City Grit

Grit: 1) Minute, rough granules, as of sand. 2) The texture or fineness of sand or stone used in grinding. 3)  A coarse hard sandstone used in grindstones and millstones. 4) informal. Indomitable spirit; spirit; pluck. – American Heritage College Dictionary.  The neighborhoods, colloquially known as “hoods” have an indomitable spirit.  Our  “hood” is over 100 years old and filled with a grid-work  of roads and alleys.  The alleys are the collection points for trash and recyclable materials.  Power, phone and cable Internet and TV run down these alleys.  In a sense, the alleys are the arteries of the city where its life-blood flows.  They fascinate me and I love to photograph them.  They are full of texture, weathered iron, concrete and brick.  I call it “character.”  Some alleys are the backdoor to rowhouses and in others, rowhouses stand-alone. The alley’s are gritty and full of stories, most untold.  Kids play in the alleys, teenagers steal kisses, adults use  them for other purposes, and sometimes alleged drug dealers sell their evil packets of lost hope.  The drug dealers are mostly gone from our “hood” but drugs are just one aspect of all cities.  It does not define a city.  History, architecture, culture, industry and businesses define a city.  More importantly, its people and their collective grit  define a city.  Baltimore is rich in these treasures.
Reflections of an Overcast Alley
I walked passed this alley innumerable times on my way to the grocery store.  The alley is typical of those in our “hood” – power poles, telephone and power wires, coaxial cables carrying the digital world into homes, wire and wood fences and built-out additions.  The alley was wet with snow melt.  The  overcast sky was bright.  I loved the strong whites set against the blacks of the fences, yards, poles and wires. The surrounding luminosity reflected in the wet concrete. The leading lines pulled me into the alley.   I stepped in and became part of it.  This is my “hood,” my city and I wanted to capture what I saw.
This house always amazes me.  It’s perhaps 8 ft wide and three stories high.  I have never bothered to walk down the alley and estimate its length.  I image the living area is less than 1,000 sq. ft.  I refer to it as “The Narrow House.”   Usually, when you look down an alley, you see the back of rowhouses.  Their concrete backyards pushed up against the concrete that defines the alley.  When you look up this alley, the house is the main  focus.  There it stands about 100 ft from the street and up an incline.  “The Narrow House” stands bold and proud as if it were a sentry guarding the entrance.  It’s white windows are in marked contrast to the weathered front.  It’s part of what defines the grit of this city.
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