News & Community

The Chatter: January 2014

Firsthand accounts of what's happening in Baltimore.


November 2, 2013
East Lombard Street

Looking through Attman’s Delicatessen’s counter window—the first stop on Baltimore Heritage’s Bakeries and Immigration tour—catering concierge Elaine Gershberg calls attention to the “coddies” stacked near the lox, bagels, all-beef hot dogs, and salami. Observant Jews don’t eat shellfish, and the codfish, Old Bay, and potato treat, Gershberg explains, “became known as the Jewish crab cake.”

“This used to be Corned Beef Row,” she tells the group gathered in Attman’s Kibbitz Room, adding Lombard Street out front used to travel one-way in the opposite direction, then got turned around by a politically connected former delicatessen owner intent on moving his store from last to first on the once well-trod thoroughfare.

“There were seven delis on this street,” she says, gesturing toward the Lloyd Street Synagogue, the country’s third-oldest standing synagogue and now home to the Jewish Museum of Maryland. “Horseradish Lane, where my family, the Tulkoff’s, made horseradish, was across the street.”

The tour continues at DiPasquale’s on Gough Street, established 100 years ago and also still family-owned, where the group orders espresso, homemade pine-nut cookies called pignoli, and fresh bread and focaccia to carry home.

“The original Esskay’s was down the street and used to run their hogs through this alley,” says Joe DiPasquale, whose grandfather arrived from the small Italian town of Corropoli to work on the railroad, but ended up opening an Italian market in heavily German Highlandtown. “No one knows why he settled here,” DiPasquale laughs.

At Hoehn’s Bakery on Conkling Street 61-year-old Sharon Hoehn Hooper welcomes everyone into the bakery founded by her grandfather in 1927—the same year the massive brick-oven hearth, nicknamed “the Duchess” and still in daily use, was embedded into a kitchen wall. Hooper began finishing and filling donuts here when she was 12.

“After high school, I’d gotten a clerical job at an insurance agency, which I liked and paid well. Then somebody quit and my father asked me to come back. He said, ‘I’ll match what they’re paying you, plus free room and board.’

“That was it,” she says with a smile. “That was as close as I got to getting out.”

Fight Club

November 16, 2013
West Bay Avenue

The  William J. Myers Pavilion is normally an indoor soccer venue, but tonight there’s a boxing ring at midfield, surrounded by cafeteria tables, folding chairs, and several hundred fans, mostly clenching cans of beer, here for what’s billed as the “Festival of Fists,” Olympic-style bouts pitting amateur Baltimore fighters against Pittsburgh pugilists.

Boxers from Fells Point’s Baltimore Boxing Club and Pennsylvania Avenue’s Upton Boxing Center win two of the first four bouts. Next, climbing between the ropes for the fifth fight, is the youngest boxer on the card—5-foot-1 Adrianne Stedding, a 12-year-old from Dundalk in her first real fight. She starts all three rounds with big overhand rights and acquits herself well, but ultimately loses the decision to her taller, 13-year-old opponent. Asked how she felt stepping into the ring, she’s honest: “Scared.”

Later, in the featured heavyweight bout, Sam Crossed—a 26-year-old bartender by day—drops Pittsburgh’s Darnell Daniel in the second round with a powerful right hook behind the ear. Crossed, a 198-pounder who knocked out his last opponent in four seconds and is nicknamed the “Vanilla Gorilla,” attracts a coterie of female fans afterward. With blue eyes, chiseled chin, cropped sideburns—and a still unblemished mug—he’s almost too handsome for a fighter, particularly one with professional aspirations. “Yeah, I’ve heard that,” he admits with an embarrassed grin. “For now, maybe.”

Sci-Fi Channel

November 23, 2013
East Baltimore Street

For the 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who, the iconic BBC television series about an adventurous alien in human form—a time-and-space-traveling good “doctor”—120 friends of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society squeeze into the old Aldine Theatre. Closed since 1954 because of the advent of TV—and home to the society since 1991—the Formstone, former fourth-run movie house makes a cozy venue for the 94-country simulcast of the “Day of the Doctor.”  Some 11,000  science-fiction volumes, stacked high in bookshelves, plus DVDs and board games, ring the viewing area—currently filled with folding chairs and a rowdy audience.

In hosting the Doctor Who event (devotees are referred to as “Whovians”), the sci-fi nonprofit—founded in 1963—naturally hopes to attract a few new members. Social media coordinator Alexander Harris highlights, for example, the group’s regional Balticon convention, the Ray Gun book club, game days, and writing workshops. And, in three weeks, the annual holiday decorating of “the Dalek”—a 6-foot-6, papier-mâché and plastic replica of an extraterrestrial cyborg race from, coincidentally, Doctor Who.

“A compromise between our Christian and Jewish members about a dozen years ago,” Dale Arnold explains. “It’s not the holidays until the Dalek is decorated.”