Saturday, September 11, 2010


The problem I see with a lot of Facebook posts and an overwhelming majority of blogs is this: People only ever talk about the 1% of things that are perfection. Perfect pictures, edited as such, perfect posts about a perfect meal (not mentioning the fact that you’d fed your kids cereal for dinner the five nights leading up to that), how positive and perfect you're feeling, turning illness into a great learning opportunity, talking about how great your kids are when we all know they're driving you up the wall more often than not, the highlights of a trip that leave out the four hour plane delay, the fact that your four year old vomited all over the hotel, etc.

Typically, I try to be honest in my posting. I’d hate to make someone feel bad by getting a less than realistic view of my life and think I’m anything close to perfect. Cause I’m not. And proud of it.

Last week I took a trip to Baltimore for my grandmother’s funeral. Obviously it was not a happy occasion. Besides the fact that my grandmother is no longer with us, my family is… a little dysfunctional. What you find below is by no means an accurate account of my trip and contains positive, and only positive moments. Therefore, this is about 1% of my trip.

I do really love going to Baltimore. It’s where I was born, and it only takes one step off of the plane for me to delve into reminiscing. The airport reminds me of a trip four years ago when my nephew (who was four years old at the time) threw a fit because there were no dinosaurs there. His parents promised he could visit dinosaurs on the trip (at the Smithsonian). I guess he was expecting them to be awaiting our arrival promtply after deplaning. He was also really upset that when he finally did get to see the dinosaurs, they were bones, and not real, live, roaring beasts.

I went alone this time. When you have three kids, being by yourself seems like a really good idea, but in truth it's really quiet and kinda lonely. I felt like a little kid hanging out with my parents and having three meals a day with them. Everywhere I went I got carded which had me laughing hysterically. Partially from being carded and partically because no one could find my birthdate on my Florida license.

But I really enjoyed my time in Baltimore. It's a truly historic town.

Driving around and just seeing all these things that used to be so familiar and now are so...distant. You don't often see train tracks where I live, and in Baltimore I saw an actual train chugging along, minding its business. I know it probably sounds crazy, but I like it.

Being in Baltimore with my dad has a distinct advantage: he knows where all the best food is. And there is a lot of good food. Straight from the airport we headed to G&Ms, a place that has, hands down, the best crab cake in Baltimore. It was funny because I posted on Facebook about just having the mother of all crab cakes and my brother (who lives in Baltimore) responded "G&Ms or Timbuktu?" (Timbuktu is really good too, but we had gone there on our last trip. Gotta spread the love.) When you’re a Marylander you are a natural born crab cake snob, so I really enjoyed being able to go to a restaurant and order one, knowing it wouldn’t disappoint.

The next day’s food stop was a bar in Locust Point called JRs. I was told they have a hamburger topped with meat, and more meat.

It was the most majestic hamburger I’ve had in all my years. I had the ¼ lb. version, but more manlier men have the option of the ½ lb. burger, which is just unphathomable to me. I chose the “Locust Point Burger” which consists of a burger topped with ham, bacon and cheddar cheese, plus I opted for tomatoes, mayo and grilled onions. Holy mother of deliciousness.

It was here at JRs that I was introduced to National Bohemian, from the land of pleasant living.

Baltimore is famous for its beers, and this one is a Baltimore original. My dad described it as a raunchy beer, and I was a little afraid, but it was really quite good and exceeded my expectations. The bartender told me it’s “in style” right now. The best part—it was $1.88 a bottle. You can’t get a glass of water in Naples for $1.88. Notice the little one eyed guy on the label. My brother says the beer's called the "one eyed wonder." And he, being a beer man, would know.

I consumed more Natty Bo at my old childhood hangout of Muirs. Yes, you read that right. I spent my childhood in a bar. Every Sunday after German school my dad would take us there and we’d eat pretzels and drink Cokes. It was nice to go back. I wish I got a better picture of the building—it had this tall, pointed roof.

My dad's all time favorite hot dog joint, Pollock Johnny's.

In between funeral events and eating, we visited our old house.

The road seemed super skinny, but I guess that’s what happens with you get bigger and the road doesn’t. My dad had planted a tree sapling outside my bedroom window 25? years ago that is now twice the size of the house. A family with a baby lives there now. They caught us cruising by and staring like stalkers so we ended up introducing ourselves.

Right down the street from us was the Georgetown Market. We used to go down there and buy typical kid stuff, sodas and candy. It's the exact same 7-up sign.

My grandmother’s house was auctioned by the state last spring to cover the costs of her nursing care. I mentioned before how hard this was for me… A company is rehabbing it. South Baltimore is in the midst of a revival, so her old house was perfect for a company to gobble up and restore.

They took off the form stone front (it used to look like the houses on either side of it, form stone was a popular trend in the 50s) and restore the original brick. It’s beautiful. I spent so many nights of my childhood sitting on those steps with my grandmother. It’s a South Baltimore thing, sitting on the stoop. People would stop by and talk. It was so… neighborly. The house has new windows and upon a peek in them I was delighted to see all new walls, wood floors, and beautiful trim. I’m so happy to see this house restored to its glory, but so sad that my grandmother never got to enjoy it, and even sadder that this place is no longer a part of our family.

I love irony of this picture. The greatest city in the world, indeed. We’re just so busy being great we can’t trouble ourselves with picking up the trash…

Even with the rough patches, it's a beautiful city.


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JONES said...

first - warmest sympathies for your loss.

always love reading your story-telling way of writing. awesome pics, liked seeing your old house.

totally agree with honest writing...I try to make sure I write about all the beautiful things and things that suck, without being too much of a mushy person or too much of a debbie downer. (although I tend to get mushy and verbose a lot, I know!)

also, totally agree about being by yourself without the kids...I get sideways, a little. and getting carded....forget about it...did you read that I was carded when I bought fireworks?!?!? you have to be 18 to buy fireworks. it's hilarious at this point!

looking forward to your next post.

Rapunzel's Wish said...

Hi Ashley,

I happened across your blog (ok, I was bored and I've been up all night, and when I clicked on "Next blog" your's came up), anyway, your blog caught my eye. I love your sense of humour about Facebook and what people post about. SO true!

- I'm also so very sorry to hear of your loss of your Grandmother. Never easy. I just lost my Dad in 2008, and quite frankly - it sucks.

Your blog also caught my eye because I live in MD. I enjoyed your pics, and your memories of Baltimore MD. - I thought you may remember a place called The Enchanted Forest in Ellicott City MD.? It's closed down now, but many peices have been moved to a nearby petting farm, and restored. I've been blessed with being able to help, and it's been great bringing these peices back to life! - Your Grandmother's home reminded me of it too, as there is/was a Castle there made with the form stone that used to be on her home.

- I thought you might enjoy some pics and links for a virtual trip back there - if so, check out Clark's Elioak Farm, (fair warning - there's sound on this site)
and The Enchanted Forest Preservation Society
- There's also a great page of Facebook "Remembering The Enchanted Forest in Ellicott City MD." long name for a group, but You'll be able to find it for sure. - folks share lots of old pics there too. The farm also has a page on facebook.

Well, thanks for sharing your story, and your Grandmother's, and hope you don't mind me sharing too.
All the best to you -