metro subway

Mayday mayhem

First off, I was wide awake and wired at 2am for absolutely no reason. Then next thing I know it’s 11am. I was hoping to be out of the apartment by 10am, but I didn’t even leave the building until sometime after noon.

I hate eating lunch this late in the day, but here I was standing in a ginormous line at Subway at 1:15 in the afternoon. I get to the counter, order and when I get to the register the woman at the counter tells me my sandwich was $6.35.

I check my wallet. I had EXACTLY $6 on me, and since I’m still paying off my exploratory trip to Florida from last month (which I haven’t gotten around to writing up yet, sorry) so I don’t have available credit to throw about, but she insisted “$6.35 is $6.35 I will not take $6 – you must pay $6.35.”

Fine, there’s a line behind me so I can either ask everyone in it for change (which I’ve seen people do before) or bite it and hope it goes through. It did which I’m paying for it later, but as I take my sandwich from the counter she yells “you forgot drink.”

I appreciate the effort, but “I didn’t order a drink.”

“Yes, you did. I ask ‘you want drink?’ You said ‘yah.’”

“No, I didn’t. I couldn’t possibly have said ‘yah’ to a question you didn’t ask me.”

“Whatever, I charge you for drink, and you PAID for it so you must take it. Have a nice day,” she added almost as a taunt. Ironically enough as she said that, the guy behind rolled his eyes, shook his head and I swore I heard him call me a “fucking imbecile” under his breath.

I check my receipt: “6 inch sandwich, combo meal, plus tax, $6.35.”

I scan the room, there is only one open table and it’s the one directly across from the register. Awkward – especially since she makes it a point to ask her upsell in a really loud voice adding “well, I ‘have’ to ask people before I give them drinks” which makes people turn and look at me derisively.

I ignore them and keep reminding myself that this day was only beginning. Besides, I was told to “have a nice day,” and I was determined to follow through on it. I finished eating as quickly as I could and made my way four blocks to the subway station. I didn’t really have much money on my smartcard, but I know from experience that putting $2 into the machine would attract undo attention to myself (the sound of the pressing its buttons reverberates throughout the station, as does the sound of change hitting the catch).

I can hear a train as I approach the gates to go down to the platform level. I hurry around the corner and down the stairs just to find out that the train is going “eastbound” (or “southbound” in local vernacular) so I exhausted myself for nothing. Fortunately, the right train came just as I beginning to catch my breath, and a woman sitting by the door even offered me the seat next to her. See this wasn’t so bad after all?

I’ve said it before on this blog, but it bears repeating: I hate the design of Mondawmin station. It’s too narrow with only ONE escalator in each direction making use of the “up” escalator nearly impossible – particularly if two trains come at once. There is a set of stairs at the far end of the station, but you still end up in the same bottleneck caused by all the people on the escalator also trying to leave the station – again using only two escalators usually with panhandlers waiting at the top of them (though to be fair, all I saw there today was two cops so I guess that’s progress).

Obviously, my first stop was the ATM. I only know of such machine at Mondawmin Mall (though their directory lists three), and there was a long, slow-moving line there as well as the machine didn’t seem to be functioning properly as I stood there sweating through my shirts waiting for the people in front of me to finish. Oddly, I went up to the machine, inserted my card and had my cash in less than a minute – even weirder no-one cornered me and guilted me into giving them money as they often at this location so that’s another positive.

Technically, the Target at Mondawmin Mall is an outparcel, but the store directory lists it an anchor. I’ve been inside said store and it’s definitely an outparcel (but still better than fighting the crowds at Wegmens). Fortunately, the store wasn’t too horrible today, but the frozen food aisle was in a bit of disarray.

I was able to use an abandoned cart to check if my items fit in the bag (singular) I brought with me. They did, but I couldn’t decide if I should put one or both V8 Splash back or not. They fit so I decided to keep them even though they took up a lot of space and made the bag really heavy.

I unpacked my bag and went over to checkout. From what I could tell, there were only four lanes open, but the lines weren’t as bad as I had expected. I put my baskets on the belt while waiting for the woman in front of me to finish paying.

The cashier rolls her belt again, and mumbles something. I was afraid it might have been “empty your baskets,” but I wasn’t sure.

“I said ‘empty your baskets,’” she said. Well, I scramble to unpack them in the right order so she could fit everything in their neatly. She scans the items and chucks them into the bag randomly (good thing I didn’t have eggs or glass containers). This time I did have money so there was no argument there, but I did have to rearrange my bag in the cafe after picking up my Frappuccino (which despite the somewhat slow service wasn’t too bad).

I tried finding another store in the mall by following the vague overhead directions, but I must have missed it somehow so I simply shrugged and went back to the station. The overhead display said it was 3:05pm. I don’t generally like taking the train this late because it starts getting into school and work commuters. In fact, there was already a group of girls on the platform level still in their uniforms (same basic style, but different colors\patterns – one green, one grey camo and one pink).

Then a man in a wheelchair approaches me, I braced myself for another heartbreaking panhandler story but instead he asked me “which side is State Center?” The reason this is disconcerting to me is: I’ve ridden this train line for 5 yrs now, and I still don’t know which side goes where until the train actually arrives. I know I should, but I don’t.

It’s a long uphill climb from State Center to the top of Bolton Hill, and my hands were sore from carrying that large, heavy bag the entire way. However, I got back to the apartment without much incident, opened the door and put my bag on the counter. As I turned around to put the mail down, I heard a loud “BLA-BLA-BLAM-SPLOOSH!”

The bag had fallen off the counter. All the stuff I just bought was sprawled across the floor and the bottle of V8 Splash was splashed all over the floor. Perfect. I picked up the items most of them (except the now empty bottle of Peach Mango V8 Splash) were in relatively good condition so I put them in the freezer and took some paper towels off the rack above the sink and began sopping up the mess.

The mess cleaned up, I pull a cold coffee out of the refrigerator and go to pour it into a smaller bottle…and it sprays everywhere across the cabinets, countertop and floor. Even better, but at least the food was no longer there.

I take my 3oz of coffee and retire to my sofa. The day was finally over, and all I have to do is figure out what I’m making for dinner. Screw it, I’m ordering a pizza…

Categories: adventures, Baltimore, metro subway | 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.”

“Sorry.”

“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

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.”

volunteer-commitment

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

An almost normal Saturday: Part 2

I left the apartment (again) at 4:25pm, returning to the same Circulator stop I stood at less than three hours before. Fortunately for me, the bus arrived pretty quickly and I was walking along the promenade by 5pm.

There was a performance of some sort in the amphitheater. Tours of the visiting NE Brazil had just ended, but there was a huge crowd at the Ripleys across from said ship.

However, I was here for dinner so I went into the relatively new Bubba Gump Shrimp at the Light Street pavilion. The service was fairly good, but the sandwich I ordered wasn’t. Whatever, I was out of there by 6pm, and crossed over to the other pavilion to hit the ATM before heading off to Fells Point.

I wasn’t sure what the best way to get there was. Taking the Orange Route to the Green Route seemed a bit convoluted. I could walk over and catch the Green Route at Market Place, even though I wasn’t entirely sure where the stop for that was.

I browsed through Barnes & Noble for about a half-hour to think it over, and then decided to walk over to catch the Green Route in Harbor East. It’s only 4 blocks, and you can tell when you’re getting close because the putrid smell of the harbor intensifies to almost lethal levels.

Fells Point is one of those odd neighborhoods that you can hear well before you reach its famously cobbled streets. Drunken costumed revelers, tone-deaf karaoke singers and crappy cover bands: it’s no wonder I avoid this area on a Saturday night – especially around Halloween.

I arrived at Vagabond Players just after 7pm. However, it took a while for them to print my ticket due to the “new system.” I’m left standing there for twenty minutes of:  “no…go back… now try that…no, that’s not it either…”

Hopefully, they’ll figure it out by the next showing, because it is otherwise a nice looking theatre with a similar layout to FPCT (but without the wood paneling). The lobby had just been remodeled, and I kept hearing other patrons remark about how much nicer the space looked.

The show started at 8:07pm, with an intermission an hour later. They did have cookies and coffee in the lobby along with light chatter, I almost felt like I was at an NA meeting (not completely inappropriate given the subject matter of the play). The show restarted, and I left the theatre when the show ended at 10:29pm.

I make my way to the Circulator stop on Caroline St, but it’s closed so I walked back along the promenade to the Orange Route at Harbor East. I got off the bus at President Street, made my across the ripped up sidewalk past a broken retail window and down the steps into the subway.

It took about 15 minutes for the westbound train to arrive, and even then it moved slowly, prone to sudden starts\stops that doubled the time it took to travel requite 3 stops back to State Center. I got off the train, climbed the surprisingly well-lit stairs and began the walk back to my apartment as Saturday slowly faded into Sunday.

Categories: adventures, Baltimore, Charm CityCirculator, Fells Point, metro subway, theatre, writing | Leave a comment

First World Problems: Part 1

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.

Categories: adventures, Baltimore, Charm CityCirculator, Federal Hill, festivals, metro subway, theatre | Leave a comment

First World Problems: Part 2

I got back to the apartment around 2:30pm, sat down on my sofa and opened up my laptop. Surprisingly, for being gone “6 hours” my RSS feeds were nearly dead, so I logged onto Facebook.

One of my friends posted a video of a man leaping out of a moving car to save a 4-year old who had wandered into 4 lanes of oncoming traffic. The caption was “OMG!! Only in China!”

I made a comment that anyone would do that if their kid was in danger. Then I realized it was insulting to the person in the video and as I tried to edit my comment so people wouldn’t be offended. As I was almost finished, I got a message of a new response from one of the previous commenters (which I hadn’t read through before posting).

“You better not be talking be talking about ME!!!! Yes, I said it was ‘scary, and insane’ but YOU are taking what I said completely OUT OF CONTEXT, you FUCKING IDIOT!!!! YOU DON’T KNOW ME so DON’T YOU DARE JUDGE ME, ASSHOLE!!! BTW, DROP THE FUCKING ATTITUDE TOO, cuz I DON”T put up with shit from ANYONE – ESPECIALLY from a DUMB BITCH like YOU!!! NO-ONE DISRESPECTS ME LIKE THAT – NO-ONE!!!!!”

Why do all my conversations (real or online) seem to end like this?

As I close Facebook in absolute disgust, I hear a loud knock on my door causing me to nearly jolt my notebook off my lap. I check the keyhole, and there are two teenagers standing there, one with a clipboard and one with a large stack of yellow envelopes.

“We’re here to survey the area on behalf of the (redacted) Foundation,” the one on the left said earnestly. “We want to know if you or any of your household is Jewish.”

“No, I’m not.”

Their faces lit up children on Christmas morning. “Good, because we have Good News for YOU, there was a man in Israel who was killed for his belief that all people are God’s children…”

“His name was Jesus, wasn’t it?” I said nearly shutting the door in their faces…but then thought neither He nor the person quoted above would approve of that.

“WOW! You’re already ahead of the game. We’re just here to spread our love of Him because we feel it is important to let ALL the peoples of the world – especially in the Jewish community – about the wonders that Jesus performs in our lives and YOURS.”

“…But if you’ve already opened your heart to Him,” her companion said. “We will find reaching out to other people in your community who are not as fortunate as you. Thank you for listening, and may God bless you.”

Now with God’s blessing, this “dumb bitch” went downstairs to get a shower and get ready for his day job.

I left around 4:30 because I knew it would take a while to get to Fell’s Point on a Saturday evening. What I didn’t know, was there was an Orioles game tonight so while the Inner Harbor was jumping with people, Fell’s Point was completely deserted.

I got off the Circulator at 5:30, and walked right into the nearest restaurant. Even with an appetizer and entrée, it was still only 6:21pm when I got my check. It appears as if I had some time to kill before my show at 8pm.

I walk around Broadway Market and then head back to the Circulator stop at Aliceanna Street. I waited there for about 10 minutes before deciding I could probably just walk there as it was only one stop away.

I get to Broadway and Gough Streets when I see the Circulator pull into the curb, but it was too late. I was already two blocks from my destination, and at 7:15pm I finally walked into the tiny, wood paneled lobby of Fells Point Corner Theatre.

I bought a ticket, and spent the next half hour waiting for the doors to open. When they did, I was surprised how small the space actually was (slightly smaller than Mobtown, but with better seats).

I won’t get into the details of the show as this post is already longer than I intended to write, but I will say that a show about war, rape and genocide in East Africa certainly puts a new perspective on unwanted plastic cups or hurting someone’s feeling on Facebook. You can read the rest of my thoughts on said play here.

I got back to the bus stop at 10:45pm, and made my way two stops north hoping not to miss my stop in an unfamiliar neighborhood. Fortunately, the only other passenger on the bus with me was also heading to the subway so I followed him across the narrow street to the station.

I walked around the edge of the pocket park, down the stairs and eventually to the fare gate where once again my Smartcard wouldn’t work…

Categories: adventures, Baltimore, Charm CityCirculator, festivals, metro subway, theatre | 1 Comment

An Artistic Afternoon

I left the apt around 11am and arrived at Shot Tower\Marketplace station a half-hour later. Unlike last time, I didn’t have a choice coming out of the gates, as the left exit (Shot Tower) was blocked off for maintenance work. That dilemma solved, I made my way up the steps and around the corner to the entrance to Maryland Art Place…which was closed (even though it opens at 11am).

Fine, I’ll get lunch and run a few other errands so it wasn’t a huge deal. I also wanted to go to Ritas, but it was cool and cloudy (even though The Weather Channel said it would be sunny and warm) so I went into the café at Barnes & Noble and got a medium iced coffee to drink while I tried to decide what to do for the rest of the day.

I looked at my watch. It was only 12:36pm. I thought about Shot Tower being blocked off, but then remembered that the “Dandy Lions” exhibition at the Lewis museum was less than two blocks walk from the bookstore. Truthfully, I wasn’t all that interested in the show itself (as I generally don’t cover fashion), but I owed it to myself as a former Anthropology major and current backyard tourist. Besides, it would eat time.

I felt a bit nervous walking in there, not because of bad reviews, but because as a 30-yr-old white male, I knew I was the principle villain of this museum. The ticket agents seemed somewhat surprised to see me, but they didn’t throw me out of their institution so that fear was gone. They even offered me a series of discounts that I sadly didn’t qualify for, so I ended up paying the full $8 admission fee.

Like “All Things Round” over at AVAM, “Dandy Lions” (and its sub-gallery “Global Dandies”) takes up most of the museum’s second floor. True to its wall text, the photographs in this exhibit show that there can be more to black fashion than gold chains and saggy pants. This colorful, well designed and highly stylized exhibit is meant to break down stereotypes, and it does so with swagger to spare.

It was 1:25pm when I left the Lewis museum, and I decided that I had given the MAP curators enough time to get back to their offices. So I walk into the gallery, and a curator pops her head out of the office for a second for a standard half-second greeting to whoever came into her gallery.

Before she disappeared, I mentioned this was my second attempt to visit their gallery that day. She waves her hand dismissively, “well then you have to come when we OPEN which is at eleven.”

“I came at eleven-THIRTY,” I said.

She looked at me blankly and said: “that was out staff meeting. We don’t turn the gallery lights on during those,” and then disappeared with a rote “if you have any questions, I’ll be in the back office.”

It didn’t take long to wander through their gallery. The point of “The Sum of the Parts” is to show that meaningful art can be made from mundane material. Many of the pieces are quite large and elaborate, others are small and deceptively simple creations, but the whole of the exhibition isn’t very impressive.

On that note, I wandered out into the courtyard and around the bend and disappeared back into the city’s subway system. Mission accomplished… now I was off to do laundry and write up some reviews that no-one would read.

Categories: adventures, art, attractions, metro subway | Leave a comment

Migraines, movies and more

I arrived at The National Pinball Museum at 2:35pm. I had a little trouble finding it at first since it is not actually IN Power Plant Live as their website states, but around the corner from it.

The building itself is very narrow, wedged between two bars. The sign above the door still reads “The Chocolate Factory,” but there is a small printed sign on the window with the museum’s name and hours on it.

The first thing you notice upon entering isn’t the tables painted like “bumpers” or the framed news clippings on the wall – it’s the noise. The incessant racket of banging, beeping and assorted other sound effects that you would expect at a video arcade. You can’t hear it from the outside due to the ambient din of city traffic.

The first floor houses the museum store, a timeline showing the founding and closing of various pinball machine manufacturers and a permanent gallery showing its early history from roots in an 1877 French billiards game known as “Bagatelle,” the wooden barroom games of the 1900s and a collection of several (non-playable) machines showing the evolution of the current game over the past century.

As mentioned above, the 2nd floor is their main gallery level with 41 machines ranging from relatively simple designs from the 1920s to “golden age of pinball” of the late-40s-60s as well as a collection of more recent models (1980s-late-90s). There is no attempt to organize the machines by age or manufacturer, nor any attempt at context beyond two pieces of wall text.

I’m not normally a fan of pinball, but I swiped my play card in one of the machines anyway… and nothing happened. Then as I went to try again, a worker comes by, rolls his eyes and presses the “start” button on the front of the machine. I thought I heard him mumble something about me as he walked away, but it was impossible to tell with the noise level on that level.

I lost relatively quickly, and then tried other machines with similar results. I left the museum with a massive migraine and full hour of playtime remaining on my card. I head over to the Barnes & Noble at the “other” Power Plant complex, hoping to relax with a magazine and small coffee before heading off for my next destination with a slightly lessened headache.

I got to the Maryland Science Center about 10 minutes before my movie was to begin. I was hoping for their “Fridays After 5” promotion, but the film, The Secret of Life on Earth, began at 5pm. The movie itself was often pretty to look at, but I got the distinct feeling most of it was stock footage; the narration by Patrick Stewart was excellent, even if the script he was reading from dumbed down and painfully generic.

Thankfully, the film is only 38 minutes long and I made my way back to the circulator. The next bus screen on the sign read “16 minutes” and I was starting to get cold so I decided to find something to eat in the PPL complex and take the subway back to Bolton Hill.

Categories: adventures, art, attractions, Baltimore, Charm CityCirculator, entertainment, metro subway, movies, transportation | Leave a comment

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