The best advice to tourist in D.C.: Go to Baltimore

DAN RODRICKS

June 10, 1993|By DAN RODRICKS

I must have finally made a name for himself. I have bee asked to contribute to the prestigious "Washington, D.C., Access Guide" by the guide's publisher, HarperCollins.

As Gomer used to say: "Well, Gaw-aw-aw-lee!"

Not that I know anything about Washington.

I know what most Baltimoreans know about it: lots of square buildings, monuments, politicians, snooty restaurants with snobby maitre d's, great museums, arboreal delights, and a totally stupid street system. If I drive to Washington, I take New York Avenue. That's as far as I get. All trips to Washington start by "taking New York Avenue." Few in Baltimore know much about Washington after that. And could care less.

But back to this Access Guide biz.

Hey, it's nice to be asked to contribute to a tony book like this. It's flattering to be considered sufficiently savvy that your opinion about a city's amenities could go in a book.

Even though I know diddly about Washington!

In fact, if someone asked me what to do for entertainment in Washington, I'd say: "Go to Baltimore."

So I'll assume HarperCollins wants me to help visitors to Our Nation's Capital discover Baltimore. I assume the publisher plans to have a small, obligatory chapter entitled: "Laurel and Beyond," which will include some Baltimore stuff.

So that's what I'll give them. Baltimore stuff.

HarperCollins has published a bunch of these travel guides -- on Los Angeles, San Francisco, Paris, New York. Now they're doing Washington.

"Bob Willis has personally requested that we add you to our roster of 'Best' contributors," wrote Rebecca A. Foree, editorial director.

I don't know who Bob Willis is, but I'm flattered he wanted my input. (Are you getting the impression that HarperCollins has me confused with somebody else?)

"One of the most popular features of the Access Guides is the 'Bests' columns," writes Foree. "Every time we update and publish a new Access travel book we ask a select group of people to tell us what they think is wonderful or bizarre or entertaining about our featured destination."

They have actor Bill Murray and journalist Pierre Salinger in the Paris Access. Murray likes the statue of Beaumarchais near the Bastille: "The neighborhood is always dressing him up with funny underwear, painting his lips and adorning him with a blind-man's cane."

Harry de Wildt, "alias Sir Lunchalot, Society's Bad Boy and the Arch Hedonist of San Francisco," gives his "bests" for that city, as do chef Wolfgang Puck and cartoonist Larry Gonick. Columnist Jimmy Breslin and newscaster emeritus Walter Cronkite list their favorite restaurants and hangouts in New York City. Cronkite likes the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the Staten Island Ferry and the Museum of Holography.

Even though HarperCollins is probably asking the wrong guy -- and not offering to pay me, either -- and even though the new book is about Washington, I'll send in my Baltimore Bests.

What the heck. It's fun. Here goes:

* Sunrise over the Patterson Park Pagoda, especially on Easter Sunday, when the old folks start coming out of their rowhouses and strolling to church.

* French fries with gravy at the Wyman Restaurant, 25th and Howard. I like the seriousness, the "creative tension," among the men who work behind the counter there. The food is always good, the rice pudding homemade.

* A center-cut pork chop, Cajun style, at the Polo Grille. The clatter of the place says: This is about as cosmopolitan as Baltimore gets. Gawking allowed during power lunches.

* The statue of Edgar Allan Poe in front of the University of Baltimore.

* Saturday morning shopping for fresh produce and seafood at the Cross Street Market. The visit ends with the purchase of a large bunch of inexpensive, select-your-own carnations at the center of the market.

* Lunch at Haussner's.

* The Hungry Man sandwich, enjoyed in the kibitz room at Attman's, East Lombard Street.

* The chicken souvlaki at Samos, Ponca Street.

* A hike along the Gunpowder River to the pool at the bottom of the Prettyboy Reservoir Dam, any muggy summer day.

(Got a favorite place or activity in or around Baltimore? Send it in.)

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