By Michael A. Calvert
Susan and I had not seen Finley since Thanksgiving. Six months is a long time in the life of someone not yet three years old. This spring, we had visited Zach and Oliver in Minneapolis and spent a few days with Sophie and Julia in New Orleans. It was time to see Finley in Baltimore.
We arranged to arrive at BWI in mid-morning on a direct flight on Friday, May 1st. Scott was granted a day off by Kirsten, his editor at the Wall Street Journal. He notified Friends’ Day Care that Finley would stay home.
In late April, Freddie Gray, a young Black man suffered a broken spine in the course of an arrest in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood of West Baltimore. There were protests by community residents and activists like those that had been in the news with disturbing frequency in prior months. Susan and I watched press conferences that we knew Scott would be watching closely. We thought he would be present, but he may have also watched them on television.Np need to spend time going to City Hall when it’s on TV.
Scott filed stories in the Wall Street Journal as events unfolded. Freddie Gray died in the hospital. Tension mounted daily. The attention of the nation began to focus on Baltimore. As I was exercising, I heard Scott introduced by David Green on NPR’s Morning Addition. Susan and I listened as he cogently answered questions and summarized the emerging conflict in Baltimore. He was on MSNBC as a panelist during next week looking very somber and professional in a suit and tie. He also did an interview on the WSJ webcast.
On the day of the funeral, Scott was at the church before 7 am. Soon after he returned to his home office, demonstrations involving high school students began at Mondawmin Mall overwhelmed and outflanked police. North and Pennsylvania Avenues became ugly. Scott drove the short distances to see what was happening. A CVS drugstore and a liquor store were looted with no police interference. The CNN cameras captured the stream of looters coming out with armfuls of merchandise from helicopters. Later Scott drove to North Gay Street in East Baltimore where a senior center with job training and other service facilities was torched. Flames rose high in the sky.
He was assisted by WSJ reporters from Pittsburgh and Washington, but he led the daily coverage with more than one article per day. Other media organizations had many more reporters on the scene. The New York Times had more than twenty people on their byline. CNN did continuous coverage.
On Wednesday afternoon, Scott called and asked a “loaded question.” he asked if our airfare was refundable. I agreed to check and wrote back the next evening that we could get a credit and we would do whatever he thought. He soon responded “We’re ready to see you in Baltimore. ”
While we were visiting from 5/1-5/3, we watched him at work. He not only composed articles from his notes of conversations with contacts and officials he called cold, he was on the streets as close as he could get to Pennsylvania Avenue and North Avenue. A bottle broke on the pavement next to his car as he left it to get closer to the action. He said it was like a war zone – helicopters overhead with sweeping searchlights, flames from a looted CVS and other buildings and trash cans, debris on the streets, and angry residents. The police lines with their shields were shoulder to shoulder like Ceaser’s phalanxes so he could not get close.
At some point, the police withdrew and an angry rioter “swatted” him and said, “What are you going to do now that the police are gone?”
Scott said, “Hey, I’m just a reporter.” Another rioter dissuaded the guy. Some reporters had similar experiences.
We saw Scott question the City Solicitor in a playground, one neighbor who had a furniture store in the area, and another neighbor who was a former public defender. We heard about interviews with legal experts and research into socioeconomic conditions in the area where the Freddie Gray incident occurred.
Scott received a very nice letter from the US editor of the Wall Street Journal.
On Friday morning, Susan and I flew to Baltimore, took a taxi into the city, and arrived at Scott mischievous home where he promptly put us in charge of Finley in our hands and retreated into his second floor office.
Susan and I played with Sophie goes to PS new plane that we had brought her. We also played in her bedroom where she covered up with towels and imagined that she had disappeared because she could not see us. While Scott worked, Susan and I took Bentley to the bridge in the park to throw rocks in the water. All very pleasant.
On Friday evening, we ordered dinner from Souvlaki’s on the avenue in Hamden. It was a delicious Greek salad, kebobs and pita bread. After Finley went to bed, Scott Tricia, Susan and I had a long talk on the front porch about the police problems in Baltimore. Susan and I retired to the air mattress in the basement which was quite comfortable.
On Saturday morning, we went to one of the playgrounds with Finley. Scott kept his phone handy and responded to inquiries from other reporters working on the Baltimore story. He used his phone to dictate terse responses.
After Finley had a long nap, we went to another playground where Scott spotted the city solicitor. After giving some thought to how we might approach him and what he might ask, Scott very casually spoke with them and elicited extensive comments, not for attribution of coarse but good background information.
On Saturday afternoon, Scott suggested to his editor that he write a story on the “Tatian marks false arrest issue quote for the website on Sunday and subsequent print edition of the WSJ for Monday the print edition. She concurred, and organize his thoughts and made a call to a well-known defense attorney to get his perspective. Later a former policeman who teaches at Johns Hopkins called and spoke to Scott further about this issue.
We drove to Bolton Hill for dinner at bistro be, and arrived when they open at 5 PM. The restaurant was attractively decorated and we had an excellent dinner while other patrons gathered on the outside tables in the classic urban neighborhood of real “brownstone “buildings. I enjoyed the crab soup particularly.
On Sunday morning, Scott rose early and work most of the morning on his article. Later he reviewed it and submitted it. By mid afternoon it was on the WSJ’s website. Impressive!
We had a leisurely afternoon. I read on the back deck, and Findlay napped. We went to another playground where Sophie enjoyed the swings and other playground equipment.
Later after a informal dinner, Scott drove Susan and I to the airport and we arrived home late Sunday night. A good visit with Tricia and Scott.