Hello there! How are you? Yes, it HAS been a while. There are no excusable excuses to be had here. As I write this, I am no longer living in Baltimore. I have moved back home for a bit. I am taking a French class at the local community college and spending Sunday mornings at the Eastern Market. Step back from Detroit. Close your eyes. Let’s pretend I am back in Baltimore on a crispy January Sunday morning. For me, Sundays are synonymous with latte’s and the New York Times. The only place to execute your Sunday routine is the Daily Grind where you can taste the very essence of Baltimore in your coffee grounds.
The Daily Grind is one of those coffee houses that you walk into immediately feel at ease. You are not going to be overwhelmed by pretension and a barista looking at you like you’re dumb if you just want a humble cup of coffee (no frills please!).
The shop is situated right on the harbor. If you go on Saturday mornings, there is a farmer’s market just a block or two away on Broadway. Once inside, you can smell a mix of bread, eggs, and coffee.
The counter reminds me of European cafes; it has a half door that opens to the sidewalk for people with dogs–and they sell cigarettes behind the counter like a scene from Amelie. You can pick up a great variety of newspapers, but the New York Times can sell out before noon if you aren’t careful.
This place is truly a haunt for locals. One of the tables across from the bathrooms has a sign that reserves it for a small group of people early in the mornings. It has an incredible amount of natural light with skylights and a brick facade. The lattes are good and a dollar cheaper than Starbucks. Most importantly, its a great place to sit down and relax, and get to know the real neighborhood.
Living in Baltimore, I am well positioned to visit my friends all over the East Coast. The only thing that limits me is my budget (I am wealthy in time, not money). I imagine that DC and Baltimore have a relationship similar to that of San Francisco and Oakland–so close but sometimes local cultures are polar opposites.
Prior to moving to Baltimore, I hadn’t been in DC since the traditional high school field trip to the Capitol. I totally forgot about how unique the Metro is in DC. One, because you get charged by distance and two, because nothing else looks so distinct. The majority of Metro stations were designed by Harry Weese, whose creation has been featured on modern architectural lists. Do you think you would know you were in the DC if you could only see the Metro station?
I normally don’t believe in waiting, but Blue Moon Cafe has a line for two very good reasons. 1) they don’t take reservations to the best of my knowledge and 2) their food is amazing. If you arrive during peak hours on the weekend, the wait can be upwards of an hour. Part of the wait and religious following can be explained by the Food Network appearance.
I love Blue Moon for the low key nature, it is very much come as you are. I have never felt out of place in my yoga pants or jeans. The wait staff is friendly and they share duties, so it’s OK to ask anyone for more syrup. The walls feature local artwork that rotate regularly.
What to order? I am exceptionally boring, and order the same thing every time–the Captain Crunch French Toast (it’s what they are famous for). Trust me, try it. Friends who come with me and tried something else have loved every dish placed in front of them.
If you’re not a waiting list champion Blue Moon Cafe is open 24 hours on the weekend. I have arrive at 7am and been seated without a wait. Waking up that early is certainly a trade off but there’s always naps!
I skidded into LaGuardia in the last week of August…without a ticket to Michigan (where I had parked my bags before leaving for Europe). Getting home was an exercise in resourcefulness and emotional control. I had planned to fly home standby with Southwest, but when I got to the counter, I was informed my luggage couldn’t go with me. Not willing to part with my things I sat down to scope out my other options. I had roughly $200 to my name, so the getting home was not and issue of finding a place to swipe my AmEx. Megabus doesn’t go that far. Amtrak was too expensive. So I pulled out my phone I hadn’t used in months and started calling my friends. Within a couple of hours I was on a Megabus to Philly to stay at my old house with one of my best friends. The happy ending isn’t here though, I still needed to get to Detroit. Philly was wonderful, I got to recharge my batteries and I remembered a friend in Atlanta had mentioned this website, Zimride. I logged on and found a ride home. My driver was this guy, Dan, he provided more than one full bellied laugh…and didn’t mind that I act like a totally dysfunctional human. By Sunday evening I was standing on a corner in Ann Arbor waiting for my mom, sister and niece and I to catch up over some Indian Food.
The following week I was in Baltimore settling into my new apartment. That feeling of waking up and getting in the car and having no idea which way to go is a little scary but fun. I could never explain how I arrived there, but I found a Whole Foods and a Starbucks (where I would Google how to get home). It was around this time I realized I was in the “i=Inner Harbor” which is 1) where the rich people live and 2) where all the tourists mill about. There are several large ships parked there. You can also find some street performers and museums. If you are a people watcher, this is your side of town because yachts also park in the harbor and their residents mosey around the area mixing with the local flavor. There are plenty of higher end things to do as well as predictable Americana such as a mall and the expected high rise or two. Most of these pictures are thanks to a gentleman, Albert, who took me on an extended walk to see what Baltimore has to offer. The Inner Harbor is how Baltimore wants outsiders to remember it.
I know that more than a handful of people stateside are having their travel plans postponed. Thousands of flights in and out of the country have been cancelled! 50 million people are estimated to be affected by Hurricane Sandy! I ended up in Fells Point yesterday, watching people rush home and make sure their car is safe. I am hearing sirens more than usual today, I even saw snow flakes mixed in with the rain. So what does a signature Baltimore Hurricane preparedness plan look like? Here are some observations from a newbie:
Get your flashlights, water and batteries early! Those soccer moms I was smirking at two or three days ago were on to something. As of Sunday night, finding a flashlight became a scavenger hunt. Soccer moms everywhere are having the last laugh.
Cook Food for several days–stuff that doesn’t need to be heated up. Locals have told me that power might take days rather than hours to restore.
Blockade your door. The pictures below show what more seasoned residents are trying to do, using sandbags to prevent their doors from the harsh weather.
Catch up on your favorite shows. I’m using this unexpected holiday to watch Season 6 of Sex and the City and Magic Mike (go ahead, laugh) especially since even getting a latte from Starbucks is out of the question.
Hose down. Take a shower. Baltimore General Electric will have their hands full for quite a while and a hot shower isn’t possible without power.
Listen to your leaders. If they say stay home, stay in. If there is a mandatory evacuation in your area, by all means go! They say this to protect you and your family, not to sit back in their executive chairs and laugh at the news stations showing traffic jams a couple of hours later.
Keep your head on. See image below:
I am sitting here waiting for high tide tonight. What advice do you have for East Coast folks hunkered down today? Stay dry!