The flower man, Nasir al Baltyna, who quietly made friends in the night among those who did or didn’t buy his dark red roses, was found dead at 55 of a heart attack after midnight, June 22, in his apartment on Aliceanna St.
A pair of neighbors, among the many that he greeted as “my friend,” then sold his last stash of flowers in a circuit of the bars and set up a message-board shrine at his Hangout, the Daily Grind—quickly collecting the more than $1,000 needed to return him to his native Irbid, Jordan. He came here almost 20 years ago.
A friend, also from Irbid, Aiman al Shalabi, said Nasir had gone home occasionally in the past and indeed had a wife and five children there. He was part of a ‘Point immigrant subculture worth considering as this nation again considers its receptivity of foreigners.
Aiman recounted how Nasir, initially uncomfortable in English, made his way selling roses rather than as an accountant, for which he was trained in his homeland.
“He made enough to get by,” Aiman said.
The two became friends 14 years ago when Aiman arrived from initial years in Chicago—”too big and too cold.” Aiman owns a pizza parlor and lives in Dundalk, but comes daily to the Grind. It plans a plaque to Nasir in the rear garden, beside a rose bush.
Nasir visited the Grind three times a day.
“He was the best customer we had,” said Lindsey Shanklin.
She manages the Grind for three Patel brothers, Indians who, having bought it, successfully set out to restore “Daily” to its long-running name.
The remembrances of Nasir at the Grind were touching.
Herman Heyn, another fixture in the Square for 25 years, with his telescope on weekend nights, left a card lamenting the loss of a colleague.
Aiman told of sitting outside the Grind with Nasir one day. As a young couple approached, their small daughter ran to embrace Nasir, and the couple greeted him warmly, too.
“That couple got married because of Nasir’s roses,” said Aiman. “It was one of his favorite stories. He had seen the fellow at the end of a bar, looking at her at the other end. Nasir said, ‘Here, give her a rose,’ and he did. It worked.”
This put the eventual bride among women to whom he would make gifts of roses thereafter and greet with, “Honey, how are you?”
Aiman also recounted a saloon scene in which a drunk who robbed Nasir of roses was punched out by the bartender and tossed into the street.
Nasir was found by a countryman who shared his apartment and sold roses, too. He also has returned to Jordan. Aiman said he knows no other Jordanians in Fell’s Point now, but more than a dozen live in Greektown.
Another who lamented the loss of Nasir was his barber, Don Julio Rodriguez. He came here 39 years ago from Puerto rico. His shop at 1803 Eastern Ave. has no name, unless it be “Open,” but it serves all below the blow-dried set.
“I cut his hair last week,” Rodriguez said of Nasir. “He was my friend.”
This story and photo first appeared in the July 14 issue of “The Fell’s Pointer,” which is edited by Mr. Diuguid.
by Lewis Diuguid
SPECIAL TO THE BALTIMORE GUIDE