The last time I visited Baltimore the Orioles were a winning team, so that shows you how long ago it was. It’s also the last time I visited my brother Mike, who lives near there. He is a version of me multiplied by an exponent, and since he’s older than I am, he must have been the model for my shameless habit of aiming humor at everything and unloading with both barrels. I couldn’t have learned it in school, because what I learned in school STAYED in school. I probably should have known what an “exponent” is without looking it up.
We spent an afternoon with him and his wife Kari, and they showed us around the lovely town of Annapolis. It’s named after Anne Arundell, the wife of Cecil Calvert, the second Lord Baltimore of England, who never actually visited America. King Charles I awarded Calvert the province of Maryland (named for his own wife), which was founded as a haven for Catholics who wanted to escape religious persecution in England. Back then kings named things after their wives, but if it was Larry King the state would have been called Frada/Annette/Alene/Mickey/Sharon/Julia/Shawn-Land. Larry King always writes the name of his wife using a pencil with a good eraser.
The place is steeped in American history. We walked by the Maryland State House, the National Capital for one year in 1783, where General George Washington resigned his commission as Commander in Chief to a fledgling government that was untried and untested. Many wanted him to be king of America, and pave the way for future self-appointed kings who might want to come along and steer the country into a ditch and enrich themselves along the way at the peoples’ expense, and when called out by the public, retreat to a twitter defense of, essentially, “I know you are but what am I!” But Washington refused, perhaps his most important public deed.
We continued along Main Street, where you can do a little shopping, get yourself a bite to eat or do some people-watching if you don’t mind watching people getting a bite to eat or doing some shopping. We stopped into an art gallery where Mike knew one of the artists and had a look around. I asked if there was a fitting room in case I wanted to try something on. Afterwards we stopped into an ice cream shop to get the real scoop. It takes me a long time to eat ice cream because I had so many fillings as a kid, and it takes even longer to order the ice cream, since there are so many flavors. There is Blue Angel Blueberry, there is Vanilla Nutella, there is Sugar Plum Cheesecake, there is Peppermint Stick Oreo, there is Oatmeal Cookie. It took me about 10 minutes of reading down the list to find out that they had chocolate ice cream. If I liked oatmeal cookies so much I would just go get an oatmeal cookie.
While we were talking and walking I wanted to pick Mike’s brain on the subject of our childhood. He remembers details about things that I guess I must have blocked out because they were so traumatic to me at the time. For instance, our Dad coerced us to do homework during evening hours when we could have been watching television. I feel like I missed out on so much during those years, episodes of “Get Smart” and “F Troop” that I wouldn’t be able to experience until years later. The abuse was all starting to come back to me. We were forced into years of manual labor, mowing the lawn and doing chores around the house. We had to go to church every Sunday, and it made me want to move to England to escape religious persecution.
We made it back to Baltimore to ride our bikes over to Little Italy for dinner. That’s when I discovered that someone had stolen my bicycle seat. It costs about a $15 dollars, not the type of thing you could fence for a lot of money, even if you had amassed a collection of these precious items that have been touched only by peoples’ butts. So it could be a prank, or the desperate act of someone who just had their bicycle seat stolen. Either way I wasn’t going to stand for it, except that I had nowhere to sit now. We went back inside the hotel to file a report with Security. When I was in elementary school I could finish a report in about three minutes by copying it out of the World Book encyclopedia, but as an adult a report takes considerably longer. A fellow with a walkie-talkie assured me that they had contacted the Baltimore Police Department and that they had prioritized the situation and should be there within the week. Instead I decided to organize a search party- how far could they have gotten on just the seat? If we fanned out we could cover more ground, so we decided to fan out together in the direction of the Italian Restaurant, where I could drown my sorrows in Bolognese sauce.
I realized I must have absorbed more from my brother than I thought. An abiding curiosity of history, a love of team sports, a bit of a rebellious streak, I probably got some of that from him. I guess you never really know what you’re picking up from the people you’ve spent time with, and if you really want to spend time with them, go out and get some ice cream. Add a few toppings like hot fudge, sprinkles and a bicycle seat. And if you haven’t seen your brother in a long time, now is as good a time as any find an excuse to do it. Baltimore is not that far away.
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