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

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

Volunteer open house

I arrived at Zoo at 11:14am (according to the time stamp on my ticket anyway), and quite surprised that even though the temp hasn’t been above 30 degrees all week I found that the vast majority of the snow and ice from Tuesday’s storm was gone – particularly since it was still messy getting around on Saturday afternoon.

There were only two gates open, the agents inside are talking to one another until the male points me out to his the female companion who turns to me as if I was interfering with their conversation. She sells me a ticket anyway and gives me a map to all the animals that are off display due to the frigid weather (which was pretty much all of them except the polar bears, Chimp Forrest, prairie dog village and the indoor portion of the giraffe exhibit) and gets back to the discussion I so rudely interrupted.

After wandering around the plaza area and watching the squirrels run around the prairie dog pen (the only part of the plaza to still have snow), I eventually go back to ask the only staff member in the immediate area how I was supposed to get to the Mansion House.

“What do YOU need at the Mansion House?” she asked me.

I explain the Volunteer Open House they were hosting this morning, even though she should have already known about it. She looks at me skeptically, smirks and makes a snorting noise before saying:

Stay there,” though she sounded more like she was trying to humor rather than help me. “I’ll call someone to escort you up there.”

I had no idea where “there” was, but I walked out towards the lion statue guarding the prairie dog exhibit. A few minutes later, a man on a golf cart came flying by me and around the path before another man in a green polo shirt arrived from the same direction (on foot).

He wasn’t openly rude like the admissions agent, but he clearly had better things to do with his time than escort some imbecilic visitor to the admin building. It turns out I was supposed to use the gate across from the mansion to get in (even though their website said to use the main gate as all attendees were expected to pay for zoo admission).

I signed-in at Mansion House at 11:31am, and was promptly given a “FAQ,” a brochure and a small yellow form. The yellow card was for checking which area you’d want to work in, but you had to submit it back at the sign-in area before you could talk to the people at the respective tables. The woman at the table sent me around the corner to the orientation speech.

“Most of you are not fit to be zoo volunteers,” their Education\Outreach director said at the beginning of her speech. “For a variety of reasons: sometimes yours, sometimes ours, but at the end of the season, most of you won’t be working here anymore” (according to their website, volunteer terms are for “4 months,” but in her presentation it is “the full season” – March-Nov)

After an approximately 20 minute PowerPoint presentation, we were free to discuss things with the five or six tables crammed on the south side of the porch (the north side wasn’t being used for this event, but a few people were sitting at a table set up there to fill out their yellow forms).

I tried to talk to a few people, but then I remembered: I hate trying to talk to people in settings like this. Not only was there a line at all but one of the tables (AZA Docent and Guide guy got no love from prospective volunteers).

I wanted to ask something about the admin volunteers, but they didn’t have their own table so I tried asking at the sign-in. They, however, seemed more interested in taking my yellow form than whatever question I was going to ask.

Finally, after some hesitation, I turned in the yellow card with my name and job choice and asked a staff member how I was supposed to leave the event. She looks at me blankly (did they expect us to stay forever?), and then grabs the first volunteer she sees and “assigns” him to take me back to the entrance.

My escort this time is far chattier and even went as far as asking my name (something no-one outside of Starbucks, Caribou Coffee and the “will call” booth at Everyman has done in over 3 years). I half expected him to ask my phone number as well, but he didn’t.

Mondawmin Mall doesn’t have a proper “food court” so much as a haphazard collection of quick service restaurants shoved into the area between Foot Locker, Rite Aid and the rear entrance to the mall.

As I’m on my way out of the  mall, an older black man (who was dressed better than I was and with slightly neater hair) puts his hand up in front of me and says “hey, gimme a dollar.”


“Oh come on, I just need a dollar,” I try to walk around him, but he blocks me.  “I’m homeless,” blocking me again. “I need to eat and I KNOW you have a dollar on you. You cannot tell me you ‘don’t have’ a DOLLAR to give a homeless man,” he blocks me again, making sure to look me directly in the eyes “it’s just a DOLLAR – that’s ALL I want so I can get something to eat!”

“NO,” I said firmly as he was really starting to piss me off. That’s when he finally backed off and let me pass.

Why am I the only one who HAS to give money to homeless people to get anywhere? It’s like every time I leave my apartment I have to pay a homeless person a toll or something or else s/he’ll never allow me to get where I’m going.

I don’t see them stopping other people on the street and forcing them to justify exactly how much money they have and why they aren’t giving it away to anyone who asks for it – just me, and I have no idea why.

I needed a break from all this not-saving-everyone-in-the-world thing so I stopped into the Dunkin Donuts across from the Metro station. I ordered a medium coffee and two donuts – which came out to $3.99…I had two $1s, a wrinkled $20 plus 27-cents.

See? I really didn’t have a dollar to spare – in fact I was one short. Meanwhile, as I’m waiting for my coffee, who do you think enters the store? “Do you have .50-cents?” “No.” “Do you have 50-cents?” “Sorry.” “Do you have 50-cents?” “No.” “Do you have 50-cents?” “Not today, sorry.”

He gives me an evil look, but doesn’t ask me anything. More importantly, not only did he request a lower amount from them (what do I look wealthier or something?), but he didn’t insist they justify refusing him either.

Finally, the old woman with the inscrutable accent calls out something that could be my coffee…and as I get up to get it, she hands it to another customer. I sit back down and make some notes of my day and finally her American colleague calls out my order.

I finish my donuts rather quickly, but the coffee was too hot for me to drink there so I took it into the station with me (oddly, no-one stopped me)… and it was lukewarm by the time I reached the platform level. I closed the tab on the lid and waited for the train in relative silence.

Another “wild” day had ended – and it was only 1:30pm…

Categories: adventures, Baltimore, maryland zoo, metro subway | Leave a comment

Missed connections

Everything about today was off, which stinks since it was the only good day this weekend (rained all day on Friday, snow expected on Sunday).

I left the apartment at 10:48am, made my way down the hill towards Charles St and as I began eating my sandwich, I could see the northbound circulator zipping by the window. I thought nothing of it until I was finished eating and made my way around the corner just as the same bus was pulling away from the curb. Great, now I’m stuck waiting out here in the cold until…I checked my phone for “next bus” time (which, naturally, wasn’t working), and when I looked up again there was another southbound circulator pulling up to the curb.

I arrived at Inner Harbor at 11:31am and the first thing I saw when I disembarked the bus was the westbound circulator passing above me on Pratt St. This time it really was a 15 minute wait (not counting my time walking to the stop), and, because they realigned the western part of the route and renamed some of the stops, I had no clue where I was going when I got on.

I disembarked at the renamed Mt Clare St (which was located in front of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum, but now two blocks away with a different name) at 12:01pm just as the whistle of the departing 12’o’clock train blew. As you can guess by now, that was the train I was hoping to catch when I left this morning.

So I enter the museum and a young man sells me my ticket for the exhibits, holiday layouts and the train ride to Mt Clare House (the only reason I was visiting the museum today). I wander around the roundhouse looking at all the elaborate holiday layouts which all looked almost exactly like they did last year (to be fair, all S-guage layouts look like cheap plastic junk to me). Then I went outside, walked around their permanent outdoor layout and got a quick snack in their café before it was time to board the train.

I made my way to the platform, told the ticket taker I was going to Mt Clare and he told me to take the car on the right. The attendant saw the Mt Clare ticket, and he directed me to the door on the right. I walked about halfway through the first car until I found an open seat with an unobstructed window. I sat down and about a minute later the train whistle blew and we began our slow and initially scenic ride through west Baltimore. As the train passed into less scenic area of the route, Frosty made his way through the cars to wave and have his picture taken as his grumpy-looking handler gave out lollipops (just to the kids).

Ten minutes into the trip, the train stops for a minute or so and then begins moving backwards (technically forward as the engine was facing the wheelhouse as we left). I asked the conductor when they were letting people off and he hems and haws and eventually gets around to saying I missed back when we stopped.

So the train pulls into the same station it left 20 minutes ago with me still on it. I step off the platform the conductor pulls me and an older couple aside as he proceeds to wish the rest of the guests a good day. Eventually, a manager comes over gives the three of us was a halfway sincere apology and instead of a refund he offers us complimentary driving directions so we can drive ourselves there in our own cars on our schedules. This is, of course, really nice of him because if I take the 2pm train, I’d have no way of getting back.

That’s when I had to tell him about the accident that nearly took my life and how the state awarded me for my pain and suffering by revoking my license. I literally cannot drive so if I don’t take the train I cannot get there (unless I leave the museum, wait around for a cab, give the driver precise turn-by-turn directions, pay him for my time and tip them for the pleasure of their being rude to me). He then offered to “let” me ride again and they would make sure I got off at the manor (apparently, they run a special, unadvertised pick-up-only trip to the mansion at 3pm).

It turns out, when I was finished with the manager I checked my watch and it was 1:25pm so I had just enough time to use the restroom on the far side of the roundhouse before heading back to the platform. Oddly enough, now everyone was keen to direct me to the “Mt Clare car” (even though they knew full well where I was headed on my previous journey) which was empty save for one other family.

As I sat down in a seat with an unobstructed window, a worker with an orange\yellow vest told me I “couldn’t sit there” (no explanation given) and then leads me to the front of the car and points to a seat next to the other family. “Sit here,” he said pointing to a seat with an unobstructed view of an informational poster and then promptly left through the end door. If I wanted scenery, I could just lean my head really far back in the seat.

Fortunately, Santa arrived (with the same grumpy attendant from before) to take pictures with the other family but when he was finished with them the conductor opened the train door so all I got from the jolly old elf was a pat on the back and shove out the door.

The mansion, like the 15 foot platform the train drops you off on, was smaller than it looked from the tracks. Granted there were additions, subtractions, restorations and the excavated outline of its foundations (though very little is mentioned of the latter on their website). Like most historic homes, the rooms were roped off with a docent standing at the entrance to explain the purpose of each area. They even had a special wedding gown on display in the master bedroom (which I initially mistook for a part of the bedspread).

As nice as the grounds and period furnishings were, I was there for the “holiday open house,” and I was sorely disappointed with what I saw. I liked how they had musicians in the foyer playing live carols, but the house was barely decorated. Yes, there was a Christmas tree in a corner by the entrance, but most of the wreaths\greens were shoved off into a side room with a plain handmade sign that read “for sale.” Even with the room by room tour, I was in and out of the house well within time to catch the train back to the museum.

I disembarked the train just in time to hear the announcement about closing “promptly in 30 minutes” which was just as well since I was leaving anyway – a full hour behind schedule. I made my way two blocks west on Pratt St to the new circulator stop, and was surprised to see it come around the corner as I arrived at the stop. Naturally, the driver turns to us and says he’s off duty and we’d have to wait on the bus until his “relief driver” arrived (about ten minutes, but at least the bus was heated).

I took the circulator to Pratt\Howard and just as I was coming off a man was standing there telling me he needed change for the light rail. Could I please help him? I considered crossing the tracks and slowly making my way over to Fell’s Point for the boat parade and lighting of the Christmas tree, but it was way too cold to stand around so I headed over to the ticket machines. Besides, I knew I’d probably run into more panhandlers as I approached the harbor.

A Penn-Camden train came around 4:07pm, but it was full. Ten minutes later, another shuttle train arrived – and it was nearly empty. When the train arrived at Mt Royal station, I disembarked without being hassled for change, but finding out that the Starbucks behind the station had closed – an hour ago.

I didn’t get a hot coffee, but it was still warmer back in the apartment than it was outside…

Categories: adventures, Baltimore, BO museum, Charm CityCirculator, holidays, light rail, museums, ramblings, writing | Leave a comment

So busy it’s spooky

I left the apartment just after 11:30am. It was later than I had initially planned, but it adds drama to the otherwise dry story (can he make it? Stay tuned!).

My first stop was the Walter’s Art Museum to see their new Egyptian themed show “The Mysterious Book of Faiyum.” Technically, I had already seen part of the show on Thursday night, but I had such a headache that I couldn’t stay for the rest of it (and I didn’t have enough material for a full blog post about it either).

Fortunately, this was their Egyptian themed “Fall Family Fun Festival” so they waived their $10 entry fee, and garnered a sizable crowd of parents and children in the process though most of the younger kids were kept busy making simple crafts in the main lobby. This enabled me to get through the second half of the exhibit far quicker than I had anticipated so I had to figure out what\where I was going from there.

As I headed north on Charles Street, I ran across a large group of protesters. I have no idea what they were railing against (there are a lot of things to protest in this city) as their chant seemed a bit generic and I couldn’t quite read their signs from across the street. There was no cursory write-up in the Brew when I got back so I may never know what they were chanting about.

They turn off to the right towards the monument and I continued straight uphill before finally ducking into the Starbucks on Preston Street. I was too hot for a hot beverage, but it was too cold for a frozen drink. I didn’t stop to think so I just ordered an iced Pumpkin Spice, and felt bad as I passed the half dozen or so homeless people working the area (carrying around a Starbucks cup tends to undermine the whole “I don’t have any money to give you” canard).

It took me about fifteen minutes or so after leaving the store to find my next destination. I thought a “street festival” would be pretty simple to find, but the 1st annual “Fall Festival” at the newly opened Baltimore Design (High) School was a pretty small affair – four tables, a DJ and a bounce house plus a nominal $5 “donation.” Unfortunately for them, I continued walking (hey, there’s always next year) and eventually circled back to Mt Royal Station, but that didn’t mean my day was over yet…

I bought a ticket and waited about five minutes for a southbound train to take me downtown. I got off at Convention Center and walked over to the Maryland Science Center for their new show called “Mummies of the World.” It’s a fascinating subject, but it tried to tackle too much at one time. Worse it felt hypocritical to admonish visitors to respect the human dignity of the very specimens you brought out for them to gawk at – particularly since the science portion of the show was perfunctory and literally shoved off to the sides.

It was early yet as I left the exhibit, but I still decided it was easier to eat at the museum café than go back to the apartment and make something there. The food was overpriced, but still slightly better than I feared it would be. I put the empty tray on top of the trash can, put my hat back on and then left through the glass doors out to the plaza and started my way back to my apartment…

Categories: adventures, art, Baltimore, festivals, Inner Harbor, md science center, museums, protests, Station North | 1 Comment

Editorial: Md Zoo’s new pengiun exhibition

Zoo begins construction on new $10.5m penguin exhibit. I admit the idea of a South African fishing village in the middle of Druid Hill Park sounds cool (no mention of whether it will have SA themed shops\restaurants), but the location of this attraction – dead center of the zoo across from the “Village Green” – of it seems a bit off.

This is particularly true since it involves not only moving the tram stop but relocating the entrances to both “African Journeys” and “Polar Bear Watch,” not to mention the affect this brand new themed village will have on their existing “village” (sort of like walking from the highly detailed “Harambe” onto a whitewashed version of “Discovery Island” at Animal Kingdom).

I agree that more penguin research and repatriation is essential to the survival of the species and their overall happiness and comfort within the zoo environment, but $10.5 million for a new exhibit strikes me as a tad excessive (do they really need “periodic” waterfalls, water spouts and a potemkin “fishing village”?).

I’m not saying they shouldn’t put something in that green space next to “African Journeys” just something smaller and more complimentary to the zoo’s existing scale (for instance, the current artic fox cage is literally the size of a dog crate, just sayin’), but to me it seems like their current plan would be a better fit for the upper portion of Buffalo Yard Road (the rarely used walkway they have temporarily rerouted the tram onto due to construction) near the entrance to “Maryland Wilderness” and across the service road from “Polar Bear Watch.”

In fact, it gives visitors a reason to take said pathway past the zoo’s original enclosures (archaeology, history and zoology all in one tiny fenced-off area) rather than cramming onto the overcrowded trams like they do now. I know from my trip to Williamsburg that kids are interested in archaeology, even if their parents weren’t always prepared to explain the details to their inquisitive wards.

Of course, it’s too late to question planning decisions already in construction, yet too early to review something that nobody has seen yet. On the plus side, it leaves room for more useless commentary as new details come to light…

Categories: attractions, Baltimore, editorials, maryland zoo, news, ramblings | Leave a comment

Earth Day 2013: Part 1

I didn’t leave the apartment until just after 10am, but worse than that I hadn’t counted on the single tracking on Metro Subway which meant that the trains were coming at 20-30 minute intervals meaning any semblance of schedule I thought I had was now completely shot.

I arrived at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore at 11:20am having officially missing enrichments for the lions\hornbills (10:30am) and polar bears\otters (11am). Fortunately, I had a good half hour after leaving the tram (which every parent in line insisted on calling a “train”) to get lunch (which was actually edible this time) before the next animal enrichment.

There was no line in their food court area so I arrived at the warthog exhibit nearly 10 minutes before their enrichment\keeper chat was slated to begin. Every parent who whizzed past the small enclosure helpfully asked their kids: “where is Pumbaa? Oh, I see him, over there! He’s behind that bush!”

The invariable spousal follow-up which got wittier and wittier each time I heard it was “Yeah, but where’s Timon?” Ha! Get it? Timon and Pumbaa from the The Lion King, see isn’t that just the funniest joke ever? For the record, the zoo does not have a meerkat exhibit.

Today’s enrichment was a brown paper bag filled with various fruits. Not the most creative enrichment in the world, but I guess it’s better than just throwing it away. BTW, the bag lasted all of ten seconds and our keeper kept the chat going by throwing some additional fruit into the enclosure while she was talking.

That was fun, but what is the next enrichment? Leopards at 1:30pm – that means I have an hour and 27 minutes to kill. I walked through the giraffe house, took some photos of the bloom around rock island, bought a basket of nachos, and rode the real zoo train (which according to a guest behind me who told her daughter that the train is operated by the “conductor” rather than the engineer like most trains). I still had twenty minutes left over, which was too long to sit idly on a bench…but nowhere near enough time to wander through “The Maryland Wilderness.”

I meander over to the leopard cage, stopping to watch the animals around the “African Watering Hole” where a boy about 5-6yrs old insisted that those hippos lying near the side wall of the enclosure. His mom tried to correct him that they were in fact rhinos, but he was adamant those were hippos until one of them raised their head and he shouted “Whoa, look they’ve got HORNS! Those are RHINOS!”

I was going to walk through the aviary… but why ruin a good sweatshirt (that already smelled like giraffe shit)?

I stood around the leopard pen for a bit, the male (“Hobbes”) was asleep on the grass near the north fence, and his mate was along the fence closest to us. One guest repeatedly asked his three year old son if he could see the “cheetahs” (which were in another enclosure), while a 3 year old boy on the other side of me shouted “JAG-WAR” (jaguars are native to Central\South America, hence not found on an “African Expedition”)?

Hobbes however popped his head up when the keeper jumped over the outer fence and followed her back to the enclosure entrance, the female (whose name I can’t recall) remained asleep until she heard the enclosure door open. The keeper put the cats into holding pens and gave a brief spiel about their names and histories, and then put the two paper bags in front of the large tree and in the logs where visitors could see them before going back to retrieve the cats.

Hobbes took all of 30 seconds to find, devour and destroy the paper bag at the front of the exhibit. His female companion took a nonchalant stroll around the perimeter of the enclosure before finally ripping into the bag at the foot of the tree, but that too was gone in a matter of seconds.

I looked at my map. The next show was at 2:30pm in the Chimpanzee Forest. That left me with one question – do I stay the extra 57 minutes to see what the monkeys do with their paper bags…or do I make my way towards the exit?

Categories: adventures, attractions, Baltimore, maryland zoo, metro subway | Leave a comment

Earth Day 2013: part 2

I had the misfortune of arriving at the platform just as the southbound train was pulling out. That means I was waiting there for a long time – a really long time. In fact, I probably could have made it downtown by 3pm if it wasn’t for the single tracking thing.

“Day ain’t doin’ no ‘single trackin,’” said a young black woman either in her teens or early twenties, her words sounding more like a demand than a statement. “You down know what the fuck you talkin ‘bout, fuckin’ moron.”

However, 15 minutes later – yes, fifteen – an announcement came on saying: “On April 19th – June 30th MTA will be operating on a single track between State Center and West Cold Spring stations for track maintenance starting at 10pm on weekdays and all day on weekends. MTA apologizes for any inconvenience.”

I know being RIGHT is its own reward, but I get the distinct feeling that a certain “fuckin’ moron” isn’t going to get an apology anytime soon (from the rude girl). Five minutes later two trains come in succession, and, of course, both are going in the opposite direction of where I want to go.

As I tried to say above: If it wasn’t for the single tracking, I would have gotten downtown before the chimpanzee chat, but as it as was, I arrived at the National Aquarium shortly after 3pm.I had the added fortune of getting the slower cashier, but I was able to walk straight into the aquarium without its trademark timestamp or legendary lines.

The only reason I came to the aquarium was to see that new “4-D Immersion” show, but that wasn’t until 4:15pm. That meant I had a full hour to browse through the various Earth Day displays and activities…that they were packing up because said festivities ended at 3pm. 😦

Also, the new Black Tip Reef wasn’t open yet so visitors had to make our way around the construction area to the original escalator leading to the back of the existing 2nd level. It took me about 25 minutes to get through the rest of Pier 3.

The only thing of interest on the tour was talking to the old man acting as the exhibit guide on level 4. I told him last time I visited the aquarium someone got extremely mad at me in this very spot I was standing in for “misidentifying myself” by wearing a navy blue polo shirt with the aquarium’s logo on it (aquarium staff wear cobalt blue polos with the institution’s name written across them in large letters) even though I told upfront that I couldn’t help him as I didn’t work there and that I bought it in the gift shop (in case you’re curious, said gift shop no longer sells navy blue polo shirts, possibly for this reason).

Then I quickly transitioned to explaining how I’ve applied a few times to work for the aquarium, and even considered volunteering to get my foot in the door. The problem was I wasn’t sure about the full year commitment, but he assured me that “there is no commitment; it’s just 4 hours a week.”


I still had about 30 minutes so I went upstairs to the “Animal Planet presents Australia: Wild Extremes.” By the time I came back downstairs, it was close enough to enter the Lyn P. Myerhoff Auditorium for my show.

The most interesting thing about the 4-D show wasn’t the spawning behavior of the salmon or the bears catching them with their gaping mouths, but that all of the preshow ads were for the aquarium itself – more specifically: their Australian exhibit, their restaurant, their gift shop and their membership program, but no mention of their famous dolphin show.

It was too early to go to the restaurant, and too late to see a dolphin show (the aquarium closes at 5pm on Sundays) so I simply went downstairs and began walking back towards the light rail which was a lot further away than the subway, but a lot less wait as well. I may be a “fuckin moron,” but I’m not an idiot.

Categories: adventures, attractions, Baltimore, Inner Harbor, metro subway, national aquarium | Leave a comment

Life beyond art

I left the apartment at 11:23am, and after detouring around the polling place at Brown Memorial, I decided to take the subway towards downtown (mostly, because said detour took me halfway to the station entrance anyway).

The station was nearly empty, and I was pleasantly surprised when the train came within 5 minutes of stepping off the escalator. I was also surprised to have to cut through Power Plant Live, but it didn’t seriously impede my progress. It was the closure of the restaurants at non-Live Power Plant that put a crimp in my schedule, but I figured I would just pop into the new food court at Harborplace (soon-to-be-home of Moes Southwest Grille) as it was on the way to my destination anyway.

As expected, Harborplace was nearly deserted (“tourist season,” such as it is, ends around Labor Day) meaning I could walk up to any eatery there without waiting in line or searching for a table afterward.  I took a table at Johnny Rockets, and my food was delivered before I could even open Facebook on my phone.

After lunch, I looked around the pavilion for an ATM and found it was in the same part of the former food court as it was last time I was up there. It was almost sad looking since the second floor of the Light Street pavilion is little more than H&M and the backside of Ripleys.

It was 12:37 when I left Harborplace, and on my way down the promenade, I decided to check out the new “Life Beyond Earth” exhibit at Maryland Science Center (review here). They also had two new planetarium shows (2pm and 4pm), but I only had time for one. Unfortunately, the one I saw at 2pm, Space Odyssey was as poorly animated as it was scripted though they get credit for having the characters speak their obligatory scientific lessons in modern English without condescending too much to their audience (though I found the film’s consistently defeatist tone annoying).

The film ended at 2:37pm, and I exited the museum making my way around the promenade towards my ultimate destination – the American Visionary Arts Museum.

Fortunately for me, it was only a 10 minute walk away (as it was getting slightly cold out). I still think they overcharge for admission, but, then again, I only have to review one show a year there so I guess it evens out somewhat.

The exhibit was called “The Art of Storytelling: Lies Enhancements, Humor & Truth” (review here), and like every other AVAM show I’ve seen it uses its broad title as more of an abstract starting point than an actual thematic guide (which makes reviewing them in under 500 words next to impossible).

However, their usual schizophrenic collection of mini-galleries they use for their exhibits was confined only to the north side of the staircase with the south side devoted to (as one of their docents said leading a large group through the museum) showcasing elements from their permanent collection and all – or nearly all – of them used in previous exhibitions with no attempt to tie them into the current one that they are presumably a part of (at least according to the front desk, website and other employees).

Remember: This is AVAM – even a half-floor show is pushing my word count.

So after about 45 minutes in their museum, I was back on Key Highway on my way back to the promenade. It is too late in the day to just go back to the apartment, but too early to get dinner – that’s when I remembered about that second show at the planetarium (and I still had plenty of time to get to it).

I climbed back up the stairs of the Science Center, pushing up the left sleeve of my sweatshirt slightly (I really should have put on a heavier jacket this morning) to make my wristband more obvious.

No-one stopped me, so I guess it worked. I still had about 10 minutes until the show started so I took a seat on a bench outside of “Race: Are We So Different?” and began condensing some of my notes from the two shows I saw today.

I don’t have a review to link to, but I will say: what a difference two hours makes. Not only was the straight (non-narrative) script for “We Are Aliens” much better (even if they squandered the title) but so was the animation. I was surprised more of the audience didn’t pick up on the film being narrated by Harry’s best bud Ron (Rupert Grint, not a good choice for a film like this).

The film ended at 4:37pm, and I decided it was probably a better idea to have dinner downtown than trek back to the apartment.

Then I saw a young woman standing at the maître-de stand outside Bubba Gump Shrimp. It isn’t my favorite movie in the world, but I didn’t want to walk all the way over to Power Plant just to find everything closed again.

She immediately led me inside and to a booth overlooking the water (the restaurant’s blue\red color scheme reminded me it was Election Day). I sat there for about 10 minutes, and just as I was about to grab my hat off the window and leave another woman came by to take my drink order (though she made a point to say she wasn’t my waitress).

My real server arrived a few seconds later, and I made my order. It was the last I saw of her until she delivered my check 45 minutes later as I’m pretty sure it was someone else who brought out my disappointing appetizer and slightly-better than average entrée.

I paid the bill almost as soon as she came by with it and left immediately thereafter not even waiting for my change. I was in an awful hurry to get absolutely nowhere which is why I took the Circulator (at the Gallery) to the Starbucks at Charles and Preston.

The line was relatively short, but there were no open seats. It appeared as if I was getting it to go, but at least I had something hot to drink on the cold walk back to my apartment.

Categories: adventures, art, Baltimore, Charm CityCirculator, md science center, metro subway, museums, writing | Leave a comment

Tourist Trappings

I arrived at the Walters Art Museum just before noon, and I made a point to ask if “Public Property” was a considered a regular free exhibit or a “Special Exhbition” (non-free). The woman behind the counter looked at me like I was nuts, but answered my question in a cordial, professional manner:

“All work on that display is owned by the Walters Art Museum, so, of course, it’s free.”

“So was ‘Mesoamerica,’ and I was still charged for entry. That’s why I had to ask.”

A man standing at the brochure rack turns to me and says: “Look, kid, I’ve been around this world a long time, and the one thing I learned is: never argue with ‘free.’”

Um, thanks for the obvious, unsolicited and utterly clichéd advice

I made my way into the Special Exhibitions gallery – or the back half of it – where the exhibit was being held. I’d say I was underwhelmed, but why repeat myself? I then went upstairs to their “Temporary Exhibits” gallery where I say a slightly smaller, but much better organized show called “Beautiful Women” (same link as above). They were somewhat older than my taste, but then again I’m just a “kid.”

I had a horrible, overpriced lunch somewhere along Charles St (why give them extra publicity?) and then took the Circulator back to Inner Harbor. I crossed McKeldin Square and made my way to the double dragons at the center of the Light Street Pavilion (ignoring the silly carnival act in the amphitheater).

It was a newly opened tourist museum on a Saturday in the middle of summer, so of course there was a line to get into the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Odditorium of Baltimore. It didn’t help that the newly hired staff wasn’t accustomed to the register system yet, or that the register they were working at was out of receipt paper. But eventually, I did get in, and you can read my official review here.

It was just after 2:30pm when I left Ripley’s, and I considered revisiting the National Pinball Museum on Water Street (as I had brought my plastic “Play Card” with me), but, frankly, I was tired and had a slight headache and simply decided to walk back to the Light Rail on Pratt Street.

I will say that the new food court in the Light Street Pavilion is coming along quite well, most of the tables have been opened to the public and the various stalls are looking like they were almost finished with most of the signs and equipment installed.

I also want to note that the building Sports Legends\GEM is located appears to be having some exterior work done on it. I’m not sure what all they’re doing, but I look forward to seeing it when it’s done.

Categories: adventures, art, attractions, Baltimore, Charm CityCirculator, Inner Harbor, light rail, museums | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at