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Many and many a year ago, in a kingdom by the sea: Adventures in Baltimore, Part One

I’m home! A long, long, loooong day of trains and I got home safely late in the afternoon and now am safely ensconced on the couch with a heavily purring cat beside me, who I’m fairly sure thought I was dead. He had MANY meows when I walked in. And they were strange meows. Mrrrrow? Preeeeeow? Mrrrp? I think he was voicing his displeasure that I was gone. He’s not good at separation. He seems quite pleased now that all is well in Dumbcat-land. MOM IS HOME! SHE IS NOT DEAD!

So, let’s talk about the trip! I know, I was supposed to tweet more. Here’s the thing: I know some people can tweet and Facebook and such while they are having adventures, but I am not good at that. I feel that if you are on vacation, especially if you are visiting people you haven’t seen in a while, you should try to experience what you are doing and spend time with those people, and not have your face buried in your phone, you know? I know. This makes me out of touch and very much an old person. I don’t regret the decision, however.

So I went to Baltimore to visit friend R., her husband A., and their most wonderful baby CeeVee. R. and I have been friends for – are you ready for this? – TWENTY-ONE YEARS. I know! That is kind of insane! We met when we were seventeen at orientation for our part-time job freshman year, and worked together at that job for a few years, and then became roommates when we moved off-campus, and spent a semester abroad together, and moved across the country together. We have history. It is nice to know someone this long, you know? R. has known me through a lot of iterations of Amy. Naive Amy and happy Amy and sad Amy and depressed Amy and crabby Amy and jubilant Amy. And she’s still my friend! All these years later! That’s impressive, and she should probably get an award. You have to love someone who’s stood by you that long.

I have met A. once, briefly, but had not yet met Baby CeeVee, but had seen many photos and was very much looking forward to meeting her. She is just the most beautiful kiddo. Also, as mentioned, when you’ve known someone for 21 years, and they have a baby, well, you want to meet that baby. You want to meet that baby very much.

So I took two trains Thursday morning to Baltimore. The first was from here to Penn Station in New York and left VERY EARLY IN THE MORNING. Luckily, this meant no one was on the train and I had a seat all to myself. Then there was a little layover at Penn Station, but not long enough to jaunt in my favorite city in all the land, and then it was on to Baltimore! That train was VERY crowded, and I had to squish next to a lady that kept falling asleep and every time we went around a corner, the things on her seat-desky thing kept falling onto me. Annoying.

This pigeon was just cruising around the Amtrak waiting area in New York City. A very funny woman with much attitude said, "What's that bird doin' here? There ain't supposed to be no birds all up in here" and I laughed and laughed to myself.

This pigeon was just cruising around the Amtrak waiting area in New York City. A very funny woman with much attitude said, “What’s that bird doin’ here? There ain’t supposed to be no birds all up in here” and I laughed and laughed to myself.

But, no matter! ON TO BALTIMORE!

Outside of the train station in Baltimore, there is this statue, and it is gigantic:

It is called Man/Woman and from some angles it is a lady-statue and from some a man-statue and I decided that was a very good welcome to Baltimore because it was artsy and kind of fun in a weird wacky way, and if there’s anything I like, it’s wackiness.

R. picked me up and first, we went to a very fun café for lunch which had all the velvet Jesuses and R. said, “I thought you would like that!” and I DID. She knows me well. Next door to the café was this:

This is Café Hon, and apparently it was on Kitchen Nightmares and also has a huge flamingo because Baltimore is John Waters’ town and he is all about flamingos. Sometimes, people in Baltimore just see him walking down the street. Just walking! How exciting is THAT, I ask you? The answer is, the MOST.

Next, we decided to check out some HISTORY.

We were originally planning on going to the Poe house, but the Poe house was closed due to funding issues. Now, a thing I like very much about Baltimore (one of many things) is that they are very much into Poe, and celebrate him a great deal. Even their football team is called the Baltimore Ravens. After an author! I don’t even care what you think about the team itself, I find it very cool that they named it after a poem. There are also raven things all over town. This is a town that appreciates authors and poetry, you guys. How could I not love such a town?

Things I learned about Baltimore while we were driving to our next destination:

  • There are a billion beautiful old buildings. This city loves history and old things. You KNOW I love history and old things! I seriously was looking around with my mouth hanging open every time we drove anywhere the entire time I was there. Old churches! Old buildings! Old factories repurposed as office buildings! So much history it made my whole head swim!
  • There are a lot of people living there. The internets tells me that about 621,000 people live there. In comparison, Albany has about 98,000 people, and when I first moved to this area, I was AMAZED at all these people. Also, they are VERY AGGRESSIVE DRIVERS. R. and A. are ALSO very aggressive drivers. But, not in a scary way? Like, in an authoritative way. I think you have to be, or you will be killed. I was super-impressed. And, if you live there, you have to learn how to parallel park like a BOSS. I could never live in Baltimore because I have only parallel parked once in my life and I was TERRIBLE at it and it took me like three or four tries and I had plenty of time because no cars were coming, but in Baltimore, these people are all ZIP ZIP ZOOP! and they are in a spot that looks smaller than their cars. I was in awe of their parallel parking skillz, yo.
  • Some of the roads are very narrow and only hold one car, so if you meet a car coming at you, you have to pull over to let the car go. This seems ill-planned, Baltimore! And sometimes, even though it is not their turn, the other driver refuses to be the one that pulls over, so you have to, otherwise you would be playing chicken for like HOURS.

Then we got to our next destination, which was…

The Westminster Hall and burial ground!

What do you think might be here, I wonder? (Also, isn’t this a pretty old church? Seriously, if you love old churches but don’t have the time, money, or inclination to go to Europe, head on over to Baltimore. There’s one of these gorgeous churches on every single corner, almost. Almost every turn I’d be all, “YOU GUYS LOOK ANOTHER PRETTY CHURCH!”)

Well, here’s why people come to Westminster Hall and burial ground…

Poe’s GRAVE, you guys!!!

It’s very impressive and fancy and people come to visit this from all over the world. There were flowers all around it that people had left. That made me happy, because I love that writers live on far beyond when they’ve died. I’m a huge Poe fan. His work is utter brilliance to me, and I can’t believe it was written as long ago as it was, and it breaks my heart he died alone as if he was no one, not an amazing man with all these stories in his head. Who knows what else he might have written?

The cemetery was filled with old-timey wonder. I took many photos. Want to see? Sure you do!

This was the view into the cemetery. Isn’t it so pretty and moody? I bet it’s also very pretty at night.

R. told me that this was the place rich people wanted to be buried, because back in the day, there was a lot of grave robbing, and this was a very safe cemetery. There was a dental school right around the corner, and dental students used to steal heads to work on the teeth. EW HEE HEE AND YUCKO!

This was the street sign outside the cemetery for the Poe House. I was sad there was no Poe House on this trip, but listen, I loved Baltimore so much, I totally want to go back. Maybe it will be open next time!

This is me being cheerfully pensive next to Poe’s grave. I think he would have liked that. I feel Poe and I would have been the best of friends. He would have been all emo and I would have been all, “Argh, POE, cut that shit OUT, dude, look at your beautiful CITY! Let’s go down to the bay and look at boats. How can you be all ‘Masque of the Red Death’ while looking at BOATS?” and then we would have had none of Poe’s darker works but we might have had things like “The Shiny Bay of Amontillado” or something and that would have been nice.

There were a lot of these educational things around the cemetery. I like these things because sometimes they are unintentionally wacky. Like this one, which you can embiggen if you click. First, her last name was “Peachy,” which is funny. She married a guy, and “less than a year later she was dead.” Whoa, I’m pretty sure he murdered her. Then in italics, it says she was her husband’s “consort” and not his wife (MAYBE A WHORE!), and says “the enviable qualities of this interesting female” which makes me think they had nothing nice to say about her and those are euphemisms for “that Fanny Peachy, what a bitch whose husband murdered her.”

Then under that, it says that they used to call women “consorts” when they died before their husbands, and if their husbands died first, they were called “relicts.” Neither of these seem like nice things to say about someone.

R. and I laughed and laughed about this sign and made up many stories about Fanny Peachy and her murderous husband.

This is very specific about her time of death and also “long and painful illness” seems like a lie. She didn’t marry her husband while in the throes of this illness, so I’m still banking on murder. Also, look at the raven in the corner of the sign! Aw, love that!

I liked this because it looked like someone’s yard at Halloween, but it was really people’s gravestones.

This sign tells you what death terms mean, like “tomb” and “casket” and I find it the most morbid and therefore the most awesome.

This is, I was quite sure, a vampire tomb. But really it ended up being just where rich people are buried so those dental students don’t steal their heads to work on their teeth post-mortem, because it could be locked against grave-robbing students. I was still on the lookout for Eric from True Blood, though. Just in case.

When R. and I saw this we decided it was probably a table where virgins were sacrificed because it looks like where Aslan was sacrificed in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. There was no informative sign on it telling us otherwise, so we decided to go with that. Also I think my finger is a little in this shot. Sorry. I’m not the best photo-taker.

DOUBLE VAMPIRE TOMBS!!! Very romantic. Probably these are for Spike and Dru.

This cone was just hangin’ on out in the middle of the cemetery, so I decided it was my future tombstone. VERY classy. Just like me.

Next we saw this…

Another virgin sacrifice table! Only all bent! There was a sign next to it that said this was on Ripley’s Believe it or Not because it shouldn’t be able to stay up like this but it DOES. I know. IT IS HAUNTED!

I of course told R. she had to pose next to the creepy sacrifice table in a fun way. She obliged.

This is R. pretending to sacrifice an invisible virgin with an invisible knife. When we told A. that night that we’d taken this picture, he was incredulous. “You have to understand what taking pictures with Amy entails,” R. said. “There are antics.”

I totally obtained R.’s permission to put her on the blog. She did not care. She’s cool like that.

Also, we found out after we took the photo that these are NOT virgin sacrifice tables, but actually gravestones. We found this odd, because no one’s name was written anywhere on the table. So we think that’s a lie, and they are of course virgin sacrifice tables.

This is Poe’s FIRST gravesite, and where he was buried when he was just a schmo who died under mysterious and sad circumstances. Also, that’s totally my birthday he died, by the way. I KNOW WE ARE MEANT TO BE BFFs!!! Then they moved him over to the fancy monument gravesite. Poor Poe. I want to give him a hug and a cookie.

Then it was time to leave because it was time to meet A. and Baby CeeVee!

R. and A. live in the COOLEST HOUSE, you guys! I have never seen houses like this before. They are called row houses, and they’re like houses in New York City (or even downtown Albany) but with no alleys between them. So they look like this:

…except a little nicer and more residential, with porches with plants and things. Kind of like the houses on Sesame Street. They have a TON of character. R. and A. like them, but say there are downsides, like you can hear the neighbors, and if you come home late sometimes there’s a lack of parking. But the house is old, and very cool, and has wood floors, and A. is very handy so has fixed a whole bunch of things up, and it was just beautiful inside. There were two main floors, and then a full basement with a guest room in it! And I was the guest! YAY ME!

A. and Baby CeeVee came home not long after, and it was my first time meeting Baby CeeVee! And seeing A. again after a very long time! And after a moment of shyness, Baby CeeVee and I made fast friends!

I took photos of Baby CeeVee later, and this is attempting to go in order, so you’ll just have to wait a little for those.

Then all the waking up at 3am and traveling and sightseeing and such caught up with me, so I went to bed somewhat early. Because there were many more adventures forthcoming! AND I TOOK PHOTOS OF ALL OF THEM! Sometimes with me making wacky faces!

Stay tuned, bloggonians! Many more adventures await! I will do my best to do all the posting this week, but might be a little delayed – this week I have (and I am not even kidding) three plays, one review to write, one dinner with a friend, one lecture (I AM SEEING STEPHEN SONDHEIM IN PERSON Z!O!M!G!!!), household scintillating things like laundry and grocery shopping, multiple book reviews to write, and trips to the salon and the library. Also work. I KNOW! I couldn’t have more going on if I tried. I will do my best to tell you about Baltimore in a timely manner, though!

HAPPY TUESDAY EVERYONE! Also, as I came back into town, I realized that spring had sprung while I was gone, and everything is so beautiful and green! I missed you, Albany. Baltimore was amazing, but I love my home so much and missed it, too. I’m lucky like that.

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