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Posts Tagged ‘pride’

800px-2008_05_07_-_baltimore_-_w_baltimore_st_at_hanover_st_-_newspaper_binsBaltimore street corners offer a bonanza of free publications, some better than others. There’s the wryly edited City Paper, in its trademark yellow bin, next to shock-orange containers housing B, a kind of downmarket pitch to young and supposedly vacuous 20-somethings, a 2008 brainstorm of the now-bankrupt Baltimore Sun publishers.

Then, on really good corners, you’ve got Urbanite, a kind of lifestyle magazine for “curious” city dwellers. Urbanite publishes well-written pieces woven together in a self-consciously cerebral fashion that begs the question (as they write on their own bins) how can this be free? It’s the modern architecture of the Baltimore publishing scene: wildly esoteric, defiantly intellectual, articulated with delineated concepts not designed for mass consumption. This month’s edition offers thoughtful pieces on a Guantanamo Bay trial interpreter who lives in Roland Park, a Baltimore Cash Campaign for city dwellers with little access to “real banks,” and a calender of foodie events including an upcoming Absinthe tasting at Morton’s The Steakhouse.

Urbanite‘s Baltimore Observed column reports on Baltimore’s changing news landscape, online and in newsprint:

“Much has already been said about the Baltimore Sun which has been shedding jobs and pages as its corporate parent, the Chicago based Tribune Co., restructures in bankruptcy… But at least it won’t have a competitor: The Baltimore Examiner, launched as a free quick-read tabloid rival to the Sun in April 2006, rolled its last issue off the presses and into posterity on February 15.”

(Many won’t mourn the passing of the Examiner, especially because its presence likely pressured the Sun into launching Botoxed B, when the landmark paper’s prestige and staying power should rest on its stable of seasoned newsmen and venerable 172 year old reputation of responsible reporting.)

Anyway, Urbanite points to two stellar up-and-comers in the new media department. Ya-hoo!

Baltimore Brew adheres to what Urbanite describes as a “sassy” blog style with lots of photos. Posts are tagged by subject and neighborhood. Gerald Neily has some tips about how the Red Line project can undo the damage done by 1960s highway construction by eliminating the forbidding cement overpasses that divide and ruin neighborhoods.

Slightly “wonkish” Maryland Commons is also flying the smart growth flag, with Carrie Madren’s article on legislation that would set limits on sprawl, even cap per capita vehicle miles travelled. The weekly e-journal looks at criminal justice, health care and state government.

I discovered a most enjoyable rant at the bottom of the Baltimore Brew’s “About us” page:

“Think of us as your post-apocalyptic* source of information and insight on the city… Yes, as in, a world where somebody thought it was a great idea for The Baltimore Sun to create “b” … and to ditch the foreign bureaus and scores of experienced, professional journalists. Yeah, yeah, rise of the Internet and …blah blah …Craigslist and Facebook and Cars.com … blah blah… pompous mainstream media gatekeepers … insufferable bloggers in pajamas …¦scary media consolidation …and Sam Zell and Lee Abrams, for god’s sake …. Yeesh…Until the business model gets sorted out, we figured we’d make a place for Baltimore’s journalists, techies and news-starved readers to get together and do some good things. That’s the plan.”

Rock that plan! From rainbow-colored metal boxes to blogs boasting virtual coffee stains we have a media landscape in Charm City that is thriving despite the odds.

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Lent in the Air

scan

‘Tis the season of self-denial, penitence and prayer. Lent lasts 40 days, but this year no one’s expecting it to end on Easter. Nowhere is the austere national mood more apparent than in New York City, hithereto a hedonistic hub of Cristal-popping boomtimes. After NPR’s nonstop resession coverage I was still surprised at the change. We drove up I-95 to find a city still rubbing its eyes in disbelief that the Dow is dead.

I rented a shoebox apartment in Manhattan during the years when champagne swilling was ubiquitous, and excessive. My office mate shoved walking shoes into $2000 Bottega Veneta sacks, and slipped into pair of Christian Loboutin’s signature red-soled heels to get down to business. Other colleagues toted Louis Vuitton’s $700 Damier to work and picked up $400 Chloe bags at lunch time sample sales–hey, in the magazine business, you have to look the part (however my $7 Salvation Army handbag held my undernourished wallet just fine). New restaurants opened their doors every week, crowding areas like the fashiony Meat Packing district with black Town Cars spilling out stiletto and Prada-clad posses.

At Mario Batali’s Bar Jamon, I remember suffering fits of anxiety as friends uncorked yet another $50 bottle of obscure Catalan wine. At David Chang’s Momofuku Ssäm Bar, I deferred my order uncomfortably at to a group of friends, thrilled to be out of their offices but still tethered to Blackberries buzzing on the table with messages about deals at Morgan Stanley and Citi. I couldn’t afford the bread and butter ($8).

It seemed that if you worked in proximity to the cash-mad bankers of our city, there was no limit–literally, in some cases. At a casual Mexican chain, my roommate fetched $12 Margaritas for customers who–one or two per day– would plop down a black American Express card when the bill came. In our boomtime-bubble culture, the Centurion card was a revered marker of an unlimited credit account, the preferential perk of spending, it was rumored, more than $200,000 per year on plastic.

Those days are gone. This Saturday, at an Argentine restaurant in Tribeca–ground zero (er, bad pun) for hedge fund billionaires–the crowd was thin at 11, and the bar closed at 12:30. My banker friend who hosted weekend parties between conference calls about Caribbean development schemes, and fielded her boss’s emails at 4am, is now unemployed. Well, underemployed. She’s consulting, since her former clients started calling, frantically looking for help, having no one at the bank to turn to with her entire division laid off.

Another friend with a new apartment in laid-back Park Slope, Brooklyn (laid back, meaning the environs in which Jennifer Connolly and Paul Bettany were slumming it in a $8.5 million brownstone) is out of a job too. After managing an events planning firm favored by clients like Mariah Carey, she’s back to waiting on tables. She showed me their Brooklyn quarterly, in which the editor is pictured smiling broadly at the front, discussing the issue’s foodie highlights, including microbrews at Beer Table. Unfortunately, as the issue came out, this editor laid off like so many journalists, from the Baltimore Sun to The Boston Heraldcritics are heralding the end of the industry altogether, as sections are killed and reporters at major national newspapers furloughed. With so much media headquarted in New York, this is  terrifying for my old colleagues–and unsurprising for those who worked at dead magazine titles like CosmoGIRL, Radar and Domino. The Brooklyn editor is bartending at that ghost town-restaurant in Tribeca.

The list of my friends’ job casualties goes on–I’ll abbreviate. The day trader-turned-trend analyst at a mutual fund, with a newly minted MBA? Out, with 1/3 of the company. Like the recent law school grad, the Morgan Stanley alum, and the sales star at Citi who supervised a fleet of analysts, he is doing laundry at home and metering out his savings.

On the flip side, with quieted iPhones and berry-Pearls they are venturing onto the Subway to explore New York. Between tweaking their resume at the coffee shops with free wireless, they are lingering over lunch with old friends, seeing museums for the first time (discounted admission, thanks to forged student IDs) and auditing classes at NYU.

The upshot? Baltimore never wore Cristol-colored glasses. Our property values have slumped from mildly optimistic highes, but it wasn’t a precipitous drop. During the nation’s boomtimes, our unemployment rate, especially in minority communities, was manifold New York’s. Baltimore’s number one industry, health care, has not proven imperious but is weathering the storm. “Luxury” apartments here have amenities like dishwashers, not terraced pools, dog walking and maid service.

We keep it real. For us, the “market” is the place where we buy peaches under I-83. It’s still thriving.

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Bragging Rights

baltimore-believe-police-blue-lights

During a 3 day work-meet bender–that is, a marathon of meetings punctuated by overcooked buffet lunches, tepid coffee breaks and bland curry dinners spilled on hideous hotel carpeting–one generously recycles personal anecdotes. Lately, I’ve been fond of rehashing three go-to subjects: mishaps of my cataract-ridden blind dog (fumbling in air for the staircase!), my recent wobbly, bleary visit to Dhaka, and our mace-toting, back-watching adventures in Baltimore. To some people these topics might seem inappropriate for casual conversations with colleagues. But setting aside sad animal stories and scatological humor, Baltimore is a fascinating place to folks from the outside.

How do you like Baltimore?

Me: I LOVE Baltimore, it’s so cheap, when I moved here the rents on craigslist made my head spin with reverse sticker shock!

Out of towner: Do you feel safe? Because, you know, I decided to go to Emory because, well, Baltimore…

Me: No, I don’t feel safe. [Eyebrow raised. Is he kidding?!] I carry pepper spray and walk everywhere with my big mutt dog, who (though blind and peace loving) looks like she could take your arm off. We hear police helicopters at night and occasional gunshots.

Local colleague chimes in: I lived on Park Ave —

Atlanta: That sounds like a nice area!

Local: I got caught between two guys who pulled out guns…

Atlanta: Oh my lord!

Us: The sirens wail all night, and it’s inconvenient that you can’t walk after dark except on Charles street, and not below Saratoga.

A project director: I like to walk at night, so I carry my car key like a switch blade, it pops out like this.

Me: There’s a guy selling drugs on my corner after 10. But it’s so fresh, you know, edgy! We have great music here. Rolling Stone said we have the best music scene in the states! It’s because starving artists can afford to live here. We have the coolest museums!

Local: The good thing is you can tell which streets to avoid because they have flashing blue lights.

Atlanta: Blue lights…

Local: They have cameras–the city installed blue lights to provide surveillance for high-crime areas. There are 300 blue lights.

Me: From my window at work, the whole city is flashing blue! It’s like a giant disco.

Drives from DC: I move my car from the street into the parking garage after 4 so I don’t have to walk after dark into those areas.

My two cents? Besides the fact that the concept is ridiculous, the police statistics haven’t shown that the lights catch criminals… Or at least not the ones worth chasing. According to the Examiner, in the first year of operation, the crimes illuminated by the ubiquitous $10 million lights included 24 cases of trespassing, 21 illegal cigarettes and 3 people who littered.

But back to the coffee break:

Atlanta: Where in the city do you see these lights?

Local: Oh, if you go a block north of here you’ll start seeing them…

Atlanta nervously backs away from the hotel’s picture window and opts out of afternoon sight-seeing.

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Charming City T-shirts

The man on the t-shirt seems to be punching me...

Your t-shirt is punching me

This blue Sharp Shirter t-shirt was, er, a hit at a weekend luau we attended in Bethesda… I was dressed appropriately in a faux lei and flowery shirt (albeit in gloomy black-and-white) but for others, this new acquisition from a booth at Artscape was too tempting to leave in a drawer. Sharp Shirter owner/designer Dan Lachman, a Wesleyan grad living in Bethesda (spiritually of Charm City), also sold us this Sucker shirt featuring a mosquito (Radhar, I thought of you).

We all like to sport a bit o’ Baltimore when we get the chance (aside from the ubiquitous Nattie Boh ‘stache)… Me, I’m going to spend the weekend hitching up some rather tight lilac trousers by Dittos (they zip at the bottom), also purchased at Artscape from the owner of Love Allie Boutique, a new Federal Hill boutique. Maybe I’ll wear them with my sweet veggie-themed Squidfire tee snagged at a their holiday gift fair at Lyric Opera House.

Sidebar: I was going to end the post with a shout out to oddball design squad at Daydream Silkscreen–check out Eliza Hartley’s Horney Knitters T-shirt–but as it turns out, although they are always selling at Baltimore events, they evidentially reside in Brooklyn. Talk about suckers–dudes, your rent would be like 200% cheaper here.

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