Thursday, March 13, 2014

To the Inner Harbor, Through the City Heart, and Back Home: My Unlikely Baltimore Day Visit

The USS Constellation frigate, nearby the United States lightship Chesapeake. and the Baltimore World Trade Center at the Inner Harbor, Baltimore, Md., 1:43 March 12, 2014.

The Baltimore World Trade Center is said to be the tallest pentagonal structure in the world. It has an observation deck near the top. I haven't been up there in about 20 years.

The pictures below in this entry are posted chronologically although they lead the text narrative considerably. Also, I composed most of this Wednesday evening but I'm posting it on Thursday around 1AM.)

*******

I'm back from Baltimore.

The good news is that my mom is fine. The bad news is that the surgery was postponed due to a medication complication until next Tuesday, and I did not know this until my 2-1/2 hour trek was over and I got to the hospital. Remember I was going there as a surprise visit. However, I was not told of this delay except by email, which I cannot access except when at a computer since I don't have a Smartphone or an i-Whatevah.

Welcome to Baltimore sign at the top of some old steps, courtesy Amtrak, at the Pennsylvania ("Penn") Station, Baltimore, Md., 11:25AM March 12, 2014.

Penn Station is surprisingly small for a Northeast Corridor Amtrak mainline big city train station.

*******

I guess I should have called ahead three years ago early this morning to the Edgar Allan Poe House MedStar Harbor Hospital to see if it was open still scheduled.

"Like, oh my Gawd! You don't even, like, have a Smahtphone. And you take a public bus! Like, what-evah!"

*******

As a result, my planned trip to Harbor Hospital to visit my mom instead turned into a roughly five-mile walk from the hospital back to Penn Station mostly via Charles Street past the Inner Harbor and across downtown Baltimore. I did this in lieu of waiting for the No. 64 northbound outside the hospital.

The 1800 block of S. Charles Street, Baltimore, Md., 12:52PM March 12, 2014. Baltimore row houses with their little stoops are legendary.

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To clarify, I took the #64 bus / South Baltimore Proletariat and Pimp-My-Ghetto Ride Line from outside Penn Station to the hospital but then walked back. About that ride, there were two bus drivers -- there being one of those ubiquitous bus driver changes as some random point in the ride. I actually called MTA and complained about the first bus driver. He was a youngish, slender black guy who when I alighted and asked if the bus indeed went to Harbor Hospital did not even look at me, must less respond. He then mumbled when I asked about the $3.50 all-day pass I had heard about.

I didn't press the issue with him but just sat down.

The Rowan Tree Tavern at the corner of S. Charles and E. Heath Streets, Baltimore, Md., 12:54PM March 12, 2014.

The tavern had an HR equality flag flying along with some others, and its Google map image information indicate it is "gay-friendly." I guess this Federal Hill neighborhood really has changed.

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Now I realize these bus drivers deal with ALL KINDS of human social wreckage and rudeness all day long, but they also have well-paying jobs with good benefits in a time when that is NOT the norm, and part of their job description is interacting with the public in a way that involves basic courtesy and, well, decency. Behaving like that is just not acceptable, not to me.

The exterior of Delia Foley's Pub at the corner of S. Charles and E. Fort Avenue, Baltimore, Md., 12:58PM March 12, 2014.

Delia?

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The young lady I spoke to on the MTA line certainly seemed to agree, and she took the info and said she would forward it.

If that kind of job is going to turn you into an emotionless sociopath or WHATEVER that is, then maybe you shouldn't have that job. Anyway, it was an informal complaint to be passed along rather than a "formal" one since it did not rise to that level.

The 1200 block of S. Charles Street outside of Ropewalk Tavern in the Federal Hill section of Baltimore, Md., 1:01PM March 12, 2014.

As you can see, Federal Hill is a rather bustling and vibrant place.

******

So I finally made it to the hospital. It was there on the second floor that I found out the procedure had been cancelled. I immediately left and headed back toward downtown Baltimore (a distance of about 3 ) and thence to Penn Station (another 1-1/2 to 2 miles).

The walk was fine except for the walk over the Hanover Street (Vietnam Veterans Memorial) Bridge, which was far more harrowing than I anticipated. The narrow sidewalk has NO pedestrian barriers and it was COVERED in gravel litter -- likely from the melted snow berms this past winter.

The interior of the narrow but lengthwise-long Cross Street Market, Baltimore, Md., 1:05PM March 12, 2014. It is so named (I'm surmising) because it stretches between S. Charles and Light Streets.

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Just one random rock from one of the many passing trucks might have knocked me out -- to say nothing of being killed by one of those vehicles inadvertently jumping the curb). Had that happened, my last meal would have been the bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit I had at the McDonald's at 14th and U Streets NW here in D.C. around 950AM.

Nick's Seafood at the S. Charles Street end of the Cross Street Market (it occupies both sides of the structure), Baltimore, Md., 1:24PM March 12, 2014.

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Then I had to get past the I-95 on-ramp, at which point I finally reached the side streets of the Port Covington neighborhood. It was fine once I got into Port Covington / Federal Hill.

The walk on the side of an awful highway with high-speed traffic reminded me of pretty much any trip I ever took with my dad that involved an attempt to walk somewhere (especially back in 1997 in Costa Rica).

The Towers at Harbor Court skyscraper as seen from the corner of S. Charles and E. Lee Streets, Baltimore, Md., 1:34PM March12, 2014.

This is in the Otterbein neighborhood right next to the Inner Harbor. The building is a 28-story structure that includes luxury condominiums that was constructed in 1987 (which I recall). I recall hearing once that Brady Anderson had a place in there. That wouldn't surprise me in the least.

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While crossing the bridge, though, I saw Nick's Fish House & Grill located on the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River. (I saw an MPT special about it during NON-pledge drive time. It may have been on an Outdoors Maryland special.) The restaurant it located on Insulator Drive because of the location of a place once known as Locke's Insulators that made ceramic insulators. (The white letters remain on the brick building -- as they have been in all the decades I was in that area and certainly long before that.)

Another view of the Inner Harbor and Baltimore World Trade Center, Baltimore, Md., 1:39PM March 12, 2014.

*******

I stopped into the Cross Street Market (so named because it runs between Charles and Light Streets) and had some Maryland crab soup and a National Bohemian beer (I was in Baltimore, after all). Alas, I was so distracted, I forgot to tip Ernie at Nick's Seafood. (I'm feeling badly about that because he was a nice guy.) To be clear, this Nick's is no longer affiliated with Nick's Fish House and Grill, though according to Ernie, they once had the same owner. (This probably explains the different names.)

The William Donald Schaefer statue at the Inner Harbor, Baltimore, Md., 1:40PM March 12, 2014.

The late William Donald Schaefer -- Baltimore City Mayor and later Maryland Governor and Comptroller -- was a legendary and amazing Maryland figure (even if he became kind of reactionary in his dotage).

*******

It was weird doing this (rather unexpected) Baltimore walk. You have to remember that I lived in Glen Burnie (about 8 miles south of downtown) back in the 1980s and, intermittently, in the early 1990s between the ages of 12 and about 23. I regularly visited Baltimore, and I knew parts of the city -- especially the Inner Harbor and north along the Charles Street corridor past Mount Vernon all the way to Guilford fairly well.

One of the pavilions at the Inner Harbor with a portion of the Baltimore downtown skyline nearby.

As I've mentioned before, Baltimore city's downtown area skyline is an unlikely and mostly aesthetically pleasing mix of colorful postmodern buildings with various geometric forms.

*******

Baltimore had changed in some ways but, ultimately, it was still quintessentially Baltimore. I guess, if anything, it's a bit more prosperous and vibrant than I remember -- but it still has a lot of bad-assery and scary sections.

Taking that walk past so many places, I remembered random things such as when my mom worked right at Charles Center back in 1982 and at Monumental Life Insurance in 1983 farther north on Charles Street. The latter is located about two blocks from where the city's main gay bar, Grand Central, is now located. (I recall it was the "Central Station" back in the 1990s.)

A view of one of the pavilions at the Inner Harbor that houses the Ripley's Believe-It-Or-Not store along with the Transamerica Tower -- Baltimore's long-time tallest skyscraper (see below); 1:42PM March 12, 2014.

The dragon / serpent creature on the building is very Wildwood / Jersey Shore.

*******

I also recall the once-in-a-special occasion trip to Burke's, which was once located in a strangely placed Tudor-style structure at Lombard and Light Streets, and that now houses a frickin' Royal Farms convenience store.

Of note, I was fired abruptly from a Royal Farms convenience story (in Glen Burnie by Oakwood Rd. and Oak Manor Drive -- it's still there) in July 1993 (at age 23) when I had a fight with a co-worker and EVERYBODY else AND hung-up the phone the scuzzy little district manager named "Scooter." When I got home, I found out my paternal grandfather had died, and my dad was coming up from Florida (he had gone there six months earlier, so I would have pretty much had to quite anyway. I ended up spending a few weeks with him -- in New Jersey and then down in Florida.

The Transamerica Tower, downtown Baltimore, Md., 2:06PM March 12, 2014.

This is still the tallest building in Baltimore (a major city with a surprisingly low-heighted skyline), as well as the State of Maryland -- a title it has held since 1973 when it was built, even though it has changed names three times over the 41 years. It started out as the USF&G Building, it later became the Legg Mason Building, and now -- in a weird point-counterpoint to a far more pleasing city, San Francisco -- the Transamerica Tower (complete with the Transamerica Pyramid Building logo next to it).

*******

I also recall summer visits to the Inner Harbor when I walked through the maze-like structure of the large nearby fountain (off on this grimy-looking March day). I also recall being in one of the Inner Harbor pavilions where some oily Hispanic gay guy basically and unexpectedly groped me in a magazine shop (now gone) when I was about 16.

The intersection of W. and E. Baltimore Streets and S. and N. Charles Streets, Baltimore, Md., 2:17PM March 12, 2014. The building catty (kitty?)-corner from me is the Hotel Monaco.

This intersection is the notional origin of the Baltimore City and, to a lesser and disjointed extent, the Baltimore area street address grid. It is the ORIGIN -- and thus serves the role of the U.S. Capitol dome midpoint (that spot on the floor) or the Arlington Memorial Bridge). New York City really doesn't have an equivalent point.

*******

Many of the structures that back in the 1980s looked so modern and cool -- the aforementioned fountain, the Morris A. Mechanic Theatre (at 1 N. Charles Street), and certain other structures such as the Howard Street Bridge -- now just look ancient and decrepit. Indeed, the older stuff from the early 20th Century has held up better (provided it has been scrubbed and prettied up.)

This is a view of the William Donald Schaefer Tower -- the third tallest building in Baltimore unless the top flagpole is included -- and the tip of the Bank of America is also visible.

Speaking of Bank of America, given its heavy presence in the city, I'm surprised this mega-bank hasn't purchased the building and appended its name to the building. Instead, today it has the second tallest building that over the years has had various names (it was the Maryland National Bank Building when I arrived in the early 1980s) and is now the Bank of America Building (or 10 Light Street building).

*******

Oh, and speaking of Harbor Hospital, there was that HORRIBLE period in the summer of 2004 -- when I was temporarily living with Wall-P in Silver Spring (this was pre-Staff) -- and I was flat broke. (I was also in a deep estrangement with my mother.) I signed up for a four day medical study at Harbor Hospital for something like $2,000. You and about 20 others had to remain hooked up to all these wires and tubes in a room with limited mobility.

It was awful.

I remember the 2004 Summer Olympics were on and watching the Bosnian-Herzegovinian men's water polo team playing ...

Shops along N. Charles Street somewhere between downtown and the Mount Vernon neighborhood, Baltimore, Md., 2:27PM March 12, 2014.

*******

I was kicked out of the study before the second day because my pulse / heart rate would occasionally race (as it still does). This was done the second time it raced. The a-hole doctor running the study had the nerve to tell me I should go to my primary care physician to get that checked out.

Right.

Do you really think I would be in such a turkey farm of a situation if I had money and health insurance?? This is the kind of clueless and callously vicious American idiocy I hate.

The Baltimore Washington Monument with scaffolding partially covering it, Baltimore, Md., 2:33PM March 12, 2014.

*******

I was stranded that night when a now-former friend did me an exceptionally nice turn and picked up me (driving up from D.C.). We ended up going to a nice restaurant. I always forget that this person was actually once a good friend to me.

Great memories.

Mostly, I recalled those summer walks from the north / northwest direction back to the Inner Harbor, where I would catch the bus and later the light rail back to the Big Burn Out, Glen Burnie.

The steps of the Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church, Baltimore, Md., 2:35PM March 12, 2014.

This place shouldn't be confused with the identically named one here in Washington, D.C.

*******

Returning to today's narrative ...

After stopping briefly at the Inner Harbor and at a nearby Starbucks, I continued north on Charles Street back to Penn Station, where I purchased another MARC train ticket from the Amtrak kiosk and then waited for the 3:20PM Penn Line train. It arrived on time and skipped the stops of Halethorpe, Odenton, and Bowie State, and so the ride was faster than usual. I then caught the Metro from Union Station and was home by 5PM.

Grand Central bar exterior in Baltimore at the corner of N. Charles and E. Eager Streets, Baltimore, Md., 2:41PM March 12, 2014.

I wonder if Baltimore has a GAY MAFIA like D.C. Probably not -- at least not so enduring, insular, and malevolent.

*******

I was going to spend several hours doing work on that editing assignment (no, I didn't finish it, but I have tomorrow to complete it). Instead, I am going to go to D-I-K restaurant for dinner as Chris is working. Maybe I'll do a bit of work on the assignment tonight.

The intersection of Biddle and N. Charles Streets, Baltimore, Md., 2:45PM Baltimore, Md., 2:45PM March 12, 2014.

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The weather today was cloudy, breezy, and warm (around 65F) but the advertised heavy rainfall never materialized. Instead, a broken line of squally showers passed through the region followed by a powerful cold front. The wind is roaring at the 8PM hour (and also at the 1AM hour as I complete this entry) with gusts of 45MPH or so as temperatures drop sharply.

The "Baltimore" sign across the Penn Station platform, Baltimore, Md., 3:19PM March 12, 2014.

*******

There is some bullsh!t talk of possible accumulating snow on Sunday into Monday, but that's just the usual combo model hoax and mass delirium.

OK, that's all for now.

Somewhere in the southwestern part of Baltimore leaving the city on the Penn Line train on a forlorn looking day, 3:29PM March 12, 2014.

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Oh, yes, I am NOT planning on repeating the "surprise" visit on Tuesday. One attempted good deed was enough. I mean, if necessary to go there, I certainly will but (thankfully) I don't think that is going to be the case.

Young man asleep on the Penn Line train en route to Washington, D.C., somewhere in Anne Arundel or Prince George's Counties, Md., 3:51PM March 12, 2014.

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One last picture that I didn't have a proper place to put in the main body of this entry ...

Here is one last picture -- taken as I was approaching Penn Station at 11:15AM March 12, 2014. It is one of those old train control stations located somewhere near the stop called "West Baltimore."

Oh, yes, I had a whole mediation on the town of Halethorpe that I sent Gary (who, along with Andrea, were the two people I texted all day), but I'll refrain from that now -- except to say that I lived in Glen Burnie for YEARS before I even heard of Halethorpe (and I paid CLOSE attention to the news -- even the sh!tty local news -- during the 1980s).

*******

OK, that really is all for now. My next update likely will not be until Friday night or Saturday.

--Regulus

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