I am standing on the south side of Pratt Street, in the shadow of the Bromo Tower and caddy-corner to the Pratt Street Ale House, where I might have to head for a beer if my ears start bleeding.
It's Friday afternoon, and 20 feet from me Indy car racers scream by at speeds of over 150 mph during practice runs for theBaltimore Grand Prix.
Remember the old Mazda commercial with the tagline "zoom-zoom?" There is a whole lot of zoom-zooming going on.
I keep looking around and thinking: Is this really Baltimore? Or have we entered some parallel universe here? I'm not sure I've ever seen anyone go over 30 mph on Pratt before. And the last guy I saw do it was running from the cops.
There is something totally surreal about seeing open-wheel race cars roar through the downtown streets, but the crowds all around me seem to be enjoying it. And so am I, at least if the blood doesn't spurt from my ears.
Did I mention how loud it is?
People who know this sort of thing say the decibel level at these races can reach 120. That's like a Boeing 767 lifting off. In your bedroom.
Bring ear-plugs if you plan to go. And don't even think about having a conversation when the cars roar past. It would be like talking to your 90-year-old grandmother. All the other person would be doing is nodding and smiling.
I wanted to know more about these race cars, so earlier in the day I went to the paddock area, where the cars are maintained. That's when I happened upon the Viking.
The Viking is actually Anders Krohn, a 23-year-old from Norway who'll be competing in the Indy Lights race this weekend.
We talked for a moment about the recent terrible events in his country, where a madman set bombs in Oslo and opened fire on a remote island, killing scores of young people.
Then we got off that depressing subject, and he proudly showed off his gleaming Liberty Engineering Racing Special car, which he said weighs 1,300 pounds, with an engine that produces 450 horse-power and 1,800 pounds of downforce.
"That means you could go through a tunnel at 150 mph upside down," he said.
No thanks, I said. I don't even like going on a Ferris wheel.
Anders' official bio says he was "hooked on racing from the age of 2." Two! Who gets hooked on anything at age two? The only thing I was hooked on back then was Bugs Bunny cartoons.
But Anders got his first go-kart when he was 3 ½ and made his racing debut when he was 8. Norway's law mandated that he had to be at least 11 to race, so Anders headed to England and Sweden to begin his career.
This is his rookie season racing in the Indy Light Series, which is like the high minor leagues of open-wheel racing, a notch below the IZOD IndyCar Series.
He showed me his car's tiny cockpit, which he said was freakishly small for his 6-foot-1 frame, which makes him sort of the Shaquille O'Neal of racing.
This kind of road racing, he said, was "very, very physical. We reach up to 4 ½ G's on turns. And .3 G's would be a typical G-force in your car."
In addition to that, he said, it reaches 160 degrees in the cockpit during a race, and a driver's heart rate gets up to between 170 and 180.
That's usually my heart rate when I open my BGE bill, I wanted to say. But Krohn was on a roll.
"After a race," he continued, "you're so physically and mentally exhausted, it's almost hard to talk."
It was pretty clear where the Viking stood on the whole issue of whether racecar drivers are athletes or not, so we didn't get into that.
But apparently you need big bucks, or at least sponsors with deep pockets, to race at this level, too.
Krohn said a typical racecar costs in the neighborhood of $200,000, but yearly expenses for fuel, tires, parts and a racing team (two mechanics, one engineer, a crew chief and a tire guy per car) can range between $800,000 and $1 million.
It was nearing time for his practice runs, so I wished him luck in his big race. Then I headed back to Pratt Street to watch the other cars run, making sure to insert my pre-shaped foam earplugs so my eardrum wouldn't explode.
It was a great day to be in downtown Baltimore, at least if you liked watching fast cars race around the city streets.
It was starting to grow on me.
Listen to Kevin Cowherd Tuesdays at 7:20 a.m. on 105.7 The Fan's "Norris and Davis Show."