Embarrassment of field-tripping possibilities, so much so that sometimes it feels oppressive. I mean, last weekend I really just wanted to stay in bed all day and read and nap and read and eat and nap, but the early summer mild weather combined with an O's game, the farmers market downtown, kayaking—god, fine, whatever, I'll get out of bed. Once I was on my bike with the ladyfriend and heading down the hill from Charles Village, I was mostly happy that I'd somehow managed to drag myself out of bed, put on a bra, and leave the house, because then it was like being in a movie of Baltimore in Summertime, and that's not half bad.
Our first stop was the Baltimore Farmer's Market & Bazaar under the JFX, which was cleared out of the people who call that space home during the rest of the week (as I was writing this, I learned that the city is permanently removing these people from the location, as they did last year when they were at Madison Street). The market is (or was) such a great example of our city's schizophrenia. The same lot that serves as a makeshift social services site for folks who need assistance with food and shelter can transform itself with a few signs into an urbanite's dream market, with its artisan pickles and soap made from the milk of free-range goats and mini-donuts that somehow manage to take on a high-class feel even though they come from the same machines hawking the hot dough rolls at the many county fairs coming our way in a few months. Don't get me wrong—I love the market, and I think there's not much better we can do for ourselves and our city than buying local and enlivening our neighborhoods, be they under the expressway or down by the water. But there's something a little disconcerting about the juxtaposition of this experience of the market alongside—or in place of—the poverty, homelessness, addiction, and untreated mental illness that fills that space the rest of the week, underneath a road built to shuttle white-flight suburbanites from the outer reaches to the inner city without having to touch surface city streets—and now they've done away with the contradiction by removing the people altogether. But hey, it's a great market.
We made it there about ten minutes before the place closed, neither of us having thought to bring any cash, so it was mostly a people-watching excursion as we made our way past the stalls, tasting the occasional mustard or salsa, wishing we had cash for the whatever that line led to (turns out, barbecue. Note to self: Start eating meat), and chatting it up with acquaintances who clearly also arrived at the farmers market just to say that yes, they'd done something on the weekend other than dick around the house in air conditioning.
We left empty-handed, considered taking in the baseball game, but thought better of it—I don't have the kind of skin that can withstand a whole day in the stadium without sunscreen, and I made the summer rookie mistake of leaving the house without it. Brunch. Yes. That's an appropriate part of a summer Sunday field trip, right? We were Fells Point-bound, in search of a table at a place that would serve up egg-somethings and take cards and have a wait of less than 30 minutes. What is it with this town and the concerted lack of quality brunch places? The lines at the restaurants along Aliceanna were too long—this isn't D.C., people—so we ended up at a bar. Sitting outside while somebody brings mimosas and menus? Yeah, that'll do.
The best part of sitting outside at a bar, aside from the part where it counts as doing something but does not require the actual doing of something other than day-drinking, is that I got to watch other people enjoy their Baltimore field trips, sharing space while doing very different things in it, and on the corner of Aliceanna and Broadway, the very different things are less jarring than the scene at the Farmer's Market that is also a homeless shelter. There was the guy in his seersucker suit out with his little girl in the perfect little dress, and she was just so tiny, too short to be walking at all, if you ask me, but there you go. There was the woman who decided fuck it, that's almost a parking spot, as her SUV hung a good four feet past the No Parking sign, but decided that she would at least follow the rules and pay for parking. There was the group of 12 doing a bar crawl on Charm City Pedal Mill who pulled in behind the SUV before dismounting the giant bicycle monstrosity, complaining about their sweaty asses and tired legs as they stumbled in for another drink. And then there was the endless rotation of people asking about the giant bike—so many field trips in the making, even if most of them won't actually happen.
And then there was the guy with the bike and the shoes. He had on these Usain Bolt sneakers with wings attached to the laces. Now those were some shoes. And his bike was even better, all tricked out with flames and lights and damn, the whole getup was hot. We complimented him on his shoes and 20 minutes later we were talking about whether I should get steel fenders or wooden ones and comparing pictures of his vintage Nishiki with her 1984 Miyata 10 speed. I promised to follow his Instagram and he promised to check out my blog. Whether or not those things happen, it was a good reminder that sometimes it's the people, not the places, that make the trip worth it. ¿