March 2009 Issue

Page 1

march 2009 issue no. 57

the Urbanite



Our third annual experiment in thinking outside the box w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m m a r c h 0 9




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Village of Cross Keys 5100 Falls Road Baltimore, MD 21210 410-435-2233 Hours M-S 10-6, Sun 12-4


march 2009 issue no. 57

feature 29 Urbanite



air: On March 19, tune in to the Marc Show on WEAA 88.9 FM to hear an ws with some of this year’s participants.

Three years later, we still get the question:

the third annual urbanite project

the plan: take two strangers, give them two pages of the magazine, and see what happens. this month, urbanite once again explores the frontiers of serendipitous collaboration, pairing up artists, scientists, community organizers, and academics for an intellectual free-for-all.



What exactly is this? Short answer: In 2007, Urbanite launched the Urbanite Project, an annual issue that brings a diverse selection of Baltimoreans into the


editor’s note


what you’re saying


what you’re writing




the goods


baltimore observed lost in translation

magazine in pursuit of a curious common goal. Five teams of collaborators are asked to work together to create—something. The participants represent a wide range of fields and professions— from music, art, and literature to science, public policy, and education. Each team gets two pages of the magazine, plus all the megabytes they want on the project’s website, We’re vague on the rules, perhaps maddeningly so. The teams are asked to take a clean-slate approach to an issue of their choosing, but we don’t offer much more guidance than that. Want to propose a nuclearpowered zeppelin base in Middle River? Sounds good. How about an impassioned two-page manifesto about legalizing nude yardwork? Go for it. We’re ask only that each team’s project represent a true communal effort between the members. We’re interested in exploring the creative possibilities of collaborative innovation, of serendipitous human encounters, of stretching across the aisle and grappling with what your fellow citizen has on his or her mind. It’s a game, an exercise in make-believe, an art project run amok. This year’s project was coordinated, as always, by Managing Editor Marianne K. Amoss.


Turn the page and see what happened. w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m m a r c h 0 9


the people’s choices penalty flag

my partner: friends, lovers, and faithful companions this month: maple syrup, spelling bees, and “sweet georgia brown” what men want. plus: all-natural pets, custom beer taps, and a college lifestyle mag

the trials of chuck schmitz, terrorist interpreter by stephanie shapiro


banking on it bringing financial services to the urban “unbanked” by lionel foster

49 this month online at

fiction and poetry: read additional entries from the writing outside the fence inmate/ex-offender writing contest video: see more from the 2009 urbanite project at

on the air:

radio: urbanite on the marc steiner show, weaa 88.9 fm march 4: chuck schmitz discusses working as a translator at guantánamo bay march 19: 2009 urbanite project participants talk about their creations

on the cover:

photograph by la kaye mbah


space the sea inside one man’s pursuit of a watery dream by jonathon scott fuqua


eat/drink small wonder redeeming the unloved toaster oven by sonia shah


reviewed: the metropolitan and lucy’s irish pub


wine & spirits: whiskey with an “e”


the feed: this month in eating


art/culture inside stories winning entries from the writing outside the fence inmate/ex-offender writing contest

plus: dancing the unconscious and a new kind of art award


the scene: this month’s cultural calendar


eye to eye: urbanite’s creative director, alex castro, on sebastian martorana w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m m a r c h 0 9


Issue 57: March 2009 Publisher Tracy Ward Creative Director Alex Castro General Manager Jean Meconi Editor-in-Chief David Dudley Managing Editor Marianne K. Amoss Senior Editor Greg Hanscom Staff Writer Lionel Foster Literary Editor Susan McCallum-Smith Proofreader Robin T. Reid Contributing Writers Michael Anft, Scott Carlson, Charles Cohen, Mat Edelson, Clinton Macsherry, Richard O’Mara, Martha Thomas, Sharon Tregaskis, Mary K. Zajac Editorial Interns Anne-Marie Robinson, Andrew Zaleski Design/Production Manager Lisa Van Horn Traffic/Production Coordinator Belle Gossett Production Interns Katherine Noble, Shelby Silvernell, Tasha Treadwell Senior Account Executives Catherine Bowen Susan R . Levy Lois Windsor Advertising Sales Assistant Erin Albright Bookkeeping/Marketing Assistant Iris Goldstein Advertising Interns Nicole Markopoulos, Lauren Schneiderman Founder Laurel Harris Durenberger Advertising/Editorial/Business Offices P.O. Box 50158, Baltimore, MD 21211 Phone: 410-243-2050; Fax: 410-243-2115 Editorial inquiries: Send queries to (no phone calls, please). The magazine is not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts or artwork. Urbanite does not necessarily support the opinions of its authors. To subscribe or obtain assistance with a current subscription, call 410-243-2050. Subscription price: $18 per year. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission by Urbanite is prohibited. Copyright 2009, Urbanite LLC. All rights reserved. Urbanite (ISSN 1556-8105) is a free publication distributed widely in the Baltimore metropolitan area. To suggest a drop location for the magazine, please contact us at 410-243-2050. Postmaster: Send address changes to Urbanite Subscriptions, P.O. Box 50158, Baltimore, MD 21211.


urbanite march 09

courtesy of Natasha Treadwell

courtesy ofJonathan Scott Fuqua

contributors Jonathon Scott Fuqua is the author of four young adult novels, the graphic novel In the Shadow of Edgar Allan Poe, and the children’s book Catie and Josephine. His novel Gone and Back Again was published in 2007; In the Wake of the Boatman, a novel, and Defining Middle Ground, a new look at urban landscapes, were both published in 2008. He teaches writing and illustration at Maryland Institute College of Art. In this month’s “Space” department, Jonathon—with his friend and “technical advisor,” contractor David Foley—chronicle the curious renovation odyssey of a neighbor who transformed his garage into an enclosed swimming pool (“The Sea Inside,” p. 44).

Urbanite production intern Natasha Treadwell is a senior at Towson University, pursuing a B.S. in photographic imaging. Her work has appeared in Passing By, an exhibition by Towson University’s upper-level photography students, and in stories about campus life in the Towerlight, TU’s student newspaper, where she serves as contributing photographer. This month, she photographs the Baltimore Cash Campaign’s free tax preparation and financial counseling services for lowincome communities (“Banking On It,” p. 27).

editor’s note

Longtime New York City Mayor (and, less famously, post-Judge

Wapner People’s Court star, 1997–2000) Ed Koch made a catchphrase out of “How’m I doing?” He’d demand this of his fellow New Yorkers when accosted on the street during his nine-year reign, and no doubt they told him exactly how they felt. Call it “interactive media” or “user-generated content,” but there’s nothing particularly radical about asking folks for unfiltered feedback. Urbanite has long been enamored of the notion (see the magazine’s reader-submitted nonfiction department, “What You’re Writing”), and this issue is a better-than-usual case-in-point. The Urbanite Project—our third annual seat-of-the-pants exercise in collaborative magazine-making—is unveiled this month. It’s that time of year when we cross our fingers and hand ten pages of the publication over to a crew of guest contributors. (See the results, starting on page 29.) As we did last year, we invited readers to submit their own applications to this endeavor; selection for the 2010 Project begins this summer, so start scheming. Continuing the Your-Voice-Here theme: In this issue’s arts and culture department, we also publish several entries from a unique writing contest organized by Lucy Bucknell, a Johns Hopkins University instructor who is the founder and director of Writing Outside the Fence, a weekly writing workshop for ex-offenders based at the city’s Reentry Center in Mondawmin Mall. Bucknell dreamed up a writing contest for both current and former prisoners in Maryland correctional institutions, and she received hundreds of entries, several of which you can read in this issue (“Inside Stories,” p. 59) and online at www. She was also passionate about having the entrants’ written work unmediated by us busybody editors: The voices of the inmates themselves, complete with non-standard spelling and grammar, thus remain throughout. It can be raw stuff, so be forewarned, but it also offers the opportunity to listen in on an otherwise unheard conversation, which, as anyone with a ham radio knows, can be irresistible. More real voices: In November, we hooked up a reader survey gizmo to our website and asked you to chime on what you love, hate, and couldn’t care less about in the magazine. The results are in, and they’re revealing. You readers are a plugged-in bunch: A full 81 percent of respondents are Facebook members, for instance. (Now we are too.) But more than 76 percent still read the magazine the old-fashioned way, in print. And you know what you like: Food and arts coverage scored high, but so did last May’s special Crime issue. (Fashion? Not so much.) Several of you want more event listings, which is doable, and a few requested fewer advertisements, which isn’t. (It goes like this: The ads pay the bills.) Someone asked for a health and fitness section; one thoughtful reader requested “a more pointed effort to generate discussion as well as presenting panaceas.” The website itself also came in for some criticism, which isn’t unexpected given how long it has gone without a major facelift. (We’re working on it.) Best of all were those readers who, when asked why they liked the magazine, told us exactly what we wanted to hear. “I view Urbanite as Baltimore’s version of the New York Times Magazine,” said one perceptive character. (I officially offer to buy this individual a drink.) A few others singled out the magazine’s local-ness, an issue of no small importance these days—“stories by people who know Baltimore,” wrote one; another praised the magazine for offering “the flavor of Baltimore uncut,” which might be our new marketing motto. Many thanks to all who took the time to let us know how we’re doing—even the wiseguy who admitted, “Honestly, I enjoy the ads the most.” —David Dudley

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what you’re saying

photo by Chris Rebbert

Heavy Rotation In his interesting review of D.C.’s refurbished National Museum of American History (“The Flag Waver,” February), David Dudley got it twice backwards when he wrote, “as the planet revolved beneath it, the [Foucault] pendulum’s line of swing changed.” Fact is, the pendulum’s line of swing is fixed in space while the Earth rotates beneath it. This is explained by Newton’s first law of motion, which states that an object moving in a straight line will continue to do so unless it is acted upon by an outside force. Outside forces on the swinging pendulum are minimized by the fact of its very long steel wire hung from a lubricated ball bearing. The effect is best seen at the poles and absent at the equator. Meanwhile, I’m really sorry to learn that the NMAH’s Foucault’s pendulum has been retired. One of my early childhood memories is of watching it with fascination. Today’s young NMAH visitors are being deprived of a powerful teaching moment! Past and Present My great-grandfather says, “We [African Americans] do not know where we are going because we do not know where we came from.” I too have visited many of the sites that Lionel Foster did (“Stranger in a Strange Land,” February) but have exited without a clear understanding of my history. This sense of history is also lacking in the curriculum of the Baltimore City public school system, although African Americans make up the majority of the student population. How do we ensure that the next generation has a clear understanding of their future and do not feel like strangers in a strange land? Much of this history cannot be found within a textbook and is inherited through stories from people like tour leader Tom Saunders and my great-grandfather, John Karim. Stories of people such as Dr. Roosevelt Shaw, who attended Johns Hopkins University during the height of racial tensions, have been a great source of motivation for me. Educating local youth about this “lost history” may be a solution to some of the problems that plague the African American community. —Adam Milam, Owings Mills Some observations by a white guy! I think the Great Blacks in Wax Museum on North Avenue, for all its over-the-top goriness, is the best, for it grabs you and gets you thinking about the pain of the past. More whites should visit the Great Blacks museum and feel uncomfortable and ask what role their ancestors played. As a participant in the civil rights struggle—a struggle of many, not just a few media

stars—I wince every time Martin Luther King’s birthday comes around and we have to listen to speeches by politicians about “how far we have come,” when we have de-facto segregation in the schools, high black-onblack murder rates in Baltimore, and plenty of poverty in the city. King’s messages about achieving peace and nonviolence are no more fulfilled now than they were then. I’d say The Wire was a great “museum” about the Baltimore just past. Nothing wrong with tours and museums, just that we still have a long way to go, and only radical, nonviolent direct action and risk-taking is going to change things. I think every tour and museum of the civil rights movement should ask probing questions about where we find ourselves and how to move on in the struggle to progress. —Dave Eberhardt, Guilford Flagged for a Penalty How unfortunate that you chose “Stars and Bars” for the header atop the cover of the February 2009 issue to announce the reopening of the Star-Spangled Banner exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution. The “stars and bars” refers to the flag of the Confederate States of America, the original version of which was flown from March 1861 until May 1863 and likely flew over the artillery emplacement in the Charleston, South Carolina, harbor from where the attack on Fort Sumter made it clear that the American Civil War had begun. Those who fought beneath the stars and bars did so as traitors to the nation so proudly praised by Francis Scott Key.

—Herman Heyn, Waverly Raw Deal I greatly appreciated Urbanite’s coverage of genetically manufactured beef and its potential to improve human health and reduce the environmental impact of meat consumption (“Breakthroughs,” January). The author’s presentation of the facts without the apparently obligatory railings against “frankenfood” that frequently cloud coverage of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and genetically modified foods should be applauded. The work of Mr. Matheny and others will be for naught unless the public gains a better understanding of nature’s constant failure to provide for human needs; the unchallengeable fact that the quality of human life has increased with humanity’s mastery over nature; and realistic, informed risk-benefit analysis of GMOs. However, given the pervasive popularity of “natural” products (no matter how dubious their claims of safety, effectiveness, or even naturalness), I doubt Mr. Matheny’s work will find acceptance soon. —Matthew Hood, Halethorpe

We want to hear what you’re saying. E-mail us at or send your letter to Mail, Urbanite, P.O. Box 50158, Baltimore, MD 21211. Please include your name, address, and daytime phone number. Letters may be edited for length and clarity. You can also comment on our website (www.urbanitebaltimore. com/forum).

—Ron Pilling, Eastern Shore/Charles Village w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m m a r c h 0 9


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what you’re writing


“Would you bless me if I farted?” “My blessings are only for sneezes!” “So a sneeze is better than a fart? You can’t get tuberculosis from a fart.” “I’m tired of arguing,” said Ed in disgust. My partner and I have much in common, and we get along marvelously, but sometimes the smallest things can foul the air. —Rick Shelley teaches mosaic-making at the Creative Alliance and the American Visionary Art Museum. He writes quirky stories about growing up in Baltimore.

illustration by Judith Uzcategui

Someone once said that my

A month after I lost my dog Jaeger, I knew I needed another baby. My husband and I went to the local animal shelter, where I sat in a cage full of puppies, crying my eyes out, until I picked one. He was a robust, freckle-bellied, blue merle shepherd mix with an attitude, and we named him Joon. All silliness and cuteness, he pulled me from my despair; mothering him was what I needed most. Joon grew to be a handsome and faithful companion. We loved hiking and horseback riding together. His favorite hobby was to chase the turkey buzzards off the old barn. They were his nemeses, and there was a never-ending battle to banish them from the farm. Joon was my confidant, and when life got me down he’d lick the tears from my face. He was with me for almost eleven years, and when he got cancer I quit my job so I could be with him. Near the end we sat outside in the warm November sun and watched the turkey buzzards ride the thermals. He could no longer chase them. After he passed, the buzzards followed me everywhere. Even while driving I’d see

those evil carrion-eating bastards, and I’d wish Joon was with me to chase them away. Finally, a Native American friend told me the buzzards were my spirit guides. They were watching over me, at Joon’s command, I imagine, and making sure I was safe. —Jennifer Seidel lives on a farm in Southern Maryland with her husband, dogs, and horses. She is a freelance graphic artist and part-time librarian.

One morning I let out a sneeze.

“Bless you,” Ed said. … then another sneeze. “Bless you,” Ed said again. “Why do you always bless me when I sneeze?” I asked. “Don’t you know why?” “Something about losing my soul?” “An ancient Roman tradition ...” “So you’re blessing me ’cause of an outdated pagan tradition? I was taught not to comment on body functions.” “It’s polite. When somebody sneezes, a blessing’s polite.”

brother and I are twins born ten years apart. I have often thought of the two of us as “sibling soul mates.” As the big sister, I let my brother stay up late and watch R-rated movies with my friends and me. He’d sit, in his pajamas with the non-skid feet, and keep his promise not to share with Mom and Dad any of the teenage antics he witnessed. Later, he helped me move into my first dorm room and then my first apartment, and the second and third. He took care of my house while I went about my nomadic lifestyle in my early 30s. He watered my plants and forwarded my mail. In the summer he mowed my lawn; in the winter he kept the driveway clear of snow. I was the quintessential big sister—letting him bum rides and money, allowing him to copy old college term papers, and coaching him through his first broken heart. Together we admitted our mother to a psychiatric unit after her suicide attempt. We went to counseling together in the aftermath of her depression. We drove cross-country together twice in two years. I accompanied him on his graduate school interviews and have given more money to his college fund than I ever gave to my own. Today we share a home. I work full-time night shifts and pay the bills. My brother is finishing up graduate school and takes care of the domestic chores around the house. If not for him, there would be no home-cooked meals, and the trash and recyclables would never make it to the curb. In between our respective duties, we take care of our ailing father in our home. In the past few months, there hasn’t been an inch of our father’s skin we haven’t seen or wiped clean. Day by day, we watch our father get further away from the robust man he once was. I get frustrated to the point of tears and rage behind my bedroom door. I hate how our lives have been disrupted by the burden of caring for an elderly parent when we are so young ourselves. When

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I cry and say things that I’ll surely regret when my father is no longer on this Earth, my brother says, “Don’t worry, sis. I’ll get you through it. We’re partners.” —Amy S. Brown lives in Reisterstown and works as an oncology nurse. She writes for fun and has kept a journal for twenty-one years.

Feeling Lucky?

The strobe lights flash and I smile. You smile back. Without words, we already know what will follow. The only thing left to discover is the journey. With one coat for two of us, we follow the stars. Losing feeling in fingers and faces, we stand outside your door. I press my frozen lips against yours. Together, we lie in your bed as the snow falls outside. Through the faint light leaking through the window, I see you pressed up against me. Feeling the slow music of your breath, I smile. Distantly, I marvel at the power of those seventeen muscles. ■ —Samuel Jacobson currently attends Brandeis University and lives in Baltimore. He wrote this while sitting in Alonso’s of Roland Park.

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




Classified Getting There Heat

Mar 11, 2009 May 2009 Apr 7, 2009 June 2009 May 6, 2009 July 2009 w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m m a r c h 0 9


Come to Antwerpen and You Will Be. ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore By John Ford Directed by Irene Lewis The Pearlstone Theater

Mar 11th–Apr 5th Romeo and Juliet meets Quentin Tarantino in this classic tale of forbidden love gone wrong.

Tickets: $10–$60 410.332.0033

Sponsored by


urbanite march 09


Maryland Home and Garden Show

March 6–8 and 13–15

Jump-start your spring renovation projects at the Maryland Home and Garden Show, this year titled “The Joy of Color.” The expo features more than four hundred exhibits on the latest innovations in landscape and home design, plus live gardens, wine tastings, and free seminars. Don’t miss the Maryland Orchid Society show and sale during the second weekend.

Maryland State Fairgrounds 2200 York Rd. $10 adults, $9 seniors, $3 children 6–12, free for children younger than 6 410-863-1180 Go to www.mdhomeandgarden. com for $1 off admission

Homemade Maple Syrup

March 7, 1 p.m.

Eden Mill Nature Center offers canoeing, hiking, and other family-friendly daytripping activities across 57 acres of woods, trails, and streams in Harford County. On March 7, you and the kids can learn how to make maple syrup from the trees in your own backyard during Eden Mill’s Backyard Sugarin’ class. Registration required.

Eden Mill Nature Center 1617 Eden Mill Rd., Pylesville $15 family, $5 individual; $2 discount for members 410-836-3050

Communing with Food

March 10, 7 p.m.

Loyola College in Maryland caps its 2009 symposium, “Communing with Food”—three months of food-themed films, lectures, and performances— with a keynote address by Lynne Rossetto Kasper, host of American Public Media’s The Splendid Table. Go to for details about other events this month.

Loyola College in Maryland McGuire Hall 4501 N. Charles St. Free 410-617-2617

Cirque du Soleil

March 12–29

Since 1984, the Quebec-based acrobatic performance troupe Cirque du Soleil has defied the limits of the human imagination for nearly 90 million people on five continents. This month Cirque erects Kooza, a story about innocence, identity, and the school of hard knocks, under a tent in the parking lot at M&T Bank Stadium.

Lot O next to M&T Bank Stadium 1101 Russell St. Tickets $55–$220, less with student, child, and senior discounts 1-800-678-5440

Harlem Globetrotters

March 15

Sinking behind-the-back shots from half court. Dunking on a 12-foot rim. Beating the Washington Generals approximately 13,000 times. The Harlem Globetrotters make the impossible look easy with panache and a smile. The hardest-working men in basketball stop by Towson University this month for one night.

Towson Center Arena 8000 York Rd. $20–$115 410-547-SEAT

2009 Prince George’s County Spelling Bee

March 20, 7 p.m.

“Piscifauna. Hmmm. Could you use it in a sentence, please?” Some of the smartest middle-schoolers in Prince George’s County will make unabridged dictionaries everywhere flutter with pride during the 2009 Prince George’s County Spelling Bee. The winner will walk away with a $1,000 shopping spree and a spot in the granddaddy of all word derbies, the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center University of Maryland, College Park Free 301-405-ARTS

Photo credits from top to bottom: © Jruffa |; courtesy of Frank Marsden; photo by Ann Marsden; courtesy of; photo courtesy of Harlem Globetrotters International, Inc.; courtesy of Juan Islas/

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Live, Work & Play Downtown! The Townes at Harris Landing - Canton - 410.522.1535

The Townes at Locust Point - 410.605.0222

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Local Builder - Two great communities in the city. From the low $400’s! - Great New Incentives - Beautifully appointed 2 & 3 bedroom townhomes with ROOFTOP DECKS - 5 year tax credit incentive for new construction


urbanite march 09

- 2 car garages & 2 car private parking pads - Model Home at both sites - 30-Day Move-Ins available

-Three finished levels - Walking distance to shopping, restaurants & waterfront




compiled by lionel foster

Car Talk

© Yegor Korzh |

It might seem counterintuitive, but getting a professional car wash may have less of an environmental impact than doing it yourself in your driveway. Newly opened Next Level Handwash Carwash (1325 Eastern Ave.; 410-276-1845; offers a range of car-washing and detailing services, including upholstery shampooing, leather conditioning, and cleaning those hard-to-reach crannies. Their packages range from “Basic Wash”—window cleaning, vacuuming, and a wash—to the “Next Level” full detailing service. There’s also a “Green Wash” that uses no water—it’s just a hand wax on and off, using nontoxic wax. Prices vary for cars and SUVs. Mobile wash services are available starting in June; call to make an appointment.

courtesy of Shana Kroiz

—Andrew Zaleski

Take a Shine Each piece of Shana Kroiz’s ( handmade jewelry symbolizes a different universal emotion. “My hope is to create forms that people can respond to in a natural, guttural way,” says Kroiz, whose materials of choice include metal, wood, stone, and lava rock. A jewelry-maker since 1986, the Baltimore-based enamelist founded the Jewelry Center at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), where she is a teacher and studio artist. Visit her website to view and buy her work; prices range from $120 for mother-of-pearl earrings to $6,275 for a necklace of enamel and 24-karat gold on electroformed copper. Commissions available upon request. —Salma Warshanna

photo by

Ta sha Tr


Sit. Stay. When Robin McDonald adopted her dog, Harper, she discovered that that the pup’s wheat allergy limited her diet to hard-to-find specialty foods. So McDonald opened a natural-food pet store called Chow, Baby! in 2003. But when lawyers from the Purina company sent her a letter warning of possible trademark infringement issues, McDonald took down her website and laid low for a few years. Last spring, she relocated to a former post office a few steps off the Avenue in Hampden and renamed the shop Howl (3531 Chestnut Ave.; 410-235-2469). Even though the shop bears a new name, it still focuses on organic, natural, raw, and wheat- and gluten-free canned and dry food for canines and felines. Howl also offers food for birds and small animals, chew toys made from recycled materials, a self-serve pet wash, and the B-More Charming School for Dogs. The shop can help connect you with a new friend or offload some gently used pet supplies to area shelters: Howl holds monthly adoption and donation drives (call for this month’s date). —Anne-Marie Robinson w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m m a r c h 0 9


To be human is to be creative, to be creative is to be an artist— therefore, everyone an artist? Art on Purpose is presenting 9 exhibitions in 2009 featuring art by Denise Tassin alongside works by hundreds of students from 13 Baltimore area colleges and universities. Join us in exploring the innate creativity that comes with being human! On view now:

Gormley Gallery at College of Notre Dame of MD

The Art of Collecting

Loyola/Notre Dame Library

I Remember Mama Coming next:

Stevenson University Art Gallery

They’re P laying My Tune Johns Hopkins University

We’re Not Alone

Maryland Institute College of Art

An Everything Installation

University of MD Baltimore County

Art from Art

Coppin State University

More Than One

Towson University

Best Drawing

The Gallery at CCBC Catonsville


For details, visit us at Everyone an Artist? is made possible by funding from lead sponsor Towson University, and partnering sponsors the Baltimore Collegetown Network, College of Notre Dame of Maryland, Johns Hopkins University, Maryland Institute College of Art, Stevenson University, and the University of Baltimore. Additional support from the Community College of Baltimore County, Coppin State University, Loyola College in Maryland, Loyola/Notre Dame Library, and the University of Maryland Baltimore County. In-kind support from BSO, First Unitarian Church of Baltimore, Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance and Shriver Hall Concert Series. In-kind support from the Baltimore Choral Arts Society. This advertisement made possible by:


urbanite march 09

Brew Master

photo by Mark Supik

Mark Supik grew up in the Czech Town section of East Baltimore, son of a city cop. He stuck close to his neighborhood—he lives near Patterson Park—but blazed his own career path. Today, the 1977 MICA sculpture grad owns an architectural wood-turning business called Mark Supik & Co. (1 N. Haven St.; 410-732-8414; www.mark Using an impressive set of lathes, Supik handcrafts everything from columns to spindles. And since 1991, he and his crew (his son, his nephew, his niece, and a neighbor, plus his wife, Nancy, who runs the office) have produced custom beer taps for micro- and craft breweries around the country. His recent handles include a spiraling, urethane-cast flame for Silver Spring-based Hook and Ladder and a snow-goose head for Wild Goose Brewery in Frederick. For $85, Supik can slap your homebrew label on a polished wooden tap—and on March 14, he’ll teach you how to make your own tap. The class goes from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and costs $150. Be sure to ask to see his green-wood bowls, carved from waste wood harvested from the city’s tree dump. —Greg Hanscom

courtesy of Essence of a Man Day Spa and Barbershop

The Pampered Man Do real men exfoliate? The people at Essence of a Man Day Spa and Barbershop (10999 Red Run Blvd., Suite 207, Owings Mills; 410-363-1174; www.essenceofaman think so. Two months shy of its first anniversary, Kenneth and Nichole Massey’s shop offers hair care, facials, massages, and, yes, even manicures and pedicures to an initially skeptical but growing clientele. “[We men] are not used to pampering ourselves and making ourselves feel good,” Kenneth explains. Marketing “professional services for the professional man,” the clean, upscale spa also offers a Wi-Fi-enabled business room and a lounge with a 50-inch, flat-screen TV tuned to cable sports channels for waiting customers. So, big boy, what are you afraid of? Haircuts from $20; pedicures, massages, and facials from $32, $45, and $50, respectively. Ask about package discounts. —Lionel Foster


creative st dezinegirl cour tesy of

In this time of decline for print journalism everywhere, no college senior would even think about a career in the magazine industry, right? Tell that to Amanda Nachman, founder and publisher of College magazine (www.collegemagazine. com). Nachman started the publication in 2007 when she was a senior at the University of Maryland, College Park, as a project for an entrepreneurship class. Seeing a need for a college life magazine written for and by students, she recruited a volunteer staff and created a mock-up of the mag to solicit advertising from local businesses. One year and four issues later, the four-color, glossy magazine is distributed for free on nine campuses in the Maryland-D.C. area and boasts a readership of 120,000. Advertising revenue and a San Diego-based investor/creative director cover the overhead, while unpaid student editors and writers compile interviews, articles, and essays ranging from the relatively mundane (“The Way to an A”) to the over-the-top (“Making Bank: Sperm Donation 101”). “The college experience is universal,” Nachman says. “We’re here to reach students looking to make the most of their college years.”


Resident Advisor

w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m m a r c h 0 9


2009 Speaker Series: Greening Your Home Fee: $6.00 per lecture ($10.00 for non-members)

Members Only: Pre-register for the entire series for $18.00, and enjoy four programs for the price of three.

March 19, 7p.m. What We Are Finding in Maryland Homes, Frank Lee, Terra Logos Green Home Services, Inc.

May 21, 7p.m. Practical Steps for Reducing Your Carbon Footprint, Jeff Blankman, Sunnyside Solar

April 16, 7p.m. Sustainable Design in your Garden, Zolna Russell, Hord Coplan Macht

Please register by calling 443-738-9200.

11201 Garrison Forest Rd. / Owings Mills, MD 21117 /

• solar EnErgy systEms • EnErgy saving products • cErtifiEd EnErgy audits

Towson, MD Leesport, PA 443-322-7000

Solar and Efficiency Solutions

Explore the Possibilities…

at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing

Open House Saturday, March 28, 2009, 9:30 a.m. Featuring panel discussions on the Baccalaureate, Master’s, DNP, and PhD programs

Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing 525 North Wolfe Street Baltimore, Maryland 21205 Register at For disability access information, call Mary O’Rourke at 410-955-7548 or e-mail


urbanite march 09

baltimore observed a l s o i n b a lt i m o r e o b s e r v e d : 27 Banking on It

photo by Leo Howard Lubow

When legitimate banks leave the neighborhood, the Baltimore Cash Campaign steps in.

The professor and the prisoner: Chuck Schmitz, a scholar of Yemeni studies at Towson University, served as translator and cultural interpreter for Guantánamo Bay detainee Salim Ahmed Hamdan, tried in 2008 for war crimes.


Lost in Translation Before fate tossed them together, Chuck Schmitz and Salim Ahmed Hamdan might have brushed past one another along an ancient alley in Sanaa, the capital of Yemen. Back in the early 1990s, Schmitz was a Fulbright scholar from Berkeley researching the political economy of the Middle East and polishing his Arabic. Hamdan was a streetsmart survivor, an orphan with a fourth-grade education who got by on odd jobs. They wouldn’t meet until January 2004, thousands

of miles from Yemen, inside a cinderblock cell at Guantánamo Bay Naval Base. “It was kind of weird,” says Schmitz, now an associate professor of geography at Towson University and the president of the American Institute for Yemeni Studies. “You put together a career, and all of a sudden you’re in this surreal world. This skill I had was needed in the eye of a contentious moment in history. It was a ‘just happened to be standing there’ kind of thing.” A fit guy with tossed chestnut hair and a slightly absent-minded air, Schmitz, 51, was a reluctant draftee to the war on terror. In early 2004, he got a phone call from Charlie Swift, the Navy lawyer appointed to represent

Hamdan. Would Schmitz be willing to serve as Arabic translator and cultural interpreter for Hamdan and his defense team? Having infamously found work as Osama bin Laden’s driver and bodyguard in Afghanistan, Hamdan, who was captured in November 2001, was facing a military commission trial crafted to prosecute “illegal combatants,” a new class of prisoners authorized by President George W. Bush. As chronicled in Jonathan Mahler’s 2008 book, The Challenge: Hamdan V. Rumsfeld and the Fight over Presidential Power, the case led to a landmark Supreme Court ruling and gave Schmitz a front-row seat for a constitutional crisis—along with an intimate w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m m a r c h 0 9


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Tentative Schedule: March 8th & 9th April 26th & 27th

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baltimore observed look inside the controversial military prison that President Barack Obama has promised to close within the year. At first, Schmitz wanted no part of the Hamdan case: He thought that any trial would be a kangaroo court. But the charismatic Swift was persistent. “I think eventually he just talked my ear off,” Schmitz says. “‘What the hell, I’ll sign the papers,’” he figured. On the plane to Guantánamo later that month, Swift spent the eight-hour trip convincing his new translator that “his agenda [was] to destroy the system,” Schmitz says. “If anybody is going to do it, it’s going to be somebody like Swift. He just thrives on controversy.” For nearly five years, Schmitz shuttled twice monthly between his Roland Park home to Guantánamo Bay, with each stay on base lasting four or five days at a time. “I was living parallel lives,” he says. “I was teaching most of the time, and then I had my life on the base. I felt very much at home there eventually. It’s a very nice place to run, work out, hang out. It’s the tropics. It’s fantastic.” In between beach forays, Schmitz worked sixteen-hour days as Swift and his team maneuvered the case through the courts. Immersed in Yemeni politics and culture, conversant in its dialects, and flush with local contacts, Schmitz served the lawyers well. He accompanied Swift as they gathered key evidence from Hamdan’s extended family in Yemen, and, in Gitmo, debriefed the prisoner for hours at a time. “Hamdan would turn to me and say, ‘Will you explain Yemen to him?’ when [Swift] asked questions that didn’t make any sense in the context of Yemen,” he says. “For example, [Swift would ask,] ‘Do you have any pay receipts?’ Yeah, right.” (Yemen is primarily a cash economy.) The case traveled a tangled path to resolution. In 2006, the Supreme Court ruled that the military tribunal process established by the Bush administration violated Hamdan’s constitutional rights. The president and Congress quickly defied the landmark decision with the 2006 Military Commissions Act, returning Hamdan’s case to Guantánamo, where last summer he stood trial for war crimes. In August, a military jury convicted Hamdan of material support for terrorism but acquitted him of conspiracy, the more serious charge, and sentenced him to five and a half years in prison, including time already served. He returned to Yemen late last year to complete his sentence and was released in January. Throughout the lengthy proceedings, Hamdan, familiar with the mental tricks played by interrogators, remained skeptical of

Swift and Schmitz’s intentions. “What it really took was for him to see us in trial fighting for him,” Schmitz says. “Then he realized we really did mean to defend him.” Speaking to one another in a Yemeni dialect, the professor and the prisoner did form a friendship not available to Swift and others on his legal team. Hamdan’s nickname for Schmitz was “shathir”—“wise guy.” “I think he trusted me more than anyone else,” Schmitz says, puffing on a cigar (a habit picked up from Swift) on his screened-in, second-floor deck, golden retriever Suki by his side. “He didn’t see me as part of the legal team. I was his right hand. I was a piece of him.”

“I felt very much at home there eventually,” schmitz says of Guantánamo. “It’s a very nice place to run, work out, hang out. It’s the tropics. It’s fantastic.” The defense portrayed Hamdan as a lowlevel jihad washout, not a terrorist mastermind—unlike many of the other detainees in the prison, which since 2002 has warehoused suspected al-Qaeda operatives captured in Afghanistan. When Abdullah Tabarak—a close bin Laden aide and “bad-ass dude,” according to Schmitz—was inexplicably released and returned to Morocco, Hamdan became despondent. “He didn’t understand,” Schmitz says. “He wanted to know, ‘Why does somebody like that get released and I’m still sitting here?’” Schmitz draws a more textured portrait of Hamdan than Challenge author Mahler, who depicts the detainee as an exasperating and slightly oafish figure. “Hamdan was a keen observer,” Schmitz says, one who was adept at sizing up his attorneys and all too aware of the seriousness of his predicament. “My real job in that whole thing was trying to keep him in the system and to keep him with us.” Hamdan spent months in isolation for various outbursts; a feeding tube kept him alive during a prolonged hunger strike. “[He] was going nuts. He knew he was going nuts.” At times he “would go into a rage and just couldn’t handle it. What he really needed at that point was relief from Guantánamo, which we could not do anything about.”

That sense of helplessness, combined with his fraught relationship with Hamdan and the punishing hours, “caused a crisis with me as well,” Schmitz says. “It’s excruciating to be in a situation like that where someone is basically dying inside and you’re there to help him, but you really can’t do anything.” To cope, he sought therapy. “It was very, very difficult,” says Amy Urdang of her husband’s experience. Working in Guantánamo took Schmitz “to a whole other level of looking at and understanding something,” she says. The translation assignment provided Schmitz with fodder for journal articles and stimulated his interest in international law and the war on terror. He’s particularly struck by the guise of normalcy that the military managed to create at Gitmo. “People saw themselves as doing their job, fighting the war on terror, and not questioning what they were doing and not being able to see what they were doing. That was most disturbing, not being able to see the human being there. That seems to be so against American principles of justice.” He now fears the detention center may not close as quickly as the new administration has suggested. “Obama has given himself lots of ways to justify continuing the use of Gitmo and even the commission system,” he says in an e-mail message. “The initial signs are not encouraging. We may see a sorry case of massive liberal waffling.” Last summer, George Clooney bought the rights to Mahler’s book. Rumor has it that Clooney will play Swift. “We’re all going to enjoy the movie knowing that it has little to do with what happens,” says Schmitz. Who should play him? “People have suggested Richard Gere. I suggest myself; I’ll take the salary.” Schmitz has considered weighing in with another account, co-writing Hamdan’s memoir of his five-year legal journey. But “he doesn’t understand why anybody would be interested,” Schmitz says. Toward the end, Hamdan managed to be philosophical about his detention, Schmitz says. “I remember him saying, ‘This place has changed my life, not all bad.’” The same might be said for Schmitz, who can’t say that he misses his improbable buddy. “It will be good to see him when I see him again,” he says. “But a break is good. We had to go through some tough stuff.” ■ —Stephanie Shapiro On the air: On March 4, tune in to the Marc Steiner Show on WEAA 88.9 FM to hear an interview with Chuck Schmitz.

w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m m a r c h 0 9


Let the Eyre Team Put Together Your Perfect Vacation Package!

The Pratt Contemporaries of the Enoch Pratt Free Library Presents

Wine & Reconciliation


Vacation Packages



Some Upcoming Daytrips & Overnight Tours: April

Cruise Packages

Foxwoods Casino - Apr. 1 - 3 Odyssey Cherry Blossom Cruise - Apr. 2 NYC Broadway: Billy Elliott - Apr. 4 NYC Broadway: South Pacific - Apr. 4 Historic Gettysburg - Apr. 25 NYC Broadway: Jersey Boys - Apr. 25 NYC Broadway: Shrek - Apr. 25 The Homestead - Apr. 26 - 28

Overnight Tours

The Role of Wine in Today’s South Africa A wine tasting and talk with Sherrilyn Ifill, Professor of Law University of MD Law School


Virginia International Military Tattoo - May 1 - 3 Longwood Gardens: Wine & Jazz Festival - May 2 NASCAR: Richmond Intl. Raceway - May 2 Historic Poland & Prague - May 8 - 18 Sounds of Motown at the Meyerhoff - May 15 Washington DC Tour - May 15 NYC Tour: “Sex and the City” - May 16 Hudson Valley - May 17-19 Opryland Hotel: Nashville Your Way - May 24-27

Thursday, April 16 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. $35 per person benefits children’s programs at the Library RSVP by April 10 email or call (443) 984-3850 Enoch Pratt Free Library 400 Cathedral Street Baltimore, MD 21201

Overseas Adventures

NYC Tours

Day Trips

w w w. e y r e . c o m • 1 - 8 0 0 - 3 2 1 - E Y R E 26

urbanite march 09

photo b by Tasha Treadwell

Relief for the “unbanked”: The Baltimore Cash Campaign works to bring basic money services to urban neighborhoods that legitimate financial institutions have abandoned.


Banking On It Jamella Liquors, on the corner of Mosher and Monroe streets, looks a lot like other convenience stores in this part of West Baltimore. Inside you can buy beer, cigarettes, potato chips, and whatever else you can make out through the half-inch of bulletproof glass that protects the workers and all of the store’s stock. If you’re low on cash, an ATM sits on the customer’s side of the divide. For a fee, you can also buy money orders or cash your payroll check. For many residents of this neighborhood, this might be as close as they’ll get to a real bank. According to a 2008 report on the alternative financial services industry from the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, there are no legitimate banks within walking distance of Jamella’s. On a map of Baltimore’s bank branch locations included in the report, the store sits at the epicenter of a west-side financial services desert—approximately four square miles with no convenient access to basic services such as checking and savings accounts. More than twelve million Americans live in households in which no one has a checking account. Instead, they rely heavily on “fringe banking”—check cashers, payday lenders, and pawnshops—for basic financial transactions, at a cost of $8 billion in annual fees. By Brookings’ calculations, this can add up to $40,000 in missed earnings over a worker’s lifetime. “People really rely on the services in their neighborhood,” says Joanna Smith-Ramani, director of the Baltimore Cash Campaign, a coalition of government, private, and nonprofit groups promoting basic financial literacy and services to low- and moderate-income families. “When they don’t have access to high quality, mainstream financial services and financial institutions, then they’re making a rational decision to say, ‘Well, what’s here is this check casher where I can pay all my bills, because what doesn’t work in

my life is hopping on three buses to head downtown to get to a bank.’ That’s a pretty reasonable decision, I think.” Baltimore Cash works with local organizations that residents trust, such as hospitals and community centers, to provide free financial literacy and tax preparation at twenty locations in Baltimore City and Baltimore County, including two in West Baltimore. Last year Baltimore Cash’s trained volunteers helped 14,000 people file $15 million in returns for the federal Earned Income Tax Credit, at no cost. This month it plans to hold its largest single-day event, Money Power Day, that provides free tax, credit, housing, and public benefits counseling and financial planning to more than 1,200 people. (Money Power Day takes place March 21, 9 a.m.–3 p.m., at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute High School, 1400 W. Coldspring Lane. To register for this free event, call 410-396-7026 or go to www. Because most of us file taxes just once per year, Baltimore Cash tries to leverage those one-time sessions into a long-term relationship with mainstream financial services and products such as checking accounts, savings accounts, and certificates of deposit. “A couple of years ago, we had a client who put his entire $3,000 refund in a CD,” remembers Smith-Ramani. “He was so excited. He said, ‘I’ve heard of CDs, but no one ever told me what they were, and I thought it was something for someone else, not for me.’ I was almost in tears. Lowerincome people should be offered the same opportunities. We should not underestimate what they want out of their life because of our assumptions about what they earn.” ■ —Lionel Foster Each month, Urbanite profiles people and programs that are transforming the city, one block at a time. To nominate a transformer, e-mail

The Small Print The city’s scribes kept busy this January reporting on each other’s woes. Much has already been said about the Baltimore Sun, which has been shedding jobs and pages as its corporate parent, the Chicago-based Tribune Co., restructures in bankruptcy (see Urbanite, January ’09, September and February ’08). The latest loss: Suburban bureaus in Anne Arundel, Howard, and Baltimore counties will move downtown, and another round of staff cuts was announced in mid-February. But at least it won’t have a competitor: The Baltimore Examiner, launched as a free quick-read tabloid rival to the Sun in April 2006, rolled its last issue off the presses and into posterity on February 15. A months-long search for a buyer ended with a surprise newsroom announcement on January 29 that the paper was folding. About ninety staff members lost their jobs. Meanwhile, a pair of plucky online news sites have emerged locally. Baltimore Brew (, a project of former Washington Post and Evening Sun reporter Fern Shen (also a past Urbanite contributor), promises a daily mix of sassy blog-style commentary and original reporting, some provided by former Sun staffers. Unlike other news sites that are structured as nonprofits, such as the Twin Cities-based MinnPost, the Brew is a for-profit operation that aims to be supported solely by online advertising. Likewise, Maryland Commons (www., a weekly online journal that began publishing in December, eschews the nonprofit journalism model that has been a hot topic in flailing-newspaper circles. “I’m not sure that for-profit journalism is dead,” says publisher Neil Didriksen, who founded the journal with his wife, former Sun editor Jane Brown. “We’re very interested in seeing whether this is sustainable without being another tap on the demands of the philanthropic dollar.” The couple know that world well: He’s a onetime university fundraiser, and she’s the former executive director of the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation, a private funder of technology programs in Maryland colleges and universities that her father founded in 1992. Maryland Commons has a statewide focus and a topic list emphasizing the economy, criminal justice, health care, and state government. Think of it as the vanished Maryland Section of your daily Sun, but with an unapologetically wonkish bent. The stories are reported by freelance contributors; there’s an archive of public documents, an aggregator of other news stories from across the state, and guest commentaries from policy players. “Part of what we’re trying to do is give the people who have expertise an opportunity to contribute,” Didriksen says. ■ w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m m a r c h 0 9

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At McDaniel College you will develop new t a s t e s , both in and out of the classroom. You will learn to s m e l l the difference between fact and fiction, and to form opinions in grounded logic. You will f e e l the challenge of academic rigor, as well as the comfort of belonging to an authentic community where students come first. You will begin to h e a r your inner voice—and trust it. At McDaniel College you will discover your future through numerous research, travel, and internship opportunities. Come s e e for yourself. T wo College Hill wesTMinsTer, MD 21157 800-638-5005 28 u r b a n i t e m a r c h 0 9

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Three years later, we still get the question: What exactly is this? Short answer: In 2007, Urbanite launched the Urbanite Project, an annual issue that brings a diverse selection of Baltimoreans into the magazine in pursuit of a curious common goal. Five teams of collaborators are asked to work together to create—something. The participants represent a wide range of fields and professions— from music, art, and literature to science, public policy, and education. Each team gets two pages of the magazine, plus all the megabytes they want on the project’s website, We’re vague on the rules, perhaps maddeningly so. The teams are asked to take a clean-slate approach to an issue of their choosing, but we don’t offer much more guidance than that. Want to propose a nuclearpowered zeppelin base in Middle River? Sounds good. How about an impassioned two-page manifesto about legalizing nude yardwork? Go for it. We ask only that each team’s project represent a true communal effort between the members. We’re interested in exploring the creative possibilities of collaborative innovation, of serendipitous human encounters, of stretching across the aisle and grappling with what your fellow citizen has on his or her mind. It’s a game, an exercise in make-believe, an art project run amok. This year’s project was coordinated, as always, by Managing Editor Marianne K. Amoss.

On the air: On March 19, tune in to the Marc Steiner Show on WEAA 88.9 FM to hear interviews with some of this year’s participants.

Turn the page and see what happened. w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m m a r c h 0 9



can you imagine a marriage suffused with conflict and disagreement to the point where the partners have buried their love and are ready to call lawyers to arrange a divorce, but instead they call a dance counselor? can you imagine two co-workers having such a deep dispute that a professional mediator is needed to help solve the issues, but instead they call in a drummer and a sounding coach? suppose you could sing, growl, and grunt out your irritation, disappointment, or hurt before it turned into anger and rage. suppose we could jump, twirl, stomp, shake, and shimmy to some kind of beat when we felt frustrated or caged, to keep ourselves from hurting or lashing out at another person. can you possibly see us recapturing and actually using “tribal” or “village” ways of rhythmic movement and vocalizing as tools of conflict resolution? You know, the U.s. of America, at about 400 years old, is the baby on the planet, with the biggest playpen and the most toys. For a long time now, it’s been very much into the “me me me” stage of development. the universe revolves around us and all that is new and shiny is good and valuable. Our older sibling, europe, is the teenager, almost grown, with closets full of treasures, trinkets, and traditions saved or collected from other cultures. But the elders of the world, whose wisdom, culture, and consciousness we have greatly ignored, are found across the continent of Africa, throughout Asia, in Australia and Latin America. they have kept humanity’s secrets, revealing bits and pieces in times of dire need. they’ve kept our secrets of selfhealing and of using what we in the West call “the arts” as tools for sane survival and community maintenance. Perhaps we could humbly ask the Kalahari bush men if we may learn from them the movements and sounds that would enable us to diagnose and heal disorders in the human body. Or maybe we could learn from the sanskrit scholars of India and tibet the exact tones and mantras to chant, to help us maintain emotional and physical well-being. As a longtime dancer who has encouraged thousands of children and adults to dance for the joy and freedom of it, I now propose that we all use rhythmic movement coupled with rhythmic vocalizing as a means to diffuse and prevent violent conflict. to help restore the love. We can do this every day in our homes, at our jobs, and at all community gatherings. It must be mandatory in schools for all students, staff, and teachers. can you stretch your imagination to visualize those in prison and in the military being required to dance and drum? What if every session of congress or at the United nations were to begin with movement and music? Dominic shodekeh, a young skilled master of the contemporary art of “beatboxing,” and I are experimenting with natural sound, rhythmic breathing, and movement combined as a tool for young people to use when they are feeling antagonistic, threatened, or scared. We are partnering with the community conferencing center, an organization established ten years ago by Lauren Abramson, a former Open society Institute-Baltimore fellow. the center offers people who are locked in serious and even criminal conflict with each other urbanite march 09

illustration by John Malloy

Tr i ba l I nte rve nt ion

a means to communicate and work their way through to a place of acceptance and even possible forgiveness. What the center’s staff have done for so many in this city is incomparable and it is the closest thing I have seen to village or tribal counseling. they now work with groups of students in several schools. Gathering the boys and then the girls in separate circles for a rap session, they allow them to say all that’s on their minds concerning that day’s issue of conflict. It’s often very heated. shodokeh and I have requested to come and guide a group of ten boys through a session of breathing, grunting, growling, and movement, all with a funky rhythm to contain us. the rules include absolutely no touching and no words—just sounds and gestures and movement to express whatever they’re feeling. We always begin and end the session with silence and stillness and then reflection. When we demonstrated the whole process with the staff at the ccc participating, the response was varied but enthusiastic. We hope the circle of boys will want to try it at least two or three times, and that maybe afterwards, they feel some relief and will be less inclined to hurt each other. We want to find a name for this that is catchy and appealing. But mostly, shodekeh and I want dancing and vocalizing, drumming and music-making to be returned to their status as revered therapeutic tools not only for our urban villagers and in our tribal communities, but also for us as we grow closer and closer to our global relatives as well. can you imagine that? —Maria Broom

His chords drum at rhythms of such speed, and fragments from forsaken heavens phase through his physicality. The Skill of Movement ... ... roves with her, The Mover Red, aiding through a forest of peace and warfare. Nature’s way of maintaining unseen balance decides to present her with gifts. Minted Trees, beacons for the Gods and Space, shatter at the bases. Insects of silver continue to jealously eat away at their golden roots. Woods fall in hopes of crashing into her path. The gymnastics of chance possess her thoughts, and a chess-like display of Olympic dodges grants her passage through the timbers. A Silverback Tiger greets her with composure. Eyes of Hunting. Teeth of Pressure. Growls of Poverty. She recalls lessons from the jungles of Brazilian Lore, inciting prayers of Capoeira. The Silverback attempts to discern the Mover’s character, unclear if it’s of Dance or Martial Artistry. The creature leaps away from her set, allowing for travels to continue unscathed. A Hummingbird witnesses her feats, wishing for such adaptability. The Hummingbird flutters, singing songs through wings of envy. The Butterfly Effect ensues, ensuring winds carrying leaves mistaken for Samurai. The Mover graces into a Ballerina’s diagonal leap, inspiring currents to caress her body in hopes of soft friendships.

The Skills of Survival

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The Skill of Voice ... ... listens with him, The Sounder Blue. Obstacles of throes manifest, attempting to thwart a journey through a hallway of Chaos. The floor flashes, disappearing and reappearing from this reality and the nearest dimension. He views glimpses beneath his feet of a suicidal Archangel, revealing an ever-patient torture of self. Histories of Throat Singing rise from the larynx. Two notes executed at once allow him to levitate across, avoiding descent. The walls dare to liquefy, perhaps to immerse the Sounder in baptisms. A cane floats past in this underwater state, the drowning of Moses is nearby. Thoughts of Wind soothes, he calmly exhales. The water tidals away from the path and respects new surfaces of serenity. A reversed earthquake caught in the ceiling congas from subterranean recesses. Abstracts of steel and grain dive into gravity. Demon Knights pressure behind boulders above, with plans of burying his course. The Sounder reflects on experiences of poly-mathematics.

The Skill of Energy ... ... empowers the Mover and Sounder through a greeting. They prepare themselves at the gates of a castle beset with anarchy. Recruited by ENERGY’s wishes to embody experience, they enter through a door made of dark mornings. His voice and her movements painfully exit their bodies, manifesting as stars of Blue and Red. Their physical frames now rest in mid-air unconsciousness. Two energies trans into one another, a new accord of light providing assistance throughout the estate of despairs. In basements of hidden pasts, spirits quarrel over childhoods neglected, an Abyss becomes born underneath the structure of the kingdom. Relatives from assorted cultures dispute traditions at the grand time of dining. Understanding becomes excommunicated, and screaming throat needles bleed ears at the chief meal of the day. A pair of lovers struggle over who is to wear The Crown of Volition, lightning anomalies magnetize towards the citadel. In one motion of Space and Time, The Red and Blue wash over the castle’s being. Dances of Teleportation are enacted in the basement to trap the abyss. A Language of Shrills is formed to unite in a new cast of perception. Clairvoyant Music is shared between lovers and Telekinetic Passion becomes intimate, tapping into the storm’s potential. The Mover and Sounder refuse their bodily hosts. Traveling into possibilities throughout, searching for skills to be developed, acquired, and passed on into the Future-Pasts of our sons and daughters. —Dominic Shodekeh Talifero

Known as an actress for her recurring roles in HBO’s The Wire and The Corner, Maria Broom is also a storyteller and dancer with more than forty years of experience performing and teaching. She is a native of Baltimore and a member of the theater faculty at the Baltimore School for the Arts. Human beatboxer and hip-hop artist Shodekeh can vocally embody many sounds, from didgeridoos and ocean waves to sleigh bells and crickets. He has completed musical interpretations of gallery exhibits at Towson University and the American Visionary Art Museum and serves as an accompanist at Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts and the American Dance Festival, among other places. For more from this team, go to photo by La Kaye Mbah

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Becoming Landscape a migration of ideas


I understand cartography through drawing—as the transitional record of a series of spatial connections and interdependencies, an attempt to hold in equilibrium the tenuous space between things. The cartographer and the draftsman can choose to reveal or conceal specific pathways of movement and direction. Points of arrival and departure become interchangeable nodes within a complex field of migratory relations through which individuals and commodities can pass. At once frozen, the map presents an accumulated and inert systematic representation of mobility, set against spatial and temporal dynamics that can be understood at every scale, from the neural to the global. The images I produced for this project were made in response to Dr. Quiñones-Hinojosa’s laboratory research on stem cell migration. —Dawn Gavin




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1. Left Hand Circuit shows U.S. air traffic routes superimposed on the artist’s left hand, with stem cell images in the background. 2. A laboratory image of a cluster of neural stem cells, stained with different markers specific to different kinds of cells. This proves that neural stem cells are able to give rise to different types of cells. 3. Paper Brain is a drawing of a brain superimposed over a photograph of a dissected, crumpled-up U.S. interstate map. 4. Right Hand Circuit shows an inverted U.S. air traffic map superimposed on the artist’s right hand, with a combination of stem cell images and aircraft flight paths in the background.


5 The brain is the unexplored frontier. We have spent so much effort going to the moon, exploring the universe, when in fact the most wonderful universe is on top of us! Thanks to the way our brain has been wired through evolution, we have the privilege of interacting. Our aim continues to be understanding the surfaces as well as the undersurface of the brain—what makes us move, think, love one another. Although it is exciting and fascinating what we do as brain surgeons, I have for a long time been envisioning the possibilities of there being more optimal ways to treat brain tumors through our understanding of basic questions about the human brain, the precise location of stem cells, and not only where stem cells are found, but how we take advantage of them so we will have better outcomes in patients with brain cancer and other neurological disorders.


—Dr. Q

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5. A laboratory image of cells in the caudate nucleus, close to the place in the brain where neurogenesis occurs and where neural stem cells are found (called the subventricular zone), around a blood vessel. 6. A laboratory image of stem cells migrating through the pores in a membrane. This technique is used to assess stem cell response to different stimuli such as a serum, growth factors, and even other cells. 7. A laboratory image of a stain of migratory stem cells in the subventricular zone. This migratory ability can be used to repopulate injured areas in the diseased brain. Background: Indefinite Loop is a tiled image of American Airlines’ U.S. and Asia air traffic routes, repeated to extend without any discernible beginning or end.


Dawn Gavin is a native of Scotland and an artist who has exhibited her work both nationally and internationally. Her work investigates issues of identity and displacement, employing a range of media from collage and installed drawings to digital video. She is an associate professor in the department of art at the University of Maryland, College Park. Once an illegal immigrant from Mexico, Dr. Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa, or “Dr. Q,” received his medical degree from Harvard, where he graduated with honors. He is associate professor of neurosurgery and oncology at Johns Hopkins Bayview campus, where he also directs the brain tumor program. For more from this team, go to photo by La Kaye Mbah

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Be-more Productive Baltimore Be-more Productive Baltimore encourages Baltimore residents to take a second look at community and neighborhood spaces and re-think possibilities for green productivity. The project not only makes suggestions, but also provides a downloadable resource guide, The Neighborhood Diagnostic Tool, to help you find the ideas, people, and resources you need to Be-more Productive!

Weeds Fast-growing, allergen-producing, and unsightly—weeds! However, understanding and even monitoring and encouraging weed growth in vacant lots, alleys, and backyards can help urban spaces remain green without the labor of cultivation or constant whacking. Weeds absorb CO2, hold groundwater, and provide biodiversity and habitats for animals and birds. The Neighborhood Diagnostic Tool can help you identify some useful and interesting weeds to watch for in your community.

To download the Neighborhood Diagnostic Tool, go to



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Most urban neighborhoods can produce food that will stretch a family’s budget and bring in wonderful fresh ingredients. Even a front stoop can host a productive container garden, and the front porch can be festooned with hanging vegetable and herb plants. The Neighborhood Diagnostic Tool will help you look at your neighborhood from a plant’s eye and see where you and your neighbors can grow your family food.

Dru Schmidt-Perkins has more than twenty-eight years of experience on a broad range of energy, growth, and environmental issues. In 1998, she became the first executive director of 1000 Friends of Maryland, a nonprofit advocacy group. Before joining 1000 Friends, she was the Maryland State and Chesapeake Director of Clean Water Action for more than nine years. Catherine Pancake is an artist and cultural worker who has co-founded such Baltimore-based radical arts groups as the High Zero Foundation and the Transmodern Festival. Her films include the 2006 documentary Black Diamonds, about mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia. Pancake’s experimental sound work has been published by several experimental record labels. For more from this team, go to

urbanite march 09 photo by La Kaye Mbah

Solar Urban Baltimore neighborhoods have yet to be tapped for one of our richest, least intrusive energy sources—the sun! Look up! There’s block after block of nice, flat roofs. Rooftops with southern exposure and fewer than six hours of shade a day could take advantage of urban solar power. The Neighborhood Diagnostic Tool can help you better understand if your neighborhood is compatible with solar energy and who to call for assessments and resources.

Bees Bees have been dying off. Baltimore City already holds several dozen committed beekeepers and apiaries, and more urban communities could join by initiating new hives. Not only will you be helping the bee population, but you’ll also be helping your dinner table and maybe even your pocketbook with the rich resource of cultivated honey. The Neighoborhood Diagnotic Tool can help you get started.

Illustration by Alyssa Dennis

Photo credits from left to right: photo by Alyssa Dennis; photo by Andrew Nagl; www . u photo r b a by n iDru t e Schmidt-Perkins; b a l t i m o r ephoto . c obymDrumSchmidt-Perkins arch 09


Rumor Mill

—Molly Ross Artwork by Jeffrey Kent


urbanite march 09

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Inspired by the power of ideas and the whimsy of urban legends, Jeffrey and I explored a variety of concepts but kept returning to things such as the Internet, flash mobs, and a kind of viral civic action—or at least the idea of it. In some ways, we are inverting our own cynicism and attempting to invent a mindset for change and action through, well, lies. What if we systematically spread rumors of amazing things happening in Baltimore—both to inspire a sense of wonder and possibility in our community, and just maybe so that some of them might come true? Like conspiracy theories, but just the opposite: instead of disempowering rumors of shadowy agents secretly controlling events, rumors of ordinary people doing amazing things. Their power is in the idea itself—part fancy, part satire, part liberal dreaming. The best lies work off an alchemical formula of just the right amount of plausibility, a veneer of authority, and generous helpings of the unthinkable. I am best known for creating the Great Halloween Lantern Parade, which marches into Patterson Park each fall. Although there are certainly floats to be built and stilters and musicians to be organized, really my job is a kind of fanciful crowd control. I work very hard at orchestrating the event so it has an organic flow and my own guiding hand is barely felt. Jeffrey’s powerful paintings explore mangled communication and media messages. Together we have aspired to imagine a community in which change is intuitive and action sublime.

ntly e c e r y t i C e r o m Balti eys l l a g n i t r e v n o c began into bike paths.

Baltimore has rate of work the highest per capita ing artists in America.

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Molly Ross is a multi-disciplinary artist working in performance, sculpture, and community art. She is the creator of the annual Great Halloween Lantern Parade; the director and principal artist of Nana Projects Studio, which specializes in cultural performances that engage communities; and an adjunct faculty member at Maryland Institute College of Art. Boston native Jeffrey Kent is a self-taught artist and a 2010 MFA candidate in the Hoffberger School of Painting at the Maryland Institute College of Art. In 2003, he founded a space for art studios and an art gallery called the Sub-basement Artist Studios in downtown Baltimore. For more from this team, go to

photo by La Kaye Mbah

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urbanite march 09


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Luis Flores is an artist and educator who has lived in Baltimore since 1978. A native New Yorker, he has spent more three decades in education and currently teaches design, mixed media, and sculpture at the Baltimore School for the Arts. Flores’ mixed-media works and installations have been exhibited in museums and alternative spaces throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. Samuel Gerald Collins teaches cultural anthropology at Towson University. He researches globalization and information society in the United States and South Korea and has conducted anthropological ďŹ eldwork in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Busan and Seoul in Korea. For more from this team, go to photo by La Kaye Mbah

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Open this box. It’s nothing to be alarmed about—nothing dangerous, nothing valuable. Not a reliquary, not a treasure chest. Just a box filled with residues and potentialities. We are bombarded by distractions demanding our attention, day and night: advertising billboards, television, telemarketing, radio, RSS feeds, text messages, bumper stickers. All of these entities around us— corporations, governments, friends, and acquaintances— are going to great lengths to tell us something. We don’t always notice—and more than that, we can’t always notice— this excess of messages. There are lots of strategies for willful ignoring: looking away, disattending, tunnel vision. But the most popular method is to surround oneself with sleek commodities that channel and confine communication—the way an mp3 player reduces conversations around us to exercises in lip-reading, for example, or the way an expensive automobile is designed to say (over and over again), “I am expensive. I am fast. I am virile,” no matter the age of its occupant. These kinds of “transitional objects” (to borrow the well-known psychologist D.W. Winnicott’s term) truncate and concentrate communications to a well-worn, highly commodified groove. They “communicate” what they were purchased to communicate. The irony is that the objects that we purchase to communicate simultaneously cut off communication. That new car that broadcasts my masculinity to everyone on my street also insulates me from a world of meaning flowing outside my windows. Cutting open the packaging on a new mp3 player opens up consumers to a universe of commodity-downloads, but it only does so to the extent that alternative sounds are eliminated.


urbanite march 09

1. In a 1971 lecture, anthropologist and polymath Gregory Bateson related an incident he experienced while working with diagnosed schizophrenics at the VA hospital in Palo Alto, California. At the request of the ward superintendent, he invited a new patient to his office and, as a way of initiating conversation, offered him a cigarette. The patient took a few puffs, looked Bateson straight in the eye, and dropped it on the carpet. The next day, he again met with Bateson, took a cigarette, lit it, and dropped it on the carpet. Only this time, he walked

20th-century noir-thrillers revolving around the search for jewels, secret weapons, or vaguely described documents. 4. The philosopher of science Michel Serres defines a “quasiobject” as something that weaves a web of social relations through its circulation. For example, a ball being passed around a court. It’s not just an inflatable sphere— it’s a machine for making a social formation. In the absence of a ball, there’s no game. 5. Peter Geschiere reports that traditional healers (nkong)

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away. Bateson followed him for 100 yards or so, and then he couldn’t take it any longer. “Look, man, I’ve got to know what that cigarette is doing!” They turned back. On the third day, the same thing happened, only this time, when they patient got up to take a walk, Bateson palmed the cigarette as he followed behind. A few yards out the door, Bateson said, “Ed, I think this is your cigarette, isn’t it?” 2. The anthropologist Anne Allison describes a new kind of psychiatric patient in 1990s Japan: people who can only relate to the world through their things. These are mono no katari hitobito (people who talk about things). As she writes in her book Millennial Monsters, “Life is managed by scrupulous cataloging: shoes, kitchenware, meishi (business cards), and phone friends.” 3. A MacGuffin is an object that drives the plot of a film—think

among the Maka of eastern and southern Cameroon may utilize magically charged objects (midu), as in his account of one healer, Mendouga. “The mirror was a narrow bottle containing five sticks and a viscous liquid. Her nkong had first shown her the bottle, then the sticks. Afterward, he had made her sleep deeply. When she had woken up, the sticks had been inside the bottle. When she interrogated a client, Mendouga made the liquid pass between the sticks: if it passed, the client had not ‘gone out’; if a drop remained, the client had lied.” (The Modernity of Witchcraft, p. 55) 6. The contents of Abraham Lincoln’s pockets on the night he was assassinated have long been on display at the Library of Congress. They include a Confederate five-dollar bill, some newspaper clippings, a pocket knife, a wallet, a handkerchief, a lens polisher, and two pairs of glasses.

And what about those exclusions? There are a lot of them: the number of messages communicated finite, the number of exclusions infinite. Yet those quiet exclusions are all around us: interactions with each other that we might have had, meanings we might have shared. This is particularly the case with the world of objects that we inhabit—the raw materials with which we express ourselves. Commodities generally say one thing and work to actively exclude, say, the conditions of their production, their lives outside of money. But the small objects in our lives have a more intimate side as well, our side of the story that we never get to tell. Walk down the street with your eyes trained to the ground. How many objects do you see, each suspended in a kind of half-life of meaning, narrative, and conversation? Soft whispers, perhaps, drowned out by more stentorian communiqués. Some of these are relics of the past, others entangled in our interactions with each other today. None of these objects demand that you respond; none of them form a closed pattern of meaning. Understanding means a different way of looking and listening, but the payoff is finally acknowledging someone who’s been trying to get your attention all this time, if you’d only just look. It could be the person sitting next to you on the bus, or it could be people distant from us in time and space, neighborhoods and cities that once existed, now forgotten. Is this a conversation you’d like to join? We like to think of it as a game (or, as Winnicott observes, a kind of play), one in which the players, the pieces, and the rules are all up for grabs—a kind of emergent social interaction. In fact, we’ve come to think of it as “The Game”: the only one worth playing, where the stakes (whatever the rules) are our connections to our own lives. Our game starts with opening a box and looking inside. Now you’re playing.

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The Baltimore Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIABaltimore) invites you to attend its annual spring lecture series – a Baltimore tradition for decades. This year we host speakers from Boston, New York, Canada and Germany. Join us in welcoming them to Baltimore!


Stefan Behnisch, Hon. FAIA


Work of Behnisch Architekten March 18, Wednesday

J.M. Murphy Enterprises, Inc.

Ann Beha, FAIA

A Dialogue with History: New Design in Historic Settings April 1, Wednesday

Bing Thom, AIA

Bing Thom Architects: Recent Works April 22, Wednesday

Joshua Prince-Ramus Joshua Prince-Ramus/REX April 30, Thursday

All lectures begin at 6 p.m., and are followed by a reception. Maryland Institute College of Art, Brown Center, Falvey Hall, 1300 Mt. Royal Avenue 100 free parking spots will be available at the RK+K lot at the east end of Mosher St., one block east of Mt. Royal Ave., and accessible from the northbound lane only. Series tickets are $45/public and $30/AIA and BAF members. Please send payment to AIABaltimore or call with your credit card. Students are free with I.D. Individual lecture tickets are available at the door for $15, as space permits. 1 AIA/CES (HSW) with registration. 11 ½ W. Chase Street, Baltimore Maryland 21201 410.625.2585 FAX 410.727.4620


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photo by Anne Gummerson

Taking the plunge: Installing a swimming pool in a one-car Baltimore City garage took one year of work and some inspired dedication.


urbanite march 09

space The Sea Inside a man, a vision, and the swimming pool he built in his garage B Y J O N AT H O N S C O T T F U Q U A ( W I T H T E C H N I C A L A D V I S O R D AV I D F O L E Y )


few years ago, I heard about my neighbor’s scheme to put a pool in his garage. At the time, I blew it off: It seemed more rumor than real. Then Paul, the neighbor, started working. (Leery of unwanted official attention, Paul prefers not to use his last name for this story.) In the early summer of 2006, in a fit resembling madness, Paul tore off threequarters off his garage roof, stripping it down to the joists. Right away, I called a contractor friend named David Foley, the owner of Foley Construction and Residential Services. I invited him over to provide insight and possible instruction. “What could I say?” he says now. “I looked at the job and hoped he considered important things, like load issues, electrical, and even plumbing.” As the summer grew late, Paul began building a Plexiglas-paneled, A-framed roof on wheels directly atop a series of narrow tracks he’d installed on the crusty bricks of his garage walls. When he was done, he gently rolled it back and forth. Voilá: a retractable roof. That fall, Paul pointed at the cement floor. “The pool’s going there,” he said. “It’ll help me survive Baltimore. When I hate it, I’ll do laps.” I asked, “You’re building this to survive Baltimore?” “It was either going to be a pool or a secret grotto. I’m maximizing my backyard space.” Paul was a man of moderate means who aspired to own a tiny gilded spot of earth amidst a city of perceived insanity. And he planned to do it by creating for himself and his family a lap pool under blue skies, hidden by a fortress of brick walls and a recently replaced garage door. The following spring, he took a hammer and a chisel and let loose on the rear wall of w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m m a r c h 0 9


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photo by Anne Gummerson

courtesy of Paul the pool owner


Pool in progress: “I’m maximizing my backyard space,” Paul said of his decision to install the pool inside his garage. His daughters—Halle, Amelia, Ella, and Dina (left to right)—are big fans.

his garage, on the area above the back window. If a violent, inexpert demolition job can be described as meticulous, this one was. Two coursings of bricks were turned to rubble as he enlarged the back window all the way to the top of the wall. Because of the hill the structure was built into, the bottom of the windowsill was just above the ground. Therefore, he’d cleverly created a door for himself. David asked, “How about plumbing and electrical?” “Got it,” Paul assured us, just before he built a wooden platform inside the garage and below the new doorway. It resembled a pier without water. When the convertible roof was pushed back, Houston Rockets center Yao Ming would have been able to stand up on the deck without ducking. “Found a pool supplier online,” Paul told David one day. “DIY—Do It Yourself—Pools.” “Know anything about them?” David asked. “No. But they got a pool that’ll fit.” “Great. Hope it’s going to be placed with concrete?” Paul gave him a quizzical look. “If I poured concrete, I’d ruin the garage.” Paul apparently considered everything he’d done up to this point reversible. What concerned David was whether the building’s walls could bear the load. Three thousand gallons of water, the size of Paul’s pool, weighs 25,020 pounds, or seven and three-quarter Honda Accords, pressing down and outwards on elderly concrete and brick with questionable horizontal strength. No matter; Paul remained unfazed. He didn’t calculate the weight. In the summer of 2007, DIY Pools dispatched a flatbed truck to the end of the alley. Using a hydraulic lift, the delivery guys

pushed a huge pallet up the hill to the garage and deposited stacks of thermoplastic panels, a vinyl liner, and boxes of mechanical parts in the garage. There were hardly any directions. Paul’s wife and kids came out to watch. Through the summer and fall, he bolted 48-inch-high panels (they varied in width) together at the edges. When he’d completed a rectangle, he called an electrician and a plumber. The plumber, somewhat amused, put in a pipe for the gas. The electrician ran wiring. Neither hesitated to warn Paul against what he was doing, which only drove him harder.

If a violent, inexpert demolition job can be described as meticulous, this one was. Over the winter, Paul put his journey on hold, but, come spring, he attacked it with the passion of an artist manic on creation. One day, he cut a dozen two-by-fours into various lengths and carried them behind the pool’s newly constructed walls to brace them against the garage and floor in seemingly random places. The pool, see, was designed to be built underground, which would bear the pressures created by the vast quantity of water. But Paul was going to leave it above ground, backfilling behind it with a thicket of planks. David explained to me that two-by-fours used this way would face multiple load problems, such as sheer pressures (breaking) and bending issues, especially with a continually shifting load such as water rocking in a pool.

Further, who could tell whether the polystyrene itself could handle so much outward stress? Despite these concerns, Paul persevered, closing in the gap between the garage and the edge of the pool with more wood decking. In April, on opening day of baseball season, he, his wife, and two friends put the liner in place. It wasn’t easy. Nothing seemed to fit properly. Finally, he got the liner situated and turned on the hose. It took hours. After half a day with the hose blasting, Paul gingerly climbed into his pool with the kids. A polystyrene panel collapsed outward. He drained the pool and discovered that he’d forgotten to fasten a panel to its neighbor. He got a wrench and bolts and fixed it, then began refilling the pool. Shortly, water began to trickle into the alley. Paul found the problem at the steps. He said, “It leaked where the hard plastic met the slightly stretchy liner.” Again, the pool was drained. People say that Paul, an emotional man, appeared totally at peace. “I expected issues,” he told David. He reattached the vinyl liner, and, a day later, began the task of refilling the pool once more. This time, the pool held. Almost a year has now passed. The pool hasn’t leaked since, and it has even begun to look natural in Paul’s garage. Let something stay long enough, and the mind adjusts. At this point, no one can say, not even Paul, if the pool has provided its creator with the personal renewal he sought. Quests, once complete, hardly ever do. But his kids love it. And the garage walls haven’t blown apart yet, despite the bone-crushing weight they bear. Of course, Paul always suspected as much. ■ —Baltimore writer Jonathon Scott Fuqua is the author of several novels for young adults. This is his first story for Urbanite.

w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m m a r c h 0 9



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Roast Chicken with Tomatoes, Olives, and Preserved Lemon

53 Reviewed

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The Feed This month in eating

Small Wonder

Redeeming the toaster oven By Sonia Shah

photography by steve buchanan


’d always despised my toaster oven. It routinely burned my toast, and had from its first week in my house been a complete eyesore. The glass door was blackened by smoke, the interior was encrusted with debris, and the white plastic cord was singed from when it got tangled somehow and ended up snuggled against the toaster itself. I tried to clean it, once. I’d rather brush my teeth with steel wool.

I had acquired it on the cheap at my local supermarket, in the aisle where they sell flimsy non-stick pans. I should have thrown it out after it burned its own power cord, but instead, mindful of the family stress that could result from a lack of toast, I duly wrapped the toaster oven in newspaper and packed it into a box when we moved from Boston to Baltimore. Upon arrival, we found that the oven in our new house, despite a brightly glowing “on” light, emitted no heat. A new oven was out of the question, so for months I used the grill and braised on the stovetop. But as the time passed and the weather turned, we started yearning for the kinds of things that could only be created with intense, radiant, enveloping heat—flaky scones, eggy popovers, and savory drop biscuits, fresh from the oven for Sunday brunch. Could the despised toaster oven stand in for the broken oven? I Googled “biscuits toaster oven.” Indeed, it seemed that others had w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m m a r c h 0 9


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successfully attempted just such a thing. I cinnamon-raisin loaves, cumin-and-fennel whipped some buttermilk and flour into a boules, whole-wheat-walnut sandwich bread, wet dough, heated the oven for a few minbreakfast bread, gift bread, a pumpkin-pecan utes, then dropped spoonfuls of dough onto pie, and coconut-oatmeal cookies. I moved the riven and tinny little toaster tray. Twenty on from the baking of breakfasts and desminutes later, uncannily perfect biscuits. serts to the roasting and braising of dinners. Next, I tried a half-dozen tin of muffins, with At Thanksgiving, the toaster oven roasted similarly spectacular results. eight pounds of turkey, stuffing, and sweet “You’re a really good toaster cooker, potatoes—enough chow to feed eight. On Mom,” my 8-year-old observed, stuffing half a New Year’s, a crock of anise-scented chickenpear-and-banana muffin into his mouth. liver pâté. The other night, a whole cut-up That crumb of encouragement led me to 4-pound chicken got stuffed into a nine-inch take on a bigger challenge: twice-risen yeasty round pan with tomatoes, olives, and prebread, formed by hand into crusty loaves. served lemons. In ninety minutes, out came Could it be done? I halved my typical bread a dish with brown glistening skin, bubbling recipe, using a scant three cups of flour, and juices, and meat falling off the bone. formed the risen dough in a bread loaf pan. I observe the toaster oven’s cheery progThe kids had changed into their pj’s and were ress while chopping and dicing and sipping in bed when the toaster’s timer dinged. We all my wine. The toaster oven needs just minutes rushed to the oven and found to our amazeto heat up—my old oven needed an hour of ment a beautifully browned, puffy loaf. pre-heating to bake a pizza. Its snug and cozy This was like discovering that an annoyinterior has no cold spots that leave meats ing uncle was actually a world-class surfer. flaccid and baked goods doughy. And opening The toaster oven! Who knew? We ate half of it does not demand a complete kitchen evacthe loaf slathered with uation and the donning butter right there. this was like discovering of protective gear: Just If the food chemist lift the dainty glass door, that an annoying uncle conveniently positioned at Harold McGee is to be believed, somehow my countertop level. was actually a worldtoaster oven was proBecause I’m the kind ducing better Maillard of person who obsessively class surfer. the toaster reactions than any oven checks the electric meter, oven! Who knew? I’d ever had. (For those I know that our daily kiloof you out of the loop, watt consumption has not Maillard reactions occur when heat makes spiked since intensive toaster-oven use began. the carbs in your food react with the proteins Which makes sense, given its size difference in it, producing the hundreds of chemical with a real oven. (Granted, I’m comparing the compounds responsible for deep browntoaster oven to the creaky, leaky, heavy-doored ing and full, intense, complex flavors.) The ovens I’ve used in the past—but then again, toaster oven’s small, so it gets hot fast, and its it’s not like this toaster oven is some gourmet little metal interior conducts heat efficiently, appliance, either.) allowing for the powerful bursts of dehydratIt seems this recession’s new frugality ing heat required for the Maillards. doesn’t have to mean tedious hours of coupon The scientific explanation for the toaster clipping and grim meals of canned beans. habit, however, didn’t do much to ease my The ease of toaster-oven baking means it is emotional adjustment to it, which proceeded possible to bake regularly, which can save disin stepwise fashion. First came fear. Had I cernable quantities of cash. Banish crackers, become the culinary equivalent of an eightcookies, rolls, bagels, pita, sliced sandwich track-tape fan, a technological Luddite clingbread, and artisanal loaves from your grocery ing pathetically to her dot-matrix printer? list and you can save at least $30 a week. In Next: paranoia. If a cheap supermarket toasttheir stead, 10 pounds of flour, which can cost er oven could enable gourmet-quality baking, as little as $4, and a few minutes of carefree albeit on a small scale, I wondered, why was toaster-oven baking. You and your family will the kitchenware industry hawking $2,000 feel indulged, not deprived. And the satisfaccommercial-sized stainless steel ovens, and tion of redeeming a humble and oft-maligned why were people buying them? Did they know appliance? Priceless. something I didn’t? Finally: defiance. Who The only downside is, like other chascares what the epicures and connoisseurs say tened toaster-oven bakers, you will have to about the required latest gadgets and gizmos? sweep more often. Your house, like mine, will If I wanted to use what I already had, to imbe full of crumbs. ■ proved effect—and cook more and eat better —Sonia Shah’s third book, a political history to boot—I would. Let them eat cake! of malaria, is forthcoming from Farrar, Straus Resolved, I was soon baking in the toast& Giroux. er oven nearly every day, producing beautiful


Roast Chicken with Tomatoes, Olives, and Preserved Lemon 1 4-pound chicken, cut up 1–2 preserved lemons or limes, cut into ½-inch wedges Handful of pitted cured olives 1 tomato, quartered Olive oil Several cloves of garlic, peeled and lightly smashed with the side of a knife Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Tuck the chicken pieces into a roasting tin. Throw in the garlic cloves, the preserved lemons or limes, the cured olives, and the quartered tomato. Drizzle generously with olive oil. Don’t salt—the olives will provide sufficient saltiness. Roast for an hour. When the joints move freely, a small puncture brings forth clear juices, and the skin is browned, it’s done. De-fat the cooking juices and serve with cooked couscous. —S.S.

Preserved Lemons 6–8 lemons 2/3 cup salt, preferably sea salt or kosher Glass jar with tightly fitted lid (I used an old jelly jar) Cut the lemons into eighths. Squeeze their juice into the jar and toss the lemon pieces with the salt. Pack them tightly into the jar with the juice. If necessary, squeeze juice from some additional lemons to cover. Screw the lid on and store at room temperature for five days, giving the jar a shake once a day or so. Preserved lemons will keep in the fridge for weeks. You can also dole out the same treatment to limes, with excellent results. —Adapted from Gourmet, May 2007 w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m m a r c h 0 9


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urbanite march 09

photo by La Kaye Mbah

Brews: Federal Hill drinkers at the Metropolitan trade coffee for beer after the sun goes down.

The 4-year-old Metropolitan Coffeehouse and Wine Bar, which stands somewhat aloof on Charles Street in Federal Hill, could easily be overlooked—especially by those who journey to the neighborhood for eating and drinking among jostling young crowds. To be sure, in the evening, the downstairs dining area with its short swoop of bar can fill up quickly, but that’s more a function of square footage than trendy reputation. When the place closed for a few months last summer after a fire in the kitchen, only the neighbors seemed to notice. But the Metropolitan’s cachet seems solid among SoBo locals, who value the ability to stroll down the block for salads such as the meal-sized Jane’s Ultimate, with minced mangos, avocados, and pears, plus hunks of blackened salmon and tuna that, surprise, really taste like salmon and tuna. While the salads seem to incite allegiances, chef Tony Petteway’s menu also panders to nostalgia, with meatloaf and mashed potatoes and a pleasantly sodden open-faced hot turkey sandwich with cranberry sauce, or steaming bread pudding and rich cheesecake

for dessert. The food here is a cut above the average coffeehouse or corner bar, but the menu strains to please all comers: Extensive breakfast and lunch offerings throughout the day are followed by a dinner menu that ranges from quesadillas to veal to teriyaki shrimp. This may work for regulars who, as one neighbor observed, “treat the place like their own kitchen,” but doesn’t do much to define its personality. The Metropolitan’s complicated subhead tells the story. It’s a coffeehouse by day: work-at-home types with laptops sprawl on sofas in a small back room or at tables in the auxiliary upstairs dining area. As night falls, the coffee urns are emptied, the wines-bythe-glass list comes out, and the beer taps flow. The bar fills up, the flat-screen TV may be tuned to a game, and the upstairs room suddenly seems too far from the action. (Breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily; brunch Sat and Sun. 902 S. Charles St; 410-234-0235;



The Metropolitan Coffeehouse and Wine Bar

—Martha Thomas

Known as Maggie Moore’s when it opened to much acclaim across from the Hippodrome Theatre in 2005, Lucy’s hasn’t changed much since current owners Bill and Tina Carr rechristened it last year. The Carrs were part of the original partnership group, and general manager Eoin Gallagher, late of County Meath, has been here since the beginning; he promises that Lucy’s Sunday brunch remains “the most Irish in the city.” This question of Authentic Irishness dogs every strip-mall public house with a shillelagh on the wall and Guinness on tap, an issue that has grown in complexity as the pace of Irish-pub-making has picked up. Since 1991, the Dublin-based Irish Pub Co. has fabricated and exported more than 1,800 “real” Irish pubs, providing shepherd’s pies and global job opportunities for the Republic’s far-flung citizenry. Among this crowd, Lucy’s stands out by dint of architecture alone. The building is a cleverly reconfigured 1847 bank, and its monumental interior, with 22-foot ceilings and a massive mahogany bar fashioned from the original bank counter, feels period-correct for drinking and eating your way through the Auld Sod. But how Irish does one really want one’s dinner? This is a cuisine whose signature dish, after all, is an unadorned dishwater-

colored stew of boiled mutton. Lucy’s chef, Stephen Carey, splits the difference, turning out New World pub fare, often with a Southern accent: shrimp and grits, Cajun pasta, and a good all-American cheeseburger with crisp, skin-on fries. But there’s also corned beef and cabbage, fish and chips, and an artery-devastating full Irish breakfast. A new addition, Dublin coddle, is a carnivorefriendly concoction of sausages, bacon, and potatoes in a thin porky broth. A simple cheese plate offers perhaps the most compelling taste of Ireland—three good chunks of artisanal cheese, including the addictive red-veined Cahill’s cheddar, plus a lusty glob of course-grained mustard and a little pile of cornichons. Lucy’s take on Irish stew is authentically bland—just meat and potatoes, please—but there’s a wee too much chew in the lamb. More primally satisfying is another meat/spud combo, tender short ribs in a dusky Guinness reduction, which arrives astride a mighty mound of champ—cheesespiked mashed potatoes and scallions. No surprise, perhaps, but this is a pub that knows its way around a potato. (Lunch and dinner daily, brunch Sun. 21 N. Eutaw St.; 410-8372100;

photo by La Kaye Mbah

Lucy’s Irish Pub and Restaurant

Lucky charm: Lucy’s Executive Chef Stephen Carey

—David Dudley w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m m a r c h 0 9


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urbanite march 09

1/26/09 410.528.8994 12:54 PM

Page 1

Irish Up


photo by La Kaye Mbah

wine & spirits

Is brown the new clear? By Clinton Macsherry

The whiskey’s working: Claddagh bartender Bill McHugh (with customer Gary Tyranski, left) is loyal to the pale Irish spirit, which is enjoying a resurgence of late.


he sartorial admonition against wearing “brown in town” hearkens back to days when well-heeled English gentlemen deemed rustic-toned garb appropriate for their country estates but not for London. Ronald Reagan, in keeping with his contrarian custom, often sported a brown suit in the White House; he’d developed a penchant for brown early in his entertainment career and carried it with him into politics. Reagan’s habit, fashion-meisters claim, single-handedly revived brown as a suitable color for business attire. Vodka and other clear liquors have long dominated the spirits business, but brown drinks have recently staged a comeback of their own. The Nielson Co. reported that domestic whiskey sales shot up 4.4 percent, or nearly $85 million, in 2008—a sizable gain over the still notable 2.3 percent growth in 2007. Sales in the overall spirits category, by comparison, were flat. Small-batch bourbons from artisanal producers and ultra-premium bottlings from larger distillers such as Jack Daniel’s have spearheaded the resurgence, but other whiskeys are also driving the market. In 2006, according to the trade journal Beverage Dynamics, U.S. sales of Irish whiskey alone grew 17.5 percent. Craig Howard, a Baltimore-based sales consultant with Reliable Churchill Distributors, adds that current sales of Jameson, the leading Irish brand, are up more than 20 percent in Maryland. Howard attributes part of the Irish uprising to “educated consumers” on the lookout for something different. Irish whiskey—paler in color, lighter in body, and softer in flavor than its Scottish and American cousins—also possesses a higher degree of “mixability,” Howard says. This has encour-

aged a “new generation of creative bartenders” to incorporate it in concoctions such as the Limerick Lemonade (Irish whiskey, cherry brandy, and lemon and lime juices). Bill McHugh wouldn’t be caught dead in a “new generation” of anything. He’s a doggedly old-school barkeep at Claddagh Pub in Canton. McHugh’s fondness for Irish whiskey dates to the mid-1970s, when he frequented the Gandy Dancer, an Irish bar on McHenry Street in “the foothills of Pigtown.” He takes his Irish neat, often with a beer on the side. “It’s a smooth, sipping whiskey,” McHugh says, “not the kind you blast down. If you do, you’ll miss everything. It’s a relaxing drink.” I sampled two of McHugh’s five favorite Irish whiskies: Jameson ($23 per 750-ml bottle) and Jameson 12-Year Special Reserve ($40). Continuing in ascending order, McHugh also recommends Tullamore Dew, John Powers, and the ultra-premium Midleton. The primary distinctions, besides price, lie in “the degree of smoothness,” he says. Both Jamesons show light amber in the glass. The basic whiskey smells of caramel, with a malty note reminiscent of some craft beers. Blonde tobacco and sweet oak fill out the palate and finish warm all the way down. The 12Year Special Reserve has a more subtle aroma, with hints of honey and clover. It tastes softer and more complex, with vanilla bean and spice on a smoother finish. McHugh tries to avoid working on St. Patrick’s Day. It taxes his patience. “Kids come in and order a Bushmills because that’s what they know,” he says. “They’re obviously ‘one-day Irish.’ They drink it out of plastic cups. Bushmills, especially in plastic, has a Scotch-y taste. I hate Scotch.” ■ w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m m a r c h 0 9


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urbanite march 09

courtesy of Pernod

the feed


This Month in Eating Compiled by Martha Thomas Tour de Tanks The valley that forms much of York County, Pennsylvania, must be a good place to grow grapes. All twelve wineries on the UnCork York Wine Trail are showing off their goods every weekend in March. This year, local inns and restaurants will join in by offering special wine menus and weekend packages. $15.

Monthlong 888-858-YORK

A Chocolate Affaire/Bel Air Chocolate Festival The Bel Air Downtown Alliance hosts two decadent days saluting the cacao bean. The Chocolate Affaire fundraiser on Friday evening features chocolate martinis from Magerk’s Pub and desserts from local restaurants. The next day, the Armory will again overflow with treats from local chocolatiers and vendors, all to raise awareness of the nonprofit Downtown Bel Air Alliance. Friday $55, 7 p.m.–10 p.m. Saturday $10, 10 a.m.–3 p.m.

March 6­– 7 Bel Air Armory, 37 N. Main St., Bel Air 410-638-1023

Absinthe Tasting In 2007, U.S. alcohol regulators eased restrictions on the importation of the once-illicit wormwood spirit absinthe, favored intoxicant of louche French bohemians of the 19th century. Morton’s gets into the Green Fairy revival with an evening of absinthe-based cocktails (including the Sazerac, ur-cocktail of New Orleans) from the market-leading Pernod brand, plus such hors d’oeuvres as absinthe-spiked oysters Rockefeller. 6 p.m.–7:30 p.m. $45.

March 13 Morton’s The Steakhouse 300 S. Charles St. 410-547-8255

Green Food and Bands The annual benefit for the Caroline Center shouldn’t be mistaken for either an eco-friendly or Dr. Seuss-inspired event. Think Emerald Isle: traditional Irish foods, accompanied by the band Rossnareen, to raise funds for the center’s job training programs for Baltimore City women. 7 p.m.­–11 p.m. $60.

March 14 Notre Dame Preparatory School 815 Hampton Ln., Towson 443-996-0151

Masquerade on Charles Restaurateur Jerry Pellegrino was a newcomer to North Charles Street last year when the Masquerade Ball rolled around, but this year, his new acquisition, Abacrombie, is all set to dish out artisanal mac ’n’ cheese with Piave Vecchio cheese and pork confit. A fundraiser for the Historic Charles Street Association, the masked ball—modeled on Truman Capote’s famed Black and White Ball in 1966—is also a chance to sample offerings from neighborhood eateries. “Everyone pulls out all the stops,” Pellegrino promises. Watch what you drink: $50 flutes of champagne might have a half-carat Nelson Coleman diamond lodged in the dregs. 7:30 pm. $125.

March 21 Tremont Grand 225 N. Charles St. 410-332-4144

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APRIL 14 - 26 Hippodrome Theatre • 410.547.SEAT • Hippodrome Theatre Box Office (Mon-Sat 10a-5p) Groups (10+) call 866.577.7469 • To learn more visit

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

art/culture 65 THEATER

Martha thomas on las Meninas and look Up: the story of the fall of icarus


anne-Marie robinson on the Unconscious


Joab Jackson on is God a Mathematician?


Marianne K. amoss on the baker artist awards


susan Mccallum-smith on standing for socks

71 THE SCENE this month’s cultural highlights

Inside Stories The Writing Outside the fence Inmate/Ex-Offender Writing Contest BY LUCY BUCKNELL AND KIMBERLY WILLIAMS ILLUSTRATION BY BRIAN PAYNE

“We want to hear what you have to say the way you want to say it.” The flier, distributed by the Division of Corrections and through parole offices, outreach centers, and reentry and jobs programs, asked an often voiceless population to speak up, and so it did. One hundred and fifty men and women inside or recently emerged from Maryland’s correctional facilities sent in more than four hundred submissions.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. M&T Bank Stadium South Lounge Level Bid on unique sports memorabilia. Eat, drink and dance the night away to the cool sounds of Radiant! Proceeds benefit TurnAround, Inc., a private nonprofit providing services to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence in Baltimore County and Baltimore City. Call 410.377.8111 or visit

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urbanite march 09

The Writing Outside the Fence Writing Contest grew from a workshop of the same name that meets weekly at the Reentry Center in Mondawmin Mall. The Reentry Center, part of the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development, offers job training, job placement, and a variety of social services to ex-offenders. The free workshop, staffed by volunteer teachers, was launched in May 2006 to provide a forum for the community to share their stories and shape their writing. The “fence” of the program name might stand for many things: barriers of writing style or convention, of experience or class, of neighborhood or language, or for a literal divider—razor wire, a wall. The response to the contest suggests that no wall is so high a note can’t be tossed over. And the richness of the material suggests that reading tossed notes is worth everyone’s while. The pieces comprise a rich assortment of songs, prayers, poems, letters, short stories, and personal histories. Some are bitter, some remorseful, others celebratory or whimsical. Many are rawly honest and forthright. All are full of the force of lives lived. The work takes on race, gender, class; liberty and confinement; lovers, friends, children. It is personal, political, moral; it explores what it’s like to be human. First readers and preliminary judges, who pored through stacks of handwritten submissions and chose semi-finalists in fiction and poetry, were local writers Linda Campbell Franklin, Sarah Smith, Jerhretta Suite, Kimberly Williams, Joseph Young, and Urbanite staff writer Lionel Foster. Baltimore authors who gave their time and attention to make the difficult final selections were short story writer Rafael Alvarez, novelist Jessica Anya Blau, poet and director of Poetry for the People of Baltimore Olu Butterfly, Urbanite literary editor Susan McCallum-Smith, and CityLit Project Director Gregg Wilhelm. Essential help and support were provided by Dennis Ferrell and Jozette Pope of the Division of Corrections’ Volunteer and Transition Services, as well as by numerous others both inside and outside the system. Most of all, the contest was made possible by the creativity and craft of every participating writer. —Lucy Bucknell is the founding director of Writing Outside the Fence. Kimberly Williams is a student in the graduate writing program at Johns Hopkins University.


f ictio n , f i r s t - p l a c e w i n n e r

From the novel Jack


by Roy Johnson

ack arrived back in front of the monster truck to see the pretty light skin girl fussing with Crutty about his other girlfriends. Jack say to hisself, “She know what she was getting into. The whole time she was a no good golddigger.” Jack gave Crutty the sign to cut her off by taking his hand and cutting it under his neck. Crutty told her, “I have to take my little cousin down the westside. We will talk tonight.” She jump out and Jack jump in. Crutty said to Jack, “Show me where you have beef at with them guys. Just in case something go wrong. I can finish where you leff off at.” At this time Crutty and Jack cruise around the strip in the monster truck, pulling up to each corner slow, making sure Jack didn’t miss a soul who had beef with him. Jack said, “Crutty crack the window a little. I can’t hardly see out this motherfucker.” That’s how dark the window tint was. “Crutty, I don’t see nobody out here, let me out.” “Jack, come by the store and check on me.” “I will be down there Friday night, that cool?” “Yeah, that cool,” Crutty said. Crutty only wanted Jack to come down his store in case niggas started getting stupid. Cause wherever Jack go he know the guns go. Jack jump out the monster truck and went behind the church and cut across the yard and started walking down the dark alley. Jack was listen to the rats jump in and out the pile of trash lined up outside the yards. From the noise the rats was making from the trash that instant second, he never notice Cujoe in the dark following him. Cujoe walk up on the side of Jack hand, nudge Jack hand for a pat. Jack look down at his dog and said, “Hey baby, hey baby!” The dog cried out loud, only spoiled to Jack voice and touch. Jack started rubbing his head, ears, and neck. Cujoe stop crying and close his eyes enjoying his master rub. Jack always thought he was a comedian, and call Cujoe “chump motherfucker,” only wishing he could read Cujoe mind. Cujoe might have been saying this! “Bitch you could have leff me in the back yard. Got

niggas out here shooting at me and shit, motherfucker. You told me I only had to bite a dog. Bitch I should bite your ass.” That’s how I would have been, if I was the dog. To Jack avail Cujoe stay by his side and follow him. Jack walk down the alley into his homeboy yard and knock on the door. Jack homeboy said, “Motherfucker don’t be rushing me.” The door crack open as the beady eye midget, Boo-Boo, look up at Jack and smile showing his gold tooth, saying, “It’s my man J to the A.” Then the midget face get cold and serious. “Jack I’m not your nigga, Nigga! Come in and leave that big-ass dog out there.” Boo-Boo said, “Jack, is you going to let me keep him? That would stop people from getting high in my back yard.” Boo-Boo said, “J.J. I’m glad to see you.” Then he holla out loud, “Them motherfucker in the next room think they can run over top of me because I’m a midget. J.J. put all them bitches out.” The midget didn’t hold back as he disrespect everybody in the house. Boo-Boo had love for Jack since one night they was in his house partying. A guy gave Jack a fake 5 dollar bill. Jack went to the bar to buy Boo-Boo a drink. The Chinese man mark a big red “X” on the bill and said it was fake. Jack ran to Boo-Boo house, up the stair to where the guy was freaking off with two girls. Jack broke open the door when everybody was naked, went straight to the guy, and said, “Bitch, I sold you my last bag of crack, and you gave me fake money.” Jack then pull out his knife and said, “Give me back my shit or pay or die.” The guy was so scared he ran past Jack butterball naked and down the steps and knock Boo-Boo down on his way out the door. And Boo-Boo said, “Stay out bitch.” Every since then Boo-Boo and Jack been tight. —Roy Johnson writes comedy, poetry, and stories. He calls Jack his “best creation.”

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urbanite march 09

art/culture P O E T R Y , f i r s t- p l a c e w i n n e r

Black Statue of Liberty by Geterries MacK

that you find so uncouth. Education

I nurture my man when times are hard.

will be delivered not from the tree but the root.

So where the hell is my statue?

Here I stand, still as an island my fist in the air, a scar on my face &

So little black girls & boys will check their pockets for enlightenment rather than loot.

thick braids in my hair. My battle boots are tied, red blood is in the tears

Because liberty is just ole mother nature & although you don’t love her, she’ll never

I’ve cried. Piece by piece they shipped my body to this country. Now that I’m here freedom, but I’m not free. I suffer from I wear a crown of knowledge because I’m happiness. Although my history here is full black woman, which makes me a true

blind man see. How dare you name a Angela Davis, Maya Angelou, Barbara Jordan liberty. Because that stone face French woman ain’t gonna save us. The same folks

or tie it up in braids—my aura is unafraid. So no statue in the big Apple can compare or mess with me. I’m walking, talking, breathing, beautiful, surviving Black Statue of Liberty.

that enslaved us. I’m sitting at the back of the bus because I want to.

faith. So if you were trying to maintain liberty—too late—you just lost her, because

revolutions, get rings out of tubs, wear a suit, sport baggy jeans, slick my hair back,

& Nikki Giovanni, these are real symbols of

statue of liberty. You placed a bible under my arm, after you ripped me of my

cookies, bear babies, preside over

eurocentric girl after me.

of misery. Done deliberately. I’m a

not a Ho, Slut or tramp, my children

when the good year blimp pass by. I can bake

can turn weeds into flowers,

a conscience queen. My mask is one of

rent. Put my silhouette on a stamp. I’m

see the words “Go Strong Black Woman”

looking into her wise eyes will make a

class, race, and gender inequality.

in wet cement, every month I pay my

are not on crack & neither am I. I want to

hate ya. She’s earth, wind & fire Don’t tempt her to show her power, she

your people don’t want me. I’m a symbol of

What’s the liberated woman to do? Place my name

I’m taking my people back & breaking them mentally free. I am walking, talking,

my torch is about to serve as the night light for truth. In the slums and ghettos

breathing, beautiful Black Statue of Liberty.

—Geterries Mack’s poetry has been featured on She has co-written two urban novels and is working on her third.

I sweep crack pipes out of school yards.

POETRY, seconD-place winner

City Blues by MarVin wilson

The streetlights give off a shine that cannot be described; A lady walks by as a bum gets warm inside. Filling his mouth with the taste of Wild Irish booze, Finding his way to rock bottom with nothing left to lose. The sauce got him feeling like he still got game; With a low voice he whispers, “Baby, what’s your name?” The look she gave him feel like a sad song, One he wished wouldn’t last for long, One that made him thinks where in his life he went wrong. —Marvin Wilson grew up in East Baltimore. He cites Maya Angelou as a major influence.

Web extra: Read writer’s statements from the winning authors, plus more entries from the Writing Outside the Fence contest, at

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urbanite march 09

Urbanite0309_thirdpg.indd 1

1/26/2009 5:55:13 PM

photo by Kel Millionie


Free falling: Aerialists re-interpret Icarus at MICA.

t h e at e r

Child’s Play

photo by Erica Feriozzi

Las Meninas at the Community College of Baltimore, Essex campus, March 19–23 Look Up: The Story of the Fall of Icarus at Maryland Institute College of Art BBox, March 6–8

Flying leap: Hampden’s Full Circle Dance Company explore The Unconscious.


Inner Visions

Full Circle Dance Company performs The Unconscious: Dreams and Fears at the Baltimore Museum of Art, March 20–21

The subjective nature of historical record is called into question in the Community College of Baltimore County’s student production of Las Meninas, a lesser-known play by Lynn Nottage (whose Fabulation closes March 8 at Center Stage). It’s the story of the alleged affair between the Spanish-born wife of Louis XIV and an African servant called Nabo, who was a dwarf. “The play is about being an outsider,” says director Precious Stone, assistant professor of performing arts at CCBC Essex. “And it also explores the question of historical accuracy.” The story is told from the point of view of the daughter of the adulterous couple, who is preparing to take her vows at a convent. She is mentioned in diaries of people who lived at the time, Stone says, but there is no official historical record of the girl’s existence. Stone says the play asks the question, “How do you erase a human existence?” One of the first scenes in Look Up: The Story of The Fall of Icarus is meant to remind viewers of Pieter Brueghel’s 1558 painting, Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, in which a farmer ploughs his field as the youth in melting wax wings plunges, unnoticed, into the sea. The piece, performed by local aerial performance troupe Daydreams and Night-

Back in 2000, teachers at the Morton Street Dance Center, a dancing school in Hampden’s Meadow Mill complex, pitched the idea of forming a professional ensemble to studio owner and artistic director Donna Jacobs, who choreographed the original piece “Spirits Fallen” for the troupe. The piece garnered accolades on stages from Broadway to Artscape, and Full Circle Dance Company was born. Since then, this team of fourteen dancers—a multiethnic mix of dedicated pros and semi-pros, many of whom juggle demanding professional lives with their commitment to the company—has tackled such heavyweight social issues as race, religion, and motherhood. For this year’s theme-driven concert, Full Circle focuses its choreography inward. The Unconscious: Dreams and Fears uses dance as a medium for exploring and exposing our mysterious inner lives. Preparing for the annual performance has proven emotionally taxing, Jacobs says. “It’s rare for us to make it through a planning session without some inspired tears.” A compilation of eight new and repertory works, The Unconscious is the product of the company’s yearlong meditation on the mind.

mares Aerial Theatre with Maryland Institute College of Art students and staff members, imagines what happened to Icarus after the splashdown. The action takes place mostly “underwater,” where Icarus encounters such mythical figures as Poseidon, Neptune, and Undine. The nine performers don’t speak, but use aerial cloth and straps, harnesses and circus adagio—aka, each other’s bodies for balancing tricks—to tell the post-hubris tale, accompanied by a soundtrack of high-energy music and otherworldly ocean sounds. “It’s a childlike, innocent story, but it describes something universal,” says Kel Millionie, the company’s artistic director and lead acrobat. “Everyone has been plunged into an unseen or unknown experience.” —Martha Thomas For tickets to Las Meninas, call 443-840-2787. Tickets to Look Up are available at the door before performances. Go to www. for more information.

The ensemble recruited Ohio-based choreographer Travis Gatling for selected pieces, but for the most part choreographed its own work, finding inspiration in the most mundane of places. In dancer/choreographer/psychiatry resident Misty Borst’s “Daydreams,” for example, co-workers in a run-of-the-mill office environment navigate a stage of chairs, coexisting but never understanding each other; the dancers vacillate between militaristic marching and outbursts of fluid, passionate pirouette sequences. The Unconscious marries high art and the everyday; indeed, for Full Circle, dance is only as meaningful as it is accessible. “Dance can be stuffy, and we want to be the opposite of that,” says Borst. “By virtue of being human, we’re all automatically included in this concert: We all have dreams, we all have fears.” —Anne-Marie Robinson

Tickets are available at the door and by calling 410-235-9003.

w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m m a r c h 0 9


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art/culture provides educational material to schools, planetariums, and the press about findings from the Hubble Space Telescope, which STScI oversees. (See Urbanite, March 2006.) Drawing on this dual skill-set of understanding bits of the vast unknown and relating it back to the rest of us, Livio also writes general-readership books on astronomy and mathematics. Like all scientists worth their salt, he has a taste for a good mystery: Previous books have delved into such conundrums as why the mathematical constant phi— known as the “golden ratio”—defines the aesthetically pleasing. Now, for his fourth book, Is God a Mathematician?, Livio picks the biggest brainteaser yet: Did humans invent numbers, or just discover them? And why, if numbers are man’s invention, do they work so darn well at characterizing, well, pretty much everything in the natural world?


Sorry, Wrong Number

Is God a Mathematician? by Mario Livio (Simon & Schuster, 2009)

In 1971, while on the moon, Apollo 15 astronaut David Scott conducted a 343-year-old thought experiment: He simultaneously dropped a hammer and a feather. Proving the predictions of scientific wunderkind Galileo Galilei, the light object and the heavy object hit the lunar surface at the exact same moment. (Here on Earth, the hammer will hit the ground first because the feather encounters atmospheric resistance.) Dig, if you will, how amazingly prescient Galileo proved to be, especially after Sir Isaac Newton mathematically refined Galileo’s theory into what is now called the inverse law of gravity. Between the two, they formulated a prediction of how quickly things fall. Not just in Italy. Or Cleveland. But everywhere, even the moon. Galileo and Newton, using the language of mathematics, explained exactly how our universe teeters on the balanced forces of gravity, and their work has held true to levels of precision far beyond what they could fathom. Mario Livio is a man who invests a similar trust in the numbers. By day, the Romanianborn astrophysicist works for the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), snuggled along the curvy San Martin Drive behind the Johns Hopkins Homewood campus. One of Livio’s ongoing tasks at STScI is to try to mathematically characterize dark energy, the still-unexplained force that seems to be causing the universe to expand. He also heads up the institute’s office of public outreach, which

“Mathematics has this incredible power of not only describing what we see, but can make predictions of what we should see,” says Mario Livio. “And those predictions are often found to be correct.” “When you work in something like astrophysics, like I do, you encounter almost daily this phenomenon of explaining the universe through mathematics,” Livio says. “Mathematics has this incredible power of not only describing what we see, but can make predictions of what we should see—and those predictions are often found to be correct.” Other great minds have trod this path, as Livio notes; Albert Einstein once mused, “How is it possible that mathematics, a product of human thought that is independent of experience, fits so excellently the objects of physical reality?” Is God a Mathematician? is more philosophy than mathematics. The math-wary can relax: No flummoxing number puzzles here, although Livio does offer a few light numerical examples. (Here’s one: The number of days in an Earth year, 365, is the sum of the squares of 10, 11, and 12. What’s up with that?) Much of the book recounts the discov-

ery of major mathematical milestones, such as the birth of calculus. But in his research, Livio kept an eye out for how groundbreaking mathematicians talked about their work—the asides revealing what they thought the nature of mathematics to be. By Livio’s accounting, Galileo was the first to see that mathematics could be applied everywhere. “Mathematics is the language with which God has written the universe,” the great astronomer was quoted as saying. Earlier, many thought that each science had its own discipline, with mathematics being a separate entity entirely from, say, astronomy. But no sooner did the postRenaissance scientific collective agree on the universal goodness of numbers did they break into two seemingly irreconcilable factions about the origins of said tool—those who thought that mathematics represented some higher order of thinking we were lucky enough to glimpse, and those who thought our mathematics was our own devising and that other utterly different but equally valid maths could also be created. Livio recounts the best arguments from thinkers from both camps but ultimately shies away from coming down on either side. “What I did was a very thorough review,” he says. He offers what he calls a “partial answer”—math is a combination of invention and discovery—but it feels like a bit of a compromise. Nor does he confront the idea that mathematics could constitute proof of omniscient guidance. Rather, he admits, he sets the stage for readers to ponder such issues themselves. This is a great time to get pondering: Themes in Is God a Mathematician? also resonate in many of the recent press retrospectives on Charles Darwin, whose 200th birthday was celebrated in February. Just as Galileo had no idea that his laws of gravity would hold up at the micron level, or on other planets, Darwin could not have anticipated that evolution would operate on the level of genes. And much like, as Livio reports, people wonder if alternative maths could exist, biologists debate whether life on this planet could have evolved differently given a slightly different set of initial constraints. Such parallels might give even a diehard agnostic the uneasy feeling that some larger force is at work, one that humankind can barely glimpse. And what Livio’s book does best is impart this sense of awe. As he says, “The questions are more important than the answers.” —Joab Jackson

w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m m a r c h 0 9


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feet first

Standing for Socks by Elissa Brent Weissman (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2009)

In local author Elissa Brent Weissman’s breezy debut novel for young readers, Standing for Socks, Fara Ross accidentally wears a mismatched pair of socks to school, causing a surprising flurry of attention. “Everybody thought socks should match,” the fifth-grader realizes. “But clearly they didn’t have to. It was a free country, with freedom of expression.” So Fara, “the greenest girl on the planet,” who brims with ideas for the world’s betterment, attempts to turn her socky popularity to political advantage and win the election for president of the student council. After all, she notes in her journal, “It seems like a lot of people who make a difference … start by deviating from the norm.” Unfortunately, there are dangers to being known for something rather than being known for doing something. Before you can say “hand-knitted argyle,” she becomes “Fara Ross, Sock Girl.” Events take a brutal turn when she receives socks as elementary school graduation and birthday gifts, although she’d been hankering after a bike. Rather than rally the environmentally progressive, Fara and her BFF Jody Gower simply empower the sockchallenged. (Let me pause here to unburden and share: At school I wore regulation ribbed knee-length white socks, which after many washes lost their elastic oomph, requiring them to be secured by rubber bands. By day’s end my chunky Scottish pins bore a ring of rosy welts, like the tread marks from a mini Sherman tank, planting dormant seeds of bad circulation and varicose veins now ravaging my middle years. My name is Susan, and I am a sockaholic.) Weissman’s prose trots along at a snappy clip, enlivened with a tasty smattering of more difficult vocabulary. A few boys hover in the plot periphery, hinting of future sweaty palms, but thankfully that’s where they stay. Fara, whose heroes are Rosa Parks, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and her uncle, Alan, who sets

up an orphanage in Bosnia, has a family that make me feel like an ingrate. They recycle, give gifts to Goodwill on their birthdays, serve home-cooked food at shelters at Christmas and Thanksgiving. I don’t know what kind of car they drive, but I’d bet my truck it’s a hybrid. Nevertheless, I like them. The Rosses are decent, not self-satisfied, but I fear such undiluted political correctness may now be the family prototype expected in young adult fiction. Fara often questions why other folks don’t take more responsibility, and by the book’s end she is no nearer to answering this question, a missed opportunity for Weissman to pay more than lip service to the environmental movement. Fara’s nemesis is Melodee Simon, a gumsnapping prepubescent gossip girl whose power-hungry über-mom runs the PTA and has Ms., not Mrs., prefixing her name. Melodee perpetuates the reverse-snobbery stereotype that all rich kids are self-absorbed and that affluence is inherently bad (though tweenies toting designer bags do make me want to barf). Also, Weissman may have unwittingly implied that women who choose not to advertise their marital status are somehow sinister, or that Ms. Simon may be (shocker!) a single parent, not a nice, normal Mrs. Mom—a message a tad regressive to send to young girls. When did we become so afraid of having complex characters in young adult literature? Why not blend a little bad into our heroes, spice our villains with some humanity? Nevertheless, it’s a joy to eavesdrop on Fara and her buddies; Weissman has a real knack for how kids banter and interact. Poor Phillip is confused over what exactly is a “homeroom” (Good question. Are there “away rooms”?), and brainstorming campaign slogans results in the winning “Vote for Fara and School won’t Sock!” Small moments of adolescence are charmingly crystallized— searching for the cool spot on the pillow, or how little it took for life to be deemed perfect: “her favorite T-shirt was freshly washed and it was macaroni day at lunch and she knew her science teacher was going to be absent.” Bliss. Standing for Socks also manages to be a timely satire on the evils of political lobbying, of influencing public opinion by manipulating celebrity and the media while ignoring policy and deeds. “I am extremely disappointed that neither candidate played by the rules,” a teacher says. “That’s politics, but we won’t stand for it here.” Fara’s fear of losing popularity causes her to jeopardize her friendship with Jody, and she learns that standing by and doing nothing can be as dishonest as deliberately doing wrong. Kudos to Weissman, who has a second book due out this summer, snapping at the knitted heels of a debut that entertains, teaches, and totally does not sock.

On March 25, the winners of the Baker Artist Awards are to be announced. The Baker Awards comprise two kinds of grants given to individual Baltimore artists: The Baltimore’s Choice Award—five $1,000 awards to the artists who receive the most votes from viewers of an online gallery of their work— and the Mary Sawyers Baker Prize—up to three $25,000 prizes awarded by a jury. The winners will be announced on MPT ArtWorks at 7:30 p.m. on local channels 22 and 26. The Baker Awards are a bit unorthodox: Unlike other grant applications that require applicants to choose one category, artists could upload a portfolio of a variety of media—film, painting, sculpture, animation, written and spoken words, music, design, and crafts—to The portfolios form an online gallery that can “present to the world what a great community of artists Baltimore has,” says Nancy Haragan, executive director of the GBCA, the administrator of the awards. Up since October, the site has been well trafficked: Visitors came from more than seventy countries and territories and all fifty states. More than six hundred local artists posted portfolios to the site, and more than nine thousand registered to vote. The site has created a sense of community; local artists have posted comments about each other’s work and sent out e-mails to rally their friends to vote for them. (Viewers who registered received one vote, and the more they browsed, the more votes they could use, up to ten. They could change their votes until the February 1 deadline.) The Baker Awards are also unusual for their openness. Normally, decisions about grants are made behind closed doors; here, the general public chose some of the winners. And although artists cannot see how many votes they received, the Mary Sawyers Baker Prize jury will know who has won the Baltimore’s Choice Award when they select the winners. The whole thing may feel too populist to some, but Haragan isn’t worried. “I don’t care if it’s a popularity contest,” she says. “We have a lot of nonprofit arts spaces but not a lot of commercial galleries for people to exhibit work and be found by people. Maybe over time, this will help with artists who want to sell their work.”

—Susan McCallum-Smith

—Marianne K. Amoss

art/culture aw a r d s

People’s Choice

The Baker Artist Awards

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Brotherly Love

Opera Vivente, Baltimore’s only Englishlanguage chamber opera company, presents Claudio Monteverdi’s The Coronation of Poppea. The 17th-century work dramatizes the true-life 1st-century romance between the Roman emperor Nero and his mistress Poppea. Performed March 6, 8, 12, and 14 in the Great Hall of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Mount Vernon. (811 Cathedral St.; 410-547-7997; BLUES

Hail to the King

Over his half-century-plus career, 83-yearold bluesman B.B. King has performed more than 10,000 times. He and his trademark Gibson guitar, Lucille, touch down at the Lyric Opera House on March 29. (140 W. Mt. Royal Ave.; 410-547-7328; www. CLASSICAL MUSIC

Return Engagement

Yuri Temirkanov, former music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, comes back to town to conduct Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony, Termikanov’s signature piece. Acclaimed Russian violinist Vadim Repin performs Brahms’ notoriously difficult Violin Concerto. March 26 at the Music Center at Strathmore (5301 Tuckerman Ln., Bethesda) and March 27–29 at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. (1212 Cathedral St.; 410-783-8000;

English dramatist John Ford’s 17th-century tragedy ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore takes such a compassionate look at a brothersister love affair that it has historically been either condemned or ignored. Center Stage artistic director Irene Lewis directs. March 11–April 5. (700 N. Calvert St.; 410-3320033;

Memory Play

Fells Point Corner Theater performs Warren Leight’s Side Man, the 1999 winner of the Tony Award for Best Play. Based on the life of his trumpet-playing father, Donald, Leight’s autobiographical work chronicles three decades in the life of a struggling Manhattan jazz musician. March 13– April 12. (251 S. Ann St.; 410-276-7837; PERFORMANCE


a 1927 science-fiction epic, set in the year 2026, about the clash between the working class and the upper class. Local musician Joanne Juskus and electronic media composer Adrian Bond accompany the silent film with a live performance of Bond’s original score. March 28. (3134 Eastern Ave.; 410-276-1651;

Le Movie

The Charles continues its monthly series of contemporary French films, La Cinémathèque, with 2007’s La France. Set during World War I, the action centers on a French woman who disguises herself as a boy and searches the front lines for her soldier husband. March 12 and 14. (1711 N. Charles St.; 410-727-FILM; www. EXHIBIT

Tall Order

Neo-burlesque duo Trixie Little and the Evil Hate Monkey’s first full-length show, MUMBO, is a dark circus tale about a primate rather than the expected elephant. It promises to include “shameless humor, occasional tragedy, and pointless nudity.” March 18–21 at the Theatre Project. (45 W. Preston St.; 410-752-8558;

Donald Jackson, Queen Elizabeth’s senior scribe, has been commissioned by St. John’s Abbey in Minnesota to create a 3-feet-wide and 2-feet-tall copy of the Bible in English, with calligraphy and original artwork. See portions of this monumental work-inprogress in the Walters Art Museum’s exhibit The St. John’s Bible. Through May 24. (600 N. Charles St.; 410-547-9000; www.



Sci-fi Sounds



German director Fritz Lang’s Metropolis is

School 33’s latest exhibition, Involving

Violence, explores our daily experiences with physical mayhem, from contact sports to police brutality to war. Curated by Lasso—the duo of Chicagoans Carrie Ruckel and Karin Patzke—the multimedia show debuted in the Windy City; its Baltimore incarnation includes such local artists as Ramsay Antonio-Barnes. Through April 11. (1427 Light St.; 410-396-4641; www.

Bold Strokes

The Baltimore Museum of Art’s new Front Room exhibit features nine works by 20thcentury Abstract Expressionist Franz Kline, known for his boldy graphic canvases. The show is dedicated to the late painter Grace Hartigan, a friend of Kline’s and the founder of the Hoffberger School of Painting at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Through April 19. (10 Art Museum Dr.; 443-573-1700; ARTS

Glow, Little Glowworm Don your Day-Glo for the American Visionary Art Museum’s Glow Ball, its sole fundraiser for the year. The night includes a sit-down dinner and a performance by visionary-ofhonor Donovan (“Sunshine Superman”) and his wife, Linda. If you can’t swing the $300 ticket, opt for the AfterGlow party: $100 ($120 at the door) gets you free drinks, light fare, and dancing to music by cover band The Amish Outlaws. March 28. (800 Key Hwy.; 410-244-1900;

If I Didn’t Care: Multigenerational Artists Discuss Cultural Histories includes multimedia work from twenty-nine women artists of Asian, South American, African, and American heritage. Participating artists include Joyce Scott, Laylah Ali, and Debra Edgerton (a still from her 2003 video Retelling Tales is at left); the work focuses on issues of race, gender, and culture. Through March 30 at the Park School. (2425 Old Court Rd.; 410-339-7070;

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Stone-carving is alive and well, at least in Baltimore. Sebstian Martorana’s memorial to vulnerability, Homeland Security Blanket, is evidence of a highly disciplined technique and an acutely focused conceptual vision. Someone sits wrapped in an American flag. The artist has said it is a child. But its ambiguity envelops the viewer as well. We can feel ourselves beneath the flag; we can feel the insecurity and, almost, fear. Martorana says of this work, “It is a thanksgiving for the sacrificed lives of others for, auspiciously, my own protection. My sense of domestic security is represented by the blanketlike flag; the loss of life to sustain this is represented by the conspicuous lack of stars.” —Alex Castro


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