The Inner Harbor

Saturday, midnight

Listening Post

Life after 9-11-01

October 01, 2001|By Patricia Meisol

A helium balloon rises 402 feet, just even with the top of the Legg Mason building, to give a half-dozen people a spectacular view of the city. "How high was the World Trade Center?" somebody aboard asks.

"Hmm," she says when the answer comes. She is somber: "They were three times this high when they jumped."

On the ground, the bars and restaurants around Port Discovery are packed. A line forms to pay the $7 cover charge needed to gain admittance to the piano bar in a hot new spot, Howl at the Moon.

Inside, two guys on back-to-back pianos make up embarrassing song-poems about anyone willing to pay to be so celebrated. A bride-to-be, costume veil hanging on her head, is on now, dancing next to the piano while a dozen bachelorettes clap and howl. Next is a buxom cheerleader for the Washington Redskins who jumps around and ogles the pianist (Todd Cutshaw), who resembles Elton John as he sings an ode to her private parts. The crowd claps, laughs, sings along when it can. People write requests on napkins and wrap them around $20 bills. A drunk woman pushes people aside. A college kid pays $40 to play the drums as the piano players strike up Chubby Checker's "The Twist."

Suddenly the second piano player, the one in the orange shirt with "Psychiatric Ward" printed on the back, yells into the microphone:

Anybody on active duty, Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, come up to the piano, come on up.

The crowd parts to let a dozen guys and four women find their way to the center of the room. Clean cut, preppy, beers in hand, smiles on their faces, they stand there, in the spotlight. The orange-shirted guy, B. Ryan Michaels, his dark curly hair covering his eyes and dangling to his waist, bangs out the next song: "Proud To Be an American."

A couple of giddy women hold up their cigarette lighters as if they were torches. It's SRO, and everybody is suddenly singing: "Oh, say can you see, by the dawn's early light ... "

Saturday night in Baltimore, September 2001. Is this the way it was back in 1942?

Easing back into party mode, the long hair plays to the gaggle of short hairs, "Born in the USA."

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