Montebello and Druid Hill Lakes

Bring back the good stuff

Recently as I was driving through the city and passed Lake Montebello, I realized that it had been many years since I'd driven, or walked, around it.

When I was a teenager, riding the bus from Erdman Avenue to Eastern High School, I used to pass Montebello every day.

The area was always alive with people and activities. I remember the days when teenagers parked around the lake to watch the submarine races. Needless to say there were no submarines and there were no races except to get to first base. Teens parked around the lake were oblivious to what might be going on outside their car.

Montebello was good for watching fireworks. I remember watching fireworks shooting up from Memorial Stadium along with a long line of cars parked around the lake.

Then over time somehow Lake Montebello...the community...died.

Yesterday I was pleasantly surprised on my drive around Montebello at the sense of community that had returned. Individuals and families walked, jogged or biked in the special lanes made just for them. And in case walking or jogging isn't enough, special exercise equipment dots the perimeter.

A larger but similar space is the Reservoir in Druid Hill Park where my family used to enjoy an outdoor art show that stretched around the water once a year. Many years ago, I applied to be an art vendor at the Druid Hill Art Show but was turned down. The letter I received said that photography was not art and therefore I couldn't exhibit.

Now, alas, Eastern is no longer a school but photography is considered art and Lake Montebello has made a comeback. It's time also to bring back the art show around Druid Hill.

Note: I wrote this in 2010. Now in May, 2013, the Druid Hill art show is coming back! Check details here:

New Beginnings...and More

Monday I spent two hours at New Beginnings, a barber shop, with my husband and neither of us got a haircut or a shave. We didn't need one at the time but, although New Beginnings provides haircuts and shaves, it's much more than just a barber shop. It's an experience.

When you walk in to New Beginnings, located at 1047 Hollins St. in Baltimore, you might mistake it at first for an art gallery. Then you notice the barber chairs. This barber shop appears to be the most unique in Baltimore—and maybe in the country.

Its windows are filled with three-dimensional art, walls are covered with paintings and photographs, good music plays in the background, Wi-Fi is available and books line a reading area below a spiral staircase. Oh, and did I say it offers haircuts? Even more than all these things, New Beginnings offers community.

In a time of Twitter, Facebook and hyper-connectivity, New Beginnings lets people find new connections in real time. The time and space is relaxed and friendly.

And you might even learn something too. For instance, customer William Gunn, who is usually called Skip, gave advice on cooking beets. “You wrap them individually in aluminum foil and bake for about an hour. Then soak them in vinegar and sugar.” He adds that beets from the local farmer’s market will beat what you find in a can.

Troy Staton, one of the owners and an art lover, has several goals in showing art in his barber shop. Besides adding class to the ambiance, he says, “I hope it will be a gateway [to art experience].” He mentions a client who was motivated to go to the National Gallery and take his son because of the art he liked on the barber shop walls.

Troy claims that New Beginnings should not be unique. “We’re doing what barber shops have always done in the past but today the standard has been lowered.”

 Besides providing an environment for interesting conversation, Troy and his partners are committed to community. As I sit and soak up the ambiance, Troy is constantly waving back to people in the community who pass by his window. Many of the clients have returned to this barber shop for 20 years, despite changes in location.

“It’s an everyday man’s social club,” Troy says. Add an occasional woman or two also.

 “It’s fun to come here. If I didn’t, I’d miss talk about sports and women,” Skip adds.

The commitment of this neighborhood barber shop goes beyond a friendly environment. Last year, they collected and donated more than 1100 pounds of food for the Food Bank. Troy talks about customer appreciation day during the holidays with free food and raffle prizes which include a free haircut, movie tickets and dinner for two at a good Baltimore restaurant.

Community participation also extends to the Baltimore Youth Work program by providing summer jobs for teens six hours a day.

Although decor and ambiance of New Beginnings provide a feel-good setting, Skip reminds us "It would be nothing without the people.” I think he's right.

You can learn more about New Beginnings here: