Beer, bikes, bluegrass: my Balti weekends

By VERONICA REARDON | May 4, 2017

B2_MVR-Bike-Party-Colour

COURTESY OF HANNAH MELTON The Baltimore Bike Party is a great way to explore new parts of the city and meet some locals.

This semester has truly been a sprint to the finish. At the end of it, I graduate and leave Baltimore at least for the summer, if not longer. This comes with a lot of nostalgia. However, I haven’t gotten a chance to deal with it: I’ve been trying to enjoy my Hopkins “lasts” like my last Spring Fair, my last Outdoor Pursuits trips and events and of course the looming deadlines of my last set of final projects.

After all of this, one of my top priorities will be both to visit all my favorite old off-campus haunts and to see the ones I’ve always meant to get to. This will be a look at the old ones. Here are some reminisces about my four years of weekends here in Baltimore.

My freshman year, I barely went off campus. While I did go to Hampden and, thanks to a socially engaged friend, Red Emma’s and the Baltimore Free Farm, I had no idea how much the city had to offer.

Like many freshmen, I spent most of my weekend fun time sweating on other undergrads in fraternity basements. While I went running occasionally to Druid Hill Park, I didn’t spend a ton of time there. Baltimore was just the place that Hopkins happened to be.

As a sophomore, I decided that there had to be more to life than what was on campus. I saw Susan Alcorn, the amazing and very strange steel pedal guitarist, and some other not quite as striking musicians play at The Crown. That was my first taste of the amazing and weird music scene in Baltimore.

A friend of mine knew a guy in a punk band then, and we went to their shows at the Windup Space and other places around town.

Again, I was sweating all over people for fun on the weekend, but it was much better than frats. This was mainly because pushing is allowed, even encouraged, at punk shows, which makes a huge difference in the amount of fun you can have.

I started going all over Baltimore exploring, going to readings and open mike nights and enjoying concerts and talks. I found that my life got a lot crazier but that it also got a lot more interesting: We live in a fantastically rich city in terms of the arts, diverse in its people and with a character I haven’t found anywhere else.

Baltimore is horrifyingly violent and a depressing place for many people less privileged than I, but it is also a place full of incredible, unique people that are innovators of thought and art and politics and science, many of them unaffiliated with Hopkins. I had just begun to discover that, and I feel that I am still just beginning.

At the end of that year, an RA introduced me to the weekly bluegrass and old time jams at Liam Flynn’s, and my world was transformed.

My junior year, I got to know the old time and bluegrass communities here rather than go to random events. In doing so, I got to go to house concerts, got to know some truly wonderful people of all ages and realized how much of an amateur musician I am, but in a good way: There are so many talented people out there!

While I didn’t meet people from as many different scenes in Baltimore or see as many diverse performances, my experience got some wonderful depth.

Margaritas at Holy Frijoles did become an occasional girls’ night event for my roommates, and I went to The Brewer’s Art for the first time.

On one particularly memorable night last year, I went to Long John’s with some friends, and one of them got slapped for being obnoxious. Another night, I remember riding on my friend’s shoulders as he walked down the street, fiddling down North Charles street on the way to The Crown.

That summer I learned how to bike around Baltimore. One of my favorite memories is biking home from Druid Hill, coasting back to campus in the dimming light of the evening after a long day in the sun, feeling tired and relaxed.

This year I’ve had to stop going places in Baltimore so much. It makes me especially sad now that nostalgia is setting in.

Yes, I went to Artifact Coffee for the first time ever this year, but it was to study for hours, and I almost entirely stopped going to the jams that gave me so much joy last year. Yes, I’ve been out to Fell’s a few very fun times, but it was more about running around drinking with my boyfriend’s buddies than it was about exploring a space and enjoying a culture.

My takeaway from four years in Baltimore is really that it’s not nearly enough time to get to know such a rich and fascinating place.

While I’m excited to move on, I am sad to leave so much behind. Here’s to four awesome years in Baltimore. Maybe I’ll be back.

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