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.
Tag Archives: baltimore
The more time you spend in Baltimore, the easier it is to believe that everyone in the city knows each other. Not just because it’s a small city, but because people seem more likely to talk with strangers here than in other Northeastern metropoles. This means I hear a lot of really, really great stories, just in passing.
I work at Hopkins, and sometimes have to take a passenger van shuttle from work. I only know the driver from his right arm and what I can see in the rearview, but Larry is bald, brown-eyed, has an huge collection of glimmering silver rings, and an amazing watch. While we sat at a stop light today, looking down the road at flashing red and blue lights, the conversation turned to accidents.
It turns out that Larry’s worst accident was on 795, which connects the city to the northwestern ‘burbs. Driving in his first car, a Chevrolet Sprint.
“Welllll… It was kind of my fault,” he laughed. “I was looking down, messing with the radio stations, and when I looked up I was looking at a tailpipe!” Larry’s little Sprint swerved across three lanes, flipped up into the air and over, and went down the embankment. Larry was working as a Macy’s cosmetic consultant at the time, and the car was suddenly filled with a tornado of department store swag.
“Can you imagine? They’d say ‘That man was killed by Hermes umbrellas!'”
A doctor and nurse driving the opposite direction turned back to the scene, but Larry was already walking up the embankment with no more than a bad cut on his finger.
“Do you know what I was thinking, when the car was just rolling over in the air?” Larry asked. “I just kept thinking… Dukes of Hazzard survived!”
Northeast Market in East Baltimore is hard to miss. You can smell the canola oil frying and hear the gulls squawking from two blocks away. Inside, fried chicken, fried lake trout, and sub joints reign over the four red-tiled aisles, and the meat selection ranges from chicken breast to pig ears. But only two or three stands with fresh produce.
I would never fit in at a party in Hampden. When I drove down with my sister after work to get sandwiches at Luigi’s Italian Deli for a free movie night downtown, we were the only people in the near vicinity wearing shirts… and two of only a few not wearing very, very worn-in jorts. But a very dense hipster population apparently doesn’t get in the way of awesome sandwich shops and massive rich-people wine-and-cheese warehouses.
The restaurant is set up on the first floor of a townhouse off 36th street, and down the long hallway lined with assorted pastas, olive oils and cookies, you’ll find a small counter and case stocked with imported meats and prepared salads. The jars on top are full of cannoli shells ready to be filled, which oddly enough all are labeled with Simpson’s characters. It was almost like being in my great-grandmother’s house, only the people serving dinner had much better mustaches.
It’s a sad fact that when people disappear from the internet; their blogs, Facebook, email inbox, etc., I have a tendency to worry. In reality, they’re probably too busy living life, which is the case for me recently. Since coming home from France I’ve made visits up half the Eastern seaboard. I spent a week visiting across Kentucky. I started a summer job as a summer camp art teacher. And I’ve had eyes wide open to the good, bad and the ugly I never noticed before about my hometown and region.
Consider it a romantic comedy story arc: I have three months to try and learn what I can about a city that birthed me, Baltimore, and it has one summer to make me fall in love with it.
Most people think Baltimore and think “The Wire” and crabs. Yes, “The Wire” is kind of true, and it is the (marketing) Summer of Baytriotism. But the richness of the characters is more important than the number of drug-related murders–while I might not know the city’s best bars, I do know that the people who live there are generally honest, hardworking, down-to-earth and friendly. It’s an area with personality.
I researched the farms and markets. I’ve got area checklists, like these amazing maps with Baltimore’s more than 200 neighborhoods, including quite a few I’ve never heard of. What’s “Violetville”? I’m volunteering for Artscape and the Baltimore Office of Promotion of the Arts. And I’m hoping my new coworkers will be glad to tear up some of the places I’ve pulled off the beer special finder.
And while going to the inner harbor is nothing new for me, it was nice to be up there last weekend for Sailabration 2012 with the tall ships, bands, and some beautiful east coast weather. A lot has changed in the last five years, but a lot feels like it’s never changed at all.
Tips always, always welcome.
Even when you might have been the tourist, and I’ve been the local.
Long time ago…
Maryland west of the Chesapeake Bay might seem like an overflowing land of townhouses and car dealerships, but just 10 years ago there were still a lot of small farms and you-pick operations. Every year the number of farms that will allow me to run wild on their property diminishes, and I cry real tears at the thought of not being able to pick 15 pounds of PERFECTLY ripe berries.
Our family has always gone to the farm to pick fruits–getting all dirty and damp, each of us boasting that we’ve found the perfect, biggest, best morsel. The few short weeks of the strawberry season mean strawberries on cereal, salads, sandwiches, and tried-and-true Bisquick drop biscuits with heavy whipped cream.
People usually think of travel and living abroad as a great way to learn about other countries and come to love things about their way of living. The flip side–a renewed appreciation of everything you grew up with–doesn’t get discussed as much. Unless you count the never-ending struggle to find peanut butter overseas.
I’ve known since last October that there was a chance I would leave the U.S, and since this April for sure. That’s given me oodles of time to appreciate every last American moment: dancing in a basement dressed as Medusa during a Halloween party; night swimming on the Fourth of July; driving through the Pennsylvania countryside admiring the orchards and ramshackle farmhouses.
Then there’s going home. I can be a real jerk about Glen Burnie, but I found myself enjoying a lot of run-of-the-mill things when I was down last weekend.
The $2.50 crabcakes, the snowball stands, seeing old friends at swim meets, the $5 haircuts at the local barber shop (crews, fades, caesars!), the Natty Bohs at a family get-together, the Bergers cookies, discussing NFL trades, worrying about the state of the area, and the particular haze the air gets from straw, dust and flashing lights at the carnival.
Thanks, France, for reminding me what’s so good about what I already know.