Thursday, January 10, 2013

Italian Cookies and Edgar Allan Poe

This is really just a story about my daughter, Sarah, and the trips we used to make into Baltimore each weekend to fly kites at Fort McHenry, eat Italian cookies in Little Italy, stop in to visit Edgar Allan Poe’s grave, visit “our” gold collection at the Walthers Art Gallery, and even look at the open air drug markets which were thriving in the ‘90’s.  That’s right; I used to take my daughter down to the seediest areas of “Pigtown”; as it was called back then; and show her the crack whores and junkies in an effort to let her visualize the consequences of hard drug use; particularly cocaine and heroin; in any form.

Guess what? It worked.  The human skeletons walking the streets, along with the drug runners touting their wares, gave her a bird’s eye view of the pitfalls on that road.  And along the way we got to do a lot of fun stuff; some of which I am now recalling with great joy as I get older and sit in an empty nest. 

This is Sarah outside the gate to the Fayette Street Entrance to the gravesite of Edgar Allan Poe. That’s his marker in the center of the photo beyond the gates. Apparently Sarah is trying to get in. Just a few years ago she wrote a piece for school in which she describes herself as not having known who Poe was at that age. She thought we were visiting the grave of one of my friends.

We also joined the Walthers Art Gallery on Monument Street, which has a fantastic collection of gold; both coinage as well as artifacts. We dubbed this to be “our” gold, in the sense that we had paid a yearly membership fee, and so the gold was accessible to us at virtually all times, which made us both feel really wealthy. We also had memberships at the Baltimore Zoo, where we had some friends in the animal kingdom. Elephants were always pretty popular with us both, as were the Otters. The Giraffes; on the other hand; were rude and slobbering beasts with whom we spent very little time. But for seals, we always went to the National Aquarium; located in the Harborplace; our favorite was Ike, the oldest; and bewhiskered; seal who was the boss of the pack.

On the way home we would usually stop at my friend Ollie’s house. He ran a junkshop, much like the one shown on “Sanford and Son”. His living room was a colorful collection of many discordant things which somehow all blended together to form a lively and unique tapestry, all its own.
Our best adventure was the time our kite was up about 500 feet; or more; and came crashing down on the opposite side of the channel, between Ft. McHenry and Fells Point. We went to retrieve it from the oil tanker we thought it had crashed on, only to find that it wasn’t there. I was for giving up, but Sarah insisted that we keep looking for it up by the basin just west of Fells Point. I thought it was a waste of time, but we went looking anyway. Low and behold, in comes a small 24 foot motorboat, manned by two yuppie types, and what does Sarah spot on the thwart ship seat but our kite! We approached the two and asked for the kite in the nicest way possible, but they were more than vocal about having their prop fouled by over 500 feet of 80 pound test kite string, and more to the point, seemed unwilling to return it.

There are times when being a father requires one to “step up to the plate”, and, knowing that if I did not I would have to spring for another kite helped me tremendously. I stepped down to the boat’s railing and quietly explained that the kite wasn’t mine, but rather belonged to my 8 year old daughter, and that I was willing to do whatever it took to retrieve it. Reading the meaning in my eyes, the kite was returned forthwith, and lived to fly for several more years before coming to an inglorious end in the surf at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It was a lot harder to argue with the winds and surf of mother nature than 2 yuppies, and so the kite was retired; actually it was buried at sea.

It’s so easy to get lost in the everyday troubles of raising children. We often forget the good moments, dwelling instead upon the bad times. At least that’s the way I can be at times; most of the time if you want to know the truth. And that’s what I like so much about those Italian cookies. Whenever I have them I remember the cold days in March, flying kites with my daughter at Ft. McHenry and sipping tea in Little Italy afterwards. And from there it’s just a hop, skip and jump to all of the other good memories. It doesn’t erase the bad times; but it sure makes having gone through them worthwhile; just for the memories.

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