Today was an interesting day – not good, not bad…just interesting.
It started like every other day this week – two hours before it needed to. But I had an e-mail interview I needed to finish, and it wasn’t worth fighting to get back to sleep. Finally, I posted it and decided to get outside and do something instead of staying inside and being bored.
The so-called “Boundary Block Party” was immediately outside my apartment, but I’ve done that before, and, besides, I could hit that on my way back. There was a “food festival” on Charles St, but I figured the food there would be more expensive than it was worth.
So what to do?
They’re still replacing tracks in Hunt Valley so that’s out. I love Canton, but two buses and a pair of water Taxis for a simple lunch was out of the question (yes, I know I can take the #11 directly to O’Donnell Square, but that’s not free). That leaves Hollins or Cross Street Markets – I went with the latter as that didn’t involve a transfer.
The Circulator dropped me off almost directly in from of said market, and I took some time to wander through the various stalls before emerging unfed through the bar on the far side of the building.
I didn’t feel like having a sit down meal, so I went into the Quizno’s on the opposite side of the street. I couldn’t read the signs for what was in the sandwiches so I took a step closer.
“Hi, what can get for you?” I hate when I have order when I don’t know what I want to order because then I have to order the item with the largest print. So I did, and when I got to the register the cashier asked if I wanted a drink with that and I said yes. She hands me a huge plastic cup and tells me it comes out to $10 with the meal.
Yep, she just upsold my upsell without the formality of asking me first!
What the hell was I going to do with a drink that big? Unfortunately, I can’t argue about this because a) it’s my word versus hers, and b) she already had my money. This was a shame since the actual sandwich wasn’t that bad (though I wouldn’t get it again).
Yes, this story is going somewhere, just hang in a little longer.
I was sitting on the Circulator on my way back to the Inner Harbor, when the driver announced that he was going to have to refuel and that we needed to get off at the visitors’ center which, conveniently enough, was where is I was planning on getting off anyway.
They didn’t have what I was looking for at Barnes & Noble so I just grabbed a copy of Baltimore magazine and made my way toward the registers. There was a table along the line filled with “Bargain Books for Mom’s,” and some bored teenagers behind me picked up a copy of The Happiness Pig and started reading it aloud with their own current commentary.
“What the fuck is he HIGH?”
“I dunno, maybe it’s a POT farm.”
“How the hell does shit like this get past an editor? Do they want kids to smoke pot like our little ‘pig of happiness’?”
“Well are getting it or not?“
I never found out, as I was called to the register before he could answer. I put my magazine on the counter along with my BN card, and the cashier happily took my money and returned my card.
I left the store at 1:50pm, almost forgetting that the northbound Circulator would be rerouted because of the festival so I had to backtrack to the Metro at Power Plant Live. I made my way down the steps, and pressed my Smartcard against the fare gate. Nothing happened, I tried again, but nothing happened. I tried a third time and suddenly the gate opened, and I was on my way home.
When I first moved to Baltimore in December of 2009, I wrote a whole series of stories about places that were accessible via Metro Subway\Light Rail. I did a similar series after the Charm City Circulator opened over a year later, and today I’m one more to that list: Federal Hill.
I’ve been to Federal Hill before, but it was during one of their many festivals. I wanted to see what the street looked like when it wasn’t overtaken by food tents, giant stages and throngs of tourists (not that there is anything wrong with any of those things).
Unlike Baltimore’s other tourist neighborhoods, Federal Hill is beautiful and charming without being overly touristy like Inner Harbor and Fell’s Point or tacky and plastic like Hampden. This isn’t to say it doesn’t have its fair share of chain restaurants, vacant storefronts and foreclosed homes like the rest of the city, but they do a fairly good job of keeping those out of their so-called “Main Streets” (in their case: Charles, Light and Cross).
My first priority when I disembarked from the circulator was to find someplace to eat. However, most of the places were either bars and thus not open until 4pm or they were too expensive; I steadfastly refused to eat at one of those ubiquitous chain sandwich shops.
After lunch, I began walking around. Their main streets form a sort of “U” shape, and host a wide variety of shops. I considered stopping for coffee, but it was too hot for that. I considered getting ice cream, but I thought better of that as well. I also didn’t need any new clothes…so I returned to the circulator stop at Cross Street Market and began the trek back towards Midtown.
I was planning to go to the Federal Hill Blues, Jazz & Wine Festival just for some photos (as I like to document my life in Baltimore), but I couldn’t find my camera. I tore my apartment up twice before finally deciding to go without it and, looking up at the grey skies, I realized… I forgot my umbrella too.
I arrived at the festival at 1:22pm, and made my way through the half-vacant, semi-organized “wine alley” en-route to the actual art and – more importantly – food sections of the festival.
Boy was I disappointed. It had food and beer, but it was only 3 blocks long. I bought a “Texas Tator” meal ($7) one of the one of the booths, and then realized that I had no place to sit down to eat it. I also bought a fruit smoothie and I barely finished it (I wasn’t about to waste $5 I spent on it). That was all I bought food wise, and I was quite proud of myself for it.
I left at 2:18pm. It was three blocks long, I’d already eaten, and I had no photos to take so…
I exited the festival, but didn’t really feel like waiting around for the circulator…which meant it passed me less than a block into my trip. Now, I definitely wasn’t waiting around for it. I also wasn’t interested in having what the homeless guy who stopped me in front of the liquor store translated. I’m a rotten person… but not nearly as much as the man preaching on the subway about how “the Jewish army has infiltrated our city.”
It was after the train arrived and I had gotten aboard that I witnessed the saddest –yet most hopeful – thing I’d seen that day. A man with the most flattened, contorted face boarded and sat on the bench across from me with his bag. He didn’t say anything; he just sat there smiling to himself and anybody who dared look at him. I almost wish the preacher dude had seen him, but he seemed contented enough just to head home with his bag, oblivious to the rest of the world.
In the end, the camera didn’t matter as I could always take pictures at next year’s event. What mattered was: I there (at the festival), I saw it, I experienced it and looking into that man’s face at the end of the day I realized that I had nothing to complain about either.