Footloose in Baltimore

I write this from Baltimore. Or, more precisely, from my hotel room in the “BWI business district” in Linthicum, MD. I came back to Baltimore for several reasons; for one thing, I didn’t get to do very much exploring when I was here last year, and then on top of that, last year I didn’t know I had a cousin who lives in Baltimore. (Well, I knew I had the cousin, but not that she’s in Baltimore. Anyhow…) I was planning on meeting with her this weekend, but then something came up at the last minute and she was called out of town. We did get to chat over the phone, and she has been very helpful providing local information, but it was still a disappointment not to get the chance to meet face-to-face.

However, if there is any consolation in this, it’s that I had more time to explore, and explore I did. I thought about going to the National Aquarium, and when I got there at 11 a.m. the line was 100 out the door and they were selling tickets for an “entrance window” of 1:30-2:00 pm. I’ve had experience with other museums and attractions that employ “entrance windows,” and what that means is that even when my window is open, the place is too crowded for me to enjoy it. So I walked around the harbor a bit.

I found a place for lunch that overlooked the dragon-shaped paddleboats and watched them swimming around as I waited for my food. When the meal was served, there were a few wispy clouds loitering around. When the check came, it was a full overcast. With a single thunderbolt as preamble, the sky opened up completely—it was quite a spectacle as the dragons got called back to the barn. And here they are, waiting out the weather. (That’s the National Aquarium in the background, by the way.)

After lunch, I scurried through the rain to the Baltimore World Trade Center and went up to their observation deck. Here is a photo they have on display there—the yellow dots are to help tourists identify certain landmarks:

And here was the actual view from that window:

I waited it out nearly an hour through a very impressive electrical storm before heading off to the Maryland Science Center—also very impressive, but not what really stood out, and not what I intended to write about. My cousin recommended the American Visionary Art Museum, as something that “might be interesting.” Good call.

The museum sits on the other side of the Inner Harbor from the real touristy zone, and features works from artists with no formal art training. That—as the work on display shows quite clearly—does not mean the quality of the work has diminished in any way. Many of the pieces are “found objects” arranged into fun and fascinating sculpture and mosaic—this picture shows a part of the façade above the entrance and is made of pieces of broken mirror and tile, and wraps around the building more than half a block on the other side. Also interesting were the exhibits about humor. By the bathrooms in the basement is an alcove devoted entirely to pieces with flatulence as a common theme, while another gallery features art by people with disabilities who confront their own handicaps with humor that is definitely not politically correct.

Three hours later, when they kicked me out (I guess they wanted to go home or something), here was my view of the skyline:

so I guess the freak monsoon season deluge is not unique to New Mexico after all.

I was making my way back to the Light Rail when I came across a piece of street theatre by the water. I’d let the picture tell the story, except there are a few details that might not be clear. Yes, there are three skateboards balanced on that guy’s chin, and yes, the top one is on fire. Also notice the tip bucket. I bring it up because he sure was. It seems buskers audition for spots to perform in the little amphitheatre, and rely on the tips they earn as their only payment. With several hundred people looking on, I’d say he did pretty well.

The last photograph I’ll share with you is how the act ended. I’m afraid my photographic reflexes have gotten a little rusty, I’d like to have gotten him right in the middle of the
jump, but this’ll have to do. Those are two “volunteers” from the audience, and yes—again, in case you can’t see it—that skateboard is on fire.

All in all, a very fun day. I’d like to see more of what Baltimore has to offer, but it’s off to Washington tomorrow, the Nationals await.

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