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House Hunting • Pub Crawling • Book Learning march 2010 issue no. 69


The 2010 Urbanite Project


We’re honored to be so honored. * * * The University of Maryland Medical Center, along with our partners the UM Schools of Medicine and Nursing, is proud of the national recognition for excellence we receive, especially in the areas of patient safety and quality, from so many well-known and respected sources.

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march 2010 issue no. 69

the 2010 urbanite project 28

keynote: the creationist

scientist charles limb used medical technology to peer into the minds of musicians in the throes of improvisation. what he found could change the way we understand creativity itself. interview by david dudley



departments 7

editor’s note

the man with two brains


what you’re saying


what you’re writing



the fourth annual urbanite project

what happens when you take two strangers, tell them to dream big, and give them two pages of the magazine? this month, urbanite once again explores the possibilities of spontaneous collaboration, pairing up artists, scientists, lawyers, and designers— and seeing what happens next.

a bone to pick

best-laid plans: a gingko disaster, a baby at last, and an empty nest all over again


this month: the fifth ignite, st. patty’s day, and a green gala


the goods: a grand hotel. plus: mayan-made jewelry, wearing the wire, and the back


baltimore observed brothers in arms

massage you give yourself

among the gun buffs at the antique arms show by benjamin warner


helping the medicine go down

a nonprofit that helps sick kids be kids by marianne k. amoss

this month online at the urbanite project: more from our four teams at elegy: rafael alvarez on the death of poet david franks


poetry: “alice gaines played the harp” by david franks


real estate guide street smart

using techy tools to trawl for a baltimore home by will morton


recipe: pub grub worthy of the auld sod

space no grown-ups allowed

backyard treehouse getaways by greg hanscom

on the air:


the quest for the quintessential irish pub experience

urbanite on the marc steiner show, weaa 88.9 fm march 18: a conversation with charles limb march 25: urbanite project teams discuss their ideas

eat/drink going brogue

by andrew reiner


reviewed: diablita cantina and the dogwood


wine & spirits: flights of fancy


the feed: this month in eating


art/culture try to remember to forget

a trip down memory lane, with books as the guide by richard o'mara

on the cover:

photo illustration created by alex castro. milky way rendering by nasa/jpl-caltech.

plus: an irish revival, shakespeare with clowns, and this month’s cultural highlights


eye to eye

urbanite’s creative director, alex castro, on valeska populoh 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 1 0


Charles Street Area Restaurants


lunC h

D i n n e r.

4 East Madison inn abacroMbiE FinE Food akbar b&o aMErican brassEriE ban thai thE brEwEr’s art cazbar

Senior Editor Greg Hanscom

gEisha sushi bar thE hELMand indigMa Joss caFé & sushi bar kuMari rEstaurant and bar

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Joss Cafe & Sushi Bar { 413 n charLEs st. }

a Best of Baltimore designation from Baltimore magazine. parking available at the Franklin street Garage, evenings after 5 p.m. and Weekends $4 For a complete list of restaurants all along Charles street, visit


urbanite march 10

Editor-in-Chief David Dudley

david and dad’s caFé

EsquirE LoungE

taste & experienCe Charles street

Genera l Manager Jean Meconi

Managing Editor Marianne K . Amoss

EdEn’s LoungE

Charles street.

Creative Director Alex Castro

cobbEr’s Pub & caFé donna’s coFFEE bar & rEstaurant

Dine on

Issue 69 : March 2010 Publisher Tracy Ward

LuMbini MariE LouisE bistro Maisy’s Mick o’shEa’s Midtown yacht cLub MiLton’s griLL Minato Mount vErnon stabLE and saLoon MughaL gardEn My thai owL bar rEd MaPLE saMMy’s trattoria sascha’s 527 soFi’s crEPEs sotto soPra thai Landing tio PEPE tug’s bar and griLLE turP’s sPorts bar and rEstaurant Xs

Literar y Editor Susan McCallum-Smith Proofreader Robin T. Reid Contributing Writers Michael Anft, Scott Carlson, Charles Cohen, Mat Edelson, Lionel Foster, Brennen Jensen, Clinton Macsher r y, Tracey Middlekauff, R ichard O’Mara, Andrew Reiner, Mar tha Thomas, Sharon Tregask is, Michael Yockel, Mar y K . Zajac Editoria l Interns Maria-Pia Negro, Maren Tar ro Design/Production Manager Lisa Van Horn Traffic Production Coordinator Belle Gossett Designer K ristian Bjørnard Production Interns Tyler Fitzpatrick, John Misk imon, Kelly Wise Videographer/Website Coordinator Chris Rebber t Senior Account Executives Catherine Bowen Susan Econ Susan R . Lev y Account Executives R achel Bloom Cour tney Lu xon Adver tising Sa les/Events Coordinator Erin Albright Book keeping/Marketing Assistant Iris Goldstein Founder Laurel Har ris Durenberger Advertising/Editorial/Business Offices 2002 Clipper Park Road, Fourth Floor, Baltimore, MD 21211 Phone: 410-243-2050 ; Fax: 410-243-2115 w w 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 2010, Urbanite LLC. All rights reserved. Urbanite (ISSN 1556-8105) is a free publication distributed widely in the Baltimore metropolitan area. To suggest a drop location for the magazine, please contact us at 410-243-2050. Postmaster: Send address changes to Urbanite Subscriptions, 2002 Clipper Park Road, Fourth Floor, Baltimore, MD 21211. Urbanite is a certified Minority Business Enterprise.

photo by Joanna Comfort

photo by John Miskimon


Born and raised in Baltimore, photography intern John Miskimon earned a bachelor of science in art with a focus on photography and digital imaging from Towson University in 2007. Miskimon is also an alumnus of the Sheffield Institute for the Recording Arts, where he learned professional audio engineering. These days, he divides his time between freelance work in event production and photography; this month, his photos appear in “The Goods” (p. 17 and 19). Miskimon hopes to use his photography to launch a future career in fi lmmaking; he’s developing scripts with his brother Matthew. In what genres? “Horror and comedy,” he says, “separate or together.”

Benjamin Warner , author of “Brothers in Arms” (p. 21), was born in Annapolis and went to the University of WisconsinMadison. He received his MFA in fiction writing from Cornell University, where he taught classes in composition and creative writing. Today, he lives in Baltimore’s Lake Walker neighborhood and teaches at Towson University. This is his first time writing about antique weaponry.

editor’s note

Before spring arrives, snow-weary Baltimore, indulge one last blizzardy

observation. When I was 8 years old, an epic storm struck my hometown of Buffalo, New York, paralyzing this normally snow-savvy city for weeks. The National Guard was summoned. Twenty-nine people died. Thousands suffered enormously. I had a great time, of course, just as most kids (and many adults) here in Baltimore did during the historic double-barreled blizzard week in February that, as I write these words (in a coffee shop within trudging distance of my home since the snowbound office is closed), continues to inspire awe and clever Twitter hashtags up and down the Eastern Seaboard. “Disaster,” as I discovered then, is a relative term. To a child, a big, fat, school-closing snowstorm is more like an act of benevolent sorcery. Overnight, the world is utterly transformed, the familiar made wondrous and uncanny. A bright new landscape appears over the dull gray bones of the old. People suddenly assume strange powers—they can ski right down the middle of the street!—and the rules and routines of everyday life are briefly suspended. I can still recall the feeling of going into my backyard and walking right over the 7-foot-high fence at the edge of the property, which had disappeared beneath a massive wave of drifted snow. It was like one of those lucid dreams in which you suddenly realize you can fly. Dramatic natural events do more than amaze and perplex and inconvenience. A truism of snowstorms, in particular, is that they have a way of manifesting the latent good citizen within, offering ample opportunities to indulge in acts of minor altruism. It’s easy to self-administer a dose of do-gooder buzz by shoveling the neighbor’s walk or shoving a stranger’s car out of a snowbank. The Super Bowl weekend storm quickly turned into an excuse for a street party in many Baltimore neighborhoods, with neighbors spilling out of their homes in the giddy spirit of communal resilience. This little civic-spirited honeymoon ends quickly, of course: Common cause melts with the snow, grumpy nine-to-five normalcy reasserts itself, and the spell is broken. But hopefully, memories of this fantasy world linger on to remind us that the extraordinary can happen anytime, anywhere. The lucid dream that fi lls much of this issue is the annual Urbanite Project (p. 31), a now four-year-old exercise in collaborative idea-generation, coordinated once again this year by Managing Editor Marianne Amoss. The premise remains the same: We choose individuals from different fields, yoke them together, and tell them to go forth and dream up a project that takes advantage of their respective abilities. It’s a process that requires a bit of morningafter-the-snowstorm thinking: Many projects take familiar fragments of the real-life city and transform them, with a liberal dusting of creativity, into something extraordinary. In search of some scientific insights into the mysteries of the creative process, we also caught up with Dr. Charles Limb for this issue’s “Keynote” interview (p. 28). He’s the Johns Hopkins otolaryngologist (look it up!) who scanned the brains of jazz musicians as they improvised to find out what was going on inside a mind bent on creation. What Limb discovered was that, during improvisation, the brain essentially throws away the rule book, deactivating the portion of the frontal lobe that governs self-monitoring and firing up the region used in selfexpression and storytelling. It’s a pattern of neural activity that looks a lot like dreaming. In other words: Imagine a snow day for your pragmatic side, a brief suspension of normalcy before everything melts and life goes on as before.

—David Dudley

Hey, where’d all the jobs go? Coming Next Month: Working in the city, plus the 2010 Urbanite Green Guide 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 1 0


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what you’re saying

for and against I fully appreciated the first page of Lester Spence’s “White Space, Black Space” (February). All peoples need to work to keep their cultures alive—diversity is still relevant. Then I turned the page. I hope Mr. Spence has more compelling stories for use in his classes at Johns Hopkins University than the one he used in this article. In that situation, he obviously had an axe to grind and ground it square up to the handle. I’m not sure of the etiquette for a handout, but after receiving what he had no right to be asking for, he should have simply walked away after a sincere thank-you. Instead, he practically begged for a fight. —Jeff Van Osten, South Baltimore low-hanging fruit I enjoyed several of the articles in the January issue of Urbanite, including “10 Outside-theBox Ideas that Could Change Baltimore for

the Better.” One of the items discussed was city-planted fruit trees for usage by city residents. I propose that we consider proposing this to the forestry division, to be included in the TreeBaltimore campaign. Seems like a great idea to me! —Gary Sever, Medfield death proof Having no advanced degrees in the study of human behavior, I concede that I am illprepared to question the findings of learned academics. However, I must challenge the conclusions of Ohio State University history professor Randolph Roth, whose recently published book on American homicides was critiqued by Michael Corbin (“Murderland”) in your January issue. In his review, Corbin states that Roth says that America’s high murder rate is not propelled by nor rooted in our social conditions. It is very clear that this view

is flawed. To suppose that poverty, drugs, race, and class have little or no effect on the ever-increasing homicide rate is proven wrong by hard statistics. Of the 234 murders in Baltimore in 2008, the combined total of prior arrests of those slain was 2,404: 162 for gun offenses and a staggering 898 for drug charges. The crime map that shows where these murders occurred reveals that most homicides in Baltimore happened in depressed areas. In 2007, there were 282 murders in Baltimore City: 261 of the slain were black, and 233 died from gunshots. The truth is that deplorable social conditions and social status—thus, social behavior—have a direct correlation to the majority of murders committed. Wanton killing in our society, in Baltimore in particular, will not cease until we recognize and correct obvious major shortcomings in our economic and social systems. To think differently is a fatal error in judgment. —Jerome Emile Ball, Baltimore

We want to hear what you’re saying. E-mail us at or send your letter to Mail, Urbanite, 2002 Clipper Park Road, Fourth Floor, Baltimore, MD 21211. Please include your name, address, and daytime phone number. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

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 1 0


Creating Cherished Memories “Angela and Julie honor patients’ needs, wishes and dreams.” Marrying the man she loved … this was the last wish for one woman battling cancer, who had little time left to live. As she was admitted to GBMC sooner than expected, Angela and Julie focused on making this patient’s wish a reality. They called a pastor, arranged for a photographer, purchased flowers from the hospital gift shop and a cake from the cafeteria. Because of Angela and Julie, a bed-side marriage ceremony and celebration gave the patient her dying wish, and her family a beautiful memory to cherish forever.

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what you’re writing

A FEW YEARS AGO, newspaper articles and

—Rick Shelley teaches mosaic-making at the Creative Alliance and the American Visionary Art Museum. He has written a collection of short stories based on the eccentric characters he has known in Baltimore.


daughter, Meredith: “Mom, Dad, is it OK if Mike moves in for a couple weeks? Three weeks—tops.” “What’s the deal?” Mike is her boyfriend.


best laid


illustration by Kristian Bjørnard

talk shows proclaimed that ginkgo extract improved the mind. The stores were stocked with ginkgo products. But why buy tablets when thousands of ginkgo trees had dropped their berries on the streets of Baltimore? I planned a cheap experiment with pure natural ginkgo. I headed to a row of slender ginkgo trees and searched the ground. The berries smelled like dog crap mixed with vomit. It was hard to believe that something so putrid could improve one’s mind. I gathered a dozen, folded them into a scrap of newspaper, and stuffed them in my back pocket. On the walk home, my fingertips tingled, and the berries left an invisible, fetid trail from the bulge that puffed out the rear of my pants. In my kitchen, I tumbled the berries into a strainer and poured boiling water over their dirty orange skins. Street grime washed down the sinkhole, but not the horrific odor. I removed the pits from the jelly and tossed them in the trash. Then I spooned on sugar to make the jelly palatable. Why take a little dose? I thought. Wouldn’t a large dose have greater effect? I chased down each spoonful of ginkgo-mash with a gulp of water. Would I experience a heightened awareness? Develop a photographic memory? Have a miraculous insight? In minutes, my nose puffed out like a lopsided zucchini, my cheeks erupted with pimples, and my eyelids wrinkled shut, making my eyes look like anuses. All night, I drank water to flush out the ginkgo. If wasn’t better in the morning, I vowed to see my doctor. I trudged back and forth to the toilet cursing myself. I avoided the bathroom mirror, dreading to see even a glimpse of my monstrous face. By morning, my nose had deflated, my cheeks had softened, and my eyelids had relaxed. Hallelujah! Forget mind improvement. I was glad to be alive. That afternoon, I did some research and found out that ginkgo berries should be gathered with gloved hands; one must never touch the noxious skin, and extreme care must be taken while separating the poisonous jelly from the nutritious pits. Nutritious pits? That’s what I threw away. I searched the trash for the pits and planned another experiment to improve my mind.


OFTEN GO 1 Awry “He’s coming back from New York to start grad school. He’ll be hearing about a teaching job at the same time; we want to see where he’s teaching before we get our place.” “We guess,” we say. “Mike can use your brother’s room.” Mike moves in, and the room evolves into booby trap of his queen-sized bed and tangled wires from his keyboard, TV, and computer. His coffee tables and leather chairs mingle with our daughter’s bookcases and exercise gear from her recent move home, converting our master bedroom into a storage locker. We reluctantly share the family-room sofa with them and wear robes and coveralls around our house. Recession. Teacher-hiring freeze. Tripping over baritone saxophone, clarinet, gym bags, and giant textbooks in the dining room, we leave for work in the morning as they slam the snooze button on their alarm clocks one more time. Retrieving their pots and pans from behind the living room sofa, they cook chicken curry at night as we head for bed. We put away their shoes; they pile up coupons. We buy milk and bread and tote them home in plastic bags; they buy fruit and vegetables and carry them in burlap sacks. She shares her homemade wheat rolls and home-canned peach and apple butter, pickles, and tomato sauce. She weeds and plants our fallow garden and lures us into her enthusiasm.

He shares his music: sensuous saxophone sounds and inspiring keyboard compositions. He invites us to his concerts. They introduce us to The Daily Show and YouTube comedians and share their subscription to Blockbuster. They listen to our points of view. He provides us with expert computer care and she, expert advice on choosing certificates of deposit. They treat us out for dinner once a month—Italian, Greek, Chinese, Mexican— and we all share stories about school, work, and life. Twelve months later, late August phone call: “Mike got a teaching job, so we’re going to move! Isn’t that great?!” “We guess,” we say. —Columbia resdient Joanne L. Zaslow is the director of editorial and design services for the American Psychological Association. She is finishing a master’s in Towson University’s Professional Writing Program.

WHEN WE MARRIED, we were barely into

our 20s. Yet, we knew what we wanted; we knew what we needed to do. We checked things off our checklists, lickety-split. We earned our degrees. Check. We grew our careers. Check. We bought a little house with a green, sloping yard and an extra bedroom. Check. When the time came, we knew we wanted you. We tried, but you didn’t seem to care. We revised our checklists. We tried and tried again (we’re diligent people), but you ignored our attempts. We revised our lists; we entered our 30s. We altered my physiology, but you didn’t buy it for one second. We grieved, and we weren’t even sure why. We reconsidered our literary motherly models. We revised our lists; we knew what we needed to do. We became willing participants in the maze. We recorded fi ngerprints in triplicate. Check. We killed some months, some more months, some more. Check. We hopped a plane, crossed the globe, and fi nally, fi nally, fi nally you said you wanted us, too.

—Jenny O’Grady is director of alumni and development communications at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and associate editor at UMBC Magazine.


that I would study visual arts at the Baltimore School for the Arts. I am not confident about much, but of this I was perfectly sure. I loved drawing more than anything, I had gone to BSA’s after-school program for

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middle-schoolers, I worked for a month on my portfolio. In my mind, I was already there. When the letter arrived, I was so full of anticipation I could not even touch the envelope. My dad tore the seal while I stood 10 feet away as though the letter radiated too much hope and promise for me to even draw near. His eyes scanned the paper for the “Congratulations!” we were all sure was there. But in somber tones, he read aloud, “We are sorry to inform you that we have not accepted your application to the Baltimore School for the Arts.” My mother tried to say something comforting, but I pushed it away, saying I was fine. I walked slowly to my room and cried into my pillow, the kind of crying that makes your throat sore and your shoulders ache. My hopes and dreams, my entire future had fallen to pieces before it had even gotten a chance. Fast-forward two years and find me at City College, happier than I ever imagined being at school. I realize that although I love drawing, it’s not my main focus in my life. More importantly, I am having some of the most fun I have ever had and making friends that will last me a lifetime. My broken dreams worked out for the better. For the best. ■ —Baltimore resident Emma Davis is currently a student at City College. She writes mostly fantasy stories.



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LASER HAIR REMOVAL: EXPLORE YOUR OPTIONS “What You’re Writing” is the place

for creative nonfiction from our readers. Each month we pick a topic. Use the topic as a springboard into your own life and send us a true story inspired by that month’s theme. Only previously unpublished, nonfiction submissions that include contact information can be considered. We reserve the right to edit heavily for space and clarity, but we will give you the opportunity to review the edits. You may submit under “name withheld” to keep your essay anonymous, but you do need to let us know how to contact you. If you’ve already changed the names of the people involved, please let us know. Only one submission per topic, please. Send your essay to Urbanite, 2002 Clipper Park Road, Fourth Floor, Baltimore, MD 21211, or e-mail it to WhatYoureWriting@urbanitebaltimore. com. Submissions should be shorter than four hundred words. Because of the number of essays we receive, we cannot respond individually to each writer. Please do not send originals; submissions cannot be returned.

Topic The Most Beautiful Thing Into the Wild Burned Out


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urbanite march 10


Ignite Baltimore

March 4

For the fifth annual Ignite Baltimore, sixteen thinkers, artists, and tech geeks get five minutes and twenty slides to light up a crowd—and spark a conversation. The $5 admission fee will go toward the Ignition Grant, a new initiative that will award $1,500 to a social entrepreneur with an idea that could invigorate the city.

Walters Art Museum 600 N. Charles St. $5 RSVP at

Face-Off Classic

March 6

The Ravens will give over their field to college lacrosse for the annual Konica Minolta Face-Off Classic, a day-long lax triple-header where six of the best college teams will, well, face off. Maryland vs. Duke is the opener, followed by Notre Dame vs. Loyola and Princeton vs. Johns Hopkins.

M&T Bank Stadium 1101 Russell St. $15–$30; call 410-369-0734 for group discounts

Maryland Home and Garden Show

March 6–7, 12–14

With a theme of “Wine and Dine Al Fresco,” the Maryland Home and Garden Show has an eye on spring. Promised are four hundred home-improvement exhibits, nineteen landscaped gardens, and free seminars—plus the Orchid Society show and sale during the second weekend. It’s held in conjunction with the juried Maryland Spring Craft Show, featuring more than 150 purveyors.

Maryland State Fairgrounds 2200 York Rd. 410-863-1180 Go to www.mdhomeandgarden. com for ticket information

St. Patrick’s Day Parade

March 14

The sidewalks of Charles Street will once again be packed with greenbedecked revelers drinking green beer and admiring the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade, featuring Irish music, dancing, and more. The parade begins at 2 p.m. at the Washington Monument and heads south down Charles Street—after the runners in the Shamrock 5K get going.


March 19

To mark the first day of spring, Baltimore Green Works throws its second annual EcoBall, a fundraiser for the sustainability nonprofit’s programs—and the official kickoff for April’s Baltimore Green Week. Local Latin band Mambo Combo provides the tunes for partygoers, who can refuel on locally grown/produced eats and drinks.

Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park and Museum 1417 Thames St. 410-952-0334 $75, $40 students www.baltimoregreenworks. com/ecoball

Census Day

April 1

Stand up and be counted! The U.S. Census, taken every ten years, affects states’ representation in Congress and the distribution of federal funds to such projects as hospitals, schools, and public works projects. So fi ll out that ten-question form you got this month and send it in on April 1, National Census Day.

www.baltimorecity. gov/2010Census/

Photo credits from top to bottom: courtesy of O'Reilly Media; courtesy of Inside Lacrosse magazine; courtesy of the Maryland Home and Garden Show; © Lightscribe |; photo by Doug Retzler; © Chad McDermott

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A Perfect Fit

photo by Kelly Wise

Betsy Wendell can’t wait to get you out of your clothes—and into some more fabulous ones, that is. The owner of Bettina Collections (98 Village Square; 410-323-3066; www.bettinacollections. com), a polished boutique in the Village of Cross Keys, Wendell is a former fashion model who fell into retail when, while modeling at the high-end women’s store Octavia, she fell for Octavia Dugan’s grandson, Jay. Love, marriage, and the baby carriage were followed by taking over and managing Octavia—which started out in Cross Keys in 1965, then relocated to Pikesville—for fi fteen years until it closed in 2008. In 2009 she returned to Cross Keys to open Bettina, a shop catering to the Octavia crowd and their formal fashion needs. “It’s a regeneration of Octavia: the best of the best of that store with a smaller footprint,” Wendell says. Bettina provides tailoring and customization of duds by designers such as Algo of Switzerland and Jovani for any occasion from prom to Preakness. “It’s fun, girlfriend shopping,” she says. “We bring out wine, you pick your style and fabric, and we tailor it perfectly for you.” —Maren Tarro

Street Cred

photo by John Miskimon

Rollin’ Need a back rub? Do it yourself. The MA roller , a selfmassaging tool invented by a Chinese acupuncture practitioner in 1970, can gently stretch the spine while deeply massaging muscles in the back and releasing energy from acupuncture points. Jon Ruttenberg, a local physical therapist, got his own MA roller from the Vermont-based Great Earth Massage Tools company more than thirty years ago. When the company went out of business several years back, Ruttenberg—who had become a Great Earth sales rep— teamed up with local woodworker Mark Supik (see Urbanite, March ’09) to produce a duplicate, using the original dimensions and rock maple, a hard wood that won’t crack under the body’s weight. (Users lie on top of the roller, positioning it along the spine to reach tender spots in the back.) He now sells MA rollers for $35. The device, which comes in only one size, isn’t good for petite people, he says, or those with osteoporosis or certain spinal conditions. Read the instructions before use, and, if in doubt about whether the roller is appropriate for you, check with your practitioner. As to where the roller got its name, Ruttenberg says, “Good question.” To order, call 410-218-4172 or go to

Baltimore native and self-described “creative outlaw” Aaron LaCrate is proving that copyright infringement doesn’t always lead to a court date. After the Wire’s season five wrap party in 2009, LaCrate’s Wire tribute shirts—a DIY expression of his appreciation of the show—came to HBO’s attention. (LaCrate’s ties to The Wire go back to season three, when a song he co-produced, “That’s Da Sound,” performed by Dirty Hartz and Verb, was included in the show’s soundtrack. LaCrate also DJ’d the show’s season five wrap party.) A deal was struck, and the T-shirts were officially licensed. Bearing the moniker of LaCrate’s street fashion label, Milkcrate Athletics, they are screenprinted with images of popular characters and catchphrases (“It’s all in the game.”). “I’m trying to keep the spotlight on Baltimore,” he says. The shirts are currently available at; LaCrate says to look for them in Baltimore shops soon. —M.T.

—Maria-Pia Negro courtesy of Milkc rate Athletics

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Wrong Place, Wrong Time: Trauma and Violence in the Lives of Young Black Men

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The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

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Let’s Get Free: A Hip Hop Theory of Justice

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The striking $4.5 million transformation of 868 Park Avenue in Mount Vernon from block blemish to haute hotel has the neighborhood—and owner Richard Naing—beaming. Hotel Brexton (877-830-6708;, complete with towering turrets and a dizzying spiral staircase (pictured), opened February 1. Built in 1881 as a sixty-room hotel (one guest was future Duchess of Windsor Wallis Simpson), it was converted to apartments and eventually gave way to regrettable decay. Now, Naing aims to seduce guests of the twenty-nine-room hotel with painstakingly restored 19thcentury details, including 240 windows (some 9 feet tall), paired with such modern conveniences as high-speed Internet and flat-panel TVs. Others have tried and failed to renovate the site, but Naing, who purchased the building in 2007, has succeeded in bringing the building back to life. “It’s the architecture,” he says. “When you drive by and see something so beautiful, it becomes a challenge.” Rates start at $179 per night. —M.T.

photo by Kelly Wise

Suite Spot

Old Meets New

photo by Tyler Fitzpatrick

In a city known for its goliath biotech and medical institutions, traditional and “alternative” healing practices are making quiet inroads. One of the newest comers: Ancient Arts Wellness , a center that opened last year offering acupuncture, massage, energy work, meditation sessions, and counseling in a former doctor’s office downtown (715 Park Ave.; 410-454-0178; www. Janice Campbell, a licensed acupuncturist trained at the Tai Sophia Institute in Laurel, says she and business partner Tom Ingegno (pictured) were attracted to the spot in the heart of Baltimore because “the city needs this. People spend all day in the office, working with their minds. It’s like their bodies are just there to carry their heads and hands around.” The goal of Ancient Arts, she says, is to help patients “remember what they already know about taking care of themselves.” But Ancient Arts is not a spa, says Ingegno, a licensed acupuncturist who also works on animals: “We’re trying to help patients heal.”

Fashion Emergency When emergency room nurse Kristen VanZandt first visited Guatemala in 2001 as a medical volunteer, she was charmed by both the Mayan people and their beautiful crafts. Soon, VanZandt traded nursing for designing and importing jewelry, handbags, and shoes; in 2002 she founded Vida Dulce Imports (410-480-9978; www.vidadulceimports. The intricate beadwork and brilliant fabrics that make up the line are eye-catching, but it’s the social conscience woven into each piece that sets them apart. The boots, bracelets, and bags are made by Mayan women from recycled traditional blouses, and a portion of the proceeds goes to Pueblo a Pueblo, a nonprofit organization that works to strengthen indigenous communities in Guatemala. To date, VanZandt has donated more than $30,000. “The money goes to school lunch and sustainable gardening programs and just helps to build up these communities,” she says. Vida Dulce products are carried at such local shops as Calico Cat (2137 Gwynn Oak Ave.; 410-944-2450; www. and Earth Alley (3602 Elm Ave.; 410-366-2110;

photo by John Miskimon

—Greg Hanscom

—M.T. 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 1 0




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Brothers in Arms Among the gun buffs at the Antique Arms Show


’m no gun nut. When I think of shooting, I’m transported back to a corner thicket of poison ivy at Camp White Mountain where the riflery range was slapped together with two-by-fours and twine. I think of Hans, our Dutch instructor, who seemed more interested in chatting up 14-year-old girls—complimenting the gimp-work of their lanyards—than checking the safeties on our .22’s. I think back to those summers when I imagined I might become a marksman but instead was only able to think of DEATH—of the one goof-up, the one hormone-induced slip of the finger that might, at any moment, cancel me out. So it was with some trepidation that I walked through a bag checkpoint and then a firearms checkpoint into the Cow Palace of the Maryland State Fairgrounds last spring for the Maryland Arms Collectors Association’s Baltimore Antique Arms Show. When my eyes adjusted to the gymnasium-style lighting, I looked out across a cramped field of visitors who, judging from the license plates outside, came from as far away as Maine and Oregon. Most of them could have sat comfortably camouflaged in a deer stand, the only hint of flamboyance coming from

by benjamin warner photography by j.m. giordano

Ed Kemp holds a model 1808 Harper’s Ferry flintlock musket made for the Maryland Militia in the War of 1812.

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the security detail: Arms Collectors Associa“complete wartime stories,” and donated tion workers in burgundy sport coats. the books to the families at considerable And then I saw the guns: hard lines in personal cost. brown and gray, barrels laid over a thousand Talking to Kemp, it became clear that it vendors’ tables—a flea market of armament. was his love of the tale that spurred him to These weren’t “guns” as I had thought of the role of thankless oral historian. A fresh them. There were rifled muzzle-loaders and story, too, is a form of collectible, something smoothbore muzzle-loaders and cartridge not lost on me as I stood nodding my head, repeaters and percussion breech loaders and my hand held out with a recording device. antebellum cap-and-ball pocket pistols— “I’ll tell you what,” he said, “some of these guns designed to such tiny proportions they guys, they’ve never told this stuff to anyone. could disappear in your hand, so that, threatWhen they get to be about 80 years old, they ened, you might reach up to scratch your start talking. Their families are surprised forehead and shoot a scoundrel in his. about what they went through.” Antique weaponry is not cheap, but for Most of the vendors behind the tables $100 you can buy an air gun so simple (a that day seemed a lot like those POWs: squared off butt, tawny and rough as a peapeople bursting to sight their understanding nut shell) it looks almost like a toy. When I of the world from behind the vintage barrel asked Doug Flowers—the smiling, cylindrical of a gun. For them, the love of arms is both man standing behind the table—if these were personally nostalgic and critically important the guns of boyhood Christmas presents, his to the way civilization has broken along eyes went wide with concern. “Oh, no, no, no,” the lines of “freedom.” And the finer points he said, launching into a history of his prodmatter. In my walk through the tables, I uct with the exuberance a heard ardent discussions parks director might use concerning what conLeonardo da Vinci is in describing man-made stitutes “military brass,” pondwork. haggling (in the thousaid to have invented an sands) over sales of Civil Leonardo da Vinci is air gun, Doug Flowers War uniforms, and ardent said to have invented an air gun, Flowers told me. projections concerning told me. “In Napoleon’s global “In Napoleon’s time, an military strategies. time, an air gun could air gun could kill a man.” When I think of an The great emperor was arms show, I think of kill a man.” so scared of them (they woodsy militias rubcould send projectiles bing palms together over flying at 1,100 feet per second) that an enemy doomsday plans, but the people gathered at caught with one was executed as an assassin. the show were about as militant as my Uncle Even Lewis and Clark strapped them along Murray, an incorrigible shelterer of stray cats on their expeditions. who buys his antiques (pitchforks and toothy Flowers had air guns dating from the old saws) to tack to the side of his woodshop. turn of the century with cast iron receivers, I’d expected standoffishness but rare due to their propensity to break. He sold encountered only one hostile approach. I Quackenbush rifles once used to fire darts at was taking notes on a table of beautifully targets in parlor games. (Beer and shooting engraved powder horns when a man stuck evidently have old ties in our country.) When a finger in my face. “Got a license?” he said. I asked him why he was selling his collection, When I told him I was writing a magazine he told me, “Well, you feed your habit.” story, he walked off with an admonition to That’s the kind of “gun nut” this event atthe powder horn vendor: “Caution,” he said, tracts: fundamentalists who don’t necessarily shaking his head. “Caution.” believe the world started with a Bible story, It seemed an impotent volley for a man but with the invention of their weapon of exwith a battalion’s worth of rifles—after all, pertise. Collecting is both a passion—someI only had a pen. But as I walked out of the thing purposeful—and an addiction—an Cow Palace, zipping my notes safely into my impulse verging on recklessness. After all, backpack, I felt I was protecting something who today drops $9,525 on a Revolutionary precious, a new collection of stories I’d War-era flintlock officer’s pistol? already begun shaping into the hard lines of “People love this stuff,” said Warner sentences. Imagine, letting some nosy editor Sumpter, the show chairman and a retired paw through them, questioning, rearranging brigadier general. “When you’re in here, what I’d thought was proper. you’re seeing history.” I’d rather take up arms. ■ He sent me over to Ed Kemp and Elsie —Benjamin Warner Hoch, a couple in their 60s who stood in front of one of the more regal rifle displays. The 2010 Baltimore Antique Arms Show is They were the event’s de facto humanitarian March 20–21. For more information, go to honorees, having interviewed former World War II and Korean POWs, self-published their

o canada: Inner-city school kids got some screen time in front of the black-turtleneck crowd this winter. The documentary Waiting for Superman, about the crisis in U.S. pub lic schools , debuted at the Sundance Film Festival. Directed by Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth), the film included education reformers such as Michelle Rhee, chancellor of the D.C. public schools, and Geoffrey Canada (pictured), founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone and co-star of our November 2009 feature “The Way Out.” Waiting for Superman walked away with the Audience Award for best U.S. documentary. “[Geoffrey Canada] is a rock star,” Guggenheim told a Sundance interviewer. “This guy is going to change the face of public education.” Paramount snatched up the worldwide rights to the film and plans to put it in theaters this fall. firestarters: Snowflakes weren’t the only things falling from the sky this winter. Grants for artists and innovators have also been landing, sometimes totally unexpectedly. At the end of December, the Baltimore Community Foundation (see Urbanite, Dec. 2007) surprised fifteen local arts groups by tossing out a brace of $2,000 “confetti grants.” BCF’s Melissa Warlow says the grants were meant to encourage Baltimore’s quirky cultural underground—and dispense with what remained of the foundation’s 2009 philanthropic obligations at the same time. On March 4, BCF and Ignite Baltimore will present the first $1,500 Ignition grant to an applicant with an innovative idea for bettering Baltimore. Up next: BCF will distribute $80,000 from the Michigan-based Kresge Foundation. The $2,500–$5,000 Kresge Arts in Baltimore grants will go to individuals and organizations that are using the arts to address pressing social issues. Application deadline is March 31. For information, go to

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Helping the Medicine Go Down


irthday parties, movie nights, baseball games—it’s the stuff of a kid’s life. But for critically ill children with such lifethreatening medical conditions as leukemia and sickle cell disease, fun may fall by the wayside to make room for doctor’s visits, testing, and surgeries. A local foundation called Casey Cares aims to ease the burden for sick kids and their families. The Halethorpe-based nonprofit serves residents of six Mid-Atlantic states, including Maryland, and was founded in 2000 by Casey Baynes, who felt she wasn’t making enough of an impact at her family’s business, Wollenweber’s Trucking and Warehousing. (Baynes’ other claim to fame: She earned a master’s degree in communications from Towson University at the young age of 20.) Since then, Casey Cares has created a roster of programs and activities designed to lift the spirits and lighten the burdens of struggling families, from diagnosis through recovery or remission and even the worst, a child’s death. The foundation offers families the option to participate in programming for up to a year afterward.

baltimore observed

photo by Joan Grasso


Brian Roberts or sending a family to Dollywood. With four full-time and two part-time employees and numerous volunteers, the nonprofit keeps track of the particulars of each client, down to a child’s favorite color, so they can personally tailor each experience. “Many physicians have said to me that having such programs to look forward to is just as important as their medical treatment,” says Baynes, who has three young children herself. “It gives them an opportunity to feel like every other kid.” Families can participate at no cost; although there is an application process, no one yet has been turned down, Baynes says. Since the foundation's inception, Casey Cares’ programs have reached more than 17,450 people (some multiple times). Their annual fundraising gala—this year marking their tenth anniversary—takes place March 27; for more information, go to www.caseycares

A brighter outlook: Casey Cares lifts the spirits of critically sick kids like Michael Grasso, 15, pictured with sisters Melina, 13, and Juliana, 9.

The wide range of offerings includes movie and pizza nights for kids whose compromised immune systems prevent them from being in crowds and social events where participating families can meet each other—plus thoughtful gifts like birthday balloons and tote bags packed with games, new pajamas, and places to keep important paperwork. Casey Cares is also in the business of making the improbable happen: setting up a lunch with Orioles second baseman

—Marianne K. Amoss Each month, Urbanite profiles people and programs that are transforming the city, one block at a time. To nominate a transformer, e-mail


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The Creationist Johns Hopkins scientist Charles Limb on the music in his mind interview by david dudley   |  photograph by marshall clarke


harles Limb loved music as a child—Mahler, the Beatles, Miles Davis, whatever. And he heard things most of us don’t. “I was fascinated by this question of how sound can make you feel something,” says the Johns Hopkins otolaryngologist. “If you think about it from a kind of abstract philosophical level, it’s unusual that acoustic vibrations in the air can make you feel deep emotion, something that can affect your life.” As his mouthful of a medical specialization might hint, Limb didn’t end up becoming a professional musician, although he is a proficient amateur player (saxophone, piano, and bass) and composer with a joint appointment at the Peabody Institute, the music school affiliated with Hopkins. Instead, he approached music from another angle, becoming a hearing specialist and surgeon who performs cochlear implantations on patients who have lost their hearing. In search of a better understanding of how the mind perceives complex auditory stimuli such as music, Limb got a research fellowship at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study the brain using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), a technique that can measure the changes in blood flow within the brain that indicate neural activity. It was there that Limb and a co-author conceived and undertook a curious study, published in 2008, that shed a glimmer of light on a very fundamental mystery: What is creativity, and how does the mind generate new ideas?


You devised an experiment in which you placed jazz musicians inside an fMRI machine and had them improvise music on a small keyboard while the scanner measured their neural activity. Did you have a set of specific expectations of what you’d see?


Scientifically, I’m very modest in my goals. I’m only spending half of my time doing science—I take care of patients with ear disorders—so to a certain extent I have to scale back my ambitions. What I wanted to do was try to understand how we perceive and produce music. I’m cutting right to the chase of what I feel matters most, musically. That’s how creativity comes in, because to me there is no more fundamental process in music than creativity. Essentially, this experiment was me asking a question that I’ve always wondered about: What’s taking place in the brain when a jazz musician improvises? I’m a saxophonist and I’ve improvised a lot in my life, and it always has a certain automaticity to it. As it’s taking place, you can stop and question yourself. “Wow, how am I doing this? Where’s this music coming from?” When you listen to recordings of the great players, the questions are even more astounding. How did John Coltrane do that? At the time, there was really no literature in the field to base a hypothesis on. We had certain theories, but they weren’t based on creativity; they were based on things like altered states of consciousness and automatic behavior. I was mostly at first just trying to see if I could pull it off technically. For example, the piano keyboard that we used in there took two years to design and get working. It has to be magnetically safe. It’s a little plastic thing that has thirty-seven keys; it sits on your lap while you’re on your back playing in the scanner. I recall very clearly when I had my first jazz musician [do the experiment]. I took a step back and thought, “My God, this really might work.”


Where did you find the musicians?

It wasn’t an easy study group to find. I wanted only piano players that were right-handed, that had normal hearing, and that had no neurological history. We advertised, and I had contacts through the Peabody Institute. In the end I found six subjects. That’s low for a scientific study, and the follow-up study should have more.


Did you try it on yourself?

Whenever I was trying to get the experiment to work, I would have somebody turn on the scanner while I was in there, so, yeah, I scanned myself. I was the main prototype to figure out that it could work and that it would be comfortable enough to play. After a while you weren’t thinking about the fact that you’re in a scanner playing. You’re just thinking about playing music. Based on the debriefing we did with [the subjects] later, none of them felt that the apparatus or the setting was so bizarre that it took them a long time to get used to it. They would hop in the scanner, adjust their headphones, and within about ten seconds they were just playing amazing music on this dinky little plastic keyboard. It was pretty remarkable.


And what did you see on the scans?

In our study, the jazz musicians started playing a memorized twelve-bar blues in C-minor and then used the same exact auditory accompaniment to improvise on it. What we found is that when they went from playing something memorized to improvising, the prefrontal cortex of the brain did this really interesting thing. The [activity in the] medial prefrontal area went up—that’s this autobiographical, self-referential, self-expressive area. And the lateral prefrontal regions went down—those are self-inhibitory, self-censoring, self-monitoring regions of the brain. That’s a pattern of activity that is not commonly seen. The way we interpreted it—and this is with a lot of caveats—is that this might be one of the neural signatures of spontaneous creativity.


How could you further refine this hypothesis?

We are designing a lot of follow-up experiments that pertain to this notion of studying neural substrates of creativity. One study [involves] having two different musicians playing back and forth in a kind of musical conversation. I’m literally going to do that in the scanner—have musicians “trade fours.” Another will look at non-jazz forms of spontaneous creativity. Right now I’m designing a study of freestyle hip-hop rapping. I’m going to have rappers come in and either recite memorized verses or come up with stuff on the spot. continued on page 83

The Urbanite Project 2010

EVERY YEAR SINCE 2007, around the sticky-hot days of July, we resume work on the Urbanite Project. It's an experiment: Take accomplished individuals from different fields, pair them up, and ask them to collaborate. The fruits of that shotgun marriage appear in the March issue of the magazine and on the project’s website, It’s a long and only semi-scientific process. We keep a running list of Baltimoreans whose characters or careers mark them as potentially appropriate candidates—for the genre-bending nature of their ideas, perhaps, or the excellence of their artistic output, or the creativity of their community engagement. We then add suggestions from colleagues, contacts, and former project participants. Readers can also nominate themselves through an application we post online in the summer. Then comes the hard part: whittling down the hundreds of worthy folks to about twenty finalists. Finally, we hash out, horse-trade, and choose the final two-person teams, based on each partner’s availability and how their interests dovetail with those of their potential mate.

At that point, our work is largely done, and the experiment begins. The teams are charged with the difficult task of alighting upon an inspiring idea and presenting it in two pages of the magazine, over which they are given total creative freedom. Often the members are complete strangers; they have jobs, families, and other obligations. Sometimes they just can’t see eye to eye. But that, too, is part of the experiment. The Urbanite Project seeks to harness the unpredictable force of two minds coming together to make something new, a third thing that neither could have created alone. This year’s Urbanite Project, overseen by managing editor Marianne Amoss, includes four teams; our eight participants are drawn from science, visual art, architecture, urban planning, and other fields. Their projects begin on the next page. To see more from each team and learn how you can apply to be part of the 2011 project, go to www.

Milky Way rendering by NASA/JPL-Caltech



* Divining: di路vin路ing (verb) to use a forked stick to sense underground water sources

to make room for trucks to reach the waterfront. As commercial life grew, birds, fish, and other wildlife that once called Harford Run home moved elsewhere. And now, enough time has passed that most people have forgotten the stream even existed. Recently, however, industry died down, and Baltimoreans fell back in love with the city waterfront as a great place to map shows how Central Avenue was live, work, and play. Traveling to favorite This constructed to cover up Harford Run. spots along the water, most turn a blind eye to the wide stretch of asphalt and underused buildings that was once Harford Run. The roadway is old, collapsing and slated to be replaced by the city. The stream below now carries a mix of trash, toxic street runoff, and sewage into the harbor, contributing to algae blooms, fish kills, and the generally poor condition of the Patapsco River and Chesapeake Bay.

courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society


facing cities everywhere. Fortunately, there are examples near and far of how to turn this challenge into an opportunity. New York’s High Line, which turned a elevated railroad into a public park, and Seoul’s Cheonggye River, which was daylighted and turned into a popular recreational area, have transformed once-forgotten areas into thriving communities. Could there be a simple “happily ever after” for Baltimore’s Central Avenue, one where birds sing, fish swim, people stroll or bike along a meandering stream lined with native plants, shops, cafés, and new places to live and work? The answer is a resounding yes. EXPOSE THE RIVER from Monument Street to the harbor, creating a “happily ever after” that begins where the water ended. For more images and information about the feasibility of our plan, go to

rendering by Jennifer Dowdell of Biohabitats, based on a photo by Valerie Paulsgrove. Special thanks to honorary team member Chris Streb of Biohabitats.



An award-winning designer and preservationist, Gabriel Kroiz has more than fifteen years of experience as an architect, builder, and educator. In 2008, Kroiz joined the School of Architecture and Planning at Morgan State University as the undergraduate program director and is working to achieve the school’s missions of providing access to the design professions for African Americans and performing research focused on the sustainable redevelopment of Baltimore and the surrounding region. Baltimore native Eliza Steinmeier has devoted her professional life to working in, teaching about, and defending the marine environment. After graduating from UCLA School of Law, she worked on Santa Monica Baykeeper’s landmark sewage case against the city of Los Angeles, which has resulted in significant improvements in the health of the Santa Monica Bay. In 2004, Steinmeier founded the Magdalena Baykeeper in Baja California Sur in Mexico. She has been the executive director and waterkeeper for Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper since 2007. photo by Lisa Van Horn

STABLES: Named for East and West Baltimore’s noted horsemen: Janey’s, Allen’s, Winfield’s, Buddy Kratz’s, Popeye’s, and Hots’s. Each down-home facility with single management oversight will toe the regulatory line, keeping the horses’ diet, health, and sanitation paramount while providing a place for young horse enthusiasts to train alongside current and retired arabbers, farriers, and equine specialists. With the proven success of this location and model, stables with similar amenities can be made available in Carroll Park in West Baltimore and Patterson Park in East Baltimore to ensure that the entire city is served.

WALTER “TEETH” KELLY WAGON-BUILDING SHED: This workshop building, named for West Baltimore’s best-known 20thcentury wagon maker, is where students of all ages will learn metal and woodworking skills. Here they will create and paint distinctive arabber wagons through supervised apprenticeship programs with local master craftsmen and city high school programs of varying length. They will also meet visiting Amish craftsmen who can provide expertise and supplies from their shops in nearby Lancaster County.

PASTURE: Reclaimed pastureland planted with small grains, annual and perennial ryegrass, wheat, and oats will offer a wide-open green space where horses can graze and spend time outdoors, get exercise, and enjoy visits from the public and future arabbers.

THE ROAD OUT: From this perch in Northwest Baltimore, the arabbers will head to the Baltimore communities most in need of healthy food.

2010 ARABBER CART: The arabber of the not-too-distant future will have solarpowered credit-card capability. GPS-equipped cell phones on board allow customers to text orders. A cell phone app will indicate where arabbers’ carts are located and when they might arrive in your neighborhood. Give them a call, and they’ll get you what you need: 410-ARABBER.

VENDORS: Arabbers with artfully decorated carts piled high with fresh fruits and veggies will be stationed at their carts to sell snacks and engage guests on race days and all crowd-filled events. Besides providing their signature readyto-eat slices of watermelon and pineapple, they will also offer homeward-bound visitors organically grown produce from nearby gardens to take along.

A LONG SHOT? Arabbers: Numbers decreasing. Regulations rising. Occupation endangered. IN CRISIS. Pimlico Race Course: Infrastructure compromised. Audience disappearing. Franchise for sale. IN CRISIS. Urban Food Deserts: Lack of access to healthy foods. Disease and obesity on the rise. HEALTH CRISIS.


Elaine Eff is Maryland’s state folklorist, a title she shares with a handful of colleagues. She has plied her trade since 1985 for Baltimore City, the Maryland Historical Trust, and the Painted Screen Society and as an advisor for myriad films, exhibitions, oral history projects, and public programs. She co-directs Maryland Traditions, a program of the Maryland State Arts Council with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts that builds statewide folklife infrastructure through partnerships to sustain, document, and celebrate local culture. Mike Weikert is director of the Center for Design Practice at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) and principal of Weikert Design. He is also the creator of Small Roar, a line of graphic baby clothes. Previously, he was co-chair of the undergraduate graphic design department at MICA, partner/creative director at Atlanta-based Iconologic, and a design consultant to the International Olympic Committee. photo by Lisa Van Horn

illustration by Alyssa Dennis, based on a photo by Tyler Fitzpatrick

PRODUCE WAGON LOADING AREA: The proper display of produce on a cart is considered an art form. Certain practitioners are acclaimed as masters and sought after to teach newcomers the trade. Audiences will gather as arabber-artists prepare their carts for the streets.

WEEKEND FARMERS’ MARKET: Outdoor space for selling the local fruits and veggies produced in the gardens. This arabber/Pimlico farmers’ market will run through the summer and autumn months and provide another opportunity to engage the public and acquaint them not only with seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables, but also with the history and culture of the arabbers and Pimlico. Let the arabbers bring the food to you, or come to the market and get the food yourself!

MUSEUM: Visitors will step back in time to a re-imagined Old Hilltop, Pimlico’s lost signature “wedding cake” Victorianstyle members’ clubouse, which was destroyed by fire in 1966. They’ll explore the arabbers’ history—their trials, tribulations, and tributes—and learn about the horses, the buildings, the carts, the neighborhoods, the routes, and the extended community of customers and artisans and the men and women, young and old, white and black, who have plied Baltimore’s streets since the city’s earliest days. Also included will be films, oral histories, the chance to meet arabbers and their families and learn their “hollers,” and more. (Space for a Pimlico/Preakness museum will be available.)

FOOD PRODUCTION: Vacant lots will be turned turned into fruit- and vegetable-bearing organic gardens with full-scale waste management and composting components. Imagine a system where horse waste contributes to the compost and fertilizer for the gardens, and the food produced then fills the arabbers’ carts. Additionally, there will be a full-scale nutrition education program tied into the Baltimore City public school system, giving the same children who live in the food deserts hands-on experience in understanding food and developing healthy eating habits at a young age.

TWO PRIZED BALTIMORE ICONS ARE IN DANGER OF EXTINCTION: arabbers, produce vendors selling from horse-drawn carts, and Pimlico, the historic race track that serves as the home of the annual Preakness Stakes. To add to the city’s concerns, many neighborhoods lack supermarkets with nutritious food choices. This phenomenon leads to disturbing health statistics among residents who live in urban food deserts. There has been much discussion and debate about what to do with each issue: Since 1994, the Arabber Preservation Society has labored to help existing arabbers stay in business; more recently, advocates such as Baltimore Sun columnist Dan Rodricks have proposed several approaches to using arabbers to address the city’s food desert problem. But what if these troubled traditions could be addressed by a single solution?

Underutilized space adjoining the race track (outlined in red) represents the proposed location for this idea. Map © 2009 Google

Arabber horses, stabled and managed properly at Pimlico, could be integral to a lively food-centered education and entertainment destination for locals and tourists alike. Harnessing creative energy and available resources, we could transform our underappreciated arabbers and underutilized Pimlico and develop a successful model for supplying neighborhoods with local, healthy food. This public facility will find a home for the horses while breathing life into old Pimlico. Such a plan not only celebrates and commemorates the history and contributions of these Baltimore traditions, but also creates a sustainable model where each could stabilize, grow, and prosper. This model could also create jobs and educational opportunities within the city, while offering a solution to the current food crisis that contributes to residents’ poor diet and health. This is not such a long shot, is it? For further reading on these topics, go to 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 1 0


Extraordinary Voyages In “Les Voyages Extraordinaires,” Jules Verne presaged spacecraft transporting people to the moon and imagined submarines encountering strange undersea creatures. His well-known series of novels and stories seeded the minds of future generations who, through discovery and invention, went on to make real much of his creative vision. Less well known is that Verne himself was inspired by the “extraordinary stories” of Baltimore’s own Edgar Allan Poe. What extraordinary ideas could artists and scientists in Baltimore be inspiring in each other’s minds today, which could blossom into new 21st-century realities? Karen Yasinsky was intrigued by the notion that, in the search for life elsewhere in the universe, scientists don’t necessarily know what they are looking for. We have a handle on the forms of life here on Earth, but does that help or bias our thinking about life elsewhere? Could we be missing the evidence for alien life, simply because we can’t imagine its form and wouldn’t recognize it? What might contact with an alien civilization involve? Such contact might be the most extraordinary event in all of human history, and therefore represents a worthy focus for our collective imagination. We considered ways to engage each other first, and others later, in the challenge of creating visions of space places, new worlds, and possible intelligent creatures and their civilizations and how they might communicate. Is it possible that the next Jules Verne is lurking in Baltimore, and, with a little encouragement, could unleash a vision of life in the universe that would inspire the next generation to actually find On Europa we see some astronauts ice-skating. They pass by Robert F. Kennedy cutting a it? As Nobel Prize winner Linus figure eight, and we realize our structure of time has fallen apart! The astronauts begin to Pauling is to have said, “If you skate in an oval formation. They are elegant and fast, their goal being to cut into this ice and want to have a good idea, you find out what’s underneath. Finally, the ice begins to crack, and they go around two more must have many ideas.” If enough times, extra fast, taking care to hold each other’s hands in case anyone should fall. They hop people employ pure imagination back with ease and grace, surprising given the bulk of their space suits. The oval shape of on such a topic, then, like Jules ice flies up and away with cracking, rumbling, and other subtly monumental sounds. Water Verne, someone may eventually get slowly starts to rise up, geyser-like but extraordinarily slow, as if the substance were quite viscous. Slow tracking close-up shot of hand squeezes being shared in a mutual moment of it right. awe and appreciation. The faces of the astronauts show delighted surprise! Other life exists!! But what do they see?

In the last few decades, astronomers have continued to search for life within our solar system. Karen first considered the potential for pre-biotic life on one of the moons of Jupiter. She focused on Europa, because the image of it she found (from NASA’s Galileo spacecraft) looks like a grand, spherical skating palace, something you would happen upon during a day spent walking around through forest and fields, lost in thought. Astronomers have also discovered more than four hundred planets outside our solar system. Given this growing and varied list of abodes, it seems more possible than ever that life could exist elsewhere in the universe. Life could take on very exotic forms, based on different chemistries and evolving under very unearthly conditions. Contact with such life may not resemble the scenarios that myriad sci-fi novels and movies have depicted. A story by Steven Millhauser, “The Invasion from Outer Space,” portrays an alien invasion as a yellow dust. This story, and reading about some of the very hot planets recently discovered, inspired Karen to create a claymation character going about her day, walking down the street. Slowly, brilliant dots of colored light begin to fill the sky and descend. Very slowly, everything begins to melt and gently transform. The girl’s outer layer begins to slip away, revealing other colors, and her form changes as well— melting, growing plump and short before sprouting up like a stalk. Continual transformation but some periods are very slow, some faster. Plants and animals, insects, all life is melting and transforming! Buildings crumble, and all plastic and mutable compounds start running together, and we are finally left with a surface of oozing and growing life, without distinct boundaries, alive with the most beautiful colors possible. Surprise and mystification is felt by everyone. But there is no fear. It is all accepted. People just let go and become color. For further thoughts on these topics, an animation by Karen, and more, go to


Karen Yasinsky is an artist working primarily with animation and drawing. Her video installations and drawings have been shown in many venues internationally, including the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, P.S. 1 in New York, the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, and Kunst Werke in Berlin. Her animations have been screened worldwide at various venues and film festivals, including the Museum of Modern Art and the International Film Festival Rotterdam. She is the recipient of a 2002 Guggenheim Foundation grant and teaches at Johns Hopkins University and Maryland Institute College of Art. Max Mutchler is a scientist who has been working on the Hubble Space Telescope for the entire twenty-year mission, including the Space Shuttle servicing mission last May. As an expert on Hubble’s cameras, Mutchler has been involved in observations of nearby solar system objects, distant galaxies, and many interesting things in between. He is also a member of the Hubble Heritage team that has produced many of the most iconic images from Hubble. photo by Lisa Van Horn

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 1 0


LIVING A VISION What do we see when we see Baltimore? People live in radically different worlds in the same Baltimore. How do they see the city? How is their vision of the city reflected in what they do, manage, or create? What do those creations say to us and them? Do we have similarities? If so, what are they? Just for fun, we cast a wide net over the city and chose several characters to interview for this project. We posed the following six questions to each person:

. What does Baltimore mean to you? . If you had to choose one physical feature that you love about Charm City, what would it be? . If Baltimore were a fabric, what would be our common threads and colors? . What is one of your more meaningful moments or experiences with the city? . What is your hope for Baltimore’s future? . How do you see yourself making that happen? We also asked our respondents to choose six images that reflect their responses in one way or another. We took those images and applied them onto the six sides of an origami cube. (Origami is a Japanese art form that involves cleverly folding paper into new shapes.) Our prototype on the adjacent page allows you to participate in our project by pulling the page out and folding it to create a cube. (To see more responses, go to www. It wasn’t easy for us, either; it’s been a few years since we tried this childhood pastime. The difficulty in working to get the folds right and the inserts correct reflects some of the difficulty we face in integrating our different views of and hopes for B-more with others. But what a beautiful and rewarding result! It truly is a charm—a charm that keeps on changing and gleaming! We interviewed many people, all with interesting stories to tell. If we didn’t get to you or if we could not transmit your entire story, we apologize. Oh, but wait! We have included you! What with that other wonderful little creative design, the computer, we can have you join us, too! Baltimore bling does its thing: Streets paved with glassphalt (a combination of asphalt and recycled glass) showcase the Station North and Highlandtown arts and entertainment districts. Diamonds are forever! Photo by Kelly Wise.

Let us hear from you. How do you see Baltimore? Go to project and create your very own origami cube charm with your own photos. Just follow the directions on the website, and presto: You too will become another beautiful thread of this most beautiful city, our charming Baltimore. And the good news is, as you and your community change and grow, you can refine, revise, or re-imagine your origami!


Margaret B. Martin, who dubs herself a “professional imagineer,” is the chief of design and construction in Baltimore’s new department of general services. A native of Oklahoma, she holds a B.A. in economics and fine arts from Randolph-Macon Woman's College; a B.S. in civil engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park; and an M.S. in environmental engineering from Johns Hopkins University. Lenneal J. Henderson is a Distinguished Professor of Government and Public Administration, a senior fellow in the William Donald Schaefer Center, and a senior fellow in the Hoffberger Center for Professional Ethics at the University of Baltimore. He teaches and studies urban management and politics. He received A.B., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees from the University of California, Berkeley, and grew up in New Orleans and San Francisco. photo by Tyler Fitzpatrick

All cube photos by Margaret B. Martin except the second from the top, taken by Anne Draddy

The fabric of Baltimore is like a Coogi sweater. Colorful, ethnic; irregular, artistic, eye-catching, and unique. Its nubs and lumps are not flaws, but character. And you’ll never see anything quite like it anywhere else. —JAN HARDESTY, MOUNT VERNON

Communities and neighborhoods are our common thread and strength. Being part of a community provides the necessary support and nurturing we need in our hectic city lives. Living in Baltimore, I feel a strong sense of belonging. —ANNE DRADDY, RADNOR-WINSTON

I want Baltimoreans to continue to realize what we have here and to work together to not just be that “diamond in the rough,” but to grow into that precious gem that is our home.

The city means walking from home to a store—looking over your shoulder when you do—and living in the same block with blacks, Jews, Latinos, and people from Russia!



My hope for Baltimore’s future is that the city will not change and lose its neighborhood feeling. I hope that any change that does happen would only strengthen the close ties that all of the neighborhoods have. —MATT FOUSE, CHARLES VILLAGE

You could say I fell in love with Baltimore backwards. It was only after I came here and started working with and for the students at the University of Baltimore that I fully appreciated the many layers of the city: its rich culture, the great food, the diverse neighborhoods. —ROBERT BOGOLMONY, MIDTOWN

I see myself helping to develop a green approach to delivering community health services at Baltimore Medical System, a community health nonprofit where I work. —REBECCA RUGGLES, HIGHLANDTOWN

White, black, blue, and red. White and black representing our struggle to make our fabric truly an interracial vision. Blue representing our maritime heritage and connection to the Chesapeake Bay. And red representing the legacy of war, conflict, and street crime that unfortunately we too often share.

origami diagram by Margaret B. Martin


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Alice Gaines Played the Harp by david franks

In kindergarten Alice Gaines Played the harp . at nap time & for an hour at noon each day

Alice Gaines played the harp . even We . the youngest children knew the drill To close the windows against flying glass To move under our desks & clasp Our hands to the back of our bowed necks & pray That the bomb was not really on its way This time . that the Russians weren’t coming This time . to sift through our charred remains Alice Gaines played the harp . as From beneath my desk I prayed: Dear God . this is David In Washington D.C. . remind The Russians . my Father Pappa . & . Bubbie are Russians . too Dear God . this is David I am in The first reading group Under my desk

courtesy of Macon Street Books

It was as if Angels sang away The cares of children sweetly sleeping After graham crackers & milk . even When the air raid sirens’ shrill alarms Shattered dreams

David Franks january 30, 1943–january 14, 2010 The poet David Franks—as the late David Franks often said—“tells stories and some of them are true.” Not true was his age, about which, like the temperamental matinee idol that he was, Franks lied, hacking five years from the birth certificate. Indelibly true was this: His ideas floated through the empyrean while his feet trudged the streets of Baltimore; his work—archived at the moment by the artist Joe Wall at the Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower and sampled online at http://poetdavidfranks. com—will be studied for generations to come; his mind worked like no other (the sacred and profane side by side in a heart above which Borges once autographed) and surely, all who knew and mourn him concur, we will not see the likes of him again. —Rafael Alvarez

Waiting For the end Of the world

Web extra: More on David Franks at

© 1998 David Franks

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 1 0


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by will morton illustrations by april osmanof

arol Resurreccion started out like the typical Internet Age homebuyer. She surfed over to, a popular real estate search site, to scope out a house with a two-car garage and at least two full baths. Then she narrowed her search for the perfect home, hunting for one with a soaking tub, master suite, and walk-in closet, located in a good school district and near a MARC station. Up popped a brick colonial in Howard County with cream-colored shutters and a big backyard. It had been on the market for three hundred days, so she thought the seller might accept an offer below the $450,000 asking price. But before her real estate agent even took her to see it, she got a little bargaining help from the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation. When she searched the state’s property database (at, she discovered the seller had bought the home for $449,000—and had a primary address twenty minutes away. “I figured he wouldn’t be willing to budge on price because it was his second home,” says the 30-year-old Resurreccion, an employee benefits worker. “The key point is trying to find out why the seller is selling the house. Is it a short sale? Sometimes it’s hard to tell.” Resurreccion’s experience raises the question about how the Internet can—and can’t—help people choose where to live. Thanks to the digital revolution, prospective buyers now can browse the Multiple Listing Service, once privy only to real estate professionals. They can prowl inside homes on photo galleries, swoop over the neighbors’ backyards via Google Earth, and calculate proximity to parks, schools, or transit. Neighborhood crime statistics are only a few clicks away. Real estate firms and individual real estate agents offer websites loaded with homefinding widgets and mortgage payment estimators. But despite the omnipotence of the Internet, which continues to morph tons of public data into whiz-bang websites, there’s still no one single killer homebuying app. “Databases have their place, but we can also get far too carried away with ‘sophisticated tools,’ when the old tried-and-true measures probably work as well or better,” notes Sandra J. Newman, a housing policy professor at Johns Hopkins University’s Institute for Policy

Studies, in an e-mail. (Her old-school advice: Walk the streets to get a feel for the neighborhood.) What online research can do is hand buyers powerful tools that can help them find that neighborhood in the first place. The first stop for many a Baltimore area homebuyer is the Live Baltimore Home Center. Located online at or downtown at 343 North Charles Street, Live Baltimore offers descriptions of the city’s 225-plus neighborhoods, details about a half dozen homebuyer incentive programs, and a fun feature that matches your personality to a neighborhood. The resident referral program lets prospective buyers talk by phone or e-mail with some 1,400 residents of various neighborhoods. Some even show people around the neighborhood, says Anna Custer, Live Baltimore’s executive director. Custer is full of tips on who to call and where to dig after roaming the Live Baltimore site, but she doesn’t forget the basics. “Typically what we tell people is Google the neighborhood and see what comes up,” she says. One way to whittle down options is to consider the twenty neighborhoods eligible for below-cost financing, grants, and professional advice through Healthy Neighborhoods (www.healthy, a nonprofit that assists buyers and rehabbers in such “undervalued” city neighborhoods as Reservoir Hill and BelairEdison. In addition to nonprofit support, these areas are typically outfitted with community activists who are organized and paying attention—a key indicator of an up-and-coming neighborhood. Once you’re savvy about sales listings and caught up on crime stats, put your tax dollars to work and call some flesh-and-blood experts: the team of community planners who cover the city’s nine planning districts. (To find them, go to government/planning. Then look down the navigation bar for “Divisions” and click on “comprehensive planning.”) “They are the most knowledgeable people for their area,” says Laurie Feinberg, division chief for comprehensive planning. In the western district, for example, planner Kate Edwards can tell you that parking at the West Baltimore MARC station should see improvements by the end of the year; the MTA plans to demolish a wall along North Pulaski Street, more than doubling the current 327 parking spots by mid-2011. And just across 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 1 0


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Franklin Street stands the American Ice Co. building, which the city would like to turn into a mixed-use development with a link to a new MARC station. Elsewhere in the western district—which stretches from Gwynns Falls Parkway south to Mulberry Street, between Fremont Avenue and Hilton Parkway—Coppin State University is busily expanding its campus, opening a new sports complex across from Mondawmin Mall this spring (see Urbanite, Oct. ’09) and buying up properties along North Avenue. That expansion could draw new businesses to serve students and employees. And the mall itself is doing well enough, Edwards says, that General Growth Properties, the nation’s second-largest mall operator, wants to expand into outer parts of the site. To make way, the Motor Vehicle Administration office at Mondawmin is preparing to move to the Hilltop Shopping Center near Northern Parkway and Reisterstown Road by May 2011. Once you’ve heard about development plans like these, think about things like civic engagement and voter turnout. “That gives an idea of the strength and vitality of the neighborhood,” compared with an area that has no community associations and low voting rates, says Matthew Kachura, project manager of the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance. The nonprofit turns data from government, schools, and elsewhere into fifty-five by-the-numbers profi les that give

For newcomers, the planning department's housing market typology map offers a visual summary of Baltimore's geography of desirability. homebuyers a sense of the overall community ( indicators/statistical_profi les.html). “You’re not necessarily buying a house; you’re buying a neighborhood,” Kachura says. “You’re not going to want to buy a house if you’re living next door to the Addams family.” The profi les also can help untangle school data. The Maryland Report Card ( breaks things down strictly by public school, not by where students live. While most elementary students still typically attend neighborhood schools, a growing number of public charter schools draw students from around the city, and there’s even more geographic diversity at the high school level. Also, look at a neighborhood’s workforce to find what percentage of residents are unemployed, Kachura says. On the health front, check the levels of teen births and prenatal care, plus elevated blood lead levels in children. Find the profi les at statistical_profi les.html. To sniff out more health data, visit the city Health Department at Click on “neighborhood profi les,” then scroll to the bottom to find “supplementary tables.” Here, you’ll find the ugly truth about the city’s health disparities (in an equally ugly spreadsheet—click on table 2 at the bottom). It’s a listing of city neighborhoods ranked by a dozen health criteria, such as life expectancy (highest in Roland Park at 80; lowest in Hollins Market/ Poppleton at 62) and rates of cancer and teen motherhood. For reports that regular humans can understand, go to http://baltimorehealth. org/neighborhoodmap. “The report points out that health is associated with an individual’s income,” says Alisa Ames, one of the authors of the reports, which were the result of a collaboration between the Baltimore City Health Department’s Office of Epidemiology and Planning, led by Dr. Caroline Fichtenberg, and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. On average, for every $10,000 more in neighborhood median income, residents lived 3.4 years longer. A fall 2010 revision of the study, Ames says, will study “modifiable aspects of neighborhoods”— things such ready access to healthy food and places to exercise: “Those things are not equal around Baltimore.”

· Scan neighborhood profiles. Check and click on “Neighborhoods.” · Find listings using,,, or, run by Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc. It lists everything in the multiple listing service shared by real estate agents; people can tailor their hunts by price, home type, and features. · Check crime stats. In the city, go to http://maps.baltimore In Baltimore County, go to

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· See how the city sees itself. Check out the housing market map that ranks blocks from competitive to distressed: planning/housingmarkettyp.php. · Discover the master plan. Read the city’s twenty-one area master plans and forty-three urban renewal plans (www. Planning/MasterPlansMapsPublications.aspx), or the Baltimore Development Corp.’s thirty-three urban renewal plans ( · Get the bird’s eye view at Register for free to see a site’s aerial outline by e-mailing geoserv@mdarchives. · Revel in data overload at, a nationwide aggregation of housing data. Using reams of figures from the Census Bureau, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the U.S. Postal Service, among others, this easy-to-use site lets you create custom maps, tables, and charts.

Lauraville Median 2009 home price: $245,000 This Old House picked shady Lauraville as one of its “Best Old House Neighborhoods” in 2009. Long favored by rehabbers for its affordable Victorians and bungalows, L-ville also boasts ethnic diversity, big yards, and a booming Harford Road restaurant row.

photo by Jen Ashlock

Greektown Median 2009 home price: $135,000 Tidy 1900s-era brick rowhouses, a strong community development organization, and a host of new commercial, residential, and transit plans make this stable neighborhood east of Highlandtown a sleeper to watch. Bonus points: Convenient baklava!

courtesy of Live Baltimore

courtesy of Live Baltimore

ne of the more colorful visual expressions of such urban diversity can be found at planning/housingmarkettyp.php. Dubbed the “2008 Housing Market Typology,” it’s the city’s version of a hard look in the mirror: a map of the city, with each neighborhood ranked and color-coded on a fivecategory scale ranging from purplish “competitive” (high property values and low vacancies) to orange and red “distressed,” which covers neighborhoods with at least four times the vacancy levels of the next highest category. Seema Iyer, the city’s research and strategic planning chief, calls the map a tool to help federal, state, and local authorities and nonprofits direct resources for maximum impact. But it’s also a fascinating snapshot of the city’s block-by-block health. Although more suited for government agencies, a civilian homebuyer could still use the typology map “to corroborate your sense of a neighborhood,” Iyer says. The housing typology can confirm exactly where property values start to rise or tumble, for example, or point out the pocket of stability in an otherwise transitional community. For Baltimore-area newcomers, a glance at the map offers a visual summary of the city's geography of desirability. To further narrow the hotter neighborhoods, Paul Graziano, Baltimore’s housing commissioner, advises prospective city homebuyers to look where housing supply currently exceeds demand (such as east of the harbor in Canton and Fells Point), or near future development—along Edmondson Avenue, for example, where the light rail’s Red Line is planned, or across from the Edmondson Village Shopping Center, where the $300 million redevelopment of the Uplands site in a few years will produce about 1,100 new housing units. “If you want a house today, and you want to beat the market, check Rognel Heights and Allendale,” Graziano says. “Those are all very solid, modest neighborhoods,” sandwiched between Leakin Park and the Red Line corridor. Also check the outlying Park Heights neighborhoods of Ashburton, Cylburn, and West Arlington. If a major redevelopment plan succeeds in addressing blight in central Park Heights, these stable surrounding neighborhoods could benefit someone buying a house now. “That could only mean that your values would be going up there,” Graziano says. Similarly, there are abundant signs of life between Station North and Charles Village in Barclay, where D.C.-based developer Telesis has acquired 268 properties from the city and is about to start a four-phase redevelopment. Graziano also sees opportunity in Westport, where small working-class rowhouses with modest price tags

Remington Median 2009 home price: $151,000 Gritty Remington got a boost this year with the opening of Miller’s Court, a vacant warehouse transformed into affordable apartments and offices. Next up: A big-box redevelopment of the Anderson Automotive site on Howard Street.

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could benefit from the billion-dollar waterfront community planned by developer Patrick Turner, the builder of Silo Point. (See Urbanite, Jan. ’10.) Quick access to I-95 and I-295 and Westport's own light rail stop don’t hurt the neighborhood's prospects, either. One big eyesore, a large electrical substation, isn’t going anywhere, however. “Today it looks a little rough around the edges, but if you get in early, you’ll see some price appreciation,” he says. Temper Graziano’s recommendations with a bit of patience and a hardy pioneer spirit, however. Some Baltimore neighborhoods have been up-and-coming for decades: Think Reservoir Hill and Pigtown. If strategically timing your real estate purchase is an option, keep an eye on the big picture: the Case-Schiller Home Price Indices at, which tracks the residential housing market in twenty U.S. metropolitan regions (not including Baltimore). Professor Michael Anikeeff, chairman of the real estate program at Johns Hopkins University’s Carey Business School, says that prospective buyers will find plenty of financial incentives now—thirty-year fi xed-rate mortgages are at forty-five-year lows—but the anticipated housing recovery is still in its infancy, and home prices are expected to go down for about another year. “I wouldn’t be buying a house now as a financial investment,” he says. But for someone looking to stay in a home for three to five years, “now is a reasonably good time to buy, as good as any.”

“It’s a little scary what you can find once you start researching online,” says ReMax agent Brian Holt. Once you’ve settled on the neighborhood of your dreams and are ready to make an offer, use some lesser-known Web gems to put public records to work. Brian Holt, the ReMax agent in Fulton who helped Carol Resurreccion find her home last fall, recommends using a combination of websites to help prepare a bid. First, find the property’s last sale price and the seller’s name through the state Department of Assessment and Taxation. Go to and click on “real property data search.” Then click it again on the next page. Then choose the county and enter the property address. (Check up and down the street to see what the neighbors paid, too.) Next, find out how the property was paid for. Big down payment or financed to the hilt? This could offer hints as to whether the seller would take less than the asking price, Holt says. The sellers of a 100percent-financed house, listed at $400,000, probably want to recoup everything, Holt says. If the same sellers borrowed only $300,000, they might go for a lower offer. This means you need to dig up the mortgage papers: Sign up for free at and click on the county on the left side. Next, click on “search county land record indices.” Scroll down to search by “grantor/grantee” and enter the seller’s name. (You can also search by street address.) Now click on “deed of trust” and find the owner’s loan amount. Subtract that from the last sale price, which you found on the state tax site, and you get the amount of the down payment. “It’s a little scary what you can find once you start researching online,” says Holt, who calls one of his favorite spots on the Web. Still, he remains a believer in old-fashioned lowtech footwork. “You can’t really get a feel for it until you talk to someone who’s local. All the websites in the world aren’t going to do that for you,” Holt says. “The Internet’s a tool, but it’s not the answer.” ■

· Look up the seller’s name and property’s last sale price. Use, the Maryland Department of Assessment and Taxation’s real property data search, to find any property in Maryland. Check what the neighbors paid, too. · Find out how the property was paid for, which might help indicate whether the seller would take a lower offer. Register for free at, which can tell you if a property was fully financed or if it had large down payment. · Study neighborhood profiles. The Baltimore Neighborhoods Indicators Alliance crunches census data and employment stats with health info and voter turnout by neighborhood: · Take a healthy look around. The Health Department ( provides community data on life expectancy, causes of death, and maternal and child health.

—This is freelance writer Will Morton’s 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 1 0





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 Philadelphia, New York, Boston and Santa Monica. Join us in welcoming them to Baltimore!

Tim McDonald Onion Flats, Philadelphia Design with Many Hats: Developer, Architect, Builder March 24, Wednesday Julie Eizenberg, AIA Koning Eizenberg Architecture, Santa Monica Informal Relationships: A Framework for Sustainability April 7, Wednesday Jerry van Eyck West 8 Urban Planning and Landscape Architecture, New York, Rotterdam Narration of Urban Settings through Integral Landscapes April 22, Thursday Rodolfo Machado, Intl. Assoc. AIA Machado + Silvetti Associates, Boston Creation of Distinctive Space: A Collage of Context and Invention April 27, Tuesday _______

All lectures begin at 6 p.m., and are followed by a reception. Maryland Institute College of Art, Brown Center, Falvey Hall, 1301 Mt. Royal Avenue, 21217 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, BAF, and BH 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 These advertisers are among the firm members of AIABaltimore.

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Up in the air: Berkley Reddick’s treehouse is perched 23 feet off the ground in an old maple. Custom-made brackets allow the house to float between contact points on three waving limbs. “When the wind blows, the house moves 5 or 6 inches,” says her father, Louren. “It’s like being in a boat.”


Out on a limb: Louren Reddick spent three weekends weaving together the cable and rope bridge that connects the treehouse to his third-floor deck, only to discover that it was too heavy for him to maneuver into place. He managed the feat with a neighbor’s help and bolted the bridge into place. “If the tree were to fall,” he says, “I’m fairly sure it would rip my deck off.”

No Grown-ups Allowed

Baltimore kids, big and small, escape to the treetops


ne of my favorite childhood stories came from a picture book called Andrew Henry’s Meadow, published in 1965. The book, written by Doris Burn, told of the travails of a handy kid of maybe 10 whose knack for constructing cool contraptions in inappropriate places—an eagle’s cage in the living room, a helicopter rigged to the ceiling fan in the kitchen—was the bane of his painfully ordinary family. Tired of being evicted from different corners of the house, he packed his tools and set off to find a place where he could tinker in peace. In a meadow out past the edge of town, Andrew Henry built himself a respectable

little house, complete with a windowsill landing pad for dragonflies. A parade of other under-appreciated youngsters followed, toting the childhood artifacts (mud pies, racing toads) their parents had banned from their homes. Soon there were nine runaways, and in the four days it took their (ever-repentant) parents to find them, Andrew Henry built each of them a house—a treehouse for the bird-lover, a shack on a bridge for the wannabe boat captain, a miniature castle with a drawbridge for the girl who arrived with a bundle of dress-up clothes. The book inspired a veritable village of “forts” in my yard when I was growing

by greg hanscom photography by daniel bedell 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 1 0



Ben Benson’s father Mark held a fourday “treehouse camp” last summer. “The first day went pretty well,” Mark says. “We had boys sawing wood, hammering nails. But by third or fourth day there was only one boy who was into construction. The rest of them were on to Lego trading.”

up (including a leaning, plywood monstrosity that drew the ire of the local homeowners’ association), and it clearly has staying power. Putnam released a 40th-anniversary edition a few years back, and there are rumors that it's being made into a movie. When I unearthed my tattered copy recently, my 5-year-old daughter, Lucia, turned up her nose at the pen and ink drawings: “It’s all just black and white!” But as I started reading, she settled in beside me. When the story was over, she offered this one-word response: “Again.” After the third reading, she went to work on the blueprints for a couple of backyard hideaways and a zip line. There’s something timeless about the urge to escape the grown-up world—and not

world have strung up suites in the canopies. And as Lucia and I discovered on a recent treehouse tour of northern Baltimore, the movement is alive and well here, too. The most impressive feat of arboreal engineering we found is perched 23 feet off the ground in a maple tree in 9-year-old Berkley Reddick’s yard. The treehouse, which is designed to match the Reddicks’ Craftsman-style home, sits on a deck suspended between three spreading branches, and is accessible only via a rope bridge connected to the third-floor balcony. The house’s builder, Berkley’s father, Louren, who owns Federal Hill Kitchen Bath & Closet, says he spent eight or nine months puzzling over how to wedge a structure

In the past fifteen years, professional treehouse contractors have made a business out of building treetop retreats not just for kids, but also “treehomes” for adults, some of them equipped with running water, flush toilets, and electricity. just among 10-year-olds. In the past fifteen years, professional treehouse contractors have made a business out of building treetop retreats not just for kids, but also “treehomes” for adults, some of them equipped with running water, flush toilets, and electricity. The World Treehouse Association, founded in 1997, tests engineering schemes and hardware and sets standards for tree-friendly construction. High-end hotels around the


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Mark Benson’s angular design was inspired by 1960s and ’70s architecture, he says. But while he took care of the exterior (and consulted with neighbors along the way), “I’ve left the inside for Ben,” he says.

among the branches without damaging the tree. He consulted with an arborist and a structural engineer, and ultimately had to rework his design several times on the fly. “There was always some new problem,” Louren says. “I’d be moving along, and all of a sudden there would be a limb in the way. Or I’d be installing the siding and realize I couldn’t reach the end pieces.” (He tried, unsuccessfully in the end, to attach the siding from the inside of the treehouse to avoid having to put up scaffolding.) A project he thought would take maybe six months turned into a three-year saga. A few blocks from the Reddicks’ place, Mark Benson, a carpenter in a past life and a stay-at-home dad, built a treehouse for his son, Ben, during a hiatus from remodeling his home. Benson’s is built almost entirely with recycled materials. The joists and deck on which the treehouse rests were torn from the front porch during the remodel. The cedar siding came from a salvage yard. The retractable drawbridge connecting the treehouse to the back deck hangs on a ladder

Treehouse Toolbox Tree Top Builders in West Chester, Pennsylvania, offers design and construction services, supplies, and treehouse building workshops: www. Roger Knight’s Baltimore start-up, Up and Away Tree Houses: www.upand Pete Nelson is the author of New Treehouses of the World (2009) and others: Professional engineer Charles Greenwood is a specialist in tree mechanics and artificial limbs: www.treehouse

rack exhumed from a junkyard truck. The most inventive reuse, though, is the hollowed-out slices of a dead tree, which Benson stacked into a cylindrical ladder that can be scaled from the outside or from within. Benson says that by and large, neighborhood reaction to the treehouse has been positive—although some parents feign anger over how he’s raised expectations. “I’ve had other dads wave their fists at me,” he says. Of course, if they’re like me, those dads are secretly planning treehouses of their own. I know, I’m a long way removed from that starry-eyed kid with his rucksack full of tools, but can’t I still play, too? “It’s a weird balance,” says Roger Knight, a part-time bike messenger who has just started a treehouse building business in Baltimore called Up and Away. “I want to encourage people to do it right. But there’s something magical about a couple of 12-year-olds going out with a little lumber and some nails and just getting it done.” ■ —Greg Hanscom is Urbanite's senior editor.

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Tantalize Your Taste Buds During Talbot County’s Restaurant Week Diners will enjoy multiple course pre-fixe menus at exceptional values…lunch for $20.10 and dinner for $30.10. Beverages, taxes and gratuities not included.

Restaurant Week Schedule March 21 – Restaurant Week Kickoff - Celebrate Talbot! Sample, Sip, & Savor at The Oaks 3 – 7 PM - $35 pp March 22-27 - Restaurant Week Lunch/Dinners $20.10/$30.10 March into Museums Free admission to Restaurant Week patrons March 27 - Chamber Music Festival - Avalon Theatre Festival / Restaurant Week patrons eligible to win free concert tickets March 28 - Chesapeake Film Festival closes Restaurant Week with a screening of “Big Night” followed by food, wine, and music highlighted in the movie.

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urbanite march 10

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Going Brogue

Doing the Irish pub crawl in search of a real taste of the auld sod


hile planning a trip to Ireland’s southwest coast with my then-girlfriend Deb back in 2002, I prepared myself by watching Maryland Public Television’s reruns of the BBC drama Ballykissangel, which is set in contemporary Ireland. During the months leading up to our trip I got so sucked in by BallyK, as fans call it, that I not-so-secretly longed to move to the fictitious eponymic village. I imagined myself in Fitzgerald’s Pub, the local watering hole, hoisting a pint with skeptical young priest Father Peter or calming fiery Assumpta Fitzgerald behind the bar after she’d once again blown up (she is Irish, after all) at Brian Quigley, the show’s scheming, archetypal Celtic Tiger entrepreneur. By the time Deb and I boarded an Aer Lingus jet, we’d decided to steer clear of the Blarney Stone, Bunratty Castle, and even Dublin’s touristy Temple Bar district. Sure, we both enjoyed a Guinness or three, but the farther afield we traveled, we figured, the more likely we would avoid places that turned Ireland’s much-ballyhooed craic (a Gaelic term for spontaneous, collective fun, pronounced “crack”) into frat-party bacchanalia. We were looking for the real-life Fitzgerald’s Pubs—communal hubs that served up the republic’s most underrated natural resources: simple but honest regional cuisine and that potable mash of lyrical fatalism and incisive wit so common to the Irish psyche. Our first stop on our way down the southwest coast was Doolin, a small village overlooking the famed Cliffs of Moher. Doolin is a stronghold of Gaelic culture and traditional Irish music; even in the off season, the village’s three pubs thrum with informal

by andrew reiner illustration by emily c-d


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urbanite march 10


eat / drink This Spud’s for You Boxty on the griddle, Boxty in the pan, If you can’t make boxty, You’ll never get a man.


music sessions (seisiún in Gaelic), with musiposters, the ones with cartoon animals and cians sitting around tables, jamming jigs and “Guinness is Good for You” taglines. Deb and reels and ignoring requests from Yanks in the I both ordered boxtys. The pancakes were crowd. At a pub one night, we ordered lamb thin; a few bites revealed mouthfuls of hard, stew and a beef-and-mushroom boxty, which oily, grated potato shreds that reminded me neither of us had ever heard of. Boxty, as our of Ore-Ida hash browns. Hey, where were the server explained, was a kind of potato panmashed potatoes and the farm-fresh buttercake, eaten alone or with fi llings like a crepe. milk? The bartender laughed. “You’ll need to Deb had low expectations for her boxty see me granny if you’ll be wantin’ all that in and for Irish fare in general. The shepherd’s yer boxty,” he said. pie and Gaelic steak we had tried at ersatz A few years later, Deb and I sat in Ryan’s Irish pubs like Philadelphia’s Fado and Daughter, the Irish pub that took over a Timonium’s An Poitin Stil was fine, but the Chili’s in Belvedere Square, eating boxtys cuisine of the Emerald Isle, like that of the and chips with curry sauce (another pubUnited Kingdom, typically appeals to the grub standard) in a room that looked like meek of palate and spirit, neither of which it had been lifted out of an Irish farmhouse. Deb identified with. I, on the other hand, was The same vintage Guinness signs hung on so buzzed from the burning peat hearth and the walls. I asked our server how they had seisiún that it didn’t achieved the look of the place, much matter what I and she told me that many was served, as long of the pub’s interior fi xtures The boxty tasted as it tasted like the had been shipped over from auld sod. the mother country. Like exactly like I had Deb’s boxty the Stil and the James Joyce imagined: simple food Restaurant & Pub in Harbor turned out to be terrific: The panEast, Ryan’s Daughter is part with flavor that came cake, which cradled of an international Irish pub from the resourceful use exportation industry: ComGuinness-soaked chunks of beef, panies such as Delvin Farm of honest ingredients. Country reminded me of the Antiques, Diageo hand-grated latkes (Guinness’s parent corporamy mother made tion), and the Irish Pub Co. every Hanukah, except this was larger, with (IPC) fabricate the interiors in Ireland from a silken, fleshy density. Best of all, it tasted salvaged and newly built fi xtures. Diageo exactly like what I had imagined from the and IPC go so far as to offer everything from land of BallyK: simple food with flavor that management and accounting templates to came not from advanced culinary trainemployment agency contacts for real Irish ing but from the resourceful use of honest bartenders. IPC describes this as a packingredients. Authentic boxty, our server said, aged pub concept that guarantees “depth, called for leftover mashed potatoes and real heritage, tradition and authenticity.” A 2006 farm-fresh buttermilk. story about the faux-pub phenomenon in Leaving Doolin the next morning, we Slate reported that more than 1,800 public stopped at the Cliffs of Moher before setting houses had been shipped to fifty countries off for the Dingle Peninsula. The cliffs rise where Ireland’s most precious commodity, 700 feet above the Atlantic Ocean, but all we its craic, now thrives. could see was a curtain of dense fog. At one As I ate my boxty and sipped my point the mist broke just long enough for us Smithwicks—both tasting more authentic to glimpse Doolin’s pubs across the sound than their equivalents in Dingle—I thought before they disappeared again—an Irish about BallyK for the first time in a while. Brigadoon—leaving us to wonder if what we MPT had put the brakes on the series a few had experienced the night before had really months earlier, but I had stopped watching occurred. it long before. Father Peter and Assumpta’s Not all our Irish pub experiences turned endless hand-wringing over protecting the out to be as magically delicious. Sometimes village’s pristine identity from corrupting we had to remind ourselves where we were: outside influences now seemed a bit tireThe menus were loaded with hamburgers some. What my irascible imaginary friends and chicken nuggets; the locals pumped us failed to understand was that when it comes for information about Survivor and toasted to cultural identity, sometimes clichés, like America with longnecks of Budweiser. Father Guinness, are good for you. ■ Peter and Assumpta were nowhere to be seen. —Andrew Reiner wrote about Edgar Allan Poe One night in Dingle, we found ourselves in a in the October 2009 Urbanite. picture-perfect pub, complete with woodburning fireplace and reproduction Guinness

The adage may be dated, but it also speaks to the popularity of boxty throughout Ireland. Aran boct ti, as it is called in Gaelic, is prepared in many different ways, but most use a mix of fi nely grated raw and mashed potatoes. The Irish consider boxty a dish unto itself, but Irish pubs in the U.S. usually pair it with fi llings that range from steak or chicken to curried vegetables. Here’s the boxty served by Lawrence O’Driscoll, chef at Ryan’s Daughter Irish Pub in Belvedere Square. He based his recipe on the version offered at Gallagher’s Boxty House in Dublin.

Ryan’s Daughter’s Boxty with Steak & Mushrooms boxty

makes 30 boxty cakes, approximately 6 inches across. (figure at least 2 per person.)

3 eggs ½ gallon whole milk 1 bunch scallions, fi nely chopped Salt and pepper to taste 5 cups leftover mashed potatoes 1 potato, fi nely grated 3–4 cups flour Vegetable oil Using a stand mixer, mix eggs, milk, scallions, salt, and pepper on low speed. Slowly add mashed potatoes. Once fully incorporated, slowly add flour, one cup at a time, until pancake batter-like consistency is reached. (You may not need all the flour.) Mix in grated potato. Heat griddle or skillet until hot. Add one teaspoon of oil. Using a 4-ounce ladle, spread batter into circular shape. When bubbles appear and begin to pop, run a spatula around the perimeter and fl ip the boxty. Cook the other side for an equal amount of time and place onto a tray in a single layer. Allow boxty to cool before stacking.

steak & mushroom filling

One fl ank steak, 2–3 lbs (7–8 oz per portion) Kosher salt and pepper to taste Vegetable oil 2 shallots, fi nely diced 2 cups assorted fresh mushrooms, sliced 2 sprigs fresh thyme 1 medium onion, diced 1 red bell pepper, diced 3 oz Irish whiskey (John Powers preferred) 2 oz heavy cream 5 oz demi-glace or reduced beef stock Chopped parsley or scallions for garnish (optional)

Season steak with salt and pepper, brush with oil, and broil or grill, approximately 4 minutes on each side. Remove to a plate and let rest while making sauce. Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a skillet over mediumhigh heat. Add shallots, mushrooms, salt, pepper, and fresh thyme. Cook until mushrooms brown and release their liquid. Add onion and bell pepper. Continue cooking until onion softens and begins to color, then add whiskey (be careful to pull pan away from the burner when adding whiskey) and simmer. Flambé by lighting whiskey with a long match. When fl ames die down, add cream and demi-glace and simmer until thickened. Slice steak against the grain in thin strips and add to skillet. Cook until steak reaches desired doneness. To serve, top boxty with fi lling. Roll into cigar shape and drizzle remaining sauce over the top. Garnish with chopped parsley or scallion. Web extra: More Irish eats at

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Line-caught bluefin tuna with roasted beet infusion and an herb bouquet 410-561-CHEF

fashionable catered events

photo by La Kaye Mbah

Diablita Cantina

Devil's food: Flaky empanadas at Diablita Cantina

Diablita translates as “Little She-Devil,” but there isn’t anything particularly diabolical about the new upscale Mexican restaurant that has taken over the Central Avenue space vacated by Tsunami. It follows a similar formula as its short-lived pan-Asian forbear, except with cuisine from the opposite hemisphere. Executive chef Russell Braitsch fields a Latin-inflected menu that elevates the usual nachos, fajitas, and burritos with some innovative ingredients rarely seen in these parts. The chip bowl mixes yellow and blue corn tortilla chips with malanga, yucca, and plantain; it comes with a trio of salsas (none, alas, delivers much heat). Pulled-pork empanadas boast uncommonly flaky pastry and two toppings—cilantro sour cream and a mole sauce of charred poblano peppers— while queso fundido delivers a gooey, tequilaspiked amalgam of Chihuahua, Cotija, and Garrotxa cheeses. There are tequila-lime chicken fajitas, bison quesadillas, and tangy-but-soggy ahi tuna ceviche tacos (served cold). A mushroom “pizza Mexicana”

flatbread (on a crispy flour tortilla) is sprinkled with chewy huitlacoche—corn fungus with a sweet, earthy, mushroom-like flavor—plus crumbles of mild queso fresco and roasted calabaza, a squash more sugary than butternut. The freshly rehabbed space echoes the rural-industrial aesthetic of its nearby sibling, Fells Point’s Red Star—think exposed brick, rough-hewn beams, and a complete absence of South-of-the-Border-style sombrero kitsch. The long bar proffers ten beers from Mexico, a tequila list (complete with tasting notes) that dwarfs the wine list, and a margarita menu full of such modish additives as watermelon, pomegranate, and spiced cucumber. Traditionalists note: The “La Diablita Classic”—with tequila, agave nectar, fresh lime, and a splash of orange—is expertly made. (Lunch and dinner daily; brunch Sun. 1300 Bank St.; 410-522-0012;


eat / drink

—Martha Thomas

When the Dogwood was shuttered this summer, fans fretted over the fate of the Hampden eatery that served rustic-chic farm-to-table fare with a generous side of urban do-goodery: In 2007, owners Galen and Bridget Sampson established a nonprofit apprenticeship program to train recovering addicts and ex-offenders in restaurant skills. (See Urbanite, Dec. ’07) That idealistic narrative ran head-on into the hard-luck economy, and the restaurant went dark for four months. But wait: In December, the Dogwood re-emerged from fiscal purgatory with an elegant new dinner-only menu, an upstairs oyster bar, and the same laudable social mission. Like nearby Woodberry Kitchen, Dogwood traffics heavily in locavorean rhetoric: You can play “Who Grew the Rutabaga?” and probably work out each dish’s carbon footprint on the back of your napkin. But there’s a core simplicity to most dishes, which can be both deeply satisfying and a little plain. A duck-egg spread appetizer, for example, is little more than a little bowl of very good egg salad. More compelling are well-seared scallops arranged around acorn

squash and house-cured bacon, but they too could be called underseasoned. Elsewhere, however, less-is-more pays off: Roasted chicken, typically a snooze, is here a vividly flavored bird—crisp skin, moist flesh, and very little else. On a recent wintry night, the menu’s marquee hunks of meat would have been hard to tell apart in the dark. Both the grilled beef tenderloin (actually a crusty lobe of the voguish teres major shoulder muscle) and the braised lamb shank arrived in pools of the same lustrous, ink-dark wine sauce, partnered with matching roasted root vegetables. Despite sharing sauce, sides, and fundamental flavors, the two dishes still managed to individually impress. (Lesson: If you have to use it frequently, make a good sauce.) Service can be an adventure: You may be reminded of the restaurant’s jobtraining mission when an apprentice waiter whisks away a dish mid-bite. But most Dogwood diners seem to happily trade some polish for the greater good. (Dinner Tues– Sat. 911 W. 36th St.; 410-889-0952; www.

photo by La Kaye Mbah

The Dogwood

Stacked: Beef is what's for dinner again at the Dogwood.

—David Dudley

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photo by Barbara Campbell, Studio 11

If you grow the right grapes, the wine making is easy



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urbanite march 10





Fancying Flights

What are you supposed to do in a wine bar?

photo by Elena Elisseeva |

By Clinton Macsherry


ack when electric typewriters served as tools of the writing trade, I kept wine on the table by taking a job clackclacking ad copy for medical texts. At a workshop designed to make me a more effective book peddler, I learned that our language’s two most powerful words are “you” and “new.” Unpacking that insight consumed the rest of my day. I came to appreciate how it tapped into a cardinal duality of our nature: “you” (which is to say, “me”)—inward, acquisitive, securityfocused, fundamentally conservative; “new”—exploratory, inquisitive, transformational, even revolutionary. Our intimacy with the tried-and-true coexists with a craving for change, whether we’re considering haircuts, travel destinations, or relationships. The third most powerful word—“free”—revealed unifying aspects of both dimensions, like a ring encircling the yin and the yang. I hadn’t expected such instruction from a marketing seminar, but one takes illumination where one finds it. The proliferation of wine bars around Baltimore spotlights the opposite attractions of familiarity and novelty. Of course, the gamut of establishments claiming the wine-bar mantle shows that the definition has gotten fairly (ahem) fluid. They may occupy gleaming spaces in neo-town (à la Harbor East’s Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar), repurposed storefronts in striped-collar neighborhoods (such as Hampden’s 13.5%), or mish-mash digs in the ’burbs (consider Howard County’s contrasting AIDA Bistro & Wine Bar and Iron Bridge Wine Company). Some ambitious restaurants with pairing menus have found the winebar vibe appealing to foodies (North Baltimore’s Alizée comes to mind), while examples on the other end of the spectrum offer modest snacking options in, essentially, gussied-up liquor stores (see

Fells Point’s tiny V-NO or Canton’s Chesapeake Wine Co). I mean no disparagement by the latter description—on the contrary, as someone who loves browsing in wine shops the way other people do in bookstores, it may be my favorite model. Some wine bars tout comprehensive by-the-glass lists, while others focus on narrow, well-chosen selections. All this diversity suits me just fine. But I insist on one thing: A wine bar worthy of the designation must offer small tasting pours, or better yet, wine flights. I’ve found no solid etymology, but I think “flight” reflects the sense of a series of steps. A flight typically involves three or more different wines presented in 2- to 3-ounce servings, as opposed to a standard 5- or 6-ounce glass. The bar may pre-select wines with some compare-and-contrast theme in mind (Merlot from around the world, say) or simply offer a varied list to satisfy tasters’ curiosities. There’s no more entertaining way to learn what you love and love what you learn. Short pours make it an affordable education, with the added virtue of delaying palate fatigue. Enjoy a trusty favorite alongside passing fancies, then decide which to spend the night with. Or not. Among area wine bars, the aforementioned Chesapeake Wine Co. (2400 Boston St.; 410-522-4556; www.chesapeakewine. com) holds the distinct competitive advantage of being within walking distance of my home. With a tiny bar and small tables set in the rear of a wine shop and gourmet deli, it offers a commendable assortment of wines by the glass (sparklers, rosés, and dessert wines along with reds and whites) that changes weekly. Customers can create flights of 1.5-ounce pours—four for $10, six for $15, or eight for $20. Plates of olives, cheeses, and paté help the medicine go down. I sampled a smoky, cherry-crisp Louis de Sacy Brut Grand Cru Rosé Champagne, a lemon- and pineapple-laced Clifford Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2006 from New Zealand, Mount Airybased Black Ankle’s earthy Crumbling Rock 2006 red blend, and Heitz Cellars’ Ink Grade Port 2003, made from Napa-grown Grignolino and redolent of date-bread—a soup-tonuts sequence of wines in the quantitative equivalent of one glass. Some tasters dismiss the value of flights. True appreciation, they argue, requires commitment to a single wine, with attentive sipping as it evolves over several hours. That works too, but imposing unnecessary either-or choices smacks of shady advertising. Free the new you! ■ 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 1 0

w i n e &  s p i r i t s

eat / drink


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DestinationDining 1. Indigma





Where would you find this amazing concept of all you can eat tapas in Baltimore? Look no more it is happening every day at Indigma. Eight innovative and traditional Indian tapas all arranged in a long plate, individually prepared for your enjoyment plus eight salads, condiments, three breads and mouth watering desserts.

Premiere Tequila Lounge featuring: Contemporary Authentic Mexican Cuisine Over 100 Tequilas for tasting 17 Margaritas & 17 Speciality Cocktails made with fresh squeezed ingredients

2. Kooper’s Tavern

Kooper’s Tavern evokes the warmth and convivial setting of the classic American tavern. Kooper’s is known for having the best hamburgers in Baltimore and beyond. We also feature comforting American fare that evolves with the seasons and the year. Come dine with us in the historic waterfront community of Fell’s Point and start creating memories.

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At Indigma, enjoy the mouth watering flavors of the Indian sub-continent. Since flavors are the key players, boredom has no place here-Enjoy!

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3. Azul 17

Azul 17 offers an immaculate collection of over 100 of the finest Tequilas. We specialize in contemporary authentic Mexican cuisine made from scratch. Try our tableside guacamoles, sushi grade ceviches, and delectable small plates, or our fabulous signature entrée specials featuring Enchiladas, Chicken Mole, Certified Angus Beef steaks and fresh Seafood dishes.


urbanite march 10

802 North Charles Street, Baltimore 21201 410-605-1212 •

1702 Thames St. • Baltimore, MD 21231 410.563.5423 •

Columbia Market Place 9400 Snowden River Parkway, Suite 127 Columbia, MD 21045 410.309.9717

photo by Peter Lakomy |

tHe feed

eat / drink

This Month in Eating Compiled by Martha Thomas



Red maples—which produce sap, although it’s not as sweet as that of their sugar maple siblings—will act as a stand-in for the tree-tapping demonstration at the Hashawha Environmental Center. But the real stuff will flow at the accompanying pancake breakfast and will be for sale, along with jewelry and crafts. Sugaring demonstration $5 per car; breakfast $4 per person. 10:30 a.m.–4 p.m.

Hashawha Environmental Center 300 John Owings Rd. Westminster 410-386-3560 recreation


MARCH 8 –14

Frederick’s vibrant restaurant scene—surveyed in last month’s Urbanite—is celebrated in the city’s fi rst-ever Restaurant Week. Prix-fi xe lunches are priced at $15.10 for two courses and $20.10 for three, with dinner costing $30.10. It may be your only chance to eat on the cheap at Volt, the restaurant made famous by executive chef Bryan Voltaggio’s appearance on Top Chef.

www.frederickrestaurantweek. com



If you missed last year’s screening of Fresh at the Creative Alliance, here’s another chance to catch the fi lm about the movement away from industrial food. Director Ana Sofia Joanes and one of the stars, Joel Salatin, the Virginia farmer made famous by Michael Pollan, will be on hand to discuss the movie’s themes. The afternoon’s activities also include gardening classes for kids and adults and a fair with local foods and crafts. Screenings at 2:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. Suggested donation $10 (reservations recommended).

Annapolis Unitarian Universalist Church 333 Dubois Rd. Annapolis 410-643-3283 calendar.html



In spite of its name, no horses were involved in making the libations for the Grapes of Hooves fundraiser. Quite the opposite: Days End Farm is in the business of rescuing and fi nding homes for abused and neglected horses. Its third annual wine event combines tastings of wines, some from the local Black Ankle and Elk Run wineries, with live and silent auctions. 7 p.m.–11 p.m. $65 in advance, $75 at the door.

Ten Oaks Ballroom 5000 Signal Bell Lane Clarksville 301-854-5037



Corks chef Jerry Pellegrino is out to prove that there’s more to condiments than ketchup—and that they need not come from a squeeze bottle. “It can be anything from chutney to the mint jelly you serve with lamb,” Pellegrino says. This month’s installment of his “How To” series will teach condiment-making; the lesson will include aioli, hot sauce, and relish—along with the ubiquitous red stuff, in both traditional and “funky” modes. 1:30 p.m.–4 p.m. $55 per person; pre-registration required.

Corks Restaurant 1026 S. Charles St. 410-752-3810

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urbanite march 10

canton think inside the square


We like it here, and we think you will too. Canton brings the best of Baltimore—waterfront, quirky characters, historic rowhomes, and close community—into one wonderful neighborhood. It is no wonder that Canton real estate has become some of the hottest in the city.

Canton Gallery


Celebrating 15 years in business 1995-2010! Winter sale! Local and nationally recognized art, antique maps of Baltimore, vintage memorabilia, and expert custom picture framing.

Sauté offers delicious cuisine, $1 Miller Lite drafts every Wednesday, $9 pitchers of mimosas during Saturday and Sunday brunch & more! Located 2 blocks north of O’Donnell Square.

2935 O’Donnell Street · 410-342-6176

2844 Hudson Street · 410-327-2883

Jasa Kabob

Portside Tavern

Jasa Kabob bringing authentic kabob cuisine to Canton. Every order comes with our famous Naan bread, rice and vegetable. We are open 7 days a week and offer free delivery. Come check us out!

Located in the heart of Canton just off the Square. Serving tavern fare in a comfortable atmosphere. Certainly the place to be on the weekends. Come see what it’s all about.

2917 O’Donnell Street · 410-327-7152

2821 O’Donnell Street · 410-522-7678

Firehouse Coffee Company

2910 on the Square

Featuring Nathans Hot Dogs and Hot Pretzels. Free Wi-Fi and the best latte’s around. In the old firehouse on Canton Square. Open very late on weekends. Breakfast and lunch catering; Store also available for party rentals.

2910 on the Square features an ever-changing selection of handcrafted jewelry, Judaica and things for the home that will delight your shopping senses. 2910 O’Donnell Street · 410-675-8505

1030 S. Linwood Avenue · 410-522-2199

Doggie Style A fantastic pet boutique with unbeatable prices. Pamper your pooch with grooming services or choose from a unique selection of toys or outfits. Friendly staff is very knowledgeable and helpful. 2924 O’Donnell Street · 410-522-6666

For more information about Canton and its merchants, visit

821 Key Highway • Baltimore, MD • 21230 • • 443.692.1911


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77 theater 500 Clown Macbeth 79 museum / music The Irish Shrine / Out of Your Head collective 81 the scene This month’s cultural highlights

Try to Remember M


Using books to unlock a brain with a mind of its own.

by richard o’mara

illustration by okan arabacioglu

emory loss is like bad weather: You can complain, but there’s little you can do about it. Which is not to say people won’t try. My wife’s father was a voracious reader, especially of detective stories and history. He had books by the hundreds stacked in his home. One day I noticed many were marked inside with the letter X. They are “reminders,” my wife said. “Of what?” “That he had already read the book.” I thought it a good strategy against a diminishing memory; nobody wants to travel the same road twice. But recently something happened that made me reconsider.

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urbanite march 10

At a bookstore, I had picked up a novel enlightened me as to how mankind is so called The Black Obelisk by Erich Maria inextricably linked to the natural world, even Remarque, the German author of All Quiet as he struggles to break that bond. I recalled on the Western Front, which was published not only the diamond sparkle of Eiseley’s in 1928. The plot of The Black Obelisk, which writing, but also pleasant evenings with the came out in 1956, unfolds in Germany folfamily Brenholtz in their apartment near lowing World War I. It has historical veracity, College Park. Another book brought to mind sharply differentiated characters, Nazis, and, a major change in my life: It was 1956 when believe it or not, humor. I loved it for the first I decided to join the Army. The year before sixty pages—at which point I realized that I signing on, I read From Here to Eternity by had loved it before, forty-odd years ago. James Jones, the 1952 novel about American I was enjoying it so much the second soldiers in Hawaii before Pearl Harbor. time that I kept going to the end. My pleasure The prospect of a failing memory can be came in different ways: At the first reading terrorizing, if only because it suggests that I wondered what would happen; the second the inventory of all the things we know is betime around I was full of anticipation for ing drawn down, as if from a bank account. I what I knew was coming. I had the sensation would not make light of it, but this faltering that I was walking a familiar path, one strewn of memory is, after all, unavoidable and has with long-undisturbed memories of my own ever been part of life. How does one deal with life around the time of that first reading. the unavoidable? Well, for one thing, put It was in 1964; I was seated at a café by more cash in the account: Read more books, a beach in Argentina, hearing Vaughn Monand talk about them. For the last five years, roe’s voice pour out of a scratchy loudspeaker, I’ve been a member book club that meets singing “Ghost Riders in monthly in bars to the Sky.” A wild storm discuss books that we The prospect of a failing choose in turn. broke over the town of Miramar that night, According to Robmemory can be terrorizing, ert Lynd, where we were staying, the optimistic if only because it sugmy wife and I and our Irish author of The new daughter. I recalled of Ignorance, gests that the inventory Pleasures hearing the waves there are other compenof all the things we know sations. Contrary to the crump like mortar shells on the beach. title, Lynd was no dunce is being drawn down, as if and Why, I asked mycertainly not one from a bank account. self, had I not retrieved to celebrate stupidity. these memories before? Ignorance, though, is Why had I let them more complicated; it lie there, darkened by the decades that had even offers certain opportunities. In this, he fallen over them like soot? My mind, or the was calling attention to a truism: Everything office within it responsible for organizing we know is insignificant when compared and filing memories, apparently decided to with the immensity of what we do not know. lock away those recollections for good. It Our ignorance, large as it is, is certainly not took the late Herr Remarque to spring them. impenetrable. When we try to break free of it, That these memories had nothing to do with by reading, inquiring, simply paying attenthe book itself suggests that anything buried tion as our time passes by, we gain what he deep in the brain, when dredged up, can have calls “the constant pleasure of discovery.” clinging to it things that have nothing to do Among the literary grandees known with the object recovered. to have memory deficiencies, according to Inspired by The Black Obelisk, I began Lynd, was Michel de Montaigne, the patron to root through my library for books that of all essayists: “Montaigne tells us that he had moved me in the past. First was Walter had so bad a memory that he could always Kerr’s The Decline of Pleasure, recommended read an old book as though he had never read by my college teacher George Brenholtz. I it before.” (The experience my father-in-law kept it near, this work written by a wearied deflected with his army of X’s.) theater critic. Why? Because I thought While confessing to a leaky mind himhe knew what was important to say, even self, Lynd yet found his forgetfulness “not though it was useless to say it: things like altogether miserable.” “poetry had no place” in a country in thrall to And why not? the philosophy of practical utilitarianism. Or Because, as he put it, “With a bad “never eat cheap ice cream,” which is to say a memory one can go on reading Plutarch and loss of taste is a loss of happiness. The Arabian Nights all one’s life.” ■ Re-reading The Immense Journey, Loren —Richard O’Mara wrote about the music of Eiseley’s 1957 masterpiece about human H.L. Mencken in the May 2009 Urbanite. origins (another Brenholtz suggestion),

photo by Michael Brosilow


Look out below: 500 Clown Macbeth is a darkly comic, slapstick take on the Shakespearean tragedy.


Send in the Bard

500 Clown Macbeth at the Creative Alliance, March 18–21 Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s Pub Night at Bertucci’s in Columbia, March 10 This month, Creative Alliance hosts a topsyturvy production of the Shakespearean tragedy Macbeth by Chicago-based physical theater group 500 Clown. That’s right, clowns—although five hundred is a slight exaggeration. The three-person troupe adopts an antic disposition to tell the tale without words, instead employing physical humor and a good deal of gooey stage blood. It's part of QuestFest, a two-week festival running March 1–14 of “visual theater,” which conveys stories through movement, gestures, and images. (Go to for info about other area performances.) This version of the Scottish Play isn’t without serious overtones, though. There’s a sense of horseplay gone bad, and audience members can’t help but worry that a misplaced step could lead to the be-all and end-all of a company member. The production sold out its first Baltimore performance in 2002, so get tickets early. For more unorthodox takes on the Bard: At the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s first Pub Night of 2010, attendees can perform romance-themed verses alongside company members. “It’s very informal,” says Jenny Leopold, CSC’s associate director and the evening’s host. “The idea is to have a drink, have something to eat, and talk about Shakespeare.” —Martha Thomas For more information about 500 Clown Macbeth, call 410-276-1651 or go to For more information about Pub Night, call 410-313-8874 or go to 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 1 0


Wine, dinner and a circus? On Thursday evenings

the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra teams up with restaurants to compose an evening of music and fine dining. Simply purchase a BSO Thursday concert ticket, then call your favorite restaurant and mention “Symphony Special” when making reservations. For more details, visit symphonyspecial. Advance reservations

required, other restrictions apply.

nder BSObuig top e h t Step right up to the BSO’s three-ring circus celebration conducted by marin alsop!


A magnificent line-up of music from across the continents with the spectacular Cirque performers on and above the stage.

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Night of the Cookers

Thursday, March 25

Two 20th-century American operas, from Samuel Barber and George Gershwin, followed by Stravinsky’s ballet Pulcinella.

Thursday Wine Nights The BSO has partnered with Bin 604 to introduce Thursday “Wine Nights” at the Meyerhoff. Flights of fine wines (Mar 11: South American wines; Mar 25: California wines) and samplings of cheeses will be served in the lobby. Join us at 6:30 for great deals and great company. No reservations required, minimal charges apply. Media sponsor: BA LT I M O R E | 410.783.8000


who in the late 1990s rallied historic preservationists to save and restore a stretch of five alley houses on Lemmon Street, a half-block from the B&O Railroad Museum. One of the homes opened as a museum in 2002, with the 83-year-old Ward, son of a B&O Irish up: Changes are on tap at the Irish Shrine museum, with new exhibits depicting railroad man (and immigrant railroad workers of the 19th century. father of Urbanite publisher Tracy museum Ward), serving as unpaid docent. Immigrant Song This month the Irish Shrine and The Irish Shrine & Railroad Workers Museum Railroad Workers Museum unveils an upgrade, with an official affiliation with the B&O museum up the street and new audio Hard times have come again for the workexhibits that plumb deeper into the Irishing-class Irish of southwest Baltimore: American experience in Baltimore. It’s still Patrick’s of Pratt Street, the bar that once a humble volunteer-only operation, but with had a ironclad claim as the oldest Irish pub an ambitious mission: Ward claims that in the United States, closed in 2009 after the museum, now comprising two homes 162 years. St. Peter the Apostle Church, the tucked into a block of two-and-a-half story Catholic parish established to serve the railbrick rowhouses built in 1848, offers the road workers that flooded West Baltimore earliest glimpse into urban immigrant life in from Ireland during the Great Hunger, said the United States. (New York City’s similar its final regular Mass in 2008. But time’s Tenement Museum, a restored Lower East efforts to erase the last traces of SoWeBo’s Site apartment house, dates to 1863.) “People Celts have met a formidable force in retired have no conception of how poor people lived,” Baltimore circuit court judge Thomas Ward, he says. “We only saved the mansions.”


Free for All

The Out of Your Head collective with Ellery Eskelin at the Windup Space, March 2

photo by Mischa Wagner

photo by Tyler Fitzpatrick


By the seat of their pants: Matt Frazao (left) and Adam Hopkins are the minds behind Out of Your Head, an improvisational musical collective that performs every Tuesday night at the Windup Space.

Adam Hopkins and Matt Frazao have been active in the city’s experimental music scene since their respective tenures at the Peabody Institute. When they decided to curate a weekly event, their motivations were primarily selfish. “We tailored this specifically for just Adam and me,” says the 29-year-old Frazao, who plays guitar. (Hopkins is a bassist.) They dubbed it the Out of Your Head collective and launched a Tuesday residency at Station North’s Windup Space in early 2009. Yet what began as a personal indulgence has become a surprisingly accessible outpost of the musical avant-garde. This month, Hopkins and Frazao celebrate the event’s first anniversary with a special combo featuring Baltimore-raised tenor saxophonist Ellery Eskelin (see p. 81). With an extended Out of Your Head family of nearly thirty musicians, Hopkins and Frazao mix and match players based on who’s available and what they themselves want to hear. The format is similar to the annual High Zero Festival, the city’s best-known experimental music franchise, but Out of Your Head has the advantage of convening weekly, feeding a flourishing petri

One of the two homes has been restored to its original non-glory, to convey how the original residents, the Feeleys of County Mayo and their six children (plus the boarder who lived in the basement), spent their days and nights. The 10-foot-wide house still boasts its original plaster walls, a smattering of period furniture, and bare wooden floors; the Feeley kids somehow packed into a tiny attic bedroom. A collapsed rear wall was replaced with a floor-to-ceiling glass window to reveal a battered backyard privy. “It wasn’t much,” Ward says, “but it was better than what they had in Ireland.” The house next door is divided into exhibits interpreting the three pillars of Irish immigrant life: work (a roaring B&O machine shop), church (photos and artifacts from St. Peter the Apostle in its prime), and pub (an upstairs bar, complete with singing publicans). In keeping with the intimate scale of the exhibits, visitors can to poke around and inspect the offerings. “We’re a hands-on museum,” Ward says, motioning to the painted canvas that serves as living room rug. “If this were the Smithsonian, you wouldn’t be able to stand on that.” —David Dudley The museum is located at 918 and 920 Lemmon Street. For tour reservations, e-mail or call 410-669-8154.

dish of novel collaborations. They’ve brought together some of Baltimore’s finest musicians, such as drummer Will Redman of the noise band Microkingdom and pedal-steel player Susan Alcorn, who ventured into improvisation after cutting her teeth in country bands. “Everybody likes playing with Susan, and for good reason—she’s incredible,” Frazao says. On any given Tuesday, Out of Your Head might host a traditional jazz lineup of brass and reeds or a more offbeat combination of cello and electronics. For last August’s “Drum Wars,” a quartet of percussionists battled a series of instrumentalists. Every few months, the Out of Your Head Orchestra masses more than a dozen musicians onstage for a plus-size free-for-all (the next Orchestra gig is slated for March 30). Each performance features two sets; Hopkins finds that the break gives the musicians a chance to loosen up, perhaps with the help of a few beers. “People feel around for the first five or ten minutes,” he says. “But by the end of the first set, it’s usually kind of roaring.” —Al Shipley 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 1 0


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free panel discussion at mica design revolution: join the debate Maryland Institute College of Art Thursday, March 11, 6:00 pm Falvey Hall, Brown Center 1301 Mt. Royal Ave, Baltimore 21217

Panelists: Emily Pilloton and Matthew Miller of Project H Design, a non-profit dedicated to bringing product design to those who need it most; John Bielenberg, founder of Project M, an immersion program that inspires young designers, writers, and photographers to do work that can make a difference; and Julie Lasky, editor of Design Observer’s Change Observer section, which covers socially aware design. Moderator: Architecture/design writer Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson

BGW is a 501 C (3) organization. Your support helps to bring free and low cost opportunities promoting environmental awareness and sustainability into Baltimore City and it’s surrounding communities.


urbanite march 10

This free panel is a part of the Design Revolution Road Show, an exhibition installed inside a 1972 Airstream trailer that presents products from Pilloton’s new book Design Revolution: 100 Products that Empower People written by Pilloton. Presented by MICA’s Center for Design Thinking and cosponsored by D:center Baltimore and Urbanite Magazine.

the scene : march In honor of this most Irish of months, Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts hosts the Three Irish Tenors in their latest show, Druid (March 3), plus Portraits of Ireland, featuring the Teelin Irish Dance Company (March 20). (801 Chase St., Annapolis; 410-280-5640; On March 16, the Johns Hopkins Center for Liberal Arts also gets into the Irish act with Echoes of the Emerald Isle, a night of Irish stories, jokes, poetry, and music, presented by husband-and-wife team Batt and Maura Burns. Reservations required; to RSVP, call 410-516-4842 or go to www. (3400 N. Charles St.) CLASSICAL MUSIC

The Bach Concert Series presents St. John Passion, Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Easter masterpiece” that was composed for Good Friday services in 1724. At Christ Lutheran Church, 701 S. Charles Street, on March 7. ( Billed as a “musical carnival,” the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s Under the Big Top combines mayhem-themed music with comedy and acrobatics in a month-long series of special events. Go to for the full lineup. (410-783-8000)

Sound of the Ocean, performed at Towson University on March 25, with a lecture and drumming demonstration the night before. (410-704-ARTS ; artscalendar/SpecialEvents.asp)

reflecting on her life, Three Tall Women, takes the stage at Fells Point Corner Theatre March 12–April 11. (251 S. Ann St.; 410-276-7837;


Dance troupe DishiBem blends jazz, rock, and pop with African dance for a performance inspired by the BMA’s collection. March 27. (10 Art Museum Dr.; 443-5731700;


Charles Village-based Mobtown Studios (see Urbanite, Nov. ’08) is hosting a series of free “microshows”—seating is limited, and reservations are required. This month, local hip-hop group Rapdragons does their thing on March 11. (2603 N. Charles St.; 410-235-0898; JAZZ

Sax player and composer Ellery Eskelin returns to his alma mater, Towson University, for a weeklong residency, including two public concerts: March 3 and 5. (410-704ARTS; music.asp) On March 28, the Hendrik Meurkens Samba Jazz Quintet plays Brazilian bossa nova and samba. Sponsored by the Chamber Jazz Society of Baltimore, the concert is held at the Baltimore Museum of Art and includes a free pre-concert gallery tour (to reserve a spot, call 443-573-1818). (410385-5888; MUSIC FESTIVAL


March 4–6, Opera Vivente presents Impressions of Pelléas, a short, Englishlanguage version of Debussy’s opera about doomed lovers, Pelléas et Mélisande, at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, 811 Cathedral Street. (410-547-7997; www. The Garrett-Jacobs mansion (11 W. Mount Vernon Place) is the setting for the Baltimore Concert Opera’s presentations of two brief 19th-century operas: Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci, on March 19 and 21. (443844-3496;

2009 Urbanite Project participant Shodekeh has put together Embody: A Concert of the Vocal Arts ( embodysound), a celebration of all kinds of vocalization, from opera to throat singing to beatboxing. March 27 at the Creative Alliance. (3134 Eastern Ave.; 410-276-1651; THEATER


Center Stage puts on the American premiere of Let There Be Love, by CS associate artist Kwame Kwei-Armah, through March 7. In its new Shorts Works series is Working It Out, a trio of pieces about the workplace (March 3–28). (700 N. Calvert St.; 410-332-0033;

U-Theatre combines Chinese martial arts, meditation, and drumming in dramatic, mystical theatrical performances like

Edward Albee’s 1994 Pulitzer-winning play about a wealthy 90-something woman

VTDance, the company run by Baker Artist Award-winning dancer Vincent Thomas, performs the Grandmother Project, a celebration of loved ones (March 19–21), and Witness, movement-based interpretations of the principles in such landmark statements as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Pledge of Allegiance (March 27–29). Both take place at the Theatre Project (45 W. Preston St.; www. ( ART

At the Creative Alliance is an exhibit of Ruth Pettus’s striking deconstructed shoe sculptures, under the title City Square. March 18–April 3. Through March 20 at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s Center for Art, Design, and Visual Culture is Dana Hoey: Experiments in Primitive Living, photographs in which people and objects are overtaken by drought, ash, or flood. (410-4553188; cadvc)


The Creative Writing Forum is normally open only to Baltimore County high school students and Community College of Baltimore County students and faculty, but this year the public can attend workshops with such local writers as Jessica Anya Blau and Olu Butterfly Woods (see Urbanite, Aug. ’08) and the keynote lecture given by travel writer Tom Swick. March 5–6, at CCBC’s Catonsville campus, 800 S. Rolling Road. For more information, contact Evan Balkan at 443-840-4976 or LECTURE

On March 31 Mel Chin talks about art and social activism as part of the Contemporary Museum’s New Art Dialogue Series. The museum is a site for Chin’s Fundred Dollar Bill Project, which aims to draw attention to childhood lead poisoning; learn more at (100 W. Centre St.; 410783-5720; As part of the Walters Art Museum’s Spotlights with Gary Vikan series, on March 7, Louise Steinman discusses her book The Souvenir: A Daughter Discovers Her Father’s War, about her search to learn about her father’s time fighting in World War II. (600 N. Charles St.; 410-547-9000;


The Weinberg Park Jewish Community Center screens The Finaly Affair, about two Jewish brothers baptized Catholic after their parents died in Auschwitz (March 9), and For Tomorrow, a multimedia presentation of the life of Holocaust survivor Hilda Rose Cohen (March 14).

The 113 rarely seen photos—snapshots, portraits (such as the one pictured, taken in a Baltimore studio), and documentary images—in Shadow and Substance: African American Images from the Burns Archive shed light on how African Americans were seen in the past and how they wished to be seen. At UMBC’s Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery through March 19. (1000 Hilltop Circle; 410-455-2270; Compiled by Marianne K. Amoss

(5700 Park Heights Ave.; 410-542-4900 ext. 239;

courtesy of the Burns Archive







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The Creationist continued from page 29 I can also look at other artistic domains. Pretty much every art form has its parallels to music. What about visual arts? We could look at what it’s like for someone to copy a painting versus doing an abstract rendition of it out of their heads with no reference point. There are a lot of ways to get at creativity in an fMRI setting.


Is there a possible sort of application for this new understanding of creativity, not just for musicians but also people in everyday life?


When I did my studies, I didn’t intend for them to be pedagogical at all. I didn’t have an agenda. Now that the studies are done, a lot of emerging interests have blended together from various fields that really focus on the fact that creativity is an essential feature not just of music or just of art but of human behavior, and of adaptation and learning and progress. Meaning that human civilization would not be what it is today without creativity. There is no field of human pursuit to which creativity hasn’t been essential. If we step back and take it as an axiom that creativity matters, all of a sudden this research goes from a neat study of jazz to something more fundamental. The explicit, tangible target, I think, has to do with education. There is something at the Johns Hopkins University called the Neuro-Education Initiative [a collaboration between JHU’s School of Education and Brain Science Institute]. Essentially what we are trying to realize, educators and scientists together, is that we share a common goal, and that’s the brain. Educators are trying to mold the brain; neuroscientists are trying to study the brain. So maybe we can pool our resources and our skills to ask, How can we understand how the brain learns best and revise our methods of education so that they are more effective? Maybe we can come up with a training paradigm that has the added insight of knowing how the brain is responding to it. You can see that there is a lot of overlapping. There is a lot of good theory behind mixing those two fields of neuroscience and education. That’s what we are trying to do. It’s in its infancy now. But in fifty years or a hundred years, this might just be how it’s done.


The thing about learning via music and musical improvisation is that after all the training and all the practice, you need to be able to throw away the rules.


That’s exactly right. You have to be a master of your craft to be comfortable enough to say, well, let’s forget that for a little while. It’s like Miles Davis’ introduction to “It Never Entered My Mind,” one of his Prestige recordings. He hits this B-flat, and it’s not what he meant to hit. Afterward, he was interviewed about it—you know, what’s with that B-flat? He said, “Oh, it was a mistake, but it sounded good, so I did it again.”

Web extra: A podcast of the interview with Charles Limb at


I’ve read that there’s a parallel between some of the brain activity associated with creativity and dreaming.

My co-author in the jazz study, Allen Braun at the NIH, did some studies of dreaming using PET scanning. He found this similar increase in medial-prefrontal activity. Dreaming is de-focused, random associations, and the decreased lateral peripheral activity that he saw during dreaming he interpreted as turning off the barriers of rationality that normally link our thoughts together. So what does that imply? Well, maybe dreaming and improvisation do overlap cognitively. You can understand that qualitatively, but to prove that definitively is hard.


Did it take a scientist who was also a musician to come up with this idea for a study?

Most of the scientists that study music are very musical; they are intrinsically interested and have a background in it, so musical discussions and inquiry are familiar and comfortable. Maybe that helps me when I do my science because it increases this thing that we call “ecological validity,” which is that I really want to study something that matters musically and I want to study it in a way that doesn’t strip it of its musicality. That’s very important to me. A lot of musical studies are so scientifically rigid that it is very hard to tell that they are musical studies. Some of my studies are like that, too. You lose the music in it. With something like jazz and improvisation, you have to be careful because once you destroy the soul of a jazz improvisation solo, you wonder what are you actually studying anymore.


Do you worry that in trying to peer into this process by which art is created, you’re demystifying it?

That might be a little philosophical. It depends on your view about acquiring knowledge about things we don’t understand. If anyone is going to be demystified by this it would be me, because I’m doing this all the time. But I just find it intriguing. Music is music; art is art. It will outlast all of us scientists. I personally think that the more we understand about the brain’s function in every complex activity, the more chance we have of really one day entering into this sciencefiction future of medicine, where we can really understand the brain at the highest cognitive levels. The simple analogy I always use is this: So, flying in an airplane is a pretty magical idea. You’ve probably flown a hundred times, but every time you take off, you are sort of like, “Oh, I’m flying.” Is studying aerodynamics demystifying it? I don’t know. In the same way, [my study] doesn’t strip music of its beauty or its meaning. It provides a layer of explanation about how these things could occur. In my mind, that doesn’t diminish or threaten any of the beauty or the majesty of it all. When I’m listening to music right now, I don’t do it from the perspective of a fMRI experiment. I listen to it from the perspective of beauty. I still think, “Wow, did you hear that?” ■

—David Dudley is Urbanite’s editor-in-chief.

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 1 0



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Folktales, children’s stories—these lie deep in our memories, the source of dreams and, sometimes, fear. The work of Valeska Populoh is populated by characters who are embedded in the mysteries of our unconscious. Populoh came to the United States from Germany as a young girl; she moved to Baltimore in 2003, having spent most of her 20s farming in the Pacific Northwest and working on environmental issues in Washington, D.C. On arriving, she was overwhelmed by, as she says in a recent e-mail, “the ecological devastation here. The alleyways clogged with garbage, the harbor full of refuse … the trees tangled in plastic bags … the abandoned buildings.” Feeling the need to deal with these issues of neglect in her art, she developed a series of characters, each still in the process of self-definition. The image shown here is of “The Guardener,” the name relating to the character’s duty as both guard and gardener, defending and tending. The Guardener’s existence is spent “protecting or caring for abandoned buildings, trying to fish in places drained of water,” Populoh states. “[T]hat is the only way for him/her/me to cope.” In the broadest sense, the Guardener is our own wish for survival in a world of increasing loss. —Alex Castro


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Valeska Populoh The Guardener 2009 Painted army surplus helmet, altered army uniform, pigeon feathers, antique lace, thread, body paint

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March 2010 Issue  

The 2010 Urbanite Project, House Hunting, Pub Crawling, Book Hunting

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