Archive for May, 2009

dixonHere’s a pitch for a new Wire season. As city mayor, how do you answer allegations that you have taken gift cards purchased for poor city residents and spent them yourself?

While Sheila Dixon’s lawyers have extracated her from perjury charges on a “speech and debate” clause, the newly elected Baltimore mayor has yet to dodge a battery of theft charges.

In a morbidly fascinating timeline published in January, the Baltimore Sun laid out a four year shopping spree by Dixon. Per the Sun, in 2005, “Dixon asks “Developer B” to buy gift cards for needy Baltimore families, and the developer uses a personal credit card to buy $500 in Best Buy gift cards and $500 in Target gift cards.” Then in 2006 she went on a post-Christmas electronics binge. According to the Sun’s timeline, “Dixon uses 21 gift cards bought by Developer B, along with the gift cards bought with cash, toward merchandise including a digital camcorder, a PlayStation 2 controller and other electronics.”

Folks, that’s ghetto. But wait… In 2007, “A city housing employee buys Toys “R” Us gift cards for distribution to underprivileged children during the Mayor’s Holly Trolley event Dec. 20… [in 2008] Five of the Toys “R” Us gift cards bought by the city housing employee are found at Dixon’s home.”

Her recently secured legal protection against apparently having lied in a court of law, according to the Baltimore Sun, “centered on the little-known but centuries-old legal precedent of legislative immunity, which protects lawmakers from seeing their official work used against them in civil or criminal cases.”


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Apparently we’re not the only ones dreaming of life outside so-called knowledge-work. # 3 most emailed article on the New York Times site is The Case for Working With Your Hands, a personal essay by a motocycle mechanic from Richmond, Virginia who spent his former life in a wonky Washington workplace. It concludes,
The good life comes in a variety of forms… For anyone who feels ill suited by disposition to spend his days sitting in an office, the question of what a good job looks like is now wide open.

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Baltimore, a poet's dream

Baltimore, a poet's dream

We on the block spend our days building computer models to predict health policy decisions or pitching newspaper editors in South Asian countries (tonight I’ll call a guy in Delhi at 1am, when they get in to office). On the one hand, it’s decent work. On the other, we’re hunched over for hours growing pale and paunchy in the blue glow of a ThinkPad. So we ponder alternative ways to bring in the bacon.

Barista: Not at Star**cks. Serve proper coffees a nice quiet local spot outfitted with heavy ceramic plates and white tableclothes. At Marie Louise on Charles, turn out frothy, lovely coffees served with flaky French pastries. Wear tidy white button down with apron, eat leftover Napoleons, make urbane conversation with regulars, smartly suggest wine pairings.

Yoga Instructor: At Charm City Yoga, per se–complete rigorous training (featuring veg diet and dreaded marathon of sun salutations), overcome fear of public speaking. Learn about my neighbors’ aches and pains, pray to Indian gods, hone tummy and butt muscles.


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Game over at Camden Yards

Game over at Camden Yards

Before big drops began falling on Camden’s manicured green fields, at or around the 7th inning of yesterday’s Blue Jays-Orioles game, we reveled in a hot sunny Memorial Day weekend. Random highlights of Activity:

Panting After the Dreaded Druid Hills — “at least 7 significant hills” –we collapsed gasping at the finish line by the reservoir’s Moorish Tower. Per the (late) Baltimore Examiner, the course designers turned the park’s “rolling hills… into something akin to racing up the Himalayas”. Luckily there was watermelon and water to avert dehydration in the strong morning sun.

Scratching and Sniffing At the annual Baltimore Herb Festival at Leakin’ Park we observed smelly leaves, some carnivorous plants (don’t get too close), and oodles of babies in strollers.

Reveling Not that we didn’t shake it like a Polaroid picture, but the guys at The Drinkery on Read Street had gotten a head start and were in the tank when we passed by on Saturday before noon. Metromix calls the bar “Cheers for Queers”. These early birds were cavorting and hooting and threatening to moon each other. A couple arabbers on Tyson street looked on behind bushels of watermelon. This is missing from the Urban Discoveries roundup of the macho man city tour. (just kidding — this is a helpful roundup with props to our local, Dougherty’s, which chicks dig too)

Dancing Reveling into the wee hours, Holy F*ck of Toronto played a great live electronic set at Ottobar that elicited much head banging, strangly, but not too much full-on dancing. The crowd for this keyboard-heavy act (we counted 8 on stage) was sparse but enthusiastic. Upstairs, a DJ (possibly Wednesday’s Gonzo or Emily Rabbit) played hip hop, some old school tunes that the flannel shirt and skinny jeans set went crazy for. Actually the crowd was strangly uniformed as if  styled by an MTV video wardrobe person: Boys wore skinny grey jeans and flannel shirts, girls wore hot pants, flannel shirts and knee high black Jesus sandels; alternatively other girls sported 1960s patterned shift dresses, like they had come from hanging up laundry.

Pinata bashing Also on offer at Ottobar on Sunday — We’ve been organizing nostalgia-infused birthday parties as of late (see: grilled cheese, tater tots, JELL-O Jigglers, paper birthday hats, and cupcakes) but the pinata was a nice party trick we had forgotten about. A girl in one of those shift dresses was blindfolded and swung widely but managed to smack the candy out of the striped pink and blue donkey. Then she rejoined the flannel on the dance floor.

Drugging Blind Dog Not a joy but necessity to prevent home wrecking during thunderstorms. There was a nasty one on Memorial Day.

budSpitting Lime Budweiser: Refreshing sip, nauseating drink, especially while watching rain fall from within the stadium bar after you waited on a 45 minute queue to come in.

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City Paper coverAfter much ado, Baltimore’s fat, lazy summer sun seems to have settled in. Glimmering with the new heat we hoist fat white thighs into summer shorts. Iced coffee displaces hot joe as the morning caffeine kick of choice. Foxy’s tongue lols out and her fur appears in clumps around the house. But things beyond the mercury level are looking up.

Brian returned from adventuring in SA, pale-skinned since it was getting to be winter there–just in time for northern hemisphere hot season.

And low and beyond, City Paper has published the gift of its plump Sizzlin’ Summer issue, gushing local, low-priced thrills.

Top Summer Finds of the CP

  1. Exploring deserted forts, parks and overgrown gun batteries. “Know Your City,” implores writer Michael Byrne, and he means it:  Byrne’s fascinating finds include tweaker hang-outs, graffitied bunkers, cast-aside Polish chapels, dilapidated highways, post-apocalyptic freight tracks, and a lone striped lighthouse guarding Baltimore’s harbor entrance.
  2. Share in the creation of the nation’s most popular snack food. At my former work place I was dubbed Pretzel due to my fixation with Snyder’s (more…)

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logo_OfficeSustainThe (fabulous) Urban Discoveries Living Blog notes that Baltimore’s Office of Sustainability has nudged our modest city into the upper echelon of SustainLane’s annual sustainable cities rankings, along with Portland, our nation’s “role model” and a bunch of other west coast progressives’ Meccas.

Per SustainLane, Baltimore’s attractively sustainable features included its “new green building requirements, single-stream recycling, new zoning code (the last one was updated in 1971) that incorporates dense, transit-oriented development [plus] over 50 miles of bikeways.” (more…)

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Arabbers per Maryland Historical Society

Arabbers per Maryland Historical Society

The sun may emerge Thursday, so the weatherman says. The new issue of Urbanite offers  a few reasons he should show up for the weekend(s):

1. Sundays 9am-3pm, Arabbers sell produce from local farms in Legends Park at Fremont Avenue and Laurens Street. These wooden wagon-toting sellers are an endangered species.

2. Live Baltimore’s Buying into Baltimore event, May 9, 9am-2pm: take a tour through west Baltimore, tour homes and get a $3000 down payment grant if you buy. Taser not included.

3. Frosted Crab soup at the Hopkins Club or Maryland Club. In nice weather the crowd roars from the second floor’s open-air restaurant. We have no means of access, but this Old Bay-flavored cold tomato soup is insanely popular with those who know the secret handshake. (Reputedly, strawberry and cayenne-flavored squash soup is on offer at the posh Engineer’s Club, by the Mt. Vernon fountain)

4. Baltimore Herb Festival in Leakin Park on May 23. Ride a “wee steam train” and sample Bay Laurel, which sounds like a love child or a sturdy thoroughbred mare.

5. Free literary walking tour of Mt. Vernon including homes of Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Tupac on May 9

6. Sidestep rat traps, sludge puddles and a rust-coated grill to plant herbs in moldy, cracking pots scattered about the Carriage House courtyard… Oh yeah, the Urbanite‘s Hidden City issue totally missed this gem of a weekend activity (ranked with cleaning the rain-splattered grime off our windows).

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