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I was in the Union Square-Hollins Market Historic District mainly because I was attending a networking event that was held at Lithuanian Hall on Hollins Street. This area is notable for the fact that the famous writer H.L. Mencken once lived there. My mother also came from that area. She grew up on Stricker Street. So I decided to arrive in the area a little bit earlier so I could explore the area while it was still daylight outside.

I took the light rail from the North Linthicum stop until I reached the city then I took the Charm City Circulator bus to the Hollins Market stop. While I was traveling I kept on remembering the stories that both my mother, grandmother, and aunt used to tell about their days when they lived on Stricker Street. It was a time where most stores and other places were within walking distance and the neighbors used to watch out for each other. Imagine the shock when I got off of the bus on West Baltimore Street.

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West Baltimore Street looked just as bad as the area that was hit by violence that happened in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death nearly two years ago.

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Hollins Street wasn’t much better. It was very common to see boarded up shops and row houses.

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There were times when I found it hard to believe that H.L. Mencken once lived on this very street. It’s obvious that this area has seen better days.

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Here’s the intersection of Hollins Street and South Stricker Street. My mother and late aunt grew up on South Stricker Street.

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The next photograph shows one of the few blocks of row houses on South Stricker Street where it looks like people are still occupying them and they also look pretty nice and well-kept. Unfortunately most of the row houses I saw on that street had just as many boarded up buildings as the ones on Hollins Street and West Baltimore Street.

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Here’s the intersection of South Stricker Street and West Baltimore Street.

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The weather was too rainy for me to do much exploring (which is why all the photos in this post are cloudy and gray). I stopped by the historic Hollins Market.

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The outside walls are adorned with mosaics featuring Edgar Allan Poe, the Inner Harbor, and the various Baltimore sports teams.

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I’ve been to Lexington Market several times before. Hollins Market is small and narrow compared to Lexington Market. I stopped by an hour before closing and I saw that half of the stalls were either empty or they were already closed for the day.

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The back of the market had this mural featuring famous Baltimoreans Babe Ruth, Edgar Allan Poe, and H.L. Mencken.

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I had originally planned on eating dinner at Hollins Market but since it was close to closing down, I ended up going to Mi Ranchito, a Mexican restaurant that was located across the street from Hollins Market. I found the food pretty affordable and tasty. I loved the Frida Kahlo illustrations that lined the restaurant.

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On my way to Lithuanian Hall for the networking event, I saw something that looked like a TARDIS from Doctor Who. On closer inspection it looked like one of those Little Free Libraries but there were no signs indicating that it was an official Little Free Library. The middle shelf looks like it could hold books but it was empty when I was there that day. The yellow words said “A book is like a garden, carried in the pocket. Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”

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My mother would be very sad if she knew what happened to her old neighborhood. A few days after I was in the area I saw this video on the BBC News site that was about Baltimore that brought me to tears mainly because I was born in that city and I grew up near there. It’s really upsetting to see Baltimore rotting with its residents barely surviving in poverty, especially since the United States is supposed to be the richest nation in the world. It’s no wonder people became violent after Freddie Gray was killed by the police.

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I had a pretty eventful day full of travel, starting with a brief visit to my old school, which I wrote about in a previous post. Afterwards I drove further north until I ended up at the Station North Arts District. I arrived a bit early where I ate a cheap dinner at McDonald’s. (I originally planned on eating at the BAMF! Cafe only to find out that, for unknown reasons, the place decided to close earlier than usual on that day.) Afterwards I did some walking around the area taking pictures while dealing with the heat and humidity (a.k.a. the usual Mid-Atlantic Region summer weather). I shot this interesting looking wall mural that I hadn’t noticed before.

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The next two photos are of this billboard that constantly changes with new messages. (Someone writes a message, then it gets painted over with white paint only to have a new message get written on it.) The latest message asks “WHOEVER DIED FROM A ROUGH RIDE: THE WHOLE DAMN SYSTEM…” (obviously a reference to the death of Freddie Gray at the hands of the Baltimore police last year).

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A homeless man naps outside on the steps of an empty building that looks like it has just gotten new windows put in. (Notice the stickers on the windows.)

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The next few photos has all kinds of commentaries.

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I came upon this nice little park on St. Paul Street that has lovely colorful murals painted on the walls and on the sidewalk.

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I didn’t stay too long in that park because it was almost close to the start of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School at The Wind-Up Space. The model for this session was a burlesque performer known as Whiskey Joy from Timeless Tease Productions. Some of the drawings I did are definitely NSFW.

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It was only after the event started that I realized that I was running out of paper in my sketchbook, which totally annoyed me because there is an art supply store located just a block away from The Wind Up Space and I forgot to go there to buy a new sketch pad while I was walking around that area. Ugh! I dealt with it by doing multiple drawings on the same page, such as the next two drawings below.

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I did one standalone drawing of Whiskey Joy.

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I took part in one contest that was held that evening. July 11 was Andy Warhol’s birthday and the challenge was to draw Whiskey Joy in the Andy Warhol style. I did this multipart drawing that was based on Warhol’s numerous portraits of Marilyn Monroe. I was only one of two people who attempted this (there were a lot of college students who were there that night—The Wind Up Space is located near the Maryland Institute College of Art—and Andy Warhol just doesn’t resonate with the younger generation). My drawing made it among the finalists by default but I lost to the other contestant.

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I did one last drawing of Whiskey Joy on the last clean sheet in my sketchbook before I left for home.

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Recently I celebrated the Fourth of July and I enjoyed myself. It’s the occasion where people are encouraged to get all decked out in red, white, and blue clothes and jewelry while playing or listening patriotic music and watching fireworks at night. We display our patriotism while feeling proud of being Americans. Sure it sounds corny but, under the right circumstances, corny can be fun and relaxing. The Fourth of July is supposed to remind people about the best traits of the United States of America including its historical welcoming of immigrants, its historically dynamic innovations, and its long tradition of allowing people to express themselves (such as stating an opinion or being active in a certain religious faith) without fearing persecution by the government.

The rest of the year I find myself feeling less and less enthusiastic about the United States of America. I’m seeing disturbing things about this year’s presidential elections that don’t sit right with me. The more I hear the latest outrageous quote from the presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump the more I’m starting to believe those persistent rumors that Trump is waging a false flag campaign in an effort to elect Hillary Clinton as president. I’ve seen the photos of the Clintons and the Trumps socializing with each other along with Hillary posing next to Trump and his two older sons, Bill and Donald playing golf togetherBill Clinton still having a locker at the Trump National Golf Club, and even Chelsea Clinton and Ivanka Trump being seen as friendly in public. There are even the previous positive remarks Donald Trump has made about the Clintons. The evidence is all circumstantial but something tells me that there’s something fishy about all this. Technically Bernie Sanders is still in the race on the Democrat side and he says that he’ll remain in the race until the Democrat Convention in Philadelphia but Hillary Clinton has ignored him while focusing all of her attacks on The Donald and Trump has also said things against Clinton. But those back-and-forth attacks on each other seem to have a “wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more, say no more” feel about it that seems fake.

Worse the mainstream media has ignored Bernie Sanders and they have already acted as if the country is in the general election phase when it’s not the case because, as of this writing, neither the Republicans nor Democrats have had their conventions yet. I already wrote a previous rant about how the mainstream media seems to be more interested in controlling and influencing the story instead of just reporting on the news as an objective observer so I’m not going to delve into too much here.

Then there is the long decline in the U.S. economy, which started during the Reagan Administration when jobs were relocated from the U.S. to Third World countries so the workers there could be pay very low without having to deal with such things as unions or occupational safety regulations. If anyone has been repeatedly screwed by successive administrations since 1980—both Republican and Democrat—it’s the workers, especially among the middle class. Job security is now a thing of the past and it’s getting harder to find a job that pays a livable wage.

And then there is this disturbing trend of police officers killing African Americans, especially young men, for trivial reasons like a busted tail light or running a stop sign. I live 30 miles south of Baltimore, where an unarmed African American man named Freddie Gray was murdered by cops last year. This week has gotten really horrendous. Just Google the names Philander Castile and Alton Sterling to see news stories about their deaths at the hands of the police along with videos documenting their deaths.

This morning I woke up to news reports that someone had unleashed a mass shooting of cops in Dallas. I get it that the shooter wanted to exact revenge for the police killings of Castile and Sterling (as well as the previous police killings of people like Freddie Grey, Eric Garner, and Sandra Bland) but the only problem is that the officers who were killed in Dallas had absolutely nothing to do with all those other killings. The police officers in Dallas had been monitoring the peaceful Black Lives Matter protest there just to make sure that the protests remained peaceful. In other words, they were just doing their jobs and they were senselessly murdered for it. Those Dallas killings aren’t going to bring back those African Americans who had already been killed by the police in other cities and, in fact, it brings a bad reputation for the Black Lives Matter movement as a whole.

I feel like the U.S. is just like the old Weimar Republic in Germany. Like the Weimar Republic the U.S. has been struggling with a broken economy where a lot of people are either unemployed or underemployed. Like the Weimar Republic the U.S. is seeing its share of street violence like the all-too-frequent mass shootings (such as the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando). Like the Weimar Republic you see the mainstream media manipulating public opinion so this year’s elections will boil down to a match between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in much the same way that Adolf Hitler charmed the mainstream media in the Weimar Republic so much that they did stories about him and influenced public opinion. Like the Weimar Republic you hear Latinos and Muslims in the U.S. being made into scapegoats of all of the existing problems in the same way that Jews and Gypsies were once made into scapegoats. Like the Weimar Republic there is extreme income inequality between the haves and the have nots complete with food insecurity and homelessness. Something is wrong when you have war veterans begging on the streets throughout many cities in the U.S. that echo this 1923 photo of a disabled World War I vet begging on the streets of Berlin.

The main difference between the U.S. and the Weimar Republic is that there hasn’t been hyperinflation—yet. But if current economic conditions continue in the U.S., who knows what will happen.

It’s no wonder that Donald Trump has gotten followers for invoking a nostalgia for America while bashing those who aren’t white heterosexual Christians men with no disabilities in the exact same way that Adolf Hitler got followers. The main difference is the strong possibility that Trump is running for president as a way of both stroking his huge ego and (probably) throwing the race to getting his friend Hillary Clinton elected. There are rumors that Trump doesn’t even want to do the day-to-day job as president, he just wants to be able to brag that, yes, he once ran for office and won. At least Hitler seriously wanted to rule Germany, which is one of the few positive things I can say about him.

Anyone who thinks that electing Hillary Clinton will usher in a new era of high employment full of well-paying middle class jobs with police no longer killing unarmed African Americans for trivial reasons is delusional. I’m old enough to remember when her husband was in office and he was the one who championed NAFTA, which resulted in hemorrhaging more jobs out of the U.S. along with “ending welfare as we know it” that didn’t provide well paying jobs to welfare recipients so they could support themselves but, instead, made the poverty situation even worse by fraying the social safety net. Both Bill and Hillary Clinton are closely tied to Wall Street and they are sympathetic to the corporations shifting jobs overseas. And that’s not to mention Hillary Clinton’s infamous quote that African Americans needed to be brought to heel, which resulted in this confrontation by a Black Lives Matter activist on the campaign trail a few months ago and Clinton not even attempting to engage her in any way.

And that’s not to mention how much people dislike Hillary Clinton in general. The late political blogger Steve Gilliard mentioned her as being among the most detested politicians back in 2007 and she is still disliked among the right wing, the left wing, and young people of all political persuasions. I still remember those bumper stickers from the 1990’s that said “Impeach Clinton—and Her Husband.” If she gets elected, I wouldn’t be surprised if those bumper stickers make a comeback.

Likewise anyone who thinks about voting for Donald Trump in an effort—to use his campaign’s slogan—“make America great again” is also delusional, especially if you’re a lower income person. I have long known about Trump ever since he published his first book, The Art of the Deal, and he has long bragged about how he’s rich, and therefore, better than most people simply because he is rich. Sure he was instrumental in creating Trump Tower and other Trump-branded properties throughout Manhattan but I don’t recall him ever being concerned about constructing affordable housing. I don’t recall him ever setting up any charitable foundations to help lower income people or did anything to indicate that he actually gives a damn about helping the less fortunate. I don’t see him starting to become concerned about the plight of—let’s say—the homeless if he does get elected. And that’s not to mention his history of multiple bankruptcies or his cringe-inducing comments about how he would’ve dated Ivanka Trump if she wasn’t his daughter.

I think that not only is the U.S. just like the Weimar Republic but it has been that way for the last few years. As for President Barack Obama, I voted for this guy twice but he mostly failed in his promise of bringing hope and change. To be fair, he had to deal with an obstructionist Republican majority in Congress who had it in for President Obama from day one of his administration because he was both a Democrat and an African American. But when you have a president who refused to prosecute those on Wall Street who tanked the economy back in 2008 so they are free to continue their corporate crimes and when you have a president who is currently trying to push adoption of both the TTP and the TTIP (which are both ultra-secret trade deals that are rumored to be “NAFTA on steroids” and the few leaked provisions call for corporations to actually overrule national sovereignty) against the will of the majority of Americans, I have to say that he is not blameless for the mostly unfavorable opinion I have of him. Not even his championing of legalizing same-sex marriage is enough for me to overcome the disappointment I have felt for him and his administration and I think history will eventually judge him harshly.

The U.S. is just like the Weimar Republic and unless we have a government that actually tries to do something about the situation, then our current system of government will be replaced by something far worse. After all, look at what ultimately happened in Germany when the Weimar Republic was replaced.

Black lives matter. Police lives matter. Everyone matters. We are the 99%.

Ramadan

Before I headed over to The Wind-Up Space where I attended another session of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School, I took advantage of the increasingly longer days to walk around the Station North Arts District. I haven’t been to that area in a few months (mainly because I got involved with a book discussion group that met on Mondays) so I’m noticing the changes that the area has undergone. There are all kinds of new businesses and art murals popping up in that area, which is pretty cool. It’s quite a contrast to when I attended my first Dr. Sketchy’s event way back in 2011 and the area was still pretty marginal and run-down at the time.

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There are also tributes to Freddie Gray, whose senseless murder at the hands of the Baltimore police and the riots that followed that incident has just passed its first anniversary.

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There is also this really cool mural that no longer exists because the building it was painted on was torn down. Here is what the mural once looked like when I took these pictures on previous visits.

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Here is what the building site looked like on May 9, 2016.

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There is also a Harriet Tubman Solidarity Center, which, judging from the signs in the windows, are definitely involved with the Black Lives Matter movement.

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It’s located directly over what looks like a sex shop known as Pervfect Playground Boutique. (Both places were closed when I was there.)

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The last time I was in the area was during my ill-fated attempt to catch up with a Bernie Sanders march that was happening in Baltimore. I checked out the BAMF Cafe, which had opened last year, but I didn’t order anything at the time because I was short on money and I had brought my own lunch (which I ended up eating in Penn Station). I did plenty of gawking at the geek-themed decor. On this trip I not only returned to the BAMF Cafe but I actually ordered a sandwich and iced tea (both of which were pretty tasty) and I took advantage of its free wi-fi. I also took a few more pictures of items that I somehow missed on my last visit.

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After dinner I headed over to The Wind-Up Space where I switched to my pencils. The model for this Dr. Sketchy’s session was a burlesque performer known as Tempete La Coeur. At this point is where the NSFW drawings begin.

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I took part in two contests that were held that evening. One contest was based on the fact that May 9 was the birthday of J.M. Barrie, who wrote Peter Pan so we had to somehow incorporate Peter Pan into our drawings. I made this effort where I portrayed Tempete La Coeur as Tinker Bell but it didn’t make it among the finalists.

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The next contest was one whose theme the organizers were stumped on and they asked the audience for suggestions. One guy called for justice. I decided on something even better. Lately I’ve been reading the newer issues of the Howard the Duck comic book series and I’ve been doing the Throwback Thursday series devoted to the original 1970’s comic book series. So I called out “Howard the Duck” and they decided to do a combination where people could incorporate justice or Howard the Duck or both. For added measure, they even played the theme song from that notorious bomb 1980’s Howard the Duck movie. I made this effort but it didn’t make it among the finalists.

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I drew one last picture before I headed home for the evening.

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Passover

Since Prince’s death yesterday I’m learning more about the man. Sure he was a great musician and a very talented songwriter but there are a few other things about him that I didn’t know before yesterday. Last year Prince did that concert in Baltimore and he released a new song in the wake of the rioting that took place in that city after Freddie Gray’s death at the hands of the police. What I didn’t know was that Prince went a step further and donated money to local Baltimore non-profit organizations that work with disadvantaged youths.

It wasn’t the first time he was so generous either. He privately donated money to the family of Trayvon Martin. Apparently he was one of those people who gave money away but didn’t want any publicity for his good deeds. (Which is actually quite refreshing for a celebrity of Prince’s stature.)

There is one more thing about Prince that I have to mention here mainly because a year ago I wrote a post titled Why Kim Kardashian and Her Family Need to Just Go Away and that rant remains among my most read posts. Prince was also among the many who have zero respect for Kim and her attention whoring family. Here’s a video of Prince throwing Kim Kardashian off of the stage during one of his concerts.

Last week I checked out a brand new event in Baltimore known as Light City. Basically it was a week-long event where there were art installations that consisted entirely of lights. Obviously it was the kind of event that could only be viewed at night. I learned about Light City on Facebook and I was awed by what I saw and photographed.

I passed by the historic Bromo Seltzer tower on the way from the Camden Yards Light Rail Stop to the Charm City Circulator bus stop.

Light City, March 31, 2016

Light City, March 31, 2016

I also passed by this Baltimore Ravens banner highlighting the fact that this season is their 20th anniversary.

Light City, March 31, 2016

I ate dinner at the Shake Shack but it was so unusually crowded inside that restaurant that I ordered my meal to go so I could just walk to the Inner Harbor and eat my meal on one of the benches. I was glad that the weather was nice and warm so I could do that. After dinner I walked around and took in all of the sites. There were these historic light poles that were placed in the same general area. The installation was known as In Light of History. They looked really pretty. There were copies of free newsletters that one can pick up. I didn’t read my newsletter copy until after I got home and I found out that they were there to mark places where the slave trade took place in Baltimore. That was pretty heavy to read, especially the vintage newspaper ads (which are posted on this website).

Light City, March 31, 2016

Light City, March 31, 2016

There was a vintage Baltimore City police car that was parked outside.

Light City, March 31, 2016

The outside of the World Trade Center had these animated lights that were really pretty.

Light City, March 31, 2016

Light City, March 31, 2016

There was live entertainment in various venues throughout Light City but people crowded the stage so much that I only got short glimpses such as the performance dance in the next photo.

Light City, March 31, 2016

The Inner Harbor was really crowded even though I went to Light City on a Thursday night. The Baltimore Sun reported that nearly 400,000 people attended that show the entire week. I’m not surprised, especially since the next photo shows how jam-packed the Inner Harbor was with people. (I can only image how crowded it got on the weekends.)

Light City, March 31, 2016

Everywhere I went there were all kinds of pretty lights everywhere.

Light City, March 31, 2016

Light City, March 31, 2016

Light City, March 31, 2016

Light City, March 31, 2016

Light City, March 31, 2016

Light City, March 31, 2016

Light City, March 31, 2016

Light City, March 31, 2016

Light City, March 31, 2016

Light City, March 31, 2016

Light City, March 31, 2016

Light City, March 31, 2016

Light City, March 31, 2016

Light City, March 31, 2016

There were echoes of Freddie Gray’s murder at the hands of the Baltimore police officers and the Black Lives Matter movement in this light display that was shown on the McKeldin Square fountain that featured people who were victims of excessive force by the Baltimore Police Department.

Light City, March 31, 2016

Light City, March 31, 2016

Light City, March 31, 2016

Light City, March 31, 2016

There was an area full of circles where people were invited to step on them. Generally the discs changed color every time someone stepped on them.

Light City, March 31, 2016

Light City, March 31, 2016

Light City, March 31, 2016

Light City, March 31, 2016

Next to that area full of circles was this tent that where a private party was held that was off-limits to the general public.

Light City, March 31, 2016

A group of Bernie Sanders campaign volunteers got in on the fun by putting up their own light display urging people to vote for Sanders. (The Maryland primary will be coming in a few weeks.)

Light City, March 31, 2016

It was an amazing night. I was only able to take in just half of what was going on in Light City. Based on the map I saw, it looked like the whole thing started from Rash Field all the way past the Inner Harbor attractions (Maryland Science Center, Harborplace, etc.) until it ended just west of Fells Point, which was a huge amount of walking. I wasn’t able to return to Light City to finish touring the rest of it due mainly to the fact that I have a lot of other things I needed to do (such as spring cleaning, working on income taxes, etc.). I hope they do it again next year. I would definitely take at least two nights to see everything and account for the huge crowds that this event draws. Next time I would pack a dinner, snacks, and drinks from home instead of battling crowds to order a meal at one of the many restaurants and fast food outlets in the area.

Over a week ago I got a notice (via one of the e-mailing lists that I’m currently on) of a Bernie Sanders march that was taking place in Baltimore. It was one of many that have broken out all over the country over the past few months which have drawn many people yet the mainstream media had ignored it. I only knew about these marches because of Facebook and Twitter.

I found out that the march was supposed to start in the Penn-North area of Baltimore, which is the same area where those riots broke out in the wake of the police murder of Freddie Gray last year. (You can see the photos I took during this period of both the May Day protest and my trek through the Penn-North area on Cinco de Mayo, exactly one week after the riots.)

I know from my previous trip to Penn-North that parking can be hard to find plus there are a bunch of boarded up row houses that I really don’t feel comfortable in parking my car nearby. I decided to park my car at the North Linthicum station so I could take the light rail into the city. Even though I made every effort to get out early, the downside of relying on public transportation on the weekends is that public transportation runs less often on the weekends. (That’s true for both Baltimore and DC.) I arrived just as the light rail left the station so I had to wait another 15-20 minutes for the next train to arrive. In the meantime it was cold outside plus it was raining off and on. I was still determined to press on despite the cold and gloomy weather so I got on the next light rail train going into the city.

I got off at the Lexington Market light rail stop then transferred to the nearby Metro stop that’s located just a few feet away. When I entered the station, I noticed these really pretty tile pieces that lined the ceiling.

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So I had to wait a bit for the next Metro train to show up. I got off at the Penn-North station. The next photo shows the CVS that was torched during last year’s riots. I remember when the news media made a huge deal over what happened with the implication that the people were animals for burning down a pharmacy. Well the same CVS has since rebuilt and re-opened but you won’t hear about it on Fox News or CNN.

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I was trying to look for a group of people brandishing Bernie Sanders signs and I walked around a bit. The next two photos show boarded up row houses that are literally a stone’s throw from the CVS.

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Penn-North is such a mix between nice buildings (which I photographed last year) and deteriorating boarded-up row houses. This mural (which includes famous jazz singer and Baltimore native Billie Holliday) is located at the intersection of Pennsylvania and North Avenues.

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I caught up with a single man who had a Bernie Sanders sign. He told me that the group had already left. He said that the march would end at Penn Station and he suggested that I get in my car and drive there. Unfortunately for me my car was at the North Linthicum light rail stop so I ended up taking the next MTA bus to the Station North Arts District then walk to Penn Station. When I arrived I didn’t see any crowds or marches. I went inside where I did a search on my smartphone and found that the march route wasn’t anywhere near Penn Station. In fact, the final destination was the Hollywood Diner Food Truck Park on Saratoga Street, which is nowhere near Penn Station or the Station North Arts District. Yeah, that guy was definitely wrong about the march’s destination. Unfortunately it was around 1 p.m. by that point and the march was scheduled to end at 2. By the time I made my way to the North Avenue light rail station and take it to the Charles Center stop then walk a few blocks, the march would be over.

So I sat on a bench and ate the lunch that I had packed with me. Being inside Penn Station brought back a lot of memories for me. For a few years when I was a child my family would take the Amtrak to Ohio to visit my great-aunt who lived in a small town along with her children (my cousins) who all lived in the same area. (Some lived in that same small town while others lived in another small town located just a few miles away.) We would go to Penn Station to catch that train. That station looked really huge to me when I was very young. Seeing it as an adult, I have to say that it’s pretty small compared to Union Station in Washington, DC or Grand Central Station in New York City. Yet Penn Station has the same kind of classical Greco-Roman decor that the larger aforementioned stations have, including stained glass ceilings, Roman columns, and little touches of classical art.

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After I finished eating my lunch and taking pictures inside, I stepped outside where it started to rain a bit harder. I took a couple of interesting shots outside of Penn Station.

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Ultimately I headed back on Charles Street towards North Avenue. I’ve been to the Station North Arts District enough times (thanks mostly to attending sessions of the Baltimore chapter of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School at The Wind-Up Space) that I know my way around the area. I’ve noticed some more arty touches that have been added since my last trip to the area a few months ago, such as these painted storm drains.

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I walked past the BAMF Cafe, which is a new geek-themed cafe that had opened last year. I last went there just before it opened full time when the windows were loaded with all kinds of cool looking toys. I decided to step inside and see what the place looked like because it intrigued me. (Just the word “BAMF” brought back memories because my then-husband used to collect comics, especially The X-Men. One of the characters in that comic book, Nightcrawler, was capable of doing teleportation and he used to make a “BAMF” noise everytime he used that power.)

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I found that the cafe has a very cozy interior that’s full of toys, art, and books on all aspects of the geek fandom including comic books, science fiction, horror, anime, and cult movies. It was such a visual treat.

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I didn’t order any food or drink because I had just consumed my lunch at Penn Station. I plan on doing so the next time I find myself in the Station North Arts District.

The weather started to rain harder so I decided to cut this trip a bit short and head back to pick up my car that was parked at the North Linthicum light rail stop. While I walked towards the North Avenue light rail stop, I saw this really cool looking decorated car that was just parked on North Avenue.

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I attempted these two artsy shots when I was crossing an overpass.

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The last photo shows this really cool painted mural that’s painted on the side of an underpass on North Avenue near the light rail stop. (You can really see the raindrops coming down in the foreground.)

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I later found out that there was very little media coverage of the Bernie Sanders march in Baltimore. In fact, the only media story I found was this video that was shot by The Real News.

Yesterday one of my friends, Phil Shapiro, forwarded this video he made where he’s starting a side project. He wants to start something called a Wondering Contest. The whole purpose he has in mind is to facilitate more wondering in people which, in turn, would lead to more innovations in all kinds of fields ranging from science to politics. Here is how he explains his proposed Wondering Contest.

In contrast to this Wondering Contest, this morning I came across this article in The Guardian about the pre-trial hearings regarding the six police officers accused of murdering Freddie Gray in Baltimore a few months ago. The last two sentences in the previous link really resonated with me and it provided the proverbial being splashed in the face by a bucket of cold water while I was wondering about the idea of having a Wondering Contest.

One protester, Lee Paterson, said he remained concerned that charges could be dropped.

He also said: “You know, this whole thing is bigger than Freddie Gray. It’s about poverty.”

That man has hit the nail right on the head. Starting as far back as the Industrial Revolution (and maybe even earlier) there has been income inequality in Baltimore where rich industrialists took advantage of African-Americans and immigrants by paying them incredibly low wages that led them to constant economic struggle.

Sure, there was a brief thaw with the rise of the unions but Baltimore’s problems started with white flight out of the city in the 1950’s and 1960’s and it has been sliding since then. Ever since Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980 both Baltimore and the rest of the U.S. had to endure unions being dismantled (which started when the air traffic controller union endorsed Ronald Reagan in the 1980 elections only to have President Reagan return the favor by sacking them when they went on strike seeking better pay, better working conditions, and a 32-hour workweek) and jobs being outsourced to Third World countries while low paying service jobs have risen and CEO pay has literally gone through the roof. If you read some articles written by the likes of Paul Krugman and Robert Reich, you’d see the rise in income inequality and how it has affected more and more people.

So my friend wants to encourage more wondering by having a Wondering Contest. The only problem is that it’s hard to wonder if you’re worried about where your next paycheck is coming from and, if you do get some money, will it be enough to afford food, shelter, and other very basic necessities. You can’t do much wondering if your in constant worry about whether you’ll be homeless or have to file for bankruptcy or whether you’ll be able to afford to have enough food on the table to feed your entire family. It’s Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in action.

I’m getting more of a first-hand experience in confronting tight financial situations and trying to find paid work ever since my husband abruptly walked out on me then sued me for divorce as soon as he could. I was okay when I was married but now I feel like I’ve been treading water ever since the divorce and I don’t know if there will be an end in sight.

I get that something like a Wondering Contest can facilitate innovation and invention that can help people in the long run. But unless people can earn a living wage to feed themselves and their families, they won’t give much thought to wondering other than wondering whether they can stay financially solvent. Take a look at dirt poor countries like Haiti or Malawi and you won’t see much wondering or innovating there. Hell, take a look at the poorest states like Mississippi or West Virginia and you’re not going to see much wondering leading to innovation there either.

And nothing kills wondering and innovation faster than having a rich and powerful corporation squash smaller entrepreneurial companies—sometimes with the help of the U.S. Government. Today The Guardian posted an expose about the powerful egg lobby’s attempt to ruin a small start-up known as Hampton Creek with help from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The effect an action like that have on wondering is immeasurable.

I think society needs to foster wonder so that it can lead to more innovation that benefit mankind but I think it can only be achieved if more pressing social problems like income inequality, racism, corporate domination of the U.S. government, poverty, and the ability to find jobs that pay a living wage are addressed first. Otherwise, fostering wondering in this current economic and political environment would be like firefighters focusing on saving only one tree when the entire forest is on fire. As Abraham Maslow said a long time ago:

The good or healthy society would then be defined as one that permitted people’s highest purposes to emerge by satisfying all their basic needs.

Dear IX Daily,

I’m writing in reference to your recent article about filmmaker Dan Bell’s short documentary about a street performer known as Britney Girl Dale. Having seen it myself and having seen Britney Girl Dale in person a couple of times, I can understand why you’d devote an article about it while embedding the video.

The issue I have is with the photographs accompanying your piece, which implies that they are all stills from the film. In the case of one such picture, I definitely know it’s not a still from that movie.

The Protesters March Along Gay Street

The main reason why I’m sure about this is because I was the one who took that picture. I shot that photo of Britney Girl Dale and her friend, Anthony, at the May Day Black Lives Matter march in Baltimore, which was a major protest over how the Baltimore police brutally killed Freddie Gray. (I even wrote a post about that day if you want to know the context in which I shot that photo.) Dan Bell did not include any footage of that protest in his documentary. (I think he may have been done with filming his documentary at the time.)

In addition, Dan Bell shot his documentary entirely in black and white while my photo and the other still photos you used in your post are in color.

I uploaded that photo (along with all the other photos taken that day) on my Flickr account. Granted I made an embed code available for anyone who wanted to embed that photo into their own websites or blog posts. But when I clicked on my photo in your post, I found that you didn’t use the embed code at all. Normally when one embeds a photo from Flickr elsewhere on the web, if one clicks on that photo, it immediately goes to the Flickr site where the photo is originally posted. However, when I clicked on my photo on your site, I found that it didn’t do anything.

It’s obvious that you took a screenshot of my photo from my Flickr account then uploaded it on your site without giving me proper credit or even a link to my Flickr account. You did the same to the other photographs on your site. Two of the photos I recognized came from The Baltimore Sun‘s article about Britney Girl Dale. Unfortunately I can’t identify the photographer(s) who took the other photos on your post.

I’ve already notified The Baltimore Sun about the theft of their photographs on your site. You need to either properly identify the photographers or remove the still photos from your page because what you’re doing is unethical.

Sincerely,

Kim (a.k.a. Sagittarius Dolly)

When I first learned about what the Baltimore cops did to Freddie Gray, I wrote this post about how I was not only completely unsurprised that something like this happened in the city of my birth but I expected something like this to also happen in Glen Burnie, the town located just south of Baltimore where I lived from ages 5-19 (when I went away to the University of Maryland in College Park) then again for 10 months from the time I graduated from college at 22 until I got married and moved closer to Washington, DC at 23. I wrote a subsequent post reiterating why I thought Glen Burnie is such a toxic powder keg that could go off due mainly to the people who live there. I cited a bully in my middle school who not only made my life a living hell but she even managed to sign my yearbook where she essentially confessed to everything and I even provided the evidence in that last post.

Well recently this retired Baltimore police officer named Bobby Berger announced a fundraiser that would help pay for the legal defense of the cops who were indicted in connection with Freddie Gray’s murder. (And, yes, I and many others consider it to be murder.) Okay, one could argue that under the U.S. Constitution everyone should be entitled to legal representation in a court of law. Berger announced that he would perform Al Jolson songs. That’s not so bad on the surface since Jolson had released such memorable songs as “Oh, You Beautiful Doll.” But Bobby Berger wasn’t going to just appear on stage singing Al Jolson songs as a benefit fundraiser for the legal defense of a few cops accused of police brutality. Here is what the British newspaper The Guardian has to say about it.

A former Baltimore police officer has said he plans to perform an Al Jolson routine in blackface to raise money for the six Baltimore officers who have been indicted in the death of Freddie Gray.

Let me get this straight: This man, who’s white, had planned to perform in blackface as part of a fundraiser for the legal defense of six Baltimore police officers who were not only accused of murdering an African American man but he was targeted for his race in the first place. And guess where this fundraiser was going to take place: GLEN BURNIE!!! That’s right GLEN BURNIE!!! As The Guardian explained:

Bobby Berger, whose performances as Jolson created tension with the department in the 1980s, said on Wednesday that 610 tickets have been sold in eight days at $45 each for the 1 November fundraiser in Glen Burnie, Maryland.

Before everyone goes to Glen Burnie with their pitchforks and torches, the venue where the event was going to be held, Michael’s Eigth Avenue, had decided to cancel the event while stating on its website:

Bobby Berger will not host a fundraiser at Michael’s Eighth Avenue for the six Baltimore police officers charged in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray. No contract was signed with Mr. Berger. Michael’s does not condone blackface performances of any kind. As an event venue, it has not been the practice of Michael’s Eighth Avenue to pre-approve entertainment that is planned as part of a contracted event. This policy will be carefully and thoughtfully reviewed. Michael’s regrets any concerns that the discussions of this event may have caused in the community.

One can hardly blame Michael’s Eighth Avenue for canceling that event. Had it gone through, that venue would’ve gained a racist reputation and it would’ve ended up as being a magnet for hate music bands and the Ku Klux Klan. It would’ve been ultimately toxic given the fact that the Baltimore-Washington, DC area has gotten more and more racially diverse over the last few decades and being known as a racist venue would’ve been the kiss of death for Michael’s Eighth Avenue.

And Bobby Berger’s protest that wearing blackface have no racial overtones rings hollow when one considers that Berger could easily sing Jolson’s songs onstage without blackface. In fact there are YouTube clips of Jolson singing without blackface that exist such as these.

It also figures that he attempted to hold it in Glen Burnie where there are plenty of like-minded people who probably would’ve attended had Michael’s Eighth Avenue not cancelled that event. When I was growing up I not only heard the notorious “n” word on a regular basis but also slurs against Poles, Japanese, Chinese, and Italians as well. Even if you were a white person of Northern European descent you could be targeted if you acted in a way that others perceived as being “not normal” and, at times, those standards seemed random and arbitrary to me. Hence, I had that “retarded” label that stuck with me from elementary school all the way through high school and it even affected how people from my old high school treated me during my freshman year at Anne Arundel Community College. It was only after I transferred to the University of Maryland when I finally began to learn what it was like to be fully accepted for myself and I no longer had to walk on eggshells because I feared other people bullying me. Nor did I had to face people talking down to me like I was nothing because they still perceived me as being inferior. At least I don’t have to worry about living in Glen Burnie again. With shit like that aborted Al Jolson blackface fundraiser for cops accused of police brutality against an African American man, I don’t even want to consider moving back there.

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