Archive for May, 2011

11
May
11

Daytrippin’ No 1. Matoaka Cabins an old Time Chesapeake Experience

Beach Front Experience just an 1 hour and half out of Baltimore

Time 1.5 hrs. to 2 hr depending on traffic.

Directions: I-97 to Md. 50 East. About two miles and get off on Md. 2 south. For about 30 miles.  Left on Calvert Beach Road and then you’ll see the driveway with a sign for Matoaka Cabins on the Left. A day pass costs $4 per person. $2 per kid. 410-586-0269

When it comes to day-trips  there lingers the urge to go back in time, but truly it’s gettig harder to do, mainly because we can’t help but mess with the few diminishing remains that we can still visit. We turn them in into museums or we build a gleaming visitors’ center in the middle of a bucolic enclave. We mess with the old ways, always updating and congratulating  ourselves that changes have been camouflaged as  historic preservation.

Thankfully time, developers or  a tourist onslaught  hasn’t done a thing to  Matoaka Cabins in St. Leonard down in Calvert County. Named after Pocahontas real name, Matoaka looks very much as it did back in 1960 when Larry and Connie Smith bought the waterfront bluff. Back then it was camp that dated to the 1930s. The place still has that vibe with its slapsided-planked cabins with the bowed screen porches, the dirt basketball court with the makeshift nets.

Eight Cabins for about $240 a weekend, offers a rare rustic Chesapeake Treat

The rutted entrance itself evokes a charm as you notice the homemade maintainance, an open lots cut away in the brush, a rustic shed overlooking the Chesapeake Bay, perfect for the aspiring water colorist. A simple sign asks you to pay at the house got to by a curved shell path. $4 per adult, $2 per child and the third of a mile beach front is all yours. Making the turn from the house lies the best view from a cut lawn that rolls out towards a steep drop i.e. Calvert Cliffs.  The beach holds promise of fossils from Miocine epoch, 15 million years old. Sometimes there’s pieces of old boats washed up on the shore, inspiring my  daughters, Ellie and Lilah to play shipwrecked for the afternoon, ducking hostile natives and searching for food before nightfall. After a good hour I was praying for rescue. Back to reality, sharks teeth is a top find and a pretty tough score and the searching, an afternoon spent in an old man’s stooping position turns into a kind of meditative act. Last year I did swim in the  Bay, but I’d wear some surf shoes when otherwise on a clear bottom I came across something big and metal. Clunk. No damage

There isn’t any restrooms along the beach, perhaps an outhouse stands back up the long climb to the Matoaka Camp. Hey like I said it’s rustic. Despite the raw look of the cabins, the proprietors know they offer a rare opportunity to wake up under a wooded canopy overlooking the Bay. Cabins run about $240 per weekend.

We haven’t taken the plunge. Besides we get a  kick from paying $12 for some beach experience and zooming home missing the bay bridge traffic.

I had a chance for a quick interview of the Smith’s daughter, Becky Barney now 50ish. She grew up in Matoaka with her four brothers and sisters, meaning there was no need to go to camp. The camp came to her. Each week would bring a new set of kids to play with.

“We go to know a lot of the people,” she said. “They came back because us kids were  here.”

She also saw the demise of  the Bay, the decline in fish and crabs and the runoff  is on dramatic display on these cliffs as mature trees miraculous hang to nothing but topsoil jutting over the edge,  before joining the woodpile that has since fallen over. Luckily Matoaka still offers a chance of what an old Chesapeake excursion felt like. 

08
May
11

Favorite Fells Point Street Performers are back

Jim Pettibone and his dad, Leron, are back playing the sidewalks, another indication that the street scene is alive and well despite the jolts of gentrification that’s been rocking Fells Point, the home base of The Baltimore Wire Service. Much bemoaning can be done about the sweep of upscale restaurants — that is if you’re into bohemia or  maybe a slummer or worse one of those old timers who hold the good ole days over everyone else.  But hang with these guys and the new incarnation of  Fells Point may just surrpise you. Sure there’s plenty of up-scaler, but there’s plenty of rif-raff of all walks and race. Best yet the cross-culture goes across all lines and everyone seems to be doing a Chagaul flaot on Baltimore  rare mini-season, the flash in the pan moment  when the air hangs heavy with blossuems just before Preakness, the annual drunk feast, and the blitz preview of sun burnt season. I’ve had the opportunity to bring my guitar and try to get down Leron’s timing. (His chord changes comes somewhere in the third measure between two and three, somewhere. I’m still looking for it). But most of the time I  take advantage of the catalyst they create. Women dance. Men in cowboy hats, seemed find such H’ombres on the East Coast.  Two years I noted Fells Point quiet diversity, but last Saturday and surely tonight, the momentum has kicked up a notch.

Being a resident, I say this is a mixed blessing. More nutjobs yelling at closing time, but also I appreciate the joy and see it as a bromoter of the times. It’s a gauge that was tested back after 9/11 and a few y ears ago, there was too much peace and quite. Now on these glorious early May week, Fells Point as much of the city, whether you’re dining outside Bs in Bolton Hill or Loittering in front of the Maryland Film Festival at the Charles, this is about as good as it gets in the City, before thea Heatwave comes that is a Baltimore Summer. 

07
May
11

New circulating Funny money is actually legal competition to the Mighty Buck

Witney Webre of Zeke's displays a 5 B-note now being accepted throughout Baltimore

After all this jabbering about sustainable economy — buy local, support urban farming, rediscover craft industry — a group is putting money where the big ideas are. They have created a local currency — The B-note to be more specific, legal tender that functions in same way the good ole greenback works, passing bucks from one hand to the next, except for one thing. The B-note stays in B-More Not true with the dollar, which is at the whim of the big spender who could buy a beer for the house at the corner bar or plunk some cash on an overpriced pair of sunglasses guaranteeing that the money zips out to some corporate headquarters.

“The whole purpose of this is to benefit the small independent businesses, to get people thinking about where they spend their money,” said Jeff Dicken, a member of Baltimore Green Currency Association, the group behind the currency project.

The idea was in the making for a year, as the group planned the distribution, designed the 1 and 5 B notes and raised about $8,000 to print 100,000 Bs of tender. The B-note hit the streets three weeks ago and is now being accepted by 64 business citywide all listed on Baltimoregreencurrency.com. The acceptance is far larger than the currency architects imagined.  Dicken said he had hoped that maybe they’d recruit 30 to  50 businesses in a year’s time. Now they’re looking to cap 100 business by the end of the summer.

The local currency movement basically enforces the buy local cred. That is the B-note is worthless (so far) unless spent in the community in Baltimore, forcing the consumer to think or search out where they can plunk down their B-Buck.

Damien Nichols, one of the organizers, found that explaining the mechanism is behind the currency can be difficult, but Baltimore with its tight network of indigenous business understands the power of buying local.

“You’re surround the community with a fence and all the energy and the money stays here,” said Nichols.

The idea is that people can exchange dollars for B-Notes at an exchange rate of 90 cents on a dollar or ten dollars for 11 B-notes. So the purchase incentive is built in. Secondly the Baltimore Green Currency worked to set up a lateral economy where businesses buy goods and services from each other such as  a store owner can get graphic from a designer, who have agreed to accept the notes, rather than just have a group of stores, a shoping center. Whats more no one stands to profit from the currency. There is no cut. Baltimore Green Currency as an organization raised the money as a way of responding to the Recession and the strain placed on local businesses.

“When you go and buy something from Walmart, all that money leaves town,” said Michael Tew, an organizer with Green Currency.

The money collected at exchance centers or what is formally known as Cambios ( Little  Shop of Hardware, Capital Mac in Fells Point and Murray Blum in Hampden ) is put in a bank account backing the currency, according to the organizers. The idea, according to association members, is that the B-notes stay in use much like the dollar and so far few people have been  cashing in Bs back to dollars.

Rooted in the buy local, grassroots, sustainable movement, the B-note made its debut along the independent heavy neighborhood of Hampden and has since spread throughout the city.

The Baltimore Note, artfully done with the Oriole Bird on Side A and Frederick Douglas on the other for the 1 B, and The Raven with the required portrait of Poe on the other for the Fiver follows the  lead of other communities, There’s the Ithaca Hours or BerkShares in Berkshire, Mass or The Plenty in Pittsboro or Brixton Pound in London and of course Seatle, home of the World Bank Riots, came out with Local-Bucks. And now Baltimore Green Currency stands ready about the 100,000 in cash notes, 6,000 on the streets.

You get the idea, progressives playing with money.   But the economics benefits is very tangible and cross-cuts the community.

“It gives you a real way to buy local and Baltimore as a community takes pride in that,” said Nichols.

Still adopting a new currency was a bit much for some businesses owners to handle. One owner laughed at the idea that someone came into her store with the idea of  printing their own money.

“I’m still coming around to it,” she said.

Others like Mickey Fried, owner of Belle Hardware in Bolton  Hill, locked on to the political ramifications of creating local money. When asked to accept the currency he considered what would happen if he was inundated with the B-note. Would he be able to use it and of course there’s overall concern: What if the B-note fails.?

“It’s a risk because if it fall flat on its face, then frankly we’ve basically given the stuff away,” he said.

But Fried also had faith in Baltimore’s tight network of small business and likes striking back at the ever  expanding move to bring in corporate stores where the profits leave the city for corporate headquarters.

“There are lot of people who  have put a lot of emphasis into what a slip of paper (dollar) is worth, but I don’t think they thought much about the circulation. If you don’t think about w here you spend your money, that money isn’t staying in your community.”

Jokingly called hippie money, the B-note has captured  the attention of the usual suspects, small businesses people already rooted in social consciousness that these days has been translated in that over-used word – “Sustainability.”.

But the real challenge is for the B-note to translate into the regular  sector, where money exchange hands in crumpled bills in quick pace, basically a place like a famous deli on Lombard Street or a popular movie house on Charles Street or how about a baseball stadium off  395. The day the B-note gets in the hands of the apathetic spenders, the greater the change. The organizers know this and are pushing on with goals like having the city accept the B-note. Last week Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake happily posed with a B-note. A sign of the future or bandwagon move by a politician.

This ain't funny money, it's the latest in the Buy Local Movement