Archive for August 2nd, 2008

02
Aug
08

Carlton Street, Baltimore A visit to the Arabber’s Stable

First thing’s first. The word Arabber is an old world name given to the group of people who make their living selling fruit and vegetables from horse and cart. There used to hundreds of stables working from back alley stables throughout Baltimore. Today, there’s only one working stable and one in a holding pattern literally in tents under a bridge in West Baltimore. 

In July I published a feature in the magazine, The Urbanite. It was the result of a year’s worth of work, some of which I filed with the Baltimore City Paper. You can check out the articles on http://www.citypaper.com and do a search or go to http://www.urbanitebaltimore.com and check out the 20 minutes in video, four stories I did.

There’s a rush you get or at least I get when a story gets published. I still get it and is probably why I’m still in this miserable profession despite having a wife and two kids and doing a terrible job as a provider. (More on that later).

Anyway, after you put out a story there’s this nagging  question what now? I established all this contact and got all this momentum, do I just drop it and go on. Sometimes, most of the times yes. But with the Arabbers, a sub-culture I have been writing about for ten years I don’t want to let it go. I’ve got a line on a story that goes beyond the quaint but sad narrative of people of old timers trying to make a living from horse and cart.

I want to go into their lives and work my way backwards, that is I want to write about their lives on the margins in Baltimore, dealing with poverty and their aspirations and then go oh by the way, he’s walking to his job which happens to be taking a horse out on the streets.

I believe I have this story with Dante, a nine-year old kid, who aspires to be an arabber. 

Today I went down there for the first time since the article came out. The reception was frosty and strange, but that’s what happens. The stable manager gave me grief for mentioning that I someone was smoking pot in the alley. Not an arabber mind you, but a resident who lived in one of Baltimore iconic alley homes, tiny homes built for B & O Railway workers back in the 19th Century. I told him wasn’t trying to besmirch the stables but rather show how the kid’s love of horses kept him away from the teenager offering him to join the party. The kid kept his attention on a horse rounding the corral that was build right there in the alley. It’s a wild sight watching these horse lapping around in the dirt knowing you’re right in the city. There’s a sense of serenity.

I went back there today and Dante had already gone out with a new arabber, a good sign that the culture isn’t quite dead and I hung out with Keith “Superstar” Brooks, his father Brock and “China” sharing some food. Nothing else but the re-affirmation that the story is rich and waiting for me to push on.  

Tony takes Rose, the horse out in the corral in downtown Baltimore

Tony takes Rose, the horse out in the corral in downtown Baltimore

02
Aug
08

Journalism Redux — A visit to the Arabber’s Stable

I have been a journalist for 23 years. I’ve worked for newspapers, dailies, weeklies and then as a freelancer.I have written for the New York Times. I have written for a small town paper.  I  still am a freelancer. But I always have been frustrated with how the news works. “All the News that is Fit to Print.” The funny thing is much of life isn’t fit to print and we’re not talking about decency. We’re talking about stories that don’t necessary follow the journalistic pyramid theme. I’m interested in the feel and the vibe of a story and have struggled many times unsuccessful to inject them in  the story. This is probably due to my limitations as a writer. Oh well. 

This blog is an attempt create a newswire service as well as window into the story making process. I want to share in the experience of piecing the story together rather than just offering a final product. I believe  there is a hunger for this kind perspective and is why blogs and documentaries have gotten so popular. (I also do documentaries, but I’ll get to that later). The world of Journalism is changing or falling apart. The daily newspaper is collapsing around  us and that’s going to have a profound impact on our  country. At the same time blogs and the web offers an even playing field, so I’m going to take a crack  at it.  I’m going to let you into my struggle as I stumble onto stories, most of them strange and a lot in the trenches of some social strife. Baltimore definitely will provide a lot of material. 

02
Aug
08

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