I am in a reflective mood. Something about meandering around fish for the best part of the day at Baltimore's aquarium can do that to you. How can you look at the breathtaking elegance of a school of silver fish swimming purposefully but without tension through "moonlit" waters without letting your brain wander up into a meditative plain. The jellyfish alone in their watercoloury translucence began the ride into otherworldly ponderings. You can't look at one of those magical entities without it challenging your reason d'etre surely? How blissfully purposeful and purpose-less they are. We are.
That last bit is going to have my dad fidgeting in his seat when he reads it I can be sure - I can hear him mumble (loudly) at the screen wanting me to get to the bit about the city. And so, for the sake of peace, and my tenuous grasp reality, it is here I shall begin. Our day started with surprising efficiency considering the somewhat early call. The up side of little fella waking around 7 rather than 8ish/9 is that I get to take in the glorious Baltimorean sunrises over the past week. We are on the 34th floor with a view of the harbour. The sky, once again is wide. No offence meant to Washington, but it is good to see the world from a different perspective again. The calibre of my coffee making was surprisingly good (this I find is always a good omen for the day's outcome or at least my likely reaction to it) and I was more than pleased with the Peruvian blend we had bought yesterday at Federal Hill's coffee joint. Turns out I can find places such as these after all. The one in question sis Spoons. It is all wood and mis matching chairs and bare brick. We plonked our behinds on a red velvet sofa so that we could enjoy our smooth espresso whilst keeping an eye on the Sam man who had thrown himself heart and soul into the easel and toys laid out by a small area cordoned off by wooden sleepers, "I need to do some art," he had explained to the "barrista" who handed over the markers. So, there we are, Sam all train driver, me all happy coffee slurper when we are graced with Cory's weary but good humoured presence. Its a treat in our household to spend the mornings altogether. Like old, unemployed times eh?! Careful what I wish for...
So anyways, with both boys ensconced after food in a puppet show of great complexity I took the opportunity to hit the streets and find me the immigration office down the road. Last night, I received an email from our lawyers with a date for my biometrics, which happened to be the day after we are due to arrive in Atlanta. Here's me re-arranging flights in my head, adding up the possibly horrendous costs and so on, when, with some heavy influence form Cory, "I" come up with the marvellous idea of heading down there in person to see if they would pretty-pleas-with-a-cherry-on-top see me another time. Today perhaps?
And so it was that I arrived on the second floor of the Bank of America building on South Charles Street Baltimore at just past 9 in the morning and very politely, with the most unthreateningly demure english accent I could muster asked the clerk if she would consider allowing me to be seen today? She asks to see my itinerary for the Atlanta trip, I explain my situation. She sends me to her manager barely looking me in the eye. In I tip toe, mild but trying not to appear too meek and seek help from the higher power - in more ways than one. I clock framed family member portraits on the manager's desk and try to subconsciously tap into her maternal side. Without much ado she agrees she will see what she can do. In under five minutes I had even beaten Jesus to the post, and he had been there when I arrived (no pun intended), along with several others. I made a quick scan of the international crowd. Where did I fit in? Somewhere between Jesus and his mexican cousin and the young Korean woman infront of me perhaps? Writing my "alien" number on the top of the form I felt a bit overcome. I look up at the clinical flourescent lit blue walls and catch Obama smiling encouragingly down at me, "I've been to your house," I smile to myself. Suddenly my number is up - 315. I take this good omen number two because it is Cory's area code. 315-ers are passionate about being so. I am half way to being native asmy mobile number begins with these three auspicious digits. I am met by Ms. Efficiency. She has got the immigration attitude down pat but something about her touch tells me she is actually a big softie. It is her job you see to give me a hand massage - least that's what it felt like - whilst pressing each of my fingers on the scanner to get reading on the computer. It takes all of two minutes. Technological Ellis Island. Next I am told to sit on a chair and remove my glasses. "Look here." she orders. I try, but, without the glasses am not sure where I should be focusing. I move to stand up, "Stay on the chair!" she barks. I then look in the approximate direction of where the camera is and within a second or two she has taken a photo of my eye and my information and I are riding the computer highways back to an office in Chicago where a nice Immigration officer is waiting to give me the a.ok. Least that's the scenario I have chosen for us. I walk back uphill to our home with a skip in my step, having shaved a week off the process with a little proaction.
It was in this state of mind that we found ourselves the fish. It all makes a little more sense now I suppose. After a quick pit stop at the cafeteria (I had the fish, for the sake of irony you understand) and another hour of watery wanderings we headed for Fells Point. An area of cobbled streets greeted us, nestled on the harbour but a little further up from where we had just been. Brick terraces stretch out off the main strip which is dotted with cafes and pubs. Following our snack ready noses we came upon Pitango's and feasted on their delights which included Pennsylvanian Quince and Chocolate Orange sorbets and Sicilian Almond gelato. This was topped off with decadence in a cup a.k.a marrochino; Single espresso topped with rich Italian hot chocolate and whipped cream. Hanging tenously to my nutritiona regime, I skipped the cream and topped up my caffeine levels with a double of the strong stuff instead. Pure deliciousness on a spoon. The chap behind the marble and wood counter knew his stuff and was almost as passionate about the creamy offerings as were in trying. Almost every one of them I might add. The area has become a hub for artists, attracted to the large warehouse spaces and lower rents. When we left the ice cream den we found the "oldest running theatre in America" run by the "Vagabond" players. I know me some of them I thought to myself. It was closed unfortunately but its premises, a double fronted Georgian brick number was very appealing. So too were the quirky antique shops that lined the neighbouring streets. Sammy methodically posted imaginary post into almost every door and I imagined what might be behind the, mostly, closed shop fronts. One in particular, a black wooden framed double fronted antique shop with lace curtains hiding its wares but for a pair of multicloloured glass mosaic lanterns hanging in the window. It seemed the kind of place you would seriously think about going into if you wanted to find a wardrobe that you could get inside and it would take you through to other lands. Sounds strangely familiar....
I am starting to realise why the title of "Charm city" has not sat uncomfortably with the place. Between this neighbourhood and Federal Hill which we have visited over the weekend you have an expanse of characterful brick homes that line historical streets with food and shops to match. Those cobbles saw some serious Raven fan action last saturday when we were out with my cousin's celebrating the eldest's boyfriend's birthday. The super-bowl is looming and the local team was playing arch rivals the Colts. I am not going into sporting history right now, suffice it to say the Colts used to be the local team but skipped town over night for Indianapolis some years back leaving fans and stadium deserted and betrayed. Only days earlier, prior to the covert operation had the team manager publicly rebuffed rumours that they were leaving. Baltimoreans it would seem have no desire to bury their hatchet for the time being.
We found ourselves a seafood place - Maryland and Crab go so beautifully together - and whilst we slurpped seafood the game build up was being blasted over us so much so that conversation was almost reduced to syphons after a while. It was delicious though. So too was the banana cream pie from the aptly named "Dangerously Delicious" pie shop where we were served by the peppy "Krismas with a K" and her modest ring through her nose. It was my P90X night off.
By the by, talking of changing waistlines and triceps that can be seen and not just heard, it would appear that the program's fever has taken over an ever growing number of the troupe. To date I think there are about 6 of us trying it out. By the end of the run I will be organising class schedules and we will send Mr Tony Horton group before and after shots! I now have a "workout" buddy in the form of the lovely Beth who, in her own words is all "pumpkin coloured hair" and Californian sunshine. Picture her: tall, limber, athletic, indefatigable, next to me, a foot shorter, wider and minus the faint shadow of an eight pack. We pack a comedic punch and I love jumping around with her. Besides she is in love with my son and being with me is a close second for her. Anyone walking by the little gym room would have enjoyed the sweaty randomness of our moves. As the fellas did who walked by me air punching and heavy breathing into nothing the other day. There are worst things.
Like the eery alarum that sounded yesterday whilst we were playing the relative balm of a 15 degree day (thats 50ish Farenheit to Yanks) over from the harbour up to reach us on Federal hill playground. It was like the last scene of "happy" life near the beginning of a post apocalyptic film tale, sounds of the children's laughter drowned by the unstoppable onslaught of terror. Gees. The green card anxiety really has got my imagination into over drive. Friendly Dad whose kids were befriending a deeply exciteable Sam explained that it was a regular occurence (the apocalyptic visions or the alarm? I thought to myself). No sooner had the little fella clocked his kids did he turn to his dad and, almost apologetically shout out, "I must go Dad! I have friends!" Familiar feelings of concern about Sam being lumbered with us two loons as playmates for the time being wash over me. They dissipate as quickly as they manifest. I know we are hitting the playgroup rounds again tomorrow you see. He even asked me to pretend to be Karen, the leader, during our bedtime stories. I think it was a ruse come to think of it, especially the bit where he asked me if it was time to "play with the toys?" Luckily Karen has a matriarchal leadership about her and was able to steer him towards the soporific stories instead.
Cory is sweating out on a stage somewhere right now, whilst I didle daddle on our machine. My favourite story he has brought home to me so far is of the local sound engineer. It seems this job attracts men with history - most definate capital "H". On his little station lay a couple of thick wads of photos stacked amongst what I imagined were an army of impressive looking buttons and l.e.d's. It is a truth universally acknowledged that soundies pride themselves on their knobs. "Take a look at the old days" he swung at Cory gesturing him towards the first stack of memories. Not wanting to seem impolite but really having come into the area to watch the basketball game on the tv at the time, my husband took a glance over them. After the third picture of Michael Jackson with the "soundie" in camera operator guise came up, the game was finally eclipsed. Sound man then went into a brief history of his time which had involved several circuits around the planet on the as the sound and visual operator for several music mega stars. "But the best thing I ever did?" he turned rhetorically to Cory,"was making my wife stay home with the kid. Yeah. Sure was the best thing I ever did was that." Mini feminist discussion ensued at home. "Best thing he ever did?" I asked the grinning Cory-man. Both he and the long grey haired eccentric who worked the circuit boards of Chicago, a millionaire with a secret passion for writing and publishing hiking books share a deep characterful streak that is attracted to the likes of Cory. I am looking forward to what Atlanta might offer us in this light.
On the subject of sound, Cory will be aired live nationally tomorrow on one of the country's radio channels. It is a phone in and interview with himself, Roger (Dr. Frankenstein) who plays the creature in the show and the lovely Brad Oscar who turns in a fine Officer Kemp and Hermit. A good threesome I feel, all blessed with sublime instinct for comic timing and a natural flair for precision. Son and I will be sat round the wirelss eager to hear. Till then I have but to finish my book (whoever knew it took sooooo long?!!!!!) and ponder on one "firstname.lastname@example.org" who has written to my agent for a signed autograph. In his forwarded email he has also envoked Jesus and his chariots of fire to bless me and my family. He lives in Vermont apparently. I am suddenly glad I have written the blog under my real name. Ok, so Vermont is not exactly Maryland but still. For someone with an overactive thyroid, sorry I mean imagination, 2 + 2 is always just over 4 if you know what I mean.
Perhaps it is time to return for a consultation with the fish.....