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city vs. poly june 2 0 1 2 no. 9 6

Food Stamp Challenge

rip jfx?


In my wallet is a tattered Fat Tire label which I’ve had for 11 years. Ever since my first one, I immediately fell in love with this refreshing ale and the company’s ecoconscience ways. Amongst friends, this label has led to many discussions such as,

“ Is it possible to jump a recycling bin on a banana seat bike?” (Yes, but next time don’t pedal so fast!) Thanks Fat Tire for making recycling and biking so much fun. Frances M. of South Carolina

A lot of people have discovered the tasty joy bottled and canned in Fat Tire Amber Ale. Join them on newbelgium.com and enjoy the ride!

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4  june 2012  www.urbanitebaltimore.com


this month

#96  June 2012

features 28

departments 32

keynote The Netminder interview by Ron Cassie

about the cover: Photo by J.M. Giordano The cover image of the Chesapeake Women's Rugby club, the nation's oldest continuously operating women's rugby club, pictures the team (in green and black) battling last month on its home pitch at Frank C. Bocek Park, located at 3198 E. Madison St. in Baltimore. The match was shot by Urbanite staff photographer J.M. Giordano. The cover was designed by Bradley Hamblin.

Can a soccer match improve the lives of thousands of people worldwide? Mel Young, co-founder of the Homeless World Cup, thinks so.

Editor’s Note 9 What You’re Saying 11 What You’re Writing 15 Don’t Miss 17 The Goods —— baltimore observed

21

30

23 Update 25 Transportation 27 Education

by Rafael Alvarez, Ron Cassie, Mat Edelson, Lionel Foster, Donna M. Owens, Jeff Seidel, Baynard Woods, and Andrew Zaleski

—— 53

poetry

47

The Munchkin Coroner Returns to Oz Meinhardt Raabe (1915-2010) by Joanna Pearson

—— space

48

38

——

Expiration Date

food + drink 53

by Mat Edelson

Portions of urban highways are being removed in cities around the world. Is it the JFX’s turn?

more online at www.urbanitebaltimore.com

on the air

Urbanite on The Marc Steiner Show, WEAA 88.9 FM June 13 : Rain Pryor, who directs The Strand's June production of Well, written by Lisa Kron June 20: The state of the electric car in Charm City June 28: Coach Jill Pardini and the Baltimore refugee boys of Soccer Without Borders

What You Get for $30

by Rebecca Messner Eating healthy on a food stamp budget

61 web extras

The Forest for the Trees

by Rebecca Messner With a new plan from renowned landscape architecture firm Olin, the Mount Vernon Place Conservancy aims to turn the historic square into a destination for the future.

transit

Language Arts

by Rafael Alvarez A Kuwait-born MICA grad student is publishing her own magazine, seeking to challenge the Arab community through words, art, and design.

feature The Games People Play and Why Sports Matter

Before dawn until the lights go out at local basketball courts, everyday Baltimoreans row, run, box, pedal, skate, scrum, shoot hoops, swing a bat, and desperately strive to score goals. What’s the meaning of it all?

7

57 Dining Reviews 59 Wine & Spirits

—— arts + culture 61

Writer's Block

by Joseph Martin "The City that Reads" is home to some of this country's most promising fiction writers. So why have you never heard of them?

64 Book 64 Theater 65 Visual Art

—— 67 The Scene —— 70 Eye to Eye Urbanite #96  june 2012  5


Summer is Coming.... issue 96: june 2012 publisher Tracy Ward Tracy@urbanitebaltimore.com general manager Jean Meconi Jean@urbanitebaltimore.com editor-in-chief Ron Cassie Ron@urbanitebaltimore.com assistant editor Rebecca Messner Rebecca@urbanitebaltimore.com

p u d e t a e h t ge at

digital media editor Andrew Zaleski Andrew@urbanitebaltimore.com editor-at-large David Dudley David@urbanitebaltimore.com online editors food/drink: Tracey Middlekauff Tracey@urbanitebaltimore.com arts/culture: Cara Ober Cara@urbanitebaltimore.com, Baynard Woods Baynard@urbanitebaltimore.com proofreader Marianne Amoss contributing writers Michael Anft, Scott Carlson, Charles Cohen, Michael Corbin, Heather Dewar, Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson, Mat Edelson, Lionel Foster, Brennen Jensen, Michelle Gienow, Clinton Macsherry, Richard O’Mara, Robin T. Reid, Andrew Reiner, Martha Thomas, Baynard Woods, Michael Yockel, Mary K. Zajac editorial interns Lawrence Burney, Michael Nakan, Cassie Paton production manager Belle Gossett Belle@urbanitebaltimore.com graphic designers Bradley Hamblin, Lisa Van Horn staff photographer J.M. Giordano Joe@urbanitebaltimore.com

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production intern Leah Daniels, Sarah Thrower video intern Lindsay Bottos-Sewell senior account executives Catherine Bowen Catherine@urbanitebaltimore.com Freda Ferguson Freda@urbanitebaltimore.com Susan R. Levy Susan@urbanitebaltimore.com account executive Natalie Richardson Natalie@urbanitebaltimore.com sales marketing associate Erin Albright Erin@urbanitebaltimore.com bookkeeper/distribution coordinator Michelle Miller Michelle@urbanitebaltimore.com creative director emeritus Alex Castro founder Laurel Harris Durenberger — Advertising/Editorial/Business Offices 2002 Clipper Park Road, Fourth Floor, Baltimore, md 21211 Phone: 410-243-2050; Fax: 410-243-2115 www.urbanitebaltimore.com Editorial inquiries: Send queries to editor@urbanitebaltimore.com (no phone calls, please). The magazine is not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts or artwork. Urbanite does not necessarily share 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 2012, 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, 2002 Clipper Park Road, Fourth Floor, Baltimore, md 21211. Urbanite is a certified Minority Business Enterprise.


bottom Photo by Matthew Smith; middle photo by Leah Daniels.; Top photo by Bob Allen; Ron Cassie PHOTO by Sarah Thrower

contributors

editor’s note

Bob Allen, who wrote this month's look at the state of the electric car in Maryland, has written for national and Baltimore area publications and has taught writing at Towson University and McDaniel College. The author of George Jones: The Life and Times of a Honky Tonk Legend, Allen has also written and edited numerous books on popular American music. Reading Thomas Friedman's book Hot Flat and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution and How it Can Renew America, while writing the story, Allen says he came to believe that the electric and electric/hybrid vehicles are one step on the long road to breaking our nation's costly, ultimately self-defeating addiction to oil. Cassie Paton, who wrote this month's review of artist Teddy Johnson's upcoming exhibition, is Urbanite's editorial intern. A Towson University grad and freelance writer, Paton has also written for publications such as Bmore Media and What Weekly. Of her review of artist Teddy Johnson’s upcoming exhibition, Paton says she can relate to Johnson’s appreciation for people from generations past. “I thought it was interesting that he found a kindred spirit in a writer-illustrator from so long ago who ended up inspiring his work.”

Joanna Pearson's first book of poetry, Oldest Mortal Myth, was selected for the 2012 Donald Justice Poetry Prize and will be available this month. Her novel for young adults, The Rites and Wrongs of Janice Wills, was published in 2011. She has an MFA in poetry from the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars and a medical degree from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She's currently a resident physician at Johns Hopkins.

last month the maryland film festival screened Wild in the Streets,

Ron Cassie

the awesome history, ritual, and have-to-see-it-to-believe-it story of Royal Shrovetide Football. Considered the origin of soccer and rugby—and thereby American football—the “sport” has been played annually since the Middle Ages, albeit in just one town: rural Ashbourne, England. It goes like this: Permanent stone goals sit 3 miles apart in Ashbourne, and it’s one half of the small town—the Up’Ards—versus the other—the Down’Ards, affiliation depending on which side of the Henmore Brook one is born. The objective is to “goal” the oversized leather ball by bashing it three times against one of the stone pillars after it’s been tossed into play in the town square. Contested over two full days, Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday, roughly 1,500 men aside—there are two rules: The ball can’t be advanced by motor vehicle, and play isn’t permitted on church or cemetery property (although the second rule is never actually enforced). Otherwise, it’s a complete free-for-all as the Up’Ards and Down’Ards kick, punch, push, and throw the 4-pound ball—and each other—through ditches, over fences, down cobblestone streets, across open fields, and into coldwater creeks, in the mud, rain, and, occasionally, snow. Storeowners board their windows. Of course, as writer, director, and producer Peter Baxter acknowledged to the packed Charles Theatre audience afterwards, the documentary wasn’t really about Shrovetide Football. “The film is not about a game; it’s about a community where the game is the lifeblood,” Baxter said. A friendly, closeknit community 363 days of the year, Ashbourne is the kind of hometown people may leave but inevitably come back to. Every person interviewed said life wouldn’t be the same without the traditional Shrovetide football match. Well, similarly, the Baltimore Cricket and Social Club, the Chesapeake Women’s Rugby club, and Soccer Without Borders, to name a few local examples, are about more than cricket, rugby, or soccer. It is with this idea in mind at the start of summer that Urbanite takes a look this month at some of Baltimore’s unique sports (p. 30), trying to capture, in photos and words, why it all matters so much. In our other June feature (p. 38) contributing writer Mat Edelson explores a national and international trend focused on tearing down urban highways. Edelson’s reporting recounts some of the history of the Jones Falls Expressway and imagines a future without it—at least the lower half in East Baltimore. Elsewhere in transportation trends, in “Baltimore Observed,” Bob Allen explores the state of the electric car in Charm City and Maryland (p. 25). Also in “Baltimore Observed,” Rafael Alvarez profiles MICA grad student Danah Abdulla, publisher of Kalimat, a magazine aiming to challenge statusquo thinking in the greater Arab community (p. 21). In “Arts and Culture,” Joseph Martin points out the national recognition that several of Baltimore’s young fiction writers have been receiving while still struggling to get noticed here (p. 61). Also in “Arts and Culture,” Martha Thomas highlights this month’s upcoming productions at the Strand and the Hippodrome (p. 64), and Urbanite editorial intern Cassie Paton reviews Teddy Johnson’s oil painting exhibition at the Minás Gallery (p. 65). In “Space,” Assistant Editor Rebecca Messner looks at a controversial plan to remove trees in Mount Vernon Square and restore the park to its historic design (p. 48). Finally, as all good things come to an end—even a Shrovetide Football match eventually—I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that this is my last month serving as Urbanite’s editor-in-chief. Although I plan to help out with the July issue, it’s with some regret I leave, taking an editorial position at a publication owned by a good friend, while wishing Urbanite a bright future.

Coming next month

HAS BALTIMORE HIP HOP ARRIVED? A look at emerging artists making their major label debuts Urbanite #96  june 2012  7


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what you’re saying

Matthew Porterfield

the rebirth of urban

lacrosse

inside the coPycat

95 may 2 0 1 2 no.

seen as a model site for studying the impact of art on social justice in an urban setting. Investments like this can only strengthen the community arts assets in our city. Once again, thank you for your coverage and for beginning this timely and important dialogue for Baltimore. —Kalima Young, Project Coordinator, Balti more Art + Justice Project

baltimore , sometimes I love you almost helplessly and unconditionally — @BrickExpose Friends Records Free Urbanite/ nload Inside Summer Music Dow

good @UrbaniteMD article by @BretMcBret: exploring community arts in #Baltimore

—@mobtownblues

The Day the Music Died Re: “Summer Music Playlist,” May ’12, our song picks for the summer curated by Friends Records and contributing writer Baynard Woods: wow. shocking that half the people on this list are actually ON Friends Records or closely associated. Bias much? —Jabronie

‘Gallery’ Spaces Re: “Art and the Public Space” May ’12, about the effects of community art in the streets of Baltimore: the office of community engagement at MICA applauds Urbanite’s recent article, “Art and the Public Space,” which explores the role of community art in Baltimore. Thank you for including the Baltimore Art + Justice Project in that discussion. We would like to note that the Baltimore Art + Justice Project is made possible by a grant from the Open Society Foundations in New York and is being developed in partnership with fellow OSF grantee Animating Democracy. This is noteworthy because it illustrates that two national organizations have chosen to invest in Baltimore. Through this collaboration, our city is being

Facing Off Re: “Chasing a Goal,” May ’12, about the city’s once storied tradition of public school lacrosse: i enjoyed Jeff Seidel’s piece about lacrosse in the Baltimore City public schools. He is correct that the ending of the old Maryland Scholastic Association was the final death knell for Baltimore’s public school lacrosse programs. … Lacrosse became more of a private school game here in the metro area with Boys’ Latin, Calvert Hall, Gilman, Loyola, McDonogh, and St. Paul’s dominating the sport by winning 47 of the last 50 “A’ conference championships. Most of the private schools, with middle and lower school teams within their programs, were able to restock talent year in and year out and remain competitive. … What essentially killed the Baltimore City public high school lacrosse program slowly but surely was the lack of feeder middle schools. The lack of restocking talented players eventually caught up with the public school lacrosse programs.  … Now with a solid grade school program as featured in Seidel’s article up and running, perhaps the city public school lacrosse programs will rise like the phoenix once again.

eh. The Morgan story is old and has lost its luster as guys like Harrison and Carter embellish and push this thing on people all too often. They celebrate themselves more than the sport itself. And Blax Lax? I send many of my players to their workouts in the summer and the coaches rarely show up, and when they do, not a whole lot of coaching goes on. Lacrosse in Baltimore City will grow when someone begins to develop the game with the kids in mind, and not their own agenda. Blax Lax has done little to improve the sports here … The clinics are great, but is an hour and a half each week for eight weeks going to get a kid playing in high school in four years? Not likely. Way to beat a dead horse with this story. Do some real reporting. —oldlaxer

A Community Calling Re: “Searching for Identity and Finding a Calling,” May ’12, about HIV/AIDS health care provider Tonia Poteat: *applause* —Francine Howdoudo

that’s what’s up. We got Tonia Poteat— Tea Pot—on our side!!!! Congrats, Tonia, and more congrats to the XXYX community for having Tonia to advocate for us. —Nick Nanna Mwaluko

War-Torn Pages Re: “Writing About Iraq,” May ’12, about Marine veteran-turned-writer Dario DiBattista: glad the life he writes about was not wasted. He will have a great deal to say long into the ravages of “senior-ness.” The conflict might be the fodder, but the writing is good and will be, far beyond rationalizing and surviving a war.  —John Perdue

—Mac Kennedy ’76, Director of Alumni Relations, Boys’ Latin School of Maryland

Join the conversation. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter (@UrbaniteMD). E-mail us at mail@urbanitebaltimore.com or send your letter to Mail, Urbanite, 2002 Clipper Park Road, Fourth Floor, Baltimore, MD 21211. Please include your name, address, and daytime phone number. Letters may be edited for length and clarity. Urbanite #96  june 2012  9


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what you’re writing

riot

photo by j.m. Giordano

black coffee, two hunks of bread with a slice of ham wedged between them, and a dog-eared copy of a German grammar book: It was any other morning during my language immersion trip to Dresden. Except it wasn’t, and London was on fire. A television in the dining hall of the school was always on, and that’s where I first saw the footage. It was a dinky piece of equipment, likely a holdover from East Germany, and the tinny commentary was in fast-paced German, but I understood what was happening onscreen well enough. Disgruntled groups of urban youth, clad in balaclavas and tracksuits, were burning their own neighborhoods. High streets full of stores were decimated by a wave of whirling fists and hurled Molotov cocktails. Police, clutching comical riot shields that covered barely half of their torsos, were dismissed with the same casual indifference one demonstrates when swatting a fly. I translated the few words I could understand: “fire,” “anger,” “death.” A few of my peers, none of whom could speak a word of English, took notice of my reaction and came over to see what the commotion was. Then, as I struggled to explain that my city was aflame with the vocabulary of a second grader, I saw it: a still image of a woman leaping from second floor of a burning pharmacy. A group of policemen, arms outstretched, stood beneath her. The pharmacy’s green cross hung mockingly above her head. The woman made

a stark black outline against the red of the flames behind her. We huddled together, my continental peers and I, around the small television. None of us could keep up with the frantic pace of the German commentary, but for that moment, it didn’t matter. All that mattered was the black outline of Great Britain, drenched in flames, plummeting toward the earth. —Michael Nakan is a sophomore Writing Seminars ma jor at Johns Hopkins University. Hailing from London, he is a former editorial intern withUrbanite who has embraced Baltimore as his second home.

pavwalla, literally meaning “the bread man,” was a neighborhood figure in the century-old Dadar Parsi Colony community in Mumbai, India. Clad in his habitual cotton kurta that fell loosely above a checkered dhoti, a rectangular piece of cloth tied at the waist, pavwalla navigated his rickety bicycle every morning through the maze of dusty asphalt streets that meandered through this community of aging concrete buildings. Clutching a roomy poplin tote bag containing pav squares and rounds, he ran his frail 60-year-old frame in and out of buildings and up and down creaking wooden staircases, delivering bread with ease of habit and a zest for life. Occasionally, his oval face, topped by a taqiyah—a short, rounded cap worn by observant Muslim men—broke into a smile

that revealed teeth stained brown, most likely due to the regular use of local tobacco. That morning, the pavs fell haphazardly onto the asphalt, a few stray pieces landing on the sidewalk, as an angry mob of Hindu men grabbed him by his kurta, lifted him out of his bicycle, and threw him onto the road, beating his stick-thin body in many different ways. Pavwalla delivered bread to the predominantly Zoroastrian and Hindu neighborhood where I grew up. As it were, a fraction of Hindus and Muslims were angry at each other that December of 1992, following the demolition of the 16th century Babri mosque by Hindu karsevaks in the holy city of Ayodhya, considered to be the birthplace of the Hindu deity Rama. Riots. People burnt alive. When pavwalla was attacked, I promptly ran into my apartment, a few yards away. I was likely ordered indoors by my mother, who—like many first-floor residents of this middle-class neighborhood—rushed to noisily slam shut and lock multiple doors and stubborn windows flanking the centenary apartments. Solid wood, steel, and wrought iron clinked and thud together in frenetic synchrony—an attempt to blank out the world outside. Indoors, I prayed our pavwalla was OK. Homebound for weeks with no college, and businesses, transportation, and life in general shut down, I often thought about pavwalla. Are we really that different, I wondered? Can religion be such a dividing factor and Urbanite #96  june 2012  11


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what you’re writing beget such violence? I still ask myself those questions today, living 8,000 miles away in America. —A former publishing professional and French teacher, Anu Prabhala is now a stay-at-home mom and an aspiring writer.

in the mid-1970s, every three months the 1/75th Infantry Ranger Battalion, based at Fort Stewart, Georgia, held a Jump Fest. Six hundred rangers would parachute out of helicopters over and over—as many as five times each, if they moved fast. The cacophany from the Huey’s engine was as rhythmic as the bull spouted by my three fellow Rangers and me.  “Let’s have no angel wings in this chopper!” I hollered. “What?” echoed the chorused reply. “Angel wings are when a chute fails to open and the ranger is often seen flapping arms.” The belly of the Huey howled with laughter. “Jump, and once your chute opens, release your main. Then immediately deploy your reserve,” said Sgt. Rondo. “Twenty bucks to the first of you who do it.” Blair and McDonald shook their heads. “Rondo, you better have my money!” I yelled. I looked at the jumpmaster for his signal. “800 feet altitude,” the pilot hollered over the thumping of the Huey’s engine. The jumpmaster shouted, “Go!” I dropped like a cannonball. Three seconds later, my canopy resembled a white beach umbrella as it jerked me skyward. Immediately, my hands shot to the two metal release lapses, and I was freefalling. Training instinctively kicked in, despite the momentary fear of my action. Left hand over the reserve chute. Right hand reached in, grabbed the silk, and threw it into the air off to the right of my body. Boom! The small olive drab chute deployed about 300 feet from the ground. Above me, Blair and McDonald floated down on a white stratocumulus cloud of silk. Rondo was freefalling. 

I hit the ground fast and hard, and first. I was waiting for Rondo and my $20, after he hit and rolled. Together we ran for another Huey as we took our new chutes from the Riggers, soldiers who were trained to pack parachutes. The riotous Jump Fest had commenced. —Larry Bratt is a founder and director of the Extra Legalese Group Inc. (ELG), Maryland’s first incorporated nonprofit think tank in prison, which focuses on preventing victimization and community violence. In 2011, ELG was awarded an Innovator of the Year Award for its Peace Initiative that helps to stem gang violence.

and our men were safe. Our business had not been broken into because the National Guard troops were at the corner, protecting a nearby bank. We felt sorry for the people who lost their livelihoods. Our daughter was able to have a toneddown version of her usual party, beginning and ending before the curfew went into effect for the night. Needless to say, April 9 remains an anticipated date on our calendar, while still reminding us of a grave time in America. —Irene Gale, a Baltimore native, as been writing personal stories for years. This is the first time her writing has been published.

april 9, my daughter’s birthday, has always been a happy date in our family—except in 1968, when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. There were widespread riots in major cities of the U.S., including Baltimore. On our eighteen-house cul de sac, on the days preceding her birthday, we and our neighbors spent days on lawn chairs, discussing the latest destruction. Each family had their own fears. Ours was our business that was located in the heart of the danger zone. One afternoon, our lawyer and neighbor, Jerry, called to ask if we had copies of our accounts receivable at home; hearing the negative answer, he and my husband left immediately to retrieve them, ignoring the fact that it was an hour before curfew. His wife, Lillian, and I huddled together, fearfully awaiting their return. I felt guilty that her husband was put in danger and at the same time was grateful for her company. After what seemed like hours since the men left, we received a frightening phone call from another merchant on our business street. It was the frightened owner of the Chinese laundry, gasping out in his heavy accent, “They in you store, take everything.” With nothing to do but wait, we sat in silence, frozen, each with her own fear. We lucked out—the laundryman was mistaken. The looters were in another building,

“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, 2002 Clipper Park Road, Fourth Floor, Baltimore, MD 21211, or e-mail it to What YoureWriting@urbanitebaltimore.com. Submissions should be shorter than 400 words. Because of the number of essays we receive, we cannot respond individually to each writer. Please do not send originals; submissions cannot be returned. Topic Deadline Nerves June 11, 2012 Companionship July 9, 2012 Turning Point August 13, 2012

Publication August 2012 September 2012 October 2012

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don’t miss images (clockwise from top left): photo by Ashley North Compton; courtesy of Cuauhtémoc; no photo credit; photo by John McLane; Running Jaguar, Antoine-Louis Barye (French, 1795-1875), watercolor on slightly textured, medium thickness, cream wove paper, The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, (37.820); photo by Beth Panuska

4

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3 1

5

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1 June 2–3 Community

3 June 13–19 community/History

5 June 17–August 19 Visual Art

The Charles Village Fest is a free annual community celebration for all ages, featuring more than a dozen bands including the Almighty Senators, Technicolor Motorhome, and Lennon Laricci & the Leftovers. Take part in a 5K run through the Johns Hopkins University campus, enjoy summer flora and fauna at the 32nd annual Garden Walk, or embrace your inner kid on the moonbounce or through a host of other activities courtesy of the Village Learning Place.

To commemorate the bicentennial of the War of 1812, Baltimore hosts the StarSpangled Sailabration, a week-long maritime and air festival with festivities throughout the city. Take a complimentary tour of more than two dozen international ships, including Brazil’s 249-foot Cisne Branco, which will flock to our harbor for the occasion, and enjoy an air show featuring the Blue Angels. The celebration features the world-premiere performance of Philip Glass’s Overture for 2012 at the Meyerhoff.

Free Wyman Park Dell Charles and 29th sts. www.charlesvillagefestival.com

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Free The Walters Art Museum 600 N. Charles St. 410-547-9000 www.thewalters.org

4 June 16, 10 A.M.–5 P.M.

6 June 24, 7 p.m.

2 June 7–10 community/food

Homemade stuffed grape leaves, crispy spanakopita, honey-soaked baklava, and slow-roasted lamb are just a few of the traditional Greek delicacies that lie in wait at the St. Nicholas Greek Folk Festival. A celebration of Greek cuisine, music, and dance, the festival—hosted by Baltimore’s St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church—is Maryland’s most attended Hellenic event. Free 520 S. Ponca St. 410-633-5020 www.greekfolkfestival.org

The 106 works of art on display in Public Property, the latest exhibition at the Walters Art Museum, were picked by the people through social media and crowd sourcing. The public voted on every aspect of the show, including the exhibition’s theme— “Creatures”—evident in such paintings as Antoine-Louis Barye’s Running Jaguar (pictured).

shopping

Music

Charm City Craft Mafia, a band of craftcrazed artists, hosts their annual Pile of Craft, a juried indie fair where creatives vend their one-of-a-kind wares. The fair features everything from screen-printed T-shirts to original art to ceramics to jewelry to toys for your pet.

Ringo Starr comes to the Meyerhoff with his All Starr Band to perform classics like “With A Little Help From My Friends,” “Yellow Submarine,” and “Photograph.” Expect new music from Starr’s latest album, Ringo 2012, and appearances by members of Starr’s touring posse: Journey’s Gregg Rolie, Toto’s Steve Lukather, and Utopia’s Todd Rundgren.

Free St. John’s Church 2640 St. Paul St. www.charmcitycraftmafia.com For more events, see the Scene on page 67.

$59–$250 Meyerhoff Symphony Hall 1212 Cathedral St. 410-783-8000 www.bsomusic.org Urbanite #96  june 2012  15


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the goods

Photos (clockwise from top left): Photo by J.M. Giordano; photo by Steve bell; Cover image by Jim Burger

what ’s new in style, shopping & beyond

Chocolatier Pioneers

cassie paton There’s something to be said for handmade products crafted with care, and that is no less true when it comes to dessert. Glarus Chocolatier (644 S. Exeter St.; 410727-6601; www.glaruschocolatier.com) makes its chocolate confections from scratch with fresh, all-natural ingredients without the use of preservatives. This makes for a shorter shelf life (around seven to ten days), but also just a little less indulgence-related guilt. Founders Ben and Jenny Hauser opened their Timonium location in 2004 not long after becoming engaged, and they opened the doors to the Harbor East store in 2007. Since then, they’ve created tens of thousands of truffles, bars, and other specialties for Baltimore chocoholics. Even sweeter? They use original family recipes from Ben’s father’s hometown of Glarus, Switzerland.

Beer Book

michael nakan Think the only Baltimore beer worth knowing is Natty Boh? Pick up a copy of veteran journalist Rob Kasper’s Baltimore Beer: A Satisfying History of Charm City Brewing (www.historypress.net) and be ready to forget everything you think you know about the land of pleasant living. Over the course of more than 150 pages, Kasper chronicles the rise and fall of the beer industry in Baltimore, from the advent of Baltimore brewing following a spate of German immigration to the current crop of local brewers who are orchestrating a craft brew revival. “I think elements of the city’s character, what makes Baltimore, Baltimore, are reflected in the account of the breweries,” says Kasper. “All beer used to taste like Budweiser or Miller. No more.”

Designated Biker

cassie paton Summer is around the corner, and what’s more in step with the season than getting around in an open-air cab? Enter Chesapeake Pedicab Company and its bike cabs (410-929-4245; www. MDpedicabs.com). Owner Steve Ball, a financial analyst by day, moved to Baltimore four years ago and realized he’d never seen a bike cab around town. “These are big in Austin and Charleston,” Ball says. “I’d been to those towns and realized this area is set up perfectly for this kind of business.” Primarily serving the downtown area, including the Inner Harbor, Canton, and Fells Point, these people-powered taxis are operated mostly on tips, with a trip from Cross Street Market to Pratt Street running you around $10. The only downside is that you have to be lucky enough to spot one—there are only a few cabs currently on the streets, but Ball plans to expand. The taxis are also available for weddings, for newlyweds who want to travel in style.

Urbanite #96  june 2012  17


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the goods

Fragrant Friends and Foes

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Photos (clockwise from top left): Courtesy of JADS International; photo by J.m. Giordano; Courtesy of Hunting Ground

Any casual fan of The Avengers can pick up a Captain America T-shirt, an Iron Man hoodie, or even a replica Thor hammer. Take your fandom to the next level by smelling like your favorite heroes. Baltimore-based JADS International (855-561-7666; www.jadsinternational.com) offers a wide selection of colognes and other fragrances based on the likes of Thor (who smells like bergamont, frozen ginger, and wheatgrass), Captain America (dry oak wood, sandalwood, and tequila accords) and even the Hulk (yuzu, bergamot, and tarragon). Also on offer is a perfume that smells like Black Widow and a unisex fragrance for villain Loki. Each bottle costs $29.99, with a combination pack available for $59.99, and can be purchased on the JADS International website.

Snacks, Not as You Know Them

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When Marie Stratton and Katie Horn stumbled upon Charles Street Friday Market, what struck them wasn’t the live music or the cheap drinks: It was the lack of anything to munch on. “It was unique and cool, but there weren’t any snacks to enjoy while you were hanging out there,” says Stratton. Utilizing their shared love of snacking and baking, the duo decided to right that wrong by forming Kinderhook (410-989-1837; http://kinderhooksnacks.com), a company dedicated to the production (and consumption) of interesting and delicious snack food including such amalgamations as bacon flavored popcorn and pistachio shortbread cookies. Kinderhook’s wares can be found at the market or at any number of events around Baltimore, or ordered via e-mail on the Kinderhook website.

Fashion Hunt

cassie paton Vintage lovers, rejoice. Hunting Ground (3649 Falls Rd.; www.shophuntingground. com), a men’s and women’s clothing boutique, opened its doors in April. Located in what was once a Presbyterian church in Hampden, Hunting Ground sells vintage and new clothing (from such brands as MINKPINK and Comune), as well as shoes, jewelry, books, and even old guitars and amps. “We have a lot of musician friends who complain about not being able to find [musical accessories] in the city,” says co-owner Jessica Soulen. A Maryland Institute College of Art grad, Soulen met Towson University alumna and fellow co-owner Jenna Hattenberg when they opened and managed a nearby American Apparel store. So far, says Soulen, it’s been well received by the neighbors. “People really seem to dig it.”

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baltimore observed

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people  / update  /  transportation  /  education

Language D Arts A Kuwait-born MICA grad student is publishing her own magazine, seeking to challenge the Arab community through words, art, and design By Rafael Alavarez

anah Abdulla is a determined young woman with heavy eyes and an old soul. “Old soul,” she repeats as we talk in a bookstore. “I hear that a lot.” Her thick, dark hair began to streak gray when she was 12. A graduate student, she lives with other artists in what used to be the St. Wenceslaus church school on Collington Avenue near Johns Hopkins Hospital. There, she spent the 2011–12 school year pursuing a master of arts in social design. “I’m a fusion,” says Abdulla of her approach to the discipline—one that is broad and protean, that can legitimately mean whatever the artist persuades you it means. “I believe in visual communication.” St. Wenceslaus, home parish of legendary City Hall stalwart Richard Lidinsky (1920–2003), was once so parochial that it wasn’t enough to be Catholic to go to school there; you had to be Bohemian (or Czech) and Catholic.


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people / update  baltimore observed

ILLUSTRATIONs by ROBBI BEHR

Reading between the lines: Kalimat is an Arab-culture themed magazine that aims to challenge the status quo.

It’s all a matter of identity. Who do they say that I am? “I don’t like to identify people by borders,” says Abdulla, an ethnic Palestinian whose work is grounded in what it means to be Arab. Not nationalism so much as unity. Improbably, she is at St. Wenceslaus—the school’s cornerstone laid in 1902, its doors closed in 1986—because it is now MICA Place, a satellite campus of the Maryland Institute College of Art. Abdulla picked the program over four others, basing much of her decision on the enthusiasm of program director Mike Weikert. She graduated in early May and does not expect to stay in Baltimore past the end of summer, when her student visa expires. When she leaves, nary a string to hold her, Abdulla will take an impression of Crabtown shared by many a brief visitor: that this remains a strongly segregated, black and white town. It’s not monolithic, of course, not absolutely true. There may not be much gray, but shades of Latino brown have eased the mix in the past decade. No matter. The historical brush of a black and white town persists. During the filming of the Homicide TV show back in the 1990s, actor Yaphet Kotto said he especially liked Baltimore because it was “a black city.” “I’m seen as white at [the] St. Wenceslaus” neighborhood, says Abdulla, whose intelligent, somewhat fierce good looks might qualify for any demographic along the rims of the Mediterranean, the Aegean, and Suez. “But I’m not.” The MICA program at St. Wenceslaus encourages its students to use art and a world-

view bigger than the game on the corner to benefit the locals in their midst. “They wanted the residents to build ties with the community,” says Abdulla, who confesses that she did not. The Arab Diaspora, not Baltimoreans struggling to survive, calls her. The 26-year-old was born in Kuwait to Palestinian parents and raised in Ottawa. Identity is crucial to her life’s work. And she has poured all of her fusions, passion, and sense of design—“design that isn’t [merely] aesthetic, design that serves a purpose”—into Kalimat, an English-langue magazine by Arabs about Arabs and “for everyone.” She admits that defining what makes an Arab an Arab—with recent estimates putting the world’s Arab population at more than 300 million— almost impossible. The number of Arabs and Arab-Americans living in Baltimore is minimal, and the 2010 census listed about 168,000 in metropolitan Washington, D.C. “The only thing that really ties us together is language.” Kalimat—Arabic for “words”—is for them, their kin around the world, and anyone willing to learn something different.  Like many labors of young visionaries, the magazine declares it will “challenge the status quo” before you’ve reached the table of contents. Challenger-in-chief is Abdulla. The fils stops at her desk. “I’d like for us to have an influence on education in the Arab world through media and design,” she says, noting that to achieve this she uses a variety of writers, storytellers, and journalists. “Media and design are often considered unnecessary in the Arab world, where much of the learning is by rote. It’s easier for Arab parents to accept a [child] who becomes a doctor or a lawyer,” she says, than vocations less easily quantified. One of the many areas in which we are all more alike than we are different. The first four issues were posted solely online. Issue No. 5 was published on paper and debuted earlier this year. The substantial, handsome magazine is distributed through Paris, costs $12.95 on the newsstand, and is strictly secular. Religion was the one subject Abdulla did not care to discuss. In fact, her body language stiffened at the mention of it. Kalimat No. 6 is now in production. It all gets done because Abdullah has a dedicated team of collaborators. And she sleeps less than five hours a night. “I only feel weary,” she says, “when I think about what I’m going to do next.”

Update By Michael Nak an

the price of renting Baltimore has changed from a city in which most residents own their homes into one where renting property is more prevalent, according to a July 2011 report (see “The City That Rents?”, March ’12 Urbanite). We reported in last month’s issue that about 125,000 Baltimoreans who do own their homes saw the value of their homes slip below what they owed on their mortgage. But renters have not escaped the housing crunch unscathed, either: The average renting price of higher-end apartment complexes in the city has jumped to $1,497, up 3.2 percent from this time last year, according to new data from research firm Delta Associates. Despite the price hike, vacancy in the city remained low at 4.2 percent during the first quarter of 2011—lower than the nationwide average vacancy rate of 5.4 percent.

mansion renovation The future of Clifton Mansion—once the ornate summer home of Johns Hopkins, now crumbling historical relic— has been uncertain for decades due to lack of public funding (see “Disorder in the House,” December ’08 Urbanite). But a new $6.9 million campaign by urban service corps Civic Works, which has used the antiquated mansion as its head office since 1993, may be ambitious enough to finally fix up one of the last remaining Italianate villas in the United States. “We want it to be an area for community meetings … we’re using it as a beacon of hope for the community,” says Civic Works Board Member Eliza Graham. Planned renovations include such essentials as adding heating and air conditioning, updating electrical and plumbing systems, and completing renovations to the landmark six-story tower.

out of wind For proponents of wind power, the image of the gusty coast of Maryland peppered with wind turbines is a dream come true. Activists point to research suggesting that, if utilized to its full potential, wind power could account for almost twice the state’s energy needs (see “Baltimore Unplugged,” September ’08, Urbanite). That didn’t stop the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2012 from being struck down by the Maryland Senate in early April. Despite the bill being a priority for Governor Martin O’Malley, the senators were hesitant to increase energy costs in a struggling economy, according to the Baltimore Sun. In a statement, Executive Director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network Mike Tidwell described the ruling as the result of “petty power politics in Annapolis” and vowed that the offshore wind coalition would return in full force to get the bill passed in 2013.

Urbanite #96  june 2012  23


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transportation baltimore observed

Plugging in: Jill Sorensen charges her Chevy Volt.

Baltimore, Unplugged

The number of charging stations in the greater Baltimore area and across the state has increased exponentially in recent months, but sales lag. by Bob allen

photo by j.m. Giordano

O

n a busy weekday afternoon Lynn Heller is seriously lost somewhere in Dundalk, desperately searching for Merritt Boulevard and the Beltway. However, Heller’s mood and stress level are eased considerably by her mode of transportation: an all-electric Nissan Leaf. “I don’t know what’s going to happen with the [future of] the electric vehicle,” the Roland Park resident says cheerfully over her Bluetooth headset as she pauses to get directions from a fellow motorist. “But I absolutely love this car, and I’m so happy I’m not running around eating up gas.” Baltimore resident Jill Sorensen, director of the Baltimore-Washington Electric Vehicle Initiative (BEVI), a nonprofit spreading the gospel of electric vehicle usage, shares Heller’s enthusiasm. She describes driving her extended range Chevy Volt (which has a small back-up gasolinepowered generator) in almost Zen-like terms. “For me, it’s sort of meditative,” says Sorensen, a patent attorney who specializes in technology transfer. “It’s quiet; I think of it as floating, because there isn’t any friction. Other than the artificial sound that it makes to tell you it’s on, it is otherwise silent.” Yet despite ringing endorsements from owner-operators like Sorensen and Heller, a $500,000 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant to the Maryland Energy Administration in 2010 to support the state’s electric vehicle market—and substantial state and federal tax incentives—the tipping point for local adaption of EVs seems little closer than the distant horizon. Electric and gas-electric hybrid vehicles like the Volt and the Leaf have thus far only captured about 3.6 percent of the overall automobile market; statewide that translates into 289 EVs purchased in Maryland, including

nineteen in Baltimore City, during the past fourteen months. Quiet, clean, perky, and delivering road performances equal and sometimes superior to their fossil fuel-guzzling counterparts—on the face of it, there’s little to dislike about electric cars. More appealing, once past the substantially higher sticker price, EVs get around town for a fraction of the per-mile refueling cost. And, of course, EVs—producing zero emissions—remain a significant environmental improvement over standard combustion engine vehicles, responsible for roughly 30 percent of all carbon emissions. But when—or if—EVs enter the mainstream, according to experts like Sorensen and Chris Rice, Clean Cities Coordinator of the Maryland Energy Administration, is a complex and multilayered question. They boil it down to several broad-bush factors: price, the distance that electric cars can travel on a charge, the time required to recharge, and the availability of accessible public charging stations. As far as charging stations go, the number in the Baltimore area and Maryland has increased exponentially in recent months. According to a map on the U.S. Department of Energy’s website, there are now 248 public charging stations statewide and about fifty in the Baltimore metro area. While stations are relatively easy to find in and around Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and the I-95 corridor (served by seventy-two stations), they’re still few and far between in outlying areas. Many of the existing stations have thus far been funded through federal green-energy programs. Range anxiety and wondering what to do during the two to four hours it usually takes to recharge an EV battery aside, the failure thus far of electric vehicles to catch on is largely about price.

“What we’re really talking about is getting the cost of the EV technology, and more specifically EV battery prices, down,” says Rice. “Economies of scale, innovations in technology and materials ... these are all going to bring prices down. Then what you have to look for is the delta between the cost of driving per mile between liquid petroleum fuels and the alternatives, like electricity, ethanol, biodiesel, propane and natural gas. “That’s when you’ll see [sales] really jump off and become mainstream,” Rice continues. “That’s when Joe Schmoe homeowners, including myself, can afford the cars and also have a warmfuzzy that we’re not going to be stranded.” A study commissioned by Google’s philanthropic arm projected that by 2030 the cost of electric vehicles will drop below those of equivalent-sized internal combustion vehicles. The study also predicted that electric vehicles could capture 90 percent of the light vehicle market by that same year, resulting in a 1.1 billion-barrelper-year reduction in domestic oil consumption. But for Mahi Reddy, founder and CEO of Annapolis-based SemaConnect, a company that has sold EV charging stations and the software to manage them to customers like Baltimore Gas & Electric, Johns Hopkins University, and BWIThurgood Marshall Airport, 2030 is far too long to wait. “If you’re asking why these damned things aren’t already flying off the shelf, it’s because we are still in the first generation of products, so they are expensive,” says Reddy, whose company is one of a handful of firms responsible for expanding the state and citywide grid of EV charging stations toward a gradual build-out. “It’s kind of like LCD flat-screen TVs. Do you remember when you walked into Best Buy and they were $3,000 or $4,000 for a small, 30-inch flat-screen TV? Back then, you kind of lusted after it, but you didn’t go out and buy one. In fact, if you go to Best Buy now they don’t actually sell any other kind of TV.” BEVI’s Sorensen hopes that an eventual charging station build-out for Baltimore will be similar to that proposed for Houston, which has set lofty goal of positioning recharging sites every 5 miles. Reddy, whose company has grown to sixteen employees, is confident that rising gasoline prices will eventually push SemaConnect’s revenues and bring about that elusive tipping point for electric vehicle adaptation. “With the continuing emergence of the middle class in China and India, $4 to $5 per gallon gasoline prices are the new reality,” he says. “You can pay $4 a gallon for gas while I can plug my electric car into the wall, charge it up, and it costs me the equivalent of 75 cents to go the same distance. “That is a big, big difference,” Reddy continues. “And that is a very compelling argument that I think will drive more people to electric cars.”

Urbanite #96  june 2012  25


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education baltimore observed

Debating City Vs. Poly

The rivalry between the city’s premier public high schools extends past the gridiron and comparisons of alumni achievements to participation in the Baltimore Urban Debate League. By Donna M. Owens

photo by J.M. Giordano

D

erick and Trevor Ebert share almost everything. From clothing to a bedroom to their mutual love of baseball and debate, the fraternal twins have a bond that goes beyond DNA. But there’s one area where the 16-year-olds—lanky, handsome lads who look near identical—part company. Derick attends Baltimore City College high school, belonging to the debate team there. Trevor, meanwhile, goes to Baltimore Polytechnic Institute across town, where he’s part of its debate club, thus thrusting the pair into one of the nation’s fiercest high school rivalries—the long-running saga of Poly vs. City. Or, City vs. Poly.  From thrashing it out annually on the football field, boasting about academic prowess, and comparing accomplished alums, these premier public high schools continue to compete, and the debate arena is no different. Forensic societies at Poly and City have matched wits as debaters over the decades, dating to the early 1900s. It’s fair to say they’ve engaged in some trash talk along the way.   “I did choose the better school,” says Derick, teasing his brother. “And we have a great debate team.” It’s true that City, established in 1839 and one of America’s oldest high schools, has racked up a slew of top regional and national debate awards, including the Maryland State Championships and placing in the national Tournament of Champions. The team—comprised of about three dozen kids who meet every day and practice for one to two hours—certainly has history on its side. “We’re the oldest continuing high school debate society in the country,” says Patrick Daniels, an English and speech teacher at City who leads the team. “We have been debating about 140 years.” Yet while City’s top-ranked debate team has been at it longer, students at Poly—founded in 1883—aren’t exactly pushovers. They placed fifth at the Urban Debate National Championship held at Georgetown University in April.   “We may be the underdogs,” says Trevor, smiling. “But we’re working hard and will keep getting better.”  Poly, City, and about four dozen middle and high schools that include Douglass, Forest Park,

Sibling rivalry: Derick (left) and Trevor Ebert (right)

and Carver Vo-Tech are all members of the Baltimore Urban Debate League (BUDL). Founded in 1999, the organization is part of a national initiative spearheaded by the Open Society Institute to return debate to urban classrooms. The youngsters learn how to research, analyze, pontificate, philosophize, and respectfully argue with their peers, garnering valuable academic and life skills, according to Pam Block Brier, CEO of the BUDL. “One study we reference shows that kids who debate come to school more often, perform better on standardized tests, get better grades, and about 90 percent go on to college,” she says. “More importantly, the kids get a sense of what’s possible. They feel smart, sometimes for the first time in their lives.” Until BUDL was launched, says Block Brier, high school debate teams in Baltimore had been dormant for years or nonexistent. City College was the exception.  “When I came on, we only had a handful of students,” says Andrew Pappas, a Poly English teacher who began coaching the debate club two years ago. “Now we have about twelve kids who come every week,” and as many as twenty who participate overall. The Poly students meet twice weekly for ninety-minute practice sessions and are joined by the girls from Western High next door. Traditionally, the all-female high school has had a debate squad, but Pappas says, “they don’t have a team this year,” hinting that the tough budgetary choices many principals must make may have played a role. Indeed, it takes money for schools to run a debate program. BUDL members pay dues— anywhere from $7,500 to $10,000 annually— that cover costs such as coaching salaries and travel to tournaments, including hotels, meals, and ancillary expenses associated with a free summer Coppin State debate camp. “We’re very

fortunate to have strong alumni and other supporters,” says coach Daniels, citing a fund named for hometown scribe Gil Sandler (class of 1941) and other benefactors that include the Abell and Baltimore Community foundations. Pappas believes Poly’s debate budget is smaller than that of its arch rival, but he’s eager to level the playing field. “We hope to have some fundraisers.” Financial considerations aside, Pappas and Daniels clearly relish their roles. “We need more people who are critical thinkers, who can think quickly and be decisive—debate does that for these kids,” says Daniels, who’s been teaching since 1999. “They do a ton of research all year; we challenge them on their ideas, and they’re able to defend them. That is exactly what my model of education is all about.” Pappas, who’s been in the classroom for nine years, agrees. “It’s incredible to see the high level of analysis and argument. The vocabulary the students use is college level and beyond.” At a recent practice, for example, Derick Ebert and several members of City’s debate team, Dikshant Malla, Sophie Bauerschmidt Sweeney, Amena Begum, and Corwin Jones, Jr., waxed eloquently on topics from alternative energy and military deployments to space exploration. David Neustadt, a senior who’s been on City’s team for four years, has been accepted to Harvard and acknowledges a debt to the debate program. “My college essays were formulated in part using my debate skills,” he says.  Over at Poly, students are also benefiting from their debate league experiences. Korey Johnson received a full scholarship to Towson University. Evan Smith is applying to a summer program at Dartmouth. Meanwhile, Derick and Trevor, who’ve taken part in debate clubs since middle school, talk about the new friends they’ve made, the places they have seen, and more. “The boys love debating and argue their points constantly,” says their mom, Sheila Ebert, a teacher; dad is a truck driver. “They even try to debate me.” Trevor says it’s not uncommon for him and his brother to stay up late into the night before a competition, reading cases, going over their notes, and talking “really, really loud.” Derick’s pre-debate routine also includes listening to music, typically songs with a driving beat. “It gets me in the mood to argue with somebody,” he says, laughing. He also reads inspirational quotes. “It motivates me.”  The twins have met up twice on the debate circuit. Trevor won a match, and Derick won another. So for now, they’re even. “We’re all a big family,” says Daniels, who has gotten to know Trevor when he visits Derick at City events. “First off, City and Poly have had such a long football rivalry. To have even a smidgen of that in debate, having them compete against each other, throw challenges to each other, it’s so much fun. The kids love it.” Urbanite #96  june 2012  27


the

Netminder

Can a soccer match improve the lives of thousands of people worldwide? Mel Young, cofounder of the Homeless World Cup, thinks so. Interview by Ron Cassie


Mel Young's photo Courtesy of the Homeless World Cup Foundation; photo on this page by Esme Deacon

keynote Two decades ago, Mel Young launched The Big Issue in Edinburgh, a 40,000 circulation weekly still sold today by homeless people in the streets of Scotland. Later, Young helped start the International Network of Street Papers, an ongoing network of 122 street papers sold in forty countries. During an international conference about homelessness in 2001, Young and Austrian Harald Schmied came to believe they could reach and help change the lives of homeless people through soccer. The first Homeless World Cup tournament took place in Graz, Austria, in 2003, and subsequently in places like Cape Town, Melbourne, and Rio de Janeiro. At last year’s Homeless World Cup in Paris, sixty-four teams from around the world competed in more than three hundred games. Today, the Homeless World Cup Foundation works with and supports a network of seventythree international partner organizations whose goal throughout the year is to improve the lives of homeless people using soccer as the catalyst. More than 50,000 homeless people last year participated in Homeless World Cup Foundationrelated soccer programs. Urb :

Why soccer—football in the rest of the world—to reach homeless people?

my: Why football? Because above all, homelessness means isolation. Everyone has a desire to be a part of something larger than themselves, and it serves as the entry point. The Homeless World Cup is not a one-time event. Over 70 percent of the players who participate significantly change their lives through working with our national partners—organizations that support the homeless—according to a Paris [host of 2011 Homeless World Cup] study last year.

things are, staying up all night talking about changing the world. Harald [Schmied] and I were up late drinking beer, when the idea of a homeless “World Cup” came up. A one-time event. We’d thought about what the homeless have in common around the world—and how they could communicate with each other. Football is an international language. Of course, a lot of things sound good in the pub and nothing ever comes of it. But the next morning over breakfast, we were just as excited about the idea as we’d been the night before. Urb: How was the first year? What impact did you see soccer making in people’s lives?

my: The first year in 2003, we had eighteen participating countries, and it went way beyond anything I expected … By participating in sports, football or soccer in our case, people begin to overcome the sense of alienation that they feel. That’s the first thing. Then there are other psychological things—self-esteem, confidence, self-respect—that develop. It doesn’t matter how good or terrible you are at football. It’s about tearing down that alienation and building a community through sports.

my: Connections to homeless people are made with football. It’s the front door. It may start with an outreach worker approaching a homeless person and asking them if they want to kick the ball around. And then they’ll ask if they want to come back the next day. In our country, drugs and drinking are a big problem and, of course, you can’t play football effectively if you’re on drugs or drinking—so we tell people that; we’re clear about that. And then the idea is to plug people into programs where they can get help with housing, employment, education—all that is a part of these national programs. Today, many people running our programs are ex-homeless people, and many serve as our coaches. Urb: How is homelessness different around the world?

my: In the U.S., the welfare system is not as well financed as in Western Europe, for example. In Africa, the issue is extreme poverty. People have no shoes and no home. There are perspectives as well that are different. In Russia, dating back to the Soviet time, someone who is homeless is seen as an enemy of the state. Not very clever at all to be homeless there. In the U.K. where I’m from, most people understand that it’s not their fault. We have a team from Chile and a team from Haiti where there have been earthquakes. Civil unrest, too, is a factor. We have a team from Zimbabwe. We’re now linked with an organization that works with a refugee camp in the north of Uganda. Civil war is something that some of our organizations deal with in different parts of the world. Urb:

Reaching a goal: Kenya scores against against Mexico in the 2011 Homeless World Cup Women's Final.

Urb : You have a degree in economics and were a working journalist when you launched The Big Issue—founded in London—in Scotland. What prompted that decision?

my: I wanted to do something about what I could see in my own country and help the predominantly very, very poor gain some income. I saw [The Big Issue] in London and thought it was a good idea. The first year was successful financially and made an important impact, and I knew I’d never go back to doing what I was doing before. Soon we started helping develop other street papers, in Russia, for example. Urb: And the Homeless World Cup grew out of the street paper project?

my: The trade association of street papers got together once a year to meet and discuss homelessness issues. It’s always very inspiring, as these

Urb : Is there something intrinsic about playing the game itself, or any sport, that you believe is important—not necessarily for homeless people, but anyone?

my: Sport is wonderful for many reasons. Being inclusive is the biggest part of it, but there are other aspects. As a boy I was always into football; though not particularly good, I was always kicking a ball against a wall. Children are brilliant at using their imagination. Most of us never perform at the level of an elite athlete, but we can aspire, we can mimic, and I think when we start using our imagination that way, we learn to do that in different types of events in our lives. Urb: Specifically, how do the national organizations that the Homeless World Cup Foundation works with, such as Street Soccer USA, utilize soccer to address homeless issues?

It must be a remarkable experience for the homeless men and women that travel and compete in the Homeless World Cup to meet other homeless players from around the world.

my: Football is universal and homelessness is universal, and the players know those they meet have been through something of the same experience. Each year different teams end up rooting for each other, forming a bond because they share they same living quarters or some other reason. At the same time, you can meet people from much poorer countries. I always tell the story of Denmark’s team in 2006 going to South Africa. The manager prepared his team, telling them they were going to meet players who come from circumstances in many ways much worse than their own. The players often give away trinkets from their country—or something they brought with them—and when they realize they have something to give to someone else that becomes a powerful experience for them.  To see photos of last year's Homeless World Cup in Paris, visit bit.ly/netminder. Urbanite #96  june 2012  29


Rolling with it: Fiorindo "Dino" Basso serves as president of Little Italy's Thursday night Italian-American Bocce League.

By Rafael Alvarez, Ron Cassie, Mat Edelson, Lionel Foster, Donna M. Owens, Jeff Seidel, Baynard Woods, and Andrew Zaleski photography by J.M. Giordano

30   june 2012  www.urbanitebaltimore.com


By Bret McCabe photography by J.M. Giordano

Before dawn until the lights go out at local basketball courts, everyday Baltimoreans row, run, box, pedal, skate, scrum, shoot hoops, swing a bat, and desperately strive to score goals. What’s the meaning of it all?


E

arly on a recent Thursday evening, after sorting about a hundred mostly Latino kids into four age groups for soccer practice, Katie Long began gathering some of the moms together for a game. The Friends of Patterson Park program coordinator and Hispanic liaison knew the young Latina mothers just needed encouragement to get started, and pretty quickly a group of eight moms were playing four-onfour between a couple of orange pylons. One of the mothers had suggested they start playing last year while they waited for their kids during karate lessons, Long says, and that’s how the informal pickup games got started. This spring the Latina moms’ pickup soccer games took shape again during their kids weekly youth soccer clinics. “The mothers always put their kids and everyone else first,” Long says. “It’s a chance for them to do something for themselves for a little while.” Speaking through an interpreter, Cecilia Guzman, a Mexican immigrant, says she brings her two children to all the athletic programs at Patterson Park. She joins in the pickup soccer games with the other Latina moms because she wants to set an example. But there’s more to it than that. “It’s fun for me,” she says with a smile. “When you run around and kick and chase the ball, you forget about everything else. You forget about all your bills and everything you have to do.” At the start of summer, Patterson Park is filled, of course—not just with kids but with adults playing volleyball, tennis, baseball, and all the quirky Baltimore Sports & Social Club activities. And it's not just Patterson Park. Courts, parks, and fields across the city burst every evening and weekend with Baltimoreans pursuing their passions while forming their own unique communities around the sports they love. With this in mind, Urbanite visits nine largely off-the-radar local sports—the kind of amateur stuff that isn’t anyone’s profession—exploring the communities built around those sports, and the lives of some Baltimoreans that wouldn’t be the same without them.

“It’s a good way to keep your culture going,” says Godfrey. “There’s rarely an argument. It’s fun.” Occasionally, however, these friendly amateurs benefit from world-class talent. Ravi Thapa, a 25-year-old from Nepal, once belonged an under-15, all-star team of players from six Asian countries. Woodmoor Elementary is a long way from the tour that took him to Dubai and Sri Lanka, but he seems genuinely happy: “Here, we just have a good time.” Practice began with team members in a ragged semi-circle catching lightly batted balls with their bare hands. (Even in professional leagues fielders don’t wear gloves.) Then they set up the wickets and took turns launching winding, overhand pitches, and drinking sodas. Sometimes players stopped to joke or chat with their backs to the action, within striking distance of an errant ball. The thwack of the bat can be sharp and loud, but no one flinched. Everyone was right at home. —Lionel Foster

Hampden Skate Park 1121 W. 36th St. Thursday, 4 p.m.

Rebels With A Cause Stephanie Murdock sits at one end of a miniature half-pipe housed on the second floor of Hampden skateboard shop East Coast Skates. Fellow skateboarders Daniel Oliver and Jason Spivey occupy spaces on the wooden floor. A few blocks west on Falls Road is Roosevelt Park, home to an unfinished skate park, a construction project to which 29-yearold Murdock has been dedicated for the last seven years. Murdock picked up skateboarding as an undergraduate at Towson University, and her involvement in the sport deepened while running an after-school skateboarding program in Carroll Park. “I was really impressed by how much skateboarding meant to kids,” she says. It was a decided shift from how skateboarders are often portrayed: trespassing, marijuana-smoking, vandalism-loving degenerates. Remember Eric Bush’s verbal lashing by a cop—“I am Officer Rivieri!”—in the Inner Harbor? “We’ve had our share of haters,” Murdock says. Spivey admits that a skate park won’t prevent all skateboarders from run-ins with local law enforcement. (As of press time, the one at Roosevelt Park was still seeking an

Woodmoor Elementary Athletic Field 3200 Elba Dr., Milford Mill Thursday, 6 p.m.

Home and Away Every few seconds on a recent evening outside of a Baltimore County elementary school, a light but steady wind carried a melodic, wooden “pop” and laughter out into the surrounding neighborhood—the sounds of the Baltimore Cricket and Social Club preparing for their first match of the season. Formed in 1975, BCSC is the third-oldest member of the Washington Cricket League. But as Megan Godfrey, the club’s public relations officer, explains, “We’re more than just cricket.” The club is diverse, with members from Guyana, India, Nepal, and South Africa, but roughly half are from Jamaica, and that heritage flavors the food, trips, parties, and conversation that accompany the games. After nearly forty years, the team’s unofficial position as ambassador from the Caribbean nation and the cricket-crazed world beyond the U.S. is well established. In 2006, the Jamaican minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade was keynote speaker at the annual BCSC co-sponsored Jamaica Independence Ball. Swinging it: The Baltimore Cricket and Social Club has been competing—and socializing—since 1975.

32   june 2012  www.urbanitebaltimore.com


Smith—decided that Dundalk, which had been such a hotbed of baseball in the days when Brooks and Frank were Baltimore royalty, needed a hardball renaissance. A gamble? Perhaps. But they built it. Four teams the first year, eight the second. And this new field the third, complete with outfield fences and a hand-operated scoreboard in left field. And as the last out is recorded and the tiki bar on the post opens for business, Brian’s team, The Colt 45’s, have taken the A’s 8 to 6. But the truth was Brian Weir won this game the moment he slipped on his jersey. —Mat Edelson

Upton Boxing Center 1901 Pennsylvania Ave. Tuesday, 6 p.m. Skating away: Baltimore's skateboarders have organized and are seeking a new skate park in Hampden.

additional $15,000 in order to be eligible for a $75,000 matching grant from the city’s Department of Recreation and Parks, which would allow Murdock’s nonprofit, Skatepark of Baltimore, to break ground on the facility.) “But the community will be much stronger because of the skate park,” the 22-year-old Spivey says. It’s that sense of community that transcends all of skateboarding, from grade-school kids practicing their first nose grinds to legend Tony Hawk (whose foundation chipped in $25,000 for building the Roosevelt skate park). “If you skate, it doesn’t matter if you’re the poorest kid or the richest kid,” Oliver says. “If you’re humble, you’re going to be accepted.” In many ways, that’s what Murdock’s multi-year campaign has been about—acceptance for skateboarders, a group she estimates at 30,000 strong. On this particular Thursday, we’re inside East Coast Skates because of the rain. But without a decent skate park, skateboarders will continue to take refuge where they can: Carroll Park and Charm City Indoor Skatepark, random mini-half-pipes, railings, curbs, or that monument directly across from the Lyric. Murdock says it’s all about freedom. “If your one little slice of freedom is forty-five minutes after school skating with your homies, that’s a good thing.”

Fighting For Her Life In one corner inside the Upton Boxing Center on historic Pennsylvania Avenue, ebony boys with chiseled biceps pummel leather speed bags. In another, teens run on treadmills, do sit-ups, and jump rope at breakneck speed. And in the center of the room, inside a red, white, and blue boxing ring, grown men to pint-sized kids engage in sparring practice. But when Tyrieshia "Baby Girl" Douglas rolls in—wearing a simple T, sweats, and a doo rag covering her hair—heads turn. Douglas, 23, is an elite amateur boxer. The 112-pound flyweight moved to Baltimore a few years ago to train at the Upton facility, part of city Rec and Parks. "My coaches and everyone here are like family," she says, flashing a dazzling smile. "Boxing and being around positive people saved my life." As a child, Douglas and her two younger brothers were taken from their then-drugaddicted mother and placed in foster care. Douglas has been molested, run away from group homes, and eaten from garbage cans.

Punching her way out: Tyrieshia "Baby Girl" Douglas trains at the Upton Boxing Center.

—Andrew Zaleski

American Legion Post 38 Ballfield Dundalk Ave., Dundalk Sunday, 11:30 a.m.

Houston Colt 45s vs. Oakland A’s. Some old ballplayers jokingly call leagues like this the “Geriatric Little League," but the level of play in the Eastern Baltimore County Over 40 Baseball League is pretty good. For Brian Weir, 51, the ballfields are not just about fun, but also healing. On his back is number 23—his son Josh’s number. On the bench are guys Weir has played with or coached in all kinds of ball for the past three decades. Josh would surely be there, too, in a few years, except he wasn’t lucky enough to grow old. Cancer took the former Baltimore County police officer’s life. In those darkest of days, the leather and ash community supported Weir, and while Josh lay ill he could look around his room and see gifts of appreciation from major leaguers who had heard of his plight and reached out to one their own. Josh is gone, but to Brian the game lets him live on. It is a connection to good memories and simpler times, a thread that Brian may be more conscious of than most but which lives in everyone on this field. And maybe that’s why this field exists. It didn’t, a year ago. Nor did the league, three years ago. Both came into being because Brian and a few of his graying, baseball-loving friends—Mike Lockett, Eugene Beres, Don

33   june 2012  www.urbanitebaltimore.com


provided much-needed gear, including practice T-shirts, jerseys, shorts, shin guards, and cleats. “Soccer is a powerful tool because it is what these kids love and it’s a place where they know the rules—unlike at school or maybe in their neighborhood,” Pardini says. “It’s space they feel safe and where they have confidence and can excel.” Last fall, Open Society Institute-Baltimore awarded Pardini a fellowship to teach the game she loves full-time and help push the lives of local refugee youths forward. The boys who participate in the soccer program also receive tutoring from Towson University, Loyola, and Hopkins students, and help with SAT prep, college applications, resumes, summer jobs, and internships. “I like that we are all from different countries,” says Warshan Hussin, a 16-year-old from Iraq, in a brief video on the Soccer Without Borders website. “We are all refugees and we all have problems in our lives. But we all came here to learn and have a better life.” —Ron Cassie Kicking it: Soccer Without Borders brings refugee kids from war-torn countries together and turns them into a team.

Fighting got Douglas expelled from school and landed her in juvenile detention. A judge suggested boxing as an outlet for her anger. The sport gave Douglas purpose. By the time she'd turned 20, the petite pugilist had won the National PAL Championship, one of three major titles for amateur boxers. "Tyrieshia is special," says coach Calvin Ford. "She works hard, and she won't quit." Back in February, Douglas competed in the U.S. Olympic Women's Boxing Trials in Spokane, Washington. Her younger brother Antoine also qualified on the men's side—the only brother/sister duo at the trials. Douglas was ultimately eliminated in the championship round. Her brother didn't make the cut, either. No matter. At the Upton center, Douglas remains a star, planning to turn pro soon. "After all I've been through, I have a lot to give the world,” she says. “I'm just getting started."

Leon Day Park Franklintown Rd. Thursday, 8 p.m.

Bad Ass Between the gasps, grunts, and shouts of “Grizzly!” and “Ruck! RUCK!!”—and that this cacophony is coming from a group of women—it’s easy for an onlooker to feel like a stranger in strange land. In fact, it’s rugby practice, arguably the second most-popular sport in the world. Watching the Chesapeake Women’s Rugby Football Club, now in its 39th year (this year’s team motto: “Building The Legacy”), there’s no doubt of the almost brutal physicality of the sport: eighty minutes of non-stop running, tackling, tossing—of the ball, opponents, and, yes, even one’s teammates into the air to catch a pass—and sheer head-banging. “I

—Donna M. Owens

Northeast Middle School 5001 Moravia Rd. Tuesday, 5 p.m.

Soccer Without Borders Interning at the Maryland Office for Refugees and Asylees two years ago, Jill Pardini noticed that most of the teenagers in the Baltimore Resettlement Center’s extra-curricular and tutoring programs were girls. The boys, she was told, were most likely playing pickup soccer up on Moravia Road. A Johns Hopkins Public Policy grad student at the time and former University of Iowa midfielder, Pardini went to see for herself. Soon she started organizing informal practices and late afternoon games after her internship, grouping kids by size and integrating them by country. She required that everyone speak English—because learning a new language was the other commonality the boys shared besides childhood refugee camps, outsider status in Baltimore City’s public schools—and a love of soccer. (An English teacher in the Peace Corps, Pardini also understood soccer could be a pretty good hook for boys learning a second language.) Over coffee and lamb dinners with parents and leaders of the dozen local refugee communities, she learned about the challenges the kids faced and pitched the idea of forming a team to compete in the Central Maryland Soccer Association. Sixty-two kids showed up, and now there are two teams aligned with the nonprofit Soccer Without Borders, which

34   june 2012  www.urbanitebaltimore.com

Running with it: The Chesapeake Womens Rugby club is in its 39th year.


Jamming it: The Charm City Roller Girls scrimmaging at Skateland in Dundalk

got a black eye the first day of practice. From my own teammate,” laughs Nicole Stich. “She said, ‘Well, maybe you shouldn’t have put your face there.’ It was totally my fault; you learn real fast where not to put your face.” And yet between the busted legs, torn-up knees, and dislocated shoulders, there’s camaraderie unlike that of any other woman’s sport. Perhaps it’s the unique nature of the outlet—especially for women: no pads, no helmets, just, as coach Jessica Hammond notes, a “mano-a-mano” struggle with fourteen teammates. Asked what hooked her on the game, Leslie Joyce says, “The tackling, honestly. Here was a woman’s sport where you could tackle, and it was a dream. I’m more bad-ass than football players because I don’t have pads.” In a sport built on exhaustion, it’s no surprise that those left standing feel a kinship that goes far beyond the sidelines. “There’s a whole rugby culture that’s very much family,” says Joyce, 30, who played club rugby at Texas A & M. "It doesn’t even matter if you don’t play anymore. If you go to a new town and contact the local rugby club, they’ll tell you what part of town to live in, where there are jobs, the best places to eat, drink, hang out. It’s an instantaneous connection. In the world, networking is now the number one thing. Well, this is an immediate network. “And, of course, they’ll always ask you if you want to play a pick-up game.” —Mat Edelson

Skateland 1113 North Point Rd., Dundalk Wednesday, 9 p.m.

Roller Derby Divas As the nine-woman pack passes tightly beneath the Skateland sign—all the letters cast in yellow lights but the blood red “S”—Allie B. Back hurries to catch up. The other women are blocking each other, but Allie is hauling ass. “Help your jammer, yellow jammer coming up,” someone yells from the bench as Allie cuts to the outside of the track and then inside, dodging three opponents and ducking under the arms of one more to break free into an open sprint. She is wearing the Charm City Roller Girls All Star team’s yellow jersey. The star on her helmet signifies she’s the jammer, the only person on a roller derby team who can score; the other four members of a team act as blockers. This is just a scrimmage, but it's still serious business. The best and most committed women from the five teams in the Charm City Roller Girls local league make up the traveling team, the All Stars; their opponents, Black Rose, came down from Pennsylvania for the scrimmage. It is 9 p.m., but women of all levels have been here at the skating rink in Dundalk practicing scenarios for the last two hours. “Allie has a bionic knee or something," says Ellie Vation (roller girls all adopt aliases), watching from the sidelines. She plays in the Roller Girl's intra-league, Night Terrors, open to the players who either couldn’t or didn’t want to make the kind of commitment a traveling team requires.

Urbanite #96  june 2012  35


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“She ‘s better, stronger, faster,” says Moxie Killin, watching the rink with admiration. Killin is what the Roller Girls call fresh meat. “I saw a bout and immediately I knew that was what I wanted to do,” she says. “It took me five years of going to bouts to finally do it. To me, it’s so much more mental than physical. If I can’t do something, it is usually my mind.” “It’s physical, but not at all like people think,” Ellie Vator, a 31-year-old mother adds. “When I tell people I do this, they say, 'You don’t have tattoos. You’re a mom.' They don’t get it’s an athletic sport.” —Baynard Woods

Hill—and squeezed in games several times a day, especially on weekends when they played for hours at a time. Life in the outdoor game is tougher—no referees. And there are no school administrators to stop the trash talk. But young bucks improve because they get a chance to battle the older, stronger guys who came up on the same macadam courts. “You’ll play versus grown men, and that definitely toughens you up,” Martin says. “You’re not going to sit there and look for a referee to give you a call. There’s no call coming. It builds some toughness for them. It's for bragging rights, and to stay on the court you have to keep winning." —Jeff Seidel

Our Lady of Fatima basketball courts 6420 E. Pratt St. Thursday, 11 a.m.

State Champs For years, through steamy summer nights and cold winter afternoons, the members of the Patterson High boys basketball team have gathered on East Baltimore’s outdoor courts to be together and compete in the game they love. That Patterson won the Maryland 3A state title this season hasn’t changed a thing: Much of the team still meets for near-daily pickup games. “I probably enjoy it more than playing in high school,” says Derek Oliver, a guard. “It’s more fun just playing with your friends." Patterson High School basketball head coach Harry Martin says that the lessons his team learned on the outdoor courts over the years carried over into the gym this past winter, and the team grew closer as players and people, he says. “We do everything as a family,” says 6-foot-6-inch Shakir Brown, a forward, mentioning teammates Aquille Carr, Devin Hebron, Leonard Livingston, and Myrek Lee-Fowlkes as pickup regulars. “Basketball is our favorite thing.” Brown hopes to play college ball next year like Carr, his high-profile teammate who has committed to Seton Hall University. Martin understands all this from his own high school experience. "It's kind of a ritual in Baltimore City," he says. The coach played at City College High School, and he and his buddies met around the clock for pickup games. He and his friends often awoke as early as 6 a.m. to go to the nearby Commodore John Rogers public school courts in Butcher’s

Little Italy Stiles St. Bocce Courts Wednesday, 1 p.m.

Rolling Stones You can play the old Italian game of bocce on grass, navigating the fickle twists of lumpy sod, tree roots, and divots. That’s how Fiorindo “Dino” Basso learned. Or you can play on crushed oyster shells, or the smooth surface of crushed stone dust watered and tamped down to the consistency of a polished bowling lane, which is how Dino rolls today. “A lot of our players were born in Italy, and they remember playing on crushed oyster shells,” says Basso, the 73-year-old president of Little Italy’s Thursday night bocce league—the Italian-American League. “You roll a ball on our courts, and it’s fast.” Basso traces his local involvement in the game, also popular in Federal Hill (“It’s sort of a social event over there,” says Basso, a purist) to a friendship with the late boxer and Baltimore News-American racetrack handicapper Clem Florio. “Clem always invited spectators hanging around to come onto the court and learn,” says Basso, who has continued the welcoming tradition. “You have to be 16 or older to be on a team, but we’ll teach anyone.” Thus his instruction not long ago to a class of Towson High School kids on a Little Italy field trip. Basso also notes he’s played on bocce league teams with his daughter, Santina Shetterly, and his 23-year-old granddaughter, Brittany Robey. When asked if bocce is merely a diversion for men with hair growing out of their ears and tourists passing by on warm nights in one of Baltimore’s oldest neighborhoods, his passion for the sport bursts out. “Bocce should be an Olympic sport!” cries Basso, a retired contractor and the son of Italian immigrants— his father, a carpenter, landed on Ellis Island in 1925. He pronounces bocce—a bowling game with roots in the Roman Empire—baugh-CHEE. “If they can have curling in the winter Olympics, the most boring friggin’ game I’ve ever seen, they can have bocce in the summer Olympics,” he says. “There is nothing more exciting than a bunch of Italian guys yelling at each other over where to roll a ball.” —Rafael Alvarez

Playing for keeps: Patterson High School coach Harry Martin, guard Derek Oliver, and forward Shakir Brown are a part of a Baltimore ritual—pickup basketball.

Urbanite #96  june 2012  37


transit

Expiration Date Portions of urban highways are being removed in cities around the world. Is it the JFX’s turn? by Mat Edelson

W

hat if you threw a fiftieth anniversary celebration, and the most important invitees didn’t show? On Dec 16, 2011, the Jones Falls Expressway, the highway credited with keeping downtown Baltimore from completely going to pot following the infamous suburban White Flight of the 1960s and 70s, and for delivering more than 100,000 commuters daily to their urban points of employment and entertainment, marked a half-century of hovering above, below, and right on top of Mother Earth. And yet the very people responsible for deciding whether the JFX will make it another fifty years—let alone another five—had an interesting reaction to the concrete and steel structure’s golden jubilee. Utter silence. From the city council, not a peep. From the mayor, nary a word nor proclamation. The governor? You could hear the crickets chirping in place of his usual media machine. Was this an oversight? Not for the major media in town. The Baltimore Sun, the TV talking heads, they all noticed. The same couldn’t be said for the very people whose political lives are in no small part sustained by the commerce and commuters that flow through this central artery. They avoided all mention of the moment. Heck, they didn’t even send a nice note. About the only peep out of city hall was a pro forma press release under the City’s Department of Transportation banner, a muted five-paragraph missive

38   june 2012  www.urbanitebaltimore.com

photos and renderings Courtesy of Gorove /Sl ade Associates And Ab Associates

designed to go unnoticed: It wasn’t even posted on DOT’s own press release website, nor did the release bear a single quote from any official— not the mayor, not even anyone in DOT. Which begs an interesting thought: Would the head honchos all rather the JFX just go away? the jfx, by all accounts , is facing an expiration date. The debate is about when exactly does this terminus terminate? A study commissioned by then-mayor Sheila Dixon’s administration in August 2009 recommended a date so far in the future that the O’s most certainly will have won another World Series: We’re talking 2049, give or take a few rough snow and salt-filled winters. But another study from potential developers suggested the tipping point for removing the lower part of the JFX should come far, far earlier. As in, soon. It is a fascinating suggestion, perhaps overly optimistic in its projections for a financial windfall for the city’s property and sales tax coffers, but not without precedent. The list of cities that actually have taken action is surprisingly long, and there is a movement afloat to rethink the urban highway, and how it fits into the urban landscape. While most everyone has heard of Boston’s 1991 to 2007 “Big Dig,” which, among other projects, buried a 3.5-mile stretch of I-93 below a newlygreened Beantown park at an astronomical cost ($15 billion for the whole project and counting),

many other burghs are either moving or tearing down sections of highway that bisect their towns. Fort Worth and Providence relocated large sections of highway to improve quality of life and revitalize neighborhoods, while Milwaukee; San Francisco; Portland, Oregon; and Seoul have completely dismantled sections of roadway, replacing them with boulevards and accompanying mixed-use properties that attract and support street life. In some cases the redesigns were mandated by Mother Nature; after San Francisco was whacked by the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, portions of the Embarcadero Freeway and the Central Freeway off the Bay Bridge were severely damaged. The choice was rebuild or reimagine. At great controversy—and to the great consternation of traffic planners who predicted complete gridlock if the freeways weren’t rebuilt—the latter path was chosen. In Milwaukee, it was a maverick mayor’s political will that removed a stub of highway that had been an underutilized blight on the landscape. The case of Seoul has particular reverberations for Baltimore. A busy highway built on top of a river (sound familiar?) in the South Korean capital was torn down. The area’s reconstruction daylighted the waterway and completely changed the face—and health—of Seoul several years ago. “The summer temperatures are eight degrees cooler on average where the river is than with the highway. There’s 21 percent less particulate


transit Paving the way: An overhead view of the Jones Falls Expressway, which celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in December

Urbanite #96  june 2012  39


transit matter (some studies have linked particulate matter from urban highways to increased rates of asthma), noxious gases are down 20 percent, and (other) pollutants are down up to 65 percent in certain areas,” says Fort Wortharea urban planner Patrick Kennedy, who has blogged extensively on the topic and is considering pitching the mayor of Dallas on a highway removal project. The irony of removing urban highways is that the mastermind of the interstate highway system never intended to have them built in the first place. When President Dwight Eisenhower, a military general who had been impressed by Germany’s Autobahn during World War II, promoted highway building during his 1950s administration, he had the Cold War first and foremost in his mind. “It never occurred to anyone to run (highways) through cities; the idea was to connect cities to each for the purpose of commerce and to evacuate major urban areas and move Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles across the country,” says Jeffrey Tumlin, a San Francisco urban planner who has studied the potential removal of a stretch of I-10 through downtown New Orleans. But with the Feds offering the lion’s share of dollars to build new highways, nary a city in America passed up the opportunity in the next decade to run highways through existing right of ways and other places where land was cheap—often through long established African American communities such as New Orleans’s I-10 Treme district. Baltimore’s proposed I-170, the so-called “Highway to Nowhere” that now comprises a 1.4-mile submerged stretch of I-40 from MLK Boulevard to the West Baltimore MARC station, dislocated thousands of mostly African American residents and sent the area into an economic tailspin. There was more than a hint of racism in practice; urban highways often cut off expanding black neighborhoods from their white counterparts and business districts. “In the case of the Geary Expressway in San Francisco, there are memos that talk about halting the African American spread. I’ve seen it starkly in print. They use a lot of code words, but there it is,” says Tumlin. Fortunately the conversation in recent years has shifted to the economics of the matter. These concrete children of the 1950s and 60s are reaching a critical juncture in their existence. With only routine maintenance, the lifespan of highways built in that era is roughly forty to fifty years. The last elevated section of the JFX running from roughly Chase Street to Fayette Street was completed in 1984 (it would connect to the expanded President Street section in 1987), some twenty-two years after opening the first stretch, which Baltimore Planner George Kostritsky at the time called “a useful but hideous concrete ribbon.” 40   june 2012  www.urbanitebaltimore.com

Whether the JFX is still useful has been debated for, believe it or not, nearly its entirely life. According to a Baltimore Sun timeline, in 1968 then-mayor Thomas D’Alesandro III called the JFX “obsolete.” In 1991, a commission appointed by then-Mayor Kurt Schmoke suggested taking down part of the JFX to develop the east side. And in 2005, Walter Sondheim, often thought of as the conscience of Baltimore, expressed his contempt for the JFX and called for its removal. Why these ideas went nowhere is a combination of perceived cost and fear of carmageddon—an explosion of cars clogging the city’s street grid should the bottom part of the JFX suddenly go away. The traffic part of the equation is intriguing. Historically, traffic planners felt that whenever roadway capacity was increased, so too would use, as more commuters would be induced to establish new driving patterns on what they believed would be a faster roadway. It was a never-ending game of build and clog, the fear being if one didn’t build, the traffic jams would always be worse. That thinking changed following San Francisco’s Central Freeway Artery damage and subsequent reconstruction as a grade-level, multi-use road known as Octavia Boulevard. Some 90,000 cars had come west from Oakland and north from San Jose across that patch of the Central Freeway daily, and where they would go without the freeway was fiercely debated among traffic planners. Some felt “there is no way you can tear this freeway down. If you do, the traffic will back up to Sacramento (some three hours away). That’s what their models told them, and they believed their models,” says Tumlin. What happened still has the naysayers flummoxed. The total number of commuters on Octavia dropped, with Tumlin crediting San Francisco’s extensive street grid for absorbing the traffic. Partially as a result of the Octavia experience, a new controversial theory started getting tossed around by planners: It’s called reverse-induced demand. Under this theory, it’s believed that a reduction in highways won’t have a deleterious effect because of several factors, including the aforementioned grid absorption and people changing their behaviors to use mass transit, carpool, or eliminate some car trips entirely. In other words, build it and they’ll come; take it away and they’ll find another route—or leave their cars home. In Baltimore, the fate of the JFX—at least the elevated portion, all 4,730 feet of it from Chase Street to Fayette—is coming down to a battle of the Entrepreneurs versus the Engineers, with the referees (that would be City Hall) remaining neutral. The entrepreneurs, who hope to develop 23 acres east of the JFX, are represented by a coalition lead by Edison Parking, owners of 9.5

acres of old rail yards there that were turned into parking lots in 1985. In a sixty-page PowerPoint entitled “Fallsway: A New Downtown Neighborhood for Baltimore, MD,” Edison shows the taking down of the JFX as key to redeveloping an area that would reach east to the blighted Old Town neighborhood (and beyond that to Hopkins Hospital) and west to Mount Vernon and the Downtown business district. The land used would include Edison’s acres and tracts owned by BGE, the City, and some private commercial property. The study, with input from traffic planners Gorove/Slade Associates, University of Maryland School of Architecture and Planning professor Matthew J. Bell, and land use planners AB Associates, is, to say the least, ambitious. Renderings include a widened, greened boulevard in place of the JFX, including pictures of a park sitting on the banks of a river, presumably the opened Jones Falls. The gist of the message—one which, if successful, would greatly enhance the value of Edison’s current holdings—is that the only thing standing in the way of a phenomenal new neighborhood and millions of dollars in new property taxes and sales tax for the city is that darn highway. Al Barry of AB Associates says that’s not just his opinion, but that of some city planners as well; he notes that the Old Town redevelopment master plan calls for the JFX’s elevated portion teardown (Barry was on the Old Town plan’s steering committee, which also called for development of Edison’s properties). Edison’s financial promises may be historically justified. In Milwaukee, former Mayor John Norquist says the 2003 teardown of the mile-long Park East freeway stub and the rebuilding of a four-lane boulevard, McKinley Avenue, created three new mixed-use neighborhoods and, by 2007, more than $340 million in development. Similarly, economic analysis of San Fran’s Embarcadero found employment in the rebuilt area jumped 23 percent (an increase of more than three times that of surrounding control areas), and Octavia Boulevard, which was opened in 2005, created almost 1,000 new homes with overall housing values now nearly on a par with the rest of San Francisco. That’s one take on the potential economics, and it caught the ear of someone in the Dixon administration. They quietly commissioned their own study, to the tune of around $60,000, to look into the matter. That study, officially for the City’s Department of Transportation, narrowly focused on what it would take to maintain the lower JFX in various permutations. The study was done by longtime Baltimore engineering firm RK&K. Although the report hasn’t been officially published, an insider with first-hand knowledge of the study said four options were viably discussed: leaving the highway as is; taking down the lower elevated


transit Opening it up: An rendering of a Jones Falls Expressway proposal that would knock down the end of the way, creating space for a widened boulevard and opportunity for development on the eastside of the JFX

Urbanite #96  june 2012  41


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transit Redeveloping: A look at the potential design and plan for a new Fallsway neighborhood just east of the lower end of the Jones Falls Expressway

portion and building out the existing service roads (Fallsway and Guilford Avenue); taking down the elevated lower portion and building a new boulevard; and taking down only the last half of the elevated portion (the upper portion covers train tracks that may prove problematic to redevelop). The last three options all call for an immediate expenditure of more than $200 million, enough to give any politician pause. The first option—and the one RK&K recommended, given the current economic downturn and their belief that there’s plenty of development opportunity elsewhere in Baltimore—is to keep the elevated section intact and nurse it along. They estimated that it would take $7.6 million to maintain the section through 2024, at which point a deck overlay—the highway equivalent of putting another layer of shingles on the roof, as opposed to tearing off the underlying wood—would cost around $66 million and extend the section’s life to somewhere around 2050. At that point, a choice would have to be made: Redeck the entire structure—including possibly replacing deficient girders and beams— at a cost nearing half a billion dollars. Or tear the sucker down. earthquakes notwithstanding, the only way the lower JFX is going to expire prematurely

is through an act of a political derring-do. John Norquist, whose Congress for New Urbanism advocates for urban highway removal, said he had to fight road builders and their champion, then-Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson, to get rid of the Park East freeway. “We had this turd in the punch bowl,” says the colorful Norquist of the Park East, “and when I became mayor I asked, ‘What adds the most value to the city?’ and we made a deal with the governor.” Despite the potential revitalization dollars, no one is talking deals down in City Hall. In fact, no one’s talking at all about the future of the JFX. The mayor’s office offered no comment, while a spokesperson for City Council President Jack Young said: “It’s not something the Council President is focused on at the moment.” A similar lack of interest was expressed by the Greater Baltimore Committee, which has seen Edison’s proposal. That leaves the civic activists, who aren’t exactly raising a mighty wind. Admittedly, from an activism viewpoint, taking on a highway— especially one that’s already been built—is a bit daunting. Unlike the famous highway-stopping battles that saved Fells Point in the 1970s and propelled then-champion Barbara Mikulski to national prominence, the civic voices calling for the JFX’s removal are scattered and

unorganized. But like the JFX, they too may be on a timetable to teardown. Stu Sirota, owner of TND Planning Group and an urban planner involved in remodeling the Belair Road corridor, says he’s seen more quality of life projects occur in the city in the last five years than he’d seen in the previous fifteen, and he believes in the power of cumulative effect. “It’s going to take so much time, energy, and effort to make (the teardown) happen,” says Sirota. “I’d rather see the city spend money on bike lanes and making modest visual changes that will have a real transformational change, and those things will start adding up towards larger changes … like tearing down freeways.” Ultimately, Baltimore’s politicians may have to take a leap of faith that the city’s extensive street grid system can absorb losing part of a freeway for a well-thought-out boulevard that enhances city life. Aesthetically, urban planners such as Baltimore’s Heather Strassberger make a compelling case for such a boulevard. “When you have foot traffic, you have window shopping and eyes on the street,” she says. “When you create a twenty-four-hour environment, you’ve got people wanting to live in the area because it’s attractive, there’s nightlife. It’s not like a business district where everyone goes home at five.” Usually via a highway. Urbanite #96  june 2012  43


Ralign Wells was one of those kids who was mesmerized by motor vehicles of all kinds. He never outgrew that fascination. When he was 21, Wells became a part-time Baltimore bus operator while attending college. By the time he was 42, Wells was tapped to run the Maryland Transit Administration, the agency responsible for moving over 400,000 passengers every weekday on Local Bus, Light Rail, Metro Subway, Commuter Bus, MARC Train and Mobility Para-transit services. Two years later, Wells’ enthusiasm for public transit hasn’t waned in spite of the job’s enormous challenges and responsibilities. Working toward Governor Martin O’Malley’s goal to double MTA ridership by 2020, he’s marshalled a host of high-tech digital tools, customer service strategies and workforce incentives for improving and expanding service. Within the Baltimore metropolitan region, where many residents rely daily on public transit, Wells anticipates that upgrades coming this year to his agency’s Local Bus system will bring aboard a new generation of satisfied customers. We gave Wells an opportunity to share his enthusiasm for public transit and discuss upgrades soon to come for bus service across the Baltimore metropolitan region.

THE BENEFITS OF CHOOSING PUBLIC TRANSIT MTA offers a wide variety of options for getting to work, school and recreation. In Maryland, affordable public transit benefits everyone by helping to keep thousands of cars off the road daily, reducing pollution and traffic congestion. Drivers make out okay too, since that’s nearly 400,000 fewer cars on Maryland’s roads every day. What’s more, using public transit gives you the opportunity to work or relax. I commute on the Metro Subway and am able to sign documents and review materials without worrying about traffic.

MTA IS BECOMING MORE RESPONSIVE TO CUSTOMER CONCERNS

and following up with our Operations team to help ensure that it doesn’t recur.

Anyone who takes the time to complain or give us feedback deserves a response. Patrons can send feedback with text messages through Rate Your Ride, reach us on Facebook and Twitter or contact us via the web and email. Of course, the more traditional method of calling our Transit Information Center is always an option. This summer, riders can expect more accountability when we activate a team of customer care agents who will work closely with passengers if a problem can’t be fixed through the usual channels. The agent will see the problem through until it’s resolved, updating the customer

WHEN AN OPERATOR SKIPS A DESIGNATED BUS STOP . . . We look for systemic problems; there could be a condition that disallows the operator from stopping, such as a capacity concern. If we are informed that the missed stop occurs on a given date or location, we can go back to see if there was a crowding issue. In that case, we may need to add more buses to that particular line. Regular follow-up might reveal the need for future service adjustments. Of course it’s possible that the operator may have missed the patron;


SPECIAL ADV ERTISING S ECTION

it helps if the customer motions toward the bus so it’s clear that he or she is waiting for that particular service. . . . OR WHEN BUSES RUN LATE OR ARRIVE CLOSE TOGETHER Our Service Quality coordinators are constantly making adjustments. When “bunching” occurs, they’ll make a decision whether to hold the second bus or reschedule it to continue to the next stop on the line. Our Service Quality team is constantly adjusting service to try and address buses arriving late or bunching. Making adjustments to the hundreds of buses that we have on the street every day is truly a skill and a daily challenge for them. SOME OBSTACLES WE FACE IN PROVIDING PROMPT, PREDICTABLE SERVICE Buses can run late due to a number of external factors. There might be a sick patron on board, police activity, detours and/or water main breaks. There are a lot of causes – almost too many to list! The design of our city streetscape with its many bottlenecks also poses some challenges for public transit. MTA EFFORTS TO RAISE MORALE AND PERFORMANCE AMONG OPERATORS This was the first year that we selected an MTA Operator Of The Year based on computerized data for on-time performance, log-in compliance, attendance, customer complaints and accidents. We are also using that data to find the operators with spotty performance records. We are looking for ways to bring in mentors to coach those who could be performing better.

major enhancement to the transit product. People will be able to determine exactly where their bus is, taking some of the unpredictability out of our service. GOING “GREEN” IS IN OUR NATURE Actually, we were green before the term green was used for environmental consciousness. We’ve been operating the Metro Subway and Light Rail systems for 30 and 20 years, respectively. Thanks to the Governor’s commitment to the environment, he has authorized that the MTA purchase all clean-diesel hybrid buses at each bus replacement procurement. So far, one-third of our core bus fleet is cleandiesel hybrid buses. And there are a number of other ways that MTA is going greener. We recently installed more than 3,700 “thin film” solar panels on the roof of our Northwest Bus Division. This saves us more than $68,000 per year in electricity costs. And we’re replacing diesel MARC Train locomotives with new models that meet stringent new EPA requirements for all types of pollutants. We are committed to looking at ways that we can contribute to a cleaner environment. OTHER ENHANCEMENTS ARE IN THE WORKS While there are many enhancements to come, one that stands out as a major improvement will be our central control center. This is where all of our services will

be monitored in one location using stateof-the-art technology to enhance our product. We’ll have health monitoring systems that will provide us with the maintenance and reliability status of our systems in the field, including buses, so that we can send crews to address them while they are still in operating condition. There will also be a central communication center to make public address announcements when service disruptions occur. There’s more. We just added sleek, new hybrid buses with greater passenger capacity, which rely on battery-powered electric motors. We’re also trying to procure more articulated buses to expand passenger capacity. The more capacity we provide, the more cars are off the street, which offers greater potential traffic congestion relief as well. HOW WE DECIDE ON WHERE TO INCREASE OR DECREASE BUS SERVICE SYSTEM-WIDE We have a bus service allocation task force that is using analytical tools to make decisions on where fewer or more buses are needed. We’re looking at data from automatic passenger counters and vehicle location systems, fare boxes, CharmCard records and Rate Your Ride. The results will tell us how and where we need to add or subtract buses. Our ultimate goal is to offer the best transit-passenger experience in the nation. To learn more about the MTA, visit mta.maryland.gov For regular customer questions, call 410-539-5000. MTA customers are also urged to report their public transit experiences through the Rate Your Ride program.

REAL-TIME LOCATION TECHNOLOGY IS ON ITS WAY The procurement process for enabling customers to track their bus on a smart phone is underway. My hope is that by the end of the year, the system will be up and running. We’d like to start testing the system in the fall as this initiative will be a Urbanite #96  june 2012  45


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Poetry

The Munchkin Coroner Returns to Oz Meinhardt Raabe (1915-2010)

By Joanna Pearson

At last remains only that old ache— the longing for an elsewhere out of reach. Reunion parades with crowds clapping were no balm. Rustling my blue robes, I’d feel my breath ratcheting. After all the world a blur of skirts at eye level, crotches I spoke to and made a lowly math of, each one a face to be recognized, still I was wee. Itty. Give me Culver City. Oz, glittering. The cameras, Judy Tom-Thumbing me with weird teenaged mother-love down to the pith, to my little plum pit heart, kneeling with a box of chocolates, cooing sweets to the sweet, pink sleepyheads yawning, a Munchkin chorus line, the brick road spiraling. Four lines I learned to sing, hymn-like, and rewind. But oh, I must aver, most sincerely, it’s the plight of striped stockinged legs limp beneath the pitched house, hint of dead witch that sets me weeping. Somewhere over there, give me more heel-clicking. In The End, I learn to trace the return-wish backwards: If I only had. A tornado. A home. There’s no place.

Urbanite #96  june 2012  47


War horse: The Lafayette monument was commissioned in 1917 to show America's solidarity with the French during World War I. Today, the view of Lafayette and the George Washington Monument, behind it, are obscured by tall, leafy trees.

photo by j.m. Giordano

The Forest for The Trees With a new plan from renowned landscape architecture firm Olin, the Mount Vernon Place Conservancy aims to turn the historic square into a destination for the future. By rebecca messner


Space

T

he memorial to the Marquis de Lafayette in Mount Vernon Place, commissioned in 1917 by Mayor James H. Preston and executed by Carrére and Hastings, city planners and landscape architects, was a big deal. The United States had just declared war against Germany, entering World War I, and Baltimore wanted to show its dedication to the French, alongside whom they would be fighting. The statue, says Lance Humphries, chair of the Mount Vernon Place Conservancy, was crucial to Carrére and Hastings’s accompanying plan for the square. “It’s the entire reason why this was


Straight shot: The Olin plan for the park's south section, facing north on North Charles Street, would feature uninterrupted views of both monuments and historical paving to encourage slower traffic and easier pedestrian use.

designed,” Humphries says. “We’ve never lived through one of those world wars. I think it’s really hard to understand how important that was—the power of those wars.” Today, a few misplaced trees planted by the city block the dramatic view of the monuments, especially from the south side of the square. If these views were restored, says Humphries, it could have a tremendous impact on the way people move within and around the square. “We want to restore the historic integrity of the place,” says Richard Newton, partner at Olin, the landscape architecture firm responsible for the proposed redesign. The firm also aims to improve accessibility and restore the long-term health and vitality of the park’s infrastructure. Olin hopes to introduce perimeter sidewalks along the edges of all four squares, improving handicap accessibility—at this point, only one out of four squares is completely ADA accessible. The firm also suggests a number of ways to calm traffic in the area, including improved crosswalks and the possibility of repaving the roads in historic cobblestone. “Mount Vernon must be seen as a pedestrian space,” says Newton. “It shouldn’t be 50   june 2012  www.urbanitebaltimore.com

a place where you take your life into your hands just getting to it.” The Mount Vernon Place Conservancy— the first public-private partnership in Baltimore that has a formal agreement with the city to oversee a public space—has pledged to contribute $12 million in public and private funds toward this restoration. This is money that, given the strains on the Baltimore City Parks Department—seventeen leaders over twenty years, and more rec centers scheduled to remain closed for the summer—is not likely to have been invested publicly. Not everyone is excited by this, however. A strong opposition, including an organization called the Save the Trees Alliance, objects primarily to the fact that the 118 trees in the square will be replaced, based on the recommendations of Bill Graham, a consulting arborist for Olin and the former chief horticulturist of the University of Pennsylvania Morris Arboretum. If the plan is approved, the new, replacement trees will be semi-mature and will be consistent in size, creating a canopy that’s uniform but also allows good visibility into the squares— a detail that Humphries says will have a

significant impact on perceptions of safety within the park. “It’s all about encouraging positive use,” he says. Regina Minniss, member of the Save the Trees Alliance and board member of the Friends of Mount Vernon Place, a volunteer organization that provides programming and cleanup support, is not opposed to the conservancy itself—just the details of the proposed plan. The plan, she says, “is a fixation on a period of time that does not consider what's going on with the Earth today. It goes against everything that we need to do to help fight global warming.” Minniss, whose apartment overlooks the square, has helped assemble a petition with signatures from more than 2,000 people who oppose the conservancy's plan for the trees. “Trees have a limited lifespan in urban areas,” says Newton. “They will all need to be replaced [eventually] … It’s always a tough call, and we don’t want to remove trees unless it’s essential for the bigger vision. And unfortunately, it turns out that the trees are so closely integrated in the design as a whole that you can’t do anything of significance without removing them.”


left and above renderings courtesy of olin; right illustration From the American Architect, Volume 113, No. 2195. Courtesy of Enoch Pratt Library, Marylands State Libraray

Space

In the red: Renderings from Olin show, in red, the areas of the park that are currently handicap inaccessible (left, center) and the areas that will remain inaccessible if the proposed redesign is approved (right).

The plan will not be carried out without approval from the Baltimore City Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation. If approved, construction, Humphries says, will happen in stages, so that sections of the park will always remain open to the public. “Our first priority is the restoration of the monument,” says Humphries, “because of its bicentennial in 2015. “It’s not about what’s here right this minute,” he says. “What do we want it to look like in fifteen years?” Newton can see even farther. “We want to give people not only in future years, but also our grandchildren, the vision the mayor and the designers had in the 1910s and 20s, when the plan was envisioned. To give them something that we haven’t had since the 1950s. “On so many plans,” Newton says, “You almost literally can’t see the forest for the trees. You hold the bigger vision.”

The grand reveal: The 1918 Carrére and Hastings plan showing the park’s south square

Urbanite #96  june 2012  51


The 2012 urbanIte

P r o j e c T:

HealtHy

Fc ho o d allenge

Urbanite Project 2012 HealtHy food film series: June 4, 2012, 6 p.m.

Food Stamped screening

Enoch Pratt Central Library, Wheeler Auditorium 400 Cathedral Street, Baltimore, MD 21201 Food Stamped follows a couple as they attempt to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet on a food stamp budget. Please join the discussion following the screening Hosted by Baltimore City Health Department Moderated by Marc Steiner

Anne Palmer: director, Eating for the Future Program, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future Laura Fox: co-coordinator, Baltimore City’s Virtual Supermarket

Cathy Demeroto: director, Maryland Hunger Solutions

July 11, 2012, 6 p.m.

Weight of the Nation, Screening Creative Alliance, 3134 Eastern Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21224

August 15, 2012, 6 p.m.

Queen of the Sun, Screening

The Wind Space, 12 W. North Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21201

For more details, visit www.urbaniteproject.com InStItutIonal partnerS

SponSorS

American Communities Trust | Enoch Pratt Library | Greater Baltimore Committee The Marc Steiner Show | Richardson Farms | Zia’s


food + drink

feature  /  dining reviews  /  wine + spirits

What You Get for $30

18

eggs

$1.75

1 can tuna

$ 0.79

Eating healthy on a food stamp budget

50 bags

by rebecca messner

orange pekoe tea

$1.69

photography by J.M. Giordano

2

sweet potatoes

$1.09

12

apples

$1.50

1 28-oz. can

crushed tomatoes

$1.00

½ gallon skim milk

$1.89

1 42-oz. tub

1 16-oz. bag

oatmeal

$1.14

brown rice

$ 0.99

1 16-oz. bag

Goya 16 Bean Soup Mix

$2.29

1 16-oz. bag

7

bananas

$1.14

lentils

$1.39 1 2-lb. bag carrots

$1.49

1

large onion

$ 0.72

1 head cabbage $1.41

1

whole chicken

$ 6.09

1 16-oz. bag kale

$1.99

total: $29.61


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feature  food + Drink

We're not trying to say, "This is what it's like to be poor." We're trying to show why it is so hard to eat healthy. —Shira potash, co-director, FOOD stamped

Thirty dollars.

That’s how much the average person on food stamps has to spend on one week’s worth of food in Maryland. That comes out to roughly $4.30 a day. According to Maryland Hunger Solutions, in September 2011, more than 700,000 Maryland residents relied on food stamps, which are officially known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. In order to qualify, a family of four must earn less than $3,726 per month before taxes. In an attempt to understand—albeit very limitedly—what it feels like to live on food stamps, Maryland Hunger Solutions every year hosts the Food Stamp Challenge. “I call it an exercise in empathy,” says Cathy Demeroto. You have $30 to spend on food and beverages for the week, and everything you eat must be budgeted for within that $30 (except spices and condiments). You’re encouraged to avoid accepting free food from family, friends, or coworkers. Demeroto, who has hosted these challenges with Maryland Hunger Solutions in the past (and will host another this October), has done the challenge three times and has facilitated it for hundreds of others. “I think people were surprised at how difficult it was,” she says. “Most people didn’t run out of food, but it was a restriction of choice—you’re eating the same thing every day. You couldn’t have fresh fruits and vegetables. People reported a lot less energy or feeling very irritable, depressed, tired. Think about how to do that for twelve months,” she says. It's easy to be skeptical of an experiment like this—when celebrity chef Mario Battali did a similar challenge in May, he publicly voiced concerns in the Huffington Post about coming across as a "yuppie" who was trying to teach poor people to save money by grinding their own oats. Shira and Yoav Potash, who documented their quest to eat healthy on this budget for their 2010 film, Food Stamped, faced similar criticism. “We're not trying to say, ‘This is what it’s like to be poor,’” Shira Potash says. “We're trying to show the whole fabric of why it is so hard to eat healthy.” When I attempted the Food Stamp Challenge in April, I went the way of the Potashes. What if I did buy vegetables? Would it be possible for me to eat healthy on this budget? I walked into the Save-a-Lot in Bolton Hill determined to find out.

On day one, Sunday, I roasted a chicken: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Rinse and dry the chicken. Sprinkle salt (about 1 tbs) and pepper (to taste) inside the cavity and all over the chicken’s body. Stuff onion and apple, chopped into large chunks, into the bird’s cavity. Chop herbs [I admit, here, I picked a couple sprigs of rosemary from the bush outside my house] and mix with salt, pepper, and 2 to 3 tablespoons of oil (or butter). Mix well. Then, separating the skin from the body, rub the oil and herb mixture all over the body of the bird, between the skin and the meat—this keeps the meat moist and the skin crispy. Roast for an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes. Active time: 30 minutes Total time: 1 hour and 30 minutes to 1 hour and 45 minutes

Sunday, I ate the chicken with rice and kale. Raw kale becomes softer and more flavorful if you massage (yes, massage) it with olive oil. Literally, get your hands oily and handle the kale. It should immediately turn a brighter shade of green.

On Tuesday, I made chicken stock: Strip the rest of the meat from the bones of the chicken, and throw them in a stockpot with water (16 cups), another chunk of onion, and 5 whole carrots. [I also threw in pieces of chicken skin, and if you happen to have kept the bag of gizzards that comes with the chicken, throw that in as well.] Bring everything to a boil and then simmer, uncovered, for 3 hours. Remove from heat and strain the liquid, discarding the solids. Let cool completely and then skim fat from the top. Active time: 30 minutes Total time: about 3 ½ hours

On Tuesday night, I soaked the beans in water overnight, so that they’d be ready for Wednesday night, when I used the chicken stock to make the sixteen-bean soup: Chop up whatever onion you have left, and sauté in oil or butter until it becomes translucent. Add carrots and spices, and salt and pepper. [I also included curry powder, cayenne pepper, and cumin.] Sauté for a few minutes, then add beans, the can of crushed

tomatoes, and the chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, until beans are tender (about 1 hour). Active time: 20 minutes Total time: about 1 hour and 20 minutes

The chicken lasted me until Thursday. I had oatmeal with bananas every morning for breakfast. I had lots of omelets for dinner, and I boiled lentils, which takes fifteen to twenty minutes. The tea didn’t really taste like anything, and after the third morning of drinking it, it became abundantly clear that it didn’t have much caffeine, either. Mid-week, despite my optimism, I felt just as Demeroto had warned I would—irritable, tired, and lacking energy. I could speculate about the nutritional content of the produce I picked up, and the caffeine withdrawal certainly didn’t help, but I think it came down to the fact that I was eating less—strictly measuring my meals so the food would last the whole week. It was also boring—although it was hearty, I tired of the bean soup pretty quickly. Living and eating this way required time— including the time it takes to, say, roast a chicken, and the time ahead of time to soak the beans. It takes time to sit down and figure out what, exactly, you need to cook for each meal and what to bring with you to work for lunch, and it takes time after work to come home and cook for yourself (and wash your dishes). This is time that some of us simply don’t have, especially if you add children to the equation. It also required knowledge—I had to know what to do with a whole chicken and that lentils are one of the easiest beans to cook. Eating well on this budget, for me, was not impossible. But I’m a healthy, 26-year-old woman with a kitchen full of cookware and ample time in the evenings to spend chopping vegetables (and washing dishes). Not everyone lives like this. What would it take to make eating healthy on this budget not only possible, but easy? In addition to changes in government subsidies, Potash thinks the change needs to happen on the ground. “I don't think there's a magic bullet,” she says, “but I do think cooking is a huge part of eating healthy, and I think the more people learn how to cook, the healthier they will eat.”

Urbanite #96  june 2012  55


56   june 2012  www.urbanitebaltimore.com


dining reviews  food + Drink

Hersh’s Pizza By Marianne Amoss

top photo by Leah Daniels, bottom photo by j.m. Giordano

T

here aren’t many things that would tempt a person above college age to Federal Hill on a weekend night, with its rowdy crowds and impossible parking. But Hersh’s Pizza, located at the southernmost end of the neighborhood, is one of them. Hersh’s was opened last November by the Hershkovitz siblings, chef Josh (formerly of Petit Louis and Charleston) and frontof-house manager Stephanie. It’s Crust punk: Hersh's brings authentic, Neopolitan pizza to Federal Hill. a neighborhood pizzeria with an upscale vibe—the kind of place that’s equally suited to celebrating the end of the are baked in an 800-degree woodburning oven, work week or a special occasion. The interior is giving them a nice char. The kale and pistachio industrial-chic, with Edison light bulbs in the combo proves that the season’s darling green is a perfect partner to Pecorino Romano and Fonfixtures and tones of silver and dark blue. tina cheese, while the Cacio e Pepe is a cheeseBilled as rustic Italian with flavors from Italover's best friend, with four types of the stuff ly’s Mediterranean neighbors thrown in, Hersh’s food and drinks are considered and tasty, with with cracked pepper. The prosciutto and arugula reasonable prices to boot. Their specialty is pizza, with a layer of the spicy greens added atop pizza—authentic Neopolitan, with a crust made the cured meat right after the pie is taken out of only of flour, yeast, water, and salt. And, oh, what the oven, is even more delicious eaten cold the a crust it is: crunchy on the outside, satisfyingly next day. chewy on the inside. The eight pizza varieties The menu offers a selection of small plates

The Grill at Harryman House By MARTHA THOMAS

T

here’s something familiar—and comforting—about the Grill at Harryman House, which has stood stalwart on Main Street in Reisterstown since the four-room log cabin was turned into a tavern nearly thirty years ago. Over the years, the place has moved from casual to white tablecloth dressy and back again, but the promise of something-for-everyone sticks. A

group of friends could celebrate a birthday or a shower in the high-ceilinged Valley room, with its summerhouse airiness, pale green walls, and white wainscoting, or you could hold your partner’s hand across the table in the candlelit log cabin room—which dates to the Harryman family’s original 1791 dwelling—on an anniversary. On weeknights, it’s a go-to neighborhood place, with dinner standards like roasted chicken—sweet-tea-brined and served with red-eyed gravy laced with crunchy bits of smoky pork and crunchy kale slaw. The casual dining includes burgers—Angus or Kobe—as well as crab cakes, and thin-crusted pizzas topped with bacon, tomato and arugula, or shrimp scampi, or more familiar choices like spicy sausage and mushrooms or pepperoni. While these American bistro classics are a cut above the usual, a few menu items elevate the menu beyond prosaic. A roasted quail appetizer was embedded with cherries and pecans, served on a bed of arugula with a light, tangy dressing. Seared Return-worthy: The scallops came with a swirl of Grill at Harryman House still pleases. braised fennel and slices of mandarin oranges, dressed

as well as salads and housemade pasta. The Kale Pappa is a standout—a warm-you-to-the-core bowl of brothy kale and bread, a nod to that old-word tradition of making something wonderful out of stale bread. For something lighter, try the House Salad—its anchovy vinaigrette hits just the right fishy notes—or the Aegean Salad, with an appealing salty/ sweet combo of feta cheese, olives, and grapes. Beer and wine offerings include both national and craft brands, and Hersh’s mixes up cocktails with artisanal spirits, as well as housemade sour mix and grenadine. The drink list changes on a seasonal basis and includes both classics (the Negroni, the New York Sour) and originals, such as the Basoco: Dewars, honey syrup, fresh lemon juice, ginger beer, and the unmistakable smoky flavor of Laphroiag Ten-Year-Old Scotch. The waitstaff at Hersh’s is attentive and full of enthusiasm for the menu. Of the desserts they’ll offer after dinner, be sure to take them up on the zeppoli. The fried dough balls are feathery light, flavored with lemon and rosemary and dusted in sugar. Savor them with a cup of coffee out on the new patio as you plan how you’ll avoid the traffic going home. (Dinner Tues–Sun. 1843–45 Light St.; 443-438-4948; www.hershspizza.com.) in a sweet vanilla bean vinaigrette. On the other hand, the crab dip was melted cheddar covering a casserole of mostly cream cheese with nary a lump of crab, served with a fan of pita triangles. We had the impression that this cliché rendition doesn’t budge from the line-up and is beloved by regular customers. Like the dinner menu, desserts are a nice mélange of updated classics and crowd pleasers: Bananas Foster, cloyingly sweet with caramel rum sauce, is relieved by vanilla ice cream and toasted coconut; Snickers pie hardly resembles the candy bar, although it is decadent in its own right, with its hard chocolate shell and creamy mousse inside. There’s probably more than one reason that this place—which rebranded itself the Grill at Harryman House after a mid-1990s renovation— has remained popular. There’s geography of course: It’s well away from the buzz-generating openings and closings of the city. There’s a handson owner, John Worthington, who was part of the original consort to establish the business in 1986. And there’s the loyal following, folks who still come for the crab dip. If the place feels like an inn on the outskirts of a college town, where parents treat their kid and his roommate to a nice meal on visitors weekend, it’s really much more than that. (Lunch and dinner daily brunch Sun. 340 Main St.,
Reiserstown; 410-833-8850; www.harrymanhouse.com.) Urbanite #96  june 2012  57


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wine + spirits  food + Drink

Tails of Summer In a classic Negroni, Campari bites to the bitter end. By Clinton Macsherry

I

’ve fallen pretty far out of step with summertime theme bars. In Baltimore and the beach towns of Delmarva, just about every indooroutdoor drinking establishment wants to pretend it’s in Jamaica, Mexico, or South Beach. Alongside tiki torches and imported palms, limeade beers and candy-colored blender drinks rule the cocktail roost. My dream bar happens to lie on the Italian Riviera, where they invented al fresco. I’m at a table overlooking the beach at, oh, let’s say Portofino, and I’m sipping a Negroni. There’s not a frozen daiquiri in sight. Admittedly, the Negroni isn’t for everyone. “In Italy they drink them all the time, but for the American palate, it can be a hard sell,” says Josh Sullivan, local cocktail impresario and founder of the website www.PostProhibition.com, an outstanding repository of recipes, product reviews, and lore. “When you first taste it,” Sullivan continues, “your brain’s like, ‘Whoa, something’s wrong.’ It’s got a bitter edge that some people never get into, which I guess is part of its mystique. It can make your face cringe. But if you like it, chances are you’re going to really like it.” That edge comes from Campari, one of the Negroni’s three components, along with gin and sweet vermouth. Created in Novara, Italy, in 1860 by Gaspare Campari, the bright red liqueur contains more than sixty ingredients by some accounts, although the recipe remains secret. (Like other 19th-century bitters, it was considered a tonic for the appetite.) Shortly afterward, Campari moved to Milan and opened an eponymous caffè; both caffè and liqueur quickly found favor in Italian high society. As demand grew, Campari and his son Davide began to insist that any establishment serving the liqueur display an artistically illustrated poster touting the Campari brand. Many observers consider this the advent of modern liquor advertising. A cocktail that originated at Caffè Campari in Milan combines the liqueur with sweet Cinzano vermouth from Turin and club soda. Initially photo by j.m. Giordano; cocktail prepared at bad decisions

christened a Milano-Torino, based on the two prime ingredients’ origins, it was subsequently renamed the Americano, perhaps owing to its popularity among Prohibition-era tourists. (An Americano, not a martini, later became the first cocktail James Bond ordered in Ian Fleming’s inaugural 007 novel, Casino Royale.) The Negroni debuted in Florence in 1919, the most oftrepeated story goes, when Italian count Camillo Negroni requested an Americano fortified with gin in lieu of soda. Orson Welles, an early fan, once wrote, “The bitters are excellent for your liver, the gin is bad for you. They balance each other.” Balance indeed defines the Negroni, although more from a gustatory standpoint than a medicinal one. I favor a traditional version, with equal parts Beefeater gin, Campari, and Cinzano Rosso vermouth, shaken and served on the rocks with a twist of orange peel. The color of a cherry sourball, it offers a nose of red licorice, with orange zest and nutmeg notes. Maraschino cherry, ripe raspberry, and spiced red apple flavors introduce a barky, rind- and anise-accented bitterness, with a refreshing quinine tang on the finish that sings summertime to me. Sullivan considers the Negroni “a classic—so simple, but tried and true.” Like other contemporary bartenders, he often tweaks the traditional formula, straining the ice and serving it “up” in a cocktail glass with proportionately more gin. “Part of the fun is varying the ingredients, the ratios, seeing how they play off each other,” Sullivan says. “I find 2 ounces of gin and 3/4 of an ounce each of Campari and sweet vermouth is much more approachable.” He’s also experimenting with barrel-aged Negronis, as detailed on his website. I don’t know what they’ll make of that in Portofino, but I’ll be happy to ask.

 To learn how to mix your own Negroni, go to bit.ly/negronirecipe. Urbanite #96  june 2012  59


Simon mawer — Trapeze Wednesday, June 13 The author of The Glass Room discusses his latest novel, about a young, English woman’s heroic 6:30 pm struggles and sacrifices in war-torn Europe.

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arts + culture feature  /  book  /  theater /  visual art /  the scene

Can you hear me now?: Poet Adam Robinson prepares for a public reading at Cyclops Books while owner Andy Rubin sweeps the floor.

Writer’s Block

“The City That Reads” is home to some of this country's most promising fiction writers. So why have you never heard of them? by Joseph Martin

W

Photography by J.m. Giordano

hen it came time to publish her fiction debut, 2011’s The Rites and Wrongs of Janice Wills (Arthur A. Levine), poet Joanna Pearson didn’t slouch: Beyond Web-era PR basics like a website, Facebook page, and Twitter feed, she held a smattering of readings up and down the East Coast, read at the Baltimore Book Festival, and arranged a release party at Station North’s hip Metro Gallery. The book, a coming-of-age novel loosely based on Pearson’s North Carolina youth, arrived with the imprimatur of Harry Potter’s American publisher and, so anointed, Pearson hustled as best she could during her rare downtime as a Johns Hopkins medical student. Her expectations

were low, but she figured the book might get some notice—perhaps from young adult-centric outlets or, at the very least, the local press. She was right about the former. In national venues, Wills gathered a modest-but-enthusiastic following: Publishers Weekly pegged it as “rewarding, honest, and quite funny,” while Kirkus Reviews called it a “laugh-out-loud debut;” at Amazon.com, the book continues to collect new readers and fresh plaudits. But locally, Wills landed with a resounding thud. It was an eyeopening moment for the young writer. “A friend put a little thing on [local Web magazine] Baltimore Fishbowl,” she says. “But as far as I know, I don’t think anybody reviewed it. I

realized a lot of the actual promotional side of writing comes to rest on the writers themselves.” Despite her mild promotional blitzkrieg, Pearson blames herself for the lack of local attention. “I’m shy,” she says. “I’m not savvy.” To some degree, she has a point: Even backed by Harry Potter’s Muggle brigade, circa 2012 writers require some knack for self-promotion as compensation for the cut corners of their wobbly, cash-strapped industry. But, by any metric, Pearson made herself visible. She cultivated a Baltimore presence, made appearances—whatever she could manage within The City That Reads’ mid-level sprawl. Simply put, she exhibited plenty of savvy. But all the savvy


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800.638.7781 www.mmprogram.org Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development 62   june 2012  www.urbanitebaltimore.com


Feature  arts + culture in the world can’t help if the local media outlets just don’t care. And, at a cursory glance, most outlets—so keyed into other art communities—do seem oddly out-of-touch with Charm City’s dazzling literary scene. Local heroes—like Guggenheim and NEA Fellowship winner Lia Purpura, author most recently of the lyrical essay collection Rough Likeness (Sarabande), or Pushcart Prizewinning fiction writer Laura Van Den Berg, whose collection What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us (Dzanc) received acclaim in venues as widespread as The Daily Beast and Oxford American—are well-known on the national scene but make nary a Charm City blip with each new book. Even renowned grads of Johns Hopkins’ Writing Seminars, one of the nation’s premier creative writing programs, are often forgotten when they leave town; former student Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie nabbed the MacArthur Foundation’s “genius” grant for 2006’s Half of a Yellow Sun, a universally lauded epic about Nigeria’s Biafran War, but received little to no area recognition (our fair publication excepted). Once upon a time, a writer in Pearson’s position might have anticipated an altweekly profile at worst. Instead, expecting nothing has become the norm. Why? According to local author Jessica Blau, Pearson’s experience drives home local writers’ need to sell their art with the same elbow-rubbing brio as a local artist or theater company. “You have to put yourself out there,” she says, noting the uphill press battle for her last book, Drinking Closer to Home (Harper Perennial). A smart, but demographically diffuse, roman a clef about her family’s sometimes pathologically Californian lifestyle, Home required a certain degree of finesse to clarify its market and appeal. “The onus is on the writer, the publicist, the publisher. I definitely talk with publicist and double up—call the Baltimore Sun and say, ‘Did you get the book?’ You can’t expect anybody to know.” But Adam Robinson, a local poet who runs Publishing Genius Press, claims getting people to pay attention is not so easy. He suggests local press resistance may run deeper, discounting work without a big name or publisher behind it. “[The Baltimore Sun] has that Read Street blog, which is all about community reading habits, and I could not, for the life of me, get them to turn an eye towards what I’m trying to do,” he says. While Publishing Genius’ books have won more national coverage—Matthew Simmons’ poetry book A Jello Horse garnered space in hip mags like The Believer and The Stranger, while the film rights to Shane Jones’ novel Light

Boxes were sold to Being John Malkovich director/auteur Spike Jonze—the local snub still stings. “I know you have to do a lot of work to get that article. But almost half the books I’ve published are from Baltimore writers. [Many] of those books are being reviewed on a national platform. Why can’t I get some love from the Baltimore media?” Part of the problem, according to members of local press, is the greater financial squeeze and sped up conversation brought on by the Web’s echo chamber. Dave Rosenthal, blogger for the Baltimore Sun’s Read Street, says book reviews and features have simply become a hard print sell, and not just in Charm City. “It is a hard market to hold on to, as people seem to be reading less,” he says. Maryland editor of the Sun by day, Rosenthal started Read Street as an unpaid “labor of love” to defray the paper’s dwindling arts coverage. “You see even larger papers, like the New York Times or the L.A. Times, cutting back on book sections. It’s

hard to juggle resources and see what people are interested in.” But Hopkins Magazine Senior Humanities Writer (and occasional Urbanite contributor) Bret McCabe, who once covered local authors as the City Paper’s arts editor, suggests a more ground-level disconnect between authors, writer-friendly institutions, and media. “I’ve heard more about writers who came out of the Hopkins writing M.F.A. in the last seven months at Hopkins Magazine than I did at the City Paper,” he says. “Unless you’re on campus or getting e-mails from people who now know to e-mail me, you don’t hear about that stuff. Goucher, Towson, UMBC, they’ve always brought good readers in. But the traditional ways you’d hear about that stuff don’t exist anymore, so they’re rethinking [their PR].” But while overwhelmed reporters and towngown detachment limit exposure, local writing may just have a basic image problem. Where the participatory flash of music, theater, visual art,

and dance make for a great Sondheim Prize exhibition guide or 1,000-word Center Stage analysis, the art of writing remains a solitary pursuit; as Mobtown’s print outlets shrink, those more social arts grab what inky inches remain, leaving lit-minded homebodies to divine their own critical mass. Local writer Michael Kimball had this in mind, if vaguely, when he and fellow writer Jen Michalski began the 510 Reading Series at Hampden’s Minás Gallery. “One of the things that struck me when I moved to Baltimore was how many writers were here and how many didn’t seem to know each other,” Kimball recalls. “I’ve described 510 as my ‘literary community service.’” Bob O’Brien, a poet and musician in his 20s, had a similar idea in mind when he formed WORMS, his monthly “live literary magazine” at Station North’s Metro Gallery. But unlike Kimball, O’Brien runs his series with media interest and a larger audience firmly in mind. “I wanted people to treat it like it was as cool and viable as music as a place to hang out,” he says. O’Brien, whose series features merch from local presses like Narrow House and Publishing Genius, sees WORMS as a natural extension of Baltimore’s DIY arts and music culture, making the local lack of coverage frustrating. “If you’re not predisposed, I imagine your immediate attitude is, ‘That sounds boring.’ But it’s cool. It’s a thing you might go and have fun at. It’s nightlife.” Self-pubIf local notice still remains lished: Local sparse, O’Brien’s DIY attitude literary talent abounds, but and literary brand renewal seem grabbing to be taking root. Local blogs like attention isn't so easy. Celeste Sollod’s Baltimore Bibliophile and Robinson’s Everyday Genius have begun a quiet self-documentation within the community, while large-scale expos like the Pratt Library’s CityLit Festival and Open Space’s annual Publications and Multiples Fair attempt to unite various regional writing scenes. Long-lived literary magazines like Smartish Pace and The Shattered Wig Review, as well as younger faces like the fresh-from-undergrad Artichoke Haircut, continue to publish and put on local events as well. Like the city’s other art DIY scenes, Baltimore’s belletrists are finally starting to realize there may be strength in numbers. And according to Haircut’s Justin Sanders, it’s this reliance on greater self-motivation and unity, rather than media whims, that might ultimately win local literature the audience it deserves. “The literary community in Baltimore is so pocketed,” he says. “We can bring everybody together. We just need to share the audience, make it grow. We need to have one huge orgy of literature.”

Urbanite #96  june 2012  63


arts + culture  Book / theater 

Golden

renaissance by Isaac Rehert (BrickHouse Books, 2012) By Richard O’Mara

H

ow to become a poet? I asked Isaac Rehert, who has been illuminating for years the lives of people like himself. His gravelly voice draws attention—perfect for a poet—and his face tells you he’s been around: ninety years, still going. I found him in a sun-washed room at the Renaissance Institute at Notre Dame of Maryland University. His students, a dozen appreciative middleagers, formed in a circle to discuss Billy Collins’s poem “Forgetfulness.” Collins, twice a Poet Laureate, is a Rehert favorite. How did Isaac Rehert become a teacher of poets, and one himself? By reading the works of the best, taking courses, attending to seemingly insignificant things from which to squeeze out

a rhyme. He has a book out, filled with h is work—poems humorous, poignant, wrenching, even mundane. Consider "Garbage Disposal," a work matching the urban life with the bucolic. The poignance of "Poppa’s Exile," its most pa i n f u l ly endu r i n g words from an abandoned son, even today makes Rehert weep. The moving lines of "Massacre in the Schoolhouse" are of the sort that stretch the human mind to the limit. They come like blows to the heart. There are no explanations for such insanity—nor forgiveness. Rehert spent much of his life working with words, as a Baltimore Sun reporter for years and a teacher in a country school. Words have

Not calling it in: Her surname carries weight, but Rain Pryor will make her own mark as artistic director of the Strand Theater.

Mommie Dearest

Well, June 1–16 at the Strand Theater Mamma Mia!, June 15–17 at the Hippodrome by Martha Thomas

L

isa Kron’s Well at the Strand covers territory familiar to most women: the fear of becoming our mothers. Rain Pryor, the theater's new

64   june 2012  www.urbanitebaltimore.com

artistic director, connected with this immediately. Originally chosen by Strand’s founder and outgoing director, Jayme Kilburn, Well is Kron’s first multi-character play; it tells the story of her mother’s illness through a multi-layered play-within-a-play, in which the mother appears in a wheelchair, interrupting rehearsals and aggravating her daughter. The health problems of both mother and daughter act as a metaphor for their “toxic” relationship, says Pryor. Pryor—who, in addition to a super-sized resume of stand-up, television, theater and film, has taught acting at Center Stage—grew up in Los Angeles, the daughter of famed comedian Richard Pryor. She came to Baltimore, she says, “to have a life” (and, she admits, to escape family entanglements). She and her husband, a soon-to-be-inducted Baltimore City police officer, live in Baltimore with their 4-yearold. And while Pryor admits that her surname carries some influence, “people see that I’m doing things. I’m here. I’m not calling it in.” The diminutive Station North storefront space, with seating for fifty-five (and a waiver from the Equity actors union), has a mission of

determined the direction of his long life: He was born and lived in Baltimore, then entered a lifechanging five years in post-war Europe with the American Friends Service—trying, he said, “to do something to help; the world was a mess.” In 1952 Rehert left the ruins in Europe and came home to a different place. He felt “maladjusted, lonely,” as he put it. “Everybody wanted a car, a new house.” Rehert only wanted to find a mate, which he did: Ingrid, a young Estonian woman who had known the refugee camps. Having seen those places, they had something to talk about. They fell in love. He bought an old farm house, near Port Deposit, by the Susquehanna River. “Farming,” Rehert said, “fitted my way of living.” When the cost of milk dropped in 1959, his cows had to go. But he remembered them, those former “Empresses of emerald pastures …” in the poem “Salute To My Cows. " He used to send stories to the Sun about life in the rural parts. He left the paper in 1988. Ingrid died in 2000. Back to teaching, and the allure of poetry, Rehert labored diligently enough to have produced his latest book, titled renaissance. Let me recommend “The Assassination Tango.”

celebrating female playwrights and directors. The way Pryor sees it, she has her work cut out for her: “I want to take it to the next level, to do a production that might cost $5,000 or $10,000 instead of $1,000,” she says. The Kron piece, by a playwright known for her highly personal solo shows, is a good fit for Pryor, whose one-woman Fried Chicken and Latkes is scheduled for an extended off-Broadway run in the fall. Most of the cast members play multiple roles, Pryor says. “I love to work with characterization, making the transitions clean and crisp, even as there’s chaos happening in front of you.” The chaos of planning a wedding is the theme of Mamma Mia!—although in reality, the Broadway musical on tour at the Hippodrome is a vehicle for re-packaging the nostalgic and infectious repertoire of the Swedish pop group ABBA. The plot creates a fragile framework for such 1970s-era songs as “Dancing Queen,” “Take a Chance on Me,” and of course the titular “Mamma Mia.” In this case, the outsized influence of a father figure comes from his absence: The play’s heroine, Sophie, who lives on a Greek island with her Bohemian mother, invites three men to her wedding. One of them, she suspects, could be her biological dad. Mayhem—and plenty of upbeat, saccharine music—ensues. For tickets to Well, visit www.strand-theater.org. For tickets to Mamma Mia, visit www.francemerrickpac.com


visual art  arts + culture

History, Accelerated What I may have seen on Routes 70 & 340 at Minás Gallery and Boutique, June 2–August 26 By Cassie Paton

Left top Cover art by Carolyn Maynard; Left bottom photo no photo credit; right image courtesy of Teddy Johnson

F

or artist Teddy Johnson, the major highways that connect his home Baltimore to his family’s home in Virginia are not just means to an end. They’re also landscapes that inspire images of the people who once lived in those areas. On long drives, Johnson imagines the Civil War-era farmers and laborers who, more than a century ago, worked in the very fields on which painted concrete now sits. Johnson’s exhibit What I may have seen on Routes 70 & 340 opens June 2 at Minás Gallery. It features thirteen oil-on-canvas paintings of routes 70 and 340, which connect Baltimore, West Virginia, and northwest Virginia. Standing out on these colorful, expressionistic landscapes are Johnson’s reinterpretations of ghostly figure drawings by 19th century illustrator and journalist David Hunter Strother. Strother was once famous under his pen name, Porte Crayon, as a regular contributor to Harper’s Monthly. Johnson came across Strother’s illustrations during a trip to Berkeley Springs, where his work was being shown in a nearby museum. “Strother was born about 20 miles from where I was born [in Winchester, Virginia],” says Waverly-based Johnson, who also teaches art at Anne Arundel Community College. “He created this body of work in the 19th century documenting the people of the area and also sort of telling these narratives about them in [Harper’s Monthly]. It was inspiring to see some of the faces of these people who lived there.” In Johnson’s paintings, these apparitional images of field workers and country gentlemen appear both on and near the highways—a stark contrast to the cars and trucks that loom ahead. Johnson lifted the figures from Strother’s original works and carefully placed them onto his own paintings. He

wanted to make a point of doing the historical creations—and people—justice. “I wanted to represent a range of humanity, with people of different socioeconomic backgrounds and races who had a presence in the area,” Johnson says. That theme seems right in line with Johnson’s previous work, which includes iconic images of Baltimore rowhouses and the view from I-83 as you’re headed south into town.

“You’ve got this highway made almost so people can’t see the scenery,” Johnson admits. But he believes these areas to be beautiful. “When I drive down 70, I’m looking at the mountains in the distance and the trees,” he says. “[When working on this series,] I thought how it’s kind of haunting to see in my mind what was there in the past. As you’re driving, you’re sometimes daydreaming and almost seeing things that aren’t there.”

The highway man: Teddy Johnson's paintings contrast old and new.

Urbanite #96  june 2012  65


Baltimore Green Works Sustainable Speaker Series Presents

Tom Wilbur’s

Under the Surface: Fracking, Fortunes, and the Fate of the Marcellus Shale

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 20, 7 P.M. Enoch Pratt Central Library Wheeler Auditorium

66   june 2012  www.urbanitebaltimore.com


the scene

this month’s happenings Compiled by Anissa Elmerraji

ARTS/CULTURE Aziz Ansari of Parks and Recreation fame comes to the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall for his “Buried Alive!” comedy tour. On June 22 catch the writer, actor, and stand-up comedian’s set of brand new material, which he says is inspired by anecdotes from his personal life. (1212 Cathedral St.; 410-783-8000; www.tour. azizansari.com)

d a nce

June 1–2 is your last chance to see Riverdance in the United States. Performed around the world more than 10,000 times since its debut sixteen years ago, the show’s final tour stops by Baltimore’s Lyric Opera House with an innovative mix of Irish music and dance. (140 W. Mt. Royal Ave.; 410-685-5086; www. lyricopera house.com)

photo by Ben Hinceman

fi l m

On June 4, we’re screening Food Stamped, the second installment of Urbanite’s Healthy Food Film Series. Winner of the Feature Jury Prize at San Francisco’s Independent Film Festival, the documentary explores whether it’s possible to eat healthfully on the government’s dollar-a-meal budget. (400 Cathedral St.; 410-243-2050; www. urbaniteproject.com) See the premiere of up-and-coming hiphop pioneer TT the Artist’s documentary, Dark City: Beneath the Beat, at the Creative Alliance on June 7. Featuring Baltimore club producer Murder Mark,

the film takes a look at Baltimore’s booming club and dance community. Plus, see a rough cut of Jeanie Clark’s in-theworks documentary about multimedia artist Joyce Scott. (3134 Eastern Ave.; 410-276-1651; www.creativealliance.org)

liter atur e

On June 21, the Baltimore Historical Society invites author Michael J. Lisicky to discuss The Rise and Fall of Hutzler’s, a department store founded in 1858 at the corner of Howard and Clay streets in Baltimore. Lisicky’s expertise on 19th-century department stores has been chronicled in his books Hutzler’s: Where Baltimore Shops and Wanamaker’s: Meet Me at the Eagle. (201 W. Monument St.; 410-685-3750; www.historicbaltimore.org)

m usic

Baltimore’s Fort Armistead Park illuminates the night of June 9 during the 14th annual Starscape Festival. Featuring more than forty big names in electronic music including Zedd, Wolfgang Gartner, and Beats Antique, this year’s theme is “The Garden of Eden.” (4000 Hawkins Point Rd.; www.starscapefestival.com)

Irish indie-rock trio Two Door Cinema Club stops by Rams Head Live on June 12 with a set of their succinct, electropop tunes. The boys from groups Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Bad Veins open. (20 Market Pl.; 410-783-4189; www. ramsheadlive.com)

Dubbed “America’s Band,” the Beach Boys harmonized their way into our hearts with hits like “Surfin’ USA,” “Kokomo,” and “California Girls.” On June 15, the foursome stops by Merriweather Post Pavilion for The Beach Boys 50th Anniversary, a nostalgic romp through the group’s chart-topping discography. (10475 Little Patuxent Pkwy.; 410-7155550; www.merriweathermusic.com) Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Earth, Wind and Fire liven up Pier Six Pavilion with a soulful and danceinducing mix of music on June 21. The tour celebrates their latest album, Now, Then & Forever, a compilation of favorite tracks chosen by EWF’s celebrity friends like Andre 3000 and Lenny Kravitz, plus their much-anticipated brand new song, “Guiding Lights.” (731 Eastern Ave.; 410783-4189; www.piersixpavillion.com) The Ottobar hosts Insubordination Fest 2012, a gathering of the biggest bands in the punk, power pop, and rock world. June 21–23, the fest features more than thirty-five groups including Teenage Bottlerocket, Dan Vapid and the Cheats, Isotopes, and a day of The Thing That Ate Larry Livermore!, a compilation of sixteen punk-rock bands including Dear Landlord and Mixtapes. (2549 N. Howard St.; 410662-0069; www.theottobar.com)

th eater

After eight months of ferocious creative output, the folks at Single Carrot Theatre release their original collaborative

production Foot of Water. See the fruits of their labors when the show hits the stage June 8–July 8. (122 W. North Ave.; 443-844-9253; www.single carrot.com)

v i sua l a r t

The Creative Alliance’s annual The Big Show kicks off with a Big Party on June 29. The exhibition and sale feature a diverse sampling of artwork courtesy of willing Creative Alliance members. (3134 Eastern Ave.; 410-276-1651; www. creativealliance.org) The work of the six Sondheim Artscape Prize 2012 Finalists is on display at the Baltimore Museum of Art June 16–July 29. Finalists Lisa Dillin, Jonathan Duff, Hasan Elahi, Matthew Janson, John McNeil, and Renee Stout are all in the running for the prestigious award, which funds promising visual artists. (10 Art Museum Dr.; 443-573-1700; www. artbma.org) Explore the symbolic importance of the traditional garden at the Walters Art Museum’s latest exhibition, Paradise Imagined: The Garden in the Islamic and Christian World, which runs June 30–September 23. Looking at illustrated herbals, poetry, and epic and sacred texts from the Walters’ collection of manuscripts and rare books, the exhibition examines the significance of garden imagery in the Islamic and Christian worlds during the late medieval and

The ladies from the Stoop Storytelling Series tackle the topic of summer vacation with Postcards from the Stoop, June 8–9 at Center Stage. This old-time live radio show features true stories of road trips gone wrong and other summer miadventures performed by the Stoop Radio Players. Cocktails and music from the Egg Babies Orchestra open the evening. (700 N. Calvert St.; 410-332-0033; www. stoopstorytelling.com)

Urbanite #96  june 2012  6 7


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the scene FOOD/DRINK early modern eras. (600 N. Charles St.; 410-547-9000; www.thewalters.org)

COMMUNITY It’s the time of year when the Hons come out to play. Check out their voluminous beehive hairdos, cat-eye glasses, and other infectious quirks at Hampden’s annual Honfest on June 9. As always, enjoy live music, local fare, and the wares of Baltimore artists as you stroll down The Avenue. (Roland Ave. and 36th St.; www.honfest.net) Take part in Maryland’s largest LGBTQ visibility event with three days of Baltimore Pride 2012, June 15–17. Catch events like this year’s Pride Parade as it winds through the heart of historic Mt. Vernon, the King and Queen of Pride pageant, and the Pride Block Party. (Charles and Eager sts.; 410-837-5445; www.baltimorepride.org)

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Celebrate a cornucopia of cultures at the Maryland Traditions Folklife Festival on June 16. The free day-long fest includes local doo-wop group the Legendary Orioles, South African boot

dancers, salsa dancing with La Leyenda, workshops on Ukranian egg decorating, Baltimore screen painting, and a smorgasbord of fine Maryland food and drink, including Smith Island cake and locally brewed beer. (3134 Eastern Ave.; 410-276-1651; www.creativealliance.org) Our Healthy Food Challenge invited you to share ways to eliminate the problem of Baltimore’s food deserts, and now it’s time to vote. On June 21, help us choose the winner at Urbanite’s Exhibition Opening Reception and Public Voting at Jordan Faye Contemporary, where all entries will be on display. E-mail your RSVP to RSVP@urbanitebaltimore.com. (1401 Light St.; 410-243-2050; www. urbaniteproject.com) Soak up the sights and sounds of south of the border at the 32nd annual LatinoFest. June 23–24, Patterson Park will be spiced up with live music, salsa dancing, arts and crafts displays, and authentic Latino cuisine. Proceeds from the festival benefit Education Based Latino Outreach (EBLO). (Eastern and S. Linwood aves.; 410-563-3160; www. latinofest.org)

Woodberry Kitchen’s chief mixologist, Corey Polyoka, shares the origins of punch during an Evening of Traditional Beverages: Punch! at Johns Hopkins University’s Homewood Museum on June 7. Guests indulge in three original spiked punch concoctions crafted by members of the Baltimore Bartender’s Guild. (3400 N. Charles St.; 410-5165589; www.museums.jhu.edu)

GREEN/SUSTAINABLE Bring a killer berry dessert creation to this year’s Blue Water Berry Festival at Herring Run Park. On June 23, Blue Water Baltimore celebrates with their loyal supporters and the entire community with BBQ, live music, local vendors, and their annual native berry dessert competition. (3800 Belair Rd.; 410-2541577; www.bluewaterbaltimore.org)

STYLE/SHOPPING

fashion show featuring the newest looks from local shops like South Moon Under, Urban Chic, Sassanova, and Handbags in the City. (Aliceanna St.; www.harboreast. com) Stop by the American Visionary Art Museum’s Sideshow’s Super-Duper Flea Market & Sidewalk Sale on June 2 to get your hands on some unique finds. Vendors come bearing unique art, books, vintage clothing, toys, collectibles, antiques, and good eats. (800 Key Hwy.; 410-244-1900; www.avam.org) Put some sparkle in your life at the International Gem & Jewelry Show at the Maryland State Fairgrounds. From June 29 to July 1, scores of beads and precious stones will be at (or on) your fingertips. This year, respected jewelry designer Wendy Simpson Conner—author of The Best Little Beading Book—teaches classes on pearl knotting, wire work, and more. (2200 York Rd., Timonium; 301-2941640; www.intergem.com)

On June 2, Harbor East hosts the area’s first-ever outdoor fashion show and party, Harbor FashionEasta. The afternoon kicks off with live music and fashion-themed cocktails leading up to a

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eye to eye

it’s pretty common for children to have imaginary friends, but few continue this game into adulthood. However, Oskar Kalinowski is not most people. The 2012 Maryland Institute College of Art graduate has spent the past year bringing Karl Voyna, his fictional artist hero, to life. Depicted in numerous photos, essays, documents, advertisements, and interviews, all fabricated by Kalinoswki, Voyna is a German artist who ascended to legendary fame in the 1980s. Or did he? As you thumb through a glossy catalogue detailing Voyna’s legacy, complete with the artist’s iconic quotes and paintings, the barriers between fact and fiction dissolve. Kalinowski didn’t set out to invent Karl Voyna but admits a strong interest in postwar European and American art through the late ’80s. “I cara ober was curious about the mythological, almost legendary, statuses surrounding some of the best known and enigmatic artcara ober is urbanite’s online arts/culture editor. to receive ists from that time,” he explains. “Voyna allows me to live durher weekly e-zine, go to bit.ly/ ing that period of history. He allows me to be a chameleon and ezinesignup. a time traveler.” The fictional artist also allows Kalinowski to explore a number of different interests, venturing way beyond his painting major at MICA to become an art historian, critic, documentary photographer, and model. Like Joseph Beuys and Gerhard Richter, two of his alleged contemporaries, Voyna’s oeuvre extends from painting and sculpture to installations, but his mysterious identity and art world ubiquity appear to be his most successful work of art. Despite his lack of actuality, Voyna seems perfectly at home in an art world of international superstars who garner fame by carefully crafting a public, and largely false, mythology. Like the living legends, the success of the Voyna project depends upon visual credibility, on understated details and innuendo. Along with interviews with famous art critics, Voyna’s catalog includes posters advertising his exhibitions at well-known galleries, his unusual signature on historical art brochures, and documentary-style photos of the artist and his studio. If these mementos were even a tiny bit off, if they appeared too modern or too simple, Voyna would be a sham. Luckily for us, Kalinowski is obsessed with the details. 7 0   june 2012  www.urbanitebaltimore.com

Oskar Kalinowski left: Basel Multiple (2011 recreation of the 1981 original) Digital print over original screenprint 22" x 30" right: "What I Sold to Richter" (2011 recreation of the 1962 original) Oil on canvas board 16" x 20"


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June 2012 Issue