R.I.P. Geppi Museum: A 2017 Road Trip Epilogue

Batcave Shakespeare!

Once upon a time, this dead author was the gateway to a crimefighter’s lair. Who knows where he’s headed next.

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. 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.

As a fan of comic books for nearly four decades and counting, I wish I could say we find comic-related tourist attractions everywhere we go, but that’s nearly never the case. Leave it to one of the most powerful men in the comics industry ever so kindly to place one in our Baltimore path. And not just comics — Geppi’s Entertainment Museum is a haven for collectible 20th-century pop culture in general.

Its founder and namesake is Steve Geppi, also the founder and owner of Diamond Comics Distributors, the near-monopolistic juggernaut through which the vast majority of American comic shops are required to receive their weekly comics and ancillary products. Geppi has been a leading figure in the industry since the 1970s, with Diamond rising to indispensable prominence when the tumultuous 1990s market saw the company either outliving or outright buying its competitors. In 2006 Geppi — himself a big fan of all those worlds — decided to try something different and opened his Entertainment Museum on the second floor of the former B&O Railroad Station, with its exhibits curated out of his own enormous personal collections.

As of June 3, 2018, those paragraphs became past tense.

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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 46: The Season Finale – Last Call for Outtakes

GO THE EXTRA MILE!

Parking lot decor found on the walk from the Inner Harbor to the American Visionary Art Museum.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: we guided you through our seven-day trip to Baltimore, Maryland, in forty-four episodes —- July 8-14, 2017, with stops along the way at two Civil War battlefields and a series of smaller but no less intriguing sights by the roadside.

It all comes down to this: one final collection of alternate scenes and quick blips in between the larger sights. Baltimore may have set a new homicide record year in 2017, to say nothing of headline-making protests, but our trip there and back again belied all that. Any large city has its issues and its areas you’re not supposed to visit — some worse than others — but they also have their bright sides and their reasons, great and small, why the locals stick around and don’t just all flee to Canada.

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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 45: The Museum of Outtakes

Superman Also!

Day Four: another Superman statue at Geppi’s Entertainment Museum.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: we guided you through our seven-day trip to Baltimore, Maryland, in forty-four episodes —- July 8-14, 2017, with stops along the way at two Civil War battlefields and a series of smaller but no less intriguing sights by the roadside.

Here in our penultimate chapter: a selection of additional exhibits from the museums, national parks, and other historical organizations we visited. We took plenty of pictures everyplace, but a few images didn’t make the final cut until just now. If you’ve missed any chapters in the series, this and the season finale will give you hints of what you missed. Enjoy!

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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 35: Farewell, Inner Harbor

Anne in heart!

This steel heart was part of a 2016 project involving a Baltimore “Code of Respect”. It had fine-print behavior rules on top for all Inner Harbor pedestrians to read and take to heart (see what they did there?), but we missed that part.

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 three full days in Baltimore (plus our late arrival on Day Two), on the morning of Day Six it was time for us to move on and begin the long journey home. But before we recount those miles and the attractions along the way, here’s one last look back at some of our traipsing around Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, that fun waterside nexus where we saw museums, rode water taxis, smashed pennies, enjoyed quality meals, stepped on boats of varying historic significance, encountered panhandlers, started our sunburns, hit my head three times on a submarine ceiling, and saw Old Bay seasoning sold in larger quantities than any family outside Maryland should ever need in their entire lifetimes.

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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 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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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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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 31: The African-American Experience

quilt!

One of several quilts on display at the museum.

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…

DAY FIVE: Wednesday, July 12th.

A good night’s sleep helped put the hardships of the previous day behind us. Another middling hotel breakfast didn’t exactly kick off Day Five with pizzazz, but it would have to do till we arrived at better food later. Day Five in Baltimore was a departure from the previous two days — no Inner Harbor, no water taxis, no crowds of tourists, no afternoon panhandlers along the shoreline, no more shots of the Historic Ships or the Barnes & Noble or that ubiquitous, gargantuan aquarium in shot after shot after shot after shot after shot.

One of the most useful items we bought before we arrived in town was a pair of Baltimore Harbor Passes. Baltimore has so many museums and museum-style locations that they offer discount admission packages if you’re interested in checking out four different facilities. Up to this point the Harbor Pass had gotten us into the National Aquarium, the American Visionary Art Museum, and the World Trade Center’s Top of the World observation deck. We had three options for the fourth slot. One is their children’s museum, which used to be a thing for us before my son grew up; another is the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum, which is probably a must-see for sports fans.

The full name of our ultimate choice, according to their brochure, is the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture. It sounded more fascinating to me, and as an added bonus was within walking distance of our hotel.

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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 30: The Dragon Experiment

Dragonriders!

Helen of Troy’s “face that launched a thousand ships” is absolutely nothing next to the smile that launched this dragon.

Thor Heyerdahl. Leif Erikson. Amerigo Vespucci. Vasco da Gama. Cap’n Quint. Princess Moana. The Fed Ex guy from Cast Away. These mighty explorers braved the open sea in the name of exploration, discovery, adventure, salvation, and/or Because It Was There. To millions of Americans, water travel is an exotic activity best left to professional captains and drivers while the rest of us assume passenger positions and let others choose our paths and our destinies.

But I understand that sometimes taking charge of a vessel and setting your own course can be quite fulfilling and build confidence that you can draw upon in future endeavors. And when a lovely lady like my wife wants to try something completely different, something involving animal-shaped things and scenery almost as beautiful as her, I really, really like to make that happen for her if it’s within my power. And sometimes even when I think it isn’t.

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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 29: Looks at Books in a Tower of Power

Barnes & Noble!

This photo looks stolen from a tourism brochure, but I promise it’s ours.

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…

Tourists love shopping in faraway places and bringing home exotic clothing, jewelry, souvenirs, and more. That’s what I hear, I mean. Our shopping habits are narrower in scope and are rarely a primary factor in planning our vacation to-do lists. But if a store that caters to our interests just so happens to have a convenient location by other prominent attractions, we’re amenable to dropping in for some light browsing. If said store has its own unusual architectural features, so much the better.

Hence our short stop at the largest Barnes & Noble we’ve ever seen.

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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 28: Jellyfish Heaven

Jellyfish!

Strange visitor from another world, technically.

Near the end of a long day’s travels, it’s a confusing sort of relief to find yourself greeted by this sort of strange yet soothing sight.

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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 27: The Lives Aquatic

giant narrow fish.

This fellow refused to move, as if he was too busy waiting in vain for a callback from Pixar casting.

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…

What’s not to love about an aquarium? It’s a wonderland teeming with life in myriad forms and mesmerizing colors, many of which you’ve never seen before. Mood lighting and soothing blue waters surround you, and help to offset the noisy kids running around all over the place and shouting, “LOOK AT THAT ONE! NO, LOOK AT THAT ONE! COOOOOOL!” If you enter without children as we did, then you’re not beholden to their curious questioning, their short attention spans, or their zigzag walking styles as they bounce from one captivating tank to the next. You can lollygag around at your own pace and decide for yourself which fish you’d rather skip, which fish you’d like to stare at for a few minutes while contemplating the intricacies of Creation, and which lifeforms you’d like to spend ten minutes trying to get a single decent picture of for posterity.

Unfortunately for our more modest cameras, colorful settings don’t compensate for dim lights. Many of our pics at the National Aquarium came out blurry. This gallery, then, represents the best of what we tried to do. When you’ve had no formal training or thousand-dollar devices, sometimes patience and hope are the best tools you have. We only had a couple of hours till closing time, but it proved just enough time to see the main exhibits and enjoy the air conditioning.

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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 26: All Around the Aquarium

Fish Fossil!

Giant fish fossil suspended from the ceiling and hanging down several stories welcomes you!

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…

The next stop on our scenic tour of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor has already popped up as an Easter egg in previous chapters. The National Aquarium is an institution so large, it needs two piers and at least three buildings to contain it all. Over two million gallons of water house 17,000+ specimens from several hundred species, some of which were transferred over when the National Aquarium in Washington DC closed its doors in 2013. As you’re walking around the Inner Harbor, the aquarium is impossible to miss.

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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 25: Bountiful Bites of the Bay

soft shell crab sandwich!

Of all the seafood-based meals we had on this vacation, Anne’s lunch on Day 3 was the crabbiest. But in a good way!

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…

Days Three through Five kept us busy with attractions a-plenty. Whenever time and location permitted, we tried to seek out local Baltimore cuisine within a reasonable budget. We can’t do four-star dining for every meal (most of our trips never had one), but it’s a major bonus whenever we can grab our meals someplace besides nationwide chains. As you’d expect, result may vary.

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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 24: The Pop Station

BK + Ronald!

Mr. King and Mr. McDonald are pleased to make your acquaintance.

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…

Oriole Park was a nice place to visit, but catercorner to it was the part of Camden Yards I wanted to see most. As a fan of comic books for nearly four decades and counting, I wish I could say we find comic-related tourist attractions everywhere we go, but that’s nearly never the case. Leave it to one of the most powerful men in the comics industry ever so kindly to place one in our Baltimore path. And not just comics — Geppi’s Entertainment Museum is a haven for collectible 20th-century pop culture in general.

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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 23: Camden Yards on $0.00 a Day

Babe's Dream!

“Babe’s Dream” commemorates baseball legend Babe Ruth, who was born in Baltimore and who’s among the very, very few players I read about during my short-lived baseball phase back in third grade.

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…

Longtime MC readers know my wife and I aren’t sports fans. We’ll attend games, matches, or races if an employer holds an event at one of our local venues, such as that time we saw a Pacers game from the Bankers Life Fieldhouse cheap seats, or that time we took in a July 4th Indians game at Victory Field, or that time I spent an afternoon at Indy 500 practice. But when it comes to our independent leisure time or our vacations, sports arenas — even the famous ones — almost never factor into our planning. If they’re a convenient neighbor or backdrop to the attraction we actually came to visit, we’ll include them if they catch our eye.

Since 1992 Oriole Park at Camden Yards has been the home of the Baltimore Orioles. Their 2017 season recently ended in depressing fashion, but their stomping grounds seemed nice. The Orioles were out of town while we were in Baltimore, but Anne and I had two other reasons for dropping in. The park was next door to the next tourist attraction I wanted to see. More importantly, Anne’s sources told her there was a smashed-penny machine on the premises. Smashed pennies are kind of her thing.

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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 22: The Commuters Cometh

Taxi Flag!

Another water taxi, another U.S. flag waving in the Inner Harbor breeze.

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 a confident driver with above-average reflexes, limited patience for needless hesitation, navigational skills honed over a lifetime, and a car that responds well to my every need and impulse, I find it excruciatingly difficult to relinquish control of the steering wheel and let someone else drive. Blame it on my upbringing in a large city with a fierce loyalty to the automotive industry; slow, intermittent buses; costly taxis that aren’t a common enough sight to count on; and no commuter rails whatsoever. Indianapolis loves its cars, its car exhaust, and its gridlock. When officials brag about how we’ve expanded our 21st-century travel options, they’ll mention Uber, Lyft, and the BlueIndy electric cars you can rent for a few hours at a time. In other words, more cars. Way to save the world, Indy.

On our annual road trips, occasionally we’ll think to sample the mas transit where we’re hanging out. On our 2011 and 2016 road trips, I loved letting the ubiquitous MTA subways carry us all around Manhattan and Queens, but their bus line’s haphazard schedule and incomprehensible route signs drove me bananas. On our 2003 foray into Washington DC, the Metro came in handy for a city where we couldn’t afford many of the parking options at the time. I’ve had mixed reactions to my limited use of mass transit in Chicago, Denver, and Philadelphia. Otherwise, in our travels it’s entirely up to me when and how we get where we want to go. We don’t have to wait for other drivers or share space with other passengers. I save us some time and tend to drive faster than any public transportation professionals except for NYC cabbies, whose tolerances for four-wheel zero-G are beyond my comfort threshold and most speed limit signs. Ultimately, if it takes us longer to arrive somewhere than we should, I’d rather blame myself than someone else.

With Baltimore we decided to give their local travel options a shot — partly to save us the hassle of their traffic, and partly to cut back on parking fees in addition to what we were already paying for the garage behind the hotel. If the results wowed us, maybe we could go back home to Indianapolis and tell them what a major city with real mass transit looks like.

We may have picked a bad week to try that.

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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 21: Visionary Mementos

Zoltar!

Hi, I’m Zoltar! You might remember me from such films as Big and…well, sadly, that’s it. A shame no studio would greenlight Big 2: The Embiggening starring Ted McGinley.

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…

Sure, the American Visionary Art Museum had art like we’d never seen before from a variety of self-taught, non-professional, iconoclastic, inimitable artists from all walks of life working in every conceivable medium plus a few no one thought to conceive till they came along. Sure, it was three buildings and a garden full of whimsy and wonder and imagination and intimidating bewilderment. Sure, one-third of it was free and the rest was worth the admission price.

But my absolute favorite part? The gift shop.

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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 20: Everything’s Visionary

Bra Ball!

Remember on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse when Pee-Wee kept a collection of either foil or rubber bands mashed together into a ball, depending on which season it was? This is Emily Duffy’s 1800-pound “Bra Ball“.

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…

Whenever someone asks us about our Baltimore vacation and lets us speak for more than fifteen seconds, if they’re patient we’ll tell them the part where we went beyond the Inner Harbor and spent two hours wandering the grounds of the American Visionary Art Museum. We’ll try to describe the captivating fun of roaming a trio of facilities dedicated to self-taught art, to imaginations and handicraft that eschew folks traditions or identifiable art movements, about the outlandish and the whimsy, about the inherent coolness of DIY ethos writ large and embraced to the fullest. Then their eyes will glaze over and they’ll change the subject because trying to describe unique art they’ve never seen is a bit like reviewing a Taylor Swift album for an audience that’s never owned a radio.

I guess you just had to be there. Or scroll through the photos from someone who has.

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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 19: Visionary Edibles

Giant Gummy Wayne Coyne!

“Giant Gummy Wayne Coyne” by Derek Lawson, Julianne and Matt Lutz, and Coyne himself, lead singer of the Flaming Lips and the only artist’s name I recognized in the entire AVAM complex.

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…

Our wonderstruck tour of the American Visionary Art Museum continued beyond the shiny free exterior and into the admission-paying part. The Museum welcomes numerous guest curators on a regular basis to assemble temporary exhibits on assorted themes — again, populated entirely by the works of amateurs, aspiring part-timers, and self-confessed non-artists who just need to see an idea in their head come to full visual fruition.

When we visited in July, the main exhibit was “YUMMM! The History, Fantasy and Future of Food”. Nearly three dozen food scientists, farmers, nutritionists, multimedia practitioners, and more contributed a variety of sculptures, paintings, collages, and other displays of educational and/or nostalgic value. Not everything from the following photo gallery was officially part of that exhibit, but food is a subject matter that’s bound to be on everyone’s minds sooner or later.

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