Saturday, April 01, 2006

Ode to Mobtown, hon

With my meager worldly possessions now on their way to Los Angeles, I finally have a moment to catch my breath. I've lived here in Baltimore for ten years now and it's strange to think that in only a few hours, I won't anymore. As exciting as the prospect of living in Los Angeles is, though, there are many things about The Land of Pleasant Living that I'll hate to leave behind.

Most non-Baltimorons receive their images of the city from one of three main sources: (1) Barry Levinson's tales of Baltmore in the 50's; (2) the television series of former Baltimore Sun police reporter, David Simon (Homicide: Life on the Streets, The Corner, and The Wire); and John Waters. All entertaining in their different ways, but tending to give the impression that Charm City is either a drug-war DMZ or quirky, blue-collar trashstravaganza. Okay, those stereotypes are actually true to some extent. But it's not all bad, and if you ever find yourself in town, nix the usual Inner Harbor tourist crap for some good ol' Bawlmer sights. Hon.


For cinephiles, Baltimore has the bases covered in relative style. Current independent releases, foreign films, revivals, and even the occasional studio feature are all showcased at The Charles. Just around the corner from Penn Station, and next door to a fab tapas restaurant for pre or post-flick fare, The Charles also hosts the best reason to get out of bed early on a Sunday morning, the Cinema Sundays film series. Catch new or classic films, Q&A with the filmmakers or other guest speakers, and nosh on some bagels. Can't beat that with a stick.

If big-screen action and tentpole releases are more your speed, however, then head on up the JFX to Baltmore's historic Senator Theatre. A movie palace in the grand art deco tradition, The Senator is where the line forms for the latest superhero, sci-fi, or fantasy extravaganza. Even with classic houses like Mann's Chinese, The Egyptian, and El Capitan now within walking distance, The Senator is where I want to premiere any movie that I might ever be fortunate enough to have made.

Mmmmm . . . food

When most people think Baltimore and food they think crabs. But truthfully, locals don't eat them as much as others think. I never was any good at the cracking and picking necessary to get at all the meat myself. My local eatery of choice was (and remains) the SoBo Cafe. Smack dab in the middle of Federal Hill, the SoBo provides good food at a reasonable price and in a funky atmosphere that belies the otherwise upscale surroundings. Chicken pot pie and mac-n-cheese to die for. But mostly it was the great staff that brought me back every week. Cool, funny, and friendly, ask for Lisa, Carrie Ann, or Olivia and they'll take good care of you.

The one bad thing about city dining is that closing time comes early, usually round about 10 o'clock. Not good for the night owl. Thankfully, there is always the Papermoon Diner to save the evening. Breakfast anytime, veggie-friendly offerings such as "Hummuscide: Life on a Pita," and crazy decor (think Hollywood bungalow overrun by an army of mutilated Barbie dolls). Cheap and open 24/7.

Reading is fun and mental

For a time, Baltimore's slogan was "The City That Reads." Which everyone got an ironic chuckle out of, given what The City That Reads passed off as a public school system. But for those who actually do read, there are some typically Baltimore bibliothingies to be found. First and foremost being Atomic Books in the most Baltimore-y of Baltimore neighborhoods, Hampden. Self-described "literary finds for mutated minds," Atomic Books is the source for all manner of underground comics, graphic novels, zines, kitsch, and anything else too hip for the average person to likely imagine. Oh, and it's also the offical repository of John Waters's fan mail. So drop him a line at the shop and they'll be sure to get it to him! Oh, and the current slogan is "The Greatest City In America," which only makes us laugh even more.

No longer in Baltimore (anyone good at anything ends up leaving eventually), but certainly of it, Emily Flake writes and draws one of the funniest strips out there: Lulu Eightball. Four panels of wry social commentary, dark humor, and girls dressed up in bee costumes. Emily got her start writing and illustrating for the local alternative newsweekly, City Paper. Although she lives in Brooklyn now, the comic retains a definite Charm City vibe. And if you don't get it in your own city's free paper, the first year of Lulu Eightball has been collected in a handy volume you can order online from Atomic Books themselves. See how that works?

House music all night long

Although not quite the scene it was when I arrived ten years ago, Baltimore still loves to dance and the best place to do it is the venerable Paradox nightclub. Since the days of the Orbit and Fever parties, this warehouse space in an industrial area near the sports stadiums has been the place to groove until the sun comes up. No bottle service, no VIP noise, just a roomy hardwood dance floor with a 20,000 watt sound system for the bass in your face. Nothing like Scott Henry dropping one of those tracks from back in the day at about six in the morning when the front room is still rammed and you and that person dancing next to you just never want the song to end.

Some of those people who I used to hang out with at Paradox with took that love of the music and now operate the best concert venue in the city, Sonar. Owner Lonnie Fisher has made the nice transition from rave promoter having his civil liberties violated by the "po-po" to the bringer of new bands and djs to a town that historically has been more big-hair heavy metal than house. But his Ultraworld promotion venture still manages to throw down old skool once a year with Starscape, so the scene is still not quite ready to die just yet.

So that's what I'm leaving behind, along with many other great things too numerous to mention in detail (The Tinklers, American Visionary Art Museum, the ten-hole golf course at Carroll Park, the Miracle on 34th Street). It's been a (mostly) fun ride, but the open road beckons and now on to the hills of Hollywood and a new world of experiences. Believe, hon.


Post a Comment

<< Home