Category Archives: Uncategorized

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!

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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Resurfacing in Baltimore

jigsaw_save_tempI’m a naughty blogger. One would think that being unemployed for half of fall would have meant plenty of time for cooking, writing, and exploring. Anyone who has ever been unemployed knows what it really means is all your energy and lifesource is sucked into job search websites, and it was all I could do to make it out for some exercise and errands.

Washington Monument Xmas lighting in the 'hood.

Washington Monument Xmas lighting!

The good news is that I started a new job at Johns Hopkins University in late November, and am four weeks happily employed as a web coordinator. I’m also one week moved into a great new apartment in the Mount Vernon neighborhood, which is full of theaters, historic buildings and gay bars. Despite my disappointment in not being able to return to France, I am “dead chuffed” to be living in the heart of Baltimore for the first time in my life, and getting paid enough to thoroughly navigate the most awesome spots.

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Here I come

I haven’t updated this blog in like two weeks. I have written at least three or four blog posts, but between finishing out my contract at school, scrubbing the floor of my apartment on my hands and knees, and migrating from house to apartment to high school to Parisian apartment to airport Brioche Dorée at 6 a.m., I haven’t seemed to find the time to post them.

A thing that I can say is that I am sad that I am at the airport, and not just because the pain au chocolat is expensive, but I will be glad to be back in the States later today.

I will be glad to eat Mexican food, have people be on time, buy bagels, eat crabs, give hugs willy-nilly, smile at strangers on the street, and make up words without being chastized.

A bientôt.

I’m off!

It’s the Toussaint vacation for the next couple weeks, so I’ll be in Spain with limited internet connection until November. I’ll queue up a few posts to keep you occupied in the meantime, but look for pictures when I get back!

A très bientôt!

French Behaving Badly

I’ve suffered from compulsive FOMO for years: “fear of missing out.” This crippling disease has led me to argue with myself out loud at the fork in the road, exhausted from a 14-hour day, over whether to go home or not.

Place des Vosges: It's cayute.

Luckily for me, it’s a great disease to have when you move somewhere new. I keep trying to go to events, having it kind of fail, then work out spectacularly by accident. Last night I manned up and went alone to a group language session, only to find the bar was closed for a private dinner. While I awkwardly waited for my late friends, I noticed that an awful lot of people were wandering into the Place des Vosges. Some of them were wearing capes.

I had finally found the university students.

Apparently Paul won.

Apparently the Université de Nancy was having a night to choose captains for their hot air balloon competition in May, and we were in for a soirée of limbo, arm wrestling, jokes, inadvisable martial arts attempts, and indecent proposals. I’m used to being the one who is kind of inappropriate and loud (Americans: guilty), not the other way around. I was wearing tights and after a while I couldn’t feel my feet, but no matter! If I manage to see any of the people that I exchanged phone numbers with, it will be worth any discomfort. It really already was.

After all, I learned that the French word for “pompadour” is “banane,” and that’s important vocabulary.

The Little Things

What the crack.

The things that mess you up when you’re out of your home country are always something that you could never, ever expect. Teaching today and yesterday went fairly well considering how little I know about any of the students or teachers, but I had a problem: none of the students could read my handwriting.

French schoolchildren, and I assume French people in general, only write in cursive. And it’s not the same cursive you learn in the second grade. I was so confused by their confusion that I actually had to come home and look up American cursive to make sure I hadn’t forgotten how to do it properly.

Having second graders think your writing is illegible is a little humbling.

A very loud video of Lorraine countryside

Market Day

The marché couvert is Wednesday and Saturday in Epinal, and I’ve been each of those days that I’ve been in town so far.

Yes, there is a whole olive and marinated-things stand. And a sausage stand.

Mushrooms are in season, and gorgeous, so I’ve been trying to just buy whatever looks interesting and go with it. Unfortunately that means I’m not doing a great job of cooking them just yet. When I get the internet chez moi, and another pan or so, I can improve.

I’ve been using salad, pasta or bread as bases for vegetables, cheese, eggs and this amazing horseradish mustard that I bought at a market in Munich for 2 euros. It is the jam. Then, because I’m poor, I eat right out of the pot. Let’s just say I’m not mad about that.