Charm City,the beautiful

Dan Rodricks

April 06, 1992|By Dan Rodricks

I picked them up at Penn Station just before 5 o'clock Saturday evening.

"Show us Baltimore," Ellen Snortland said.

"I've never seen Baltimore," said Greg Dowden, her husband.

"I was here for a one-day conference last November," said Gerard Ganter, a doctor from Philadelphia. "But I didn't see much."

"You want to see Baltimore before supper?" I asked.

"Yeah," said Snortland, "just a quick look."

"Well, OK," I said, and turned from North Avenue onto St. Paul Street. It was a big weekend for the city, with the new ballpark opening, and I was eager to show it off. It had been years since I gave a quickie driving tour of Charm City.

Ganter had arrived earlier from Philly, so he'd already joined me for a beer at Nick's Inner Harbor Seafood in the Cross Street Market, and he liked the place tremendously. It was a typical Saturday afternoon there -- a loud crowd of men and women gathered around the raw bar and the sushi bar, locals and tourists, old townies and yuppies. We stopped to pick up some groceries at the Safeway in Mount Clare Junction, too.

"What are all those old neat trains?" Ganter asked.

"That's the B&O Railroad Museum," I answered, then distinctly heard the man say, "Wow."

From Mount Clare, we headed for the train station.

Snortland and Dowden had just flown in from Los Angeles to take part in yesterday's pro-choice march in Washington. But as they had Saturday night free, they took the opportunity to visit Baltimore for supper.

"This is St. Paul Street," I said.

"Look at those gorgeous trees about to blossom," Snortland said.

"Bradford pears," I said. "They flower every April, right around Opening Day. . . . Now, look to your right. That's Mount Vernon, and over there is the Peabody Institute. In the spring, when the windows are open, you can hear the music students practicing."

"What's that big obelisk at the top of the hill?" Dowden wanted to know.

"That's Baltimore's Washington Monument, which actually has a statue of the father of our country at the top. It has an interesting profile. Now, straight ahead is the city courthouse, where they filmed 'And Justice For All,' the Al Pacino movie."

"I remember!" Snortland said. "And Jack Warden played the crazy judge who sat on the ledge eating his lunch."

"We've had a bunch of films made in Baltimore," I bragged. "Barry Levinson films . . ."

" 'Diner' and 'Tin Men,' " Dowden said.

"Yup, and all the John Waters films. And some dreadful thing called, 'He Said, She Said.' "

"Hey, I liked 'He Said, She Said,' " Ganter said.

I made a right onto Lombard Street to head toward the new stadium.

"What does the face on that clock say?" Snortland asked from the back seat.

"Bromo Seltzer," I said.

"The world-famous Bromo Seltzer tower. Now, if you look to the left, you'll start to see the new stadium."

"What happened to the old stadium?" Dowden asked.

"Memorial Stadium," I said. "We used to have the Colts in this town, and they left in '84. People thought the Orioles might be next. The team owner wouldn't sign a long-term lease with the city, so they decided to build a new stadium to keep the team here. Cost the taxpayers a couple of hundred million. But there it is. Look."

"It looks great," Dowden said.

"I like the brick work," said Snortland. "It looks old-timey."

"It looks like it's been there all along, doesn't it?" Ganter said.

"And just beyond right field is the old B&O Warehouse," I added. "If someone someday hits a home run 460 feet, it'll hit the warehouse."

"Neat," said Dowden.

I showed them the Inner Harbor, which was full of people, and then we turned north on Calvert Street, over to Charles, through Charles Village, and past Johns Hopkins University. I even drove by the Senator Theatre.

"I love what I see," Snortland said, a motion seconded by Dowden, thirded by Ganter, fourthed by me. It had been a long time since I gave the quick, skewed-toward-the-good-stuff tour of Baltimore, and I'd almost forgotten how great it feels.

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