Friday, October 05, 2007

Arabbers, dirtbikes, wheelchairs

The streets of Baltimore prominently feature three means of conveyance that are at best rare in other cities. Bullet points!

  • Arabbers. They deserve their own post, if not Presidential Medals of Freedom. They are a dying breed (by a recent count, only 6 remain) of street vendors who hawk fruit and sundries from pony-drawn carts. They maintain an African-American tradition dating back nearly 200 years. I once noticed horseshit in my alley, and wondered: what the fuck? Then I saw some Arabbers passing through the neighborhood, shouting and vending, and I understood.
  • Dirtbikes. This is unreal. Groups of dirtbike riders careen through Baltimore like showboating swallows at dusk. Wheelies at 60 mph. Flying through parks, cutting through yards. Dodging traffic, even flying the wrong way up Highway 83. You hear the buzz of the motors after the kids are already past you, all pulling wheelies and exhibiting daring beyond anything you've ever displayed. Cops can't stop them. Every black kid in East Baltimore wants a dirtbike. The 8-year-old kid I mentor covets one like you'd covet a Red Ryder carbine action two-hundred shot range model air rifle with a compass in the stock. When we draw, he asks me to draw dirtbikes. I've thought about pedantically drawing him pictures of massive head injuries, but my artistic skills are limited. So I draw him dirtbikes. Dirtbikes!
  • Motorized wheelchairs. There are neighborhoods where they clog the streets. Distressingly piloted by young men, who exhibit an "I got nothing to lose" indifference to automobiles.