. But much of the food here, while
Extra crispy: Whole fish at Zhongshan
w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j u n e 0 9
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urbanite june 09
Hot Wines, Summer in the City How warm is too warm?
By Clinton Macsherry
bought a “perfect summer wine” a few months back, when June couldn’t get here fast enough. I knew it was perfect because a shelf-talker—one of those laminated infomercials affixed to the racks in wine shops—told me so. Even before I got to the cash register, I realized I wasn’t buying a beverage as much as a notion of summer. So be it. I was sold. Something as simple and fickle as mood can make a bottle the right one for a given meal or moment, so I’m not pooh-poohing the presumption that some wines drink best in certain seasons. Craving bright refreshment in warm months and heartiness when the weather cools makes sense superficially. But exceptions abound: Rare steak from the backyard grill still cries out for a bigboned Cabernet, even in summer; briny mid-winter oysters beg to be slurped with a crisp Muscadet or Chablis. For me, a wine’s suitability has less to do with the calendar than the dinner table. Subtracting food from the equation doesn’t change much: Most people I know who drink wine for cocktails make red, white, or pink their sip for all seasons. That said, temperature profoundly influences the way wine smells and tastes. Whoever decreed that red wine be served chambré, or at room temperature, never summered in a Baltimore rowhouse. (They were probably living in France before the advent of central heating and stored their wine in a cold cellar.) Wine geeks frequently complain that we now tend to serve our whites too cold and our reds too warm, and there’s truth to that. But temperature affects both reds and whites in similar ways. Any wine poured straight from the icebox will have its fragrance and flavors muffled. As they grow from cold to cool, wines start to release their scent—whites more quickly than reds, since they’re lighter in the molecular sense. Coolness emphasizes acidity, a good thing for many whites, but not necessarily for reds, most of which need to warm up a bit further to develop their aromas and tame their tannins. Turning points differ, but both whites and reds that grow too hot will seem flabby, dull, imbalanced, and maybe overly alcoholic. As with most facets of wine enjoyment, what constitutes too cold, too hot, and just right is somewhat subject to taste. In The World Atlas of Wine, Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson—Papa
wine & spirits
Bear and Mama Bear among British wine writers—chart optimal temperatures for ninety-one wine types, from 39 to 64 degrees Fahrenheit. Other sources vary, although most recommend the same general range. If you want to obsess, keep a thermometer on hand. (A $36 infra-red device lets you take a reading from the surface of your wine.) Warm bottles can be chilled in the fridge or the freezer, but an ice bath cools fastest. Wine that’s too cold can be poured into a glass or decanter to warm with air contact. Short bursts in the microwave work, too. Maison Galhaud Viognier-Muscat 2007 ($11, 13 percent alcohol), my “perfect summer wine,” hails from Southern France. Muscat, an intensely perfumed grape, makes up 30 percent of the blend but dominates the nose, with papaya, gardenia, musk, and flint. Medium-bodied and mouth-coating, its unsweetened pineapple flavor carries hints of lemon and stone. It offers a textbook example of wine coming into focus as it warms—to a point. I’d drink it year-round. During summer the problem isn’t getting wine to a desired temperature, it’s keeping it there. Outdoors or in, you’re fighting ambient heat that will eventually win. Meanwhile, try shorter pours—the larger mass of wine in the bottle will maintain its temperature longer, especially in a bottle cooler. Hold your wineglass by the stem to keep from warming the bowl. Or take more desperate measures. My wife, occasionally relapsing into her premarital philistinism, plunks ice cubes in her glass. What’s a little dilution, she figures, in a beverage that’s 85 percent water? I prefer a trick I learned from Frederick’s Linganore Winecellars: Use frozen grapes. ■ w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j u n e 0 9
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This Month in Eating Compiled by Martha Thomas SCOTLAND’S SINGLE MALTS In years past, the JHU Museums have raised “a fracas / ’Bout vines, an’ wines, an’ drunken Bacchus,” but this year’s fundraiser celebrates not wine but Scotch. To honor the 250th birthday of Scotland’s bard, Robert Burns, spirits specialist Craig Howard discusses the history and taste of the Highlands’ “water of life.” Guests can sample several wee drinks, as well as hors d’oeuvres by Neopol Savory Smokery and chocolates by Edible Favors. 6 p.m.–8 p.m. $25, $20 museum members. Reservations required.
JUNE 5 Homewood Museum 3400 N. Charles St. 410-516-5589 www.museums.jhu.edu
WHOLE FOODS COOK-OFF AND FARMERS MARKET A Whole Foods chef and a demo cook face off in an Iron Chef-style competition to celebrate the opening of the seasonal farmers market in the Mount Washington store’s parking lot. Competitors will create a dish from yet-undisclosed (but definitely locally sourced) ingredients in a white-knuckle showdown of culinary strength and creativity. The market, with its dozen or so vendors proffering vegetables, flowers, cheese, and bread, will be on site Wednesdays thereafter until October 28. 4 p.m.–7 p.m. Free.
JUNE 10 Whole Foods, Mount Washington 1330 Smith Ave. 410-532-6700
ST. ANTHONY FESTIVAL Sure, you can get your fried dough and sausage subs on the street, but the spaghetti and ravioli created in the basement of St. Leo’s Church is the real prize at the St. Anthony Festival in Little Italy. The church fundraiser honors the saint whom locals credit for saving St. Leo’s from the 1904 Baltimore Fire. This year’s festivities include games, music, a bocce tournament, and a silent auction. $1 admission. Noon–8 p.m. each day.
JUNE 13–14 St. Leo’s Church 227 S. Exeter St. 410-675-7275 www.littleitalymd.com.
HOT DOG DRESSING EVENT The hot dog roast at the Baltimore Museum of Industry features Esskay dogs and a tour of the museum’s exhibit on the inner workings of frank production. The Father’s Day event also explores alternatives to standard mustard/kraut toppings—caramel and chocolate sauce, anyone? Free for museum members and with regular museum admission ($10 adults, $6 students and seniors). Noon–3 p.m.
JUNE 20 Baltimore Museum of Industry 1415 Key Hwy. 410-727-4808 www.thebmi.org
COMPOSTING DEMONSTRATION Master gardener and composting trainer Susie Blackwell swears that the earthy matter she spreads on her vegetables makes a world of difference. “Once you make your first successful batch of compost,” she says, “you’ll never have enough.” She and other members of the Anne Arundel County Master Gardeners demonstrate the art and science of composting and distribute free bins to participants. Noon. $5 park admission; workshop is free.
JUNE 24 Quiet Waters Park, Annapolis 600 Quiet Waters Park Rd. 410-222-6757
w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j u n e 0 9
Discover the Irish Shrine & Railroad Workers Museum Explore Baltimore’s Irish Heritage
Tens of thousands of Irish immigrants made the journey from Ireland to Baltimore to escape the Great Famine of the mid-1800s.
Wander through two restored alley homes built in 1848 and discover how an Irish-immigrant family once lived. Explore rotating exhibits, a film, photos, writings, and a memorial garden to honor the first Irish to settle in Baltimore. Museum is open Saturdays from 11am to 2pm and admission is free. 918 - 920 Lemmon Street (one block from the B &O Railroad Museum) www.irishshrine.org
Take a Irish heritage walking tour for a fascinating glimpse of Irish life in southwest Baltimore in the 1840’s. Tour the Irish Shrine, St. Peter the Apostle Church, Hollins Street Market, a local Irish pub and St. Peter’s Cemetery. Register by emailing email@example.com or call 410-669-8154. Visit our website for tour dates and times
www.irishshrine.org A project of the Railroad Historical District Corporation. Made possible through generous support from the Maryland Historic Trust, the Municipal Arts Society and the Maryland Historical Society. A Baltimore City Historic District ~ Eligible for National Register of Historic Places
art/culture 63 THEATER
Martha Thomas on the Baltimore Shakespeare Festival and Spring Awakening
David Dudley on Hilary Hahn
69 THE SCENE This month’s cultural highlights
Natalie Sherman on Patapsco
Arts on the Run B Baltimore arts organizations look for fresh survival strategies in tough times BY JOHN BARRY ILLUSTRATION BY JOYCE HESSELBERTH
y now, you’ve heard the bad news. In March, three months after declaring Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the board of the 58-year-old Baltimore Opera voted to dissolve the organization and liquidate its assets. The Baltimore Museum of Art’s endowment plummeted by $19 million last year. Center Stage has cut positions, and two top administrators went a month without pay. Smaller grassroots arts organizations haven’t been spared either: In May, the 12-year-old youtharts nonprofit Kids on the Hill announced that it would shut down at the end of the summer.
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Hang on tight, culture mavens—there’s certainly more to come. “Anyone on an endowment is still two years from hitting the bottom,” says Gary Vikan, director of the Walters Art Museum. That may be optimistic: Most endowments are invested in the stock market, and no one knows how long the market will take to rebound. But it could be worse. In April, the state assembly, deluged by e-mails and postcards from concerned citizens, pushed back against a proposal from Gov. Martin O’Malley to cut
philosophical maelstrom that inevitably leads to, and sheds light on, Hamlet’s own existential questions. The full impact of Hamlet’s quandary is addressed later in the month, by the BSF’s summer production of the Shakespeare tragedy itself, performed on the grounds of Evergreen House. It will be a pared-down production, says director Michael Carleton (who is also BSF’s artistic director). Eight actors play multiple parts in the highly physical production, with the incidental music performed onstage by the cast. Carleton says the juxtaposition of the two plays is a harbinger of future seasons at BSF. “I like thematic seasons,” he says. “I think the most amazing theater happens after audiences leave, when they start to think about how the play relates to their lives.” In other words, theater that leaves audiences craving a sequel.
the Maryland State Arts Council budget by 36 percent and then cap spending for four years. The cuts were halved, the cap limited to one year. And while the national recession is pinching arts organizations, it is also forcing them to be more, well, creative. Bringing to mind the old dictum that the arts are here to remind us why we exist, Baltimore arts groups are figuring out how to stay afloat, and, by extension, why they exist in the first place. In March, the Walters, which faces a roughly $200,000 cut in state funding for 2009 and a radically diminished endowment, eliminated seven staff positions, instituted a hiring freeze, and canceled a major exhibit of 19thcentury French painter Jean-Léon Gérôme. But Vikan says the museum also decided to face down the crunch. The board of directors considered raising ticket prices, following in the steps of major museums in Chicago and Pittsburgh, but decided to take the opposite route. General admission will continue to be free, and the museum’s 5,000-piece collection is now open for viewing on the Internet—also at no charge. “Maybe it sounds counterintuitive,” Vikan says. “But we’re more committed to being free than ever. As one of our board members said, ‘It’s good to be free when times are good, but it’s essential to be free when times are tough.’ And that is turning out to be a good business plan. Donations have actually gone up.” The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, which has seen single-ticket sales plunge and its endowment drop 30 percent since September, has also been a leader in creative cost-cutting. In April, the symphony’s ninetythree players volunteered $1 million worth of wage and pension concessions for the coming season—in return for a fundraising campaign seeking $2 million in matching gifts. “It’s our own stimulus bill,” says BSO President and
photo by Joan Marcus
“maybe it sounds counterintuitive,” says Gary Vikan, director of the Walters. “But we’re more committed to being free than ever.”
Wild hearts: Spring Awakening tells the stories of lusty 19th-century German teenagers.
t H e at e r
Wittenberg, through June 14, and Hamlet, June 26–July 26, part of the Baltimore Shakespeare Festival Spring Awakening at the Hippodrome, June 9–21
David Davalos’ Wittenberg, at the Baltimore Shakespeare Festival early this month, is a prequel to Hamlet in theme, if not in tone. The 2008 comedy imagines Hamlet at school before he’s called home to attend his mother’s wedding (as you may recall, she’s marrying his recently deceased father’s brother so soon after the funeral that Hamlet suggests they economize by using funeral leftovers for the wedding feast). At the University of Wittenberg, Hamlet’s mentors are Dr. Faustus and Martin Luther, who set up a philosophical conundrum that the young scholar lugs back to Elsinore—that struggle between fate and self-determination, which leads to Hamlet’s famous dilemma. But at this point, Hamlet’s obsession is the choice of a major: Should he pursue theology with the Augustinian monk Luther, or explore the psyche with the eccentric Faustus? Davalos sticks the confused youth in the center of a 16th-century
The young people of Spring Awakening have more earthly concerns. The touring version of the Tony Award-winning musical pulls into the Hippodrome this month. Based on Frank Wedekind’s controversial 1891 German tragedy, this musical version created a sensation on Broadway in 2006—not just for its nudity, but for its elegant exploration of budding sexuality. The young characters live in rigid 19th-century Germany and are left to puzzle out on their own where babies come from and what their mysterious dreams and desires mean. The show is filled with edgy contrasts: Pubescent, naive kids pull out microphones and sing about love, lust, masturbation, and sexual abuse to a rock score. Christy Altomare, who plays the featured female character, Wendla (“I’m 22, but I look 18, and I’m playing a 14-year-old.”), says the play’s themes are universal: “[The characters are] from a different time, but they speak a language that today’s audience can understand.” —Martha Thomas
For tickets to Wittenberg and Hamlet, call 410-366-8596 or go to www.baltimore shakespeare.org. For tickets to Spring Awakening, call 410-547-SEAT or go to www.francemerrickpac.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 n e 0 9
LakeFest: A weekend of free events at the Columbia lakefront for the entire family. June 12- 14 Sue Ellen Thompson. Two time Pulitzer Prize nominee speaks about “Poetry as Autobiography.” June 15 Chicago City Limits. NYC’s longest running comedy revue! June 16 California Guitar Trio. A whirlwind of instrumental styles. June 18 Ballet Hispanico. Magnetic energy and vivacious choreography. June 20 Laura Lippman. The Wilde Lake High School graduate and former Baltimore Sun reporter reads from her work. June 23 The Smothers Brothers. Their cutting-edge humor still resonates today. June 25 Barrage. This year’s Festival Finale is a high octane ﬁddle fest! June 27
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urbanite june 09
CEO Paul Meecham of the “Music Matters: Play Your Part” campaign, which by early May had netted $675,000. BSO players’ committee chair Laurie Sokoloff believes that the workerled fundraising collaboration with management is a first for the symphony world. Inevitably, budget cuts and tight times raise fears that the arts will be watered down
for mass audience appeal. But Johns Hopkins University art history professor Stephen Campbell says that isn’t necessary. “Outreach is important, but that doesn’t mean that you should patronize your audience. Teach them that some things are difficult.” He points to BSO Music Director Marin Alsop, who engages the audience in discussions after concerts, as a model of community engagement. Likewise, fans of the other performing arts have reason to be optimistic—though the days of spectacles such as the Baltimore Opera’s extravagant Aida last October are surely over for the foreseeable future. (That production, which left the opera with a $200,000 shortfall in ticket sales, paved the way to bankruptcy.) Local performance artist Temple Crocker says larger companies may look for inspiration to companies that have always operated on shoestring budgets. In Crocker’s Hearts and Tongues, which played at the LOF/t performance space in May, one of the main props was Crocker’s childhood dollhouse. “When we talk about connecting to an audience, I certainly don’t see that connection being based on big budgets,” she says. “Connection is based on artist and audience having an exchange that has meaning for them both and that in some way adds to the fabric of their lives.” For individual artists, the challenge may be getting word of their work out to audiences in a time when galleries, museums, and publishing houses have less funding for publicity—and when newspapers and magazines are dropping art critics and book reviewers. Artist (and occasional Urbanite contributor) Jack Livingston, who teaches interactive media at MICA, has been working with the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance and students from Maryland Institute College of Art and Johns Hopkins to publish RADARREDUX, an online arts journal that debuted in fall 2008. “In the ’60s, FM radio was student- and community-oriented. That was how information spread across the coun-
photo by Peggy Fox
“When we talk about connecting to an audience, I certainly don’t see that connection being based on big budgets,” says local performance artist temple crocker.
Memory book: Patapsco is a visual and written account of the lives of the inhabitants of the mill towns that edge the Patapsco River.
Patapsco: Life Along Maryland’s Historic River Valley University of Virginia Press, 2008
History doesn’t repeat itself. It spirals. Slavery ends, and something “slavery-like” takes its place. The railroad comes, but family farms remain. This type of history—the type that takes a hesitant, circuitous route toward Progress—comes alive in Patapsco: Life Along Maryland’s Historic River Valley, an illustrated account of five nearby mill towns—Oella, Ellicott City, Elkridge, Relay, and the now-abandoned Daniels. The book began life in 1997 as an oral history project sponsored by the Maryland Historical Trust, which commissioned photographer/ artist Peggy Fox and Alison Kahn, a folklorist and writer, to capture portraits of each town’s “elders,” the youngest of whom was born in 1949. (The oldest would be more than 100 if alive today.) Organized by town, the fifty-three interviews record class lines, racial divisions, and the steady decline of smalltown America via highway and economic change. Major figures emerge—shopkeepers, wealthy landowners—as do such epochal events as the fire at the Oella mill, school integration, or the closing of the railroad. The book preserves smaller details as well: Elkridge contractor Samuel Merson recalls the “special smell ... that a train makes—the metal going along on the rails … the metal wheels against the metal.”
“Each history is part of a larger pattern or tapestry,” Fox says. “I would like for people to take them as a portrait of a time that’s gone.” Fox’s black-and-white images for Patapsco recall Walker Evans, whose photographs heroicized the poverty of Depression-era Southern families in in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Ironically, it is Fox’s color photographs, mostly landscapes, that most poignantly recall a lost world. She shot the images in black and white, then digitally added luminous, faded colors to create a handtinted “nostalgic look.” This could veer into sentimentalism, but Patapsco works as hard to celebrate distance traveled as it does to resurrect what has been lost. Hardscrabble Depression-era childhoods give way to the comforts of indoor plumbing. Encounters with the Klan give way to Christmas parties. Emma “Louise” Blackstone, a former domestic servant born in 1916, recalls not being permitted inside the grand manor home where her mother worked. “I didn’t like that, but honeychild, history repeats itself, you hear me?” she says. Except that it doesn’t: Many years later, Louise does enter the manor, this time as a Christmas party guest. ”Honey, I had ball that night,” she says. “You have no idea what that done for me.” —Natalie Sherman
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try,” he says. Since then, he’s seen traditional media—including alternative weeklies and radio—drop younger arts journalists, just as arts organizations struggle to connect with the college-age market. With RADARREDUX, Livingston hopes to tap savvy student critics—critics who are willing to work for academic credit, not cash—and reach a younger audience as well. “Students have always had a big role in the creation of new media and alternative publications,” he says. “They’re particularly suited to this one.” Local author Michael Kimball says the days are gone when writers could hang out in garrets, waiting to be discovered by reviewers. He does his own promotion, relentlessly, via social networking. His third novel, the epistolary Dear Everybody, was published in 2008, shortly before the stock market tanked (see Urbanite, Sept. 2008). He has been pushing his work using Facebook and just finished a “virtual book tour” of the United Kingdom, arranging online interviews with prominent British bloggers. “The standard reading tour used to cost thousands of dollars,” he says. “This tour is free, and it’s getting me a lot of attention.” Some in Baltimore’s art scene believe that this kind of public outreach is overdue. Peter Bruun, artist/director of Art on Purpose, thinks that the recession may give artists and arts organizations a chance to shake off their “elitist” reputation by encouraging ordinary people to tap their own creative drives. “If you open your lens to people regardless of their craft proficiency, you’re a lot more likely to uncover the genuine creativity in us,” Bruun says. An added benefit, he says, is that people are more likely to pay to see other peoples’ work if they know that they’re artists themselves. There are more difficulties ahead, but Alonzo Davis, retired dean of the Memphis College of Arts, says there is reason for cautious optimism. At age 67, Davis, now a fulltime painter with a Baltimore studio, has weathered two major economic downturns already—the recession of the early ’70s and the Reagan years, when arts funding was slashed. He says he’s optimistic that support for arts will rebound, on both the state and national levels. A $50 million increase in funding this year for the National Endowment for the Arts is a start. “But it’s going to take at least four to five years for that to take effect,” he says. Meanwhile, Davis says, Baltimore will remain rich turf for creative types. “If you want to make money, there’s D.C. or New York,” he says. “But the work energy in Baltimore is tremendous. Those who tap into it are strong makers.” ■
Homegrown virtuoso: Violinist Hilary Hahn returns to the Meyerhoff for the East Coast premiere of a concerto written for her.
Built for Speed
Hilary Hahn plays Jennifer Higdon’s Violin Concerto with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, June 4–7
Baltimore violin phenom Hilary Hahn blanches a bit at the term “crossover,” though she’s known to dabble in non-classical projects: She toured with folk artist Josh Ritter in 2007 and was a guest on a 2005 album by Texas indie rockers …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead. Hahn, who took up the violin at the Peabody Conservatory at age 3 and had her major orchestral debut before her teens, prefers to call these occasional forays “collaborations” and says that they only make her better at her day job. “It really helps clear my mind,” she says. “The reason I value these projects is because I do really believe in classical music. For me, it has all the range of all these genres combined.” Indeed, the 29-year-old Hahn is as serious as they come when tackling some of the most difficult pieces in her instrument’s repertoire, most recently in last year’s Grammy-winning recording of Arnold Schoenberg’s rarely played violin concerto. Her latest challenge comes from an exteacher, composer Jennifer Higdon, who led the 20th-century music class Hahn took as a teenage student at Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute in the mid-1990s. Higdon wrote a 30-minute concerto, co-commissioned by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, custom-tailored for Hahn’s formidable
technical gifts and distinctive, muscular tone. Hahn tells everyone who writes compositions with her in mind the same thing: “Write what you want. I like to be surprised, and I don’t know how people hear me. Each [composer] picks up something different.” Higdon’s three-movement concerto apparently won’t disappoint Hahn fans who come out to witness some of her trademark fiddle pyrotechnics: The speedy final movement, “Fly Forward,” was described as “a perpetual-motion exercise for the violin” by Indianapolis Star critic Jay Harvey after the piece’s world premiere in February. Hahn lauds the composition’s “huge range—from devilishly aggressive to really vulnerable. The rhythm is complex, but it comes together with total logic at the end. It’s a tour de force.” Still, Hahn won’t say it’s hard to play—at least, no harder than anything else she’s attempted: “Yes, it’s challenging. But everything is challenging. Even simplicity.” Also on the program: Beethoven’s Egmont Overture and Dvorák’s Symphony No. 5. —David Dudley
For tickets, call 410-783-8000 or go to www. bsomusic.org.
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Visit Downtown Lancaster, a small city with high style and big surprises! With 300 unique shops, restaurants, galleries and attractions, as well as the new world-class Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square, Lancaster is prepared to make your weekend getaway an experience you will never forget. Located just over an hour from Baltimore, you will want to come back again and again. Whether you make it a day, night or a weekend, we invite you to find yourself in Downtown Lancaster.
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Make it a Night. Make it a Weekend. Make it Happen. urbanite june 09
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t h e s c e n e : m ay JAZZ
Another Man’s Treasure
Since 1993, the Capital Jazz Fest has showcased R&B and contemporary jazz musicians. This year’s lineup includes Natalie Cole, Al Jarreau, and Fourplay. June 5–7 at Merriweather Post Pavilion. (www. capitaljazz.com/2009)
Jane says: Jane’s Addiction is touring again, with fellow late-1980s alterna-rock phenoms Nine Inch Nails and rap-rock group Street Sweeper Social Club (Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello’s side project). Get pumped by downloading unreleased tracks from all three bands at www.ninja2009.com. June 9 at Merriweather Post Pavilion. (10475 Little Patuxent Pkwy.; www.merriweathermusic.com) DANCE MUSIC
Only the most serious dance devotees will make it through Starscape. Held at Fort Armistead Park at the base of the Key Bridge, the 18-hour music extravaganza features live DJ sets, drum and bass, electronica, house, and more from acts such as Chromeo and the Disco Biscuits. There’ll also be a graffiti wall, lights and laser shows, and good spots from which to watch the sun come up over the bay. June 6. (www.starscapefestival.com) INDIE MUSIC
Hungry Bodies (including members of the local Lexie Mountain Boys and Baltimore/ Silver Spring-based noise/hip-hop group Food for Animals) headlines at Sonar, with local folkster Lesser Gonzalez Alvarez opening. June 4. (407 E. Saratoga St.; 410783-7888; www.sonarbaltimore.com)
The Intersections Play Festival highlights works by new and established playwrights of color, with three staged readings each night of the festival. June 5 and 6 at Center Stage. (700 N. Calvert St.; http:// intersectionsplayfestival.tumblr.com/)
Everyman Theatre presents the world premiere of The Soul Collector, penned by D.C. playwright and actor David Emerson Toney. It’s the comic tale of two garbage men who discover, in the trash, a young woman possessed by two spirits. Through June 21. (1727 N. Charles St.; 410-752-2208; www.everymantheatre.org) DANCE
All that Jazz
At the Theatre Project is Naoko Maeshiba’s Paraffin, a dance/theater piece that explores themes of identity and illusion and is accompanied by an original score by Polish electronic jazz duo Dariusz Makaruk and Wlodzimierz Kiniorski. June 4–14. (45 W. Preston St.; 410-752-8558; www.theatreproject.org) PHOTOGRAPHY
Drawn to Scale
The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., recently acquired a series of five chromogenic prints by German photographer Thomas Demand. Presidency I–V was commissioned by the New York Times and consists of photographs of subtly skewed life-size models of the Oval Office, created with paper, cardboard, and confetti. (4th St. and Constitution Ave. NW; 202-737-4215; www.nga.gov)
Herman Maril’s 100th birthday, the Walters Art Museum exhibits twenty-three of his modernist landscapes and still lifes. The Baltimore native taught painting at the University of Maryland, College Park, for more than thirty years; his work has been exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the White House, and the Corcoran Gallery, among others. June 28–August 30. (600 N. Charles St.; 410-547-9000; www.thewalters.org) DRAWING
Gallery Imperato hosts a solo exhibition of Alyssa Dennis’ new work. Urban Blight features new mixed-media drawings that explore the relationship between humans and urban environments. Through June 27. (921 E. Fort Ave., Suite 120; 443-2574166; www.galleryimperato.com)
Mid-Century Modernist Czech designer Erno Fabry was responsible for bringing modern design to post-World War II homes, but his contributions have for the most part been unheralded. The Evergreen Museum and Library holds what it calls the first exhibit of Fabry’s furniture designs, drawings, plans, and more. Through October 25. (4545 N. Charles St.; 410-5160341; www.museums.jhu.edu/evergreen/)
On Your Marc
At Chagall for Children, kids can create mosaics, weave tapestries, and take part in other hands-on activities inspired by the work of celebrated 19th- and 20th-century painter Marc Chagall. At Port Discovery through September 7. (35 Market Pl.; 410727-8120; www.portdiscovery.org)
As part of a three-year celebration of painter
write, shoot, and edit a short movie for the 48 Hour Film Project. Each film must include a specific character, prop, and line of dialogue. Finished films will be screened at local theaters soon after the deadline. June 12–14. Register at www.48hourfilm. com/baltimore. ARTS FESTIVAL
Take Your Pick
The Columbia Arts Festival is sixteen days of visual art, dance, theater, comedy, film, literature, and more. Highlights include a performance by Ballet Hispanico, comedy by Henry Cho and the Smothers Brothers, and the free LakeFest, with a Kinetic Art Parade, arts and crafts, and wine tastings. June 12–27. Urbanite is a sponsor. (www. columbiafestival.com) WORKSHOP
Here’s Looking at You
Spend a day exploring the intriguing world of pinhole photography with photographers Guillaume Pallat and Christopher Peregoy, and then construct your own lensless camera using found materials such as coconuts, trash cans, and whatever else you can dig up. June 13 at the American Visionary Art Museum. (800 Key Hwy.; 410244-1900; www.avam.org) AWARD
And the Winner Is …
The finalists for the $25,000 Janet and Walter Sondheim Artscape Prize have been announced. Find out who wins the prestigious award at the Baltimore Museum of Art on July 11. An exhibit of work from the finalists runs June 20–August 16 at the BMA (10 Art Museum Dr.); work by the twenty-five semifinalists is up at the Maryland Institute College of Art July 17–August 2 (1300 Mt. Royal Ave.).
Teams of filmmakers race the clock to
Maya Freelon Asante creates monoprints by saturating colored tissue paper and then creating a new image with the “ink.” The Baltimore-based artist’s twodimensional pieces (such as Cute, left), along with an installation, appear at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum through August 16. (830 E. Pratt St.; 443-263-1800; www.africanamericanculture.org) Compiled by Marianne K. Amoss
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The Accelerator continued from page 31
I think it’s a little too soon to say. All the major automakers everywhere—but especially in Detroit—are at a crisis point. One of the biggest myths is that there are no smart people in Detroit. There are some really innovative people in these companies. The challenge is getting the leadership to allow that to bubble up, and then do something with it.
Is there in GM and Chrysler and Ford some larger unwillingness or lack of foresight to invest in sustainable technologies?
Some of this comes down to just people issues. Humans tend to be afraid of change. We want to take the path of least resistance. Sometimes it’s a matter of some guy worried about his retirement deciding this is a bad choice, and no one questioning that one guy. Spread a few of them around, and you end up with a trend.
Now-deposed GM CEO Rick Wagoner said recently that axing the EV1 program and not putting the right resources into hybrids was his worst decision. Have you spoken to him about that since?
I personally have not. He and [outgoing Vice Chairman of Global Product Development] Bob Lutz made that statement. I differ with them a little bit because they frame it as a huge mistake from a PR perspective. Larry Burns, who is the vice president of research and development, actually said it better because he said, “Look, we were ten years ahead. It was our worst decision because we lost ten years, and now we’re playing catch-up instead of leading.” That’s the real issue. Part of doing better is recognizing you didn’t do well in the past, but there’s a limit to how many times they need to say they’re sorry. For the most part, they get it. The interest is there; the passion is there. They’re all in at the end of the poker game, and this is the future of their companies. Whether they can do it quickly enough to save themselves remains to be seen.
And what happens if they don’t survive?
We are a car culture. It would be sad to end up with no American car industry. Watching automakers is like watching my children. You have to let them figure it out on their own, and you so badly want to step in and say, “Let me just show you.” And they go, “That’s great. Piss off. I know what I’m doing.”
Do you have to turn it over to, say, the guys who run Tesla? Could they take over General Motors and make it work?
urbanite june 09
Detroit could certainly benefit from some new blood, but at the same time, you really have to know the industry you’re trying to manage. Ford has had some success with bringing in [new CEO] Alan Mulally from Boeing. But others have brought folks in from other industries, and it has not gone nearly as well. You have to be incredibly selective. Some of the debates we ought to be talking about with respect to the bailout have to do with the conditions put on these large automakers. Maybe one of them is that they provide some capacity to a smaller [manufacturer]. We have to start thinking more creatively about how to move forward, rather then just throwing more money at the same problem. One of the things that I find incredibly intriguing is the mixing up of new blood and veterans—people that have worked the front lines and have marketed to customers. Just saying “Go forth and build electric cars”—that may not be effective if it’s the wrong kind of car. If we said they all have to go 300 miles [on one charge], it would actually be a really bad thing for the technology and for the movement.
Why would it be bad?
I think it’s arrogant for either automakers or policy makers to decide on behalf of the American consumer that this is the one thing that you want. Eighty percent of people drive less than 40 miles a day. [Building EVs with a 300-mile range] forces the manufacturing of cars that are vastly more expensive than what we need. Still, the question we always get [about EVs] is, “What if I want to drive across the country?” We have that Route 66 cultural thing ingrained in us. I totally get it, but my answer is always, “When was the last time you did that?” It’s a psychological concern. Within a couple of weeks of driving electric, it falls away. People go, “Oh, I don’t drive nearly as much as I think I do. And it’s kind of cool to pull into my garage and plug in my cars, and they’re full in the morning, and I don’t have to go to a gas station. And it’s clean and quiet and, God, it doesn’t hurt that I could take on a Ferrari because an electric motor has so much torque. That doesn’t suck either.”
Q A Q A
Electric cars do have torque, don’t they?
They have a tremendous amount of torque.
How fast does the Tesla go?
Oh, zero to sixty in 3.9 seconds. They’re wicked fun. ■
On the air: Listen to more of this interview on the Marc Steiner Show, WEAA 88.9 FM, on June 24.
A Streetcar Named Conspire continued from page 43 Somebody has to come along and say, ‘How do all these pieces come together?’” “Connectivity” is the mantra of transit geeks, and it’s also the most obvious failing of Baltimore’s existing Metro and Light Rail systems, which notoriously graze each other without linking. Surface streetcars offer an opportunity to stitch the system back together—one that’s far cheaper than the light rail alternative for the Red Line. Smaller streetcars might placate Canton residents who object to the prospect of block-long light rail trains rumbling down Boston Street. Moreover, Neily says, burying Red Line riders in an expensive new tunnel blocks away from a parallel subway tunnel defies transit logic. “The whole purpose of transit is to make the city work,” he says. “This is totally at odds with that.” The city core, where attractions and destinations are tightly packed, should be served by fairly slow-paced vehicles that stop often—in a word, streetcars. Still, mass-transit nonbelievers insist that just because streetcars are cheaper than subways doesn’t mean they’re not municipal money pits that died for a good reason. “They’re a scam,” says Randal O’Toole, a senior fellow at the libertarian, subsidy-loathing Cato Institute, a think tank in Washington. “In Portland, my former hometown, they built a streetcar to spur investment after building a light rail system to spur investment. Really, none of it has worked.” He says taxpayer subsidies along the streetcar line amount to $665 million—over and above what it cost to build and outfit the streetcar line. And he cites figures showing that, as a share, mass transit ridership overall in Portland has dropped since 1985, before light rail and streetcar lines were in opera-
tion. “They haven’t spurred development. All they’ve spurred is a call for more subsidies to subsidize the subsidies,” O’Toole says. Even die-hard trolley fans admit that their beloved conveyances may have an uphill climb trying to win back hearts and minds. “Baltimore is so provincial that they don’t care what’s happened with streetcars in New Orleans or San Francisco,” says Kevin Mueller, a Catholic priest in Gambrills and author of The Best Way to Go: The History of the Baltimore Transit Company. He’s been a motorman at the Baltimore Streetcar Museum for the last thirty years. “This isn’t a public transit town. That, and the fact that most Baltimoreans see public transportation as something poor people ride. There’s still bigotry in this world. That’s the battle [the Trolley Corp.] will have.” But Mueller says that if the Trolley Corp. does things right—makes cars that look good, run on time, and get people where they need to go, like they did a long time ago—he might become convinced. “You’ll always have people who’ll complain. But if this changes some attitudes about public transportation in the long run, it might be worth it,” he says. “Maybe this time, it’ll be different.” ■ —Michael Anft is a senior writer at Johns Hopkins Magazine and a regular Urbanite contributor. John Ellsberry is an artist, photographer, writer, and IMAX projectionist at the Maryland Science Center. The two have collaborated regularly over the last twenty years. On the air: More trolley talk on the Marc Steiner Show, WEAA 88.9 FM, on June 17.
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smokery, specializing in smoked seafood and meats, savory cheese pies, gourmet foods, smoked seasoning salts and chef’s supplies. Belvedere Square Marketplace Baltimore, Maryland 21212 Tel: 410-433-7700
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A new speaker series
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Presented in partnership with Open Society Institute-Baltimore Thursday, June 4, 7 p.m. • Central Library, 400 Cathedral St, Baltimore 21201 Join the everyday celebration of master poet, Edgar Allan Poe at Annabel Lee Tavern. Upscale comfort dining by romantic candlelight. We offer eclectic food and drink at affordable prices. COMING SOON: Saturday Brunch & Outdoor Seating 601 S. Clinton St., Baltimore 21224 410.522.2929 www.annabelleetavern.com
Roastery & Retail Shop Open Tuesday thru Sunday Fresh, locally roasted coffee, loose leaf teas and brewing accessories. 3003 Montebello Terrace Baltimore, MD 21214 443-992-4388 www.zekescoffee.com
Journalist Gwen Ifill of Washington Week and The News Hour with Jim Lehrer and author of The Breakthrough: Politics & Race in the Age of Obama, Sherrilyn A. Ifill, and civil rights lawyer and law professor at the University of Maryland School of Law and author of On the Courthouse Lawn. prattlibrary.org
w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j u n e 0 9
eye to ey e
Our brightest blazes of gladness are commonly kindled by unexpected sparks. â€”Samuel Johnson
Walking back from dinner in Fells Point one night, I looked down and saw the night sky. That was more than ten years ago, yet South Chester Street between Fleet and Aliceanna still mirrors the Milky Way. It must have happened like this: A truck with a loose bed, spewing bits of rejected aluminum, made its noisy way down the street on an especially hot Baltimore day, embedding random worlds into the macadam. This is the way the world starts. And, as with the night sky, it all lies here in some chaotic fashion just waiting for us to wonder at it or to find order and give meaning to it. I have created my own constellations here, spent hours savoring the relationships of supernovae and white dwarfs, gravity and dark matter, reveling in this gift of randomness. â€”Alex Castro
urbanite june 09
anonymous unititled c. 1998 scrap aluminum in macadam
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A complimentary chauffeur-driven limousine. A dramatic skylounge. 24-hour concierge services to make your busy life easier. Are you ready for a life of unparalleled convenience and cosmopolitan services? At 39 West Lexington, your expectations will be exceeded. You’ll know you’ve arrived— from the moment you enter the grand lobby. Visit us today to be among the select few who will be able to call this Baltimore landmark home.
LUXURY RENTAL APARTMENTS | STUDIO | 1-BEDROOM | 2-BEDROOM | PENTHOUSE | 2-LEVEL PENTHOUSE
39 WEST LEXINGTON STREET, BALTIMORE, MD 21201 FOR MORE INFORMATION, OR TO SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT, CALL 888.761.3055. 39WESTLEX.COM
room filling surround sound from a single speaker
SurroundBarÂŽ360Â° DVD Theater, complete surround sound home theater from a single speaker. Hear it for yourself at your nearest authorized Polk Audio dealer. More at www.roomfillingsurround.com
Polk Audio & SurroundBar are registered trademarks of Polk Audio used under license by Britannia Investment Corporation. Sorry, TV not included.
no subwoofer or rear speakers