Every August, the weather in Baltimore delivers a promise of the days to come, a couple of warm-but-dry days where a sweater is needed when the sun goes down. Yesterday was one of those days and I made an impromptu decision: Instead of going to a gym, why not take a hike? And why not take my houseguest, Ruth Jordan, to the neighborhood, Dickeyville, where I grew up? With a side trip to Louiseâ€™s Bakery, formerly Bauhofâ€™s, to buy the cookies I loved in my youth and take them to my book-signing last night. We walked for 90 minutes through Leakin Park and if Ruth ever doubted that I knew where I was going, she politely kept it to herself.
Ruth and I were in the car when the earth moved. I didnâ€™t mind missing it. And I wonâ€™t mind scooting out of town in front of Hurricane Irene this weekend as I head to Pittsburgh for a tour stop. Baltimore, in the wake of the earthquake, was pretty adorable. People called WBAL to share their experiences, but because the damage appears to be minimal, there was a breathless inanity to it all. Later, when someone told me that she was in a D.C. building where people feared an act of terrorism — that made sense to me. But descriptions of glasses clinking — hee! Fact is, we had some damage here in South Baltimore when some things rolled off a shelf on the top floor.
Actually, Baltimore has been fricking adorable in general this week, providing my guests with all sorts of Baltimore moments. My favorite, I think, was the woman driving her trash to the dumpster — on the hood of her SUV. Yes, she had two enormous trash bags on the hood of her vehicle as she drove v-e-r-y-s-l-o-w-l-y to deposit them (quite illegally) in the dumpster at the local shopping center. Then there was the woman in the wheelchair, puffing on a cigarette and rolling backward in a lane of traffic in what is essentially the exit ramp onto Mulberry Street downtown. “Now that,” Ruth said, “is hardboiled.”
As Iâ€™ve often said, I love to eavesdrop in Baltimore, my favorite line of all time being: “I have such a goddamn fetish for fried chicken,” although Iâ€™m now pretty sure the man said “got-damn.” And sometimes, like two characters in my 2010 novel, Iâ€™d Know You Anywhere, I like to notice when I say things that seem like the most unlikely sentences in the world. “I left my poncho in the Ritz-Carlton.” Or, coming to the theme of todayâ€™s give-away: “I once took a ride on the wienermobile.” Please, donâ€™t even attempt a double-entendre. Iâ€™ve heard them all. I was a reporter, I wrote about the experience for the San Antonio Light. The earth didnâ€™t move.
Some folks may know I have a fondness for banks, particularly ones that were used for advertising. A bank plays a key part in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, too. So today, Iâ€™m giving away a bank I found on eBay. It is, Â in fact, the wienermobile.
Todayâ€™s question: Oscar Meyer or Armour? Or Hebrew National? Hey, even if you donâ€™t eat hotdogs, you have to have a preference as to the best jingle.