Tuesday, April 26, 2011

East Coast Party (With "Geeking Out" Being A Prominent Theme)

In flight blog-Take 2-The Return
 Little fluffy clouds hover below me as I make my departure from the Eastern Sea Board. I have left the great paradox that is Baltimore. The Midwest is on the horizon…or will be anyway, in an insignificant amount of time. Currently flying over…Pennsylvania? West Virginia? Ohio? I need to look at a map, and could, if I once again wasn’t too cheap to pay for in-flight wi-fi. In this ever changing world of quickly developing technology, I wonder what sort of world my kids will live in when they are my age. You know, so they decide to exist. Hey…a map just showed up….on a napkin with my Coke. Looking at it, I’ve decided I must be above Western Pennsylvania.
It certainly was a good trip. I was met by Skye on my birthday(Wednesday) and promptly taken to a delicious Thai dinner, followed up by birthday presents and homemade birthday cake. If anyone wants to watch the first season of Sabrina the TeenageWitch, come on over to my house.Thanks, Skye!
Throughout the trip, I found myself geeking out quite a bit. Last Thursday, I got super nerdily excited when Skye and I found the grave of Edgar Allan Poe. Then I wondered how improper it was to get excited about finding a grave. We decided it’s ok when it’s that of literary superstars. Poe is buried in a small church graveyard just around the corner from the best crab cakes in Baltimore. At least, that’s what the sign says. I’m inclined to believe them. They were delicious, and though my crab cake experience is limited, they were the best I’ve had. Good fries and coleslaw, too.
On our way home from Poe's grave, we saw a sign that said "Poe's house," so we drove around in circles like madwomen for several minutes before finding his former home. Inside, I started a new "collection," you might call it. I've decided when I visit a city or foreign country, I want to buy books written by author's from there. Someday I'll have The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings purchased in Oxford, Harry Potter purchased in Scotland, The Fairytales of Hans Christian Andersen in Denmark, Pippi Longstocking in Sweden....well, you get the idea. Here in Baltimore I began my collection by purchasing 3 Poe books not only in his city, but in his very own home. I'm also guessing this will be the cheapest set I'll get too, as I paid $5 for 3 books. Here is Poe's house.

Crab cakes and poet’s graves were followed by bar tending at an art opening in which Skye had a couple of pieces. Skye’s friend, Jason, was curating, so we volunteered to help out. Drinks were complimentary, so Skye and I spent the evening pretty much pouring wine and opening up cans of Natural Bohemian, which turns out to be the “only-available-in-Maryland-PBR.” When folks found out I was on vacation, they seemed surprised that I was “working,” but I’m so glad that I did! I got a chance to meet and chat with a ton of new people, who all really liked me since I was handing out free drinks. If I hadn’t been behind the bar with no choice but to chat with folks, I most likely would have stood around quietly while strangers looked at art. After the show, several of us went out for drinks and ended the evening gobbling up Korean food. Mmmmm, kimchi.
 Hmmm, it seems I am now flying over a Great Lake. Erie, it turns out. It gives the illusion of international over the ocean flying. 

Friday, we fetched Cindy from the airport and headed to Washington DC. Further and more extensive geeking out ensued. We stopped at the Finnish Embassy because, well, I’m me. But also because there was a really great exhibit up that consisted of clothing made of recycled material. (Derelict? :)  Driving down Embassy Row made my giddy. Passing the buildings host to so many cultures and people, with loads of different languages being spoken around me, folks coming and going in the world wide hustle and bustle all on one street….ahh, so good. Following this, we made our way through the city and checked into our hotel. After a lovely walk next to the Potomac, we found ourselves outside of the Holocaust museum. With the happy thought of a sushi dinner to come later, we decided to depress ourselves and go inside. Now, every single museum in DC is worth your time, but you should probably go to this one. It’s hauntingly beautiful and that’s pretty much all I can say about it. Go see it for yourself. 
After being taken down a few notches by the museum, we wandered a few blocks north of the capitol building to find our sushi. It was tasty. The area was full of young folks like myself in nice suits. Washington pages and interns, I imagine. I kept thinking to myself that I was seeing the future congressmen/woman of the US right before my eyes.
With a belly full of rice, vegetables, and raw fish, we made our way back to the hotel to grab the car. We had come to DC in order to check out another art opening, this time for Skye’s friend Andrew (who hung out with us the previous night at Skye’s opening and at the Korean restaurant.) This time we didn’t serve, but simply enjoyed the wine while taking in the art. Good job, Andrew!
After a short bus ride from our hotel to the mall (the one with Lincoln not Old Navy) I drank the most expensive cup of cheap coffee I’ve ever had, then we were Smithsonian bound. Cindy and I hit the Museum of Natural History while Skye headed to the Portrait Gallery. (She goes to the Natural History Museum quite often for work.) Lion and tigers and bears, oh my! Not to mention the giant squid, a replica of Lucy, a mummy, tyrannosaurs Rex and some other dinos, the hope diamonds, a crocheted coral reef, and the coolest animal ever, the duck billed platypus. As well as a bunch of other ridiculously cool stuff.

We met up with Skye after our selected museums and headed to the Museum of the American Indian. This is one of the newer Smithsonians. It’s a beautiful building with the outdoor architecture meant to mimic the landscape that the natives in the Southwest US inhabit. It was full of well done displays depicting the art, history, and even modern lives of the American Indian (both North and South American.)

We then made a short jaunt to the National Conservatory which is just next door to the capitol. With it being a rather rain and chilly day, it was a lovely respite with flowers and plants from around the globe growing in a beautiful glass roofed building. 

After a full day of museuming, gaping, and generally being in awe, we were sure tired. Fortunately, Skye had a fantastic treat in store for us. I squirmed with glee as we sped down a Virginia highway to a DC suburb where the Korean delight known as jimjilbang (sauna/bath house) awaited us.
Ok, to be honest, when I heard that we were going to a “Korean spa,” I had in mind some shimmery and expensive day spa with mud baths, seaweed wraps, and cucumber water. These sorts of places are fantastic, don’t get me wrong. However, they are not the same sort of environment as the beloved jimjilbang. I assumed what we were going to was the basic American day spa with some Asian décor and perhaps some Korean masseuses. I literally did a little skip motion when we walked inside and I was suddenly 7000 miles away. This place was jimjilbang to a Tee. We left our shoes in a small locker in the front room, changed into the pajama thingys given to us by the Ajumma at the desk, and hit the sauna. All of them. Let me explain.
Decades ago, before indoor plumbing was a commonality in Korean homes, families strode on down to the local jimjilbang-basically a public bath house. Men and women go to separate locker rooms with large pools for bathing. I know…it sounds kind of gross. It’s not. There are also usually steam rooms and dry saunas as well as showers. However, before heading to the pools, it’s common (and fun) to meet your friends and loved ones of the opposite sex in the common area. Keep in mind, everyone is wearing the same sort of pajama things. Surrounding the common room are several different sorts of saunas/hot room. My particular favorite is the one where the floor is covered in warm tiny red clay balls which you lay in. Each sauna has a different substance on the walls (and in some cases, as just mentioned, on the floors) which have different health benefits. Essentially, one goes in a particular room, sweats out all her toxins, and then exits the sauna. In the center of the common room, folks sprawl out on wicker mats chit chatting, snacking, cuddling, what have you. There is also a little café where smoothies and  Korean dishes such as kimbap, bibimbap, and my personal favorite, kimchibokkembap can be ordered. It’s really a lovely experience, hanging out with a few buddies in public pajamas, snacking on goodies and sweating like pigs. It was to my great surprise and joy to find such a place here on US soil.
We left the jimjilbang feeling fully relaxed and refreshed and headed over to Jammin’ Java where I was stoked to watch John Mark McMillan. As expected, it was good.  We drove back to Baltimore late that night and promptly crashed (asleep, not the car.)
 Sunday morning Skye showed us her studio in downtown Baltimore and from there we walked to a lovely cafe where we sat outside munching on sandwiches, soup, and of course, sipping on some fine tasting coffee.

Sunday afternoon was another prime example of me pretty much geeking out. Really, this is the best term to describe myself over the last week. Skye took Cindy and I to The Walter’s museum in downtown Baltimore which is ripe with art and artificacts from ancient to medieval periods.However, we stopped briefly on the way at the Library of the Peabody Institute, where I pretty much just wanted to lay in the middle of the black and white shining floor and gaze up adoringly. Several floors of books surround a common floor area. Most of the books there are quite old and the only people allowed to go up the steep stairs to fetch a book for you are the librarians. I was in geek heaven.

(Side note-since I wrote that last sentence, I've landed, drove back to Sioux Falls, and am now sitting at work :(  finishing up the blog )
Once we arrived at The Walters we checked out some oddities and princely paintings, but spent the bulk of the time at the special exhibit called Treasures of Heaven: Saints Relics and Devotion in Medieval Europe. All of those hours spent in class working toward my Theology degree sprang to life. Up for just a few weeks at The Walter's, I'm so glad I got to see it while it was there. It was an exhibit full of ancient and medieval reliquaries, and occasionally an actual relic. If you choose to believe they're real, I saw slices of the "True Cross," a tooth of John the Baptist, and a piece of bone from James, the brother of Jesus. I try side on the side of rational thought most times, so I'm guessing those things I saw were random items collected by the medieval church in order to buy folks' devotion and further fund the already greedy church of the time. But that's just my opinion. Mostly there were highly decorated boxes, bibles, necklaces, etc which were from anywhere between 300AD-1600AD which had at one time housed the relics of past saints. It was a really fantastic and interesting exhibit.  I couldn't photograph in that exhibit, but these are pictures from other parts of the museum. Try to disregard the crookedness.
Sunday evening found a walk through the city and dinner at a delightful Afghani restaurant.

On Monday we had to say good bye to Cindy who was flying back to Minneapolis. In her own words, "I'm done vacating." Skye had to work, so I dropped Cindy off at the light rail and then headed north to explore the city, where I found Charm City Cakes, featured on the show Ace of Cakes on the Food Network. I wanted to check the space out, as we used to watch this show at work quiet often and laughed at how stoned we were pretty sure several of the crew were. I peered in the dark window and saw an outline of a woman working, which made me feel silly for poking around, so I looked away and kept walking. The surrounding air seemed fairly smoke free. :) I walked a few more blocks from Charm City Cakes and found myself on the campus of Johns Hopkins University. Seeing as how I have very little intellectual stimulation these days (in my real life, not during vacation) I wandered around the campus, and was pleased to find Krieger Hall. (Krieger is my paternal grandmother's maiden name.) I heard the term "neuroscience," used twice in a matter of minutes. I picked up a paper and an "anarchy in the UK" latte and sat outside absorbing sun and intellect.
Eventually, it was time for Skye to get off work, so I headed back to the neighborhood. I wandered around a bit and stumbled upon the house of F. Scott Fitzgerald just a few blocks from Skye's house.Naturally, I got a little giddy once again.

Skye and I went out for dinner when she was done with work at a place called Golden West. It was in the same northern neighborhood I had been in earlier that day, but I was quite surprised when one of the Charm City Cakes fellows walked his most adorable black and white pooch right past us. I felt pretty ridiculous as I was staring at him, trying to figure out if it was him, when we made eye contact, and I quickly looked away thinking, "Oh, man, sorry dude!" I found it funny, however, that it was the one guy I laughed at most on the show as he was the one who stood out as being the most high. His pupils seemed properly dilated that evening. :) Cute dog, too. 

I also went to a well respected coffee house, Spro, back on the northern side. I was surprised to know the barista when I walked in. I had met him the night of Skye's art show and he had gone out for drinks and Korean food with us. It's always fun having a neighborhoodesque experience in a new city. Baltimore's got the goods on neighborhoods. It started raining while I was there so I busted out my ipod and listened to "Raining in Baltimore," by Counting Crows, because that's the sort of nerd I am. I love that sort of "connectiony" stuff.

Tuesday, Skye had to work again, so I took to city alone once more, though this time exploring the southerly side. I walked around the harbour which happened to be right next to Camden Yards where the Orioles would be playing the Twins that night. It also happened to be Joe Mauer's birthday, so watching the Twins beat the Orioles would have been delightful. However, we didn't go to the game, and Mauer is on the DL anyway. It was still fun to see the stadium. I remember going there in 8th grade on a school trip to DC. We took one afternoon to go to the Baltimore Aquarium and our teachers took us to Camden Yards because the scoreboard was made at Daktronics in Brookings (where I was going to school.)

Wednesday morning, I woke up for my last day on the East Coast. I tried not to think about that. Skye once again was working, and I have a friend from high school who lives in DC and I was eager to spend some more time there anyway, so back down south to the capitol city I went.
This time I took the train, which is always fun. Taking trains is always fun. There's a lack of them in the midwest. From Baltimore to DC's Union Station it's about an hours ride. Outside Union Station is a Christopher Columbus monument, which to me looks like it should have mermaids hanging from it.
From Union Station I walked....and walked...and walked. Throughout the day on Wednesday, I walked a good portion of Washington DC. It was grand. It was a beautiful day outside and there is so much to see. I wanted to see the National Archives but the line was around the corner of the block, so I just kept walking. I walked around the capitol building and across from the Supreme Court and Library of Congress. I walked next to the Senate offices where I wanted to go in and find Mr. Thune for that cup of coffee I mentioned in my letter to him that I'm sooo sure he read. Polarization and all that nonsense....
I walked through downtown, past the FBI building, and the National Treasury (I waved to my money) to the White House, where I started to feel sort of odd and slightly creepy when I realized I was probably being watched from all sorts of places I wasn't aware of. Big Brother hangs out on 16th and Pennsylvania, I'm guessing.


As it was April 20th, I wasn't surprised when a block away from Obama's house, on 15th Street, there was a weed parade, protesting for legalization of marijuana. I was surprised, however, at how small of a crowd was walking in it. On 4/20 I imagined there would be a whole large protest in DC. But I guess that sort of thing requires a lot of motivation and organization with a lack of snacks.

From Obama's house, I walked back through downtown admiring all the people and architecture and world renowned buildings. Then I got on a subway and headed up to Bethesda to meet my friend Mary for all you can eat sushi. Mmmmm. She gave me some good suggestions for the afternoon. After our post-sushi coffee from Caribou (good to give Minnesota some love while so far away) I heeded her advice, and took the subway to DuPont Circle, where folks sit around outside chit chatting about life, love, politics, and whatever else they fancy. I noticed when I got there that it was on the end of Embassy Row. Seeing as how giddy I got just driving down the road a few days earlier, I decided to walk it. I ended up having what I decided to call my "Embassy Easter Egg Hunt." There were so many that would keep popping up here and there, it reminded me of being a child at an Easter Egg hunt. Once you see one, they keep popping up unexpectedly all over the place. I saw Kenya, Korea, Romania, Estonia, Philippines, Guatemala....oh the list goes on and on. I walked around like a....well, like a ridiculously excited child at an easter egg hunt, to be redundant. So much culture, architecture, so many languages...definitely a "me" sort of place. Though I have to say, I was a little disappointed that there was not a single tulip in front of the Netherlands' embassy.

From that particular end of Embassy Row, I walked to Georgetown University and its surrounding area. I sat with my shoes off on the shores of the Potomac in front of the Swedish Embassy and watched Georgetown Crew practice. That's one sport I wish I would have gotten into. It looks so fun.

 With that, it was time to head back north to Baltimore. I took the bus from Georgetown back to Union Station, said goodbye to one of my new favorite cities, climbed aboard the train and headed back for my final evening in Charm City. It was evening when I returned, so Skye, her husband Eric, and I walked downtown to the Owl Bar and grabbed some of the best pizza I've ever eaten. The next morning, I walked with Skye to work, where we parted ways. We hugged farewell, and off I strolled to the light rail which would take me to BWI. As if knowing I wanted just a bit longer in the east, my flight was delayed by 45 minutes. But eventually, I made it back to the great midwest, and here I sit. Ready, in fact in need, of another adventure.

1 comment:

  1. I love your photos and your stories. I wish you were still here!