"If it's not fun, why do it?"

Posts tagged ‘Baltimore’

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We walk daily surrounded by miracles but rarely think of them. Our bodies are finely tuned machines. We think, breathe, walk, and absorb nutrients without considering the processes occurring. Nature, we say. It isn’t until something fails that we think about the loss of function, the miracle that the function even exists. When our backs go out, we suffer and moan the loss of movement. When diagnosed with a dread disease, there’s even more suffering and moaning, prayers and promises abound. For me, even a minor paper cut can be annoying and make me hyper-aware of my fingertips that I otherwise would have happily ignored. Likewise, about 30 years ago I had a knee injury and couldn’t walk for several months. Now I can walk, sciatica notwithstanding, and every step is a joy… when I think about it. I should be dancing, and in awe, of my recovery and ability to walk every day, but my attitude toward that blessing has become mundane, sadly.

Hashem provides us with gifts all the time. We just need to open our eyes to them. The following testifies how Hashem saved my life recently. Miracles were performed for me, and a gift lay at the end: my life… and great air conditioning. Here’s the story:

My bus would be leaving at 7:15 a.m. It was 7 o’clock and I was still on the highway, 15 minutes away. I’m a bit anxious; I’ve done this before — arriving too close for comfort — and made it on time, but I hate this mad rush. It’s really not me.

Metrocard in Wallet, Chris Goldberg

Metrocard in Wallet – NYC by Chris Goldberg, CC-BY-NC 2.0

It was time for my annual trip to New York City for the pleasure of visiting my sons and coincidentally renewing ny NYC “street cred.” I was on the way to the Megabus pick up site outside of Baltimore, near IKEA. New York via Megabus is only about 3½ hours and you can catch a $5 fare at times. I purchased the tickets weeks before, consulting with my sons on the date: a Monday or Wednesday were my choices. I remembered after purchasing the fare that I should have picked Wednesday so I could arrange to see a matinée, something I’d not done when I lived in the City. But Monday it was. One son, however, started a new job suddenly and was at training in Ohio. The other son would not be able to leave work early and could only meet me for dinner. Rats. Arriving in NYC at 10:35 a.m. and nothing planned. Fortunately there are plenty of coffee shops in Manhattan. Starbucks would renew my NYC street cred and give me the much needed caffeine boost I would need having woken up so early to catch the 7:15 bus.

Drive Cane Seat, image © Medical Depot, Inc.

Drive Cane Seat, © Medical Depot, Inc.

I left home a scant few minutes later than I would have liked. Packing list: a full water bottle, dry cereal & raisins to eat on the bus, phone charger & cord. Even so, I turned back because I had left my Cane Seat at home. I retrieved it only having lost 5 minutes. Still, that timing was too tight. (I ultimately left my Metrocard in my desk despite having reminded myself to take it along several times in the days leading up to the trip.)

I drove due east on the Beltway, zooming at about 70 miles per hour, in pace with the other traffic (but still was being passed by other cars whizzing by. Hmph. Baltimore drivers.). One particular black pickup truck behind me repeatedly overcame my car and fell back, and ironically, I ended up behind him at a choke point. Typical. Suddenly, a sea of red tail lights swim before me as I round a curve and face the rising sun’s mighty glare. I stomped on the brakes, the car slowed, but it felt like it took forever. My foot went near the floor meeting some resistance, and I remember thinking, “Don’t pump ABS brakes.” Traffic resumed and I took my exit about 5 miles after that.

The exit ramp led to a 4-lane highway. About a half mile after the exit was a traffic light. I could see it must have just turned green since cars were still stopped in two lanes at the intersection and cars in the the two left-turn lanes were turning. Since I was still traveling only a little slower than Beltway speeds, I started to brake. Heavens! There was no response; my foot went to the floor and the car sped along at about 50 miles per hour. Flash! I was concerned there would be a collision. My brain went into overdrive. Fortunately, there was an empty right-turn lane next to me. I think I downshifted to 3rd gear but I can’t really remember anything but laying on the horn and swinging around the corner like a racecar driver. That crossroad traveled uphill, slowing the car some. Thankfully there was no oncoming traffic at the top of the hill. I was able to make a left turn and another quick left into the parking lot of an apartment complex. Jamming the transmission into 1st gear, I pulled to a stop in a parking space.

Motor off, I sat stunned for a moment. I realized the miracles that had happened for me. Not once, not twice, but at least three times no collision occurred when there could have been one! A woman seated in her car witnessed my quick parking job. I shakily got out of the car to ask her where I was, needing an address for a tow truck. I was telling her what happened. She didn’t speak much English, but I understood the blessings she gave me in Spanish. She handed her driver license to me so I could read the address clearly. Shaking and thanking her, I went back to my car. It was 7:15. No Megabus.

The next part of the story isn’t as dramatic. I drank water and researched repair shop options in the area on my phone as my own mechanic’s shop was 15 miles away and not open. Few opened that early, but I found one that opened at 7:30 and called soon afterward. (It was a national chain and this branch had a good rating on Yelp.) Luckily they could fit me in for an estimate after a few jobs later that morning, and I was instructed to have the car towed there. When I arrived I was told there would be at least an hour’s wait, so I settled down, watched TV, noshed on my dry cereal, and chatted with an amiable 80-year old customer. I was also informed that the estimate would be free of charge, something I hadn’t even considered.

Freddie Ford's ignoble end, © JustHavingFun

Freddie Ford’s ignoble end, © JustHavingFun

My car was a 2003 Ford Focus with a 5-speed manual transmission, and I loved it. Fred. Freddie Ford I called it. I bought it used off Craigslist. It had 60,000 miles and was immaculate; I never regretted it for a moment. I put on only about 35,000 miles in 10 years, largely because I lived in Manhattan and didn’t drive much for nearly 5 years. I knew Fred was near the end of his useful lifetime but was hoping to put off purchasing a replacement for another year or so. Oh well.

My car was finally put on the rack, and after about a half hour, the mechanic emerged and gave me a worst-case estimate, redoing the brake lines, and assuming the master cylinder would need replacing. I went under the car myself, too, and saw the amount of corrosion and weak points in the brake lines. Sighed. I knew that at nearly 17 years old, Freddie wasn’t worth much more than $2,000 in good condition. The estimate came to nearly that amount. This did not surprise me, but I was hoping for a cheap fix. In this condition, the car was worth nearly nothing. Hmmm. Put money into an old car or look for a new one? Meanwhile, I phoned my trusted mechanic, agreed I could use a second opinion hoping he might be able to fix it for less, declined the service at the repair shop, and arranged to have Freddie towed there. (I sent a glowing thank you note to the repair shop the next day for the thoughtful treatment and thorough inspection they gave good old Freddie.) While I was waiting, I perused websites for used cars. I felt a replacement might be inevitable. My sister came to pick me up and I went home in a tizzy.

My mechanic called with the bad news. It wasn’t worth fixing Freddie. Not only were the brake lines shot but the thingamy was leaking, and the seals on the whatchamacallit were going. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that the air conditioner hadn’t worked for 6 years and just last winter I needed to squeegee the inside of the front windshield on occasion. So I told him I’d like to check out the car I saw on his website the next day. Yep. I tried it out and bought it. No looking around. It was provided for me.

New Kia, © JustHavingFun

New Kia, © JustHavingFun

That’s how I ended up with my “new” 2016 Kia Rio, with a 6-speed manual transmission and super-duper air conditioning! Why was it value priced? Well, few people drive a stick, and worse yet, it has manual windows and door locks! How retro! It’s the same size as Freddie and fun to drive. I haven’t named it yet — I don’t think “Killer” is appropriate although it is alliterative — and I look forward to many more happy miles with it.

There are miracles.

I recognize that my life was saved on the road. Several times I could have had a serious collision. I had the skills to handle the car, but the blessing was that no other cars were close when I needed to manoeuver. Thanks to minor auto racing experience in my 20s, and having lost brakes once before, I had some idea of what to do. But that wasn’t enough. While I didn’t panic, I didn’t think to pull the hand brake. I may have been able to downshift sooner. Who knows? My health and life were handed to me on a silver platter and I acknowledge that gift. Hashem has said to me that I have more work to do on this world. It is not my time. I was spared.

I need to keep this gift of life foremost in my mind. Gratitude and praise fill me. I could be bitter, upset, or worried about the money, but that is not my nature. Hashem will provide what I need. 

I’m just glad to be here, just having fun…

… but I only told my mother that I had some brake problems and decided not to continue with the trip. Please don’t tell her the whole story. My gift to my elderly mother is peace of mind.

Please share this story where you can to publicize that Hashem is in charge and He performs miracles. Let me know your reactions in the comments.

Friends, it’s been a while since I’ve written. I took a little break to develop skills in polymer clay jewelry design, and it has been a fun experience! I’ll be posting some photos in my “Crafty Me” section sometime soon.

Meanwhile, I hope to get back to more regular contributions to the Just Having Fun blog. It’s not just about fun, it’s a way of life.

Happy Blah

I know I am passionate about certain things…things like politics, religion and human interactions. I can become a raging lunatic too.

I used to enjoy discussing opposite points of view with people whose ideas or beliefs were diametrically opposed to my own. I could do so without being emotional…and I miss that.

—Suze, author of the suziland too or obsolete childhood blog

People don’t understand how I can be “blah” about politics or even neutral to our President. That’s just not where my passions lie. The polity is too large for me. My little voice indeed has the power of one. I comprehend that one plus one plus one will change the world. I get that.

Dialogue Not Diatribe by Monique Wingard via Flickr, CC-BY-2.0

Dialogue Not Diatribe by Monique Wingard via Flickr, CC-BY-2.0

However, I only have so much energy and attention span. With small crisis #1, medium attention grabber #2, lack of #3, and the #4 thing immediately calling for my local, personal attention, I don’t have too much energy or impetus at the end of the day to yell, write, fight, advocate, or pound the pavements. Some days it’s just enough to get out of bed and put on clothing. Other days I can take on the traffic and lines, the idiotic bureaucrats and on-hold phone muzak, and still have energy to make dinner. (I usually can’t get past the aches and creaks the next day, though.)

When I was younger did I fight the good fight? I suppose so. Being a female in a male-dominated profession, clamoring for potty parity, volunteering for women’s health agencies, and counseling victims of domestic violence: I did all that. And when the kids were young, as a single mom, I juggled raising them to be respectable, respectful citizens with keeping the bills paid, mental health issues, family matters, and caring about the environment (professionally and personally). I recycled. I helped friends. I was a nice person.

I can’t fight what the news media choose to focus on today, the next big titillating thing. The distortions about my people are endless. A reality exists that Jews are imperiled even today; Pittsburgh, my hometown, still reels from the murders last fall. The news lies about “Palestinians,” focusing on what the Israelis are supposedly doing to them instead of calling their leaders to the carpet for misappropriating funds, keeping their own citizens in distress, shooting rockets into Israeli cities while crying about Israeli aggression. The emperor has no clothes. The news paints Israelis, “Zionists”, and Jews with a black brush, and distort the truth that Jews have an historical claim to have a homeland in Israel.

The President is an ardent supporter of Israel. That where my buck stops. That’s way bigger than whatever else the White House inhabitant is doing. I don’t have a TV, I don’t watch the news. I listen to a little NPR and mostly get my news from online sources. That’s too much already. Largely I rely upon my friends who live in Israel to give a less distorted view of the reality there. They, as well as HonestReportingCommittee For Accuracy In Middle East Reporting In America, and scads of other agencies on FaceBook like them, provide me with a view on the ground. What is being said in Arabic is not necessarily what is being translated into English. What part of “run the Jews into the sea” is not clearly hate speech?

Meanwhile, only a few blocks away from my Baltimore home, a 5-year old girl was shot accidentally in her own home, four people were shot near the zoo, three others were killed, and another few checked in to local hospitals with gunshot wounds in the past week. There is a drug epidemic here, with 303 overdose deaths in Baltimore City last year, with heroin the leading factor. Many neighborhoods of iconic row houses lay wasted while the downtown gleams. We are a city of abundant brilliance and depraved poverty. Washington, DC is only a 50 minute drive away, but it’s so far off my map.

Today I will probably have another cup of coffee, apply for a few more jobs, and massage the pain in my shoulder. I will pray for the recovery of a friend who was just diagnosed, and operated on, for throat cancer, and another’s recovery from defibrillator implantation surgery. I will watch a funny video on YouTube. Tomorrow I will celebrate the “redemption” of a first-born child on his 30th day of life at a “pidyon haben” ceremony, then go to an eye doctor appointment. I will try to plant some seeds in my little garden now that night temperatures aren’t dipping below 40F. I will plod by and by through my bills and obligations, hoping for that magic job interview that will put me back in the land of the employed, tax-paying, and useful. And I will remember to file my taxes before April 15th.

This screed really just started out as a note to a friend. Now I will eat a toasted bagel, then send prayers and good wishes into the Universe.

New Zealand

New Zealand Flag

New Zealand Flag, by Yortw via Flickr CC-BY 2.0

Evil took the spotlight again last week.

A gunman violated the distant, small, quiet country of New Zealand and murdered 49 people engaged in worship. Another soul has died since then, raising the death toll to 50. Many others were hospitalized. The gunman “live-streamed,” i.e. filmed and broadcast, his activities online via Facebook. He prepared for death, wearing a helmet outfitted with a camera and a bulletproof vest.  That miscreant went into mosques with the intent to kill. Tragically he succeeded.

I cannot find words to write. I sit stilled.

I deplore this act of heinous evil, perpetrated by one actor, leaving desolate so many families, a country, and a faith community. Massacred. My heart reaches out to the families, the ones left behind. My sympathy goes to New Zealand which I thought of more so as a tranquil backwater. They have sadly joined the front-page suffering of the world elsewhere.

Only a short while ago my hometown community, Pittsburgh, suffered such a blow. Prayers were offered around the world. We feel with you, our human brothers and sisters. Today we are not Muslim, or Christian, or Jew but people, all formed in the image of G-d. When I learned the news, I cried. It resonated too closely.

What is it about the lone actor that tugs at me and pulls me down into the darkness? So I ask: am I hypocritical? Or numb? Sometimes I wonder if I am allowed to feel this level of grief because I hear today’s news of ongoing violence and tragedies elsewhere… and react very little, feel much less sorrow.

  • 59 homicides in the City of Baltimore have been reported to date in 2019.(1)
  • “Syria’s war entered its ninth year on Friday,” killing a half million people, displacing more than 6 million, and causing more than 5 million to flee the country. (2)
  • Today, “[d]ozens of Uighur and Han Chinese civilians were killed or hurt” by a knife-wielding gang who attacked a police station in China’s Xinjiang region.(3)
  • “At least 39 people had died” in attacks during elections in Nigeria in February 2019. (4)
  • “20 dead, 111 hurt in January bombing at Catholic cathedral in Philippines”(5)

The Charlie Hebdo slaughter evoked my tears. The uncertainty of whereabouts and the unravelling of the murders of Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar, the three boys who were kidnapped and slain by Hamas terrorists in 2014 gripped at my heart.(6) The rape and murder of Israeli teen, Ori Ansbacher, by a Palestinian seated me, stunned.(7) I’m aware that I’m listing tragedies perpetrated on Jews here. They are my family. It’s personal.

Evil

Evil (Tong Churchyard), by Tim Allen via Flickr CC-BY 2.0

That doesn’t make me immune to the suffering of others, however. No matter how I relate that I am numb, unfeeling, my soul diminishes daily with each attack.

Maybe the 3,212 of Baltimore’s murders recorded to date since 2007, mass slaughter, and war casualties don’t affect me because they are BIG and DISTANT. Growing up in the Vietnam War era, we watched nightly newscasts at the dinner table, the daily body count tallied on the small black and white television screen parked at the end of the table. I didn’t know where Hue was, but the Tet Offensive was not just history; it was background reality.

I pray that evil does not become the background reality that today’s children grow up with. I pray that New Zealand pulls through. Most of all, I pray that evil will be vanquished from this earth.


1. Baltimore HomicidesThe Baltimore Sun, retrieved 18 March 2019.
2. FACTBOX-Nine facts about Syria as fresh violence marks ninth year of war, 15 March 2019.
3. China Xinjiang: Violence ‘kills or injures dozens’, 30 July 2014.
4. Nigeria Votes for Second Day in Election Marred by Deadly Violence, 25 February 2019.
5. 20 dead, 111 hurt in January bombing at Catholic cathedral in Philippines, updated 17 March 2019.
6. Mastermind of Teens’ Murders Given 3 Life Sentences, 1 June 2015.
7. Palestinian charged with rape and murder of Israeli teen Ori Ansbacher, 7 March 2019.

Dance with Spikes

I saw these men’s shoes that reminded me of a bulldog’s collar a few weeks ago at Mondawmin Mall. Stores at this shopping center cater to a primarily African-American clientele. Even taking differences in culture into account, aren’t these shoes a bit… extreme? Are they the product of fun and delight or an abominable show of déclassé style?

Spiky shoes. Ouch! © JustHavingFun

Spiky shoes. Ouch! © JustHavingFun

Whoa! I thought. Who would wear that? Spikes and pyramids spangle a black glitter background. These shoes look mean! Or… something. I don’t know how to interpret them! Through my middle-aged white-lady eyes, they are hideous and mysterious, ostentatious and camp. They made me laugh. They shout c’mon! Let’s go!! 

I guess I’m not the “going” type.

There’s no accounting for tastes in fashion. Call me a fuddy-duddy but I believe young men’s underwear should be on the inside of one’s pants, contrary to the popular (amongst some) “sagging” style. Likewise, I’m still shy about visible bra straps and form-hugging fabrics that show EVERY bump.

Still, I had to go into the store and photograph this display. While there were similarly spangled women’s stiletto-heeled pumps across the aisle (women’s shoes having been torturous and outrageous for a long time)*, it these male styles boggled my mind.

New Arrivals; Ready to Party! © JustHavingFun

New Arrivals; Ready to Party! © JustHavingFun

I like a good amount of glitz however, and I’m always up for a celebration! So when I went inside the store, I saw that the bulldog collar shoes had cousins that were ready to party! The multi-colored glittery ones, third from the left, attracted my eye. Any guy wearing these shoes has to know how to have fun, F-U-N! Now I’m ready! Let’s go!! I want to dance with Mr. Sparkly Toes.

Have you seen any “extreme” fashions lately that have captured your imagination? Let me know in the comments.

——–

*(I have some real strong opinions on women’s footwear, but they are for another time.)

Jury Duty Duty

Juror 4067

Juror 4067

I prayed for more snow and school closures. Dismayed there were only 2 inches of snow at 11 p.m., I reluctantly set my alarm for 6-ish a.m., knowing I’d snooze it after tuning in to WBAL radio to learn if the City Courts would be closed. My first Jury Duty in Maryland loomed ahead in the morning—a morning after Baltimore suffered an attack of snow.

Handicapped Ramp looking north, uphill, to St. Paul Street

Handicapped Ramp looking north, uphill, to St. Paul Street

Baltimore does not react well to snow. Whether it’s due to being full of Southerners who become panicky at the first flake of the white stuff, or the fact that people are used to driving recklessly (i.e. ”normally”) and get frustrated because icy conditions force them to think twice about passing a right-turning vehicle on the right for a change, driving here after a storm can be fraught with danger and obstacles. Although I thought I’d built in enough travel time to arrive at the Courthouse—after finding the parking garage—by the 8 a.m. call time, I did not factor in how impossibly choked the beautifully plowed I-83 would be at that hour.

Woe, how naïve l am. I’m glad I had a thermos of strong coffee in the car.

“Accessible Entrance on Fayette Street” sign

Jury Duty was still ahead of me and I was worn out from the trip! Less than 10 miles from town, it took me the better part of an hour to get to the parking garage. Waze failed finding an alternate route; actually my phone is on its last leg (phone fail imminent!) and kept shutting down mid-calculation. Fortunately I’d looked at the original directions before leaving home so I wasn’t entirely lost. That is, I wasn’t lost until I started heading toward the Courthouse. I pulled up a map, and intrepidly started the trek … only to find myself four blocks northwest of my destination and panicky because it was 8:35. LATE! will I be fined? Jailed? Told to come back another day?

And then the phone battery died. Again. Time for a new phone, for sure.

Drizzle dappled my non-compliant phone screen. Happily a woman told me which way to walk as her son had been on jury duty last week.

Limping due to a sciatica flare up, I found the building and the Fayette Street entrance with a ramp (which the Jury Summons instructed to use; the building’s address is on Calvert Street). The clerk told me to go out, walk up the block and around the corner, to the St. Paul Street entrance.

St. Paul Street Courthouse Entrance

St. Paul Street Courthouse Entrance

A statue of Cecilius Calvert, Baron Baltimore, etc. (see link for entire title), graces the St. Paul Street entranceway. So does a familiar blue Handicapped Entrance sign—at the bottom of a dozen-or-so steps—directing one to the first entrance I’d tried! I pulled myself up the first flight using the cold, wet handrail. My coat’s belt set off the metal detector, but luckily the sandwiches in my bag passed. I muddled anyway to the jury assembly room at 8:50. I had arrived!

The Jury Summons had assigned me Reporting Number 4067. Happily, by the time I entered, 4000 through 4100 had been invited to line up, check in, and get paid. $15 will cover the parking and the $1.50 diet Pepsi I bought from the machine in the Jury Assembly “Quiet Room.” With a bad case of “dead phone-itis,” I whipped out my extra-long phone card and charger I’d thoughtfully packed, found a plug, and settled down. Hmmm, no wi-fi. Sigh. Now that my “duty” had been done, I was ready for Jury Duty.

Or was I, I wondered?

Cacophony

Just viewing the photo makes my ears ring! The cacophony of car horns, traffic, and the swirl of people on an average day in midtown Manhattan makes me woozy. It’s too much: too much noise, too many people, too much aggression, everyone vying for their place.

NYC at Noon

NYC at Noon. © JustHavingFun

When I lived in New York City I learned to walk with arms akimbo, elbows out, so I could have my own space on the sidewalk and not be run over by some mindless drone looking at his cell phone screen while zooming down the street.

The endless jockeying and competition, the noise pressure, and the thump thump heartbeat of the City are a siren song for some but alas, not for me. When crossing the street became an art form as skilled as ballet, when maintaining my four-square feet of personal space became an obsession, when the subway became my greatest source of entertainment, I knew I had succumbed. I was indeed a New Yorker.

Ya gotta love it! Or hate it! But nobody can stay neutral about it: New York. Everywhere you look something new pops out. One day you may see performers, the next day pigeons, then the glitz of Broadway and Times Square, and the next day homeless people, but something always catches the eye.

But oh, the sounds! The noise. The cacophony of car horns and trucks backing up, scratching against the strains of street performers and buskers. The subway cars that sound like the opening strains of “Somewhere” from West Side Story: There’s a place for us…. Yes, there’s a place for us going uptown.

I took my fingers out of my ears and held up the decibel meter when the train approached the platform. It routinely topped 85 dB. “Mom, you look silly,” my children decried. “Nobody does that.” “I do,” I countered. My hearing and tinnitus thank me for blocking some of the extraneous sound.

Nowadays, out of the New York zone, I swallow fewer headache remedies, don’t need earplugs except when running my blender, and my ears are buffeted by the sound of rain drops hitting the pavement on my porch…

…and fire engine and police sirens of the uneasy urban soundscape which comprises Baltimore’s night.

Baltimore Burns

image

chametz, that is. Thousands of Jews raced to the famed Pimlico Race Track today, the eve of Passover, to burn bread, bagels, cereal, crackers, and pizza, boxes and all. City police wearing fluorescent green vests guided the cars into the parking lot and toward available spaces. City Fire Marshals stood by ready to prevent accidents. They even parked a fire truck for children to explore.

Entire families, young and old carry all sorts of containers laden with leavened products, or chametz, which Jews are forbidden to own or have benefit from during the eight-day festival.

People living in neighbouring houses watch the spectacle. Some people avoided the parking lot and parked on the side streets. Imagine the sight of three white-shirted young men sporting black fedoras emerging from a car. They are carrying garbage bags into the parking lot, joining the throng there. Following them is a young pregnant woman pushing a stroller trailing her husband and a few other children. They nod to and thank the officer guiding them in the crosswalk.

Still, the main event is in the parking lot by the 20-or-so barrels blazing behind safety rails. I feel the mad heat as I toss in a Trader Joe’s bag with my leftover chametz. My bag hits the target and plops into a raging turmoil.

image

Other people aren’t as neat about it. All sorts of bread products litter the base of the cans. Since care is taken to not burn plastics, people try to pour cereal into the fires but found the heat too hot to keep their hands there. So the cereal, or bread, pouring out of the plastic bags landed on the ground. I saw one enterprising man spear a bagel through its center hole and toss it back into the fire.

Before I leave I pause to say the formulaic nullification of chametz in Aramaic. These words connect me with millions of Jews throughout history who have said this very same declaration. I am here and now in Baltimore, and I am there and then in Babylon. The year is not a circle. Rather, it is a spiral through time. We celebrate our Redemption from slavery in Egypt on this night. And this day we remove our are puffed up egos burning leavened products. Next year in Jerusalem!

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Awkward Geography

Maryland holds the dubious distinction of being the First Candidate for the state with the most “Awkward Geography.” (Hawaii, a collection of islands, doesn’t count.) A spindly, sickly state, Maryland cants heavily to the east—despite Delaware’s rude surgery and squared corner in Wicomoco County. West Virginia bit a huge chunk out its western regions and Virginia eviscerated the center. Even the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., self-aggrandized with bloviators, gnawed a square-edged, thumbnail-sized chunk out of Maryland’s gut.


Map Courtesy of Digital-Topo-Maps.com

Furthermore, the Chesapeake Bay cleaves the east into two cruelly misshapen legs. Some oceanfront beaches tantalize crowds with promise of crabs galore, but sadly, Virginia in a mad coastal land grab truncated Worcester County’s coastline to the south, leaving poor Maryland with a measly 31 miles of ocean coastline.(1)

Then there’s Baltimore, another square-edged nibble into Maryland’s land. To clarify, I mean Baltimore City, not to be confused Baltimore County of which Baltimore City is not a part.(2) Confused yet? I am.

Nicely delineated states like Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and New Mexico (except the ruffled border with Texas), have beautifully-drawn borders, ruler-straight, and comprehensible. Semi-natural states rely upon natural boundaries such as rivers to define their territory. Iowa, bordered by the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, and having horizontal northern and southern borders, pleasantly represents this category.

Poor Maryland. Awkwardly drawn, ripped apart by waterways. It’s a wonder it hasn’t melded with the surrounding states. It suffers from lack of orientation. Is it an east-west state? Or a north-south state? From my perspective, it’s leaning: head at NNW and foot at SSE (as much as a state so oddly shaped can have a head and a foot). It’s like a traffic barrier between the North and the South, hastily erected and somewhat malleable. Here, take another chunk of me.

The Fall Line cleaves eastern Maryland further. To its north and west is the Piedmont region, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and Pennsylvania. To its east and south is the Coastal Plain. Baltimore, the jewel, sits on the Fall Line. Then the Chesapeake Bay coastline drips down down down to St. Mary’s County and terminates at the scruffy little islands off Somerset County’s western shore. Awkward. Messy.

Probably the most awkward portion of the geography, Assateague Island is a finger in the ocean. Not even wholly owned by Maryland, this narrow barrier island was amputated by Virginia’s claim. It’s embarrassing enough that Ocean City, that rollicking vacation destination, shares real estate with Delaware. But Delaware is not the bully that Virginia is. For shame, Maryland, for shame.

No. I’m wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. I spoke too early about border islands being the most awkward feature. I nearly forgot Maryland’s “waist,” a 1-mile wide portion of land in the panhandle. It’s been called a geographic anomaly.(3) With Pennsylvania and the Mason-Dixon line to the north, and the Potomac River to the south, the “waist” claims the town of Hancock and the intersections of Interstates 68 and 70. Awkward 3-state views can be seen from there.

Do you agree? Place your nominations for Most Awkward Geography in the comments. Alas, there is no prize. It is, however, a whimsical diversion on a sunny afternoon in Maryland.


1. Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report for Congress. “U.S. International Borders: Brief Facts,” November 9, 2006.
2. Baltimore City is the largest independent city (i.e., not belonging to any particular county) in the United States.
3. Maryland’s Waist: Narrow Strip is Geographic Anomaly, L.A. Times, October 8, 1987 [accessed April 17, 2016]

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The Flying Squirrel Studio

living a creative and adventurous life

In Stitches

made by Bec

The Interior of My Brain: A Knitting and Fiber Arts Blog

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Mum's the Word Blog

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Rina Means Joy

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The Temple Mount Sifting Project

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thechosenview.com

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BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

(Somewhat) Daily News from the World of Literary Nonfiction

Quilt Alliance

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White Lies Knits!

Joan M-M doing what most knitters dream of ; knitting for a living.

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children's author

Resourceful in Suburbia

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Silver in the Barn

Restoring a 1915 farmhouse plus one or two other passions.

Dr. K. L. Register

Just a small town girl who writes about Christian stuff.

Rivki Silver ~ thoughts & music

kosher lifestyle content

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