Archive for March, 2009

Transmodern Unleashed

Dan Deacon, Baltimore beacon

Dan Deacon, Baltimore beacon

The Washington Post, totally sweating Baltimore as of late, gave up more props in Sunday’s art section.

“As much as Washington’s art scene is transforming, we have yet to unleash anything like Baltimore’s Transmodern Festival” wrote reporter Lavanya Ramanathan. Girlfriend does not exaggerate.

Held in and around gritty Lexington Market and darling Seton Hill, Transmodern organizers promise “Four Days of Avant Performance, Installation, Sound, Film, Mayhem, Ecstasy, and Radical Culture!”

Naturally, Dan Deacon–Baltimore’s resident community organizer, brain behind wacky Whamcity productions, and all around “national cult figure”–is involved. Deacon will play from his new album Broomst on Saturday in the H&H warehouse building, part of a bonaza in which 15 artists roam the 4 floors putting on “oddball” caberets, film and performance art. Last seen getting the party started at his cross-country Round Robin tour, a 60 person 30 band production, Deacon is likely plotting a mad dance off for Saturday’s record release party.

Sunday will feature Pedestrian Service Exquisite with site-specific instsallations, parades, performances and tours in and around the western hood. The weekend will wind up at Load o’ Fun on North Avenue.


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A Sporting Neighborhood

Baltimore Sun nightlife critic (is this a real job?) Sam Sessa writes that what we need is a decent sports bar in Mount Vernon. The post is illustrated with a photo of Grand Central, a sports bar for boys that play for that team.

A flurry of commentary follows Sessa’s post, including someone inquiring if pool tables, at our drag queen hive the Hippo, count… [Several inappropriate jokes follow.]

Sports bars we have few: Mt. Vernon Yacht Club has too many passersby to be a true neighborhood watering hole, Mick O’Shay’s can be ultra crowded, and Dougherty‘s, an excellent sports bar, has the misfortune of finding itself, undoubtedly decades after its founding, on sketchy West Chase opposite a druggie-infested 24 hour Rite Aid.

Mount Vernon, snobby? High end? I would remind this concerned critic that he lives in Baltimore. However, the comment about Mount Vernon’s “Impracticality”carries some weight. What about a decent laundromat? Why does our farmer’s market go away from December to May? Dog park, anyone?

But seriously, what about the fact that the whole hood is about as wide as my fingernail? It puts parameters on an evening stroll, not because we disdain our friends to the northwest in Bolton Hill, but because the shootings on the Baltimore Sun’s Murder Map start just east and west of Calvert and Cathedral, respectively.

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Wordle: Rose Brian Atlantic Ocean

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Web Logs A Flurry

The malls may be shut but the bloggery is booming in Baltimore.

Just north and east of our block

Just north and east of our block

Baltimore Slumlord Watch points to an entire block decrepit enough to make Bubbs weep. You don’t look impressed, but the 1500 block of Brentwood is located only a few steps north and west of our hood (like, spitting distance from Midtown yoga). Not that it’s cool for a block to look like this anywhere. In fact, as the wry Watch authors point out, the slumlord company calls itself Station Place, LLC, perhaps gunning to brand its apocalyptic, gutted real estate as up-and-coming arts district Station North. Yeah, it’s practically an artist colony… (more…)

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Alexandria City Hall, Courtesy Creative CommonsWe had a tiny blow up yesterday. It was uncouth and ill-timed, but heartfully meant. Some background:

Sometimes our existence in Baltimore (academia + overwhelming Democratic majority + progressive art scene + poor people everywhere) leads us to believe the world is full of socially concerned citizens who are nail-bitingly conscious of inequity, la la la. We fancy ourselves a speck in an excitedly-enfranchised populous who are, mentally at least, forging a future with our brave new leader to achieve a more leveled, rational society. Maybe we’re not as politically and community active as we should be but there is a feeling that, post January, we are soldiering along together to undo the Bush years, through a minefield of economic near-catastrophe. Popular support for the marred but promising young administration is strong, we hear on NPR, and we are hopeful that they’ll get us to the promised land, or at least the state of lower health care costs, in the next eight years. Holding hands and striding–

Not so, my friends! Some of us journeyed to red state-turned-purplishblue Virginia for a crash review course in political sensitivity.

Virginia went blue, features a democratic governor, and is in terms of ethnic diversity up north basically a mini UN. Beginning this December, tobacco’s homeland is outlawing smoking in many bars. It’s full of well educated professionals working in Washington. That don’t mean that the good ol’ boys have packed up their confederate flags–or their statues.

We are on King Street, Alexandria, a neighborhood with gentile colonial style brick shops and upscale restaurants that looks a lot like Federal Hill. The buildings are remarkably adherent to the 18th century style and all display white lights delicately arching across the street.

We observe folks smoking in a bar and say, isn’t it amazing people can still light up inside. A guy plops down at our table to have his say. He’s a bit scruffy, and wouldn’t look out of place at the Brewer’s Art on Charles street. Then he opened his mouth.

I’ll call him Chester cause he looks like he stepped out of Dude, Where’s My Car.

Chester: Ya’ll didn’t support him [Obama] did you

Us: Yes, isn’t it great…

Chester: He wants to turn this country into socialism.

Friends: Isn’t this basketball game fantastic? Did you see that play?


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Ice is Not Nice

Delicious but unseasonal

Delicious but unseasonal

Today was the first day of spring (ba-boom). It may be a damp 40 degrees outside, but Rita’s is giving away Italian ice to mark the beginning of what is theoretically the commencement of frozen treats season. 

As we on the block are huge fans of diverse frozen treats, we put on parkas and gloves and straggled to the Eastern Avenue shop, ringed by balloons and shrieking high school kids, where they offloading sweet ice in tropical punch, pina colada or the other rainbow of flavors. Everything was peachy (or cherry, depending on your flavor) until the sun went away. We clutched the wan paper cups of nuclear-dyed sub-zero material, determinedly cheery and then desperate. My hands went numb. We shoveled down Rita’s flavors and escaped as quickly as possible back into a warm car. My hands were white and bloodless until I held them against a hot stove burner, where hot chocolate brewed–an oddly contrasting food that sadly was much more seasonal, for March 20, 2009, than Rita’s Italian ice.

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Raid in Mount Vernon Place!

Courtesy of Creative CommonsThis week, animal control officers “swooped in” to cite dog owners with pooches frolicking off-leash in Mount Vernon Place.

According to the Baltimore Sun’s Unleashed blog, officers were responding to frequent complaints about the pets romping through the park. In our experience, the pugs especially take to running up and down the elegant fountain across from the Engineer’s Club mansion. Dogs sniff butts while neighbors gossip, usually accompanied by piano playing from an apartment nearby.

Upon seeing the officers, dog owners fled the scene like they were cooking up crack–no surprise, considering that the fine wielded by officers is $100 for the first citation and up to $1000 for “repeat offenders.”

One is left to wonder, though, if the most burning offenses, even in Mount Vernon, were occuring among a bunch of slobbering dogs. What about the guys who are fixtures on the shady east side of the park? No one else, even strapped with a bulldog, will hang out over there. Or the guys standing expectantly on the corner of Cathedral street, one block south?

Nevertheless, the unofficial dog park of Mount Vernon has been eradicated, for the time being. There was one solitary poodle when Foxy and I strolled by yesterday afternoon. Foxy, by the way, does not go leashless lest she wander blindly into Cathedral street’s hurtling traffic.

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