Once more I am happy to begin this post with a shout-out, this time to my friend Jess who (along with her fiancee Paul) hosted me for two splendiferous days in their suburban Baltimore apartment. Jess is a blogger herself, but unlike me she actually knows what she’s doing and offers well written, aesthetically pleasing content. Her blog The Dissociated Press focuses on mental illness and is intensely raw and honest. Give it a gander!
Prior to my arrival here, my entire mental image of Baltimore came from the acclaimed HBO series The Wire (which I’ve maintained for years is a show every American, particularly white Americans, must watch). The Wire is a show about drug-related crime and portrays Baltimore as a city hopelessly afflicted with poverty, addiction, violence and institutional ineptitude.
This was not the Baltimore I saw in the 48 hours or so I visited. Instead my friends shuttled me around to what they admitted were the most hipstery, tourist-friendly parts of the city. That was fine with me. There’s an awful lot to enjoy about B-more, starting with the architecture. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that a 300-year-old port city with a long history of immigration, renovation and rebuilding should have some of the most diverse architecture in the country, but the Baltimore skyline is truly a feast for the eyes. Even little things like the gritty 1930s brick tenements and the old style cobblestone streets of Fells Point managed to charm me. I just couldn’t get over how organically gorgeous this city was.
My photos don’t nearly do it justice, but I’m going to throw these up there regardless:
We gorged ourselves on a delicious breakfast and tooled around the Mount Vernon neighborhood, so named because it’s home to this statue, commenced in 1815; one of the first statues dedicated specifically to George Washington..
The Mount Vernon neighborhood is also home to these four statues, located in four corners surrounding Washington:
War. Peace. Order. Force. We weren’t entirely sure how each statue represented its intended subject but they’re intriguing nonetheless. No doubt they date from a time when the city wanted to present itself as a paragon of classical dignity.
By contrast, here’s another themed aesthetic design we stumbled into near the Inner Harbor:
Get it? Homonyms! There were a few dozen of these and they’re certainly amusing (especially for lit nerds) but one wonders how such a thing comes into existence. Did the city specifically seek out something to spice up an obscure brick walkway in the most touristy part of town? Or did some unsung city council creative, bursting with energy and ambition, forcibly impose their idea upon a collection of perplexed but ultimately acquiescent planners? Once again I suspect the story behind the art is more compelling than the art itself.
And finally, a lot of the best art is accidental. Take this, for instance:
A church mission next to a lingerie/adult entertainment store. Beautiful, beautiful juxtaposition. It would be a bit of a stretch to call it Baltimore, or America, in a nutshell, but somewhat revealing nonetheless.
I relished the opportunity to walk along the Inner Harbor, to gaze at the docked historical ships and watch the couples paddling around in Paddle Dragons, these silly plastic paddle boats you can rent. It’s going to be the last taste of the ocean I get for a long time. Bittersweet though it may be, I have to turn back West, I have to start making my way home. As much as I’ve enjoyed the vagabond lifestyle, I catch myself fantasizing about order, consistency, waking up in the same bed 3 days in a row, and shaving. I almost feel embarrassed by such sentiments, but they’re there. And even if somehow I could take the stress of several more weeks of this I know for sure my Chevy and my bank account couldn’t.
I’m starting to wonder what else I can do on this Tour. What experience have I not tried? I’ve been to all manner of museums, cafes, bars, hiking trails and historical sites, and while I love every minute of it it’s beginning to feel somehow repetitive. What else is there? Should I hit up a go-kart track? Bungee jump off a bridge? Snort adderall off of a stripper?
Shit, maybe I’ll even try one of those damn escape rooms.