Market for drug treatment remains strong

This Just In

March 15, 2002|By Dan Rodricks

A MAN NAMED Robert pulled up next to me on a courthouse bench to tell how he got into a fight with a guy in front of Lexington Market and wound up at Central Booking and, while going through intake, a surly corrections officer threw away Robert's weekend, take-home supply of methadone.

I was sympathetic about the methadone. I don't know why anyone would deprive a recovering heroin addict of that medication, even while incarcerated. We wouldn't deprive him of insulin if he were a diabetic, would we?

But, that point aside, as I listened to more of Robert's story, I found my sympathy waning. After his brief stint in jail, where did he go? He went back to Lexington Market. What did he find there? More trouble. He found "hoppers who wanted to beat me up," drug addicts who wanted to exact revenge for Robert's role in the earlier fisticuffs.

As I listened to Robert tell the story -- the next part was about how he got a knife and stuck it in his gym bag for protection and some teen-age fink saw him and reported the concealed weapon to police -- my mind wandered to the gorgeous fresh fish display at Faidley's.

And the fried clams and steamed shrimp at the Crab Pot.

And the stacks of fried chicken and western fries.

And the incredible array of Asian food at too many stalls to mention, and the mounds of produce and cold fruit salad. I thought of the devil's-food cake at Muhly's, and the perfectly roasted turkeys inside glass cases.

I thought of all that's great and good about Lexington Market, and how it's a shame that guys like Robert cannot visit the place without incident. Or find a good book and go read it in a park somewhere. Or find a job that would occupy more of their time. Or, at the very least, buy a lunch -- say, the $2.80 lo mein and teriyaki chicken special I found in the Lexington Market arcade the other day -- and take it elsewhere.

Sigh.

All easier said.

Drug addicts rarely manage to seek, find and keep steady employment. The ones who get into treatment find the passage from addiction to recovery difficult, with jobs hard to secure, friends from the old life clinging, and relapse always a threat. Until the passage to new life is complete, and recovering addicts find work and adequate housing, a lot of the old hoppers are limited to roaming the city streets, and seeing way too much of each other. Bad things happen as a result, and men such as Robert, who keep returning to old haunts and keep messing up, make it harder for the rest of us to enjoy certain places, such as Lexington Market.

Still, Robert's sordid story aside, things are a lot better around the market than they were just a few years ago -- just as it's also true that thousands more Baltimoreans are getting treatment for drug addiction. There is a connection. There is hope.

I keep returning to this theme -- clean up the drug addiction and you save the city -- but there's nothing, day by day in Baltimore, that seems more true or more constant.

As for Robert, I offer my consolation on what happened to your take-homes. But, please, for your own sake, and the sake of all who hold Baltimore dear, get a new life.

The once and future center

While heavy-equipment crews work in and around the Hippodrome Theater, you can stand at the nearby bus stop on Eutaw Street and see on the theater's recently exposed southern wall the pentimento of bygone Baltimore: "Hippodrome Theatre Popular Matinees Only 10 cents Continuous offerings 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily."

As you stand there, you can also see, a block or so east, the Wyndham Hotel and, a block west, the University of Maryland School of Law and, a couple blocks north, Lexington Market and, looking south, Camden Yards. It's when you stand there and comprehend the centrality of the old theater to all these amenities that the city's west-side redevelopment plan starts to make sense. It's like the faded sign on the Hippodrome's wall -- you have to look hard to see it, but it's there.

Easy money

Members of the General Assembly are poised to get a big pay raise -- 38 percent over the next four years -- that they didn't really have to ask for, advocate or even approve with a vote. Imagine: a raise that required no pathetic groveling before your immediate supervisor. And during tight economic times. This one is a real head-scratcher.

Here's how Greg Glessner, one of our favorite former Fells Point bartenders, sees it:

"You and I, and anyone else who feels a little squeamish about going to their boss to ask for a raise, pitch in a few bucks to hire a committee to determine that we are in need of a substantial raise. Then, we slip a little contract into our personnel file that says we automatically get the raise on March 15, 2002 -- unless someone yells, `No, you shall definitely not get a raise!' while standing on a three-legged chair, with a Bible in one hand and Angelo's `world's largest pizza slice' in the other. We don't even have to go through the nonsense of actually asking for a raise."

Greg has it about right.

Nice work if you can get it.

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