The first of the three B's was: Baltimore. I just traveled there for a work conference, which was great. I had never been that far north before, and I was looking forward to the trip, not only for the educational information that I was going to get out of it, but also for the complete change of scenery. Last year's conference was in Washington, D.C., and that was the farthest north I'd been up until that point.
JF was worried about me being in the Big City, so he told me not to go wandering around after dark, and to try not to walk anywhere alone. Knowing that Baltimore has some...um...*healthy* crime stats, I agreed. Plus, I've been held up before, and it's not a scene I care to repeat ever again.
As a fan of the late, great, and much-lamented TV show "Homicide: Life on the Street", I was curious to experience Baltimore for myself. I wanted to get a chance to take a picture on the station house steps, but, alas, that was not to be. We just didn't have enough down-time. It would have required a bit of a taxi drive, or a jaunt by Water Taxi, and it wasn't in the cards this trip. Maybe one day I'll be able to return, and that will be a must-see. Plus, I was under orders not to go alone, and truthfully, I didn't want to go all over Baltimore by myself anyway.
Our hotel was right next door to Camden Yards. I was surprised to see Camden Yards smack in the middle of downtown. Usually, the ball fields/stadiums are on the outskirts of town. My room was on the other side of the hotel, but some of the people in our group had great views down into the park. If only there had been a game.
The second B was: Binsk, as in La Binsk, an internet friend from waaay back. We were both denizens of a newsgroup devoted to the previously mentioned "Homicide", and have been friends for what seemed like forever, but without any chance to ever actually meet up. This trip provided us with a good reason! We made plans to grab a bite to eat down at the Inner Harbor, which was only a few blocks from our hotel and conference site.
Binsk brought her mother along, and we all had a lovely dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. It was great to finally meet her, and her mother was a true hoot. Unfortunately, they had to leave early the next morning to drive to Oklahoma so time was of the essence. If Binsk gives her permission, I will upload the photo of the two of us.
I arrived early, a few minutes before Binsk and Mom did, so I stepped out of the back door to check out what the Inner Harbor had to offer. I turned to the left, and saw the beautiful National Aquarium, so I took a picture.
When I turned to the right, there was the U.S.S. Constellation and the Constellation Museum. JF loves sailing ships, so I figured that I would take a picture of museum AND ship for him. I raise my camera to my eye, and I hear a strident voice say. "Ma'am? Ma'am! I need you to NOT do that!" I lower the camera, and realize that there's a security guard talking to me. I said back to him, in a very confused manner, "Um...I'm not taking a picture of YOU, I'm taking a picture of the *museum.*" He says, "I need you to not do that right now."
As I look around, Ol Eagle Eye me realizes that there are quite a few security guards about, and that though this is obviously a pedestrian area, no one's walking through. We're all milling about on the steps. At the end of the walkway, there are sawhorses, preventing the pedestrian traffic. (I'm a quick one!) In front of me, there's a small dock area where there are plenty of paddle boats available for rent. Only, strangely enough -- none are rented out. With this many people hanging around, you think they'd have some business. Hm. Odd.
After a minute, a man steps out of the dock house, and he's carrying a long hook on a pole. It looks like a fireplace poker with a really long handle. As we (the crowd and I) watch, the guy goes over to the corner of the harbor and begins poking around with the pole in the water. After a few minutes, he snags something, and begins laboriously tugging it over towards the dock.
Updated to add: Binsk approved my adding the picture of the two of us, so find it above!
Right about now is when I noticed the news helicopters hovering around. (Nothing gets past me, I tell ya!)
The hook man finally tugs his burden into somewhat of a viewable area. And.....that brings us to our last B: the body in the harbor. As fond as I am of police procedurals and forensic shows, all I had to see was a wet mop of hair to know that I was out of there. I bolted for the restaurant. Maybe my choice of pasta for dinner wasn't the best course of action, now that I think about it.
I called JF later that night to tell him about my first day. When I get to the part about the body, he had the same reaction that I did -- "Welcome to Baltimore!" Later in the trip, we encountered a homeless man in McDonald's who managed to talk the entire 20 or so minutes that we were there without seeming to take a breath. The day after the nonstop talker, we encountered a junkie in full-nod passout mode who was still managing to stand, by some miracle of gravity. She tottered in the doorway, and had occasional bouts of lucidity before she'd appear to pass out again. At one point, she pulled out a cigarette and stuck it between her lips before succumbing again. After a few minutes, she pulled out a lighter. I nudged my companion and told her that I'd pay her ten bucks if Junkie Lady lit her own hair on fire. Unfortunately, I have no idea if Junkie Lady survived unroasted because she left shortly afterward.
All in all, it was an eventful trip. The train ride was long and mostly uncomfortable, but it was an experience. I hope one day to return to Baltimore, despite all the colorful characters we encountered. Maybe the next time, I will have more time to explore.