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Miss Mary

It’s with sad heart that I say my neighbor passed away yesterday.  Miss Mary was the curmudgeonly matriarch of our little strip of Baltimore, having lived in the same home for over sixty years.  She raised her family there and would often lament the changes to the neighborhood over the years – the fact that you could no longer look down the street and watch the oyster ships come due to new construction, or that all the mom and pop shops had closed down and you couldn’t get a decent loaf of fresh-baked bread.  Despite her grouchy countenance, she would often humor my requests to identify what certain buildings used to be in their former lives (the office across from us was an auto shop, the bar on the corner always run as such) and regale me with stories of “the old neighborhood” and its inhabitants.  Over the years we went from barely acknowledging each other (her standard treatment to newcomers on the block) to exchanging treats – my freshly canned tomatoes, her homemade rice and meat “peasant balls.”  I still have some of her jalapeno cornbread in my freezer.

I don’t have any pictures of Miss Mary.  Fitting, really, since when I told her I was on a quest to find photos of the area in celebration of the centennial of our home (built simultaneously with three consecutive blocks of rowhouses for the workers of the nearby canning factories) she replied “oh, we never did that, took pictures.”  I hope this one does her memories justice.

500 S Glover Street, Baltimore

Credit unknown

Rest in peace, Miss Mary.  You will be missed.

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Posted by on May 1, 2014 in Remember

 

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The Good, the Bad and the Awesome

I may have mentioned before that I love living in Baltimore.  I was not born or raised a “city person,” but I realized at an early age that there is comfort to be found in the chaos of urban life.  When I moved here I’d already lived in cities on each coast and everywhere in between, each with its own manner and mood.  To me Baltimore is a city of contrasts, high-strung in a laid back kind of way, with a “c’mon please love me no never mind I don’t care if you do” vibe.  It’s like the kid in high school who somehow managed to squeak into the top 10 of the class after spending four years doing homework on the bus – you don’t know how or why, but somehow the combination of minimal effort and maximum attitude create something wonderful.  Anyway, I like it and it suits me (probably because I was that kid).

He looks a lot like this, only shorter with more ear hair.

Not everything is always rosy in Urbtopia, however.  There are things about city-living that just grate on me sometimes.  For example, it seems that all things related to owning and/or operating a motor vehicle within Charm City are cause for stress these days.  Last weekend, as I was getting in my car, the grumpy old fart who owns the take-out restaurant on the corner of my street yelled out to me.  “Hey, don’t you know you’re not supposed to park there after 10am?  Can’t you READ???”  Now, this man has not spoken to me or my husband in all the years we’ve lived in our house.  Nor has he so much as acknowledged our greetings as we crossed paths.  A few other facts:  The “no parking” sign hoards is intended to reserve three or four precious city parking spaces for “deliveries,” the sign is not specifically for his business, his stupid restaurant does not even open until noon, he uses the spots as personal parking spaces for himself and his equally nasty staff since they do not even deliver (it being a take-out place and all), the food is terrible, and they only get “deliveries” like once a week, likely because the food is so bad.  To add further insult, rather than walk over it to get in my car, I’d just picked up the trash on the sidewalk in front of his restaurant (which he witnessed prior to his snarky comment), something I usually do as I may my way through the neighborhood and something I’d never seen him do.  Ever.  And so as I stood there holding the disgusting used cups and paper plates from his nasty take-out place, I found myself counting to ten so as not to shove them down his throat.   And while he was telling me he was going to call parking enforcement the next time he so much as saw my car within that block (please do, my friend – you have no idea who I am, what I do or who I know), I told him to have a nice day and sped off.  Argh. 

Later that same day, some idiot in a souped up car that should not have been souped up (like a Honda or something, come on people) started to weave into my lane and so I tapped my horn at him.  As a courtesy, as if to say “get out of my lane idiot, get off your phone and watch where you’re going.”  He proceeded to violently swerve directly into my lane, slam on his brakes, put the car in park and get out of his car.   Now I learned how to drive in NYC and I can tell you this is nothing new to me.  Of course we’ve all heard horror stories of road rage but this is Baltimore people, just get over yourself and your ridiculous vehicle and move it along, we all have places we’d rather be than sitting in traffic.  Here’s the problem, at least for him:  I had T in the car.  And if I would not have put up with this nonsense before T, I was all out “don’t you mess with this mama with her baby in the car” this time around.  I will not insult you with the tirade that was unleashed, but Mr. Man jumped back in that car like his own mama just appeared and shamed him in front of his friends.  With any luck he takes that lesson back to his buddies and tells them all to watch out for the crazy lady in the blue station wagon.  Maybe he’s friends with the old fart, I could kill two birds with one stone.*

But I guess those were both bad….the weather is good.  Any day with sun and low humidity and a nice breeze is a good weather day, and we get lots of those.

Now for the awesome (insert drumroll here): 

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Photo credit: David Williams

Photo credit: Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun

What the pilot looked like from 150 feet as he buzzed my roof.

That’s right, Baltimore hosted a Star Spangled Sailabration to celebrate the bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the writing of the Star Spangled Banner and events included none other than the Blue Angels.  For two days I watched them do flybys past the windows of my office building and zoom all over downtown; on Saturday and Sunday DH, the kids and I watched them buzz over our house with a deafening roar. It was beyond awesome, it was once in a lifetime!  The only blip in the sheer awesomeness was that they were so fast (and my camera so slow) that I didn’t get a picture of them as they went over my house.  But I’m okay with that.

*  No birds were injured in the writing of this blog.

 
 

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What Goes Around, Comes Around

The other day a friend of mine, who is expecting her first child, asked if I had any advice about getting ready for baby.  My immediate reply:  Whatever you can get used, take it!

She turned up her nose a bit, which didn’t necessarily surprise me.  People are funny about “used” or “second-hand,” maybe even more so when it comes to babies.  When T was born, there were only a few things that my husband and I agreed we needed to get brand new:  A crib and mattress and a car seat.  I registered for new sheets and towels since I wanted organic cotton, and we received them as gifts.  We were flexible on everything else; most of the clothes my little guy wears come from friends or the thrift store, as do his toys.   I’ve gotten so good at this that I have a head start on keeping this kid in clothes and shoes until he hits kindergarten, if not longer. 

It’s no secret that kids are expensive and that the economy sucks.  My husband and I both work, but we decided a long time ago that we’d rather have an extra $100 to spend when we go on vacation than J have yet another pair of new, name brand sneakers.  While saving money is great, it’s even more important to us that our kids grow up to understand that consumerism comes with social and environmental responsibilities.  Just a few short years ago we could not get through a store – any store – without J’s incessant whining about all the items he “needed.” Now he keeps a list of items and ranks them in order of those he absolutely needs (like sports equipment that he’s outgrown or should be replaced) and those he wants (the never-ending supply of new video games).  He’s learned that swapping games and equipment with friends, or finding a used lax stick instead of heading to the mall, means he may have some cash left in his pocket.  And he’s getting better at asking himself if he really needs something before he buys it.

Our family takes recycling seriously, and it goes beyond paper, plastic and aluminum.  A few times a year we round up all the stuff that’s outgrown or no longer used, and we find a new home for it – whether it’s Goodwill, the local woman’s shelter, or just someone we know who could put it to good use.   Clothes often go to the next “new mommy” in the neighborhood.  When we do a project on the house we to find somewhere that can reuse or recycle the bricks, cement, wiring, metal venting, plastic pipes, or whatever else we’ve ripped out that weekend.  I’m not sure if this is a Baltimore thing, but stuff laid out on the sidewalk is considered “fair game” for anyone who needs it – we’ve gotten rid of several ceiling fans, some old closet doors, and several pieces of furniture this way.  A pile of electronics went to the old guy around the corner, who uses his magic touch to get them working and then resells them to supplement his Social Security income.  Even old ripped towels and sheets find new use at the local animal shelter so homeless dogs and cats can have somewhere soft to rest their heads. 

We put so much effort into reusing and recycling that it makes sense that we would, in turn, be the recipients of reused/recycled items.  I know plenty of people who would balk at shopping at a thrift or secondhand store and to them I say – thanks so much, more for me!  One more pair of brand-new shoes, still with tags, for $3.  A beautiful antique sideboard and hutch, $85.  Three pairs of new jeans, $4 each.  A ginormous bag of toys, retail value over $300, for $22 (and I almost laughed a few days later when I saw a woman paying $32 for something for which I’d just paid $2).  The knowledge that we kept all this stuff out of a landfill, helped support local economy and provide job opportunities, and possibly helped reduce the environmental impact caused by the manufacture of even more stuff?  Priceless.

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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