Culture

Oh, The Rapture!

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Last year I received a flyer on my windshield that warned about the end of the world coming up very soon. Since my boyfriend’s birthday is May 22 and my own is May 25, last year we both decided to ignore our credit card bills, and go for a lavish four-day weekend in New York City over our birthdays. If that was going to be the last one ever, what a great way to spend it! This year, despite a busy schedule and that same pesky credit card balance, I agreed to the same trip. It seems like a win-win. If we get taken up, we’ll be so happy. And if we’re one of the Left Behind, we’ll have some great pizza and enjoy the Mets-Yankees game. I’m sure at least 18 of those guys will be left to play. Plus it’s only be a short train or bus ride home to see our friends who will no doubt still be in Baltimore ready to party like it’s 2011 (at least for the next 153 days).

BSO Music for Sale

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It’s no secret that, like most orchestras across the country, the Baltimore Symphony is in financial difficulty, looking desperately for new sources of revenue and trying hard to attract ticket-buyers. As a subscriber, I sometimes can’t help feeling it would be better if the symphony died a quiet, dignified death. It might be preferable to the current cringe-inducing hustle, the posters of Marin Alsop, Paul McCartney tributes, wine-tasting nights and SuperPops. This month, for example, the Schumann concert is billed as “A Beautiful Mind,” and will be accompanied by an on-stage discussion about whether “manic episodes were responsible for Schumann’s bursts of creative genius” (who cares?). Even worse, throughout May, many concerts are paired with “Decorators Show House events,” in which symphony-goers are invited to visit a local show home and to “Purchase the perfect gifts and quality additions to your home décor from among designer items displayed throughout the Show House and from the on-site boutique.” When a concert that would interest me is paired with a “theme” like this, I’m immediately turned-off—why assume that those who like classical music are also interested in “designer home décor”? If this is what the symphony has come to, I’d prefer to sit at home and listen to the radio. At least I can turn it off when the ads come on.

Babies & Bars: Not as Good as Gin & Tonic

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You’d never show up to pick up your babysitter while gulping down your third Red Bull and vodka, explaining,  “Sorry, but I couldn’t get a bartender!” Yet, you don’t feel strange about bringing your baby to the bar every once in while when you can’t get a sitter?

Although your bartender makes a little more than twice as much as your babysitter, approximately $30/hour on a good night, most babysitters live and eat at home, get their healthcare paid for by their parents, get paid in cash, and never see a W-2. So really, your bartender makes a little less in the way of disposable income. 

Does this cause any kind of resentment from the other side of the bar?

To get some straight dish, I visited and talked to bartenders, current and former, from Grand Cru, Brewers Art, Tapas Teatro, Clementine, The Dizz, the Mount Royal Tavern, Fraizer’s, Holy Frijoles, Ryan’s Daughter, and Zen West. The bartenders ranged in age from 25 to “none of your business,” with a combined 70-plus years of bartending experience in some of Baltimore’s most popular and entrenched drinking establishments. By giving them the liberty to speak without attribution, they were able to let you know some things here that they aren’t always comfortable saying in front of your credit card  their tip bucket directly to your face.

It’s Not Your Imagination. They Do Like You

First, you should know that your bartenders love you. It was the first thing they said. Bartenders are in this business because they like to be with people. In fact, all but one made a point to say that they actually mostly like your kids too. One sympathetic bartender, a father himself declared, without hesitation, that when he’s not working, he’ll often take his five-month-old out and plop the carrier on a stool right next to him at the bar. “I like to sit at the bar because I like to talk to the bartender,” he explains, “bartenders are good company and I don’t want to sit off in the corner just because I have a kid.”

Yet, as much as they enjoy your company, as charming and amused by you as they seem, it’s important to remember that while you’re drinking, they’re working.  On a scale from you to your kids, most bartenders are going to rank their preference closer to the former, preferring juicy tips to Juicy Juice boxes.

Another bartender put it more succinctly: “Honestly, I don’t care if there are seven babies all lined up right at the bar in car seats –as long as they’re all going to tip me.” 

No Laws on These Babies

At the third bar I visited, I began to explain that I already knew that it’s illegal for kids to sit at the bar. And the bartender quietly correct me, inadvertently letting me in on one of the bartenders’ most-closely guarded secrets: it is not actually illegal to have a child in a bar in Baltimore City. 

In fact they can sit right at the bar, without breaking the law at all.  

A quick call to the Liquor Licensing Board confirms this.  I spoke with Jane Schroeder, deputy executive secretary for the Board of Liquor License Commission for Baltimore City.  Schroeder was very clear that this only applies to Baltimore City, and that other jurisdictions can make there own laws. “But there is no legislation that specifically addresses people under 21 being in a bar,” said Shroeder.  “They just can’t drink there.”

But privately owned establishments can refuse service to anyone they choose, right?

Yes, she said, as long as it’s not based on race, color, religion, or national origin. Likewise, to keep things fair, places aren’t allowed just to arbitrarily deny customers because of say, a strange hairdo, too many facial piercings, or a preference for the Yankees.

Some legitimate reasons service could be refused:

• Unreasonably rowdiness

• Overfilled capacity 

• Closing time or the kitchen is closed

• Large groups of non-customers looking to just sit 

• Inadequate hygiene (e.g. excess dirt, extreme body odor, etc.)

In most cases, refusal of service is warranted where a customer’s presence in the restaurant detracts from the safety, welfare and well-being of other patrons and the restaurant itself.

Can you think of anyone who might meet one or all of the criteria for refusal of service?

Hmmm.

Anyone who often raises his voice to its highest level despite being asked to quiet down? 

Who travels with a very large stroller, big bag of toys that he strews out over 2 tables?  

Who can sit for hours without paying, and then, doesn’t wash her hands after going to the bathroom? 

Some places, like Grand Cru, have instituted an “adult swim” policy to keep kids out after 6 p.m. You’d be wise to respect this. The truth is, your baby’s always on the verge of getting bounced from a bar; it’s what you do that makes the bough break.

Naps and Nappies

While most parents will readily tell you that they wouldn’t dream of keeping a child in a bar after 8 p.m., it seems that early-to-late afternoon drinking with the tots is deemed acceptable. Not too early, so as to seem problematic, and not too late, so as to seem neglectful. In the bartending world the earlier time of day is known as Happy Hour, a time for cheap drinks and eats. A time for illicit office romances to begin and people to ruefully complain about bosses. For better or worse, Happy Hour is an adult way to wash off and down the workday doldrums or for those who have been home all day with the kids (and gone to the trouble and expense of getting a babysitter) to get away from the kids. In the world of small children, this same time of day is known as the Witching Hour, a frightful stretch somewhere between afternoon nap and dinnertime. Just when you’re winding down, they’re just getting started. A few pops may take the edge off for mommy and daddy, but this can just fan the flames for a little one who feels that every hour is his Right-to-be-Happy Hour.

Be mindful of boundaries, both physical and societal, especially in smaller spaces. Yet another bartender tells a story of looking to the back of his bar and seeing  “six giant strollers blocking the way to the bathroom, so people who weren’t wearing diapers had trouble getting back there.”  

Almost all of them squeamishly recalled at least one public changing of the underguards right at a table that was next to another table of people eating. If you don’t see a changing table in the bathroom, that may be a good indicator that they don’t want you to make one out of one in the dining room.

Don’t Just Unpack-N-Play

One of the biggest single gripes that your server has is with the expansion of Baby A into Sections 1, 2, and 3. Bars (and restaurants) are dangerous places. Knives, flames, boiling liquid, shard-prone glass are the things that make these places run. Wee ones tend to reside below eye level, the perfect target for harried feet. Mashed bananas, flung cookies, and rolling crayons can become lubricants for a busy bartender’s feet. “The scariest thing to me when kids are around: carrying a big tray of hot coffee or tea,” said one.

Before setting up camp for your little ones in a tavern or restaurant, survey the scene to make sure that you’re not in the shipping lanes.

Time Outs All Around (and Make it a Double)

Best advice: know your kids and respect their habits. If Delilah gets fussy after an hour, remember to order your drinks by the glass, not the bottle, and be emotionally prepared to leave after just one. As frustrating as it can be, there’s no need for you to get upset and throw a tantrum when it’s time to go home.  If you’re good, you can come back another day.  He’ll make it one more for your baby–just make it one more for the road.

In fact, your bartenders want you to come back and enjoy yourself. And they’re definitely looking forward to seeing your kids again…say in 15 or 20 years…

 

The New Yorker Praises the Maryland Film Festival

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The New Yorker’s Richard Brody wrote a glowing piece on the Maryland Film Festival today.  We love the way he refrains from naming names, and just likes the aesthetic of the festival. We couldn’t have put it better ourselves…

Couple Love: Changing the Locks

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When edgy Chop Shop stylist Shannon Bailey-Puller—she snips like a sculptor, and has studied with scissor wizard Nick Arrojo—met her husband Bill 10 years ago, he was starting barber school, and she wanted out of a marketing job. They bonded over hair chat—quickly, Shannon decided to go to cosmetology school, and move in with Bill.

At night, the two would trade details from their day’s hair lessons—all very romantic, until they decided to sit down in their kitchen and trade homemade cuts.

“Bill got so pissed because I wasn’t doing it the way he wanted; he shaved it off,” Shannon says. “When I asked him to do my highlights and color, because he wanted to learn, [he acknowledged] it’s hard. He realized he didn’t want to do women’s hair, and I didn’t want to do clipper cuts on a man!”

The cutters’ story gets cuter: Today, Shannon, 35, styles and colors at Chop Shop in Lauraville, while Bill trims men’s hair directly downstairs in his basement storefront, Blue Spark, named for a song by the punk band X. (His long-standing clientele consists of affluent business men, edgy rockers, and blue-collar guys.)

“Any guy can come, and Bill makes men look better,” Shannon says. “Bill’s personality is laidback and easy to talk to. He can talk your head off. He can debate you, too.”

Shannon says both she and Bill have strong people skills, equal to their skill with hair.

“Reading somebody verbally and reading their physical body language, it’s all part of the [haircutting] experience,” she says. “You have to ask the right questions. I always ask, ‘What do you do for a living? Do you wash and go? Do you spend time with your hair?’ You don’t want to give a high-maintenance cut to a person who doesn’t want to be high-maintenance stylist.”

Though the two remain enthusiastic about their careers, they try not to linger on shoptalk at home. Now and again, though, during the workday, Shannon does pop downstairs to say hello and survey her husband’s handy work.

“Bill is a master clipper cutter, and I’ll go sit and watch him work just because I still like to watch what he does, because he has a different skill than I do,” she says.

The next big step in coupledom for the two could be a joint shop for men’s and women’s hair, but if they decide to make this leap, Shannon votes for another upstairs/downstairs arrangement.

“I love my husband to death but if I had to work beside him I think I’d kill him!”

Chop Shop 4321 Harford Road (410) 426-2300
Blue Spark 4321 Harford Road (410) 444-1110

I’m Karaoke, You’re Karaoke

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Ever wish weekend life were more like a thrilling movie? If Saturday night’s become Netflix-and-carryout, stay-in predictable, step inside an alternate realm known to those who have conquered it as…the Bloody Bucket. Oh, stop squirming. Bloody Bucket is just the tag local Hampdenites have awarded a harmless, but also nameless, burned out little dive on Union (formerly called The Clipper Mill Inn) where drinks are cheap and karaoke singers pack freaky mega-talent like no barroom in the history of screen-scrolling lyrics.

Each Saturday night, from 9:30 to close, the bar vibrates with a crew of old-school neighborhood regulars, most quite friendly, many of them in their 50s and 60s, who belt classic tunes by Al Green (Tony does Al so subtly, he will choke you up), Frank Sinatra (the dude who sings Frank looks and sounds like Ol’ Blue Eyes, and he’s been known to pass out pot brownies from the trunk of his car, an added bonus), and the Beatles. Much of the blue-collar crowd equals older Hamdpen residents, yes, which is the beauty of this pure experience, but the occasional young hipster does pass through, usually possessing a burning desire to sing Guns N’ Roses, unfortunately. Visit the spectacular sing-along before an army of cool kids stakes their claim, scribbling their names plus obnoxious pop hit selections on the sign-in sheet. Oh, if you happen to walk in while the inbred looking fellow is banging his head to “Wild Thing,” just sit tight, flip through the list of tunes, and pick out something interesting, a way to make a karaoke contribution distinctly your own—by singing your heart out to a great, time-honored song that really speaks to you, you’ll fit right in.

1619 Union Ave.

The Real Social Network

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We all do a lot of virtual social networking these days, but imagine a realm in which actual networking between the young and old could help elderly residents remain in their homes years longer, and younger residents snag seasoned babysitters, airport rides from linked-in neighbors, and engaging new friends with life lessons to burn.

New hope-powered nonprofit Village at Home, part of the Village movement spreading across the U.S. (56 unique Villages are in operation and 120 more are under development) makes it possible for local seniors, even those with some health limitations, to remain in their homes as long as possible.  Baltimore-based geriatric social worker Susan Newhouse, who advises families on practical issues of aging, is a major proponent of the nonprofit, because, she says, “It takes an organized Village to bring us together in our modern world.  Older adults want to remain in their homes and to be engaged and useful in their communities. Younger adults are raising families in a hectic world and need support. Children benefit from connecting with all ages. When we help each other, everyone benefits.” 

Services from the network of Village “Neighbor to Neighbor” volunteers are always free once you are a member; discounted services are offered by vetted Village vendors—neighborhood residents of all ages are welcome to sign up as members.

The nonprofit encourages a system of regular exchange, whereby, for example, younger people can  connect with those caring, older babysitters, while the same older sitters may receive rides, perhaps errand-running, courtesy of their younger neighbors. Younger people can also take advantage of volunteer services. Vendor service options include tech support, landscape service, bill paying, meal delivery, information wrangling, housecleaning, and more.

“The Village seeks to build a kinder, gentler world. The sense of a Village emerges which nurtures us all. And the feeling good from helping someone else lasts longer than other pleasures,” Susan says.

For more information about Village At Home memberships or volunteer opportunities, please contact us at 410-235-3171 or [email protected]

The Village is currently  under development, gathering start-up funds and memberships. Introductory memberships are $399 for individual membership and $749 per household membership, with a $100 discount if you join now. Village At Home will be available in the following local neighborhoods:

Blythewood, Bellona-Gittings, Cedarcroft, Cross Keys, Evergreen, Guilford, Homeland, Keswick, Lake-Evesham, Lake Roland, Mt. Washington, North Roland Park, Oakenshawe, The Orchards, Poplar Hill, Riderwood, Roland Park, Ruxton, Sabina-Mattfelt, Tuscany-Canterbury, and Wyndhurst

Baltimore Onstage in Black and White

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“Baltimore in Black and White,” now playing at the cell theatre in New York, was inspired by playwright Jason Odell Williams’ experience of being a kid in Columbia, MD, having an extremely diverse group of friends and growing up making [good-natured] fun of one another. When he got to high school at McDonough, he says “everything was segregated – people were sitting at different tables. It was weird.”

The play was developed from a scene Jason wrote while working at the Ensemble Studio Theatre in New York. At EST, he was given two actresses to work with for a night of vignettes, a white actress and a black actress. The scene he wrote takes place at a bus stop – while the women wait for the bus the black woman reads heady prose and the white woman raps to her headphones. The scene was performed at EST to a great response from the audience. After Jason completed his first play, “At a Loss,” his wife and frequent collaborator, Charlotte Cohn, a Broadway actress who has appeared in several productions at Center Stage, suggested for his next full-length he revisit the bus stop sketch. While a version of this scene remains in “Baltimore Black and White,” those characters are supporting the larger story in which we watch an interracial couple, a black man and a Jewish woman, move through life together from the playground, to an awkward reunion at an ATM and ultimately to their wedding night. When I asked Jason what he looked for in a good night of theatre he said, “I just want to be entertained – whatever that may be, I want to be excited.” When I asked him about his own plays, his response was that he wrote “what he would want to see.” Jason says, “I want people to laugh for a long time and then maybe be a bit moved and then think.” After seeing “Baltimore in Black and White,” I assumed race would be a major issue in Jason’s other work, but he told me that while all of his plays are comedies they are all very different in theme and tone. A question for you: Given Jason’s long-standing ties to our city, and the fact that he’s writing about this place, shouldn’t his play next come to Baltimore? –Fia Alvarez

“Baltimore in Black and White” plays thru May 21st at the cell theatre in New York.
Baltimore native Fia Alvarez studies playwriting in the graduate program at Juilliard.

Film Fest Standouts

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Our past visits to the Maryland Film Festival have left us surprised, shocked, entertained, engaged — but never bored. The cinematic celebration returns this weekend, and features films both foreign and domestic, short and long, classic and cutting-edge, odd and odder. Our picks for some must-see screenings are below; check out the full schedule here.

 

Meek’s Cutoff
Saturday, May 7 (8:30 PM)
Charles Theater
Kelly Reichardt, a rising star in American independent film, explored the subtle tensions of daily life in the Pacific Northwest in her films Old Joy and Wendy and Lucy to a low-key, memorable effect. Now, she turns her attention to that classically American genre, the Western, and we can’t wait to see the results. This film follows a wagon train of hopeful settlers (most notably Michelle Williams) searching for safe passage through the Cascade Mountains in 1845.  Low supplies, an untrustworthy guide, the sudden appearance of an Indian — Reichardt’s quiet subversion of Western conventions makes for a fresh and startling story.

My Joy
Saturday, May 7 (11:00 AM)
Charles Theater
Looking to recapture that feeling of dread and exhilaration that last year’s film fest hit Dogtooth left you with? Our pick for bleakest story on the screens this year is Ukranian filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa’s ironically titled My Joy. At once a day-in-the-life depiction of Georgi, a truck driver, and a dark commentary on the madness of post-Soviet society, My Joy is provocative, brutal, and thrilling.

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
Friday, May 6 (1:30 PM) & Sunday, May 8 (2:00 PM)
Charles Theater
Or maybe you’re over bleakness.  Earlier this year, A. O. Scott noted that Uncle Boonmee’s “contemplative mood and genial, curious spirit….encountered in an appropriately exploratory frame of mind [could] produce something close to bliss.” Exploratory is the key word here; this lush Thai film, which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2010, features surreal touches, including ghosts, spirits emerging from the jungle, and other shadowy beasts.

Alloy Orchestra Presents Masters of Slapstick
Sunday, May 8 (11:00 AM)
Charles Theater
A film festival tradition, the Alloy Orchestra writes and performs original scores to accompany silent films. This year is your chance to watch their embellishments of a series of short films featuring everyone’s favorite wordless masters of physical comedy: Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin.

Photo by Rich Riggins, courtesy Maryland Film Festival

Announcing Donated Media: MD SPCA

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Baltimore Fishbowl’s Donate Media Program gives one-year of free media to a selected non-profit. This year’s recipient is the Maryland Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Learn more about the Donated Media program at the bottom of the page. 

The MDSPCA Executive Director Aileen Gabbey kicks off the program with her interview below.

What is a typical workday like for you? Our mission is to help pets and people, so I need to stay focused on that. Recently, most of my time has been devoted to opening our new building, which was very exciting! Now, I have the fun of sharing that with our supporters! I’ll give tours of our new building; I’ll share happy stories with the media; I’ll spend time with staff and volunteers on our annual goals. I also spend time working with fellow directors in our Baltimore shelter alliance. Right now, we’re doing a big joint spay and neuter event together, which has been just great.

What is the most important thing the Maryland SPCA accomplished in 2010? The new building is definitely the big highlight! Our Board worked tirelessly on the campaign and our Staff worked wonders while we were under construction. While all of this was going on, we also opened a new wellness clinic, adopted almost 3,000 pets, neutered over 8,000 dogs and cats, and took in over 1,200 animals from the BARCS city shelter. We don’t sit still!

What is your highest/most ambitious goal for 2011? Hardest challenge? We want to keep focused on helping pets and people and each year we want to help more and more. This year, we want to increase our spay and neuter surgeries by 10%. We want to help more pets through our wellness clinic. I guess our challenge will be to let people know we still need help. Despite the success of the new building, we still have animals inside who have lots of needs!

Share some inspiring animal news! One of my favorite dogs recently was Stewie. He’s a five-year-old Lab we took in from the city shelter. Not only is Stewie older, he’s also blind. There is no time limit for an animal’s stay at the MD SPCA, so we know it takes a little longer for older or handicapped pets to get adopted. The dogs go out several times a day with our volunteers. I frequently saw Stewie out with his volunteer friends, warming his face in the sun. It took a few weeks, but, Stewie finally got adopted! I’ve attached his picture the day he went home with his new mom.

What can Baltimore animal lovers do to help the MD SPCA most effectively? Come help and spread the word that we need help! We don’t receive any operating funds from the government or the ASPCA. That surprises a lot of people. We rely on kind-hearted people to donate and volunteer.

How many pets do you have? And, are you sometimes tempted to adopt your rescues? People assume I am going to have a full house! My husband and I actually have just one dog and one cat, both from the MD SPCA. I try not to overdo it. But, I have to say, it is really tempting sometimes when I see the cute faces as I walk through each day!

 

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