The Queen’s finances are still in flux, so we’ll have to stay close by this week. However have I got some wild plans for the weeks to come. Until then, we need only to head up I95 a bit to a very sweet spot: Baltimore, MD…or as the people nickname it: Charm City.
Rocket to a Venus Miracle on 34th St
The Queen’s Royal Father grew up in Baltimore, and so much of my childhood was spent visiting relatives in the colorful and unique row houses of the city, and the rural communities just outside of its limits. In fact I was introduced to Barbie through one of my second cousins who lived in Pikesville, and had ALL the vintage dolls. Of course they weren’t really “vintage” at the time–which makes the Queen feel very old. One place her family lived didn’t have inside plumbing. Whenever we were going to see them, I’d spend about an hour in the bathroom trying to relieve myself of my entire innards ahead of time. No self-respecting monarch-in-training would DARE use such barbaric restroom conditions as an Outhouse. Just think of this picture that’s been going around the Internet, and you have me as a kid.
Anyhoo, that is neither here nor there.
The Queen has made us reservations at Rocket to Venus: a trendy little restaurant in Hampden. If you’re ever around this part of Baltimore during the holiday season, go right around the corner to see one of the most fabulous light displays on the east coast. Each year all of the residents of 34th street work to outdo each other and give their children and the city something marvelous. It’s really a testament to both the spirit of the season and of community.
But that too is neither here nor there.
What IS here is a small establishment that the Hipsters call home and feels almost like a throwback to my era: cozy booths and a small but hearty menu that sticks to your ribs. Try the Green Eggs and Ham. That’s right–you heard me correctly. They’ve got Green Eggs and Ham as a Special. And if you like pesto, then you will like them Sam-I-Am. And best of all…get ready for it…for $12.95 you get one of their specials, with ALL YOU CAN DRINK Bloody Marys, Mimosas, and Sangria. That’s right – ALL YOU CAN DRINK. Somehow, somewhere in the Cosmos I think Dr. Seuss would approve.
Getting it Right
One neighborhood that gets a lot of press for the wrong reasons is the area of West Baltimore. However growing up all I saw was a comfortable place to play. My parents used to say that when they were travelling through a strange town in the segregated South, they would always look for a black person and follow them. The person would ultimately lead them to a neighborhood in which they knew they’d be welcomed. Parts of West Baltimore always felt like that to the Queen. Now it is experiencing a re-birth. Professor Harold A. McDougall writes about it in his book Black Baltimore. In a country in which personal wealth is a primary deciding factor of well-being, it is nice to read about neighborhoods that are working to re-define success and community.
In my travels, I’ve had the humbling blessing of experiencing some of the world’s greatest museums. From the Musee du Louvre, to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I am in awe by the human ability to express through the creative.
Nowhere have I been more impressed than the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore.
The Technical Director at my old theatre company suggested that we take the actors there one year as a part of the rehearsal process. After that experience it became a part of the curriculum. Instead of trying to explain why this incredible place resonates so vibrantly with me, let me echo a part of their Mission Statement:
“‘Visionary art as defined for the purposes of the American Visionary Art Museum refers to art produced by self-taught individuals, usually without formal training, whose works arise from an innate personal vision that revels foremost in the creative act itself.’ In short, visionary art begins by listening to the inner voices of the soul, and often may not even be thought of as ‘art’ by its creator.”
I believe everyone is an artist. An artist, to me, is someone who feels very strongly about something in the world and finds a creative form to communicate it. When I was growing up, we used to have this guy who picked up our garbage, and would always arrange the empty cans in an orderly and precise way before hopping on the truck and going to the next stop. I once asked him why he did that and he said something to the effect of “I want y’all to come out after I’ve left and see something nice.” Dude probably would have laughed at me if I called what he did an Art. But it was. And I thank him for it and think of him every time I see trash bins arranged neatly in a row.
And, now that it’s approaching evening, let’s sit a minute here at the Inner Harbor and catch our breaths. I hope you Miss Things have as much fun on our Sunday Brunches as I do. Working to explain why a city, or a restaurant or a museum is important to me really helps me re-define it for myself. That is an invaluable service. Far greater than the price of all-you-can-drink Sangria.
Until next time: enjoy your week.