baltimore

weekend in baltimorebt2 bt4 bt5 bt7 bt9 bt11 bt12IMG_0914 IMG_0915We last went sightseeing in Baltimore in December 2012. This time around was much different. Daniel’s mom, a Baltimore native, was our chauffeur and tour guide last year, which made getting around simple and fairly stress free. This time, we relied on the hotel shuttle to drop us off at the Inner Harbor (beautiful, but a bit touristy) and walked where we could.

On Friday night, we went to Fridays after Five at the National Aquarium (only $12.00 after 5 pm until March 28!) then sought out a place to eat. On our way to Cheesecake Factory, we spotted a Pizzeria Uno and a wave of nostalgia washed over us both. We ate at one of the original Pizzeria Uno establishments almost every night when we visited Chicago with friends in college. Chicago was the first big city I visited and it will always hold a special place in my heart.

Since we were technically there to attend a Religious Studies conference, we spent most of Saturday at the convention center reading, attending panels, and catching up with friends when we had the chance. I gave myself a tour of the premises while Daniel attended a session and found that the 4th floor offered lovely city views. We joined some friends for crab cake sandwiches at the Rusty Scupper for lunch.

After checking out of the hotel on Sunday, we went to Savers, a delightful thrift emporium, then met up with Daniel’s cousin, Dustin, for lunch and a glimpse of the Ravens game at a local sports bar. He suggested we visit historic (founded in 1772) and affluent (situated in the 3rd wealthiest county in the US) Ellicott City. The antique stores were mostly rubbish, but the coffee shop we visited had good hot chocolate. We finished off the day with a quick trip into the city to check out the Walters Art Museum and visit with the girl I used to babysit and her mom at their hotel (they were there for the conference, as well).

A trip to Baltimore makes for a unique, enjoyable, occasionally alarming experience.

baltimore family.

baltimore postcard

I took Friday off and we spent the long weekend in Baltimore. Aunt Kathy (Daniel’s great aunt) and her husband housed 6 guests in their townhouse. We slept in the living room on an air mattress and couch, respectively.

On Friday, Daniel, his mom, and I ate at the Bel-Loc Diner, his Pop-Pop’s favorite after-shift haunt during his days as a Baltimore police officer. We had the thrill of watching a car smoke and burn from the restaurant window before firefighters arrived to spray it out. Then we headed into the city to peruse the Maryland Historical Society exhibits, which included a 3-D slideshow of Civil War images originally meant to be viewed on the stereoscope. It was stirring to see fields laid out with bodies of American dead in three dimensions, as if you were standing on the field yourself. A substantial portion of the family went out to hear a friend’s band at a local bar Friday night, reminiscing on the outside deck when it got too hot to stay inside.

On Saturday, Daniel reunited with his long lost child-hood cousin/best friend, Dustin. He ate breakfast with the eight of us staying at Aunt Kathy’s, then we headed to a movie later in the day before meeting up with 30 or so family members for Uncle Paul’s marriage celebration on the deck of their house situated along Middle River. We listened to live music courtesy of various family members; ate delicious, homecooked food, including awesome bbq ribs; sat on the pier as the sun went down; shared stories about our lives and the collective life of the family; ate some cake; and played with sparklers until night fell (you could just make out one of the dippers in the night sky).

On Sunday, we slept in, drank coffee in the back yard, ate blueberry pancakes, and prepared for a Maryland tradition: eating steamed crabs encrusted with Old Bay seasoning. After I peeled and cracked my way through the second crab, one of Daniel’s relatives told me I passed the crab test, a sacred family tradition. I’m officially accepted by the Nizer clan (but really, I think I already was).

maryland steamed crabs feast

Sometimes you leave town anticipating joy and come back empty-handed. This time around, though, my heart is full. Things weren’t (aren’t) perfect, but family (even ones you’re not related to) is special. And maybe the fact that I’m not related is what made this visit feel lighter. I had a beautiful time getting to know people; observing family reunions, discussions, and arguments; and sitting out by the Middle River for hours, just breathing the moment in with the cool, humid air.

Baltimore

Land of poverty, yarn bombers, abandoned buildings, and a thousand beautiful churches.

abandoned building baltimore

girl in sunlight church victorian chandelier steeple greek orthodox churchyarn bombingstained glass leaf keep space for peace indie shoppingThere seem to be more abandoned buildings in Baltimore than occupied ones. People linger in crowds on street corners and in alleys, boards nailed to the entryways of row houses, barbershops, and neglected historical buildings. Church doors are locked. In Baltimore, you see the effects of the recession in every direction. In Baltimore you see what apathy looks like. But you also see pride – and a firm resolve to love your home unconditionally, to stick by it even though your lack of resources prevent you from restoring it yourself.