NaBloPoMo 2016 – Day 2 (Blunt Force Politics)

I get it. The media is selling us an election as much as they’re covering one. It’s not as much that they’re putting time and energy into covering something in the public interest as they’re engaged in a race and a fight themselves for eyeballs and advertisers. That’s the news game and between the uncertainty of print and online, I get the push to make the most money, the quality of the information being disseminated — not always the most important consideration. It’s feed for the growing fetishization of politics in America.

Perhaps if the majority of information I see coming at me were about policy as much as pussy and who’s saying it and who’s grabbing it; if it were as much about ideas as ideology and not the same staid politics and talking points, it might not be as loathsome. It might not feel like I’m being constantly beaten over the head with the same talking points over and over.

My mentor emailed me the other day talking about the election and his thought that Trump might win. I replied because I’ve always enjoyed talking about a wide range of subjects with him, including politics, but a wave of gladness and gratitude washed over me when, after a while, it came to me he probably wasn’t going to reply about it. I’m just tired of it all. I was tired months ago when he’d come to my desk to offer his latest prognostication.

Next Tuesday can’t come soon enough. At least then, the commercials will be gone, even if the fallout from the election will be just starting, whatever form it takes. My mentor and I can get back to mostly discussing ideas, which are far more satisfying.

I’m looking forward to local elections, specifically the mayoral election in Baltimore. Sheila Dixon, still convinced she does or will have a mandate, regardless of the outcome of the Democratic primary, is mounting a write-in campaign against Catherine Pugh (D), Joshua Harris (G), and Alan Walden (R). (I saw a huge setup for her over at Northern Parkway and Park Heights).

The next Mayor will be the first to deal with the long-term ramifications of Freddie Gray, the loss of the Red Line, and the acceptance of the Port Covington TIF, among many other issues facing the City. I know personality will enter into the election, but ultimately, the choices that we have aren’t being tainted and tarred by scandals and soundbites, but solely about which direction the City should move in. But here at the local level, there’s no large scale advertising to be sold, no race to the bottom for TV ratings. It’s truly a relief.

Dispatch from Home

I sit in a plastic chair on the porch.

A sweet scent. Maybe sausage on a grill. Beef. I smell fries and my mind tricks me into believing I can also smell the gravy about to be doused over them. The whole concoction will go into a box, fried wings in the next. There’s now a new carryout where the old banquet hall used to be. The Chinese food store is still there. I have my stories. About the store and gravy fries and cheese fries and wings and chicken boxes. Salt, pepper, and ketchup on my wings and fries.

Ka-joom. Clack-a-lack.

A trailer banging, tripped by the imperfections in the asphalt. The truck’s motor growls, yanking the still reverberating metal box up the road. And then another, probably headed South this time, maybe to Washington or somewhere in Virginia or North Carolina, maybe even to Florida or even somewhere out West. The road jabs and pitches these hulks all day and night. They always have, same as the #36 bus that stops across the street. The cars whose drivers, free of Downtown’s one-way-street grid, take liberty to fly towards the County line, a few corners away.

There’s a soul food store at the gas station, now.

Someone once shot at that gas station from the block, then ran. Altogether both stupid and smart.

Kids run down the block. There’s a fight at the bus stop. I run in, open the back door and it’s spilled all the way across the parking lot. The alley between the shopping center and the apartments keeps the kids in their khakis and powder blue and navy blue uniforms from dribbling over to the #44 stop.

In my day, fights transferred from line to line, line to neighborhood, line to block. I even got myself caught up in one once. But there was never more than that. We didn’t wear uniforms, either.

As soon as it heated up, it died out. When the cheering stopped, I knew.

Any out-of-towners driving by, perhaps hoping for a Wire-esque performance, complete with blood and the wailing of an ambulance and another brown-skinned mother, would have gone home disappointed. The police didn’t even show up. At night, they drive through the parking lot with lights flashing to show they’re there. Perhaps they want to own the night and have ceded the day to the kids.

The two boys at the corner watch excitedly for a moment, then as they probably have more than once, leave.

They’ve replaced me.

The hide and seek places — the bushes and trees I’d try to hide my husky frame behind; the knoll on the side of the apartments around the corner where we played minimally organized football and baseball games, against other neighborhoods and each other, where we coached ourselves and each other, patted ourselves and each other on the back; the blocks in the street where we used to jump and bounce balls and throw water balloons, all belong to these kids now. They own the bus stop and the Chinese store.

This is their time.

I wasn’t sure I’d ever be back here. Not to live. Visit? For sure.

I had finally found some peace with used to being from here, with someone else’s son or daughter taking the story over. I’d gone on to adventures elsewhere. Made some plays. Toured Harlem on foot. Driven the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

I’m not settled, yet. I’m still learning the new, like the Qdoba on York Road, the building on 33rd Street that replaced the frat house with the shoe tree in front; remembering the old like the Giant on York Road, how to get to White Marsh. Harry Little’s sub shop became a frozen yogurt store and now it’s about to become a juice bar.

It’s often slow going like when I first went to Jersey, but I learned it. Learned in some ways to love it.

Still, I don’t know if I can ever stake the same claim I had before. How much of this city, this area, can be mine like it was. While I’m figuring it out, I’ll watch the trucks from the porch. Eat a few coddies. This city made me who I was, but being away, letting go, helped make me who I am now.

Baltimore Needs Some Wins

Resignation over Goodson verdict, and the larger problems raised by death of Freddie Gray

Dominic Nell left work at a Baltimore summer camp Thursday afternoon, rode the subway home to West Baltimore to find a veritable skyline of satellite trucks, boom microphones and cameras.

Source: www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/freddie-gray/bs-md-ci-goodson-reaction-20160623-story.html

 

I texted my cousin shortly after the verdict was read. I asked him what the mood of the people was in the streets, how folks were feeling, was anything going on. He replied: “streets are quiet, we knew the verdicts last year.”

Later, I read the article linked above. My cousin isn’t the only one who felt the same way. Everyday folks interviewed on WBAL Radio were saying the same thing.

Regardless of how well or poorly the state made their case or how well or poorly the defense represented Officer Goodson, it’s likely a lot of people felt the fix was coming. A lot of people have given up on the notion that there’s going to be justice for themselves and people who look like them in Baltimore.

It’s part of a larger notion of powerlessness. Check the election turnout numbers for years in Baltimore. Many just don’t participate. They feel like nothing’s going to happen for them through politics. You wonder why some would take things as far last year as they did? They don’t feel like they have any other voice.

Whether the state whiffed completely, there are going to be people who want to know how Freddie Gray could be put into the police van and come out almost dead on the other end and nobody is going to be held responsible.

The lawyers on the radio were explaining how there’s a difference between that which happened being a criminal matter vs. being a civil matter. All of that may be true and accurate, but most people around town aren’t lawyers. All they know is Freddie Gray went in and came out almost dead and nobody is so far being held responsible for this violence. Just like other times in the City’s recent history.

Can anybody blame them for feeling like the criminal justice system overall, isn’t for them?

When the City is about to essentially take out a half a billion dollar or more loan to build up Port Covington, but people don’t see any changes or development going on in their neighborhood, it’s easy to see why they would give up on participating in the system. What’s the point of calling up City Hall when you’re not a developer and they seem like the only ones who can get anything changed?

Baltimore really needs some wins. Not ones that are going to cost $535M in taxpayer-backed money, but Baltimore needs some big, high profile wins. Outside of Downtown or Harbor East. In the “real” Baltimore.

Not for outsiders who won’t think Baltimore’s anything anyway, but for the people there who you can maybe make give a damn or better, feel like they have some kind of ownership.

The O’s are in first place with the All Star Break around the corner, but while an O’s World Series win would be big, that’s not what Baltimore needs. The Ravens have had two Super Bowl wins in the last 15 calendar years and while those were edifying to the community psyche, those weren’t enough and won’t be enough now. They’ll play a role if they happen, but more needs to happen.

The Red Line could have played a part, but that’s gone now and besides, I’m not sure how well the powers-that-be made the case for how good the line could have been for communities along its flanks. MTA is about to begin holding community workshops about the replacement BaltimoreLink bus plan, but is that even a worthy substitute for everything the Red Line maybe could have done, had it been given the chance to succeed as light rail has done in other cities? Maybe it will. For the sake of the City, I hope it does because I don’t think they’ll ever build the Red Line or anything like it. Definitely not during my lifetime, if it does.

Suffice it to say, this is the kind of thing Baltimore needs. And it needs a bunch of them.

It needs the kind of things that don’t leave the majority of Baltimore residents out of the loop, out of the process, and out of the prosperity.

Otherwise, people who don’t live or work or play in places like Harbor Point or Port Covington will continue to feel isolated and hurt and that at best, the city doesn’t care about them or that worst, the city is outright hostile to them.

The city needs to show that it’s committed to justice and fairness for all of its residents. Catherine Pugh is going to be Mayor, everybody knows it. She needs to lead in that way or else years from now, we’ll be even more generations into the kind of apathy and disenfranchisement that’s helped to get Baltimore into the position that it’s in now.

Goodson: Not Guilty on All Charges

You can follow @baltimoresun or @wbaltv11 or any Baltimore news source or their reporters. They’re all covering it.

I pretty much figured this was coming when the judge admonished the prosecution on their conduct concerning evidence.

What now?

If the State could not secure a conviction on the most serious charges against any of the officers, what does this mean for the trials for the rest of them?

What does this mean for Marilyn Mosby? There’s talk that she should drop the charges against the rest of the officers, that getting a conviction against them may be harder now; there’s even talk online that she should resign.

And what does this mean for the community, the neighborhoods, the City? At this hour, there is protest outside the courthouse, born of all of the hurt and fear and anger from the relationship of the police and the criminal justice system to people in Baltimore. How will this be addressed? Will it be addressed?

Presumptive mayoral-elect Catherine Pugh has already issued a statement, but what will she do as the City’s next leader, in the wake of this verdict and the others?

Five Things – 22 June 2016

1.

Mets took down the two-game series vs. the Royals on the latter’s first trip back to Citi Field since last year’s World Series.

Despite the pyrrhic victory, some getback from last year feels good, but the Mets’ issues weren’t solved in this series with the Royals. They need to keep hitting. It might help to go out and get a bat.

I’m ignoring Murph’s Nats stats … ignoring them … ignoring them … wow he’s really cooled off. Batting just .352 now. Whew.

O’s beat the visiting Padres to sweep their two game series.

Nothing much going on in Ravenstown. That’s good news.

2.

Tomorrow, Judge Barry G. Williams will read his verdict in the trial of Caesar Goodson, one of the six Baltimore Police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray. The trial didn’t start out well with the judge excoriating the prosecution concerning some of the evidence. Since then, my feeling has been that Goodson will be found not guilty. Actually, before that point, since the moment that Goodson requested a bench trial, that’s been my feeling.

We’ll see what happens tomorrow, 10 AM.

I hope, in the event of a not guilty verdict, if there are protests, the rights of individuals to protest the decision are respected. I’ll leave that there.

3.

It’s tough coming up with things when 95% of my time is taken up by writing, being taught about writing, and talking about writing. This is a good problem to have, though, so no complaints. Still, I’m paying minimal attention to the O’s, Mets, Ravens, everything outside of here.

4.

Aside from the fact that I watched last night’s episode of Major Crimes, which was really good. Maybe they’ll give Rusty a better arc this year with his still-shaky relationship with Gus and now his mother’s revelation that she’s pregnant.

I’m really looking forward to Murder in the First’s season premiere Sunday night. I’ll be back home watching it, so I need to leave really early to get home and write so that I’m not up writing late instead of watching.

5.

I’m not thinking too much of going home. I’m enjoying myself and worked through the issues that plagued Sunday and part of Monday. The writing activities and process have really helped.

I think I’m going to resolve to do even more writing in the mornings. Like getting up earlier, like 6, and getting it in, before work. And perhaps hiding with my notebook more. Not eating lunch at my desk. Maybe I’ll haul a desk into the big network closet to be a writing desk for myself.

Five Things – 9 June 2016

1.

Mets have been scuffling a bit, but managed to get a win and avoid the sweep in Pittsburgh (never a good thing in my book). They got a game-clinching hit from Wilmer Flores, but they’re going to need better hitting period. Their pitching will keep them in it, but they’re not going to win 60 or so more games 1-0 to make it into the postseason.

O’s are rolling, completing the three game sweep of the Royals

Also, this happened:

Ventura had already thrown at him earlier in the game and really, who can blame Manny for charging after getting hit by a 98 MPH fastball. Especially since Ventura doesn’t have to stand in the batter’s box himself.

I haven’t asked any Royals fans how they felt about this, yet. But as much as they were upset about Noah Syndergaard throwing inside in the World Series last year, I might give them the benefit of the doubt and imagine they’re as as upset as the team is about Ventura doing it now.

Speaking of the Royals, the sweep extends their losing streak to seven. Their injuries have hurt them, but they’re still just 3 games out in a close division.

O’s up 12 games over .500 and in first. Gotten some good pitching lately. Chris Tillman’s 8-1.

Ravens lost a week of OTA’s and really, there isn’t much else to say about them. They’re back at practice. They have a bunch of tight ends on the roster.

Oh, and coach, please don’t join Twitter. The last thing you need is a zillion remarks about your clock management every Sunday night after a close game. Ravens Twitter can be a mess on Sunday nights.

Talking about KC does remind me of last December’s Chiefs at Ravens game. A painful memory. Not necessarily because of the loss, but because of the gold pants:

Never again. Please. We’re not the Steelers.

Oh, the MLB Draft will be on TV and streaming beginning tonight. Mets pick 19 and 31 (compensatory pick for Daniel Murphy). O’s go at 27 (compensatory pick for Wei-Yin Chen). I might order myself a salad and watch and get ready to see these players in a few years.

2.

I’m finally allowing comments on blog posts. I didn’t want to because comments sections are usually cesspools and I wasn’t sure who I was going to be attracting to this site. But I thought it would be interesting to possibly see who might be reading what I’m saying here.

So, comments are there, going forward. Moderated, though, through Disqus. Warm up your social media passwords if you have something to say.

3.

Found out that someone else affiliated with my job is from Baltimore. And not just that, his folks lived not too far from where I grew up. I even attended camp at their former church one summer (though long after they’d moved).

I love meeting Baltimore people outside of Baltimore. Especially ones who are still positive about Baltimore as a whole and haven’t given up on the City being able to come back, regardless of its recent troubles. And believe me, there’s been trouble lately.

4.

As I said in an earlier blog post, I’ve never been to Horseshoe and I’ve only been to Maryland Live once or twice. One of those times, I just went to Bobby’s Burger Palace.

Despite my not having dropped a few bucks into the till, casinos around Maryland aren’t hurting. We’ll see what this means especially for Baltimore, given all the big talk about community investment from casino money, specifically from Horseshoe. Especially after National Harbor’s casino opens later this year.

Meanwhile, AC’s trying to come back from its spectacular hit in 2014 when four casinos closed.

During summers when I was growing up, I remember there being many bus trips from Baltimore up to Atlantic City. The cost of the ticket included your fare there and back as well as some chips or something to play inside the bus’ destination casino. Once the bus got to Atlantic City, you had 12 or so hours before the bus returned. You just went and did your thing.

This went on for years because AC was the only place in the region with table games. If you wanted to just play slots, you could go up to Delaware Park.

And then every state around New Jersey legalized table games. Delaware brought them into Delaware Park and Dover Downs. New York State followed. Pennsylvania’s table games went to new and already established casinos. Maryland Live, Horseshoe, and Hollywood Casinos opened in Maryland.

I wondered then about the fate of AC and the bus tours because if you were going to spend hours sitting there playing slots or cards, you had no reason to go all the way to Atlantic City to do it. Then 2014 happened. I wasn’t surprised, but a lot of folks in AC seemed to be.

Hopefully for the sake of the folks lining up to get jobs, they’ll be able to make something work at (the former?) Revel and Showboat and with the overall AC recovery. As one of the linked articles shows, there were people who put in many years working in those properties who very quickly found themselves out of work.

I don’t know what it’s going to look like in AC going forward with all the surrounding states working to keep the casino dollar at home, but until they can figure out the future of AC, I hope folks there find some relief.

5.

For years, my coworkers have praised me and my boss for keeping things going at the office. Information Technology is obviously important and we do our best, along with our technology partners, to keep things going. Even if I have to hear nearly every day that someone’s default printing settings have changed. Oh how I love to hear yet again that someone’s default printing settings have changed.

However, I have to nominate our HR Director for being the one who really keeps things going there. Anybody who can actually understand the complicated processes surrounding interactions with the health care and insurance industries and help the rest of us with all the documentation and calling and making sure folks get paid while you don’t get thoroughly ganked, is worth their weight in gold.

The documentation and payment process has been nearly as stressful as the hospital stay that produced the need for much of the documentation in the first place. Having someone there to help is pretty invaluable.

I help my coworkers keep their iPhones synced with their office email and the occasional Facebook password reset. And I personally take complaints about user printing settings. I guess there’s value in that, as well.

Ali: Our Forever Champion

Feet shuffling across a checkerboard floor.

A left fist, flicking in the air, then again and again and BANG, a right cuts the air.

Both hands thrown in the air.

Victory.

Unknowable, the number of times this scene played out in cities and suburbs, in parks and playgrounds, on street corners and boulevards and bazaars and so many places it probably happened in most places. Over days, then decades.

#

I’m back inside a barber shop in Baltimore. The 80s. Professional wrestling on a small, black and white TV set bolted to a shelf overlooking the storefront shop. A usual Saturday for a haircut. Men congregating, talking boxing. Sugar Ray. Marvin Hagler. The great boxers of the day.

As great as they are, when the discussion turns to Ali, the room itself lights up. The men animate. An older barber moves around his client as he talks, giving a spiritual testimony as much as an assessment of Ali’s skills. Other brothers around nod and sway in agreement.

Talking Ali is more than just discussing a great fighter. He’s more than that. I’m too young to fully understand the passion in their voices, their eyes.

#

Fight night was big. It was at our house. My mom was a fan.

This was Mike Tyson’s heyday. Make sure you got all your eating in and your bathroom business done before the main event started. Once it did, things would go slowly during the paegentry of the entrances and introductions and then downhill and fast and it would be over.

Ali was better, she said. The best. The fights were better. The Liston fights. The Ken Norton fights. The Frazier fights. The Foreman fight. Those were events. There was no PPV and you had to go in person if you could or watch on closed-circuit TV. But they were important. Everybody wanted to be there.

Ali would hype the fight. Talking shit about how pretty he was and how his opponent didn’t have a chance. How he was going to win and his opponent better not even think he could whip him. And then he’d go into the ring and back up all the shit he’d talked. All evening if he needed to. 15 rounds worth of dodging and banging and making his opponent say his real name when the opponent wouldn’t.

I’d missed out, she said. Born too late. Tyson was in my day, but Ali was in hers. And what a day.

#

“No Viet Cong ever called me nigger.”

I’m from Baltimore. There’s never been a shortage of bad seeds, bad apples, bad motherfuckers. Dudes who will take a life and go get a chicken box. With hot sauce and ketchup. But even they’ll still hide from the lawman when he shows up.

Government came for Ali. They wanted to ship him over to Vietnam. He told the government to kiss his ass. He wasn’t going to fight the Viet Cong (or for propaganda). His oppressor was right here at home. While people who looked like him were trying to go about their lives and be free, the same people who wanted to send him over to Asia to fight, were hurting and maiming those who looked like him right in America.

Black athletes like Jesse Owens and Joe Louis and Jackie Robinson had challenged America on the field. They’d proven that, despite the ideas of the day, Black people were capable of being great athletes. And of enduring the hatred and bigotry they’d still experience out of the area of competition. Like not being served at lunch counters or being able to rent a room in the same hotels that served white athletes.

Their play spoke for them but off the field, they still played by the same politics of appeasement and respectability that dominated the thinking of those times. They were going to win America over by being great on the field and ingratiate themselves to America off.

Ali wasn’t having that. He told America to its face what was what. And he told America he was going to look good doing it and he did. They took his boxing license and his best fighting years, but he preferred putting all that on the line to giving into his principles. To giving in on his Islamic faith. On his Blackness.

#

Ali was done fighting by the time I came along. He’d been proven right by his refusal to go to Vietnam. Become a global figure for his boxing and his commitment to social justice and freedom. He wasn’t in the limelight as he had been in his fighting days, but he still traveled the world and gave people hope and joy.

Even as his body would continue to be ravaged by Parkinson’s. But still, he won that fight. Lighting the Olympic flame in the 1996 Olympics. I remember some people being bothered by the image of a shaking Ali unsteadily holding the Torch, but he was still there holding it. He was still holding strong.

#

Back in the barber shop, the joy they felt talking about Ali, I finally came to understand it one day. They were people who had been living in segregated neighborhoods, denied access to better jobs, better lives, more respect. They couldn’t go into Roland Park or Rodgers Forge and tell those people what they thought about them. Couldn’t tell the old racist bus drivers who would pass them by on the streets to kiss their asses. They were still Ellison’s Invisible Man.

Ali spoke for them. And to them. Ali lived as freely as a Black man could. As a Black person could. He didn’t march when they said march. He traveled the world. He lived life on his terms.

He transcended sport and what people thought athletes should be. He transcended ideas about boxing and boxers and became a worldwide humanitarian. And became an icon for it.

He didn’t transcend blackness, but transcended many people’s ideas about Blackness and what it meant. The limits of it. How black far black people could go in the world. How black people could be seen. How we could see ourselves.

He wasn’t just a champion, he was our champion. He championed us. He showed us how great he was. How great we could be.

“I am America. I am the part you won’t recognize, but get used to me. Black, confident, cocky. My name, not yours. My religion, not yours. My goals, my own. Get used to me.”

“I’m gonna fight for the prestige, not for me, but to uplift my little brothers who are sleeping on concrete floors today in America. Black people who are living on welfare, black people who can’t eat, black people who don’t know no knowledge of themselves, black people who don’t have no future.”