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MICA’s Mega-dorm• Showing Some Skin • Cool Beans september 2008 issue no. 51


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september 2008 issue no. 51

f e a t u r e s 42

keynote: power play interview by scott carlson

sustainability expert rob hopkins talks about “transition towns” and explains how to brace ourselves for life without oil.

46 46

baltimore unplugged by greg hanscom

with new energy technologies struggling in the cradle and old power sources suffering from environmental incorrectness, how will a growing state keep the lights on?


twilight of the power lunch by martha thomas

e-mail and eating at your desk might have made the three-martini business meal a thing of the past, but there’s still a place at the table for the power lunch.


black power 2.0 b y r. d a r r y l f o x w o r t h

what does the rise of african american political figures say about the real state of black empowerment?

56 60

marked women text by deborah rudacille, photos by sam holden

for these women, tattoos are more than skin and ink—they’re a permanent picture of female identity.

d e p a r t m e n t s


on the cover:

illustrator emily flake created this month’s cover image.


editor’s note


what you’re saying


what you’re writing




the goods

roads not taken

they’ve got a beef

authority figure: i am the decider and a humble kingdom

this month: dragons, show horses, and patriots

nice view if you can get it. plus: e-cycling, savory pies, and three stone steps

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urbanite september 08

Are you OK? Coming Next Month: Health, Wellness, and Affliction

september 2008 issue no. 51

contents 33

baltimore observed win, win, lose real estate investors dare you not to pay your property taxes by john barry


scrubs megan hildebrandt wants to clean your stoop by lionel foster



stop the presses why newspapers as we know them can’t die quickly enough by michael anft





dear everybody by m i c h a e l k i m b a l l

arthouse a sleek artists’ retreat rises at mica by amanda kolson hurley



the drawing board from rails to trails, and back again


eat/drink green days remembering when east baltimore spent summers on the farm by mary k. zajac


reviewed: clementine and la cazuela


wine & spirits: sir mix-a-lot


the feed: this month in eating


art/culture song of myself confessions of a part-time chanteuse by sandy asirvatham


plus: the last poets, the planets, and growing up on stage


eye to eye urbanite’s creative director alex castro on ledelle moe’s giant concrete heads

this month online at

video: scrubbing steps in highlandtown and dancing at the bean pickers ball photos: more of sam holden’s shots of tattooed women resources: a buyer’s guide to renewable energy in baltimore

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Don’t Ask Why, Ask When...

Issue 51: September 2008 Publisher Tracy Ward Durkin Creative Director Alex Castro Editor-in-Chief David Dudley Managing Editor Marianne K. Amoss Senior Editor Greg Hanscom Staff Writer Lionel Foster Literary Editor Susan McCallum-Smith

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urbanite september 08

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Contributing Writers Michael Anft, Scott Carlson, Charles Cohen, Mat Edelson, Clinton Macsherry, Richard O’Mara, Martha Thomas, Sharon Tregaskis, Mary K. Zajac Editorial Interns Sheena Gebhardt, Lara Streyle Design/Production Manager Lisa Macfarlane Traffi c/Production Coordinator Belle Gossett Photography Intern Eric Drummond Staff Photographer La Kaye Mbah Production Interns Megan Brohawn, Christopher Sausto Web Coordinator/Videographer Chris Rebbert

photo by Eric Drummond

photo by Annette Wexler

photo by Rachel Bradley

photo by Brian J. Berman

contributors In the late 1990s, Sandy Asirvatham was a freelance writer and columnist for Baltimore’s City Paper when she conceived a late-blooming obsession with improvised music. She became a credible-enough jazz improviser to go pro and record a debut CD, Memoir, which was released in 2007. She lives in South Baltimore with her husband and son, now 5 years old and always singing his own impromptu songs. In this issue, she ponders the challenges of entering the world of professional musicianship in “Song of Myself ” (p. 93). “Turns out jazz pianist/ singer/bandleader is an even less lucrative career path than freelance journalist,” Asirvatham notes. “Who knew?” Michael Kimball is the author of The Way the Family Got Away (2000) and How Much of Us There Was (2005), both of which have been or are being translated into other languages. An excerpt from his newest novel, Dear Everybody (www.deareverybody.blogspot. com), begins on page 67. Just published in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada by Alma Books, the novel centers on the life and death of Jonathon Bender, revealed mostly through letters. “I thought of the letter as a very intimate way to allow somebody to reveal their life,” says Kimball. “The thing they were thinking at different points, the motives behind their actions … It’s an intimate way to reveal the truest parts of a person.” Leo Howard Lubow is a freelance writer and photographer specializing in fine art portraiture and prints (www.lubowphotography. com). Several of his portraits currently appear in A Line in the Sand, a traveling exhibit devoted to the subject of domestic violence. Lubow’s work for Urbanite includes the opening image for August 2008’s “Art/Culture” feature on the local poetry scene. As for the untidy business meal he shot in his Brooklandville studio for this month’s issue (“Twilight of the Power Lunch,” p. 52), Lubow says his greatest challenge, aside from not falling as he leaned over a ladder to take the shot, was to create “an aesthetic mess.”  Chris Rebbert is Urbanite’s web coordinator and videographer. Rebbert, who has a B.S. in electronic media and film from Towson University, documents the stories behind Urbanite stories, producing videos on everything from a group of musicians who use music to stay sober (“Group Therapy,” April 2008) to a narrated account of Baltimore’s public transit woes (“The Tao of Transit,” September 2007). He approaches his subjects with an open mind. “I used to go out thinking I knew what I wanted to capture,” he says. “Now I find the story in what I’ve captured.” Go to www.urbanite to see Rebbert’s videos for this issue.

editor’s note

Like so many of us

here in the gas-starved summer of 2008, I’ve been thinking a lot about Jimmy Carter. The Man from Plains gets name-checked a few times in Greg Hanscom’s feature on the region’s looming energy crisis (“Baltimore Unplugged,” p. 46), and in the course of editing I looked up a pair of speeches Carter gave on American energy policy in the late 1970s. They make strangely compelling reading, not only for what our much-maligned thirty-ninth president got wrong (he incorrectly predicted a drop in world oil production sometime during the 1980s), but also for what he got head-slappingly right. I watched at least one of these orations—the famous “malaise speech”—on TV in the summer of 1979. That’s the one in which the exhausted-looking president, his administration engulfed in gas lines and plummeting approval ratings, launched into a self-lacerating sermonette about the “growing doubt about meaning in our own lives.” (No mention of malaise, though: just “paralysis, stagnation, and drift.”) At the time, I thought this was great: Here was a guy who was speaking my language. (The fact that a U.S. president framed his problems in a way that resonated with a selfinvolved fifth-grader might go some ways toward explaining his ineffectiveness.) What had Carter in such an existential funk was America’s unwillingness to embrace the no-fun energy policy he had outlined two years previous, in a starkly worded and fairly prescient speech that began, accurately, “Tonight I want to have an unpleasant talk with you.” The thesis: Prepare now for humanity’s “third change”—from fossil fuels to “permanent renewable energy sources.” Carter deployed a host of scary statistics about how much oil we were importing, numbers that are now dwarfed by present figures. He told people to drive smaller cars and use public transportation. He warned of “mounting pressure to plunder the environment.” He asked citizens to “put up with inconveniences and sacrifices.” And then he scolded Americans for being such ridiculous power hogs in the first place: “Ours is the most wasteful nation on earth.” This Gloomy Gus stuff went over about as well as could be expected, and the rest is history. Except it isn’t, because here we are again, having enjoyed a three-decade lost weekend of cheap oil, caught flat-footed again. So how will we keep the lights on and drive to work in the next ten or twenty years? That’s the power story that Greg explores on the local level, and his answer will sound familiar to anyone who recalls the Carter Administration. (Hint: Break out the cardigans.) In our “Keynote” interview, Scott Carlson talks to Rob Hopkins, the U.K. “energy descent” impresario who might be the world’s most cheerful proponent of the peak oil theory. Hopkins sees Carter’s third change as a jolly good adventure, not a global catastrophe, and his optimism makes a welcome antidote to the prevailing apocalypticism that lurks on the edges of most current conversations about energy. This month we plug into other kinds of power, too. Essayist R. Darryl Foxworth ponders the disconnect between the rise of the first African American presidential nominee and the state of black America in “Black Power 2.0” (p. 56). Deborah Rudacille, with photographer Sam Holden and fashion stylist Tracey Middlekauff, takes a close look at an intimate form of personal expression and what it says about gender roles, identity, and empowerment (“Marked Women, p. 60). And contributing writer Martha Thomas takes her own voyage back to 1979—that’s the date that an Esquire editor coined the term “power lunch”—and journeys to the traditional pinnacle of the city’s power lunch scene, the downtown Center Club, to survey the state of the Baltimore business meal circa 2008 (“Twilight of the Power Lunch,” p. 52). If there’s a common theme here, it’s that individuals have ample reserves of energy, even if we seem to have built a society that doesn’t use that power very wisely. That’s good news, because this time I don’t think we’ll have another thirty years to wait around for someone else to solve the problem. —David Dudley

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Issue 51: September 2008 Publisher Tracy Ward Durkin General Manager Jean Meconi Chief Financial Officer Carol Coughlin Senior Account Executives Catherine Bowen Susan R. Levy Account Executive Jackie Wezwick Advertising Sales Assistant Carol Longdon Advertising Intern Mallory Varvaris Marketing Director Kathleen Dragovich Marketing/Administrative Assistant La Kaye Mbah Bookkeeper/Marketing Assistant Iris Goldstein Administrative Intern Hannah M. Spangler Founder Laurel Harris Durenberger Advertising/Editorial/Business Offices P.O. Box 50158, Baltimore, MD 21211 Phone: 410-243-2050; Fax: 410-243-2115 Editorial inquiries: Send queries to editor@urbanitebaltimore. com (no phone calls, please). The magazine is not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts or artwork. Urbanite does not necessarily support the opinions of its authors. To subscribe or obtain assistance with a current subscription, call 410-243-2050. Subscription price: $18 per year. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission by Urbanite is prohibited. Copyright 2008, Urbanite LLC. All rights reserved. Urbanite (ISSN 1556-8105) is a free publication distributed widely in the Baltimore metropolitan area. If you know of a location that urbanites frequent and would recommend placing the magazine there, please contact us at 410-243-2050. Postmaster: Send address changes to Urbanite Subscriptions, P.O. Box 50158, Baltimore, MD 21211.


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what you’re saying

Chew on This For a magazine that regularly promotes sustainability and green living, I’m puzzled by the recent endorsements of cow flesh, both editorially and on the back cover advertisement [for Ruth’s Chris Steak House]. Beef is one of the most resource-intensive, inhumane, and environmentally destructive animal products in the human diet. Martha Thomas, in “Good Cow, Bad Cow: In Search of the Ethical Steak” (August), chooses not to worry about the ethics of eating a sentient animal or to “fret about” what happens in a slaughterhouse, which is sadly typical of a meat eater’s denial. I suggest that she visit a slaughterhouse and watch as the life of a cow is brutally extinguished, and then she might agree that the search for an “ethical steak” is ultimately futile. The truly ethical steak is one that remains part of a living cow—and I think most cows would agree. —Michael Hughes is a writer who works for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Unkind Cut I’ve followed Temple Grandin’s work for quite a few years and applaud her efforts to reduce the fear and suffering of animals going to slaughter (“Through Animal Eyes,” July). I take issue, though, with her remark that being vegan isn’t natural. Is it natural to confine hundreds or thousands of animals in intensive factory farms where they are exposed to pesticides and pumped full of hormones and antibiotics? What is natural about dismembering them while many are still conscious? Is it natural that cattle, who are herbivores, are often fed the ground-up remains of others of their species—a practice that has been linked to outbreaks of mad cow disease? We kill them and they’re killing us, with cancer, heart attacks, strokes, and obesity-related illnesses. A diet based on fruits,

vegetables, grains, and legumes will nourish our bodies with all the required nutrients and without the artery-clogging saturated fat and cholesterol found in animal protein. —Jenny Saccenti lives in White Marsh and works part-time as a social worker for the Johns Hopkins Hospital Emergency Department. More on Urban Animals I just read this fine article about urban wildlife research within Baltimore (“Where the Wild Things Are,” July). I was dismayed, however, not to see any reference to Dr. Aelred D. Geis, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist who conducted groundbreaking urban wildlife studies across the United States. Dr. Geis employed me for two summers while I was in college at Virginia Tech. He lived in Howard County on an old brokendown farm he turned into a wildlife sanctuary and was an active hunter who believed in active, aggressive wildlife management. He trained me to census birds in his urban and suburban study sites in Columbia, Maryland, and in Baltimore. One of the study sites was at Cylburn where I found breeding birds not previously thought to exist in the city. Dr. Geis also began the Urban Wildlife Research Center that was based on Dale Maisel’s farm in Glenelg, Maryland. He continued his studies of urban and suburban wildlife, especially birds, until his death last year. He was one of the most brilliant people I have ever met, way ahead of his time in his thinking about human/environment interactions. I suggest that you delve into Dr. Geis’ research as a follow-up.

Three Cheers I write to tell you how pleased I am that the July issue featured the topic of saving buildings in Baltimore (“Landmark Decision”). I have been intimately involved with the effort to achieve landmark status for both the Scottish Rite Temple and Castalia [an arts-and-crafts-style building owned by the Calvert School that was threatened with demolition], so I know firsthand about the trials and tribulations associated with saving important buildings. I also want to thank you for publishing “Where the Wild Things Are” by Greg Hanscom (July). I had no idea about the work that has been going on in Baltimore, despite the fact that I’m a supporter of Parks and People.  Finally, I was pleased to see the short piece on Elder Harris and his wife (“A Woman’s Place,” July). I know of them through my work on the Healthy Start board (we have a site in Sandtown-Winchester that serves women and their families). Elder Harris has been a wonderful support over the years. I’ll share the article with staff who work in Sandtown. —Susan W. Talbott is a member of the Tuscany-Canterbury Neighborhood Association Board. Corrections We jumped the (water) gun: In the July article “Water, Water Everywhere,” we mistakenly stated that the Herring Run Watershed Center has achieved LEED silver certification. Project architect Darragh Brady alerted us to the error via e-mail, noting that they are applying for that level but won’t know for at least a year if the project will be awarded silver status. Due to an editing error, a contributor bio in the August issue stated that the subject of Richard O’Mara’s “The Storyteller,” former Sun reporter Art Geiselman, had passed away. He hasn’t. Our apologies to the Geiselman family. 

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

—Mark W. Larson is a principal environmental planner with Parsons Corp. in Phoenix, Arizona. After graduating from Virginia Tech with a degree in forestry and wildlife in 1976, he earned a master’s degree in geography and regional development at the University of Arizona. w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m s e p t e m b e r 0 8


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—Hannah M. Spangler When Urbanite interviewed Andrés Alonso last September, the former deputy chancellor for the New York City Department of Education was only one week into his job as Baltimore City Schools CEO. (See “The Big Test,” September ’07 Urbanite.) Alonso’s affable demeanor and rags-to-scholar biography seemed to endear him instantly to parents and the press, but during those first days on the job he refrained from offering many specifics about his plans. He did, however, voice strong opinions on two issues. “I think test preparation is one of the banes of urban school systems,” he told writer Karen Houppert. And he emphasized the importance of a decentralized system that lays power and accountability at the feet of principals. After those early meet and greets, Alonso’s shake-up of the city schools was fast and furious. He was quickly granted power by the school board to review all suspensions lasting more than one week, and throughout October, he faced down protests from members of the Baltimore City Teachers Union over teacher planning periods, successfully splitting the difference after arbitration in March. In January, he weathered criticism over a proposal to offer incentives of up to $110 for students working to pass the state’s graduation exams. His most sweeping reforms came when the school budget passed in April. Faced with a $50 million shortfall, he cut 310 jobs and $110 million from the budget for the school system headquarters, placing an additional $70 million under individual school control. The budget boosted funding for gifted and talented programs after Alonso insisted that the city’s vaunted magnet high schools provide more help to underperforming students and consider all eligible city applicants before looking at fee-paying suburban students. The city school system also approved construction of a Success Academy within the North Avenue headquarters, designed for one hundred students separated from their peers because of behavioral problems. This July, Alonso and the school system celebrated some of the largest score increases in the state on the standardized Maryland School Assessment. Although test experts and state education officials point to changes in the MSA, including a shortening of the total

test time, as one of the factors for statewide score improvements, Alonso saw progress. “I have absolutely no doubt that we’re going to replicate these results in the coming years,” he told the Sun. “We will become a model school system for the nation as a whole.”


—Lionel Foster courtesy of Klaus Philipsen

Patrick Turner, the developer of Locust Point’s nearly completed Silo Point Condo miniums , decided at the building’s conception to forgo pre-sales and wait until the project was near completion to list prices. (See “Sky High,” March ’08 Urbanite.) The time has come—Silo Point opens to the public the week of September 19, with prices ranging from $264,000 for a one-bedroom to $4 million for the full-circle-view penthouses.

Mondawmin Mall in West Baltimore is reaching the end of a long period of renovations. (See “Scenes from a Mall,” October ’07 Urbanite.) A Target store—the first in the city—arrived in late July; Shoppers Food & Pharmacy came last year, and off-price clothier A.J. Wright opened in early August. The arrival of these new anchor stores may herald a new era for the mall and the area as a whole. A July 24 editorial in the Sun said, “The Shoppers and Target projects are the most promising private redevelopment efforts in years.” According to Jim Graham, senior director of public affairs for General Growth Properties (GGP), the mall’s owner since 2004, the number of shoppers at Mondawmin has already increased. “Traffic has been very good,” he says. New shops will be arriving at the mall, including Perfumania and Auntie Anne’s, and other shops—such as Payless, Alfeo’s Pizzeria, and Mamma Lucia—are being remodeled. Renovations should be completed by November. Mondawmin, which opened in 1956, has long suffered from disinvestment in the surrounding neighborhoods. Graham says that GGP has improved exterior lighting to make the mall safer, although the area around the mall continues to see some crime, mostly assaults and thefts. On July 16, for instance, a state trooper was injured while attempting to prevent a man from entering the Mondawmin MVA branch after hours. The mall has also been making headlines for another reason: According to the Sun, the FBI’s public corruption squad is investigating whether State Sen. Ulysses Currie was paid by Shoppers to intervene on the company’s behalf on several occasions, including when the company was negotiating the new location at Mondawmin. Currie had not previously disclosed his relationship with Shoppers. Graham says the flap should have no impact on Mondawmin’s future. “The things described in the media occurred before GGP acquired [the mall],” Graham says. Luke “Santa” Durant, part-owner of Somethin’ Good Jr. and the mall’s Santa Claus, seems thrilled at the changes. His candy store has been at Mondawmin for thirty-five years. “It’s a beautiful mall, and I’m excited about now and what’s to come,” he says. “There’s excitement in the air for the community, a sense of pride in the community. It’s a beautiful sight to see.”

Baltimore’s arena (above) is coming down, and in its place will rise … another arena. On July 24, the Baltimore Development Corp. (BDC) announced plans to develop a new facility on the current site of 1st Mariner Arena. The BDC Arena Advisory Panel felt that no other site could rival the current one for its proximity to light rail and subway stations, the Inner Harbor, and the central business district, or its location in the revitalizing Westside. The BDC hopes the new arena will spark redevelopment in the area, “much like the Verizon Center has done in the area of Chinatown in D.C.,” says Kim Clark, BDC’s executive vice president. Retail stores around the outside of the building, she says, could increase activity on the Westside and at nearby Hopkins Plaza. To solicit development teams and operators interested in proposing plans for the new arena, the BDC planned to issue a request for proposals (RFP) at the end of August. Clark says that the requirements in the RFP had not yet been decided, but there will be stipulations that the numbers of seats increase to 18,500 (up from the current 11,000), and that the arena be available for a possible future NBA and/or NHL franchise. The BDC will seek as much private financing as possible. The Urban Design Committee of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), a group that aims to improve urban design in Baltimore, had hoped for a different outcome: They advocated for rebuilding the arena at another location to create a transit hub and street-level retail at the current site. (See “The Drawing Board,” July ’08 Urbanite.) Architect Klaus Philipsen, co-chair of the committee, says he is disappointed but galvanized by the panel’s choice. “We are not resting and pouting in the corner,” he says. The committee wants to “make sure that the RFP includes a lot of the requests and requirements that we have regarding connectivity, transit, lively streets, and the highest and best use of the current site. None of this will happen by osmosis.” ■

—Marianne K. Amoss

—M.K.A. w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m s e p t e m b e r 0 8






Weight Gods Invention

Sept 8, 2008 Oct 6, 2008 Nov 7, 2008

Nov 2008 Dec 2008 Jan 2009

We want to know more about what you’re writing. Join literary editor Susan McCallumSmith for a live workshop on personal essay writing at the Baltimore Book Festival, on September 27 in the CityLit tent.

—Joanne Cavanaugh Simpson is a lecturer at Johns Hopkins University and the author of Literature on Deadline (2007).


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


My father’s childhood was tinted by the want and worry of the Depression. His mother, my Nana, watched her Lincolns as any Protestant-turned-Catholic with eight children would. Yet today, as we talk about trimming energy output in this limited-resource, postmillennium world, I can’t help but hear the echo of my father. And I flinch. It’s not that I’m one for wanton waste. I recycle. I budget. I shop local. I buy organic yogurt and generic shampoo. I drive less. I even hypermile, coasting to stoplights. Still, as a long-deferred recession looms, I rebel. Maybe it’s the image of my father tucking restaurant ketchup packets into his shirt pocket. Or his search for the cheapest six-pack (Schlitz) to max out the number of cans he could down after a day of work (more than thirty-three years at the U.S. Postal Service, or 8,000 days, that is). Or all the times he told his Greek-American wife: “Pandora, you have champagne tastes on a beer budget.” My mom hated that. His pleasures were indeed simple: smoking an off-brand cigarette on the back porch while gazing at his garden with its Jupiter-sized tomatoes. I never liked tomatoes as a kid, but I remember them lined up like trophies on the kitchen windowsill—starbursts of green on top, with a matte, homegrown finish. When I look back now, it seems my father’s soul was shortchanged by all the cost-cutting measures, the constant curtailing of experience. Life is never long enough for cheap cigarettes, cheap beer, and three decades of a suffocating, poorly paid job. It’s been nearly ten years since my father died. I have grown to love garden tomatoes. Maybe I’ll try to harvest my own, or at least walk to the farmers’ market and buy them. But I won’t smuggle ketchup packets home.



“ T U R N O F F T H E L I G H T S , ” he’d say—leaving me in the dark. “Keep the heat at 62,” he’d say—turning the thermostat to the left. “Don’t flush the toilet every time.” I’d ignore that edict, even if he did not. My father was not a conservationist. He was cheap. At least I thought so in the mid-1970s when being a dad meant you said these things. I was 6, with only a vague understanding of “stagflation” and gas station lines.

illustrtaion by Christopher Sausto







what you’re writing


T H E F I R S T O N E was all of 4-foot 7-inches tall, with a red-lettered Salucci Brothers logo emblazoned across the chest of his baseball uniform. His grandfather watched from the stands of the dustbowl Little League field in my hometown and would grimace and growl and sometimes yell at the umpires. As one of those umpires, I quickly grew to dislike his silly protestations. To spite the old man, I provoked his grandson into cussing after I’d made a particularly egregious third strike call and ejected him from the game. I found the experience to be enjoyable. The second one was the alpha-male coach of the R&B Liquidators-sponsored team with whom I’d had a running feud since the beginning of the season. He got his comeuppance when he stared at me a little too long from the dugout after I intentionally called out one of his little minions at second base. I won the staring contest and chucked him from the game with a roundhouse swing of my right arm, index finger pointing him to the parking lot. The third one was the aptly named Mario, coach of Frank’s Construction Partners. He was the owner of a bushy mustache, broad suspenders, and a dumpy oval-shaped body. Over the long summer he had continually nipped at my heels with his pathetic commentary: That’s not a strike! He hit that ball fair! He hit it FAIR! You’re biased against my team! Armed with a dull mind and a shrew-like personality, he made for easy pickings, and I ejected him twice near the end of the season— much to my delight. For the second ejection, I belittled him by drawing a line near his dugout in the dry dust of the late-July afternoon and forbade him from stepping over it. He took the bait and stepped over the line. In my sixteenth summer, I was finding the taste of authority to be very satisfying. It was a taste I would find difficult to spit out. ■

—Name withheld. The names of people and business establishments have been changed.

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outStanDing inStruction… Stellar faculty… nurturing enVironment!

fall claSSeS Start SePtember 3—regiSter now! View online catalog at 410-659-8100, ext. 1130 Music and Dance for Children & Adults: private & Group Classes, Beginner to Advanced Downtown Baltimore, towson & Annapolis campuses, howard County locations

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Urbanite Opening


11:27 AM

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7/29/2008 12:38:23 PM


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urbanite september 08

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urbanite september 08

local denizens

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Book Discussion: Chinese Lessons

Sept 2, 7:30 p.m.

In 1980, John Pomfret became one of the first Americans to study in China after the Cultural Revolution, the brutal Socialist class war in which thousands died and millions were exiled or imprisoned. In a free lecture at Goucher College, the former Washington Post Beijing bureau chief discusses his book, Chinese Lessons, which records the stories of five of his classmates whose families suffered during the Cultural Revolution and now struggle to reconcile the contradictions of life under authoritarian capitalism.

Goucher College Kraushaar Auditorium 1021 Dulaney Valley Rd. 410-337-6333

Defenders Day Celebrations

Sept 12–14

The defense of Fort McHenry against a twenty-five-hour British naval bombardment in September 1814 inspired both “The Star-Spangled Banner” and a Maryland state holiday, Defenders Day. The three-day celebration at Fort McHenry includes a mock bombardment, fireworks, and one hundred historical reenactors.

Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine 2400 E. Fort Ave. Adults $7, children 15 and younger free 410-962-4290

Mid-Atlantic Reptile Show

Sept 13–14, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.

Looking for a boa constrictor or a bearded dragon to call your very own? The Mid-Atlantic Reptile Show features dozens of vendors from more than thirteen states selling reptiles and everything you need to care for your favorite cold-blooded pet. The show also offers animal lectures and demonstrations by experts such as Trooper Walsh, part of the first team to successfully breed Komodo dragons in captivity. Proceeds benefit rain forest preservation efforts in Costa Rica.

Maryland State Fairgrounds 4-H Hall 2200 York Rd., Timonium See website for ticket information 410-580-0250

High Zero Festival

Sept 17–21

Now in its genre-defying tenth year, Baltimore’s High Zero Festival of experimental music features artists who use technology, traditional instruments, and, sometimes, parts of their own bodies in their improvisations. This year’s roster of tenth anniversary special guest artists includes Philadelphia filmmaker Peter Rose and Baltimore musician Jenny Graf Sheppard.

See website for locations and admission prices 443-414-5414

Columbia Classic Grand Prix

Sept 20, 10 a.m.

Howard County offers a full day of equestrian-inspired fun with the twenty-first annual Columbia Classic Grand Prix. Enjoy pony rides, a food court, and a show-jumping contest featuring professional riders competing for $40,000 in prize money. A $100 raffle ticket buys you a chance to win a new Mercedes-Benz. All proceeds support Howard Community College.

Howard Community College 10901 Little Patuxent Pkwy., Columbia $15, children 10 and younger $8 410-772-4450

Baltimore Book Festival

Sept 26–28

Bibliophiles can choose from a diverse menu of authors at this year’s Baltimore Book Festival: Where else can you see Princeton professor Cornel West, feminist icon Naomi Wolf, Apprentice champ Randal Pinkett, and Martin Yan of public television’s Yan Can Cook? You can also join Urbanite literary editor Susan McCallum-Smith for a workshop on personal essay writing on September 27 in the CityLit tent.

Mount Vernon Place 600 block of N. Charles St. 410-752-8632

Photo credits from top to bottom: photo by Art Streiber; courtesy of National Park Service; © Mikhail Blajenov |; courtesy of High Zero Festival; photo by Quent Kardos; photo by Brian Velenchenko

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DISCOVER TEN NEW Custom Designed WATERFRONT Townhomes all situated with commanding Eastern Long Views of the Baltimore Harbor and enjoy the Luxurious Lifestyle living at The CRESCENT Community in Fells Point priced from $1,299,900-1,850,000. The expansive picture windows on all levels as well as the two balconies and roof terrace complete the excitement and relaxation of living on the waterfront. These sophisticated homes have 3 Bedrooms, 3 Full Baths and 2 Half Baths, a Chef’s kitchen with Island and Breakfast room, a Bonus room, and 2 car Garages-plus additional guest parking spaces, and finishes include: 9’,10’,and 11’ ceilings, rounded corners, built-in’s, slate/tile, German beech wood, and Berber carpet floors, Granite counters, wood cabinets, 2 HVAC’s, Gas fireplace and cook top, as well as all appliances, extensive lighting: track, wall sconces, down, plus a fabulous Spa bath in the Master Bedroom suite. A 52- Boat slip Marina finishes the ambiance.

Carolynne Shumate Associate Broker, CRS, CRB (410) 235-4100 (o) | (410) 336-3441 (c)

Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage

comPiLed BY LioneL foster

the goods

Kevin Russell built furniture for himself and his friends in his Severna Park garage for years. Then in 2003, he and his wife, Lauren, sold more than thirty pieces to one of Lauren’s graphic design clients, and a hobby became a booming cottage industry. The result was Russell & Mackenna (, maker of beds, couches, bookshelves, side tables, vanities, hutches, and more. It’s high-end furniture with a coastal, summer-home feel; you’ll find a kitchen island in a shade of eggplant or an armoire in mojito. The company caters to retailers, interior designers, and regular folks with thirty-three lacquer-finish paint colors, fifty-eight different fabrics, and a new upholstered furniture line. Shop online or walk into the flagship store in Severna Park (8R Evergreen Rd.; 410-315-9011).

photo by S a

mH old en

—Lara Streyle

photo by Lauren Russell for Russell & Mackenna

Knock on Wood

Pie on Your Face Rodney Henry has had pie on the brain since he was a kid. A veteran local musician (he fronts the venerable punkabilly outfit the Glenmont Popes) and the owner of Dangerously Delicious Pies (1036 Light St.; 410-5227437;, Henry learned the fundamentals of baking from his grandmother during summer visits as a boy. Thirty-some varieties later—including dessert, quiche, and savory meat and vegetarian pies— Henry has a sweet and booming business on his hands. His latest venture is called The Savory House (3547 Chestnut Ave.; 410-662-7437). Located in Hampden, it offers full-service breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And, of course, a lot of pie. Choose from sausage, tomato, and fennel pie; pork barbecue pie; or crab-and-cheddar quiche. Dessert offerings include apple, key lime, chocolate chess, and four weekly specials. Pies are available by the slice, and personal 6-inch pies are custom made at the store. Prices range from $5 a slice to $31.50 for savory pies. Tues–Sun 7 a.m.–10 p.m. Takeout available. —L.S.

In 2005, Americans sent some 1.8 million tons of old TV sets, computers, cell phones, and other electronic waste to the dump, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. A discarded TV or computer screen contains 6 pounds of lead on average, along with cadmium, mercury, and PVC plastic. Baltimore City (410-396-8450) recycles e-waste at some locations, and now, the giant electronics retailer Best Buy ( is testing a free e-waste recycling program in Baltimore, Minneapolis, and San Francisco. In addition to recycling cell phones, ink-jet cartridges, and batteries, local Best Buy stores now accept up to two larger items each day, including computers, cameras, and TV monitors no larger than 32 inches. Best Buy works with the Ellicott Citybased recycling firm E-Structors to ensure that all personal data is destroyed and every component is reused in future products. —Sheena Gebhardt

photo by Eric Drummond

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urbanite september 08

the goods

photo by Christopher Sausto

Honeymoon Suite or Skybox?

Stepping Up While touring the Cheong Fatt Tze “Blue” Mansion in Penang, Malaysia, Ellen Reich noticed that the first three steps of the mansion’s ornate staircase were made of stone rather than carved wood. In Chinese lore, this symbolizes a promise that those who walk the stairs will have “solid footing for a good journey,” she says. Reich’s online store, Three Stone Steps (, which launched in late 2007, aims to capture this sentiment. The store carries bags, scarves, and accessories made by a group of artisans in Penampang, Cambodia. Reich bills the goods as fair-trade and eco-friendly, and works with the designers to create original accessories with hometown appeal. The printed silk “Little Bit of Everything” bag is a perfect cosmetics case. The durable messenger bags—such as Reich’s personal favorite, the Mingus bag, made out of woven recycled garbage bags—are handy for carrying everything from school books to laptops. Items are available online and at select Baltimore businesses and festivals listed on the website.

Convention planners searching the country for the perfect place to corral a few thousand sales reps just got three hundred million reasons to put Baltimore at the top of their list. That’s the price tag on the new Hilton Baltimore Hotel (401 W. Pratt St.; 443-573-8700;, which opened August 22. Designed to lure more events to the Convention Center, and the money spent on food, lodging, and entertainment that come with it, the Hilton has a fully enclosed, air-conditioned bridge to the center. It also boasts more rooms (757) and ballroom space (the 25,000-square-foot Francis Scott Key Ballroom can accommodate two thousand people) than any hotel within the city limits. But the best feature is the view: Just yards from Camden Yards, many of the windows on floors four through nineteen offer a perfect perspective on Orioles baseball games. So, when you’re out and about downtown, be extra friendly to the men and women in corporate polos, especially if their rooms face south. See website for pricing and availability.


by Ell en Re ich

—Lionel Foster

—Hannah M. Spangler

photo by La Kaye Mbah

Get Yours At the YOURS Store (822 W. 36th St.; 443-418-5230; in Hampden, kids do all the work. And they like it. Young employees drum up business by hula-hooping on the front porch, distributing fliers that advertise their handcrafted T-shirts and art—and even attending Merchants’ Association meetings. The nonprofit YOURS, or Youth Organizing Urban Revitalization Systems, began three years ago as an outreach program for at-risk high schoolers. Then, armed with a $15,000 grant from the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation, and powered by entrepreneurs-in-training from Frederick Douglass and Independence high schools, it blossomed into a student-run retail store. About ten artists and groups sell their work, including aspiring fashion designer Anthony White, a tenth grader at Independence High School who offers T-shirts emblazoned with his “Fresh Robot” design. YOURS executive director Najib Jammal calls the store a “model for economic self-determination.” Down the road, he would like to offer microcredit loans to help YOURS students who graduate from college start their own businesses—and in turn, become mentors for a new generation of entrepreneurs. —S.G. w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m s e p t e m b e r 0 8



urbanite september 08

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3921 Juniper Road Baltimore, Md 21218

Gracious and Spacious five bedroom, three and a half bath, brick center hall colonial on almost a half acre landscaped lot. Attractively priced at $745,000, a great value for the Guilford neighborhood, Central air, updated kitchen and baths, detached two car garage. Call and make an appointment to see how much house and how easy it is to just move in. Owner/Agent Roland Park at 312 Wyndhurst Ave. Baltimore, MD 21210

c: 410-218-2566 d: 410-900-1404


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*Our Surcharges (incl. Fed. Univ. Svc. of 11.3% of interstate & int’l telecom charges (varies quarterly), 7c Regulatory & 85c Administrative /line/mo., & others by area) are not taxes (details: 1-888-684-1888); gov’t taxes & our surcharges could add 5% - 36% to your bill. Activation fee/line: $35 ($25 for secondary Family SharePlan lines w/ 2 yr Agmts) IMPORTANT CONSUMER INFORMATION: Subject to Customer Agmt, Calling Plan, & credit approval. Up to $175 early termination fee, up to 45c/min after allowance & $1.99/MB (incl. Mobile Web ads). Add’l $20 upgrade fee may apply. Device capabilities: Add’l charges & conditions apply. Offers & coverage, varying by service, not available everywhere. Network details & coverage maps at Nights 9:01 pm - 5:59 am M-F. Limited time offer. Rebate takes up to 6 wks.. ©2008 Verizon Wireless


urbanite september 08

photo by La Kaye Mbah

Tax sale nightmare: Retired post office supervisor Al-Amin As´Salaam says that predatory housing investors have hit him with huge legal fees.

Win, Win, Lose Like a lot of Baltimoreans, Al-Amin As´Salaam learned about tax sales the hard way. A 63-year-old retired post office supervisor and disabled veteran, As´Salaam lives on Oak Hill Avenue in East Baltimore. His rowhouse, assessed at about $20,000, has windows taped over with newspaper clippings about his life as an organizer in the civil rights movement. Now white-haired, overweight, and supported by a walking stick, he takes medication for clinical depression. He

also suffers from chronic pain, which requires medication. He lives alone, in the company of one cat. He spends much of his time—the one thing he has plenty of—rifling through legal briefs and affidavits, entangled in the murky business of tax sales. In Maryland, as in all other states, tax sales are a final recourse for collecting unpaid taxes. When Baltimore residents fall behind on their tax payments, after several notifications, the city sells the debt, or lien, in an annual tax sale in May. Investors bid on the liens, offering a premium to the city for the rights to ownership. Once they buy

the lien, it’s up to them to persuade residents to pony up. The added incentive? If the homeowner doesn’t pay the bill within six months, investors can move to foreclose on the property; once the foreclosure is granted, the home is theirs. For the investors and the city, it’s a win-win proposition. Even if the investors don’t end up with the house, they receive 18 percent interest on the lien, and, in the event of foreclosure, they bill their legal fees to the homeowner. Baltimore City collects the unpaid taxes. In 2007, it recouped about $22 million through tax sales, amounting to about 5 percent of the city’s total property tax revenue of $500 million. For small homeowners like As´Salaam who have fallen behind on payments, however, the process can turn into a labyrinthine nightmare—one that transforms a small debt into a huge one. As´Salaam’s story begins on January 7, 2008, when his sister found a foreclosure notice from the law firm of Heidi Kenny shoved in the storm-door handle. As´Salaam had fallen behind in his property tax. But if he thought the city had let it go, he was wrong.  Unbeknownst to As´Salaam, his lien had been sold the previous May 12 at a tax sale to Steve Berman of City TSC Holdings, located at 11426 York Road in Cockeysville. In November, that lien was transferred by Berman to another holding company, Property Homes LLC, also located at 11426 York Road. Six months later, a complaint to foreclose on As´Salaam’s house was filed on behalf of Property Homes by lawyer Heidi Kenny, whose offices are also located at 11426 York Road. Now As´Salaam had to figure out how to pay the money he needed to pay to prevent foreclosure. In April, with assistance from housing rights advocates at the nonprofit ACORN Housing, he filed a petition to redeem, which required Kenny’s firm to submit an affidavit documenting the $2,200 in legal fees and expenses. The affidavit includes a list of the work involved in the $1,500 legal fee. The first item is for “initial client contact.” The client was, in this case, Property Homes LLC, listed at the address of Kenny’s law firm. The next: “Attorney opened file in data system, ordered title report, and sent engagement documents.” The next: “Paralegal tracked redemption of property by periodically checking with Baltimore City to verify tax lien still open.” About two pages of documented work follow.  Because of those legal fees and expenses, As´Salaam’s total debt had ballooned from $672.26 to more than $3,000. “I felt I’d been ambushed,” he says, thumbing through a mas-

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baltimore observed


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sive pile of panicked e-mails that he had sent Kenny’s firm. “They’d set me up for this.” As´Salaam may not have known it, but he was dealing with some of the bigger players in Baltimore tax sales. Real estate investor Steve Berman, whose LLCs purchased 41 percent of the city’s available liens at the May 2007 online auction, is the husband of lawyer Heidi Kenny, who initiated the foreclosure process on November 26. The couple has been active in tax sales both in and around Baltimore for more than a decade. Since 2002, according to her affidavit for attorney’s fees, Kenny has filed “over four thousand tax sale foreclosure cases throughout the State of Maryland and over two hundred tax sale foreclosure cases in the District of Columbia.” Her husband admitted in federal court to rigging bids in Baltimore County tax sale auctions and agreed to pay a $750,000 fine in return for cooperation with federal prosecutors. Berman sat out the 2008 tax sale, but Kenny purchased 43 percent of Baltimore City’s available liens, at a cost of $16 million. The couple is used to controversy, having been cited often in the Baltimore Sun’s coverage of the city’s ground rent scandal in 2006. In that series, several investors were accused of taking advantage of an obscure Baltimore tax to initiate foreclosures against Baltimore homeowners. In a meeting at the Venable law firm in Towson, Kenny agrees to give her side of the story—on background and in the presence of a Venable lawyer. Kenny says that As´Salaam’s problems were brought on by himself, and that, after the motion to foreclose had been filed, As´Salaam had been notified four times of his obligations. She showed me three copies of e-mails sent by her office to As´Salaam. (All had been sent after the foreclosure had been initiated.) Kenny also notes that As´Salaam has been in debt before and that his house was up for tax sale in 2003. (As´Salaam says that repayment of his debt to Capital One, which he attributes to medical bills, is pending, and his earlier debt to the city in 2003 was easily settled because it still belonged to the city.) Kenny also says that As´Salaam owns another property across the street, which he could use as equity to pay his debts. (As´Salaam says it’s his mother’s house, transferred to his ownership in 1986, and now vacant.) Frank Conaway, currently clerk of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City and the man on the receiving end of all the motions to foreclose in Baltimore City, says that this is a familiar, sad story for many lower-income Baltimoreans. Six months after the tax sales, in late November, when purchasers of tax sales

are entitled to initiate foreclosure, huge bundles of foreclosure motions are brought into the Mitchell Courthouse. As´Salaam’s was one of those. Low-income homeowners who have fallen behind in their tax bills get charged with legal bills for foreclosure and suddenly are overwhelmed by debt. “So many people call me a day or two before they’re going to get foreclosed,” Conaway says. “It brings tears to your eyes. And I ask them, ‘Why didn’t you call me a couple of months ago?’ They’re supposed to get notified. Somehow they don’t.” Many, he says, are elderly, sick, and saddled with debt. “It’s ridiculous to see their property being taken for a debt of five or six hundred dollars. Something’s not right about that.” Conaway says he’s filed complaints against Kenny with the state’s legal oversight panel in Annapolis, but they’ve been dismissed. “That’s what makes it messy,” he says. “It may be immoral, but it’s not illegal. It’s the way they do business.”

“I felt I’d been ambushed,” says Al-Amin As´Salaam, thumbing through a massive pile of panicked e-mails that he had sent Kenny’s firm. “They’d set me up for this.” But Kenny argues that the reputation is unwarranted: By paying the debts on property taxes, she’s actually doing the city a favor and doing it according to state law. In effect, the city is handing off the job of debt collection to lawyers such as herself, who then take the blame for doing something the city doesn’t have the resources to do for itself. Kenny worries that she is being vilified for paying As´Salaam’s property tax and then attempting to collect his lien using the only enforcement method available to her. At the very least, the As´Salaam case illustrates how tax sales can entangle homeowners and creditors in a costly battle. For As´Salaam, a $672 debt has become an ongoing dispute that grows more complex—and expensive— the more he protests. And many city and state officials are decidedly uncomfortable with the perception that low-income property owners have become a lucrative income base for lawyers who charge foreclosure fees. But the story may have a happy ending. In the last year, competing interests in the tax sale system have been working to rein in its abuses. Steps have been taken to assure that

foreclosure remains an option of last resort, not a way of strangling unwitting homeowners with high legal fees. Over several months last winter, a task force composed of housing advocates, tax sale investors, and representatives from state and local government set out to reform the tax sale process statewide. “It’s one of the most mundane subjects you could ever get involved in,” acknowledges State Sen. George Della, who’s become an advocate for reform. “But it’s important.” Compromise didn’t come easy, and Della paints a picture of long, somewhat contentious sessions. In the end, he says, while no side got exactly what it wanted, a series of recommendations was hammered out. The general assembly passed a bill, SB 854, containing many of those recommendations, and Gov. O’Malley signed the bill into law on April 24. The bill, sponsored by State Sen. Verna Jones and cosponsored by Della, requires that outstanding taxes be at least $250 before they can be sold as liens. It effectively caps attorney’s fees at $1,300. And it mandates that those who purchase liens notify property owners within sixty days of the tax sale, so that they will have the opportunity to pay their debt without incurring the additional legal fees. Under that law, As´Salaam might have avoided his current mess. Ned Carey, a Baltimore tax sale investor and a blogger for, says he agrees that the process needed reform. He acknowledges that some big players were clearly using the process to charge customers huge foreclosure fees, entangling homeowners in a process that made it even more difficult to pay back their debts. If the reforms can reduce these predatory practices, Carey says tax sales really can be win-win-wins: Carey says he spends about $100,000 each year purchasing liens at tax sales—usually on abandoned property. (He describes himself as a “second tier” investor, compared with Kenny.) When the liens go unpaid, he takes possession of the house and either fixes it up or sells it to someone who intends to rehab—hopefully, but not always, at a profit. The city collects unpaid debt, and abandoned homes land back on the market. Carey also has a few words of advice to anyone who finds that the lien on his or her house has been sold. “Don’t panic. But then don’t take it too easy, either. You’ve got six months. Pay the lien, and you’ll avoid the problem. As for me being the bad guy, the city would be doing the same thing … only they’d be doing it a lot faster.” ■   —John Barry

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baltimore observed


Now,saving energy really pays. CYNTHIA, BGE SMART ENERGY SAVERS PROGRAM SM

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� A new Honeywell programmable thermostat or an outdoor air conditioner switch professionally

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you’re in the program. � A matching bonus of $50–$100 in your first year, just for enrolling. � Year-round energy efficiency—and up to 15% in energy cost savings—when you choose the new

smart thermostat. When you enroll, you agree to help ease high electricity demand by allowing BGE to“cycle” your air conditioning on and off from time to time, typically during the summer months when electricity demand is at its peak. If you change your mind, you can withdraw from the program at any time, and the new thermostat or switch is yours to keep. PeakRewards is just one more way BGE’s Smart Energy Savers Program is helping you manage your energy usage and save on energy costs, while helping the environment. SM

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photo by Jim Burger

Scene stealer: Performance artist Megan Hildebrandt draws inspiration from the photography of A. Aubrey Bodine, which was itself a performance of sorts.

Scrubs On a recent Saturday morning, a petite young woman named Megan Hildebrandt stepped out onto the sidewalk on East Avenue, dressed like a 1940s cleaning lady. She wore a bodylength apron atop a blue cotton housedress, and her thin blonde hair was tied up with a scarf. With one hand, she steadied a 2-gallon bucket of water, a scrub brush, and yellow latex gloves; in the other hand was a small gold can of Bon Ami polishing cleanser. Her entire outfit had a neat, studied nostalgia to it, except for her footwear: peeling, calf-high wrestling boots, which threw off the rest of the ensemble. “These are my good luck boots,” she said. “I just wear them for things I want to go well.” What she wanted to go well was the weekly art spectacle/history lesson she’s been taking to the streets of East Baltimore for six months now. A year into a residency at the Creative Alliance community arts group, Hildebrandt is on a one-woman crusade to revive Baltimore’s tradition of stoop cleaning. Hildebrandt, 24, grew up in a wealthy, predominantly white suburb of Detroit. She discovered performance art at the University of Michigan School of Art and Design. Her first experiment with the medium was “The Venerator,” an alter ego who wrote letters to the pope trying to get friends canonized. After graduating, she spent six months aboard Artrain USA, a locomotive that delivers art and arts programming to communities across the country. During a stop in South Carolina, she was asked to leave a park because she was

white. “That was the tipping point for me,” she says. “I said to myself, ‘You don’t know shit about the world.’” Not long afterward, she accepted a spot at the Creative Alliance, figuring Baltimore had a few things to teach her. The inspiration for the stoop-cleaning project came from a photograph taken circa 1945 by legendary Baltimore Sun photogra-

“I want everyone to become unified in a way that’s so unrealistic,” says artist Megan Hildebrandt, “but then a part of me is like, it could happen if everyone was scrubbing their steps for one moment.” pher A. Aubrey Bodine. The image, Wash Day, is a black and white homage to the prosperity, goodness, and unity of Baltimore’s working class. (Hildebrandt first saw Wash Day on the cover of Urbanite’s January 2008 issue.) It shows a street full of women and children tending their glistening white marble stoops. Those omnipresent white steps (the marble once came cheap from the Beaver Dam quarry in Cockeysville) came to represent success for thousands of house-proud homeowners in East and West Baltimore. Older residents can recall using water, cleanser, and pumice stones to make the steps shine, a community ritual that Hildebrandt found captivating. “I’ve been really fascinated by the fragmentation that exists in East Baltimore,” she says. “It’s so intense … I want everyone to become unified in a way that’s so unrealistic,

but then a part of me is like, it could happen if everyone was scrubbing their steps for one moment.” So for up to three hours at a time, she walks the streets of Highlandtown, asking if she can clean people’s stairs. That Saturday morning, it took several blocks and a few unanswered knocks before Hildebrandt got her first “yes” from a young Hispanic man on Pratt Street. He appeared to be amused by Hildebrandt’s request; a woman looked on from inside the house, and another young man watched through the open living room window. In live street performance, there’s sometimes just a hairsbreadth between mockery and genuine engagement, but Hildebrandt seemed to manage that terrain well. She put down her bucket and slipped on her gloves. She shook out a bit of Bon Ami, dipped her brush, and circled the powder and water into a paste. Then she started to scrub. The sound of the bristles echoed down the street in stereo, amplified by the brick and marble of the house and the concrete pavement; an entire block of scrubbers must have sounded like a sandstorm. Hildebrandt cleaned three other stoops that morning, earning looks ranging from curiosity to glee. At 11 a.m., she walked back to the Creative Alliance, tired but exhilarated. “I try to ration [the Bon Ami],” she said, “but when someone says, ‘Yes,’ I get excited and put it all on.” Her enthusiasm was especially remarkable considering a conversation she’d had the night before. At an art opening, she met Jim Burger, a former Baltimore Sun photographer (and an occasional Urbanite contributor). Burger told her that Wash Day, like many other Bodine photographs, was staged. “Wash Day, that whole thing was a big, choreographed operation,” Burger says. “Come on. The whole neighborhood comin’ out and all the kids dressed perfectly and all that shit?” Baltimoreans did scrub their stoops religiously, but Bodine was a pictorialist, says daughter Jennifer Bodine, who edited a collection of her father’s work. “He never shot news. He went straight into picture photography, and whatever made the picture better, he did it.” Hildebrandt was dumbfounded. “If I’m mimicking something that never actually happened, how much further does this put us away from history?” she said. “It brings up a whole slew of questions for me.” Nevertheless, she plans to continue her performances this fall, as long as the weather permits. “When I’m in the moment,” she said, “the reason I’m doing it is unchanged. It’s about getting people out of their houses and getting them to engage with me.” ■


baltimore observed

—Lionel Foster

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Baltimore’s 32nd Annual Ukrainian Festival

September 6 & 7 12 - 8 pm Free Admission Patterson Park Corner of Linwood & Eastern Avenue

Live Entertainment Children’s Area & Rides

Increases volume.

Ukrainian Culture Center Home of the Original Ukrainian Beer Garden

40+ Ukrainian Craft & Food Vendors

For more information, call 410-967-0501 or 410-591-7566

Increases intelligence. Listen. And learn.

88.1 (Baltimore/Frederick) 106.9 (Ocean City/Salisbury) (streaming online 24/7)

68_WY_Ad_8x2.3125_v1.indd 1

Store Store LTD Store LTD Store 11/30/07 LTD 11/30/07 LTD 11/30/07 1:24 11/30/07 1:24 PM1:24 1:24 PM Page 1:24 PM Page 1 PM Page 1 Store Store LTD LTD 11/30/07 11/30/07 1:24 PM Page Page 11 Store LTD 11/30/07 1:24 Page 1 Page Store LTD 11/30/07 1:24 PM PM Page 1 PM Store LTD 11/30/07 1:24 PM Page Store LTD 1:24 PM1:24 Page Store11/30/07 LTD 11/30/07 PM 1 Page Store LTD 11/30/07 1:24 PM Page 1

11 1 1 6/13/08 11:45:41 AM

“Feel the child’s potential and you will transform him into the world.” -Dr. Maria Montessori

The Montessori School Preschool-Grade 6

OPEN HOUSES: Sept.11 & Oct. 2, 9:15 a.m. (Toddler/Primary) October 7, 9 a.m. (Lower Elementary) November 20, 9 a.m. (Upper Elementary)

Emerson Farm Middle School Grades 7 & 8

OPEN HOUSE: October 28, 9:00 a.m. Open houses are for adults. Please call in advance to register, 410-321-8555.

Falls & Greenspring Valley Rds. Lutherville, MD • 410-321-8555


urbanite september 08


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photo by Eric Drummond

Bad news: Sun staff protest this summer’s downsizing in front of the newspaper’s Calvert Street offices.

Stop the Presses Like sectarian violence from the Middle East, newsroom layoffs have become—to resurrect an old news-guy cliché—a dog-bites-man story. There is a regularity to the bloodletting at the Baltimore Sun. August marked something like the twelfth offering of local scribes to the gods of commerce in recent years. This one, however—unlike some previous nips and tucks performed over the years by parent Tribune Co. here and at newspaper outposts in Chicago, Hartford, Los Angeles, and Orlando—was startling: Nearly one hundred reporters and other employees fattened the pool of vanquished souls by accepting “buyouts” or being pinkslipped. Nationwide, nearly six thousand journalism jobs have been lost this year. Still, the question must be asked: Does anyone care? News isn’t news if it isn’t novel, but unlike ditched autoworkers or axed machinists, laid-off journalists can wear their vocational dislocation like a hairshirt. Hence the drumbeat of stories about how the end of newsprint represents a grave threat to democracy. But it’s hard to muster sympathy for people who have known for decades that the guillotine would someday fall. When I started as a copy boy at the News American thirty years ago, more than one prematurely old hack wearied from low pay and badgering editors told me: “What do you want to do this for? This business will rip your heart out.” (And it has. Many times.) It’s particularly difficult for me to feel the pain of Sun journalists (indulge my schadenfreude, please). Too many reporters there have been largely disinterested in Baltimore except as a step up the career ladder; many came to sneer at the town in which they worked and (usually temporarily) lived. A minority of decent, talented folk has produced trenchant and sensitive

work while toiling alongside them. They deserve better. As for the others, good riddance. Shed tears for an on-the-slide daily? Forget it. Why shouldn’t the drawn-out demise of a newspaper bought to model a morally bankrupt corporate culture—the kind that led raiders and bean counters to believe you could milk 20 percent profit margins from operations that had made 2 to 3 percent annually for their previous local owners—be a cause of rejoicing? At the very least, the visibly diminished state of the Sun, with several fewer pages of news per week, might speed the search for a new model to replace newsprint. Wasn’t the nonprofit Abell Foundation started by the family of the Sun’s founder? Might it or another deep-pocketed bastion of civility help put a decidedly local “paper” out there, at least electronically (as has been done with nonprofit online sites like Minneapolis’ MinnPost and Voice of San Diego)? There are things that need to be done, so get over it. But something tells me that the postmortems and obits will continue with each incremental diminution of their “once-proud institution.” Could there be more to this than the whine of the technologically obsolete? “Writers don’t need to write anything more,” the poet/archivist Kenneth Goldsmith told Radhika Jones in this summer’s issue of BookForum. “They just need to manage the language that already exists.” He collects flyers, slips of paper, and messages—the ongoing, incomprehensible static of New York life. Goldsmith teaches a class in “uncreative writing” at the University of Pennsylvania and types tomes he freely admits are “unreadable,” such as Day, his word-for-word transcription of a Friday edition of the New York Times from the summer of 2000—stories, ads, stock listings. The entire paper, cover to cover. Part of Goldsmith’s point is conceptual: We groan under the weight of a postmodern

heap of printed and pixilated matter, read by people with less time and fewer (and more specialized) interests. Never mind that much of what we’re reading online merely affirms our biases, or that we choose only what we want to see at the time (unlike, say, the front page of a daily). Although Goldsmith once used a newspaper as, um, material, his point stabs at the heart of what’s ailing journalists. In a world of oft-recycled reading material and quick-hitting bits designed to grab one mere iota of attention, there is less of a need for “real” journalists to probe the world’s dark crannies and dens of iniquity and shed light on them. Of course, the market is determining “need” here—the same market that basically ceded its once-voluminous ad base to the Internet for less than a song, the same market (in the largest sense of the term) that has made the United States the shining beacon of social Darwinism, a society with no “needs” save more cash. This leaves reporters on the outs with not much choice. I’d love to say that the wheels of justice and democracy they so reflexively invoke must still be greased with the truth, and that there are ways they could put their good intentions to use to do that. I might point out that one in five adult Baltimoreans reads at a fifth-grade level. Why not put together a nonprofit run by former reporters to help them? Novelist Dave Eggers has opened seven nationwide branches of his nonprofit writing center, 826 Valencia, to teach kids about the literary arts. None of them is in Baltimore. There’s no town that could use it more, so why not start one here? Donor-backed news sites could fill in cracks in local reporting created by reporters’ departures. Start some and pray it rains ads. But I’m not sure that making these suggestions does much more than make me resemble politicians who are confronted by the downsized and outsourced from other professions, and who tout retraining programs to nowhere. “No one asked you to write,” the novelist George V. Higgins once told his creative writing class. “And no one will care if you stop.” Maybe fiction writers, who face a blank piece of paper (or a blank screen) each morning and rarely enjoy the prospect of a near-term audience, can grasp this. Reporters, many hatched during the heady years of Woodward and Bernstein, won’t let themselves get it. The subtext of this—why we hear the sad saga of newspapers over and over again—is that a dwindling number of journalists worry that whatever relevance they may have had is gone. If things don’t start changing, those fears will soon be realized. ■


baltimore observed

—Michael Anft

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urbanite september 08

w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m s e p t e m b e r 0 8


Power Play “Energy descent” expert Rob Hopkins on thriving in a post-oil world In te r v i ew

b y


c a r l s o n

or someone who believes that world oil supplies are about to begin an inexorable decline, possibly dragging down civil society in the process, Rob Hopkins is a rather cheery fellow. Hopkins, a 40-year-old doctoral student at Plymouth University in the United Kingdom, is the founder of the Transition movement, which encourages people to wean their neighborhoods, communities, and towns off oil and nudge them onto a path of self-sufficiency in an increasingly energy-scarce world. “The change we have seen over the past hundred years will be nothing compared with what we will see over the next twenty,” he says. But it’s not a dire warning; it’s an adventure. “This is an extraordinary time to be alive. I feel really fortunate to be around—it’s going to be a fascinating time in history.” Hopkins was teaching permaculture design, or the design of sustainable human settlements, when he stumbled across the idea of “peak oil,” which holds that an irreversible decline in global oil production is imminent. That led him to create “Transition Towns”—among them the village of Totnes in southwestern England where he now lives. Hopkins and his colleagues have encouraged the planting of gardens and nut trees for local food sources, the establishment of gas-free transportation (including a rickshaw service), and the support of local businesses and local skilled labor. Totnes also has its own local, transition currency, the Totnes pound. There are now about eighty official Transition Towns, mainly in the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand. Here in the United States, there are three, all recent converts to the cause: Boulder, Colorado; Sandpoint, Idaho; and Ketchum, Idaho. Hopkins details the various strategies for starting a Transition Town in The Transition Handbook (Chelsea Green Publishing), which arrives at bookstores this month. His message: The end of oil doesn’t mean that some kind of gasstarved Armageddon is inevitable. “I don’t think there is anything to be gained by throwing up our hands and saying that everything is finished,” he says. “Human beings are incredibly creative and adaptive, and there is nothing that indicates that the creativity and adaptability that got us up to the top of this peak is going to completely evaporate when we have to start designing our way down the other side.” Hopkins has sworn off flying because of the environmental impact of air travel. Fortunately, there is still enough energy left in the world for a long-distance phone call to Totnes to talk about going “from oil dependence to local resilience.”

that for about ten years. In 2004, I found out about the peak oil question, which I had never thought about before. I always assumed that it would happen in forty or fifty years. When it settled into my brain, the tools I had to respond to it were those of permaculture and those of applying positive solutions. I was teaching in Kinsale, Ireland [at the Kinsale Further Education College], where we had set up the first two-year permaculture course in the world, and I set my students on a task to design a graceful descent from Kinsale’s current peak of oil consumption. That was the Kinsale Energy Descent Action Plan. It has come to be seen as a seminal piece of work. Then I moved back to England, which is where I am from, and we started Transition Town Totnes.


Ultimately, I don’t think the Transition movement is just an environmental movement. It’s a cultural movement, really. This is different because its starting point isn’t “Whose fault is this?” We’re in this situation together, and getting through it depends on us all getting together. It also incorporates an inner dimension—that it is not just about going out and campaigning against things. It’s about the fact that we are not really going to get very far unless we recognize that talking about peak oil and

Where did the idea of Transition Towns come from?

My background was in permaculture design and in teaching practical solutions to environmental issues, and I have been doing


s c o t t

urbanite september 08


How do you get a Transition Town started?

The first thing to note is that a Transition initiative is not something that is imposed from the outside; it is not something that appears with a checklist of answers that have already been worked out in advance. It is very much a process of acting as a catalyst and trusting that the answers can emerge mostly from the people who are already there. They form a group to work out the details, but that steering group designs its demise from the outset. That brings a sense of humility to the process, which we think is important. Then that leads to that group creating an awareness-raising project, which is about overcoming a sense of powerlessness that finding out about peak oil and climate change can often engender. That initial period is also a period of intense networking, because it’s important that a Transition initiative isn’t seen as just another environmental thing starting up. It’s an umbrella for everything that is already there. We often use an analogy of a wartime mobilization. In a town, you have the business community, the environmental activists, the academics, and the town council, and they often don’t have a lot to do with one another. They may be quite antagonistic. But we are not going to get anywhere if we don’t get people working together.


How is this different from past environmental movements?

courtesy of Rob Hopkins


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Tucked away between Hampden and Woodberry in the

Jones Falls Valley, Clipper Mill is truly an urban oasis. Here, you can live, work and play within a woodland neighborhood and yet be close to everything you love and need in the city, including great shopping and dining, cultural attractions and easy access to the Light Rail and I-83. This vibrant community is home to a dozen amazing artist’s studios and the most spectacular swimming pool in Baltimore. Park Road, Suite 102, Baltimore, MD 21211 rbanite september 08 442002uClipper 443.573.4460

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climate change can be very distressing for [people], and it can be very distressing for us with our nose up against it every day. Unless we design in a way that supports people and that overcomes powerlessness, we are going to struggle. We’re also trying to design away from being a hub-centralized organization to something that is self-organizing. A lot of environmental movements look at some of the things you can do in your own home— change your lightbulbs and so on—and then the rest of it is focused on pressuring government into change. We are trying to look at what can happen when you mobilize the people around you, when you engage the people on your street, the people in your town, which hasn’t been tapped in to very much.


In your vision, what does a transitioned town look like?

It looks relatively similar to what it looks like now, because most of the buildings that we have now we are not going to be able to pull down and rebuild as super-energy-efficient buildings in time for this. Most of the building stock will be retrofitted, super-insulated versions of what we already have. The tremendous amount of land that has been surrendered to the motorcar will be reclaimed and reused for intensive urban food-production systems. People will be working closer to home, with trade done in local currencies. The rural landscape will be much more diverse, include more in the way of productive trees and a mixture of agriculture. The focus of what we are doing will inherently move toward the local. Sometimes people say, “It sounds like you’re saying that we need to go back to something.” It’s really not about going back. It’s about trying to design our way forward [in a way that is] realistic to the energy constraints that we face, which by necessity means that it will be more local and that we will need to relearn a huge amount of skills that we managed to throw away because we felt we didn’t need them anymore. As a people, I think we will be fitter, stronger, and more entertaining with each other. We will have shifted from being just consumers to being both producers and consumers.


What is the purpose of the Totnes pound, and how does it work?


Any time I go shopping, 80 percent of the money I spend in the supermarket leaves my town. And its ability to help my town is gone. Whereas if I spend money in local businesses who support local suppliers, and if I spend with a currency that can’t leave the town because if it goes to the next town it’s not worth anything, then [those transactions] keep the wealth inside. It’s like fair-trade currency—it’s an ethical, mindful currency. So if you are going shopping, if you have Totnes pounds in your pocket, you are making a pledge that you will support local businesses. We started it about a year ago, and there are about seventy-five local businesses that take them now, and there are about eight thousand of them in circulation. It’s something that gets people telling a new story about money and what money can be. People feel ownership over it. It stops being this thing that is run from the outside.


What is the signifi cance of the size of the town you’re working in? I notice that there is no Transition London.


If you rush out and say that you are going to do Transition New York City and there are five of you, you’ll quickly realize that you have bitten off more than you can chew. What we really try to encourage is that people work at a scale at which they feel they have an influence and where they can get to know people, and in a city that tends to mean that you are working at a neighborhood scale. So what we are seeing in the city Transition projects is that they work at that neighborhood scale, and then they network all those different neighborhoods together. In Bristol [population 400,000], for example, the Transition Bristol group acts as a networking organization—it inspires, encourages, and supports Transition initiatives all across the city. And then the actual work is happening at that neighborhood level, where people feel they can actually do things.





I’ve heard you say that we will have to make better use of the urban landscape, by utilizing more useful trees and productive plants.

Over the past forty years we have become used to looking at our urban landscapes as large areas of grass with a few trees on them, with lots of dog mess and a few concrete slabs. That’s really something strange when you look at it through a historic perspective. It’s only been in the years when we have had more oil than sense that we have been able to abandon the idea that land is something useful. We spend huge amounts of money with lawn mowers going round and round, spraying chemicals all over the place, to produce a landscape that people don’t even walk on. It’s a very strange set of aesthetics. We have this initiative here that we are calling “Totnes, the Nut Tree Capital of Britain.” With hybrid walnuts and chestnuts, you can produce a heck of a lot more protein and carbohydrates than you can with any grain. Why we don’t just have them as an integral part of our landscape is a mystery. We are looking at the unloved corners of the town, adding those trees, and training the people who live around them to look after those trees.

You are very optimistic, compared to people who see the end of oil as a kind of apocalypse. But do you think this idea of smooth, painless transition is realistic, given that our world is much more populated and built up since the time before oil?

Peak oil, climate change, and the major recession that is about to unravel will present enormous challenges, and whether Transition will be able to mitigate the worst of that, I have no idea. It feels to me that if we are going to turn a crisis into an opportunity, then we need to be doing a lot of the things that we are doing in the Transition model. The end of cheap oil could offer an incredible potential for learning new skills and revitalizing local economies. What we are trying to do with the Transition movement is to say that if we can engage with this creatively and positively, that’s where the solutions will come from. Most previous generations have had something extraordinary to do in their lifetimes. This is our call to stand up and do something. ■

—Scott Carlson wrote about household geothermal systems in the July Urbanite. w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m s e p t e m b e r 0 8


Baltimore Unplugged The region’s energy forecast? Rising prices and rolling blackouts. The fix? It’s simpler, and more difficult, than you think.

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Galen Frazer was seeing windmills again. Frazer, a laid-back 31-year-old Web designer, works on the tenth floor of the Behringer Harvard building, just across Pratt Street from the National Aquarium. It was early spring 2008, and he was driving to work from his home in Odenton. The trip gave him plenty of time to think. Among other things, he thought guiltily about the environmental impact of his commute and the growing concern over oil prices, global warming, and food shortages. The birth of his daughter, Ava, the previous summer had him worried about the future. “What is this place going to be like in ten years?” he wondered. “Is it going to be like Mad Max? Are we all going to be out in the streets, fighting each other over water?” Frazer is a biologist by training, and he brings a green consciousness to his current work at Planit, an advertising and Web design agency. (The office is a scene out of circa-1998 Seattle, replete with beanbag chairs, pool table, and cooler full of free Vitamin Water.) He started an office recycling program and convinced management to buy “carbon offsets” to make up for the firm’s energy use. “I always get teased,” he says: “I’m the resident treehugger.” The previous spring, on his drive to work, Frazer had looked up at the buildings rising downtown and wondered, not for the first time, “Why aren’t the roofs of these buildings covered with windmills and solar panels?” Then he wondered what he could do to make that vision come to life, at least in the virtual world. At Planit, he and his colleagues had been using computer Compiled by Rebecca Messner and Greg Hanscom w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m s e p t e m b e r 0 8

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graphics software to add special effects to videos, he says. “We got talking about it: How neat would it be to create an image of a utopian city?” They let the idea stew for about a year, and then Frazer and a couple of co-conspirators made their move. Interactive designer Nicholas Elizaga collected video footage while walking downtown. Alex Dippel, a 3-D animator, created a computer model of a wind turbine based on pictures he found on the Internet. Elizaga combined the two using a program called boujou that is a mainstay in the animated film industry. On May 6, Baltimore Sun columnist Laura Vozzella got an email from Ryan Smith—Planit’s interactive-art director, though he didn’t identify himself as such—asking if she’d “heard anything about these new inner harbor wind turbines.” The message contained a link to a site called Visit My Baltimore, which featured a thirty-three-second video showing four glimmering turbines spinning above the black smokestacks of the Power Plant. The video was so realistic that Vozzella rushed to the harbor to see for herself. Frazer and company had a good laugh and went back to their jobs, wondering if anything would ever come of it. “Maybe by putting this video up there, maybe somebody at City Hall sees it and that starts something,” says Frazer. “Sometimes that’s what it takes.” To date, the video seems to have amounted to nothing more than a “high-minded hoax,” as Vozzella dubbed it. But Frazer’s phantom wind farm posed some serious questions about the nonvirtual world. Energy prices are exploding; experts are forecasting rolling blackouts in the near future. So why isn’t the Baltimore skyline bristling with windmills? Why are Marylanders still getting

two-thirds of our electricity from burning fossil fuels, and less than 2 percent from the wind and the sun?

The answer to the first question is fairly simple: “Baltimore

is where wind isn’t,” says Jeff Gilbert, one of the founding partners of Chesapeake Solar, formerly Chesapeake Wind & Solar. The metropolitan region is a black hole for economically meaningful breezes. The answer to the second question is more complicated and stretches back to the 1970s—the last time Americans were freaking out about energy. Those were the days when President Jimmy Carter called the struggle for energy independence “the moral equivalent of war” and had solar panels installed on the White House roof. But OPEC opened back up for business, energy prices plunged, and Ronald Reagan took the solar panels down in 1986. (One of the panels, the star of the new documentary A Road Not Taken, is now on display at the Carter Library in Atlanta.) Since then, spotty government support and cheap coal, oil, and gas have made it impossible for solar or wind to compete in the United States. Carter’s goal of supplying 20 percent of the nation’s power from the sun is still a distant dream: Today, renewables produce less than 10 percent of the nation’s energy; solar and wind combined amount to just 1.2 percent. The failure to move toward renewables has put the country in a tight spot: With growing alarm over global warming, pressure is building to turn away from fossil fuels, but green power, real as it may seem, is still largely the stuff of dreams. No place is this dilemma more pronounced—or as potentially devastating—than Maryland.

Where Does Energy Come From? Coal is still king in Maryland, and nuclear his trusty atomic sidekick. Together, they generate 84 percent of the electricity that surges through this state, powering our laptops and TVs, our air conditioners and our microwave ovens. But what are the prospects for the future? Here’s our best guess.

Coal Today: Top Dog Tomorrow: Coal power as we know it is on the way out in the United States, thanks to concerns about global warming (although China and India are building new coal plants at an astronomical rate). Proponents of “clean coal” technology insist there’s a future for the black stuff, and it will likely be a player for years to come. But we predict that coal will be a fossil in our lifetimes.

Nuclear Today: Sleeping Giant Tomorrow: Nuclear has new legs right now, because it creates virtually no greenhouse gases. But it will continue to be dogged by safety concerns—and of course, the burning question: Where are we going to dump all the radioactive waste? (For the record, Nevada doesn’t want it.)


urbanite september 08

Natural Gas Today: Small Fry Tomorrow: Experts agree that burning natural gas to produce electricity, while relatively clean, is not the best use for the stuff. It will no doubt continue to be a player—especially where it can be siphoned off from decomposing garbage and sewage sludge—but will be increasingly relegated for the jobs it does better, such as heating homes and fueling vehicles.

Wind Today: Not Even the Time of Day Tomorrow: Maryland is tied for last place in wind: There is currently not a single utility-scale wind farm spinning out electricity in the state. But there’s potential. The wind blows strong on the high Appalachian ridges in Western Maryland, and there’s a gold mine offshore, where windmills will soon be marching south from Delaware.

Solar Today: An Interesting Hobby Tomorrow: Solar power packs tremendous potential in Maryland, especially in Baltimore where a sea of tar rooftops just begs to be lined with photovoltaic panels. Solar technology is presently doing the leaps-and-bounds that computer chips are known for, and new technology and innovative business models are finally bringing it within reach for everyday folks. —G.H.

Last December, the Maryland Public Service Commission delivered a harsh wake-up call. With population expected to grow, the state’s aging electrical grid will be stretched to the breaking point during times of “peak demand”—sizzling summer days when we all have the AC cranked. Without immediate action, the commission wrote, we could face rolling blackouts as soon as 2011. For a taste of what havoc power outages can wreak, think back to California in 2000 and 2001, when the state instigated rolling blackouts to compensate for energy shortages brought on by deregulation and market manipulation. Or recall the Northeast blackout of 2003. “Terrifying” is the word that Maryland Chamber of Commerce President Kathleen Snyder used to describe the prospect. “If we don’t have reliable power, we’re not going to be able to grow or retain jobs in Maryland,” she told the Associated Press this spring. One solution: Import more power from afar. Affiliates of PJM Interconnection, the organization that coordinates electricity transmission across the Mid-Atlantic, have proposed building several new high-voltage power lines into the state. The first of them, the Trans-Allegheny Interstate Line, or TrAIL, would connect Maryland to power plants in southwest Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. But the proposal has kicked up fierce opposition from environmentalists and rural residents who say it would carve through forests and across private property. A second solution: Build more power plants. Constellation Energy, parent company of Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE), wants to build a third reactor at the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in Calvert County. Acquiring the mountain of permits—to say nothing of the up to $10 billion—required to build a reactor can take years, however. And while nuclear has come into green vogue because it produces no globe-roasting greenhouse gases, the federal government has yet to approve a place to permanently dump the tons of radioactive waste the plants produce. Silver Spring-based Competitive Power Ventures wants to build a natural-gas-fired power plant near Waldorf. Burning gas is relatively clean, but extracting it can be environmentally destructive, and prices are on the rise. (In May, Sempra Energy shelved plans for a gas-powered plant in Frederick County.) There is no shortage of coal in these parts, but the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, an agreement between Maryland and nine other Eastern states, requires any new coal plant to capture, or “sequester,” carbon to make up for greenhouse emissions—a largely untested, and potentially very expensive, undertaking. A few idled plants could be jump-started. In June, for example, Constellation recommissioned the gas-fired Gould Street plant in South Baltimore. But these amount to only a few shovels full of dirt tossed into a massive hole. According to the Public Service Commission, if Maryland wanted to create enough electricity to provide for the coming population surge and make up for the quarter of its electricity that it already imports, it would have to add an additional four thousand megawatts to its generating capacity—equivalent to roughly forty Gould Street plants, or two-and-a-half new Calvert Cliffs reactors. At last, you’re thinking: a window for renewable energy. Nuclear and coal are yesterday’s solutions. Roll in the windmills! Prop up the solar panels! Try telling that to Wayne Rogers. Like Galen Frazer, Rogers has dreams of windmills—and he has spent much of the past six years chasing them. Rogers is the president of Synergics, an Annapolisbased company that has been developing renewable power projects worldwide since 1980. In 2002, the company began planning a wind farm on Backbone Mountain, a remote Appalachian ridge in West-

ern Maryland. Twenty-four giant turbines built there could generate forty megawatts. Rogers ran head-on into a determined group of anti-wind activists who argued that the turbines would spoil views and kill birds and bats. He also, somewhat ironically, ran afoul of state environmental agencies, where biologists worried that the farm would disturb forest habitat. Rogers argued that the land had already been logged, and that concerns about birds and bats were overstated. Former chairman of the state Democratic party, Rogers helped convince the General Assembly to streamline the permit process for wind projects under seventy megawatts in summer 2007. Nonetheless, it will likely be the end of 2009 before turbines are spinning atop Backbone Mountain. And in June, Synergics announced that it had signed a twenty-year contract to sell its wind power—to Delmarva Power & Light. Constellation Energy did not pursue the opportunity to buy the electricity. Solar energy, too, has been slow to take in Maryland, though the state is home to one of the industry’s most promising upstarts: SunEdison. Started by Jigar Shah, 34, the Beltsville company has managed to shed one of solar power’s greatest burdens: its upfront costs. Few homeowners can afford to lay down the $20,000 to $30,000 for photovoltaic panels. SunEdison sells its corporate clients the power, not the power plant. It has erected more than a hundred solar panel “power plants” on the roofs of Staples, Costco, and Whole Foods stores around the country. The only one in Maryland is on the company’s roof. What is working elsewhere that isn’t here? Public policy backed by money, says Wayne Rogers. States such as Pennsylvania and Delaware have passed laws backing renewable energy and put substantial public funds behind them, he says: “You need foresight and long-term planning, and you need to invest in the long-term also.” California is pouring $3.2 billion into an effort to subsidize solar panels, and Texas utility officials recently announced a massive $4.9 billion plan to build new transmission lines for windgenerated power. Gov. Martin O’Malley has vowed to get Maryland into the renewable energy game, and he and the legislature made strides this year, setting a statewide mandate that utilities get 20 percent of their electricity from renewable energy by 2020, and increasing grant amounts for solar and geothermal energy. Michael Li, chief of staff for the Maryland Energy Administration, says that the grant money was snapped up by mid-year. Excitement is building, but development is incremental. Renewables are still tomorrow’s technology in Maryland, at least on a meaningful scale. “We’re making progress,” says Rogers, who was a member of Governor O’Malley’s transition team. “But you can’t turn the ship on a dime. It’s going to take a while.” So the old solutions are off the table, and the new solutions are still out of reach. What do we do now?

This question, not surprisingly, is the topic of conversations in government offices, meeting rooms, and community centers around the state. A latticework of solutions is beginning to emerge that could create a bridge across the chasm at our feet. That bridge will certainly include some new electrical generation, but in the near term, it will likely be from small-scale, localized or “distributed” facilities. A few of these will burn things we now consider “waste”—landfill and wastewater gas, as well as garbage and dead trees (see “Deadwood,” Urbanite April ’08). But our best hope for bridging the divide, according to most experts, is a well-worn mantra that will sound familiar to those who w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m s e p t e m b e r 0 8


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Baltimore Book Festival

September 26, 27, and 28

510 Friday Night Hosted by “510 Reading Series” Co-Founders Michael Kimball and Jen Michalski with Christine Schutt Rafael Alvarez Madison Smartt Bell William Henry Lewis and the CityLit Band Other Highlights Te-Nehisi Coates and Paul Coates “Writers in Relationships” Panel “First Books” Panel Michael Olesker Dr. Bob Hieronimus Leonard Augsburger Brian Wendell Morton “I’m with the Band” Panel Ernest Hardy and Esther Iverem Release of MWA’s New Anthology, New Lines from the Old Line State CityLit Project Presents at the Literary Salon “Ageless Creativity: The Writing Life Later in Life” Moderated by Marc Steiner with Dudley Clendinen Kendra Kopelke Djelloul Marbrook Mel Tansill See Complete Schedule at

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were around when Jimmy Carter admonished citizens to turn down their thermostats and don sweaters. In a word: efficiency. One of Baltimore’s most ardent champions of efficiency is a plainspoken 33-year-old named Earl Millett, who grew up in a trailer in Jessup. His father, Earl Sr., was a heavy equipment mechanic who fixed bulldozers and cranes—as well as his friends’ and neighbors’ cars. Faced with a problem, Millett is apt to roll up his sleeves and dive in with duct tape and twine. It’s an attitude that serves him well as he spearheads Project Light Bulb, a program of the nonprofit Civic Works that brings free energy and water efficiency gadgets to low-income homes. Workers install compact fluorescent light bulbs, adjust water heaters, air conditioners, and furnaces, and replace old faucets with “water wise” models. Millett’s key to success: He’s not saving the planet; he’s saving people money. Mark Washington, executive director of the Coldstream Homestead Montebello (CHUM) Community Corporation in East Baltimore, says his group got involved with Project Light Bulb around the time electricity rates in Maryland spiked 72 percent as a result of a state law that deregulated utilities. “I don’t know if we have a green spirit so much as an impoverished community that cannot afford the escalating utility costs,” he says. “Being energy-efficient even on a small scale—replacing light bulbs and showerheads— goes a long way toward reducing costs.” In its first round of work, funded by the Abell Foundation, Project Light Bulb tuned up 330 homes. On average, it saved homeowners fifty-three kilowatt hours per month. (A kilowatt hour is one thousand watts of electricity—enough to power ten 100-watt light bulbs—used for one hour.) That’s about $8 a month in savings at

today’s rates, or $98 a year. Project Light Bulb has just started its second round of work, with the goal of servicing another two thousand homes. When it is finished in two years, it will have retrofitted 1 percent of the houses in Baltimore, saving low-income residents close to a quarter million dollars annually if rates hold steady, which is unlikely. And it’s not just low-income households that need work. Michael Li says that Californians use 42 percent less electricity than Marylanders on average, largely because of the state’s tight efficiency programs, as well as efforts to educate residents about how to use less. “If you asked the average Marylander what unit electricity is sold in, they wouldn’t be able to tell you,” he says. “They know gas is sold by the gallon, but they don’t know electricity is sold by the kilowatt hour, or what a kilowatt hour costs.” Davis Bookhart, director of the Sustainability Initiative at Johns Hopkins University, points to a recent study from Oak Ridge National Laboratory that found that Americans could cut our energy consumption 25 to 30 percent using existing, readily available technology. “We’re talking about plain old off-the-shelf stuff that’s right there at the hardware store: compact fluorescent light bulbs, more insulation,” he says. Tuning your house for maximum efficiency isn’t as sexy as installing high-tech green gear, but it’s far more cost-effective, says Frank Lee, who does home energy inspections for the local firm TerraLogos (see “Seal of Approval,” Urbanite May ’08). “If I was to get the smallest [solar] photovoltaic system on my house”—which continued on page 103

Efficiency Starts at Home Greening your house can be an expensive undertaking. A rack of solar panels will set you back $20,000 or $30,000. Replacing those leaky single-pane windows might run another $20,000. Then you’ve got to upgrade that old refrigerator and the decrepit hot water heater. Hmmm. Maybe next year. Good news: Going green can be as cheap as a $4 tube of caulk and a Saturday afternoon. Chances are your house is like a car with a leaky gas tank, says Frank Lee of TerraLogos. “Take a wad of chewing gum and stick it into the hole in your gas tank. That will cost ten cents,” he says. Once you’ve patched the holes—and you’ll find them in surprising places—then you can dream of solar panels. Here’s a list of home-tightening projects that we’ve gleaned from Lee and a handful of others in the business:

Audit your house. Do a home energy inspection to identify leaks and figure out where your money is best spent. See www.mdhome for a list of certified contractors. If you don’t have the $350 to $500 for a professional audit, download do-it-yourself guidelines from the U.S. Department of Energy (, or contact the city’s Weatherization Assistance Program (410-396-3584).

Patch the holes. There’s no point in upgrading to a new air conditioner if you’re just pumping all the cool air out. Poke around in the basement and attic to inspect where pipes, wires, and ductwork

punch through floors and ceilings. A little spray foam in the gaps will go a long way toward reducing drafts. Squeeze silicone caulk into the seams where your stairs meet the wall, which often provide a conduit through the wall to the basement. Weathersealing windows and doors helps, too.

Change your light bulbs. Yes, energy efficient compact fluorescent bulbs contain mercury, so handle with care. But experts say the bulbs are no more hazardous than the old fluorescents that have long been commonplace in schools and offices.

Pimp your appliances. Now is the time to look at replacing the AC, furnace, water heater, refrigerator, and washer and dryer. Technology has come a long way in the past decade; new Energy-Star-rated appliances suck significantly less juice than the old ones. The power company can help by installing programmable thermostats, switches, and “smart meters” that cycle the heat or AC off during hours of peak demand.

Sweat the little things. Turn lights off and the heating and AC down when you don’t need them. Unplug appliances or switch off power supplies when not in use; you’d be surprised how much current your TV and VCR suck even when turned off. Use a laundry line rather than your dryer. All these little things add up. —G.H.

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catering supplies provided by Zeffert and Gold Catering


urbanite september 08

Twilight of the

Power lunch Is there room for a business meal in a brown-bagged, Blackberried age?

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At lunchtime on a summer day, the main dining room of the Center Club on the fifteenth floor of the Legg Mason building is relatively quiet. Henry Rosenberg Jr., former chair of Crown Oil, is holding court at the big round table reserved for groups, surrounded by men in white shirts and ties. They’re probably oil industry people, says Center Club general manager John Warnack. It looks like they’re talking business, although, in keeping with the club’s rules, there are no papers or electronic devices in sight. Elsewhere in the dining room, a handful of club members—one is an executive from the United Way, another a local judge, Warnack says—sit in scattered pairs at tables along two long walls of windows. continued on page 92 w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m s e p t e m b e r 0 8


“You’re at Chip Mason’s table,” Warnack tells me, referring to the former Legg Mason CEO. “He usually sits here.” He gestures to the seat across from me, where my host, Mitch Halbrich, senior managing director at Mergis Interim Executives and a member of the club’s membership committee, is sitting. “So his guest can enjoy the view.” Indeed, I’m facing the Domino Sugars sign, and the vista spans all the way to Camden Yards, with Fort McHenry, Federal Hill, and every inch of the Inner Harbor spread out between. The Center Club’s fifteenth-floor dining room—the club occupies two stories, and the less formal Grill Room is upstairs—has long been known as the apogee of the Baltimore business lunch scene. Accordingly, the décor echoes an Old World men’s club, with tasteful hints of a Hilton Conference Center. It’s the place where captains of industry and their lieutenants broker deals over crab cakes and strip steaks. This summer, the club has loosened its tieand-jacket rule, part of its effort to keep up with today’s less-formal business world. Membership is down from 2,400 to around 1,800 in the past eight years, according to Halbrich. And some predict it may drop even more when Legg Mason, whose name is writ large across the building above our heads and whose employees currently occupy about ten of the thirty-five floors, moves to Harbor East. Whether the Center Club can retain its status is anybody’s guess. But one thing is certain: There will always be other places in town to eat lunch. The city’s business community—and the restaurant scene—has diversified; less-exclusive downtown alternatives such as the Capital Grille or McCormick and Schmick’s have moved in. And the way businesspeople eat has changed. Expense accounts have shrunk and ethics rules tightened. There’s the daddy-track

men who can’t spend hours at lunch, more fluid employment undercutting the job security executives once enjoyed, and a society that values sobriety and obsesses over cholesterol. There’s been another, perhaps more cataclysmic shift, as well. “The proliferation of technology has changed things, ” says Guy Flynn, a real estate lawyer for DLA Piper. Even ten years ago, business lunches were more frequent, he says. These days, constant digital communication has diminished the need for face-to-face encounters. But that same technology makes the occasional lunch all the more important: “It’s a way to connect in a personal way in a world driven by electronics.” Joe Haskins, president and founding director of Harbor Bank, chooses his lunch dates carefully. “It’s nice to get together with people you feel good about, but that may be a forty-five-minute lunch, as opposed to someone with whom you are trying to develop a business relationship.” That person, says Haskins, will get the whole deal: a full-bore Power Lunch.


ormer Esquire editor Lee Eisenberg is credited with coining the term, in his 1979 article “America’s Most Powerful Lunch.” It’s a phrase that, like “glass ceiling,” probably took hold when increased numbers of women and minorities at high levels inspired labels as much to disparage conventions of the white male hierarchy as to aspire to them. Like the old joke about closing a meal by asking continued on page 105

Balance of Power “It used to be the Roost,” says Tom Hall, music director of the Baltimore Choral Arts Society. “But now everybody’s going to Miss Shirley’s.” Baltimoreans may still call it the Roost, but the restaurant at the Cross Keys Radisson changed its name to Crossroads (5100 Falls Rd.; 410-532-6900) more than a decade ago. Hall recalls breakfast meetings there with benefactor Henry Rosenberg Jr. “It was as if he was on a receiving line at a wedding. There’d be a constant stream of people stopping by the table.” The Cross Keys site still has its stalwarts—the financier Eddie Brown has breakfast meetings at Crossroads—but over the past few years, as the restaurant has endured renovations, much of the North Baltimore action has moved southeast to Miss Shirley’s (513 W. Cold Spring Ln.; 410-889-5272), where Hall often runs into people from the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance, the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts, and the BMA. Even Annette Gregory, who has waited tables at the Radisson for thirty-three years, acknowledges that Miss Shirley’s is the new happening place. “I saw a regular customer outside the place and went in to look around,” she says. “I didn’t try it, but it looked very nice.” Downtown, the vintage Art Deco booths of Werner’s (231 E. Redwood St.; 410-752-3335), strategically located between


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Baltimore’s financial district and city government, are often filled with judges and city council members. And the interior, seemingly untouched since the place opened in 1950, has been used as a set for period films. But most agree that Werner’s isn’t what it once was, when lunchtime lines snaked out the door. For those who can get away with a midday cold one, there’s Peter’s (111 Mercer St.; 410-539-5818), a pub with an old-world feel that has been owned and operated by Peter Kimos since 1987. The 63-year-old Kimos ran as a Republican candidate for state delegate in 2006, but remains bipartisan with customers. For the lunch-in-a-rush crowd, the Downtown Deli (7 N. Calvert St.; 410727-7715) around the corner seems to have appropriated Werner’s long lines. Brooke McDonald and Michael Brassert, who own a film production company called Houpla Inc. in the building above Werner’s, have managed to combine old and new: They bought one of Werner’s booths when the restaurant expanded its entry and installed it in their reception area, complete with periodcorrect napkin and sugar dispensers. “Our power lunch is getting sandwiches from the Downtown Deli and eating them right here,” says McDonald. —M.T.

photos by Eric Drummond

Who’s in and who’s out in business dining?

rules of the Game Do’s and don’t’s for business eating A few years ago, the president of a major university asked Eddie Brown and his wife, Sylvia, to join him for lunch at the Harbor Court. (The university was not a Maryland institution, Brown says with a chuckle, “so you can take that off the table.”) When the meal was over and the check came, the president made no move whatsoever, recalls Brown, the founder and CEO of Brown Capital Management. The bill sat on the table “to the point where it was embarrassing.” Finally, Brown pulled out his wallet. The putative host never said a word. “That,” Brown concludes, “was not appropriate.” On the other hand, Brown recently had lunch with a woman in the early stages of her career. When the check came, she reached for her bag. After all, she, like many African Americans entering the business world, had sought out Brown’s advice. However, says Brown, “I suggested that I pay for lunch, and I’m sure she appreciated it, just as I would have when I was younger.” So, what are the rules on who pays for what? It depends, says Cynthia Lett, an etiquette and protocol expert certified through the International Society of Protocol and Etiquette Professionals. Her Silver-Spring-based company, the Lett Group, offers seminars and consulting in business etiquette for would-be Masters of the Universe learning how to lunch with authority. Etiquette, she says, is all about power: “If you know how to handle yourself, you have the power. Show that you are in control, but also that you have the personal interests of your guest at heart.” Here are some of Lett’s tips for a proper power lunch:

The invitation:

The person who extends the invitation always pays. The most important first step is establishing that. Don’t say, “Let’s have lunch.” Say, “Bob, I would like you to be my guest for lunch.”

Choosing the time and place:

Always offer at least two options. For example, say, “Would Tuesday or Friday work for you?” and then ask if he or she would prefer to eat at noon or 1 p.m. Never ask your guest where he or she would like to eat. Instead, offer a choice—one should be a place where you can get anything— sandwiches, soup, or salad. The other can be trendier.

How to order:

Once you sit down, go through the menu with your guest and introduce the options. Suggest items from a number of courses so he or she won’t feel inhibited about ordering more than one item. You must match your guest’s number of courses. The same goes for beverages. If your guest sticks with water, guess what? You’re drinking water.

What to eat:

Sandwiches are not a good idea because the filling can squish out. Order something you can eat with a knife and fork, and nothing stringy, like spaghetti. The food is secondary: If it requires too much attention, you shouldn’t have ordered it.

Conversation openers:

Be sensitive to what is appropriate. Men can talk about sports with each other, but be aware that women may not be as interested. On the other hand, asking a female about her children should be far down the road. Talk about where you grew up and places you have traveled to. Get to

know the kinds of things your guest values, and then move on to ask about his or her company or how he or she got into this career.

Doggie bags:


lipstick at the table:


Basic manners:

While men and women should be perceived and treated as equals, it’s still appropriate (but not necessary) for a man to rise when a woman stands up or returns to her chair.

other venues:

Breakfast: Business breakfasts are great, particularly with out-oftown guests who are staying in a hotel, or for those with difficult schedules. Breakfast should never happen before 7 a.m., and should be finished, with good-byes said, by 9:30 a.m. Afternoon tea: Afternoon tea had a resurgence about eight to ten years ago. This isn’t high tea, but it always includes food: sandwiches and something sweet. An invitation to afternoon tea will make an impression, and it can be a good excuse to leave the office early.

rules for the buffet:

Don’t fill up your plate. A buffet is designed for you to take small portions and then go back for more. Don’t comment on the way things look. Always return the serving utensil to the proper place. Do not eat while standing next to the buffet. —M.T.

The Lett Group is offering a three-day seminar called “The Well-Mannered Weekend” that covers social and business etiquette as well as international protocol. A formal dinner with wine is included on Saturday night. September 19–21 at the Hilton Washington, D.C./Rockville Executive Meeting Center. For information, call 301-946-8208 or go to

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power 2.0 BY R . D ARRYL FO X WORT H

American race relations have become standard dinnertime conversation of late, thanks to the rise of Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Hussein Obama. Forty-five years after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, D.C., it seems his dream is inching closer to reality. A young, biracial man, largely—but not unanimously—accepted as black, looks to dethrone an aging white man of power and means. It plays out like some marvelous parable: blackness defeating the status quo of the white establishment. Many point to Obama’s historic rise as a rebuke to the white power structure. But we’ve seen this play out before: From former Merrill Lynch CEO Stanley O’Neal to current American Express chair Kenneth Chenault, the success of individual black achievers has always been used to defend against assertions of white privilege. Those successes, however, have meant very little to the day-to-day lives of African Americans. The reality is more complicated, and it suggests that the balance of power between white and black in America is undergoing a kind of parallel transformation, with the two sides shifting shape and acclimating to the times. Several months ago, I moved from the largely working-class, African American community of my youth, to a largely working-class, Caucasian-dominated community experiencing gentrification, a process that has in turn paved the way for professional, well-educated, and comparatively well-to-do minorities. That I am perceived as a gentrifier by some of my neighbors certainly does not help my cause as a black man residing in an otherwise monolithic community. When racial epithets are hurled my way, however, there is no reference to my status as an


Don’t believe the hype: The rise of African American politicians might be historic, but it hasn’t fulfilled the promise of black political empowerment. unwelcomed intruder beyond that which is obvious and visible: my racial identity. One evening, after indulging in the local bar scene, a white friend and I were walking home when we came upon a group of teenagers, none older than 16. Nothing unnerves me more than a pack of young, directionless white males; when I saw them, I knew immediately what was in store, and they did not disappoint. In one sentence, they managed to bombard me with slurs attached to racism, homophobia, and sexism. I continued my walk home, despite their taunts, but my friend directed some choice words to the young gang, and it took some effort to curb his frustration. Why didn’t I respond with my own expletive-laden outburst? I wrestled with this thought throughout the rest of the evening, and since. I’ve decided that I was begrudgingly expressing a form of sympathy toward these angry young men. They are likely poorly educat-

ed—they were lurking on their stoops at 2 a.m. on a school night—and born into a class usually described as the “working poor.” They reside in a community where their identities as white, heterosexual males appear to have declining relevance. As these young men cling to these roles, they are, in very real terms, being increasingly alienated (rejected, perhaps?) by their transforming community, upstaged by those they consider beneath them. This is where we are in Baltimore today, a time when a black man can safely pity a group of white men—pity grounded not in moral superiority but in a renewed sense of empowerment. But while white power and privilege nurtures its often unwitting adherents with a sense of race-based pride and entitlement, the empowerment that African Americans enjoy today, despite our recent gains in political representation and individual economic might, represents only an incomplete alternative. Consider the realities of black America: One in three black men will have a criminal record in his lifetime; there are more black men in prison than in college; black male unemployment is 10 percent, nearly twice that of our white counterparts; black men possess less than 3 percent of all managerial positions in America. True black power is nearly as out of reach now as it was in 1967, when Stokely Carmichael and Charles Hamilton collaborated on their book, Black Power: The Politics of Liberation in Black America. Today the term conjures up images of militancy and violence— glowering, gun-toting Black Panthers. But, as conceived by Carmichael and Hamilton, the Black Power movement had a deeper agenda. It brought attention to the forces at continued on page 107

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michelle secor


Marked Women 60

urbanite september 08

teXt by DeboraH ruDacIlle st ylInG by tr ace y mIDDlek auff



pHotos by sam HolDen

HaIr anD makeup by mIcHele JoHnson


ircus freak. Drug addict. Biker chick. Whore.

Tattooed women have heard it all—or seen those judgments reflected in the stares of people on the street, in restaurants, in offices—anywhere that bold ink on women is viewed as a badge of infamy. “You’re such a pretty girl,” a salon client once told Vanessa Vale. “But I can’t stand to look at you with all those tattoos.” When Michele Stuart-Johnson came home with her first tattoo twenty years ago, her mother gasped. “You look like a ruffian,” she said. Jade Gorman says her husband hates her tattoos. Shamia Johnson’s spouse thinks multiple tattoos on women— including hers—“are unladylike.” Trai Dagoucon was inked for nearly a decade before either of her parents caught a glimpse of her tattoos. Both were appalled, for different reasons. “The only people who had tats in her world were bikers and wrong-side-of-thetracks-type people,” Trai says of her Southern mother. For her Asian father: “It’s gangsters.” So why do these women eagerly transform themselves into walking canvases? Beauty. Identity. Power. “This is my body,” says Dawn Peck, president of the Maryland chapter of the Gypsy Queens, a nationwide organization dedicated to promoting positive images of tattooed women. “And I will do what I want with my body.” What does a woman’s life look like? What images, colors, shapes, and patterns defi ne the ever-shifting contours

Left: Jade Original gown by April Camlin for Happy Accident Clothing. To inquire about pricing, e-mail Key necklace, $18.99 at Vegan shoes by Miss Me, $39.99 at Ma Petite Shoe (832 W. 36th St.; 410-235-3442). Right: Trai EC Star dress, $120 at Trixie’s Palace (1704 Thames St.; 410-5582195). Handcrafted devil earrings by Moosepablos, $22.99, and Tokyo Bay watch, $79.99 at Red bracelet, $5 at 9th Life (833 W. 36th St.; 410-534-9999). Vegan shoes by Christine & Kelly, $39.99 at Ma Petite Shoe. w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m s e p t e m b e r 0 8


of female identity? Butterflies, flowers, cherubs, kittens. The face of a somber little girl. Dragons, pinup girls, tribal markings. A skull with dripping vampire fangs and pink bunny ears. Leaving behind a relationship, a bad habit, a way of life; celebrating an enduring tie, a joyful event, a triumph of the will or heart: All can inspire a piece. But so can the purely aesthetic desire to claim a particularly powerful image and to make it your own. “It’s hard to generalize because everybody is unique,” says tattoo artist Johnny Love (né John Garancheski), who says that he has inked far more women than men in his decade in the industry. “Guys will get more violent tats, stuff from the horror/gore genre. As a rule, women want smaller, more feminine images. But plenty want outrageous stuff.” His Glen Burnie shop, Tattooed Heart, is a custom operation. Unlike most tattoo parlors, his has no flash— commercial designs—hanging on the walls. Instead, customers come in with a picture, a photograph, or just an idea. Love and his staff help them craft that into an intensely personal image that will last a lifetime. “It’s art that’s living and breathing,” he says. “It’s inside your skin cells. It’s not just hanging on walls.” The one thing he actively discourages, particularly among young women, is inking the name of a lover or spouse. “We always try to talk them out of it,” Love says.


till, relationships inspire many women’s tattoos. “I was madly in love with a boy, and he inked a cross on my finger with India ink and a needle,” says Dawn of her first tattoo, received at 16. The relationship lasted two weeks, and the wound became infected. “I was scared I would have to get my finger cut off.” Jade got her first tattoo—a gypsy woman’s face on her upper arm—at 38, in the wake of a breakup. Shamia got

Left: Shamia Josephine Chaus white blouse, $29 at Pink Hibiscus (224–226 W. Read St.; 410-332-1818). Waist cincher, $20 at Killer Trash (602 S. Broadway; 410-675-2449). Pinstripe skirt, $70, and riding crop, $13 at Chained Desires (136 W. Read St.; 410-528-8441). Bracelets, $5 each at 9th Life. Vegan shoes by Miss Me, $39.99 at Ma Petite Shoe. Right: Michele Soundgirl dress, $72.95 at Doubledutch Boutique (3616 Falls Rd.; 410-554-0055). Pink bow barrette, $10/pair; bracelet, $8; and skull and crossbones shoes, $65 at 9th Life.


urbanite september 08

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This page: Dawn Uncle Fezter hair flower, $25/pair at 9th Life. Czer’vicious white shirt, $50 at Makkah’s (815 N. Charles St.; 410-243-4115). Original print jumper by Beppi for Circle of Evil; visit to inquire about pricing. Opposite: Dawn Cocky ring, $18.99 at Vegan shoes by Christine & Kelly, $39.99 at Ma Petite Shoe. Gilt frame courtesy of Rutledge Costume Co. (


urbanite september 08

most of her tattoos during a year of intense marital confl ict that ended in divorce. “I wanted to express my own freedom,” she says. One of the pieces was also a prayer for better days to come. “I got my grandparents’ names tattooed on my ring fi nger,” she says. “They were married for sixtysix years when my grandmother passed. I did it for luck.” Apparently, it worked; she has since remarried. Dawn has the names of her husband and children inked with hearts and flowers on her lower back. Jade’s mother, siblings, nieces, and nephews all have a family symbol inked on their wrists. She, her older sister, and her namesake niece all sport the legend “one love” in the same spot on their inner arms. “I guess a lot of my tattoos represent bonding in one way or another,” Jade says. “I like sharing tattoos with people I love.” Ink can express ethnic bonding. “I have six paw prints on my thigh,” says Shamia. The image has a risqué street name—Baltimore Pussy Prints. “It’s an urban black thing, and a lot of Baltimore women have them. My girlfriend and I got them together.” Some of Trai’s tattoos represent her efforts to come to terms with her “culturally enigmatic” ethnicity—part Southern white, part Asian. The imperial dragon and phoenix on her back is a tribute to her grandfather, a halfFilipino/half-Chinese Bataan Death March survivor. A tattoo can celebrate life passages—such as the name “Grace” inked on Dawn’s wrist to anticipate the birth of her first grandchild—but it can also mourn. Sometimes an image serves as reminder of a hard-earned life lesson, such as a beautiful poppy with the word “poison” snaking across a banner beneath. “You earn a tattoo,” says Dawn, and she’s not just talking about the pain infl icted by the instrument. “Life is beautiful, but hard,” agrees Jade. “When I see photos of myself before I was tattooed, I sometimes feel nostalgic—like I was a clean slate. Pure. Now I’m marked.” ■ —Writer Deborah Rudacille and the women of the Maryland Gypsy Queens will participate in the art exhibition/ reading event Entangled: Art & Word, on September 19th from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at jordan faye contemporary @ case[werks], 1501 St. Paul Street, Suite 116. Web extra: More photographs and info on participating designers at www.urbanite

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“Are You Missing Out on The Perfect Time to Invest in Maryland Real Estate?” Steve Payne, Member, earned $140,000 his first transaction and more than $300,000 his first year investing in local real estate.

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No fire sale on Charles St.


contained, but Underground blaze finally a slow day downtown businesses suffer The Karkis were devastated had when they realized that power

closing $1,000 of that in sales from and the early at 5 p.m. on Monday rush rest from missing the lunch from yesterday and spoiled food l k f f Sign up for free daily e-mail news alerts and get the news delivered to your inbox.


urbanite september 08


b y Mi c h a e l Ki m b a l l

i l l u s t r a t i o n b y Ch r i s t o p h e r B r i n d l e y

Dear Everybody

Excerpts from the Suicide Letters of Jonathon Bender (1967–1999) [1967] Dear Mom and Dad, I didn’t know that I was two weeks late and that you were waiting for me. But it always made me feel special to know that Ingham County had to send a snowplow out to our house. It always made me feel special to think of Dad driving the car so slowly behind the snowplow and Mom with her hands on top of her stomach as if I were an important, but breakable, package. I always thought that there was some important destiny in that for me. I always thought that the path that was cleared through all of that cold and snow was somehow going to determine the rest of my life.

[1969] Dear Dad, Thank you for taking me to the barbershop to get my hair cut for the first time. I know that it was long and curly and that Mom said that it looked pretty, but I didn’t like all of the other moms and dads thinking that I was a girl either.

[1970] Dear Mom and Dad, I’m sorry that I pulled the stitching out of my feather pillow and then pulled all of the feathers out of it. I thought that I was going to find a bird.

[1973] Dear Kathy Granger, Do you remember when I used to stand on the sidewalk outside your house and yell out your name until you came out to play with me? I didn’t know that you were just my babysitter and that my mom and dad paid you to watch me. I thought that you really liked me—and not just because I was a cute little boy. I thought that we were going to get married when I was old enough.

[1974] Dear Grandma and Grandpa Winters, Thank you for giving me the Etch a Sketch for my seventh birthday. I liked drawing with it better than drawing on the walls, but I always felt bad when I shook it and everything on its magic screen disappeared. It reminded me of how my dad would grab me by both of my shoulders and shake me until everything went blank inside of me too.

[1975] Dear Scott Poor, I’m not sorry that I hit you over the head with my Scooby-Doo lunch box and cracked your head open with it. You were a lot bigger than I was then and I was afraid of you and I wanted you and your brother to stop picking on me on the way home from school. But here’s what I want to w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m s e p t e m b e r 0 8


fiction know: Did the doctor show you what it looked like inside your head? If he did, I bet it looked mean.

[1977] Dear Secret Admirer, Thank you for giving me the valentine on Valentine’s Day that asked me if I would be your valentine. I would have been. I wanted to be. But I couldn’t ever figure out who you were.

[1978] Dear Dad, They taught us in our sexual education class that a baby lives in its mother for nine months. So I counted the nine months back from my birthday, added on the two weeks that I was late, and figured out that I must have been conceived around your birthday, which means that one of your birthday presents turned out to be me. Happy birthday, Dad.

[1981] Dear Dr. Fritch, I cried when you told me that I had a cavity because I didn’t want you to drill a hole inside one of my teeth and then fill it back in with some kind of metal. I hated the idea that I was already beginning to rot.

[1982] Dear Dr. Adler, That test that you asked me to take knew how I felt. I did feel blue. I did feel sad. I did feel bored most of the time. But here is what I need to know: When I feel happy, what color will that be? Because I know that the red pills were supposed to make me feel better. But I stopped taking them because they were red and they made the whole world blurry. Sometimes, I would start to shake even when I wasn’t afraid of anything. Other times, I couldn’t think or I didn’t know where I was. And one time, those red pills gave me red spots on my skin that made me feel prickly and hot. I thought that I had set myself on fire.

[1984] Dear Michael J. Fox or Alex P. Keaton, I didn’t like your television show even though everybody at school talked about how funny it was. I didn’t think it was funny, and I didn’t even believe that it was true that anybody’s family could get along like that. I know that television is made up, but it should at least be believable. I mean, we were supposed to be about the same age, so how could our lives be so different?

[1985] Dear Jessica Cooper, I’m sorry that I stood you up for the date that we were supposed to have on Valentine’s Day. Do you think that we could have been happy together?

[1987] Dear Mom and Dad, I know that you had to sell the house that we had all lived in for so many years when you got divorced. But I don’t think that you should have sold it to that young couple. The same thing was probably going to happen to them.

[1988] Dear Man in the White Pants and White Shirt Who Looked at Me through a Face-Sized Window every Half Hour, I know that you were just looking in on me to make sure that I wasn’t trying to kill myself. I know that you were just checking off that I was still alive at 1:30, at 2:00, at 2:30, etc., but I liked seeing your face in that little window, and I started to wait for you to appear. I found it reassuring.

[1990] Dear Ellen Lipsyte, You probably thought that it was me who kept calling and hanging up after we broke up. It was. I wanted to see whether you were at home at night or whether you were already going out with somebody else. I was glad that you kept answering the telephone. I’m sorry that I kept hanging up.

[1991] Dear Weather Satellite, I didn’t know many people when I first moved to Jefferson City. That’s why I used to watch you blinking your way across the sky at night and that made me think that you were winking at me and that made me think that we were friends. That’s why I climbed up onto the roof of my apartment building every night to look for you—even if it was cold, even if there were clouds. I was comforted to know that you were still traveling in your orbit around me.

[1992] Dear Sara, You were so beautiful the first time that I saw you that the first thing I thought was that I wasn’t good enough for you. I still don’t know why you thought I was, but thank you for smiling at me so that I could smile back at you. I didn’t think that I was ever going to meet you.

[1993] Dear Sara, Thank you for moving into my apartment and living there with me. I needed somebody else to sit on the couch and the chairs with me. I needed somebody else to watch the television with me. I needed somebody else to eat at the kitchen table with me. I needed somebody else to put their clothes in the dresser drawers and the closet with my clothes.

[1994] Dear Sara, Thank you for making me put a sliver of our wedding cake under my pillow on our wedding night. It made quite a mess, but I always had the sweetest dreams of you.

[1995] Dear Sara, I know how much you wanted to have children. I did too. That’s why I was always disappointed when your menses came every month. I have always thought of all of that blood as one of my failures. I really thought that we were going to have one kid and then another kid. I thought that the kids would get bigger and that we would eventually move into a bigger house. I thought that our kids would have kids and we would become continued on page 109 w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m s e p t e m b e r 0 8


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A L S O I N S PA C E : 65 The Drawing Board Mark Chalkley turns trails back into rails


Arthouse mica’s new gateway is a dorm of a different color

© 2008 Whitcomb


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photo by Paul Burk

Circular logic: Designed to engage the public from all angles, the Gateway’s drum-like design best fit the wedge-shaped site at the corner of Mt. Royal and North avenues. Passersby can peek in to check out student work hanging on the main floor.


urbanite september 08

photo by Paul Burk


The suite life: MICA’s new residence for upperclassmen feels open and modern. Each apartment includes floorto-ceiling windows and sleek, minimalist furniture designed by MICA alum Aynur Gunes of the Baltimore interior design company Artelier.


nyone older than 30 who’s ever lived in a college dorm probably recalls the experience as pretty bare-bones: cinderblock walls, linoleum floors, and dingy kitchens and bathrooms that were shared by way too many people. A mere decade or so later, such conditions would be regarded as Victorian at most private four-year colleges, and the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is no exception. Students moving into the Gateway, a new $32 million residence for upperclassmen, share three- and four-bedroom apartments with custom-designed furnishings and floorto-ceiling windows. Residents can sip espresso in a late-night cafe, visit an on-site career center to research internships, or study in an open-air bamboo garden. And they get to live in a structure that’s likely to become a Baltimore icon—a nine-story drum of glass and steel. The building bends into a U-shape at Mt. Royal and North avenues, its skin a playful rhythm of green, gray, and white. On its east side, a tower emblazoned with the MICA logo in LEDs will beckon to passing drivers on Interstate 83. Residents of the building will be comfortable, of course, but that isn’t the rationale behind it. The Gateway fulfills MICA’s need for housing tailored specifically to art students while also serving as a new, northern “front door” to MICA’s campus—much as the angular Brown Center, completed in 2003, helps anchor

the south end. “It will define an axis or corridor that MICA can develop … by connecting [the] dots,” says Shawn Reichart, a principal with the Baltimore-based architecture firm RTKL and lead design architect on the project. MICA bypassed the usual methods of procuring a design concept for a new building, such as issuing a request for proposals or inviting a handful of firms to put forward ideas. Instead, the school decided at the outset to work with RTKL. “We’ve always made a conscious decision to work with local architects and had never done a major building with RTKL,” explains MICA President Fred Lazarus. (About twenty years ago, the firm did work with the school on a temporary structure, which won a national architecture award.) Other recent commissions have gone to smaller firms known for edgy designs or tasteful renovations, like Ziger/Snead Architects at the Brown Center and Cho Benn Holback + Associates, responsible for the rehab of the old firehouse next to the Gateway, which houses MICA’s operations and facilities management department. RTKL, a global operation known for office complexes and malls, does not seem like an obvious fit, but Lazarus was confident the firm could produce an exciting building. “We wanted to push RTKL to do something a little less corporate and more creative,” he says. Indeed, it’s hard to detect the DNA of Towson Town Center in the Gateway. Its ex-

panses of glass allude to the Brown Center down the road, although the connection was not deliberate: Glass was not the original material proposed for the Gateway’s exterior (wood and Cor-Ten steel were considered first). Besides, as Lazarus points out, the differences between the two buildings outstrip the similarities. “[The Gateway] is a complex building, unlike the Brown Center, which is really minimalist,” he says. The new structure “has got a lot of elements and is harder to read, especially if you’ve never been in it.” The Gateway’s wedge-shaped site, defined by major roads on three sides, was “very challenging,” Reichart says. With nearly 360degree exposure, the building had to engage the public all the way around. This problem— and not an aesthetic whim—gave rise to the drum concept, proposed by a design team from RTKL’s London office in an internal design competition. The contest is an annual event at RTKL, pitting teams of young designers from offices around the world against one another to solve a design challenge, usually a theoretical one. “This is the only one that’s been really concrete,” says Reichart. Two members of RTKL’s London office, Christy Wright and Grant Armstrong (who has since left RTKL), won the design competition in 2005 with their scheme, which “best addressed the site,” says Reichart. Wright and Armstrong made two trips to Baltimore to convey their ideas to colleagues here who

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photo by Paul Burk


Sum of its parts: Unlike the more homogeneous Brown Center at the south end of campus, the Gateway is “an assembly of items,” says lead design architect Shawn Reichart. Fifteen different kinds of glass were used, including back-painted spandrel glass in charcoal, white, and green, and fritted glass, or glass on which paint was screenprinted.

carried out the design, making some changes along the way. The two basic elements of the drum and rectilinear tower remained, but in the original concept, for example, apartments were designed like pods set at different depths, like corn on a cob; this feature was modified due to complexity and cost. Still, what MICA and RTKL ended up with is plenty complex. The result is more heterogeneous than the monolithic Brown Center, with many distinct and separate pieces. The Gateway uses fifteen types of glass, including back-painted spandrel glass panels in gray, green, and white, as well as frosted glass. A 4-by-10-foot window of clear glass admits natural light into each bedroom. “Students prefer to work with natural light for their artmaking,” explains Michael Molla, the college’s vice president of operations. “Students don’t want tinted, colored light in spaces, because it can distort their perception of color, value, hues, etc.” The real complexity of the building lies with the diverse programmatic elements it contains. If MICA’s first hope for the Gateway was that it would help make Mt. Royal Avenue into a true education-and-arts corridor, the college’s second goal was to create a residence and center of student life designed specifically for art students, one that puts the creative process on public display, so Baltimoreans can see “what it’s like to be an art student in a community of artists,” in Molla’s words.

Student artists have different residential needs from their liberal arts peers: more space to create and store design objects, for one; lots of good light; and access to specialized equipment around the clock. To answer the needs for space and light, each of the 217 small bedrooms in the Gateway boasts a ceiling (and therefore window) height of at least 10 feet; the lofted twin beds have built-in wardrobes and desks underneath to maximize floor space. Homasote wallboards (like corkboards, but made from recycled paper) are hung in every bedroom and living room, so residents can pin up their work— and discuss their friends’. The interior furnishings were custom-designed by MICA alum Aynur Gunes of Artelier, a Baltimore company that does interior design and architectural renderings. As to the need for studio access, from the beginning the RTKL London architects conceived of the tower element as a stack of studios—some floors have been carved into cubicle-like sections while others are one big open space, but all are open 24/7 and equipped with scrub sinks and ceilingmounted metal channels with hooks, for hanging lights or power cords. Three floors have vented hoods for spraying pieces of sculpture and other objects. The Gateway also includes a 3,300square-foot black-box performance space (already nicknamed “the b-box”) on the ground floor, topped by a tension-wire grid that al-

lows students to manipulate the lights as they choose. The venue has paintable walls and an LCD projector and screen, and is supported by a technical booth and dressing rooms (and a green room/conference room). For student work that takes more tangible forms, there’s the adjacent “great white wall,” a doubleheight wall from the Gateway’s main entrance to the cafe area that will serve as a flexible gallery. Through the opening or “slot” that separates the drum from the tower, drivers on Mt. Royal and North avenues will be able to see the work on display there. Over the summer, Alissandra Seelaus, a MICA senior from Niskayuna, New York, reported that she was excited about settling into the Gateway as a resident assistant. “The decision to make the apartments have larger living areas and smaller bedrooms is something that I am definitely pleased about,” she wrote in an e-mail, contrasting the Gateway with Meyerhoff House, another MICA residence, where that ratio is reversed. Seelaus added, “The convenience of a readily available cup of coffee late at night is also nothing to scoff at.” ■ —Amanda Kolson Hurley wrote about the Silo Point condominiums in the March 2008 Urbanite. Web extra: More photographs of the Gateway at

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The Drawing Board


Got an idea about how to build a better city? Draw us a picture.

photo by Judith Chalkley

The NCR: Rails to Trails to Rails?

Central Railroad was a key route between Baltimore and central Pennsylvania. Today’s Baltimoreans know it as the light rail tracks between Penn Station and Hunt Valley that follow the old right-of-way, and also as the NCR Trail, a hiking-biking path that begins in Hunt Valley and runs twenty miles to the Pennsylvania state line, where it becomes the York County Heritage Trail and continues twenty-one more miles to York. Built in the late 1820s and 1830s, the NCR became a lifeline between North and South as the crisis leading to the Civil War threatened national unity. After the 1861 Pratt Street riots, the NCR’s bridges north of town were burned to keep Northern troops out of the city. After being rebuilt, the Maryland bridges were burned again by Confederate raiders in 1864. Abraham Lincoln rode the NCR to give his address at Gettysburg, and later, on that last trip home after his assassination. In many ways, the NCR helped hold the Union together. In the 1900s, as part of the Penn Central railroad, the NCR was a key commuter route in and out of Baltimore City. In 1959, however, with the automobile ascendant, the NCR terminated local passenger service. During the ’50s, construction on the HarrisburgYork-Baltimore Expressway started; the expressway, Interstate 83, roughly parallels the railroad’s former trajectory. After Hurricane Agnes washed out the NCR’s bridges once again in 1972, Penn Central refused to rebuild them. Hence the Rails-to-Trails project that in the 1980s created the NCR Trail. These days, a few old whistle signs remaining along the trail hint at the railroading past.

The NCR’s transportation uses may not just be part of history. In this time of increasing gas prices and congested interstates, the need for mass transit, including better interurban rail, is becoming more apparent. The NCR trail is a still-existing right-of-way in state hands and could conceivably be returned to its former use as a commuter railroad. This idea is not without precedent: In Washington, D.C., a “Purple Line” for the Metro rail has been proposed, reversing the “Rails to Trails” conversion of the old Georgetown Spur of the B&O Railroad into the recreational Capital Crescent Trail. Naturally, fans of the trail are resisting the idea of turning it to more utilitarian purposes, and similar controversy might be expected in Maryland. In addition, there is the problem of connecting the Baltimore light rail stop and the beginning of the NCR Trail, which are separated by a gap of perhaps two miles. In those two miles, you can still find much of the old NCR right-of-way, unobstructed except for overgrowth. In some places, the old rails and ties remain. The biggest obstacle to directly connecting the light rail to a re-opened NCR line from Ashland is York Road; a bridge would be required to span the busy thoroughfare. Even with these challenges, the prospect of a safer and more environmentally sound ride from Baltimore to York has some charm. Perhaps leisure uses of this old right-of-way are a 20th-century luxury we can no longer afford. ■ To submit an idea for The Drawing Board, e-mail


For more than a century, the Northern


White Hall


Sparks York Rd.

photo-illustration by Eric Drummond

Mark Chalkley is a Maryland native who as a teenager walked many miles along the old B&O railroad tracks in Montgomery County. As a teacher of English in Korea, he rode the trains up and down that country before returning in 1999 to Baltimore, where he still works as an ESL instructor.


Parallel lines: Rail passenger service on the route of the old Northern Central Railroad (dotted line) ended in 1959.

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s ens e t h e

engage yo u r s e n s e s .

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


urbanite september 08

d i f f e r e n c e

Come play on (and under) the JFX!

Acres and acres of traffic-free highway. Run, walk, rollerblade, skateboard, kayak. Support the Jones Falls Watershed association ’s on-going restoration of the waterway beneath I-83 .

Sunday, Sept 21 | 8 am – 2 pm on the closed northbound


lanes of i-83 (jfx)—President

adults 17 years + under

street to northern Parkway

Free parking at main entrance ramp at Poly/Western parking lot—Coldspring Lane at Falls Road.

advance tickets @ Register early for automatic frog race entry and speedy event registration. Proceeds benefit JFWA’s work restoring and protecting area streams, parks, school grounds and the Chesapeake Bay.

. 7 miles of open highway for walking, running . strolling, and skateboarding . Biking vendors . Earth-friendly s activities . Children’ World-famous frog race . Boating from Lake Roland . Food, music and much more

Illustrations by Bonnie Matthews

jones falls watershed association


$5 free

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eat/drink Top pick: Mary K. Zajac strings together a family portrait (p. 83).


Green Days Harvest time, East Baltimore style by Ma r y K. Za ja c

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Wine & Spirits Tonic for the soul

The Feed This month in eating

photo by Jason Okutake


Recipe String bean soup

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urbanite september 08

courtesy of the BGE Collection at the Baltimore Museum of Industry,

Down the country: Farm workers sorting beans at the H.J. McGrath Cannery on Boston Street in 1938

Green Days

For the Polish families of East Baltimore, harvest time meant working as migrant laborers in rural bean fields By Mary K. Zajac


am harvesting stories. Here, after dinner, as pie crumbs litter my mother’s dining room table, I ask my father, aunts, and uncle to tell about their childhood summers spent picking string beans. I have heard these stories all of my life. If my family took a Sunday drive in rural Baltimore County, my father would point to fields where his family might have picked. Mention a fear of snakes, and my sister and I would hear about jokes my Uncle Cas pulled in the fields, crying snake instead of wolf. Complain about a summer job cashiering at a local farm stand, and I’d be reminded, gently, that I could have been picking. Offer apple butter at the breakfast table and be told Dad grew tired of it from eating it so often “down the country.” I never knew where “down the country” was. It seemed like a foreign, though pleasant, place, maybe like the storybook Sweden I read about in the Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka picture books where the sisters pick strawberries while wearing sweet red-and-white dresses. As a child, I don’t think I fully realized that bean picking stories weren’t made up to entertain restless children squirming on the vinyl backseat of a hot Chrysler.

But the story is real, and it goes like this. Every spring during the 1930s and 1940s, a local “boss” would recruit Polish families from East Baltimore neighborhoods such as Graceland Park, Canton, and Fells Point (where my father’s family lived) to pick crops on farms. Some families went in late spring, pulling children from school and piling them and a few household essentials into open-air trucks that took them to pick strawberries and asparagus. Other families went later, to harvest summer crops such as string beans, tomatoes, and corn. My father’s family joined this migrant workforce between 1937 and 1948. With his brother, sisters, and mother (my grandfather, like many men in the community, stayed in the city to work), he went to farms near Hydes or Baldwin or Westminster, sometimes ranging as far afield as Delta, Pennsylvania. “It was fun,” says my Aunt Helen. “It was hard work!” counters Aunt Mary. “It was fun because it was different,” says my dad, ever the peacemaker. “Coming from the city, there was freedom with the fresh air.” Down the country, Uncle Cas says, the city folks would move into shacks. “They were made of wood or tin. The bed went from wall to wall. We’d cover them with straw and then linen.” “There were kerosene lamps when we first started going,” adds my dad. Electricity would come later, but indoor plumbing never did. Outside of getting the bedding together, there was precious little household to set up. Busia (the Polish name I used for my grandmother) towed a 6-foot-tall utility cabinet for pots and pans with her and hung it by a post near the outdoor kitchenette. She also built her own camp oven out of tin, bricks, and mud. “Like the pioneers,” Uncle Cas laughs. Except for the smallest of children, everyone was expected to pick. The truck arrived at 6 a.m. to take pickers to the fields, where families were assigned rows of beans. In the early years of picking, my dad’s family earned a penny a pound. In later years, a family might earn $10 or $15 a day. “I used to hate it in the morning,” remembers Aunt Helen with a sour look. “My shoes would be wet.” “I think that was the only time I wore dungarees in my life when we were down the country,” muses Aunt Mary, who nearly always wears dresses. Busia and her children took a short break at 9 a.m. and then a longer lunch break at noon. “We brought [food] that wouldn’t turn,” explains Aunt Mary. “Beans, SPAM, grape jelly, apple butter, hard-boiled eggs.” At five, the truck came to take folks back to the shacks where the women had the additional chore of making dinner. Sometimes Busia fried bologna and onions. Sometimes

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f e at u r e




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photo by La Kaye Mbah

dinner was sweet crepes with jelly or what my dad calls “Polish spaghetti”—elbow macaroni with ground beef in a sweet tomato sauce. “We had corn on the cob if you could steal it,” Aunt Helen says. And, of course, there were string beans. “We always had string beans,” Dad says. “Cream of string beans, string bean soup …” There were also small pleasures, gastronomic and otherwise. Each week, the Polish bakeries in the city drove to the farms (often, right into the fields) to sell bread and smearcase cake. In the evenings, children played softball on a homemade diamond. The older people sang Polish songs; everyone played cards. But more times than not, says Aunt Helen, sleep was what you would most look forward to. In a blur of green vines and brown dirt, summer became three months away from the city, from husbands, and from older children. Although my grandfather might visit occasionally if a friend had a car, my grandmother stayed in the country all summer, not returning with the children, now late to school, until mid-September. And as children got older and got married, Busia’s picking crew disappeared, stopping in 1948, the summer before my father graduated from high school. Every August, the Polish Home Club on Broadway holds a Bean Pickers Ball that attracts hundreds of revelers who dance to polka bands and eat string bean soup. Aunt Mary went a few times and marveled at the decorations—the fresh bean vines and homemade stove that transformed the Fells Point hall into a rural camp. But my father has never gone: The memories are enough. It’s nothing to dwell on, he intimates. And “nothing to be ashamed of,” he adds. On a warm summer day, I make my version of bean soup from Aunt Mary’s recipe. My kitchen smells as it might have seventy-someodd years ago as ham hocks simmer with a bay leaf and a splash of vinegar, and a rich, porky tang rises from the pot. It’s a sturdy smell, the kind you might relish when you’re dead tired and need something, anything, before you drop into bed, and the tastes are simple and clear: a dash of smokiness from the hocks, a little sour from vinegar and sour cream, the bland comfort of beans and potatoes. I usually associate Busia with the Polish food we had at holidays—the cheese-filled pierogis and crispy kruschiki cookies that were as much a part of her as bead necklaces and flower-shaped brooches. But this bean soup, this scent, is the Busia I saw on afternoon visits, the one who wore flowered housedresses while she ironed and hummed in the kitchen. This soup is working food. ■

Mary Benskie’s Green Bean Soup 1 ham bone (or two small ham hocks or 1 lb spareribs) 1 bay leaf 1 onion, halved 6 peppercorns 3 tbs vinegar (white or apple cider) 1 lb string beans, trimmed and cut into 1½-inch pieces 1 lb small red potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks Salt and pepper to taste 1 cup milk ½ cup sour cream 1 egg 1–2 tbs flour Place meat in a large pot and cover generously with water. Bring to a boil, skimming any foam that accumulates on top. Lower heat and add bay leaf, onion, peppercorns, and 2 tablespoons vinegar. Simmer until meat is falling off the bone. (With a ham bone, this may take only 15 minutes; other cuts can take up to an hour. If too much water evaporates, add a little more.) When meat is soft, add beans. (Aunt Mary blanches the beans first because she likes her vegetables very soft, and because, as she says, “You’re not cooking them—you’re more killing the germs.”)

Add potatoes, salt, and pepper to taste, plus 1 additional tablespoon of vinegar. Cook until potatoes and beans are tender. Remove a cup of liquid broth from the soup pot and put it in a small saucepan. In a blender or in a bowl with a whisk, combine 1 cup milk, ½ cup sour cream, 1 egg, and 1 tablespoon of flour (or more for thicker broth). Beat until smooth. Slowly add the sour cream mixture to the broth in the saucepan, stirring constantly so it doesn’t curdle. Then gradually pour the saucepan mixture into the rest of the soup, and stir. Put it on low heat and keep stirring until it reaches a low boil. “After you make the soup, you’ve got to taste it to see if something’s missing, like salt or pepper,” says Aunt Mary. You can also remove the onion and shred whatever meat remains on the bone to add back into the soup. “The soup will always taste better the next day,” she advises. —Recipe by Mary Benskie, adapted by Mary K. Zajac

Web extra: Scenes from the Bean Pickers Ball at

—Mary K. Zajac wrote about making ravioli at St. Leo’s in Little Italy in the May 2008 Urbanite.

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Hip, Independent, Authentic Baltimore Get to the point.

Check out all the award winning toys from around the world. Baltimore’s most unique toy store.

TC’s was created to provide the surrounding community and its visitors a place founded on serving one purpose THE GUESTS!

It’s a perfect place for a traditional afternoon tea, a dinner featuring Bertha’s mussels, or a night of jazz or blues.

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Everything but the clothes. Come visit the newest addition to Fells Point. Selling women’s shoes, accessories, handbags, and gifts!

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Fells Point Main Street. Over 50 independently owned businesses. Local owners, local flavor. Be somewhere, not just anywhere. Shop, dine, play in Fells Point.

photo by La Kaye Mbah

Main squeeze: Clementine’s Christin Dadant and Winston Blick

Winston Blick, who ran the kitchen at Federal Hill’s Sobo Cafe, has plunked his new Hamilton restaurant, Clementine, between a circa-1950s jewelry shop and an abandoned carpet store, giving a much-needed boost to a Harford Road commercial district. Designing a restaurant to serve this neighborhood is both opportunity and challenge: One of Baltimore’s truly diverse regions, but once bereft of dining in almost any form, the Hamilton area is now poised to enjoy a restaurant boom, with three more nearby eateries in the offing. Blick knows his customers: He lives two blocks away, and his partner of many years, Christin Dadant, is as constant a presence in the restaurant as the baked muffins and desserts made by his mother, Paige Zeigler. There are cozy couches and free Wi-Fi for the late-morning crowd, a play area with toys and books for young children, and an easy, lunchroom atmosphere with denim-colored walls, a speckled terrazzo floor, and broad wooden tables and chairs. The colorful, unpretentious menu changes daily. Most dishes start basic—a pork chop, chicken breast, catfish—and get dressed up. The chicken is basil-

brined and served with cardamom sweet potatoes and chilled veggies with vinaigrette and pistachios. Duck has a Thai twist, with red curry noodles and peanut cucumber salad. Vegetarian options may be a vegetable frittata with mushroom vinaigrette or red lentil curry with jasmine rice. Pan-Asian elements notwithstanding, there’s also a Southern theme going on here, with brick-sized portions of mac ’n’ cheese and a bowl of cheesy grits that serves as the highlight of a weekend breakfast. But Blick’s passion is charcuterie. Each day, the appetizer list features a platter of terrine, pâté, and sausage, with bread-and-butter pickles, jam, and cheese. He plans to install an aging room for meat in the former carpet store next door to expand the retail business, currently conducted from a small glass case in the restaurant. The planned addition includes a liquor license and bar, which should help this make this welcome addition to the neighborhood even more of a local fixture. (Breakfast, lunch, and dinner Wed–Sun. 5402 Harford Rd.; 410-4441497;




—Martha Thomas

If you know anything about Ecuadorean cuisine—and really, who doesn’t?—you know about the guinea pigs. Cuyes, they are called, and the furry rodents play a role something like holiday turkeys do here: Roasted, grilled, or deep-fried, they are the protein of celebration, the iconic national dish. Call ahead at La Cazuela, Baltimore’s lone Ecuadorean eatery, and you can find out for yourself: A special order of roasted cuy and potatoes goes for $44. But for everyday eating, the less adventurous will find other diversions at this homey eatery in Upper Fells Point’s ever-richer Latin quarter. Like its Peruvian neighbor, La Riconcito Peruana, La Cazuela offers both the exotic and the approachable: This is simple rib-sticking fare, served in hilariously outsized portions by chef/owner Enrique Tapia and his wife, Marina Valverde. Meat-and-potato types will appreciate churrasco serrano—a placemat-sized skirt steak pounded thin and plated on a huge fish-shaped platter with with heaps o’ carbs (rice and French fries) plus a few fried eggs for good

measure. Sides of avocado and lemondressed onion or a drizzle of bright green chimichurri offer a respite from the onslaught of meat and starch. The cilantrobased herb sauce also makes a welcome appearance on a seafood platter of fried trout accompanied by grilled shell-on shimp: fat, meaty, and buzzing beneath what tastes like a funky pan-American mix of Old Bay and chimichurri. It’s hard not to love a place that gives you two different kinds of fried plantains (crisp, flash-fried spears of the sweeter ripe fruit for dipping in a mustardy aioli—provided as a free opening appetizer—or the more dense, mashed chips of unripe green plantain that accompany an entrée platter). Dessert is charming, too: Try the mystifyingly named tres leches, which is not the three-milk sponge cake popular in Latin America. It’s a flan-like custard, and it’s terrific. (Lunch and dinner daily. 1718 Eastern Ave.; 410-522-9485.)

photo by La Kaye Mbah

La Cazuela

Steak & eggs, via Ecuador: La Cazuela’s churrasco serrano

—David Dudley

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urbanite september 08

Mixed Up


chemist acquaintance of mine once insisted that it was theoretically possible to make vodka from moldy socks. This came as a surprise: I assumed it always had been. Much of vodka’s appeal lies in its supposed neutrality. A Smirnoff tag line from the 1950s—“it leaves you breathless”—played on the notion that vodka leaves no odor on your breath. Other promoters tout vodka’s mixability, under the misguided assumption that it’s a virtue rather than a necessity. Don’t mind me. If you’re a vodka drinker, you’ve got plenty of company. That “breathless” ad launched vodka sales into the stratosphere, despite the Sputnik-era liability of its perceived Russian-ness. They’ve kept climbing ever since. In 2007, U.S. vodka sales totaled 51.2 million cases—more than bourbon, scotch, tequila, and gin combined. “Super-premium” brands and flavored vodkas have propelled recent sales growth. The latter now account for 14 percent of vodkas sold, and they make bars’ top shelves look like sno-ball stands. Maybe cranberry vodka makes a better Cape Codder, although I’m not sure how. And if someone fancies vanilla vodka in their White Russian, that’s up to them. But for something that’s supposed to taste like nothing, people sure do a lot of infusing and mixing to make it palatable. Vodka still smells like a gym to me, whatever flashy cologne gets poured on top of it. Nonalcoholic concoctions have long been used to mask the taste of spirits, but in some cases, it’s been just the opposite: The booze has, in effect, become the mixer. A prime example lies in the history of the gin and tonic—and tonic’s key ingredient, quinine. Although probably discovered centuries earlier by the Incas, the anti-malarial properties of the bark of the South American quinquina tree became known to Jesuit missionaries in the early 17th century. In 1638, when the wife of the Spanish viceroy in Peru fell ill with malaria, a bitter brew made from ground quinquina bark restored her health. The “Jesuits’ bark” was exported to control rampant malaria in southern Europe, and French chemists identified quinine as the bark’s medicinal component in 1820. Without it, the colonization of continents and construction of the Panama Canal may have proven impossible. I would have bet on the Jesuits, but it was British officers of the East India Company who, sometime in mid-1800s, first struck on the idea of using gin and a spoonful of sugar to help their medicine go down. With the addition of soda and maybe a squeeze of lime, their “Indian tonic water” caught on with civilians too. Quinine remained the world’s

By Clinton Macsherry

sole anti-malarial drug until the development of synthetic alternatives in the 1940s. But even the nonmedicinal quantities contained in today’s tonic provide the bitter edge that’s key to the G&T. In this era of super-premium vodkas (and gins and tequilas, for that matter), it’s little wonder that a new generation of deluxe mixers has emerged. Over the past few years, entrepreneurs have rolled out three luxury tonic waters. All eschew the high-fructose corn syrup used to sweeten the marketleading Schweppes and Canada Dry brands, and each has its own gimmick: Fever-Tree boasts “pharmaceutical-grade” African quinine and such exotic flavorings as Tanzanian orange, coriander, and marigolds; Stirrings triple-filters its carbonated water; Q Tonic uses hand-picked Andean quinine and organic agave nectar as a sweetener. I tasted Q Tonic ($7.50 for a four-pack of 187-ml bottles) and Fever-Tree ($5 for 200ml four-pack) alongside Schweppes ($1.60 a liter) and Vintage Diet ($.80 a liter) with Beefeater gin, no lime. In general, diet tonic tastes scratchy—saccharine and aspartame clash with quinine, whether it’s from Africa or Albuquerque. Schweppes has been my stand-by for years, and I’m not dumping it for some newfangled trophy tonic. But Q has a lot going for it: mellow sweetness, more like honey than sugar, that balances deftly with citrus peel flavors and a bitterness that’s more polished than jagged. On the downside, its effervescence falls back pretty quickly. Same with Fever-Tree, so it’s good that they come in single servings. Fever-Tree has a much sweeter profile, and the bark it uses for its quinine needs more bite. It’s an OK soft drink on its own, but it commandeers the cocktail, whereas Q says its piece without shouting over the gin. With that kind of transparency, just don’t mix Q with vodka: You might actually taste the stuff. ■

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photo by Christopher Sausto

Make room for a top-shelf tonic

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the feed


This Month in Eating Compiled by Lara Streyle UKRAINIAN FESTIVAL Say goodbye to summer in the traditional fashion: with a pierogieating contest. The cheesy potato dumplings are the stars of the show at this year’s Ukrainian festival, but there’s more Eastern European cuisine, plus a beer garden. Sat and Sun noon–8 p.m.

SEPT 6 –7 Patterson Park Linwood and Eastern aves.

BABE’S BOWLING BASH The Creative Alliance’s Art to Dine For series of casual foodmeets-art fundraisers explores the mystical bond between pizza and bowling with this kid-friendly afternoon event sponsored by aMuse toys in Fells Point. Drink root beer floats, customize your own bowling shirts, and roll a few frames at First United Evangelical, which boasts behind-the-altar duckpin lanes reputed to be used by Babe Ruth during his Baltimore youth. Tickets $40 for two. Sat 1 p.m.–4 p.m.

SEPT 13 First United Evangelical Church 1728 Eastern Ave.

MARYLAND WINE FESTIVAL It’s not just about drinking wine on a beautiful Carroll County farm all afternoon: The 25th annual Maryland Wine Festival is educational. Oenophiles-in-training can attend wine education seminars, watch winemaking demonstrations, and, yes, taste offerings from the state’s twenty-seven wineries. Adults 21 and older $20, ages 7–20 $5, children younger than 6 free. Sat 10 a.m.–6 p.m., Sun noon–6 p.m.

SEPT 20–21 Carroll County Farm Museum 500 S. Center St., Westminster 410-386-3880

DINNER & READING WITH MANIL SURI Novelist, mathematician, and food buff Manil Suri brings his books The Age of Shiva and The Death of Vishnu to life via a traditional Indian buffet as part of the Pratt Contemporaries series. Cocktails begin at 6 p.m., followed by bhel puri, tandoori chicken, vegetable biryani, chappatis, and fruit chaat. Sip a Kingfisher beer while Suri reads and discusses excerpts from his fiction with WEAA radio personality Marc Steiner. Pratt Contemporaries members $65, non-members $75. 6 p.m.–9 p.m.

SEPT 25 Enoch Pratt Free Library 400 Cathedral St. 443-984-3850

MARYLAND BEER & FOODFEST Organizers are billing this Harford County hop-fest as the largest in the Mid-Atlantic, and the participating list of vendors reads like an encyclopedia of craft beers. Ample brew-friendly eats too, from Dangerously Delicious Pies, Margaret’s Soul Food, and Bill Bateman’s Bistro. Local chefs David Micozzi and Renato Buontempo will dish out food and drink pairings in the tasting tent, and a Battle of the Brews will be waged with a panel of “celebrity tasters.” Tickets $15; designated drivers 21 and older $10. Sat and Sun 10 a.m.–5 p.m.

SEPT 27–28 Ripken Stadium 873 Long Dr., Aberdeen

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Photo: Kate Turning

-Time Magazine

On SAlE nOW!

September 30 - October 12 Hippodrome Theatre

Buy your tickets for Wednesday, October 1, and $5 of every ticket sold will go to benefit the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure! Use the Password: KOMEn • 410.547.SEAT • Box Office (Mon-Sat 10a-5p) • Groups (20+) call 866.577.7469 To learn more visit


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urbanite september 08

95 ARTS PROGRAM Sondra Guttman on the Black Arts



Martha Thomas goes blonde


David Dudley on The Planets and UFO


Literary editor Susan McCallum-Smith learns something

Song of Myself Am I a real musician, or just playing around?


o, what do you do?” people are apt to ask, and, with a reflexive measure of joy, I’ll say I’m a jazz pianist and singer. My enthusiastic answer will often prompt an equally warm response from the questioner; at least some people think it’s special to be a professional performer. But once, a few years ago, when I told my new ophthalmologist what I did, he looked at me blankly and said, “That’s not a full-time job, right?”

by s a ndy a sirva t ham photogra ph by eric drum mond w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m s e p t e m b e r 0 8


To give, please call 410-837-1800 or visit


urbanite september 08

What could I say? Truth be told, he’d caught me: I was not a full-time musician. I was a longtime freelance journalist, a stay-athome mother of an infant, and a part-time, late-blooming musician. At 30, I’d started reviving my amateur classical piano chops and taking baby steps as a jazz improviser. It was a way to procrastinate on the never-ending novel I’d started years earlier and a spiritually necessary return to a childhood love. After study, preparation, and some fledgling performances, I’d landed my first real, paying gig, at age 36, playing Benny Goodman tunes and dance band oldies in a five-piece swing combo called Corner Pocket. Once or twice a month, for $75 per musician, we’d go to Catonsville or Towson or Chevy Chase to play a ballroom filled with jitterbugging twosomes, twirling and dipping to our rendition of “Honeysuckle Rose.” In the six years since those first gigs, I’ve convinced skeptical loved ones and friends that I’m really a working musician— that I’m not just using music to avoid the frustrations and limitations of grown-up life. And yet some days, I am still trying to convince myself. By certain standards, I’m merely an ambitious hobbyist. My self-produced CD of original songs, Memoir, received a “best debut” vote from critic W. Royal Stokes in the Village Voice’s 2007 jazz poll, but I’ve only sold two hundred copies. I write new songs constantly but don’t have money to produce them. I only gig a couple times a month, compared with the five or six jobs other pros play weekly. I’m trying to get one of my songs on a film or TV soundtrack, but so are about ten thousand other indie musicians. Performance pay and CD sales just about balance my promotional costs and general business expenses. With a 5-year-old son and a husband who was committed to a demanding job before I sprang my crazy music dreams on him, I won’t be touring the country anytime soon. But my eye doctor didn’t know this. He could not possibly have distinguished between me, with my self-defined shortcomings, and one of the many full-time, full-fledged jazz players I know and work with. Even the most dedicated professional musicians hear it sometimes: “That’s not a real job, right?” I’m thinking of musicians such as woodwind player Seth Kibel, leader of the Alexandria Kleztet and one of the most versatile and industrious artists I’ve worked with. A Cornell graduate with a double major in American studies and music, Seth easily could have taken a different path, gone to law school, or worked in government or academia. Instead, the summer after college he took a job as a saxophonist in a working rock band. That band dissolved, but other gigs

kept coming. In the nearly twelve years since, Seth has never held a non-music job. Which doesn’t mean he doesn’t work: As a father of two, he can’t afford to treat music as a hobby. He and his wife, freelance journalist Sandy Alexander, live in Pikesville and share breadwinning and childrearing tasks. Accordingly, Seth takes plenty of less-thanglamorous gigs. He’ll play oompah music with a German band for Oktoberfests and BMW dealership openings, gamely donning a multicolored vest and feathered Alpine hat (he draws the line at lederhosen). Seth is proof that even successful musicians never stop paying their dues. But, he says, “I’d rather play bad music with people I don’t like for people I don’t like than be stuck in a cubicle.” The other day, Seth chaperoned his son’s preschool class on a visit to the Baltimore Museum of Art. A 3-year-old girl, noticing that he was the only adult male in the group, asked, “How come you’re here?” He told her he was a professional musician who worked nights and weekends. “Oh,” she said. “My daddy has a job.” My friend Amy Shook, the outstanding bassist who played on my debut CD last year, has some interesting thoughts on the “real job” provocation. “There are so many people who say, ‘You don’t really work, you just play,’ and to a certain point, that is true,” she admits. “I’ve worked for what I have, I have three degrees, all in music, and now I have enough technique that I could maintain this level and probably be fine. But the fact is, I’m constantly improving or trying to improve. Just because this isn’t a 9-to-5 job, that means it’s not real?” If anything, Amy’s work in service to her passion verges on 24/7. She plays nearly forty gigs a month, many with the two heavy-hitter combos she helps lead: the Shook/Russo Quartet with drummer Frank Russo and her husband, saxophonist Pat Shook, and the FAB Trio with Frank again on drums and the tremendous Bob Butta on piano. She can also be found behind singers or instrumentalists such as singer Felicia Carter, flautist Ali Ryerson, and vibesman Chuck Red. When Amy’s not performing music, she’s writing or recording it (she and Felicia Carter recently co-wrote and recorded two songs for Next Stop, Silver Spring, a WETA documentary about the B&O Railroad). Or she’s teaching a lesson, or coaching a student jazz combo at a community college, or doing a residency in the D.C. public schools. She does all this while leading a life of model bourgeois professionalism: She’s married to her college sweetheart and helps pay the mortgage on a lovely home in Crownsville. Compared to the Amys and Seths of the world, I sometimes feel like a dilettante. Over

photo by Natasha Cooke


Radical chic: Rosiland Cauthen (left) and Bashi Rose put a local spin on the Black Arts Movement.

arts Program

Back in Black

Fire in the Belly at Creative Alliance, Sept 25–27 Poet, critic, and activist Larry Neal dubbed the Black Arts Movement of the late 1960s the “aesthetic and cultural sister of the Black Power concept,” but unlike so many other cultural artifacts of that era, much of the poetry, art, theater, and music associated with revolutionary black nationalist thought seemed buried for good. Recently, however, Black Arts writers and performers are enjoying a renewed surge of interest. These are artists who saw themselves as warriors; their work, often steeped in the deepest black vernacular, aimed to “expose the enemy, praise the people, and support the revolution,” as black nationalist leader Maulana Karenga said. Its energy, originality, and urgency are striking, even today. For Rosiland Cauthen, Center Stage education director and a leader of the local theater troupe Kuumba Collective, revisiting the art and politics of the Black Arts Movement offers an opportunity to push the aesthetic envelope. “Experimental art in the black community is sort of the bastard child right now,” she says. “People think it’s not relevant. We think exactly the opposite.” Cauthen helped organize Fire in the Belly, a three-night series of performances and community dialogues at Creative Alliance that brings local poets, writers, and dancers—among them Bashi Rose, Olu Butterfly Woods, and the 5th L—together with some of their Black Arts ancestors, including national heavyweights such as Amiri Baraka and Sonia Sanchez, both masters of the spoken word. Two highlights: Kuumba Collective is scheduled to perform Baraka’s fourth-wall-busting play, Slave Ship, and the legendary Last Poets, whose radical “jazzoetry” helped pave the way for today’s hip-hop culture, take the stage on Friday night. —Sondra Guttman

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PS-2008 July Urbanite_Monarch.qxd


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urbanite september 08


School and then discovers her own aptitude for legal matters. Lipitz also helped to produce the short-lived Broadway musical Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, also based on a popular movie, and is the executive producer of the MTV reality show Legally Blonde The Musical: The Search for Elle Woods. The series—an Apprentice-like elimination audition— featured mostly nonprofessional actresses vying to take over the Broadway role. Witherspoon look-alike Bailey Hanks, the winner of the TV competition, will remain at the Palace Theater in New York while longtime Elle understudy Becky Gulsvig will perform the role on the road. Elle is close to her heart, says Lipitz: “The lesson from Elle is that you can’t judge a book by its cover. I’ve been the youngest person in the room and proved people wrong, that yes, a young person can do it.”

photo by Joan Marcus

the past six or seven years, I’ve proved to myself that I have enough talent to be a fulltime working musician—and always did, even as a confused teenager struggling under the heavy doctor/lawyer/engineer expectations of my Indian immigrant parents. But I’ve also learned that I don’t want to take every mediocre gig that pays, especially when my primary occupation is still “Mommy,” and when I can earn better money as a freelance journalist. So I’ve turned myself into a curious halfway creature in a field that typically demands “all or nothing at all,” to quote the old song. I turn down gigs if they don’t promise musical fulfillment or pay well enough to compensate for the lack thereof. I write lyrics in my head while driving my son to play dates and soccer practices. While he’s in school, I divide my energies between writing articles for money and pursuing music for love. Some days, you would not be able to distinguish my life from Seth’s or Amy’s. I’ll spend two hours at the piano, practicing Brahms or Wayne Shorter, singing a song I wrote last year or last week, dreaming up brass arrangements for the day when I can finally afford to record them. Then I’ll sit down with the telephone and the laptop for a few hours to book gigs, coordinate dates with sidemen, solicit sponsors, update my website and my online performance calendars, write press releases, and ask publications to review my CD. By 3 p.m., I’m back to Mommy—park, pool, grocery store, dinnertime, bath, books, etc. By the time my son is ready for bed, I’m tempted to crawl into my own. (If I were a real musician, I taunt myself, I’d naturally stay up until 2 a.m.) Sometimes, a sitter, a friend, or my husband will show up around 5 p.m. so I can kiss my boy goodnight, pack up my keyboard and PA equipment, and head out toward a nighttime gig in D.C. or Annapolis. Occasionally, I receive a little validation that this idiosyncratic path is worth pursuing. This summer, I landed a slot at Artscape via the Baltimore Jazz Alliance’s competitive entry process. My band and I got up on stage in the brutal July sun and played an hour of mostly original material to hundreds of strangers. The audience clapped, woo-wooed, moved their bodies in time to the music, and even laughed at my between-song jokes. While we were up on stage, collectively working the grooves and making people joyful for a few brief moments, I can assure you not one of us doubted our status as artists and professionals—or the unique value of our work. ■

Raising Elle: Blonde’s Becky Gulsvig takes over where Reese Witherspoon left off.

t h e at e r

Something Old, Something New Legally Blonde at the Hippodrome, Sept 30–Oct 12 Viva La Vivienne at Everyman Theatre, Sept 8–17

When Amanda Lipitz was a student at Park School, her friends accused her of memorizing the train schedule to New York. “I couldn’t wait to get up there,” says the 28-year-old, one of the youngest producers on Broadway. She’s still in New York, but her emissary—the musical Legally Blonde—comes to town at the Hippodrome in late September, the second stop on its national tour. For those who missed the Reese Witherspoon vehicle upon which it is based, Legally Blonde is the story of a clothesobsessed sorority sister named Elle Woods, who follows her boyfriend to Harvard Law

If Lipitz is one of the youngest Broadway producers, another Baltimore native can surely claim the crown for the longestrunning actress to stick it out in her hometown. Vivienne Shub, one of the first to appear on Center Stage’s boards and a founding—and current—company member at Everyman, is turning 90. Shub’s sister, Everyman dramaturg Naomi Greenberg-Slovin, has written a one-woman show, Viva La Vivienne, as a tribute to both her sister and their father. (Proceeds benefit Everyman’s capital campaign to renovate its future home, the Town Theater, located at 315 W. Fayette Street and opening for the 2010/2011 season.) The play weaves the story of Samuel Leon Slovin, a Polish immigrant who came to America when he was 12 years old and eventually attended the University of Maryland to become a dentist. He died in 1967 at 74. Greenberg-Slovin artfully wraps her sister’s story around her father’s tale with flashbacks and Vivienne’s memories of his stories. “He never lost his flair for poetry and storytelling,” she says. “He was like the Pied Piper to us.” —Martha Thomas

—Former City Paper columnist Sandy Asirvatham’s music can be heard at www.sandys

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courtesy of Evelyn Glennie


Space oddity: Percussionist Evelyn Glennie hammers away at Daugherty’s UFO.


Lost In Space

The BSO plays Holst’s The Planets and Michael Daugherty’s UFO, Sept 18, 19, and 21 at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall

A mediocre rock band I followed as a teenager used to open concerts with the slow middle section of “Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity,” the fourth movement of Gustav Holst’s crowd-pleaser The Planets. The English composer gave the gas giant a simple but indelible theme that cycles through an enormous, achingly beautiful melody. (Adapted to fit the saber-rattling patriotic hymn “I Vow to Thee, My Country,” it’s a wedding-music mainstay throughout the Commonwealth.) Driving home from the hockey arena, this was the tune I hummed, not the band’s nowforgotten single. The rest of the The Planets, composed just before the Great War by an astrologymad Holst, is nearly as catchy, particularly the 5/4 warhorse “Mars,” which seems to have inspired a half-dozen video game themes, as well as the best parts of John Williams’ Star Wars score. The piece’s seven movements may sound overfamiliar, but its surging rhythms and experimental instrumentation were hip for its time, and it’s an apt headliner for the

night of interplanetary sounds at the Meyerhoff that the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has assembled to raise the curtain on the new season. Joining The Planets on the program is Michael Daugherty’s 2000 concerto UFO, which the BSO bills as a “modern counterpart” to the Holst suite. Written for the Scottish percussion phenom Evelyn Glennie (who will perform it here), it’s certainly just as theatrical. Banging on a battery of ad-hoc percussion instruments and occasionally wandering through the audience like a lost alien, Glennie inhabits the role of the crash-landed saucer pilots of the 1947 Roswell incident. BSO music director Marin Alsop is in her element here: She received a Grammy nomination in 2005 for conducting Glennie’s performance of the piece with the Colorado Symphony. The program opens on an end-of-the-world note—the “Twilight of the Gods” finale from Richard Wagner’s Götterdämmerung. —David Dudley

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Life Lessons

by susan mccallum-smith

Looking forward: A 1930 image from In Vogue

I Got Somebody in Staunton by William Henry Lewis (Amistad, 2005) In Vogue: The Illustrated History of the World’s Most Famous Fashion Magazine by Norberto Angeletti and Alberto Oliva (Rizzoli New York, 2006) One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn (Signet Classics, 1998; originally published in 1962) The Shadow of Sirius by W.S. Merwin (Copper Canyon Press, 2008)


black professor offers a ride to a young white woman in the title story of William Henry Lewis’ 2005 collection, I Got Somebody in Staunton. After paying for gas, he finds four white men leaning against the car talking to his pale-skinned passenger, and history threatens to overwhelm him—that “feeling like running is a good thing to do.” He remembers a photograph his uncle shared of a black boy strung from “a trestle running the train into Richmond” and underneath “a mess of crackers, thick like it’s the State Fair.” Having learned his ancestral lessons well, the professor chooses a defensive move, but the price he pays is to remain, metaphorically, in chains. Lewis, who teaches at the University of Maryland, has a painterly eye for landscape and an intuitive understanding of human vulnerability, even if his treatment of structure and drive sometimes feels wanting. His shorter stories work best; tighter boundaries

sharpen Lewis’ focus and force him to make his point, as he does very effectively in “Germinating,” another tale of a relative foisting wisdom on the next generation. “He isn’t a bright man. Is he?” says Aunt Lin to her nephew about his father, to which the teenager mumbles a noncommittal reply. She continues dissing the rest of the family, trying to inoculate him against the aching loneliness waiting in ambush in his future— loneliness she herself now feels. “I could envision the mass of my family,” he thinks, “… dispersing and slipping from me as I grew older, carried away on silent waves.” Aunt Lin wears a hat with which she is displeased, because the buying and wearing of hats is a hazardous business. I should know—my Vogue subscription has run unbroken over twenty years and two continents. I ripped the cellophane from the coffee-table frivolity In Vogue, by Norberto Angeletti and Alberto Oliva, with the guilty cackle of a smoker peeling open a fresh pack. An elegant retrospective of the rag-mag starting at its 1892 inception, In Vogue’s highlights include model Marion Morehouse, whose charisma still sparkles undimmed in a 1927 shot by Edward Steichen (how modern she looks, despite the flapper stance; how now) and candid shots of Brigitte Bardot from 1958 by William Klein, published before anyone cared if starlets had cellulite. But the architectural couture of the ’30s through the ’50s are the real lessons in these pages. Master photographers Beaton, Penn, Horst, and Avedon teach the exquisite sensuality of a tailored sleeve or an unraveling corset, while George Hoyningen-Huené’s photographic marvel from 1930 of an athletic couple, appearing to sit on a diving board (actually, they’re perched on a Parisian rooftop, the low wall around the roof masquerading as the sea), is a timeless encapsulation of American sportswear. Note the daring asexual nature of their pose, the radical boyishness of her bob, that Olympian twist of her neck. A former Vogue art director once said, “A fashion photograph is not a photograph of a dress; it is a photograph of a woman.” I’d paraphrase and say it is a photograph of a woman in a dress, because spreads in which I can’t see the clothes make me crazy. So I’m not offended by Helmut Newton’s 1980s smut—I’m bored by it. The models resemble Barbies dipped in brake fluid and wear garments of the size and aesthetic value of oil-rags. These are the kind of images that Nobel Prize winner Alexander Solzhenitsyn could have used to illustrate his belief in the perfidious decadence of the West.

Solzhenitsyn, who died in August, dissected the social and political foibles of the former Soviet Union with such steely precision that it earned him internment and exile. I’m not so masochistic as to suggest that you read his Gulag Archipelago to atone for watching Project Runway, because, thankfully, the same wholesome lessons pack the much shorter One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, also known as S 854, has been in his Siberian labor camp long enough to have built the wire that surrounds him, long enough to know how important it is to sequester a sliver of bread in your mattress, yet “he’d never either given or taken a bribe.” In freezing temperatures, the prisoners build a power station with minimal tools and no hauling equipment. Because rations and rest are rewarded to teams, not individuals, everyone must pull their weight or “you got a bit extra or you all croaked.” But that’s not why “Shukhov tackled the wall as if it was his own handiwork.” In the transformative scene that illuminates the entire novella, Shukhov experiences the pure joy of being in the moment. By ignoring the past and the future and concentrating on the here and now, he can still give his life meaning, “… that brief moment for which a zek [prisoner] lives …We’ll stick it out, God grant, till it’s over.” The prolific poet W.S. Merwin shares Solzhenitsyn’s faith in nature’s tenacity. In “Rain Light,” a poem from his new collection, The Shadow of Sirius, he writes, all the flowers are forms of water the sun reminds them through a white cloud touches the patchwork spread on the hill the washed colors of the afterlife that lived long before you were born see how they wake without a question even though the whole world is burning Even though the whole world is burning, Merwin contemplates death with acceptance and curiosity, the simple and direct language in The Shadow of Sirius undergoing a miraculous alchemy when sifted through his peerless sensibility. Perhaps life’s hardest lesson is that we have to go through it before we gain the perspective needed to know what it meant, how it felt, and what has been lost, but in Merwin we have the most empathetic of teachers: often we did not know that we were happy even when we were not how could we have known that at no distance ■

Photograph by George Hoyningen-Huené, courtesy of the Condé Nast Archive, from IN VOGUE: The Illustrated History of the World’s Most Famous Fashion Magazine by Alberto Oliva and Norberto Angeletti, Rizzoli New York, 2006

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Baltimore Unplugged continued from page 51 would set him back about $17,000 after all the rebates and incentives—“it’s going to take me between ten and fifteen years to pay that off,” he says. “I could get the same energy savings with about $2,000 to $5,000 of investment in conservation.” If a homeowner can save thousands, imagine what a large corporation, with an electric bill soaring into the millions, can do, says Rafael Coven of GreenSpark Energy Solutions, a Baltimore company that specializes in ratcheting down energy use in supermarkets, hospitals, warehouses, and other buildings. Most companies can whack 30 percent of their energy use with easy, cost-effective fixes, he says. Joe Postelnick, facility director of the medical supply company Medline, says he was initially skeptical when Coven proposed installing “retrofit controllers” on the heat and air conditioning units in the company’s huge warehouses. The gadgets cycle the machinery on and off, maintaining the desired temperature while reducing energy use. A pilot project in an Allentown, Pennsylvania, warehouse made a believer out of him. “In one month alone, we saved close to $18,000,” he says. “The project paid for itself in four months.” The company has since installed the controllers in several other facilities, and may soon require them in all new buildings. The trend is taking off at the institutional and government levels, too. Hopkins University has installed new light bulbs, tightened doors and windows, and replaced the traps on the university’s miles of underground steam pipes. “Dollar for dollar, replacing steam traps versus putting up solar panels—there’s just no contest,” Bookhart says. Baltimore City came to the same conclusion several years ago as it contemplated the pending rate hike, says city energy advisor Ted Atwood, who worked for the U.S. Department of Energy for two decades, then for a bank set up by the Carter administration to promote “synfuels” such as gasified coal. He sums up the logic: “The cheapest power is the power you don’t use.” City crews went to work replacing traffic light bulbs with new, super-efficient light emitting diodes, or LEDs. The upgrade was projected to save $800,000 a year, he says. As electricity prices have climbed, the annual savings have risen to $1.1 million. Atwood says efficiency measures, combined with new smallscale electric generation at city facilities, have already saved the equivalent of ten days’ output from a typical coal-fired power plant. “We haven’t even scratched the surface,” he says. “If we could get [those savings] up to three or four months, we’d have room for growth without the need for additional power generation.” As a part of her Cleaner Greener Baltimore initiative, Mayor Sheila Dixon has created a sustainability commission that has an air and energy work group. The manager of the mayor’s sustainability office, Beth Strommen, says she doesn’t know what the commission will recommend, but she is enthused about efficiency. “Let’s make it so that they’ve wasted their time applying for those permits for those new power plants,” she says. “That would be my battle cry.” Squeezing more out of the existing supply is now backed by a state mandate as well: Gov. O’Malley’s EmPOWER Maryland initiative, approved by the legislature during the last session, aims to reduce per capita electricity use by 15 percent by 2015. State agencies are supposed to tighten up existing buildings, and construct all new buildings to meet the U.S. Green Building Council’s silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standard. The new Maryland Strategic Energy Investment Fund should shovel millions of dollars annually into energy efficiency programs—many targeted at low- and moderate-income residents. The state is also offering training for contractors who want to carve out a niche in the eco-friendly building and remodeling market.

The electric companies, meanwhile, realize that their emphasis on selling as much power as possible has put them in a very precarious position. BGE is testing three thousand “smart meters” that allow it to monitor electricity use remotely and hourly, and reward customers for cutting use during peak hours. The utility is also pushing programmable thermostats that allow resident to turn down heat and air conditioning when they’re not at home, and load control switches that allow the company to cycle off air conditioners for short periods during peak hours. Participating homeowners get rebates on their monthly bills. Cutting back on demand during peak hours is critical: “Ninetynine percent of the time we have enough electricity for everybody,” says Michael Li. “It’s [peak demand during] those hot summer days that is generating the push to build new power plants.” If we moved aggressively to increase efficiency and reduce electricity use during those peak hours, Li says, “We would virtually eliminate the need for new power plants in the foreseeable future.”

In other words, we can build a bridge to tomorrow’s technologies by getting serious about the simple mantra of “Less is more.” And make no mistake: The winds are changing. Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens recently announced that he is laying down $10 billion to build the biggest wind farm in the world. Closer to home, the Bluewater Wind project, planned for the waters off Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, promises to generate up to two hundred megawatts as soon as 2012. Gov. O’Malley endorsed the project, which could stretch south along the coast to Ocean City. Several companies are now experimenting with “parapet turbines” that capture the updrafts at the tops of tall buildings and spin them into electricity. Galen Frazer’s digital dream of windmills atop Baltimore’s downtown skyline could someday come true. Still, efficiency is going to be more than a passing fad. In the last five years, venture capitalists have poured some $885 million into companies that promise to increase efficiency and upgrade the decrepit energy grid, according to Cleantech Indices, which tracks sustainable technology investment. Down the road someplace, the electric power industry imagines a “smart grid”—a multi-billion-dollar overhaul of the electric grid that will allow utilities to micromanage the flow of electrons between power plants and consumers. Building the smart grid might mean big money for companies such as GE and IBM—that is, if neighborhood “micro-grids” powered by space-age technologies don’t make the whole idea obsolete. Hopkins’ Bookhart says that in all likelihood, we have no idea what the fuel of the future is going to look like. “In twenty years, we could have this whole city completely powered by renewables like solar and biomass,” he says. “Or we could be powered in ways we have no idea about right now.” He posits a scenario in which we plug our houses into mini power plants under the hoods of our cars. The future could indeed be wondrous. But meantime, we’re left to tinker and tighten. We’re left to make small changes in our homes and lives, our offices and our factories—the adjustments that will win no compliments, but that offer the best hope of bridging the void that we’re now staring down. Ultimately, that may be the biggest challenge. ■ —Greg Hanscom is Urbanite’s senior editor. Web extra: A Baltimorean’s guide to buying power from the sun and wind at w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m s e p t e m b e r 0 8



urbanite september 08

Twilight of the Power Lunch continued from page 54 “How’s business?” in order to justify writing it off, the very notion of a power lunch is imbued with self-mockery. Those who employ the term in earnest tend to be the ones that, like early adopters of mobile phones, enjoy a public show of importance. (And, thus, may not be as important as they think.) In 1981, the New York Times described a proto-power lunch in 1960s Washington, D.C., as “two gentlemen, with their mothers’ maiden names for first names, dining quietly at the Metropolitan Club, where women were banned, Jews were few in number and the only blacks wore white coats.” In Baltimore, the equivalent scene might have transpired at Mount Vernon’s similarly exclusive Maryland Club. The Center Club was established in Charles Center in 1962 as a more egalitarian alternative, although full club privileges for women didn’t come along for another fifteen years or so. Phyllis Brotman, who was one of those pioneering women— and the club’s first female president, from 2003 to 2007—recalls the days when she had to escort male clients to a dining room reserved for ladies. “I always felt, Why am I here, when all these men are in the dining room?” Over the years, Brotman, whose firm, Image Dynamics, handled public relations and advertising for corporations and political campaigns, has entertained plenty of men—and women—at the club. When the Center Club moved, Brotman says she was invited to help choose furniture and carpeting. And before resigning as president, she made sure she was appointed chair of the Renaissance Committee, tasked with redecorating the club. Joe Haskins agrees that it took the Center Club a while to catch up with its democratic charter. The first time he attended was in the late 1970s, with George Rosso, the first chair of the fledgling Harbor Bank founded to serve Baltimore’s minorities and small businesses. “There were only two other African Americans in the room,” he recalls, “and the place was packed.” These days, Haskins also lunches at the Capital Grille, where he’s heartened to see a portrait of Thurgood Marshall hanging above the maitre d’ station. “Business in Baltimore is much more of a merged and open process these days,” he says. In spirit at least: “Now I can be the only African American in the Center Club, and I don’t even notice.” Eddie Brown is also a member, but he often takes guests to the Dogwood Restaurant in Hampden. Founder and CEO of Brown Capital Management, Brown says the restaurant, which provides training to those in transition from incarceration and drug addiction, “gets a conversation going about something other than pure business. It makes for a more expansive conversation, about how this nonprofit entity is contributing to the life of Baltimore.” For Brown, a lunch out is as much about getting to know a potential investor as it is setting a course for business. If the agenda is pure business, he’ll order sandwiches in the conference room (oftentimes from Sascha’s: “We like the little silver bags”). DLA Piper’s Flynn, too, uses business lunches strategically: “The adage of breaking bread is appropriate,” he says. “You can have the same meeting across a desk, but the beauty of a lunch is you can learn so much about someone through random chitchat.” At a business lunch, “you’re not just meeting a résumé or a business plan. You get to sit down and talk about what they do.” Downtown, Flynn often chooses Brighton’s at the Harbor Court Hotel, where the “executive lunch” is half a sandwich and a cup of soup—a far cry from the steak-and-martini days of old. But because his office is in Mount Washington, he frequently suggests the Ambassador

Dining Room, the Indian restaurant near Charles Village known for its elegant décor and lunch buffet. “It’s a more interesting and funky choice, “ he says, and it tends to inspire conversation about travel and family (Flynn’s wife is of Indian descent). Choosing something off the beaten path tells your dining companion about the way you do business, says Mark Schroeder, general manager of the Castlebridge Group. The company, which develops and invests in renewable energy, is housed in the former King Syrup factory on Key Highway. “We’re not Constellation,” he says. “We’re bohemian in style.” Schroeder likes to take potential investors down the street to the Wine Market. “You feel comfortable in a coat and tie, but it has a little character,” he says. Sometimes he’ll suggest Friday lunch at Little Havana, “to celebrate in shorts and flip-flops.” American Visionary Art Museum founder Rebecca Hoffberger uses lunches to reinforce her offbeat reputation—and that of the institution she runs. “If I have sophisticated people visiting from New York or Los Angeles,” she says, “where do you go that shows them what is really American?” Hoffberger’s answer: Friendly Farm, a forty-nineyear-old family restaurant set on a farm in Upperco. The setting resembles a well-manicured golf course, and the menu features fried chicken and crab cakes with sides of pickled beets, apple butter, and cottage cheese, served family-style in heaping portions. For Hoffberger, business meals are a burden—she’d rather do serious work around a conference table. “There’s a charged atmosphere when you’re asking for money,” she says. “I like to share food with people, but not in a business situation.” However, after showing guests the museum’s collection of art by self-taught artists, she’ll sometimes extend the visit to dinner and head to Mount Vernon’s famed Afghan eatery, the Helmand. Likewise, Joanne Martin, co-founder and CEO of the Great Blacks in Wax Museum, prefers to meet with potential donors at the museum—at least initially. “If we have lunch outside, the funder may not get to know what we are all about.” It must be working: Martin has raised more than $14 million for the institution. When a museum tour extends to lunch, she will ask a guest where they’d like to eat. “If they’re from out of town, usually they’ll want crab cakes.” McCormick and Schmick’s and the Oceanaire are both good bets. One of her favorite spots is the Olive Grove in Linthicum; she’ll take guests there even if a trip to the airport isn’t involved. Martin, like Hoffberger, realizes that an out-of-towner’s experience in town is crucial to her success. But unless the food is designed to make a statement or spark conversation, lunch itself is usually the last thing on the power lunch agenda. Mitch Halbrich raves about the Center Club’s fare, encourages the obliging waiter to bring a tasting portion of corn chowder, and then insists on the full presentation of the dessert tray. He wants to make sure I realize how good the club’s food is. (It is.) He wants to make sure I say nice things about the place. (If I worked downtown and made six figures, hell, I’d join.) But the average CFO at Constellation who was, say, trying to enlist Mergis in a search for a part-time accountant (or just looking for a new job) certainly wouldn’t study the menu and ask where the vegetables come from (they’re local). He’d glance down, order the penne, and be done with it. Joe Haskins agrees. “If I took you to lunch and you asked too many questions about the menu or ordered the lobster,” he tells me, “I’d probably say to myself, this isn’t someone I’d want to be doing business with.” ■ —Contributing writer Martha Thomas wrote about grass-fed beef in the August Urbanite. w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m s e p t e m b e r 0 8


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Black Power 2.0 continued from page 57 work that systematically oppressed people of color. Individual acts of prejudice may have been frowned upon, at least in polite company, but systemic acts of racism went largely ignored. Black Power made it possible to render previously invisible structural forces visible. The ghosts of this revolution linger around Obama: Witness the infamous New Yorker cover that depicted the candidate knuckle-bumping with wife Michelle in militant fatigues and Angela-Davis-style Afro. But in many ways Obama himself appears to be antithetical to the original notion of Black Power. This is neither praise nor criticism. Obama is, after all, mixed-race and has addressed his racial identity publicly on several occasions; he seems to be a man comfortable in his lightly hued skin. But the fact that some African American commentators continue to question the authenticity of his blackness has less to do with his mixed ancestry than with his vast interracial appeal. Conservative black social commentator Shelby Steele has suggested that Obama’s most formidable attribute is his ability to assuage white guilt. “Give up moral lever-

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age over whites,” Shelby wrote in the Wall Street Journal in July. “[R]efuse to shame them with America’s racist past, and the gratitude they show you will constitute a new form of black power. They will love you for the faith you show in them.” It’s a statement that would appall followers of old-school Black Power: Hamilton and Carmichael never sought “love” from the white masses. Black Power rested on the idea that African Americans would rally together for the good of the race. But Obama’s success is not the result of black solidarity; in fact, it can be argued that he emerged despite a lack of it. Indeed, his ascendance reinforces the concerns driving postcivil-rights-movement politics. African American individuals have always risen to prominence, even as the majority of blacks were left at the very bottom of the economic ladder. Black Power was supposed to be about the uplifting of an entire people. But, as my experience in my new neighborhood demonstrates, Black Power’s older, more insidious cousin—white privilege—may be experiencing a power outage of its own, at least at the individual level. White privilege as a systemic ap-

paratus soldiers on, but many young white males are now left to watch as the world passes them by, just as it does for so many of their darker-skinned counterparts. As I contemplate the angry young men on my street, I wonder whether the lie of white superiority that produced them is being exposed. Yes and no. My presence validates their worst fear—that being white in and of itself is not enough any longer. In a small but measurable way, I challenge the established order, just as Obama’s candidacy has shifted the ground of American presidential politics. But these individual victories don’t signal a larger triumph over white privilege. Obama’s rise is a compelling story, but a better story would be increased graduation rates for black teens, a decline in the black prison population, and a decrease in African American homicides. That’s substantive black power. And that’s what we should be striving for, even in a world where a black man can become president, or strike fear into the hearts of angry young white men. ■ —Freelance writer R. Darryl Foxworth’s essay “Alone at the Table” appeared in the November 2006 Urbanite.


For three days, the Baltimore Bioneers program will feature an unforgettable array of some of the most insightful, inspiring innovators working to restore Earth and heal our communities.


Thursday, September 25 6 - 9 pm RSVP by September 18 For ticket information call 443.984.3850 or email design: substance151

This conference features a recording of the Bioneers Conference in San Rafael, CA.Visit for more info.

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7/30/08 5:31:29 PM

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urbanite september 08







Kindergarten through 4th Grade Open House for Parents

Grades 5 through 12 Open House for Parents & Students

Kindergarten through 12th Grade Open House for Parents & Students The Ward Center for the Arts

Held jointly with St. Paul’s School for Girls

Complete details available at Admissions Office: 410-821-3034 Call us to learn more about the opportunities in Kindergarten through 12th grade that await you at St. Paul’s School.

Dear Everybody continued from page 69 grandparents together. I thought that we would retire and then take care of each other. I never expected so much of that to never happen to us. I can’t believe that my forecast for the rest of our lives was so far off.

[1996] Dear Sara, I smashed the television screen with a hammer because I thought that it was watching us. Even when it was off, I could see this faint reflection of somebody in the screen. Also, I unplugged the radio because I thought that it was listening to me and broadcasting everything that I thought outside my head. But even after I unplugged the radio, I could still hear them talking. That’s why I threw the radio outside in the rain where it probably got electrocuted. What I’m trying to say is thank you for holding on to me so tightly when I couldn’t hold on to myself anymore. Sometimes, I can still feel your arms around me trying to hold me still.

[1997] Dear Dr. Gregory, Thank you for writing a new prescription for me. I think that it helped that the pills were red. That seemed to stop some of the voices from talking to me.

[1998] Dear Sara, I used to walk around the house looking for things that you had left behind—clothes, a blow-dryer, the pillow that you liked to sleep on—so

fiction that I would have an excuse to call you up and see you. But it wasn’t long before I couldn’t find anything else in the house that was yours. That’s when I started buying things that you used to use so that I could pretend that you had left them behind—your favorite shampoo, that hand lotion you used, blue jeans and shoes that were in your size. I didn’t mean to be so desperate.

[1999] Dear Sara, I didn’t sign the divorce papers because I wanted to be married to you for as long as I could. I was even hoping that you wouldn’t be able to divorce me at all if I didn’t sign them. You didn’t have to go to a judge to prove that I was unfit for marriage. Since we really are divorced now, I think that we should split up our memories too. I want the time when we met and the time when we went to the Grand Canyon. You can have our first date and the day we got married. You can also have the day when you left me, which I have no use for. I want when we moved in together and when we bought our house, though, and I want all of the times that we sat on the couch and watched television together. You can have the times we ate breakfast together, but I want most of the dinners. There are a lot more. Maybe we should talk about all of them. ■ —Michael Kimball co-hosts, with Jen Michalski, the all-fiction reading series 5:10 Readings, which takes place every third Saturday at 5 p.m. at Minás Gallery, 815 W. 36th Street. Kimball and other 5:10 participants are scheduled to read their work at the Baltimore Book Festival on Friday, September 26, at 6 p.m. in the CityLit tent. Kimball will read from Dear Everybody at Barnes & Noble, 3330 St. Paul Street, on September 15 at 7 p.m., with Jessica Anya Blau, whose fiction piece “Bubbe and Zeyde” was featured in our August issue.

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Open HOuse ~ s u n day , O ctO Be r 1 9 Middle and upper school at 11:00 a.m. Lower school at 2:30 p.m. LOwer scHOOL Visiting days november 13 and January 8 from 8:15-9:30 a.m.

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Fresh, locally roasted coffee, loose leaf teas and brewing accessories.

savory cheese pies, gourmet foods, smoked seasoning salts and chef’s supplies.

3003 Montebello Terrace Baltimore, MD 21214 443-992-4388

Belvedere Square Marketplace Baltimore, Maryland 21212 Tel: 410-433-7700


urbanite september 08


smoked seafood and meats,

phone: 410-523-2446

French Connections BUFFALO Jeans AND MORE...

Maharishi Vedic Approach to Health(SM) Non-invasive • Safe Prevention-oriented

25012501 EutawEutaw Place inPlace Historic in Reservoir Historic Hill email: Reservoir Hill phone 410-523-2446 email:


Effortless • Immediate Benefits Eliminate Stress

9572 Deereco Road, Timonium, MD 410-561-9444

Special Holyday Join us forHigh Services in the offer Park, newcomers Friday,for July 14 & August 11.



Reclaimed Heart Pine Plantation-grown Teak Certified Mahogany Plantation-grown Lyptus Reclaimed Chestnut And more!

stimulate your mind stimulate your mind put your values into action soothe your spirit meetJews Jewsof ofdiverse diverse backgrounds find background


Transcendental Meditation®

got green wood? we do!

• • •

Roland Park Victorian Canton waterfront condo Mount Vernon brownstone Bolton Hill townhome Mount Washington modern BECAUSE CITY LIFE IS A WONDERFUL LIFE Avendui Lacovara 410-235-4100 443-326-8674 (direct) Roland Park at Cross Keys

GOOD DESIGN MAKES A DIFFERENCE Consult an AIA architect. AIABaltimore 410.625.2585 11 ½ W. Chase St. Baltimore, MD 21201 The American Institute of Architects

Ayni Health Alliance at

AYNI (eye-knee) = Sacred Reciprocity

Broadway Drapery

Your center for professional holistic healthcare in Owings Mills including Holistic MD, Acupuncture, Massage, Nutritional Counseling, Psychotherapy, Clinical Hypnotherapy, wellness classes and much more!

green place

Manufacturers of Fine Window Treatments 3500 Parkdale Avenue Baltimore, MD 21211 410-342-6663


Ecolistic Cleaning


The realistic choice for non-toxic, eco-friendly house & office cleaning! SPECIALTY, HEALTH-CONSCIOUS CLEANING WITH A FOCUS ON ATTENTION TO DETAIL Licensed, bonded & insured

Serving Baltimore City & County

Art & Design Since 1969

Exotic timber, slabs, burls, veneer, metal, semiprecious stone restoration, custom tables. 410.788.2696 134 Baltic Ave. Baltimore, MD 21225


The Gwynns Falls Baltimore Greenway to the Chesapeake Bay Proceeds will help support the Gwynns Falls Trail Council

Purchase a copy of this book:

Distinctive Homes and Additions Designed and Built One at a Time.

Beer, Crabs, and Decks

410.559.0000 x121 MHBR No: 126


- Phone 410-448-5663 x 113 - Send a $25 check to 800 Wyman Park Drive, Suite 010, Baltimore, MD 21211 - Pay by credit card or PayPal at


MHIC No: 39601


When what was simple

BAJA BLUE JUMBO CRABS Check out the size. You won’t believe it.

For more information please visit or call 410-448-5663.

Patricia L Alfin, LCSW-C

Dine In or Carry Out • BYOB Catering and Delivery • Wholesale Crabmeat

All proceeds will be re-invested in Parks & People’s work on behalf of clean, green and healthy communities.

gets complicated.

Diplomate in Clinical Social Work

Couple Therapy Services since 1993

6525 N. Charles Street | Towson 410-938-8456


Purchase native, hardy, fast-growing trees and shrubs for planting this fall.



410-288-1200 - 7 DAYS 1109 North Point Road, Dundalk

Will the Internet ever really replace paper? Read articles, link to advertisers, view Urbanite videos, and sign up to recieve our biweekly e-blast.

w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m s e p t e m b e r 0 8


Friends School A Coeducational Quaker School Founded in 1784


Open House

for parents and students entering Grades 6 through 12:

Sunday, October 19 beginning promptly at 2 pm


Informational Tours

for parents of girls and boys entering Pre-K through Grade 12:

Call 410-649-3211

to arrange an appointment.

5114 N. Charles Street Baltimore, MD 21210 410-649-3211 FINANCIAL AID AVAILABLE


urbanite september 08

Jon Rubin ’08 • Cum Laude, National High School Slavic Honor (SLAVA) Societies • 2008 Eugene Denk Mathematics Award recipient • Studied math at Johns Hopkins University during senior year • Piano, advanced-level certificate, Peabody Conservatory • Chamber Music Club and Choir • Quaketones a cappella singing group • Varsity Tennis Team • Presently enjoying his freshman year at Yale University

Friends. Let your life speak.



The Residences at Oella Mill—Unique Apartment Homes on the Patapsco River.

The Genuine Article. Within walking distance of historic Ellicott City.

Incredible views of the wooded hillsides are framed by huge, factory-style windows. Classic exposed-brick walls complement state-of-the-art appliances. At Oella Mill, the beautifully preserved historic industrial structure stands in sharp contrast to run-of-the-mill apartment buildings. And it’s your one-of-a-kind opportunity to live in modern luxury with genuine historic ambiance. Studios, 1- & 2-bedroom apartments & lofts and 2-level apartment homes from $1,369.


eye to ey e

There is something about sheer size. If nothing else, it draws attention. Some might say that anything made large enough compels consideration. But to fixate on the scale of these sculptures alone is to miss the point. Their title, Memorial (Collapse), makes us imagine what they might have come from, what they might have monumentalized. But they are not ruins or artifacts. They are present-day sculpture far removed from any archaeological site. And they are not solid, only steel mesh and concrete. Who do they seem to be? What civilization do they evoke? What do they raise in our consciousness? The artist, Ledelle Moe, was born and raised in Durban, South Africa, and now resides in Baltimore. “Collapse is about loss,” she told Sculpture magazine recently. “These images might imply … the collapse of monuments outside my own understanding, the collapse of heroes. [They] are also about the collapse of power structures which I was responding to in a personal and a political way.” And, of course, they are about death: these massive, motionless, quiet representations of what might have been. —Alex Castro


urbanite september 08

ledelle moe Memorial (Collapse)

2006 concrete and steel each head approximately 10 x 12 x 12 feet




Friday, October 3, 6-9pm Special thanks to Bass Ale, Stella Artois and Bud Light

THE NEIGHBORHOOD Shops And Restaurants

FRESH FUN DAILY Situated in the heart of Canton, there’s something for everyone at The Can Company. Stocked with Baltimore’s lively dining and nightlife, stylish shopping, plus, services and essentials, The Can Company offers variety everyday. Developed and Managed by Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse.

2400 Boston Street, Baltimore, MD 21224 410.558.CANC (2262) |

Austin Grill Babylon Nails Boston Street Dentistry Brocato’s Studio of Hair Design CakeLove Chesapeake Wine Company Cloud 9 Clothing Cold Stone Creamery Downs Stationers Electric Rays Tanning Salon GNC Kiss Café Lenscrafters Long and Foster Realtors Outback Steakhouse Pasticcio Ristorante Italiano Radio Shack Ray Lewis’ Full Moon BBQ Ritz Camera Starbucks Subway SunTrust Bank Vircity

Offices Alexander & Tom Benexx Community Analytics Computer Career Institute at Johns Hopkins University DAP Design Purchase Link Emerging Technology Center Francis Cauffman Notemarks LLC RPI Consultants

$35.95 Economy Proof Menu includes your choice of Soup or Salad, Select Entrees and Accompaniment. Available Sunday & Monday all evening; Tuesday through Saturday 5:00PM - 7:00PM



urbanite september 08

September 2008 Issue  

The Power Issue, MICA's Mega-dorm, Showing Some Skin, Cool Beans

September 2008 Issue  

The Power Issue, MICA's Mega-dorm, Showing Some Skin, Cool Beans