Station North

Things I miss about Baltimore

Obviously, my recent trip back to Baltimore for the Maryland Film Festival didn’t go as well as I had hoped. It did remind me of some of the reasons I left Charm City so in that regard it wasn’t a total loss. However, for the sake of fairness, I’ve decided to compile a brief list of some of the things I miss about Baltimore.

 

  • Walkability – I could walk from my apartment in Bolton Hill to movies/theatre in Station North or restaurants on Charles Street. Not to mention coffee shops at both ends of UB and Light Rail/Circulator to downtown/1st Mariner Arena – sorry, “Royal Farms Arena” – and a quick walk to Metro Subway to get to the zoo.
  • Landmark Harbor East – Okay, so it was super expensive (like everything else in the neighborhood) and a pain to get to from Bolton Hill, but it was newer, cleaner and in far better condition than The Charles – plus they had a wider variety of indie/mainstream films (Orlando theaters only show mainstream movies).
  • Station North – Sure the already sketchy area has lost some of its artistic cache when two of its biggest draws – Everyman and Single Carrot theatres – moved out (the former to downtown and the latter to Remington), but this area is constantly growing and changing from the Maryland Film Festival to Annex’s “Chicken Box” to the upcoming Motor House theatre complex and the energy that comes from having both MICA and the Baltimore School of Design as neighborhood anchors.
  • Inner Harbor – Dining at Harborplace, coffee at the Barnes & Noble and movies at the Science Center – all without the crowds usually associated with downtown tourist traps. Okay, the National Aquarium is usually crazy but otherwise it’s pretty quiet…except immediately after an Orioles game.
  • Entertainment/Events – Pick a weekend and there is bound to be SOMETHING going on there somewhere – from daytime events SoWeBo Arts Festival and Olde Tyme Christmas to nighttime entertainment like “Final Fridays” and “Constellation Thursdays.” It was my JOB to cover them – all of them…which was why I had no life.
  • Connectivity – Like the first point on this list, Baltimore is easily assessable to other cities on the East Coast like D.C, NYC and Philadelphia via its convenient downtown Amtrak station. Going beyond the Eastern Seaboard? The city’s Light Rail line connects directly with BWI airport making getting into and out of the city a snap.
Categories: Baltimore, Bolton Hill, editorials, Inner Harbor, ramblings, Station North, writing | Leave a comment

Film Fest 2015: Friday (Part 1)

Note: I missed the first full day of the Maryland Film Festival due to a delayed flight. I was supposed to see my first show at 7:15 that evening, but I didn’t land at BWI until 9:45pm so my coverage is a tad abbreviated – particularly since it was cheaper to leave on Sunday (actual last day of the festival) rather than Monday.

 

I found the tent village at 10:05am after dealing with a disappointing breakfast in the hotel restaurant and a particularly demanding – and entitled – homeless woman at the Circulator stop on Fayette St. If I had time, I would have stopped at the McDonald’s next to the village and gotten a REAL breakfast, but I was there to get tickets not to eat.

Tickets prices have gone up since my last visit from $10 up to $12, but there was a “3 for $30” promotion that I didn’t notice until after I already purchased my FOUR tickets. Though I will say the volunteer at the festival tent was friendly even if I had to explain to her the times and venues to her so she could explain them back to me. How do I keep getting into these stupid sitcom-like situations anyway?

I arrived at the Walters Art Museum about a half hour before my first movie was set to start and took 15 minutes to write down everything that happened to me today before putting away my notebook and heading inside to the auditorium…just to find the film would be “delayed” (not the word I wanted to hear) due to “minor technical difficulties.”

The program, started about 10 minutes behind schedule, but since there was no “host” the film started immediately. I won’t get into my thoughts on the film here, but I fell asleep twice during its 104 minute runtime.

I walked down Charles St towards the Inner Harbor looking for someplace to have a nice lunch. I didn’t want fast food or a food truck, but an actual sit down meal so I was disappointed when the time on the check from Pizzeria Uno was only “1:37pm” – I still had nearly three hours until my next movie!

I took the Circulator back to the hotel, but the room wasn’t turned yet. I considered going down to the pool while waiting for housekeeping for come by, but it was too cloudy/breezy to swim so I stayed put and struggled through my first review until it was time to leave for my second screening.

Categories: adventures, Baltimore, Charm CityCirculator, festivals, Inner Harbor, light rail, movies, Station North, writing | Leave a comment

Artscape (misc photos)

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Categories: art, Artscape, Baltimore, Bolton Hill, festivals, photography, Station North | Leave a comment

Artscape (Saturday afternoon)

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Categories: art, Artscape, Baltimore, Bolton Hill, festivals, photography, Station North | Leave a comment

So busy it’s spooky

I left the apartment just after 11:30am. It was later than I had initially planned, but it adds drama to the otherwise dry story (can he make it? Stay tuned!).

My first stop was the Walter’s Art Museum to see their new Egyptian themed show “The Mysterious Book of Faiyum.” Technically, I had already seen part of the show on Thursday night, but I had such a headache that I couldn’t stay for the rest of it (and I didn’t have enough material for a full blog post about it either).

Fortunately, this was their Egyptian themed “Fall Family Fun Festival” so they waived their $10 entry fee, and garnered a sizable crowd of parents and children in the process though most of the younger kids were kept busy making simple crafts in the main lobby. This enabled me to get through the second half of the exhibit far quicker than I had anticipated so I had to figure out what\where I was going from there.

As I headed north on Charles Street, I ran across a large group of protesters. I have no idea what they were railing against (there are a lot of things to protest in this city) as their chant seemed a bit generic and I couldn’t quite read their signs from across the street. There was no cursory write-up in the Brew when I got back so I may never know what they were chanting about.

They turn off to the right towards the monument and I continued straight uphill before finally ducking into the Starbucks on Preston Street. I was too hot for a hot beverage, but it was too cold for a frozen drink. I didn’t stop to think so I just ordered an iced Pumpkin Spice, and felt bad as I passed the half dozen or so homeless people working the area (carrying around a Starbucks cup tends to undermine the whole “I don’t have any money to give you” canard).

It took me about fifteen minutes or so after leaving the store to find my next destination. I thought a “street festival” would be pretty simple to find, but the 1st annual “Fall Festival” at the newly opened Baltimore Design (High) School was a pretty small affair – four tables, a DJ and a bounce house plus a nominal $5 “donation.” Unfortunately for them, I continued walking (hey, there’s always next year) and eventually circled back to Mt Royal Station, but that didn’t mean my day was over yet…

I bought a ticket and waited about five minutes for a southbound train to take me downtown. I got off at Convention Center and walked over to the Maryland Science Center for their new show called “Mummies of the World.” It’s a fascinating subject, but it tried to tackle too much at one time. Worse it felt hypocritical to admonish visitors to respect the human dignity of the very specimens you brought out for them to gawk at – particularly since the science portion of the show was perfunctory and literally shoved off to the sides.

It was early yet as I left the exhibit, but I still decided it was easier to eat at the museum café than go back to the apartment and make something there. The food was overpriced, but still slightly better than I feared it would be. I put the empty tray on top of the trash can, put my hat back on and then left through the glass doors out to the plaza and started my way back to my apartment…

Categories: adventures, art, Baltimore, festivals, Inner Harbor, md science center, museums, protests, Station North | 1 Comment

Final Friday in Station North

It took slightly less than 20 minutes to get from my apartment in Bolton Hill to the new Annex Theater\Station North HQ on North Avenue. It wasn’t the most impressive space I’ve ever seen, but considering it was only drywall and ceiling beams they could only improve (fortunately painting and moving furniture are two things that can be done relatively quickly).

However since there was no-one there I slid back out and headed into the McDonald’s next door. Who cares if it’s “healthy,” it was next door! Normally, that location takes 10-15 minutes for me to get my order, but today I was lucky as I get my food in less than three (there were five people ahead of me). When I returned to the theater, there was someone inside giving a tour of what little there was to see, but I’m sure it will look different by the time “Macbeth” opens sometime next month.

The walk over to Baltimore Node seemed to take forever, but I eventually made it there. Naturally, they were serving free pizza and Boh in a space that looked like a combination machine shop and frat house. The people there seemed nice enough even if I had no idea what they were talking about which is such a downer since I always considered myself at least somewhat smart.

Next door was the new Station North Tool Library and whose opening was the excuse for holding this little night out. It was exactly like I pictured a tool library to look… except the crowd inside was standing room only. I like the idea of the space, but I hate crowds so I went back to watch little kids set off rockets outside Node.

If I wanted to, I could go all the way back to Charles Street to see a bilingual play about Peruvian miners. Speaking two languages is great, but anyone who’s ever talked to me can tell you that I barely speak one…that is unless I’m talking to myself in which case they can magically understand me perfectly.

Fortunately, there was one other theatrical option in the area, and it was located almost directly behind my apartment. It was the “classic” 1989 musical “Meet Me in St Louis” at Memorial Episcopal. The play was a little overlong with spotty acting, but, on the plus side, I can take Missouri off my “bucket list.”

Categories: adventures, Baltimore, Bolton Hill, Station North, theatre | 1 Comment

What should replace the Everyman Theatre?

Note: In honor of Single Carrot’s announcement to move (temporarily) into the theatre at 1727 North Charles, I have decided to repost this (slightly updated) piece that was originally posted on April 12, 2011.

I spent Saturday evening walking around the “Station North Arts & Entertainment District” for their “Second Saturdays” event in which various venues host free or reduced cost events for the public (now “Final Fridays”). The reason I’m writing this is because one of their flagship theatres – The Everyman – is moving to a new space across from The Hippodrome at the end of their season (now the middle of this season) and it got me wondering: what should fill that venerable old performance space?

The most obvious choice would be to move another theatre company into that space – especially since there are a lot of “dive theatres” in the area (Glass Mind, current BoB winner Single Carrot, and Strand) as well as a few “homeless” companies like Iron Crow. This is, unfortunately, the least likely scenario especially since many companies are just barely making ends meet as it is due to the bad economy.

However, the absolute best fit theatrically speaking is Spotlighters. Yes, the venerable Mount Vernon theatre has recently launched a capital campaign to raise $1.5 million to make their space ADA compliant – including wheelchair ramp and improved restrooms (trust me, they need it). Both things the current Everyman space, conveniently enough, already has – a bigger stage and slightly larger audience without losing intimacy (85 at their current space, vs. approximately 135 at Everyman). Not only that, the current Everyman space is in a highly desirable location on Charles Street in Station North (as opposed to a basement hidden in the back of an alleyway, that can be difficult to find – especially at night).

The next most obvious option would be to put a gallery there. Yes, there are plenty of places to make pretty pictures, but most of the places that are displaying them require you order something first (Metro Bar, Joe Squared, etc.). I’m all for, hanging art in whatever forum will hang them, but it can difficult to approach art in this context without upsetting other customers and obstructing the wait staff.

They could also open a bar, restaurant or a retail shop in there (I hear the Baltimore FREE Store still needs a new home), but I suspect that it will simply sit idly decaying until it becomes nothing but a boarded up shell of its former self like so many other buildings in the neighborhood. It would be a terrible shame – and a waste of good real estate – but I suspect that may ultimately end up being its fate. 😦

Categories: art, Baltimore, editorials, entertainment, ramblings, retail, Station North, theatre | 1 Comment

Second Saturday: Part 2

The first thing I did after picking up the “venue crawl”
card from the counter was to put the tiny blue sticker on it that I gotten from
Gallery Myrthis earlier that afternoon. The second was to go back up to Cyclops
for that sticker the manager had promised me earlier…except now he can’t find
them (natch).

While he searches for those stickers, I walk around his
store getting those glossy fliers all sticky from my sweaty fingers. I mumble,
apparently aloud, that I’m tired of carrying them, “but they’re too small to
bother getting a bag for and too big to fit neatly into my pocket.”

“WHAT was that?” Fuck.

Why is it every time I mumble something to myself there’s
ALWAYS someone behind me demanding to know what I just said?

“It was nothing,” I said taking my now stickered card back
from him and walking away.

“I KNOW you said SOMETHING,” he said following me out of his
store. I crossed the street quickly and didn’t bother looking back.

It was almost 7pm when I went into Load of Fun\Theatre to
inquire about tickets to their Alley Aerial Festival. I know because I asked
the crew from The Single Carrot where the box office for the festival was, and
they were able to get someone to unlock the door for me.

Unfortunately, the show didn’t start for another hour (I had
the event time confused with Everyman’s “A Raisin in the Sun” which started at
7:30) so I went back outside where TSC had just finished setting up their
“Neighborhood Art Project” and a few people had gathered to begin the process
of filling in the 12”x24” poster board the theater was providing for the event.

“You were at ‘Linus & Alora’ last season weren’t you?”
TSC Artistic director Nathaniel Cooper asked me.

Fuck.
“Yeah…maybe…why?”

“Yes, I recognize you from one of our shows – your name is
Jonathan isn’t it?”

Double fuck.

Then I notice that I’m standing next to Jessica Garrett who
played Linus’ unidentified tormentor in the play, so I took the chance to ask
the question that had been nagging me since last season:

“What were Sunshine and Noodle supposed to be anyway?”

“Well…um…we had a meeting about that, but it was never
resolved. So I guess it’s up to whatever you want to interpret it as.”

‘Hey, Jonathan, who were Sunshine & Noodle?’ ‘They were…trolls, demons — angels, yeah angels.’
‘Thanks, you’re really good at interpreting things.’

See how helpful that little exercise was? Me neither, so I
sulked back into the gallery pretending to marvel at the various woodcuttings
until they allowed us back into the main staging area.

This rather crowded holding area was the same black box
Glass Mind Theater used to stage “Neighborhood 3,” but somehow it looked
smaller without the seats. They also had a bar area with “Coke, Diet Coke,
water and wine.”

I ordered the Diet, and turns around to the old, beaten up
fridge behind him and says “that’ll be $3.”

“Put it back,” I sighed.

“Look, we gotta pay our actors somehow.”

So what was that whole $20 thing I had to pay when I came in
for? This is Station North NOT Disneyland, but they got the whole captive
audience thing down pat.

Several minutes later they called us into the seating area.
They called it “Graffiti Alley” because it was an alley and it was covered
entirely with colorful tags of all sorts and everyone coming into it had to get
their picture taken in front of one wall or another, then they had to get shots
of the alley from their seats. It was nothing but flashes until the stage
manager came out to announce the rules.

Remember how I said this wasn’t Disneyland? They proved it once
the acts started. You never forget these acts were dangerous or that the
performers were only being supported by two strings of rope\silk, but the whole
twist body into pretentious position and wait for applause bit got old rather
quickly.

The sole exception to this was the aggressive, almost erotic
silk routine “Turf” about female competitiveness. The “aerial fence” act that
followed was simply boring, lacking either narrative or visual interest – even
the gawkers on the other end of the alley left after a few minutes. I, however,
had to sit there until intermission.

I left the gallery at intermission just as Cooper was putting his now completed poster board back into his theater’s box office. I
looked down at my card, sighed and made my way to back to my apartment.

Categories: adventures, art, Baltimore, entertainment, festivals, neighborhoods, retail, Station North | 1 Comment

Second Saturday: Part 1

I haven’t done a Second Saturday post in a while… and I
might not do so again for quite a while.

I left the apartment just after 4pm, and made my way towards
Gallery Myrthis on the northern boundary Station North. It’s a long walk, even
just from North Avenue, and it could have been a lot longer if I hadn’t
rechecked the address on my printout as the converted townhouse it’s housed in
isn’t that well marked.

The exhibit was broken into 3 sections based on the section
of the house it was in: the front room was mostly medium sized paintings with
bold patterns on a white canvas along with several light colored sculptures;
the kitchen was filled with large dark pieces with no discernible patterns; the
‘office’ was built around smaller prints as well as pieces that didn’t fit into
the other two rooms.

I can’t really go into much more detail as the gallery owner
or her assistant kept trying to talk to me every time I stopped to take notes.
They did give me the ‘venue crawl’ sticker even though a) her gallery wasn’t on
the crawl and b) she didn’t have the card she supposed to put said sticker on
(and she had no suggestions as to who would).

I make my way back to North Avenue and go into Cyclops Books to see they had a venue card. They didn’t, but the owner said I might find
some cards across the street at Joe Squared Pizza. He did, however, let me look
around at their motley collection of literary posters and random framed prints
lining the walls between their ratty sofas and sparse bookshelves. On my way
out, he said I could come back for a sticker (if I find a card to put it on).

I walk into the tiny bar next to the art supply store and
ask for the venue card. The staff dutifully looks at me like I’m from a
different planet. I try to describe what I’m looking for and they hand a list
of upcoming bands performing at their bar. I try again, but after a fruitless
search of the front of the bar, they turn up empty again.

Finally the manager shows up, and I have to start all over
again. After yet another attempt at describing what I’m looking for, I pull out
the “events calendar” I’d printed from Station North’s website describing the
event. But before I can ask for said card again, she cuts me off:

“We can only accept OFFICIAL Station North promotional cards – that slip of paper WILL NOT due for the free pizza offering.”

“You mean like the one I just asked you about?”

“Oh, I’m so sorry, you can’t get those HERE,” she said. “Have you actually hit EVERY store in this neighborhood? If not, I suggest you do so,”
she said practically shoving me out the door.

Whatever, I wasn’t in the mood for pizza anyway.

I leave and go next door to the McDonald’s next door, where
the sole cashier seemed to be having trouble keeping up with the 2 or 3 people
in front of her. She even hands me a random drink from the fountain (which used
to be on my side of the counter), and when I went to counter the manager hands
me a new drink before I got to pleasure of complaining.

I finish my meal, and decide to continue on to Metro Gallery
as the woman at Joe Squared suggested. Until I remembered, they weren’t
participating in the venue crawl… neither was Charles Theater and The Depot (a nightclub
which was) wasn’t even open yet, so I stopped into Sofi’s Crepes and ordered a
surprisingly large chocolate chip crepe and sitting on counter next to me was a
pile of fliers – including a grey one labeled “Second Saturday in Station North.”

Yah! I have a card….now what?

Categories: adventures, art, Baltimore, entertainment, festivals, neighborhoods, retail, Station North | Leave a comment

What should replace Everyman Theatre?

I spent Saturday evening walking around the Station North “Arts & Entertainment District” for their “Second Saturdays” event in which various venues host free or reduced cost events for the public. The reason I’m writing this is because one of their flagship theatres – The Everyman – is moving to a new space across from The Hippodrome at the end of their season and it got me wondering: what should fill that venerable old performance space?

The most obvious choice would be to move another theatre company into that space – especially since there are a lot of “dive theatres” in the area (LoF\T, Single Carrot, and Strand) as well as a few “homeless” companies like Annex and Iron Crow. This is, unfortunately, the least likely scenario especially since many companies are just barely making ends meet as it is due to decreased theatre attendance.

However, the absolute best fit theatrically speaking is Spotlighters. Yes, the venerable Mount Vernon theatre has recently launched a capital campaign to raise $1.5 million to make their space ADA compliant – including wheelchair ramp and improved restrooms (trust me, they need it). Both things the current Everyman space, conveniently enough, already has – a bigger stage and slightly larger audience without losing intimacy (85 at their current space, vs. approximately 135 at Everyman). Not only that, the current Everyman space is in a highly desirable location on Charles Street in Station North (as opposed to a basement hidden in the back of an alleyway, that’s difficult if not impossible to find – especially at night).

The next most obvious option would be to put a gallery there. Yes, there are plenty of places to make pretty pictures, but most of the places that are displaying them require you order something first. I’m all for, hanging art in whatever forum will hang them, but it can difficult to approach art in this context without upsetting other customers and obstructing the wait staff.

They could also open a bar, restaurant or a retail shop in there (I hear the Baltimore FREE Store needs a new home), but I suspect that it will simply sit idly decaying until it becomes nothing but a boarded up shell of its former self like so many other buildings in the neighborhood. It would be a terrible shame – and a waste of good real estate – but I suspect that may ultimately end up being its fate.

Categories: Baltimore, editorials, entertainment, news, Station North, theatre | Leave a comment

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