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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…

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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Mamaw’s Temporary Setback

Mamaw!

Nine time out of ten, when Mamaw believes she’s smiling for a photo, this is the result. Technically it’s a good sign.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: each November my wife Anne and I take her grandmother to the Christmas Gift & Hobby Show at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Now on its 68th year, the Show provides a variety of vendors selling Christmas decor, Christmas gift ideas, loving handicrafts, licensed character products, off-topic home improvement services, telemarketing schemes, and more more more. For Mamaw the fairgrounds are a premier destination for her two biggest annual affairs. The Indiana Flower and Patio Show in March is her Super Bowl; the Christmas Gift and Hobby Show is her San Diego Comic Con. Longtime MCC readers were treated to photos of previous expeditions from 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2016.

This year, we’ve run into a bit of a complication.

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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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