Evolution

I started this blog four years ago. I spent a long time trying to come up with the name, and chose Fresh Era for two reasons: because I was invigorated about big life changes and because I was really learning how to cook.

I’m pleased to realize that even though I’ve jostled through three apartments and three jobs to a place where I’m tethered by a mortgage, a boyfriend and (the biggest surprise) a kid, I still feel like the title applies.

Home

My house was built in 1900 (in a neighborhood that’s seen hard times I didn’t weather) but I’ve never lived so wholly in a place, or experienced such depth of humanity. Last weekend I ate El Salvadorean food with former peace corps members to my right and Hells Angels to my left. The next morning I waved a paper fan from the back of a local Baptist church I should have been embarassed to even enter; African drums playing just outside the door. I can only comprehend a tiny fraction of Baltimore: past, present and future. But even on its worst day, I still feel a warmth and light that is new and hopeful.

Heart

Questionable advice from someone who met their boyfriend on Tinder: You can’t always get what you want, and the internet might not be helping you find what you need. I got lucky and fell into someone who fits that bill (honest, eternally patient, not afraid to dance in public)…  in a package I could easily I have refused. My plans did not include former-delinquent racecar drivers and their rambunctious 5 year olds. In the last 18 months I have been to a three racetracks, a gymnastics party and PTA meetings: on purpose!  Luckily, I love a meaty challenge. Dig in.

Hearth

My first month in France I had one pot, one knife, a few plastic utensils and some leftover yogurt cups. I miscooked chanterelles (it was fun!), learned how to cook anything on a stovetop, ate an unidentified cheese every weekend, and came back to the States with my own cooking style and some snobby ideas about the price of wine. You can expect light, veggie-heavy, fresh and spicy when eating at my house. Unless I’m tired–then you can expect egg and cheese sandwiches.

Era

This time four years ago I was living on my friend’s basement futon. I miss that. I miss the costume parties, the poorly conceptualized booze parties, and the total inappropriateness of being 25 and single in America.

But we’ve already been there and all of this—weddings, promotions, family vacations, ailing grandparents, creakier joints and sensible shoes—keeps us guessing, and keeps us fresh.

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What it sounds like to work from a DC coffeeshop

Ebenezer’s near Union Station, a Wednesday morning at 9 a.m.*
Population: Between 15 and 30

I have a vanilla, soy, no-foam cappuccino…
I have a mocha latte….
Iced coffee!
vhrrrrrrrrrrr
Bacon, egg and cheese sandwich?
Iced, mocha lavender latte?
Thank you!
Iced coconut latte?
I had a chamomile tea?
I have a large, iced, mocha caramel custard latte…
vhrrrrrrrrrrr
Large iced caramel custard on the bar!
Single shot?
I have a sesame bagel toasted with cream cheese!
Have a great day!
It was just a moment to break your life
We’re heading out to New England this afternoon
I have a medium half-caf…
Medium caramel whip…
What’s the wifi password?
Um, banana.
I have a second dirty chai…
vhrrrrrrrrrrr
Small americano?
Small black eye?
Small red eye?

vhrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrhhhhhrrrrrrrrrrhhrrrrrrrrr

coffee

*Full disclosure: I had a medium americano and banana bread from home. The coffee is very good, but I can’t speak for the mocha caramel custard latte whips.

Bike to work day: A retrospective

I gots a bike.

I gots a bike.

A Baltimore nonprofit, Bikemore, recently started a “Two-wheel Tuesday” campaign that counts the number of cyclists commuting every Tuesday. For a number of reasons, I’ve never been counted even though I ride in a couple times a week.

I’m offended by this, because I want to count. Don’t I get a merit badge?

I probably don’t deserve one. My first bike to work day ever was in May 2007, when I got spirited and rode to Washingtonian as an intern. I started on the capital crescent trail from the Palisades, then jumped on M Street in Georgetown during rush hour and very nearly died of sheer panic. When I was taking a sink shower in an office bathroom on 18th and L 20 minutes later, I decided biking to work just wasn’t for me.

Six years (and a number of successful PA bike rides, some of which were to work) after, it took me five months to ride my bike in Baltimore City. Baltimore’s bike lanes are kind of a laugh—they run for five blocks, then move to the other side of the street, cut through busy parking lots or just run out and become bus stops—and I was still new to the geography and the (literal) street culture. It took a few missed Saturday buses for me to ride my bike up Calvert St. to a healthcare clinic in the not-the-nicest neighborhood two miles away.

(I would suggest that every person in a city make their first urban bike ride early on a Saturday or Sunday morning. It will fool you into thinking it’s easy.)

I kept at it not to save the planet, but because it’s faster, more direct, and because I feel alive and regenerated. A ride from my neighborhood to East Baltimore requires Alastair Moody-esque vigilance and an acceptance potential violence, but it wakes me up from the stupor of city life and office work.

On Wednesday, a UPS driver told me to be careful for “the fools out here” from a window two feet over me. Last year, a Baltimore cafeteria worker laughed heartily with me as I waited in a line of cars at a stop light. “That’s one way to save gas!” he said. In spring, during the protests and riots against police brutality, someone from the third floor of the same jail called out as I passed that Black Lives Matter. These are words and voices I might never have heard otherwise. By comparison, everyone on a shuttle is as lively as a pickle floating around a bus-shaped mason jar.

May I remember that next time I’m biking sweatily up a hill that smells as much like sewer trash as it does like rosemary, in this heavy August heat.

The Dollar Project

IMG_1283Overall, I’m grateful for a lot of things 2013 brought. I spent endless hours with a circle of friends that didn’t exist in 2012, visited friends in two countries and three new cities in the states, learned a lot, and found that I’m ready (and thrilled) to stay put in Baltimore for a bit. I have high hopes for 2014 and, even better, feel that I’ve developed the resilience to be happy even in rough patches.

In light of having so much, I started wondering how much more I could give back in time and money, without feeling stretched. To test the latter, I decided to give one dollar to any person who asks during the month of January. Throughout the month I’ll note some of the people and places I give the most, and tally the total cost at the end of January.

I’ve given one dollar so far, on the way home from New Year’s in DC, to a man standing at an intersection on MLK Blvd. I’m interested to see how much I end up giving away, and in coming up with a better ways to put it to use in future months to help combat homelessness and poverty.

Happy 2014, and may yours be filled with joy and peace!

New Orleans: That Which Cannot Be Named

IMG_1017In my head, New Orleans is wide streets under balconies full of Spanish moss, with 24-hour jazz funerals parading down the street.

This is slightly true. My friend Carly and I spent our Thanksgiving  in the Marigny, four blocks up Frenchman street from piles of jazz bars and the cry of street-band trumpets. New Orleans also has economically disparate neighborhoods, no laws against open containers, and a transient-friendly climate. You can sense that something is not quite settled under the town’s skin. But you can also sense that it’s cultural quicksand–it could suck you in for good.

We met people who had only left New Orleans for one month in their 50 years, and transplants from Texas, Seattle, Chicago. Musicians, glass blowers, baristas, bartenders, and shopkeepers. It’s a phenomenon I’ve noticed in Baltimore as well. What makes a city addictive? It’s hard to pin it down but …

IMG_1069Rhythm.
It’s a Big Easy legend that every citizen grows up playing an instrument. Frenchman street featured a full jazz band that, if seen in Baltimore, people would make “The Wire” jokes about. Dancing in the road creates joy.

History.
New Orleans has 300 years of history so diverse that almost any American can feel a connection. The roots are deep, and the feeling of being a part of something seeps into the air.

IMG_9228Signs of life.
Coming from the north, the packs of purple, orange, and yellow houses look like they’re smiling at you. A jeweler told me 100 percent humidity means people chill. People seem to be whom they want to be, whatever they are.

Spirit.
Every skycap in the airport had on a Saints jersey. A woman who sold me a wooden wine stopper was wearing two-inch tall Saints player earrings. If you live here, you’re on the team. Baltimore gets this drift, too.

IMG_1072Because you have to.
Probably because of Katrina, New Orleans still feels like an underdog. There’s no facade hiding this, and an underdog with tradition and life is irresistible.

What I Learned about Persimmons

IMG_0951This is a persimmon.

There are persimmons trees on the slope above my grandparents’ graves, which are beautiful while you’re looking across the cemetery and down to the river. They are not as beautiful when mashed onto the bottom of your shoes, and making the car smell atrocious.

So when a coworker of Indian heritage gave me a bag with six plump, orange fruits and a few persimmon chocolate chip cookies, I was skeptical. These were Fuyu persimmons: in season until February, sweet but light, and not as crotchety (harsh when unripe) as the American persimmon.

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Enjoy. Everything is spicy.

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This image is 100 percent stolen from the internet.

Taqueria el Sabor del Parque in Highlandtown faces Patterson Park, a bright little corner of light looking out onto Linwood St. with the requisite 10 tables, Univision flat screen, 27 kinds of tacos, and a startingly clean bathroom. I went in solo last week before a show at the Creative Alliance and ordered myself al pastor and chorizo tacos, which came with a four-corner caddy of blended and chopped salsas. Without asking, I was told: everything is spicy. Cue swooning.

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