The Mail 5/27/15

White guy in a Subaru

I drove through West Baltimore this week. White guy in a Subaru.

My latest work assignment is a place off Gwynn Falls Parkway. Two weeks ago, no one from my office was allowed to go anywhere in the city.


Turning left off the Jones Falls onto North Avenue, west past Park Avenue and Eutaw Place, past Sudsville and Umar Boxing, past Mosque Masjid Saffat and Everyone's Place African Culltural Center.

I stopped for the red light at Pennsylvania and North, the boarded-up CVS on my right. It was 9:30 in the morning, people were out on the streets, talking, walking, waiting for a bus, just waiting. Sitting in my car at ground zero, a few blocks south of the police riot outside Mondawmin Mall where a line of cops in battle gear pushed a crowd of high school kids into anger. A few blocks north of Sandtown.

Years ago I worked in the City Health Department building at Pennsylvania and North. Part of it is now a library. I learned how to draw blood in the VD clinic. That was before they were called STDs. My best teachers were the junkies. They showed me how to get blood on the first try. That was before we wore gloves all the time. I am old.

Later I worked across the street at the Penn-North Center, inserting 10 little needles in the ears of people in recovery. Sharing stories and poetry, wearing gloves by this time. I parked my car on the street around the corner. It was never touched.

I drove farther west—Fulton, Payson, Bentalou, Coppin State, Ashburton, Dukeland, such lovely street names. Where did I hear them last? "The Wire"? Murder Ink in the City Paper?

The streets are becoming a little rougher, the potholes more frequent, more houses boarded up. I stop at another red light and watch as working men run cater-corner across the intersection from one bus to the next. Back to work.

Up Bloomingdale to Clifton and on to Garrison Boulevard, turning north from the cool green of Leakin Park through clusters of churches, no more rowhouses, individual homes now, sitting on their small plots, trees shading the porches. I arrive at Gwynn Falls Parkway, a divided boulevard with green block-long parks separating east and west-bound lanes. "No Dumping" signs at each intersection.

Work day done, headed back east now I drive more than a mile through the parkway, trees set like rows of open umbrellas. There is Douglass High School and across the street is Mondawmin Mall, one of the hubs of the MTA bus system and the way home for those high school kids.

The sky opens up and Druid Hill Park lies ahead. A right onto Auchenteroly Terrace, a smooth glide to Druid Hill Avenue and another to Druid Park Drive and now the park shows itself, the lake, the ball fields, the silly old conservatory, somewhere in there the zoo.

I grew up on the East side in Waverly, close to Memorial Stadium. West Baltimore wasn't my neighborhood. But I remember driving through with my parents, going to the park, or visiting relatives out Liberty Road. I remember feeling small and out of place on these avenues and parkways and boulevards. I was a rowhouse boy from a tiny one-way street. But part of my city was big and beautiful and everybody could see it and go there and breathe it in.

Here I am, two weeks after the "troubles" driving through a part of the city that ought to scare me. The squeegee boys caught me at a light on Hilton Parkway and I ended up a dollar lighter with a windshield clear of pollen dust.  It's hard to live in the city, and this crowd of young black men was working at whatever they could, not slinging dope.

We, the people of Baltimore, know what's what.  We're working stiffs and we'll keep plugging along. We'll get by, maybe even get better.

Ernest Smith
From the web, facebook, and twitter
Wide Stance: The Hippo is closing, but in a city like Baltimore, what’s the point of a gay bar?

So, you don't get it. That's 100% fine. I don't either—well, mostly because, full disclosure, I'm a straight female. But I am an ally to the LGBTQ movement, and I gotta say—this article is disappointing.

From the people I've talked to (mostly 50+ gay gentleman), the closing of The Hippo (and other "relics" of a time gone by) is inevitable, but incredibly sad. They're losing a part of their youth. One told me he'd have never been an out gay man without the Hippo.


You see it differently—there are plenty of other places to go. And it's wonderful our LGBTQ scene is expanding rapidly, and that people are being more accepted. It's fantastic. No one can really complain about that.

But your article is essentially shaming people who are not quite ready to let something go, and that's not okay. I was actually shocked to re-read and find you identify as a gay man, because it's a darn shame when people can't even expect support from like-minded individuals.

—“Hokey,” May 20
“Hi Kwality Comics, 5/20/15”
The facts are that Governor Hogan increased spending for education. No Maryland governor has ever spent more on it. And the jail story began back in the O’Malley administration, and was in response to a federal mandate from the Obama administration to force the State to upgrade facilities to protect juveniles who are currently housed in the adult jail population. If Beran and the City Paper want to attack the governor, they have every right, but you have an obligation to do so based on facts and not smear campaigns and lies.
—“Alexander Mitchell,” May 25
“The Burning Question: Can cops still get all up in my grill just because I’m smoking herb?”

It technically, and legally, is illegal. The penalty is a civil infraction, that is the change.

—“ptsaq,” May 22
“Dreams Deferred: Greg Bailey, who allegedly cut a fire hose on CNN; Romell Turner, arrested for ‘gazing upon the stars’”

college admissions offices know how to weight and unweight GPAs. absolving Bailey/Butler as a victim of an administrative cock up is stupid. Poly is a good school and if he came out of it with a 1.5 he gave up on opportunities that were there for the taking. its not okay to just take the terminology of structural inequality and slather it all over every case of a young person being violent and stupid. the fucking fire department did not oppress this piece of shit.

—“Mike000,” May 21
“The Vegetarian Option: Though known for meat, Corner Charcuterie Bar offers plenty of treats”

Looks like something my dog would cough up when she ate too much stuff in the yard.

—“Russell Curtis,” May 22
“Bang Your Head: Past Maryland Deathfests in Photos”

It's a deathfest every week in Baltimore.

Just turn the news on.

—“Anthony Bowen,” May 22
“Grand jury indicts all six officers in Freddie Gray case”

Who is surprised by this Baltimore jurors right ???

—“Taylor Bougie Tonia,” May 21

Case should not be tried in Baltimore City. Are some trials moved to other locations? Sincere question. If trial moved to another state/even county.

—“Michelle Pusinsky,” May 21

It should be tried in Baltimore and in the district that Freddie Gray lived. Those resident have a special relationship with law enforcement that other might not have. The jury pool should reflect the population of the crime region. We don't need another Rodney King trial

—“Sylvan Aaron,” May 21

Half black & half white jury

—“Marsha Dyson Young,” May 21

Nothing like a political trial from an inept attorney general

—“Rob Botti,” May 21

But a grand jury decided there was enough evidence for a trial...I mean at this point you're the one making it political.

—“Nick Schneider,” May 21

Speaking of inept, she is the State's Attorney. Brian Frosh is the AG. But please don't let your ignorance of basic facts prevent you from sharing what I am sure is an otherwise well informed opinion.

—“Thomas Higdon,” May 21

You can indict a ham sandwich but that doesn't mean you can get a conviction.

—“Rob Botti,” May 21

Splitting hairs doesn't make your position tenable. You are blinded by your hatred. She politicized this during the riots...but don't let facts get in your way.

—“Rob Botti,” May 21

Again I believe there are cases where in order to be guaranteed a fair trial accused/criminals trials are moved to another jurisdiction in ordet to better guarantee a fair trial? Do we not owe the same to the officers accused? After all this has become a high profile case. Before the big pounce of twisting my words or motives for a moment think with each cases especially we are setting future presitence. This case will be one to make "the history books". I don't agree with brutality, murder etc.. just thinking what is really next?

—“Michelle Pusinsky,” May 21
“The Eastern Shore breweries road trip”

So- are you being Maryland territorial? Because if you get to Burley Oak, you really owe it to yourself for go to Dogfishhead in Delaware. It probably the most impressive craft brewery you may see in your life. It's freaking huge.- bigger than Sam Adams or yuengling..

—“Chris Plummer,” May 21

Well, I mean, it's the Baltimore City Paper, so...

—“Ryan McCarroll,” May 21

Yeah- but Delmarva itself is known as a brewery hotbed... And Dogfishhead pretty much started it (they are responsible for making brew pubs legal in DE) plus their corporate mission is very ethical and unique, and they have had good karma that has paid them back in success..

—“Chris Plummer,” May 21

Backshore just got a mention- but it's worth noting that it pretty much OC party-animal free due to there being no coors/miller light.. A beer fan can drink a beer in peace there...

—“Chris Plummer,” May 21

I mean, I'm well aware of Dogfishhead. They've been around for the better part of 20 years. They're probably responsible for about 80% of Rehobeth's visitors. Or 98% if we're talking off-season. Which is why I don't get why Rehobeth kinda wants to run them out of town. But I just thought it was pretty obvious that the article was focusing on Maryland's Eastern Shore. It's a Maryland-centric rag. Dig?

—“Ryan McCarroll,” May 21