The Monumental City.

 

What a nice trip.  This marks the third time I’ve been to Baltimore and each time it gets better.  This time around I didn’t quite have as nice of digs as the last, but when I’m staying on someone else’s dime, well I shan’t complain either.  I was a little ways off of the inner harbor a few blocks west and north.  It must not have been too bad, however, because I slept like a log every night, causing complications every morning.  Basically, I couldn’t get out of bed.  I wanted to get up, run and beat the heat, but every morning, no luck.  Fort McHenry will have to wait for another trip.

I was in Charm City for a conference and unlike academic conferences this one was quite useful.  I won’t bore you with the details, but unlike academic conferences which have been become so bloated with panel after panel of papers that: 1) I either have no interest in or 2) couldn’t possibly attend every one because of scheduling conflicts; this conference offered a lot of hands-on, practical knowledge for my current job.  It also offered what I enjoy about conferences no matter what the genre, time to catch up with old colleagues and friends and time alone to explore.

The most significant exploration is covered more extensively on my baseball-centric blog here.  I went to the lovely Camden Yards, not once but twice over my four days and it was quite worth it both times, loved it!  Read more about it at ChicagoNow!  (Of course I’m under the suspicion that those that read this blog also read the other, so thanks for your continued support!)

That leaves my eating and running trips around the city.  I didn’t do too much repeat visiting, funny how being on the other side of the harbor will do that.  The important trip was a return visit to Dangerously Delicious Pies.  Oh, how I love these pies, half of the menu is savory, the other half sweet.  I took a walk to the residential part of Carroll Camden, a very neat section of the city, to the exact location where I first ate these pies.  Lo and behold it was no longer Dangerous, but a specialty grilled cheese shop. I was intrigued and thought, “Ok, I like grilled cheese” but alas, they were closed due to an electrical outage.  The store operator was very nice though and told me that Dangerous Pies had moved to an even hipper area of town called Canton.  I did manage to eat at a local sub shop, an ok cheesesteak, but I probably could have chosen better in the neighborhood.  A really unfortunate outcome of this trip, the first being of course no pie, was that it was about 100 degrees during my mile walk to and mile walk from South Baltimore.  By the time I got back to my conference, I looked like I swam in the harbor.

The next day I made my way to Canton.  Ironically enough, I was pretty much in the neighborhood a year ago when I did speed work in Patterson Park.  Technically I was about two blocks away, but it that is splitting hairs.  If you’re from Chicago, think Logan Square as a point of reference.  I very wide boulevard seemed to be the many hub of the area and there were plenty of shops and restaurants to check out.  Also, always a sign of a hip and happening neighborhood, at least to those of us of a certain age, lots of strollers being pushed around by coffee carrying parents.  To the point, however, I found my pies! Instead of the hole-in-wall shop that was in Camden, this shop also doubled as a music venue and had plenty of space to sit.  Oddly, like the last time I ate here, I was the only customer, not a big lunch crowd I suppose.  Also they seem to do a booming carry out/delivery business.  Even so, the staff was great, giving me a rundown of the day’s pies and pretty much being respectful of my space and making conversation in turns.

The pies were delicious, if you hadn’t guessed.  For my savory choice I had a wonderful beef, mushroom and guyere pie.  Like all of their pies the crust is fantastic but I could have done with a bit more salt.  I understand that cooking with cheese can be tricky, never know how salty it may be or if it is particularly sharp or not.  I think a dash more salt would have really helped the mushrooms and gravy pop a bit more.  Not that it was good, mind.  The true star of this show, however, was the sweet pie.  The Baltimore Bomb is an original to Dangerously Delicious and is a bit of their signature dish.  From what I can tell it’s the same basic crust filled with a sweet custardy type mixture and crumbled cookies (Berger Cookies) only produced in and around Baltimore.  The cookies are crunchy, sweet and chocolaty, and added to the eggs and baked make an awesome, if not diabetic nightmare, of a pie.

The next day, after another failed attempt to get up early and run to Fort McHenry, I ran around some of the historic sites around the downtown area.  My first stop was the Bacsilica of Baltimore, the first Catholic cathedral in North America.  It was an impressive, yet reserved building.  It reflected much of the architecture of the city and the Federalist, Early Republic sensibilities.  Like any cathedral it was a massive structure, but it wasn’t particularly ornate on the outside, opting for Greek inspired columns and two modest spires rising up toward the front of the building.  There wasn’t the great stained glass and massive peaks of later American cathedrals, nor was the construction as imposing as the limestone as say Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago or the gray stone of St. Patrick’s in New York.  If anything, perhaps a reflection of the place of Catholics at the time, it is a bit of a quiet building, not really dominating the area, not wanting to disturb its Protestant neighbors.  I was invited to go inside, but seeing how I was already a mile in and pretty sweaty, seemed like a bad idea.

Baltimore Basilica

I continued up the street to Mount Vernon, a very pleasant and historic neighborhood of the city.  I wanted to see the first monument in the United State to George Washington.  It was quite a nice plaza, set in the middle of a boulevard I suppose it might be called a square.  Even so, the statue atop the display is pretty much the iconic depiction of Washington, standing with his right arm extended as if blessing the country.  Overall, the entire structure looks like a tomb.  Each side has important dates from Washington’s life and each side also has the inscription, “To George Washington by the State of Maryland.”

George blessing the country.

My guess is that the other statuary around the monument came later, like the depiction of Mars and the smaller monument to Lafayette, off to the side of Washington.  Close by is another impressive church that was built on the site where Francis Scott Key died.  It is interesting how much Scott Key permeates the history of Baltimore.  Plaques seem to be everywhere in the city signifying some part, or end of, his life.  It kind of reminds me of the importance of Captain Cook to the Oregon Coast.  I might have to read a biography of Scott Key and see if there is more to him than being an accidental songwriter.

FS Key. Never saw a “he died here” plaque.

After the Washington Monument I made a quick trip to a monument I had visited years ago.  When I visited previously the monument to the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812 it was in the middle of winter and the street where the monument sits was deserted.  As I looked at the base of the statue there were two dead rats, not exactly a nice image of Baltimore.  This time, on a beautiful summer day with a restored monument and it was quite a different picture.  The monument is like so much in the city, very much in the Early Republic tradition.  It is a single column with the names of those killed in action defending Baltimore woven around it.  Atop the column is a statue of woman representing Baltimore.  She is holding a laurel wreath for victory and a rudder, my guess to symbolize Baltimore as a seaport.  Finally, the griffins on each corner are a symbol of courage and bravery and they face in each direction, protecting Baltimore from further attacks.  I find the understated nature of the monument to be it’s greatest strength.  It isn’t a recreation of a battle scene nor is it a gaudy representation of a single hero from the battle.  It basically says, simply, yet significantly, a victory occurred here, we are proud of it.  I suppose if I wanted to get all history dude and stuff, I could look at the evolution of our monuments and how we commemorate things.  But I’d rather go to a baseball game.

Nice Monument. Nice City.

 

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