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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 34: Tour of Little Italy

Vaccaro's pastries!

Who needs artisan donuts when you can have bona fide Italian pastry?

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. For 2017 our ultimate destination of choice was the city of Baltimore, Maryland. You might remember it from such TV shows as Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire, not exactly the most enticing showcases to lure in prospective tourists. Though folks who know me best know I’m one of those guys who won’t shut up about The Wire, a Baltimore walkabout was Anne’s idea. Setting aside my fandom, as a major history buff she was first to remind skeptics who made worried faces at us for this plan that Maryland was one of the original thirteen American colonies and, urban decay notwithstanding, remains packed with notable history and architecture from ye olde Founding Father times. In the course of our research we were surprised to discover Baltimore also has an entire designated tourist-trap section covered with things to do. And if we just so happened to run across former filming locations without getting shot, happy bonus…

Throughout our stay in Baltimore, nearly all our paths to and from the Inner Harbor took us through the heart of their very own Little Italy. We’ve walked near Manhattan’s version a few times on our 2011 and 2016 vacations, but were hobbled both times by a third companion who is among the six people nationwide that dislike Italian cuisine. Also, Manhattan’s is only a couple of blocks long and adjacent to Chinatown, so its restaurants are too easy to bypass in favor of the dozens of other nearby options. This time in Baltimore, it was just the two of us — no excuses and almost no barriers.

Baltimore’s Little Italy comprises several streets and blocks, encompassing both the African American History Museum and the Flag House to the west, and ending with its southeast corner a convenient block away from our hotel. When we weren’t stopping inside it, we were still walking through it here and there for frequent glimpses at an eminent immigrant neighborhood whose origins date back to the mid-1800s.

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Our Dog Looks Like We Feel

Lucky surgery!

Never thought I’d see the day when our dog Lucky would find himself dressed like a Sno-Cone, but here we are.

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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 33: “Homicide” Hometown

Fells Point!

Our first sighting of Fells Point back on Day Three, after the water taxi finally picked us up from Fort McHenry.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. For 2017 our ultimate destination of choice was the city of Baltimore, Maryland. You might remember it from such TV shows as Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire, not exactly the most enticing showcases to lure in prospective tourists. Though folks who know me best know I’m one of those guys who won’t shut up about The Wire, a Baltimore walkabout was Anne’s idea. Setting aside my fandom, as a major history buff she was first to remind skeptics who made worried faces at us for this plan that Maryland was one of the original thirteen American colonies and, urban decay notwithstanding, remains packed with notable history and architecture from ye olde Founding Father times. In the course of our research we were surprised to discover Baltimore also has an entire designated tourist-trap section covered with things to do. And if we just so happened to run across former filming locations without getting shot, happy bonus…

After our stops at the African American History Museum and the Star-Spangled Banner Museum, we were effectively done with Baltimore museums for the year. Day Five continued to the southeast, past our hotel, and away from the the Inner Harbor’s major tourist magnets. We walked east on Fleet Street and, the very next block after Eden Street, passed the end of shininess and treaded into the blue-collar grit of the neighborhood they call Fell’s Point.

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The Annual Monumental Christmas Transformation

Monument Circle!

My walking path to the comic shop on Thanksgiving Eve.

Here in Indianapolis every year, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in the center of downtown is upconverted into “The World’s Largest Christmas Tree”, as it’s been billed for decades. I have no idea if that record holds, or if it was later disqualified for lack of organic roots, or if it was cute hyperbole from Year 1 onward. Regardless, it’s one of our most beloved holiday tourist attractions, and a far more tasteful and aesthetically pleasing tradition than Black Friday shopping.

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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 32: Broad Stripes and Bright Stars II

Flag House Flag Wall!

30 feet tall. 42 feet wide. It’s a replica, but the measurements are right.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. For 2017 our ultimate destination of choice was the city of Baltimore, Maryland. You might remember it from such TV shows as Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire, not exactly the most enticing showcases to lure in prospective tourists. Though folks who know me best know I’m one of those guys who won’t shut up about The Wire, a Baltimore walkabout was Anne’s idea. Setting aside my fandom, as a major history buff she was first to remind skeptics who made worried faces at us for this plan that Maryland was one of the original thirteen American colonies and, urban decay notwithstanding, remains packed with notable history and architecture from ye olde Founding Father times. In the course of our research we were surprised to discover Baltimore also has an entire designated tourist-trap section covered with things to do. And if we just so happened to run across former filming locations without getting shot, happy bonus…

As one of the original thirteen American colonies, Maryland has a treasure trove of history to share, as we’d seen here and there throughout the week. Back on Day Three, our tour of Fort McHenry had given us an in-depth look at the place where Francis Scott Key wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner” in the summer of 1814, while the War of 1812 was waged all around him. Over his head flew the eponymous flag that inspired it, wool and cotton, exactly the dimensions shown above. It was put together late enough to include Vermont and Kentucky, the first new states to hop aboard the America bandwagon after the first thirteen.

Just as the songwriting backdrop for our national anthem has its own tourist attraction in Baltimore, so does the home of that flag’s designer. Conveniently for us, the Star Spangled Banner Museum and Flag House is on the same block as the African American History Museum. It’s not entirely fancy, but it was a cost-effective coda to Fort McHenry.

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Yes, There Are Scenes During AND After the “Justice League” End Credits

Wonder Woman!

An optimistic Wonder Woman is already scouting locations for the Hall of Justice.

Midlife Crisis Crossover calls Justice League “Not Remotely the Worst Film of the Year!” I mean, y’all do remember 2017 spawned another Transformers sequel, right?

As a comics fan for nearly forty years, I’m not among those with unconditional love for every project with the DC Comics imprimatur on it, but their creators have made cool things over the decades. I found Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice the Worst Film of 2016, but The CW’s The Flash is my favorite current TV show, and I thought more highly of the first half of Suicide Squad than many people did. In comics I found the New 52 reboots largely dreadful, but love that “Rebirth” brought Christopher Priest’s Deathstroke and Gene Luen Yang’s New Super-Man into the world. The Flash was among the first super-heroes I ever followed monthly beginning at age 6. When I started making up my own super-heroes circa age 9, Cyborg was among the first ones I ripped off. But I pledge unquestioning allegiance to no fictional characters.

I fully expected Justice League to be an enormous waste of time that would have me nitpicking and raging for hours, given: (a) the departure of director Zack Snyder under tragic circumstances; (b) that former Marvel movie overseer Joss Whedon, the opposite of Snyder on every conceivable level, had been tasked with stitching together the pieces; (c) that Warner Brothers executives had demanded nearly a third of the movie be chopped out to enforce a shorter running time for reasons of greed; (d) they were trying to foist a redundant Flash on us despite the ongoing awesomeness of Grant Gustin; and (e) it’s mostly from the makers of Batman v. Superman. That’s a lot of strikes even before getting to the plate.

Honestly? It wasn’t that bad. In fact, I’ll go on record here and confess I wouldn’t call it “bad”.

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