Tag Archives: Best of Baltimore

Chop Style: Avoiding the Freshman Sydrome

First things first… The first thing is that we’re happy to announce that this blog was recognized yesterday by the City Paper in their annual Best of Baltimore issue as being Baltimore’s Best Local Blog. The BoB award carries a lot of weight in this town, and most of your finer local establishments display one on their walls from some year or another, so we’re excited to have one of our own to put in the office. We’re looking forward to spending long hours staring at it while we’re lazy and distracted and saying to ourselves “What the fuck are we going to write about today?” which is how blogs are made.

We also want to thank the CP staff for paying enough attention to remember that we are a blog. If we were handing out advice to a beginning blogger, it would not be “don’t write anything at all for 3 months” which is exactly what we’ve done up until yesterday. It means that much more to us for having been offline these 90 days.

A visual approximation of the Chop being the best.

So like we said, we get a little award suitable for framing. But the real prize when you win one of these is that you score an invite to the annual Best of Baltimore party, and get to hobnob and schmooze and glad-hand with the other winners, and of course, be privy to an open bar.

So we went there yesterday, and we did that. We even managed to get a date for the event. And without saying too much about it, we didn’t look at it as one of these “Oh I just need somebody to go with so let’s just go and hang out or whatever” dates. It was more like one of these “She seems pretty awesome and I really want this to go well and I’m kind of nervous about it and I still sort of can’t believe she said yes.” kind of dates. The best kind.

Which brings us to the main idea of this post. For a big date, or any type of big event whether it’s a job interview, a holiday, a wedding or what have you, the temptation is always there to go shopping beforehand and find something new to wear. It’s a temptation we usually resist, and we recommend the rest of you do the same.

Think about the beginning of high school. The first day of ninth grade is a big fucking deal for most kids. You’re out of middle school, and thrown in with a lot of older kids. You may be meeting kids from other middle schools, taking new classes, dating for real for the first time, and you’re trying you’re level best just to fit in, let alone cut a great figure down the hallways.

Maybe it’s different for girls, but for most of us boys your mom dragged you to the mall to hit the back to school sales and made you try on jeans and shirts for hours on end, wouldn’t let you get any of the things that you really wanted, or anything that wasn’t on sale, or anything that couldn’t double as church clothes- in short, anything good. So the first day of school rolls around and now that the clothes are bought you actually have to wear them, and in addition to all the hassles and stresses and pressures of starting high school, you’re constantly thinking “Do these jeans look like Dad jeans? Do these look like floppy clown shoes? Does this shirt make me look like a doofus?” And you wish you’d never gone shopping at all.

We’ve got it better as adults. Most of us have a much improved sense of style and a better sense of self than we did at 14, and we’re free to buy and wear what we will without any help from Mom. All the same, the Freshman Syndrome still persists.

Sure, those pants look great, but do they look great on you? That sweater is nice enough to be an investment piece, but will it itch your neck until you wash it a few times? New shoes are great to have, but they’re even better after you’ve broken them in and they’re not stiff and unforgiving. At the end of the day, looking good is mostly about confidence, and it’s hard to be very confident in something you’ve seen only once in a store mirror. The clothes that really inspire confidence are the ones that we know fit the best; that we’ve seen in our own mirrors, that we’ve been photographed in, that have generated plenty of compliments in the past. Better than new clothes are your favorite clothes.

Having a closet full of clothes that we can count on is one of the best things about being a bona fide adult. In our case, we’re always prepared for anything from a wedding to a funeral to a formal event, or even a date… no trip to the mall required.

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A Side By Side Comparison of Baltimore Roofers

Most of you may remember that there was a torrential rain about two weeks ago. It rained hard for 30 hours straight. It was the sort of Baltimore downpour where Thames Street threatens to flood, gutters back up with Utz bags and hair weaves, and broken umbrellas are forsaken all over city streets.

The Chop was dismayed during this rain when a teeny-tiny spot on our bedroom ceiling increased in size several times over. It was clear that water was coming in somehow. Not much of it, but better to stay on top of these things early. We were going to have to call a roofer.

Abell Row House by local artist Robert McClintock.

Now, we’re still relatively new at this home-ownership business. We haven’t got a lot of experience in hiring contractors, so we thought we’d seek out the best we could find. In their best of 2010 issue, Baltimore Magazine printed a ‘throwdown’ among two area roofing contractors, and declared Fick Brothers the best roofer in the city.

So we called Fick Brothers. The lady who answered the phone (a secretary? a receptionist? Who else would answer a phone?) wouldn’t or couldn’t take our appointment for an estimate. She insisted that so-and-so would call us right back, which she did… more than two hours later. By that time, we had already set up an appointment with another company.

The runner up in the Baltimore Magazine article was Brothers Services. They were at least capable of taking an appointment, but that’s about all they were good for.

Now, the Chophouse is a rowhouse of the type illustrated in the picture. There is a small bit of roofing over the bay windows on the second floor, then a parapet wall, then behind that begins the main roof. The stain on our ceiling is near the bedroom windows, and it’s clear that the leak is not in the main roof, but somewhere near the front.

On the appointed day, Brothers showed up two hours late. When someone did arrive, it was a kid who couldn’t have been more than 22, tops. The card he handed us said “assistant manager.” We were pretty dubious about this at first. Even if this kid was totally competent at actual roofing work, he was certainly not a professional estimator. When we call on a company that is so well regarded, we’re calling for someone with many years, or decades of experience.

The kid went up the ladder, and when he came down our suspicions were confirmed. He pointed out 3 areas where water could be coming in, and recommended tearing out and replacing the entire section of roofing above the windows. And this was at a minimum. Then he started in with the “Well, we have an in-house mason we could call for that wall and blah blah blah…” He couldn’t even give us a proper estimate, but had to “talk to his boss” and said he’d email it to us. We suspected he was trying to get us over a barrel, and when the estimate came in the next day it was $2184.

Thanks to social media, word of mouth travels a hell of a lot faster than it used to. We put word out that we were looking for an honest roofer, and by the end of the day a friend came through and recommended Horizon Roofing. He said that Ken (the boss) had come out to his rowhouse and assessed a problem, and ended up telling him how to fix it himself. That was all we needed to hear.

When Ken came out for an estimate, he wasn’t two hours late but actually two days early. We were running out the door just as he arrived, but he left a detailed estimate in the mailbox that highlighted all the same areas over the windows, but his repair recommendations came to a mere $395. With a free servicing if it should leak again within 30 days.

We know who we’re about to hire, and we’re sure we’ll be writing Ken a thank you note in the very near future.

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