Friday, December 24, 2010

Miracle on 34th St.

It's not truly Christmas in Baltimore until you've walked amid the holiday lights on 34th Street in Hampden. The kitschy, the heartfelt, and the sublime converge and twinkle in this annual display of megawatt seasonal cheer.

Homeless Persons Memorial Day Vigil, Inner Harbor Amphitheater

The National Coalition for the Homeless has designated the winter solstice, which falls on or around December 21 each year, as National Homeless Memorial Day. On this, the beginning of winter and the longest night of the year, homeless and formerly homeless people gather with activists, advocates, providers, and other supporters to read the names of homeless people who died over the preceding year.

For years now I've participated. in the local vigil, which is organized by the SHARP Coalition and Healthcare for the Homeless. It's a solemn counterpoint to the festivities of the holiday season, but a strangely uplifting one as well. Not only does it remind us, in this season of gift-giving and abundance, that our neighbors continue to die of poverty, exposure, and violence; the event is also a reminder that it is possible to make homelessness a "rare and brief occurrence," and that hope exists even in the coldest and darkest of seasons.

After the opening remarks and the musical offerings and the prayers comes the climax of the vigil: the reading of the names of the dead. After each name is recited, the crowd responds "we will remember."

For a long time I had a problem with that response. After all, the main reason that these people's names are on that list is because we as a society did not remember them. We forgot about them and threw them away. Even those of us who attend the vigil in their memory will forget about their names as soon as we hear them recited.

This year, however, I saw it differently. I don't know why, exactly, but something about the way we chanted "we will remember" after each name struck me not as an exercise in futility, but as a statement of resistance, a battle cry against all the cold and lonely ways in which we allow our neighbors to die in this wealthiest of all societies.

This year, instead of hearing my own voice - feeble, inadequate, privileged -- intoning the response, I heard the voices of all of the homeless and formerly homeless people standing around me. When they said, "we will remember," it was not only because they actually knew and would actually remember most of the people on that awful list. They said "we will remember" in defiance of despair and in contention with all the powers of darkness.

Here are the names of the dead:
Linda McNeill
William Ganzermiller
Joseph J. Levandoski
Cinderella Holley
Donald C. Downes
Ernest Panagestidis
Lindsay "Scott" Quesenberry
Donnie Moore
William "Billy" Soper
Adeline Quillan
Dwight Richardson
James D. Hanson
George Williams
Theo Corwin
Anton T. Pridget
Pamela Myers
Lee E. McCoy
Mark Miles
Allen Leslie
Lee McKnight
Doug Hamm
Harley Magee
Tracey Baird
Bruce Laster
Eric Jackson
Christian Sinott
Angelo Speller
Warren HIll
Venita Crawford
George Boynes
Jennifer Crosby
Martin York
James Stratemeyer
Steven McEachern
James "Jimmy" Smith
Sidney Hynson
Angela Tomlin
Winslow Thomas
Johnnie Bradley
Howard Hubbard
Andre Hurston
Elva Randall
Charles Wehnert
Mark Walters
Dennis Knauer
Rhonda Hamilton
Elijah Randolph
Joseph Rhodes
Michael D. Burrell
James Nicholson-El
Joel A. Reaves
Raymond Brown
Thomas Boston
Lennard Rainey
Robert Hicks
Adam O'Conner
Sandra Wilcox
Brian Goscinski
Kenneth Jackson
Daryl Ford
Patricia "Patti" Phillips
Brian Boyle
Ricky Diggs
Jerome MacDonald
Albert Bethea
Allan Ford
Linwood Tate
Frank Savage
Ronald Bassard
Gerrell McDonald
Regina McGuire-Harve
Larry Smith
Michael Harrison
Cecil Roland
Yolanda Howard
Douglas Morris
Anthony Walter
Mira Sandhu
Joseph Taylor
Bruce Harmesan
David Beers
Keyonna Williams
Jerry McNutt
Ryland Perry
LaFayette Johnson
Clarence L. McKnight

We will remember.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Hon-ukkah in Mt. Washington

My friends Ray and Rachel represent a perfect cross-section of Caucasian Baltimore: Ashkenazi and Redneck. Chanukah at their house was traditional...for the most part. We spun the dreidel, anted in our gelt, and consumed too many donuts and latkes.

The latkes could be enjoyed with a range of toppings, including classic (sour cream and apple sauce), Eastern Shore (anchovies, hot pepper relish, Old Bay), and PB&J.

Grease, gambling, and fire. What's not to love about this holiday?

Post-Turkey Day Brunch in Cedarcroft

Thanksgiving, as most of us figured out long ago, doesn't truly end until the turkey carcass is stripped clean of the last sinew of flesh and is nothing more than a misshapen blob of gleaming white bone.

When I was younger, I would make repeated late-night incursions into the kitchen to peel off strips of bird to make sandwiches, preferably ones that involved a dinner roll, a hunk of cheese, some stuffing, and whatever remained of the cranberry sauce. Now that I'm (arguably) a grownup, I've become a fan of the more genteel option for disposing of the turkey's remains: the post-Thanksgiving brunch.

This year my friends Kathleen and Todd invited me to their place for turkey-and-asparagus crepes with roasted potatoes, coffee, and good conversation on the side.

Thanksgiving in Charles Village

With my gf in Canada and my mom celebrating the holiday in the OBX this year, I thought my Thanksgiving would be spent alone in my fetid bachelor bad, eating Dinty Moore Beef Stew out of the can while watching softcore on Netflix.

Instead I got together with my friend Sonia and we managed to have a fun li'l DIY Turkey Day for two.

Hon for the Holidays

As crazy and hectic as these past few weeks have been -- work, personal life, etc. -- I'm happy to say that I've been able to get into the holiday spirit with some local festivities this season.

So in addition to my earlier pics of the Station North Arts Cafe holiday party and the Washington Monument lighting, I'll be posting images of hollies so jolly that your eggs will nog spontaneously.

I have no idea what any of that means.

Ho ho ho.

Monday, December 20, 2010

December 19, 8:36 p.m., North Avenue

You can check in any time you like. But you have to wear a bag over your head when you leave.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Station North Arts Cafe tree lighting

Here are a few photos from the Station North Arts Cafe tree lighting. Located on Charles Street just south of North Avenue, this bright, friendly, and cozy little coffee shop is owned by my neighbors, Kevin and Bill.

The evening featured free homemade cookies, hot cider, "naughty" coffee, and Ian Hesford, who can apparently play every instrument under the the same time.

SNAC co-owner Kevin Brown

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Feats salutes Unsung Baltimorean for her feats

I'm pleased as punch to report that, as a result of her surpassing awesomeness, previously featured unsung Baltimorean Kenya Asli was selected by Feats, Inc. to receive 50-yard-line tickets to the Dec. 19 Ravens game!

In honor of its 25th anniversary, the local events management and marketing firm launched Feats of the Heart, aimed at celebrating the good work done by community residents. So I was thrilled when I got the notification that Kenya had gotten the nod.

And I'm almost as thrilled that she, not I, will be freezing her butt off at Ravens Stadium next week.

December 11, 8:36 a.m., Waverly Market

If you got a hankerin' for bison, get it from the dude in the awesome hat.

A Monumental Occasion

Some pics from the annual lighting of Baltimore's Washington Monument on Dec. 2.

eye contact

An important part of living in Baltimore, more than any other place in my experience, is learning when it's a good idea to make eye contact with random people you pass on the street...and when it's best to avoid it.

Eye contact = ok: older people, especially older women, especially church ladies; business owners and shopkeepers; police officers; dog walkers; young children; adult men who watch everything that's going on with quiet, neutral expressions; myself, at least on a good day.

Eye contact = not advisable: loud people who make big movements while walking; clammy looking guys with plastic hospital bracelets; women shrieking obscenities at each other on opposite sides of the street; people muttering darkly to themselves; adult men who preemptively glare at you for no reason you can fathom; certain people you know from work who spot you at the coffee shop or the market and glance at you interrogatively, but whom you don't really feel like talking to at the moment because you're, like, on a date or something and the last thing you need is for them to be all like, 'so, did you read that report on gargledyhoohablahdeeshnoo from the Urban Institute last week?'

Eye contact = it varies: teens and older youth; orthodox religious people; guys singing or rapping cheerfully to the world at large; people you used to hang out with/work with/sleep with but haven't seen recently, whom you see at a random concert or whatever.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Attention, art flakes! Only 39 days left to nominate yourselves for big cash prizes!

Hey, remember dance ninja and featured Unsung Baltimorean Lily Susskind? Well, she's one of over 350 local artists vying for the coveted Baker Artist Awards.

Truly one of the coolest things about being in Baltimore, the Baker Awards provides local artists in all media with opportunities to win fame and (modest) fortune. Awards include the Mary Sawyers Baker Prize, which is given out in a juried selection process; the People's Choice Award, where visitors to the Baker site get to vote for their favorite artists; and the "b" prizes, which are smaller awards given out by the Baker Foundation board to a handful of artists and arts organizations.

Artists can submit images and video of their work for the next 39 days, at which point the nominations close and the voting begins. This gives you art lovers out there plenty of time to browse through some of the amazing work that local artists are putting out, pick your favorites, and set up your profile so you can vote.

There's even an awesome iPhone app to make the process even funner and easierer! So get yourself over to the Baker site and prepare to have your mind shredded and your face melted by fantasticness.

Oh, and be sure to check out Lily's video submissions, like this one:

Pluto Dances from effervescent collective on Vimeo.