Friday, December 14, 2007


Yesterday, while driving home, I saw four young men engaged in what appeared to be an intense conversation in a not-so-nice section of town. Living in Baltimore as I proudly do, having to drive through not-so-nice sections of town is par for the course. That does not mean that Baltimore is not a beautiful and prosperous city - far from it. Often called a "City of Neighborhoods", the city is laid out such that rich and poor often live within blocks of each other. I find that fact enriching; isolation and ignorance breed contempt. If you do not know your neighbors, how can you empathize with them? That's not to say that there aren't well-to-do neighborhoods in Baltimore that work very hard to keep those less-fortunate as far away as possible. I can site a number of neighborhoods who've hired private security to perpetuate a feeling of "safety". More on that some other time (maybe).

Back to my story. Three of the four young men were hooded and surrounding the fourth, who looked visibly frightened. It seems that they were robbing him and threatening violence if he resisted. The poor kid was pushed to the ground. He then got up, took off his coat, and then handed it to one of his attackers. I didn't see what happened next, because I drove off when the light changed. I dialed 911 and gave a description of the muggers and the location of the crime. "Don't snitch"? Fuck that.

Why didn't I do more? Why didn't I get out of the car, get the kid's stuff back then take him home? Honestly, because I was afraid of what might happen to me. I am not afraid to get into a fight. I've been in enough in my lifetime to know what to expect. These days however, kids bring guns to fight, so I'd be at a competitive disadvantage, having
only brought fists to the fight. I don't watch enough TV to think I could disarm someone wielding a gun. Not even The Shield could pull that off. I have young children. They didn't ask to be given life, so I shouldn't play around with mine when they need me most.

I felt
really sorry for the kid. I felt sorry for him not because he was losing his possessions, but because he was genuinely frightened. I've been mugged in a violent way before. I know what it's like to feel powerless and to not know what's going to happen to you next. That feeling is as basic as breathing. Either you try to get away at all costs, or you fight as though you know you are about to die. The victim didn't appear to be at that stage yet, but I could tell he wasn't far. He had gotten past the paralyzed phase and had moved into the phase where he accepted that he was in fact going to lose his possessions. At this point, you begin to "bargain" to see what your muggers are going to let you walk/run away with. It is also at this point that your mugger(s) will decide whether or not to use violence. Since the muggers didn't immediately descend on the kid and beat him down, that means that they were willing to take the kid's stuff and walk away if he'd just given it up. A simple transaction. Since the victim was resisting, the muggers decided that it was worth increasing the pressure to see how far the kid would go before relenting. The muggers didn't start beating the kid after he resisted a little, so it was obvious that they didn't want to take the exchange too far.

I have no idea how the scene resolved. I left my name and number with the police, but never received a call. I hope the kid made it home in one piece.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Lunch date with the health inspector

Everyone who knows me knows that I enjoy the occasional meal alone. It has nothing to do with misanthropy or depression, but doing Indian buffet solo is doubly efficient; no waiting, unnecessary chit-chat, etc.

The other day, I was craving Indian buffet. My 2nd favorite Indian restaurant, which is closest to my office, was closed, maybe for good? Instead, I headed over to Mughal Garden. After having filled my plate, I noticed a man with a clipboard walking up and down the buffet, as if he might start scooping food onto the clipboard. It became clear right away that the gentleman was a city health inspector. Among his complaints, I heard him mention that the rice was not hot enough. Following the inspector closely were two of the restaurant's staff, one likely the manager. They looked about as nervous as I was at that moment. That was certainly a new experience for me. For whatever reason, I kept eating. I even got seconds before paying the bill and heading back to work.

Lately though, I've been feeling resigned to eat whatever poison comes from a commercial kitchen because of this book. It's a great read, but be warned; you're thoughts of dining out will be forever changed.

What I take from this experience is that the food at Mughal Garden is tasty, and probably not bad for me, as the health inspector didn't immediately close the place while I was there. What I also take away is that Baltimore City is taking food safety seriously. A restaurant near my office wasn't so lucky and had to shut down for a few days. Ick. Lots of the staff left and now the place has new management. Save for an occasional latte, I don't think I'll darken their doors again.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

It's the economy stupid, part deux

I received a response a previous post:

CC said...

"I agree w/you, except the more taxes bit. I wouldn't volunteer to throw more money into a mismanaged mutual fund, ya know?"

I thought a new post as response would be a better idea than another comment under the original comment.

I agree with CC. I don't like the idea of higher taxes any more than the next person. Americans, and by extension, Marylanders need to decide what we really want our taxes to be used for. Most people feel that government services are lacking, but those same people hate the idea of tax increases. I don't know of a nation that pays more taxes than the Danish, but if you consider their great health care, the cleanliness of their cities, and the amount of services available to all, it seems to be worth it.

You may be scared off by their quasi-socialist social services, but they're doing something that's working. Of course, comparing Denmark to the US is a bit of a stretch, but comparing Denmark to Maryland isn't. The problem is that both Liberals/Progressives and Conservatives want it both ways. Liberals want to spend more and more on social services, but don't have the guts to fend off cries of "unfettered socialism" and to spend what it truly takes to develop social programs for the good of all. Conservatives would rather leave your money in your bank account and shrink the government, but don't have the guts to fend off cries of "heartless robber-barons" and admit that they believe that you cannot depend on the government for anything. This is certainly an oversimplification of the two groups, but isn't that how they play to the voting public when we vote? I can almost hear the ad now, "It's a simple choice of A or B. There's no middle ground!".

Monday, October 15, 2007

It's the economy, stupid

Soon, our governor plans to propose the legalization of slot machine gambling to the General Assembly in a late-October special session. The idea of gambling isn't new in Maryland, with Lotto (is this still around?), the multi-state Big Game, Pick 3/4, and of course Keno. What is also not new is the idea of attempting to fix budget shenanigans at the expense of the least of us. I don't know about where you shop, but at the majority of places where I might see people buying lottery tickets, I see people who might be best served by saving their money. As for slots, there have been initiatives to legalize them for nearly 12 years, but only now does it seem likely to happen. How will it happen? Slots will be legalized either by General Assembly vote or referendum. I would prefer a voter referendum despite the 2004 Gonzales survey stating that the majority of Marylanders want slots.

The argument for expanded gambling is that the revenues could be used to help relieve Maryland's $1.7 billion budget deficit and to pay for essential services. One look at the Baltimore City School system, once a supposed beneficiary of gambling revenues, and you can clearly see that approach doesn't work. What's more, the lottery was state-run at the time. Now, you can expect an out-of-state entity to reap the majority of gambling revenue. The other problem is where do you put the machines? I don't know anyone who'd want gambling sites in their neighborhoods. Placing the machines at horse racing tracks isn't a good idea either. That will ensure larger purses for horse owners, and less revenue for the state. Ironically, slots get more people to go to race tracks, but not to see the running of the horses.

I am not against preserving the horse racing industry or gambling in general, but I believe there has to be a better way to fix our budget short-fall (higher taxes, better efficiency, and less spending). Horse racing is a rich part of Maryland's heritage, but it isn't a right. If track owners cannot increase attendance at their tracks, it shouldn't be the government's problem to fix. As well, relying on gambling revenue as a stable source of income is stupid and immoral.

Only time will tell what happens with expanded gambling in Maryland, but I'm hoping that there are a majority of legislators in the House and Senate that agree with me.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Harper speaks!

Here you can see and hear my adorable daughter, Harper saying a few "words". Usually, at 8 weeks, babies are only interested in complaining about how they think you're neglecting them. Harper is really starting to recognize faces. Of course, the person she smiles at the most is her big sis, Merriwether.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Tell me about yourself

Everyone who knows me knows my love of "stuff". Somewhere I heard or read about being able to describe yourself in 6 words. I chose "I am awesome. Let's get stuff." Immodesty aside, that's how I would describe my unchained consumerism. How would you describe yourself in 6 words?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Sticker shock

I had a recruiter call me yesterday to discuss a possible job with the Dept. of State in VA. First of all, commuting to VA when I have 2 small children is out of the question. Secondly, even if the commute wasn't onerous, I know how inflexible gov't contracts can be.

Just to see how interested the recruiter was, I floated a very hourly high rate for which I would consider the position. After a brief pause from the other end of the line, there was a barely audible "wow". I love it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Number 1 Males

As the resident of a city like Baltimore, you get used to the idea of crime. By saying "get used to..." I, by no support those who feel they can proffer at the expense of others. This last statement includes white-collar perps as well.

There is a lot of crime in Baltimore. My neighborhood has recently been suffering a wave of crime perpetrated by a few brazen individuals who would dare attempt to break in to someone's house in broad daylight. What is common about these individuals is that they are African American. (Sigh) Being African American myself, it saddens me that my neighbors will invariably view us all as suspect. It happened tonight in fact. I was out in the alley behind my house with my dogs. One of my more paranoid neighbors happened to see me walking down the alley. I could tell that when I caught her glance that she presumed I was up to no good. Fortunately, she recognized me at the last minute before the police were called. Am I paranoid? Not at all. Take an African American friend to any of the pricey boutique stores in your town for a lesson in soft racism. Notice the helpful clerk who just happens to need to fold every item in your vicinity... Yeah...

The idea is floating around to hire a private security force for the neighborhood. I want to live in a safe neighborhood where I don't have to worry about knuckleheads trying to steal my stuff. What I don't want is to live in a fortress neighborhood where we don't trust anyone outside of our blocks. I feel that that is the root of the problem. I seem to live near a surplus of "scared white people" (not my words) who flinch every time someone new walks down our streets. What's the solution? I feel that the first step would be to partner with the other neighborhoods near us to join forces against the nuisance of crime that we ALL hate. There is safety in numbers; our neighborhood watch could work another watch to patrol our combined areas. Taking an interest in each other's safety will foster trust and break down biases against those different from us. We could all certainly use that lesson.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


This poem comes from a film producer in LA named Helen Kwang. I met her at Sundance this year. I'm using her work without her permission, but she was drunk when she wrote it on my arm in ink, so I don't think she'll remember. Besides, who reads this blog anyway?

"intrepid as a drunken sorority girl, Myron will ask you for your bra, then leave as you unsnap it."

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

This actually happened...

As usual, a bunch of us at work were ordering out for lunch. My cube-mate and I took the orders. Today we dined at 5 Guys. There are lots of Indians working here, so ordering from a burger joint requires some sensitivity. Most of them NEVER eat red meat, but there are a few who do. Because of this, I wasn't surprised when 2 of my Indian colleagues ordered cheeseburgers.

A colleague and I got the food and brought it back. After inspecting his order, one of the burger-ordering Indians was shocked, SHOCKED to find out the cheeseburgers have... GASP... RED MEAT!

You can't tell me there are Indians who've been within earshot of an American for more than 15 minutes who don't know that hamburgers are made of cow!

Friday, June 1, 2007

Why I love where I work.

#1. It's Beer Friday.
#2. I just saw some guys "driving" a pair of remote controlled Sumo wrestlers.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


I just got back from my 15th year college reunion. I am a proud alumnus of Wesleyan University. As usual, it was great! I got to see friends I haven't seen since I was at the 10th year event and I got to party like I'd won the lottery! I stayed up all night (without meaning to), slept past my checkout time, and spent the next 48 hours feeling pretty hung-over. All in all, a success by my account!

Some might say that college reunions are a waste of time; the only reason you might want to go to such an event is to try to escape the reality that you've gotten old and unnecessarily responsible. Others might even say that it's just an exercise in vanity where you try to make yourself seem thin, successful, wealthy, etc. Be that as it may, I'll take any excuse to get to go back to my alma mater. For me, it's an exercise in reconnection to a place that is singularly formative in my life. I owe much of what I am today to that ivy-covered 163 acre campus. I loved, hated, cried, rejoiced, did wonderful things, failed, and generally lived a full (even if I think I majored in the wrong subjects) life. I sometimes feel that I lived my entire life in the four years I was there. This does not mean that my life ended when I graduated, but that everything that has come after has in some way resembled events that occurred back at Wesleyan. There are obvious exceptions: childbirth and marriage immediately come to mind.

Just to enforce the poignancy of reunion for me, I had a conversation with a woman who would graduate on the following day. She was sitting on Andrus field in one of the chairs the many grads would sit in during commencement. She was very upset that she'd missed out on experiencing everything Wesleyan had to offer. She was feeling friendless and without direction. I assured her that what she was feeling was absolutely natural and that I (and probably many, many others of her peers) felt exactly the same way before graduation. I suggested that she rely on those she felt close to and to not look at the act of graduation as "the end" of her time at Wesleyan. I don't know if any of what I said had any affect on her, but she was laughing when we parted ways.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Did someone say HOT-LANTA?!

Just got back from spending a long weekend in Atlanta at Brooke and Jen's house (my brother-in-law and soon-to-be sister-in-law). Brooke and Jen have a lovely house in Inman Park, near the uber-trendy Virginia Highlands. The reason for our visit was Brooke's graduation from his UGA MBA program. As you can see from the pic, Brooke was happy.

Brooke and Jen were gracious hosts, allowing the kids to slowly and in a moist fashion, dismantle their house.

Despite all the fun, it was hot, hot, hot! Neither I nor H (who delivers in just 3 mos!) were ready for 90+ degree weather! It makes you appreciate the relative "north-ness" of Baltimore.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The unbearable lightness of being.

My thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by the madness at Virginia Tech. We can only look to the unknowable for solace and understanding. Unfortunately, it may not be enough to fully comprehend why what happened, happened at all. Of course, there will be the understandable cries to limit gun ownership, etc. While I personally think that America is gun-crazy and statistics show that gun ownership makes you more likely to be a target of gun violence, further limiting or banning ownership won't be the answer.

I'm sure there are those at Virginia Tech right now wondering what they could've done to reach out to Cho Seung-Hui. Perhaps, if the professors who had been "disturbed" by his writings had made more of an effort to get him help... What if those who knew him had tried to make him feel more included... This is just speculation, of course. What I take from this tragedy is that we humans still have a long way to go before we become better at understanding each other.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Down with Chuck E. Cheese!

Who doesn't love birthday parties? The singing, the cake, the fun; it's all wonderful. What isn't wonderful is having to spend such time in a place as awful as Chuck E. Cheese. I've always made sure to keep a safe distance from the place in the past, but having family means that someone at some point somewhere will think that going to Chuck E. Cheese is a good idea. Now, I can legitimately hate the place as an educated consumer.

At this point, you're probably thinking, "Oh, what a snob! He just thinks the place is beneath him and his family!". Not so, and there's no need to get personal here. I wouldn't begrudge anyone's desire to have a party in a place they deem appropriate for their children. Chuck E. Cheese is made for kids and there's no denying that they love the place. Of course, it's been proven over and over that kids have no idea what's good for them.

The occasion of our visit was my 3-y.o. great nephew's b'day. Yes, "great nephew"; more on that some other time. He's a great kid and we love and admire his parents. They're not the problem. The problem is that Chuck E. Cheese (CEC) is waaaayyyy too over-stimulating. There's the animatronic band playing along to videos playing on wall-mounted monitors. There's the light and sound of the video games, the noise of the kids running in and out of the play areas, the incessant messages from the overhead system (louder than anything else happening in the place) re-calling everyone back to their seats for a live show with Mr. CEC himself, for the cake-cutting, for the pizza. Of course, there really isn't any sort of order to the chaos. Imagine kids running to climb and slide, then running back to their tables for pizza, then running again to climb and slide. It's too much. Our lovely 2-y.o. did all these things happily until it was time to go home. She put up a bit of a fuss about going home, but that's not extraordinary. We thought all was well while we were driving home and she fell asleep. Suddenly, she awoke whining and holding her stomach. Exactly 8 seconds later, she vomited electric blue all over herself and her car seat! It made for an aromatic ride home.

She's fine now, but her dress was ruined, my back seat, and her car seat required serious attention. I had to completely disassemble the car seat, run the cover through the washer and clean the base. I'm not looking forward to finding out whether leaving the car windows down overnight did the trick. I may be scrubbing the back seat of the GTI for many days to come.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Everyone's a critic

I was listening to my iPod the other day when my 2 y.o. comes over and wants to listen in. I put one of the ear buds in her tiny ear and let her listen. As we were listening, she made comments about which songs/groups she liked or disliked. Here are the results:

She Liked
Gerry Mulligan
Lady Sovereign
Bettie Serveert

She Disliked
The Beastie Boys
Bob Dylan

I'll let you draw your own conclusions about her choices.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

They start younger and younger...

I was out with Hilary, Merriwether, Eric, Mia, and Finn Saturday morning at the Linkwood playground trying to enjoy the outdoors before the snow came. Mia and Merriwether always like to start their time at the playground by swinging in these big, barcalounger-like toddler swings. As I'm pushing Merriwether in the swing (she likes to get serious air), 3 y.o. Mia looks over at me and says, "Byron, will you get me high?". Before being rendered incomprehensible by laughter, all I could get out was, "Maybe when you're 16 and with your father's permission..." I don't think this would make Bill Cosby's show anytime soon.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Strange dream

I had a strange dream last week. Matt, our neighbor, was running a gas station. Matt does not normally run a gas station. He builds missiles or something like that. I was riding a bmx bike. Matt told me about this legendary bmx course was over this nearby bridge. I went to check it out. There was a ramp that went up about 20 ft; of course, I didn't go near it. Instead, i decided to walk with some people from Livanta (old job) to the Reisterstown Plaza. We walked by Rosecrest (my old street) and my friend Reggie's (heir to the Parks' Sausage empire) house. Reggie's house was abandoned - it had been converted to a protest house against the war in Iraq. It was spray-painted with slogans and had streamers and the like all over it. I split off from the Livanta people and decided to walk Juniper and Heidi up the alley. There was a house with a dog that kept jumping out after Juniper. I woke up after it happened a few times. Of course, all this happened in perfect color; I remember reading someplace that people only dream in black and white. Maybe I just remember color when there wasn't. Weird, huh?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

No good deed goes unpunished

It was time to finally get the quick-cam pics from Sundance developed. I dropped off the 2 cameras at the Fed Hill CVS. 4 days later I get a call from them looking for a "Brian Naylor". That hasn't been my name since my 3rd run in the witness protection program; I hung up.

The next Sunday, I decide to go to the gym (so as not to continue approaching the size of the average American...) and pick up the pics. I stop by CVS first; I am given 1 envelope of pics when I gave them 2 camera. I remind "Brittany" of this, and she goes searching for the other envelope. She finds it - great. I head to the gym. Of course, the gym is closed because of a water main break on Cross St. Wonderful. I decide to check out my pics and then go home. I open the first (thicker) envelope and see some nice pics of Main St. Sundance and the Canyons Resort. I open the next envelope and find a single pic of 3 women at some formal event. I've never seen these women in my life. Great. I go back to CVS and tell the manager what's happened. He takes my info and promises to pass it on to the developer.

I get a call yesterday from said developer who wants to know what was in my pics so he can look for them. I told him street scenes, snowboarding, and art work. Simple enough, right? I'll be extremely pissed if those pics are lost - those were the better bunch...

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Sundance 2007

Just got back (a few weeks ago, that is) from the Sundance Film Festival in beautiful Park City Utah. As usual, it was a blast. I didn't have a digicam, but I'm getting some digipics from the film camera I took with me. I'll post those up soon...

In the mean time, here's what I was thinking while I was waiting for my flight out of BWI:

Date: 17 Jan, 07
Time: 19:50

"Pretty hectic week getting ready for Sundance. Lots to do to get ready. Taking an evening flight is great! There are no lines anywhere! Even the TSA are chill. I just heard some bad words - "beverage-only flight"! I bought some almonds just before coming to the gate, so I think I'll be OK. The crepe I had for lunch is sitting well. Crepe + almonds = goodness. What would make this perfect is wine."