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Personal Bests

The People We Like Pick the Stuff They Like

Michelle Gienow
Tim Kreider, cartoonist and author of The Pain—When Will It End?

1. “As far as I know, the National Bohemian beer label is the origin of the phrase ‘the Land of Pleasant Living,’ which I like to think of as my true place of residence. Famous for its cheapness, I actually like Natty Boh, which some people have difficulty accepting. You can taste the cheapness.”

2. “If you like this sort of thing, at Diamond International Galleries [1966 Greenspring Dr., Suite 401, Timonium, 646-0114, by appointment], you can see artwork by the great cartoonists, like Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon and Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy. The ‘vault’ looks like a Bond villain’s inner sanctum, except the walls are lined with original issues of Whiz comics, Mad magazine, and Tales From the Crypt, which you may take down and read. Once they even let me wear the Shadow’s ring, giving me the ability to cloud men’s minds.”

3. “At the Enoch Pratt Free Library you can get anything: out-of-print novels, rare recordings, even celluloid films. The library is one of the few unequivocal good human institutions—a vestige of the country’s democratic origins. Everyone there is helpful, they give you stuff for free, and if you’re late returning something, you just pay a token fine and your record is wiped clean. It’s a travesty that the City That Reads may be shutting down some of its libraries while building another coliseum.”

Jefferson Jackson Steele
Stephen L. Miles, Esq., TV personality and lawyer

1. “Our miserable summer weather, so I can justify staying inside and watching the ball game.”

2. “The fact that nothing is going on in Baltimore, so we don’t have any traffic jams.”

3. “The blonde that sits three rows in front me at the ball park who wears a halter top with no bra.”

Andrew Campbell
Stacy Broemsen, Center Stage assistant box-office manager

1. “The Morton Street Dance Center [1014 Morton St., 625-4350] is a wonderful place to learn and perform dance. The teachers are great and the students have fun.”

2. “I have chicken masaman from Thairish [806 N. Charles St., 752-5857] for lunch at least once a week. They recognize my voice right away when I call in.”

3. “I rent a floor of an old house in Roland Park, where it’s leafy and quiet. I spent a year in the heart of Federal Hill, which was fun. But here there are more trees, fewer sirens.”

Andrew Campbell
Frank Shivers, instructor at the Johns Hopkins School of Continuing Studies and author of Walking in Baltimore: An Intimate Guide to the Old City

1. Happy Days by H. L. Mencken

2. Newspaper Days by H. L. Mencken

3. Heathen Days by H. L. Mencken

“Offering humor and the best 20th-century prose in America, I think these three volumes are wonderful and give us Baltimore in all its many manifestations.”

Michelle Gienow
Dave Isr'l, NASA satellite communications engineer and guitarist/accordion player with the band Dr. Tasty

1. “Fort McHenry is a great spot for picnics, kite flying, etc. Fort McHenry is also the spot where Baltimore first showed its true character. In the War of 1812, Washington was burned down, Northern Virginia was plundered, but Baltimore fought back. The Baltimore spirit can be traced from General Sam Smith to Cal Ripken, Jr.”

2. “Baltimore’s neighborhood/corner bars offer cheap beer and nobody has to drive. You can watch the game, play shufflebowl or the poker machines, or even perform karaoke while discussing life’s most pressing issues with your neighbors and the random assortment of characters who appear. You can even do a little shopping: I’ve been offered everything from baseball gloves to frozen chicken patties from various bar-to-bar vendors.”

3. “My third favorite thing is the thought/wish that unites many of us here in South Baltimore. With the city’s new infatuation with implosions, why don’t they lace the Harborview condominium with dynamite? It’s such an overblown eyesore.”

Andrew Campbell
Libby Arcia, executive director, Centro de la Comunidad, Inc.

1. “Baltimore City is recognized for its ethnic neighborhoods, like Little Italy. I like that the Hispanic community is growing to the point of being recognized too, especially along a stretch of Broadway which some are calling Spanish Town. It’s great to see so many Hispanic faces, hear the spoken language, and see the stores and restaurants open. Ten years ago, this was not the case.”

2. “The availability and variety of great fresh foods, from produce to seafood to pastries. City markets offer fresh, seasonal foods, while small ethnic groceries offer specialized products. There is Trinacria for Italian, Tropicana for Hispanic, Big Boy Trading for Philippine, and many others.”

3. “Baltimore is a city with a great sense of history. This is not only reflected in the architecture of beautiful old buildings but also in the many sites one can visit, such as Fort McHenry and the Baltimore City Life Museums.”

Michelle Gienow
Kim Donahue, grass-roots project coordinator, Chesapeake Bay Foundation

1. “Each big city park rents garden plots to residents through the City Farm Gardens program. Mine is in Druid Hill Park, where I grow tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, lettuce, flowers, and such. The city also sponsors an annual City Farm supper for the gardeners. It’s a wonderful event with an amazing mix of people. Very Baltimore.”

2. “The Baltimore Lesbian Avengers, of which I’m a member, is definitely one of my favorite things in town. Our chapter of the Avengers is probably as good as it gets around the world in terms of the events and actions.”

3. “Snowballs. The ideal snowball is egg custard with ice cream in the middle and marshmallow on top. I could say something about my favorite snowball stands, but most of them are in Glen Burnie.”

Jefferson Jackson Steele
Lynne Brick, president, Brick Bodies

1. “The sense of community. Each community has its own flavor, so to speak. I love the fact that wherever you live, you feel a closeness to your neighbors. Everyone feels like family. This is probably the reason why many people who grow up in Baltimore go away to college, then settle back in Baltimore. I grew up in Lutherville-Timonium, went to Lutherville Elementary, Ridgely Middle School, Dulaney High, and Towson State University, and I still live in Timonium!”

2. “Friendliness of the people. The people of Baltimore are down-to-earth, genuine, and they make you feel at home. You always know where you stand with a Baltimorean.”

3. “The cultural/social environment. Baltimore offers great athletics—the Orioles at world-renowned Camden Yards, the Ravens, etc.—as well as great theater/arts entertainment at the Mechanic, the Lyric, the Meyerhoff, and Pier 6, and a great night life in Fells Point, Federal Hill, and downtown. I also love the fact that in ‘the Land of Pleasant Living,’ a local girl can be a part of Baltimore’s business opportunities.”

Andrew Campbell
Megan X, Club Charles bartender

1. “I have to, of course, say the Club Charles [1724 N. Charles St., 727-8815]. I’ve been there about four years and I still haven’t found anything else like it. I think it’s the best people-watching place in the city.”

2. “For a pretty small city, we have a disproportionate number of what I’d guess you’d call eccentrics.”

3. “The punch-bowl triangle at the Korean War Memorial at Boston Street. I absolutely cannot explain it to you; you just have to go and stand on it and find out for yourself.”

Jefferson Jackson Steele
Henry Wong, music-store entrepreneur (formerly with An Die Musik)

1. “The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra under music director David Zinman consistently gives superb performances, and they take on new and difficult 20th-century works. Their recordings have garnered wide praise, of which this city should be proud.”

2. “The Baltimore Opera Company, through their innovative advertising methods, has been bringing fresh, new faces to their wonderful performances.”

3. “You can find my third favorite thing between the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall and the Lyric Opera House. Spike & Charlie’s Restaurant [1225 Cathedral St., 752-8144] offers an interesting menu and great wine recommendations. There is always a new friend to be made there.”

Jefferson Jackson Steele
Sue Hi Hong, owner and chief noodle maker, Suzie’s Soba

1. “I go to the Downtown Athletic Club [210 E. Centre St., 332-0906] every day for running, Nautilus, and the best steam room in town. People are serious about their workouts there.”

2. “The Senator Theatre [5904 York Rd., 435-8338] is the best place to see movies. The sound system is especially great.”

3. “The Matthew and Ingrid Hair Salon [1023 N. Charles St., 685-7711]. They know hair, both hair and people, and they communicate well. Their shampoos and scalp massages are also very relaxing. I’ve been going there for 15 years.”

Andrew Campbell
Hugs the Clown (aka Judy Ewald), artist and entertainer

1. “Even before I became an art student, I loved the Walters Art Gallery [600 N. Charles St., 547-9000] and their masters and classic paintings and sculpture, especially the renovated mansion. To have a world-class art museum so close is a real treasure.”

2. “I now have an addiction to those wonderful tapestry fabrics at Blanks Fabric Center [6709 Whitestone Rd., 944-0040]. I started out making my own pocketbook and briefcase; now I have a budding tapestry bag and other Hugs creations going thanks to [floor manager] Sam and his wonderful, helpful staff.”

3. “My favorite bagel shop, Greg’s Bagels [Belvedere Square, 323-9463]. Not only are they delicious but there’s great service and it’s a fun place. I always try the special of the day and get a bagful to take home.”

Michelle Gienow
Ray Petty, general manager, Big Ray’s Side Pocket Saloon and founder of Big Ray’s Original Raven Maniac Fan Club

1. “New life and energy in Baltimore with Art Modell and our new Ravens franchise.”

2. “Male bonding: Josh Lewin, Bruce Cunningham, Scott Garceau, Jerry Moshenberg, Nasty Nestor, and Tom Matte—basically, all the sports-talk guys that I deal with.”

3. “At Jimmy’s Famous Seafood Restaurant [6526 Holabird Ave., 633-4040], Jimmy always fills my six-foot-nine, 300-pound frame with the best steaks and seafood.”

Andrew Campbell
Lonnie Fisher, cofounder of Ultraworld Productions

1. “Known the world over as the East Coast epicenter of DJ culture, Baltimore boasts some of the finest talent in DJs and electronic musicians. Whether it’s techno, house, acid jazz, ambient, or a host of other styles, our town has got it going on.”

2. “Simplicity of life. A few months ago I was visiting a friend in New York and he turned me on to an incredible Mexican restaurant. On a return visit, I suggested going back there, to which he exclaimed, ‘You’re in New York. There’s so many places to try. Why would you want to go to the same place again?’ It was then that I realized how nice it was to live in Baltimore, where I can enjoy my favorite things without an underlying paranoia that I’m missing something better.”

3. “I’m not totally practiced in animal telepathy, but the animals in the Baltimore Zoo seem truly happy. On a recent visit, we watched an escaped duck frantically try to get back into its cage. The tigers are always playful, the new chimpanzee exhibit is exceptional, and the children’s zoo is not to be missed by anyone of any age.”

Michelle Gienow
Skizz Cyzyk, founder, manager, and projectionist of the Mansion Theater

1. “The Southside Movies [835 E. Fort Ave., 783-4713] has four screens and charges $1.50 a show. The food and drink are just as expensive [as at other theaters], but sneaking stuff in is as easy as swiping test tubes from science class. With both the Hillendale in Towson and the Patterson in Highlandtown closed (and greatly missed), the Southside is the last accessible cheapskate theater in town.”

2. “Will Taylor’s Over Fifty Overnight radio show comes on WWLG-AM [1360] at one in the morning and lasts longer than I’ve been able to stay up. Will is a sweet old guy who offers a sympathetic ear to his widely assorted cast of regular callers, mostly senior citizens. They’re like a family.”

3. “With all the great libraries in the Baltimore area, I’m amazed that bookstores stay in business. I like the Towson library because of its oh-so-modern architecture. My favorite, though, is the central branch of the Enoch Pratt. They have everything.”

Jefferson Jackson Steele
Ruby Glover, jazz vocalist, promoter, educator, and part-time program assistant at the Waxter Center for Senior Citizens

1. “Neighborhoods—the warmth, friendliness, and caring for each other, which is the strength of our living.”

2. “Having had an opportunity to work with government, I’d say we have good community togetherness. We’re visibly building for the city’s future—tearing down old housing and preparing new housing, which will aid families.”

3. “Faith. Without dreams, young folks don’t have a future. I’ve been going around with some other artists to try and bring some of our plenty to those that are homeless, particularly the children.”

Andrew Campbell
Owen Cummings, bassist with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra

1. “We recently dined at world-famous Lutčce in New York, then went to the Brass Elephant [924 N. Charles Street, 547-8480]. The Brass Elephant was every bit as good.”

2. “The city has great architecture and gardens. Almost anywhere you stand in Baltimore there’s something interesting or beautiful to look at.”

3. “Chihuahuas. They’re everywhere, guarding this great city of ours. In Highlandtown that’s all you see.”

Andrew Campbell
Dale Madison, artist, actor, owner of Art-n-Design, and coordinator for the Men of Color AIDS Prevention Project

1. “This is a great place to find work as an actor because of the diversity of films and television being shot in a town that can be futuristic (12 Monkeys), or historic (Washington Square), or urban (Homicide: Life on the Streets).”

2. “The best festivals for miles around. There’s the Read Street Festival, which I get to host for the third year in a row. There’s also Artscape and all the various pride events: gay, black, trans, whatever.”

3. “Our mayor, Kurt Schmoke, who’s not afraid of controversial issues. I feel proud that he appeared in an AIDS/HIV public-service TV spot with gay men of color.”

Jefferson Jackson Steele
Maya Montana, the reigning Miss Gay Maryland

1. “Baltimore is unique because it has the convenience of a city, but with a town atmosphere. People are friendly and it’s a nice community.”

2. “The Inner Harbor is a nice place to take a walk, relax, and meet people. When my family comes to visit, that’s where I take them.”

3. “I enjoy entertaining and socializing in Baltimore, especially at the Hippo [1 W. Eager St., 547-0069], where it’s fun to hang out and have fun.”

Jefferson Jackson Steele
Darryl Wharton, filmmaker and staff writer for Homicide

1. “Ruby Glover, the spirit and embodiment of Baltimore jazz.”

2. “Mondawmin Mall, because no matter where I travel around the country, when I come back there, I always know I’m home.”

3. “Riding my bike down North Avenue. It’s 5.2 miles of the best 'robic exercise that anyone can have, racing the traffic and the buses on a mountain bike.”

Posted 9/18/1996

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