As I rolled out of bed on Friday, a thin, greyish band of light shone through the 7th story window of my Baltimore hotel room. Its very color promised a bracing, biting chill to come. I staggered into the bathroom, my right ear still ailing from the flight, and with the taste of late-night/early morning Philly Steak and Shrimp still on my palate. But there was running to be done, and rehearsing for matrimonial-type things after that, and maybe some more food to be eaten, if I could just manage, somehow, to digest three pounds of beef and shrimp first. I splashed water on my face, checked the weather channel, then proceeded to wake my roommate with very loud sighs and groans as I laced up my shoes.
I’d haphazardly mapped my route prior to departure, but had very little idea of what might be in store along the actual sidewalks and thoroughfares. I soon found out.
Hills. They have them there. Also water. Best to avoid the water, though. Slow-moving, fanny-pack wearing tourists seem to mill around there, waiting for paddle-boat rides, or reenactments of failed British invasions, or the aquarium.
The hills though, should be sought out and enjoyed (read: loathed). As I strolled along Eastern Avenue, heading East from downtown, I felt an ache deep within my lungs that can only be experienced on an incline. Though it’s painful, and often leads to the inappropriate deposition of phlegm in very public places, it’s something I continue to miss in New Orleans.
At the corner of Pratt and Elwood, next to Patterson Park, my 1.5-2 miles of climbing yielded a beautiful panoramic of the downtown area, with centuries-old steeples and smokestacks dotting the landscape. The next mile into downtown along Baltimore Street was an equally breathtaking downhill obstacle course, complete with iconic row houses and very supportive mail deliverers who had better pleasantries to offer than “Run, Forrest.”
But the best parts of this city, in my humble opinion, are those in which new meets old; where nouveau glass-and-steel facades give way to hulking, decaying factories; and where luxury townhouses cannot be built high–or quickly–enough to conceal the true character of the city lying underneath. The city of Baltimore’s charm and grit are inextricably linked, the latter begetting the former, and vice versa. Along Key Highway, as I weaved my way around the well-preserved site of Fort McHenry, I noted the gradual change of landscape. I was heartened to see ships in the harbor become increasingly weathered and rusted as I picked up my pace, and to see the industrial heart of the city continue to beat, uninterrupted and largely unnoticed.
As I crossed the street and began my long sojourn back over to Charles Street, I came across an old shed which looked as if it might collapse at any moment and roll down the steep cobblestone alley where it sat. The writing on a chipped, blue wooden board across its only window read “Welcome to Charm City.”
With residual endorphins still flowing, I headed to a rehearsal for the wedding of two dear friends. The next day, I had the profound honor of watching them embark upon their own marathon, and one which has no finish line. I would like to wish them both, in the most public medium I have available to me, as much joy as they felt at the moment of their marriage, and for the rest of their days.
A few final notes:
Baltimore closes at two. No go-cups. You must retire from the valet entrance of the Intercontinental Harbor at three, for we have had repeated complaints from guests on the eighth floor, and you have made yourself a nuisance.
If you wish to second-line during the wedding, you must do so to Zydeco accompaniment, because our ultimate wedding playlist contains no brass.
Try the crab cakes, hon.
Irresponsibly Amped-Up Song of the Week (‘The Wire’ theme song edition): Blind Boys of Alabama – Way Down in the Hole