A Juror’s Duty- Part 1

Baltimore

Draw the Court

Today I watched a guilty man walk free. Five hours after closing statements 10 confident jurors descended from the deliberating room trailing the final 2 jurors, young men battered into consensus. Those 10 jurors offered up a charge of not-guilty to assault in the second degree as the remaining 2 watched on and said nothing. I sat as one of those 2 broken juror souls. Today my own principles  and patience were tried by a jury while they should have been trying an accused man. My patience broke, the defendant did not. As a result I am a far more discouraged, disheartened young man than I was when I registered for jury duty yesterday morning. The system we live in is not always fair and as a result of my own submission to the majority a battered woman must live in fear.

As far as I am concerned the facts were clear. I had been called to this case as a juror the day before and was told it would last the majority of two days, June 21 and 22. A woman was beaten out in front of her boyfriends Baltimore City townhouse, a cop witnessed it and proceeded to arrest her boyfriend,  a man 26 years older than her slim 19 years of age. They had been out that night drinking and partying when the young, mentally handicapped woman, got in a verbal fight with her boyfriend that ended with her on the ground being repeatedly stomped by her partner. The before and after are a bit hazy, the testimony incomplete, the stories full of mismatched facts and errors. Yet  an officer testified to having witnessed the brutal beating and photo’s were taken of her bruised arms and legs at the hospital two days later. More details exist but enough have already been presented to put a man away for some time.

Yet from the minute deliberations began I sat in a slim majority to convict in a jury room that buzzed with racial and class tension. 6 men and 6 women. 5 whites, 6 blacks, 1 Indian. A fair jury by most standards. Yet, to understand the climate in the room one must understand a bit about Baltimore City. In Baltimore distrust of the police is a deep scar continuously opened by police brutality and rampant city crime. Most officers conduct their business if a honorable and brave manner but those who don’t, those who unjustly assault and arrest individuals have damaged the perception of the entire force. As a result, the low-income majority in Baltimore has unfairly deemed the Baltimore Police Department an unreliable source and everyone seems to have a story of police mistreatment. Police are not to be trusted under most circumstances.

No matter how I pleaded and pushed the Jury was not accepting any of the officers testimony. I was repeatedly told that the officer’s witnessing of the event was a conspiracy conducted by the state to put a poor man behind bars, “another black man thrown in jail,” as one juror put it. I have no doubt that the last thing this city needs is another man thrown in jail yet when that man has beaten his girlfriend he more than likely deserves the time. After 3 hours of deliberation we were let out for lunch, only 3 of the 12 jurors clinging to a guilty verdict. I ate my lunch alone, slowly planning my approach to persuading 9 members of the jury that this man could not walk free. When I returned from lunch I found out just how impossible this task would come to be.

Rod

Continued tomorrow…

Posted in xyz | Leave a comment

Time: The American Currency

Summer is a time in which College students ultimately do two things: We ask ourselves big questions and  figure out that no one can help us with the answers.  Although this is not completely true for college students to plenty of other things consider it a brief reflection. We use the summer as a time to test the water of the real world and perhaps gain some understanding as to what it is we hope to do as “real” people. To me it seems the majority of us  end up settling on a 9 to 5 simply because it gives us a place, not because it gave us the one we wanted. It seems every adult I encounter asks me a set of scripted questions mostly having to do with my plans for the future. I’ve decided to just start telling people that in ten years I see myself as “The Dude” and that I’m thinking of investing in an ice cream truck.

Bum or idol?

Dan and Jack

My family and I  took the Honda Fit out for a ride last weekend to visit some family friends.They live on a farm in Maryland and live extremely basic, pleasant lives. Louise grows her own herbs and vegetables, teaches yoga class and restores art. Her husband used to write for a newspaper but for now I believe he’s just taking back his time, working with his horses, Jack and Dan, and most of all being happy.  Over the course of this summer I have realized that  free time is ultimately what people are in pursuit of whether they are arms length up a bull or numbing their mind in a cubicle. Everyone wants their time back.  My dad and I got into a conversation with Louise about her plans, her work and what she and her husband planned on doing as they neared retirement. Louise looked at us with her twinkly, weathered face, glasses slipping  slightly down her nose and replied ” At this point we have to figure out whether we need the money or want the time. ”

Continue reading

Posted in Louisa, Virginia, Nick Rodricks | 2 Comments

Waves, Tides, and Sand Castles

So this is it: the final throes of a summer that wrestled hard at every bell. It’s nowhere near submission, and I won’t pretend I’ve ever been in control, but the fight’s almost over. Soon, the bookies will go home and the neon will fade and I’ll be standing in my tastefully purchased Cambridge thrift store cape in the empty arena, wondering what to do with myself. All my friends are either graduated or gearing up for insane abroad adventures.

I bought a 7-day T pass today. It expires August 11. I’m out of here August 20th. Two weeks, two days, Conn College.

So what did I learn? What do I still have left to think about?

I’m willing to bet this is the first summer since I was maybe 10 years old that has revolved around more than paranoia that the people I consider friends will or won’t call me to hang out in some barely distinguishable region of post-agricultural developmentally ravaged middle Massachusetts. Everything I’ve wanted to do, I could make happen; anytime I was bored was my own fault.

And I’m still sitting here thinking about people who, two weeks from now, won’t be a feature of my life at all. But they couldn’t seem to matter more. Maybe it’s because I’ve always lived moment to moment, (becca) coping better with the present situation than I do with planning for hypotheticals. Still, I’m inclined to believe that not dwelling on a future that is so far beyond control (anyone seen 2012? or, for that matter, Independence Day?) that planning seems obsolete the second it occurs is tantamount to being realistic.

I mean, what else is there? Magical realism? First off, I don’t write nearly as well in Spanish. Second, I don’t have much faith in non-scientific occurrences to intervene metaphorically in my day-to-day life. And I just had a lengthy (anthropology-based) debate with my friend Zoe about science filling the role of religion in modern Western culture.

Ultimately, I’ve been fired from a fine-dining restaurant (along with a good number of my co-workers) and disappointed by the minor role interns play in locally-focused journalism. But I’ve also learned a lot about what it means to have opportunities everywhere, and that last point seems especially applicable to Conn.

In one regard, sure, there’s a buttload going on every day that never seems to cross most students’ minds, and I have a strong feeling or two about how to change that. [Full disclosure: I book shows. Come to them. I know you're not doing anything.] In another, there’s the consideration that there’s a lot going on which even I don’t think about.

To make the most of the summer, which is both my first summer in Boston and the only summer I’ve ever spent under my own power with more than maybe five friends (not to mention public transportation and living outside my parents’ house), I’ve had to be on my toes, trying to tell the difference between PR posturing and genuine DIY enthusiasm. And it’s been rewarding insofar as I’ve mostly found cool things only curious people find out about.

But there were still those nights when all that presented itself was a bomber of Long Trail Doublebag, an acoustic guitar, and the rooftop of a friend’s rented frat-house room. And what I’m struggling with is the tendency to undervalue those in favor of nights spent watching Nauset Light illuminate the surf or listening to some soon-to-be Conn performer tear it up in a dirty basement. Although I’m inclined to say the drama of involvement and people is more eventful, more noteworthy, or more important, I’m finding the highlights of my summer to be an even split.

Kurt Vonnegut has this whole thing he mentions in a few places where his uncle once told him to express his feelings out loud when he notices that he enjoys something. The idea is that when you realize you like what you’re doing, you should say aloud, “If this isn’t nice, what is?”

I think it’s excellent advice. This summer has been mercurial and evanescent, to get all grandiloquent on you. Every ten minutes it has had a different atmosphere, and the rug seems to get pulled out from under me more often than I do laundry.

I’ve been having the first inklings of excitement toward returning to Conn for one last uninvolved orientation/pre-class session of aimless summer collegiate fun, all endless MOBROC barn access and free reign over looking like a champ in front of friendless, lonely, too-young-to-possibly-be-in-college freshmen. And a lot of my internship has led to good ideas about how to improve what I care about in the face of the ever-shifting internet landscape [Lilah: look at the Voice idea-wiki].

But what seems to matter, more than ever now that I’ll be a senior, is appreciating what won’t last. Which is why I won’t think more about Conn than I have to. Which is why I won’t short-shrift the rest of my internship. Which is why I’ll continue to write acoustic songs, knowing full well a drummer is a week away.

Kurt had a point. Living for tomorrow is the same thing as not living at all. So I will be in Boston until I’m not in Boston. I will write until my fingers fall off. A wiser man than me once said: “Everything dies, baby, that’s a fact.” It’s time I took that to heart. After all, he continues: “Maybe everything that dies some day comes back.” And while I doubt I’ll have another senior year, another summer in Boston devoid of worries about permanent occupation, another moment to draft MOBROC-wide email puns while cruising Cape Cod, I don’t see any point in dwelling on the fact that I won’t. I’ll see you all in the fall, and I’ll see you with both eyes. The future might be better than today, but I’m hellbent on noticing what’s great about the present.

Because if this isn’t nice, what is?

Posted in Andrew Crimer, Boston | 1 Comment

Finding Tranquility

Most people come to Paris and end up running all around the city to check items off their lists, rushing from Notre Dame to the Louvre to the Eiffel Tower all in one afternoon.  True, a visit to Paris would be incomplete without stopping to see these iconic landmarks.  But this city is so much more than just a couple of old buildings. 

Every arrondissement has its own unique and defining characteristics…parks, cafés, boutiques, views, etc.  And personally, I find beauty in the ambiance of each of these areas where I can walk leisurely in a park or sit at a café and marvel at my surroundings.  Lately I have come across some uniquely quiet and serene activities that have allowed me to see Paris in a new light, and have made city living feel…gasp…peaceful at times.  Continue reading

Posted in Jane Thompson, Paris | 115 Comments

B-more

Over the past few weeks I have begun straying farther and farther from farm life, drifting back to Baltimore, my hometown and ”The City that Reads.” That slogan was adopted  in 1987 by former mayor Kurt Schmoke and was pasted to a great number of bus stop benches in an effort to revive slacking literacy levels. In fact Baltimore ranked above many cities in the early 2000′s in literacy, including NY City and L.A ,  despite its abysmal ranking in most matters related to education. Yet, when it comes to slogans it seems that Baltimore has seen some very shotty management, possibly even shottier than our 30 and 65 Orioles. In most big cities  a slogan seems to be an afterthought but in Baltimore ,the  city of the frequent identity crisis, we have seen a number of attempts to revamp our image often leading to a new phrase to define our town.

Continue reading

Posted in Louisa, Virginia, Nick Rodricks | Leave a comment

Northern Lights

This weekend, following a concert featuring Kurt Vile & Real Estate, my friends and I stumbled onto what appeared to be an all-night rager in the parking lot and disused garage behind the converted warehouse in which former Voice multimedia editor Logan Zemetres currently resides. The party featured live, sweaty music, a man dressed as a wizard who walked around dancing and saying nothing, crazy light-structures everywhere, fire dancers, an 8 AM endtime, a bar by donation, a car that was more of a sculpture, a blonde bouncer in a red dress, and presumably some assortment of club drugs intended to validate the absurd lighting choices. Somehow, it was a fundraiser.

The party was dubiously connected to something which eventually formed my entire weekend, called Allston DIYFest. Despite my best efforts, I can’t really figure out who put the festival on, how, or why, and moreover I haven’t been able to associate anything that happened at any one event with anything or anyone at any other event, but it offered me and everyone else who is capable of reading fliers on streetlamps a wide variety of musical, visual, and venue options for entertainment and the appreciation of people doing what they do for little or no money.

Some of those people turned out to be people I know. I’d just interviewed a street artist named Iansanity for an as-yet unpublished article in the Allston-Brighton TAB, and he turned out to be a participant in the art gallery component of the actual festival on Saturday afternoon. A band called Magic Man, friends of a friend, played at the basement show / afterparty I went to on Saturday night. Logan’s roommates hosted an all-day concert on Sunday.

So I guess this sort of thing is always around. If there were enough local bands and basements to put on six afterparties on Saturday, all with the intention of supporting whatever Allston DIYFest’s organization is, then there must always be something to do that doesn’t involve paying Harper’s Ferry or Great Scott a cover charge for a touring act.

One of the things Iansanity stressed about street art, which is a pretty DIY phenomenon, was that it grows out of a desire to beautify and improve, rather than profit or get famous. At the end of the interview, he gave me what I interpreted as a mission statement. “I’m tired of blank walls. Go paint. Do it illegally. Just do it.”

“Nike,” he added. He was a little crazy, in an awesome way. But he’s also right. There’s a lot of blank space. There’s also a lot of advertisement. And I think because so much of what’s not blank is just trying to sell you something, most people just ignore everything they see on the street, focusing on avoiding bikers or finding the side street they’re looking for or trying to not make eye contact with pretty girls or whatever. So maybe that’s why I was shocked when I started reading fliers on streetlamps, investigating sketchy-looking garage parties, and poking into guerilla art galleries this weekend. It was always all there, but my stimulus shield blocked it out.

Because those fliers were, yes, for concerts of varying quality in dirty basements, for places where the unshowering might congregate, and for highly unsettling robe-clad wizard dancers’ favorite throwdowns, but they were also for a community of people trying as hard as they can to be able to keep doing what they believe in. Those basements were doing what the bars don’t and supporting the people who can’t go on tour because they can’t afford it because nobody knows who they are. The people in Ringer Park were there to be the eyes the art needed to be worth making, even if they didn’t shower beforehand. Lord knows what was up with wizard guy.

So I learned something which is probably a valuable lil’ journalist lesson: don’t write the things that surround off just because you’re busy or hungover or worried about why so-and-so won’t call you back. Paying attention to the things around you will let you into the big secrets of what goes on where you live. Sometimes, that means crazy weekends. Sometimes, and these two aren’t apparently mutually exclusive, it’ll show you the side of your city you’ve always wanted to see. I found both — it was an insanely fun few days, but the only reason it was that fun was because a huge group of people, and I’d estimate like a thousand separate people must have been involved in just the parts of Allston DIYFest I found out about, wanted to take what would otherwise just be basements, rusting cars, chainlink fences, and ex-industrial spaces and turn them into stages, sculptures, gallery walls, and the meeting grounds for a small movement.

Well, less of a movement than a network. What connected one event to another may not have been a central planning committee, and there was certainly no central leader or icon at the center of all the events. Instead, the people were all connected ideologically, by interest in local art, bands without record deals, and an impetus to reclaim public space. The network wasn’t hiding, but despite their best efforts it’s hard to see, especially if you don’t look.

Posted in Andrew Crimer, Boston | 1 Comment

This one’s a mixed bag

I don’t have a clear topic for this post per se, so I’ll toss out some nuggets and things I’ve learned this summer. And we’ll see a lot of .gifs along the way! Continue reading

Posted in John Dodig, Philadelphia | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Help The Homeless?

Hello World!

Now if you’ve ever been to San Francisco, you know about the plethora of homeless people scattered along Market, Powell, Montgomery, Haight, basically anywhere in the city and you’re used to it. San Francisco is known for being pretty temperate year round, the summer being strangely foggy and never really getting above 70 and the rest of the year being very similar, so it is not surprising that it has become a prime city for the homeless. When I first moved to the city I was still surprised by the amount of people living on the street, and was startled by the crazy ranting and screaming. Now, the types of people living on the street range from people my age all the way up to people who are old enough to deserve their own personal care, and you never know what they are going to say or how they will go about getting donations. Some people merely leave a cup, decorated with dollar bills and some quarters on a good day, sitting next to them on the sidewalk. Others have a cute canine companion, tugging at the heartstrings of passersby. (On a side note although my home is not my own, my new residence at my cousin’s house has given me something similar to wake up to every morning. Meet Vinny)

The most popular choice would have to be the infamous cardboard and Sharpie sign, calling on the creativity of the person to draw a person in. Some comment on someone’s need for food and money, while others barrel straight to the comedy with lines such as “Smile if you masturbate” and “Why lie? Need money for weed!”
Continue reading

Posted in Mikey Harris, San Francisco | 17 Comments

On Kelis and Entrepreneurship

About a month ago, before I became deathly afraid of writing comprehensive blog posts regularly, I wrote an overheated little ditty about the importance of colleges encouraging entrepreneurship on their campuses.

My editors must have sensed the entrepheremones or something, because they assigned me a guide to write called “How to Start a College Entrepreneurship Club”.  I talked to a dude who started Hopkins Student Enterprises, which launches fully formed business ideas on campus, to a professor who’s the chair of entrepreneurship at Bradley, and to the dean of the conservatory at Oberlin, who was one of the starters of their entrepreneurship program, Creativity & Leadership (I’ve had an eye on that program for MONTHS, because they’re having their students create Oberlin bookstore apparel).  Cool thing one: I had three lively conversations with three smart people that had polar opposite phone conducts.  Cool thing two: they all gave me advice I wasn’t anticipating, all the while reiterating what I’ve learned so well this summer: small startups are back with an 808.

CLICK THIS HYPALINK to read my guide.
Continue reading

Posted in Lilah Raptopoulos, New York City | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

POT IS BACK (apparently)

In this episode, your author will ostensibly use local periodical Philadelphia magazine as a jumping off point to talk about drug culture in his region.

I’ll start by saying I know very little about drug culture in my region. Really. But Philly mag’s most recent cover story certainly grabbed my attention. The cover itself features a giant green seven-pointed leaf on a black background and, emblazoned in big white letters across the top of the layout, the declaration “POT IS BACK.”

Strangely enough, my mom brought it to my attention (“I saved this for you; I thought you might like to read it”) and read it closely I did. The story itself isn’t that wonderful or interesting, but the fact that a well-respected regional magazine would be bold enough to put something like this on the cover is both wonderful and interesting.

Continue reading

Posted in John Dodig, Philadelphia | 5 Comments