Monthly Archives: June 2014

Pre-wiring for Artscape

Every year it seems like preparations for Artscape get earlier and earlier. Here are some pictures I took of the placement of power boxes and prewiring for such boxes mainly along Mount Royal Avenue (the one with the construction crew was on Preston St just behind Cultural Center station)

 

mt-royal-wires3 mt-royal-wires2 mt-royal-wires unwired-box-at-brown wired-box-at-brown midtown-powerbox

Categories: Artscape, Baltimore, Bolton Hill, photography, upcoming events | Leave a comment

Bird feed and cannon fodder

I left the apartment at exactly noon, and was surprised to find the neighborhood buzzing with activity: Road work in front of my building, crews installing power boxes for Artscape (see separate post) and even a purported “waterline break” on Bolton Street. I arrive at the light rail station and just as I finish paying for my ticket I can see the train pull around the corner. It’s called “timing” and every once in a while I accidentally do well with it.

It was a Cromwell train and it was packed with black hats and orange T-shirts. I know this is Baltimore and they are going to an Orioles game (including an adorable 7yo sitting across from me who looked like he was going to explode with excitement), but it always disappoints me to see orange without the requisite green\white (see my header image, one of them anyway).

Not surprisingly, the entire area around Convention Center was packed with people in tents selling “Tay-shots” and an army of people with coolers selling “eizz woddah, cod sotta and Gottahaid” (Gatorade, though I initially thought they were shouting “God-I-hate” which is fitting for a Canes fan describing a UF product).

I eventually made it to Harborplace which was slightly busier than usual but still slow for a weekend in summer. Sure there were street performers (of varying quality) and tourists getting their pictures taken in front of Ripleys or the tall ships or with that ugly fish thing in front of Barnes & Noble… but the place still felt dead.

I went over to Maryland Science Center even though the show I wanted to see wasn’t for another 2 hours. They have IMAX – in fact, there were three shows between my arrival and when the planetarium show started at 3:15…unfortunately, I’d seen them already so I went back to Harborplace to find something to eat (which is good exercise AND it kills time).

I arrived at Five Guys at 1:04pm, and it was a madhouse though, oddly enough, not a single person was wearing orange (though your friendly neighborhood blogger was wearing a green\white overshirt). There was a long line at the register and an even longer wait (11 minutes) to get my overpriced fast food, but then again it filled time…yet somehow I was out of there by 1:30pm.

I took a slow walk through the souvenir shops. They have some interesting stuff down there (not that I’d buy any of it), but what really struck me was that they took out both the “skybridge” over Pratt Street AND, more infuriatingly, the M&T branch that was at the base of it (seriously, there are – sorry were – only two M&T locations downtown – the one on Pratt and the one on Howard). I almost picked up a copy of Baltimore magazine at B&N, but I didn’t feel like carrying a bag around with me the rest of the day advertising myself as a “tourist.”

There was zero line to get into MSC, though there was a large black and yellow air cannon parked next to the window, and I actually had more than enough time to use the ATM, restrooms and roam the gift shop ($25 for a 12 year old IMAX movie, really?) before my show started. For the record, I and the seven other guests attending the show were on time, but the doors opened two minutes late which I suppose isn’t too bad for a tourist trap. I wished I liked the show better, as it had an interesting topic (the quest to get people back to the moon by an unspecified “deadline”) but felt more like an infomercial than an actual movie (see TheInternship, 2013).

The show got out at 3:40pm, and I had more than enough time to sit at one of the benches and write out some of my thoughts about the day before heading downstairs. I really hate sitting down on the lower level as it always gives me a splitting headache. I know it’s the noise (as there is no other word for it) and that it would be a LOT worse on a “busy” day, but I am so glad I don’t have to work there on a daily basis.

The show was actually delayed for several minutes to allow them to “clean up the theater” from the previous show (which had also started late), but my “MSC headache” was too bad for me to care. However, I was extremely disappointed in the fact that I was the only person in the theater (even though I heard several people talking about seeing the film). I was out of the film at 4:45pm.

I was midway way down the steps from an unabashedly jingoistic movie about the British bombing Fort McHenry when I heard an almost deafening “BOOM” from about 20 feet below me. I knew it was “only” the air cannon (which was applauded heavily), but I was literally halfway through a step when I jumped and nearly fell face first down a full flight of stairs (thank god, I happened to have my hand on the wooden rail otherwise I’d probably be dead right now).

When I got to the bottom of the steps, I was still literally shaking, and I could sense people staring at me. I walked quickly around the back of the ramp, across the front of the lobby covering my reddened face with my hat and tried to assimilate myself into the mass of orange shirts and black hats flooding the promenade…

Categories: adventures, attractions, Baltimore, Bolton Hill, Inner Harbor, md science center, museums | Leave a comment

If only Busch Gardens had this problem…

if-only-busch-gardens

This is a shot of the nine buses waiting at the Falls Road light rail station in Baltimore as part of a bus bridge put in place while the MTA repairs a section of track eroded by the recent  heavy rains.

Categories: Baltimore, light rail, Metro bus | Leave a comment

travels and travails

I asked the woman at the front desk (same one who checked me in on Friday morning) last night to call an airport shuttle for me for this morning. She insisted on a firm time like I was supposed to know ahead of time what kind of traffic to expect (though The Tampa Bay Times reported that there MAY be a downtown-airport Light Rail line in the distant future) or how bad the line at security will be (I’ve waited as long as 2hrs and as short as 15 minutes). When she pressed me, I ended up choosing a conservative number that assumed the worst of both numbers – 9am for an 11:40am flight.

When I came down this morning at 8:45am, the first thing I saw was the bright white cab sitting in the sunshine. “That’s YOUR cab,” the desk agent said as if I couldn’t see it.

“Wow, I wasn’t expecting it to be here” [as I was 15 minutes AHEAD of schedule].

“ARE YOU CALLING ME ‘INCOMPETENT?!’ YOU gave me a job – ‘call a cab for 9am’ – and I DID IT, and I am VERY good at my job.”

“I did NOT say you were ‘incompetent.”

“You didn’t NEED to – you IMPLIED it. It’s the same thing. Take the receipt – it’s YOURS, and your cab is STILL waiting.”

Traffic was heavy, but I still managed to get to the airport I approximately 15 minutes. The driver wasn’t all that talkative during the trip which is just as well since I’m pretty sure he understood me as well as I understood his heavy South Asian accent.

He pulled up to the U.S Airways curb, bolted out of his seat and around to open the door for me immediately putting his hand in my face. I don’t even know how much I’m supposed to give him yet and he’s already clapping the tips of his fingers against his palm.

“Youuu forgiiit my TEEP,” he said literally blocking the door with his body.

“All I have is $5.”

“AAAEEEIII Tay-git!,” he said snatching it from my hand.

Whatever, I don’t have time to argue with him, I go inside with my empty wallet and find a SunTrust ATM next to the Ron Jon Surf Shop. I put my card in their machine and read the display…

“$2.95? That’s highway robbery!”

It didn’t matter; I wanted to find someplace that had breakfast. There was a Burger King next to the shuttle to “Terminal F” so I went in there. They didn’t have the McCafe coffee I wanted (though the cashier assumed I was talking about Starbucks’ Frappuccino) so I bought a small container of chocolate milk instead.

Security was on the opposite side of the shuttle route, though I found it curious that they had a ticket checkpoint on BOTH sides of the shuttle. Interestingly enough, the line for the TSA screenings was almost non-existent despite it being mid-morning which gave me plenty of time to find a work\charging station which was (conveniently enough) located directly in the center of the waiting area for my gate.

There are two major problems with sitting in the last row of the airplane: Being the last to get on and being the last to get OFF (at least getting on, I can actually move about). Luckily, I was in the 3rd from last row on the second leg of my return trip.

My flight from CLT to BWI was delayed by “inclement weather” that the weather app on my phone said Charlotte wasn’t getting. This also led to severe turbulence on take-off, but once we reached our cruising altitude things smoothed out considerably. The cloud watching for the first half of the trip was absolutely fascinating.

The plane landed in Baltimore at 4:19pm, and it took just over 20 minutes for me to get off the plane. Fortunately, I was entering into Terminal D so it was only a five minute walk to the light rail station.

When I got to said station, the train was already there. I bought a ticket, boarded the train, put my stuff down on the first available spot and then quickly gathered them up again and bolted to the restrooms immediately inside the glass doors.

Naturally, when I came out again, the train was gone.It was a full thirty minute wait for the next one to arrive, but it still beat having to take a damned cab back to Bolton Hill…

Categories: Baltimore, flying, light rail, Tampa, transportation | Leave a comment

A little art goes a long way

I arrived at Tampa Art Museum at noon. I’ll say this for it, for a building that big the museum itself is surprisingly small. In fact, it reminded me of the old Miami Art Museum over at Government Center with its rotating collection of temporary exhibits. TAM split its second floor galleries between two exhibits, but I’m not reviewing either of them (sorry).

After 15 minutes of wandering through their two galleries, I was back downstairs where I decided to try the lunch offered at their café (the one in the hotel, home of the only Starbucks in downtown Tampa, was closed when I left). The food was better than I was expecting it to be, but, more importantly, it was also surprisingly cheap for a venue like this so it’s a double win. J

I left the café around 1pm (it would have been sooner, but the waitress tended to disappear for long swaths of time), and followed the Riverwalk to my next destination…assuming I could the entrance.

I could see the building as it has a large collection of pictures on its side, but the actual entrance to the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts was unmarked…except for a single sign on what looked like the building’s main entrance pointing to an unassuming side door marked only by a doormat with the building’s logo on it.

I wish I could say I was impressed with the museum’s interior. Granted, it’s second floor reception area is bright and airy, but the four main exhibit areas were small and almost felt like dead end hallways rather than actually galleries. Then there are the secondary areas on each floor which the one on the first floor just has ads for past exhibitions leading to the narrow “Member Showcase Gallery” and on the third level it was simply a door blocked off with a sofa.

It took approximately 10 minutes to see the entire museum. After that I went back to the air conditioned room and started packing up my things and writing down my thoughts on the desk next to the air conditioner. A blogger’s job is never done…

Categories: art, florida, museums, photography, Tampa | Leave a comment

A double dose of history

For some reason, I was up at 8:30 this morning. The absolute last thing I wanted to do was go downstairs for breakfast (learned that lesson last time I stayed at this hotel) so I skipped it and decided to go out and find someplace quick for lunch.

I walk the seven blocks to the trolley station on Whiting Street, buy a day pass and waited 15 minutes for the “nostalgic trolley” to arrive. Once I got on I needed to decide where I was going, and that decision (as evidenced by this post’s title) was to all the way out to Ybor (either “EE’-Bore” or “Eye’-BRR”) City.

I got off the trolley at 11:10am and took a few minutes to wander through the flea market set up in the plaza next to the station. I stopped for a moment in front of a hot dog vendor and hear someone off my left shout “HEY BUDDY”

I look around. The only people around me were vendors and a single black guy who the second I locked eyes with him pleaded “I’m hungry, I haven’t eaten in days. Could you gimme five dollars? Just FIVE dollars so I can get sun-thin to eat.”

How come whenever anyone needs money to eat I’m the only one around to ask? If they do someone else they’ll take that person for their word, but they’ll argue with me? However before I can answer him, a woman runs out of nowhere and shouts “GIT YOUR SHOES ON! I ain’t haven you wand-rin around MY market without no damned shoes on!”

Clearly taken by surprise, he rushes off and picks up some sandals from the ground a few yards away and then as I approach the vendor’s table I can hear “Yeah, about that five dollars, I’m still hungry. If you just gimme-“

“WHAT DAY HELL, YOU WANT?”

“What me? I don’t want nuthin’ and if you keep harassin’ me I call the damned cops on you!”

I came very close to continuing with “except five dollars,” but I decided it was better to leave before I was drug any further into this quagmire.

“Whoa, where you going? Just ignore the CRAZY woman, and just help a brutha git sun-thin to eat. She THINKS she runs dis place, but SHE DON’T!”

“DAY HELL I DON’T! This is MY market, and I AM in charge of it!”

Now, I could leave. I felt a little sorry for the vendor, but I figured there were probably other places to eat in the area. It didn’t take a lot of work to find them…even if most of them were closed.

Despite the somewhat limited lunch options, this wasn’t too bad of an area. It has a lot of fun and interesting shops and a festive atmosphere…though I’m told it gets a bit “scary” at night once all the bars and clubs open.

I walked through the Ybor City History Museum. It was very small and the layout was less than ideal (reminded me of the Baltimore Streetcar Museum), the houses outside were nice but weren’t explained very well. Could we go inside them or were they just mock-ups? I was there and I still don’t know.

I head back to the station and take the trolley over to Channelside where I eventually follow the Riverwalk to the Tampa Bay History Center. This was one of my favorite things I’ve done so far in this city. It was much bigger than I expected it to be, but, more importantly, it was also well organized and better presented than other similar museums I’ve been too (their section on cigar making was better than the whole museum in Ybor City).

I get back to the hotel shortly after 4pm, and when I check my e-mail I find a message from someone saying I’d missed my appointment to tour their apartment…at 11am…in Ybor City. FML. >.<

Categories: Tampa | Leave a comment

A soggy commute

I checked out of the hotel in Temple Terrace at 8:45am. It was thundering, but it wasn’t raining. The ground was still wet and sidewalks were caked with mud, but the sun was at least trying to peek out of the dull grey clouds. Also, I should point out that if I followed the directions from Google Trip Planner I would have ended up a full half mile out of my way and if I hadn’t seen that they reversed what side of the street Wendy’s and Dunkin Donuts were on than I never would have found that bus stop.

Yes, I said “bus stop,” and anyone who has read more than one post this blog knows what I witnessed when I finally found it. This at least gave me some time to buy a ticket ($4 for a “day pass” with no option for a “single trip”). I sit down and pull out my notebook to find that were only three pages left in it meaning this is going to be a shorter post than yesterday. Lucky you.

I also put away the poncho I was wearing and suddenly the sky opened up and it started pouring rain. It was an absolute downpour, a true summer storm – and summer doesn’t even begin until next week.

The second bus arrived at 9:35am and spent the next ten minutes sitting at the stop before pulling out exactly as scheduled. It was still raining when we got to USF, but it tapered off by the time we reached Nebraska Avenue at 10:13am (a full two minutes early, despite picking up\dropping off three wheelchair passengers).

It took another half hour for the bus to get even half full, and in another fifteen the skyscrapers of downtown were finally coming into view. This was a far faster trip than I was expecting. In fact, we pulled into Marion Transit Center at 10:53am – a lot sooner than the “2hrs 5min” Google estimated it would take.

MTC is a massive bus docking area. Seriously, it’s a lot bigger than I was expecting it to be, but I still managed to get to the hotel in fifteen minutes. I checked in, and went up the room. I looked out the open drapes and saw that it was raining again, so much for apartment hunting…

Categories: Metro bus, Tampa | Leave a comment

Adventures to, fro and at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

The cab arrives shortly after 10am, and the cabbie immediately started haranguing me for “not being smart enough” to choose a hotel closer park:

 

“You check right? You check for transit? I ASK YOU QUESTION, DAMN IT. YOU ASK FOR TRANSIT OR NO?”

 

All I said was “yes” and he screeched to a halt turned around and shoved his finger in my face and shouted “YOU are NOT ALLOWED to raise voice to ME” (no HYPOCRISY there). Then clenched his fist, shook it at me and continued “IF YOU have ‘problem’ with ME I give YOU problem. Make myself CLEAR, stupid asshole? It is five miles to park and you WILL WALK there in heat on highway!”

 

I know, I know: why didn’t I take him up on that offer? Because, I have walked five miles along the highway in the middle of summer with no shoulder… and no arch support either. Granted, that last time (link, link2) I was wearing a full suit, tie and dress shoes, compared to a basic T-shirt, shorts and threadbare sandals (which are almost as uncomfortable to walk in) but still not something I was willing to repeat….even if it was just hot air.

 

Now, I should probably bring up that it’s come to my attention that posts like this “aren’t healthy.” That might be true, but it is healthier to express it as a message to a hypothetical reader willing to believe me (or at least not interrupt my story like most face-to-face audiences do) which brings up another problem I face a lot “how ‘credible’ is a ‘retard’s’ word anyway” (the fact that I have an IQ of between 20-30pts above ‘retardation’ level is entirely ancillary). Hell even my own mom doesn’t believe half the stories I tell her (and trust me, if, like her, you think I “whine” enough as it is, remember: less than 20% of said stories ever make it to this blog)!

One piece of idiocy I will admit to, I failed to buy tickets online beforehand so when I got to the gate I had to pay FULL PRICE which is considerably higher than the ONLINE “Weekday price.” The latter while still high is worth it, the former is highway robbery.

Maybe I’m just used to the hub-and-spoke layout of the Magic Kingdom, but the layout of this park seems somewhat disjointed. The paths are wide enough, but they are well hidden and the signage around the part didn’t really do a good job of telling you where things were. In fact, there were some attractions I found more through sheer determination than by following their maps and signage.

I didn’t buy the “All Day Dining Pass” (which they stole from Universal which was itself copying Disney) so I cannot judge its value. I did however have a relatively nice lunch at Bengal Bistro (where my biscuit was nearly stolen by my school mascot). I saw some people on Tripadvisor complaining about “rude” and “disaffected” staff (which to be fair, can be found at any theme park – even Disney), but I found most of their employees to be friendly and helpful.

By 3pm, I was more than ready to go, but I decided stay behind for the “Iceploration” show which the map listed as playing at “4pm,” but the sign outside the theater said “5pm.” Screw this; I wasn’t waiting around to find out. I left the park and found the cab stand…to be completely empty.

At Seaworld, there were 50 cabs in a line at the park exit; Busch Gardens had none. In fact, there wasn’t even anyone on duty at either the kiosk or the “Guest Services” building so I had to wait behind a group of seven people trying to buy passes and one man who didn’t speak English very well who was trying to buy an annual pass… but wasn’t sure if he wanted to pay for it.

I finally get up to the sales counter and the woman automatically asks me how I’m paying for my annual pass. I told her I wanted her to dial a cab for me and she looked at me oddly. I told that “yes I do have a smart phone, but the battery is dead. I also tried asking at Guest Services but there was no-one there.”

“Oh well, THAT building has been closed for YEARS.”

She turns off her microphone and starts typing something on her keyboard as a department supervisor hovers over her shoulders. She eventually turns the microphone back on:

“Which cab company do you want?”

I get it, not only am I supposed to do my due diligence and ONLY book hotels across the street from the park, but I’m ALSO supposed to carefully research and evaluate every single cab\limo\shuttle company in Hillsborough County for star rating, price and my overall experience with their service… or I could look at her exasperatedly (not to mention exhaustedly) and say: “JUST PICK ONE DAMNIT!”

It took about twenty minutes for the taxi to arrive. The driver – who was far friendlier than the guy from this morning (even if he tended to cut me off mid-sentence) – said it was because “all the other drivers are at home watching the World Cup and cannot be bothered to come out and do their jobs.”

Whatever, I got back to the hotel and paid $2 less for the return trip than the original trip. I would have given said difference as a tip, but he drove off immediately after I got out. I enter the hotel, and head back to my room and when I look out the open drapes I can see its pouring rain outside.

I was originally planning on staying for their so-called “Summer Party” over at Adventure Island…but thankfully didn’t have the money for it because I forgot to buy my park tickets online AND had to save money for round trip cab fare. See, idiocy does occasionally have its uses…

Categories: florida, South Florida, Tampa | Leave a comment

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