Posts Tagged ‘Baltimore’

An Easy Favor Pt. 6

February 19, 2022

The next day, Hawthorne set out on his last day between prison and his new job. He had to search out Art’s daughter that day because he did not know when his next day off would be. He also owed it to the old man to keep his word about passing on the message. It would probably be awkward but if he just got through it and stayed polite, he could get out of her hair with minimal fuss. He knew that he came off physically imposing. His height was already towering but when you added on the metal arms and back, he could easily be mistaken for a monster. Thankfully, he had covered his face throughout his criminal life which had kept his face unscathed.

A cart on the corner was selling delicious breakfast sandwiches with a handful of hash browns in a sack. Hawthorne was in heaven as he sat on a bench for a little bit and dug into the food. His mother had always chided him for eating standing up and eating while walking was absolute insanity. Besides, sitting allowed him to focus on how good the food tasted. It was greasy and salty and probably horrible for him but at that moment he pushed such thoughts from his mind. He just focused on each perfect bite and even found himself closing his eyes.

When he opened his eyes, he saw a young woman on the other end of the bench staring at him. He blinked for a moment and then turned away before he was caught staring. Then he realized that the woman was the same one he had seen entering the halfway house the night before in the rain. She looked a bit different now that she was dry but there was no mistaking her eyes. He thought for a moment that she was following him but there was no way that she had seen him through the one-way window the night before. She was probably just waiting for a bus. He got to his feet as nonchalantly as possible. He tossed his breakfast trash and went on his way again.

He was finding it hard to shake off the paranoia that had kept him safe in prison. A little paranoia was healthy but too much would give him a heart attack eventually. He reminded himself that this was his first full day out of prison. Adapting back to the real world would take time. He knew that getting into a routine and breathing the outside air a bit more would help clear his head and his heart. These things took time and he wondered if the Department of Corrections would pay for a therapy session or two. It seemed unlikely. His parole officer would have probably mentioned it if that was the case. He seemed to actually give at least a little bit of a damn unlike Erinyes and other Corrections employees he had met.

The place where Art’s daughter was supposed to be working was actually not far and it was a nice day for a walk. He was also just a little bit rattled to wait for the bus. He had plenty of time so he started to make his way through the streets of Baltimore. Things had changed since he had been inside. He had gotten a bit of a look while riding on the Jones Falls Expressway but you always got a better look when you were on foot. Hawthorne loved Baltimore and he had missed it a lot. He had tried to separate the city from his mind while he was inside. Some guys had talked about their home base all the time, trying to hold onto that for hope. Hawthorne had done the opposite, he had made the prison his home. Now he had to find a new home. He thought he would pass through Baltimore to find that home but now he could not imagine leaving the city again.

He wondered what he would do for lunch. He was walking over to Mount Vernon so there should be several good restaurants in the area. He wondered how many of them might refuse him entry. He was looking a bit scruffy and could probably use a haircut and a beard trim. If he was looking for jobs he probably would have shaved the beard off. He shook his head gently. He was too much in his own head. He needed to just stay in the present for now until it made sense to think of the future. Just enjoy being out and having some of his freedom returned to him. He briefly watched a trio of seagulls fight over a bagel.

He stepped onto Charles Street and it was just as bustling as it had always been and he was a bit overwhelmed. He waited at the crosswalk to get across the street for a while and then hurried across. Even with plenty of time, he still got honked at. It was not worth it to get angry. The elevator at the office building was taking a while so he took the steps. He climbed three stories pretty easily. He was still in shape.

“Excuse me,” he said to the guy at the front desk of the office. “I’m here to see Marianne Grover.”

“She just stepped outside,” the guy said without looking up. “If you hurry you can catch her. Unless it’s business. If it’s business you can take a seat.”

“Thanks,” Hawthorne said. “It’s not business. He walked back toward the stairs and hustled down them. That explained why the elevator was in use. If he had just waited, he might have caught her. He reached the bottom and stepped outside and saw a young woman hanging up her cell phone. “Excuse me, Marianne Grover?”

The woman turned around with tears in her eyes. “I’m sorry,” she said. “Whatever you want will have to wait. My dad just died.”


An Easy Favor Pt. 5

January 29, 2022

Hawthorne tore into the meatball sub as he sat on the bed in his room. It was the first non-prison food he had had since his sister’s funeral and he nearly wept at the taste of it. He had to stop himself from wolfing the whole thing down right away. He took his time, meticulously eating and tasting the meal and trying to remain present in the moment. He had also bought an iced tea and a coffee. He had had coffee in prison but it was pretty close to mud. This was sub shop coffee but it was about twenty times better than the stuff in prison. He had not had iced tea since before the trial.

He had the blinds open on his window so he sat and stared out as the sun went down in Baltimore City. People were coming home from work or going out but Hawthorne felt so disconnected from it all. He was out of prison but he had not really reentered society. He was forbidden from contacting most of his friends and he did not really have much family anymore. The few he knew of would not want to talk to him. He was looking forward to meeting people and possibly making some new human connections but he knew that it would be rough going as well. He was an ex-convict and most people would not respond well to that.

He hoped that his new boss would be agreeable. He knew that he could be a good hand around a parts shop but he would be hard-pressed to make a good impression. If things went poorly, work would not be a happy place to spend time. Hawthorne had no choice but to try to be optimistic that he could win his boss and coworkers over. He wanted to have a good life but he knew that a lot of people would want him to be miserable. The stigma of prison would never go away as long as he lived. It was not like society was going to change anytime soon and he could not hide his past.

It started to rain outside and he stood up to watch everybody scurry around. A few well-prepared people deployed umbrellas. It paid to be prepared. It started to pour and even the umbrella users started to hurry and soon only cars were on the street. The sound of the rain was peaceful and Hawthorne took several deep breaths as he let the sound fill his being. He had been the muscle between him and his sister but he had always been the more contemplative. Mars had never wanted to stop and think. It gave her anxiety to stand still. Things would be a lot more peaceful without her.

He watched as a single person in a long raincoat walked down the street as if the rain did not bother them. They were tall and thin and walked with ease. That person stopped in front of the halfway house and looked up and. for a moment, Hawthorne could have sworn that she could see him. The girl had an eyepatch over her right eye and her left eye had a fierce wildness to it. It took Hawthorne a few moments to remember that the window was built with thick one-way glass. Still, her look had unnerved him and he hit the button to close the metal shutters. He could still hear the rain.

He walked back to his bed and sat down to finish his sandwich. In the morning, he would use the free day to track down Art’s daughter. He would give her the message and then he would move on unless she wanted to talk about her dad a bit. He did not have a lot to offer but he could talk about how Art was inside and how he was as a cellmate. After that, he would grab some groceries so he could cook a bit over the coming week. In the meantime, he was starting to get very tired. He would go to sleep soon and hope that he had no bad dreams.

Missed Post – Prey

June 1, 2020

This post is late but it is technically still Monday so I am calling it a win. I had planned to continue the 30 Day Film Challenge but I ended up feeling burnt out all weekend. On top of that, I did not sleep much because our country is currently figuratively (and sometimes literally) on fire and still literally diseased. I was about to go to sleep on Saturday when I noticed flashing red and blues on my blinds. I freaked because Baltimore cops are notoriously corrupt and police across the country are on the rampage. I am white and I was scared so I can only imagine how people of color must feel. Luckily it ended up being nothing but it rattled me and I ended up having very little sleep and all of it was restless.

Our country is in a bad way right now because we have a tendency to hide from our problems until they explode. We have largely ignored racial inequality since before the United States was even a country. We also allowed something as corruptible and flawed as the very concept of Police to exist. As it stands, cops only stand for themselves and to protect the property of the wealthy. It is a system absolutely poisoned by capitalism from the start. I stand with the people staging peaceful protests across the country and against any government opposition to those protests. Meanwhile, police are attacking and silencing protestors, journalists, and bystanders. Many of our politicians are not to be trusted and voting is absolutely wrecked by a global pandemic (but is generally rigged anyway).

So with all of that going on, I did not write this past weekend and instead sought some good escapism. I binge-watched a lot of my shows but most importantly I started playing a new game that I downloaded. That game is 2017’s Prey which is absolutely fantastic.

The game puts you in a science fiction world where people have developed something called a Neuromod. Basically, they are able to package human skills and abilities into injections that are applied directly to the brain. You can learn things by simply injected brain matter into your head. It is a disturbing but intriguing idea. This is coupled with having to fight off a horrific alien threat. They are called the Typhon and they are all shapeless creatures most of which can easily ambush you. The game is filled with constant paranoia. The smallest of the Typhon are called Mimics and can transform into practically any object in the game. Did that coffee cup just move? Why are there two chairs in front of that desk?

I am sure there have been essays and think pieces written on why we flock to horror in the bad times but I will leave that to other people. Besides, I have already talked about it. I have been playing horror-filled video games lately and my mind is already turning to what I will watch for Halloween. I am starting to come out of the fog from this weekend so hopefully, I will not miss another update any time soon.

Stay Safe Out There.


July 29, 2019

Lately, my hometown of Baltimore has been under attack. The President of the United States has lashed out at Baltimore because U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings criticized him. Elijah Cummings has been a major player in Congress’ investigation into the President and his staff. He had a lot of prominent moments in the hearing where Michael Cohen testified. He has now apparently made himself a target by speaking up against the man in the White House. I am still unsure about what that investigation will bring and how useful it is to the country. There are too many desperate conspiracy theories around for anybody to make real sense out of anything. Setting that aside, Trump obviously feels threatened whether this ends in his fall or not. He is lashing out from fear and ego and his target has been my city.

The thing is, Trump is not the only one attacking Baltimore. Many have been in the past few days and I am one of them. Now, I love Baltimore and my heart will dwell here for the rest of my days even if I moved on. However, recently yet another event has happened that makes me want to rail against Baltimore leadership. Keith Davis Jr. was recently framed by the police and the State’s Attorney’s Office and took the fall for a murder he most likely did not commit. However, that is not the only thing. Years ago now Freddie Gray died while in police custody and the new State’s Attorney Mosby tried the cops. She bungled it and they all got off scot-free. Three mayors in a row have now been plagued with controversy and scandal. Mayor Sheila Dixon stole gift cards intended for the needy at Christmas. Ineffectual Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake made a bad deal with the Grand Prix and bungled the Baltimore riots. Mayor Catherine Pugh went back on many of her campaign promises and was eventually caught in an illegal bribery and ethics scandal. I do not even need to go into the Gun Trace Task Force which did not do any tracing and instead robbed and framed people like crazy.

It can be really easy to rail against this corrupt town. The police and most of the politicians are absolutely and thoroughly corrupt. The crime rate is high, the murder rate is depressing, we are never far from another riot, and the cops and politicians are very racist. On a semi-humorous note, Trump was not wrong about the rats. Baltimore has famously huge rats. And yet, I still hold out hope. There are still politicians that I trust somewhat. I trust Councilman Bill Henry because we were friends back when I was in high school and he proved himself to be a good man. I trust Councilman Leon Pinkett (who presides over my district) somewhat as I have seen him connect with locals over concerns. I trust Elijah Cummings because he is a progressive and has proven himself to be a decent man. Of course, this trust can always be revoked as soon as one of them does something wrong.

More than that, I believe in the people of Baltimore. The good people who I have met in person or talked to online. There are good people I have protested with or bitched about the city with. There are plenty of people who are not racist or ignorant and eventually people will see the light. Something has to give and then hopefully the citizens of Baltimore will wake up and things might change. But Trump has no right to rail against Baltimore because Baltimore is afflicted with the same sicknesses that the rest of the country has. Sicknesses like racism, homophobia, sexism, transphobia, capitalism, nationalism, anti-intellectualism, and so many more societal ills. These are problems that many politicians including Trump have no interest in fixing. These problems distract the populace from the real problems we need to face and allow their status quo to continue.

So yes, #WeAreBaltimore because I have pride in the 410 forever but do not let this distract you for long. There is plenty to protest and plenty to fix and we will not do it feeling outraged for a slight against by a moron.

Snake Skin

July 6, 2019

Mera Warren had seen her share of darkness. Her path had been darkness but she turned away from that path and had started to walk toward the light. Though she was widely known as a snake, Slytherin class of 2001, Mera had learned to harness that ambition for the forces of good. She had been young in 1998 when she and her fellow Slytherins had been locked in the dungeons with the rest of her house during the final battle with Voldemort. She had let her fear convince her to go along with the rest when she refused to fight in the battle. It was that and listening to the words of Draco Malfoy and his hangers-on. The older kids had convinced her that they were doing the right thing. When even Dracoy turned away from the dark, it was clear that they had all made the wrong choice.

After Hogwarts reopened, classes resumed but she and the rest were looked down upon by the other three houses. Some of the teachers found it hard to stick up for the students. Many Slytherins transferred to other schools. Mera had not been given that option. Her parents were not that well off and so she had to say goodbye to many of her friends. She had toughed it out. She kept her head down for a while and then little by little, she proved that she could be trusted. She helped Professor McGonogal clean up after class, she visited Hagrid, she tried and eventually succeeded in making friends. Inch by inch, rung by rung, she redeemed herself. Still, when it came time to graduate, she packed up her bags and left England.

She needed a fresh start. She needed to get out from under the cloud of Voldemort’s second reign of terror and the Battle of Hogwarts. There were too many memories even on the streets of London. Mera felt like she must have green scales after all because people seemed to instantly know who she was. In addition, she still harbored that Slytherin ambition. She wanted to be somebody but she did not know who that person was yet. All of her dreams had turned out to be nightmares and it was time to find new dreams. And so, she went to America. She arrived in Baltimore with very few bags and very little direction but a new lightness in her heart.

It was not long before she worked her way into the wizarding world of the East Coast of the United States of America. She got a lot of attention from her accent at first. She had not realized she had one but everybody had a comment. They were nice about it but it made Mera feel self-conscious. Finally, she got a steady job offer. Her skills with fast-casting and even faster thinking had qualified Mera to be a magical bounty hunter of sorts. It was a department inspired by the appearance of Newt Scamander in America in the early 20th century. The department, the US Department of Magical Creatures deputized certain officers to track and safely contain magical creatures in the most humane way possible.

“Hey partner,” Clark Coulson said gently. “You still with me?” He had been her partner for months now and they got along very well.

“Huh?” Mera said. “Sorry. I guess I was swimming in my past again.”

“Well,” Clark said. “We have our assignment. Do you want to get going?”

Mera stretched and shook the tension out of her shoulders. “Where are we going?”

“A warehouse in Canton,” Clark said. He was big and tall, and working class like a construction worker. He would have been a Hufflepuff back in Hogwarts for sure. “Just follow my lead, I know the way.”

Mera nodded and the two of them apparated across town and landed on an out of the way cobblestone street. Mera could see the harbor through a sliver of a gap in some buildings. She had never been too far from the water in her life.

“This is the place?” Mera asked, pointing toward a warehouse clearly in the process of being renovated and repaired. Much of the waterfront area was getting revamped and there was plenty of construction and reconstruction.

“That is the place,” Clark said. “The guy with the key should be here in a minute. Once we’re done, I’ll treat you to something from Fell’s Point. You want a crabcake?”

“That does sound delicious, Clark,” Mera said. “So why wait?” She pointed her wand at the locked door and called out ‘Alohamora!” and the door opened with a deep clicking sound.

“Always so gung ho,” Clark said. “I guess it’s technically not breaking and entering since we’re supposed to be here. Stay behind me.” He started toward the door.

“Excuse you?” Mera said. “Stay behind me.”

“Mera,” Clark said. “Let me be the meat shield. There’s nobody I trust more to watch my back and I’m better at shield charms. You’re better at combat spells. Facts are facts.”

“Well, if you were going to flatter me, you should have led with it,” Mera said with a smile. “Lead the way, meat shield.”

Clark smirked and pushed the door open wider. It was pitch black inside and deadly silent. They both looked at each other and almost said “Lumos!” in unison and the tips of their wands lit up. They stepped into the darkness, their steps echoing on concrete.

Pride 2019

June 10, 2019

A lot of cities had their pride parades this past weekend but my hometown and current home Baltimore is having Pride this coming weekend. I have always been an ally to everyone under the banner of “Other” and this includes everybody under the banner of LGBTQ+. That was how I was raised, to be kind and think well of other people especially if they are not trying to hurt anybody. My mother came from a tolerant family in the American South that shunned racism. I went to school for twelve years at a Quaker school which taught love and acceptance for all. In high school, I entered the world of theater which was generally more open-minded than the rest of the world. I met the first gay people I knew of here. Of course, I may have met many gay people previously but it was the nineties and people were heavily closeted.

When I went to college, I met even more people from the beautiful spectrum of humanity. I was introduced to gay culture and my mind was opened even more. I worked professionally in theater for five more years and I met more gay people. I met so many different people over the years. I also read a lot of books and watched a lot of content. It all helped form my feelings on the whole LGBTQ+ community. It just goes to my further my constant argument that exposure helps breed love and peace. Ignorance breeds hate. If you listen to the message that Pride sends out, it is a message of equality, happiness, fun, and fighting back against the darkness. How anybody could interpret it as anything else is a mystery to me.

A long while ago I sort of came out as aromantic. I have never once felt a romantic feeling. I have never longed for the companionship of another human being regardless of gender, sex, or orientation. A lot of people need that sort of thing to make their lives complete but I am happy to have my friends and family. Obviously, over the years the makeup of the LGBTQ+ banner has had some changes. There is too much bickering over who should and should not be at Pride and this year I am seeing a lot of people being fed up with it. This is the first year that I have seen clear statements accepting aromantics at Pride. When I saw it, I felt something break free inside of me and I smiled. We are a small subsection so specific support was not something I was expecting. So, this year will be the first year I attend Pride as an aromantic and not just an ally.

Oh, and the only people who should not be at Pride are cops and hatemongers. Hatemongers are obviously not welcome at Pride. These include the Christian Right, the Nazis, the Klansmen, and all of the raving lunatics who would rather burn it all down than let people be free to be different. However, it also includes silent partners. The corporations who sell rainbow flags but turn their backs on actual gay people, the forces of Capitalism who decided that gay people don’t make them enough money, the well-meaning ‘middle of the road’ types who do not want to make waves even when it means defending people’s rights to be happy. This also brings us to the cops. Yes, the cops. The cops who protect armed nazis in Detroit who chose to march through Pride, sending people who were celebrating indoors and fearing for their lives. The cops who have a history of breaking up gatherings of gay people and almost never side with ‘the Other’ over ‘good’ white men and women. The same cops who have a history of beating the crap out of minorities when they feel like it. No cops at pride, only love and true allies. Please.

Developments in Development

May 27, 2019

So, while I have been off at work, a lot has been happening in my neighborhood. It is interesting to me because nothing much happens in my neighborhood because it is so out of the way. Nestled between Hampden and Druid Park, my little world is often overlooked by just about everybody. However, I have lately dealt with the neighboring Woodberry Community Association. Community Associations are double-edged swords because they can provide a sense of community but they are also rather exclusionary. I feel like the ones I have dealt with are unfairly prejudiced against renters, seeing them as subhuman and more people to be watched and feared than cared for. At least, that is what they say about their tone.

The big hoopla around here is that a lot of land in the area got new owners and they had development on their minds. This caused a lot of conflicts right away because people fear change and renters. New apartment buildings were the plan and there was a lot of pearl-clutching over the possibility that they could be low-income housing. The thought that less fortunate people might have a place to go to convenient to the Light Rail was unthinkable. But I’m probably being unfair to some of these people. Some objected to the destruction of buildings that had been there for centuries. I am all for historical preservation but that only extends to places where things of note happened or particularly pleasing architecture. The buildings they were trying to protect ranged from dilapidated to downright ugly.

I went to several meetings to observe people (and a lawyer) try and figure out how to halt or alter the development plans. To be fair, they had a solid legal footing for holding the developers and owners to a limited amount of construction. They remained deadlocked for months and months as both sides attended committee meetings and tried to sway the government to their side. This kind of bureaucracy is kind of fun when you are on the inside but watching from the outside is mind-numbingly boring. Especially when you can see the benefit to both sides. It is like watching horse racing when you do not have a bet in. I even attended a somewhat secret anti-developer meeting to see what was up.

The latest event changed everything. There are two stone houses that I used to walk by when I took daily walks before I returned to the gym. They are on the way to my polling place down the street. They always looked ancient and were probably there since at least the 1800s. However, they also looked like crap. They were overgrown with plants and neither had been in use for anything for quite some time. They were just houses to me.  They were probably used before the mill burned down as housing or storage for something. Just after I left for work the other day, bulldozers came and plowed them both to rubble. This was way before anything had been agreed to. Cue the pitchforks and torches.

The local residents leaped into action and contacted our local city council member. By the time the council member got there, the buildings were completely destroyed. Still, he got a stop work order put on the site and the resident’s ire turned toward the developers. The first to falter were the architects of the new development. They disavowed the action, claimed ignorance of the plan, and announced that they had resigned from the project. The developers, feeling the heat, did the same and announced that they were done with the project leaving the owners standing alone. Now, the owners will probably sell the property and the whole process will start again. And they wonder why nothing ever gets built in Baltimore.

The Confidence of a Child

May 20, 2019

I almost completely forgot to talk about this story because Mother’s Day was a long (but good day). For Mother’s Day, I went with my mom to the Orioles game because we are both diehard fans. We are also not fairweather fans as it was pouring rain when we went down there. This was actually the second Sunday in a row that we tried to go to an Orioles game. The Sunday before, we tried to go to the game and it was also pouring down rain. Spring in Baltimore where it only rains when you want to be outside (and all the time). We waited under cover for an hour eating barbecue sandwiches from Boog’s and then they announced that the game was canceled and we were ushered out. We ended up eating nachos at Dempsey’s and just had a chill and chilly day.

The next weekend, on Mother’s Day, my mother only asked for one thing and that was to try again. I was definitely game for it and neither of us got our hopes up. This time there was a two and a half game delay but we were happy to just sit and talk while the rain came down. We ate chicken tenders from Boardwalk Fries, a place that I had not been to in years and years. (Mostly because I have not been to a mall in forever). Mom gets cold easily so we moved around a lot, going from our seats to go browse stores. It was just a really chill time in one of the coolest places in Baltimore. Finally, the game started and we got to watch a game that the Orioles actually won. It felt like the kind of day that was meant to be. We ended the game back in Dempsey’s having some good food (with a really distracted server but we were in too good a mood to care).

But that was not the story I wanted to tell. While that in itself was a pleasant story, I had another one in mind when I started this. I tend to ramble sometimes. That was all backstory for one of the weirdest stories that has happened to me and luckily my mom was there to witness it. At one point in our day, we went to the Team Shop somewhere around home plate. The store is a little alcove where you can step in and buy Orioles merch. It feels like a Hudson News but all orange. They had run out of the largest size of the big orange blanket because it was cold and wet and everybody had the same idea except they had it before my mom. While we were waiting for them to restock, my mom and I were standing next to the wall of hats and chatting.

Out of the blue, I felt something hit me square in the back and then drag down my spine. It was a soft something. I turned around to see a little kid with a giant orange foam set of talons. A foam finger that actually looked cool. I was not mad since the little guy had not hurt me but when I turned around I expected his eyes to bug out as if he had mistaken me for his older brother or dad or something. Instead, he just stared at me like “What? Yeah, I scratched you with my claws.” Before Xanax, I would have been more weirded out and would probably have gotten angry as my anxiety levels raised. Instead, I was like “Whoa, little dude.” The kid just peered at me and then pointed at my hat. I was wearing a blue WYPR hat which I had gotten for donating to the local NPR affiliate that I had listened to for over two-thirds of my life.

So, the kid points at my hat and says “Didn’t they go out of business?” and I blink and tilt my head to show how confused I was. “No, I’m pretty sure they’re still going,” I said. My mom chimed in with “They’re a local NPR station, they still exist.” The kid furrows his brow and says “No, I’m pretty sure they went out of business.” I was absolutely floored by the confidence of a small child who was absolutely sure and stuck to his guns when challenged. I was a much meeker child and I would have backed down immediately. My mom counted with “You might be thinking of WJHU which did go out of business a while ago.” I looked at my mother and then the kid. Only later did I realize that WJHU went out of business well before the kid was born. I have no idea what the kid was thinking as he got bored and walked away. I still wonder about it but it is a mystery I will never solve. Still, I have to admire the kid’s chutzpah.

Media Update 5/23/18

May 24, 2018

Straight Outta Compton

When I was a kid, I really bought into the whole “Rap is Crap” stuff and I bought into it being dangerous, vulgar, and pointless. However, when I really listened to it, I changed my tune. Like a lot of people, I had condemned something without really giving it a chance. One of the albums that really changed my way of thinking was Straight Outta Compton by N.W.A. The music and the beats hit so hard and the rhymes blew my mind. This was the new street poetry and yes some of it was violent and sexualized but it was a reflection of a world that I was not a part of. It was a musical and political awakening for me. I used to listen to that album on a loop as I walked home from high school. I came to it years after the group had broken up and gone their separate ways. This movie is their story. Of course, I am not sure how much of it is fantasy and how much of it is real but it is a good story. There is enough truth in there for me. All of the actors are great at bringing both the drama and the music to life. In fact, Ice Cube’s son got to play his father in the story which must have been quite the experience. Whatever the true truth is, this movie at least reminded me that these legendary figures were (and are) flawed people just like I am. I definitely recommend it but be warned that the movie is two and a half hours long.

All Eyez On Me

The world was shaken when Tupac Shakur was shot in Las Vegas in 1996. His music was already helping to change the rap game. I talked a lot about it when I reviewed the first few episodes of Unsolved, the miniseries about the investigations into the deaths of Biggie and Tupac. Tupac is still a legend in my hometown of Baltimore because that is where he got his start. It was here that he attended the Baltimore School for the Arts (the same high school my brother went to). This movie is a trip through his life from before his birth to his death. It hits a lot of the highlights of his life including things I did not know like his engagement to Kidada Jones, the daughter of Quincy Jones. Far from “just a thug”, he was a poet who knew Shakespeare and other poets from his education in the arts. He obviously learned from everyone he worked with including Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Biggie Smalls. The movie hinges on the performance of Demetrius Tripp as Tupac and he does a great job bringing humanity to the mythic figure. We also get actors really nailing figures like Biggie, Jada Pinkett, Kidada, the villainous Suge Knight, Snoop, Dre, Faith Evans, and many more. The script is a little messy but it gets the impact of the man’s life across and the difficulties and flaws he had to deal with. Most of all, it portrays the lost potential when he died. He could have been an elder statesman of rap or an activist if he had lived to maturity. I also recommend this one as it is a fascinating story about the rise and fall of one man who is still loved.

Roxanne Roxanne

This movie caught my attention as I was going through Netflix looking for the movie Notorious (which I will have to catch at another time). This movie tells the story of Roxanne Shante who was a battle rapper back in the eighties. She started rapping at age nine and started to get famous as young as age fourteen. This was in the golden age of hip-hop when everything was fresh and new. It is the world of graffiti, breakdancing, and rapping that formed the trinity of hip-hop culture. This world was reflected in the fictional story of The Get Down but this is a very real story. Roxanne was a hustler with a brilliant mind who was drawn to the streets where she thrived instead of school. Her life was difficult as she was black, a woman, and she came up poor. The movie is such a snapshot of life in the projects in Queens (and the rest of the east coast) in the eighties. The star of the movie is Chante Adams who just does such a great job bringing Roxanne to life. She is such a likable character. I definitely recommend it.

Music of the Week:
Roxanne Shante – Roxanne’s Revenge

Tupac Shakur – Hit ‘Em Up

N.W.A. – Straight Outta Compton

The Chainsmokers – The Rookie

Imagine Dragons – Thunder

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Rap Biopics”
– I watched more iZombie Season 4
– I watched more Beauty and the Beast Season 1
– I watched a crapload of PBG Hardcore on YouTube
– I finished watching the Pinkertons
– I watched more Barry Kramer on YouTube

The Light Rail

May 21, 2018

While I was going to college in New Jersey, my mother moved into a house over in the Woodberry neighborhood of Baltimore. Her reasoning in picking the specific house she picked was that it was on the Light Rail line. Baltimore’s Light Rail was built in the early nineties to provide mass transit for the citizens of residents vaguely west of the center corridor of the city. As somebody who lived fairly near his high school, I never needed the Light Rail. I could hitch a ride with one of my parents or I could walk if it came to it. So I never really gave it much mind until I came home from college one summer and it was only a few blocks away. My mother was taking it to work so her sons could borrow her car. Still, I never really rode it. I also rarely rode the buses as I preferred to walk if I could not drive and I hate driving.

When I worked for the Kevin Kamenetz campaign in 2010, I was often working next to the Floors, Inc. warehouse up in Hunt Valley throughout the summer. After a while, I did not want to drive and I would instead ride the train up to the McCormick spice factory. I would eat my breakfast as I walked past McCormick which was a bad idea. Eating applesauce while the air around is full of the smell of paprika is a bad idea. Whatever I was eating mingled with the flavor of whatever seasoning they were working on that morning. It was kind of a weird way to start long days of physical labor. However, I got really used to waiting for and riding the train up and down the line. In addition, the cars were always air-conditioned, shady places to sit while I rolled toward the north part of the county. It was at this point that my eyes were opened to how useful the light rail could be.

Now that my day job is in downtown Baltimore, for the first time, I started purchasing monthly passes to the Light Rail (which was recently renamed the Light RailLink). Now that I have been riding almost daily, I have started to get a feel for what the Light Rail is like. The trains have a layout as follows: There are two ‘cars’ linked together by a flexible walkway between them. Each car has wide doors on either side in the center and two smaller doors on each end. The trains having doors on each side is to accommodate platforms on both sides. However, most platforms I have encountered are all on one side. The only exception I can think of off the top of my head is North Avenue station. Maybe the northern end of the line at Hunt Valley. Anyway, the inside of the trains is filled with hard plastic chairs with cushioning in pairs. There are pipes all around to grab onto if you are standing.

Most of the time when I get on, there are people sitting in all of the window seats which leaves a lot of open seats in the aisle. Being the introvert that I am, I only sit down when there are tons of open seats which is mostly only on the weekend. I also rarely sit down because inevitably some elder person will board the train and I want that seat to be open for them and their tired legs. So the way I usually experience the train is on my feet. You really notice the skill of each driver if you are standing on a train. The tracks in many places in the city are not straight and instead curve around existing structures and traffic patterns. Standing on the train there is often little warning when the train will slow or turn and each driver hits these moments with different momentum. Holding onto something is essential to stay standing.

I have also noticed that there are basically four reactions that people have when they get on the train and see that there are no seats. The first is the least likely which is the doors open and somebody decides to wait for the next train. Sometimes, this is necessary as trains can be absolutely crammed full of people after sporting events. The second is a person will find a spot to stand, grab onto something and stand still until their stop. This is what I do and I find it is the most ideal choice. The third choice is when a person is in denial that there are no seats and will make people move out of the way so they can walk the train in search of a seat. This always feels pointless to me. Finally, there are the people who sit down on the steps at the doors which is completely counterproductive. The best train rides are when everybody just chills out and stays put.

So are the trains safe? Well, as with most things, yes and no. I have ridden the trains without incident a lot. First, make sure you buy a ticket because Maryland Transit Authority cops board the train and random stations and at random intervals to check everyone’s ticket. On Free Comic Book Day, I finally saw somebody actually get arrested for the first time for trying to use an old ticket and claiming the machine had printed the wrong ticket. Second, most people on the train just want to get to their destination so everybody keeps to themselves. I have never seen an altercation on the train and most people just assume they are going to be bumped into on the train. The worst I have seen is a man who started a loud sort of sermon on the train and seeing somebody that unstable is always a little worrying. Third, you have to watch yourself around the trains themselves. The week before last somebody was hit and killed by a Light Rail train which briefly caused chaos in Baltimore. So be safe out there but enjoy the utility of the train.

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