Capitalists, pols make most of day

Neighborhoods overflow with hustle, bustle

Preakness Stakes

May 20, 2007|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,Sun reporter

A plastic cup of homemade lemonade, with floating slices of strawberries, for $2.

Sixty bucks to park. Extra for that big-body truck. Bathroom break? Five dollars. Can't bear to schlep that heavy cooler? Have somebody roll it for $20.

On Preakness Day, outside the sprawling Pimlico Race Course in Northwest Baltimore, it seems there is something for sale on every block.

Inside the track, it's $100 bets on Curlin and Hard Spun. Outside, it's $200 for the right to sell Italian sausages and ribs on a stranger's lawn. Everybody's wheeling and dealing. Most everybody has a hustle.

Need a teeny, faux Prada purse? Roland Seymour, 52, who normally hawks his wares on the city's east side, has one for you.

"Restroom! You ain't got to wait in line," Mo Williams, 23, seated in a plastic chair, shouts as people stream by. "The house with the red awnings," she says. By noon, she opens her left hand to show $60 worth of crumpled bills.

Then there are those other folks in the neighborhood who just can't be bothered with all the fuss. There is, after all, actual work involved in all this moneymaking. Can anybody escape this exercise in capitalism?

"I don't like charging for parking," says Steven Paulsen, 58, as he surveys his block, a quiet street tucked behind Northern Parkway across from the track. He points to two white vans. Naval Academy guys, he says, sounding almost proud they found a spot outside his house.

"I'm about to go baby-sit my grandkids in Baltimore County," says Paulsen. "I'm waiting for a nice-looking car to come down, and I'll give 'em my spot."

Louis Steinwedel, a lawyer, couldn't be bothered either. "They need doing," he says, as he digs into the unruly bushes outside his yellow clapboard house with a hedge cutter. "I've been promising myself to do this."

He let a friend of his, up from Virginia to watch the race, park in his driveway. No charge, of course. Steinwedel moved his Mercedes to the back to make room. Steinwedel's not going anywhere. "I have paperwork to do later," he says.

Next door, one neighbor has gone to work, Steinwedel says. Another out food shopping. Most people in the neighborhood know that if you want to go anywhere on Preakness Day, go early to avoid the traffic.

Across the street, Lillian Cohen, 82, surveys the young boys pushing their shopping carts down the street, pouncing on anybody with the least bit of stuff to carry.

Save-A-Lot. Marshalls. Ames. Caldor. Pathmark. Kmart. National Wholesale Liquidators. Food King.

Everywhere there are shopping carts rumbling along the pavement.

"I watch to make sure no cars get banged up," Cohen says, clutching her cordless telephone and keeping an eye on her Cadillac from the confines of her well-manicured backyard. Her husband, Jerome, 85, stands nearby, just listening.

"I've lived here 63 years, and I think I've been to the Preakness three times," Lillian Cohen says. "I think watching all the action on the street is better than the Preakness."

Does she charge for parking? "Oh, no!" Cohen replies, taken aback. "This is a public street."

Up the block, Ronnie Hunter is breathing hard. He's on his bike, on his way to the store.

Some hulking sport utility vehicle parked on the street right in front of his driveway, in the 5600 block of Merville Ave. Now he's blocked in.

"My wife and I planned on staying in the house on Preakness Day anyways," Hunter, 59, says.

He understands. People are excited, in a hurry. He's not complaining. Plus, the SUV has out-of-state plates.

Hunter still needs his cigarettes, though: Kools regular, softpack.

"That's so bad, isn't it?" Hunter says, laughing at himself, before pedaling off to the Exxon station up the street. "If anything, that should make me stop smoking, right?"

Dorothy Kearney, 73, is preventing anyone from blocking her driveway, although her Toyota Camry is on the street. Just in front of her car, a forest green Rubbermaid wastebasket and a lawn chair prevent anyone from parking.

"The kids sell the spots, and they don't even live here," Kearney says, shaking her head. "I have to stay home on Preakness Day. Keep an eye on your property."

But traditions are traditions.

Tectra Holliday, 31, wasn't about to let her little white house, within sight of the track's gates, go to waste. She posted ads on the craigslist Web site to rent parking spaces. "It's a good grip of money for a day's work," she says.

On a day when the sun beat down, Celeste Clark was ready, selling umbrella hats.

"We're not embarrassed today," Clark says, wearing the rainbow-colored headgear, priced at $5. "Any other day, I'd be embarrassed."

Other moneymakers travel from farther away. Jay Schultz, 72, comes down on Preakness Day every year from Philadelphia to sell giant pretzels.

An impatient customer interjects.

"Necklace. Real quick. I'm in a hurry," a spiky-haired young man demands, holding a $20 bill. Schultz places the black- and yellow-flowered lei around his neck. The man takes his change and turns on his heels.

"Have a wonderful day!" Schultz calls out.

The man walks back and hands Schultz a $5 bill.

nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

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