Showing posts with label Baltimore. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Baltimore. Show all posts

14 October 2015

Bridge Freezes Before Road


by David Edgerley Gates

Some of us are sedentary by nature, some of us footloose. It might very possibly be a function of age, and certainly of temperament, A body at rest tends to stay at rest - even if calling it inertia is a polite way of saying our momentum has left us up on blocks - but there comes a day when we turn mother's picture to the wall and light out for parts unknown,

Steinbeck said about the pioneers heading West toward the far horizons that eventually they bumped up against the Pacific, and he imagined all these old people, sitting on porches, gazing toward the setting sun, longing to voyage a further distance. (This, as I remember, from "The Red Pony.") And the West is a journey of imagination, Manifest Destiny, looking past the edge of the earth.

I made the trip in reverse this time, West to East, from Santa Fe to Baltimore. The road itself seemed familiar, if not the route - but the mileage, and the pavement, the changing landscape and the culture of travel (although I'm sorry to report that the spaghetti with chile and cheese, at the Skyline in Dayton, Ohio, isn't one of those peculiar local delicacies that's worth going out of your way for, like Frito pies or poutine). It's funny, and kind of comforting, to find yourself back in America. A lot of the old rules still apply, and some of the same courtesies.

Ten states - New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland - 1800 miles, give or take. An odometer of the mind, not so much the physical distance covered. Different time zones, but an interior geography.

"Don't you get stale around here, Bill?" Garrett asks the Kid, who's hanging around Ft. Sumner, shooting chickens, and I have to admit Santa Fe was getting more than a little claustrophobic on me. People, it's been remarked, come to Santa Fe for repair, or reinvention, or recovery. Which suggests of course that they might be damaged in some way, but that's a judgment call. One guy I know was headed West in a VW bus, and Santa Fe's where it broke down, so he got a job scooping ice cream and stayed to raise a family. You can't make one size fit all.

And truth be told, New Mexico's done good by me. Surely there's been no dearth of material. Seriously? Los Alamos and the Manhattan Project, the Anasazi and the cliff dwellings, the land grant struggles and the Tierra Amarilla courthouse siege, Zozobra, the Japanese internment camps, the penitentiary riot, the corrupting influence of the Mexican cartels - drugs, guns, money laundering and human traffic - along with old trailhands Tony Hillerman and Marc Simmons, just for openers, who let me draw from the well.

Thoreau advises us to beware of enterprises requiring new clothes, but deciding to set up shop in a place of underappreciated virtues, aside from Camden Yards, could be considered a wardrobe opportunity, and not for protective coloration, either. Baltimore doesn't seem to mind an edge. You can profile some pretty mean shoes, you got legs to match.

I kept seeing the same sign on the highway, every time I approached an overpass. Bridge Ices Before Road. My first thought was that somebody had to be making a killing, like getting the U.S. Coast Guard contract for wool socks, if every state highway department in the country's buying that same black-and-yellow sign. But your mind wanders, on the road, and I began reading between the lines, looking for hidden meanings, or surface tension, decoding the text, as if it were some kind of Zen mystery message. In the end, I decided it wasn't.

Still, it's a metaphor. Don't leave skid marks.

28 April 2015

All This Has Happened Before


by Jim Winter

Last night, I watched about an hour of CNN to see what was going on in Baltimore. I did like how police officers and community activists comported themselves when interviewed. However, two of the reporters discussed, without irony, how the constant coverage of rioting and burning after recent incidents starting with Ferguson might be fanning the violence each time. I say without irony because, while everyone spoke, CNN kept running video of fires.

Baltimore burning

Yeah, I'm sure that's helping calm things down.

They did this when Ferguson erupted. And in 2001, even the local news had round-the-clock coverage of the riots here in Cincinnati. Yes, my adopted hometown has been through this. That should give you some hope. We got through this. I won't kid you and say everything's fine here, but it's been a lot less heated in Cincinnati for years now than it has been in Baltimore of late.

But I also remember how opportunistic the Cincinnati Enquirer was in the months that followed. The normally conservative paper openly turned the police into its personal punching bag. It had less to do with any shortcomings of the police and more to do with selling papers. It did no service to race relations in Cincinnati. The local (and national) media did nothing to resolve the situation, only milked it to sell Toyotas.

Eventually, things calmed down. The police made efforts to reach out to the community. It's not all Kumbaya, but there's not this sense of rage that was palpable in the months leading up to the riots.

The spark that lit the explosion was the shooting of a Timothy Thomas, a 19-year-old black man, by Officer Stephen Roach. The confrontation? It was over traffic citations. So an unarmed man ran because of traffic tickets. And the officer shot him as he ran away.

That was the match tossed into the powder keg.

I had a part-time job at a pizza place at the time. Many of my coworkers were high school students from Withrow High School, a predominantly black school. I occasionally gave some of them rides home. One guy, who had moved into assistant management when he graduated, told me he was worried because many of his classmates were getting harassed by cops. Being a pizza delivery guy, I also interacted with a lot of cops. And they were getting frustrated because they did not think they were getting much support from the city. Yeah, tempers were getting ready to blow. It would only take one incident to set off the whole works.

When the riots subsided, there was a boycott. There were police reforms. And eventually, peace returned to the city. If Cincinnati can get past it, so can other cities. I'm under no illusion that it can't happen here again. But things go in cycles. If you want the cycle to end, you have to work at it.

That's what Cincinnati did. There's no reason other cities can't. Might be nice if the media would help, but that might not sell enough Coca-Cola.