Category Archives: A Day in the Life of the Chop

The Chop is Dead… Long Live the Chop!

We’ve got a new website! This will be the last post on thebaltimorechop.wordpress.com. Thebaltimorechop.com is now live, and all of our posts, past and future can be found there. Let this post serve as the official announcement.

Today, we consider ourselves the luckiest Chop on the face of the Earth.

The new site is light years ahead of the old one stylistically, and offers a tremendous increase in functionality at all levels. Leave us a comment at the bottom of this post… we’d love to know what you think about it.

If you’re an email subscriber, we sent you an email yesterday to notify you of the change. If you’re an RSS or WordPress Dashboard subscriber, please (a) click through to look at the new site and (b) update your feeds and bookmarks accordingly. If you’re not a subscriber, then what the hell are you waiting for? We’d love to have you on board and it’s free. You can sign up on the sidebar of any post page.

We’ve done what we can as far as getting the old site to redirect, but we’ve been using custom URLs in posts for quite some time, so a full post by post redirection will be, if not impossible, more work than we care to put in at this point. If you’ve got us in your blogroll, that redirect will work. If you don’t have us in your blogroll… help a blogger out, huh?

We’ve done everything we can this week to dial in the details of the new site and make the transition as smooth as possible. We’re hoping we’ve been pretty thorough, although there are sure to be a few minor tweaks and improvements in the near future.

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The Chop Goes Car-Free

There are a couple of seldom-admitted paradoxes that we’ve been noticing more and more lately that we want to address today, and they have to do with bicycles and buses.

Most of the “bike people” we know and interact with are eager to evangelize bicycling as a lifestyle. They’re always quick to tout the health benefits, brag about not being stuck in traffic, and romanticize things like Ciclovia. Mention anything negative about cars and they’re quick to suggest that you buy a bike. Once you get them off their soapboxes though, and they start to speak frankly, they’ll let slip that drivers are rude and sometimes violent to cyclists, tires blow out far from home, riding through bad neighborhoods is scary, scrapes and bruises are far too common, you often arrive sweaty or rained-on, and bike planning leaves a lot to be desired. Who wouldn’t want to bike everywhere?

Baby you can drive my car... cause I'm done with it.

Similarly, public transit’s biggest advocates are also its biggest critics. Those who praise the virtues of leisurely reading on a bus commute or bypassing traffic on a train are also the first to scream bloody murder when a bus misses a stop or the MARC is delayed (which happens every single day).

With all this in mind, we’re starting to doubt our own sanity considering that this week we’ve decided to sell our perfectly good Chopmobile and buy a bicycle, but that is precisely what we’ve determined to do.

It’s not like we’re breaking new ground here. We’re certainly not the first person to live in Baltimore without a car. Hell, we’ve even spent two separate years carless before now, so we’ve got a pretty good idea of what it’s like to live without a car. The key difference now though is that where before our reasons for being carless were financial and circumstantial, this time we’re making an active lifestyle choice. We’re going to try being car-free as opposed to car-less.

The main challenge here is not dodging traffic coming down Saint Paul at rush hour… for us, it’s trying to ride a bicycle without becoming a “bike person.” We’ve spent the past weekend bike shopping, and some of these bike-shop people are even worse than car salesmen.

So we’re not going to become a bicycle commuter. There aren’t any critical mass events or Annapolis trail rides in our very near future. We might even buy another car in the next year or so. In the meantime though, we just want to get around a few miles’ radius of the inner city, and we want to do it on two wheels. Wish us luck.

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Don’t Break Your Neck Looking

Just a quick post today, since it’s Memorial Day and everyone is outside cooking on grills and hanging around the beach and not reading blogs anyway.

We’ve already seen a little of it, but with today being the traditional start of Summer, the women of Baltimore are all simultaneously about to head to Cloud 9 and South Moon Under to stock up on short-shorts, spaghetti straps, sundresses, and all of those other Summer staples we like… a lot.

A visual approximation of the Chop in early Summer.

It’s lucky for us that we’re still in pretty decent shape, because otherwise we’d be spending Memorial Day at Patient First getting treated for neck sprains after all the times our head’s spun round this past week. And why not? We’re single, huh? It’s been a long winter, and it’s only a few more weeks before we go back to the Middle East, which is not exactly South Beach, you know?

So we’re going to enjoy stealing glances at Summer outfits while we can. Ladies, keep the skirts short, the shoulders bare and the tan lines even. Men of Baltimore, take a tip from us; get in a few long looks- but try not to break your neck.

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The Chop’s Unlikely New Hobby

We’re not supposed to like golf. Historically, we’ve always thought the game was as dull as dishwater to watch and fit somewhere on the scale of elitist snobbery between polo and croquet. It was a great game for retirees, trust funders, and people in advertising sales, but not up our alley.

The first time we played we certainly felt like a fish out of water. It was a good thing we weren’t keeping score, because scorecards just don’t go that high. That course beat us up pretty good, and we were just glad that not many people were watching. And much like a middle-school bully, the game came back picking another fight sooner than later. A funny thing happened though; just like fighting a bully, we got our ass kicked, but we realized that it didn’t hurt that bad after all. We even got in a few nice shots, and it felt pretty good. We’re at the point now where we’re ready to start keeping our lunch money in our pocket when we walk to school.

Of course, as Sam Snead illustrates, golf is also an excellent excuse to stay well-dressed.

In a lot of ways, golf is a pretty good fit for us. We’ve got plenty of leisure time to spare, on weekday mornings and whatnot, and have long been searching for some form of exercise that didn’t feel so goddamn much like working out. After all, recreation isn’t supposed to be work. We used our incredible thrifting skills to acquire a decent full set of irons, some woods that are actually made of wood, and a few other clubs to cobble together into a pretty nice bag for just under $40. With this last barrier to entry broken, we’re ready to get hacking at the driving ranges and city parks.

Now that we’re actually playing, we’re surprised to learn that the things we like about playing golf are many of the same things we like about watching baseball. We’d never realized before how much of an escape a round of golf provides. Just like entering a baseball stadium, to step onto a golf course is to enter a sharply defined environ, which is exclusive of everything outside the fence. It should matter little to the baseball fan whether he finds himself in the bleachers at Wrigley or at the Yard. We’ve always felt that once you’re inside a baseball stadium, the city outside is irrelevant. It may as well cease to exist. So it is with a golf course. We suspect it matters little whether you’re at the beaches in South Carolina or the Hills of Arizona, or even right here in Baltimore staring out at the downtown skyline. It still comes down to you and your ball and grass and trees.

Another part of that escape is the commitment of time required to play a round. We’ve always loved that baseball is the only major sport not played on a clock. It’s right and fitting that we should play our games until they’re finished, and not until some clock tells us to stop. With golf, as with a trip to the ballpark, you’ve got to block out a good chunk of time. You say “This is what I’m doing now. This and nothing else but this. Everything else will wait.” As soon as you begin, you can feel free to take off your watch. You won’t be needing it.

And a funny thing can happen when you go without your watch like that. After a while, the games blend together. Each ballgame we watch is not so much an individual game, as a part of the one big game we’ve been watching since we were a kid. We could care less how many hits Brian Roberts can rack up in nine innings; we’re watching his career. Every day at the ballpark is merely a continuation of the last. It’s impossible to make a trip to Camden Yards, or to any other ballpark for that matter, without thinking of all the other games we’ve seen, and all the people we’ve seen them with.

So it is with golf, and the idea of the ‘replay.’ The round only ends if you want it to. If you finish 18 and want to go around again, you do. All the rounds you’ve played before are carried with you, right there in your bag, and you’re never really finished unless and until you ultimately find the game so frustrating that you throw your clubs into the sea, walk off the course and take up bowling instead.

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The Chop at the Pawn Shop

Baltimore, more than most cities, has always embraced thrift in all its forms. Whether it’s the local Goodwill, the flea market, church basement sale, consignment shops or just finding things on the street, Charm City natives are always keen to save a buck. As anyone who’s saved more than a couple of bucks will tell you, the key to scoring great finds on non-new goods is to keep a constant eye out. Something like the perfect cocktail shaker isn’t going to just sit on the shelf and wait for you to buy it. You’ve got to wait for it, and be ready to snatch it up when it appears.

Of course Joe is honest. It says so right on the building.

This is why we’re surprised that more of our friends aren’t in the habit of making regular visits to the pawn shop.

The Chop will take any chance we can get to browse around in a pawn shop, and with brass balls hanging all over the city, that’s no shortage of chances. After all, the pawn shop is just another form of thrift. It may even be the best form of thrift there is, because unlike a Salvation Army or an endless flea market, there’s not a lot of true junk to sift through in a pawn shop. Most everything on display is in the store because the pawnbroker judged it to have some objective value.

After a while, you get a good idea of the typical pawn shop inventory. If you’re in search of a watch (or any other sort of jewelry) a guitar, power tools, or an extra TV for that guest bedroom, you can realize some significant savings buying from a pawn.

We’re thinking of buying a sawzall right now, for instance. Of course, we’re no Bob Vila or anything, just a simple homeowner. We’re not going to use the thing more than twice a year, so saving half of the Home Depot price tag by scoring one used is a no brainer. While we’re there, we might even pick up a few DVD’s (3 for $10 is not unusual) and maybe even some choice CD’s from 1993.

The next time you’re in a neighborhood with a pawn shop, (which is probably right now) go ahead and pop in for a look around. Sure, it can be a little sketchy sometimes, with the buzzer on the door and the gun stashed just out of sight under the counter. It can even be morbid and depressing, seeing the rings of so many broken engagements and heirlooms hocked to make the rent, but you’re a Baltimorean… you should be used to all that by now.

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Today is Mothers’ Day

We’d like to wish Mama Chop and mom’s everywhere a happy Mother’s Day today. Treat your mom right today because if you don’t, well…

If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.

So let's keep mama happy.

Be sure to do something nice for mom. Get her a card or a nice gift. You might even take her to brunch or buy her some flowers.

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The Chop Goes Golfing

The Chop’s cousin is getting married soon. Thankfully, the best man actually followed our sage advice on How to Plan a Proper Bachelor Party, and Cousin Chop’s bachelor party today will be a progressive affair. We’ll be tearing up the Canton/Fell’s corridor later tonight, but the party actually starts at the ungodly hour of 9 am with a tee time at Greystone. We’ve never played golf before, so we’ll see how this goes. We’re an ace at Wii golf, so in our mind’s eye it’ll look something like this:

In reality though, it’ll probably look more like this:

Oh well. If we’re that bad, we can always sprain our ankle and ride the drinks cart to the 19th hole.

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Today is Easter

If you’re looking for us today, we’ll be out visiting family. If you’re looking for us tomorrow, we’ll be making the rounds of grocery and convenience stores buying up Mary Sue Easter Eggs at a discount.

Happy Easter.

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The HGTV Drinking Game

Ever since we got into the market to buy our first home, we’ve been watching a lot of HGTV. Whether you’re looking for design and decor ideas for your own house, or just want to gawk at the way other people are living, Home and Garden’s got something for you.

We especially like to watch on weekend days, which is prime time for domestic projects and a time when there’s typically very little else on the air worth watching. Of course, weekend days are also the best time for brunch, and it’s this happy coincidence that led us to invent the HGTV drinking game.

The Chop's favorite HGTV show? The Unsellables, of course.

HGTV features dozens of different shows, but they all basically fall into one of three categories; interior design makeovers, buying and selling, and total renovation. As you’d imagine, there’s plenty of crossover among those categories, so you can still play the game effectively whether you’re watching Color Splash, Bath Crashers, or Property Virgins.

Since we’re talking about brunch and daylight here, it’s important to note that this game is best played with a Bloody Mary, French 75, Madras, or similar cocktail. No Jameson shots or canned beer shotgunning here.

Take one sip when you hear the words:

  • backsplash
  • lifestyle
  • entertaining
  • neutral
  • ugly
  • green
  • distressed
  • repurposed
  • walk away from
  • mid-century
  • counter space
  • stainless steel
  • surprise
  • granite
  • short sale

Take two sips if:

  • the homeowner overpaid during the boom
  • anyone complains about anything in relation to ‘double sinks’ or ‘a true master suite’
  • a homeowner is hit with a surprise added expense during a renovation
  • the room makeover is < $50 under budget
  • anyone demands an open floor plan
  • you spot anything from ikea
  • someone uses a dining room as anything other than a dining room
  • the show is filmed in Canada
  • the homeowner has a stupid hobby
  • anyone makes a cheap headboard from scratch

Three sips if:

  • anyone has to design around a big screen TV.
  • someone’s parents are paying part of their rent/mortgage
  • there’s a marriage proposal involved in the episode
  • anyone thinks they’re in a ‘bad area’ or ‘dangerous neighborhood’
  • a property is priced over $1,000,000

Drain your drink if:

  • the show is filmed in Baltimore
  • a real estate transaction falls through at the end of the show
  • someone sustains a fairly serious injury during filming
  • someone cries for any reason

These are just a few suggestions. You can add more of your own, or even subtract a few if things get out of hand. Ideally, you shouldn’t be passed out by mid-afternoon, but should be just buzzed enough to say “Why yes, I do need to go to Pier 1 and buy a creepy glass head like right now! That’s exactly what I need in my life.

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God Save the Queen!

Today is Saint Patrick’s day, Baltimore. It’s that most drunk and sloppy of meaningless phony holidays which are completely insignificant and thoroughly unenjoyable. We’re already on record as being against drinking holidays and the rabble they produce as a matter of principle, and all of this green and phony-baloney Irish crap doesn’t sway our opinion in the least. Throughout history the Irish have shown themselves to be little more than illiterate Papist subsistence farmers, no better than, say, Guatemala when you really think about it. Instead of ‘Kiss me, I’m Irish,’ we prefer ‘Kiss my ass, I’m American!’

Rather than swill green beer and play at being some sort of drunken foolish hooligan, we’re intending to mark today in the manner we think most proper… a celebration of all things English.

The Chop celebrates England, in all her glory.

With the closing of Canton’s Tyson’s Tavern last Fall, the area’s base of proper English establishments was reduced by a third. Fortunately, two British outposts remain in Central Maryland as a testament to and a reminder of the greatness of the English nation.

If you’re south of the city, Union Jack’s in Columbia is about as British as it gets this side of the Atlantic. We’ve never been, but the photos on their site remind us instantly of some of the pubs we saw in the high street on our trip to Southampton. With a full menu, some 60 beers, and four distinct spaces, there’s little reason to leave once you’re settled in.

If Howard County is a stretch though, you can still get your full fix of all things Anglo at Brighton’s. Hidden away on the second floor of Light Street’s Intercontinental Hotel, Brighton’s is something of an ironic contrast when compared with Union Jack’s. Although it’s in the heart of the city, the ambiance here is decidedly more upscale with something of a country feel to it. It wouldn’t take much suspension of disbelief to arrive around tea time and swear that you’d walked into a country estate, just after the hunt. It also offer’s close proximity to one of the city’s very best bars, the Explorers Lounge. The martinis here may be damn close to $20, but it’s a guaranteed lock that you’ll be able to drink one in peace without encountering a single one of the tossers and punters about in Federal Hill.

If you’re not as flush as all that though, you can still celebrate the same way we plan to: by donning our Arsenal jersey and spinning a Billy Bragg record while whipping up a vegan shepherd’s pie or a bread pudding, and settling into it with a James Bond flick and a pukka dry martini.

(We’ll keep admiring the English right up until about the Fourth of July, at which time of course we’ll conveniently remember our own Yankee superiority, which bows to no one and takes pride in being a citizen, not a subject.)

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