I found out through a post on Instagram that the venerable Bel-Loc Diner has closed after 53 years, due to be knocked down and replaced with a fucking Starbucks of all things. I’ve loved the Bel-Loc since I moved to Baltimore 28 years ago (damn); in college we made pilgrimages up to the Parkville area for breakfast, haircuts, and the Hechinger’s when there was no diner food, weekend banking or lumberyards in the city. It’s been a landmark since I’ve been here, a shining neon constant. I think I’ve shot pictures of it with every camera I own save one. In a world of cavernous fake modern diners with no soul, it was a cozy room made of curves and angles and stainless steel. You could sit in a booth and feel the conversations around you while you ate; it had a communal sense about it. Much like the departed Forest Diner, it was an experience. And we don’t have too many authentic experiences left anymore.
I made some updates to the backend of both this site and the Scout blog, which were both being unreliable (the Scout blog was actually going down and up for a few weeks). Shutting off all of the plugins, updating them, and selectively turning on just the crucial ones brought full functionality back, and tweaking the settings in Jetpack helped fix a couple of strange bugs (the Media library wasn’t loading, for example). I was thinking my ancient handmade template was obsolete for a while there, but everything seems to be working correctly now. Thankfully I run this blog fast and lean, because if I had to deal with multiple dependencies or outdated plugins, I’d be sunk. At one time I could make WordPress sing, but I’ve forgotten most of it in the last couple of years.
I got a freelance check in the mail for the job I did on the flight to Paraguay, so I’m researching the iPad Pro, paired with an Apple Pencil and an app called Procreate. My hope is that I can use this combination of hardware and software to emulate scratchboard and also work in Illustrator. The big question here is whether the smaller model would be big enough for my needs or if I should shell out for the larger one. Unfortunately the education discount is only $20 for the iPad, so I’ll have to consider carefully. I think a visit to the local Apple Store is in order.
Off in the distance are the lights of downtown. Around the corner from this spot is a Walgreens, sitting on a lot that used to house a thrift store we called Saks North Avenue when I was in college: a football-field sized building with more treasures than our 18-year-old brains could process. I still have some of the clothes I bought there: a blue sharkskin jacket, a full tuxedo set, a National Beer delivery shirt…
This weekend was long and productive. It started out with a spectacle: Cinderella the musical was playing at the Hippodrome in Baltimore. All three of us got churched up in our fancy clothes and we drove into town for the evening. The show was fantastic–the script was updated for modern audiences, but Rodgers & Hammerstein is timeless. The cast was outstanding and the whole production was fun and energetic. At several points during the show I looked over at Finn, who was on the edge of her seat, eyes filled with awe, and knew that Mama had done right by getting tickets.
Saturday morning we rose and cleaned the house in preparation for a sleepover with one of Finn’s friends, for which she was very excited. Beds were made, toilets scrubbed, rugs vacuumed, and rooms straightened. Finn had a soccer game at noon, so we worked up until it was time to leave and then got her to the field with minutes to spare. She worked really hard during the game and even though her team lost by a goal, she played ace defense and ran her legs off on offense. We stopped for some groceries, grabbed a celebratory donut and headed back home. From there I took the Scout to Lowe’s to load up on lumber while the girls went shopping for some new fish.
Back at the house I unloaded the truck and lit a fire in the pit, then got to work building a third firewood cradle. By dinnertime I had it in place and filled with another half cord of wood while the girls played in the yard. Around dinnertime the Geblers stopped over with Bear. We all hung out in the backyard as the sun went down, and I loaded up the grill with dinner. We all ate our fill and stayed up way past our bedtimes; the girls went down with only a peep at 11PM.
Sunday morning we rose early and I helped put a pancake breakfast together with Jen, then headed back outside to put a fourth cradle together and stack the remaining wood. After I finished that task, I turned the Ravens game on the radio through the garage speakers, dragged my brewing equipment outside, and put a grapefruit IPA recipe on the burner that I’ve had sitting around since June. It was the perfect weather for being outside with a fire; 60˚ and sunny all weekend. I’ve got piles of bark from the split wood laying around that I thought I’d never find anything to do with, but it turns out bark burns pretty well–and fast. I made the first pile disappear by Sunday afternoon, and made a dent in the second pile at nightfall. I doubt it will be that comfortable outside again this year, but I’m glad I took full advantage of it.
Video by Howard County REACT
We drove through this area hours before everything was swept away. I don’t know how they’re going to be able to rebuild it all.