PILE OF CRAP NEWSLETTER September 5, 2007
(an homage to Rupert and the tangled webs we weave when self interest is our only motivation)
The entire content is the responsibility of ken and some haphazard research. BTW we are vulnerable: Our Host Provider has not updated PHP and we have no money to do anything about IT. Many things might be taken out of context also. Such is the world we live.
September 5, 2007
Homestead history, Part II: 2004 Thru 2005…
In this issue, I’m CONTINUING an informal history based on recollections reported to me by original homesteaders as well as on personal experience. As George Santayana wrote in 1905, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” To help us avoid that fate, please review the following and contribute to this important effort by filling in blanks from your own knowledge.
The dynamic of the neighborhood changed dramatically in 2004-2005. I feel compelled to add brief personal background since I am the one telling the story until others step up to the plate and stand behind their actions. Unit South D is at the crossroads of positive action of taking responsibility for a long term GREENSPACE or losing it, psychically and possibly physically.
There are eight houses in the Unit Block of South Durham with the responsibility of upkeep of the pocket Park in exchange for parking. The purpose of this newsletter is not to cause problems but to bring to light why problems happen and look for possible solutions to maintain a livable area based on fairness and responsibility. Sometimes communication breaks down and self-serving interests take over upsetting the balance, and then it’s no fun.
“Walk a mile in someone else’s moccasins,” I’ve been told.
I spent time with a family of eleven Mexicans in the Rio Grande Valley in 1983, lived with them, slept on their living room floor, picked cherry tomatoes in the field for five cents a pound, painted numbers on the water meters of Colonia Nueva and cut the grass on their baseball diamond. Ate real Mexican food and became Servando the carpenter father’s helper putting on roofing shingles on tall new apartment houses near McAllen, Texas. Servando spoke no English and I spoke no Spanish. A lot of the music reminded me of Polkas. It was a very life enriching experience.
I was a partner in Mother Lode’s Wild Cherry in the 70s and sold my share for cash and band equipment to travel from Carolina to Canada with Man’s Theory— a five piece Black Rock Band— and Charlie Brown the Roadie until my money ran out and they fired me as their manager. I couldn’t blame them.
The confusing thing about my relationship with Calvin over the past ten years is he usually speaks in sound bites, like when I asked him about 9/11 at the Pentagon: “The tail of that plane was stickin’ outa there. It was big.(sic)” I never quite understood that one since the plane had disintegrated. That’s when we were getting along. The point is, after my taxi medallion was scraped off the Jeep in 2004, after that dark and stormy night when I was accosted by the two young black men in front of our house while my wife was unlocking the front door, at some point Calvin stood on his front steps and said, “You lost your ass!” Well, I certainly was in a deep financial hole because of the investment at outfitting a Grande Cherokee as a taxi. But it wasn’t the first time an investment has gone awry. I guess that’s what he meant. He probably doesn’t understand me either. The older I get, the more information becomes jumbled.
In 2004, Calvin moved in the Jaguar, and Avon bought the house next door (8-10) from Michael. Avon was the first investor who bought into the block without really knowing anything about it. He seemed nice enough but clueless. Even though his flyer said that the house was within walking distance to John Hopkins Bay View Campus (quite a walk), Avon succeeded in renting it to a Mexican man, woman and child. They spoke very little English.
The Mexican family began to move in a few extra people into Avon’s tiny house. Maria brought us some Mexican punch and cakes on Christmas Eve. They had no vehicle. Calvin had his Explorer and Jag; we had a Jetta and a Jeep and Glendora parked a Toyota. Everything fit up the Northern end and there was room for Calvin’s variety of visitors. We had worked out a system that the Jetta was parked against the curb in Calvin’s spot so he could park an extra vehicle in front of it and I could come and go in the Jeep leaving the extra room for other vehicles.
Jerry had a run of renters at 24-26 who usually stayed for a year. A couple would move in, have a child and move out with the baby. This happened twice until the photographer and artist moved in and did quite a bit of work in the park before moving out before they had a baby. Dave and Amy spent time scraping between the bricks and removing the weeds that would pop up all summer. And Pat took care of his tree. Pat also paved over the post holes in the Southern end of the block. I tried to tell him that that the holes were proof that the City had marked off spaces for the tenants so many years ago. “I don’t like the bumps, (sic)” he said. Fortunately he used a different color asphalt and the markings are still there, our proof that the City had once installed boundaries, since no one can (so far) find any documentation of the original agreement with the City.
The main motivation for putting in the community park in the first place was probably to promote community involvement—getting people outside their self and their house. What a brilliant idea. And the parking was an excellent tradeoff, a positive incentive, to keep the park in good condition. The number of people from the surrounding Washington Hill neighborhood who walked their dogs brought some strange sense of interconnectedness, even though occasionally the connection was a pile of dog crap left behind. Some dog walkers did pick up after and take it with them; one lady always carried a bag and also picked up litter in the park on her walks. Trashcans were suggested, but the potential drug drop problem and the amount of trash that people were simply leaving on the corner of the alley made that an illogical choice, likely to make the park a magnet for other trash. And there was a major rat problem.
Anyway, in the Spring of 2005, I still cut the grass though I had riders all hours of the day and night, and photography and editing, and walking Mr. Justice Brandeis our 15 year old Papillon several times a day—Little dog = little poop. There were a dozen Mexicans living next door that came and went at all hours of the day and night. They were quiet with occasional music that sounded like the Polka at reasonable times of day. The Jetta and the Cherokee could fit into one space in tandem without blocking the alley and the fifth space was utilized for convenience. At that point things could usually be worked out with Calvin on a non-verbal level.
The details of the past history of the Park weren’t yet clear to the non-homesteader majority of homeowners. Why there had been no formal organization was not clear. What had happened to the Park as far as the City was concerned was not clear. I personally tried to keep people who were not tenants on the block from parking, and was quite successful in getting people to move when I encountered them. I came and went and came back all hours of the day and night. And people usually moved when I confronted them both in the North and South parking areas. I printed up notes to leave on the windshields of unidentifiable vehicles that didn’t seem to belong to any of the tenants.
Nancy replanted the garden at the Northern end of the Park in summer 2005 but the closest spigot was still Calvin’s so water had to be hauled by hand either by Nancy from the other end of the block or Lorie and me from inside our house. Trent and I did quite a bit of cutting back on the bushes in the Park since he wanted to sell his house (20-22).
That Summer I gave up on the use of our back deck. There were always people outside on the deck which seemed to be the extended kitchen of Avon’s tenants. None of this was really a problem. One day while I was walking our old dog, Cesar the young boy, who was standing in the doorway of 8-10 watching as we walked by, darted out to the middle of the alley and stomped on the dog’s back, turned and ran back in the house, slamming the door behind him. This was a problem. I knocked on the front door, explained to Maria what Cesar had done. She stared at me blankly, said “He’s a baby.” And she shut the door in my face. I guess I expected nothing more than an apology and got nothing. After that my tolerance was kaput. I called the police to explain to Maria that dog abuse was unacceptable but no one answered when the cops came. The two female Latino cops asked if I wanted to press charges but I told them I just wanted the boy to know that what he did was not a good thing since the parent didn’t get it either. I didn’t like the idea of calling the cops at the time but the idea that kids who abuse animals grow up to be serial killers crossed my over-protective over-reactive mind and I saw Cesar the kid as Captain Krunch the stalker, not the sweet little boy peering out the door as we walked by: http://www.mayopia.com/UNITSOUTHD/UNITSOUTHD.html (VIDEO NOW “SINCE SENSE TO NONSENSE 2004-2005”)
Calvin bought his third vehicle, a Ford Expedition, in July, 2005, and suddenly we were in a Fellini movie. Jerry bought his second house on the block (20-22); Trent and Elizabeth and their two kids moved out in August. Things were so far out of whack that the only thing I could do was go back to driving a taxi several days a week beginning in August for Judge Weisman at Diamond Taxi. I needed to keep my driving permit current and my photographs were becoming too boring. The Mexicans parked a variety of vehicles in their space. When I was driving the taxi I first moved the Jeep to my sister’s driveway in the County and finally parked the taxi on the Street on the few days I drove. Calvin stacked his three stacked vehicles forming a square and no matter how I parked in my own space, he was blocked in. He claimed to knock on the door each time to ask me to move, but even when my wife was at home we never heard him. In each case he called 911; the cops came on three separate occasions to get me to move out of my own space. We heard the cops knock; Calvin claimed he knocked softly because he didn’t want to break our door. (I have this on video.) I painted white lines on the 29th of August to show the original boundaries for parking. Calvin painted over them with black paint, stood on his steps, called me an asshole honky and said that I should kiss his black ass. Jerry’s vacant spot at the Southern end of the block was used as ballast when Jerry wasn’t around. Nancy told me I was acting like a child. It’s a good thing, acting childish; there was no blood shed, only obnoxious and non-threatening activity that the grumpy old men were engaged in.
I complained to Avon about the dozen or so people living next door. Avon called me and said that Calvin told him I was a racist and only wanted their parking space. The Mexicans moved out at the end of September and Calvin had a space for his third vehicle, the Expedition. Avon had a variety of repairmen and exterminators come through for the roaches. I walked out our rear French doors one day and the roaches rained down on my head. The repairmen left the kitchen door open and the emergency lights flipping on allowed me to witness the rats running in and out the kitchen sliding door of the vacant house and feasting on the trash on Avon’s back deck. The garden that Michael had cultivated for several years had become barren and poked with rat holes.
I was on the road a lot but it was an ordeal driving or walking up the block with the rat population and never knowing what Calvin or Avon were going to do next or whether I would be scolded by Nancy for defending my wife’s property. I felt that my wife and I were being driven out of the neighborhood, but I still cut the grass until the growing season was over. The block was in chaos going into 2006 with six of the eight houses occupied, and by that time everyone knew that the Park was owned by the City of Baltimore and was not considered a Park by anyone other than those who walked their dogs and participated in the upkeep and Pat who cared about his tree.
TO BE CONTINUED: 2006—GREEN SPACE, STONE WALLS, A NEW MAYOR, A MYSTERIOUS SURVEY AND THREATS TO THE PARK FROM THE OUTSIDE…
I am going through thousands of time stamped digital photos and video in three different digital formats to compile this “history”.
Linking Backwards USDHH,Inc: