Baltimore

Holiday week in review

Dec 21st – My flight from Orlando to Baltimore was frustratingly delayed over an hour for unknown reasons so it was already dark by the time we landed at Baltimore-Washington International. I’m used to BWI, but I was completely unprepared for cold, wind… or the 35-cent increase in Light Rail fares. Due to my relatively late arrival in HVTC (7:30pm), mom decided she would pick me the next morning so I had an awful dinner at Panera Bread and could barely find my hotel in the scarcely lit side street surrounding the mall, let alone feel my ears\nose\fingers.

Dec 22nd – Overnight in Hunt Valley. Nothing exciting to report here except that I was going to post Hanukkah memes, but couldn’t find enough that weren’t juvenile or anti-Semitic. I’m all for humor (which is why I compile these meme posts to begin with), but NOT at the expense of others.

We got back to Shamokin barely in time to meet my aunt (yes, THAT one, and while I wasn’t looking forward to it, it went relatively well) and her boyfriend at a popular pizza place in the next town over. I say “barely” because mom turned down the wrong street and got completely lost so we had to ask Siri how to get back. However, I can say with certainty that “the best pizza in town” isn’t.

Dec 24th – Normally, we spend Christmas Eve going to my parent’s friends the Nye’s house for a special holiday themed “open house” at 5:30 for dinner (featuring “Uncle Paulie” in the world’s least convincing Santa outfit) before heading over to the Candlelight Service (7pm). THIS year, instead of doing that we went to my brother’s house in Nazareth for a Christmas Eve dinner with his family (wife, and two young children). It was loud, hectic and crowded, but I got some nice pictures.

Since said dinner wasn’t until at least 5pm, mom decided it was safer to stay overnight. I was downstairs in the basement on an uncomfortable air mattress with sheets that were too small to actually be of any use. Fortunately, the ticking of the clock 3 feet away from said mattress was loud enough to keep me awake until the heat kicked on around 2am.

Dec 25th – Did I mention, the kids “slept in” until 6am? Slackers. By the time I admitted defeat and headed upstairs around 7:15am, the living and sitting rooms were a complete war zone. Toys, wrapping paper, boxes, unopen able plastic containers. On the plus side, my “gift,” a plastic card for a gas station (your brother has no license and no car and you get him a gift certificate to a gas station?) was waiting for me in a tiny box in an otherwise untouched stack of gifts on the other side of the sofa. Breakfast was at 9am and was good. As soon as we finished, we packed our stuff in mom’s van and drove 5.3 miles to my OTHER brother’s house in Bethlehem.

It was 11am by the time we arrived, and my sister-in-law had just put out the last of her Christmas brunch. My mom chastised me “how can you say you are trying to ‘lose weight’ when you had not one but TWO breakfasts in two hours?” The conversation at the table I shared with my mom, brother, SIL and her parents quickly went from light and humorous to dark and slightly disturbing (dead pets, bird attacks, death camps and Donald Trump. I pitied my SIL for trying to keep the conversation as light as possible. After less than an hour there, we left and made the roughly 90-minute commute back to the middle of nowhere, where we could contemplate our nothing lives. At least, I don’t need a password for my mom’s wifi…

Dec 26th – Before today, I would have assumed this would be a separate post. You see today is the day BOTH my brothers came to Shamokin and brought their kids with them…but we weren’t here to celebrate Christmas. We were here to work, cleaning up the garage, my dad’s den and what’s left of the basement. We got the den passable – in that one is actually able to pass through it without killing themselves.

The reason only ONE of the three areas was tackled was our mom decided since my eldest was coming in around 11am, we would meet him at a REAL pizza place along with my aunt and her boyfriend (who was able to come in because it was “slow” in his shop), my other brother came in with his family at quarter-til-12 so we weren’t out of there until almost 2pm.

After this, we were ready to work…until my middle brother got an important call on his cell which left us in limbo for almost a full hour. Finally, we get to go outside and open a mysterious chest in the garage (dad wanted “all 5 boys” present for it, but my 3yo nephew and his older sister went home with their mom after lunch). Good news, there was stuff inside it; bad news, it was boring stuff so my SIL took my remaining nephew home while the three girls stayed behind and played Clue in the living room with gramma while the three of us tackled the desk\cabinets\miscellaneous stacks of paper between them (dating back to 1973). The girls definitely won the night…

 

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Categories: adventures, Baltimore, coal region, family, florida, flying, Harrisburg, holidays, light rail, Orlando, Pennsylvania, transportation, weather | Leave a comment

Theatre review: Hoop-dee-Doo Revue

Full disclosure: I’ve seen this show before, but it was a very long time ago. So long ago that I only remember two things about the show: 1) it was my mom’s birthday and 2) I got my very own washboard to play in the finale 😎 (okay, so it was a very, VERY long time ago).

I can’t remember if I enjoyed my previous viewing of the show or not, but I definitely did NOT enjoy the one I saw last night. I know it’s probably because I’m a former theatre critic, but I immediately picked up on the wooden acting, flat singing and complete lack of chemistry amongst the cast. Honestly, the audience members who were recruited for the Davy Crockett bit were better actors than the people onstage – and I’m not saying that because the woman playing “Dolly Drew” looked like Anna (Frozen) borrowing Belle’s ball gown from Beauty & The Beast.

But it’s not just me being a “god-damned humorless, narsasistic [sic] asshole” (as one of my ex-FB “friends” put it). My five year old niece spent most of the show playing Angry Birds on her mom’s iPhone and her younger brother fell asleep during the show – twice (to be fair, he’s only two). Heck, our server looked like she’d rather have a root canal in the middle of the real “frontier territory” than work there. Seriously, I’ve seen cheerier employees at Gracey Manor (though having to watch dreck like this twice a night who could blame her).

In fact, she came by to collect our plates (the second of three times we saw her) while I was still eating so I had a full plate of chicken bones in front of me for the duration of the show including a bit where the entire cast made a circle around our table singing some song that I’ve already completely forgotten. I do remember that the spotlight was directly on me the during that bit, and I looked like a damned pig.

That being said, I was able to tolerate most of the god awful show – keyword “most” – but the last number (I don’t even know what it was supposed to be) was literally painful. I don’t mean the acting and singing – I mean the wait staff hand out washboards and other noise makers for kids to play during the song which caused me to hold my ears in pain. I’m not normally “hypersensitive” (though I have the same reaction whenever emergency vehicles pass), but I tend to avoid the comments section of my posts anyway.

For the record: my mom, brother, sister-in-law and especially her mother all claimed to “love” the show… but I’m NOT coming back anytime soon: * ½ out of 5

Categories: attractions, Autism, disney world, entertainment, family, florida, Orlando, theatre | Leave a comment

Things I miss about Baltimore

Obviously, my recent trip back to Baltimore for the Maryland Film Festival didn’t go as well as I had hoped. It did remind me of some of the reasons I left Charm City so in that regard it wasn’t a total loss. However, for the sake of fairness, I’ve decided to compile a brief list of some of the things I miss about Baltimore.

 

  • Walkability – I could walk from my apartment in Bolton Hill to movies/theatre in Station North or restaurants on Charles Street. Not to mention coffee shops at both ends of UB and Light Rail/Circulator to downtown/1st Mariner Arena – sorry, “Royal Farms Arena” – and a quick walk to Metro Subway to get to the zoo.
  • Landmark Harbor East – Okay, so it was super expensive (like everything else in the neighborhood) and a pain to get to from Bolton Hill, but it was newer, cleaner and in far better condition than The Charles – plus they had a wider variety of indie/mainstream films (Orlando theaters only show mainstream movies).
  • Station North – Sure the already sketchy area has lost some of its artistic cache when two of its biggest draws – Everyman and Single Carrot theatres – moved out (the former to downtown and the latter to Remington), but this area is constantly growing and changing from the Maryland Film Festival to Annex’s “Chicken Box” to the upcoming Motor House theatre complex and the energy that comes from having both MICA and the Baltimore School of Design as neighborhood anchors.
  • Inner Harbor – Dining at Harborplace, coffee at the Barnes & Noble and movies at the Science Center – all without the crowds usually associated with downtown tourist traps. Okay, the National Aquarium is usually crazy but otherwise it’s pretty quiet…except immediately after an Orioles game.
  • Entertainment/Events – Pick a weekend and there is bound to be SOMETHING going on there somewhere – from daytime events SoWeBo Arts Festival and Olde Tyme Christmas to nighttime entertainment like “Final Fridays” and “Constellation Thursdays.” It was my JOB to cover them – all of them…which was why I had no life.
  • Connectivity – Like the first point on this list, Baltimore is easily assessable to other cities on the East Coast like D.C, NYC and Philadelphia via its convenient downtown Amtrak station. Going beyond the Eastern Seaboard? The city’s Light Rail line connects directly with BWI airport making getting into and out of the city a snap.
Categories: Baltimore, Bolton Hill, editorials, Inner Harbor, ramblings, Station North, writing | Leave a comment

Film Fest 2015: Saturday (part 2)

I got off the Circulator and walked back over to the Tent Village where I caught a shuttle to the Single Carrot Theater in Remington. I’ve never actually been inside this new building, but their new space was a LOT bigger than the architectural drawings I saw at their temporary venue on Charles Street made it look.

The show started on time and without issue. Unfortunately, I had a very loud dry cough for most of the week (it was what woke me up both times at yesterday’s screening) and about midway through the show I checked my pocket and discovered I was out the cough drops I put there before I left. I had no choice, I pulled my bag out and as I carefully fished a few out trying to make as little noise as possible and just as I had a few in my hand I could feel a HARD slap against my left knee.

“WOULD YOU QUIT MAKING SO MUCH DAMNED NOISE,” the woman in front of me said in a low threatening growl with her waving finger shoved an inch from my nose. “I’M TRYING TO WATCH A DAMNED MOVIE!”

Apparently, she knew that I wasn’t even though I was, but it’s okay as her act of aggression was completely justifiable because, well, I’m me and abusing me is somehow okay. Me treating someone else like that is NOT okay, but those are the “rules” and I’m not allowed to object to them. I never have been, and today wasn’t a good idea to do to try it.

“I’m getting a cough dr-“ I said quietly, my knee still hurting from her assault on it.

“SHUSH,” the woman next to her said. “NO TALKING DURING THE FILM!”

I never even got to put the cough drop in, but the good news my cough went away. I spend the next 35 minutes feeling that hand burned into my knee as the people around me shouted at me in my head. If I wasn’t seated in the middle of my row I would have left 20 minutes ago, but now it was impossible without enflaming people anymore.

The movie finally ended, and the director led a somewhat dull Q&A which the angry finger pointing lady didn’t stay for. I won’t spoil the film for you as well, but I will say I already told you the most interesting part of this screening.

My next screening was also at SCT so I took the opportunity to attempt to gather up my thoughts on the movie itself – not on the screening just on the movie itself…but I couldn’t. My knee stung like hell, and I kept worrying someone was going to recognize me from the show and punch me too.

An hour passes and I went back into the theater, once again I was near the middle of my row. Fortunately, this film was much better, even if that damned cough did return about a third of the way through.

There was another dull Q&A afterwards, and then I took the shuttle back to MICA. I tried getting a slice of pizza at Two Boots, but the line was too long so I took the train back to Baltimore Street. When I got off, I realized it was almost 7:30 and I hadn’t eaten since noon so I got a 6” sandwich and a cookie before heading back to the hotel.

When I got to the lobby I could see people getting off the elevator I had been on earlier and to my surprise it took me to my floor without issue. I opened the door to my room, threw my bag on the bed and prepared for a shower. As I took my shorts off, I noticed the seam had split slightly at the crotch so I threw them away making room in my bag for the item I didn’t buy. Whatever, I’d worry about that in the morning, but first I have a pair of reviews to write…

Categories: adventures, Baltimore, Charm CityCirculator, festivals, light rail, movies, writing | Leave a comment

Film Fest 2015: Friday (Part 2)

I got to the light rail stop on Baltimore Street around 4pm and when I got to the ticket vending machine I could hear an old black man singing Bob Marley slightly off key to himself coming up from my south. As I’m putting my money into the machine I can literally feel him breathing on my neck.

“Do you mind? I’m trying to do something here.”

“Ain’t no-one gettin’ yo way, I just here to collect my change from dat ‘chine chu at.”

“Could you at least find somewhere else to stand?”

“Wha day hell wrong wit chu, boy?”

Perfect, now I have to explain a disease I was never officially diagnosed with to someone who more than likely only “asked” that as an insult. I collect my ticket AND my change (since I had to get back somehow) from the tray and crossed over to the northbound track as my “friend” ranted on.

“Bah,” he said waving his hand dismissively as he continued up the street. “Nah wooomah nooo cryyyyy.”

The train arrives. I get off at Mt Royal and head into the Barnes & Noble where I accidently insulted the barista working there while trying to make small talk. I try to come up with a way to apologize and/or explain when the manager appears, and asks what I want to drink. When I tell her, she cuts me off with a giant smirk saying:

“Decaf? Oh darn, we are compleeeetely out of decaffeinated beans. Looks like you’ll have to go SOMEWHERE ELSE for your beverage! Sorry about that, have a nice day.”

“Yes, I will,” I said ignoring her retaliatory display.

We BOTH knew there is no such thing as “decaffeinated beans,” but I might as well let her think she “won.”

Besides, my film was in 20 minutes, I could just head to the venue and find a seat…which was a pretty good idea as said screening was nearly sold out (something I take partial credit for). Fortunately, it was only an hour long and I found myself in the shortest Chipotle line I’d ever encountered in Baltimore.

With that formality out of the way, it was time to get back (yes, the room was turned this time) and hammer out my thoughts on my second film and rewrite the review from this morning. This was going to be a long night…

Categories: adventures, Baltimore, Bolton Hill, festivals, Inner Harbor, light rail, movies, writing | Leave a comment

Film Fest 2015: Friday (Part 1)

Note: I missed the first full day of the Maryland Film Festival due to a delayed flight. I was supposed to see my first show at 7:15 that evening, but I didn’t land at BWI until 9:45pm so my coverage is a tad abbreviated – particularly since it was cheaper to leave on Sunday (actual last day of the festival) rather than Monday.

 

I found the tent village at 10:05am after dealing with a disappointing breakfast in the hotel restaurant and a particularly demanding – and entitled – homeless woman at the Circulator stop on Fayette St. If I had time, I would have stopped at the McDonald’s next to the village and gotten a REAL breakfast, but I was there to get tickets not to eat.

Tickets prices have gone up since my last visit from $10 up to $12, but there was a “3 for $30” promotion that I didn’t notice until after I already purchased my FOUR tickets. Though I will say the volunteer at the festival tent was friendly even if I had to explain to her the times and venues to her so she could explain them back to me. How do I keep getting into these stupid sitcom-like situations anyway?

I arrived at the Walters Art Museum about a half hour before my first movie was set to start and took 15 minutes to write down everything that happened to me today before putting away my notebook and heading inside to the auditorium…just to find the film would be “delayed” (not the word I wanted to hear) due to “minor technical difficulties.”

The program, started about 10 minutes behind schedule, but since there was no “host” the film started immediately. I won’t get into my thoughts on the film here, but I fell asleep twice during its 104 minute runtime.

I walked down Charles St towards the Inner Harbor looking for someplace to have a nice lunch. I didn’t want fast food or a food truck, but an actual sit down meal so I was disappointed when the time on the check from Pizzeria Uno was only “1:37pm” – I still had nearly three hours until my next movie!

I took the Circulator back to the hotel, but the room wasn’t turned yet. I considered going down to the pool while waiting for housekeeping for come by, but it was too cloudy/breezy to swim so I stayed put and struggled through my first review until it was time to leave for my second screening.

Categories: adventures, Baltimore, Charm CityCirculator, festivals, Inner Harbor, light rail, movies, Station North, writing | Leave a comment

All I really wanted was the sandwich

I went food shopping at the Target in Mondawmin Mall this afternoon. But before I did, I stopped in the newly reopened Burger King next that now looks like was dropped in from some kind of airport food court (aside the sea foam paint and faux stone walls, they also removed one railing from their cue).

“Can I get a Combo 4, medium with a Barq’s Root Beer.”

“Anything else with that,” she said giving me this weird look.

“No thank you.”

“Do you want a holder-tray for your drinks?”

“Why I only ordered one?”

“No you didn’t – you ordered ‘FOUR medium root beers.’”

“Wait, what? I ordered a BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger with medium fries and a Barq’s Root Beer.”

“That would be a ‘COMBO four,’” her manager said tapping the screen on her register.

If this was it and everything was corrected, then there wouldn’t be a problem. But, nooo, she was determined to fight this…for whatever reason.

“No,” she said to him as if turning her head slightly to the right made her completely inaudible. “He ordered ‘FOUR ROOT BEERS’ – those were his EXACT words – now he’s trying to blame this shit on me.”

“So you’ve just called me a liar ‘behind my back’ while I’m standing LESS THAN A FOOT AWAY FROM YOU!”

“Calm down, no need to be all mad. What’s the name for the order? It don’t matter which one you give me, I just need a name.”

Before I could answer her she looked at me skeptically and asked me:

“And YOU actually went to ‘Miami University’ like that key thingy around your neck says?” (implying that I’m too stupid to get into college)

“The term is ‘lanyard’ and didn’t ‘go there’ – I graduated – class of 2004.” (Note: I didn’t correct her on the school name. I gave up that fight long ago)

She passes me ONE drink, and a receipt with the word “LANYARD” written across the top in bold black letters (I half expected her to write something crude).

A few minutes later as I’m pondering why I’d want FOUR root beers when I all I went in for was a simple sandwich, the manager called out my order and hands me a small paper bag. Yes, there was a BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger and medium fries in it. Unfortunately, I wasn’t in the mood to eat any of them anymore…

Categories: adventures, Baltimore, retail | Leave a comment

Photos: Star Spangled Spectacular

These are some photos from the Inner Harbor portion of the event. I didn’t have time to visit the Ft McHenry or Martin State (that was the one I really wanted to go to). If you have pictures from either of these events, please feel free to send them to me (note: I need at least six to justify a post).

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Artscape (misc photos)

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Categories: art, Artscape, Baltimore, Bolton Hill, festivals, photography, Station North | Leave a comment

Artscape (Saturday afternoon)

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Categories: art, Artscape, Baltimore, Bolton Hill, festivals, photography, Station North | Leave a comment

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