Final Reflections on the Semester

For the sake of this blog style format, I’m going to answer these questions as if they were presented in interview form

What are the most important things you learned in this course and planning A Journey Through Hollins? Organize your response to focus on the things you learn in order or importance. Please be as specific as possible.

I think the most important things I learned, personally, had to do with the history of Hollins Market itself. I’ve touched on this before in earlier posts but to be honest I didn’t know much at all about the market or the neighborhood. Hollins Market was basically just a name, a place I knew existed but didn’t really know where or what it even really was. What’s more I didn’t realize that so many events and places I had been to over the years in Baltimore were actually either in Hollins or just outside of the borders comprising the neighborhood. I remember going to Zella’s pizza with an ex-girlfriend in like 2013 but not making the association between it and the neighborhood it was located in. I feel like I now have a big piece of a larger Baltimore puzzle that I was missing before.

I think the second most important thing I learned was how easy it is to get involved with community building in Baltimore City. At the end of the day this city is extremely small and it doesn’t take long before you meet someone new who knows someone who knows someone you know. While I didn’t have that exact experience this semester, I did have many instances of seeing or learning about things that were happening in the market that I had previous experience with elsewhere in the city. I guess it sort of feels like everyone goes to everyone else’s community building events and takes cues from one another. Then again it might just be that there is a developing playbook for responsible community engagement that a lot of people in the city, especially non-profits, are borrowing from. This class really affirmed that reality to me: that there are a lot of well meaning people doing the hard work of rebuilding Baltimore from within, often without the political will or support from those in city government.

Analyze your work: Describe your main contributions to the class project. What did you do well? What could you have improvement upon?

Well I guess I’d say that I was the historian of the bunch. This sort of became clear from early in the semester and I was totally cool with being that guy. My main contribution was the StoryMap. I did a ton of independent research on the buildings and sites of Hollins Market in order to create a cohesive timeline/narrative that would present the history of the neighborhood as a concise story. To that end, I think the StoryMap was successful. As an historian I often feel like I’m stating things about places that are really obvious. That being said, I get the sense that I did present some interesting and fairly unique research about the market that a lot of people didn’t know. It’s always a weird process to come into someones neighborhood, a place that many have lived for generations, and be like “hey did you know this happened here?” or “this happened here because of this etc.”

I think if I could do it over again I would have liked to have focused more on stories of individuals as opposed to places. That’s kind of a running concern with my approach to history. Buildings are easy to talk about because you don’t really have to interface, or have a dialogue, with them. You can kind of print your own story upon them. For someone who isn’t the best talker or communicator, that is the path of least resistance. I didn’t really ever go out into the community this semester with the rest of the class, which is something I regret. As a public historian it’s really important not to “isolate in the academy”, as we say. That’s something I was consciously doing this semester and I wish I would have not fought against that a bit.

Analyze the course:This is a project-based course focused on collaborative learning. What worked about the course? What specific improvement would you suggest? I take your suggestions seriously for designing future courses.

This was a really fun course. It was especially fun for me because it was basically the only course I took for my M.A. that was predominantly undergrads, not to mention all non-history majors. It was an equally eye-opening, and at times concerning, experience to see how little (and I don’t mean this in a demeaning way) so many UMBC folks know about Baltimore City, especially given its proximity to the city. I get the sense that most of my classmates were kind of intimidated coming to class every evening, which I certainly understand. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I think everyone in the class developed a really strong sense of what makes up southwest Baltimore (and it’s not all crime and negative associations), and as someone who grew up in the burbs and came to Baltimore over a decade ago, it’s always really humbling for me when people gain some kind of perspective on that.

My recommendation is to absolutely continue having this class “in the city”. Just the experience of coming to class every week almost becomes as instructional and informative as the content discussed in the classroom.

One suggestion: I think that we had actually planned on doing this but I would absolutely recommend dedicating an entire class period to going to the Pratt Library MD Department. I seriously doubt that most of the class went there. The Pratt obviously has sooooooo much stuff and I think we could have maybe honed in on some interesting stuff a bit earlier in the semester if everyone went there and dug around.

Other improvements: More Pizza? 🙂

This is the first year I have taught this course at the Lions Brothers Building. Please describe what worked and did not work about specific aspects of the course such as its location off campus in Hollins Market.

I think I covered most of this in the answer to the previous question but I’ll reiterate that I think it was invaluable to the process of desensitizing Baltimore to a mostly suburban audience. As someone who finds themselves constantly struggling to find ways to advocate for or redefine the image of Baltimore to people from my hometown in Anne Arundel County, this kind of project can go a long way towards achieving that goal.

Reflect on the final event… what worked and what could be improved?

I think in general the final event was a success. I think the meet-up at the Lions Brothers Building was great. The walking tour was great. I do think that the final meet up at Hollins Place was a bit overkill. My sense was that at that point people who were willing to go on the walking tour had already given up about 3 hours of their Saturday to be there, which is a lot. As much as I did enjoy Curtis’ performance and the Mai Tai I got from the bar, and the cake, I was pretty burnt out by the end of it all. I wonder if in the future there is a way to have the beginning portion of the event at a local business/vendor? That was when we had the biggest turnout and maybe it would have been good to have people in a local business buying a drink or food item? I don’t know, that might not have worked actually. Just a thought though.

What grade do you deserve in the course and why?

Well…. I think I deserve an A but I feel awkward saying that, as I’m sure everyone who is responding to that question does. However I do really feel like I put in a ton of effort to help make the project a success and I hope that the StoryMap lingers on in the brains of those who were at the event or picked up the zine. It seemed like most people found it to be a clever and concise way of presenting the history of Hollins and I personally feel pretty proud of it. Anyways, I’m a research junkie and I definitely feel like put in some serious hours on the research component. So yeah, I guess an A. I could live with an A minus though 🙂

Please add any final thoughts or reflections.

I’ll keep it short and sweet: Good Class, Fun Class, Fun Event, Good Pizza, Great People, Great Neighborhood, Learned A lot!

The End!

The Last Post

So I guess I would echo Professor King’s anxiety from last week and say that it feels weirdly comforting that we seemed to pretty much have everything done last week per the zine. I feel like everyone in the present group really stepped up in the last few weeks and got some solid interviewing done. I’m glad to see that we were able to get some community voices in the zine.

Other than that, I don’t know that I have a whole lot to say or comment on for this week. I’m really excited to see what the finished product looks like. I’m also a bit nervous about kicking off the event on Saturday by introducing the website. Hopefully people will like it.

I guess at this point in the semester I’m feeling a weird mix of relief and panic. Relief because the semester is over and panic because I’m not actually graduating until the end of the summer. This week was pretty much full on thesis drafting week and I really cannot wait to get this behemoth off my back. I remember my advisor telling me last Spring that we should pick a project that we will enjoy enough to sustain our energy to work on it over the following year. Now that I’m at the tail end of the whole process I think I can say that I’m still interested in my topic but I will be so glad when I don’t have to think about it for a while.

I’m just kind of rambling at this point so I’ll stop. I got nothing else to say right now. I’ll see everybody at Zella’s tomorrow. Go TEAM!

Semester Reflections

This class, and project, has assumed an especially emotional place for me. It’s the last class I will take per my Masters Degree. This culminates a two year odyssey that I can’t believe is about to come to an end. All of which has given me some pause and time and to reflect on a few things that have stood out to me this semester:

1. It was cool to actually utilize some of the tools and skills I picked up in Public History classes in 2017. Although I still struggle greatly with being concise when trying to tell a narrative, I think I am getting better at it. As an aside, not being an American Studies major, it does seem to that there are a lot of overlaps between it and Public History. Which is maybe another way of saying I have no idea how to define what each discipline specifically is? Which I think is fine. I think I can say that at the end of the day each is constantly evolving, sort of like aiming at a constantly moving target. Both seem to be centered on working with communities, or groups of people. Which effectively means that you are giving up control of your final product to a variable that is naturally beyond your control. That at first can be hard to reconcile, but it’s something I’ve learned to embrace.

2. It was great to actually be at a class in Baltimore City, focusing on a project that is directly about the city. My research focus, independent of this class, has and will continue to be Baltimore. To me, Baltimore is like this never-ending novel that I can’t help but keep reading. This is despite a reality that constantly seems to be telling me to give up. Many of my old friends have left the city, and many others talk about doing so everyday. I think part of what keeps me here is that novel idea. That tomorrow I might learn something new, and potentially extremely disturbing, about the place I’ve called home for the better part of a decade. It kind of feels like this impossible quest that I have to finish, like reading Infinite Jest or something (which I haven’t done). Either way it keeps me coming back. This class succeeded in filling out a missing chapter in that greater story. I didn’t know much about the southwest, and now I do. I’m grateful for that.

3. This class has given me confidence about my skills as an historian and academic. Prior to starting my Masters degree in 2016, I had no formal background in history. I got my undergrad degree in guitar performance in 2009 (it seems much longer ago than that). I played music and toured all over the world between 2010-2016. By the end of it, I felt pretty much in a rut. Music was not paying the bills and I was honestly growing to resent it. The decision to go for the history degree was kind of a whimsical decision. One which I honestly didn’t think would happen because I wouldn’t get in to the program. When I did, I was ecstatic, though I still had no idea what was ahead of me. My first class, I was basically like “holy shit, what was I thinking”. Everyone else had history undergrad degrees, or worked in museums or archives. I was just a guitar player. Now two years later, it kinds of astounds me how much that has changed. I know so much now about 20th Century American History. I think I could easily handle a classroom full of high schoolers ( not that I want to). Throughout the semester, it was a humbling experience to have some of my classmates ask me various questions about the history of Baltimore, or how to poke and prod through archives and databases, to the point where it made me think “Ok I know what I’m talking about, I got this”. That’s something I didn’t have before this spring, and it makes me feel reasonably good going forward into the “real world”.

Thanks Prof. King and all you guys for an engaging class! Greatly looking forward to our event! GO TEAM!

Thoughts Post Baltimore Heritage Tour

So having gone on the Explore Baltimore Heritage tour of Hollins this past Saturday, there’s a couple thoughts I want to bring up that have been sort of steering my recent direction on the class project:

First I remembered why I don’t really like those heritage tours. It’s pretty much all old white people (with money) who go on these things. They bring with them equal parts nostalgia for a bygone era of mostly white baltimore, and a sort of necro-tourism fascination with blighted Baltimore that sort of feels akin to slowing down on the highway to watch a traumatic car crash.

Anyways, even though it was a nice day out and it felt good to walk around some neighborhoods I otherwise wouldn’t have, I couldn’t shake the sense that I was so clearly in a position that I generally loath. As we (a group of probably 30 white people and one black person) were walking around, I could hear local residents we passed by on the street mumbling under their breath “what the hell is this all about?”. Which I doubt anyone else in our group heard or gave a thought about. However I just want to say I get it!

Hollins is changing, or at least is existing under the threat of change. New condos are going up by the BioPark, that all the locals seem to despise, that are clearly designed to cater towards upper class medical professionals working in at UMD. Warhorse is talking about putting a bougie bar/restaurant in Hollins Market Hall, despite there not being a grocery store anywhere in the neighborhood. Being on the tour, I had a “guilty by association” feeling in my stomach. The feeling that we probably looked like a bunch of wealthy DC speculators walking around a crumbling neighborhood, looking for potential cheap investment opportunities; the same kind of people that are in many ways responsible for the lack of recent redevelopment progress in the area. All of which is to say, the everyday voices of Hollins Market, in most cases not as loud as the big money voices from out of town, are getting lost in the mix.

Anyways, my main takeaway for us is that we really need to be sensitive to how fragile and precarious the future of Hollins probably feels to many smaller voices that actually make up the neighborhood. I went through the interviews Sidney transcribed and tried to highlight quotes that I thought sort of hinted towards the potential threats and pitfalls of gentrification while pointing to what makes the area unique and vibrant on the ground. Hollins is not a neighborhood that needs our sympathy or our nostalgia, but at the same time we’d be remiss not to really draw sensitive attention to the potentially seismic changes which are right on the cusp of happening.

Basically, the last thing I want to be is another white guy walking around the neighborhood lamenting its “fall from grace”, without actually listening to locals to learn what I might be missing that makes it still great.

The Home Stretch

So we are basically in the home stretch of the semester and the project is beginning to take shape. In general I feel good about where we stand. However I do have some thoughts on how it could possibly be better. First some context though.

Terece and I went to the Southwest Partnerships monthly board meeting last night. It was very long but packed with a bunch of information about what is happening in the area. Without getting into too much detail, one of the more interesting things I took away from the meeting was the fact that the overwhelming majority of board members were white, and seemingly pretty affluent. I talked with one guy, Chuck, who I looked up afterwards and it turns out he works for UMD as a doctor and director of some department. Other members seemed to come form similar backgrounds and did the lion share of the talking. Not to say that this bad or good, just an interesting observation.

At that same meeting, there was a relatively heated back and forth between a few members and attendees about War Horse and the Hollins Market revitalization. In a nut shell, a few members were upset at what they perceived as a lack of transparency by War Horse. They complained that the company was holding “public” meetings without advertising them to the actual public. For example, War Horse apparently advertised the meetings via email and Twitter, which is problematic because not everyone in the community has internet access let alone Twitter.
On a similar note, at an earlier point in the board meeting one of the members suggested they could cut back on printing costs by switching the an online newsletter, to which another board member shot down because the effect would be to cut off access to information for those residents without the internet.

The reason I bring this up here is because I think the one component we are lacking in our project/zine is the prospective of the everyday residents of Hollins. The neighborhoods comprising the SW Partnership are majority African American, many of whom exist at or below the poverty line. I would suggest that these voices need more representation in our project. So Today in class Lia and I basically focused on trying to figure out how to get as many of these voices in our zine as possible. Given that the semester is starting to wind down and our deadline is approaching, I don’t know how effective we will be at getting this done.

It’s admittedly a bit invasive to just approach random people as a researcher and start asking personal questions so I don’t know what approach we could use to make this happen. We talked about maybe asking Curtis to be a conduit for introducing us to folks he knows in the neighborhood. Not necessarily folks in the business community, which I think we have pretty well covered, but just everyday average residents of Hollins. Their lives and perspectives speak just as much to “re-development” of Hollins just as much as the entrepreneurs and businesspersons who are more actively engagement in that process.

Anyways, this is just a thought. Either way I think we are in good shape!

Does the Hollins historic narrative make sense?

So I’ve included in this post (at the bottom) the most recent draft of the Hollins historical timeline. I guess my main question is does it seem to flow and make sense? Honestly it was pretty challenging trying to distill down all the research we did as a class, and some that I did on my own, into a cohesive and linear narrative. For me, it’s always been pretty hard to know just how much you need to say to convey an idea or the significance of an historical event without overstating your point, or making it too obvious to the reader/viewer. As Dr. Meringolo once told me, the idea is to make it seem like you are not telling your reader what to think, but at the same time you aren’t really giving them an option for seeing it any other way. It’s a subtle and difficult balance to successfully pull off.

My main issue with this particular Storymap, at this point, is too much text. Historical writing, especially in a public history context, is never made better by adding too much information. I like to think of it like you are in a museum and there is a text box bellow an historical object hanging on the wall. You don’t want to have to stand there for 20 minutes reading it like its some kind of academic article. You want to be able to read 4-5 sentences, get the message, and move on. I’d really love any suggestions on how to cut down on the filler, or condense the ideas somehow.

If you scan through the Storymap, you will notice that I included a good amount of buildings that we didn’t include in our initial research. I should clarify, that this was not my way of suggesting that those things don’t matter. They obviously do and are important granular social histories of the neighborhood. By including some other buildings of note, I thought it was easier to convey the broader history of the neighborhood, which obviously goes way back almost 200 years. For example, Hollins Market wouldn’t have existed without the railroad industry so it’s pretty essential that any timeline include a lot of discussion of the B&O.

This project has really made think a lot about how I might be imposing my narrative of history on a community by being too liberal with my interpretation of the available sources. As any historian will tell you, what we do involves a heavy dose of personal interpretation because we are constantly working with incomplete sources in order to tell stories that are organized and make sense to the reader. This interpretation often allows us to creative narratives that might not be apparent, or even real to others. For example, I doubt many whites who left Hollins in the 1940s-1950s, many of whom we wrote about in our person profiles earlier in the semester, realized they were apart of a larger movement that historians would one day called suburbanization, nor were they thinking of the social consequences of that movement for their old neighborhood.

To this point, I’m about half way through my graduate thesis UMBC and I keep having these recurring flashback/anxieties about how one of the persons I interviewed for my research about a year ago told me that the single event I’m centering so much of my story around wasn’t as important to them personally as I, the outsider, was making it out to be. My point is that even though I certainly wouldn’t argue that the event might not have been important to that single individual in the community, I as a researcher still feel like I’m telling a story that is both real and significant. That being said, I’m sure that if I went back to that person after I finish my story and gave it to them they would probably read it and be like “this is a bullshit version of the story”.

Which sort of gets to the whole “do no harm” approach of our research. As far as Hollins goes, I personally haven’t talked to a single person in Hollins beyond Curtis about the history of the community, and can only base this version of its history off the limited amount of time I have spent studying sources primarily online combined with an awareness of broader historical trends/events that offer context for those sources.

So in anticipation of class tomorrow, I guess I’d be curious to know if our class story of Hollins past, via the timeline draft, seems like bullshit? What else should we include, or maybe take out?

Finally Settling Back In…

So despite all that has gone down recently, it actually feels pretty good to be getting back to schoolwork right now. It’s been a pretty freaking hectic past couple weeks on my end. Literally two weeks ago to the day the ceiling in the bedroom of my apartment caved in and trapped me underneath a massively heavy pile of rubble. My girlfriend had to call the fire department to actually come in and break me out with an axe, otherwise I might still be in there…Who knows?

So needless to say it’s been a rough go of it lately. I didn’t have access to my computer for 4 days as it was buried underneath the debris, which basically put me way behind in all my classwork. Between that and talking to lawyers and absentee landlords, I honestly didn’t even get a chance to seriously look at the class project until this weekend.

That being said, after spending a solid day on both Saturday and Sunday on it, I feel like we are in pretty good shape. This week I’m planning on kind of going into overdrive to catch up on some lost time. That involves two visits to two different archives to try to locate some unique historic photos of the market and its buildings.

Tomorrow I’m actually going to the University of Baltimore Special Collections to go through what looks like a very promising box of items pertaining to Hollins and the surrounding area. One is actually from a pretty lengthy study that Greater Baltimore Committee commissioned on the Poppleton neighborhood (basically Hollins Market) of southwest Baltimore. It’s organized according to block numbers and supposedly contains tons of photos and historic data on the various buildings on each block. So we’ll see what the turns up.

Also on Thursday evening, I going to the Maryland Historical Society to check out some old photos of the Market that they have in their special collections. I feel a little less uncertain/optimistic about what that will turn up, but again who knows?

Aside from that I put together a skeleton of the digital storymap/walking tour guide, and Google Sheet with the photos I’ve identified so far, both of which I shared with everyone in the class. The idea is to update that as we are able to get old photographs of the various buildings in the market. In many instances I would imagine that we will have to take our own photos of the buildings since I doubt that any will exist for some of them. It’s hard to say at this point. Either way, it’s worth a shot to see what turns up in the archives. My personal preference is to find old photos, especially if you are doing a walkthrough of the “past” of Hollins Market. I also put together a draft of a thesis statement/introduction which can serve as a guide for a narrative of our guided tour of the past of the Market. I’m hoping everyone on the “past” team can take a look at that and let me know what they think. I personally think it probably is too long and sounds too academic, two problems I have historically (pun intended) had a hard time shaking.

Anyways, let me know. Looking forward to class tomorrow and Zella’s!

Reflecting Development

So honestly I don’t know what the title of the project should be. I was thinking a lot about it and to me it seems like it would be appropriate if the title reflected the fact that Hollins is potentially on the precipice of significant changes.

We talked about Warhorse and how Scott Plank has bought a lot of the real estate in the area. It seems like there are serious moves underway (behind the scenes and not) to remake the market/potentially gentrify it. However I was also thinking about how the guy at Black Cherry Puppets was telling us how he’s seen several developers come and go in the neighborhood and none of them were up to the task of “remaking” it, whatever that means; for better or worse.

I don’t know much about Warhorse or how serious their approach is but I do think it would be worth drawing attention to the fact that Hollins is changing and that part of what we are doing is bearing witness to both the present and the past in order to help locals guide the future. I don’t know the degree to which the locals perceive the neighborhood to be threatened by gentrification? As someone who has been in the city longer than me said to me once “Baltimore in general is kind of gentrification proof”. Like I said, this leaves me no concrete ideas for a name really, but I think we will come up with one if we can really buckle down on the precise vision for what we are hoping to accomplish.

Another thought that came to my head, probably because I have been writing on the dubious nature of integration in the suburbs all week, was the Hollins and Sowebo generally maintain a relatively high percentage and image of “integration”. Of course thats a tricky term because its impossible to quantify what it actually means. However, it’s extremely apparent in Hollins that there are families and people, both white and black, who have been in the market for a long time. It’s hard to find that elsewhere in the city as it’s almost always one way or the other.

I don’t know if it makes sense to draw attention to that somehow through our project, or reflect it in the name. Honestly it probably makes more sense to not even touch it and sort of let that reality exist as an unspoken reason for what makes the Market neighborhood worth preserving.

I Always Forget I’m A Public Historian

I always forget I’m a public historian. To be honest, I often forget what public history even is. After taking several courses on the subject, it should probably be clear to me by now. But it’s not.

To be honest, one of the reasons I’m most excited about this project is the potential it has to help me work through my own personal issues of opaqueness. I think the first step is realizing that whatever I come up with, it can’t be another research paper. As much I like research, and as much as I like translating that research into text-based narratives, I’m also well aware that most people don’t like to read.

No judgement though! We all get lazy with reading, some more so than others. Nowadays it seems the majority of things I read are on a computer screen, which makes it all the more enticing to just zone out and give your eyes and brain a break from the laborious process of long form word concatenation.

That being said, short blurbs on historical events or places can be quite effective. If you’ve noticed I’m actually practicing that right now by keeping all of my paragraph breaks to around 10 lines. This is something we worked on a great deal in my digital public history course, getting things down to succinct chunks that effectively communicate the themes of a story. It’s a lot harder than it seems, as I’m sure many of us struggled with this week.

So with all of that in mind, I think there are a couple ways that I could go on this project:

1) I mentioned to Dr. King the HistoryPin app. It essentially lets you tag a place or building, write an historical-lish blurb about it and superimpose a recent photo with an one one (which you can cooly transition between with a slider on the screen). My initial thought was to compile the entire classes research into a kind of tour of Hollins Market using HistoryPin, with each site telling a short story about something related to the respective building (who lived there? Who died there? When/why/etc.). The HistoryPin app is honestly a little clunky, as most history apps are, but that could be a good way to go.

2) As I was writing this, and thinking about the idea of a tour of Hollins, there is also another app called Storymap which be a more effective tool to achieve that end. It is essentially an interactive map that you can assign specific places with specific text. The idea is that it takes the viewer on a specific path through a geographic area, often telling a story while it does it. At this point I have no idea what that story would be though and I’d rather not just have it be an aimless sort of tour to random spots in the market like “Heres Lithuanian Hall, ok now heres Zellas! Yay that Hollins Market!” Depending on what the class comes up with, maybe there is a way to pull a cohesive narrative about the history of the market out of all these disparate spots. Maybe?

3) Depending on how much audio interview material we get, it could also be cool to create some kind of online digital exhibit preserving peoples oral histories of the Market. Sort of like how Preserve the Baltimore Uprising does their thing, but this would be specifically for Hollins. That way, it could be something that we give to the community and be like “if you want to document your neighbors oral histories, this is a safe, effective, and easily accessible place to store it”.

Anyways, these are my thoughts and I’d love to hear any feedback.


Reflections on Hollins Market Tour

As someone who likes to think of themselves as having a pretty good historical awareness of Baltimore City and its neighborhoods, I must say that Hollins Market is an area that I know very little about. One of my good friends used to live in Sowebo and would occasionally tell me about some of the who’s and what’s from his time there but beyond that I didn’t/don’t know much. I went to a birthday party at the Lithuanian Hall last year and that was my first time there. I had heard of it of course since I have been living in/involved in the music scene in Baltimore since 2008, namely the dance nights like Save Your Soul, but never knew where it was in relation to anything else, other than that it was located somewhere on the west side. Other than that, for about a month in 2017 I was thinking about doing some kind of a project on Sowebo, as an historically racially diverse area in an otherwise overwhelmingly black West Baltimore. That is pretty much the extent of my knowledge of the area.

So needless to say that Curtis gave us last week was eye opening, especially because it made me realize how much of my Baltimore experience outside of Hollins has in fact been influenced by, or reflected in Hollins. Which is probably another way of saying how small of a city Baltimore can really be/feel like sometimes. I have known about and seen the arabbers since I lived in Baltimore, but didn’t know they were based in Hollins. I’ve been to Zella’s Pizza before, but for some reason it never occurred to me that it was in Hollins. I know some of the people who help out with Black Cherry Puppets, but never realized where that place was or what they did. Even the newsletter that Curtis and the Southwest Partnership put together which was talking about alley gating, made me think of this alley gating project I worked on at Neighborhood Design Center this summer. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the more I get to know the city, its strengths and its weaknesses and struggles, the more I start to see continuities and connections between projects and initiatives going on all over the place. I haven’t lived in a bigger city but I would imagine that gets lost in a larger community. It feels especially easy to get involved in Baltimore and feel like you are making some kind of a difference or an impact, even if it is very very small.

One of the things I was most struck by was when Curtis was talking about how there were residents in Hollins who had quite possibly never left the neighborhood and have never seen anything outside of Baltimore in real life. I remember initially feeling a sort of claustrophobic anxiety upon hearing that. As someone who often looks forward to getting of the city when I start to feel too claustrophobic within my own social circle or neighborhood, or apartment or whatever, it was hard for me to imagine never leaving. However that initial feeling quickly went away when we walked into the barbershop. I dawned on me that there exists this entirely deep and rich community within that neighborhood that is, for lack of a better word, missing where I live. Now I have no idea what those people Curtis was talking about, who live in Hollins and have never left, feel or think about that idea. But my point is that there exists a profound sense of community, connection, friendship and shared experience within Hollins that seems to me more than enough to sustain an entire lifetimes worth of experience and memory. I got that sense in the barbershop and it really leveled me. It also made me think how that sense of community is missing in the suburbs where people don’t really have to get to know their neighbors, where you don’t walk anywhere because you can’t walk anywhere, and where everyones house is basically their fortified castle. I went in to our tour thinking theres a great big world out there and that successful experience is measured by how much of it you see before you die. By the end of our tour I had a zen-like realization that less can be more when you just slow down and appreciate how profound reality can be within a single place that is so tight knit and with so much shared experience and heritage.

I don’t know where I am going with that as far as our class project on places within the market, in my case the Lithuanian Hall. But it is something I want to keep in mind as someone who often finds themselves looking to fit neighborhoods, places and people within a larger social context of globally seismic events. It might be better to just let a place exist on its own merit and allow the small stories that happened within it speak to bigger picture rather than the other way around.