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Breaking the Chains

Posted 9/21/2005

I feel compelled to respond to Mike Peters’ letter (“Chain Me Up in Hampden,” The Mail, Sept. 14). Chains are inevitable, and there is a vicious cycle about it: Sure it brings in a little more money and stability, because chains are successful, because they are what people know. But they also take out anything unique about a place and replace it with the American plastic cookie cutter of whatever everyone is looking for. From hamburgers to houses, America is diseased with the need for the familiar, uniformity, and the desire to be just like everyone else. I am not originally from Baltimore, but it is clear to me that Baltimore as a city, and especially Hampden, is not trying (or had not been until recent events) to be like everyone else.

If Mr. Peters would rather go to Chili’s than the fabulous Holy Frijoles (best Mexican food around), then go! Get out and don’t bother to point your finger, since you have no idea what you’re talking about. You probably shop at The Gap and listen to the top 40 on the radio and do, eat, and wear what “they” tell you to. Because you can’t be unique unless you aren’t afraid to be yourself and break the chain.

The “chain gang” is coming to Charles Village. It’s a really sad thing to me to know that the beautiful rowhouses with character are now being turned into formulated, plastic condos that aren’t Charles Village. And with those are also coming all the “upscale” chains—a Barnes and Noble, upscale clothing stores, and more.

So, good for Hampden. I hope that the Avenue thrives. It still has a way to go, but it will get there with the perseverance of the real people who care about it. It may be one of the only places left with any real character and integrity to preserve what it really is and what it stands for.

So, Mr. Peters, go to your Chili’s and get the queso skillet that comes frozen in a Sysco box that they just slop into the fryer, leave the “little freak show” alone, and we’ll enjoy our own “real” food.

Jessie Green

Big Hard

I agree with Brian Morton that the rabid right, with its self-serving message of survival-of-the-fittest, has captured the Republican Party and thus the federal government (Political Animal, Sept. 7). But I can’t help thinking that if we weren’t fighting a highly questionable, $5 billion-a-month war in Iraq, the levees in New Orleans would not have collapsed. After all, the Republicans love to spend money! And there were well-known and badly needed improvements that the Army Corps of Engineers could not make because money and resources were diverted elsewhere. Perhaps if our president and Republican Congress did not shove through hundreds of billions of dollars in federal tax cuts, primarily to the wealthiest few, then the many in New Orleans would have had a fighting chance to escape the wall of water that destroyed their city.

Even though former President Clinton is now showing his true colors as an ardent friend of the Bush family, remember how the Republicans in Congress tried so hard to remove him from office because he lied about cheating on his wife? Wow! Now our current Republican president is presiding over one very expensive war of his own making and, as fate would have it, one of the greatest natural disasters in the history of the country. While folks were literally fighting for their lives for a full four-plus days after the hurricane left New Orleans, the greatest power on Earth offered platitudes and shrugged shoulders. How ugly and incredibly ironic! A story stranger than fiction. One that could be a best-selling novel if not for the probability that upward of 10,000 Americans perished in the process.

Given the right set of circumstances, the unprecedented anarchy and huge death toll could happen in any U.S. city, including Baltimore. It’s time to let the phones ring off the hook and ask our state and local elected officials one simple question: What measures are you putting in place to make sure there is never a repeat of New Orleans here in Maryland? As the disaster in the Big Easy has shown, relying on the federal government during a true emergency is risky business.

Dan Greifenberger

Take Your Daily Constitutional

Illegal arrests are just that: illegal arrests (“He Said, She Said,” Mobtown Beat, Sept. 7). Due process of law as embodied in the Fifth Amendment demands that the law shall not be unreasonable, arbitrary, or capricious. Is locking people up for minor crimes and then not charging them for those crimes due process of law? It appears to me that the mayor has a bunch of tyrants out there on the streets who are locking up people not only for minor offences, but also for expressing their opinions, which is freedom of speech (First Amendment). The mayor already has one lawsuit pending against him. If he is not careful, he is going to have another one.

Leo A. Williams


Anyone who’s been to 2 Hot Art Chicks gallery in Hampden immediately feels the warmth and lack of pretense that this local, homegrown business radiates (Opening Act, Sept. 7). I guess City Paper is too hip and above-it-all to maturely acknowledge this quaint, valid addition to the community and must strut its adolescence by trashing the personality of one the owners. I guess if the gallery were called “2 Fucking Hot Art Chicks” it would better fit into City Paper’s value structure and would have received better press.

Michael Cantor

Look Here

You’d never know from reading J. Bowers’ review of the faculty Sabbatical Exhibition (Art, Sept. 7) that painting is alive and well at Maryland Institute College of Art. Although a quick stroll through the adjoining freshman Foundation Exhibition would have revealed that fact, your critic nevertheless managed to overlook impressive paintings by Michael Economos, Christine Neill, and Rex Stevens. Even more perplexing is how she could ignore the modestly astonishing domestic interiors, still lifes, and suburbscapes of painter/instructor Mark Karnes. When will art critics remember to use their eyes as well as their brains?

Craig Hankin

Editor’s note: Among the thousands of New Orleanians displaced by Hurricane Katrina was Michael Tisserand, editor of Gambit Weekly, CP’s alt-weekly counterpart in the Crescent City. Upon landing on drier ground in Lafayette, La., he has embarked on Submerged, a weekly column of reporting and commentary from the area, which we are pleased to offer here. The first three installments are already up.

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