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8:23 AM, Sep 3, 2008 tweet this
Baltimore
I got into Baltimore on time and without incident. Since my name apparently matches that of a known terrorist, I was unable to check in online for my flight, and wound up getting on the plane third to last. The flight was full, so by that time the only seats available were middle seats. I fully expected to spend the two hour flight pinned between two meaty overweight neighboring shoulders. So you can imagine my surprise when I saw a seat available between a slim unassuming businessman and a achingly beautiful young woman.

I spent the flight drifting in and out of consciousness, and finally struck up a conversation with my agreeable neighbors as the plane began its descent. As is my custom, I surprised them both with my plans for an entire week devoted to leisure travel. When we got off the plane, the extremely attractive woman and I walked over to the MARC station, and parted ways with our transportation traveling in opposite directions.

After a startlingly short time, I found that I was right in the middle of downtown Baltimore. I stepped off the train into a light but persistent drizzle. I took a look at a handy downtown wayfinder map to find that I had perhaps 2 miles to walk to get to my hotel. I looked like a drowned rat when I slogged into the hotel lobby about 30 minutes later. It was about 5:30pm, and I had over six hours before Craig and Amber's plane was expected to land. We arranged via text message to meet up in whatever place was convenient when they arrived, so I took the elevator up to the 10th floor, changed into dry clothes, and wasted little time in getting out in Baltimore.

I first wandered into a really charming place called the Dego Dame in Little Italy, just down Eastern Avenue from the hotel. Some really excellent music was playing, including a rap-remake of Cherchez La Femme. I had some Yuengling draughts and a bottle of a semi-local cheapie called National Bohemian, affectionately known as, "Natty Bo," to locals. After a couple beers and an adequate steak and cheese I decided enough time of silence had passed for me to break it. I struck up a conversation with Mark, sitting next to me. After learning of my beer-related intentions, he revealed himself to be a goldmine of local knowledge. I settled my tab and headed, per Mark's suggestion, into Fell's Point.

It was still wet outside, but the combination of all the standing and falling water, with the fading twilight lent a luster or shine to everything that made me happy that I'd traveled to be there. I approached what appeared to be a very attractive old pub called Dudas. I walked in, but it seemed to be very classy, and had a line to get in anyway, so I walked across the street to the DuClaw Brewing Company. It was totally lame. With mediocre beers named like VENOM, and THIS BEER MIGHT KILL YOU, and a striped shirt clientele, I lasted for one beer before I ran on out.

It was fully dark when I wandered into the humorously named, "EAT BERTHA'S MUSSELS,' a couple minutes later. I quickly made friends with a couple from Harrisburg whose names I don't remember, and enjoyed talking about travel and drinking beers they bought me. They left when the blues band stopped playing. i got up to use the bathroom to find that some party-girls had moved my beer and taken my seat. Not wishing to make waves, I found another seat at the bar and struck up a conversation with a local gentleman that told me, among other things, that if you want good beer in Baltimore, Max's is the place to go. I asked him where it was, and he leaned back on his barstool and pointed out the window across the street.

I said thank-you and hastened across the street to Max's. The place was already pretty busy, but I managed to get a seat at the bar as it was being vacated. I talked with my neighbor for a while, who was obsessing about his soon-to-leave-town Rusian girlfriend. He left soon after to obsess some more, and I was left by myself up at the bar. That is, alone until three lovely grad students from Johns Hopkins approached and befriended me. We took dozens of pictures, and wound up exchanging information so we could be facebook friends.

Soon after that, I got a tap on my shoulder, and it was Amber. With a mile-wide smile she gave me a big hug and called Craig over. They were both laden with all their stuff from the flight, and shuffled it all under a table as we enjoyed another couple of beers before last call was announced. Drunk by this time, i still successfully led them back to the hotel, and sleep came immediately.

We woke up at convenient intervals the next morning, getting showered and cleaned up at our leisure. We walked toward the Inner Harbor, with a stop at Panera for Craig and Amber to get their daily coffee fix. We walked up Charles Street in the increasing heat, looking for a small brewery by sister in law recommended called The Brewer's Art. When we sweatily stepped in front of its welcoming doors we found that it wouldn't be open for another three hours. So, we walked down to Eager and drank beer at the City Cafe until 4pm, when we came back to The Brewer's Art.

Their beer was excellent, but a bit of a disagreement between Craig and Amber was kind of getting in the way of our good time. I struck up a conversation with Scott and Carrie who were sitting on the other side of the bar, and enjoyed talking with them with each passing minute. When the topic of dinner came up, they started rattling off enthusiastic recommendations while Craig and Amber seemed to be working things out, to my relief.

Scott and Carrie gave me directions to a place called Martick's, and another called Thairish, and rather insisted on giving us a ride to Marticks. Wowed by their generosity, we piled into the back of their Scion and enjoyed the short, air-conditioned ride to Martick's. the building was completely unadorned. There was no sign on the building, no windows, not even an address by which we could orient ourselves. Scott held the buzz-ring doorbell in for four or five second-long notes, and for about 40 seconds, nothing happened. Then, the mailslot flipped open and someone asked us what we wanted. Scott replied with something I didn't quite catch, but was apparently good enough for the chain-secured door to then open, revlealing a skeletal old man who informed us that the restaurant was closed, and would probably not be opening ever again.

Turned adrift, we hastened with Scott and Carrie over to Thairish, where an unidentifiably Asian man named Kerrigan throws together of of the best, fastest Thai food I have ever tasted, including a crabcake dish that made me wish I lived there.

Immensely grateful for their help, advice, and generosity, we thanked Scott and Carrie, and inquired about how to get back downtown. They wouldn't hear of it. They instructed us to climb back into the car and proceeded to take us out for drinks. We went to a bar that has a trapeze in it, on which a woman apparently still swings around on occasion. Beers were poured by a woman with a flower in her dark brown hair and the prettiest smile I have ever seen. Despite the bar's merits, we soon grew tired of it, and wandered about what to do next.

They were delighted that I not only knew the movie Pecker, but was indeed rather obsessed with it. As a treat, they drove us to Hampden, where the movie was filmed. In the post-midnight darkness they pointed to various buildings among the innumerable rowhouses where various events from the movie took place. I have now seen the Pelt Room, for example.

We next went to some Hampden bar that was deemed far too trendy by Craig, Amber, and me. After one beer it was probably 1:30am, so we profusely thanked our generous hosts and jumped in a cab. I thought it was pretty funny that the cab driver didn't know how to get where we were going(the inner harbor), and I, who'd been there for about 30 hours, gave her directions to downtown Baltimore. Even so, she was still unable to do any better than Power Plant Live. It was about 1:45am, and it was shocking how the crowd was basically identical to the crowd that I've noticed at Kansas City's Power and Light District, developed by the same company.

We made the relatively short walk back to the hotel, stopping in the lobby for munchies. We gorged ourselves on disgusting finger-food before falling asleep in front of the TV. Maybe it's something that Craig and Amber are used to doing, but I go kind of crazy with a bright major appliance flashing right behind my eyelids, so once it became clear to me that they never intended to turn off the TV and go to bed, and were heavily asleep, I got up and searched for an off button on it. There wasn't one, and the remote was securely under Craig's leg or something. So I pulled the TV's plug and snored until 10:30am.

We checked out the next morning, and had a couple of hours before our train was scheduled to leave for Washington. So we used the time to wander around the Inner Harbor by the light of day. We grabbed some tapas and Sangria, and gawked around at moored boats in the National Maritime Museum, and navigated the Labor Day weekend crowd that had turned out to go to the Aquarium. We finished our time in Baltimore with a quick stop at an ATM before hailing a cab to the train station.

Baltimore was a truly excellent city. While I'm sure the city certainly has its share of problems with poverty and crime, there are abundant bright spots. The city is exceedingly beautiful. Its recent recovery has made full use of the excellent stock of buildings that would have been knocked down decades ago in the Midwest. This account took me three days to write, so don't be too expectant of my story of Washington any time soon. I write these final passages on a shaky train seat somewhere in the darkness between Charlottesville and Greensboro, so just reread this very long account a bunch of times, if you feel the need to find out more about my super-awesome trip.

1 comment

Kathleen replied:
I'm glad you found The Brewer's Art! Baltimore is a great city-- I'm happy that you enjoyed your stay!

2:43 PM, Sep 3, 2008

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