Posts Tagged ‘baltimore’

Check out my photos and a short video that illustrates Baltimore’s Light City: Ramsey Row. All rights Reserved

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The city of Baltimore has long has its share of ups and downs, of pain, loss, and sorrow. It has also had its share of fun, happiness and love. Like any decent sized city, it also has its share of unjust practices, inhumane humans, killers, and snakes and those who want nothing more than to see the city burn for their own gain. But enough about those in positions of power and politicians! Kidding…but only a little. Honestly, it’s one of the cities in which I’ve chosen to live and I have come to enjoy it, in spite of flaws. I’ve lived in cities with easier access to public transportation (an east coast cities known for its harbor and missing “r” in many words and then the other for its melting pot) and both places were fine and fun. Sure, they also came with life lessons such as how to survive as an immigrant in a different country, how to live in a big city, who to trust and who to run away from, etc. I’ve also worked for several years in an adjoining city as well as in the step sister of one of the above referenced cities, and while it’s great to have access to very good restaurants and clubs, and great spaces for art, I don’t want to have to rely on a rail system that is in dire need of repairs, a city in which “what do you do?” is the number one question, and honestly, I want my city and state to have rights and a system slightly less corrupt that isn’t run by real life Sopranos types.

What I realized about Baltimore over the years, is that you can still have a bit of a small town feel where you know some of your neighbors but still have access to good art, to great restaurants, to fun bars, etc. Live here long enough and if you don’t get to know everyone who inhabit the same spaces or at least recognize the “Norms” (a Cheers TV show reference for those who are wondering about Norms).

It feels like there’s a shift in diversity in the city and while I still will not go to certain places in MD because they openly advertise that they do not like brown people, there isn’t a place in the city that I feel is off limits. Are there neighborhoods that are less desirable in terms of a high crime rate than others? Of course there are. Will I visit some of the less than desirable neighborhoods without people who are familiar with them? Of course I will not. This is common sense. The same way I wouldn’t visit certain neighborhoods in Hell’s Kitchen and Brooklyn back in the day, or Bromley or Jackson Square as a kid, or certain section in Southeast DC just fifteen years ago even though it was a short ride away. Common sense. That, and an understanding that some of the people in these places would view me just as suspiciously as those who display confederate flags in Rising Sun and in Essex, Maryland.

Look, I know that this and many cities have a long way to go in terms of political leadership, acceptance from the older citizens who haven’t traveled more than fifteen miles outside of their comfort zones to learn that not everyone is black or white or straight of church-going and that as a group, there are some who are hell bent on hating and making this town a hell hole. However, idiots like these exist everywhere, even in the lovely West Coast towns that I’ve visited in which most of the people are genuinely nice, polite and giving. I also say that while the friendliness factor isn’t very high, in fact it’s very low compared to the West Coast, it is also not as repressive, full of fake smiles and cute phrases that insult you as they’re being sweetly whispered into your ear, and it’s definitely not as harsh as those who will threaten your life with a tire iron for taking an extra inch of parking space on what they consider “their” street. However, do these cities and towns have people who are full of love, light and happiness and have residents who would welcome you? Of course they do!

I hope the shifting dynamics such as influx of newer residents for jobs and the friendliness factor continues to improve and honestly, I hope those who insist on focusing only on what’s wrong without lending a hand to make things better, move. You are not a tree. You are not a rock. Move to a place you love so that you can enjoy life, become friendlier, become a person who makes things better. Why? I want you to be happy and I don’t want you miserabling (yes, my word) my city up.  Look, I’m not giving only a rose-colored glasses account. Many of us know about the recent and decades old injustices, race-related systemic oppression and all of the media touted and firsthand oral reports of hardship. This isn’t to say these things and accounts aren’t real. They are. But so are the good vibes of love, happiness, and excitement about living in a place that you can call home, one in which you can find a job that allows you to earn a decent wage so that you can explore the world or at least, provide decent meals for your loved ones, one in which you can go to a bar and still afford a drink (not a PBR or Natty Boh for $7 and up!). A town that allows you to hop a train and visit a huge array of cities with great restaurants, art and theatres if you want that big(ger) city feel!

Oh, and if you don’t like it, fight to make it better. Elections are coming up. You know what to do and what you need. Don’t focus on what will go wrong, as something always will. Focus on what’s going well and what we can do to make it better. Love you all!

Oh, and to those who think I am all starry eyed and lacking the ability to see this city’s downsides, I say that sure, the video and my description is not representative of all of Baltimore. Sure, the Inner Harbor, Harbor East, Roland Park and other neighborhoods receive preferential treatment in the city, Hampden is slowly moving up but I still have issues in places off 36th St., but I still attend the Hampden Festival and like this Baltimore Light City, I think it’s nice to have events that are family-friendly and free of charge that showcases art with a conscience as many of the art highlight in several forms, the inequalities due to race, drug use, how the people who were born and raised in the city are treated, etc. Oh, and while the energy giant who charges exorbitant fees (Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.)  is sponsoring this, I figure since I have to pay their fees anyway to have  a little thing called electricity, I figure they should be a darned sponsor and give something back, even if it is a tax write off for them. So there! Happy now that I can share some of the bad too? 😉

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Thank you to everyone who support my writing! One of my poems which was written during the Baltimore “riots” has been accepted and published in Wordpeace, a literary journal to promote peace and justice! Check out “Brown Boy Infamy” here!

Natasha Hungover Poet on mic

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Fighting for change always brings about naysayers, distractions, and those who will tell you, with a straight face and loud voice, that your opinions on wanting changes that affect your life and the life of those you love who are being mistreated, is wrong.

Fuck them. Fuck that!

If something is wrong, fix it. If you can’t fix it right away, continue to fight day after day to fix it. Note: I’m not being incendiary. Fights come in many forms and flavors. Do I personally know or love any of the black men and women killed by police officers? No. Do I know people like them? Sadly, yes. Too many. Have I seen loved ones being searched and pulled over and not given a reason? Yes. Have I gone through it? Yes.

So what’s different about this fight from others who say that All Lives Matter? Systemic oppression. When you as a race of people, are continuously discriminated against, are ignored by the authorities when you need help, or when you are viewed as a thug in spite of being an upstanding, educated and highly sought after professional  because of the color of your skin by those who are in jobs to protect and serve, that is a problem.

When minorities riot, they’re called thugs and hooligans and niggas on social media outlets and the news networks. Are they right to riot? My opinion is no, they’re not. When white people riot, they’re called passionate and heartbroken. Are they right to riot? My opinion is no, they’re not.

Sure, I understand the frustration and anger at being fearful for your life when a political officer pulls you over – whether for a valid reason or not – and I understand how swallowing that fear and abuse can burn and swell in your belly to the point of one day vomiting up all that hate and embarrassment.

I’m sure some will say I’m wrong but I honestly have not seen many of my white friends and counterparts going through this for the years I’ve known them, nor have I seen them have to prove they belong in certain establishments, organizations, etc. And yes, I know this is all a part of the problem and not directly related to one cure. My goal here is to remind that one incident alone is not what’s causing such anger and such violent reactions.

Unaware of what’s happening? Here’s a recap from hawkers.com:
Unarmed People of Color Killed by Police from 99-14

This post is merely to help me cut through the cobwebs in my head, and to try and shake off my fear for those I love. Why? Because my life experiences, background, and my loved ones are the ones in fear of being killed. If you don’t understand how fear and oppression works, educate yourselves and let’s have a civil discussion. Till then, enjoy whatever privilege you have (real of perceived), because honestly, white skin in America is a visible privilege. You can choose to use it for the good of humankind or stick your head in the sand and say you don’t understand what “these people are doing or hoping to accomplish”. What you choose to do with your position of power is up to you.

Don’t believe a minority who says it? Maybe you’ll believe it coming from a popular white male, then, as he reminds you “get killed just for living in your American skin…”
Here’s a link to “41 Shots” by Bruce Springsteen:

41 Shots – Bruce Springsteen

Stay safe, friends.

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People who aren’t systemically oppressed and abused aren’t scared of authorities or those who skew events in their favor. Why would they be? They haven’t lived through a fear so overpowering that it takes your breath away. So overpowering that it makes you fearful to speak. So overpowering that you CAN’T speak because the words will not come out.

These people have never been stopped and frisked for no reason. For many, they cannot begin to imagine the shame of sitting on a sidewalk as cars drive by with passengers wondering, “what that person do?” as cell phone photos of the “thug” are circulated on social media.

These people have lived a privileged life. Oh, and privilege does not mean only money or power. Sometimes privilege comes with skin color. Sometimes privilege is blind to privilege.

Today I encountered many who may okay with systemic oppression by virtue of not being able to recognize it and who refuse to acknowledge its existence. I’ve also encountered those who can’t move past it to try, and some of whom are unable to pave positive paths. I’ve also encountered some who are trying oh so hard to make life better and to  understand why good things happen to bad people and why bad things happen to good people. Good luck with that question. No one knows the answer.

Look, I and many others will never be on the “right”.side of history books when they’re written by my oppressor but I wasn’t supposed to be. I refuse to stop trying to make a difference. I refuse to back down when those who do not fight the same fight, forget what it means to stop and empathize or find it easy to sit back in their comfy lazyboy chairs, watching tv and pointing fingers.

I need you to know what oppression feels like. To know what it tastes like. Like dirt and asphalt and pigeon shit. I need you to know that while west fight for differemtt rights, they’re all civil rights.

I’ve met and have much respect for those who care about civil rights more than their personal comfort. To these people, I know who you are and I know your skin color.  I appreciate and respect you.

Baltimore matters. Black Lives Matter. Anger and frustration over the death of Freddie Gary, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner and so many others are understandable. This is a countrywide matter and not just a Florida, Ferguson, NY, etc. matter. This is a civil rights issue, not just a black issue. And don’t think for one second, that if you’re a model black person you won’t get stopped or shot. If you do, you don’t understand why some are angry.

How many of you will share this? Speak on it? How many of you will just remain silent?

A social media friend sent me a link to a campaign raising funds for “Baltimore Girls”, and what better way, other than wonderful cold, hard cash 🙂 is there to support than to share the campaign via other aspects of social media. Check out the description from the campaign below and support if you can! We need to continuously lift our youth and show that there’s hope for everyone, no matter where you’re from, what you’ve been through, etc.!

Peace, Natasha

“BaltimoreGirls is an anthology of the lives of approximately 7 women and their life experiences attempting to overcome many of the obstacles that women living in Baltimore face.  Each woman has a story dealing with loneliness, isolation, fear, self-esteem, family, suicidal thoughts, seeking love, identity, abandonment, choices, coming out, pregnancy, and pursuit of happiness – embodied by every woman’s tale.  They are the stories of real people finding their own beauty and identity and creating their own sense of self-empowerment and social development.  “BaltimoreGirls” is designed to educate and inspire those seeking to overcome obstacles in their own lives.  This thought provoking array of works will have you amazed and wanting more. 

The “Baltimore Girls” Exhibition is intended to become a travelling art collection and will tour venues locally and throughout the country.  We recognize we need the support of our community to make this vision a reality.  Won’t you please contribute to breathe life into this most important work of art?  We and the National Kidney Foundation need your support.  We have provided several incentives to encourage you to give and give generously.  Please review them and make your contribution as all contributions are appreciated.  Don’t forget to aid us by sharing this link with your friends, family, and organizations you think may have an interest in this most important work.  There is also a sponsorship package available to groups and organization that would like to partner with us to aid in making this event a success. The funds will be used for the venue, enlarging and printing pictures,video production, photographers,marketing and promotional materials,caterer, lighting/display,art supplies and more!…. Your support is greatly appreciated!!!” 

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/baltimoregirls–4

Disclaimer before I go any further: There are MANY good and some great police officers out there. This post is about the 911 reporting system to get to emergency services.

Okay, so I’ve added up the calls I’ve made in the last year or so that I can remember. These calls were to report people in distress. One was a person slumped over a steering wheel at around 3 in the morning, another for a guy laid out flat on his back on a sidewalk and not moving, and most recently, for a car on the highway that was on fire. I think those are valid reasons to call an emergency service. However, each of these calls, from a cell phone, started off as follows with the 911 Operator playing the role of an emergency services provides and me, playing the role of concerned citizen:

911 Operator: “Hello, …. what is your emergency?”

Me: <describes the emergency and provides exact location. e.g. “I’m at the corner of X and X streets or at a particular highway exit east, and there’s a grey car on fire or there’s a white male lying flat on his back on the sidewalk if you’re facing south. He’s wearing light blue jeans and ….”.

911 Operator: “Are you in the city of the county?”

Me: *scowls, frowns, and tries to figure out where the damn city/county line is to give an accurate answer and not have someone die because of my inability to respond immediately*. “I think I’m in the  …”

911 Operator: “Let me transfer you to …. ” and they actually transfer me and I have to repeat the entire thing AGAIN!!!

I’ll stop the story right here. If I’m giving you an exact location and description of the issue/person, etc. shouldn’t YOU as the 911 Operator look it up? AND why on earth do you have to transfer me?

Also, just to highlight another seemingly crazy question I’ve been asked by 911 operators, “Is he breathing? Can you go/stop and check?” While I will help if I can, I don’t always see this as a great idea. After all, I can check for a pulse but I’m not in this particular line of work and I’m trying to help by calling the group of people who do this for a living and are way better at it than I am, so shouldn’t they check if I’m reporting it? Not to seem callous, but I don’t want to find out that I’m discovering a dead body.

I may be overreacting but I feel as though there is some quality control and common sense missing when a concerned citizen has to be the one to not only report problems or people in distress, but be sure to carry a full map of where Baltimore City and Baltimore County intersect; of where the exact line between Montgomery County and DC lies, and which part of DC (Penn Quarter, etc.) I am in when I call to ask for help if I give exact street names. Doesn’t it make more sense to ask which block? For a street number? Anything other than, “City or County”/”Are you in Penn Quarter or China Town?”, etc.

A friend reminded me of this oldie when I shared my 911 woes.

Anyone reading this old enough to remember Public Enemy before Flava Flav became even crazier??

“Going going gone
Now I dialed 911 a long time ago
Don’t you see how late they’re reactin’
They only come and they come when they wanna
So get the morgue embalm the goner
They don’t care ’cause they stay paid anyway
They teach ya like an ace they can’t be betrayed
I know you stumble with no use people
If your life is on the line they you’re dead today
Late comings with the late comin’ stretcher
That’s a body bag in disguise y’all betcha
I call ’em body snatchers quick they come to fetch ya?
With an autopsy ambulance just to dissect ya
They are the kings ’cause they swing amputation
Lose your arms, your legs to them it’s compilation
I can prove it to you watch the rotation
It all adds up to a funky situation
So get up get, get get down
911 is a joke in yo town
Get up, get, get, get down
Late 911 wears the late crown

911 is a joke

Everyday they don’t never come correct
You can ask my man right here with the broken neck
He’s a witness to the job never bein’ done
He would’ve been in full in 8 9-11
Was a joke ’cause they always jokin’
They the token to your life when it’s croakin’
They need to be in a pawn shop on a
911 is a joke we don’t want ’em
I call a cab ’cause a cab will come quicker
The doctors huddle up and call a flea flicker
The reason that I say that ’cause they
Flick you off like fleas
They be laughin’ at ya while you’re crawlin’ on your knees
And to the strength so go the length
Thinkin’ you are first when you really are tenth
You better wake up and smell the real flavor
Cause 911 is a fake life saver

So get up, get, get get down
911 is a joke in yo town
Get up, get, get, get down
Late 911 wears the late crown”

Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Baltimore

The Good:

Excellent steak! (pics included below) We had the porterhouse for two and my, what a beaut she was when she showed up all sizzling on the 500 degree plate. The porterhouse was perfectly cooked at a medium temperature with a warm pink center and the soft, succulent pieces of USDA prime cut with both the tenderness of a filet and all of the flavor of a NY strip danced over my tongue with every bite.

The a la carte side choice was asparagus in a hollandaise sauce. Honestly, I didn’t care whether there was a party dress on my asparagus because I am such a fan if it’s lightly steamed and crunchy, which this was, but I hear the sauce was good so I’ll rate it as such. J

To accompany this feast, we chose a red wine that some may consider lighter than desired for a NY strip, but I highly recommend it because of the smoothness and taste. The lucky wine of the night was an Australian Shiraz from Rosemount Estate (pic included below) and surprisingly, one of the less pricey wines on the list. Don’t let the price fool you though. While I would typically pair a Shiraz like this with a peppered steak or a burger, the dark, smoky taste left delicious layers of ripe plums in a hint of oak on my tastebuds that complemented the orgasmic bites of steak.

The dessert was awesometasticer than the steak! We had bread pudding in a whiskey cream sauce (pic included below) which was liberally laced with a semi-sweet whiskey (maybe Jack Daniels?). The bread pudding is dense but soft and moist enough to be broken up easily with a fork. The serving was generous and unless you’re having nothing but dessert, you will be taking leftovers of this delicacy home with you. I paired mine with a Macallan 12 year and my dining companion went with a cocktail. Either way, we were happy with our choices and hey, after finishing a bottle of wine, who could blame us? 😉

Everyone, from the hostess to the wait staff and busboys were wonderful hosts, very friendly and courteous. I felt like a valued patron and despite the fine dining atmosphere, the environment felt “warm” and welcome. I would rate this restaurant’s service higher than any other restaurant I’ve dined in recently, with the one exception to the excellent service being the head bartender, which is a good segway into the bad…

The Bad:

The head bartender at the bar which is on the first floor. He made several “off-color” quips and jokes which made me uncomfortable and for a few minutes, ruined the experience. However, I think with our refusal to be baited into an awkward conversation, he realized his mistake when he did not receive laughs for any of his so-called jokes and tried to make up for it by being more of a bartender and just sticking to conversations about booze. After all, that’s all I want – a knowledgeable bartender and someone without a chip on their shoulder.
The Ugly:

Nothing ugly to report here, so yay!

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