Saturday, May 05, 2012

Chasing the Oriole

As always, I am charmed by Charm City.I hopped the MARC train up to Baltimore the other day for a lil R&R.   As we sped north, the morning grey dissipated into bright blue skies.  I made my way to Penn Station and from there caught the bus towards the Baltimore Museum of Art.  Before I boarded the bus, I asked the driver if she went that direction.  She merely replied "hello."  I asked again, and got the same response.  Finally, I realized I was getting a reminder in proper etiquette and I bade her greetings.  She smiled and said yes.  I thanked her for reminding me of civilities.

From Charm City
I arrived to the columned palace that was flanked by regal concrete lions, and made my way on in to the stunning expanse of artistic charm that is the Baltimore Museum of Art.  "Art for all" is their motto, and I cannot think of a better slogan.  I spent the better part of 5 hours wandering through the immaculate collection.

I entered through a world of stunning masks and relics from Africa, the Pacific Islands and the pre-Columbian Americas.  I stared at decorative masks, objects and other charms from the four corners, before finding a marvelous collection of European decoratives such as brilliant blue and white china with gilded tips.  Ah, a world of china blue. And exquisite copper skeletons of clocks encased in glass.  There was an engrossing and beautiful collection of pocket watches (I have a penchant for such objects) with their rounded bottoms displayed in the mirror.  Such lovelies as walnut almond pocketwatches with filigree backs.

There were also some gorgeous glass molds from Lalilique, who made art noveau firefly glass from pressed molds.  I especially loved a press molded glass peacock of haughty glance.  I wandered through colonial doors and passed yellow painted walls that hung beauties.  I admired silver samovars that I imagined pouring black tea into the gold-lined china below.

On to the second floor were I found some enormous purple and gold Tiffany Byzantine mosaic columns. Also a great collection of tapestries from Central Asia.  I made my way over to the Cone Collection, which was a collection of impressionist perfection.  Such as Sisley.  Perfections such as Monet's "Charing Cross Bridge, reflections on the Thames"

which reminded me of Taipei, actually.

From Return to Taipei

I stared at a dark Klimt work called "Pine Forest II" which was as dark as the kiss is light.

And a great Seurat (Que Seurat, Seurat).  There was even a very cool virtual tour of the Cone's apartment, where you got to see the works as they once hung in the sisters' home.

I wandered through Antioch mosaics, and stumbled upon a Thinker in full regal glory.  Like a bronze colossus, bathed in the afternoon's refulgent light.  I collect Rodin's Thinker, I have found him in Philly, Paris, Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, Shanghai, San Francisco and now Baltimore.  I think this one I got the closest as I stole furtive touches of the bronze icon, and tried to ponder what it was the had his brow furrowed.

After hours in the museums, I made my way out to the sculpture park to take in some evening light, then wandered through Johns Hopkins campus, where orioles picked worms from the campus quad and over to their library to read a bit as stained glass poured in light.

I went to hop a bus back into the city center but upon entering realized I had no change.  As I trudged on to break my bills, I saw two more buses pass then nary another for 45 minutes.  I sat at the stop, having a dialogue of the deaf.  The last dialogue of the deaf I had was in Taipei.  This time, it involved me explaining to a deaf woman also waiting for the bus how to count on one hand to ten as they do in China.  She asked the time, and I showed her with two fingers on my thumb that it was seven pm, and explained the trick in silent explanations.

I finally got back into the city center and stumbled on a concert under George's watchful gaze.  At Mt. Vernon, under Baltimore's Washington Monument, there was a concert going on.  First thursday, and the crowds gathered in the park, drinking open libations.  I grabbed a can and enjoyed the blues.  Blues and brews, no finer combo.

I made my way down Mulberry Street and found the Baltimore Hostel.  In a lovely, old house, I took a dorm bed.  $31 for a night's rest, plus pancake breakfast in the morning (make your own).  I dropped my stuff and found my way to eat.  I had not had a bite all day and was famished.  I stumbled upon a Pakstani place called A Thousand Kababs, and got some wonderful palak paneer (spinach and white cheese) which I ate with homemade roti.  It was phenomenal, perfect spice and flavor.  The restaurant's owners got a huge grin from my smidgen Urdu, and my appreciation of Pakistani culture.

I returned to grab a couple pints in the catacombs of The Brewer's Art, one of my most favorite bars on the planet.  The place is in an old house, and has a crypt to take beers.  I then moved on to the Owl Bar, an old-speakeasy that I had been once before.  I made my way home in the rain.  "It's raining in Baltimore," I crooned ala Counting Crows, as I made my way back.

In short, a wonderful adventure of which I had been missing for quite some time.  For me, Baltimore represents a place of excursion, adventure and refuge from DC.  Just a little bit foreign enough that there is room to explore, but close enough to do it easily.  This was my second great adventure in Charm City, and I will be back to do some more exploring.

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