Published Jul 17, 2005

Since I’ve apparently traveled about everywhere else this summer, I thought I’d try going back home to Baltimore. Yes, the one in Maryland. Not to be confused with Boston or with Bangor (I’ve had it confused with both). What better city to introduce someone you care about than Charm City?


The obvious place to start the tour was Harborplace, the center of Baltimore’s renaissance. After a much-needed lunch at famous tourist trap Phillips Seafood, for various crab-containing foods, we visited the Constellation. Now, I have no childhood memories of Phillips, which was far too tourist-y for any reasonable natives who were proud of their city, but the Constellation was a very happy play place for me and for my friends. One of the oldest ships still around, all geeky kids loved the history of the place.

But the Constellation has changed since I was there. It was, in my memories, a somewhat dingy, very old-looking late 18th-century frigate. Apparently, someone figured out it was a snazzy mid 19th-century warship, with an associated museum and informative inside signange. Trauma! But still deeply cool inside.

After the Constellation came the Aquarium. Speaking of geeky youthful play memories! A few years ago, I went to the famous Boston Aquarium, and was very disappointed, but the National Aquarium lived up to my memories, with a ton of cool fish in informative displays and a wide range of different exhibits. The rainforest was all I’d remembered, and the shark tank was fun and scary. And the Torsk outside was deeply nerd-tech cool, even if we didn’t have time to go in.

Sadly, the return trip through the Pavilions included a small trauma too — all the fried dough joints were gone. Man, I could have used some of that with cinnamon and powdered sugar and honey and apples.

Power Plant Live!

Suckered in by the ads on the hotel’s tourism channel, we went to the tourist-oriented Power Plant Live for drinks. The Havana Club served weak drinks and, despite the music, we were scared off by perhaps the worst Mojito ever. McFaddens had a great visiting live band from Colorado that sang a medly of the greatest hip-hop hits of the ’90s, set to a twangy country tune — and some of the sluttiest waitresses ever, not only did they flirt enough to make the place fun, they flirted enough to scare off some single women who weren’t getting access to the male customer contingent. Lucille’s had hot hip-hop and strong drinks. And I’m not sure I remember the rest.


Visiting the old ‘hood was mandatory. We showed up in a pouring rain and took a break for lunch; I decided to swing by old neighborhood favorite Alonso’s. What I got was a horrible, traumatic shock: Alonso’s was not the dingy, old, narrow, booth-filled dive with a big, padded leather-and-aluminum bar, a single, chain-smoking waitress who calls you “hon”, really slow service, and a lacrosse game on the TV; it was a snazzy restaurant with signed jerseys, several waitrons, and a bar featuring wine. Wine! Although I still had the signature one-pound burger. And it was tasty. But it was different! And there were people in it! At lunch! And an entire little neighborhood of shops around it! Damn development for taking what I remembered and making it better!

After the rain let up we walked around my house’s block. I tried to take pictures, but the humidity was still high enough that my camera lens fogged up as soon as I took off the cap. But, most everything was the same, except the house’s owner had chopped down the beautiful two-story rhododendron on one corner of the house, and the cherry tree in the middle of the lawn had grown to truly epic size.

Fells Point

We drove back downtown down Maryland street, to see some of the ghetto, and then drove east to Fell’s Point past the projects to see some more. A walk past Reptilian Records and into the nooks and crannies of that old part of town gave me lots of fodder for my camera. We worked off the heat with a few Natty Bohs, then got some Italian Gelato at historic Broadway Market. Fells Point, at least, is still a bohemian, alcoholic, beautiful, old part of town. Some things never change. Memo to self: raise child in a part of town that will never change, such as the red light district, the warehouse district, or deep underneath the bay.


We had two great dinners, one at The Brewer’s Art and the other at Red Maple. Both offered impressively tasty food and great, precise atmospheres. With great beer-based food at the former and tasty tapas at the latter, either restaurant would be a success in LA.

The two restaurants sat in Baltimore’s beautiful, European-feeling Mount Vernon district, with its gorgeous, artisanal old buildings. I’m proud of Mount Vernon. Your city sucks. That is all.

It’s incredible when reality lives up to your memories. Now, I just want to move back home to Charm City. That, and get the heck out of Fairfax, where Delta has put me up since they cancelled my flight for basically no reason at all and made me get up at 4:30am to make a morning flight on another airline. Damn Delta! Delta out of Baltimore!


Baltimore sounds great, but please, don’t leave us here in Los Angeles! we need good, honest, sane people like you here, Wade!

…then again, you want to raise your child in a redlight district, so I withdraw the sane part.

(P. S. Die Delta, Die!)

I like Bawlamer, and I can tolerate the weather there… but why should I? The Bay Area suits me fine.

I do think, though, that one of the nice things about the town is that it has way more culture and restaurants than a city its size has any right to — the area around Peabody, in particular, is amazing, what with the Walters Art Gallery, the Symphony and Opera nearby, Center Stage, the restaurants (Helmand, Louie’s, Akbar)…

It’s a great little town.

(Also: Vacaro’s! Paper Moon! Two of my fav places in the world.)

I agree, and I think that’s one of the reasons I have the expectations I have about any place I’d live in: I was spoiled growing up. Not only did I get to live in an interesting city, I got to live in a cultured city, I got to live in a city where I was a minority, and I got to live in a city with a chip on its shoulder. Yeah, that means I have expectations.