A Smile, Hon, You're in Baltimore! Production
To order a copy of
INTRODUCTION by William P. Tandy
BUS STORY - Joe Higler
UNTITLED - Joshua Jonas Becker
ONCE UNBITTEN, TWICE SHY - Ben A. Shaberman
WHISKEY ON SUNDAY - Cheryl Fair
LILITH IN TRANSIT - E. Doyle-Gillespie
THE ANGEL IN THE TRAIN STATION - J. Gavin Heck
SHE THINKS IM A POET - Craig Kirchner
SMOOTH OPERATOR, SLOW RIDER - Davida Gypsy Breier
THE ONLY GAME IN TOWN - Jena Shlock
BIKING TO WORK - Jennifer Tanko
THIS IS GOING NOWHERE FAST - Rahne Alexander
LESSONS LEARNED - Marjorie Roswell
ONE MANS PILLOW - Rob Hatch
DUCK TOURS DISRUPT HIGH STREET - Rosalia Scalia
DREAMBOAT - Craig Kirchner
BEEP BEEP, MAMA - Lisa D. Singer
BUS STOP - Fernando Quijano III
FOR THE WHEEL THAT ONCE WAS BURIED UNDER PACA STREET - Aliza Sollins
HARDCORE ENTOMOLOGY - Ben A. Shaberman
DRYCLEANING AND THRIFTING - China Martens
CHECK OUT GIBRALTAR...ITS IN GIBRALTAR - J. Gavin Heck
LADY SINGS THE BLUES BUT NOT FOR YOU - Sarah Jane Miller
SIC SEMPER TYRANNIS - William Patrick Tandy
MASS TRANSIT - William Patrick Tandy
GOODBYE, OCEAN CITY - Susan Beverly
TOP OF THE LINE - Tom Brown
About the Contributors
They were the last days of a dying century, and as a full-time traveling salesman on the cusp of a new millennium, mine was a no less fateful occupation. Even the goods - remaindered art books - seemed to face, by their esoteric nature, a future as uncertain as that of the ever-dwindling number of indie booksellers east of the Mississippi that formed my customer base. Every week, the drive from one appointment to the next grew a little bit longer, as phone calls to contacts Id seen only a few months earlier yielded more disconnected numbers.
But the chance to visit many places Id never otherwise see with my feet on the ground was golden, and the sheer variety of characters populating the weird and dusty world of independent bookselling made even the weekly, bloodshot chaos of Newark International a cross worth bearing. Some had been everywhere, done everything; others, only between the covers of their books.
One day, while calling upon a Midwestern shop-owner, the subject of travel came up in the course of conversation. He was planning a trip with his teenage daughter to New York - the first for both of them - and asked if I might recommend any particular points of interest.
Experience had taught me that most tourist destinations seldom live up to inflated expectations. Rather, for my money, the best place this intrepid early-riser thirsting for the raw, unfiltered flavor of New York might fill his pail was beyond the pasteurizing reach of daylight.
Skip Times Square and the Statue of Liberty, I said bluntly. But if you really want to see New York as it truly is - to glimpse the reality of eight-million other peoples every day - forget what youve heard, good or bad: just spend the two bucks and take the subway
Ironically, the hundred pounds of samples that led me hither and yon made most forms of mass transit damn-near impossible. Weary from life in the drivers seat, I quit the job a few months later and relocated to Harford County, Maryland, and took a (stationary) job in downtown Baltimore.
Truthfully, with all of the years I had spent in the sandy, lonesome wilds of the New Jersey Pine Barrens, where asphalt and oil had left but a few scattered, rusty bones of the pioneering rail as mute testimony to a long-forgotten ambush, mass transit was nearly as alien to me as those big-city dwellers who never learn to drive. Still, I looked forward to riding the train to work each day. Sure, the mornings still began with a large Wawa coffee and a thundering V-8, but only for the first two miles. From there, Id leave my aging Oldsmobile at the Aberdeen MARC station in favor of 30 lulling minutes of commuter rail - past Edgewood station (a trailer, really); open water; Martins Airport; and the scorched earth of the citys eastside - to Baltimore Penn Station. One-hundred-and-twenty-five bucks a month bought unlimited rides on the MARC, Light Rail, Local Bus and certain Amtrak trains traversing the mid-Atlantic corridor. But for me, the greatest benefit of all was the ability to sit back and read, talk, sleep or simply gaze out a bay-ward window into the mysterious, inviting eyes of twilight. Such moments recalled the Kinks incongruously beautiful ode to nothing more remarkable than a busy London train station at rush hour, and its bittersweet refrain: As long as I gaze on Waterloo sunset, I am in paradise
But theres life beyond paradise, as Adam and Eve and anyone attempting to get from Point A to Point B by way of Baltimore Mass Transit well know. Like Frankensteins monster, the citys transit system, though ostensibly well-intentioned, is a cobbled hulk of half-formed ideas and scavenged parts, collectively functioning on a rudimentary level. Schedules are, at best, approximated. Some bus stops will be arbitrarily relocated (or eliminated) with little, if any, notice. And the Light Rail and Metro Subway, though they may well serve those within the limits of their respective geographic spheres, leave most city-dwellers outside of walking-distance at the mercy of Rockefellers ghost.
Still, like the stroke of humanity that colors the mad doctors creation, much of ourselves is reflected in the systems at-times lurid nature. A promotional billboard for the Light Rail that I once saw on the southbound JFX (I-83) touted, We might not look fast, but well beat you downtown. (Surprisingly, when I returned a few days later, camera in hand, the sign was gone.) And the words a fellow passenger one day uttered to his companion in the seat behind me in response to a number of old buildings that had been razed near the intersection of Howard and Fayette, stand, for me, as one of the most telling microcosms of urban Baltimores psyche.
Think about it, he told his friend. Man been in prison 20, 30 years, come back to downtown Baltimore, hed be lost.
Today, I live and work in Baltimore City, and the ultimate irony, perhaps, is that I use mass transit a hell of a less than I did while living in that little burg at the mouth of the Susquehanna that some old-timers still call Havver-de-Grass. Here, I have little occasion to take the Light Rail or the MARC train, save for the odd trip to the District or BWI Airport. I do sometimes bike the 12 roundtrip miles to work, though an old injury easily aggravated by the cold limits this option to the warmer months. And so, with experience having branded the bus simply undependable, I have found myself back in the relative luxury of the drivers seat.
There are, however, a few promising signs. Last year, the Light Rail made national headlines with a double-digit percentage spike in riders in the face of rising fuel prices. And in 2006, Baltimore City government unveiled its plan to make the area more bike-friendly through, among other things, the addition of bike lanes through certain neighborhoods. Bolstered by the educational efforts of non-profit groups like the Velocipede Bike Project (www.velocipedebikeproject.org) and One Less Car (www.onelesscar.org), such growing willingness to consider the viability of nontraditional modes of transit while improving the existing ones may someday enable the city that once lived and worked on the cutting-edge of transportation to get back on track.
Still, I wonder what impression Baltimore might leave on a polite Midwestern family man who, on the recommendation of a cynical and somewhat cocky kid from Jersey, blew off the Inner Harbor in favor of a bus ride
William P. Tandy
Gotta story to tell about Baltimore?
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