rivka: (smite)
Alex had a doctor's appointment this morning for her annual check-up. It's Michael's day at home, but I decided to go in to work late and take her to her appointment so he wouldn't have to haul along both kids.

We rushed out to the car with juuuust enough time to make it to her appointment. We approached the car on the street side and I buckled her into her booster seat. And then she said, "Mom! What's on our car?!"

Safety glass. Safety glass is what she was seeing. Someone threw half a brick through our driver's side window. The brick was sitting on the passenger seat.

IMAG0265 IMAG0267

As I called the doctor's office and then the police non-emergency line, someone came out of the apartment building behind me and said he'd seen the guy. He heard the window break, looked out the window and yelled, and saw the guy run away. No description; it was dark. He called the police, who never showed up.

We keep our GPS in a hidden compartment. It was still there. We mostly keep home-burned CDs in the car, but we had some purchased ones in there too and from a quick glance I think they're all there. (I didn't do a comprehensive search, because everything was covered with glass.)

The police came in less than 15 minutes to take my statement and give us an incident report. Baltimore City doesn't actually investigate car break-ins or even, I understand, car theft. But they do come by and take your information and give you a paper to give your insurance company. He asked me if anyone had any problems with me. Rather than give that question the complicated answer it probably deserves, I told him I didn't think the break-in was anything personal.

Michael called our insurance agent, who pointed out that we have a $200 auto glass deductible and that it might not be worth our while to file a claim. And indeed, when he called the auto glass company they priced the repair at $297. Not worth filing a claim and having our premiums go up. They're going to send a truck out this morning to do an onsite repair and clean all the glass bits out of the car.

This is, like, the most hassle-free crime victim experience ever. But I still feel rattled. And annoyed that we missed the doctor's visit, because it took them three months to get her on the schedule for this appointment and the woman I talked to said her doctor's next available well-child visit was in January. At least she said they'd waive the missed-appointment fee.
rivka: (Baltimore)
I voted on my way to work this morning.

In Maryland, and especially in Baltimore, the Democratic primary election is usually more relevant than the general election. For example, the most serious Republican contender in my Congressional district has raised a total of $600 so far. (No, that figure is not missing a K at the end.)

Last week I was trapped on the light rail next to two agonizingly smug hipsters who had mistaken cynicism for maturity. They spent the entire trip from University Station to Centre Street sneering about how ridiculous it was to think that anyone cared about local politics. Who's ever heard of these guys? Why would anyone care who runs for state office? What do they even do - allocate money that Maryland doesn't even have? Didn't they know that no one cared? Like, they could get elected if their mom's bridge club voted for them. ...I swear it was all I could do to keep from beating them about the head and shoulders. Ignorance does not become any cooler if you give it a facade of world-weary cynicism, guys. If you're going to be that smug about being dumb, please keep it to yourselves and don't make me suffer through it.

They're missing out on some fun local races. For example: two of the people running for Orphans Court judge in Baltimore aren't even lawyers. They don't feel that this is any kind of a problem. The main reason one of them is running is that she's unhappy with how a judgment she was involved in was ruled on by the court. The other one is a mediator. She figures she's seen judges, and she can do what they can do. Why go to law school when you can watch Law and Order and go from there? There's going to be a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November to require that judges be lawyers, but the two candidates are unconcerned: if they've already been elected, they figure, they'll be in.

And they're missing out on some serious races. There's a serious challenger in the Baltimore City State's Attorney race: on the table is a massive shift away from prevention and early intervention efforts and towards actually putting criminals in jail.

I am not hugely educated about local politics. But I know the names of my state senator and two out of three of my representatives in the house of delegates. I've even met some of them. And I try to keep up with the races where things are actually happening. And I voted. And I didn't smack those annoying idiots on the light rail, even though I wanted to. Doing my part to make Baltimore a better place to live.
rivka: (her majesty)
Yesterday it was 105 degrees in Baltimore. Today's high was 104. At nearly midnight, it's cooled down to 96 degrees.

It's hot.

But really it goes beyond hot. It's punishing. We live in an elderly three-story brick rowhouse without central air. When we turn on the cold tap, the water trickles out at blood temperature. When I hold the banister coming downstairs, my hand comes away hot. The hardwood floors soak up the heat and radiate it unpleasantly to our feet. The rooms we air condition - the living room during the day, the study in the evening, the bedrooms at night - eventually become tolerable, but when we step out into the hall the heat immediately encloses and stifles us. It is tangible, like being slapped in the face by cotton candy.

The kitchen becomes intolerable after ten in the morning. Cooking is barely to be thought of. No one is hungry except Colin, anyway.

It is hard to drink enough to keep up with the fluid loss. Nothing is cold enough for me. I drink down a pint of water and still feel thirsty.

Last night, without warning, we lost power to almost half the house. A strange assortment: our bedroom had lights but no AC. Our bathroom and hall had no lights, but Colin's room, also on the third floor, had lights and AC. The study, lights but no AC and no power to our computer network. No lights in the kitchen, pantry, Alex's bathroom. Alex's room had AC and the ceiling light but no night light.

Michael spent an hour or more trying to track down the problem. None of the breakers appeared to have been tripped. Fiddling with them produced no effect. We finally dragged the futon from the playroom into the living room, which still had AC, and slept on the floor there.

This morning the landlord's handyman got the power back on in 15 seconds. It turns out that we have two breaker boxes in the basement, in two different rooms. Michael knew the location of one of them and I knew the location of the other. Neither one of us knew that there were two.

Even with all our AC units available, it is still ungodly hot. We have to be stingy about how we run them, because of the power overload. Also they are not very efficient, and the house is not well-insulated, and the rooms which don't have AC units are vast reservoirs of intolerable heat and humidity.

Alex was up past 11 tonight. She complains that her throat is scratchy and dry, but I think it's just too damn hot to sleep.

How's the weather by you?
rivka: (Baltimore)
I had just finished reading Alex a bedtime story. I crossed over to the study and sat down to write an e-mail, when I heard Michael say sharply: "Rebecca, I need you down here."

His tone made me stop typing in mid-word. I ran down the steps. He met me at the bottom. "The police are here; someone has reported a burglary in progress at our address. Colin is on the changing table." Then he disappeared.

I found Colin (abandoned halfway through a dirty diaper change) and got him cleaned up and dressed. The seldom-used front door was standing wide open, and a police officer stood in our garden shining his flashlight carefully over every inch of the front of the house. I heard a helicopter overhead. I got the officer's permission to close and lock the door and the tall iron gate that protects it.

The side door - the one we actually use; here's a picture of the layout if you're confused - was standing open. I found Michael at the back of the house, by the open kitchen door. He was leaning out the door talking to the police officers searching our back yard. He asked me, firmly, to take Colin upstairs to the study. As we were on our way up, the cops pronounced the yard clear and left.

Michael's story: He heard a couple of odd noises that sounded like something might have been knocked over by the wind. He checked the back door (which he found we had accidentally left unlocked) and then, after another strange sound, went to look out the front window. There was a scruffy man who looked homeless standing outside our gate, which was ajar. When the guy saw Michael looking at him, he left. Michael and Colin sat back down to watch the baseball game, until (a) Colin needed to be changed, and (b) Michael noticed several officers with flashlights in the garden, and one of them came up to knock on the door.

It appears that the sound Michael heard was someone trying to get in through the solid metal gate that shuts off the back of the house. The garbage can normally stands in front of that gate, and it had been moved out into the passage. We think the guy tried the gate, found it locked, and decided not to try to get over it. Michael saw him on his way out.

He may or may not have tried the metal gate that covers the front door. It was slightly bowed out when the cops checked it - there's a little bit of play where the two halves come together, even when it's locked. The wind could have moved it, or.

Here's what bothers me most: the lights were on in the living room and study. Michael had the TV on, too. He was moving around on the first floor. And the guy still tried to come in. It frightens me that he wasn't deterred by the house being occupied. I'm afraid he may have had a home invasion in mind rather than a burglary.

Very grateful that we have bars or heavy metal mesh on all the downstairs windows.
rivka: (WTF?!)
The National Weather Service in Sterling Virginia has issued a
Winter Storm Warning for... which is in effect from noon Tuesday
to 7 PM EST Wednesday. The Winter Storm Watch is no longer in
effect.

* Precipitation type... snow.

* Accumulations... 10 to 20 inches.

* Timing... mid-afternoon Tuesday through Wednesday.

* Temperatures... temperatures near freezing at the onset Tuesday
afternoon. Temperatures will drop into the upper 20s Tuesday
night and Wednesday.


This is no joke, guys.

The roads are bad enough that even though Michael dug the car out with the help of a passing entrepreneur-with-shovel, I'm not comfortable with the idea of taking the kids out tomorrow morning to forage for groceries. So when he got home from work today (he walked, with difficulty), I walked (with difficulty) to our little neighborhood grocery store to see what they might have still on the shelves, knowing that they wouldn't have gotten a delivery yet.

No milk, no eggs, not much fruit or fresh vegetables, no artisanal bread or whole wheat sandwich bread. I got the last loaf of decent-quality sandwich white; after that, all that was left was those long loaves of cheap squishy white. They did have some meat. I got chicken breasts, a small piece of beef, bacon, chicken apple sausages. I was able to restock our supply of pasta and buy supplies for baking cookies. (Fortunately, we already had eggs. And butter.)

The main roads have been plowed, at least in our immediate neighborhood. The secondary roads haven't. I have no idea when I'm going to be able to get back to work or when Alex is going to be able to get back to school. I have no idea when we'll be able to go to church or the library or, well, anywhere but the house and garden, with occasional forays to the drugstore or neighborhood grocery.

While I was waiting to check out at the grocery store, I heard the owner ask an older man who came up to the customer service window:

"You lived in Baltimore all your life?"

"Yeah."

"Is this the worst you've ever seen?"

"Yeah."

Ten to twenty more inches, guys. Ten to twenty more inches.
rivka: (christmas penguins)
24 inches of snow in the garden, drifting in places to more than 36. Even the semi-protected walkway between our house and next door has 20 inches of snow in it.

It's still falling.

garden

more pics )
rivka: (Christmas hat me)
It's not supposed to snow like this in Maryland. And yet here we are, waiting for our second two-foot snowfall of the season. (Michael has dubbed it Snowpocalypse II: Electric Boogaloo.)

I am at work, but not for long. Our nanny came for a few hours this morning, but both of us agreed that we'd like to be home before the blizzard conditions start. Baltimore City schools are closing at 11:40, so she'll have to pick up her kid by then, so I'll have to get home to my kids before that. (Why did I come in to work at all? If you had ever been snowed in for the weekend with two vocal and demanding small children, you wouldn't have to ask. A couple of hours of quiet and self-directed adult activities = priceless.)

I went to the grocery store yesterday morning, before the panicked rush. We have bread and milk and eggs and toilet paper (French toast emergency!), as well as plenty of fruit, various staples, diapers and baby wipes, and enough meat for 5 days of dinners. We have a bag of salt for the front steps, shovels, snow gear, hot cocoa mix. I have laid in a stock of trashy mystery novels from the library. We have plenty of household tasks to keep us occupied, like moving into our new study.

Let it snow.
rivka: (christmas penguins)
Holy crap! They've been predicting a snowstorm for a few days now, but now the NWS prediction is for 10 to 20 inches of snow. In Maryland. Starting tonight.

The city is going to completely and utterly grind to a halt. Baltimore is not at all capable of dealing with a snowstorm like that.

I fear for my Christmas pageant! There's no way that the kids are going to make it to church Sunday morning.

Also, we have now slipped from "good luck trying to get anyone at work to get anything done early next week" to "there isn't a chance in hell that anyone at work is going to even be there to get anything done early next week."

At least I have finished my Christmas shopping and gotten packages into the mail, and we have food in the refrigerator. And Alex is going to be in seventh freaking heaven. The past two years have only ever seen a dusting of winter snow in Baltimore. Four years old and almost two feet of snow at Christmas!
rivka: (Baltimore)
I'm pretty pleased with how this year's pumpkins turned out. I mean, I'm not a squash artist or anything. But I do this with a steak knife - I don't have any special carving tools.

pumpkins_2009

This year Alex consulted heavily on the design. We kept drawing sketches for each other on the edge of the newspaper, until we could come to agreement about each element. The eyelashes were her idea.

Every year the neighborhood Halloween presence just gets... more. This year a neighborhood church hosted a Halloween party for the kids, complete with games, pizza, treats, and a haunted house. At a given time, everyone was sent out for the "trick or treat parade," which routed us along a small circuit with marked stops. Last year, the wine store was expecting trick-or-treaters and the proprietor of the Afghan restaurant was so taken with Alex's robot costume that he went and got a little bowl of candy from his bar. This year, quite a few neighborhood restaurants, stores, and even a couple of bars listed themselves as a trick-or-treat destination.

The circuit also led us along two blocks of private homes. On those two blocks (one was ours) many people were just sitting out on their stoops with a bowl of candy, even if their house wasn't officially marked on the map. Our next door neighbors were on their stoop drinking champagne out of water glasses and eating tapas; after the kids were done we hung out with them and visited for a while, and I saw more of the same going on up and down the block.

I like the way Halloween feels in our neighborhood. It's a holiday that has been opened up graciously to welcome the kids, but it's not all about the kids. Groups of costumed adults heading off to parties at the local bars intersect with groups of families trick-or-treating, and everyone admires each other. There's a strong neighborhood, community feel that was absent from my childhood Halloweens, when you didn't really talk to other groups of trick-or-treaters and the goal was to see how many streets you could cover - we carried pillowcases for our treats.

Michael handed out candy to about fifty kids. I noticed that the crowd was more diverse this year. Initially, the neighborhood trick-or-treating was organized by some of the middle- to upper-income white homeowners, and they handed out invitations to all the neighborhood kids that they knew. I think that tended to leave out lower-income familes, renters, and a lot of the African-Americans. Each year it's gotten a little more open. This year, maybe because of the big public church party, the big parade of trick-or-treaters was much less homogeneous, although I think it was all still neighborhood kids. Cool.
rivka: (her majesty)
Last night at 11:20 the power went out. I had just finished pumping milk - thank heavens - I still had the bottle of milk in my hand. I quickly stowed it away, grabbed a flashlight, and went to call the power company.

The automated emergency line took my report. Usually it has something to say about how long the outage is estimated to last, but not this time. Looking out the window, I could see Maryland General Hospital all lit up a block away, but on our street there was nothing. No streetlights, no house lights.

The phone rang. It was a real human calling me back from BGE. She said that they didn't have any information about an outage in my area and why didn't I go down and try throwing my breaker. She would wait if I wanted her to.

"It's not just us," I told her. "The whole street is dark."

"Well, you're the only one who called in. I can go ahead and send someone out, but if it turns out to be a problem with your equipment there will be an $80 charge for the service call."

"Send someone out to our house? It's not just us!"

"Well, you're our only starting point."

I told her not to send anyone unless we called back. I didn't really want to wait up past midnight for a service call.

After I hung up, we heard sirens and saw flashes of colored lights outside. We jammed on our shoes and went outside. A BGE pickup truck sped by, orange lights flashing. and rounded the corner on to Read Street. I followed it. Read Street was jammed full of equipment - at least four line trucks. Guys in hard hats stood around in clumps.

Michael approached one of them and came back to report: "It's a planned outage. They're doing some work."

"Okay, let's go to bed." As I undressed, the phone rang. It was the lady from BGE. She had just figured out that it was a planned outage. We should have gotten a letter, she told Michael. The power would be off for eight hours.

That was nearly ten hours ago. We still don't have any electricity. I'm starting to fret about the food. Also, I'm hungry. Michael lit the stove with our grill lighter to make me some tea, but we don't want to open the fridge to get out anything to eat.

I'm writing this on my laptop, but we don't have any wireless to post it.

Later: I called BGE at 9:30. The power should be back on in about an hour, they said. I scrounged some bread and cookies from the pantry. Unbelievably, Alex is still asleep - when she wakes up, I'll take the kids out for breakfast.

The thing about living in a row house is that it can be dark inside even in the daytime. Our living room is a center room, and it doesn't get a whole lot of natural light.

11:00 Still no power. Coming back from breakfast we saw four or five line trucks arrayed along the alley behind our house, basket arms extended and full of linemen. Called BGE again and was assured that we'd have power by 11:30. Uh huh. I asked if there would be any compensation to customers and she reacted with total incomprehension. I wasn't being charged for the power I wasn't receiving, so why did I think I had any claim on BGE beyond that?

If it was storm damage or some other disaster, I would totally understand. But this is scheduled work.

I wonder how long the power would have to be out before I would stop automatically flipping the switch when I walked into a dark room.

Final update: When I left to take the kids to a birthday party at 12:15, the power was still out. According to Michael, it finally came on at 1:50, went off again at 2:15, and finally came on for good at 2:30.

Unfortunately, in the interim Alex overheard me discussing with a neighbor what action I planned to take against BGE if my freezer stash of breastmilk thawed. Now she is asking inconvenient questions like "Mommy, what's firebombing?"
rivka: (I love the world)
We went to a cookout yesterday at the home of one of Alex's friends. This little girl only wears dresses and is always exquisitely dressed. (Perhaps because of her influence, this summer Alex has started refusing to wear shorts or pants. Although we insist sometimes, for things like hiking in the woods.) Well, at the cookout, the mom revealed the secret of her daughter's large and impeccable wardrobe: "There's this great thrift shop up on North Avenue..."

So today we checked it out. And it was the least prepossessing piece of urban blight imaginable. North Avenue is a sketchy street to begin with. The thrift shop had a blank, stained concrete wall facing the street, with a dirty old sign saying "Village Thrift." You had to park in a lot surrounded by a high fence, up against a housing project, and walk around to the back of this huge blank concrete edifice. There was no directional signage. You couldn't even tell if anyone was there.

But inside... whoa.

I took a quick glance at the media section near the door. Thrift store book sections are usually a waste of time - Harlequin romances and earnest Christian tracts - but I quickly found myself balancing a big stack of classic juvenile/YA literature. And then the video section: all the classic works of Disney, movie musicals, the Anne of Green Gables miniseries with Megan Followes...

new_media

When we tore ourselves away and made it back to the girls' dresses section, we found the selection to be equally good. We pulled about fifteen dresses right away, then winnowed them down to eight. None showing any significant wear. Some had obviously only been worn once or twice.

new_dresses/

We even let Alex buy this ridiculous Christmas dress, because why not? It was $2.50. It will be a nice addition to our dress-up clothes after the holiday.

santa_dress

Our total, for eight nice dresses, nine books, and ten videos - eleven, if you count both halves of the Anne miniseries - was $22.74.

$22.74. Isn't that ridiculous?

I'm kicking myself, because just Saturday I went to my usual upscale consignment store and dropped about a hundred bucks on the bulk of Alex's winter wardrobe. Okay, so those clothes were largely better brands - although two of the dresses I got today are from Land's End - and I got some beautiful things that I'm totally happy with. But still. Had I but known.

I never in a million years would've stopped at this place on my own. It looks too awful. I just can't believe the selection they have. Where on earth do they get their things?
rivka: (Baltimore)
"I am stranded in your city for a variety of hard-luck reasons, and need gas/busfare to get home" is a common scam, and for good reason. If you tell a good story and ask for a small, plausible amount of money, people are likely to believe you.

However, for this scam to work it is important to pay attention to the details.

Yes, it is indeed frustrating when the person you stop to ask for money tries to direct you to a place where you can receive aid and services instead of giving you cash. However, in rejecting these referrals, remember that you are claiming to be from out of town. You should probably not display an encyclopedic knowledge of Baltimore social service agencies.

Also, if you're going to use HIV as the centerpiece of your hard-luck story? Try not to stop someone who works in an HIV clinic. She will have unfortunate questions for you.

(NB: I do give money to people on the street from time to time. But not if I feel like they're trying to scam me.)
rivka: (I love the world)
It poured rain all day here in Baltimore, and then the sun came out and made the streets sparkle just in time for the Pride Parade. As if it weren't already clear which side God is on. (After all, Jesus had two dads.)

Baltimore's parade is fairly small and low-key. We watched until our church came by, marched with them to the end, and found another spot to watch the rest. Alex had the bright idea of wearing her princess costume. (We firmly vetoed the shiny plastic high heels, much to her chagrin.) She got a lot of positive attention for it, including a shout-out from the reviewing platform.

pride_princess

Most surprising parade hand-out of all time: child-sized neon plastic handcuffs, actual locking ones that come with a matching little neon plastic key. The guy giving them out made a special delivery right into Alex's hands and into the hands of the little boy sitting next to us. Handcuffs. Huh.

Pride always makes me nostalgic. Riding on the back of my friend Emily's motorcycle with the Dykes on Bikes in Portland, the summer we graduated from college. The Dyke March organized by the Lesbian Avengers the night before the Pride Parade, tramping down the street chanting "We're DYKES! Don't TOUCH US! We'll HURT YOU!", eating fire at the rally afterward, having the Boys' Auxiliary bring us cookies they'd baked. Going to Seattle and seeing a Pride Parade there that took three hours to march by, including six-foot model vibrators from Toys in Babeland and the Queers With Corgis (accompanied by one non-matching dog wearing a sign that said "Spaniel But Not Narrow"). My first Pride in Iowa City, where the gay community was so small that everyone marched and no one was left over to sit on the curb and watch, and my stats professor was giving out cold drinks with PFLAG. Going to my first Baltimore Pride with friends, realizing that I should've thought out in advance how I would handle being greeted by clients at the parade.

I still think of Pride as my holiday, and it's kind of a jolt to go to Pride now and feel like such an outsider. I mean, you know, I'm there with my husband and kids. It's entirely reasonable for people's eyes to slide past me without that smile of fellowship. Still feels kind of weird, though.

Oh dear.

Jun. 9th, 2009 09:22 am
rivka: (Baltimore)
We live a few doors down from a kink shop.

It's actually a nice, tasteful, well-stocked shop with friendly and helpful staff, and they're fine neighbors. The only problem is that the shop is at basement level. Which means that their display window starts at ground level, i.e., toddler/preschooler eye level.

They used to regularly have window displays of stuffed animals in bondage gear. It's been a while since I've noticed something like that, so either they've moved away from that design technique or, now that Alex isn't a toddler anymore, I'm not spending quite so much time inching along the sidewalk looking at every conceivable thing there is to see.

But they do still display wares in their window. Alex has asked about it, and I've told her, in my best off-hand voice, that the store sells things for grownups who like to play dress-up. That's satisfied her.

This weekend she got a bag of dress-up clothes for $2 at a yard sale. It's been an exciting new treat; we didn't previously have dress-up clothes at home.

You see where this is going, right?

This morning I explained that this will be her first day of coming home from school at lunchtime to stay with Colin and our new nanny. I encouraged her to be friendly and helpful to the nanny "because she's new at our house."

"Okay!" Alex said cheerfully. "And if she wants to play dress-up with me, she can go to the store that has things for grown-ups who like to play dress-up."

...

...I was so pleased with myself for giving her that explanation, too.

ZOMG.

May. 21st, 2009 02:23 pm
rivka: (druggie horses)
In this week's Baltimore City Paper - and not in the back with the phone sex ads, but in the front section, next to an article about free factory tours as summer entertainment - there is a large quarter-page ad:

"Finding great health care shouldn't be torture. Even if you're into that."

There's a graphic of a pair of handcuffs. And then a blurb explaining that "Chase Brexton is proud to offer a full spectrum of care in an open, comforting environment," and specifying the services they provide: medical care, dental care, mental health counseling, substance abuse services, pediatrics, et cetera.

I think that is so cool. If you just glance at it casually it seems like yet another dumb "edgy" advertising joke, but the people who need it are going to get the point. Yay Chase Brexton.
rivka: (Baltimore)
[livejournal.com profile] naomikritzer: You live in Baltimore, right? What do you like and dislike about it?

(I visited Baltimore once, for a WorldCon, and had a miserable time and hated the city. So you could talk about how awesome it is and maybe change my opinion.)


From what I've heard, a lot of people came home from that Worldcon with that impression. But I love living in Baltimore.

Baltimore is a nice-sized city, about a million people in the metro area. It's small enough that getting around is not particularly onerous, but big enough to really feel like a city, and to have plenty of diversity, resources, and places to go. I like the museums and the science center and the aquarium and Camden Yards and the symphony and the theaters and the huge old public library.

Compared to other cities, Baltimore is extremely affordable - even before the housing market tanked, we always knew that we'd be able to afford a pretty nice house here. Also, Baltimore's central location makes it easy and relatively affordable to get from here to other places.

I think Baltimore is pretty. I like the long stretches of red brick rowhouses, and the Federalist architecture, and the big graceful stone mansions in my neighborhood, and the Inner Harbor, and the view of city and water from the top of Federal Hill, and the way the city looks from the upper deck of the ballpark. I like the 18th century houses and shops in the old shipbuilding neighborhood of Fells Point, and the covered markets in several different city neighborhoods.

I really love my neighborhood, which was the height of wealthy fashion in the 19th century and is now the arts district and the gay neighborhood. It's economically and racially mixed. I walk out of my house and feel like I am part of something connected and vital. We can walk to the main branch of the public library and our church and the symphony and the theater where we often get season tickets and a great art museum with free admission and a grocery store and the light rail and tons and tons of restaurants. We have great neighbors. People talk to each other on the street. And our neighborhood hosts the book festival and the flower mart and free concerts in the park.

Baltimore has some excellent food. I particularly appreciate all the fresh seafood, and the Greek and Middle Eastern food, and sitting on a terrace or deck drinking local beer and cracking open steamed crabs on the brown paper table cover.

I like living in a place that has so much history, even if portions have been extremely unpleasant.

Things I don't like about Baltimore: the entrenched poverty, drugs, and crime. The fact that Baltimore continues to be one of the most segregated cities in America. The godawfully miserable summers. Corruption. Rats.
rivka: (her majesty)
I have jury duty today. Lydia is submitting a grant that's due tomorrow. This is what you call suboptimal timing.

I am just praying that because I am a hugely pregnant highly educated white psychologist and recent crime victim (burglary), no one will want me on their jury.

Fortunately, there is a quiet jury waiting room in addition to the one where they play Muzak, allow conversation, and plan to show movies. Also fortunately, you can buy wireless connectivity for $5.95 a day - a real bargain when you're going to need to be sending grant bits back and forth to your boss. Also also fortunately, there are multiple outlets for people who need to recharge their laptops.

Unfortunately, my work e-mail website is down, as it frequently is. The access website periodically - well, frequently - reverts to "under construction." Why, I have no idea. How long, I also have no idea. Also unfortunately, it turns out that if you are excused from a particular jury by the judge during voir dire, you don't get to go home. You have to go back to the waiting room and see if another judge wants you later. So my relatively low juror number is no help at all.

When I got here this morning there was a very long line of people waiting to go through the metal detector. Then they put us in a room and had us watch a video about jury service. It began with hilarious clips from old movies showing courtroom confessions, proceeded to warn us that our trial wouldn't really be like that, and finished with an explanation of the roles of all the people involved in a trial and the critical importance of jurors to democracy. Fun stuff.

Updated to add: They called me for jury selection just as I was finishing the previous paragraph, which is why the entry ended so abruptly. I was in the courtroom for about an hour and was dismissed for cause because that my pregnancy makes jury service a hardship. Sadly, that doesn't dismiss me for the day, even though I will be incrementally more pregnant each subsequent time they try to empanel me. Still, at least I'm back where I can work.
rivka: (smite)
Dear vehicular traffic,

If you are driving along a downtown street with heavy foot traffic, and it is raining hard, and there are massive puddles in the gutters, there is no law that says you must slow down to avoid throwing sheets of icy water up onto pedestrians.

However, if you don't do so? Then you are an asshole.

Sincerely,

Woman who is soaking wet up to the thighs despite carrying a golf umbrella.
rivka: (Baltimore)
You know you're a city kid when your trick-or-treating route includes stops at the wine shop and the Afghan restaurant.

I expected the wine shop; last year we went in just to show Alex off because they knew her, and they hauled a big bag of candy out from behind the counter. The Afghan restaurant suprised me. The proprietor was standing on the sidewalk when we came by, and he insisted that we come in while he fetched a little bowl of candy from the bar. He kept urging Alex to take more and more.

This year the people who organized trick-or-treating in our neighborhood distributed a rough map of participating houses, which meant that we didn't have to go around in the huge, chaotic, overwhelming group of ALL THE NEIGHBORHOOD KIDS AND PARENTS TOGETHER. There were a few blocks, like ours, that had participation from multiple houses. We concentrated on those and mostly skipped the isolated houses unless they were on our route already. The nice thing about the scattershot participation you get in the city is that we had a nice long trick-or-treating experience and yet didn't come home with an overwhelming amount of candy.

It was also fun to have Halloween fall on a Friday night this year. There were a lot of people on the streets, including many adults in costume headed for parties at local bars. Alex got a bunch of positive attention from passersby, especially since she greeted everyone we passed with a cheerful "Happy Halloween!"

It was a lot of fun for me as well as for Alex. Except now my pregnancy-softened pubic bone is screaming "You walked how far?!" Ow.

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