Tuesday, December 03, 2013

It’s That Time Of Year Again

Baltimore’s holiday light show extravaganza is happening now.  The switch has been flipped and the lights are on, shining bright for all to see.  Many will get into their vehicles, driving to 34th Street in Hampden, only to wait in a long line of cars just to see the most Christmasiest of places in Baltimore City. It really is something spectacular!

If you are lucky enough to live within a 2 to 3 mile radius, I encourage you to leave the car at home, put your comfortable shoes on, dress warm, and walk.  That’s right – WALK!  You’ll be glad you did because 34th Street is not the only place to see holiday lights.  The whole neighborhood goes all out, and in a very big way.  It’s obnoxious, but welcoming.

I’m happy to live close by, and I’ll eventually make my way over to see the lights a few times before the big day (that would be Christmas day), and I’m sure I’ll bring a few friends along too, hoping to bring some with me who’ve never seen this spectacle before.  I always enjoy seeing a person’s face light up because it’s, for lack of a better word, cool, and heartwarming too.

Year after year I go with my friend, BDL.  We treat it as an event, walking from our neighborhood through parks, trails and sister neighborhoods to reach our final destination – Hampden.  Of course, we always pick something hot up (tea or hot chocolate) to keep us warm, and because it just seems like the right thing to do, and it adds more meaning to this special occasion.

If you visit early enough in the evening, be sure to make a detour, stopping by the shops on the Avenue.  It’s the perfect place for Christmas shopping, and there are some wonderful stores.  A few of my favorites – In Watermelon Sugar (always at the top of my list because I like their eclectic mix of furniture and accessories for the home, bath and body), Paradiso (I’ve purchased a few antiques, and the prices are always reasonable), Mud and Metal (I adore their handmade art and crafts, and several of my women friends love their jewelry), and finally, Ma Petite Shoe (ladies you will fall in love with the shoes, and no matter who you are you can always find a little something sweet for that special person in your life).

In addition to the abundance of retail shops, you’ll find other services (realtors, salons, spas and wellness services, framing and design services, etc.).  I often visit Hampden because of their bars and eateries (13.5% Wine Bar and Grano, are my two favorites, and always outstanding).

A little history about Hampden: It began in the early 1800’s as just a cluster of workers' homes built around the flour and cotton mills that had been recently established along the Jones Falls. Hampden was the leading manufacturer of cotton duck – canvas used for tents, sailcloth, and mailbags, which continued to grow in demand through the end of World War I.

During its growth as a mill town, thousands of native-born Americans, mostly from rural Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia, moved to the Hampden area to find steady work. Unfortunately, in the 1920's Hampden's mill operations went into decline, and by the 1970's all of the mills had moved south or shut down entirely.

Today, Hampden, although named for the 17th century British Parliamentarian John Hampden, is probably most famous for its community of residents and merchants who celebrate its working class heritage, one that's a source of pride for Baltimoreans.

As for the Hampden Lights (Baltimore’s Miracle on 34th Street), every house on the 700 block of 34th Street (between Keswick Road and Chestnut Street) goes all out in decorating for the holidays with giant snow globes, lit nativity scenes, animatronic Santas and other characters, glowing candy canes and even a few Christmas trees made of hubcaps and vinyl albums (LP’s). And, of course, lights, lights, lights, lights and more lights – strung across the street from house to house and hooked to every fence, post and cornice.

Be prepared to climb steep steps to these row houses’ in order to get a closer look at the model trains and snoring Santas (yes, snoring Santas). I almost forgot, souvenirs are available, and you can always find a vendor selling cookies, candy, cocoa and hot dogs.

If you’ve misplaced your holiday spirit, need to recharge it, or are looking to find it because maybe you think you never had it to begin with (which I would find hard to believe), go to 34th Street in Hampden. If you’re a child you will love it and want more. If you’re a grown up you will find the child within, and if you are a family, what better way to celebrate the holiday season together.  Enjoy! – paerki

What would life be like without memories? It’s fair to say, there would be no life at all. Memory is our communication, reason, coherence, our action and more importantly, our feeling. Memories create our path in life, developing our psychology and leading us emotionally.

One of the best ways to create and store memories is with video. These simple effortless little snippets of time create diaries and become perpetual time capsules, which justify our walk on earth, telling all with great enthusiasm… I was here! I mattered! I lived! Please, don’t forget me.

Share your views, thoughts and opinions in the written word. Snap photographs so that your eyes can travel back in time, remembering the happy and sad moments that made you the person you were, are and became in life. But, whenever possible, capture video to enhance the memories you leave behind, so that others may pass the essence of your life on to future generations.


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"I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires." - Susan B. Anthony

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