It’s striking how close together many of these old east coast cities are. This is certainly the case with D.C. and Baltimore, to the point where I wasn’t really sure when we left D.C. and when we entered Baltimore. I could tell when we left Baltimore and entered Catonsville, however, as the dense apartments and row houses morphed into suburban two-stories with big front yards. It wasn’t quite going from The Wire to the The Wonder Years, but not too far off. We were heading to Catonsville because that is where our friends Drummer (real name reportedly Jeremy) and Kara live with their son Matthew. He was Matty last time I visited but now, as a mature nine year old, he’s dispensed with the truncating and appending a long e sound. Take note Australia, it can be outgrown.
I’ve known Drummer and Kara both since college. They are both awesome and awesome together so I was excited to see them both and excited for Slinky to meet Kara. She’d met Drummer earlier this Summer at Rabscuttlooza, a celebration of music, art and rabbit stories organized by our friend Dan Hawthorne. That was also, incidentally, the first time I’ve heard Drummer, whose primary instrument is oddly enough drums, perform a stellar acoustic blues set. I knew he could play but had no idea he could sing. It was good enough that I was a bit angry at him about it.
Our first night in town they prepared a feast of ribs and grilled goodness then followed it up with a campfire and s’mores. Kara and I debated how long it had been since we’d seen one another for a while. I’ve had that conversation a number of times on this trip. It’s a fun little trip down memory lane without ever having to utter, ‘Remember that one time . . .” We landed on October of 2012 for those keeping score at home. Kara then spent some time being angry at me about the color of my hair, which is not to her estimation turning gray so much as ‘getting all weird and stuff.’ I assured her that I look exactly the same as I did when we met in college. It was probably a trick of the campfire light.
Eventually the guitars came out. Then their neighbour, who is also the sousaphone player in Drummer’s band, dropped by with cigars, whiskey and a deep catalogue of John Denver songs. There was much singing and playing and passing of guitars and bottles. Slinky and Kara peeled off as they saw where this was going. When Drummer and I eventually decided to call it a night, I was actually shocked to see it was 3:30 am. Damn you, John Denver! You get me every time.
I started the next day off fuzzy and a bit jealous that Slinky had gone to bed at a far more reasonable and less booze soaked hour. Drummer drove us into the city while Kara offered some helpful tips about speed and safe following distance. The plan was to lunch on the best pizza in town. We arrived early since we had a Baltimore Orioles game to catch and wanted to beat the crowds. We stood outside the pizza place with stomachs grumbling and waited for the doors to open. They never did. Half an hour after the purported opening time, we gave up and hangrily walked to another pub that apparently brings double of whatever you order. I ordered a coke and they brought me two. So I ordered a beer.
Soon enough we were on our way to Camden Yards to watch the Orioles take on the Detroit Tigers. Between walking through the gates and finding our seats our seats, the Orioles hit three homeruns. We saw none of them. It was bizarre. We got through security, the crowd erupted. We stopped into the bathroom, the place went nuts. We ordered some drinks, pandemonium. The final score was 13-4 in the Orioles’ favor, with half of Detroit’s runs scored in the hopeless 9th inning. It wasn’t a close game but if you like watching the home team hit some dingers, it was a good place to be. As we walked out of the stadium, huge lines of patient parents and eager children were forming. We were informed that kids could run the bases after the game. Thankfully, Matthew didn’t show any more interest in those lines than the rest of us, but I kind of held my breath until they were out of sight.
We didn’t do too much touristy stuff in Baltimore. We did take a rain soaked stroll around Fells Point but spent much of that time browsing old records in a cramped little shop. After loading up on history and culture in D.C., it was nice to just visit with friends, play music, and relax.
On our third and final night in town, Drummer and Kara took us to Ships Restaurant for Maryland crabs. They were difficult to eat, completely plastered in Old Bay seasoning and, well, delicious. The waitress dumped a giant pile of them on the table in front of us. She gave us paper grocery bags in which to hide the carnage. I warned Kara that sitting across from Slinky while she’s eating crustaceans carries a similar threat level to the front row at a Gallagher show. Kara barricaded herself with menus. I don’t know if it’s actually possible to hallucinate from a sodium overdose but I do know that, right before I passed out, one of the crabs told me he was my spirit animal.
Tuesday morning, Mathew went to camp and Drummer and Kara went to work, leaving us to pack up and go. In the process we discovered a chipmunk had found his way into their screened in porch. He made it under the ping pong table where I’d recently lost a game to a nine year old and hid under the shelving unit. When we couldn’t find him, we decided to leave the screen door open so he could get out. Not wanting other chipmunks to take advantage of the open door, I affixed a ‘No Chipmunks Allowed’ post-it note. We are nothing if not thoughtful guests.