Because Wednesday’s jaunt into DC went well enough (i.e. the only tears were hunger-related and thus easily remedied once recognized as such), the Lime and I embarked today on a much more ambitious trip. The two of us (daddy & baby) set out for Baltimore, 45 minutes north of base camp, to visit the American Visionary Art Museum.
The baby began the trip well-fed and made it all the way into the museum before requiring food. She had lunch in front of the farting post, a curious installation that, among fart-related pieces of art, encouraged the viewer to record his (inevitably) fart, in the spirit of 19th century British street corner humor. Fortunately, no one availed himself of the opportunity during our mealtime.
The American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM) was one of my favorite museums, and now I can’t quite recall why. Perhaps it was different company (the Lime, while adorable, is not yet a stimulating conversation partner), or different exhibits, or different mindset. I found most of the museum to be cruder than I remember — not in terms of talent, but source material (see “farting post”). The gift shop, which I remember as a wonderland of strange and wonderful things, was actually filled with tacky plastic crap. I was last here in 2005; I hadn’t thought my sensibilities had changed so much.
The temporary exhibits included one on laughter (featuring a bench covered in Whoopee cushions [!]) that was less than compelling, but there was also a spectacular collection of paintings by Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, including paintings such as:
The Lime also got to see her first Howard Finster piece, a cutout of Francis Scott Key (appropriate to Baltimore), dedicated to the museum by Howard in 1995. Rev. Howard Finster is tremendously important to me, and I was glad to share even this one little piece with the Lime.
I asked the desk clerk where to go next; she suggested Druid Hills Park, Baltimore’s “Central Park” (though not exactly downtown). It’s home to the Baltimore Zoo, as well as other walking trails and sights. As Lime and I were idly orbiting the perimeter, contemplating where to stop, I spotted an orate but slightly dilapidated Victorian greenhouse / conservatory. We had to stop here — this is my kind of place.
The conservatory contains a small public botanical gardens. In five rooms, we saw tropical plants, orchids, Mediterranean gardens, and the desert. The last two were the most impressive: the first for the culinary aromas (lavender, oregano, citrus); the second for huge succulent plants, bigger than I’d ever seen or thought possible.
As Lime had another feeding in the air-conditioned reception area (it was too humid to feed her in the gardens themselves), I asked the desk clerk for a lunch recommendation; she mentioned the Yabba Pot, a vegan restaurant in Charles Village. The neighborhood was a little run-down and featured loiterers on the steps of a discount liquor store, but in broad daylight along a busy street, I wasn’t too worried. The Yabba Pot turned out to be a vegan restaurant of the pseudo-food variety: the only entree available today was drummies, a kind of ersatz chicken drumstick that looked and tasted very much like its model when nibbled close to the fried exterior, but they then became inexplicably rubbery and gristly closer to the Popsicle-stick [!] core. I can’t even guess what the “chicken” was made from — I honestly have no idea. The only successful pseudo-food restaurant I’ve eaten at was Soul Vegetarian, in Atlanta, and there, the Black Israelite religious convictions assisted the food in mysterious ways that New Age hipster-ism could not.
With food supplies for the Lime dwindling (she doesn’t always drink formula, but when she does, she drinks only Enfamil Newborn Nursettes, two per feeding — perhaps the most expensive source of infant nutrition short of pureed white truffles, but very convenient), we returned to base camp, weary. Travel by car with the Lime is substantially easier than by Metro. Unloading baby, supplies, and stroller is manageable for a solo parent.
I’ve asked myself — why bother? The Lime sleeps through the bulk of these adventures; she’s not getting much out of them right now. It would be more convenient to stay in the hotel, and I could get work done. But I need to stay in practice, as a traveler. I hope to raise the Lime as a Modern American Eccentric, like me and her mother. I want her to see (and want her to want to see) the unusual parts of of world culture (the Georgia Guidestones or Mammoth Cave or Appalachian Trail or Odyssey of the Mind World Finals). She doesn’t have to build Paradise Gardens, but I want her to be a person who visits it, even if only once — to appreciate that there are a tremendous number of passions in this world, and she shouldn’t be afraid pursue hers, even if they are eccentric, with excellence, spectacle, and joy.