You moved here from San Francisco almost a decade ago with the idea of opening a restaurant. What took you so long?
When I started at Brewer’s Art in 2008, I told them I wouldn’t stay long because I wanted to open my own place. But I ceased the search because I really liked working for them. It was so refreshing to find people who really give back to their employees.
I understand the restaurant is named after your dog?
Blue Pit encompasses a lot: Blue smoke is the ideal smoke for barbecue. Blue ribbon, the pit is where you cook it. I also have a blue pit bull, Sakai, like the city in Japan. I own a lot of Japanese knives, they’re made in Sakai, where the best steel in the world is made. A lot of knives are made of blue steel.
What kind of barbecue are you serving?
We’re pulling things we like from different regions. We’ll do burnt ends from Kansas City—that’s when you dice it up the point, or the fatty side, toss it in sauce and re-smoke it. Texas is known for brisket, North Carolina for pork. St. Louis and Memphis are ribs.
And the all-important sides?
We do classic sides with a twist: Pickleback slaw, made with brine from our housemade pickles, a loaded baked potato salad with bacon, green onions and sour cream dressing. Collard greens with smoked pork necks and sherry vinegar. I cook them down until they have texture of creamed spinach.
You’re also into whiskey?
Our bourbon program has grown tremendously; we opened with 45 varieties and now have over 100. We try to keep prices reasonable, so people can try things they might not have the wallet for otherwise. We have a 25-year bottle of rye (Jefferson’s Presidential Select 25 Year Rye) that you can try for $13 an ounce.
The décor is fun—rustic and DYI.
Jesse Harris (the designer) built a communal table with wood he salvaged. He stripped the original fixtures and gave them a patina. He hand-built bent copper tubing for light fixtures and used pipe elbows to mount the bar shelves. That’s what we had to work with. People have said, you need to hide that wiring. We say no, we like it. That’s who we are.
Belvedere Square has been through ups and downs since it was first developed in 1986, fluctuations that align with the economy, management and public tastes. Over the last year or so, the market has sprung into bloom. Atwaters, the soup and sandwich shop, extended its reach within the space, adding a dairy case, beer and wine, and an ice cream shop. Artisan food vendors have been sprouting along the back wall. One day, illuminated letters sprung from the roofline, uniting disparate food and retail beneath an art deco font.
Scott Plank, who had experimented with his interest in sustainable food by creating an employee restaurant at Under Armour (the company he helped launch with his brother Kevin), is deeply invested—with both cash and vision—in the market.
The Back Story.
“Who doesn’t love Belvedere Square?” Plank wants to know. “I’ve been going there since I moved to Baltimore in 2003.” Plank’s three kids, now ages 10-16, especially loved the Friday night Summer Sounds concerts, where they could run and play. Plank’s goal, he says, “is to make the market world class.” Investing in real estate is just part of the picture. The next step, he says, “is to engage the real estate to create community.”
Changes at Belvedere Square have moved incrementally. The management company, Cross Street Partners, began with the exterior, expanding sidewalks and adding the bright umbrellas—with heaters to stretch the outdoor season. “We took down all the signage,” from the front, Plank says, and installed clear, bold, neon letters. The goal was to create the excitement of a 1940s trip to the market. Mary Mashburn, of Typecast Press, chose a vintage font, Streamline Moderne, for the gaint letters.
Real Simple. Plank gets his hair cut at Blue Spark on Harford Road and used to plan his trips to Lauraville around lunch at Toulouloo, the diminutive Cajun café owned by Shawn Lagergren. Newly relocated to Belvedere Square, the menu remains simple, the dirty rice “unbelievable,” says Plank. “It’s very specific. Lagergren does really good fried stuff, like oysters and alligator bites, po’ boys, pizza and that’s that.” Such focus is part of what Plank is looking for in the Belvedere lineup—which also includes longtime tenants like Neopol smoked fish and Greg’s Bagels, as well as newcomers like Hex Ferments.
The market is designed to nurture small, homegrown food vendors, says Plank. “We wanted to make sure we’re a place where people make stuff—and customers can engage with the makers.” He points to chocolates made by Jinji Fraser, a former Under Armour employee. “I’ve known her for years. She was making chocolate in her condo,” Plank says. “We were able to help her with the rules and regulations of
becoming a food vendor.” The bootstrap story is familiar to Plank. “That’s what Under Armour was,” he says. “We founded that company in my grandmother’s basement.” The new Belvedere Square is an opportunity to give small makers exposure “on the big stage.” Even Spike Gjerde’s Shoo-Fly diner was established to manage all the canning and pickling for its fellow Woodberry group restaurants.
Belvedere Square is just the fluttering eyelids of Plank’s vision. He’s involved with developing a similar market in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, hoping to replicate the concept in even more cities. “Food and community are the nexus of everything,” he says.
Sick of stalled zippers? Here’s your fix: The MagZip from Under Armour automatically aligns and locks into place by a magnetic pull. Engineer/inventor Scott Peters—along with his mom, Nancy Peters, and friend Dave Lyndaker—developed the efficient sliding technology to help Nancy’s brother who suffers from Myotonic Dystrophy, which makes zippers and buttons extra tricky. “We would design a concept, get it built, hand assemble it ourselves, sew it into jackets and then test it on friends, family and Uncle Dave,” Peters says. “After many prototypes and a few years of development, we finally had something that worked great!” The device took top honors at Under Armour’s annual Future Show for inventors-and, starting this fall, will appear in more than 15 men’s, women’s and kids’ athletic items by UA, including this ColdGear Infrared Zenith hoodie ($175) in a “Russian Nights” print—perfect for a moonlight run. Also look for a stylish men’s version called the Werewolf. Howl!
Picture this: while every cocktail may not be worth a thousand words, an artfully crafted one always creates the opportunity for conversation. This concoction provides rich autumn color balanced with savory harvest flavors—certain to warm up your family and friends for fireside chats this fall.
1.5 oz Art in the Age Rhubarb Liqueur
1 oz Gabriel Boudier Ginger Liqueur
2 oz cold press apple juice
1 oz organic carrot juice
In a mixing tin combine ingredients over ice. Stir gently for 30 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice. Garnish with freshly sliced apple and carrot as preferred.
When Savvy was growing up, nobody ever talked about thread count in sheets. Now it’s all 500-this and 600-that. Sheets have gone from utilitarian to luxurious. But thread count, it turns out, is a sham. At least according to Carla Wing, owner of Phina’s, the Federal Hill retailer Savvy recently rediscovered. “It’s all about quality—how the sheet is woven,” explains Wing. “I’ve seen 800-thread-count sheets fall apart in the wash, but a 200-thread-count sheet of Egyptian cotton, made in Italy, that’s so sturdy it can last 10 years.” Wing’s Signoria Firenze sheets will have you drifting off under the spell of Morpheus in no time. Also look for classic linen hemstitched napkins by Saro, luxe robes and bamboo towels, pretty bath products and other little luxuries for the homes. Brides will love the Universal Registry. Sweet dreams. 919 S. Charles St., 410-685-0911. phinas.com
Turns out, Hampdenites crave a good runny egg. When David Sherman opened the tiny Café Cito, he put a drippy egg sandwich on the breakfast menu. It was so popular, he’s since added six variations. On offer: Artisinal English-style Flory’s truckle cheddar cheese and spinach—or a mix of mushrooms, or house pimenton and fennel sausage—on a soft, chewy roll. If that’s the first thing you try at Café Cito (“small café” in Spanish) it won’t be the last.
Sherman trained at the Culinary Institute of America, and lived in New York and San Francisco (where he worked for Spanish chef Daniel Oliveira). Locally, he’s worked at b Bistro and Tapas Teatro, and in 2006, opened the short-lived Nasu Blanco, a Spanish and Japanese concept in Locust Point. That venture failed, he says, because “I was trying to wear too many hats at once and couldn’t keep up.”
In June the chef started serving weekend BYO dinner with a menu that included fish cheeks and spicy tuna tempura, vegetarian miso-glazed eggplant, and seared ribeye with roasted garlic puree—and the possibility of adding dinner on Thursdays and Sundays. “We want to focus on doing a few things really, really well,” he says. “This is a passion-over-profit venture.” 3500 Chestnut Ave., 443-682-9701, cafecitobmore.com
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JUSTIN TSUCALAS
We get a kick out of Ravens “Renaissance Man” Justin Tucker. He sings opera in seven different languages. He raps freestyle in a Dr Pepper commercial. He does spot-on impersonations of Ray Lewis and Christopher Walken. He geeks out over grammar on Twitter and invites his fans to come “shank golf balls” with him in Patterson Park. He proposed to his fiancée with a finely orchestrated event straight out of an episode of “The Bachelor” (and actually admits to watching Bravo). And by the age of 24, he has already won a Super Bowl and broken the record for the longest kick in a domed stadium (61 yards) among several others. No wonder FOX Sports dubbed Justin Tucker “The Most Interesting Man in the NFL.” And nearly every man, woman and child in Baltimore is crushing on the player who scores bonus “cool” points for his character.
STYLE: You’re just a few months shy of age 25, but you’ve already delivered the commencement speech at your alma mater, the College of Fine Arts at the University of Texas. How was that?
JUSTIN TUCKER: Such a huge honor. There’s definitely a parallel between kicking a ball through the uprights in front of thousands of people in a football stadium and preparing yourself to go onstage and perform a piece of music or express yourself through fine arts.
I heard you had a voice professor who was a former pro athlete.
I did. His name is Nikita Storojev and he’s an ex-professional hockey player. Played in Russia for a number of years. He had a completely different way of training his students—and it was pretty intense at times. I’d leave those hour-long voice lessons more exhausted than after a 6 a.m. football workout.
What’s a great first opera or aria to get someone hooked on the genre?
Oh, man. It’s hard to just pick just one. I have a few go-tos as far as performing. I like ‘Nessun Dorma’ from Puccini’s ‘Turandot’— Pavarotti has a great rendition of that one. My favorite is probably ‘The Toreador Song’ from ‘Carmen.’ It’s just such a masculine song. [Makes fist.]
You’ve written about listening to everyone from Frankie Valli to Miley Cyrus.
Yes, a lot of people really like the story of me as an opera singer, but that’s not all there is to me. I listen to every type of that music I can get my hands on—or, rather, put my ears to. I love visual art, too. My fiancée Amanda was an art history major in school and we took a couple of classes together. Ancient Roman art was fascinating.
Would you consider a post-NFL career in music?
Absolutely. It would be great to find a way to combine a business component and a fine arts component, so I could work every part of my brain—left side, right side, cerebral cortex.
So what’s that dream job?
I’d find some land, build a recording studio and manage a record label. Kind of do the Pharrell [Williams] thing, where I’d produce, then hop on a couple tracks, and one will
magically blow up, and before you know it, we will be flying off to the Maldives on a G6.
What car do you drive in this perfect life fantasy?
It would be sick to have a Fisker Karma. They’re totally over the top, but I drove one for a weekend last year and now I’m a huge fan. Mine would be matte white with black wheels.
What’s your personal style? I know you love your custom Indochino suits.
I do. When the pants are just a little too tight to be comfortable, that’s when you know you look good. Around town I like to wear good, clean, raw denim with a white T-shirt and some sweet sneakers. But when we travel with the team, there’s a quiet competition to see who can dress the best.
Do you guys ‘Fashion Police’ each other?
We’ll say stuff like, ‘Yo dog, that’s a sick pocket square.’ Or if somebody’s rocking a mean elbow patch during a game, you let them know. But if one of your teammates is looking real whack, then you’ve got to put it out there, like, ‘Bro, you need to get that suit tailored. You don’t need to wear your daddy’s suit. You’re in the NFL. Buy something that fits.’
You also have great taste in TV—‘Game of Thrones,’ ‘Boardwalk Empire.’ What’s your favorite show right now?
‘House of Cards,’ hands down. Kevin Spacey is my favorite actor. We binge-watched both seasons recently. If I saw him, I’d run up and say, ‘Oh oh oh, Frank [Underwood]—I mean, Kevin—I love you!’ I want to plan a power lunch with him at Wit & Wisdom.
I saw you were geeking out over the ‘National Spelling Bee,’ too. Yes! Gokul is so cool. I thought for sure he was going to win. Those kids are so freakin’ smart.
And you admittedly watch ‘Botched’ [the plastic surgery nightmare show] and follow all the ‘Real Housewives’ on Twitter.
Yep, I’m confident enough to own it. Here’s the thing: we’re around football so much at our facilities, right? We meet and practice for hours. The TVs in the cafe-eria are always set on the NFL Network or ESPN—and it’s the same stories recycled over and over throughout the day. Sometimes the specialists will go in there and eat lunch together. And when it’s just a few of us, we change all the channels. Put on Bravo or E! and catch up on our entertainment news.
Are you telling me the Wolfpack sits there watching ‘Millionaire Matchmaker’ together? Because that’s like my dream.
Well, usually I’m the one putting on Bravo. Sam [Koch] and Morgan [Cox] will put on something like the Golf Channel or HGTV. We’re all big ‘House Hunters International’ guys. Recently, ‘Island Hunters’ has become one of our favorites.
On the Ravens website, writer Ryan Mink described you as having a “lovable weirdness” about you. Does that resonate?
A label like ‘weird’ isn’t usually desirable but he puts ‘lovable’ in front of it and it’s supposed to be a compliment, right? I’ve always been a bit of a bigger personality. I try to stay happy and positive in everything I do. I think that resonates well with my friends and teammates—and I have an amazing family and fiancée who support me. No situation, whether it’s on or off the football field, will ever change who I am. So I guess if you want to call it my lovable weirdness, Ryan Mink, you know what? I’ll take it.
I saw an Instagram photo of you doing a headstand. Are you into yoga?
Yeah. I started doing yoga this offseason—and I actually quite enjoyed it. Just another way to take care of my body.
And your mind, too?
Definitely. Focusing on how to really center myself. That’s something that’s important to me—having my feet under me and knowing exactly where they’re going. Knowing exactly what the rest of my body will be doing in that 1.3 seconds between the snap, the hold and the kick.
Do you have any pregame rituals for good luck?
Ever since my rec soccer days, I lay out my uniform in front of my locker—helmet, shoulder pads, jersey, pants, socks, shoes, everything—in the shape of a man on the floor. It’s something I borrowed from Deion Sanders, Prime Time. I grew up watching the Cowboys and Prime was one of my favorite players.
You once tweeted a quote from Donald Trump that said, ‘There’s nothing wrong with bringing your talents to the surface. Having an ego and acknowledging it is a healthy choice.’ How big is your ego after kicking a 61-yarder? Does your brain just implode?
It would be pretty easy for that to happen—to fall into that trap. But I try to keep it in perspective. Part of being a pro is knowing that you’re a part of something that is bigger than yourself.
Watching kickers is always emotional for me. I’ve definitely cried for Billy Cundiff.
There have been times where I’ve struggled, myself. Realistically, any game could come down to my foot. It’s a blessing, it’s nerve-wracking, it’s a great opportunity. It is something that a lot of people would probably be scared of. Those are the times when I depend most on my teammates and remember they have my back, just like I have theirs. If I’m going down, I’m going down swinging. More often than not, we’re going to come back with points.
More than 90 percent of the time, in fact. Are fans still jerks sometimes when you make a mistake?
Sure. I can’t tell you how many knuckleheads have blown up my Twitter feed with fantasy football remarks. It’s ridiculous. But, it comes with the territory. It just goes back to the philosophy of ‘never let yourself get too big.’ Even if I was on some level of celebrity like The Biebs [Justin Bieber], you just can’t let it affect who you are, how you behave and your truest relationships.
What was the best perk you got after you won the Super Bowl?
Anquan Boldin and I got to play bubble soccer on ‘Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,’ which was really fun. I’ve always been a fan of his.
I remember! And Josh Charles played with you guys, too. Any other big brushes with fame?
I don’t want to name-drop a long list, but Amanda and I have been lucky to meet some amazing people. My favorites, though, are right here in town. Recently we’ve gotten to know the members of a band based out of Timonium called All Time Low. Jack and Alex. I can say they’re two of my best friends. Love those guys. Baltimore’s just filled with great people.
Fun. OK, last personal detail. What’s the tattoo on your back?
It’s a cross with wings. It has my Catholic confirmation saint name, which is Cephas—that’s what Jesus called Peter—and a reference to the Bible verse where Jesus says to Peter, ‘You are the rock upon which I’ll build my church and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.’
Why is that verse meaningful to you?
It ties in the human element to spirituality. In any major world religion, there’s a human element at play, which some might argue is flawed. I think it makes the whole thing just beautiful. I got the tattoo when I was 18. Looking back on it now, I think 80 percent of people regret their tattoos. The only thing I regret is not doing it way bigger and way more ornate.
I’m a retired Catholic, but I do like the new pope. How about you?
He’s a baller! Pope Francis is the coolest. But I also liked Pope Benedict and Pope J.P.2. But whatever religion you identify with—whether it’s Judaism or Islam or something else—there’s always a unifying component. We were all made by the same guy upstairs. To steal a line from ‘Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure’ we should all just ‘Be excellent to each other. And party on, dudes.’
Tell me something totally uncool about you.
I learned early on that I can’t try to look sexy. I did that for my driver’s license and I look like a serial killer.
What was “Baby Bosley” like at Gilman?
I’m shocked. You’re such a showman.
I grew into it. I was pretty dramatic. Started in theater.
What was your early experience with music like?
Like a dream. I’d just lay in bed and listen to the radio. Make up little songs in my head. I swear to God I wrote a No. 1 hit when I was 8 years
old but I can’t remember it.
Was it a love song?
Yes, I’ve always been a ladies man.
How’d you discover Motown?
My mom had a bunch of cassettes. But my first love, honestly, was Elvis Presley.
“Jailhouse Rock.” I heard it when I was 5 or 6 and it was the coolest goddamn song. Still is. Put on some early Elvis and I can’t stop myself from moving.
Your stage name is a nod to James Brown—and the new album [“The Dirty Dogs Radio Show”] is super-funky. Where’d you get your soul, man?
My stock answer is “I’m only white on the outside.” But If I’m being honest with you, it’s a deep question. I’m a white kid from the suburbs. How do I convince people that I’m not just trying to reappropriate something to look cool or knock somebody off? How do you do it? Just being human, I guess. I have a heart inside of me like anybody else. I want to share my vision of the beauty in this world through my music.
I listen to you when I’m Spinning at the gym. The only other man with that claim to fame is Prince.
That’s amazing. What song does it for you?
“American Gurlz.” It just has such a dirty beat and makes me laugh.
That’s a perfect response. I had a great time playing that character—the misogynistic narcissist. Lampooning mainstream rap for fun.
What’s the best lyric you’ve ever written?
I wish more people listened to the words these days. I’d say the last song on this album called “Some Friends of Mine.” That song has no
characters; it’s about personal experience. It’s me taking off my mask at the end.
That one makes me cry.
Yeah, I really like the first verse before it gets too sad. “I’m a lowdown dirty dog and I ain’t proud of how I’ve been, but I can feel a change that’s coming somewhere deep from within. Like a clean wind makes me feel like I can start again.”
What’s it mean to you?
Everybody has suffering, heartache. Even as a young man I’ve been through some shit in my life. I can share that with people.
How much time do you spend obsessing over getting famous?
More than I should, maybe? I’ll see some crappy band on “The Tonight Show” and get envious. I wish I could say fuck the money. But this is what I want to do with my life. It’s not like I’m going to give up tomorrow and become an accountant.
Pretend I’m a record executive. Give me your best elevator speech.
Underneath this very stylish jacket, Jessica, I’m strapped with TNT. I’ll blow this elevator sky-high if you don’t sign my band right now. I could be bluffing, but do you really want to take that chance?
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98,000. THAT’S HOW MANY PEOPLE follow Martha Cooper has on Instagram. A 2013 retrospective of her work titled “Street Signs” at the Palazzo Incontro in Rome drew lines stretching around the block. “In all my years in Rome I’ve never seen an exhibition more crowded,” wrote photo historian Jessica Stewart. A 2014 exhibition of Cooper’s work, “Evolution of a Revolution,” in Lublin, Poland has drawn such big crowds that the organizers are moving the show to Moscow this fall. The 71-year-old Cooper will attend the opening—one stop on a crowded late-2014 itinerary of festivals, exhibits and talks that will take her to the Azores, Istanbul, Switzerland, Argentina, Russia, Poland, Brazil and Art Basel Miami.
At such gatherings, “it’s like the Dalai Lama has been carried in when she arrives,” says Baltimore folklorist Elaine Eff, an old friend of Cooper’s. Fans jostle to have their photo taken with her and ask her to sign copies of her books, notes Eff, who calls Cooper “one of the great unsung photographers of our time.”
Unsung in her hometown of Baltimore perhaps but not amongst those who revere Cooper as the pre-eminent documentarian of what proponents call the biggest art movement in the history of the world—graffiti and street art. Her 1984 book with Henry Chalfant, “Subway Art,” is often called the “bible” of that movement and Cooper herself the matriarch of a family of tens of thousands of artists around the world inspired by it. “She’s an icon,” says Jay “J.SON” Edlin, a 55-year-old historian of graffiti and street art who first met Cooper in the early 1980s when he was a teenager spraypainting subway trains in New York City.
Cooper herself is modest about her fame. “When I’m in that world, I’m an icon. Take me one step out of that world and I’m nobody.”
Others beg to differ. “What’s amazing about Martha is that she has deep credentials, way past graffiti,” says Steve “ESPO” Powers, a friend and a fan, who points to Cooper’s current project, “Soweto/ Sowebo,” which pairs her shots of daily life in the Baltimore neighborhood with similar scenes of the South African township. Like her photographs of kids playing in the streets on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the late 1970s, these images show the joy and creativity expressed by poor and working-class people in neighborhoods often viewed as gritty and depressed.
“Marty’s work resonates with anyone who grew up in an urban environment because they capture the essence of city living, which to me means making the best use of a not always ideal situation,” says Baltimore-born artist Chris Stain, who recently painted an 80-foot-high mural in Brooklyn based on one of Cooper’s NYC photos. “Marty’s work has continuously highlighted a will to survive and be creative amidst the concrete jungle.”
Born in Baltimore in 1943, Cooper grew up in Mount Washington and attended Forest Park High School. She started taking photographs at a young age, encouraged by her father, Ben, who owned and operated Cooper’s Camera Mart in Hamilton with his brother Harry. She left Baltimore in 1959 to attend Grinnell College in Iowa, and after a stint in the Peace Corps in Thailand, studied ethnology at The University of Oxford. Though she had originally planned to become an anthropologist, she decided that she didn’t like working in museums and eventually found her way to journalism, becoming a staff photographer for the New York Post in 1977. It was there that she began taking the photographs that would ultimately make her reputation.
Edlin recalls first meeting Cooper when another young graffiti artist named SEEN invited her to photograph his crew spraypainting subway tunnels and trains in 1980. “We were a pretty wild bunch,” Edlin recalls. “It was dangerous but you got acclimated to it; you learned where the third rail was, how to walk on the tracks.” When the crack epidemic hit New York, just about the time that Cooper was beginning to photograph graffiti artists and their work, “you had to be armed,” Edlin says, “not to defend yourself against police but against other crews.”
Cooper was protected because attention-starved graffiti artists benefited from her photos of their work, Edlin says. “To have someone coming in taking beautiful pictures of your work with an expensive camera was an honor and also a validation of what you were doing.”
Cooper says that she decided to document the subway artists and their work because she thought that it was an ephemeral local phenomenon, an outgrowth of social conditions in the New York City of the late 1970s and early 1980s. “I was documenting that world in the spirit of historic preservation,” she says. “I thought, ‘this could only happen in New York City.’ I was wrong.”
When “Subway Art” came out in 1984, published in the U.K. because Cooper and Chalfant couldn’t interest an American publisher in the book, “there was an initial flurry of interest but then it died down,” Cooper says. Around the time the book was released, Mayor Ed Koch declared war on graffiti; train yards were protected by a double row of barbed wire-topped fences with attack dogs running between the rows, and subway cars were whitewashed and immediately removed from service if they were tagged. As Cooper had predicted, by the late 1980s subway art in New York was finished.
Throughout the 1990s she worked as a freelance photographer for publications like National Geographic and Smithsonian. “Little did I know that graffiti was spreading around the world,” Cooper says—or that it was slowly fusing with the South and Central American mural tradition to produce a new kind of public art, welcomed and sometimes even sponsored by municipal authorities.
In 2004 she was invited to sit on a panel with a group of younger folks who called themselves street artists, rather than graffiti writers, and who worked primarily with images rather than text. “I was 60 at the time,” she says, “and they knew who I was.” Those artists were traveling the world, painting and wheatpasting huge murals in city-sponsored festivals and exhibiting in museums. Some were selling works on canvas for eye-popping sums.
“I thought ‘if this is happening, I’m going to get in on it,’” Cooper says.
Since then, she has spent the greater part of every year journeying to far-flung locales, from Senegal to Stockholm, to photograph artists at work. “Her passion for expressive subcultures and voracious curiosity in spite of her age is truly inspiring,” says the Baltimore street artist Gaia, who curated Open Walls Baltimore in 2012 and 2014. “Marty has adapted with the times as many street artists have made the transition to the tradition of mural production and as many graffiti writers have become institutionally recognized.”
Cooper and Chalfant’s “Subway Art,” which has reportedly sold half a million copies, “undeniably changed the history of graffiti and the surface of the world’s cities,” Gaia says. But the work that Cooper has been quietly and methodically carrying out in Baltimore over the past decade, documenting daily life in Sowebo, may provide an even more enduring testament to her art. “The simple fact that she has recognized the wealth of culture in Southwest Baltimore despite its violent and troubled façade, is a testament to Martha’s courage and humanity,” he says.
Cooper herself believes that her Sowebo photographs, like her images of a now-vanished era in New York City, may need time to gel. “The work I do needs to sit for a while,” she says. “The ordinary becomes extraordinary after a few years.”
Until last year, Thomas Dolby had never spent much time in Baltimore. But when his “Invisible Lighthouse” tour brought him through Charm City, he decided to have dinner at a restaurant by the harbor, followed by a sunset stroll down the cobblestone streets of Fells Point.
“I was really enamored with it,” he says. “It just seemed like a city that has a lot of possibilities.”
Starting this fall, Dolby could help the city realize some of those possibilities. The man best known for the 1980s synth pop hits “She Blinded Me With Science” and “Hyperactive” is becoming the first Homewood Professor of the Arts at Johns Hopkins University, where he will teach “Sound on Film,” a course that helps students from Hopkins and Peabody craft soundtracks for movies.
The new position also brings Dolby into the heart of Baltimore’s surging arts and music scene. He’s helping to launch a new film and technology center at two sites in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District: the old Parkway Theatre and the building at 10 E. North Ave.—both of which are under renovation. It’s a joint effort among Hopkins, the Maryland Film Festival and MICA, which could be a big step for the neighborhood’s ongoing revitalization.
“Back in the 1920s and 1930s, Station North was really hopping,” Dolby says. “It would be fantastic if it could come back.”
If you’re only familiar with Dolby’s hits from decades ago, this new position might seem like something of a comeback for the mad scientist of music. While Dolby did take a 14-year hiatus from the spotlight, he stayed at the cutting edge of technology, music and film—just behind the scenes.
Born Thomas Morgan Robertson, he grew so interested in keyboards and recording equipment that his friends nicknamed him Dolby, after the audio company Dolby Laboratories. He was fond of silent movies, especially the way their stars (Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin) played the underdog. Later, when Dolby began performing in the late ’70s and early ’80s, he would borrow their vintage trench coats, suits and hats, throw in a bit of what he calls the “academic look” and use it in his music videos.
“It was the age of pin-up boy frontmen in bands—people like Sting, Adam Ant and so on,” Dolby says. “I didn’t feel like I could really compete in the handsome boy stakes. So I thought, ‘The thing to do is set myself apart.’”
Which he did—so well, in fact, that people still come up to him on the street and shout “Science!” or whistle a few lines of “Hyperactive.”
For a time, Dolby popped up all over the music industry. To help pay for the studio time to record his first album, he played synthesizers on the Foreigner hits “Urgent” and “Waiting for a Girl Like You.” Def Leppard brought him in to record parts for their “Pyromania” album, and Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters cast Dolby in the 1990 concert of “The Wall.”
In 1992, after releasing four albums in 10 years, Dolby left show business and moved to Silicon Valley, where he developed technology for cellphone ringtones. He became musical director of the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Conference, where luminaries from all different fields came to share ideas. By the time Dolby dipped his toe back into the music scene in 2006, it was a different world.
“I felt a bit like Austin Powers, waking up after decades of cryogenic freezing and there were all these shiny new toys to play with,” he says.
For the past several years, Dolby, 55, has lived in Suffolk, along the east coast of England, with his wife, Kathleen Beller (who played Kirby Colby on “Dynasty”). They also have three college-age kids. In England, Dolby loves to sail and watch shipping boats drift along the distance. He even filmed a documentary about a decommissioned lighthouse by his home, which he took on tour with live music.
Titled “The Invisible Lighthouse,” it won Best Picture at last year’s DIY Film Festival. He’s a “water-oriented person,” so it’s no surprise he and Beller are moving into a new Baltimore home right by the harbor.
But that’s not all Dolby likes about Charm City. He turned down a job offer in Boston to take the position at Hopkins in part because, he says, “Baltimore just seemed to have a freshness to it.”
Once the Parkway is up and running, Dolby plans to host a show similar to a TED talk, where guests from the music industry would come to talk shop with an audience. It would be broadcast live, and focus on composition, production and sound design.
“There’s clearly an appetite for audiences to understand what goes on behind the scenes,” Dolby says. “A few decades ago, if you were a celebrity, you were encouraged to be in a fishbowl, to keep a distance from your audience. Now with blogging, with tweeting, I think we’re in an age where performers are willing to let their guard down and share their process.”
As a child, Dolby was surrounded by teachers. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather were professors at the University of Cambridge. His mother taught algebra. And though all five of his siblings would go on to become teachers, Dolby at first chose a different path, skipping college for a career in music.
“I was the youngest of six kids, so there was never any parental pressure on me to follow in their academic footsteps,” Dolby said. “But it wouldn’t have surprised me if they secretly thought, ‘After a few years of banging his head against a brick wall in showbiz, he might come back to the fold and end up in academia.”
Though it took a few decades (and perhaps a bit of head-banging), he has at last become Professor Dolby—though he’s still getting used to the title.
“Annoyingly, most pull-down menus on the Internet only have ‘Mr.,’ ‘Mrs.’, and ‘Ms.’ They might have ‘Dr.,’ but very few of them have ‘Prof,’” Dolby says. “I have to do something about that. Otherwise, how am I going to get a good table at a restaurant?”
Tom Looney was talked into putting a flat screen in his new bar. “I was pushed,” says the co-owner of the Gypsy Queen food truck and former owner of the beloved, now defunct, Helen’s Garden in Canton. “This is not a 20-something sports bar,” he insists. “It’s the opposite of that.”
Bar Liquorice, which opened in midsummer, has a dark and slightly illicit air, a speakeasy with black leather bar stools and chocolate brown walls decorated with posters from 1920s Paris. “I call it small, dark and handsome,” Looney quips.
The menu reflects the tiny kitchen, with pressed sandwiches, charcuterie and bruschetta. But that’s not the point. Looney expects a more mature clientele at his 35-seat restaurant to sip on classic cocktails, craft beers and wine. “It’s a small, intimate place,” he says. “I want it to be about conversation.” 801 East Fort Ave. 443-708-1675, barliquorice.com
New york city
Hugh Jackman performing onstage is something to behold, as shown by his Emmy-winning turn as a Tony Awards host and a starring role in 2009’s “A Steady Rain.” The Australian heartthrob returns to Broadway in “The River,” Jez Butterworth’s follow-up to the Tony-nominated “Jerusalem.” Also starring Laura Donnelly and Cush Jumbo, the erotic, mysterious and poetic drama tells the story of a man and a woman who encounter each other at a remote fishing cabin on a moonless night. The preview show premieres Oct. 31 at Circle in the Square theatre, with opening night on Nov. 16. theriveronbroadway.com
Indulging in drinks and dinner before a show is many theatergoers’ favorite pastime. But if you want to do so at Volver, a perfect pre-theater option in Philly, you’ll have to buy a ticket for the restaurant, too. The acclaimed chef Jose Garces has basically eliminated the “no-show” with his new, 34-seat restaurant that requires parties to purchase advance tix at a set price ($75 to $250 per person) with the choice of two nightly seatings. Menu includes innovative plates such as Monterey Bay Squid, Carnitas Popcorn, and the cheekily named Milk & Cereal—rice flakes, quail egg, chicken oyster, truffle, thyme marshmallows and white asparagus milk. Or stop by the bar any time for cavier, champagne and cocktails. volverrestaurant.com
Film buffs can “get shorty” for 11 straight days (and nights) at the DC Shorts Film Festival, the largest fest of its kind on the East Coast. We’re talking 135 films from 25 countries, ranging from two to 30 minutes—from dramas to documentaries and funky experimental films—at five different locations in D.C. and Fairfax, Va. One standout:the 15-minute comedy “Anxious Oswald Greene,” a fantastical flick about a desperate man who seeks an unusual cure for his crippling anxiety. Don’t miss the opening weekend parties and filmmaker Q-and-As after each screening. Bonus: you can also watch 100 curated shorts from the comfort of your couch at dcshorts.com
Mount Vernon’s Joss Sushi bar has made a seamless transition to its new identity, TenTen Ramen—not to be confused with the Bagby property farther south. (By the time you read this, there may have been a kerfuffle; who knows?) The name is an alliteration of Japanese characters meaning “heaven, heaven.” Folks in these parts have been craving ramen since Erik Bruner-Yang of D.C.’s Toki Underground popped up at Artifact Coffee last winter.
“It’s kind of shocking that the noodle trend has skipped Baltimore,” says chef Jason Jiau, fresh from completing the hospitality management program at Temple University. After his parents shuttered Joss last year, Jiau began tinkering with the broth, which boils for eight or nine hours, reducing to one-fourth its original volume. TenTen serves broths in plain and spicy, pork-based and vegetarian variations. There’s also beef noodle soup and a handful of Japanese sides, like fried rice and chasu don (soy braised pork on rice). The wood bar, built for sushi grazers, could just have easily been built for noodle slurpers. 413 N. Charles St., 410-227-2116. tentenramen.com
Empty space. New building. Lots of foot traffic. Stone’s throw from the light rail. What to do? You could be forgiven for letting your imagination run wild. Or, if you’re Jeanine Turner and Jeffrey Kent, you could tame that imagination, harness it and put its products out there for all to see. That’s what the two have done at the Fitzgerald Apartments in Mount Royal, where their latest collaboration, Unexpected Art and Décor, is celebrating its one-year anniversary. Turner and Kent are used to putting their heads together. She’s a self-taught artist and interior decorator. He’s a MICA-trained painter. They started collaborating at Silo Point, the luxury condominium complex developed by Turner’s husband, Patrick, of Turner Development Group. When the condos upstairs were first being shown, the lobby downstairs was empty. Turner got to work spiffing it up and engaged Kent to help her. They brought in furniture, sculpture and other artwork to dress the space. Then another Baltimore developer, Toby Bozzuto, asked them if they’d like to do something similar at the Fitzgerald, the eco-friendly, LEED-certified apartment building the Bozzuto Group had built. Though the apartments were quickly rented and a Barnes & Noble bookstore took over most of the ground floor, there was still one empty space waiting for a retail tenant. That’s where Turner and Kent opened Unexpected Art. New this fall, the gallery/shop has now added furniture to its offerings, so if you want a sofa or lamp to go with that mixed-media piece, you can find it here. Turner’s and Kent’s own works are mixed in with those of other artists and artisans, such as Matt Ludwig of Ludwig Metals and Sandtown Millworks, Arman Mizani and Jill Hillman.“We’re very specific in selecting furniture that you don’t find just anywhere,” says Turner. The same goes for the art on the walls. “We like working with young artists,” says Kent, “but not everyone can show here. We’re selective.”With everything from $80 necklaces to $10,000 tables, the variety is impressive. Anyway, says Kent with a grin, “All art is affordable. If you can afford it, it’s yours.” Tues. through Sat., 1 to 6 p.m. 1205 W. Mount Royal Ave., 443-838-8877, unexpectedartspace.com
Like most people, I am not immune to the seductive allure of comfort foods, especially when the days grow short and the weather turns brisk. There’s just one problem: all of those rich and soothing dishes can fill your belly with a lot more than intangible comfort. Yes, I’m talking about packing on unwanted pounds—I call it the comfort food casualty.
But I am a stubborn woman, and I refuse to give up the foods I like just because they may not agree with my waistline. Instead, I’ve come up with ways to lighten up some of my favorite hearty cool weather dishes, and I’ve not lost any flavor in the process.
This chickpea flatbread, also known as socca, is my new favorite way to make homemade pizza, and as an added plus, it’s gluten free. The dough is made from chickpea—aka garbanzo bean—flour, and it’s a protein-rich, carbohydrate-free treat that feels like nothing short of an
indulgence. I’ve topped mine with a pea puree and fried cheese, but let your imagination run free. Anything you love to pile on your favorite pizza will work here.
Buttery mashed potatoes have always been my No. 1 go-to food when I need a big helping of comfort. But since I can inhale pounds of the stuff in one sitting, I don’t partake as often as I’d like. The solution to this craving conundrum: my root vegetable mash, a healthy and hearty mash of carrots, parsnips and rutabaga, which gets a luscious punch from Greek yogurt rather than butter.
If bulgogi isn’t on your list of comfort foods yet, it should be. This Korean dish of fried thinly sliced beef marinated in, among other things, a sweet and hot mixture of sesame oil, dark soy sauce, ginger, garlic and honey, is usually served with heaping portions of starchy white rice. Here, I’ve made a vegetable “rice” out of steamed cauliflower flavored with sesame oil and black sesame seeds.
Finally, I’ve used spaghetti squash to transform another one of my dietary Achilles’ heels—spaghetti with marinara sauce—into a filling, flavorful and low carb version of the original. Who says you can’t have your cake (or pizza) and eat it too?
Bulgogi with Cauliflower ‘Rice’
For the bulgogi:
1 pound skirt or flank steak, cut against the grain into paper thin strips
(Tip: If you find it difficult to cut the meat very thinly, stick it in the freezer for 5 minutes. The meat will firm up and be easier to slice.)
For the marinade:
6 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1⁄4 -1⁄2 teaspoon Cayenne pepper (depending on how hot you like it)
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon sugar
1⁄8 teaspoon ginger powder
1 clove minced garlic
1 large green onion, chopped (green stalks included)
Pinch white pepper
Whisk all the ingredients together, add the meat, stir, cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.
For the cauliflower “rice”:
1 large head of cauliflower
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons black sesame seeds
1⁄8 teaspoon salt
Meanwhile, make the cauliflower “rice.” Chop the cauliflower into roughly equal parts. Steam until very soft, approximately 20 minutes. Mash with a potato masher until it has the consistency of short grain rice. Add the sesame oil, black sesame seeds and salt. Stir to combine. Reserve and keep warm.
When it’s time to cook the steak, heat a deep-sided skillet over medium heat and fry the meat in batches, stirring often, until brown, about 4-5 minutes. Serve the meat, along with any juices from the pan, over the “rice” and garnish with sliced green onion.
Spaghetti Squash with Marinara & Fresh Basil
Serves 2 as a main course; 4 as a side dish
1 3-pound spaghetti squash
Salt and pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil
5 -6 cloves garlic, smashed
1 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes
1⁄2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
3-4 tablespoons fresh chopped basil
Freshly ground black pepper
Grated Parmesan (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake, face down, on a tinfoil-lined cookie sheet until tender. When cool enough to handle, shred each squash with a fork—spaghetti-like tendrils will emerge. Set aside.
While the squash is baking, make the marinara. In a deep-sided skillet over low heat, gently cook the garlic so that it infuses the oil. Before adding the tomatoes, remove the garlic cloves. Squish each tomato so that the sauce has a chunky consistency. Add the salt and pepper, and cook covered at low heat until the squash is ready. To serve, spoon the sauce over the spaghetti squash stands, as you would with pasta. Serve garnished with the fresh basil, fresh ground pepper and Parmesan cheese, if desired.
Root Vegetable Mash
serves 4 as a side dish
5 carrots, peeled and cut into rough chunks
1 large rutabaga, peeled and cut into large chunks
2 large parsnips, peeled and cut into large chunks
(note: cut all of the vegetables into roughly equal sizes)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1⁄2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1⁄4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Fresh chopped chives, to garnish (approximately 1 tablespoon)
To a stockpot filled with salted boiling water, add the carrots and the rutabaga. Ten minutes later add the parsnips. Boil the vegetables until soft, for a total of 20-25 minutes. Drain and set aside. In
a saucepan, saute the garlic over medium heat until fragrant. Add the root vegetables and stir. Puree with an immersion blender until smooth. Temper the yogurt and stir in to combine completely. Add the salt and pepper, stir. Serve hot with the chopped chives.
Chickpea Flatbread Pizza (Socca) with Pea Puree & Fried Cheese
serves 4 as an appetizer; 2 as a main course
For the flatbread:
1 cup chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour
1 cup + 2 tablespoons water
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1⁄8 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
Whisk together all the ingredients and cover. Let sit for 2 hours at room temperature. Meanwhile, make the pea puree. When you’re ready to make the flatbread, add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a cast-iron skillet and heat under the broiler until the oil is just beginning to smoke. Remove and add the chickpea batter, swirling it to coat the pan completely. Return to the broiler and cook until the edges are brown and the middle is set, about 10 minutes. Allow to sit for a few minutes, and then gently slide the flatbread from the skillet.
1 tablespoon butter
1 small shallot, minced
1⁄2 pound peas, fresh or frozen
8 - 10 leaves fresh tarragon, minced
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
Fresh ground pepper, to taste
In a medium saucepan, saute the shallot in butter until translucent. Add the peas and tarragon, lower the heat, and cover until the peas are tender. Using an immersion blender, puree the peas to a slightly chunky consistency, adding salt and pepper to taste.
4 ounces halloumi or paneer cheese
In a frying pan, fry the cheese on both sides until brown and crispy. To assemble the flatbread, add the pea puree and top with the cheese, and garnish with chopped chives. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Ian Gallanar had a PROBLEM with Shakespeare. He didn’t connect with the Bard—at least early on. “I thought it was for smart people,” he tells me, pushing his glasses up his nose. In his high school English class, “everyone else seemed to be nodding a lot. They seemed to get it.”
But things changed for the founder and artistic director of the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company (CSC), after he saw the Kenneth Branagh-directed “Much Ado About Nothing,” with Emma Thompson, Keanu Reeves and Denzel Washington. It wasn’t that the star-studded 1993 film was so enchanting. The scene that got to Gallanar was between Michael Keaton, as the bumbling constable Dogberry (“who exists to be funny,” Gallanar notes), and his assistant, played by Ben Elton. “They were terrible,” says Gallanar, who was at the time artistic director for the Minneapolis-based National Theater for Children. The actors “didn’t understand rhythmically how that comic banter should work,” he says. “I thought, ‘I could help this scene be funnier.’”
A few years later, he founded Minnesota Shakespeare in the Park. Not surprisingly, the first production was “Much Ado,” and the actor playing Dogberry was a standup comedian. “He understood comic rhythm.”
It turns out that children’s theater was good preparation for Shakespeare, especially the way Gallanar likes to direct. As in children’s theater, the Bard’s scripts demand an extraordinary suspension of disbelief, often communicated through exposition. “In children’s theater, the actor will say, ‘I’m a dragon and there’s a mountain I have to climb’; you don’t need an elaborate dragon costume or an actual mountain to create excitement and connect to the audience.”
Shakespeare indicates actions and settings in the script—Lear’s stormy heath, the magical forest of Arden, Hermione’s statue coming to life in “The Winter’s Tale,” countless shipwrecks and sprites. “The term that Shakespeare nerds use is ‘original practices,’” he explains. With minimal lighting and sets, and no mikes, the cast takes the audience on a wild ride.
Since its founding in 2003, the CSC has made its summer home at the stabilized ruins of the Patapsco Female Institute in Ellicott City. The walls and columns of the former girls finishing school frame a dramatic plein air stage facing a lawn where viewers can picnic and children don’t have to sit still. The site (rumored to be haunted) also has inspired popular roving productions, in which audience members follow actors from scene to scene.
On a chilly night in October several years ago, my daughter and I stood on a dark hillside as the weird sisters made their predictions about Macbeth, while the murderous Thane himself strode up the hill. We later gathered in a brick-walled cellar to watch Lady Macbeth panic over the killing of the king. Illuminated by spotlights, the actor’s shadow danced menacingly above her slight frame, as the deed itself loomed over her conscience.
Now Gallanar, who received raves for the roving “Macbeth” (and the follow-up production of “Dracula,” directed by Scott Alan Small), stands on the stage of the CSC’s new home. The former Mercantile Bank at the corner of Redwood and Calvert in downtown Baltimore will open its doors this month with the rom-com “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
The CSC purchased the building for $1.2 million in 2012, after searching the region for an indoor location. (They pre-viously “wintered” at the Howard County Center for the Arts.)
“We looked at a lot of old houses with big fields,” says CSC managing director Lesley Malin (who played Lady Macbeth in the moving production). “We looked at auto dealerships on Route 40.”
“We looked at the Enchanted Forest” (a former amusement park in a strip mall), adds Gallanar. “We couldn’t get anyone to return our calls.”
After the Baltimore Shakespeare Festival folded in 2011, Gallanar and Malin expanded the search to Charm City. When they walked into the former bank, more recently the Redwood Trust nightclub, they didn’t expect much. The interior was grimy. There had been a private bar in the basement called the “Bed Room” for its relaxed seating. “It was just icky,” Malin recalls.
But then they looked up. Columns rose through the open atrium to a coffered plaster ceiling with flourishes painted in bright colors that reminded them of Shakespeare’s original Globe Theatre in London.
Working with the architecture firm Cho Benn Holback + Associates, the company has put about $4 million into renovating the building. They built a smallish fixed thrust stage that bears some similarities to the Globe, the London theater that once staged Shakespeare’s newly penned plays. Of course, that theater held 2,600 souls in the 1600s, 10 times the capacity of the new CSC—though, as Malin points out, “people were smaller back then. And willing to be squished.”
Like the Globe, the CSC’s new theater is intimate, with rows of seats stacked vertically; the single row comprising the third tier looks straight down on the stage three stories below and feels like a perch in the rafters.
The red upholstered seats were Malin’s pick (“We learned about them at a Shakespeare conference.”), while the flip-down benches have lumbar support and no armrests to encourage a sense of community.
In Shakespeare’s day, theater was a casual affair; audience members drifted in and out. “If someone wants to get up in the middle of the show and get a drink and watch the rest of the show from the bar, that’s OK,” Malin says. Shakespeare anticipated distractions by building frequent expositions into the dialogue, Gallanar explains. For example, in “Romeo and Juliet,” after a fight takes the lives of Mercutio and Tybalt, “the prince comes on and Benvolio has this long monologue describing the fight we just saw.”
Gallanar has a hard time pinpointing his home of origin. Born in Seattle, he spent much of his childhood in Los Angeles, attending high school and college in Western Pennsylvania. “I’ve had 33 different mailing addresses” in his 52 years, he says. “I’m exhausted just saying that.”
In 1999, when Gallanar was directing Rep Theater of America—a national touring company that could set down roots anywhere—he and his then wife settled in Maryland to start a family. 15 years later (“the longest I’ve lived anywhere”), Gallanar, now divorced, with a teenage daughter, appears to be settling in. The stage is fixed. The chairs are bolted to the floor. That seems unusual to a director who once staged a production atop a plywood-covered swimming pool and used hay bales for audience seating. The physical space “becomes a metaphor,” he says. “But this feels like home.”
It’s a fact. Everybody loves Audrey Slade. Known for her smarts, style and collaborative spirit, the director of public relations at the Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore has brought together some of the city’s finest chefs, fashionistas, philanthropists, wellness gurus and others for events that make the luxury hotel a hot (and haute) destination for locals, not just jet-setters. So it’s no surprise we selected Audrey as this issue’s model citizen—and our planning partner for STYLE’s 25th Anniversary Party at Wit & Wisdom from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 15. To RSVP, visit baltimorestyle.com/25years
Where to buy:
Audrey is wearing head-to-toe selections from Green Spring Station, our fashion partner for the party. Nicole Miller printed sheer blouse, $220, and embellished pants, $495, from Panache. Claudia Ciuti metallic/wood sandals, $355, from Matava. Oliver Weber ring, $182, from Bijoux Inspired Jewels. Marti necklace, $195, from Trillium.Photographed by David Stuck. Makeup by Natalie Sams, Four Seasons.
To celebrate Baltimore Improv Group’s big move to the Mercury Theater (formerly the Strand), we asked artistic/executive director Michael Harris to share some fun facts about the theater company. Then we invited four BIG performers to throw out random nouns, verbs and adjectives (a la “Mad Libs”) to liven up the story. In short: Hijinks ensue.
After 10 years, we’re getting rid of our Gypsy shoes and moving into our permanent home on the planet Jupiter. That means, starting this fall, we can commit to performing every Friday and Saturday night. Hooray! The size of our company has grown to somewhere between 14.5 and 3,879,247 people—or roughly the size of President John Adams’ booty, depending on how many peppadew he eats a day. We’re basically one big, happy douche canoe.
If you’ve never seen improv show, here’s the deal: We ask the audience to suggest a theme, character or setting—then we use those details to create a totally unscripted play for them on the spot. Sometimes the best scenes come from the simplest suggestions, like how to marry a unicorn or play shuffleboard. The worst suggestion we’ve ever received came from a bachelorette party. No matter what we asked for, they just kept yelling the word SODOMY! (OK, that’s actually true.) We all have different day jobs, including chimney sweeps, bikini inspectors, pooper scoopers and nostril trimmers. (Not the hair, the actual nostrils. Some people just have too much hole.) We also have a few lawyers, accountants, web designers and waiters (i.e., stand-up comedians).
We perform more than 90 shows a year. If you ask us why we do improv, most of our performers will say something like, “I’m fulfilling a desperate need for attention that was not adequately satisfied in childhood.” (Actual answer.) But, to be honest, we also do it for the sex, since so many of our fans are single. The rest of the time, we like to sit around thinking about taxes, the state of our immigration policy and falling into the sky when gravity stops working.
Here’s the scoop on the people in this photo. Michael Harris is a complete totalitarian who has a pet octopus and refuses to stop singing “I Think I’m Gonna Like it Here” by Little Orphan Annie since we moved into our new digs. Bridget Cavaiola can best be described as promiscuous and ebullient. (Go ahead, “Google” it, we’ll wait.) She’s also our education director. Yes, adults and kids can take classes with us—and we even just added an improv workshop to help folks dealing with social anxiety.
Heather Moyer, who handles our publicity, is a great mom with a unique talent: shooting milk out of her eyeballs. Katie Long believes she’s the secret love child of Rick Moranis and Madeleine Albright. Can’t you see the resemblance? And then, of course, there’s Rasheed Green—a self-proclaimed diva who has been known to walk offstage shouting, “I don’t need this nonsense! Be in my dressing room in five minutes with a freshly poured ginger ale.” Come check out a BIG performance soon, including “The Movement,” a fun collaboration with The Collective dance company, on Oct. 10 at the BMA. bigimprov.org
>>Read the actual interview here: “OFF THE CUFF: Michael Harris”.
I love Ben Affleck, who keeps getting kicked out of casinos for counting cards. I don’t really understand what it means—or how you can control what humans do with their brains.
Whenever you get down in a deck—meaning you’ve seen enough hands—it’s really just a plus/minus system. So when the cards come out, you’re either plus one or minus one, and when it gets in the player’s favor, that’s when you see the bets jump up. We actually teach our surveillance officers how to count cards because it makes it easy to spot someone doing it.
How do you regulate it? It’s not illegal.
It’s more of a common understanding among gamblers that casinos frown upon it. When a known counter walks in, it’s often an easy conversation to say, “Hey, look, if you want to play blackjack, I’m going to ‘flat bet’ you, meaning whatever your first bet is—whether that’s $100 or $1,000—that’s the only bet you can make the entire time you’re here.”
So you don’t kick them out?
Nope. You can also say, “We’re glad you’re here, but you can’t play blackjack. You want to play a slot machine? You want to have bottle service in our mezzanine level at $1,000 minimum spend? Have at it.”
Are you tempted to count cards yourself?
No. First of all, I’d get caught. But card counting is no fun. You’ve got to be very focused—and it’s incredibly difficult. You’re not out there laughing, joking, high-fiving people and having a cocktail. You’re watching every card that comes out of that shoe.
What’s the most fun you’ve ever had at a casino?
Doing shots with Kid Rock was pretty interesting.
Give me a fun fact about the new casino.
Sticking with that theme, Guy Fieri’s restaurant has a “shot machine” where you get to select your shot—say, a fireball—and it comes out of a gun straight from the freezer at like 2 degrees.
Why else would a non-gambler like me come to Horseshoe?
Sixteen hours of entertainment a day, cool design elements, celebrity chef restaurants and an open floor plan where you can live vicariously through the high rollers.
True or false: casinos in Vegas pump in extra oxygen to keep people awake.
False. Urban legend. Now, I will say, the old school philosophy was to build casinos with no windows or clocks, but we have lots of windows. If you drive by the casino on Russell Street, you can look inside and see all the lights flashing.
By the age of 3, you were already performing on stage with your dad. Do you remember those days?
Very well. All my earliest memories tend to be focused around music and singing. I really thought for most of my childhood that’s what I was going to do when I grew up. Then the acting thing kind of took over. T
Tell me about your dad? I’ve always been a real daddy’s girl. He started working in jazz clubs when he was about 15 years old. He grew a beard—which I’ve never seen him without—so he could pass for 18 and play music. He’s blind and raised our family on a musician’s salary.
What jazz artists do you love? I’ve been listening to a lot of Nina Simone lately. I love Blossom Dearie, Chet Baker, Anita O’Day. Also, there’s this 26-year-old French-American singer, Cecile McLorin
Salvant. She’s just fantastic.
When did you really find your voice? When I turned 40. That’s when I gave myself permission to put [my music] out there. When you’re known for one thing, even though you can do something else, sometimes you feel like, “What are people going to think? Am I going to be accepted?” Then you turn 40 and you just don’t care.
I love your Simple Minds cover [“Don’t You (Forget About Me)” from “The Breakfast Club”]. Was that an obvious choice or did you wrestle with it?
While we were recording the CD, John Hughes passed away. One day at rehearsal I asked Peter [Smith], “Is there any way we could do this song as a ballad?” I started singing it a cappella and he put these beautiful chords behind. It was really interesting. I thought it would be a nice tribute to John because music was so important to him and also to our relationship. I have to say, I idolized him. He was a very unique, dynamic person. When we did those movies together, we clearly had a sort of creative synchronicity. He truly loved music and would just give me mix tape after mix tape. He’s the person who really introduced me to the Beatles. Before then, I had only heard “I Am the Walrus” and it freaked me out as a kid.
What’s it like interacting with your fans? Does anyone come up and ask if they can borrow your underpants for 10 minutes like in “Sixteen Candles?” [Laughs] No! But that would be funny. People are incredibly nice. When I perform, I’ll often call out to the audience and ask questions, like “Who is the greatest jazz vocalist of all time?” At the Montreal Jazz Fest, that’s no problem. But a couple of times it’s been dead silent. Yikes. I realized afterward, when I was signing CDs, that tons of people have never heard the Great American Songbook—and now they love it. It was this feeling of “Oh my God, we’re ambassadors of jazz.”
You’re the gateway drug to Ella Fitzgerald. I’m a gateway drug! Yes!
So what’s next? Is there really a “Jem and the Holograms” movie? Yep, I’m in that. I also just started filming another movie—and I’m working on my next novel and starting to think about another CD. Maybe a live concert on DVD.
Forno started service last spring, a week before the wildly popular “Book of Mormon” opened at the Hippodrome across the street. While the scenario created a trial-by-fire, the crowds also confirmed what owner Bryan Noto, former manager of Alewife, had suspected. “I felt strongly that the neighborhood could sustain another restaurant,” he says of the area that also includes the University of Maryland Hospital and many highrise apartment buildings. “Some nights at Alewife we were turning away 100 people.”
Noto and his wife and co-owner Emini Dukic, were inspired after traveling in Sonoma, where local wines were served with simple dishes made from “natural, seasonal ingredients,” he says. His father-in-law, Amir Dukic, helped build out the space with wood reclaimed from Pennsylvania barns, recycled brick and window panes salvaged from a church.
Chef Kris Sandholm’s menu features brick oven pizza and small plates, salads and main courses, use such locally sourced ingredients as Big City Farms greens, Virginia rockfish and Springfield Farms chicken.
The restaurant is prepped for the theater season. Menu items are “geared to come out quickly while still having higher quality,” says Noto. “We’ve got it down at this point.” 17 N Eutaw St., 443-873-9427. fornobaltimore.com
“The top is really special,” says designer David Wiesand—owner of Baltimore-based custom furniture and decorative arts company McLain Wiesand—in describing his storied PXE Center Table. “It was inspired by a trip to the Walters Museum. The idea was to try to make a tabletop that looked like it had the qualities of ancient Roman glass.” The round top is composed of three, 8-inch-thick glass slabs bolted together, a combination of iridescent blue green, teal and gold metallic shades. The base is hand-forged steel with a gold leaf finish—a collaboration with artist Robert Machovec, known for his work with found metal. “We’ve made them as both center tables—something you’d see in an entrance or foyer—and beautiful dining tables,” says Wiesand. $14,500 for this model. Custom sizes available. 1013 Cathedral St., 410-539-4440. mclainwiesand.com
MICA fiber arts grads Hannah Brancato and Rebecca Nagle landed on Fast Company’s “100 Most Creative People” list for an elaborate “panty prank”—where they pretended to be Victoria’s Secret launching a line of PINK consent-themed underwear bearing slogans like “No Means No” and “Ask First”—in support of FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture, the duo’s organization that aims to reduce sexual abuse and help survivors heal.
How did the idea for the hoax come about? We did the prank to get new people talking about consent and avoid preaching to the choir.
Basically we thought, ‘We want to have a conversation with Victoria’s Secret consumers, so let’s pretend to be Victoria’s Secret.’ Your Pink Loves Consent website got more than 100,000 hits the first day—and thousands of people tweeted the hashtag #loveconsent.
Were you scared of getting sued?
Thankfully, we had a very good lawyer. How did you pick the slogans? We contrasted Victoria’s Secret’s actual PINK product line that’s marketed toward middle school and high school aged girls. They use slogans like, ‘Sure Thing’ and ‘NO’ in really big letters followed by ‘peeking’ in tiny letters. You used a diverse group of models for the campaign, including minority and plus-size women. Feeling good about your body, no matter what size or shape it is, is really integral to the idea of consent and pleasure. We want to help reframe what’s considered sexy, so it’s up to each individual to define what that means to them. Did fans feel betrayed when they realized they’d been duped? When we did the reveal, people’s frustration wasn’t directed at us for having done the prank but at Victoria’s Secret like, ‘Why wouldn’t you do this?’ I bet lots of women wanted to buy the underwear. They did, but launching a lingerie company isn’t one of our goals. So we released a DIY guide. Lots of college and community groups have started making their own underwear to raise money for consent campaigns.
How did you two connect on your shared message and mission? Hannah had been working at House of Ruth as a community artist and resident. Around the same time, Rebecca set up an arts therapy program and had transformative conversations about issues surrounding sexual and domestic violence. We both realized this was a private conversation—taking place inside the shelter—and it needed to be more public.
How do you encourage people who haven’t been affected by this issue to get involved? Right now we live in a culture where the burden is on the survivor. It’s asking a lot of that human being to be a mouthpiece for an issue they didn’t even choose to be connected to. It just happened to them. The more we can all share that voice—and remove stigmas or labels for speaking out—the better our society will be.
What’s next for the two of you? The Monument Quilt. Communities across the country are engaging in this public art project by making quilt squares and hosting quilt-making workshops and local displays. We’re doing a 13-city tour through September. The final vision is that the quilt will be displayed on the National Mall—covering a mile of the lawn with thousands of survivor stories to spell, ‘Not Alone.’
One of the things that surprised me when I came to Baltimore long ago was the peculiar enthusiasm for our difficult-to-sing national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” This zeal is not evident elsewhere in this republic. I don’t believe that I had ever thought about those broad stripes and bright stars before the fates landed me here. Most Americans only know the first verse and there have been many attempts to replace it with an easier-to-sing ditty.
But Baltimore is THE city of the national anthem. It’s our heritage. For here we saw the rockets’ red glare and heard bombs bursting in air in the dawn’s early light. No other place in America can make that claim. (I wonder if any other place cares? But I won’t dwell on that.)
In September, we will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812—which, in Baltimore, was actually the War of 1814 (things happen slowly here). That’s the year when those broad stripes and bright stars withstood the perilous fight o’er the ramparts. (Feel free to sing along now.) The British bombardment of Fort McHenry! The Star-Spangled Banner! Francis Scott Key! You remember, of course? Trust me, Baltimore remembers.
This month, let us put aside our petty differences. Let us not dwell on whether Baltimore is breaking our hearts or the survey that showed nearly half of Maryland’s citizens wanted out of the Land of Pleasant Living. Let’s not brood over 26th Street collapsing or that it will cost at least $18.5 million to fix (it’s only money and we have none). Who cares if Stephen Colbert thinks Charm City is an “uninhabitable wasteland.” He’s wrong. It’s a densely
inhabited wasteland—and we’ve got those broad stripes and bright stars and Poe’s body, too!
Let us also remember that when the British sailed up the Chesapeake Bay in the summer of 1814 they easily sacked Washington. The locals cut and ran. Scattered like chickens. The White House was abandoned. Dolley Madison? Remember her? She saved the portrait of George Washington attributed to Gilbert Stuart. The British actually burned the White House along with many other public buildings. Historians always note that the British were actually amazed to find so little resistance.
After that easy victory in Washington they headed north, where Baltimore offered its would-be invaders a rather different reception. Washington was a small, swampy burg at the time, but Baltimore was the third largest city in America. There were 8,000 souls in Washington, but nearly 50,000 in Baltimore. Washingtonians could not get into their wagons fast enough when they heard the British were coming. But in Baltimore the
natives prepared to fight house-to-house if necessary.
Well, as every schoolchild learns, Fort McHenry withstood the onslaught—and in the morning the flag was still there! So our enthusiasm for “The Star-Spangled Banner” remains robust. Think only of our spirited public singings of that hard-to-sing song. (It has bested many a great vocalist.) Plus, we have the manuscript. It’s up at the Maryland Historical Society. I urge you to visit.
And we have Fort McHenry, an honest-to-God National Park on a tiny spit of land jutting into the water. Let the rest of the country have Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon. We’ve got Locust Point!
The War of 1812 or 1814, or whenever it was, is only yesterday in our memory for not only did Fort McHenry withstand the fabled bombardment, but the locals—a grab bag of volunteers, old men and boys as young as 12, and some defenders lured right out of the taverns—turned out en masse. More than 16,000 heavily armed Baltimorons mustered—much to the surprise (and chagrin) of the Brits.
When talking trash about our homespun forces, British General Robert Ross famously quipped “I don’t care if it rains militia!” Big talk. Ross stopped for breakfast at a farmhouse as he rode confidently toward the city and the locals asked him if he would be back for dinner. The general dramatically assured them that he would “dine in Baltimore tonight—or in hell.” Ross got that right. A sniper promptly shot him off his horse and he bled to death. The British invasion unraveled. Baltimore has always hated trash talk, hon. 9
1. What is your background and how did you find such a lasting fit at UB?
I graduated from The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins and started teaching in local schools. When I landed at UB, I was so taken with the diversity of students—most of whom had full-time jobs in addition to their classes—the unique and abundantly creative faculty from a range of disciplines, including graphic design and digital media, and the urban energy of the Mount Vernon campus.
2. How is UB different from every other master’s in fine arts program?
No other program that we know of has a dual focus on writing and publishing arts. No other program emphasizes creativity as something you can enliven and enrich throughout your life. [Students take “Creativity: Ways of Seeing” in their first semester.] And no other program teaches writers to design and produce their own handmade, electronic and printed books. Many of our students currently run their own publishing ventures.
3. What do students gain by learning to make these beautiful thesis books?
Students learn who they are as writers, artists, publishers—and what they really care about. When asked to create the physical form (or “home” as we call it) for their work, they come to understand their own writing voice. They learn how to push themselves as writers—and how to let go of their work when they publish it.
4. What is your program’s coined catchword “plork” all about?
Play + Work = Plork. It’s the animating spirit of the program—work as a form of play (not its antithesis) and play as a way of working. This is a kind of creativity that’s usually lost or abandoned after childhood. A willingness to experiment, to trust accident, to suspend judgment. So much good work happens when we are playful.
5. What will happen behind the scenes at your 10th anniversary bash?
We’ll recharge everyone’s creativity with workshops, enjoy alum readings and dance the Plork at an after-party. It’s a time to join our voices together and hear the emerging new sound.
It’s not every day that a music critic for The New York Times makes me cry.
But that’s exactly what happened when I read Zachary Woolfe’s story “After Playing, Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow,” in which he writes about having donated his unplayed cello to a program that provides instruments to underserved public schools.
Much of Woolfe’s account rang eerily, uncomfortably true. His cello, he wrote, had become “as useless and forgotten as my appendix,” gathering dust in a closet, taken out only to move from one apartment to the next.
As I write this, my own cello leans silently against the wall in a corner of my dining room, where it has more or less lived since we moved into this house in 2003. It hasn’t been taken out of its case in months, and the last time it was played with any degree of seriousness, Bill Clinton was still governor of Arkansas. But the thought of giving it up, of having it out there in the world without me, makes me positively queasy.
“These instruments become vessels for so much of our time, energy, care, anxiety and joy,” Woolfe wrote. “To give them away is to admit that there are parts of our lives that are over. For many of us, it is to say goodbye to our childhoods.”
I first began to play the cello in fourth grade, and within two years I was a serious presence on the local music circuit: All-County. All-State. All-Milky Way. OK. Maybe not that last one. But there was an endless schedule of lessons and concerts and auditions, hours and hours spent practicing and rehearsing. And always when I looked out into the audience, there was my father, my perpetual chauffeur, patiently doing The New York Times crossword puzzle or reading some dense book to the strains of Saint-Saëns and Vivaldi. In one of our family’s most painful episodes, my 50-something father, inspired by the pint-sized talented musicians in my circle,
decided to try to learn to play the violin himself. And while his devotion was commendable, let’s just say it significantly dwarfed his talent.
Throughout adolescence, music became my entrée to the world at large, my cello like a trusty sidekick. It went with me on countless bus and car trips and flew with me to concerts in Canada and the Bahamas. I spent four life-changing summers playing chamber music at a tiny camp on the shores of Lake Dunmore in Vermont. In high school, I got my first taste of quasi-adult independence lugging that cello on the Long Island Railroad and the New York City subway to take lessons in Manhattan.
Eventually, though, it became clear that music did not have the utter grip on my soul that it did on some of my fellow players. “Don’t become a professional musician unless you absolutely have to,” I was warned. I decided not to go the conservatory route, but I dutifully brought my cello to college and continued to study. I had always assumed that after I graduated, playing the cello would naturally find its way back into my life somehow. Mysteriously, that never happened, but my long-silenced instrument has stayed with me ever since. In the summer of 2001, it was—quite miraculously —in the one part of my Washington, D.C. apartment that wasn’t destroyed by a freak flash flood. It seemed almost providential.
When I first stopped playing, I was taken aback how much I missed the physicality of it, the familiar sensation of my fingers against the metal strings and glossy wood. But eventually those cravings faded, as did the hard-won calluses on my fingers that had always marked me as a card-carrying member of the string players’ fraternity. For a long time, muscle memory was strong enough that I could still pull out the cello and sound reasonably legitimate, the way some people can still robotically recite parts of their bar mitzvah haftorah. But now I am so out of practice I can hardly play at all. The cello is like a ghost from my past, a
language I once spoke fluently but now can now only understand a few words of.
Of course, the oldest cliché about parenting is that it makes everything old seem new again. And so when my six-year-old son decided he wanted to take up the violin through a program at school last year, I felt a stirring of something essential but long dormant within me. As I watched him hold that tiny instrument for the first time, beaming with possibility, I was overwhelmed.
One Sunday afternoon last winter, I settled into a creaky wooden chair in a school auditorium to watch my son’s very first orchestra rehearsal. As I unfolded The New York Times, I was flooded with memories of my father, who passed away unexpectedly two years ago. So this is what it looks like from the other side, I thought. Zachary Woolfe wrote that over time it “became harder to justify letting my cello accumulate dust, knowing it could be doing for someone else what it had once done for me. I began to imagine life without it.” Selfishly, I am not there yet. I still need my instrument with me, a physical reminder of who and where I’ve been. I’m just not ready to let it go.
In the meantime, I have no idea whether Alec will take to the violin as I did to the cello. I can’t predict whether a passion for music will burrow its way into his soul, whether it will open his horizons and literally take him places he otherwise would never go. But if one day, the thought of giving up a beloved instrument brings tears to his eyes, I know I can call it a win. 9
Jennifer Mendelsohn lives in Mount Washington with her husband and their two boys. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, People, Slate and USA Weekend. She also serves as one of Us Weekly’s Fashion Police “Top Cops.”
IMAGINE THIS: Katrina Ford, the statuesque vocalist for Baltimore’s indie-rock powerhouse Celebration, and Sean Antanaitis, her band mate and husband, are sitting at home discussing their evening plans. Since moving to Baltimore in 1998 the couple has carved a singular path through the local music community, first with the intensely potent Love Life, now as Celebration. They’re sought-after collaborators—with Ford lending her indelible voice to records by TV on the Radio, British electronics duo UNKLE and Future Islands’ breakout new album “Singles.” She also fronts the local dream-pop groove machine Mt. Royal. Antanaitis put his distinctive chops on Scarlett Johansson’s 2008 solo album.
When Ford, sitting for an interview at a Station North coffee shop, candidly talks about what their evenings together are like, the mind begins speculating about how a glamorous creative-class power couple spends its free time. Fabulous party? Hot-ticket event? Checking out the cool nightspot du jour?
“We’re like—let’s go play synthesizers,” Ford says, followed by an infectious laugh. “Not all of it becomes a Celebration song, it’s just what we do.”
They’ve been doing that for a decade as Celebration, the band whose name is a statement of purpose. Ever since its 2005 self-titled debut, Celebration has functioned as a euphoria delivery service—distilling organs, drums and voice into a powerful narcotic that soothes the soul. In recent years the core trio of Ford, Antanaitis and drummer David Bergander added keyboardist and backing vocalist Tony Drummond and guitarist Walker Teret to the band’s live settings, creating a powerful rock combo that still agilely handles its rhythmic curves and hypnotic melodies. This lineup yielded the ten songs on the band’s new “Albumin,” released on Aug. 18.
It’s Celebration’s first record with the British label Bella Union, which was founded by the Cocteau Twins’ Robin Guthrie and Simon Raymonde in 1997. Guthrie left to start his own venture in 2000, and ever since Raymonde runs the label like an impeccable small press.
“I can’t believe there’s still people like this making records,” Ford says of the authentic “music lovers” at Bella Union, which has released exquisite albums by Australia’s Dirty Three, American composer Van Dyke Parks and the spectral Swedish indie-pop band I Break Horses. Stylistically these artists are all over the map; what unites them is their outsider iconoclasm. Working on the fringes of the conventional indie-rock industry machine, these musicians refuse to churn out albums quickly just to plug into the 24-7 music cycle in hopes of trending high on social media. They take their time to make the music they want to make.
“We didn’t think we were going to work with a label again after [a less-than-ideal experience with] 4AD,” says Ford. “But when we tried to go at it alone, we realized we needed help to spread the word. We’re not good at tooting our own horns. We just want to play music.”
It’s what Ford and Antanaitis have done for 23 years—22 of those as a couple. Ford is a refreshingly no-nonsense front-woman, the kind of artist who has spent enough time on this planet to recognize how precious it is. Between working to pay the bills and the day-to-day living of being a grown-up, that doesn’t leave a huge amount of spare time to create, so she and Antanaitis take advantage of free time together as much as they can.
They head down to their basement, fire up a click track to provide a rhythm and begin playing off each other until an idea forms.
They record everything. Sometimes those musical ideas end up as Celebration songs, sometimes they become something more personal. “Tomorrow’s Here Today,” a song off “Albumin,” began life as a gift for their drummer Bergander and his wife on the birth of their son, Asa. A skipping beat propels the song along its cheerful way, the melody growing out of a gauzy keyboard wash that opens the song. Throughout Ford coos a collage of lines that hit the ears like drops of overwhelming tenderness—“before you know, you’ll be grown”; “the future will burn bright my love”; “this world needs a face just like you”—before the entire song blossoms into the titular chorus.
That was six years ago; it was Bergander and the band who lobbied for it to become a Celebration track. “We wrote the song as a gift and it kicked around our lives for a few years and the rest of the band said, ‘I think we should make this a rock song,’” Ford says. “And we thought, let’s try it.”
Such is the alchemy of songwriting: songs often start as mere ideas that steep inside the band members’ heads for a while before they mature into songs. Everybody puts in a piece of himself or herself—and what comes out the other side might end up on an album. “When you work with people for as long as we have you have another language, another mythology, and that’s our music,” Ford says. “It moves around and develops and changes. It’s thrown away and resurrected and rebuilt. We just go wherever the excitement is for everybody.”
That’s why sometimes it takes time to put out new material. Though the band is a prolific songwriting unit, “Albumin” is Celebration’s first release in three years. What started as about 25 song ideas eventually ten. Working everything through the band’s algebra simply takes time.
So, of course, when Ford and Antanaitis are home, and the laundry is done and the cats are fed, they’re going to do what artists do: create. She can’t imagine doing anything else with her life. “When I was a little kid, I used to daydream this,” Ford says. “And since we’re a couple, when we have time off together, we do what we love—make music.”
“Since the discovery of America by Columbus, nothing has occurred of so much importance to the new world as navigating the Atlantic by steamers.”
I may not have the maritime chops of shipping magnate Samuel Cunard, who uttered those words in 1840 as he was set to launch the first regular transatlantic passenger service, but I can’t help but
concur with his sentiment—albeit with a 21st century twist: Since flying has become impossible, nothing has occurred of so much importance in my life as my discovery of the Queen Mary 2.
I stopped flying in this country in 2010 because of the odious practices of the TSA. Suddenly, my life of travel was over. I lamented never seeing Europe again. And I made an assumption I bet many people make: ocean liners are only for the wealthy. I had romantic notions of Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr in “An Affair to Remember” and thought such a glamorous experience wasn’t for the likes of me.
Boy, was I wrong. Depending on the time of year and location of your cabin, you can do a 7-day crossing on Cunard’s QM2 from New York to Southampton, all meals (excluding alcohol) and entertainment included, for anywhere from $800 to $20,000. We sprang for a private glassed-in balcony for $1,500. Though since you have the run of the ship, you could be just as happy with an interior stateroom for half the price.
At the pier in Brooklyn, the QM2 fills the skyline. Imagine the Empire State Building laid on its side yet still towering. My husband and I drop off our luggage with a porter at the curb and go inside, where security is a breeze. After we get our pictures taken and are handed our Cunard i.d.-slash-credit card (how you pay for
extras on board), we’re given a number, like you’d get at a deli counter. Since we got there early, we’re No. 25, which puts us well ahead of the 2,500 or so passengers still to come.
We pass into the huge hangar that serves as a waiting area, where it already feels like a party. I chat with several people who’ve done this crossing umpteen times. That’s one thing you quickly learn about the QM2: it’s not a cruise, it’s a crossing. No half-naked, sunburned bathers doing belly-flops in the pool or getting drunk and vomiting over the side. This is a Queen, after all, and people respect her.
Each time a number is called, people clap and cheer, and watch as passengers pass through a big door. On the other side, we head straight for the escalator, above which is written: “Leaving Brooklyn? Fuhgeddaboudit!” Then we climb a few ramps, glancing down at the vertiginous views below, until we pass through the longed-for portal. A phalanx of smartly dressed Cunard employees greets us. We’re on the ship.
Tim is desperate to watch the World Cup, so after dropping our stuff in our stateroom, he hightails it to the Golden Lion Pub and I stay behind to unpack. To my delight, I see Phillip, our cabin steward from last year. Miraculously, he’s taking care of us again this year. He’s a sweetheart and, like all of the ship’s employees, works his rump off.
Soon it’s time to dress for dinner. Tonight is “informal,” but that just means not black tie. There’s a strict dress code in the Britannia, the soaring, wood-burnished, main restaurant. Three of the seven nights are formal—gown and tux—though you can always go to the Kings Court on Deck 7 if you’re not in the mood for formality. But before dinner, there’s one big event: the sail-away.
On this brilliant, sunny day, the outside decks are filled with passengers and crew. A group from St. Lucia called Extasea is jamming beside the pool aft on Deck 8, people are dancing and waiters are handing out glasses of champagne while the ship powers away from New York harbor at 25 knots (about 30 mph). As the Manhattan skyline recedes and we pass the Statue of Liberty, the sky suddenly blackens. It starts to rain. Most people head inside, but those of us who know what’s coming wouldn’t miss this for the world: the moment the red funnel of the mammoth ship passes under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge with, seemingly, only inches to spare. Actually it looks like it’s going to crash into the bridge, which accounts for our thrilled screams and squeals.
Though I bring a book on the QM2, I rarely read it. There’s so much to do. My favorite activity each day is attending the lectures—on art, literature, design, architecture, aviation, you name it—in Illuminations, the golden auditorium. This time the standout is the charming, impeccably dressed Giancarlo Impiglia, whose paintings reminiscent of Art Deco adorn several staircases on the ship. If you’re otherwise inclined, there are also trivia games, gambling, computer classes, dance lessons, designer shops, a gym, spa, library and planetarium.
But the pièce de résistance is the Hollywood stardust provided by film director Wes Anderson, actress Tilda Swinton, actor Jason Schwartzman and producer Roman Coppola—who were a post-booking
surprise on this now “celebrity” cruise (not to be confused with a Celebrity Cruise.)
“I invited myself,” says Anderson before the screening of “Moonrise Kingdom.” “I’ve always wanted to sail on the QM2. Then I asked if I could invite my friends.” He and his team introduce his movies, including his latest, “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” and in general mingle with the hoi polloi. Well, not quite. Swinton made it clear this was a private vacation, so I don’t get to ask about her living-art exhibit at MOMA (where she napped in a glass box while onlookers gawked and giggled), nor her formidable fashion sense—especially the sky-high, sparkly green shoes she’s wearing one night. They’re like the Ruby Slippers, only emerald.
I run into the entourage (they travel in a pack) on my way to the Royal Court Theatre. Wes Anderson smiles and gallantly holds the door open for me. “Be cool,” I tell myself. I simply nod and say “thank you.” Of course now I’m kicking myself for not having barged into their filmic retinue just a bit more. After all, they saw that my hand was the first that shot up that morning at the panel discussion, where I was sitting right smack in front of them, and that the otherwise capable moderator never called on me because I wasn’t near one of the microphones on the aisle. Exasperated, I had finally stood up with, “I don’t need a microphone; I can project!”
I also spend my days walking around the promenade on Deck 7, splurging on champagne and caviar in the supremely elegant Veuve Clicquot Lounge and occasionally popping into the Golden Lion to witness the mayhem when somebody scores a goal in the World Cup. Every evening I look forward to dinner at our window-side table in the Britannia, where the food is out of this world and we can watch the endless ocean as we eat. I love getting all dolled up and sashaying to the Grand Lobby down the long, luxurious corridors, bounded by enormous brass bas reliefs depicting the four seasons and verre églomisé panels
depicting the four elements.
One night, we’re invited to sit at the Captain’s Table. Kevin Oprey is as dashing as you’d expect of a British sea captain. He tells us the QM2 is such a feat of modern engineering, she almost steers herself. Though in a gale, it’s all hands on deck—rather, on the bridge, where he and his officers control the computerized navigation system.
And, oh, the music! In the Chart Room, an ensemble of musicians from Juilliard plays the hell out of jazz standards. One night when they’re particularly rambunctious, somebody grabs my hand and I find myself swept up in a conga line. In the Queens Room, the orchestra plays everything from big band to disco, while couples swirl on the dance floor. Since I love to waltz, I ask one of the male dance hosts to take me on. His name is Bob Wall; he’s a retired Air Force pilot and a perfect gentleman. Later that week he’ll spin me expertly in the Hustle. And in the swanky Commodore Club, where a superb pianist named Campbell Simpson does boogie-woogie Bach as well as Harold Arlen, a couple of us sing along to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
Arrival at Southampton, in the quiet, early dark of morning, is magical, as the tiny lights of the coast begin to appear, then grow more abundant, until the ship slowly slides up to the pier. True to Capt. Oprey’s words, the QM2 can practically turn on a dime, so she needs no tugboats to pull her into port. Along with hundreds of other people above and below, we stand on our balcony and watch the dock workers getting ready to receive her. For them, this is routine. But for us, it’s an awakening from a dream, one to which we know we’ll return again and again, for as long as the Queen reigns.
Sprawled odalisque-style on a body-engulfing leather and wood camel-back Chesterfield in her condo in midtown’s venerable Belvedere Hotel, Mikita Brottman reaches over its side to play a vigorous game of tug of war with her 8-month-old French bulldog, Oliver.
Outside, an Artscape soundstage throbs a few blocks away, while inside, the strains of Bach drift in from an adjacent room, as Brottman, wearing a little black sundress with sandals, discusses her new book, “The Great Grisby: Two Thousand Years of Literary, Royal, Philosophical, and Artistic Dog Lovers and Their Exceptional Animals” (HarperCollins), available in October.
Composed of 26 short chapters arranged alphabetically by dog name (Atma to Zemire), “The Great Grisby” functions adroitly on three levels: engaging accounts of the relationships between real-life figures or literary characters and their dogs; conversational tract, where Brottman ruminates on the multifaceted human-canine dynamic; and endearing memoir, detailing the intricate bond she experienced with her previous French bulldog Grisby.
“I was interested in the interaction between owner and dog, because it reminded me of my feelings toward Grisby,” Brottman explains in clipped, measured tones that betray her native England.
With each of the book’s dog owners—poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, artist Frida Kahlo and composer Richard Wagner—among the better-known personages, Brottman says she was “looking for a relationship between a dog and person where the dog is pretty much the person’s primary relationship. Even if they’re married or have a family, the person is still more engaged with the dog on a daily basis than with other people in their lives.”
The dog-person dynamic, Brottman notes, “is more complicated than it seems, and people haven’t really probed it very much psychologically—it’s not always pretty. All dogs represent something in our lives; we can never really relate to them just as dogs.”
And while she readily concedes that humans can bond empathetically with other animals, especially cats—in fact, her two cats, Bartleby and Queequeg, roam through her book-lined study as she speaks—she maintains that dogs respond to us best and “seem to reciprocate your need for them.”
A professor of humanistic studies at MICA and co-director of the school’s critical studies program, as well as a practicing psychoanalyst, Brottman, 47, discovered dogs late in life, obtaining Grisby in 2005 via PuppyFind.com. The two quickly became inseparable: She took him to her classes, to literary readings, to friends’ houses, to the beach, jogging—everywhere.
“When we’re apart, I’m sure I suffer more than he does,” Brottman writes of Grisby in the chapter “Douchka,” about mid-20th century French author/feminist Colette Audry and her tortured relationship with her irksome German shepherd, “missing all the little signs of his presence—his small sighs and grunts, the sound of his claws on the floorboards, his jingling collar, his soft ears rubbing against my knees.”
Born and raised in Sheffield, in north central England, Brottman, the daughter of schoolteacher parents, earned her bachelor’s, master’s and PhD degrees in English language and literature at Oxford. (She later added a PhD in psychoanalysis.) But after teaching in Cyprus and London, she relocated to the U.S. in 1998, weary of both the dismal English climate and what she calls the “parochial nature of life” in the U.K. In 2001, Brottman joined MICA’s faculty following brief teaching stints at universities in Indiana and Pennsylvania.
Now she lives with her longtime partner, David Sterritt, the retired film critic for The Christian Science Monitor, current MICA art history professor and film scholar/author (his “The Cinema of Clint Eastwood: Chronicles of America” is scheduled for publication in November).
Given Brottman’s pronounced fascination with the macabre and transgressive aspects of society and culture, as manifested in her prior books (“Offensive Films,” “High Theory/Low Culture”), journal articles (“Is the Internet a Portal to Hell? Inner Space, Superstition & Cybersex”) and MICA courses (“Banned Books: The Literature of Controversy,” “Understanding Suicide”), Grisby by comparison, seems positively genteel.
“I’ve written in workshops with Mikita for a few years now, and I’ve seen her write about a fictional twist on the Manson murders, serial killers’ victims, prisoners and, of course, Grisby,” says Baltimore writer John Barry. “Her insatiable curiosity and disciplined and discursive writing style invite readers into worlds they may not be familiar with. You feel like you’re walking into a funhouse, and she doesn’t want you to freak out—just place it in the context of the literary canon.”
About those “prisoners” Barry mentions: Brottman already has completed and sold her next book, “The Maximum Security Book Club,” an account of her two years reading literature (not surprisingly, dark works) with criminals at Jessup Correctional Institution. HarperCollins expects to publish it in early 2016.
While she continues to participate in the prison program, Brottman also is gearing up for MICA’s fall semester and the publication of “The Great Grisby.” Regrettably, Grisby himself won’t attend the book launch; he died this past January at the age of 8 1/2, four months after she finished writing the manuscript.
In the “Douchka” chapter, Brottman muses, “I found myself wondering whether, when Grisby dies, I’ll look on our relationship with sorrow and regret, or whether memories of him will fade away fast as I move on to my second dog.”
As it turned out, both reactions occurred. “I was not as upset as I thought I would be,” Brottman explains. “I think that was because I had spent so much time imagining what it would be like when he died—and imagining all the things that I was going to miss about him—that I felt like I had already lived through it.”
One month later, along came Oliver (Grisby’s original name at Puppy-Find.com), “a dog as close to Grisby as possible,” she admits. “I still think about Grisby all the time, but I don’t miss him. It was a very rewarding relationship, and I like to think that it was mutual.”
“Why are we so afraid to have conversations about death? It’s the only thing promised in life but no one wants to discuss it,” Sheri Booker says, as we talk about her book “Nine Years Under,” released in paperback in July. Ms. Booker is as charming in person as she is on the page. I couldn’t help but think of Shirley Temple, had she grown up in Baltimore, ironed out her hair and worked at Wylie Funeral Home handling some of the city’s worst-case-scenario deaths: bullet wounds, abandoned old folks, AIDS and everyone in between.
What did Mr. Wylie and his son, Brandon, think about you writing this book?
We haven’t had a discussion about it since it was published, but they were nervous beforehand. Imagine working very closely with someone for nine years and they know every single thing about you, even how much money is in your bank account. You’d be uncomfortable.
Yes, but everything you say about them is good. Is Brandon still hot?
Yes. But I think he’s scared of me. We go to the same church, but we keep missing each other.
Has your relationship with death changed over time?
I thought I was an expert on death when I wrote this book. Then I realized maybe some of the things that I had rationalized before didn’t make sense to me anymore. Like, you always look at death and say, ‘There’s a reason for this.’ But then my mother passed away and I asked, ‘Why? Why this moment? Why this day?’
Would you ever want to work in the funeral business again?
Yes. I want to own my own funeral parlor. Women aren’t well represented in this business and it’s important to me to break those barriers. This has always been my plan B, if I wasn’t rich by 35.
You may be rich by 35 if you keep writing the way you are. Are you working on another book?
When I left the funeral business, I ran away to South Africa for almost a year. I want to write about that experience. I ended up in a town where I was the only black person; I was considered ‘colored.’ Think “Eat, Pray Love,” the black version in South Africa.
Join authors Jessica Anya Blau and Sheri Booker for a literary chat in The Ivy Bookshop tent at the Baltimore Book Festival. Friday, Sept. 26 at 5 p.m. theivybookshop.com
“I JUST CAUGHT ON FIRE.” That was my Facebook status after taking my first PiYo Strength class at the new Baltimore BeachFIT in Harbor East. Like yoga on steroids, the fast-moving class combines sun salutations with squats (and other fitness moves) paired with high-tempo music for a fully choreographed, sweat-inducing workout. “PiYo is awesome for people who get bored in a regular yoga class,” says smiley co-owner/trainer Maggie Binkley, who remembers every student’s name during her classes, which also include Power Cycle, Turbo Kick and Surfset. A self-proclaimed yoga “hater,” I spent my first PiYo session trying not to topple over—or combust—but it was so FUN that I’ll be back soon. Bonus: If you need a breather after (or during!) class, just pop into the in-studio boutique, featuring cute workout wear and beachy keen accessories curated by co-owner Alison Schuch, who also owns Fells Point Surf Co. 1400 Aliceanna St.; 410-753-4354. Sept-Oct 2014
Who puts the charm in Charm City? Why, the citizens, of course, with a few celebrities sprinkled in. That moniker, incidentally, dates back only to 1975, and no, it wasn’t coined by H. L. Mencken. Still, we wield it with pride. Baltimore is a town that wears its heart on its sleeve. And what better way to complement that sleeve than with a charm bracelet? Enter City Charm. You can sport a sterling silver raven, a B&O Railroad car, a crab, a tugboat, an Orioles ball, even a beehived hon. Better yet, 10 percent of all proceeds go to the Ronald McDonald House Charities. Look good and do good. Online at citycharmco.com
Savvy admits it: she’s of the age where she has started to fall asleep in front of the TV. So how delightful to find the surprisingly sleek “My Comfort” furniture line by Palliser at The Sofa Store. Going by the formidable name “Riding Mountain,” the recliner practically transports you to Never Never Land. It swivels, rocks, glides, reclines; and has a USB port, tablet tray and that all-important cup holder. Or opt for its sectional brethren, outfitted with detachable metal connectors and configured any way you like. 1125 Cromwell Bridge Road in Towson and a new store at 851 Cromwell Park Drive, Glen Burnie. 410-346-2400, thesofastoreusa.com
In “Dreamers and Builders,” two nude men struggle under a tower of North American trees, suburban houses, clouds and a little red barn. The image falls somewhere between fantasy and metaphor, and each man, one white and one black, wears a saddle on his back. Although they face away from each other, it’s obvious they must work together to keep the precarious construction intact. Their frustration is evidenced in their bright blue testicles, a tiny detail one might miss in this complicated visual delight. Charlton, an American University associate professor based in Baltimore, is a master of images that hover between naughty and nice, familiar and bizarre. “In America, the suburban lifestyle is seen as a reward,” says Charlton. “These men are bearing all the responsibilities for this landscape, but none of the advantages. Their blue balls represent longing—the things that you desire so much, but don’t get.”
In “Human Anatomy,” Andrew Liang represents organs with cartoon sausage links, Smurfs heads and honey bears; and bones as pretzels, baseball bats and a pepperoni pizza. At the center, where the two figures’ hands connect, one lollipop licks another, while cartoon stars, pancakes, penguins and cats float on the fringes. “That’s their friends hovering around, waiting for a phone call for a dinner party or to go get a drink somewhere,” says the Baltimore transplant from Hong Kong who infuses humor into his work. “I enjoy socializing with other humans, animals and things—and take these inspirations to the studio to maximize the length of enjoyment by making drawings, paintings and sculptures of them.” Although he’s a skilled painter, Liang also has constructed a number of large, immersive art games, including a human pinball machine, a life-sized foosball table and a glow-in-the-dark Whac-A-Mole.
After a string of international art fairs and New York shows, critical darling Seth Adelsberger is garnering acclaim for his versatility and prolificacy—cranking out diverse series of paintings in a surprising array of materials and styles. His glowing “Submersion” series, on view in the Front Room at the BMA through Nov. 2, resembles airport luggage X-rays with rich washes of cyan or magenta paint floating over topographic layers of white gesso primer. Also in the solo exhibition: expressionistic designs from rug samples that Adelsberger digitally manipulated to heighten the pattern and pile, then had printed as actual carpet. “My work re-examines the history of abstract painting through the lens of painting’s relationship to technology and the internet,” he explains.
Dina Kelberman’s online “I’m Google” project has been exhibited at the New Museum in New York, lauded by New York Magazine art critic Jerry Saltz, and tweeted by “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest. However, the longtime Wham City member also produces “Important Comics,” a hand-drawn series that can be as visually arresting as it is funny. “My drawing style comes from my general fickleness,” admits Kelberman. “I like to throw random lines on the page and then react to them, which is more of a similar process to painting than traditional comics.” Kelberman benefits from self-publishing her offbeat mini-dramas in limited-edition runs, so that she can control their aesthetics (described by the artist as “crazy messy nonsense”), nimbly walking the line between comics and fine art.
Jo Smail never thinks about beauty when she creates her charmingly awkward compositions. Instead, she says, “I try to surprise myself so concentrating is a kind of forgetfulness of what I think I know about painting.” Although this romantic, blind process can be full of hidden accidents, mistakes and weirdness, Smail embraces it. When paintings don’t turn out, she cuts them up and collages pieces of them into other works. In “Swimming Underground,” Smail combines bits of former paintings with oil, acrylic and monoprint, leaving large swaths of mostly raw canvas as the setting for an abstract shape that references butterflies, leaves and stems—an organic form wriggling underground, poised to bloom through. The iconic image of new life comes directly from Smail’s painting philosophy: “The best work seems to make itself.”
Coming this fall, Amy Sherald’s “Equilibrium” will take on new life as a billboard-sized mural on the west façade of the J. Van Story Branch Sr. Apartments in the Station North Arts District. The painting depicts a woman walking a tightrope, precariously yet elegantly balanced, with a heart locket swinging from one hand. “Embracing an in-between state is an ideal situation in which we open our hearts and our minds and walk the line in a search of equilibrium,” says the MICA grad whose lush, realistic style is characterized by a timeless, dreamlike quality. “Pointing to our own hearts to discover what is true isn’t just a matter of honesty, but also compassion and respect for what we see in each other around the world.”
Johns Hopkins Film and Media Studies lecturer Karen Yasinsky won the prestigious Prix de Rome in 2010, and has created original animations and drawings based on popular films for many years—often collaborating with local musicians and composers. In “This Room is White,” actress Shelley Duvall hovers, hummingbird-like, as dark outlines and rainbows pulsate around her. The hand-drawn animation features thousands of drawings (15 per second)—and includes scenes from 1970s movies mixed with the artist’s sticker collection from the same time period. “For some reason I can’t work from real life,” says Yasinsky. “I get excited from parts of particular films I love—a character, scene, distinct images or ideas. These fragments stick in my head like a problem, and in order to solve it, I have to work with it.”
John Shea points out a toothy two-man saw hanging on the wall, amid an array of other intriguing vintage equipment (including one mysterious piece that he suspects rigs to a cow).
“Someone called in,” explains the easygoing 33-year-old artist, who co-founded the Station North Tool Library with his photographer girlfriend, Piper Watson, last year. “‘I’ve got some tools to donate; they’re really antiques,’ the man said. And it turns out they’re a couple hundred years old. We cleaned them up and hung them like they would at Cracker Barrel. Then someone came in and said, ‘I’m gonna need that.’ We put a number on it and rented it out to him.”
While the quirky equipment anecdote’s not the norm for Station North Tool Library—a nonprofit lending organization that’s already logged close to 2,500 rentals to 396 members in its first year—the exchange does illustrate an openness that Shea and Watson strive to embody. Members pay a suggested 0.1 percent of their annual income in exchange for complete access to the library for one year. If a tool they’re seeking is out on rental, they get wait-listed lickety-split. And if they don’t know how to use the tool they’re looking for, Shea, Watson or volunteer Natalia Eacchus will help them find an instructional video on YouTube.
“We try to make the space as friendly as possible,” Shea says. “It’s not like going into a Home Depot that barks information at you. The way we see it: The library belongs to everyone; it’s a service.”
Before the library launched along Oliver Street in the Greenmount West neighborhood—part of the Station North Arts and Entertainment District—Watson, 34, and Shea dreamed they would bring their tools to the people. Buy a van, fill it with handsaws, screwdrivers and the like, then tool around Baltimore—allowing patrons to rent items for little to no money.
The idea had been brewing in Shea while he worked as a studio tech at Towson University, maintaining equipment for the art department. Watson, whom he met in 2011 when the two resided in the City Arts building on Oliver Street, was meanwhile employed at VisionWorkshops’ Crossing Borders Program, an Annapolis organization that teaches refugees in Maryland to tell stories through photography. Shea thought there might be a way to blend that type of outreach with his love of working with his hands.
“How could we use tools and process and empowerment to show people how to work with their hands to control their environment?” says Shea. “In the end, we’re trying to help build a more self-reliant culture—to help beat planned obsolescence.”
The couple soon scrapped the concept of the traveling toolshed in favor of a bricks-and-mortar library, a model that has been in practice across the United States for at least four decades. In summer 2012, Shea quit his job. He and Watson took advantage of her wedding photography gig on the West Coast to visit several successful tool banks. The rest of the year they spent soliciting guidance and opinions from Station North residents, and gathering the tools.
About 80 percent are donated, Shea says, and they have a small budget to purchase bigger equipment, like dollies and ladders. Others—including an industrial-grade sander for finishing wooden floors—were purchased at a discount from a manufacturer who liked the concept and responded to one of Shea and Watson’s notoriously spirited emails.
Fiscal sponsorship from Fusion Partnerships on Guilford Avenue provides support. The Robert W. Deutsch Foundation and Gutierrez Memorial Fund help cover the insurance needed to operate a space that rents out tools quite capable of cropping fingers—no injuries have been reported—and a two-page tool use policy outlines the basic requirements for being a member. Watson sums it up succinctly: “Be cool. Don’t be a jerk.” (Evidently, jerks are rare. Only five of the library’s more than 1,000 tools haven’t been returned.)
The couple recently purchased a fixer-upper just north of Hampden. Watson estimates that they’ve saved roughly $17,000 borrowing tools from the library as opposed to renting them from a hardware store, something they hope will happen for lots more people in the neighborhood. If you have a black-and-blue thumb, don’t worry. The library offers classes on tool safety, furniture building and even making your own kitchen knives. 417 E. Oliver St., 410-347-0850, stationnorthtoollibrary.org
Across the street from Mondawmin Mall, at the corner of Liberty Heights Avenue and Reisterstown Road, a band of teenagers is putting art on a wall—in broad daylight, with no spray cans in sight. Instead, they are adding the finishing touches to a mosaic mural, 15-feet-wide and 5-feet-high, a stylized sunrise with rays of gold, coral, pink and scarlet. The words WELCOME TO GREATER MONDAWMIN arch over it, bordered by sparkling rows of mirror tile.
“It’s not just plain Mondawmin anymore,” jokes Darrian Hernandez, 15, smoothing grout between pieces of tile with a float. “It’s Greater Mondawmin now.”
Beside him work five other teens from the neighborhood, all neatly attired in beige T-shirts and belted pants. “You pull up your pants and you pull up your potential,” opines Sage Tarrant, 15. The belts were handed out earlier in the week by D.J. Horrey and Kliffi Blackstone, their counselors at Parks and People, an organization that employs kids through YouthWorks to spruce up the neighborhoods they live in.
The mural itself is a project of Mosaic Makers, a two-woman nonprofit that practices the fine art of piecing things together, whether it’s shards of ceramic tile, odds and ends of grant funding, or broken lives and neighborhoods.
Lauren Siegel and Pam Stein met at Health Care for the Homeless, where both were social workers. While Pam provided art therapy at the organization’s headquarters, Lauren’s work involved going into the streets. “There was a period when Lauren encountered so much trauma,” explains Pam, “so many overdoses, so much abuse and neglect, clients she cared about, dead bodies left for days, that she was just overwhelmed.”
Knowing Lauren was also an artist, Pam invited her to come spend some time working on mosaics in the art shed in her backyard. “Hearts, windmills, guitars, fish, elephants—I made about 60 mosaics in about four months,” says Lauren. “And I felt a little better after each one. It made me think about how art heals things. If it helped me, perhaps it could help other people.”
“She walked out one day and said, ‘We should start a nonprofit,’” continues Pam, who agreed wholeheartedly.
In April 2012, Mosaic Makers debuted with a workshop for the women’s group at Paul’s Place, a soup kitchen in Pigtown. They asked the participants two questions: Has your heart been broken? What fills your heart? Each woman made a mosaic in response and gave a detailed explanation of its meaning. Many of the women spoke about their children, from one stationed in Iraq to one murdered on the street. “The effect on both the individuals and the group as a whole was so clear,” says Pam. “A talk therapy group couldn’t have gotten these stories out in a couple of hours.”
Since then, Pam and Lauren have taken their buckets of grout, their donated tiles and their come-on-and-try-it attitude to street corners and community centers in dozens of neglected neighborhoods.
In Cherry Hill, they worked with children who had seen an infant shot and killed in a drive-by to make a memorial—then went on to decorate the local shopping center with ten large mosaics, bringing together institutionalized youth and seniors to collaborate.
At Roberta’s House in East Baltimore, a grief support center, they worked with bereaved families to create memory trees, vision boards and memory bottles. Just down the street in Station North, they got a grant to involve existing community members in the changing neighborhood. Their idea: invite people living atthree homeless centers in the area to create a mural on the wall at North Avenue and Calvert Street.
The current Mondawmin project was made possible by a grant from the Sparkplug Foundation, $5,000 that Mosaic Makers stretched to cover three murals on the west side: one at an elementary school for disabled kids, one at a rec center and this sunrise on the neighborhood’s busiest corner.
The teens, proudly admiring their work at the end of the two-week project, all live in walking distance of the mural and look forward to seeing it every day. “They’re gonna remember us by this,” says Malik Keith, 15. “The colors mean a brighter future.”
“Public art can change the way people feel about the place they live,” says Pam. “And collaborating on that art makes it even more powerful.”
With so many blocks, buildings and open spaces in the city shattered by violence and ugliness, Mosaic Makers has its work cut out for years to come. “The biggest challenge is funding,” says Lauren. “We always make do with what we have, but we could do so much more.”
On a grey summer morning, Jonna Lazarus, landscape designer and owner of Lazarus Design Associates LLC, drives through the streets that form the campus of the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). “This is where it all began,” she says pulling over in front of the marble 1908 Renaissance Revival Main Building. “One day in 1984 Fred asked me what I’d do here. Big yews masked the architectural detail.”
Fred, of course, is her husband Fred Lazarus IV, who just retired in May after a monumental 36-year term as president of MICA. Under his leadership MICA
became one of the country’s leading art colleges and revitalized the neighborhoods around it. Early on, Jonna gave him a few suggestions for the Main Building, then soon became not only his armchair counsel on landscape design but also an official MICA contractor instrumental in the transformation of the campus.
While she continued her work with other residential and educational clients, Jonna brought to MICA years of design expertise: a degree in art, interior design and business from Rochester Institute of Technology, three years as home furnishings fashion director at Carson Pirie Scott in Chicago, a graduate certificate in landscape design from George Washington University and eight years with landscape architects Crozier Associates in Baltimore.
In 1984 though, she had no idea that during her husband’s tenure MICA would expand to 28 buildings. She also had no idea that she, guided by master planning by Ayers Saint Gross, would be the one to design and create green spaces and gardens to unify the buildings as a handsome urban campus.
Jonna integrated each building acquisition by adding gardens with colorful but tastefully painted walls as occasional backdrops, lighting, terraces and amenities like fountains, tables, chairs and benches. At a tiny corner garden near the Station Building, she points out modern, U-shaped bike racks. “What started as a few mushroomed. It’s thrilling the racks now are all full all of the time,” she says.
The plantings here—a native serviceberry tree, gold mound spirea, silver sceptre sedge—repeat in other gardens. Three repurposed semi-circular stones function as sculpture and sitting spots. “We do that a lot,” she says of the recycled stones.
The approximate total of five acres Jonna has designed tie together a campus of diverse architecture. Buildings range from late 19th century structures, like the renovated B & O Mount Royal Station, to mid-20th century modern buildings like the Bunting Center (formerly the AAA building) to contemporary structures like the Brown Center, The Gateway and recently opened Leake Hall.
More than two-dozen outdoor spaces carry Jonna’s signature style, plantings and palette. Some, like Sally’s Garden, are as small as large school sandboxes. Others, like Pearlstone Park and Founders Green, are as big as city parks. Together they wind north and south, from Preston Street to North Avenue, east and west from Maryland Avenue to Park Avenue, like green ribbons embroidered with refined and striking colors.
Lazarus’ design concept is simple: plantings that look good all year, especially from September to May when the students are on campus. “And continuity too, now that we have created a broad plant palette,” she adds. Plant continuity and repetition unite a multitude of spaces. Repetition of fixtures and hardscape materials also enhance gardens, buildings, streets and even parking lots.
“I try to use as many natives as possible, as well as hardy plant material, both drought and city tolerant,” she says. Among hundreds of trees she has planted, most are natives: sweet bay magnolias, serviceberries, sweet-smelling lindens, delicate-leafed willow oaks, sugar and red maples with brilliant fall foliage, multi-stemmed river birches that look themselves like sculpture.
Under the trees, along walls, by entrances and as punctuation in park-like greens, Lazarus layers shrubbery the way residential gardeners cluster perennials. Among her favorites are durable spirea with gold or green foliage and pale pink blooms, chartreuse and red barberry in varieties not invasive in the city, slow-growing yews for texture, disease-resistant evergreen American boxwoods and Japanese hollies, all types of viburnums, even the leatherleaf variety as screening near an expressway ramp.
“If we use perennials, they’re ones that look good a long time,” she says. Hellebores, for example, are in shady spots as under white crape myrtles in the geometry- filled inner courtyard of the Robert and Jane Meyerhoff House. Black-eyed Susans and Russian sage thrive in sunny spots at The Gateway where layered gardens and a fountain showcase Jonna’s artistry.
Perennial grasses waft through the campus. Tall varieties create graceful movement and seasonal interest from the intimate “Sally’s Garden,” to the spacious, open gardens at Founders Green Residential Complex. Low-growing varieties, like mondo grass, work as ground cover in heavily trafficked spots or places hard to mow like the steep hillsides by North Avenue.
Lazarus’ color palette runs from deep crimson and lavender to contrasting and eye-popping chartreuse to pink, silver and white, with occasional flickers of yellows and reds.
“And lighting is important to us,” she says. Besides downwardly directed lamps and period street fixtures, lighting appears in subtle places: the underside of a stainless steel railing, signature short bollards along plazas and sidewalks, directed tubes of light washing walls. All add safety and aesthetics but not light pollution.
“Most of the sculpture was here,” she says driving past Paul Daniel’s turning Babette. “We just added plants.” Plants, like the golden-leaf staghorn sumac by Daniel’s piece, compliment and anchor the sculpture.
Besides giving beauty and continuity, the many new outdoor spaces increase quality of campus life. Although the college students are gone, city school children pour from the Brown Center and run across the green, garden-surrounded Cohen Plaza, once a parking lot. “See the fountain?” Lazarus asks as children stream past it. “My former partner Julie Higgins saw that it was out of whack. We had to jackhammer it after it was poured and move it, not much, but to make everything look right.” Such is the precision of the eyes that have transformed these urban acres.
And such is MICA’s commitment to landscape architecture. “Luckily, MICA takes seriously the maintenance of the grounds,” Jonna says. Her phone rings constantly. Two calls are from nurserymen, the third about a downed tree limb. In every area maintained by MICA, trees and shrubs are well-pruned, garden beds are weeded. No trash litters the street. “The only challenge is power pruners,” she says. “We like hand pruning.”
Passing the former Jos. A. Bank factory on North Avenue, now Fred Lazarus IV Center, what makes Jonna spark is seeing the plant-filled spaces used. On the café terrace two neighborhood women chat in the red chairs she pushed for when others feared they would be stolen. “They are not gone yet!” she says.
Neither is she. Although Fred Lazarus IV has officially retired from MICA, Jonna Lazarus continues her work. Next up: a slab of concrete by 1801 Falls Road, soon to be green.
Main Event: Double Trouble
Husband/wife filmmaking duo Bodine and Alexis Boling struggled shooting their smart and tender sci-fi thriller, “Movement + Location,” which scored the coveted Audience Award for best feature at this year’s Brooklyn Film Festival. During the 18-day February shoot, they endured a blizzard, two fires (no, they weren’t responsible), several near-misses getting run over by a van (yep, they were responsible) and a violent attack by an intoxicated homeless gentleman. “The thing about filmmaking, it’s so horrendously difficult, it forces you to operate on this [superhuman] level that becomes really inspiring and fun,” says Eastern Shore-raised Bodine, who will co-present the film with her hubby at the Chesapeake Film Festival, running Sept. 19 to 21 at the historic Avalon Theatre in Easton. Other highlights: “It’s a Disaster” (a fast-paced ensemble comedy starring Julia Stiles and David Cross), “Nightlights” (a touching drama about a young woman who cares for her twin brother with severe autism) and the documentary “SPAT: Bring Back Oysters to the Chesapeake Bay.” Rumor has it environmentally minded actor Mark Ruffalo may make an appearance. We’ll be camping out at the Tidewater Inn just in case. chesapeakefilmfestival.com chesapeakefilmfestival.com
Picture This: Golden Rule
“I see these people as wonderful spiritual beings—and I’m not sure black people are used to seeing themselves that way.” Painter Stephen Towns stands in front of a clutch of his latest works, reflecting on why he’s painted so many portraits with brilliant, gold-leaf halos around his subjects’ heads. “I’ve also been influenced by medieval altarpieces,” he adds, saying he learned about them while majoring in art at the University of South Carolina. Having moved to Baltimore five years ago, Towns is hosting his first major solo show at Gallery CA in the newly renovated City Arts Building in Greenmount West. Called “Co-Patriot,” the show examines the complicated relationship black people in America have had with the country and its history. The 34-year-old Towns says his eyes have been opened recently by literature, including Solomon Northup’s “Twelve Years a Slave” and Harriet Ann Jacobs’ “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.” As a child, he says, he had questions he couldn’t answer: “Why am I poor? Why am I not
educated? Why is life unfair?” When he heard the term “networking,” he didn’t understand it. “But these things are social constructs,” he says. “Reading those books helped me understand that. It made me less angry about American history because now I understand.” Through Sept. 12. 440 E. Oliver Street, galleryca.org. galleryca.org
In our September/October issue, we wrote a totally fake, fill-in-the-blanks, “Mad Libs” style article about the Baltimore Improv Group. [Read it here!] Following is the actual interview with conducted with executive/artistic director Michael Harris—before his co-performers added their two cents (and then some).
So what’s new with BIG, Michael?
After ten years, we’re getting rid of our gypsy shoes and finally can commit to providing entertainment every Friday and Saturday in one venue—the Mercury Theater, formerly known as The Strand.
What are your numbers like now—how many performers and shows each year?
We have about 50 company members and do at least 90 shows.
Who are your performers? Give me a range of their day jobs.
We’ve got teachers, accountants, lawyers, people who actually act for a living, waiters, students, web designers…
Waiters just means actors who need jobs, right?
In our case, waiter means standup.
And accountants are funny, huh?
Some are. They’re hiding it all behind their numbers. They just need a chance to bust out.
Who knew? In addition to the big move, anything else exciting happening this fall?
We are going to do four shows at the Theater Project on September 5, 6, 12 and 13. We will be doing one of BOPA’s “Free Fall” shows—partnering with a dance company called The Collective for a show called “The Movement” on October 10 at the BMA.
So will you guys be making up dance numbers on the spot? I’m laughing already!
For part of it, yes. It’s basically scripted choreography, but there are also parts that are completely improvised with us dancing—and real dancers reacting to what the audience suggests. The dancers actually become the set.
For anyone who hasn’t gone to an improv show, this is probably a good time for me to explain that you guys ask the audience for thematic suggestions during your shows—then act them out on stage.
Are the audience ideas ever really bad? Like, “Oh my God, did that dude just suggest rock collecting?”
My gut instinct is to say it’s less about what the audience suggests and more about what you do with it. Some of the best themes come from very simple suggestions.
Still, there must have been a few duds or crazy ones.
Probably the worst I’ve ever seen—and I don’t know if this is printable—but once we had bachelorette party in the audience—and, as you can imagine, they were in full bachelorette party mode.
I’m picturing alcohol and penis straws for some reason.
Essentially, yes. They kept giving us [dirty] suggestions, regardless of what we were asking for. So we’d be like, “OK, we need an office setting, a location lots of people will go to.”
And they would just yell the word “SODOMY!” every time. Thank you, that’s awesome, ladies.
I love it.
Also, I once saw a musical troupe in Los Angeles try to elicit suggestion’s from the most boring woman on earth. They tried to get anything out of her. Asked her all sorts of questions about her day—and all she could come up with was like, “I get up. I feed my kids eggs.”
But they ended up doing an entire musical about making eggs for her kids and cleaning the house—and it was brilliant. So just you just never know.
What is going through your mind when you’re up there? Are you ever like, “Holy sh*t, I can’t think of anything to say?”
The more experienced you get, the more comfortable you become—both with yourself and with the other performers. The goal is to be totally present and in the moment, to the extent where you will say things that surprise you. If you’re hyper-aware of the audience or if you catch yourself planning, you’re in a bad spot.
What’s the biggest trick to playing so quickly off of your co-performers?
It’s really about three words, LISTEN, AGREE and ADD. Different improv companies have different vocabulary, but it’s all the same idea.
Agreeing seems really important.
Absolutely. No matter what the other person says, agreement means I’m going to treat that information as truth. That’s part of the scene.
So if I say you’ve been impregnated by aliens…
... and I have! Yes, perfect example. You’d walk in and say, “How’s that alien baby doing, Mike?” And I immediately pick up and say, “Ugh, I’m exhausted. I’m so tired of breastfeeding this kid.”
When Jimmy Fallon was on Saturday Night Live, I was of the camp where my favorite moments were when he started cracking up middle of the scene. But I have friends who are like, “Oh, hell no! That’s inappropriate, he should keep it together.” Where do you fall in that regard? Do you guys ever just bust out laughing on stage?
Yes, of course, everybody does. And sometimes it’s okay when it’s genuine. I think Fallon and Horacio Sanz made that a go-to in sketches sometimes if they weren’t going that well. But there are also famous scenes where actors will change a line to mess with the other one—like John Cleese and Michael Palin doing the parrot sketch for “Monty Python”—and you can say, “Oh look, he got him!” It can be very funny.
Why do you guys do improv?
Desperate need for attention that was not adequately satisfied in childhood.
Joking aside, I think that’s why most performers do what they do. But why else? Because it’s fun. Because we love it. A big part of improv is being in front of an audience and making them laugh. It’s very relational.
Who are your biggest fans?
Hmmm, rough demographics, it’s folks in their 20s to 50s who tend to be engaged in the arts in Baltimore and attend lots of cultural events—festivals, concerts, art shows, theater. The majority of them are single.
I can’t decide if that means I should come there to try and meet men—or if it’s a sad or creepy state of affairs.
[Laughs] I think it has less to do with people’s relationship status and more that they don’t have toddlers running around at home.
Tell me some dirt about the company members who will be “filling in the blanks” for this article to make you look silly.
Sure, OK. Well, Heather Moyer. She’s a lot of people’s improv crush.
I can totally see that!
Bridget Haveola. She’s our education director—and she does improv because she’s completely incapable of memorization.
I would be in the same boat.
She’s also very funny, but by her own admission, should not be doing other types of theater.
Never happening. Got it.
As for Katie Long, despite what many people think…not a Latina.
Really? I’m shocked too, I have to say.
Yes, this is a common misconception. People are always saying things to her like, “Girl, you need to come on over to this Latin church or that Latin festival.” She actually speaks a little Spanish—and she’ll use it to make people laugh.
So basically you cheated when I asked for a diverse range of people for this photo shoot?
I did, yes. I’m so sorry!
And what about Rasheed Green? I loved when he kept asking me if he was “smizing” [smiling with his eyes] like Tyra Banks.
Rasheed is a self-proclaimed diva, as he told you. He likes to put that out there and proclaim he’s a diva, even though he’s really not. He’s actually a sweetheart of a guy.
I have a feeling my next big “BIG” laugh will come from him. Can’t wait for the new season!
Us, too. Thanks so much.
>>Read the “Mad Libs” mash-up here: SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION
Just the thought of planning college visits can be overwhelming for high school students and their parents. How many schools should you see in one day? What are the best seasons and times to visit? And aside from attending an information session and taking a tour of the campus, what else do you even do on a college visit? Thankfully, some experts from area schools provided us with top-notch tips to get you started.
Pre-planning early is the first piece of advice many experts give. Aaron Basko, assistant vice president of enrollment management and career services at Salisbury University, says that starting early—specifically in the spring of junior year and the summer before senior year—is essential. “If students can start and see as many schools in the spring and summer, it gives them a chance to see what they like before they send out their applications,” Basko says.
Ann Marie Strauss, director of college counseling at Garrison Forest School, assures that a summer visit, when most students are absent from campus, isn’t the end of the world. “Ideally, the best time is when the students are on campus, when you’ll get the most authentic feel of the ethos of the community,” she says. “However, if they can’t visit in the spring of the junior year, summer of senior year is when many [visits] happen. Even if it’s not a full session, you can get a feel for campus—architecturally, aesthetically and whether or not you like the location.”
Darryl Tiggle, director of college guidance at the Friends School of Baltimore, also agrees that summer is a good time for students to begin their college search—starting with nearby schools to determine what kinds of college campuses appeal to them.
“In Baltimore, if you want to explore what a small liberal arts college feels like, you can visit Goucher or travel to McDaniel. If you want a college campus in the city [or nearby], look at Johns Hopkins or places like Georgetown, American, George Washington or Howard University in D.C.,” Tiggle says. “If you think you’re interested in a Division I flagship university, visit University of Maryland. Once students have a good idea of what type of college fits them, then they can tailor their search to visit those types of colleges later in the fall.”
Lori Smith-Watson, assistant director of undergraduate admissions and orientation at UMBC, says an ideal time to visit her particular campus is during an open house, which allows for prospective students to sit in on classes and spend time talking with undergraduates and professors. UMBC also offers a “Just for Juniors” day each spring, which recently catered to about 1,500 high-schoolers.
Both Strauss and Basko advise to visit no more than two schools in one day, for at least two hours. Usually, one hour is set aside for an information session at the
admissions office and another hour for a student-guided tour.
During these sessions, Lauren McDonald-Hyland, academic services specialist at the Peabody Conservatory of Music at Johns Hopkins University, suggests that parents let their kids lead the conversation. While parents have a lot of concerns and questions, letting prospective students lead with their own questions may lead to a more productive visit, whether or not they liked what they learned, she says.
While tours and information sessions are the norm, Strauss stresses that it’s beneficial to explore the school outside of the standard visit. “Oftentimes, when you do your admissions office visit, they’re putting on a show for you. It’s very scripted. We want kids to look behind the curtain, look backstage,” she says. “We want them to go to the dining hall and eat there, go to the bookstore, pick up a student newspaper and see what the campus issues are. You can get a lot of information outside of an official tour.”
Seven Eight Nine
by Elisabeth Dahl
Alan lifted the pitcher the day nurse had left on the TV tray and filled a plastic cup with water. He put the straw to his mother’s lips, but she turned away, toward the sunroom’s south-facing wall, and continued sweating silently into the rented sheets.
Alan rubbed his eyes. This was like having a newborn again. The nurses seemed to sense his mother’s needs, but he was always—well, clutching at straws.
Once, this sunroom had been his mother’s turf. At her mahogany secretary, the one now shoved into the living room to create space, she’d write notes and make phone calls. On the wicker rocker where the nurses often dozed, she’d once paged through the newspaper every night.
He turned the cotton blanket down toward his mother’s ankles in three neat folds, then pulled a rawhide chew from under her hip. The dog regularly used her as a hiding place now.
His mother stared wordlessly at the African violets Alan had been tending since moving in six months earlier, when she began a downward slide. The violets’ needs—how much water, and when, and how—were no clearer than his mother’s, and the furry green leaves had dark spots now, just like his mother’s hands.
“I can’t get the watering right,” Alan said. “Got any tips?”
His mother didn’t respond.
The terrier barked from his round brown bed, then ran to the front of the house. Alan’s twins bustled in, dropping their kindergarten backpacks in one dusty corner of the vestibule.
Andie, his ex, wrapped a loose lock of hair behind an ear. “You okay?” she asked, already halfway out the door.
Alan nodded. “The night nurse comes at 8.”
He fed the kids, then started them on Toy Story. Back in the sunroom, his mother’s eyes were closed again. He rested a hand on her wide, heavy knee. Her legs had been saplings once—tapered and narrow, ending in slingback heels. Once she’d had a neatly set bob and five different church hats, kept on rotation. Now she had dandelion fluff that a hat would cloak completely.
Alan washed the dishes, saving the pizza slice Lena hadn’t finished, the peas Kyle had chased around the plate. He looked out the kitchen window, toward the east, where the darkening had begun.
The twins ran in. “Can we talk to Grandma?” Lena asked.
Alan wiped his hands on a dishtowel. “Sure. But remember, she may not respond.”
The kids perched on the hospital bed. “If you need to go,” Lena said, “just count to ten and go!”
“To infinity and beyond!” Kyle exclaimed.
His mother didn’t stir.
“Want to hear a joke?” Lena asked. “Why was six afraid of seven?”
Alan leaned against the opening to the sunroom, looking at the girl’s cheek. It curved the way the earth did, at the horizon.
“Because seven eight nine,” Lena proclaimed.
His mother opened her eyes. “Ten,” she said clearly.
Baltimore native Elisabeth Dahl is the author-illustrator of “Genie Wishes,” a novel for children (Abrams/Amulet, 2013). She writes for both children and adults. Her stories, poems, and essays have appeared at NPR.org, in Johns Hopkins Magazine, at Baltimore Fishbowl, and in other outlets.
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by Jen Grow
Brenda talks to the mirror.
“Why, yes. I’m a floral designer,” she says to an imaginary acquaintance. “I create arrangements for some of the most high profile weddings in town.” This is only partially true, but it makes her feel good to say it.
“How creative,” someone will comment.
“I bet you see some interesting places,” someone else will marvel. “Old mansions and cathedrals.”
“After a while you get used to it,” she answers herself. “All the brides, how beautiful everything is, knowing that you had something to do with it.” She puckers her lips to check her lipstick in the mirror. She curls her hair, draws sparkling shadow across the hoods of her eyes, puts on her best padded bra. She’s dressing for her 20th high school reunion, trying on different outfits. Brenda smiles at herself and winks.
She plans to avoid all direct questions about her own state of marriage by standing next to the food table and eating hors d’oeuvres. “Excuse me,” she’ll say if someone asks. She’ll chew her teriyaki chicken wing and look around the room with a napkin to her mouth. She’ll excuse herself to get a drink at the bar and ask someone, “Have you seen Clyde?” Clyde sat in front of her in her ninth grade science class. She imagines he will remember her with the same crush of fondness she has for him. She hasn’t seen him since graduation. If he’s there, if he remembers her at all, she knows she’ll look good.
Then, when it’s time to leave, she hesitates. She doesn’t want to be early, she says. She sits on her sofa in her dress clothes for a moment and turns on the TV. Old humiliations float around her like ghosts. She was shy and graceless in high school, always embarrassed. A half hour passes. There is still time to go to her reunion, but something holds her back, and for the time being, it’s a program on TV about a woman who believes her husband was wrongfully accused of a crime and is being framed. The investigative reporter seems to have evidence to the contrary, and Brenda is interested to see how it turns out. She’s hoping the husband isn’t lying. She’s almost crossing her fingers about it. This suspense is why she tells herself she can’t leave just yet. She’s waiting for the commercials to be over so she can find out more.
When the story ends in a predictable way, Brenda scolds herself for thinking it might’ve been otherwise. She stands and checks herself in the mirror again. She knows she could still change her mind and go, but she changes the channel instead. She gets absorbed in something else. More time passes. I will leave just after this, she tells herself. But she doesn’t move.
If Brenda had gone to the reunion, there’s this: a mirrored bar, carrots and dip, teriyaki chicken wings, people gathered in a dark room trying to recall faces. They squint at each other’s nametags made of old photos from the yearbook. They secretly note who has aged and gained weight, who’s improved, who’s gray, who appears to be alcoholic. Some of the wives pack leftovers from the buffet to take home and make meatball sandwiches. Near the end of the night, a woman wearing gold lamé skids across the wet floor as she exits the bathroom; she falls and sprains her wrist. A few husbands bend to help the woman off the floor. The deejay stops the music for a moment, but no one was dancing anyway.
Jen Grow is the fiction editor of Little Patuxent Review. Her writing has appeared in Other Voices, The Sun Magazine, Hunger Mountain and many more. Her story collection, “My Life as a Mermaid and Other Stories,” was the 2012 winner of the Dzanc Books’ Short Story Collection Competition and is forthcoming in 2015.
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In the Bordeaux region of France, garagistes shook up the red wine world in the 1990s with their nontraditional blends. Named in part for that movement, Le Garage opened in Hampden in April with its own take on French and Belgian beer-with-food. Chris Spann, founder-owner of The Wine Market, stands in the background as “partner-consultant” while Brendan Kirlin, who trained as a beer buyer for Spann’s Locust Point bistro, mans the front of the house and stocks the bar. The kitchen is commandeered by Sarah Acconcia, whose credentials include helming 13.5% Wine Bar and the defunct Kettle Hill as well as working as sous chef at Maggie’s Farm.
Menu. While the menu is inspired by flavors French and Belgian, Acconcia dabbles in Southeast Asian flavors, possibly influenced by her previous gig with Andrew Weinzirl at Maggie’s Farm.
Specials include a Maryland rockfish, bouillabaisse with lobster, mallard duck breast and ribeye steak frites. Acconcia is most jazzed about the chef’s blind tasting menu, five courses of inspiration, du moment.
Frites & burgers. Le Garage’s Frites shop, in the entry vestibule on the Avenue is a first for Baltimore. Thick-cut fried potatoes, creamy inside, crispy out, come in cones with a choice of 18 dipping sauces—ranging from a sharp red chili gochujang aioli to Old Bay ketchup to sweet pea and ginger— though missing is classic Belgian mayo. Try them all. The restaurant menu boasts a delicious burger, a Roseda dry age topped with cheddar, arugula and fois gras.
Bar. Kirlin has stocked the taps with a mix of Belgian, French and local craft suds, designed to complement the beer-friendly food, and available for transport in Le Garage-branded growlers. There’s a cocktail list with classic drinks featuring local spirits, and familiar French elixirs—think Lillet and Chartreuse—in new concoctions. Wine drinkers can turn to what Spann calls “the smart, efficient little all-French wine list.”
Décor. The former Dogwood has been divided into discrete bar and dining sections by open shelves stocked with empty growlers, vintage cookbooks and assorted bric-a-brac. The basement space has a garage-y feel; SM+P partner Charles Patterson (who also designed the nearby Food Market and Mt. Washington Tavern) chose dark hues and industrial chic touches—like a window with arty tinted panes looking into the private dining room—to create an informal vibe. 911 W. 36th St., 410-243-6300. legaragebaltmore.com
Savvy never did quite understand why it’s “holistic” and not “wholistic.” After all, the idea is to make one’s life fully integrated. Still, she does appreciate the sense of serenity she gets when she steps into Auramé, a new alternative health shop brimming with positive energy. That’s thanks to owner Belinda Schroeder, who, in addition to being a retail maven, is a color therapist. Need a pick-me-up? Let Belinda diagnose you. In the meantime, succumb to the sweet scents of Aura-Soma color therapy oils sold in bright, cheerful bottles, soft bamboo wraps by Angelrox, labradorite necklaces by Bittersweet and one-of-a-kind Art Deco cuffs from Paris by Lotta Djossou. Toss a Hobo bag over your shoulder, grab some bath salts and B.Witching Organic Muscle Rub for hubby, and you’re good to go. 836 W. 36th Street, Hampden. Summer hours vary.
Jon Fogg near his office at the Baltimore Sun
Jon Fogg didn’t give a second thought to the man he saw on a bicycle. It was around 1:30 a.m. on a Tuesday in January, and Fogg, 31, a Baltimore Sun sports editor who had just left work, was eager to find parking in Canton and get home. He grabbed a spot, got out of his car and began walking to his house. That’s when the cyclist rolled up beside him and asked for a light.
“I felt very panicked, but I’m a calm person, so I tried to play it off,” Fogg says. He politely said no, then turned away. In that moment, the guy “somehow jumped off the bike and tackled me, just in a split second like it was nothing.”
After pushing Fogg between two cars, the attacker jammed something up against him through his sweatshirt, saying it was a gun. He took Fogg’s wallet, keys and laptop—and grabbed a brick from the stack that surrounded a small tree nearby and hit Fogg in the head with it. The entire episode was probably only a minute long, but “it felt like an eternity,” says Fogg. The attacker took Fogg’s car and left him with six missing teeth, broken bones in both hands and six skull fractures.
Fogg’s subsequent medical care has led to mounting bills. Along with a three-day hospital stay, hand therapy and psychological therapy, Fogg, who has a high-deductible health plan, needed extensive dental work, including dentures, bone grafts and implants. Doctors estimate his dental bills alone could reach $20,000.
To help, Fogg’s sister, Melissa Fogg Castone, turned to crowdfunding. She started a website on GoFundMe with the goal of raising $1,000. Three months later, Fogg’s campaign has raised $37,461 through 869 donations. The response “has been way beyond anything I could have imagined,” Fogg says.
In the last few years, crowdfunding has expanded beyond creative projects. In 2012, 21 percent of families who were fully covered by public or private insurance still struggled to pay medical bills, according to a recent survey by the National Center for Health Statistics. Sites like GoFundMe that allow people to fundraise to cover medical costs—as well as funeral expenses, adoption costs and other financial stressors—seem like an ideal solution. In 2013, campaigns on GoFundMe raised a combined $128 million; this year, the site is on track to surpass $600 million. Similar websites have done well, too: FundRazr, YouCaring, and GiveForward raised $23 million, $62 million and $45 million, respectively, last year.
Fogg, who has since returned to work and relocated to Baltimore County—a move he had planned with his girlfriend since last year—continues to use the GoFundMe money to pay for his therapy sessions and ongoing dental work. “These sites are a great way to help out people whose situation you might hear about,” says Fogg, adding that many of his donors are strangers.
The sites do come with a downside though: the fees, says Columbia resident Wyntre Denne, whose GoFundMe campaign has raised more than $20,000.
Although fundraising pages are free to set up, the websites often take a 5 percent fee per donation, while their online payment processors, such as PayPal, take an additional 2.9 percent plus 30 cents per transaction. YouCaring only charges PayPal or WePay fees, while GiveForward gives donors the option of covering its fees.
Still, Denne, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012, says that without her campaign, “I would be paying the hospital…until I die.”
Denne, 44, a real estate agent and mother of four kids, ages 11 to 21, has faced many medical issues since her initial diagnosis. After having a hysterectomy and being cleared of ovarian cancer, she began having pains in her side. Doctors found a large tumor on both her colon and her bladder and dozens of tiny tumors across her abdomen. She’s had surgery to remove the large tumors and three months of chemotherapy to attack the small tumors.
Over an egg sandwich at Cracker Barrel, Denne is lighthearted about her diagnosis, even making jokes about how she has a runnier nose since losing her nose hair during chemo. (“Just call my nose the slip and slide,” she says. “Nothing is stopping it.”) But she also admits that the physical pain and mental anguish can be overwhelming. During chemo, she crammed about 20 pill bottles on her nightstand for hot flashes, nausea and other side effects. She’s had surgery on her port six times. And she sometimes feels like a burden on her family, in part because of the financial challenges.
“You think that you can’t take it anymore,” Denne says. “Then [you find] the strength to take it to the next day.”
Although Denne doesn’t want to think about her “final bill,” she has already paid $6,500 to cover last year’s medical procedures and expects to pay a few thousand more. This year, her deductible has gone up to $3,000, and her coverage has gone down. With another surgery planned for June followed by a second round of chemo, Denne, who will have two kids in college this fall, expects higher bills.
A private person uncomfortable with asking others for money, Denne says that her friend Jennifer Swales suggested starting the GoFundMe campaign. Swales, who has since raised the campaign goal to $27,500, monitors the site and approves the financial transfers to Denne’s account.
Denne’s eyes fill up as she talks about the campaign. “It’s humbling to know that there are a lot of people who are willing to help you when you’re down and out,” she says.
The Gardner family outside of their fire-damaged home
Others like Lisa Gardner, whose house burned down earlier this year, have used crowdfunding to rebuild their lives after a disaster. Although they didn’t own the house, Gardner, 41, her husband, Chris, and their two daughters, Elizabeth, 9, and Sara, 7, lived there as caretakers of the property. During an ice storm in early February, a tree crashed into power lines, knocking out the Gardners’ power. Embracing the situation, the family was huddled in the living room next to a burning fire.
At around 9 p.m., the room filled with smoke. The Gardners opened the door for air, and the upstairs and outside smoke detectors began beeping. When Gardner tried to go upstairs, “the smoke was so thick,” she says. “It got my throat, it got my nose, it got my eyes.” Without socks or shoes, the family ran outside to the car in their pajamas, leaving everything but their wallets and keys behind.
Later, the Gardners learned that the chimney mortar had crumbled and smoldered, causing a backdraft when they opened the outside door. Half of the house burned down in six minutes, destroying the living room, the master bedroom and the attic. The next day, they salvaged only the girls’ baby blankets, a few photos and glassware pieces and some paperwork.
For Gardner, seeing the destroyed house was surreal. “You’ve got a coffee cup on the table and stuff in the fridge,” she says. “There was this life that was taking place in this house, and [we’d] been plucked out.”
The family spent the next 11 weeks in a one-bedroom suite at the Hilton Garden Inn in Owings Mills. Although their renters insurance paid for part of the hotel fees, the Gardners still had to pay a portion for their room while doling out more money to eat many meals in restaurants. They also had to buy new clothes, shoes, kitchen supplies, cleaning products, furniture and more—all at once.
Turning to FundRazr, Lisa Gardner’s ministry, The CREW Ministries, raised more than $10,000 for her family in four days. Friends raised an additional $2,000 on YouCaring.
“Without those fundraising pages, we would not have been able to keep afloat during our time at the hotel, and replace everything we lost,” Gardner says.
They also put some of the money toward a down payment on a new home in Reisterstown. Sitting on her new beige carpet on move-in day, Gardner says that the fire has given her family a fresh start. A couple of days earlier, she decorated the girls’ new rooms. Later that night, Sara was sprawled out on her own floor playing with pink and purple Legos.
“It’s something she hasn’t been able to do in a long time,” Gardner says. Seeing her like that, she adds, “I know we’re going to be OK.”
Photographed by David Stuck
Note: Some featured pieces are estate jewelry and may have been sold after publication.
A couple of years ago, the night before we were supposed to leave on our annual beach trip, I nervously drove myself to an urgent care clinic. I’d been coughing for a few days and running a fever, but as I struggled to catch my breath lugging baskets of laundry up our stairs, I had an intuitive inkling that something wasn’t right.
A nurse confided that I looked “terrible” and suggested a chest X-ray. She scanned the shadowy films and tut-tutted at me. “You need to wait for the doctor to talk to you, but you’re going to be verrrry glad you came in tonight,” she said knowingly.
The X-rays showed I had pneumonia.
I explained to the doctor that we were supposed to be leaving on a long-planned week’s vacation. Could I still go?
“Well, where are you headed?” she asked. “Someplace you’re going to be very active, like Disneyland?”
No, no, I told her. We were about to spend a week in an Outer Banks rental house with my husband’s family.
She looked at me and asked the question every mother longs to hear. “Do you think you can do nothing but lie on the beach with a book and relax for a week?” she asked with utter earnestness. “That means no cooking. No cleaning. You really need to take it easy if you want to get better.”
Lie on the beach with a book for a week? Uh, no problem, Doc. I think I got this one. Could you write that down on a prescription pad?
The doctor had no idea that she had unwittingly hit on a hot-button issue for me. I find the world of vacations very thorny. Lying on the beach with a book and doing absolutely nothing? That’s a vacation I can get behind. Museums and anything vaguely educational I understand. But in truth, places like Disneyland—places designed for people to do nothing but have fun—actually terrify me. Rides make me incredibly anxious. Water slides? Uhhh…no. I don’t know how to ski or surf or hang-glide or climb mountains. I can kinda sorta be down with hiking because, well, isn’t it really just walking? But the world of pure amusement is an utter mystery to me.
I know, I know. The First World-iest of First World problems. But let me just say I come by this weirdness honestly.
Let me back up for a moment. I come from a family steeped in lore. And in the Mendelsohn family mythology, few stories loom as large as that of The Ocean City Vacation. It was August of 1967. And my parents packed my four brothers into their trusty Chevy station wagon—I didn’t make my debut until the following fall—and drove to Ocean City for a few days, to join friends who lived outside of D.C.
The story looms large not because of any terrible mishap that happened along the way, or because of a run-in with a famous person. It’s not that it coincided with an important historical moment, unless you include the airing of the final episode of the TV show “The Fugitive,” which my brother Andrew fell asleep and missed, much to his chagrin. It looms large because it was, in our family’s entire history, the only time we ever went on a family vacation. (Cue the youngest kid stomp-fest: I ALWAYS MISS ALL THE GOOD STUFF!)
We lived an otherwise unremarkable, middle-class lifestyle. My father was a research scientist for an aerospace company. My mother, a teacher, stayed at home full-time until I was in high school. We wanted for nothing truly crucial. We traveled occasionally as a family, but always, it seemed, to the brisket-scented homes of elderly relatives, and never to anything even remotely resembling a ski lodge or the Magic Kingdom. With five kids to keep in sneakers and braces and college educations, going someplace just for fun was pretty low on the agenda.
In retrospect, I think it was less about money than it was about leisure. My parents simply weren’t idle types. Both the children of hard-working Eastern European immigrants, they weren’t particularly comfortable indulging the urge to be unproductive. Neither had any particular interest in seeing the world. I would always look at the tanned faces of other kids at school after Christmas vacation with a mix of envy and wonder. You just…went to a hotel in the Caribbean? Just…because?
Now that I’m the parent, though, I’m determined that my kids’ experience will be different than mine. We’ve dutifully taken them to plenty of fun places “just because,” places like Great Wolf Lodge (Oh, the humanity!) and Hersheypark, where I politely declined to ride the roller coaster that begins with riders on their backs, in roughly the exact position of an astronaut about to launch into space. And while I’m still a Disney holdout, this past Christmas, we officially took our first major family vacation, just the four of us on an impromptu jaunt to a paradisiacal resort in Puerto Rico. Just…because.
It was every bit as wonderfully indulgent as I imagined. My older son went down a water slide so tall it gave me hives just to look at it, but there was no denying the joy on his face when he popped back up out of the water, triumphant. My kids were the ones who came back from Christmas break with those tans I always marveled at.
But while lying on a raft in the Puerto Rican sunshine, I came to the very important revelation that in the great water park of life, I’ll always be a lazy river kind of girl. And I’m OK with that. Just let me sit with a book and do nothing. I’ll happily look up and wave as my boys go squealing down the slide.
Jennifer Mendelsohn lives in Mount Washington with her husband and their two boys. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, People, Slate and USA Weekend. She also serves as one of Us Weekly’s Fashion Police “Top Cops.”
Mally flashes her signature smile on the QVC set.
THE GLAMOUR GIRL
Mally Roncal, Founder, Mally Beauty
“WAKE UP. KICK ASS. BE KIND. REPEAT.” That’s the “Mally Mantra” celebrity makeup artist-turned-beauty mogul Mally Roncal posted on her Facebook fan page the morning of her interview with Style—and it’s a perfect description of her carpe diem attitude.
An only child and second-generation Filipina American born to two doctors, Roncal learned early on not to take life for granted. When she was just a year old, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and given six months to live, but she fought back—and thrived to see her daughter’s 17th birthday.
“We had so much fun,” shares Roncal, 42, who says her always impeccably put-together, Chanel-clad mom inspired her “drag-queen-level obsession” with beauty, which included playing with makeup before she could even talk. “We lived by seizing every single moment together. I think that’s why I am the way I am now—very positive and sensitive. I’m lucky to see life as one big play date.”
Roncal’s boisterous personality (and big smile) shine brightly on QVC, where she launched Mally Beauty—a full line of professionally inspired cosmetics and beauty tools—in 2005.
“It’s like the Olympics of television,” she says of the circus that is appearing on the shopping network, where she has become famous for her Mallyisms, including calling everyone and everything gorgois! (Yep, it rhymes with “moi” and is a fancier way of saying gawgeous.)
Imagine standing there with two monitors in front of you—one live and one that’s going live in a few minutes. You’re trying to articulate the benefits of a product, while looking fabulous, being funny and approachable, and simultaneously dabbing makeup on models and interacting with the program’s hosts. A ticking clock tells you how much shrinking time remains to sell an item and there’s a producer buzzing in your ear with comments like your hair is scratching your mic” or “move to the left, we can’t see the product” or “this is good, you’re doing great” or (the dreaded) “we’re going to move along”—all based on real-time data about whether viewers are flooding the station with calls…or changing the channel.
“People might laugh and be like, ‘How hard could it be?’” says Roncal. “But there are 4 billion things going on at the same exact time. Whether you watch QVC or not, you can’t deny what those people do on the air is an art.”
But plenty of people are watching.
“Since our first sale in 2005, we’ve grown to more than $70 million in retail sales worldwide. Six of our products won QVC’s customer choice award last year—beating all other similar items out of hundreds of options on the channel” says Don Pettit, CEO of Mally Beauty, which is headquartered in Towson and boasts a staff of talented expats from other beauty companies, including Noxell, CoverGirl and jane cosmetics. The team recently celebrated another magnificent milestone: Mally Beauty’s retail launch at all Ulta Beauty locations in May.
“It is a joyful journey for us all,” says Pettit. “Mally has an appreciation of people that is infectious and uplifting. She’s also the single best makeup artist I’ve ever seen in 30-plus years in the beauty business. She knows how to make women feel wonderful about themselves.”
Indeed, Roncal has developed a loyal and passionate following of “Mallynistas” that includes everyday moms and working professionals—just like her. (She and her model-turned-photographer hubby have three young daughters and live in West Chester, Pa., not too far from the QVC campus.) While she can’t pinpoint this group down to a specific demographic as her fans span all ages, races and geographic regions, Roncal does see one common thread: All of them lead busy lives and respond to her openness to try (and teach them) new things—like, say, how to use an eyebrow pencil.
“My fans tend to be women who need a girlfriend, cheerleader or a partner-in-crime to give them permission to do something beautiful for themselves,” she says. “I’m very unapologetic about being who I am when it comes to makeup. Wanting to feel pretty doesn’t make you inferior, less strong, less smart. It makes you confident.”
Of course, women aren’t just responding to Roncal’s “schtick” so to speak, but also to the quality of her makeup. Around the Towson office, she is renowned (and revered) for being lovingly “psycho” about testing, testing and testing her products. (Hint: she’s not afraid to say, “Take this crap back and start over!” if she doesn’t like a new mascara or foundation.)
“There’s a difference between throwing a product on the shelf and saying ‘if you like it, you like it, if you don’t, you don’t,” Roncal says with a laugh. “But I have to stand up on national TV, essentially face-to-face with a customer, and tell her my mascara is going to give her longer-looking lashes or this eyeliner won’t budge. The only way I can do that is to believe it.”
Not budging (or smudging) is a big part of the Mally Beauty brand, which was inspired by Roncal’s work as makeup artist to the stars, including everyone from Angelina Jolie, Hayden Panettiere and Maggie Gyllenhaal to Rihanna, Beyonce and Jennifer Lopez—one of our faves. (“She has this confidence that’s unlike anything you’ve seen before,” confides Roncal. “It’s electric.”)
After working as a design assistant for Tracy Reese in the Big Apple, Roncal started doing makeup for fashion shows and editorial features—and got her big break when her agent called her to work on an Us Weekly photo shoot with a young Emily Watson. She spent the next decade traveling the globe and doing makeup for some of the world’s most famous women, as the celebs-on-magazine-covers trend took flight. But after meeting her future husband, she decided to cool her jet-setting ways and settle down to start a family…and a beauty empire.
“I call my makeup bullet-proof,” says the former Sephora spokeswoman who had access to every cosmetics brand on the planet but couldn’t find a single line that worked perfectly for the likes of J-Lo and Queen Bey. “Nothing had the staying power that could stand up to the singing, dancing, sweating, the whole nine yards. So I decided to create my own line that gives people a celebrity look, but won’t come off until you take it off.” (Her 4:30 a.m.-applied “face” was still flawless when we interviewed her in the afternoon.)
Roncal has worked an extraordinary list of famous faces, but—if given her druthers—there’s at least one “dream celebrity” she’d still love to get her hands on: Dolly Parton.
“She’s my idol. Back when I first started a million years ago, she was going on the cover of Out magazine. They had her sitting on hay bales with a bunch of naked guys laying around her—and they asked me to do the makeup for the men. Dolly had her whole team there, but her presence was amazing. I also love Barbra Streisand. Anyone who has a look and owns it, that’s my definition of beauty.”
These days, of course, Roncal is the celebrity—with fans asking for her autograph or to put on their lip gloss in line at the grocery store.
“It’s humbling and amazing,” she says, noting that she even loves those rare moments when she gets caught without makeup in public. “The Mallynistas have no problems calling me out on it! But, truly, there’s nothing more special than when somebody recognizes me and says, ‘You taught me something that helped me to look and feel better.’ It melts my heart.”
As for her detractors who say that Mally is just, well, too damn perky?
“Between you, me and the lamppost, there are customers who can’t stand me.
I don’t read negative stuff online anymore, but I used to get hurt by comments like, ‘Nobody is ever that happy. It’s complete bullshit,’ she says. “Now I’m just like, ‘Sorry, honey. Wish you could come over to the sunny side of the street—but, feel free to stay over there.’ I’m incredibly grateful for my life and I’m never going to pretend that I’m not.”
Available at QVC, Ulta Beauty and the Mally website. mallybeauty.com
Believable Bronzer, $50. Melted Lipstick Duo, $38. Effortless Airbrush Nourishing Eyeshadow, $29. Perfect Prep Hydrating Under-Eye Brightener, $35.
THE MIXOLOGY MAVEN
Jamyla Bennu, Co-founder, Oyin Handmade
Sitting at her store counter, surrounded by her wares, Jamyla Bennu looks every bit the beaming self-made woman. But something’s wrong with this picture: She’s not mixing up her luscious bath and body products. Instead, she’s cutting up a lowly T-shirt, albeit in an artistic way.
“What can I say?” she comments. “I’m a crafty chick.”
Indeed. She started out almost 15 years ago at her kitchen table in Brooklyn, N.Y., mixing batches of honey, shea butter, lavender, rose petals, flaxseed and other ingredients into skin and hair care products that she then tried on herself and friends. Slowly refining her recipes over the years, she developed several successful mixtures, started selling them by word of mouth, and voilà! A star was born. So was a name: Oyin, which is the Yoruba word for “honey.”
Bennu launched Oyin Handmade on-line in 2003. It has since expanded to brick and mortar. Tucked into a modest basement storefront on Charles Street a few blocks above North Avenue, Oyin sells dozens of products festooned with colorful labels and cheeky names – “grand poo bar” “hair dew,” “no ash at all,” “funk butter” – all of them made by hand by a team of workers in a warehouse just a few blocks away.
Bennu, 38, is joined in her endeavors by her dapper husband, Pierre, a writer, filmmaker, visual artist and general dynamo who encouraged his wife’s fledgling business and pushed her to make something more of it. From the do-it-yourself gamble at the kitchen table, it has turned into a successful company with projected sales of $1.2 million in 2014.
“This is a milestone for us,” says Jamyla. “It’s been 10 years. First, Whole Foods, and now, Target.”
She is referring to the fact that the grocery chain started selling Oyin in a few select stores a couple of years ago, and the retail behemoth is stocking the products in 140 of its stores nationwide. “Target pioneered the multiethnic market,” Bennu says. “They realized there was a need.”
While most of her customers, says Bennu, are black women, often looking to tame their tight, curly hair, other women are starting to discover Oyin as well.
“Yay!! I love my #oyinhandmade products,” raved one recent commenter on the company’s Instagram feed. “I’m a Caucasian woman with very thick and curly hair, and they’re the best!”
Bennu’s own hair is a short-cropped mass of curls and coils, framing a high-cheekboned face sprinkled with freckles. She’s got a model’s good looks. Could that dewy glow be attributed to her products? And if so, which are her favorites?
“I don’t have a lot of time anymore,” she says with a laugh. “I have two little kids. Mostly, I just get up and go.” But she says her proudest recent accomplishment is a new styling cream called boing!
“It took forever to develop,” she recalls. “About six months. It’s got shea butter, coconut oil, Irish moss, so it fights frizz and is also very moisturizing. It was a lot of fun.”
Even more fun are the hilarious videos that accompany boing! and its brethren on the website. The brainchild of Pierre, the videos feature a crowd of people in goofy wigs and fake noses cheering on an Oyin employee who extols the virtues of a product. It’s not enough that a pomade works on your hair, for example; it also “helps in the kitchen” and “fights crime.” (In the video, an Oyin worker appears to smash a tomato. Cut to a scene of perfect slices. Wild applause. For the crime-fighting bit, the employee hurls a jar of boing! to the side. Off-camera, you hear a man crying out in mock agony. The worker then returns to his hair spiel.)
Though Bennu calls herself the “Grand Mixtress” of the operation, she credits her husband with product development and naming. Neither of them has a background in this kind of business. After she earned her master’s in anthropology at New York University, Jamyla dropped out of a Ph.D. program to pursue her love of creating body products—“the magic of emulsification,” she calls it. Pierre stopped working in banking to focus on his art. Together, they turned their talents to the labor of love that is Oyin.
“Love” is a word that comes up often in conversation with the Grand Mixtress.
“It’s a great thing to do for a living,” she says. “I love meeting customers, seeing the impact these products have had on their lives.”
2103 N. Charles St. | 410-343-7020 | oyinhandmade.com
Funk Butter all-natural deodorant, $6. Grand Poo Bar solid shampoo, $7. After Bath blended body oil, $12. Boing! curly hair styling product, $15.
THE BUSINESS BEE
Kara Brook, Owner, Waxing Kara
When many people think of honey, they think of that hipster-foodie version of syrup that needs to be specially requested from your local diner to pour on pancakes. For beekeeper Kara Brook, honey is much more than a sweet treat.
Brook’s Waxing Kara business specializes in Bee Inspired Goods, which range from, yes, things you can eat—like organic Eastern Shore honey and lollipops—to household products like candles, “bee bling” jewelry and beeswax art. Plus, she has partnered with experts around the globe to produce a hive’s worth of haute beauty products.
Take, for example, her signature face mask—a “Botox alternative” with Manuka honey and a small amount of bee venom (stay away if you’re allergic!) imported from New Zealand that’s used to give your face a tiny lift.
“There’s just enough of venom to trick the skin into thinking it has been lightly stung, which stimulates circulation as it tightens and smooths the surface,” Brook tells Style from inside the Honey House, the main venue for her product line, which serves as both a retail space and warehouse in Owings Mills.
Fret not, nature lovers. No bees are harmed in the making of this product. A glass-covered electronic device is installed beside the hive. The bees gently secrete venom on the glass as they attempt to sting the surface, which they can’t penetrate, so their abdomens remain intact.
Brook’s other notable beauty products include a honey-based body scrub that can exfoliate your face and keep your skin moisturized, and a body scrub that’s 100 percent pure, crystallized honey. (You could eat it, if you wanted to.) The Honey House also sells a trio of organic, tinted honey lip balms, along with a collection of handmade soaps that serve as natural humectants and antibacterials.
With Brook’s knowledge and the wide array of products, you might assume she’s long been queen bee in the honey trade. Surprisingly, she got her start only three years back. No doubt her artistic identity helped her claim this quirky new territory with confidence.
“An artist is just something that you are. You’re born that way,” says the Baltimore native and MICA grad, who feels particularly well wired to take creative risks. “You’re always a little different from day one—and that’s me.”
In her earlier career, Brook worked as a graphic designer for a then-fledgling AOL and loved it, but she still missed creating art.
“I made a deal with myself,” she says.
“I said that by the time I was a certain age, I was going to go back to it.”
At first, Brook would just paint with acrylic on snow days. But then she fell in love with an encaustic (wax) painting, which inspired her to take workshops on the art form.
She set up hives at Chesterhaven Beach Farm on Maryland’s Eastern Shore to get wax. After the first harvest, she “realized the glory in honey,” and was hooked—or perhaps stuck on the ritual. From there she committed to her sweet new life.
“I really like the idea of Eastern Shore honey,” she says. “There’s something so tranquil and peaceful about it.”
In reality, the process of putting these lovely products on the market has involved endless hard work. Beekeeping isn’t some ethereal and elegant process. It involves suiting up, sweating and being prepared for the worst. “It’s natural to be afraid,” she says.
Brook’s fearless best friend, Joyce, accompanied her the first time she ventured into the hive, which proved easier than Brook expected. Physical danger actually seems to be the least of her worries. A stickier problem: A Varroa mite issue has been killing her bees off, which puts a hinder on her efforts to keep organic.
But it’s all worth it for the entrepreneur who thrives on her collaborations with other beekeepers, seasoned artisans and beauty experts across the country. She’s also having fun experimenting with unique honey recipes for a future product. And the proceeds of her business have allowed her to continue her support of VisionWorkshops, a nonprofit that teaches at-risk youth the art of photojournalism.
“I’m really not trying to prove anything anymore,” she says. “This work is very meditative in a way. As soon as I can track inventory and not be a week late ordering lollipops, I’ll be golden.”
10989 Red Run Blvd. | Owings Mills | 410-415-3027 | waxingkara.com
Peace of Mind Bar Soap, $9. Bee Venom Mask USA, $70. Strength Bar Soap, $9. Sweet Lips Organic Tinted Honey Lip Balm Trio (Plum), $24.
Illustration by Sophie Casson
by Timmy Reed
I was the only boy in Baltimore that had to go to summer school for Sexual Education. I knew nothing and had mostly avoided the class. I hadn’t expected to meet any girls.
Girls were far away, impossible. I’d never really touched one. I’d been riding the same fake kiss from summer camp for the last four years.
Summer school was in the classroom of a lower school in Hampden. There were ducks and the letters of the alphabet on the wall. An old man with a big orange afro was my teacher. I forget his name. I thought of him as “Ronald McDonald.” He was a nice man. He taught me awkwardly, alone, about the ways of a woman’s insides.
I had a girl in mind though: Harriet Hurtt. Not for sex yet, that seemed so far off and impossible. For whatever romantic options boys think of when sex is off the platter. I dreamt of those options. I dreamt of what they might be.
Harriet was the toughest person in summer school. She was there for every class, all day long, except Sex Ed.
It was July, boiling, and they shut the school down for our safety. We were all given bus passes so we could get on the MTA and go home. I bought an egg custard snowball first, then went to my stop.
Harriet was across the street, headed south on the same line.
“Hey, Kid!” she called across, looking all sweaty and important. I had never been called a nickname by anyone that mattered. “I’ll trade you a cigarette for some of that snowball.”
The ice melted off her spoon as it touched her mouth. I would follow her anywhere.
“Let’s go swimming,” she said.
We wound our way down Falls Road until we hit the waterfalls left over by the mills. My father had shown them to me once on a hike, but warned me against touching the water.
“Dirty,” he said. “Keep yourself clean as long as you can.”
The falls were a postcard, half-round like a horseshoe, gushing toward the harbor in a sweet, liquid song. There was garbage stuck to the banks. Harriet went in fully dressed. She eased herself into the water. I pushed sick-yellow foam away with a stick.
She flicked her wrist.
“On my way,” I told her.
Now we were next to each other. We paddled back toward the falling water, holding hands, treading. The falls tried to breach us, but couldn’t. We were pushed forward, but held strong. I tasted love like filthy water in my mouth.
Our exit was too soon. I could have stayed in that brown stream until fall, holding this bad girl’s hand. It was a new kind of classroom. There was still so much to learn.
Timmy Reed edits fiction for What Weekly.com and recently self-published a collection of stories called “Tell God I Don’t Exist.” His debut novel, “The Ghosts That Surrounded Them,” is forthcoming this winter from Dig That Book, Co.
MORE STORIES >>
Move over Margarita! The Spa Cooler has arrived on our summer scene. Simple and delicate, this cocktail has all of the flavor of a punch with only natural fruit sugars and sparkling delight. Mix up a carafe to share. It will rejuvenate on a hot afternoon by the pool or refresh during an evening on the patio by the grill.
Carafe (32-40 ounces)
8 ounces Edinburgh gin
1⁄2 cucumber thinly sliced
1⁄2 pound of diced strawberries
1⁄2 large navel orange thinly sliced Lemon Perrier
Fill carafe halfway with ice. Add gin and fruit. Fill carafe with lemon Perrier and gently stir.
By Ginny Lawhorn, award-winning bartender at Landmark Theatres, Harbor East and founder of Tend for a Cause.
Ask any woman—can you ever have enough beauty products? Silly question. That’s why the opening of Lush at Harbor East is divine. Sidle up to the cosmetics bar, for an array of fragrant soaps with names like Karma, Porridge and Sultana, or perhaps a colorful Bath Bomb called Secret Garden, Honey Lumps or Twilight. (Sorry, sexy vampire not included.) The handmade products are organic, vegetarian, not tested on animals and come with little or no packaging so you can feel good about feeling good. 1001 AliceannaStreet, Harbor East. lushusa.com
Beach season is upon us. And maybe that means the same lazy traditions we have always held dear: boardwalk browsing in A.C. while munching caramel popcorn, cooking a sunburn while scarfing Grotto Pizza in Rehoboth, or enjoying an afternoon beef-and-beer at Abbey Burger Bistro in Ocean City. And that’s OK! We’re not here to judge (just writing that paragraph made us hungry). But we think it’s worth noting that numerous health and wellness options are popping up throughout the region’s beach communities—part of a growing trend toward scenic fitness, organic fine dining and body-pampering treats so delicious we sense a new beachgoer tradition on the tide. Here are a few of our favorites.
Atlantic City Surf School and Club
Feeling core-confident upon arrival? You might sail straight to surf school. Run by a national surfing champ and a two-time NSSA national team member, the Atlantic City Surf School and Club (acsurfschool. com, 609-347-SURF) offers lessons for all levels, including intensive Weekend Warrior camps designed to get you hanging 10 in three days or less. Also look for kids’ programs, including the brilliantly titled Teenie Wahinnie camp for ages 9 to 13. Really, can you imagine a cooler Facebook pic than you standing upright, catching a sky-blue wave? (Yes, the pros say they can at least get you to stand on the board, but often more.)
Or ease into your beach exercise routine with free boardwalk fitness classes starting (not that early) at 10 a.m. Work up a light sweat dancing Zumba amid the amazing Étude Atlantis installation on the A.C. boardwalk at California Avenue. An optical illusion of painted stripes, the “walkable mural” designed by John Roloff, serves as a fun and trippy backdrop for music and stage acts as well as fluid aerobic
exercise. Classes offered June 21-Sept. 1 and also include a regular AC Beach Body Boot Camp starting at 9 a.m. Visit atlanticcitynj.com for the full schedule.
A treatment room at Spa Toccare in the Borgata Hotel and Casino
Sore muscles deserve luxurious TLC, so reward yourself at Spa Toccare at the Borgata Hotel and Casino (theborgata.com), where you can choose among mega-rich facials, massage and moisturizing body floats. The Egyptian Milk and Honey Cocoon Float, which lasts 50 minutes, results in two perks: velvety-soft skin (at least for the night) and a new level of relaxation (at least until your cell rings). Then again, Table Thai Bodywork’s tempting too, especially for those on the wellness wagon. Nicknamed “assisted yoga,” the 50-minute practice walks each client through individually tailored stretching and breath work aimed at achieving spiritual invigoration and a state of “profound rest.” Sounds downright, well, heavenly.
The cool pool at The Water Club at Borgata
Sidestroke note: The Water Club at Borgata, the immense luxury hotel located steps from older brother Borgata, houses its own spa called Immersion, which features many of Toccare’s spoil-me services plus a gasp-worthy infinity lap pool and whirlpool overlooking the Atlantic. Here, taking a dip is more like taking a tranquilizer. Spa cuisine by celeb “Iron Chef” Geoffrey Zakarian is also potentially addictive—happy guests gather in the Sunroom Lounge nightly for cocktails and not-terrible-for-you tapas.
If retail therapy is your bag, visit the nearby Tanger Outlets (tangeroutlet.com), where you can take a bite out of the kids’ back-to-school shopping budget with savings at Lacoste, Abercrombie & Fitch, J. Crew and Puma. Tanger also has outlets in Ocean City, Md., and Rehoboth Beach, Del.—perfect for reducing road rage after a bout with traffic on the Bay Bridge.
Lums Pond State Park in Bear, Del.
If you’re looking to get back to literal nature on your summer getaway, good news: the newly launched Delaware Trail Maps website (destateparks.com) makes it extra easy to snag an immediate overview of the more than 150 walking, biking, running, paddling, canoeing and swimming options sewn throughout the striking nearby state.
At Trap Pond State Park in Laurel, Del., for instance, did you know you can canoe past rare bald cypress trees, picnic under a canopy of natural shade and then consider a game of horseshoes? Check the site. There’s also kayaking, fishing, hiking, bird-watching—and more. Meanwhile, the Junction and Breakwater Trail, another camera-ready, non-commercial option, offers high-steppers a lovely lighthouse overlook. You’ll follow a section of the former Penn Central Rail Line, marching past mature hardwood and conifer forests and inspiring open fields. This trail is user-friendly for hikers, bikers and babies in strollers, so feel free to bring the kids along for the communing.
Later, wake your taste buds with fresh, organic dishes from critical darling Planet X Cafe (302-226-1928, planetcafe.com) in Rehoboth. (Keep your eyes peeled for the precious pink, blue and green house with a wraparound porch.) Both meat-lover and vegetarian menu options abound, and here, natural does not mean simple or plain. The popular Zen Bowl with scallion stuffed chicken thighs with red Thai coconut curry quite simply rocks—as does the stacked eggplant with creamy herb Boursin cheese and tangy Italian Puttanesca sauce. The moderately priced restaurant’s Buddha Bar also features organic wine—salud! Reservations suggested.
Sunset paddle with 48th Street Watersports
Ocean City, Md.
From 9 a.m. ’til dusk, test some new waters by standup paddle boarding (SUP, man), one of the fastest growing workouts on water. For the $20/hour price of a board rental, coaches at 48th Street Watersports (410-524-9150, 48thstreetwatersports.com) will guide you through the strategic basics of the sport. At the end of the day, the popular Sunset Paddle class puts training travelers to the test with muscle-toning moves made less intimidating thanks to the darkening, romantic setting of the Isle of Wight Bay. Perfect for couples, cohorts and singletons, but interested paddlers should call ahead for reservations.
Ocean City Brewing Company
New arrival Ocean City Brewing Company (443-677-3075, ocbrewingcompany.com), native Joshua Shores’ family-owned, all-organic brewpub, is a fitting and festive place for fitness-centric visitors to indulge in a natural craft beer (or two) after a long day on the water. “We call it clean and green,” Shores says. “We don’t use preservatives or chemicals. All spent grains are recycled to farms for feed or made into dog biscuits, which we sell in our gift shop.” (Cute, non-cliché gift idea for friends back home.) Twelve to 20 craft beers are on tap on any given day—from light beers to dark ales—and the bar features 15-foot Oktoberfest-style tables to encourage communication among locals and renters alike.
Frontier Town High Ropes Adventure Park
Wild horses are usually the draw at Assateague, the 37-mile-long barrier island located off the eastern coast of Delmarva, spanning both Maryland and Virginia. But now you can also go on a zip-lining escapade at Frontier Town High Ropes Adventure Park (800-228-5590, frontiertown.com). Not sure what zip-lining consists of? Picture wooden platforms built in trees, linked by cables, ropes, bridges and various fun obstacles to heighten your senses as you climb, swing and “fly” (wearing a helmet; attached to cables, natch) through the air with the greatest of ease. Choose your degree of difficulty based on fitness level and comfort. The park is situated between Frontier Town Water Park and the Wild West Theme Park—so package deals are available. Kids under 10 are not permitted. And if you really want to rough it (we rarely do) consider the family campground. Yee-haw!
Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa and Marina
When you’re simply looking to hole up in a nice hotel, but still keeping health and wellness foremost in mind, the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa and Marina (410-901-1234, chesapeakebay.hyatt.com) offers deep pampering and ample outdoor activities in balanced measure.
Nestled on 342 acres, the resort’s sporting opportunities (beyond the award-winning, championship golf course) are divided between land—such as bike touring, tennis, volleyball and working out in the StayFit gym with views of the Choptank River—and water, where you can kayak, water-ski, crab/fish, go tubing or take a cruise with official Chesapeake Bay watermen.
The newly renovated Sago Spa and Salon, named for an underwater grass indigenous to the Chesapeake region, now features locally inspired treatments, like the Eastern Shore Remedy massage and the Old Fashion Back Tonic, a hot massage using steaming towels infused with rosemary, basil, bay laurel and arnica gel.
Heck, you can even book a hypoallergenic room at this we’ve-thought-of-everything resort, which for the first time this summer, is offering all-inclusive getaway deals, starting at $479 per night, based on double occupancy. If you’ve got kids on board, ask for the Family Petite Suite, which features bunk beds for the gang (and a king bed for Mom and Dad).
Get a sitter for dinner, though, because the resort’s new summer season restaurant, the River Marsh Gastropub, provides an ideal spot to drink and de-stress, just the two of you. Menu highlights—cheddar beer soup, Chesapeake crab hush puppies, Guinness-braised short ribs, crispy pork belly tacos and sticky toffee pudding—are decidedly bad for you. But no one’s watching. And, hey, sometimes bad-for-you can be divinely good for the hungry traveler’s soul, too.
HOLISTIC CURIOUS? Nava Health & Vitality Center in Columbia is the one-stop shop for Eastern-Western integrated wellness. Visit the contemporary spa retreat-inspired environment and locate your inner Zen via acupuncture, massage, chiropractic treatment, IV micronutrient therapy (B12, anyone?), hormone optimization and nutrition plans for total wellness. They even offer hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which involves slipping inside a human-size duffel bag.
Expect your ears to pop, like on an airplane, but otherwise your muscles will breath easier. (It’s a common recovery strategy for athletes.)
Founded by Bernie Dancel—CEO of its parent company Ascend One—Nava opened in February. A health-oriented businessman, Dancel saw the benefit of Eastern-Western practices when a Florida-based holistic doctor healed his wife, who had fallen ill and wasn’t benefiting from the specialists she saw beforehand. Afterward, Dancel wondered why that doctor’s treatment, which tied all of his wife’s symptoms together, wasn’t on the map.
“My wife and I made it our mission to do something about it,” says Dancel, who believes the problem with seeing multiple specialists is that they don’t share patients. “We’re able integrate care—and maintain objectivity, because Nava is not run by our medical professionals.”
Prospective clients come in for a wellness consultation and receive diagnostic results from a Nava physician. Nava’s pro team then devises an individualized plan with the option of monthly memberships to help keep you on track.
Side note: We tried acupuncture with Steve, who aimed to help us release our “inner tiger” (which we interpreted to mean repressed stress). Not sure if the tiger came out, but after a few gentle needles to the inner ear and feet, we purred the whole way home. navacenter.com
Growing up near the bucolic farmland of Western Maryland as I did, it would have been difficult—perverse, even—not to have developed a taste for the juicy, meaty tomatoes that my mother bought by the bushelful from roadside stands all during the hot, lazy months of summer. During tomato season, it didn’t matter that my mother was no great shakes in the kitchen; after all, the plump, fulsome tomatoes needed next to nothing to shine. We ate them with everything: on top of salads, alone with just a bit of salt, and, to this day, my favorite way—in sandwiches with plenty of mayonnaise.
It’s true that a proper summer tomato can stand entirely on its own, but I’ve played with it a bit in the following four dishes, while still allowing its essential tomato nature to shine. The fried green tomatoes are a classic of Southern cuisine, and the sweet heat of the Creole remou-lade works perfectly with their pleasantly bitter bite. The tomato and eggplant gratin, meanwhile, makes a fabulous side dish at a cookout, or works as a light meal on its own on a steamy summer night.
The tomato candy tartlets take just four basic ingredients—grape tomatoes, arugula, fresh cheese and pastry—and combine to become so much more than the sum of their parts. These addictive bites work either as a first course, a cocktail party hors d’oeuvre, or—if you’re feeling extra puckish—you could down them all in one sitting for a satisfying yet light meal.
Finally, the baked tomato eggs with blue cheese and bacon are the ultimate (slightly decadent) brunch dish. However you fancy your tomatoes, one thing is certain: with these four dishes at your fingertips, you’ll never again complain that you planted too many tomatoes in your garden.
IT’S LIKE UNICORN HUNTING. That’s the feeling I had after trolling endless department stores and mall-based lingerie shops for the perfect strapless bra. Having lost a little weight this year—how shall I put this?—my cups no longer runneth over. And I’ve settled somewhere in the vicinity of a 38B (aka the “mythical creature” of bra sizes).
“Girl, your shoulders are sexy,” explained the perhaps-too-honest gal at Victoria’s Secret, as she wraps a tape measure around my torso. “But your breasts just can’t keep up.”
Translation: You and your miniscule boobies might want to consider a clothing-optional community, because you’re never going to find a bra that really fits you.
Turns out, she was wrong. I took my broad back, shrinking “girls” and bad attitude straight into Bare Necessities at Green Spring Station, where owner Lynn Fram straightened me out.
“Every bra fits differently—even in the same line—so it helps to have lots of styles and sizes under one roof,” explains Fram, whose personal mission is to save women from the indignities of back fat, side lumps, over-boob and nip slips—not to mention ugly bra syndrome. Her store is brimming with beautiful brassieres from 30A to 52L, including more than 20 strapless options. (Other stores I visited had two or three.)
After hand-selecting some boulder holders for me to try, Lynn and I agreed on two gorgeous little numbers—including one black “plunge” bra that rivals my favorite from my 20s—that cost about $50 each. The key: selecting a strapless where the support comes from the band with added silicone lining to prevent slippage. (She also suggests washing after every wear to remove oils and prevent stretching.) Here are some other tricks of the trade I learned.
SMALL BUST: Go for a bra with padding only on the bottom to give you a little lift without looking like you’re wearing Madonna cones.
FULL FIGURE: Consider a bustier with boning in the bra and a waist-slimming corset. (Yes, you can find one that’s comfy.) “If you get a little mush at the bottom,” says Fram “just add a pair of Spanx.”
BETWEEN SIZES. Fram staffs two full-time seamstresses who can quickly (and affordably) customize any bra for the perfect band/cup ratio. “We just move a tab or add an extender in the back. It’s not magic, but it’s pretty close.” 410-583-1383, necessarysecrets.com
bringing sexy Back
Ladies and gentlemen, get ready to swoon. Pop music superstar Justin Timberlake is bringing his 20/20 Experience World Tour to the Baltimore Arena, where fans of the former ’N Sync lead vocalist can sing and dance to his plethora of recent and throwback hits from his four platinum-certified albums, including “Rock Your Body,” “Cry Me a River” (sorry, Britney Spears) and the latest, “Not a Bad Thing.” So smooth. While Timberlake has been deemed one of the most commercially successful solo acts in the past decade, it should be noted that Jessica Biel’s hubby is also a businessman and philanthropist and has become a well-versed actor and comedian. (We love his stints on “SNL” and recent performance in “Inside Llewyn Davis.”) But all this begs one burning question: Is there anything JT can’t do? We plan to be in the front row on July 14 to find out. Tickets, $59-$195. 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com
Snap Out of It!
What could be better than spending a hot summer night viewing a classic Italian-inspired movie under the stars? Probably eating a hearty bowl of spaghetti while you watch. Since 1999, Little Italy has provided the Italian-inspired cinema spirit with the Little Italy Open Air Film Festival (aka “Cinema Al Fresco”), which screens films both kid- and adult-friendly every Friday night in July and August. Located across the street from the rowhome of the late “Mr. John” Pente, films are screened onto the outside wall of the Ciao Bella Restaurant in the Di Mimmo’s Ristorante parking lot. Films this year include our all-time favorite, “Moonstruck,” “Gladiator” and “Silver Linings Playbook,” along with the cherished Italian-language classic “Cinema Paradiso” (a closing night tradition). Before every 9 p.m. screening, viewers can enjoy live entertainment and treats from Little Italy’s restaurants. So bring your appetite—and your own lawn chair. July 11-Sept. 5. Free admission. promotioncenterforlittleitaly.org
It’s time to break out the visors, designer shades, khaki capris and golf shoes. The inaugural LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association) International Crown will be held at the Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills. The biennial, team match-play competition will feature some of the leading players in the sport, hailing from the U.S., Australia, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Chinese Taipei, Sweden and Thailand. July 24-27. Tickets, $25-$185. lpgainternationalcrown.com
If you’re looking for an old-fashioned, head-banging time that’s just a wee bit trashy (in a good way), look no further than MD Live! Rams Head Center Stage, which will host the one and only Bret Michaels. First gaining fame as the lead vocalist of the chart-topping metal band Poison, Michaels has dabbled in other genres, including hard rock and country rock, and made some infamous forays into reality television. Yes, we’re talking about VH1’s “Rock of Love,” that dating show in which all those—how can we put it?—memorable contestants competed for Michaels’ hand. July 17. Tickets, $35. 443-842-7000, marylandlivecasino.com
Takin’ It Easy
Singer-songwriter and social activist Jackson Browne will bring just himself, his guitar and piano to the Hippodrome as part of his national solo acoustic summer tour. Since the 1970s, Browne has sold more than 18 million albums in the U.S., spawning classic hits such as “Take It Easy,” “The Pretender” and “Somebody’s Baby.” Known for merging personal life stories with personal politics, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee is sure to garner even greater affection during this rare, intimate performance. Aug. 23. Tickets, $62-$117. 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com
It’s 9 O’Clock On A Saturday
Admit it. You’ve heard “Piano Man” at one point in your life when you weren’t quite sober, and you sang along and it made you a little teary-eyed. OK, maybe that was just us. But you’ll have the chance to hear the iconic tune live when Billy Joel plays Nationals Park as part of his 21-concert national tour. So put on your Uptown Girl (or guy) summer best and make the trek to D.C. for this event—our “worth the drive” pick for the summer season. July 26. Tickets, $99-$124. tickets.com
Hot and Heavy
It’s not called the Hot August Music Festival for nothing. Hats, sunglasses, plenty of sunscreen and cold beverages will be necessary for the blues and roots musical festival, celebrating its 22nd year in the area. Featuring a list of bands including Old Crow Medicine Show, Dr. Dog, Tab Benoit, Elm, Nickel Creek (not to be confused with Nickelback) and more, the daylong festival is held at Oregon Ridge Park in Cockeysville. Aug. 16. Tickets, $49 to $148. 877-321-FEST, hotaugustmusicfestival.com
Sing It, Honey
Fans of NBC’s “The Voice” will have the chance to experience their favorite reality singing competition live onstage. The Voice Tour is coming to The Lyric, and will feature Season 6’s top finalists and past favorites, including Season 5 winner Tessanne Chin (pictured), runner- up Jacquie Lee, Season 1 runner- up Dia Frampton and a yet-to-be-determined fan favorite. July 8. Tickets, $46-$77. 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com
Medieval painters often filled their manuscripts with scenes of everyday life that included charming illuminations of people and animals playing musical instruments and dancing. Many of these images, however, functioned as sophisticated symbols, as musical harmony and dissonance were thought to mirror the perfection of heaven as well as the disorder of evil. Seeing Music in Medieval Manuscripts, an exhibition of 20 manuscripts and other objects at the Walters Art Museum, will explore music in its relationship with philosophy, religion and the arts during the Middle Ages. Through Oct. 12. Free. 410-547-9000, thewalters.org
Art Free For All
It wouldn’t be a complete summer in Baltimore without the city’s annual Artscape, the largest free arts festival in the country. Attracting around 350,000 people throughout its three-day run, the outdoor festival features more than 150 artists, craftspeople and fashion designers, a diverse collection of on- and off-site visual art exhibits, an array of live music, performing arts and family events (including a Baltimore Symphony Orchestra performance) and an international food and drink menu. Artwork by the Janet & Walter Sondheim finalists will be featured at the Walters Art Museum for three weeks, starting the day after the fest ends. July 18-20 at Mount Royal Avenue and Cathedral Street, Charles Street, Bolton Hill and the Station North Arts & Entertainment District. Free. artscape.org
American singer-songwriters Gavin DeGraw and Matt Nathanson—both recognized for their signature brand of contemporary pop-rock—will join forces onstage at Pier Six Pavilion. Best known for his hits “In Love with a Girl,” “Chariot” and the “One Tree Hill” theme song, “I Don’t Want to Be,” DeGraw has sold more than a million records in the U.S.—and in 2012 showed off his dancing skills (and charm) on “Dancing with the Stars.” Nathanson is best known for his platinum-selling single, “Come On Get Higher.” As a special treat, the two will also be joined by Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin vocalist Andrew McMahon. Aug. 12. $29-$65. piersixpavilion.com
Something Old, Something New
Experience Charm City’s version of “Antiques Roadshow” during the 34th annual Baltimore Summer Antiques Show, the largest indoor antiques show in the U.S. Held at the Baltimore Convention Center and produced by the Palm Beach Show Group, the four-day affair attracts numerous collectors and dealers from as far as Beijing and Dubai, to scope out the more than 200,000 items offered by over 575 expert exhibitors. With merchandise ranging from Asian art, European silver, porcelain, American folk art, textiles and more, the event is sure to quench any antique fan’s thirst. Aug. 21-24. Tickets, $15. baltimoresummerantiques.com
Let’s be honest. Video games wouldn’t be nearly as exciting without the intense musical score in the background. The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra will bring some of those famous tunes to life at Video Games Live, an engaging concert experience featuring music from some of the most renowned video games ever, including “MegaMan,” “Mass Effect,” “Final Fantasy” and “World of Warcraft.” Dress to impress, as there’s a costume contest before the performance—not to mention a “Guitar Hero” challenge, where the winner will be featured onstage during the show. July 26 at The Meyerhoff. Tickets, $28-$68. 410-783-8000, bsomusic.org
Not all of us are looking to go on outdoorsy adventures this summer, which is why museums are here to enlighten us and give us air conditioning. Consider, for example, For Whom It Stands—named one of USA Today’s Top 10 must-see exhibitions of the season—at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture in Baltimore. The 3,200-square-foot exhibition is home to more than 100 pieces of artwork, documents, photographs and artifacts that represent American experiences. The exhibit is highlighted by the little-known contribution of Grace Wisher, a young African- American indentured servant in Mary Pickersgill’s household—on the same block as the museum—who helped create the original star-spangled banner during the War of 1812. Through Feb. 28, 2015. Tickets, $1-$8. rflewismuseum.org
Death at the La Brea Tar Pits
by Jessica Anya Blau
L.B. could sense the kids on the bus glancing at him, whispering. He was on the backbench, his arms spread wide like wings, his legs open in a giant V. His posse, Ethan and Jack, were on either side of him. L.B. was the tallest kid in the eighth grade, skinny as a rope, but muscly, dense. “A bullet couldn’t make it through that,” his mom liked to say, and she’d punch at the top of his arm, right near his shoulder. It’d hurt a little, especially when she landed him with her chunky, gold and silver rings. But he wouldn’t even wince. He’d just stand there, The Man, his stomach muscles clenching and his balls instinctively tucking up like a hiding rodent as he took the crooked blows.
At school, the boys who weren’t L.B.’s friends were afraid of him. Not because he bullied them, more because he ignored them, walking by as if they didn’t exist. And the ones who weren’t too afraid to be his friend still believed he was The Man.
L.B. liked watching people watch him, although what the kids were doing now on the bus—their glances as hard to capture as darting birds—didn’t make him feel watched as much as it made him feel observed. Just yesterday, most of the eighth grade had gathered around him as if he were a street performer, screaming and whooping as he stuck a lit firecracker in a lizard’s ass just to watch the animal explode.
The bus was taking the class to the La Brea tar pits. There were 60 middle schoolers and only two teacher chaperones. It was a field trip L.B. had made every year since the fourth grade when he and his mother moved to Los Angeles from Baltimore.
Who knew where his dad, Big Bill, really was. His mother said Big Bill was a no-goodnik who was in prison. But if he were in prison, wouldn’t he email? Or call? They have computers and phones in prison; L.B. had seen them on TV shows and in movies. One day L.B. would track down his dad, and they’d sit on a couch together, drink beer and watch TV. L.B. loved beer and his mother let him drink it as long as his homework was done, which it always was as he was able to rip through it—math, English, everything—in the amount of time it took to ride the bus home.
Sometimes, when his own homework was finished, L.B. would do the math homework for someone else on the bus. “What dumbfuck wants a perfect score on their math?” he’d ask, then L.B. would look down at all those waggling arms, like perfectly arrayed snakes popping up, and try to pick the person who was in the highest math class. The harder, the better—it got boring when things were too easy.
The kids were still whispering and they were looking at L.B. with different eyes: not scared, and not daring. Curious. Or nervous. He couldn’t really tell.
“What the fuck?” L.B. said to Ethan, and Ethan handed him his cell phone to show him a text.
L.B. Collier’s mother OD’d. Chloe’s mom works at the hospital and said they brought her in already dead.
“Don’t tell the teachers,” L.B. said, although he wouldn’t remember saying this until later, when the social worker asked him if he had any idea why no one, including L.B. himself, informed the chaperones.
L.B. turned his face away from Ethan’s and looked out the window. It felt like thick, bulletproof glass was sliding down over each side of his brain. He was walling off the information. Encasing himself.
When they walked off the bus, L.B. stared at the glaring sunlight through the imagined bulletproof wall that was opaque and smudgy from fingerprints and smog. There were people around him, L.B. knew that to be factually true, but he couldn’t hear them and couldn’t make out their forms. As the class lined up at the fence of the biggest tar pit, L.B. felt so alone he had to gasp, just once, to make sure he was really there.
Once upon a time, L.B. had loved the tar pits. He liked envisioning a saber-toothed tiger approaching the sheen of water on the black surface, stepping in for a drink and then being sucked down into the oily, darkness. If the tiger’s head was above the tar line, another meaner saber-tooth would pounce on him. They’d ravage each other in a fight, ripping out chunks of fur with meat attached to the back in the shape of icebergs. Eventually, they’d spiral down together, deeper into the muck. With each breath, they’d pull in a hot, dense stream that would fill them like molten copper being poured into a mold.
L.B. had often tried to imagine death, the emptiness, the nothingness. It was as hard to fathom as the idea of himself before he was conceived; L.B. before he was growing in his mother’s body; L.B. before his father was called Big Bill in contrast to him; L.B. before L.B. How can nothing exist when everywhere you look there’s something? How can a person be completely gone when everywhere you go, you feel them?
Jessica Anya Blau’s newest novel, “The Wonder Bread Summer,” was picked for summer reading lists by CNN, NPR, Vanity Fair and Oprah’s Book Club. She is also the author of “The Summer of Naked Swim Parties” and “Drinking Closer to Home.”
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I don’t know about you, but I tend to hibernate in the winter. My DVR becomes my best friend and my beauty philosophy hovers somewhere between “but moisturizer is so cold” to “why bother to shave if I’m just wearing leggings every day?” (No wonder “The Walking Dead” is my favorite show.) In the spring, I get a little less lazy, thanks to an influx of vitamin D, outdoor happy hours and the beginning of Orioles season, where looking cute in direct sunlight has its advantages. But summer is my season! From strapless dresses to sun-kissed skin, this is the time when I get my flirt on and feel totally fab about life. If you’re on the same seasonal roller coaster ride, here are seven beauty strategies to help you get your groove back.
Jennifer Drumgold makes waxing comfortable (and even fun!) at European Wax Center.
Wax On, Wax Off. I have to admit, I was slightly taken aback when the person checking me in for my Brazilian at the new European Wax Center was a hot guy with hypnotizing golden-brown eyes. Turns out that’s general manager (and owner’s son) Jake Kapneck, who moved to Maryland to open the first of several local franchises for the national brand. “Our concept is to combine efficiency with intimacy,” explains the young entrepreneur who books clients every 15 minutes in the bright, modern space with six treatment rooms. Now, before you get too excited, he’s referring to the center’s customer service philosophy where you can come in for a quickie (wax, that is) and still get highly professional service, education about the house products (I recommend the Brow Enhancing Serum), plus an invitation to join the center’s loyalty program where you can buy several months of waxes at a discounted rate.
Stylish and sassy aesthetician Jennifer Drumgold delivers all-star service during my bikini wax, which includes a proprietary four-step system—cleanser, pre-wax oil (to ensure only hair—no epidermis—comes off), organic beeswax that hardens on the skin (no strips!) and a final rejuvenation with ingrown hair serum and calming cream. This was my maiden voyage with the center’s trademarked Comfort Wax infused with lavender oil. I can’t say it hurt that much less than a traditional Brazilian, but I experienced zero post-wax irritation—a first for my sensitive skin. Another first: at the end of my session, Jennifer handed me a mirror to check out her work. Let’s just say I left with a bump in my self-esteem—and an appointment to come back for an underarm wax the next week. Brazilian bikini wax, $47. 1809 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville 410-415-6500, waxcenter.com
Play Footsie. “This isn’t going to be one of those relaxing pedicures,” says Mary Villaluz, nail department manager at About Faces in Canton, with a mischievous grin. But I actually relaxed more than usual at my first “Medi Pedi”—a therapeutic spa service designed to cure whatever ails your tootsies, from cracked heels and calluses to even athlete’s foot and more serious issues caused by diabetes. The magic comes from integrating a line of pharmaceutical-grade Footlogix products featuring “Dermal Infusion Technology” that enables active ingredients (think Spirulina microalgae for moisture) to penetrate faster and deeper into troubled skin.
While the treatment was thorough, as promised, it was never uncomfortable (maybe ticklish!) and I could literally see dead skin flying off in the sunlight as Mary sloughed my “flip-flop heels” into submission. This beach girl loved the lightweight, mousse-based formula, the fresh smell of the seaweed scrub and the luxurious leg massage. Bonus: the products are oil-free so I left with super-soft, “lubed up” legs and feet—without the risk of slipping in my yoga class. Medi Pedi with Footlogix, $60. Six area locations. 410-675-0099, aboutfacesdayspa.com
FACE PLANT. When our inside source at the Spa at Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore tells us that something is a “game- changer”—we listen. And my 80-minute HydraFacial MD lived up to the hype. Billed as a medical-grade, noninvasive “power peel” with no downtime, the four-step service involves deep cleansing, exfoliation, extractions and hydration—all delivered with a magic “wand” that feels like having a nubby electric toothbrush run across your face. “The key is using antioxidant-rich serums with peptides and Hyaluronic acid that are potent but won’t aggravate the skin,” says aesthetician (and one of my all-around favorite humans) Natalie Sams, as she basically vacuums my soon-to-be-blackhead-free nose without a single wince … from either of us!
I have to admit, I was floored by the results. I’ve never experienced a facial that delivered instant improvements (in my case, a complete reversal of skin dehydration with a dramatic reduction in rosacea symptoms that has lasted for several weeks) without any side effects (usually a few stretched out pores, blotchiness and a reactionary blemish or two.) If I was a celebrity, I could have walked the red carpet that night. Instead, I made kissy faces at myself in the rearview mirror, enjoying the (temporary but glamorous) plumping effect the HydraFacial gave my previously parched lips. I’m in love. Available in 25-, 50- and 80-minute sessions, $175-$350. 200 International Drive. 410-576-5800, fourseasons.com/baltimore/spa
Stephanie Casey (left) and Melissa Jacobson, co-owners of Bare Skinlabs
Get a Perm. No, not the tragic ’80s hair variety. At the new Bare Skinlabs in Green Spring Station, permanent makeup is all the rage. “Before this, I was basically trying to pull off a comb-over,” says one forty-something client, as she proudly shows off her newly tattooed eyebrows—a great solution for women with thinning brows or bald spots from bad wax jobs.
“I gave her a natural look by using two different needles—one that’s more powdery and another that allows me to do hair-like brush strokes,” says co-owner Melissa Jacobson, who also offers permanent eyeliner, lip tint, areola restoration and even hairline fills for the balding and beautiful among us. It’s true, these are not Groucho Marx’s eyebrows—they’re lovely. I spend the rest of my visit invading the staff’s personal space to inspect their ink. Jacobson’s perfectly pink lips slay me—she actually tattooed them herself to closely match her own skin tone. “As a working mom, having a little color helps me wake up without looking like a zombie,” she says. Results can last several years—then you might need a touch-up. I’m not brave enough to take the leap just yet, so Jacobson tints my eyebrows instead. It’s like an instant eyelift. Permanent makeup, $100-$300. Eyebrow tint, $30. 10751 Falls Road, Lutherville. 443-469-0591, bareskinstudios.com
Jars of Candied Lashes at Baltimore Spa and Salon
Lash Out. If you’ve read my “Beauty Explorer” column, you’ll know I’m already sweet on NovaLash eyelash extensions—individual falsies that are applied with formaldehyde-free adhesive (no wig glue here!) to your own lashes, which naturally grow out and fall off in a month. (Hint: you can get “refills” and stay mascara-free all year-round.) But now Baltimore Spa and Salon at the Ritz-Carlton Residences offers Candied Lashes—colorful extensions that are hand-dipped in crystallized glitter, from hot pink to emerald green to indigo blue.
“Oh come on, just try it,” says delightfully bossy Emily Horwath, who received advanced training with celebrity lash stylist Sophia Navarro to do the honors. She adds just two chocolate brown singles to the corners of my usual curlicue-style lashes—and they look adorable. Barely noticeable in this shade, they give off just a little “pop” when the light hits me just right. Most popular with Horwath’s older clientele in their 40s, 50s and 60s, everyone from attorneys to grandmothers are asking for the special treat. “Sometimes you just need a little sparkle in your life,” says Horwath. Indeed. Candied Lashes (three to four on each side), $40. Glamour set (up to 100 lashes), $185. 801 Key Highway. 410-625-2427, baltimorespasalon.com.
Sun cather. After a firm talking-to from my dermatologist, I’ve decided to be more protective of my skin this summer. Thank heavens, then, for the new Infinity Sun airbrush tanning at Soirée in Cockeysville. Co-owner Sarah Weiskittel hand-picked the L.A.-based organic line—enriched with antioxidants and botanicals, plus an instant bronzer made from walnut shell extract—to dovetail with her Aveda salon’s dedication to natural beauty. What’s unique? “We can choose from 30 different shades to customize the perfect tan for every client,” says Weiskittel, who not only offers streak-free, total body tanning (with or without the use of disposable undies) but also a la carte options for the face or legs. “Since you wash your face twice a day and shave your legs, tanning only those areas can help you keep your faux glow longer.” Just brilliant. Face, $20. Legs, $30. Total body, $45. 9832 York Road. 410-628-6061, soiree-salon.com
The rainfall shower in the sleek, new Tuscan Suite at Spa in the Valley
Deplane. De-stress. Ever feel like you need a vacation after your vacation? I do. Every time. The antidote: come back one night early, organize your life for the week, then zip off for a serene Sunday treat, like the new Aveda Stress-Fix Massage at all Salon by Debbie locations (Hunt Valley, Abingdon, White Marsh). The 90-minute treatment combines Swedish and deep tissue massage along with foot reflexology, acupressure point treatment and guided meditation—all the while incorporating Aveda’s proprietary Stress-Fix aroma blend of lavender, lavandin and clary sage. These scents are clinically proven to calm—in fact, I keep a rollerball of the stuff on my desk to apply when I’m feeling deadline-frantic.
Consider trying the service at Spa in the Valley, which boasts a newly renovated Tuscan Suite, including an aromatherapy sauna, dry steam room and Swiss shower featuring a rainfall shower head and 360-degree body jets. “Come an hour early to enjoy the space,” suggests redheaded spa manager Beth McHugh. “Just relax and remember to breathe.” Aveda Stress-Fix Massage, $138. 118 Shawan Road, Hunt Valley. 410-771-0200, spainthevalley.com
Nearly a decade ago, to celebrate Cygnus Wine Cellars’ 10th birthday, owner and winemaker Ray Brasfield invited a few chefs to put together tasting dinners. The gatherings, in the lower level of the circa-1930s slaughterhouse that Cygnus calls home, were so well received, says Brasfield, he decided to keep them going. Each Sunday in July, diners gather in the late afternoon to sip a sparkling Royele and nibble on snacks before moving into the rustic banquet room for a sit-down meal. Since 2005, guest chefs have included Jerry Pellegrino (now of Waterfront Kitchen), Michael Gettier (formerly of Antrim 1844) among others, who prepare multi-course feasts to pair with current Cygnus wines and special bottles from the library. “I’m into it,” says Antonio Baines, executive chef at Tapas Teatro, who has made the trek to Manchester nearly every year—and will return on July 27 for a yet-to-be-determined menu. Because the winery’s kitchen facilities are minimal, Baines sets up a grill to prepare most of the meal. “I just wait and see what’s available a few days before the event,” says the chef, whose favorite Cygnus wine is the Port of Manchester, a Port-style wine that is sweet without any fortification. “It’s kind of a play on words,” he says. “There’s no port in Manchester.” Cost, $80 per person. 410-374-6395, cygnuswinecellars.com
The Franklin Institute is going to look a little bit different this summer. And by little, we mean a 53,000-square-foot, $41 million expansion in the form of the three-story Nicholas and Athena Karabots Pavilion, which will house the nation’s largest permanent exhibition titled Your Brain—offering more than 70 interactive experiences, including a two-story climbing structure that simulates a neural network, and real specimens contributed by scientists across the country. Also look for traveling exhibits, including “Circus! Science under the Big Top” through October, “101 Inventions That Changed the World” (from penicillin to the Internet) through December, and “National Geographic’s Ocean Soul,” a breathtaking photographic journey, through December. Dive in! fi.edu
New York City
Can’t get your nerdy spouse off the couch when “The Simpsons” are on TV? Suggest a fun intervention—a trip to NYC for the Animation Block Party, which features all genres of the latest national and international animated features from students, independent filmmakers and pros. Founded in 2004 as a single-day minifest, the event now attracts close to 3,000 attendees each summer and runs for four days with films screening at Rooftop Films and BAMcinématek in Brooklyn. This year’s opening night will feature sneak previews of shorts from MTV Other, the network’s short film channel, along with a live musical performance before the screening and a filmmaker Q-and-A to follow. July 24-27. animationblock.com
Even at its Wonder Bread,pasteurized Kraft cheese worst, a grilled cheese is still pretty darn good. But you don’t know the iconic American sandwich’s true potential until you visit GCDC, the District’s first grilled cheese bar. The hip, one-of-a-kind restaurant serves up chic staples like the Kim-Cheese-Steak, a cheddar blend with Korean-style roast beef and kimchi for lunch, then turns swanky in the evening with fun cocktails, craft beer and an array of gourmet cheese plates and spicy meats. Perfect before or after a trip to the White House, just a few blocks away. grilledcheesedc.com
The folks at Bond Street Social have expanded the fun by opening an equally social new restaurant at the harbor’s edge nearby. And while Barcocina (a Spanishy-sounding combo of bar and kitchen) “appeals to a similar demographic,” general manager Shane Gerken describes the new spot, which opened in early May in the former Shuckers space, as “a little more chill” than its older sibling. Renovations included opening up the side of the building and installing 14 glass-paneled, garage-style doors and raising the patio to meet the restaurant’s floor so in warm weather it all feels like one contiguous space. The menu, overseen by Bond Street executive chef Marc Dixon and executed by Chris Angel (former chef de cuisine at Aldo’s), is equally chill. Mexican-inspired small plates feature a selection of guacamole with such add-ons as fried egg and chorizo, sharable tacos, an ancho shrimp quesadilla and crabcakes with a chipotle bite. The drink menu is divided into sweet, spicy and smoky, using techniques like capturing smoked cinnamon on the inside of a glass and repurposing the liquid from the sous vide tequila bacon as an ingredient in brunch bloodies. 1629 Thames Street, 410-563-1500, barcocina.com
When complaining about how much we loathe Spinning to local bike racer Rebecca Chan at a recent cocktail party, she said a certain piece of equipment might change our minds about hopping on a bike. The Specialized Turbo, an electric, pedal-assisted bicycle, carries the rider at speeds up to 28 mph, making the ride more pleasant for commuters and fitness fiends alike. “All you need to do is pedal and the Turbo will take you for a ride,” says Tommy Bullough, sales manager at Twenty20 Cycling Company in Hampden. “You can get to work faster—and burn some calories without the added sweat.” Upshot: We can’t wait to show off at the next Baltimore Bike Party. $5,900 in red and black. 725 W. 36th St. http://www.twenty20cycling.com
For more than 25 years I’ve had a William Hamilton cartoon from The New Yorker on my bulletin board that shows a couple of soignée dames talking to a guy in a checked hunting jacket. One of the ladies is ululating—“Maine! What an authentic place to come from.” I’ve heard that line before. I’m from Maine.
Summer rolls around and Americans start thinking vacation. And when they start thinking vacation, they start thinking Vacationland, Maine’s annoying moniker. No one wants to be a vacation destination—even if they make a living off tourists—but as my late father used to point out, tourists eventually go home.
Maine has marketed itself as a tourist mecca since the 19th century. Henry David Thoreau was a tourist in Maine. Mainers don’t seem to be able to stop taunting the rest of the country. Drive across the great bridge that spans the Piscataqua River separating Maine from our right wing neighbor New Hampshire (“Live Free or Die”) and there is a big sign that proclaims “Maine, the Way Life Should Be.”
Tourism is one of the state’s major moneymakers. Nearly 28 million people spent more than $5 billion visiting Maine last year. More than 85,000 people have jobs directly related to tourism. That’s more people than live in the state’s largest city, Portland.
Since most of the mills closed or moved to Sri Lanka, marketing Maine is all Maine has left to market. Maine sells Maine. The Way Life Should Be. It’s a fantasy. But what’s the harm?
Tourists have been good to Maine and tourism is a soft industry that is not incompatible with Maine life and it harms the environment less than fracking would. Folks complain about tourists causing traffic jams. Trust me, the worst traffic jam in Maine history would be a rolling backup on the inner loop of the beltway most weekday mornings.
Maine has made its pact with the devil. The state fiercely promotes itself as a four-season destination—allowing tourists to get lost in the woods year-round. (But, hey, it keeps the game wardens busy.) The most sparsely populated state east of the Mississippi and larger than the rest of New England combined, Maine has one big problem. More than 70 million Americans and Canadians live within a one-day drive of Vacationland. Yikes! Even gas prices over $4 a gallon could not keep them away.
And so it is that I am going home in July for a visit, a vacationer in Vacationland, a grouchy expatriate. Tourists think Maine is a pine-covered wonderland, just one lighthouse and picturesque village after another, with L.L. Bean thrown in for rainy days. But I’m from the interior of the state, a town of dark, satanic mills where the industrial revolution began—and ended. Tourists do not visit dark, satanic mills. How would that look on a bumper sticker? I VISITED A DARK, SATANIC MILL.
If home is where the heart is then I think it takes a hard heart to love a mill town. But Maine is home. I’ll have dinner with my brother one night (that’s often more than enough) at his house on an island in Casco Bay. My brother loathes tourists and is a rich source of weird stories involving flatlanders who’ve had misadventures on the Appalachian Trail, were plucked from watery death by the Coast Guard off Owls Head or were rescued by the warden service from whitewater rafting trips run amok. Some of his stories are even true.
I never stay in Maine long now. I have become a “fair weather Maine man.” That’s not a compliment. I drive around and look at the past, the things that are no longer there. The funny thing about the things that are no longer there is that I can clearly see them all. I stop at Fat Boy’s, an old Route 1 drive-in where my father ate lunch. I visit a few friends. I get lots of dinner invitations. My brother marvels at my popularity, observing that when you only come home once a year people are actually glad to see you. That’s the idea.
Better than any other art form, film reveals the nature of the world’s great cities. Even if you’ve never visited New York, London, Paris or Tokyo, movies have very likely given you a strong sense of those cities—from their streets and buildings to their personality and vibe.
Before I recently visited Rome for the first time, I felt as if I already “knew” it from having seen dozens of films shot on its streets, from the starkly tragic “Rome, Open City” to the grimly affecting “Umberto D” to the fizzily romantic “Three Coins in the Fountain.”
So during my weeklong stay there, I let six classic Italian films guide me to its iconic sights, and in the process, I saw stunning art, ate fabulous food and made unanticipated discoveries.
Anita Ekberg frolics in the Trevi Fountain in the 1960 film “La Dolce Vita.”
Americans of a certain vintage first “saw” Rome via “Roman Holiday” (1953), director William Wyler’s breezy romantic fable starring Audrey Hepburn as a duty-bound princess and Gregory Peck as an enterprising journalist. He whisks her away from her dreary royal responsibilities via a wham-bam tour of the city that makes pit stops at numerous scenic and historic locales, including the Trevi Fountain, Forum, Colosseum, Spanish Steps and a memorable cinematic moment at the Bocca della Verita (Mouth of Truth).
At a café adjacent to the Pantheon, Peck quippily orders “Champagne per la signorina and cold coffee for me.” That original café disappeared long ago, but after a de rigueur visit to note the Pantheon’s dizzyingly spectacular engineering, you can now decamp to the mere-steps-away Caffe Tazza d’Oro for granita di caffe: shaved ice soaked in sweet coffee liquid with panna (whipping cream) on top and bottom. Then drink in Caravaggio’s dark, beautiful and mesmerizing trio of paintings depicting signal episodes in the life of St. Matthew at nearby San Luigi dei Francesi.
Audrey Hepburn clings to Gregory Peck in “Roman Holiday.”
On its surface, Federico Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” (1960) faintly echoes Wyler’s film, as newspaperman Marcello Mastroianni trails Hollywood glamor girl Anita Ekberg. But at its heart, the film serves as Fellini’s corrosive indictment of a vacuous society besotted with celebrity, sensationalism and status.
Famous city landmarks flit by—the Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona, Piazza di Spagna, Pantheon, Palazzo del Quirinale (residence of first, the pope, then the king, and now the president)—but the film’s most indelible scenes occur at the gargantuan, opulent and magnificent Trevi Fountain (in the real world, mobbed by a Benetton Nation of tourists day and evening, and probably best experienced just before dawn as Mastroianni and Ekberg do in the movie) and on the Via Veneto.
In “La Dolce Vita,” Via Veneto functions as a tony ground zero for the international jet set, perpetually staked out by predatory paparazzi; today, though, the stretch seems queasily clinical, chockablock with designer clothing and jewelry shops, posh hotels and upscale restaurants—evincing no real soul. For a vividly bizarre dose of the latter on Via Veneto, visit the Santa Maria della Concezione, whose crypt houses five chapels lined with decorative religious motifs (crucifixes, crowns of thorns) assembled from the bones of 4,000 dearly departed friars.
Do not forego a stop at the close-by Santa Maria della Vittoria to see Bernini’s breathtaking marble sculpture “The Ecstasy of St. Teresa,” wherein the prototypical independent woman undergoes a, hmmm, startlingly graphic spiritual orgasm.
“The Bicycle Thief,” directed by Vittorio De Sica.
For a considerably less glittery portrait of Rome, screen “The Bicycle Thief” (1949), Vittorio De Sica’s bleak neorealist drama about an impoverished poster-hanger who desperately searches the city—with his young son in tow—for his stolen bike, essential to perform his job. Stops include a church, a whorehouse and Rome’s bustling Porta Portese public market, where the protagonist catches a brief glimpse of the thief.
Held each Sunday from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Travestere area, Porta Portese, a gargantuan flea market, falls somewhere between the chaos of a Moroccan souk and the decorum of a suburban American church bazaar. Aggressive hawkers bark the merits of their particular item: shoes, luggage, books, CDs, jewelry, handbags, toys, DVDs, housewares and every conceivable article of clothing. New merchandise, for the most part: all of it cheap, and, you can bet, cheaply made. A memorable sensory-overload experience, even if you don’t buy anything.
Afterward, reward yourself aesthetically with a stop at San Francesco a Ripa, one of whose eight chapels boasts another gob-smacking Bernini sculpture of a woman seized by spiritual bliss, “The Ecstasy of Beata Ludovica Albertoni.” Then reward yourself gastronomically with a rectangle of exquisite pizza—fresh, gorgeous, delicious toppings—at Forno la Renella, whose ancient oven burns hazelnut shells as fuel.
With 1958’s “I soliti ignoti” (known here as “The Big Deal on Madonna Street”), Mario Monicelli elbowed aside the solemnity of cinematic neorealism, inaugurating the era of Commedia all’italiana (Italian-style comedy), which adroitly combined gentle humor with social satire.
Brimming with a stellar cast (Mastroianni, Claudia Cardinale, Vittorio Gassman, among others), “Big Deal” boasts a gang of putative jewelry shop burglars whose members move from ineptitude to ineffectualness to, ultimately, indifference, dispersing amiably, if no richer, at film’s end in the Piazza Armenia.
Their attempted heist was shot in teeny-weeny Via delle Tre Cannelle, wedged unassumingly between an L-shaped bend in central Rome’s mammoth Via IV Novembre. Descending a flight of nearby steps, enter the gateway to the vast Forum, classical Rome’s political/economic/legal locus, whose stately ruins of temples, arches, columns, and courts straddle block after block after block of Fori Imperial.
Next march west from Via IV Novembre to see the more compact ruins of Sacra dell’Argentina, four temples dating from the early 3rd century B.C. that now serve as a public cat sanctuary. From above, ogle cats sunning themselves on stubs of disinterred marble columns, then cross the street to drink a decadently delicious caffé completo (espresso, dark chocolate paste, whipped cream, cocoa powder) at Cafffe Camerino, its white crockery emblazoned with three red “f”s.
In addition to its glamor, charm and ancient allure, Rome, like any huge metropolis, boasts a seamier side. In his directorial debut, “Accattone” (1961), Pier Paolo Pasolini captured just such a place—the grimy tenements of the city’s Pigneto neighborhood. Relentlessly grim, the film pulses with a charged literary neorealism, depicting the downward spiral of a small-time pimp whose life of lassitude collapses when his lone hooker winds up in prison.
More urban than urbane, Pigneto has been claimed and invigorated—but not tidied—by artists over the past decade. A constant beacon, regardless of circumstances, has been Necci Dal, 1924, the restaurant/bar where Pasolini shot significant portions of “Accattone.” Hip without being hipster-ish, its shady front patio and rustic interior invite lingering over cappuccino and a flaky cornetto (the croissant’s Italian cousin) in the morning and a cocktail and a plate of fiori di zucca (fried stuffed zucchini flowers) in the evening.
Granted, it seems counterintuitive to visit a Roman suburb, but to see the almost alien landscape that Michelangelo Antonioni used as the backdrop for “L’Eclisse” (1962), you’ll need to hop aboard the city’s southbound Metro to reach EUR (Esposizione Universale di Roma). A tale of alienation set in a context of materialistic grasping, “L’Eclisse” follows Monica Vitti and Alain Delon as they toy distractedly with a soulless affair. She tells him, “Two people shouldn’t know each other too well if they want to fall in love. But then maybe they shouldn’t fall in love at all.”
Antonioni reinforces the numbing effect by framing his narrative with EUR’s “fascist” architecture. Begun under Mussolini and intended for completion to coincide with World Expo 1942, these buildings were discontinued because of World War II, and then finished—along with several new ones—by the original architects from the mid-to-late 1950s.
The austerely arresting structures hover throughout the film: an immense mushroom-cloud water tower; the spaceship-like Palazzo dello Sport; the 22-story Palazzo ENI office complex; and the Palazzo della Civilta Italiana, whose arches mirror those at the Colosseum. In short, a severe, modernist otherworld, of which Delon notes, “I feel like I’m in a foreign country.”
Foreign to Americans, certainly, but Rome’s soulfulness, graciousness and cosmopolitan-yet-unpretentious nature made me feel completely at home, readily surpassing, not surprisingly, the city I knew only on film.
WHEN IN ROME…
Given the language barrier, actually seeing a film in Rome can prove tricky for American visitors, with most movies made in Italian or, in the case of foreign films, dubbed in Italian—and many of them mainstream fare. Mercifully, the following three venues show both Italian and foreign films, with the latter offered in their native language, while booking indie, classic and documentary works.
Casa del Cinema. Housed on the grounds of the vast and elegant Villa Borghese Park, on the north edge of the city, this multipurpose cinema center boasts three indoor theaters, one outdoor theater (for warm-weather use), a film library, a DVD-screening room, two exhibition spaces and various film- and book-related events. Plus, there is a bookshop and café. All screenings are free.
Nuovo Sacher. Vexed by inadequate film distribution, director Nanni Moretti established Nuovo Sacher in Trastevere for cineastes to see under-the-radar Italian productions, as well as similar foreign films, for extended runs. Like our own summertime outdoor screenings in Little Italy, this venue shows movies (from the previous year) in its open-air amphitheater each summer. Also on the premises: a bar and bookshop.
Nuovo Cinema Aquila. The city’s most daring film programmer, this three-story, glass-and-steel film and visual arts cultural center—repurposed from a 1940s movie house in the Pigneto neighborhood—presents a diverse menu of Italian and foreign indie productions as well as an array of film fests (deaf, lesbian and audio, among others). It features three theaters and a bar.
“Bowtie” Bob Nelson at The 8x10
Whether you’re wondering if the baby’s going to sleep through the night or crossing your fingers she’ll make it home from a fraternity party by 2 a.m., you might lie in bed at night and think about the person you used to be before you were a parent.
Remember all the concerts you went to? The bands you saw before they got big? In hindsight, you were pretty cool. And you can be pretty cool again, if you know where to start.
Despite what you may think, Charm City’s music scene doesn’t care how old you are. Just ask “Bowtie” Bob Nelson, a 69-year-old who lives in Mount Vernon and sees more shows than the average MICA student.
“I would go nuts sitting at home, watching TV every night of the week,” Nelson says. “I want to go out; I want to be where there’s music.”
After living in Parkville for more than 30 years, Nelson—who is “more or less retired”—moved to Mount Vernon to be closer to the action. He lives across the street from a senior center, but doesn’t see himself moving in anytime soon. He’s too busy finding new haunts. “I love walking into a place where I’ve never been before and I don’t know everybody,” he said.
Shirlé Hale and her husband, David Koslowski—both in their 40s—moved back to Baltimore two years ago after several years in North Carolina. Here they formed the post-punk trio Small Apartments with drummer Greg Dohler and have been welcomed back with open arms.
“There’s no reason to label yourself as an older person,” Hale says. “How old do you feel?”
Timing couldn’t be better to renew your interest. In the past few years, the Baltimore music scene has exploded. Bands are moving here from around the country to be a part of it. Most of the experimental music happens at DIY venues and also clubs in the emerging Station North Arts and Entertainment District (by the Charles Theater).
Here’s a crib sheet to get you started.
8-10 E. Cross St., 410-625-2000 the8x10.com
Wedged into the bustling Federal Hill nightlife scene, The 8x10 has been home to live music for decades. You can drop by on a weeknight to sample some of the city’s best funk, roots rock and jam bands, or buy a ticket for shows by national touring groups like the Honey Island Swamp Band.
Run by the husband-and-wife team of Abigail Janssens and Bryan Shupe, it’s been something of an underdog for years—the little club that could. Janssens and Shupe care deeply about local music and routinely go out on a limb to book bands they believe in.
where to watch: There aren’t many bad places to stand inside The 8x10, but it’s fun to be on the upper balcony if you can get a spot by the railing.
What to wear: The 8x10 can get elbow-to-elbow for some shows, so go with something comfy and durable, especially in the shoe department.
where to Park: Try your luck on the street. (Beware the residential permit section.) Or, for a sure bet, head for the West Street Garage.
201 W. Baltimore St., 410-347-2020 baltimorearena.com
The grand old dame of Baltimore concert spaces. Well, maybe more old than grand. But as much as people love to hate on it, the Baltimore Arena still books great bands. Justin Timberlake and the Black Keys are set to perform in coming months, and Kanye West played there this past Valentine’s Day. We just wish their concession stands weren’t stuck in the 1980s.
where to watch: Try for a seat in sections 103 to 108.
What to wear: Layers to accommodate the AC/body-heat ratio.
where to Park: You can reserve parking in advance at the Arena Garage on Howard Street.
Cat’s Eye Pub
Cat’s Eye Pub
1730 Thames St., 410-276-9866 catseyepub.com
Walking into this Fells Point bar is like stepping back in time. It’s one of the last bastions of old school Baltimore, with reasonably priced drinks, regular live music and a cast of colorful regulars. Young Tony Cushing took over when his father, Tony, passed away in 2008 and believes in the “wipe but don’t scrub” aesthetic. Area blues, jazz and roots-rock musicians frequent the Cat’s Eye. Go on a night when Ursula Ricks or Carl Filipiak is playing and you’ll walk away smiling.
where to watch: From the bar. And keep an eye out for Bowtie Bob—this is one of his favorite hangouts.
What to wear: Who cares? Just be you.
where to Park: In the ’hood. You might have to circle for a while, but you’ll find a spot.
3134 Eastern Ave., 410-276-1651 creativealliance.org
The Creative Alliance breathed new life into the ailing Patterson Theater, staging concerts and burlesque shows alongside cutting-edge art exhibits. It’s even residence for a handful of Baltimore artists—beatboxer Shodekeh and “Love” muralist Michael Owen have both lived there.
From 2012 to 2013, Creative Alliance was also home to a sister location of the standout restaurant Clementine, but the CA took back over the café last February. You can still grab a stiff drink before shows at the Marquee Lounge bar, which has a jaw-dropping orange and red mural.
where to watch: Try to get as close to the middle center rows as you can.
What to wear: Get funky; get crafty.
where to Park: Search for a spot along Eastern Avenue or by Patterson Park. Allow a little extra time to locate.
1910 N. Charles St., 410-625-4848 facebook.com/thecrownbaltimore
Brendan Sullivan, who plays in the experimental Baltimore band Weekends, opened this Station North lounge in June 2013. It quickly became a go-to for established and emerging Baltimore bands. Dan Deacon tested an intimate set of new material there, and Baltimore Club whiz Blaqstarr recently manned the turntables for a DJ set. It’s a cozy second-floor space, with two small bars and an elevated stage.
where to watch: A barstool or one of the plush chairs.
What to wear: Please don’t go to American Apparel to stock up on the latest hipster garb. Find a way to flash your inner cool.
where to Park: Easy! Outside on Charles Street or nearby on North Avenue.
133 W. North Ave., 410-545-0444 joesquared.com
If there were a Station North 101, it would start at the original Joe Squared. One of the first good restaurants to open on North Avenue in years (there’s also a location in Power Plant Live), Joe Squared has excellent pizza and a surprisingly good rum and beer list. Better still, there’s live music nearly every night, usually for free. The lineup is mostly acoustic—bands start during dinner and are often good enough to hold your attention for a couple hours. Dixieland swing group Sac Au Lait is a perennial favorite, and things get super funky at DIG!, when Landis Expandis of the All Mighty Senators mans the turntables.
where to watch: Sit at a table about halfway back, order some pizza and stay for the music.
What to wear: Keep it casual. You may get tomato sauce on your shirt.
where to Park: There’s plenty of metered neighborhood parking (mostly free after 6 p.m.) and also a parking lot behind Load of Fun, accessible via Maryland Avenue.
Merriweather Post Pavilion
Merriweather Post Pavilion
10475 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia 410-715-5550, merriweathermusic.com
Ten years ago, Merriweather was almost left for dead—until the unlikely team of Howard County executive Ken Ulman and concert promoter Seth Hurwitz (who also co-owns the 9:30 Club) brought it back from the brink. These days, the woodsy amphitheater hosts large festivals like Virgin Mobile FreeFest, Sweetlife and Vans Warped Tour, as well as shows from A-listers like Phish, Willie Nelson and Queens of the Stone Age. And you don’t have to stay out late: Since it’s in Columbia, all shows end by 11 p.m.
where to watch: Let the kids stand on the lawn. You deserve a seat in the pavilion. The center section, about halfway back has the best sound, and the roof gives you shelter from the evening sun or any summer storms that may blow through.
What to wear: Linen and other breathable fabrics. Bring a light coat for the walk back to the car, which can be chilly, depending on the month.
where to Park: There is plenty of official Merriweather parking, but if you’re there after business hours, head for one of the free garages just across S. Entrance Road. It’s a longer walk, but you won’t have to wait in an endless line of cars to leave.
Sarah Werner, Metro Gallery
1700 N. Charles St., 410-244-0899 themetrogallery.net
When it opened in 2007, the Metro Gallery was a turning point for the Station North Arts and Entertainment District. Owner Sarah Werner turned an old dry cleaners into one of Baltimore’s coolest spots for art and live music.
“I get asked so often, ‘Is it a gallery, a bar or a club?’” Werner says. “That question used to annoy me. Now I kind of like the confusion. Usually by the end of the night, they get it.”
Our perfect night: see a movie at the Charles; grab a bite at Tapas Teatro; stroll across the street for music.
where to watch: Try for the corner of the bar, which is shaped like half of a square. From there, you can see the bands without standing, and be an arm’s length away from your next beverage.
What to wear: Anything goes. You’ll see hipsters standing next to 40-somethings in button-down shirts.
where to Park: The infamous $2 lot next door (where the attendants are known for playing everything from reggae to opera).
2549 N. Howard St., 410-662-0069 theottobar.com
You may have been to The Ottobar back in the late ’90s when it was a grungy little club on Davis Street downtown. These days, it’s a grungy mid-size club on North Howard Street, where known and unknown Baltimore bands play alongside nationally touring punk and indie rock artists like King Buzzo of the Melvins and Evan Dando of the Lemonheads. The bathrooms are infamously skeezy, and have spawned their own Tumblr, Ottobar Bathroom Selfies (ottobarbathroomselfies.tumblr.com).
where to watch: Get there early enough to snag a seat on the balcony lining one side of the club. Or if you’re really lucky, you can claim the sole table to the right of the stairs leading up to the bar. It only has two or three seats, but a killer view of the stage.
What to wear: Something you won’t mind being ruined by accidental beer spills.
where to Park: If you’re nervous about the neighborhood at night, bring some cash and park in the lot behind the club. Otherwise, you can usually find street parking nearby.
Pier Six Pavilion
Pier Six Pavilion
731 Eastern Ave., 410-783-4189 piersixpavilion.com
Pier Six Pavilion doesn’t get enough cred. How many cities have grassy amphitheaters right in the middle of downtown? Concerts tend to skew older (Hall & Oates, Steely Dan), but Pier Six also draws some trendier acts like Panic! At the Disco and Gavin DeGraw. It’s just a shame you face away from the water instead of toward it.
where to watch: On your friend’s yacht, anchored in the Inner Harbor next to the amphitheater. If you’re not so lucky, pavilion seats are worth the extra money.
What to wear: Unless you’re going to dinner at the Ritz-Carlton beforehand, keep it easy. Note: Even on the hottest summer nights, there’s usually a breeze.
where to Park: Plenty of lot parking next to the amphitheater, as well as several nearby garages.
Rams Head Live
Rams Head Live
20 Market Place, Power Plant Live, 410-244-1131 ramsheadlive.com
If you’re looking to dip your toe into the mainstream Baltimore concert scene, start here. Rams Head Live is in Power Plant Live, so it’s easy to make a night of it. Have dinner and drinks before the show—or better yet, rent a hotel room. Rams Head Live holds 1,600, making it one of the region’s biggest clubs. Jay-Z, Smashing Pumpkins and the Beastie Boys have all played intimate shows here. The usual lineup is a hodgepodge of tribute bands, vintage artists such as Devo and newer groups like Neko Case.
where to watch: Rams Head Live is an oddly shaped space with endless nooks and crannies, and the sound can vary wildly depending on where you are. One of the best spots is near the rear of the lower level, which gives you a good view, quality sound and easy access to the bar.
What to wear: Show off some bling if it’s your thing.
where to Park: Lockwood Place Garage, accessible by Market Place or Lombard Street. It’s only $10 with a voucher from the Rams Head box office.
12 W. North Ave., 410-244-8855 thewindupspace.com
The best time to go here is just after dusk, when you can sip a drink and watch night fall on North Avenue. Take a few minutes to walk around and check out the art. Say hi to Russell de Ocampo, the owner (he’s the guy behind the bar with the black beard). Not long after, the music starts. All kinds of great Baltimore bands play the Windup. If you’re the adventurous type, try the Out of Your Head Improvised Music Collective shows at 9:30 p.m. most Tuesdays.
where to watch: Depending on the show, there are usually tables set back a bit from the stage. If they’re all taken, opt for a barstool.
What to wear: Skinny jeans; dirty hair.
where to Park: Street parking on North Avenue or Charles Street
Sam Sessa is Baltimore Music Coordinator for 89.7 WTMD, which hosts free weekly Live Lunch concerts at noon on Fridays, and also produces the free First Thursday Concerts at Canton Waterfront Park. Sam also hosts Baltimore Hit Parade, a weekly show offering the best of Baltimore’s music scene, at 9 p.m. Tuesdays and 4 p.m. Sundays. wtmd.org
Flower power is all the rage this summer. It’s flirty, fun and appeals to all ages—and sexes. Otherwise, how would Hawaiian shirts for men ever have become popular? That’s what behemoth retailer Tommy Bahama discovered long ago, when it amped up traditional tropical offerings with a jolt of sartorial manliness. Now the brand sells everything under the sun, including women’s wear, furniture and home décor. And pervading it all is a “don’t worry, be happy” vibe. Since Savvy can never get enough ocean breezes, she’s cruising to her idyll at the first local store. Towson Town Center. tommybahama.com
French-trained Joseph Poupon has been cranking out crusty bread, flakey choux and ornately embellished wedding cakes since he opened Patisserie Poupon in 1986. The tiny East Baltimore Street storefront is familiar to Francophiles, sweet-toothed cognoscenti and the soon-to-be-married but is otherwise unspectacular—at least from the décor perspective. Not so the recently opened Poupon Cafe in Mount Vernon’s Grand Historic Venue. The café’s menu is similar to that of the Georgetown sandwich shop the baker opened in 1997—sandwiches, salads, ham and cheese croissants, quiche—as well as coffee drinks and plenty of alluring treats, buttery and sweet. Oversized vintage posters advertising such everyday French products as breath mints and laundry products, bistro chairs with bamboo frames and high ceilings with bowl chandeliers give the place an aura of authenticity. But the truth really hits when you bite into a mille-feuille, oozing pastry cream, the thousand leaves crumbling between your lips. When Poupon came to Baltimore nearly 30 years ago, he’d already made sweets at some of New York’s fanciest patisseries—including Bonte and and Dumas—and delivered baked goods to the iconic restaurants La Delice Pastry Shop and Le Côte Basque. Now he’s found a new home on Charles Street. C’est si bon. 225 N. Charles St. 443-573-4620, patisseriepoupon.net
by Jen Michalski
The couple at the four-mile marker of the trail has the smallest Yorkie you’ve ever seen. It eats from a collapsible bowl under the picnic table as the woman offers you a drinking glass for the water pump.
“Hard to get enough like that,” she says as you curl your head under the stream of water.
You fill the plastic tumbler. The people who frequent hiking trails are super nice or super crazy. Sometimes they’re both. You consider this as you join her at the table, where she is spreading egg salad on wheat bread. Her husband, muscular, head covered in a bandana, repacks their SUV.
“Cute.” You reach under the table and it jumps on your palm, licking it. Its enthusiasm would be annoying in a normal-sized dog, but you can hold her in your hand. “Is she still a puppy?”
“Princess is eight.” The woman stops, admiring her work. “She’s been to 48 states.”
“Military?” The water is soothing down your throat. This much water, so early on in your 20-miler, is a luxury and a danger.
“He’s a contractor.” She nods toward her husband. “We’re living in Aberdeen. They’re a little weird out there.”
“Generally, the farther out you venture out from the city….”
“You know what our neighbors did?” She holds up the clear plastic knife. You imagine her packing supplies this morning, the dog bowl, grapes. “They found a little poop in their yard and tied it to our front door in a baggie. And it wasn’t even hers—it was probably a deer’s or something. They think I’m Paris Hilton or something because I drive a Mercedes and have a little dog.”
“That seems unreasonable.” You agree. “Maybe you’ll move again soon enough.”
“I hope so.” She tops the sandwiches. “But you never know which America you’re moving to.”
You are not sure what to make of her, her serious running shoes, her Mercedes, her toy dog. Her husband has finished packing the Pan-America, which sounds more like an airline than an SUV, and sits at the table, not looking at you. The dog lies on her back in the grass, wriggling back and forth.
“We have to be careful.” The woman looks at Princess. “Sometimes the hawks swoop down to grab her.”
“She’s precious. I’d be careful, too.” You stand. “Thanks for the water.”
“They found that girl not far from here,” she says between mouthfuls of egg salad. Her husband coughs. “You read about her?”
You haven’t, but you nod.
Later, they scare the shit out of you after you’ve run another two miles, on a shady park of the trail. They’re on bikes, and she turns slightly and waves as she passes. Princess rides in a basket on the front of her bike, and her husband has a mini boom box strapped to his. It’s hard to place the music—not country, not rock ’n’ roll, but something soothing, like in a grocery store. He pedals past you, controlled, erect, like someone bringing forth a truth to this world.
Jen Michalski is author of the novel “The Tide King,” a collection of fiction, “Close Encounters,” and a collection of novellas, “Could You Be With Her Now.”
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’Til the Well Runs Dry (Henry Holt), Lauren Francis-Sharma’s first novel, is a sweeping multi-generational, multi-cultural tale. Set in Trinidad and the U.S., the book tells the story of smart 16-year-old seamstress Marcia Garcia, a girl with two boys to raise—and a family secret to protect. Recent buzz in O, Elle, Cosmopolitan, and Glamour reminds us to pack this read for the road.
Jen Michalski’s latest story collection, From Here (Aqueous Books), hits stores Sept. 30. These 12 stories explore the dislocations and intersections of characters searching, ultimately, for a place to call home. If you’ve not yet read Michalski’s award-winning novel, The Tide King (Black Lawrence Press, 2013), we heartily recommend it as thoughtful entertainment, the perfect vacation read to tide you over…
Let Me See It (Triquarterly Books), James Magruder’s lovely new collection of linked stories follows two gay cousins, Tom and Elliott, from adolescence to adulthood. An addicting blend of comedy and tenderness, the stories depict the boys’ attempts to navigate gay life while the AIDS crisis deepens. Publishers Weekly starred it this spring—we’d add a sunburst for superb beach pick.
Persistence: Poems of Warren, Maryland (David Robert Books) by Ann Eichler Kolakowski tells the story of the former mill town near Cockeysville that was destroyed in 1922 to create the Loch Raven Reservoir. Kolakowski’s grandmother was believed to be Warren’s last surviving resident when she died at 103 in 2006. We appreciate the poet’s musical language and precise, personal lens.
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Savvy is in awe of people who can craft things with their hands. Intellectual endeavors are all well and good, but when you need the physical attributes of a civilized life, you call on a carpenter. And at Su Casa, owner Nick Johnson is your guy. Besides filling his stores with the beachy keen, urban chic furniture and home accessories we’ve come to expect, he’s now donning safety goggles and geeking out building custom furniture—a new passion. His latest inspiration is reclaimed pallet lumber—oak and pine—done in a chevron pattern for a media stand. Try to resist caressing this baby next time you’re in Fells for dinner. Four locations: Fells Point, Kenilworth, Ellicott City, Dewey Beach. 410-522-7010, sucasa-furniture.com
Beach House. This dream pop duo is Baltimore’s most popular band, big enough to fill the 2,500-seat Modell Center at the Lyric last year. Guitarist Alex Scally and singer/keyboardist Victoria Legrand craft haunting, gorgeous songs ideal for a dark summer night. The next time you’re home alone, pour a glass of red wine and put their latest album, “Bloom,” on the turntable (did we mention vinyl has made a comeback?). Songs to start with: “Myth,” “Zebra,“ “Wild.“
Dan Deacon. Your kids may have told you about this electronic composer who puts on some of the most wild, energetic, release-your-inner-child concerts around. He’s an incredibly smart, articulate musician who also leads classical ensembles and scored a Frances Ford Coppola film. About 10 years ago, Deacon and several other artists moved to Baltimore from New York and formed the Wham City experimental arts collective. They’re a large part of why Baltimore has one of the country’s best music scenes. Songs to start with: “True Thrush,“ “Crystal Cat,“ “Wham City parts 1&2.“
Future Islands. If you missed this trio’s late-night TV debut when singer Sam Herring danced his way into David Letterman’s heart, YouTube it immediately. They are one of Baltimore’s hardest-working bands, constantly on the road, and lately, they’ve gone from critical darlings to indie breakouts. Their new album, “Singles,“ has some of their best material yet, with vintage-sounding synthesizers, irresistible grooves and Herring’s soulful singing. Songs to start with: “Seasons (Waiting On You),“ “Before the Bridge,“ “Long Flight.“J. Roddy Walston and the Business. Their hair is almost as big as their music. Almost. These local boys play old-school rock ’n’ roll, their front man, Rod, nailing the piano, screaming like a demon and whipping around his thick mane. Not long after J. Roddy released their scorching album “Essential Tremors“ last year, the rest of the country began to realize what Baltimoreans have known for a while: this band rocks. Songs to start with: “Heavy Bells,“ “Take It As It Comes,“ “Used to Did.“
Wye Oak. If you’re a fan of the TV show “The Walking Dead,“ you’ve already heard Wye Oak—the title track to their breakthrough 2011 album “Civilian“ was used in the trailer for Season 2, and in one of the episodes from that season. They’re also a duo—Andy Stack somehow manages to play the drums and keyboard at once. Jenn Wasner sings and is one of Baltimore’s best guitarists, but after hitting writer’s block, she switched to the bass for their new album, “Shriek.“ Songs to start with: “Glory,” “Before,” “Civilian.”
Need an extra reason to procreate? Consider the cocoon-shaped wonder that is the Pod Crib by Ubabub. This sleek, sustainably made sleeping space converts into a children’s bed when you’re toddler starts, well, toddling. Weighing in at a mere $2,100, this bad boy (or girl) is just one of hundreds of stylish kids’ items you’ll find at Wee Chic, when the beloved boutique expands to its new 3,000-square-foot space in Green Spring Station in July. New additions will include a colorful Candy Bar (we love the gummy bear lamps!), a classroom with fun programs curated by (cool) progeny blogger/supermom Heather Walsh and an expanded line of tween fashions by designers like Vince, Desigual and LAmade. “We handselect clothing that’s trendy but tasteful,” says owner Bridget Quinn Stickline, who was more than happy to “pass” on the half-shirt craze this summer. And don’t worry, in addition to the haute options, you’ll find plenty of fashionable staples and gifts that won’t break the piggybank. 2360 W. Joppa Rd., Lutherville. weechic.com
Vacation (Weight Loss) – All I Ever Wanted!
After finishing each issue of STYLE, I like to do something special to celebrate. Most recently, that included a getaway to South Beach with my dear friend Deb, where we both agreed—instead of indulging in haute cuisine and cocktails—we’d use the weekend as a retreat to recharge our health and fitness goals. READ MORE »
The Letter Mmmmmmmm
Move over, Ben Affleck. I have a new obsession. For those of you who have been following my beauty, health and fitness adventures in STYLE, you may recall I tried out Medifast for a month (read my “Hunger Games” diary!) and lost almost 17 pounds. Naturally, I decided to stick with it. READ MORE »
Decision-making isn’t my forté. I’m the girl who’ll stand in the cereal aisle for 10 minutes reading food labels, then decide I want to go gluten-free and walk away empty-handed. This indecision has extended for years into reading books and articles on integrative nutrition, only to find myself overwhelmed with choices about wellness and losing weight. READ MORE »
If you’re looking to slim down for summer—or just find some healthy snacks to take to the pool, beach or office—here’s your chance! READ MORE »
Photographed by David Stuck
Note: Some featured pieces are estate jewelry and may have been sold after publication.
Photographed by David Stuck
Note: Some featured pieces are estate jewelry and may have been sold after publication.
Photographed by David Stuck
Note: Some featured pieces are estate jewelry and may have been sold after publication.
For better or (usually) worse, everybody has a tequila story. But this tequila bottle has its own story. The fifth installment of 1800’s Essential Artists series is dedicated to Jean-Michel Basquiat, who cut his teeth as a graffiti artist in Brooklyn in the late ‘70s, palled around (and occasionally collaborated) with Andy Warhol, and exhibited an unrelenting unwillingness to compromise in his work—carving out an entirely individual portion of the neoexpressionist and primitivist movements. We can’t wait to display one of these limited-edition beauties on a bookshelf. But if you want to make like 1800’s celeb spokesman Ray Liotta and actually drink the stuff, the trapezoidal bottle has a top designed to serve as a shot glass, perfect for Cinco de Mayo. $30 at Wells Discount Liquors in Towson.
When Karen Graveline, owner of Home on the Harbor, discovered the French-made Fermob outdoor furniture line, it was love at first sight. “It was the colors. They just made me feel happy,” she says. Perfect for urban environments, Fermob’s sleek design fits well in a small garden, on a rooftop deck or beside the pool. “The collection has an element of fun, but it’s designed in a sophisticated way,” says Graveline. “And you can mix and match pieces and colors for more fun.” Why not celebrate Earth Day by treating yourself to these entirely sustainable pieces? St. Tropez chair, $791; chair and ottoman set, $1,150. Available exclusively at Home on the Harbor. 1414 Key Highway, 410-433-1616, http://www.homeontheharbor.com
Why wait for May flowers, when you can have this minimalist-chic stretch satin number by Dennis Merotto in March? Known for his fresh modern perspective, European fabrics and sophisticated tailoring, the Toronto-based designer who has been designing high-end women’s clothing for the past 25 years—nine of them as senior designer for the internationally celebrated Lida Baday collection—struck out on his own in 2011. “We had a wonderful first season with Dennis’ line,” says Lori Kilberg, owner of Lori K in Stevenson Village. “The response has been overwhelming. Whether you’re a size 2 or 14, a career girl or a jeans-and-leather jacket girl, his collection offers something for everyone.” Watch for an upcoming trunk sale at Lori K, the only retailer in Baltimore to carry Merotto’s line. Long-sleeve Japanese floral minidress, $750. 10411 Stevenson Road, 410-580-0081, http://www.shoplorik.com
Seeing that Maryland is crisscrossed with waterways, you wouldn’t be surprised that all things nautical abound here. But do you know your sheet bend from your becket hitch? Aye, there’s the rub. No worries. Designer Kohli Flick will welcome you to her store all the same. Becket Hitch, besides being a type of knot, is a new shop at Green Spring Station that should please seafarers and landlubbers alike. It’s full of stylish items such as handmade home furnishings by Lostine, canoe paddles by Sanborn Canoe Co. that double as wall décor, soy candles by Sydney Hale, English Navy wristwatch bands, Meant To Be Sent stationery and luscious jewelry by Loren Hope. Nobody will put a hitch in your giddy-up here. (Oops, wrong metaphor.) 2360 W. Joppa Road, Lutherville. 410-350-6434, http://www.beckethitch.com
I stumbled on an unforeseen new calling last fall at the apartment of friends in Brooklyn, a longtime pair who had recently gotten engaged. Like so many gay couples, Mark and Kevin had decided to make it legal because they finally could, and were just starting to work out the details of their big romantic day. Having had several glasses of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo with my lasagna, I exuberantly suggested that I get an instant-minister credential and perform the wedding.
No less excited about my idea in the clear light of day, I Googled my way to Open-Ministry.org in milliseconds the next morning. Right in the middle of the home page was a purple button: Get Ordained. Underneath it a line of copy read, “Join the global community of ministers now!” I clicked it and poof, I was a minister. There was no charge, though I did eventually send money for a certificate of ordination, notarized letter and other materials needed to register as an officiant in various states.
Next, I got on Facebook to hang out my shingle. My post—“Have Reverend Marion perform your next wedding”—got 175 likes and 52 comments, but most importantly, drew a message from a young woman who had taken a personal essay class from me 10 years ago at York College. Layla Rahimi said she was planning nuptials with a very short lead as her dad was critically ill. She wondered if we could put together something as early as January.
As it turned out, Layla’s father, Habib Rahimi of Habib’s Kabob and Bagel Cafe in Eldersburg, Md., worsened so quickly the first wedding date she set had to be canceled. By the time the morning of the rescheduled event arrived, the family
and friends of the couple had recently attended his funeral, and had to carry on without what surely would have been the proudest of papas. One woman at our table looked wistfully out the window at the unusually warm, sunny February day and murmured, “Habib must have sent this gorgeous weather.”
It was hard to believe that the lovely, slender woman in a dove-gray gown who greeted my 13-year-old daughter Jane and me when we arrived at Overhills Mansion in Catonsville was a recent widow. Kim Rahimi didn’t even look old enough to be the mother of the bride. I confided in her that I had been in a similar situation to Layla’s when my father died a month before my planned wedding date in 1985. But she already knew this, because her book club had read my memoir First Comes Love.
This flattering news helped a bit to calm my jitters, but man, I was nervous. I had spent hours choosing my “minister outfit,” a deep scarlet crepe dress with a long, fitted black jacket, Celtic heart earrings, a pearl choker and, pinned to my lapel, a stuffed heart with tiny bells that arrived in my mailbox Valentine’s Day with no card or return address. (I could tell by the writing on the envelope that it was almost definitely from a girl, so don’t get too excited for me.) We’d stopped at Barnes and Noble on the way, where I’d dropped 30 bucks on a red leather-bound journal to use as a Marriage Register—a tip in the Open-Ministry packet inspired the purchase. I had a nice pen for signing the marriage license and I was ready to go.
The ceremony we’d agreed on was an adaptation of the civil one, adding vows the bride and groom had written themselves. The groom, dressed in gray twill Aladdin-type pants, a matching vest trimmed in blue satin and cloth slippers, pulled crumpled notebook pages from his pocket and read a slightly rambling yet adorable speech in which he revealed that his mother had predicted the marriage when the two were teenagers. He said Layla was his goddess and he would spend his life loving her. The bride, wearing floor-length ivory chiffon, made equally romantic promises, including professing her intention to try to become more inter-ested in snowboarding and more tolerant of really loud music.
After stumbling over a word or two in the beginning of my text, I found my sea legs and finished up with a blessing from the Persian poet Rumi, who was one of Layla’s dad’s favorites. Then, by the authority wildly invested in me by the County of Baltimore and the State of Maryland, I pronounced them Mr. and Mrs. Eddie Garmzaban, and the two beautiful young people kissed as their guests cheered. I followed the recessional out and got a huge hug from my daughter, who was beside herself with the romance of her first wedding ceremony.
It was an unparalleled honor and a thrill to be the instrument of people’s happiness on the happiest day of their lives: the connector in the completed circuit of true love. A Hebrew school dropout like me might be the last person you’d expect to find in this position, but recent studies show the religiously unaffiliated number 1.1 billion worldwide. Somebody’s got to run all those weddings and funerals and naming ceremonies. Maybe you too should join the global community of ministers now!
Have a couple glasses of wine and see if you don’t agree.
Laura Marino wasn’t the only one to breathe a big sigh of relief when Rocco DiSpirito, host of the Food Network’s “Restaurant Divided,” proclaimed the restaurant she owns with her partner, Andrew Weinzirl, and “frenemy” Matthew Weaver would remain Maggie’s Farm. The guys had hoped to reimagine the tiny Lauraville farm-to-table as a turn-of-the-century gastro-pub, queasily called “Speakgreazy”—a hybrid of greasy spoon and speakeasy. Get it?
Even so, the men (it was indeed a gender war, as Marino teamed up with then-sous chef Sarah Acconcia for the competition) scored on some critical fronts on the program, aired late last year. And ever since DiSpirito said farewell, Maggie’s Farm has continued to evolve and grow.
Owners. Weinzirl established a following with his thoughtfully crafted dishes for the iconic predecessor, Chameleon Café, launched in 2001 by Jeff Smith, a pioneer in Baltimore’s chef-run restaurant scene. Marino, who raises produce and makes desserts, is also the number cruncher and was dismayed by runaway spending in the early days of Maggie’s Farm. Weaver, a veteran front-of-the-house guy, has become passionate about using fresh ingredients and infusions in cocktails. However, none had much experience running a business, and were admonished by local restaurateur Tony Foreman to “frickin’ get it together” on national TV.
Décor. In the end, the “turn-of-the-century, brothel-y, speakeasy” décor beat out Marino’s vision for a baby blue country kitchen style restaurant. Gilt stenciling on crimson walls looks like flocked wallpaper, and the bar—a combo of poured concrete and reclaimed wood by local artisans Luke Works—combines with rustic and rusty bric-a-brac for a kind of agrarian steampunk vibe. Another of Marino’s concepts, brown paper-covered tables, on which wait staff would jot down the menu as they recited it to customers, was likewise rejected. Chef Cindy Wolf, a “special guest” at the smackdown dinner, says Weinzirl, “told Laura there’s no way you’d be able to do this every night.”
Food. If her décor tanked, Marino can feel vindicated that her ideas about food survived. The menu continues to proffer creative plates with seasonal, locally sourced ingredients—though the boys’ vision of small plates is alive and well. Don’t miss the $5 fried oyster steamed bun, an Asian-style take on the Po’boy: cornmeal fried oysters in a sweet chewy roll with kimchi and basil mayo.
Bar. Weaver also got to retain his concept of seasonal craft cocktails made with small batch liquors. For spring, try the Road to Perdition: housemade ginger liqueur, lemon juice and chamomile-infused gin, served with a twist in a cocktail glass.
Sunday Brunch. Weinzirl seems somewhat baffled by the popularity of weekend brunch. “All of a sudden something just clicked,” he says, “and we have lines out the door” for the fresh warm doughnuts, steak and eggs, chicken and waffles and, of course, cocktails. Common wisdom in the restaurant world is that Sunday brunch is a chance to use up ingredients left from the week, thus mitigating overspending. So Marino may be the biggest fan of all.
Final Verdict. While the name Maggie’s Farm stayed in place, the restaurant has undergone a dramatic change—for the better. Inviting décor, innovative and affordable dishes by Chef Weinzirl and a new cocktail menu make it a go-to any night of the week. And the owners are all getting along.
4341 Harford Road, Baltimore
“Aren’t there already enough shops full of antiques, junque and sundries on The Avenue?” you might ask. Savvy did. But then she walked into the wonder world of Bryan’s Finds and Designs. Owner Bruce Bryan has an eye for beauty and hands to create it. Not only is he a custom furniture designer and upholsterer (Savvy swooned over a leopard-print loveseat), but he also turns out elegant, feminine jewelry such as bracelets fashioned from recycled silverware and copper, and necklaces of beads and pearls. Vintage clothing, shoes, purses and home accents also fill the space. Oh, and Bryan even does stained glass. You can spend anywhere from $6 to $1,600 in this captivating little shop. 845 W. 36th St., Hampden, 410-435-2826
There’s a passage in one of my favorite books, Michael Chabon’s “The Mysteries of Pittsburgh,” in which the narrator confesses to a secret pleasure he indulged in as a child, while walking through the “infinite chain of backyards” on his way home from school:
I would catch glimpses in windows of dining rooms, tables set for supper; of crayon drawings tacked to refrigerators, cartons of milk standing on counters; of feet on low hassocks, framed photographs, and empty sofas, all lit by the bland light of the television; and these quickly shifting tableaux, of strange furniture and the lives and families they divulged, would send me into a trance of curiosity. For a long time, I thought that one became a spy in order to watch the houses of other people, to be confronted by the simple, wondrous fact of other kitchens, other clocks, and ottomans.
I’ve never been seized with the desire to become a spy, but I have definitely fallen under the spell of that “trance of curiosity” about the inside of other people’s homes and the “lives and families they divulged.” I’ve long harbored the same love of other kitchens and ottomans, of seeing tables set for supper and framed photographs of people I don’t know. It’s one of the reasons I became a journalist. And it’s why I can’t get enough of my neighborhood listserv.
While it may not actually let me see their kitchens, the listserv provides a fascinating glimpse into my neighbors’ lives, in all their quirky, sometimes exasperating glory. It’s our digital town crier, hooking me in to the pulse of community life.
Some listservs, I’m told, are pretty banal: ho-hum forums where people exchange plumber recommendations and field requests for info about the school registration process or trash schedules. But ours is not one of those. Instead, it’s an entity so lively that at least one friend stayed subscribed long after she had moved away. And I’m convinced our listserv would make for an utterly compelling reality show.
I first got hopelessly hooked on the listserv during the Trashcan Man episode. In 2008, a neighbor out walking her dog through an alley came across a man who was, well, stuck in a trashcan. With only his head visible above the rim, he was asking for help getting out. She reported the incident to the listserv, and all hell broke loose. As bizarre as the episode was, even more bizarre was the eventual revelation that such incidents had been happening all over Mount Washington…for years. After a fight over the appropriateness of the inevitable Oscar the Grouch joke, Trashcan Man soon became the stuff of legend.
The listserv has its regulars, characters all. There are scolds and comics and cheerleaders, know-it-alls and voices of reason. There are some participants whose names I’ve heard only online, which leads me to conspiratorially wonder if they even exist outside the listserv, and some whose online persona is almost completely unrecognizable from their real-life ones. There was, for many years, even a resident troll, a hilarious fictional character named Ned Dunkleberger who was ultimately outed, in an infamous bit of listserv drama, as the alter ego of my across-the-street neighbor. “Ned” now writes a column for the Mount Washington Improvement Association newsletter.
Of course, the listserv does have a practical function. It’s where you go to find a dermatologist or a window washer. It also serves as a de facto swap meet. I once posted asking where I could buy test tubes for a school science project. In a quintessentially Baltimore moment, my query was
answered by a cell biologist from Hopkins, who gladly donated some. We used the listserv to give away the crib that had served us through two babies, a gift from my parents when our first son was born. A young single dad packed it into his pickup truck on a rainy weekday night and drove off with a sentimental piece of our family’s history. In memorable posts, neighbors have graciously offered up “six stalks of celery,” a “barely used” container of organic milk and, naturally, extra kombucha cultures.
The listserv has its share of warm and fuzzy moments—neighbors once banded together to help pay for the funeral of a baby who died at the local pediatric hospital – but contention is often the coin of the realm. There have been heated, protracted debates about racial profiling, a proposed bike trail and the merits of BGE’s new “smart meter,” among countless others. And then there was the infamous ice cream incident. A neighbor innocently asked whether our community pool could include some low-fat or sugar-free options among its ice cream offerings. Approximately 400,000—ok, it was 24—posts later, you would think someone had asked about storing radioactive waste in their yard.
One friend recently announced on Facebook that he just couldn’t handle the negativity any more and was throwing in the listserv towel. But I just can’t quit, although I do only read the digest version now and then.
It finally dawned on me not long ago that the listserv represents exactly what a community is supposed to be. We’re borrowing a cup of sugar, gossiping, laughing and arguing, just as we might have done a hundred years ago in a dusty community hall or Ladies’ Auxiliary. We may not be raising barns for one another anymore. But in this digital age, we’re doing the next best thing. 9
Jennifer Mendelsohn lives in Mount Washington with her husband and their two boys. Her work has appeared inThe New York Times, People, Slate and,USA Weekend. She also serves as one of Us Weekly’s Fashion Police “Top Cops.”
The month of May—midway between winter’s bluster and summer’s blister—leaves most of us craving a cool breeze and a cold drink at the end of the day.
Baltimore has a surfeit of outdoor seating, from usual suspects like Gertrude’s garden, the sublime Ambassador and the waterside Rusty Scupper, to destinations like Oregon Grille’s bluestone patio and Petit Louis’ chic new terrace in Columbia.
I’m enchanted by McFaul’s IronHorse Tavern’s (2260 Cromwell Bridge Road) treetop deck above the Gunpowder Watershed. When warm weather sets in, the deck sheds its vinyl cloak to become a lively aerie with seating for 70. Along with fruit crush specials, craft beers and cocktails, you can order daily oysters, or chef Evan Orser’s Irish-influenced gastro pub specials.
Who knew you could sit outdoors at Michael’s Café on busy York Road? The time-honored crabcake spot with its appeal to suburbanites of a certain age, has expanded its already 16,000-square-foot space to add an outdoor patio with a covered bar and plenty of comfy chairs.
If the weather is too hot (or too cold), after-work revelers can retreat to what general manager Mark Fischer calls the “new patio”—a climate-controlled space with floor-to-ceiling glass and a sleek new bar.
The rooftop at Blue Hill Tavern (938 S. Conkling St.) has a West Coast vibe and a sprawling view of the city from its Butchers Hill stanchion. There’s no better place to enjoy a Blue Hill Mojito, kaffir lime muddled with lemon grass-infused rum.
Liv2Eat (1444 Light St.) is a charming secret garden, with potted trees and twinkle lights walled off from the real world. The family-owned restaurant is a pleasure to the senses anytime of year—and great for small wedding receptions.
The dining room at Waterfront Kitchen (1417 Thames St.) feels like the inside of a yacht without the seasickness, so why shouldn’t the outdoor dining area, which juts into the harbor, feel the same? You can up the ante with drinks in an actual floating vessel by signing up for cocktail hour on the skipjack Sigsbee or the pungy schooner Lady Maryland, followed by a wine dinner at the restaurant.
Another waterfront option is Wit & Wisdom (200 International Drive) where Michael Mina protégé Zach Mills keeps the wood fires burning, even when the outdoor temperature is high, so the entire restaurant smells like a summer barbecue. Order a $6 happy hour cocktail, a fruit- or herb-infused concoction to sip as the sun begins to set over the harbor.
Sweeping back to North Baltimore, check out Mt. Washington Tavern’s (5700 Newbury St.) new second-floor “sky bar” that opens onto a deck overlooking Mount Washington Village. The neighborhood fave held a summer drink contest last year with the winner a coconut-pineapple-rum concoction submitted by a customer. While a similar contest is planned this season, last year’s winner, Sweet Summatime, may remain on the menu, says co-owner Rob Frisch. “We ordered 1,000 cups with the recipe printed on them. I think we have about 600 left.” —Martha Thomas
When Brad and Pui Wales reopened My Thai last year (relocated to Central Avenue from Mount Vernon) they built a stainless steel counter and grill in the center of the restaurant designed to proffer authentic Thai street food. Fifteen diners could sit around the bar and watch chefs—including Pui’s son Jirat Suphrom-In—crank out sautéed silkworms, beef tongue and pig brains seared on a hot grill, grasshoppers on a bed of charcoal.
Somehow, the idea didn’t catch on—news may not have reached Baltimore’s edgier diners; there’s also the issue of sourcing. (Raw silkworms aren’t always available.) So the Wales are instead using the space to fill a niche local diners seem to be clamoring for: a noodle bar. Slithery rice and egg noodles are layered in slow simmered aromatic broth (the duck base begins with 18 fowl) layered with dark green yu choy leaves, pepper flakes, fresh basil and bean sprouts. Flavors include duck, pork, chicken and beef, as well as Thai classic sweet and sour Tom Yum soup, made with shrimp and fish sauce. Wales hasn’t given up on the street food concept and has instituted “Bizarre Food Night” on Tuesdays. Bring on the charred grasshoppers. 1300 Bank St., 410-327-0023, http://www.mythaibaltimore.com
The Baltimore Marriott Waterfront’s new Apropoe’s, a purportedly Edgar Allan Poe-themed restaurant tucked in the corner of Harbor East where the Jones Falls meets the harbor, doesn’t feature purple curtains or loose floorboards. But Poe, says the hotel’s head chef, Carlos Gomez, will be celebrated in the old-fashioned approach to cooking. “We’re pickling and braising and smoking things.”
Apropoe’s foodstuffs will be sourced from the food service for the rest of the hotel. The farm egg dropped on a duck confit pizza, the crumbled goat cheese in a mixed beet salad and the roast chicken with crispy skin and simple jus—and of course the burger—come from local farms. Meanwhile, Gomez grows herbs used both in the kitchen and at the bar on a fifth-floor terrace.
The restaurant, which replaces Grille 700, is part of a lobby renovation that conforms to what Robin Richmond, director of restaurants, calls the Marriott’s “Great Room Concept”—a daytime café area, complete with USB ports along the bar, transitions to what she hopes will be a buzzy bar scene later. And if it’s too buzzy, says Richmond, there’s always the “Poet’s Corner,” set apart from the room’s flat-screens and adorned with Poe’s words. 700 Aliceanna St., 410-895-1879, http://www.apropoesharboreast.com
Photographs by Alan Gilbert
In both horticulture and art, this six-acre garden in the Green Spring Valley is all about sculpture. Even before the couple (a retired T. Rowe Price executive and a retired math teacher/community volunteer) started collecting, they had created a sculpturesque garden. Curved paths, stone walls, flowing garden rooms, interesting tree and plant collections all had sculptural form.
In 2000, when the couple and their two daughters moved to the 1945 Georgian brick house, the property had no significant gardens. The addition of a portico, pool and pool house, a garage and cobblestone courtyard soon redefined the space. Enter David Thompson, founder of Foxborough Nursery, Inc., who worked with the couple to create gardens influenced by their regular trips to England. “We love English gardens,” says the wife, who describes her style as more casual and her husband’s as more formal.
Soon was born, in classic English form, a garden which used the “borrowed” landscape around it to frame a series of flowing garden rooms that open one after the other. Some are open and casual, others clipped and formal. A preference for cool, quiet tones sets a palette of white, blue and pale pink, with occasional warm tones used in dozens of containers that further the sculptural bent.
Moving via green corridors and hallways, visitors are struck by the surprise of what gradually appears and by diverse plantings whose varied textures and shapes play well off of each other. Repetition creates a harmonious flow. Throughout the gardens, for example, are majestic blue atlas cedars, delicate and curvaceous Japanese maples, clipped boxwoods as geometric hedges or spheres.
A dozen garden rooms had been well-established before 2007 when the couple started incorporating sculpture. The sculptors are all represented by Halcyon Galleries in London where the owner is on the board. Soon the gardens included works of three very different artists: Lorenzo Quinn (son of actor Anthony Quinn), Simon Gudgeon (internationally well-known, wildlife sculptor) and Wu Ching-ju (the most famous contemporary sculptor in China). Quinn’s typically include hands or spheres,
Gudgeon’s are animals and Ching-ju’s often are women. The sculptures are not grouped by artist but placed in whichever garden seems best.
“My husband is the chooser; I’m the placer,” says the wife, whose strong sense of artistry and mathematical precision play out in spot-on, subtle and interesting placements. “Each is placed so it doesn’t take over the spot…so it’s a pleasant surprise and melds.”
Ching-ju’s “Deep Within Me” appears in the East Garden after a visitor has passed it well tucked in among smoke trees. Gudgeon’s “A Covey of Flying Grouse” takes flight above a garage window en route from “The Secret Garden” to the woodland walk, where many international visitors enter for parties. “We are blessed to have been able to create this tranquil environment that we enjoy sharing with others from around the globe,” says the husband.
Some gardens, like the Circle Garden, were designed around a new piece of sculpture. When Foxborough’s Thompson saw Quinn’s sculpture “What Goes Around Comes Around,” he shook his head at yet another sculpture, but soon after he created three circular gardens centered on the sculpture and sited to form an axis through antique iron gates to knot gardens in the Courtyard Garden and Ching-ju’s “Mirror of my Mind.”
Each piece of sculpture in the 15 garden rooms looks as if it has always been there, a true sign of good placement. The sculptures do not hit the garden visitor in the face or scream for attention. They come like aha moments, as quiet, pleasant surprises that add another dimension to the rolling, planted landscape.
“Sometimes the plantings of existing gardens have to be changed to enhance the sculpture,” says the designated placer. The geometry of plant forms resonates with the two-dozen sculptures. Grasses often highlight sculpture and add texture. White blooming plants or those with variegated leaves also brighten spaces, like white caladiums that give horticultural light to Ching-ju’s graceful “A Thousand Emotions.”
“We are indebted to David and Andrew Thompson who have worked with us in close partnership to create these gardens over more than a decade,” says the husband.
“Our girls say ‘no more sculpture,’” adds their mother. But it is hard to imagine these collectors stopping. There’s always room to tuck one more on a brick wall by the pool or on a stone wall above the sunken, four-square garden. “They’re hard to resist, but we’re running out of room.” Unimaginable in this verdant gallery.
Photograph by David Stuck
AT FIRST, Catharine Robertson wasn’t sure if she should message her birth mother on Facebook. After all, they’d never met—never made contact—and general bio family search etiquette dictates offspring ought to call or write a letter. In an instant, though, she decided to initiate her look-alike mother Susan Mathews’ Facebook friendship. In a couple of hours, they were linked online—within a week, they embraced at Susan’s place of business in joyful tears.
Born “Sarah Mathews” on July 24, 1969, in a facility for unwed moms, Catharine, now 44, was adopted and raised by a doctor and his wife in Richmond, Va. As contractually agreed, her birth mother Susan took care of her newborn girl for four weeks’ time before giving her baby up to the adoption agency to whom her own parents paid monthly tuition. These four sweet weeks spent with her child, Susan says, probably saved her life. She still refers to the August date she said goodbye to her little girl as “The Terrible Day.”
A casualty of the Baby Scoop era, the age of closed adoptions, which lasted from about 1940 to 1970, Susan, now 66, was one of roughly 4 million such expectant young moms. Programmed by the prevailing culture to surrender children many of them authentically wanted, these women were told from day one, “This baby you’re carrying is not your baby.” (After Roe v. Wade in 1973, these numbers thankfully plunged.)
For her part, Catharine never stopped dreaming she’d find her birth mother. (All told, she spent about 30 years hunting leads, following every miniscule biographical element Susan had been allowed to leave on file.) Meanwhile, Susan never gave up the dream she’d be found. Today—almost a year after their summer 2013 reunion—they consider each other a true best friend.
We asked Catharine and Susan to interview each other for STYLE. They made a master list of mutual questions and spoke casually. It was a pleasure to share a seat at their table.
Did you anticipate our meeting one day?
Susan: Absolutely, I always saw you as a little baby. I thought you’d look just like me. But I wished longer legs for you, which you got!
Catharine: For a while I thought I’d find the author I liked so much, V.C. Andrews, who wrote ‘Flowers in the Attic.’ Long story, but as a kid, I thought she was my mother. Once I got over that, I could not picture anything. I did anticipate meeting you, but I had no way to conceive of what you’d look like because I don’t look like anyone else. Not until last June when I suddenly looked like everybody in our family.
What was your state of mind between our first email contact and first meeting?
Susan: I got numb; I couldn’t cry; I couldn’t laugh. I didn’t even want to talk to anybody about it. I’d waited so long, I thought, ‘If I say anything, I’m going to hex this.’ I just wanted my hands on you.
Catharine: Once I found your Facebook page, I went from being terrified you wouldn’t answer to not being able to wait. I told one of my adoptee friends and she said, ‘Go do it now!’ So I emailed. I decided I was going to lead with vulnerability.
Susan: How did you become so strong and positive?
Catharine: I’ve learned a lot of lessons from the behavior of other people toward me that was less than ideal, and also from my own behavior. I probably couldn’t have been so positive in my 20s or 30s.
Susan: Searching for me for 30 years took a lot of guts. I don’t think you would have blossomed the same way if I’d raised you. You write well; you look like a million bucks; you’re terrific on your feet—I will claim only about 5 percent credit for these things.
In what ways do you think we’re alike?
Susan: You’re so much more like me than my other two children! We like to act and sing…
Catharine: We have the same sense of humor! We have the same hands and feet. We have the same laugh and the ability to laugh really loudly at anything and everything. Also, I’m now convinced it’s possible to inherit the trait of swearing all the time. I told you that when we first spoke by phone.
Susan: I said, ‘Does that mean you use the f-word all the time? You are definitely my child.’
Are you still scarred by what happened to divide us?
Catharine: Since I’ve told friends, they say, ‘This explains things.’
Susan: ‘Now we know why you acted like that,’ people tell me. I have been one of those crazy people: bad faith in men; decisions made not in my best interest. I went to Alaska and got married; I bought a Harley…
Catharine: I’ve always felt different. Eventually, I took it as a point of pride.
Susan: I always felt like I was damaged—because I thought everyone thought I was.
Catharine: Is it OK to ask about the way you felt during your pregnancy? And on The Terrible Day and beyond?
Susan: Yes, I can talk about that. I was a sheep and I followed the rules—you’re going to go here and you’re going to have this baby, but she doesn’t belong to you…and you’ll never be able to find her. Every day from the time I left you in that cradle, I said, ‘Sweet baby Sarah, Mommy loves you wherever you are.’ I said that every day to myself without fail for 44 years.
I always did a cupcake and a candle and wished you a happy birthday. I wonder if somewhere in the universe that might have plugged in to you.
Catharine: (tearful) Well, it’s possible. People say you have to prepare for rejection in life—or prepare for the worst, as you expect the best. But I never anticipated rejection. I thought, ‘I’m a good person; I have to come from good people.’ You were putting it out there, and I was feeling something.
Despite the tragedy of lost time, do you think there’s an advantage to meeting each other now, as self-actualized grown women?
Catharine: I never went through a period of hating you or straining against the strictures of the household rules; I never saw you having a difficult relationship with anyone. Plus, I’m in my 40s, and I’m in a good place.
Susan: For me, not only have I now gained a daughter, I’ve gained a mature best friend. You’re my closest confidant. It’s amazing to have a girlfriend you actually birthed.
How has your life changed now that we’ve met?
Susan: My whole outlook has changed—it’s like the final puzzle piece got popped in. Everything’s got a shine it didn’t have before. I love to sit on the couch with you and talk. The wonderment will never subside.
Catharine: I will never stop being astonished when I see you standing at the stove. The way you’re stirring something in a pot will make me tear up. Every time I register something physically specific, there’s another piece of my puzzle, from the way you pronounce a certain word to the way [your son] says something. These physical manifestations are helping to make me emotionally whole.
Susan: I was told for so long ‘No, you can’t.’ Now it’s ‘Yes, I can.’ I want to see you every holiday and birthday!
Catharine: (laughing) I’m the one who told you to move to Baltimore.
What connotations do you have with the word mother?
Susan: Mother’s never been a real warm and fuzzy word to me. When we first met, you asked, ‘What am I going to call you?’
Catharine: And I call you Mommy. We tried out your college name, Sunny, but it sounded weird to me. I grew up in the South where everyone said Mother after a certain age. It makes me feel warm saying it this other way.
Susan: I love to hear you call me Mommy—it’s like a frisson zinging through me. And I call you FB, firstborn.
What would you like other children and birth parents in this searching scenario to know?
Susan: I would like for adoptive mothers to understand we didn’t give our babies to them. These babies were taken from us.
Catharine: I would tell other adoptees that, no matter what state you’re in, don’t listen to the authorities if they tell you to forget your original identity. You do have a right to it, and many states agree with me. If you want to find someone, there are ways to do it.
Susan: Never give up.
Catharine: Maybe our story could be made into a movie like ‘Beaches.’
Susan: Well, I can guarantee you I’ll never go see it. I hate chick flicks. I want ‘The Godfather,’ car chases, blood and guts and gangsters.
Catharine: Actually, my comfort movies are ‘Jaws’ and ‘Ronin.’
Susan: Mine: ‘Die Hard,’ ‘Jaws,’ and ‘Goodfellas.’
Catharine: I haven’t seen ‘Goodfellas.’
Susan: What? I made your siblings see all those horrible movies. We’ve got catching up to do.
Soon after this interview, Catharine, along with her husband, Ron Spencer, met Susan in the Florida Keys for Susan’s younger daughter’s wedding. The two women plan a mother/daughter vacation for early June, the one-year anniversary of their 2013 reunion.
Every spring, Europeans all over the continent go asparagus mad. I was fortunate enough to be in Vienna, Austria, one year during the season. Entire restaurant tasting menus were given over to dishes featuring this delicate vegetable, and I feasted on a dizzying array of asparagus-based dishes: soups, salads, pasta, main courses featuring asparagus drizzled with a delicate sauce and accompanied with potatoes and ham, to name a few.
Inspired by my culinary memories of springtime in Vienna, I have created my own asparagus-tasting menu of sorts here, although each dish can certainly be enjoyed on its own. Begin your spring feast with the mini quiches, small bites bursting with crunchy asparagus, tangy chevre and salty ham. Move on to the creamy asparagus soup, which, thanks to the use of Greek yogurt, is actually a very healthy version of the cream-soaked zuppes I enjoyed in Austria.
For the main course, the lemony asparagus and ricotta pasta feels rich but is delicate enough to let the asparagus shine. Finish your tasting menu with the refreshing shaved asparagus and sea bean salad. Sea beans are just what they sound like—sea vegetables. They’re a bit like a green bean, only quite salty, so go easy on the finishing salt.
On paper, Seattle isn’t unlike Baltimore—it’s a port city with a population just over 600,000 (if you omit the millions of people in the suburbs). And yet, there’s a vastness of scale we don’t have. The fir trees have diameters up to 6 feet—some stand as tall as 250 feet. The Puget Sound has 2500 miles of coastline, and reaches depths of 930 feet. The snow-capped Olympia Mountains rise on the other side of the sound’s glacial water. On the sunny days of our visit, that deep shade of blue seemed impossible, like something out of a beer ad.
I was there to give a presentation called “Teaching and Writing Overseas” at the annual AWP conference—the Association of Writers and Writing Programs. Before I landed my job at Goucher College and moved to Baltimore, I taught at a university in England for five years. Others on my panel had worked in Bulgaria, France, Ukraine and Spain—we all had stories to tell about how the overseas life can be full of headaches and isn’t quite as romantic as one might imagine.
There was something, it seemed to me, “overseas-ish” about being in Seattle. We hadn’t crossed any oceans, but we’d crossed a continent—the flights, with layovers, took about the same time as a nonstop to London. The landscape and wildlife were as foreign for us East Coasters as anything in Europe. And yet, the accents were familiar, we had access to our ATMs and there were more Starbucks than I’d ever seen in my life. It was, in short, a winning combination of the exotic and the easy.
I especially enjoyed my mornings in Seattle, running through Discovery Park and Elliott Bay Park, right on the water. There are separate paths for runners and for cyclists, so that everyone can enjoy the vista—the huge cargo ships, the circling cormorants, possibly even seals on the beaches—at his or her own pace, something that seems very Seattle.
I definitely needed to burn the calories. My boyfriend, Howard, a physician by day and a consummate foodie every other moment, had been researching Seattle’s offerings for months. Whenever the 25 concurrent AWP panels got to be too much, we’d escape on a culinary adventure. Sometimes a frazzled Baltimore writer friend or two we’d find in the lobby would come along. Howard was a like a comfort food guru to the overworked; we were ready to leave behind earthly concerns.
It’s no secret that Seattle has great salmon. Howard discovered, though, that the city also offers outstanding vegan and local fare. First, we tried his picks in Capitol Hill, a short walk from downtown. Our server at Sitka & Spruce told us that the tea we ordered had been foraged by a woman who specialized in such endeavors. The ginger mint tea was both pungent and smooth in a way that no tea bag can offer. None of us who ate at Plum Vegan Bistro were vegans, but the food was so good, we kept falling silent and staring at each other with big eyes. “I can’t believe this is vegan. How is this vegan?”
On subsequent days, we ventured farther afield into the neighborhoods of Wallingford and Fremont. In Wallingford, where we had amazing and authentic soba, we stumbled across the Erotic Bakery. We were encouraged not to take photos of the cupcake display and to stop all that giggling. Each one had a marzipan penis or vagina or set of breasts on it—just the right gift for one of our newly single friends.
Howard’s pick in Fremont was the Theo chocolate factory. Anyone who has been to Ma Petite Shoe in Hampden knows this company, which makes such ingenious chocolate bars as Bread & Chocolate, Ghost Chili and Fig, Fennel & Almond. The gift shop offered samples of every bar they make—around two dozen different varieties—generous, gigantic broken pieces stocked in deep bins. There was free coffee to wash it down. It was a bit like getting drunk.
We decided to splurge on our last night and go to Canlis, one of the most highly rated restaurants in the U.S., a place with a long history. John Wayne used to eat there. “Ooh, Canlis,” locals kept saying when we told them we had a reservation.They would nod in that knowing way that said: Yes, my friend, you have chosen well. It’s the kind of place where they don’t give you a valet ticket. They just know who you are and your car is waiting when you come out. We ordered the vegetarian tasting menu—seven courses for $105/person. Through the enormous picture window, we watched seaplanes land in the sound while we ate some of the best food we’ve had in our lives, including beets with goat milk and lemon curd and butternut squash with capers and brown butter sabayon.
Worth traversing a continent for? You bet. And we didn’t even need our passports.
Pike Place Market is more than a tourist attraction. It’s a vibrant functioning market that offers fresh food, especially seafood and produce, as well as handmade crafts. pikeplacemarket.org
The Seattle Great Wheel offers great views of the city and, on a clear day, the Olympia Mountains across the sound. Tickets, $8.50 to $50 VIP. seattlegreatwheel.com
For foodie-approved and award-winning cocktails, try Oliver’s Lounge in the extra elegant Mayflower Park Hotel, where you might want to splurge and stay a night. (The “Spy Who Loved Seattle” package sounds perfect.) mayflowerpark.com
The Book Larder Community Cookbook Store has been named Best Bookstore by Seattle Magazine and Seattle Weekly, and recently garnered attention in Bon Appetit’s “The World’s Best Cookbook Stores” guide 2014. booklarder.com
Best Photo Op
While visiting the artsy ‘hood known as the Center of the Universe, check out the Fremont Troll, a public sculpture under George Washington Memorial Bridge. He grips a Volkswagen Beetle in one hand—and visitors are encouraged to “interact” with him (i.e. climb on him, try to poke out his eye, etc.). 3405 Troll Ave N. http://www.fremont.com
Fifteen years ago, I attended my first-ever Maryland Film Festival —and several extraordinary things happened. First and foremost, Chris Noth (of “The Good Wife” and “Sex and the City” fame) totally flirted with me. Seriously, we locked eyes—27 feet apart, burning with unbridled passion across the popcorn-scented lobby of the Charles Theater.
I’m certain I didn’t imagine it.
I mean, his eyes clearly said, “That brilliant, fresh-faced ingénue has the aura of the next Carrie Bradshaw.” Or maybe he was just thinking to himself, “I’ll keep smiling until ol’ Squinty Eyes over there figures out that, yes, indeed, I am Mr. Big and goes back to her volunteer duties.”
However the moment happened, I’ll treasure it always—along with the empty Diet Coke can Barry Levinson handed me before he walked into that night’s screening. To this day, I still place my lips ever-so-delicately where the “Diner” director’s had been in hopes of channeling inspiration during any creative crisis.
Errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! [Cue: needle-scratching-record sound effect]
Just kidding about the can. I recycled it like a normal person. But it just goes to show the funny details you remember about life’s firsts.
The brilliant thing about the Maryland Film Festival is that it’s entirely about firsts. Chances are, you won’t have heard of many—if any—of the movies being shown here this year. And that’s the point. For 16 years running, the extra-ordinary MFF staff has curated a robust schedule of independent, foreign and experimental films that rivals the Cannes and Sundances of the world. It’s the place where Kathryn Bigelow screened “The Hurt Locker” when Hollywood had all but given up on the (now Oscar-winning) film and Lena Dunham presented her pre-“Girls”-fame “Tiny Furniture” to a packed house of movie fans who had the pleasure of seeing the next big thing before she bared her soul (and body) on HBO.
It’s also a great venue to see big-time stars in small-budget flicks they do for kicks or indie street cred. Witnessing Danai Gurira (aka “Michonne” from “The Walking Dead”) play a Nigerian bride in Brooklyn who finds a very creative way to get pregnant without her infertile husband in last year’s “Mother of George” was nothing short of a visual miracle. And this year, I can’t wait to see Josh Lucas in what I’ve heard is a flinch-inducing performance about a dark-and-twisty relationship between two brothers in “The Mend.” (Although it’s certain to ruin his “pretty boy” factor.)
In short, the Maryland Film Festival is a hotbed of blooming creative genius—and you need to get in on this cinematic action, running May 7 through 11 at seven downtown locations in and around Station North, including the MICA Brown Center and (new this year) the Walters Art Museum. Here are my top tips for how to do the festival like a pro.
The Q&A session with filmmakers at last year’s Opening Night Shorts program.
Perhaps there’s nothing more indicative of MFF’s pioneering spirit than the choice to open every festival with a selection of short films. Opening Night Shorts is hands down, my favorite event of the year. These stunning capsule masterpieces never fail to inspire, like last year’s “Flutter,” a short documentary about a charming 76-year-old butterfly collector who spends hours each day chasing down silver-spotted skippers and sleepy dusky-wings. After just eight minutes, the audience was equally spellbound.
That same night, we also watched a comedy about two parents who send their young daughter into the forest to be raised by wolves…and she later eats them. (Won’t see THAT on the National Geographic channel!) So just know that you can always expect some humor and heartbreak on opening night, too.
LISTEN TO JOHN.
I’m not going to lie. Watching one of the films John Waters recommended last year single-handedly ruined my sex life for about three months. (Watch Ulrich Seidl’s “Paradise: Love” if you want to see why.) But Waters temporarily redeemed me with the perversely brilliant “Paradise: Faith” (by the same filmmaker), which actually had us laughing aloud as a religious zealot flogged herself in front of a crucifix for the umpteenth time.
Each year, the mustached master (and MFF board member) hand-selects a favorite movie to present at the fest—from vintage cult and camp titles to contemporary ribald comedies and art- house dramas—and it’s an absolute blast. No surprise, Waters’ provocative dialogue always incites squeals and snorts from the crowd. And you might just catch him—along with other filmmakers and actors—for a convo over a nightcap at Club Charles after the show.
If you have the luxury of seeing several films at the fest, consider picking something that’s outside of your comfort zone—whether that means going foreign, going dark or going weird. This year, I’ve decided to geek out at a campy horror film (not usually my forte) titled “Call Girl of Cthulhu” by local D.I.Y. dude Chris LaMartina. According to the publicity stills, his leading lady’s breasts have…teeth—ouch!—so this should be quite an interesting ride.
Or check out two of the festival’s annual traditions: a vintage 3D movie shown in the original two-projector 35mm format or the Sunday morning silent film featuring live musical accompaniment by the Alloy Orchestra.
Of course, for some readers, challenging yourself may simply mean walking into a venue that suburban moms might otherwise consider “sketchy” like the Windup Space, a funky little North Avenue bar that also hosts some of our favorite Stoop Storytelling events. And that’s OK. (As far as I know, owner Russell de Ocampo and his friendly staff don’t bite…unless you ask them nicely.) And don’t even sweat it if you’re considering sneaking out of work to watch a matinee on Thursday or Friday. (I’ll write your boss the world’s most perfect excuse note.) Also of note: solo-screening is a societal norm at film fests. You’ll fit right in if you happen to come alone. And you might just leave with a new movie buddy.
“Ping Pong Summer” director Michael Tully on location in Ocean City, Md.
While the festival screens films from all around the globe, there’s always a strong contingent of homegrown talent—and you’ll definitely want to catch at least one film made in Maryland (or by a fellow Marylander). The former high school beach-tag checker in me is, like, already, like, totally losing her mind over “Ping Pong Summer,” an ’80s-themed coming-of-age flick about summers spent in Ocean City, starring Susan Sarandon, Lea Thompson and Amy Sedaris. Note to filmmaker Michael Tully: I still have your “Septien” movie magnet (circa MFF 2011), compete with outsider-art genitalia, proudly displayed on my refrigerator.
On a far more serious note, in 2011 Baltimore native Matthew VanDyke picked up a gun—and a video camera—to join forces with Libyan rebels in their fight against Gaddafi. And, at this year’s festival, you can see his stranger-than-fiction story in the documentary “Point and Shoot.”
Filmmaker Joe Swanberg (second from left) at his “Drinking Buddies” screening.
If I had to pick just 15 seconds in time that sums up exactly why I adore the Maryland Film Fest it would be this: sitting one row behind actor/director Joe Swanberg during the screening of his star-studded comedy “Drinking Buddies” last year. There I was, sharing popcorn with my date, when we happened to look over and notice Swanberg’s face light up in the glow from the movie projector. He was laughing in unison with us over some clever remark Olivia Wilde had just made on screen. (Filmmakers…they’re just like us!) And you could totally imagine Swanberg recalling some on-set shenanigans with the cast and crew. My date squeezed my hand and gave me a goateed grin that said, “I just saw that, too.” And it was magic.
Dorky, I know. But really, that’s the joy and privilege of having this film festival in our hometown. This year’s lineup includes about 50 feature films and 10 short-film programs from around the world—and every U.S. feature film will be hosted by its filmmaker. Without question, stick around for the post-movie Q&A sessions, which are fun, intimate, and thought-provoking. Where else would you have the opportunity to chat up a cult hero like Bobcat Goldthwait, meet a normally reclusive director like Todd Solondz and engage a true-crime legend like Detective Patrick Kennedy who, sadly, died last year but gave a candid and fascinating presentation at MFF 2012 after a screening of “Jeff,” the Jeffrey Dahmer documentary. (Kennedy was the lead investigator on the case.)
This year’s fest will no doubt prove equally singular and moving, with highly anticipated newcomers like Darius Clark Monroe, who dissects the circumstances that led him to commit a bank robbery as a young man in his Spike Lee exec-produced film “Evolution of a Criminal.” Not to mention the return of swoon-worthy Swanberg, who will be screening his comedy “Happy Christmas” in which he also stars with the pitch-perfect Anna Kendrick and MFF alum Lena Dunham.
No matter which films you choose, be sure to thank the hard-working, over-caffeinated MFF staff and 400 volunteers afterward. And when you inevitably run into festival founder Jed Dietz around campus, just do like I do. Walk right up and tell him three simple words: I LOVE YOU. After so many years, he’s probably used to me doing it. But how wonderful if our entire city did the same?
Individual tickets (average cost, $10) are available online and at each screening location, as well as Tent Village located on North Avenue, between Joe Squared and the MICA Studio Center. Or buy an All Access Pass, $325, for unlimited movies and first dibs on seating. mdfilmfest.com
BEST OF THE FEST
At the time STYLE went to press, half of this year’s MFF selections were still a secret. Check out our official picks for must-see flicks at baltimorestyle.com/film.
Painter, linguist and all-around Renaissance woman Deborah Patterson has forsaken the land of Dante and da Vinci for the charms of Charm City. Go figure. But be glad she has. Hanging on the walls of Studio 834 are massive commissioned oil paintings as well as small water- colors of Venice, so dreamy and enticing Savvy felt she had stepped into the scenes. Patterson has also painted plenty of local venues, which you’ll have fun recognizing; you can even pocket them in the form of prints and postcards. And if you have a hankering to learn Italian, Patterson gives small group lessons. 834 W. 36th St., Hampden, 410-243-3834, http://www.834onheavenue.com
Feeling like you need to lighten up? Prescription: the upbeat coral “Satchel” ($88) by Danielle Nicole, one of many easy options from Ellicott City-bred designer Danielle DiFerdinando’s sweet spring line. “My spring collection was inspired by the beautiful countryside of Italy and its amazing cities—Portofino, Milan, Venice and Rome,” says DiFerdinando, whose bags appeared on HSN for the first time in March. Also look for beautiful shades of mint and blue with an exotic lizard texture, color-blocking or laser-cut details at Nordstrom and South Moon Under. Or grab a bag for Preakness at STYLE’s Off to the Races Fashion Show on May 14—hosted by the Four Seasons and Les Collective—featuring a DN pop-up shop, along with hats by esteemed milliner Christina A. Moore. Visit http://www.baltimorestyle.com/preakness for event details.
Bloke of Genius
“Because that’s what narcissism is all about; looking in the mirror every day and thinking ‘Damn, I’d like to shag myself.’”
There’s no question that Eddie Izzard is a sexy beast—not to mention a force of nature. So we couldn’t be happier that the sage surrealist is blowing into Baltimore for a one-night stop on his “Force Majeure” world tour—aka the biggest comedy pilgrimage ever known to man—which, by its completion, will span 25 countries on five continents, including shows performed entirely in French and German. Beeindruckend! (Hint: that’s how they say “impressive” in Berlin.)Hopefully the gender-bending Brit will throw in at least one “hon” as he waxes surreal about everything from Darth Vader and Greek mythology to human sacrifice and chaos theory—all wearing a sharp suit and Cuban heels. Did we mention he also performs an itsy bitsy musical about a trouserless spider? We’ll bite. May 20 at the Hippodrome. Tickets, $59-$78. 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com
Get ready for a love hangover like no other. Diana Ross, the Queen of Motown and arguably one of the best-known voices of our time, is bringing her star power to Baltimore. With more than 100 million records sold and 18 No. 1 hits, Ross has been the inspiration for countless artists around the world—not to mention being a Kennedy Center Honors recipient, best-selling author and Oscar-nominated actress. (“Mahogany” still makes us weep.) See the legend perform live for one night only—June 28 at The Lyric. Tickets, $70-$190. 800-745-3000,
A Baltimore institution, Betty Cooke’s handmade jewelry holds a special place in every sophisticated woman’s jewelry box. Cooke, whose studio and showroom are part of The Store Ltd. in Cross Keys has been designing and making her distinctly contemporary but timeless jewelry for nearly 70 years. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University and MICA, Cooke has taught her craft to WW II veterans, been exhibited at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and designed several pieces for the collection at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. We think she’s way overdue for an exhibition. You can see her work and learn more about this fascinating woman in an exhibit at the Goya Contemporary Gallery through June 5. 410-235-1538, http://www.goyacontemporary.com
Mad About Him
What Baltimorean can forget Paul Reiser’s hilarious portrayal as Modell, one of the infamous “Diner Guys” in Barry Levinson’s 1982 homegrown comedy, “Diner.” In the years since, Reiser has kept us laughing in the beloved sitcom “Mad About You” and movies like “Beverly Hills Cop” (I and II) and his books on married life and parenthood. Reiser fans will have a rare opportunity to catch his stand-up act at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation’s annual benefit, Night of The Stars. May 8 at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation. Tickets, $50-$165. 410-764-1587, http://www.bhcong.org
Sounds of Silence
In a loudly opinionated Jewish family where everyone talks over each other at the dinner table, Billy, who has been deaf since birth, is the exception. But hey, he’s used to these people. They are his tribe. Direct from theaters in London and New York where it garnered rave reviews, Tribes, a 2010 winner of the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play, follows Billy’s journey of self-discovery, including his relationship with Sylvia, a young woman on the brink of deafness and considers what it truly means to be understood. Directed by Vincent M. Lancisi. May 28-June 22 at the Everyman Theatre. Tickets, $32-$60. 410-752-2208, http://www.everymantheatre.org
The Happiest Place in the World
Gil has definitely seen better days. With his boyfriend leaving him, his acting career stalling and his mother passing away, life looks awfully grim. Thank goodness for his BFF, Mo, who knows that a trip to the Magic Kingdom will lift Gil’s spirits. With Terry the funeral director and his wacky Aunt Flo in tow, Gil finds himself on a roller coaster through love and loss in Disney World. Colman Domingo’s Wild With Happy, directed by Jeremy B. Cohen, will make you wish you were along for the ride. May 28-June 29 at Center Stage. Tickets, $19-$59. 410-332-0033, http://www.centerstage.org
Take it Off
A new show by MICA’s Exhibition Development Seminar proves there’s more to burlesque than removing your clothes. The exhibition, Workin’ the Tease: The Art of Baltimore Burlesque, looks at the evolution of Charm City’s unique performance tradition, from its heyday in the early 20th century when The Block was home to a thriving club scene, to its decline in the mid-century to the lively underground burlesque culture that’s developed in recent years. The exhibition includes awesome artifacts like costumes, pasties, calling cards, posters and new photographs by Sean Scheidt. The exhibition will be accompanied by a series of programs and performances. Through May 7 at The Lyric. http://www.workinthetease.com
When we’re on a much-needed vacation, we like to lather on the sunscreen, set up camp under a palm tree and sip piña coladas until the sun goes down. And, of course, listen to Jack Johnson. Arguably the biggest name in beachside pop/rock today, the handsome Hawaii native’s spring tour is sure to put you in a great mood—all the way down to your “Bubble Toes.” Even better, Amos Lee is opening. (We can’t wait to hear him play “Charles Street.”) June 5 at Merriweather Post Pavilion. Tickets, $40-$65. 410-715-5550, http://www.merriweathermusic.com
A Different Neverland
A highly anticipated live-action film remake of Peter Pan is hitting theaters next year, but while you’re waiting, why not check out the story-before-the-story onstage? Peter and the Starcatcher, the prequel to the events of the original play and animated film, takes viewers on a hilarious ride through Neverland, including what happened before the green Spandex-clad cutie met Wendy and John Darling. The winner of five Tony Awards, Entertainment Weekly calls it “an absurdly funny fantastical journey.” May 6 to May 18 at the Hippodrome. Tickets, $38-$92. 800-745-3000, http://www.ticketmaster. com
There’s No Place Like Home
The timeless musical fantasy The Wizard of Oz is heading to Baltimore for a weekend you won’t want to miss. From “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” to “Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead,” this stage adaptation features all the classics that made the film so memorable, along with new songs by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber. May 28 to June 1 at The Lyric. Tickets, $60-$80. 800-745-3000, http://www.ticketmaster.com
Kacey Musgraves, Willie Nelson and Alison Krauss and Union Station are coming to town! Musgraves, whose country music career started with a seventh- place finish on USA Network’s “Nashville Star,” has skyrocketed to become one of the genre’s hottest performers, with two Grammys under her western belt buckle. Willie Nelson (of course) needs no introduction, and with a voice like Alison Krauss’ it’s no wonder she and her band, Union Station, have won a whopping 27 Grammys. (Plus, she’s married to Elvis Costello, which makes her our hero.) June 14, 5 p.m. at Merriweather Post Pavilion. Tickets, $45-$75. 410-715-5550, http://www.merriweathermusic.com
Return to Me
In 1954, Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s “On the Shore of the Seine” (1879) was stolen from the Baltimore Museum of Art. Sixty years later, the 5½-by-9-inch painting has returned to the museum to join more than 20 other works of art in the exhibition, The Renoir Returns. The exhibition highlights works donated to the BMA by Sadie May, one of the museum’s and Baltimore’s most generous donors. May first purchased the Renoir in 1925. Other works on display will include Piet Mondrian’s “Composition V” (1927) and Paul Klee’s “Traveling Circus” (1937). Through July 20 at the BMA. 443-573-1700, http://www.artbma.org
We can’t think of a more magical way to spend an evening than watching A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Concert—a unique “musical theater” production of one of the Bard’s bests performed by members of the Folger Theater Shakespeare Library. Adapted and directed by Edward Berkeley with music composed by Felix Mendelssohn and performed by the BSO and the Baltimore Choral Arts Society. Marin Alsop and Tom Hall conduct. May 29 at Strathmore and May 30 to June 1 at The Meyerhoff. Tickets, $29-$94. 410-783-8000, http://www.bsomusic.org
Art Festival Revival
Back by popular demand, Art Outside, the daylong outdoor festival in Druid Hill Park, will be happening again this spring. While this is the second anniversary of Art Outside’s new rendition, the over-60 crowd will happily recall a similar event that took place around Druid Hill Reservoir during the 1950s and 1960s. Just as it used to be, the festival is meant to connect communities and local artists and will feature Maryland artisans displaying and selling their work. Art Outside will also include children’s arts and crafts, Baltimore’s best food trucks and a Maryland Distinguished Artist Gallery. Plus, don’t miss the new Art Truck featuring the work of Shawn Theron. Come rain or shine. May 18, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Druid Hill Reservoir. Free. 410-583-5703, http://www.artoutsidemd.org
A Little Night Music
A provocative play and film that won both numerous Tony and Academy awards, Amadeus portrays a dramatic confrontation of genius and mediocrity. Salieri is a hard-working, ambitious composer who seeks to be the very best, while Mozart is a young, silly and unpolished musician who truly is the greatest composer of his time; a genius, some would say. Hint: This does not sit well with Salieri. See the musical showdown live at Fells Point Corner Theatre, May 2 to June 1. Tickets, $15-$20. http://www.fpct.org
American artists in the 19th century were more than just artists. They were students, cosmopolitans, adventurers and tourists. Many traveled abroad and turned their experiences into works of art, which you can now view in Baltimore. A grant-funded project, sponsored by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services, has catalogued and photographed more than 600 American works of art for American Artists Abroad, an exhibit that features the works of Mary Cassatt, James McNeill Whistler, John Singer Sargent and many more on display this spring and summer. Through June 22 at The Walters Art Museum. 410-547-9000, http://www.thewalters.org
Taking apart a whole animal, says chef and butcher George Marsh, “is a beautiful thing.” Even so, plenty of today’s carnivores “are used to buying a piece of meat that doesn’t look like an animal, sitting on a piece of Styrofoam.” Parts & Labor, which Marsh oversees as part of Spike Gjerde’s restaurant group, is dedicated to whole animal butchery in all its gory glory.
Named in homage to the space it occupies, once a Remington tire shop, Parts & Labor is a butcher shop by day—receiving and carving up whole animals for the Woodberry restaurants and to sell to the public. At 5 o’clock, the place opens up for drinks and dinner. “Our vision is someplace lively and sociable, kind of like a beer hall,” says Marsh.
The former repair shop is a deceptively grand space, with an eggplant-stained concrete floor and a wood bar (built from reclaimed barn beams by local builder Luke Steckel) sporting 22 taps for local suds. The 84-seat dining space is a mix of communal seating and smaller tables, where diners can graze on snacks or go for the whole hog, so to speak. “People can come every day without breaking the bank.” 2600 N. Howard St., 443-873-8887, http://www.partsandlaborbutchery.com
SIT AND SPIN. “What doesn’t challenge you fails to make you stronger,” says instructor extraordinaire Jessie Benson as she gears up her five students for our next round of tabatas (tuh-BA-tas), a high-intensity training method created by an Olympic speedskating coach. We aren’t on the ice, but rather in an 82-degree pool at Brick Bodies’ downtown location, trying out a brand-new Aqua Spin class—an exclusive offering in the Baltimore area. We propel the pedals of our fancy, Italian-made H20 bikes, as our heart rates rise to about the same level we would achieve on land. Bonus? It’s gentler on our joints—and our behinds.
Get wet—and sweat—in an Aqua Spin class at Brick Bodies’ downtown location.
“Thanks to the buoyancy of the water, Aqua Spin is a great cross-training option for athletes who are recovering from an injury or just looking for a great cardio workout without all the stress,” says Benson, who also takes us through a series of upper-body exercises with foam free weights—all the while strengthening our core as we work to stabilize ourselves against the wake. “Plus, it’s just a fun option for anyone who loves group fitness—and sweating in the water.” Single class, $15-$18. Packages available. 410-547-0053, http://www.brickbodies.com.
WATERFRONT WELLNESS. Only a Balti-moron would miss a chance for fun, free fitness in the heart of Charm City—courtesy of the Waterfront Partnership. Weather permitting, hop over to West Shore Park (400 block of Light St., by the Maryland Science Center) for a “double feature” of fitness classes held most weekends between May 24 and Aug. 31. Start your Saturday with Boot Camp (8 a.m.) taught by a rotating bevy of our favorite instructors, then shake your booty in the sunshine at Zumba (9 a.m.). On Sundays, join the bendable bodies from Charm City Yoga for an energizing stretch session (8 a.m.) then dare to try Parkour (9 a.m.), a hard-core workout based on military obstacle course training. We’re sore already. Bring your own mat and a big ol’ bottle of water or Gatorade. http://www.waterfrontpartership.org
Daughter of a tailor yet can’t sew a stitch: that’s Savvy in a sartorial nutshell. Yet one thing she did learn from Dad was how to spot quality work. A rolled lapel, a well-turned cuff, an impeccable cut. Edye Sanford can deliver. Proprietor of Designs from the Edge, Sanford started out making children’s clothing but has branched out into custom-made grown-up goods, including bridal wear. Whether you want an ivory lace confection, a snazzy cocktail dress or just a comfortable pair of pants, Sanford will work with you to craft the garment you want. By appointment only. 410-467-8729, http://www.edyesanford.com
My wife has been trying to get me to come out of the closet. We’ve talked about this for some time. It’s a private matter. You can’t really involve anyone else; even family members. I was embarrassed to tell my brothers or my closest friends.
My wife thought that maybe talking to someone, a professional, would help. You know, someone with expertise. Someone who could be supportive. But that was the problem in the first place. If it hadn’t been for a closet designer, I’d still be in the closet.
Let me be clear: I’m not coming out of the closet. I’m being expelled from it. Pushed out. Pressured. I’m being outed. My wife wants the closet all to herself. In other words, she wants me out of “her” closet, previously known as “our” closet.
When we bought our turn-of-the-century barn of a house it did not have closets. None. It was a good buy. I might not have been able to afford it if it had closets. I thank my lucky stars because owning my little piece of Baltimore allows me to pay property taxes that one would normally need to move to Scandinavia to find. And bask in our opulent city services! What’s not to like? Just call me Mr. Lucky.
So we needed closets, walk-in mini-rooms where one could keep hundreds of pairs of shoes, racks of suits, shelves of shirts. Not that I actually own racks of suits or shelves of shirts.
I’m not sure what the previous occupants did. Perhaps armoires were enough? Perhaps a century ago no one could afford more than one suit?
So we hired a carpenter to build closets, little rooms really. Then something called California Closets—one of those operations at the mall between a discount optometrist and a place that sells potpourri by the ton weight—took it from there. Their experts made those rooms into closets—and in one of those closets my wife assembled her vast wardrobe and legendary shoe collection. My wife is the Imelda Marcos of Roland Park. We have a first-name relationship with the UPS man and FedEx. Zappos uses her shoe collection in its national advertising campaign. And those are the cheap shoes. This is where my problems began.
The use of the term master suite is a misnomer in our happy home. My presence is very slight. Not really required. I am never allowed to use the master bathroom lest I disturb something. I believe that marriage counselors used to tell young couples that marriage is not always 50-50. Sometimes it’s 60-40. Or 70-30? Closets are like that, too.
We started out 50/50. Half the closet was my wife’s space. And half was mine. That changed fairly quickly. I was at a disadvantage going into this arrangement.
I don’t own half a closet’s worth of couture. I only have a few pairs of shoes.
The next thing I knew my closet space was being encroached upon, a kind of sartorial Anschluss. My space was annexed, occupied, overrun. I was squeezed into a corner. Indians must have found this to be the case with the first settlers. First they build a little homestead, a few acres. Next, they have Connecticut. And Massachusetts. And pretty soon they want you to move west. That was the story of our closet. I am being slowly and inextricably pushed out.
At this writing I am still in there but it’s pretty pathetic. I’m down to less than 30 percent of the space and things do not look good. A tsunami of shoes in the last six months left me pretty devastated. Now the summer season looms, a kudzu of new clothes—and I fear that will be the end.
I have had to move most of my suits and sport jackets into a closet in my daughter’s room. She lives in New York so there’s room in her closet. But my wife is making inroads there, too. She has begun to colonize that closet. Where will this end? I could wind up in one of those PODS, one of those portable storage units that you see parked in front of houses that are being renovated. I’ve always wondered if someone was living in those things. Now I’ll know.