The Colonial Theatre Tea Garden

The beauty spot of downtown Richmond was, in 1921, the Tea Garden of the brand-new Colonial Theatre. Herein, we recreate the essence of elegance, joy and hauteur that was once found in Virginia's first real picture palace. Bathtub gin is available at the top of the grand ramps.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

While farting around in blogworld, I surfed onto Fringe Element Enthusiast's blog (, and was thus inspired. (I haven't figured out how to link to other blogs yet. Actually, I sort of have, but it's more work than I'd like to do right now and I find it much easier to simply type the link out and let you work for yourselves. Come on now, it's not as though you're busy--you're wasting time already by reading this, aren't you?)

Fringe Enthusiast discovered a pack of Spongebob Squarepants cookies which were trademarked by someplace in the wide and faceless Midwest but which, upon careful inspection, were labelled "Product of China." This, in itself, has always amused me. It seems inevitable that Chinese-manufactured items are labelled in two languages: PRODUCT OF CHINA / PRODUIT DE CHINE.

Um, English and French? OK, sure, two of the most influential culture/languages on Earth, but still. No one else buys this stuff? If you buy something from IKEA, the directions are mostly pictograms anyway, but whatever actual wording exists is in approximately ten languages, usually in this descending order: Swedish, German, English, French, Danish, Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese. I usually like trying to follow directions in one of the languages that I do understand but which isn't my first, just to see how it turns out. So far, thanks to the rudimentary directions and the pictograms, I haven't had any collapsing furniture, but one day those Swedes are going to mess with my head and throw in directions in some obscure German dialect just to see if I'm paying attention.

So anyway, cookies.

The children of the past started every fairy tale with "Once Upon a Time," but in the wake of Star Wars, my people have supplanted that with "Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away..."

So, long, long ago, in a galaxy...well, a couple of miles off, there was a bakery. Actually, there were several bakeries. In the long long ago that was my '70s childhood, most sizable cities still had a lot of local bakeries. I didn't know a single soul who ate Wonder Bread, because we all ate bread from the local places. Some people ate Schmidt's, some ate Koester's; we ate Hauswald's. If you didn't go to one of the actual bakery stores, the local supermarkets--even the local branches of nationwide chains--stocked the local stuff. You could go to a Giant store, and there would be about six loaves of Wonder Bread and ninety-three loaves of Schmidt's and Hauswald's.

But, since Hauswald had a store near our house, my mother simply included a bakery trip in the shopping run. We only ever bought bread there: nice Baltimoreans do not, as a rule, think much of cakes from a store. Breadmaking is labor-intensive and less showy, so it's fine to buy it, especially if it's only going to be used for the kids' school lunch.

I can distinctly remember that even stodgy Hauswald's cranked out a few baked goods to cash in on the popular culture of the day. (Keep in mind, this is 1975.) I remember specifically wanting one cookie, one sunny day in that distant year.

There were a few Scooby-Doo cookies, some Superman cookies. I wanted the one that was big and round and frosted in pink and yellow icing. It featured a slightly exaggerated figure in a running pose (my fellow Ancient Civilisation nerds would recognize it as "knielaufschema.")

It also had a legend surrounding the figure: "Let's Streak!"

Of course, I had no idea, at five or six, what this meant.

In retrospect, it's rather hard to believe that Hauswald would have even made Superman cookies, much less something so, er, alternative. They did, though, and perhaps more astonishing, my mother got one of them for me. It took a few more years before I learned what streaking had been.

Most of the traditional bakeries are long gone. Hauswald still exists, but it seems to produce only for institutional use now; its neighborhood stores have joined Hutzler's department store and the Century Theatre in the special heaven reserved for much-loved but much-outdated civic institutions. I think Schmidt's is gasping along, and Koester's went the way of the dodo before I hit high school. There are about four old-fashioned small, one-location bakeries in town (if you visit Baltimore, be sure to come in August to buy some peach cake from Hoehn's).

Isn't it sad that even our silly, spur-of-the-moment popular culture, even when it filters down to silly cookies, is farmed out now? There are no local bakeries left to do it, no local dime stores hawking cheapo candy shaped like Mutant Ninja Turtles. This is the realm of vast industrial China, now.

But then: the bakeries that live on don't mind cashing in where they can, usually on sheet cakes for kid's parties. You can go to Muhly's and get a cake with a creepy screen print of Spongebob. And then again: I was shopping at the market a couple of weeks ago and noticed a special-order cake being boxed up at Muhly's. It was evidently for a bachelorette party, and the bakery staff was trying desperately to keep it under wraps while they boxed it up. It had been beautifully iced with acres of sugar garlands and roses, and I know that the cake underneath was luscious and tasty--but it was surmounted by a very large, artistic and realistic, iced and decorated, uncircumcised dick.

I'll bet the Chinese don't do THAT.

Friday, March 24, 2006


oh, nuts, there I go again shrieking panic in German. Hey, I do that once in a while, you should be used to it, by now.

You are probably also used to my belief that the City on the James is the loveliest and happiest city in the world. It is, and if you don't agree with me, you can just f*** off. Part of what makes Richmond wonderful is its lovely architecture. Naturally, the capital of the oldest and most genteel state in the, Union...would be impressive, but Richmond is not an especially large city. It is, however, a gracious city of pretty houses and quiet charm. Its downtown area was never the most impressive in the country, but it was possessed of a slew of very well-done buildings that complimented the serene Capitol Square and continued the theme of grace and beauty.

There is a Main Street, which encompasses the financial district, but it is by no means the main street of the city. That honor has gone to Broad Street for the last century and a half. Despite Grace street and its--well, gracious--stores, churches and homes, the grandeur of Franklin street and the big banking houses of Main street, it is Broad street that has my heart. I love Broad street's bustle and neon lights. I loved the big movie houses, when they were still around. I loved the traffic, and I loved the fact that even though the streetcars were gone, their right-of-way had been replaced by a median lined with crepe myrtles, which are surely the most beautiful tree in the world.

And yet, the Commonwealth wants to do away with one of the last bits of old Broad. Worse, it wants to kill part of Capitol Square itself in the deal. The lovely Hotel Richmond, which faces Jefferson's Capitol building, and the Hotel Murphy, at 8th and Broad, are endangered. These are beautiful hotel buildings typical of the ebullient turn-of-the-last-century. There is nothing left in Baltimore that can compare; only one or two in Philadelphia, and one or two poor imitations in Washington. Norfolk had one competitor, but it was destroyed years ago. We must save the two old hotels, or Richmond runs the risk of becoming just another mid-sized city. Our city's character has already been compromised, but the loss of these buildings is another nail in a coffin that's perilously near burial.

Here is a copy of the letter that I just emailed to the Mayor, the former Governor Wilder:

Dear Mayor Wilder:
As a native Baltimorean, but a onetime resident of Richmond, I applaud your support of the preservation of the Hotel Murphy and the Hotel Richmond.
I hope to move back to Richmond at some point. My days there were wonderful and I find the city among the most beautiful and pleasant I have ever seen. The city's spectacular historic buildings represent a large part of my love for Richmond.
The destruction of many of Broad Street's commercial buildings--e.g., Thalhimers (my onetime employer), the Colonial Theatre, Murphy's, and Woolworth's (which also had historic significance as part of the civil rights movement) has greatly diminished the character of downtown Richmond. Yet, there is still a wealth of beautiful and significant structures. The Murphy and the Richmond are high on that list. The Murphy is one of the last buildings that represents the character of Broad Street as it was years ago; the Richmond is an integral aspect of Capitol Square. A well-planned and sensitive restoration and redevelopment of these buildings would add a much-needed impetus to the rebirth of downtown Richmond. Their loss, on the other hand, would remove not only two beautiful buildings, but part of the city's character and charm. If they are destroyed, the city takes one more step to becoming just another generic place.
As a case in point, Baltimore destroyed the lovely old Southern Hotel a few years ago. At the same time, planners clamored for a new hotel downtown. That beautiful hotel could have been reclaimed and could have been the centerpiece of new and productive development. Yet, it was destroyed, and a parking lot occupies its footprint. Richmond could benefit from adaptive reuse of the Murphy and Richmond as hotels, as office space, or as educational facilities.
I implore you, as a former--and hopefully a future--resident of Richmond, to continue working to preserve the old hotel buildings. They are part of the fabric of the city and could only serve to benefit the City and its people.
Yours sincerely,
Daniel Gibbs

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Well, now. You're probably all properly shocked, or at least I hope you are, after that last little fountain of bile. They deserve it though, so don't be so surprised. Nothing is nastier than a Southerner whose sense of decency has been compromised. If that had been MY Marine's funeral they'd invaded, the shrieking Austrian War Eagles would be unleashed but... there I go again.

I'd really intended to post something nice and pleasant tonight involving shiny objects, which is as you know my favorite topic...more or less. I suppose my favorite topic would be some mutant combination of silver and movie houses and dance music and Vienna....perhaps a large, stylish movie theatre in Vienna that has a Teegarten with pretty silver from Baltimore. Yeah, unlikely, eh?

Ahh, March, and I'm dying for the warm weather. I like to try one day-trip to the ocean in March because there's usually that burst of heat--which hit us midweek this year and did nobody a lick of good.

I am lately very pleased with myself for some new acquisitions. Specifically, I have obtained a sizable new silver service. (Oh, fine, it's plate, but don't get snippy with me when I'm talking about something nice, will you?) This service has been specifically designated as the Beach Service.

I grew up taking vacations at Rehoboth Beach and Virginia Beach, both in their day the preserve of very snooty people from Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. My mother never had any interest in cooking at the beach. She would always have dinner once or twice, during our stay, for a few family friends who happened to be "down the ocean" at the same time, but for the most part figured that vacation applied to housework as well, and so we "dined out" most of the time.

We always knew some people at both resorts who wanted nothing to do with beach restaurants. I was always perfectly happy with the Avenue or the Seawood at Rehoboth, and the wonderful old Neptune at Virginia Beach, and certainly my mother believed that if someone else did the dishes it had to be a good meal. Yet, there were always those lordly types who felt that if one entertained grandly in Baltimore, one must do the same at the beach. They maintained an entire set of silver that was kept in mahogany boxes and used for a few weeks every year--hauled down to water's edge specifically for use at the beach. It wouldn't do, really, to give up fashion just because the family wasn't in town.

I am very happy to have joined the ranks of those who have a beach service. My friend Robert was trying to unload some pieces of a goofy 40's silverplate pattern to which he'd fallen heir, somehow; so I adopted them and added via Ebay. (I've got to stay away from that.)

I now possess service for twelve in "Queen Bess." Sure, it's a not-so-great pattern that nobody on earth really wants anymore (nobody wants those 40s patterns), but damnit, I have a beach service.

Naturally there will be those who attempt to make snide comments about using simple plate instead of sterling silver. Never try to out-snob a born snob. I can simply turn and say "Well, dear, you didn't really think I'd bring all of the sterling down from the city, did you? It's rather nouveau-riche to use sterling at the ocean, don't you think?"

Probably in a couple of years I'll end up finding a box of sterling for twelve in some unfashionable pattern and I'll have to recant. "You wouldn't expect me to use the city service at the beach, would you?"

Hurrah for the Maryland Free State! Generally, Maryland's government gets on my nerves. I have often proposed that we ditch "Fatti Maschi, Parole Femine" as our State motto and adopt "Oh, but..." instead. Every time I have any dealing with State government, I think I've paid the right fees and filled out the right papers only to encounter a miniature factotum who spouts off something along the lines of "Oh, but you need to fill out this form, take it to Office 17, and pay the processing fee." Office 17 then says "Oh, but first you have to file a form with Office 642 and pay the tax, and when you get your release, take it to Office 49." Office 642 then nauseam.

The Free State has finally done something that has my wholehearted approval, and in this case it really strikes home, too. Reference this article in The Sun:,0,1097123.story?coll=bal-local-headlines

Some time back, a young Marine from Carroll county was killed in action. The cretins of the Westboro Baptist Church (known more widely as the "God Hates Fags" set) turned up to demonstrate at this poor guy's funeral.

I am about to embark on the most vile, epithet and profanity-laden prose that has, or hopefully will ever, decorate this space. If you are easily offended, you may wish to disappear now.

I'm not sure what the deceased serviceman's beliefs were regarding Kansas Baptists, homosexuality, or much of anything, as I never met the gentleman. In this case, I don't much care. He was a man who died in the service of his country and, undoubtedly, was loved by his friends and family.

I cannot fathom anything more appalling and hurtful than attending the funeral of a family member or beloved friend only to discover a bunch of shitkicking, uneducated ASSWIPES from Buttfuckegypt, Kansas, spouting their hatred and idiocy. These people did not know Lance Cpl. Snyder. They didn't, and don't care about him or his family. They have an agenda, and it is an agenda of hate. Somewhere in their code of Christianity and righteousness--which bears no resemblance to the Christianity in which I was raised (yes, you sacks of shit, Catholics are Christian, and we were before you cocksnots ever got wind of the idea) it is acceptable to travel to a different state, to a community who has just lost a native son, to a family who has lost a treasured member, and hold up signs that say "Thank God for Dead Soldiers."

The invasion of a family's grief and mourning to further ANY agenda is inexcusable. Much as I loathe the actions of these people, if one of them croaks, I wouldn't dream of showing up with a sign that said "About Fuckin' Time." I'll thank God privately for offing one of them, but I wouldn't invade their mourning. The idea that they would add to the pain and confusion that this good Maryland family must feel is criminal beyond belief.

Here's the vile part. I'll leave this as an open message to the "Reverend" Phelps and his crew. If any person like this were to sully the funeral of one of my family, or a friend--whether that person is a coal miner from West Virginia, a Marine killed in battle, or simply some innocent whose passing they lit upon, I'm afraid that I would have to eschew my beliefs in propriety. I would, as a matter of fact, find a large blunt object and beat a couple of them senseless. I'd also, just to get my point across, kick their balls into an unrecognizable pulp, slit their hideous, sludge-spewing throats, take a shit down the blood-gushing hole and if I still had enough energy, piss on the severed head.

I am used to the fact that my religious, political and social beliefs don't match those of a large segment of the population. I "agree to disagree" with most of my friends. The fact that the Snyder family did NOT hack these cretins into pieces only bespeaks the family's own gentility and goodness. I am afraid that I have nowhere near the piety of that stricken family. I would be glad to help "remove" the Westboro monsters if they were to show up in this neck of the woods again, but I figure that added brouhaha would only increase the pain of grieving families. If they intrude on MINE, though, a couple of 'em will croak, and it won't be pretty. Oh, yes, I know that they'll only believe their murdered, beshitted member is martyred, but I'll have the satisfaction of dispatching that person, and I know what real martyrdom is. I'll pay some time in purgatory, but any of those syphilitic sores of humanity who die are already on the express train to Hell.

I am very happy that Maryland, which--not surprisingly, has a more level head than I--has decided to deal with such vermin in a legal fashion which succintly and (we hope) effectively tells demonic rabble not to fuck with us.

Thank you for your patience. We will now resume the regularly scheduled broadcast of politeness, elegance and dissertations upon correct usage of silverware.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

I personally believe that the Lenten season, while of great religious significance, came to be even more significant as a social outlet over the last couple of centuries. On a religious level, you're supposed to consider Lent as a cleansing time before Easter, the most important holiday in the Christian calendar.

Don't think that I'm about to spout off a Catholic diatribe. I'm perfectly capable of doing so, but, Gentle Reader, if you're not Catholic already, it's not my business to convert you. Your paganism is not my problem.

My problem, as it has been for all Fashionable people for thirty-odd decades now, is that one needs a break in the social whirl, and Lent is there for you.

In the great cities of Europe, it is hot in the summertime. Once the great cities of the United States were established, heat became an even bigger problem. If you think it's hot on Hamburg's Reeperbahn, try Norfolk out for size. Thus, the great cities do not entertain in the summer, and the Social Season was born. As everyone knows, the Season runs from sometime in the late fall until the beginning of Lent. Lent means that, for ostensibly religious reasons, you can't really entertain on a serious scale for forty days. It's a nice breather. After a few months of drinking and dancing yourself silly, you need some down time.

After Easter, there's the Little Season, which lasts about six weeks until it gets stinkin' hot again and nobody wants to wear evening clothes.

Thus, there are a couple of breaks in the calendar--Lent, and the early Fall--when you can take time out and not have to worry about anything social.

This is the time of the spa resort.

Now, there are very few left in the States, though Europeans still love their spa cures. The most famous in the U.S. were Saratoga, which is a shadow of its former self, and the Virginia springs (the Hot and the White) which are like all good Southern traditions still steaming ahead at full speed whether they're stylish anymore or not. The White and its famous Greenbrier Hotel still cater to the First Society of Richmond, Baltimore and Philadelphia, and the remnants of the C&O will still get you there if you want to go.

Mind you, I would love to go to the Greenbrier, and stay in one of the cottages on "Baltimore Row" or "Richmond Row", but chances are that I couldn't even afford to stay in the main hotel itself, never mind one of these spartan cottages, reserved for those whose bloodlines make me look like a chimney sweep.

I prefer the somewhat homelier resort of Berkeley Springs. You see, I can do this with a measure of snootery and a measure of thrift. Berkeley was the first big spa resort in the American colonies and as such played host to all of Virginia and Maryland's old families. When I soak my fat little butt in Berkeley's waters, chances are that I'm soaking within a few feet of a spot where George Washington took the waters once and, because Berkeley has been out of fashion since the 1850s, it doesn't cost me very much either.

I'm quite fond of the old spa resorts and I've never quite figured out why they went out of fashion, since they're still quite popular in Europe. The hot mineral springs really do wonders for you. While I personally believe that their curative powers are great, that's up to conjecture. Perhaps it's mostly in the mind--but isn't that curative in itself?

The Viennese believe that one must take the waters right before the Social Season so that you can slim down, firm up and be otherwise in perfect shape to show off your new outfits during the Season. I think they have the right idea. Besides, what better vacation than a few days out in a country town soaking in hot water and being pampered?

Berkeley's lovely old Country Inn finally died last year but, thankfully, was quickly reborn and fitted out in the latest style. Its website is here:

As I've long bemoaned the death of these pretty old resorts, I've been long heartbroken by the ruin of another famous spa, the Bedford Springs in Pennsylvania, which closed in 1993 and has been rotting for thirteen years. Guess what! It's been lately purchased and is in the process of reopening. They project a date sometime in 2007. I want to be one of the opening night guests. This will, of course, necessitate the purchase of some new "resort wear," but that's just another excuse to send off to Germany for new things. Now, all I have to do is find out who's running the place, and see if I can influence their music selections for the ballroom in the big old hotel. If I do my job, I'll be able to hear "Valencia" on opening night.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Things are forever happening when I'm not looking. I have always liked to think of myself as a perceptive man, but somehow buildings are torn down, people die, decades of my life evaporate, and empires crumble and are built anew as I amble blissfully through my daily routine. Clearly not the sharp-witted monitor of urbanity that I would be, I am evidently a misty-eyed ingenu (don't try to catch me in a misspelling: ingenue is the feminine form in French) dancing his romantic way through the lilac-heavy bowers of Dreamland whilst Civilisation collapses on all sides. Somehow the most significant events of daily life evade me. I pride myself on reading, almost daily, the major papers from three of the most important States and those of mighty Germany and Austria as well, yet I invariably learn of earthshattering events only when an allusion is made to them in the operetta review columns. Things just plain happen when I'm not looking, and evidently I'm usually not looking.

As Gentle Reader may have noted from the previous entry, I am in the recovery phase of a particularly nasty 'flu. What a hateful little disease. Not so little, I suppose, considering that it laid much of the United States to waste in 1918; but it seems like a puny sort of disease. It's not as though you have cholera or the Black Plague. I did, though, have a temperature of 104 at one point. Please reference my statements regarding Nyquil from the most recent post. I am making this statement for two reasons. Primarily, I do not wish to be sued by the Nyquil people, who probably spend something approaching my annual salary on powdered coffee creamer. Trifle though it might seem to the Nyquil boys, it keeps me in bourbon, so I'd better not screw with it. They can do without powdered chemical ooo for their coffee, but I can't do without a house.

Also, several nice people have pointed out that my delusions of the past illness are more likely results of the fever, not Nyquil.


Here I was thinking that I'd found some freakadelic way to be all alternative and stuff without actually having to talk to alternative type people, and it turns out I was just baking myself without any alternative stuff at all.

Leave it to me. Even when I try to be alternative, I'm the boiling cauldron of the establishment.


Back to the point...Now, I came down with this particular ick on Sunday and bore it through Tuesday. Wednesday was a recovery day. Today, I simply did not feel like going to school and so I did not.

Today was also a very convenient day to NOT be in school, because it was breathtakingly beautiful. The sun shone in the morning. By ten o'clock there was the promise of very warm weather. By noon, the cats were acting spazzy in the way that cats do when spring is around the corner, and I opened up the windows. Really opened them, I mean; I frequently open the bedroom window in sub-freezing temperatures because all good Baltimore German people know that cold night air is invigorating and good for you and combats the poisons generated by a closed house with central heat. By one o'clock, I had aired the entire house and hung two beds' worth of linen out to dry. By two, I was annoyed with housework and decided to set off on a nice long walk.

Since I was still officially "sick" I figured that it wouldn't do to walk the main thoroughfares. It would be just my rotten luck that out of a million-odd people, I would pass somebody who might realize that I was malingering. I was overdue for an alley walk anyway, and I had some library books to return. I thus meandered up Hargrove street, pausing to talk to one of the local stray cats and the big scary dog who lives two blocks up. The big scary dog is actually scary in visage only. He is terrified of air, but everyone is afraid of him and he banks on that. I admired the well-tended gardens behind the big St. Paul street and Calvert street houses. I bumped into my former colleague, Mr. R., in front of the Chinese carryout, and then decided to get a late lunch at Eddie's Grocery.

Now, the rowhouse section of Proper North Baltimore does not have lawns. Some sections therein do have little front garden patches. The rear gardens are always lovely but they are also always fenced or walled. So, it was only when I broke out of the rowhouses at 33rd Street Boulevard that I discovered something.

For once in my life, a season changed while I was looking. The House of Saxe-Coburg u. Gotha might collapse while my eyes are averted (come, now, Konigin Elisabeth, we know your real last name), but Spring came to Maryland today while I watched. All along Greenway and Charles street there are pretty crocus in full bloom. I know they weren't there over the last weekend. When I passed Northway a maid was busily airing out some heavy winter curtains for what I'm sure was the last time this season before they'll be put away for good, and a few blocks later, lacrosse practice was in full swing at Loyola.

After all these years I've actually seen the dawn of a season as it happens. Now, I'm sure that we'll have another nasty cold snap, because Maryland just does that to you. Also, whether I've witnessed the birth of spring or no, I can't confirm the event because I have not been downtown for several days. Every good Marylander knows that Spring has not officially arrived until the crocuses bloom in front of the Archbishop's Residence .

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Just when you think it's safe to go back in the water... or, in this case, back in the air...

I managed to make it this far through the winter (which officially only has two weeks left to live) without an episode of the Throw-Up disease. And, blissfully I still haven't really had it. I do, however, have its close friend, the Everything Hurts Disease. Even the Throw-Up disease isn't too bad because you get to stay home and when you're not barfing, you can read and watch TV and eat lots of Jell-O. (This last is only useful if you like Jell-O.) The Everything Hurts disease does not allow you these pleasures because reading and watching TV make some part of your body hurt. You try to sleep but that hurts and you get really bored staying awake with nothing to do.

I think that this is some form of the flu. I've had a couple of little flu-like bouts earlier this year but not enough to really keep me immobilized. This one is the clincher. It's like the Sick Gods looked down from their disease-ridden thrones and said "Oh, crap, winter's almost over and we forgot to get Dan sick this time around. Let's make it a really good one to make up for lost time."
Allright, you bastards, you got me and I'm really good and sick. My freaking fingertips hurt from typing!!!!

Observations from my bed of agony (are you getting the impression that I'm a terrible patient?)

a) Daytime TV is not as amusing at 36 as it was at 9.

b) Nyquil does very strange things to your brain. It has made me hallucinate and obsess over really esoteric stuff. It doesn't necessarily put all of you to sleep, but it sure makes the common sense part of your brain take a hike for a while. This shit is better than acid and it's legal.

c) I am going to get a pet bird and name it Enza.

I had a little bird
Its name was Enza
I opened up a window
And in-flu-Enza.

--schoolyard wisdom circa 1918

Sunday, March 05, 2006

It's done. The new concrete alley is poured and hardened (if that comment were taken out of context, it would sound pornographic, wouldn't it?) and now Hargrove street is modern.

It should come as a surprise to absolutely nobody that I hate it. I'm well known to friends, enemies and readers of this space for my complete inability to adapt to anything that hasn't existed since Christ was a corporal. (Thanks, Blake, for that analogy. Now that you're up there I hope Christ is kicking your ass for that comment.) I have plenty of reasons for hating this stupid repaved alley.

First and foremost, the repaving project farbed up my garage. While ripping up the old brick pavement the crew managed to damage the concrete ramp into the garage, which they had to replace seeing as it's my property and all. They did, and actually they made a nice job of it, except that they also blobbed concrete too high up so that the garage doors wouldn't open, or at least wouldn't until I attacked the concrete with a sledgehammer. (This was really a bit of fun. Score: Dan 1, City of Baltimore 0.)

Then, of course, there's the traffic issue. In most old cities, the natives know how to circumvent traffic jams and other unpleasantness by skirting through the alleys at odd intervals. Nobody did this on my block of Hargrove, though, because it was still brick-paved. It was lumpy and uneven and you couldn't take it at more than five miles per hour, unless you wanted your car's undercarriage ripped out. Now it's fresh white concrete and it's been reopened for two days and the whole planet has discovered it. There are already cars zooming through, doing forty. In the bad old days, you'd hear a car try to take it doing forty every few months, and then you'd hear the grinding crash of the oil pan ripping off. Or, I mean, you'd hear that with a big American or German car. If anybody tried it in a little Japanese econobox, you'd hear one grinding crunch as the smallmobile bottomed out and was swallowed by one of the sunken parts of the brickwork. I remember looking up in a tipsy haze from my garden one summer evening, only to see the sunset glinting off the grille of a Honda as it disappeared forever beneath the Earth's upper crust. Since this area of the city is well known for underground rivers, I didn't fear for the Honda's inhabitants. I'm sure they had a pretty wild ride through subterranean waterways and were then spat out into the Basin (or, as they say these days, the Inner Harbor) , somewhat stinky for their time underground but having beaten traffic on the Jones Falls Expressway by fifteen minutes.

While I surely won't miss the hideous WHONK of the Buick's undercarriage hitting the brick as I drove (gingerly, I'd thought) down the alley, I think I will always miss those bricks. Tatty though Hargrove street may have been, it had a warmth that can only come from our beloved red brick. No amount of progress, speed and convenience can ever replace it.