Sunday, January 16, 2011

Ode to Fleet Street

As I sit here, at Panera on Boston Street, on a Sunday afternoon, I can't help but reminisce about the house that was a home - 3903 Fleet Street.

I say "was" because it is really no longer where I live. And I say "really" because technically I am still inhabiting it, in a quasi-squatting situation, but since it's ownership changed hands on December 17th, I've had to gradually come to grips with the fact that it is no longer my home.

Here is a brief timeline of my time in the house:

July 2006: Emily and Bryan purchase house, which is being built.
September 2006: House still unfinished, but other house needs to be vacated for new owners. Go live at Godsey's until December.
December 2006: Move into Fleet Street.
May 2009: Bryan able to relocate to Florida, house is put up for sale.
October 2009: Bryan and Emily officially no longer live in house.
October 2010: House relisted
December 2010: Offer made, offer accepted, house closes on December 17. We are able to stay in the house until January 15.

Then the past couple of weeks have been absolute mayhem. I had very requirements for where I wanted to live. I was using Boston St and Fleet St as my borders, so essentially Canton and Brewer's Hill, where I currently live. Since it was going to be easier to find (and ultimately afford) a place for 3 people, myself, Cheese and our other roommate Eric decided we would look for a place together. It was slim pickings out there. Most places around here are fairly small (small being a relative term, everything is small compared to our current crib), and the 3rd bedroom was almost always a finished (or unfinished) basement. We even found a place with a "Baltimore walk-through" as a bedroom. Think of the smallest room you've ever seen, and then make it only have 3 walls.

We thought we finally had it squared away with one place, but due to a high level of shadiness from the owners, that fell through. Roxy the realtor helped us locate another place, which looked pretty awesome, but we found out later that day the place did not possess an occupancy certificate. This is, as you guessed, necessary for occupancy. It was anticipated they would have it be February 1.

With a move-out day of Friday the 15th set, we were figuring out how we would handle it for a few weeks out on the streets. We ultimately came to the conclusion that we would put our belongings in storage, and then crash wherever necessary until the other place was ready, when lo and behold Pat, the guy that bought our house, stepped up and said we could rent back the place from him for a week as he didn't need to move in right away. This was quite helpful. Yesterday I got a call from Roxy saying the house we are trying to move into may even be ready by Tuesday, which would be even better. Of course, I don't trust anything until it happens anymore, so I'll be a little tense until we're settled.

It's an unfortunate end to what has truly been an awesome 4 years of living in what I considered my home. And even though I am moving just a couple of blocks away, the landscape changes drastically.

Over the years the house has provided some amazing times, and was christened with one of the sickest parties ever thrown - NYE 2007. We had at least 50 people over, food and drink were plentiful, and there was no cap on the fun. At some point, the garage door was open and the front door was unlocked as a bevy of revelers staggered down the street to Elliott's. Then Emily's friend Sandy Devine (yes, her actual name) was able to round everyone up and kept watch over the house.

Our annual Superbowl Party, which started in 2006 at 802 S. Eaton, continued at Fleet Street and, until last year when it was impacted by the snowstorm, we've always had pretty awesome, big gatherings for that event.

The house also played host to two of my birthday parties - 2007's Fiesta Birthday and 2008's Olympics Birthday. It has hosted gatherings for myriad sport events, including Terp games, NCAA games, Hubs of Fury 2 began there, we hosted Memorial Day and 4th of July and Labor Day bbq's, lots of fun.

In the 4 years I've lived there, I probably spent fewer than 1% of my awake hours in my bedroom. Always a mess, void of significant natural daylight and with tall ceilings but a tiny closet, I left the fan on for literally 4 years straight, with only interruptions being power outages. I also love keeping the window open during the winter because for some reason I get so incredibly warm up there.

I love the loft - a one-of-a-kind living area upstairs. I sleep on the couch more than I sleep in my bed. The temperature could be adjusted simply by opening or shutting the blinds to the deck. When we had the sweet TV up there, I would watch everything I could in beautiful HD. Lost was awesome, as were Tournament games. I vividly recall the 2008 Kansas vs Memphis championship game, as I realized I was actually going to win my Tournament pool (and $750!) for once, and how beautiful it looked.

The kitchen is awesome, and the fireplace in the living room was a great addition.

One thing I'll definitely miss is the basement. I've never seen a basement in a rowhome this size. It was like a gym. The best cycling studio of all time, I'm sad to see it go. Where else could you chill out and fit 6 bikes in a house to ride? Plus it stored a whole bunch of shit that I now have to bring with me and figure out what to do with it.

I never really used the garage until Bryan and Emily left, but that's awesome too. Parking was never a problem here, which I'll certainly miss, but it was nice to leave it in the garage. Except last year during the snow when our inconsiderate neighbors plowed their snow behind my garage door and I couldn't get out for 3 weeks since the alley sees no sunlight. Ever.

I'll miss being able to walk a block to Royal Farms for milk when I'm out, or just for a Coke or a snack. Or fried chicken late at night. I'll miss Highlandtown Market for how absolutely Mexi it is, but super close. I'll miss the sight of the Snowball stand in the summer, even though I only eat there once or twice a year. I'll miss the enormous feral cats that chill out in the parking lot waiting to be fed. I'll even miss seeing the Eichenkranz sign next door, although I will never eat there again. I'll miss walking to Elliott's, and in all likelihood I won't go back there too much now as it will be completely out of my way.

I'll miss just saying that I live on Fleet Street, and describing to people how to get there: "Uh, you just get onto Fleet Street and keep going. Until it ends." And then a short while later having to re-explain how to get there. I'll miss being exactly 7 blocks from Pat's, up a terrible hill and then down all the way into Fells Point. I'll miss having to then run up that hill, or ride up that hill, at the end of every run or ride. I'll miss Viejo Pueblito and Annabel Lee being on that street. I'll miss being a quarter mile from 802 Eaton or a "mile" from the Square or the Shell station.

I'll miss how shitty Eastern Avenue is. I only go there when I absolutely have to, but it's nice to know that the Chinese place was always there for me. Or G&A Hot Dogs. Or when North Pole ice cream was there. Actually, I won't miss Eastern Avenue. Not even a little bit, not even at all. But it is kind of fun to walk under the bridge to Greektown during Greek Festival. Or, being able to quickly get out onto Haven and onto 40 for Rides, or coming home on Eastern after a Gunpowder loop and being right there.

I'll miss speeding on Haven Street as I zoom down to Boston, or cutting through the dirt and rocks and mud behind Pasta Mista to get home so I avoid the train.

I'll miss saying I live in Canton. Well, actually Brewer's Hill. Nah, let's be honest - it's Highlandtown. But where I'm moving to is full-on Canton now. So no more "Brewer's Hill". That's a big piece of me now, I've lived in this neighborhood for the 5.5 years I've lived in Baltimore, and figured I would live here forever. Canton just doesn't have the same ring.

I'll miss looking out the deck window and seeing Natty Boh wink and smile at me. I'll miss seeing him as I walk home from the Square (he's not going anywhere, and actually my new rooftop deck has a good view, just a different perspective).

I'll miss feeling like I live at the edge of Baltimore. And I really did. I don't anticipate the number of visitors increasing, but it just seemed so quiet and "out there" living at the end of Fleet Street.

The house will always be there, but it is no longer my home. Since I moved to Baltimore I've only lived in two places, and the 4 years I've spent in this one place is the longest I've lived anywhere other than my parents' house. Thanks to living with my cousin, I never had to sign a lease here. I've never had to deal with a landlord.

But, I know everything will still be there, and I'm also excited to start a new chapter of life in Baltimore. I'm excited for this new place because it's so much closer to things. It's 2 blocks off the Square. That cuts the walk time from 14 or 15 minutes to 2. It's not any closer to the gym, or Pasta Mista, or some of the other places I frequent, but it's also not really any or much farther. We have a sweet rooftop deck, something I've always wanted to have in Baltimore, and it was the best configuration of bedrooms, bathrooms and general space of any place we saw. I'm not excited for the parking situation, but whatever, I've had it pretty easy for a long time, I'll just have to get used to it for the next year (at least).

Fleet St has been a comfort, and I'm sad to say goodbye to it. And it may seem silly to get so sentimental about a house, but I legitimately may never live in anything as nice as it was. It was new when we got it and we made it ours (well mostly Bryan and Emily, I didn't really bring much to the table except the parties). I'm looking forward to creating some new traditions and hopefully keeping some old ones at the new place.

And just as we brought Fleet St to life with our first ever NYE party, it was fitting to send it out with a NYE party. It consisted of approximately 1/5 the number of folks, and didn't look as nice, but you know me and keeping things constant - so it was cool to have that be the last shindig we threw.

Thursday, January 06, 2011


I've told a few people my resolutions for 2011 so far, and I think they've been met with a few raised eyebrows. On Monday's run, Tristram asked if I had any resolutions, such as, "to run more." I said that running-related resolutions are silly. We always want to run more, generally, I'm only able to run so much, and I am probably running (right now) as much as I can handle anyway.

So instead, here's how I answered him:

Be More Selfish

This is pretty simple. I need to worry about myself more. I get too caught up in other things, and have not done what I need to do for myself. Sounds selfish. Because it is.

Do Less For Others

I do a lot for other people. I don't usually mind it, because if I didn't want to do it, I probably wouldn't. But, I think I'm stretched too thin. I'm feeling particularly overwhelmed lately, with a few other things going on, so I'm going to do less for others and try and do more for myself. I've found lately that I'm not being invited to things, which is annoying when I've opened my doors and made my events public for years.

Maintain Fewer Friends

I realize I have a lot of friends. I do a good job keeping up with them. I try not to ask them for much. I have lived in my neighborhood for 5.5 years, and in that time I can remember only a few instances people have come to hang out without me throwing some kind of event. I think I need to go into winter hibernation. I can't help making friends, but I need to be realistic. You want to hang out, you know how to get in touch. (note: I'm not saying I'm becoming a hermit, or that I'm just stopping being friends with people like someone else I know)

Use Phone Less/Be Less Accessible

I realize I just said you know how to get in touch with me, but my next resolution is to use my phone less. I plan on taking longer to respond to non-urgent emails, and not bring my phone with me as much.

Drive Less

Not because it's the green thing to do. I have driven all over creation to hang out, bring people places, drive to races, whatever (side note: the reason I drive so much is because I know I'm the most competent driver, and don't like not having the control of deciding when to leave, etc). But I drive a lot. 20,000 miles in the last year, and I haven't even been driving to a workplace everyday! I reckon, by my most conservative estimate, I have driven at least 300,000 miles in the 12 years of licensed driving. Probably more. There were 5 years in there I was driving 40-50,000 miles for work.

But they're not all curmudgeonly resolutions...

Empower Others

I want to help others be more assertive and get shit done on their own, without me. Since I've been hurt, I've seen a lot more of that, and it's good. I won't be around forever, and I'd like to ensure the legacy of Baltimore Running, in particularl TWSS, lives on.

Go More Places By Myself

As long as I can remember, I've been poppin my collar. Psyche, just kidding. I'm very independent. My idea of vacation is going somewhere by yourself. I've done it a bunch of times. Sometimes I've traveled with a person (Tom Stott), sometimes I've gone by myself to visit friends in a place and then traveled around solo after that. I really don't mind, in fact I find it liberating. It gets boring, but it calms me down. In the past few years, due to a variety of circumstances, I have gotten away from it. I need to bring it back. Especially with a 30th birthday on the horizon (still many, many months away), I may need a special rmcgrath trip.

Be More Positive

I want to get rid of all negative energy and just B +. I think this will help me get more of my own shit taken care of. If you bring negative energy around me, I'm going to excuse myself, as I am going to try to not let it bring me down.

So those are among my 2011 resolutions, it may sound absurd but that's really what I think about. If this is the most dick post you've ever read, please, let me hear it.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011


Very quickly on the television series Lost we were introduced to the numbers that changed Hurley's life: 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42.

In last night's $355 million MegaMillions jackpot drawing, had you used those numbers, you would have had FIVE correct (4, 8, 15, 25, 47, 42). How insane is that? There are probably millions of people now who use those numbers, thanks to Lost, each week, and according to my sources, had you played those numbers, you would have won $150.

I took a break from updating this, not because I didn't want to, but I got lazy.

Following Celtic Solstice, Godsey's stay and a high-octane karaoke jam, I headed up to New Jersey for Christmas. Because I am an addict, I noticed there was the Polar Bear 5 Miler on Sunday, 12/26, in Asbury Park, and decided I would do it. Pat was on board, and after the race the big thing is to jump into the ocean for the Polar Bear Plunge. My body was not feeling great following CS; the days after included the challenging run at Patapsco, where I fell, and Monday was a longer-than-usual run to and from Fed Hill Runners. By the time I got home on Thursday, I didn't run, and then didn't run on Friday, either.

Saturday (Christmas) I went to Hartshorne with my brother. We ran 3 miles together, and then I did another 7. I felt pretty terrible. I figured I would just have to grit through Sunday's race. Upon waking up on Sunday and seeing the snow, I thought man, can they even have this race? Oh yeah, they can.

I got cheated out of my chance to run in miserable, blinding snow last year at Celtic Solstice, so this was my redemption. As a result of the snow and some family obligations, Pat was unable to make it down to Asbury. I drove down with my brother, who was not racing, and realized just how terrible this race was going to be. They wound up having to shorten the race, from 5 to 3 miles. Then, they had to re-route the course to avoid the roads. So it became a 3 loop, out-and-back with a turnaround in the parking lot, run just along the boardwalk. Which was covered in snow. And the galeforce winds were blowing north to south, so we had a tailwind out and nasty headwind back.

I lost contact with a little lead group after the first lap, and running on the snow was really not being kind to me. I ultimately finished up 5th, in 19:28, with the winner about 55 seconds up. And I also got beat by a girl - Allison Linnell, who apparently runs for the University of Washington. Not the way I had hoped to end the year, but whatever. It meant I got in 8 races for the year: 4 road races and 4 triathlons. Pretty good for starting my season in mid-August.

Following the race, I was not going to go in the water. The waves were overhead, and it looked menacing. A few people did go into the water in a slightly calmer section, but I was cold and miserable enough. Maybe next year.

The snow continued for the remainder of Sunday, and by midnight my brother and I were shoveling over a foot and a half of snow. When we woke up on Monday, we had about the same amount of snow to get rid of. It was insane. Much more snow than I had in Baltimore at any point last year, and our township did not do a great job getting rid of it. In fact, the entire state had trouble. I was stuck at home for an extra day, but managed to get back here on Wednesday.

Friday was New Year's Eve, and to end the year on the right foot, a hearty group of us did a run from Mt. Vernon up to Mt. Washington. Very hilly. Very, very hilly. It also was 20 minutes longer than I thought we would be running, so instead of 90min we were out almost 2 hours. I took Saturday off, normally I hate taking the first day of any month, and especially the year, off, but whatever.

Then came Sunday's clinic on how to enjoy running less. Alyssa was using the PHUNT Run 50k as a training run en route to her 100 miler next week, so a few of us (members of TCYB plus a couple others) piggybacked our long run on her event. Pat, Cheese, Zero and myself got lost a LOT, and wound up being out for 2.5 hours for a "20k." We did have one runner's GPS reading at 15 miles, so we figure we ran probably closer to 16, but it was hard. The trails were in poor shape, and the following of ribbons was apparently too much for our blunt skulls. There were times you were just running, or hiking, through woods and thickets, and then you would be in a huge open field with no idea where to go. We thought 100min would be the most we'd be running for, so when I hit an hour I thought for sure we were more than halfway. Nope. Not even close. It was really tough, and by 2 hours I was cooked. I phoned it in, fortunately the 4 of us kept it together.

It was a good way to start the year, however, and I'm glad I challenged myself in that way. I don't think my knees are good enough to handle trails like that, right now at least, so I probably won't do any more of them for a while.

I have a few more posts that I'd like to do in the next couple days, including paying homage to the home that I have to leave, a review of 2010/look ahead to 2011, and a Decade wrap-up. Hard to believe the "Naughts" are over!