museums

Norfolk: Day 4 – Portsmouth and other disappointments

It’s just after 10am, and I am standing on the dock outside the newly renovated Waterside Marketplace waiting for the ferry to cross the Elizabeth River to Portsmouth. The weather app on my phone says its 65 degrees and cloudy, but the chilly ocean wind makes it feel colder than that.

The small paddleboat arrived around 10 past the hour, it dropped off about a half dozen people and let the three of us who were waiting on dock onboard. The inside had a rusted floor with benches along the sides. Apparently, there were more benches in the center of the boat at one point, but they were removed, possibly to make room for the three beaten up fare boxes. The bench wasn’t all that comfortable, but it didn’t matter since it was only a 10 minute ride across the river to High Street landing.

Portsmouth is a charming, quiet town that kind of reminded me of a cross between Federal Hill and Fells Point. Unfortunately for me, I was visiting on a Thursday morning so nearly everything was closed: The Naval Shipbuilding Museum (for refurbishment until “early 2017”), The Lightship Portsmouth (open weekends only), Virginia Sports Museum (permanently closed) and a half dozen “historic homes” (also open weekends only).

That left the Arts & Culture Center (which was “between exhibitions”), the Virginia Children’s Museum, the TCC (Tidewater Community College) Gallery and the exteriors of various buildings. Oh, and I could purchase cheap looking, neon colored t-shirts at the visitor’s center which is coincidentally where I had to go anyway to get the ferry back to Norfolk – and it was only 12:30 (it would have been noon if I hadn’t stopped for lunch at Jimmy Johns on High Street).

I arrived back at downtown Norfolk around 1:25 where it was a balmy 69 degrees with partly cloudy skies, and I was nowhere near ready to pack it in for the day so I walked over to Nauticus (though most of the parks were closed off due to construction of the various tents for next week’s Harborfest). I walked up the ticket counter and the somewhat disinterested cashier sold me a normal base ticket for $15 (included a movie and a limited tour of the attached battleship). I couldn’t decide if I wanted a snack or to just upstairs to see the exhibits on the 3rd floor first so I chose the latter.

The museum itself is hard to quantify. It has some exhibits that are geared towards kids (like the entry on port Norfolk, the touch a shark tank or the small “aquarium” area – which makes the former National Aquarium in DC look HUGE by comparison), but the majority of the labyrinthine museum space is ship life, Naval history, Naval recruiting and the nearby Naval base – not many of which would be of interest to the 3-12 set.

The exhibits are small, superficial and dated with broken or worn out “interactives” and little to no flow between the tightly packed exhibits – which you can’t really skip as there is only ONE path through the exhibit area (as I found out when one of the barely crowded rooms was too noisy for my tastes). The only place in the gallery that wasn’t claustrophobically small was the end where the theater, the NOAA exhibit and the stairway to the actual Hampton Roads Naval Museum\walkway to the USS Wisconsin (which were both on the second level). Though I didn’t partake in either this time as I fell asleep in the 3d movie and took that as a cue to head back to the hotel… at 3pm in the afternoon.

Not yet, first I stopped into their gift shop (my favorite part of their museum), and then I went into their café next door… but they were closed so I looked around thinking I might be able to take some snacks back to the room with me. Then a black man in black shirt hauling a large trash can behind him comes up behind me:

“Ya know,” he said. “We got a full menu.”

“Yeah, thanks, but it’s closed. There’s no-one back there.”

“What was that? I said look up there. We got a full menu up there,” he said pointing up to the large black and white sign hanging from the ceiling that I’d have to be blind to miss (I couldn’t read it with my crappy vision, but I couldn’t miss it when I came in).

“And it doesn’t do me any good if it’s CLOSED because there is NO-ONE back there.”

“’No-one back there?’ I work the café. I’D be the one ringing you up. Now, if you want to order something. Order it.”

With that said, I immediately turned around and decided to get dinner in the hotel and then get a start on my packing. It’s going to be another long day of traveling tomorrow – and my toes aren’t even remotely healed yet…

Categories: adventures, Advocacy\volunteer, Autism, entertainment, ferry, museums, Norfolk, sensory processing disorder, transportation, Virginia | Leave a comment

Photos: Orlando Holy Land Experience

This was actually a difficult shoot to chose pictures from as their campus is quite striking (even if there’s nothing to DO there). I couldn’t find any really good photos from Universal portion of my trip so I’m quite lucky these turned out as well as they did. I would have preferred a little more variety, but it’s not exactly a big park (it’s roughly the size as the OPEN portion of DHS).

 

p1020361 p1020362 p1020364 p1020365 p1020370

Categories: adventures, entertainment, florida, museums, 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

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

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

Norfolk day 4: Sick as a dog

I woke up on Saturday morning feeling like someone kicked me repeatedly in the stomach. Oh well, I figured, maybe I can go downstairs and get breakfast and it’ll go away. Nope, I couldn’t eat a darn thing…for two whole days.

It’s not like I didn’t try to enjoy the majority of my trip, it’s just kind of hard to do so when you’re constantly nauseous with diarrhea, sore throat and running on a maximum of 2-3 hours of sleep per night because the pain in my stomach was SOO bad. Not only could I not sleep due to the pain, I could barely move as well.

Well, today I felt ever so slightly better so I decided I was going to out and try to do something – even if it killed me. Unfortunately, like Baltimore, nearly every art\tourist attraction in Norfolk is closed on Mondays.

According to the guide book in the hotel room, the Norfolk Southern Museum was open on Mondays. I figured with a Frappuccino from the lobby (I found drinking something cold soothed my burning throat and made the nausea go away temporarily), I could walk the 2-3 blocks without much difficulty.

Yes, I made it to the NSF museum with a minute or two before it was scheduled to open. I leaned against the building to catch my breath and as I slid down I could hear a door opening about 20 feet away from me. I initially figured it was the curator or someone coming out to open the galleries for the day.

Then I saw her face, the short, black security guard probably in her late 50s with black pants and a white shirt stormed over to me pointing at me angrily and shouting (eventually wagging her finger in my face):

“HEY YOU, YES YOU!!! THIS IS PRIVATE PROPERTY AND YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED ON IT! NOW GET LOST – NOW!! I DON’T CARE WHERE YOU GO BUT YOU WILL LEAVE THIS PROPERTY NOW! WE HAVE LAWS IN THIS CITY AGAINST TRESPASSING AND I WILL NOT HAVE YOU VIOLATING THEM ON MY WATCH! DO I MAKE MYSELF CLEAR? NOW GO! I DON’T CARE WHERE: ACROSS THE CITY, ACROSS THE STREET, I DON’T CARE! YOU CANNOT STAY HERE! IF I HAVE TO SAY IT ONCE AGAIN I WILL CALL THE POLICE AND YOU WILL GO TO JAIL!”

It’s one of those catch-22s, I can’t leave until she stops yelling and she’ll continue yelling until I go away with what’s left of my tail tucked into what’s left of my legs. I limp over to the park and take a seat next to a passed out homeless person (which is what she probably thought I was) for a few minutes until my watch said it was after 10am.

Anyway, I summoned up enough courage to go back, knowing full well this would be difficult regardless of when it was – particularly since it still stings me writing this. I walk into the building and a young black lady in the same stark white shirt is sitting at the security desk.

“My colleague said to not let you in this building.”

“I’m here for the museum,” I said in a calm, normal voice.

“That’s…um, not open today.” she said clearly stalling.

This is another awkward position, I know I’m supposed to say something but I have no idea what. I also know the gallery is supposedly open on Mondays, and that’s she’s clearly stalling for time, but I can’t argue with her about it either (printing error in the guidebook?).

“Great,” I ended up saying. “Now, I just have to find something else to do, but even the river cruises are closed today.”

That’s when I could hear a self-satisfied “humph” from behind me. I didn’t need to look. I already knew who it was from and as much as it irritated me I wasn’t about to make a scene.

I was just going back to the hotel and reading the annual report I hastily shoved in my backpack before the trip. I figured it would probably cover most of the same ground…with a lot less aggravation.

“How do things like that always seem to happen to you?” my mom said somewhat skeptically when I called from the room phone.

I don’t know, believe me, I don’t know….

Categories: entertainment, museums, Norfolk, writing | Leave a comment

Harrisburg Trip: Day 2

I didn’t have any fancy clothes with me so I threw on a polo shirt and hoped for the best. I put my key into the elevator and made my way to the 13th floor. I followed the sign to a small doorway immediately next to the elevator. The door leads down a small hallway to a small room with fancy tables and overstuffed chairs.

The woman at the concierge stand didn’t ask for a name or room key. She simply pointed over to the seating area, saying I could sit wherever I wanted (though there were only about 3 guest tables in the room). I was somewhat disappointed by the selection on their continental breakfast, but the panoramic view of the downtown with the river was almost enough to make up for it.

I finished my meal, grabbed my backpack off the floor and headed downstairs. I decided to take the sky bridge across to Whitaker Center (via Strawberry Square Mall). It was after all the only reason I made the trek to this city in the first place. One doesn’t get to see giant mechanized dinosaurs on a daily basis in Baltimore, but that doesn’t automatically make the exhibit any good, but (you can read the rest of my thoughts here).

When I finished walking around the exhibit, I shoved my pen\notebook into my backpack and returned to Strawberry Square to find something to get for lunch. Sadly, there was absolutely nothing in “The Square.” It was literally as devoid of shops as it was of visitors, the only other people I saw walking through the area were the ones unfortunate enough to work at the food court on the second level (so much for hanging out at the mall on a Saturday).

It was just after noon when I left the abandoned husk of urban land known as “Strawberry Square,” and I made my past the Capitol Complex on my way to the State Museum of Pennsylvania.

One would think that a state the size of Pennsylvania would have a fairly large “state museum,” and you’d be wrong. Granted, the building isn’t nearly as small as it looks from the outside, but it isn’t nearly as immense, encompassing or engaging as I would have hoped. Yes, there were some interesting displays here and there, but the entire museum felt hopelessly dated (circa late-70s-early 80s).

I didn’t really get a chance to explore the entire museum (as it closed at 5pm), but the 3rd floor was Entomology, Geology and Paleontology along with the impressive taxonomy collection of native mammals. 2nd floor was history (civil war), archaeology (presented though a series of life-sized dioramas showing the life of a Delaware Indian tribesman) and technology (I didn’t really have time to go through, sorry). The 1st floor was Village Square which showed various shops in a colonial era town and around the hallway in the middle of their contemporary art wing (also didn’t really go through) was something called the “Brockerhoff House” (a recreation of 18-19th century home life).

I left the State Museum shortly after 4pm, and immediately sat down on the cement wall outside the building to find somewhere to eat on my smart phone. I didn’t really see anything that interested me so I decided to take a walk over to City Island. Unfortunately, no sooner had I come off the sidewalk of the Market Street Bridge it started to drizzling. I was able to make it to the train depot on the other side of the island without getting caught in rain, but as soon as I came off said attraction, it starting raining more steadily (albeit relatively lightly).

Fortunately, I had a rain jacket in my backpack because the rain really started coming down as I crossed the iron pedestrian bridge going back towards the hotel. By this time, it was close enough to dinner that I simply ducked into the hotel restaurant. The service was good, but I wasn’t impressed with the sandwich I ordered.

It was still pouring when I arrived back at the room. I was inside now so I decided to just change into drier clothes and stay inside for the night. I was checking out the next day, and it was a long trip back to Baltimore.

Categories: Harrisburg, museums, Pennsylvania, weather | 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

BoB: One Voter’s Ballot

City Paper’s annual “Best of Baltimore” ballots hit newsstands this week, and here are a few of my choices (at least the ones relevant to this blog) with admittedly arbitrary and superficial explanations of why. I just hope this post doesn’t discount my ballot.

Best Theatre Company: “Glass Mind Theatre”

Why? Sure, Elliot Rauh shoving his uncovered junk in our faces may be brave on a certain level, but it isn’t necessarily innovative theatre. Fuzz Roark’s casting of non-singers for “Hello Dolly” may be risky, but their comparatively strong acting wasn’t enough to save it from mediocrity (the reverse was true of “A Little Night Music,” but with less blowback).

Centerstage and Everyman are the easy choices, and while I may not like everything they produce, one cannot argue with the quality of their work making a choice between them completely arbitrary.

This leads me to the final criteria I chose to consider: which company has the best chance of being the “next Everyman\Centerstage” and the only logical answer was GMT which consistently produces works that are challenging and entertaining for less than their larger competitors spend on marketing.

Best Place to See Art: “The Walters Art Museum”

Why? Yes, it’s the easy choice, but the Contemporary Museum is closed. I like Minas Gallery and the Baltimore Museum of Art, but neither is worth the effort for me to make regular sojourns up there. UB Gallery is too small, and as great as MICA shows are there is little point in critiquing student artwork (that has likely already been graded by harsher critics than I).

But in the end, WAM offer high quality shows (except “Public Property”) throughout the year on a range of subjects at no cost to the visitor. Who am I to argue with free?

Best Blog: “Aisle Pass” (my “other” WordPress blog)

Why? I didn’t come to this decision lightly. I was tempted to say Baltimore Brew (I instead listed them as “Best Baltimore Related Website” and Mark Reuter\Fern Shen as “Best Journalist”).

It may not look like it (okay, it doesn’t look like it), but I put a lot of work into planning stories that not only what I have time\money to cover, but that I feel my reader(s) will be most interested in (though I was surprised by how popular those game reviews were. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to continue with them after the theatre season starts up again next month).

Besides, there is nothing “wrong” with self-promotion 😉

Categories: Baltimore, editorials, entertainment, museums, theatre | 1 Comment

Blog at WordPress.com.