March 30, 2013 - Pennsylvania Avenue
“How much for these?” asks a twentysomething man holding a pair of red Nike Air Jordan IIs, originally released in 1986. “Gimme a price,” responds Ahmad Bennett. “I’ll work with you.”
“How much do you want for these Grant Hill’s?” chimes in another, looking over a pair of Fila high tops from the former Duke star’s Orlando Magic days.
Bennett, a vendor with two tables full of vintage 1980s and early 1990s NBA shoes—plus a rack of Bulls and Celtics warm-up jackets—is selling his gear at the packed, fourth annual Baltimore Sneaker Show. “This is what I do,” Bennett says, explaining that he tracks down sales of vintage and limited-edition sneakers online and through his network of connections. “Basically, it’s hustling.”
More than 1,200 people have turned out at the Baltimore Neighborhood Recreation Facility, paying $25 to peruse the best sneaker collections in the city and beyond, mingle, eat, and dance. With the disco lights and rapper Greenspan pushing a thumping beat, it feels more like a nightclub than the inside of an old gym.
Cameron Wecker, 22, an Elkridge Furnace Inn assistant manager, ultimately wins the best collection $500 prize. Wecker first got interested in sneakers when he stopped growing for several years as a child—his feet remaining the same size for a long period. Then, following successful treatment for his rare genetic condition, the 5-foot-5 inch winner began collecting after he and his feet (size 8) stopped growing naturally.
His prize shoe? An autographed left foot, size-23 game sneaker sent to him by Shaquille O’Neal when the future Hall-of-Famer played for the Miami Heat. “You can’t really understand how big it is until you see it,” Wecker says. “It’s nearly two feet long. It’s wider than my chest.”
April 9, 2013 - Gay Street
City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young takes a chair at the center of the table. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, distractedly sipping a bottle of water, sits next to Young. The Public Works director and City Solicitor sit down. City Comptroller Joan Pratt arrives late, but Young explains she had car problems. No one, however, would blame Pratt if she didn’t want to attend the annual, reverse-inquisition “Taxpayer’s Night”—a chance for citizens to question (and occasionally hector) officials about next year’s budget.
Not that the Board of Estimates—which awards contracts and supervises city purchases—responds. But at least the assembled officials listen to complaints about “illegal” speed cameras, mismanaged water bills, BGE power outages, the “bloated” police budget, as well as the need for youth jobs.
Activist Kim Trueheart, arrested earlier this year in a squabble at City Hall, gets into a rules debate with Young when—after her allotted three minutes are up—she speaks again on behalf of someone who had “donated” their time to her. “How many people on this sheet gave their time to Ms. Trueheart?” Young asks. “We’re not playing games here.”
Duane Davis, nicknamed the “Toilet Bomber” after he left a commode outside the Towson Courthouse two years ago, complains about the lack of “meaningful urban farming” opportunities.
In the audience, Douglas Bell, Edmondson High Class of ’62, is here to protest a funding threat to Experience Corps, which puts older citizens—receiving a modest stipend—into classrooms to tutor students. “I’ve been doing it for five years at Lockerman Bundy Elementary and now Belmont Elementary,” he says. “I help with their math and reading.
“I guess I like it,” smiles the dignified 68-year-old retired postal worker, “because they’re not my kids.”
April 20, 2013 - College Avenue, Annapolis
St. John’s College and U.S. Naval Academy students and alumni gather beneath the giant trees on the “Johnnie’s” lawn with picnic baskets and blankets. In one corner, the Naval Academy Trident Brass Band plays Benny Goodman classics as couples swing dance on a brick patio.
In the center of the grass, pairs of Johnnies and Midshipmen compete in their 31st annual croquet battle. As the story goes, the rivalry began when the then-Naval Academy Commandant told a St. John’s freshman that the Midshipmen could beat the Johnnies in any sport. “What about croquet?” the student replied, launching the spring fête.
A key moment in the best of five series—matches can take hours—comes when a St. John’s shot leaps over a Navy ball he was trying to strike—opening a game-winning opportunity for the Midshipmen. “I had it lined up,” the dejected Johnnie explains. “It hit a clump of grass and jumped over.” Navy won the day, but for only the sixth time in three decades.
The afternoon, however, is as much about period clothes, wine and cheese, and people watching as it is the game. The men, in particular, sporting seersucker suits, straw hats, and white tennis or letterman sweaters, flaunt vintage styles. “Men usually don’t like to dress up in costume for an occasion,” says Carolyn Walsh, St. John’s Class of 2009, complimenting her friend Ben Hutchins’s bow tie. “But it’s so loveable when they do.”