Friday, August 22, 2014

So you're leaving Baltimore.

I’ve wanted to officially retire this little blog for some time now. I fell out of the blogging habit after my Neighbor Incident of 2013™, then I moved, and then I started volunteering for this amazing group, Force. My blog time turned into volunteer time, and I have zero regrets. Then, this past June I accepted a job in DC and made the official move down in August. It all feels shockingly reminiscent to 2011 when I had just moved to Baltimore and abhorred it because it was anything but little Roanoke, VA with mountains galore.
Baltimore: It'll Charm Your Pants Off
DC is, it’s true, anything but Baltimore, MD. All those stupid lists and battles that have gone back and forth over the past year or so about who is better carry some truths to them. By “truths” I of course mean “gross generalizations and regional stereotypes,” but that’s neither here nor there.  Yes, DC has politics, Big Historical Events and maddeningly high rent. Yes, Baltimore has an annual parade where kinetic sculptures are required to have a sock monkey affixed to them, along with an unbearably high murder rate and a great combination of city/small town feel. I’ve spent my first few weeks waxing poetic over Charm City – its people, its events, the way it made me realize that I went from hating it to adoring it much like a middle school crush fully realized.

Thank you, Baltimore, for three unbelievable years. Thank you for introducing me to wonderful people, for giving me a chance to write more, connecting me to groups doing powerful work. Thanks for introducing me to a great guy, one who truly is a keeper! Thanks for bringing Bubba out of his shell, for the runs around the Hopkins campus and up and down the Jones Falls trail. Thanks for Mondo Baltimore’s terrible movies each month, for Single Carrot Theater’s masterful shows, for Charmington’s lattes and Sweet 27’s cupcakes. Thanks for the number 3, 11 and 61 buses that could all get me home from downtown. Thanks for never kicking me off of the Hopkins shuttle. Thanks for Bocce in Fed Hill Park, for rock climbing out in Timonium, for O’s games, The Book Thing, happy hours at Peter’s Pourhouse, First Fridays, WTMD, WYPR, the Monument Lighting each December and for each and every plate of drunken noodles at Stang of Siam (and, this goes without saying, every bowl of pho from Mekong Delta). Thank you for the halal cart in front of the courthouse, and thanks for the $20 that day I came in for jury duty and never had to sit on a jury. Thanks for winning a Superbowl while I lived there!

But really. The people, Baltimore, the people. They are amazing and you better take damn good care of them, you hear?

DC will grow on me eventually, I’m sure. The lack of bad movie nights saddens me, as does the hour plus trek out the climbing gym. My initial impression is really just that everyone is competitive and everything is expensive. DC, I’m begging to be proven wrong here, so please help me out here!

I am no longer new to Baltimore. If you are, congratulations! You are luckier than you could ever have imagined. My biggest recommendation to you is to go out there and get involved. Baltimore has so much, so much, to choose from that you really have no excuse. Club sports, groups that meet at bars just to play board games, people that meet at bars just to play drinking games while watching atrocious movies, Bike Party, homebrews, volunteer gigs, stand-up shows, art shows, a festival purely for books, an amazing music scene and so much more. Go get out there, get involved, soak it up and don’t miss a minute. Who knows how long you’ll be lucky enough to call Baltimore home; don’t ever take the city for granted.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

An Open Letter to JHU Undergrads

Welcome back to school!  It's been a few weeks now, which means you're really into the swing of things.  You've gotten a handle on your coursework for the semester, figured out a good shower schedule with the roommate(s), and learned how to not have your cellphone stolen out of your hand while you absentmindedly peruse Facebook at the shuttle stop.

As someone a few years ahead of you in the Game of Life, let me share some knowledge with you.

Thursday is recycling day for the Homewood area, per the Department of Public Work's website.  This means that you put your recyclables outside on Wednesday night or Thursday morning, and they either need to be in a recyclable container (paper bag, box, etc) or a useable container with you address.  A plastic trashbag is not recyclable.  A plastic trashbag full of sneakers without pairs are not recyclable, at least not in the way that a beer can is.  Don't put all your beer cans in a plastic bag to be recycled.  That does nothing for anyone.  Also, why are you buying so much Miller High Life?  This is Baltimore.  Stick to 'Boh.

For the love of all that is good and holy, please eat your pizza crusts so that my dog doesn't.  I've already complained about chicken wings on the sidewalk, along with other things I've taken out of my dog's throat on walks.  Since you've come back to town, though, there are more pizza crusts than pigeons.

Not everything is worthy of a "WOOOOOOO."  Starting around 8:00pm on Thursdays until at least midnight on Sundays, I live in fear of the "WOOOO."  I hear the "WOO" when I shut my windows, run the Roomba, or do countless other things to drown you out.  The other day, I heard a "WOO" over the flushing of my toilet, and wondered if you were cheering me on for my bathroom accomplishments.  I understand that you're excited because you are free of parental supervision, but bring it down a "WOO" or two.

Music can be equally as wonderful without having the bass as high as possible.  I don't need my windows rattling.

There is an unwritten rule here in Adultland (beyond regular vacuuming and being in bed by 11:00pm): if the line that separates your leg from your butt cheek is visible, your skirt/shorts/dress/romper/trashbag/gym sock you oiled yourself into is too short.  This goes for both men and women.  This is not a matter of saying, "You look like a hussy," this is a matter of not everyone wanting to see your butt cheek.  Wear whatever you want, I don't really care.  Just cover up your butt, especially when you're "WOO"ing about how cold it is outside.

You don't need to wear fake eyelashes on a Wednesday.  No one needs to wear fake eyelashes on a Wednesday.  Not even people in fashion shoots.  Their stylists are all, "What? Are you crazy?  It's WEDNESDAY."  You're in your late teens/early 20s!  This is your prime!  Own it, without faking it.  You have no need to!

It's taken me some time to get accustomed to your presence.  It was a rough realization for me for the first two weeks, but I've warmed to you.  You bring dollars for local businesses.  You bring some diversity to the neighborhood.  You raise Bubba's self esteem by regularly telling me that, "WOOO HE'S SO CUTE."  You make me nostalgic for the years when my biggest concern was whether I'd get a burger at the dining hall, or a wrap from the pseudo-health-conscious stand in the gym.  People looking to nab an iPhone from someone's hands will also more likely head towards you, the drunk guy walking into a pole, rather than me, the girl in her pajamas picking up dog poop.

So thank you.  But remember, please bring the "WOO"ing down a notch.  Read the (incredibly simple) recycling rules; you're Hopkins students, you can handle it.  Turn down your bass, cover your butt, and accept that you are beautiful at 20 and don't need any fake eyelashes yet.  Be young and carefree, but not stupid.

Welcome (back) to Baltimore.
Sincerely yours,
Your Neighbor Who Really May Call the Cops if You Don't Turn Down Your Bass

Friday, July 26, 2013

Bikes: The Ugly, the Bad, and the Good

Things have been busy.  I moved, I wrote this piece for the Baltimore Fishbowl because I moved, and then it just got hot and I couldn't be bothered to do much beyond eat ice cream in front of my AC unit.

Way back in 2002, in between training for the upcoming high school cross country season and doing important teenage things like buying $4 flip flops from Old Navy, I somehow wound up signed up to do a bike tour across Maine, starting a little outside of Augusta.  My travel companions and I were, somehow, going to bike 50-75 miles a day across the state of Maine for a week.   It also bears noting that I was 14, and that my travel companions were my lifelong friend, Georgia, and my sister, who was all of 19 at the time.
2002: Georgia and I, Summer of the Car Smush

I was down with biking, but I hadn't ever been down with biking.  I was all about the gear shifters that twisted on your handlebars, and never went more than two miles around the perimeter of my parents' house.  When Georgia and I knew we were going to do this bike trip, we began training.  We'd bike five miles.  To the nearest Starbucks, and get Frappucinos, because that's how 14 year old girls train.  That being said, it's still more training than my sister did for this ride.

We drove up from Georgia's parents' house outside of Providence, and began to realize how woefully illprepared we were the first night, amongst hordes of fellow bikers, all middle aged, and all far more in shape than we were, (rightfully) laughing at my mountain bike.

The next day ended quickly.  Within .7 miles of the trip, while we were still biking on the sidewalk of Rome, Maine, I got hit by a car while crossing a crosswalk when he had a red light.  I could not have been going more than 2 miles an hour.  He hit me, I went down, and I'm still not sure how, but the bike landed on top of me, and the pedal gauged my leg.  My sister claims that's the day I began cursing like a sailor.  15 stitches later, and that was the end of the trip.  We stupidly went camping that night, which could not have been good for my thrown-on-the-ground spine, and my sister washed my hair in the sink everyone washed their dishes in at the campground.  It was a very glamorous time in my life.  Somewhere on some 3X5 ultra glossy print from CVS, there's a great picture of the three of us at the beach, post accident.  My sister has her eyes semi shut, Georgia is posing like a teen supermodel, and I'm sticking my leg out to the side at a weird angle while its wrapped in layer of gauze that we probably reapplied in the back of the 1994 Dodge Caravan we drove up to Maine in.  Memories.

I didn't touch bikes for a while.  I was 21 before I got back on a bike again.  I was 22 before I took one on the street, and even then, it was to get groceries in college and go maybe a half a mile, mainly on campus.  The pedal going into my leg left me with a large scar that I was vainly self-conscious about throughout high school.
2005: The Leg Scar Remains
(as does my inherent awkwardness)
I still have this scar, although it's finally begun to fade.  Frequent reactions include, "Ohmygosh you're bleeding!" or "What happened?!"  The first allows me to pretend like I feel no pain, the second allows me a space in which I can create whatever convoluted story I feel is appropriate at the time.  Bear mauling?  Sure! Couldn't afford med school so I tested things on myself? Times are tough, makes sense.

When I moved here, I was still very much skeptical of bikes.  And bikes in the city?  Absolutely not.  A friend of mine was pretty involved in Bike Party, though,  and I got roped into volunteering.  Bike Party is wonderful.  After a few months of haphazardly volunteering, I finally got myself on a bike and partook back in April.  Bike Party is ideal for the faint-of-heart biker.  You travel in a pack at an absurdly slow rate, and everyone around you is supportive.  You have a space to become accustomed with biking in the street, but at 5 miles an hour with a huge crowd of happy bikers surrounding you.  It was perfect for me.

After April's Bike Party (Prom-themed, so I wore my high school prom dress with leggings and tucked it into a fanny pack), I began to warm up to the idea of getting back on a bike.  I bought myself a 1988 Schwinn Premis off good 'ol Craigslist, and through the patience of various people, have begun biking again.  Initially, just some short trips to the lakes or up through Roland Park, but as of last week, I am officially a bike commuter.

Biking to work is not nearly as atrocious as I'd imagined it would be, even with my old school downtube shifters.  Gone are the days of walking a few blocks to the bus, to wait for the bus, to get off and wait for another bus, to walk a couple more blocks to the office.  Biking time is the same as a (rare) good day bus commuting.  I no longer have to wait for 30 minute increments for the next shuttle or Circulator to come find me.  I no longer get drenched in sweat waiting to get home, I get drenched in sweat while actively getting home.  It's wonderful.  The 3 mile ride uphill going home isn't so wonderful, but the freedom from the stupid buses and shuttles most definitely is sweet enough to compensate.

So if you're new to Bmore, get out there on your bike!  Just remember that you're also a vehicle of sorts, so you, too, should be following the rules of the road.  Stop at stop signs, signal when you're turning, don't text - all those things that should be stupidly obvious, but aren't to so many.  Wear your helmet, be aware of people opening their doors into you, and forever avoid paying for parking.

Happy biking!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Liebster Questions

There's a handful of people out in the Baltimore Blogo/Twittersphere who've been nothing but wonderful to me.  Mr. Chop over at The Baltimore Chop, Evan over at City That Breeds,  Ann Marie at Let's Give Peas a Chance, and many others.   Ann Marie is always at the ready with an inspiring quote, a great book suggestion, and of course, a delicious recipe.  She challenged me to answer the Liebster Questions (history here), which is essentially a get-to-know-other-awesome-bloggers, building-our-online-community type of thing.  So, in the interest of building upon this already bountiful community, I've agreed to answer six questions of her choosing, and then must nominate other bloggers to answer six questions of my choosing.

I'm that androgynous child in
what I promise is an elephant costume.
What is the last thing you do before you go to sleep each night?
I love to read, and the periods of my life that are darkest are often also ones where I don't make time to unwind with a book at the end of the day.  This is not an exaggeration - reading before bed keeps me calmer throughout the day.  I hold myself accountable to (at least) one book a month, regardless of the fact that I often fall asleep about three pages into my bedtime reading.

What is it that first prompted you to start blogging?
I started blogging back in 2010 when I did AmeriCorps, at my first and most beloved blog, Snooty on a Stipend. For a year, I religiously posted each week, with generally super mundane things.  Documenting my year was a super cathartic experience, and every now and then, when I'm feeling nostalgic for life in the mountains on minimum wage, I'll reread those old posts.
McAfee Knob, right outside of Salem, VA,
is one of my favorite places on this planet.
I started this blog after I had been in Baltimore for a few months and realized there was a wealth of information I would've loved to have those first few, overwhelming weeks.  A sad part of me hoped (still hopes) that perhaps someone else who moves here with no friends and no prior knowledge of the city will find this and seek solace in the fact that Baltimore is incredible, predominantly because of the incredible people that inhabit it.

Who is your favorite Disney Princess?
Am I allowed to say none?  I have issues with Disney princesses.  (#feminist)  Because Belle is bookish, I'm inclined to say Belle, but she also was suffering some severe Stockholm Syndrome, so there's that.  Ariel is insolent, Sleeping Beauty is just pretty and literally lies there.  Snow White, also, falls asleep (dies, whatever), and has to have a man save her.  Even Merida from Brave is rude to her mother.  If forced to choose, I guess Jasmine's pretty sweet, or Tiana.

When you're cooking for a special occasion, what's your go-to meal?
If I'm cooking for a crowd, then black bean chili.  It's vegan and gluten free, therefore accommodating to various diets, and made predominantly of things already in my pantry.  If I'm trying to impress someone, probably paella.  I've recently been practicing my omelet skills though, and breakfast can always be considered a special occasion. 

What is your favorite pump-up song?
This is something that changes regularly, but right now my pump-up song of choice is the opener of my Spotify playlist called "Clean Your Damn Apartment."  Ever since that GIRLS episode where Hannah and Elijah are at the club, dancing their coked-up hearts out, Icona Pop's "I Love It" has been my pump-up song.  It is great for helping one clean an apartment, or pack up an apartment, or likely for exercise, should you be the type of person who's into that kind of thing.

What TV show do you wish never got cancelled?
I LOVE some Frasier.  I don't care that it makes me square, I honestly don't.  Frasier was a great show full of great scenes and lines.  "Hail Corkmaster, the master of the cork.  He knows which wine goes with fish or pork."  
(Also on this list: Wishbone, 30 Rock, Arrested Development)

I'm going to challenge....
The Chop over at The Baltimore Chop  (I can hear you saying "No" already.  C'mon.  Peer pressure!)
My anonymous friend from undergrad over at Be Where You Are
The lovely, one and only, Charm City Cook
Wonderful Brittany from Navigating the Nuances

The six questions I have for you all are:
1. Chunky or smooth peanut butter?  Please justify your response.  It's for science.
2. What is your favorite place you've ever lived/visited?
3. What's the worst job you've ever held?
4. What were you like in 4th grade?
5. Where do you buy your groceries, and why?
6. What is your preferred brand/scent of handsoap?

Blog away!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Going Local - CSA Glory

It's been two months since I've posted - I know.  I'm sorry.  I have a list of excuses, none of which are interesting or justifiable.  But I'd like to think that merely having a list is sufficient justification.

Stock photo because I've consumed too much
of my CSA for a photo do to the quantity justice.
As spring transitions into summer, one of my favorite things is the wealth of produce variety that arises in the weekly market.  Piles of potatoes morph into stockpiles of strawberries.  First asparagus, then blueberries and peas, and the next thing you know squash is long gone and you get to enjoy colorful meals yet again.  So long, beta carotene; I'll see you in the fall.

I love the new produce in the spring.  It's what incentivized me to get out of bed and to the market last year.  This year, I can proudly say that, motivated largely by sloth, I have joined a CSA.  The idea of supporting local farmers is something I've begun to feel quite strongly about.  Not only are you helping your community, you're cutting down on your own carbon footprint by not buying strawberries from Chile in December.  I like being able to go see where my food is grown, or in some cases, where my cows and pigs pasture.  Why buy something that's traveled thousands of miles, was picked before it was ripe so it could ripen on a plane, as opposed to on the vine where that process should be happening?  It just makes less sense to me.  I'd rather pay the premium to help my local farmers and get guaranteed fresh, chemical free produce, and forgo a few meals out or a new pair of shoes.

I have been a member of the Genuine Food meat CSA since April.  Vegetarians, I know you're disappointed in me.  But you know what?  I can't eat seitan, so get off my back.  Once a month, I get 10lbs of pork and beef products, for an average of $7/lb.  $7/lb, mind you, is a steal compared to what the equivalent of organic meat from Whole Foods would cost you.  And, again, I've seen the cows.  They chill in a pasture and have a pretty awesome life.  It's a local farmer, and the cost of transporting the meat to Baltimore is far less than a grass fed cow coming to me from Argentina.  What's not to love?

My veggie CSA also started last week.  After much (some) research, I settled on One Straw Farm.  I had first heard of them back in the fall of 2011 when I went to see a screening of Cafeteria Man, and they were a member of the panel discussion that followed the film.  Charm City Cook always tweets/blogs/instagrams her love for One Straw Farm, and various friends and colleagues had only good things to say.  So from now until November, I'll enjoy 8 shares of local, organic goodness that I pick up weekly at Mill Valley General on 28th and Sisson.

So you're new to Bmore.  You should at least consider signing up for a CSA.  You're supporting your local farmers, keeping money in the community, helping the environment, and putting organic food in your system.  Everyone wins.

For a list of other CSAs in the area, please go here.

Monday, April 8, 2013

So You're a Glutard: Sweet 27

Slightly over a year ago, I was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance.  I tearfully bid goodbye to cakes, pasta, pretzels, pizza and all other deliciously wheaty treats.  I feel lucky to not have full blown Celiac's disease, but it doesn't lessen the general annoyance of the gluten-free lifestyle.  As a result, I cook for myself far more often than I go out to eat.  Salads get tedious, and you just never known when a soup is thickened with flour or your bento box is doused in soy sauce instead of  tamari.  Twitter has been helpful, with various folks shooting their gluten free finds in my direction.  Baltimore, though, is still woefully behind for those of us living the gluten-free lifestyle.  I envy friends in New York and San Francisco with hoards of rice or corn-based options on every corner, and tell myself that it's only a matter of time until Baltimore joins their ranks.  It's not to say Baltimore isn't trying - Brick Oven Pizza in Fells Point offers a pretty solid gluten-free thin crust pizza, and Woodberry Kitchen has an entire gluten-free menu and always bring me a gluten-free snack when everyone else orders the bakery tray.  Artifact Coffee gave me a gluten-free scone once, and I'll never forget how exciting it was to enjoy a flaky, buttery baked good just like everybody else.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Gone too Soon: Dionysus

If I were any good at poetry, an art form I admire but lack the patience to create, I'd compose an Ode to Dionysus.

You'll be sorely missed, Dionysus.

For those of you unfamiliar with both the bar and the chain of events, allow me to explain.

Dionysus, nestled in between that pizza/liquor shop and a rowhouse at 8 E Preston St in Mt. Vernon/Midtown-Belvedere was a cozy little bar.  It was no frills - some questionable looking sofas lived in the lower level, hard whiskey, good beers on tap, and staff that would strike up a bitingly sarcastic and lively conversation.  For you House of Cards fans, if you look ever so slightly to the right of Zoe's apartment entrance, you'll note an orange awning.  That orange awning was Dionysus.

Today, I discovered that Dionysus has closed.  The Sun acknowledged this on March 11th, but I just caught wind of the news today.   It seems odd to be so glum about the closing of an otherwise forgettable bar, but Dionysus had so many things going for it.  It wasn't trying to be a certain "type" of bar.  It let Club Charles hold the trophy for quirky, and graciously bowed out so Brewer's could have the title of "brewpub."

Home is just a few blocks from Dionysus, and when I first moved, I often walked by with Bubba in a feeble attempt to socialize him with the clientele seated outside.  I would go there by myself to have a drink and chat up a bartender - because when you're new to a city, you have no one else to talk to.  My first friends, though they were short lived friendships that consisted solely of conversation over one drink, were at Dionysus.  My first and only 'Boh on tap was at Dionysus, before discovering my gluten intolerance.  The first terrible pick up line used on me in Baltimore was in front of Dionysus while walking Bubba; "Your fluttering lashes are derailing my train of thought."  I had some awful dates there - one guy kept referring to me as "kid" because I was all of four years younger than him.  I had some incredible laid-back weeknights of drinks with friends there.  In less than two years, I have accumulated so many memories of a cozy hole-in-the-wall.  In reading people's posts on their Facebook page expressing sadness about their closing, I learned that Dionysus had other levels.  I never had any reason to go anywhere but downstairs, into the basement bar, where a friend for a night (in a non-suggestive way) always awaited.

Thank you, Dionysus, for being my first friend in the city.  Thank you socializing my dog, for introducing me to terrible men, for always making my whisky-gingers and gin and tonics potent, and for chatting with a lonely Virginia transplant for her first few months in Baltimore.  I'll miss you dearly.  I'm so sad I was never able to have a farewell whiskey-ginger with you.