Monday, June 25, 2012

Can we grow food in public parks?

As we stepped out of the airport shuttle, a gleaming, new modern building challenged us to cross its threshold into the refreshing air- conditioned lobby. Once inside, we went straight to the front desk and checked in. A middle-aged, portly, balding Brit with glimpses of teeth missing smiled at us and gave us our keys. We rounded the corner from the brand new breakfast area, complete with waffle makers and juice dispensers, and called the bright, steely elevator.

Once in our room, we quickly threw everything down, grabbed a couple of hats and went back down to the lobby to ask about where we should go on our first night in the "Charm City".

We decided to go to Little Italy, since it was within walking distance. Thus began our explorations of a city that for many is known only for its high rate of crime and the Harbor. While these two elements do exist and are telling of what kind of a city Baltimore is, we refused to accept that this could define its identity.

After stepping out into the still- bright evening sun, we realized that this newly refaced 19th century building that now held our luggage was surrounded by an area that betrayed the modern interior. If we had let appearances dictate, we might have spent all our money on cabs. As we would find out, appearances were mostly only that.

In fact, one thing I found about this historically significant, coastal town was how seemingly progressive it was. Adjacent our hotel, stands St. Vincent Church, a mission-style building whose glory might be restored with a simple coat of white paint to repair that which is already peeling away from its obvious brick exterior. This church, we were told by a hotel employee, takes care of the homeless that flock to the public park just next to it. As one walks by, it is easy to see why a person would go there if they were homeless. There are many benches shaded by the massive trees. This is a perfect place to escape the brutally hot summers of Maryland -Baltimore is south of the Mason- Dixon Line. It's a testament to the city that the police station is in close proximity to the park, and yet the homeless are left alone to live in the park.

On another of our walks toward the western part of downtown, I encountered a public square in front of the courthouse where the plants in raised beds were not merely ornamental (they were very beautiful); the city ( or someone) had planted red cabbage, red and yellow-stemmed chard and kale. The plants were lush and well maintained, as if no one had touched them. I wondered if they were free for the picking. If not, they should be. My question is this: can we do this in Milwaukee?

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