Monthly Archives: July 2011

Summer storms

After temperatures reaching the upper 90s this afternoon,
the atmosphere was primed for some rather strong (if unpredicted) thunderstorms
– the kind going on outside my window as I write this post. This kind of
phenomenon was a daily occurrence at UM, and it was just as miserable and
depressing there as it is here.

It’s times like this that I ask myself what would happen if
I stayed in Miami instead of moving back into my parents’ house in Pa (which I
knew was a bad idea at the time, but had no other immediate options at that
time). Would I have spent the next 36 months out of work like I did in Shamokin
or would I find a job even if just as a bagger at Publix?

Then I remembered that I couldn’t immediately find work
after moving to Baltimore. I had interviews, disastrous interviews but
interviews none the less…but no job offers. It wasn’t until I officially
stopped looking that I found the listing for the “Baltimore Guardian,” and even
that was “unpaid to start.”

I took a copy-editors test at The Herald, but I never heard back from them…I sometime wonder if I
should have studied more and tried again, but with the trouble the paper had
even then it was probably for the best. Especially since I’d be getting just as
wet down there as I am up here.

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Baltimore Flag House: Part 2

I left the museum around 2pm and walked over to the Barnes & Noble at Power Plant. I browsed through the magazines and ordered
a frozen coffee, but I didn’t feel like WASTING a trip down to Inner Harbor so I returned to the museum around 2:53pm (as school gets out at 3pm).

The same woman was sitting at the ticket counter, and she didn’t look happy to see me. I pulled my wallet out and asked her if it
was too late to get into the flag house. She looks at me crossly and sneered “it’s a grown-up tour now, so you better be on your best behavior!”

She walks around the counter and leads me towards the house, lecturing me on my insolence.

“You listen here! If they find out I let you in without paying, they’ll fire me. Do you understand me? Do you understand me? I
SAID: ‘DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?’ YES OR NO?”

“Yes, yes, I understand you, but what I don’t understand is why you are being so incredibly rude to me when I offered to pay
you twice and you refused it.”

She turns around and glares at me and with a low, menacing growl says: “You listen here, you will not – I repeat WILL NOT – speak
of this to anyone. Do I make myself clear? Good, now you better behave yourself.”

She knocks on the door to the small row house, and mumbles something about possibly being upstairs by now. Then after the third
try, a young woman in period dress answers and leads me back towards the front of the house. Suddenly I feel bad for all the people whose tour I just interrupted.

Fortunately, the house itself isn’t all that big, but it is decorated with period art and furniture (mostly from private donors).
In fact it is somewhat hard to believe this the location where Mary Pickersgill and her family sewed most of the 30×42’ garrison flag that so flew over Fort McHenry in 1814.

She then leads the group up the narrow staircase towards a surprisingly large bedroom. Along the entry wall was what looked like
a queen sized bed along with a small “convenience pot” near the door (the househad no bathrooms). Across from the bed, which she shared with her husband and two nieces, was a tiny sewing desk. While the portrait on the far wall had nothing to do with Mary or her family, the necklace from the painting was on display in a case directly behind where I was standing. However, that wasn’t the most exciting thing about this room:

“This is the only room in the house to still have its original floorboards,” she beamed. “Imagine that, these are the same boards that Mary walked on while she was sewing our flag!”

The docent then took us across the hallway to room Mary’s mother Rebecca stayed in. It looked considerably smaller, furnished with
only a single bed, a foot chest and a small painting, however, there was only one person living there at the time.

Across the stairwell was the “renters room,” I won’t bother describing it as it is essentially the mirror image of Rebecca’s room.
However, this room also had a wash basin in the corner for them to use, no mention of a “convenience pot.”

“It’s a little hard to believe today,” our guide said. “Five people sharing one bedroom and they still have a ‘spare room’ to rent out.”

Thus endth the tour….but wait, the guide said that I missed the first few rooms. As everyone else is leaving, she briefly explains
the kitchen and some of the “creative” cooking strategies women used during that period.

Next up was the dining room which barely looked big for two people, let alone the 6-7 that typically ate there. Interestingly
enough, unlike upstairs, the portrait above the mantle is of one of her actual relatives.

I follow the guide back to the now empty visitors center where I give my $7 to a far friendlier face behind the ticket counter
before making my way back to the subway. This blog is beholden to no-one.

Categories: adventures, attractions, Baltimore | Leave a comment

Baltimore Flag House: Part 1

I left the apartment at 12:41pm, and rode the subway all the way to Shot Tower. I was heading to the Baltimore Flag House & Star
Spangled Banner Museum on Pratt St (just beyond the Office Depot).

I arrived at the museum shortly after 1:15pm, and I noticed a group of kids running around the courtyard separating the house from
the visitors center. I walked around the perimeter to the “main entrance” and into the visitor’s center itself. When I asked about tickets, the larger woman behind the counter looked at me as if I was from another planet.

“Can’t you see all these kids here,” she said. “It’s a school group. We cannot allow ‘individuals’ to tour the museum when there’s a school
group here…But, I can allow you to see our orientation film, which I won’t charge you for, but it’s starting now.”

She pointed to a set of double doors behind me, and I found a seat in the back row of the half-filled theater. The film, which was
one of those standard issue museum films with faded colors, grainy picture quality and really bad acting. The narration was top-notch.

The film ended and a pretty young docent probably in her late teens entered and began asking the 6-8yr-olds in the front of the theater
what they thought about the film. I go to exit the theater when the woman from the ticket counter stopped me, and started asking me all sorts of questions.

“Who are you? Where do you come from? What are you doing here?”

Hey, I thought I was the reporter here.

Anyway, I told her I was from The Baltimore Guardian, and I was doing a story about the museum in advance of Monday’s holiday.

Weekdays are reserved for school groups,” she said in a forced-calm voice (so as to not disturb the kids). “Saturday is for individual and family admissions.”

“I understand that, but Saturday is-“

I work here, you don’t,” she said grabbing my arm forcefully. “I know what days people can come here, and what days they
can’t – I’m the one that sells the tickets, and I cannot have you wandering around disrupting our tours.”

I thought she was going to drag me out of the building, but instead she let go of my arm and continued her lecture.

“My tour guides are far more important than you are, and they don’t like having unrelated people distracting them from their jobs.”

She goes on to say that as a city resident I am free to explore the museum anytime I want… as long as it’s not a weekday. But since
I was here, I could look around the gallery until the kids came out of the theater.

The entirely self-guided gallery tour started on the lower level of the glass fronted visitors center which has a series of wall
texts describing the destruction of DC and the Battle of Baltimore. They also have a variety of cases featuring your standard assortment                  of everyday items from sewing kits to soldiers’ weapons. The museum was also populated with a
series of mannequins dressed as American, British and Free Black soldiers of the period. Basically it’s, a miniaturized version of the Fort McHenry museum (without the boat ride).

The upper level was somewhat of a disappointment with only one small hallway with a four panel timeline of the both the flag and
the famous song it inspired. Inside the closed door at the top of the stairs was a long empty room that looked as if it was being prepped for something, but, for the moment, was only used as storage area with a collection of items shoved into the far corner.

Categories: adventures, attractions, Baltimore | Leave a comment

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