Thursday, May 14, 2015

Going Back to Camp Firewood

I had planned on returning to Station North a few Sundays ago, but after violence had broken out at Camden Yards the day before leaving tensions high around the city, I figured that it might not be the best time to go be a carefree tourist when the atmospheres was much less jovial down North Avenue.

Instead this fake adventure blog is about my visit to another arts and entertainment district in the city: Highlandtown.  The arts and entertainment district is for the most part run out of the Creative Alliance located in the old Patterson Theater located at East Ave and Eastern Avenue, right down from Patterson Park.  I will be working as an administrative intern at the nonprofit this summer, so after interviewing the week before, I was invited to come back to a viewing of one of my favorite movies ever, which the Creative Alliance was collaborating with City Paper to host.

Wet Hot American Summer, while only having like a 31% on Rotten Tomatoes or something like that, is arguably one of the best films I have ever seen.  Yeah, I was in first grade when it came out, but that doesn't mean I cannot still appreciate the mega babe that is Paul Rudd circa 2001.  The movie was amazing, and the programming behind the event was even better.  People came dressed as their favorite characters, ultimate party packs (for a made up WHAS game) were purchased, and drinks were filled as an unofficial drinking game took place throughout the movie.  People were into it.  There was a brief intermission where a costume contest and talent show (similar to the one on the movie) took place, capture the flag was played for prizes, and the audience cheered as the camp was saved from a falling piece of Skylab.

Events like these are so awesome and I can't wait to work at the Creative Alliance this summer and get to help with things like the Folklife Festival and see the BROS Rock Opera 6-Pack (which will be my third/fourth BROS performance)!! 

Adventure time: Pizza is for Squares (no srsly get the risotto)

My roommate and I love pizza.  So much that for the past five semesters we've decided to partake in our own spreadsheet based project, which we call Tour de Pizza, that outlines the many amazing pizza shops that Baltimore has to offer.  In this spreadsheet we outline recommended dishes, hours, locations, and overall opinions once we've had a slice (or four...sometimes you just gotta try a lot of pizza).
part of the Tour de Pizza spreadsheet

It started out with typical pizza places like Sorrentos of Arbutus, Matthew's on Eastern Avenue, and of course Joe Squared, but since our first semester, we've definitely expanded outside our ususal toppings and locations.  For whatever reason though we had been to Joe Squared in Powerplant Live, usually before seeing a show at Rams Head, or just because we knew we could get discounted parking in a garage after 5pm.  So with this class, I decided we'd make the trip, risk the idea of parallel parking, and go to the original Joe Squared in Station North.

Since we were familiar with the restaurant and the menu, my roommate and I got our favorite, the flag pizza (which is the best and is three different types of sauces pesto, classic red, and garlic/white) and decided we would try something new: risotto.  People talk about how Joe Squared is known for pizza but it's also known for it's risotto and wow why hadn't I tried it before because it's life changing.

flag pizza

*life changing* lamb risotto

I know that sounds really extreme but I've never had anything as good as the lamb risotto I ate at Joe Squared.  I think I now dream of it and I talk to my roommate at least once a week about how we will never amount to cooking anything as good as that risotto.  As for parking, it really wasn't that bad.  I think I like the North Avenue restaurant more than the one located in Powerplant.  While it's a little further out of the way, the atmosphere is awesome, it's (a little) bigger, and super close to other Station North businesses to make a day or night out of getting some food and ~hitting the town~.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Bim Im Bop Blog

I cheated on my first experience with Korean food, or as I like to think of it I came very prepared.  I took my friend, Ji Sung (who is from South Korea), with me to the unofficial Korea Town of Station North.  With google maps and my friend, who would act as my food expert and translator for the day, we made our way to Maryland Avenue to Beone Korean BBQ.

I spent a long time looking at the menu, being warned that it could be crazy spicy, and I made my friend aware of all of my hesitations as we went section by section until deciding that I would get Bim Im Bop, a rice and meat dish, cooked and served in a piping hot stone bowl.  While we waited for our food, we were brought condiments and sides for our meal including kimchi and other pickled vegetables.  My friends and I thought we were supposed to eat them first, but our expert warned up otherwise.  We tried something like a seafood pancake which was alright, but I was really scared for the main course.  The idea of red chili sauce scared me, but I blame that hype on my friends, but the sizzling and actively boiling bowls of soup and bim im bop definitely made me terrified that my mouth would probably burn off.  Our food arrived, we cracked eggs into our bowls, and dug in.

The verdict: it was so good.  I would eat it again, maybe a little less spice (so spicy omg), but I didn't burn my tongue off or anything crazy like that.  My friends all talked about wanting to come back soon and I hope we will.  Korean food seems like perfect food for when you're sick.  It's so spicy that it'll definitely help you breathe if you're congested, but also it's just a warm food.

(A failed) Adventure Blog

My first trip to Station North for AMST 380 took place in February but the weather had a different idea.  A group of friends and I had planned to go to the semi-finals for International Championship of Collegiate A Capella (ICCA) at Johns Hopkins University and follow up the show with milkshakes at Lost City Diner, but as snow blanketed the streets, I had a feeling that wasn't going to happen.

We had planned on leaving at 6pm (the show would start at 7), but snow traffic kept my friends from arriving back from a day in DC until 7:30.  We were late, but still determined to go.  I had always been told about how good these milkshakes were.  It didn't matter that it was only 18 degrees outside with snow up to my shins.  We drove up Charles street towards Hopkins' campus (two hours late at this point) to see roads for the most part kind of clear, but it definitely wasn't a night to be out driving.  We got to Hopkins, somehow parallel parked in over a foot of snow, and enjoyed the show, but I knew I wouldn't be getting my milkshake when the night was over.

The night came to an end and we made our way back to the car, I accepted my fate as we slid as if we were on ice skates as we walked the paths back to the car.  As we made our way towards Lost City, the restaurants we passed along the way seemed to have already closed.  I checked social media sites like Twitter and Facebook to find out that most restaurants in the area had closed early for the safety of employees and patrons.  As we drove through Station North, making our way back towards Catonsville we were able to view some of the murals and other public art pieces of Station North in an eerie, yet serene kind of manner.  As the snow fell, the city was quiet.  While no one was around, we could feel the energy that seemed to live in Station North, frozen in the night.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Place History: The Charles Theatre

The Charles Theatre markets itself as “the only theatre of its kind in Baltimore” in “one of Charles Street’s most intriguing historic buildings,” a claim that can be supported by the over 120 years of history on of the 1700 block of North Charles Street in Baltimore’s Station North Arts & Entertainment District.  While originally designed as a street car barn, the Charles Theatre now features five screens, over 1,150 seats, and the opportunity for patrons to see Hollywood films and specialty screenings in the same space. 

The space originally served for city transportation.  In 1892 the Baltimore Traction Company hired Jackson C. Gott to design a streetcar barn for the Baltimore Passenger Railway.  In 1915 the space was then converted into a motor bus garage until the space was sold by the United Railways and Electric Company in 1939.

At the time of its sale, the streetcar barn was separated into two different properties and the history of the Charles takes two different paths for over fifty years.  The original streetcar barn was divided into the North Barn (1715-1717 N. Charles Street) and South Barn (1711 N. Charles Street) and were owned and operated individually, however both as entertainment venues. 

The North Barn
In 1939, Louis Schecter, purchased the North Barn and opened the property as a 100-lane bowling alley.  The space functioned as a bowling alley until 1948 when a fire damaged the second floor of the building.  Schecter took the construction opportunity on the second floor to rebuild the section of the building and opened up the Famous Ballroom as a club.  Schecter leased the venue to many patrons, including the Left Bank Jazz Society who hosted shows and promoted jazz in the space from 1966 to the Famous Ballroom’s closing in 1984.  Schecter then sold the property and in 1986 the venue was reopened as Godfrey’s Famous Ballroom.  Large crowds, underage drinking, and crime led to the closing of Godfrey’s only five years later.   

The South Barn
After the split of the streetcar barn in 1939, the South Barn was purchased by Jack Fruchtman.  Fruchtman was the founder of JF Theaters, a company that owned over 50 theaters in the state, and converted the space into the Times Theatre, Baltimore’s first moving picture house that specialized in newsreels.  In 1959, the Times Theatre was renamed The Charles Theatre in honor of its location.  For 38 years, the Charles Theatre was successful in hosting screenings of both local films and international films until 1978 when JF Theaters filed for bankruptcy and terminated its lease.

In 1979, the Charles Theatre was purchased by David Levy as an art repertory house.  The Charles remained successful and prominent in Baltimore arts culture, premiering and screening movies of Baltimore filmmaker John Waters such as his film Polyester in 1981.  Levy and the Charles’ success continued as film revenue broke records for the venue.  Slowly however around 1990, the Charles began to lose business as community demographics changed.  In 1993, Levy closed the Charles, unable to pay the rent because of low ticket sales and the theater’s single scree .  Three months later, the Charles was purchased, this time by John Standiford, a previous projectionist of the Charles, and his uncle, James Cusack, a contractor.

The Charles Theatre (as we know it)
Cusack and Standiford together transformed the Charles Theatre into what it is today.  Once again, the single-screen kept ticket sales low, but the two saw the space next door as an opportunity.  The two purchased the North Barn in 1998 and worked to create an entertainment space in the community to boost not only sales, but to bring people back to North Charles Street.  In 1998, the theater received a $79,000 grant from the city, allowing for construction to combine the North and South Barn into one large complex.  The Charles had its grand re-opening in 1999 where they debuted four new screens, for a total of five screens and 1,150 seats for patrons of the theater.  The Charles’ new look brought back the authentic looks of the North and South barn and made the theater a destination for city-goers.  With this expansion, the Charles also became a main venue for the Maryland Film Festival from 1999 to 2014. 

Today, the Charles is has become a central landmark of North Charles Street and a destination for those visiting the Station North Arts & Entertainment District.  Patrons can see varieties of films in this unique space that focuses on the history of the area and the films it screens.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Continuing Conversation (In and Outside of Class!)

This past week has been a lot of wrapping up.  Making final blog posts, going on final adventures (I'm gonna post them all I promise), and seeing the project come together as a whole.  It was awesome to get to hear the voices project and their completed work and see all the research we have done come together on a map.

Not related to the class, but related to the rest of the world going on around us, I went to the second Teach In on campus, this time hosted by UMBC for Ferguson.  I am glad I attended the event, and I heard a lot of new perspectives on the events, coming from community activists and others.  However, the next day I was talking to someone and they asked me how the event was, and I found myself at a loss of words.  I'm glad I went, really glad (and I don't think I could say this enough), but I felt like there was something missing.  It could have been that they needed another panelist, or an additional perspective, I'm not sure.  I just didn't leave feeling the same way I did with the other Teach In.  I learned about ways to get involved, but at the same time I didn't.  This is probably really confusing because I'm equally as confused as to how I felt after attending the event. Maybe it's my privilege making me feel uncomfortable?

I'm glad that I am on a college campus that allows for these sorts of conversations to be had, and that I have friends, peers, and professors willing to have these meaningful conversations.  I hope that they continue in a with not for kind of way.  I think classes like ours allow for that to happen.  As the class comes to a close, I'm actually really impressed with the work we have done thus far.  I am additionally very excited to see how the research we've done and the voices we have collected are used in continued courses.

Monday, May 4, 2015

History with Some Humanity

This week's work focused once again around a listening assignment.  Our job with these assignments have been to focus reemerging themes in these pieces and capturing the stories of Station North, listening to D. Watkins' interview appropriately led me to focusing on one of the hopes we've had for this project since the beginning: humanity.

The goal of our Community in America course this semester has been capturing the true voices, opinions, beliefs, and experiences of those living, working, and passing through Station North.  It has been about uncovering the history of the spaces that make up the District, but also about learning how the people who live in the neighborhoods and hang out in the businesses feel about what it is to be a community in Station North.

Watkins explains his experience as a writer and how people have before forgotten his own humanity, thinking of him as just a "thing" rather than a person with complex layers and lived experiences.

The idea of listening and collecting the ideas of others is something that has become a reoccurring topic of discussion outside of the classroom.  In all aspects of conversation this week, whether it be at work meetings, talking with peers, or in academic settings, I have been urged to take in the ideas of others without question.  To take into consideration the lived experiences and ideas of those around me. To try and place humanity back into the headlines I've been reading.

I think it was appropriate that my last listening assignment was Watkins' because it reminded me of why we started this project.  During his interview, Watkins says, "I'm trying to preserve history and doing what I can to document culture as I know it."  And in a way, I feel like we're doing the same thing.  We're trying to combine these stories and lived experiences to document the changes and triumphs of Station North, but they won't all be collected once we are done.  New people will move into the area, all with different potentials, and the project will continue.