Let's not quibble over a few minor distractions

July 22, 2004|By Kevin Cowherd

Welcome to Baltimore, hon!

So much to see, so much to do!

Visit our world-famous Inner Harbor, tour our award-winning National Aquarium, take in a spectacular view of the city from a hot-air balloon suspended hundreds of feet above the ... oops!

Our bad.

OK, forget the balloon.

We, um, had to shut that baby down.


Oh, let's not get into it here.

Why dwell on that unpleasantness when you can dine on our famous Maryland crab cakes, visit historic Fort McHenry, tour the 211-year-old Flag House where Mary Pickersgill first stitched ... what's that?

Still with the balloon questions?

OK, we had to shut it down because, uh, a bunch of people got stranded 200 feet in the air when wind gusts hit.

See, the balloon operators couldn't get the thing down.

Then it started whipping around and the gondola slammed into a building and people in the balloon were screaming and dialing 911 on their cell phones.

And suddenly it was a big to-do.

Naturally, the media totally overreacted. Suddenly, the newspapers were all over it and CNN was giving live updates like it was O.J. fleeing in a white Bronco.

And pretty soon the whole country was like: OK, there was another car bombing in Iraq and the 9/11 commission is coming out with another report and there are wildfires raging in California. But what the hell's going on in Baltimore with that balloon?

Sometimes, you can't win.

And, hey, the people in the balloon were only stranded for two hours.

It's not like it was two days or something.

But enough about the balloon, OK?

Why focus on that when, during your visit to Baltimore, you could enjoy fine dining in Little Italy, take in a show at the new Hippodrome Theatre, enjoy a leisurely walk through ...

OK, on the visit to the Hippodrome? It's a beautifully restored old theater, but the scenery outside still leaves a little to be desired.

The Hippodrome is right in the middle of what we call our West Side "renaissance" district, which means that streets are torn up, buildings are being knocked down - it's a little bit of downtown Baghdad right here at home.

So by all means go, enjoy the show. But watch out for the backhoes on the way in.

Still, there truly is no end to the things you can see and do in Baltimore!

Sample our famous steamed crabs, take in an Orioles game at baseball's premier showcase, Camden Yards, wander through historic neighborhoods such as ...

Uh, what's that?

How are the O's doing this year?

Oh, you know. It's not like they're doing ... terribly.

They're in fourth place, something like that. Or maybe it's fifth place.

Yes, Mr. Smart Guy, we do realize there are only five teams in their division.

But here in Baltimore, we're not hung up on the standings, OK?

The pitching's a little shaky, that's all. The staff ace, Sidney Ponson, is getting lit up like he's throwing underhand. And they might fire the rookie manager, Lee Mazzilli, any day now.

But other than that, this team is ... excuse me?

Why would we expect you to pay good money to see a fourth- or fifth-place team?

Fine. Stay in your hotel room. Order room service. See what's on HBO.

That'll really make for some great memories.

But if you just give this city a chance, there's so much to see, so much to do ...

Before you leave, make sure to check out that weird new sculpture in front of Penn Station called Male/Female.

People visiting Baltimore step off the train and here's the first thing they see: a 51-foot-tall image of two interlocking aluminum figures of indeterminate gender who share one heart.

It cost 750 grand to make.

Do we know how to dazzle you, or what?

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