26 June 2009

North and South and East and West of Your Life

That’s the second line of "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?,” best-recorded by Barbra Streisand and the title of my post on this date last year, my most favorite thing I’ve ever written. I hadn’t planned to post again this 26 June, referencing, or not, the man from whom I inherited a great love of old buildings, but today, on what would have been my daddy’s 80th birthday, I ran into Bill Struever and lucked into a tour of another personal number one, and his masterpiece, the American Brewery, now home to Humanim, a visionary healer of humans and now maybe a neighborhood. I was the keyholder for the American Brewery when I worked for the City of Baltimore and unexpectedly first toured my beloved building three years ago on 9 May, the anniversary of my daddy’s death in 1973, the year the building was last used, but am absolutely astonished tonight to learn the American Brewery was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on the day my daddy died.

In 2006 the magnificent mansard-roofed towers were declared near death and with them would go years of dreams and schemes. From my window at Baltimore Housing I watched and I prayed because I knew if Bill Struever couldn’t save this building, no one could, and moving on to EBDI I more closely witnessed that for which I and so many others waited, crying when the scaffolding came down and the bandages came off this asymmetrical, eccentric, outrageous old lady, for she was perfect.

Today from the top I looked north and south and east and west and saw maybe this city’s craziest quilt of streets crashing into each other at the oddest of angles, only adding to the sense of dysfunction, yet I also easily picked out and prayed for those who have staked their proud claim as this city stitches its fabric back together, needle and thread poised at the ready, waiting for EBDI, already lightly but securely patched with running stitches to Oliver and Johns Hopkins and Patterson Park, to send progress bolting straight up Gay Street.

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