md science center

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…

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

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

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