The World Is Too Much With Us

Aside from male-pattern baldness, it might seem that William Wordsworth, 18th-century Romantic poet, and contemporary comedian Louis C.K., have little in common. But I’d argue that had they not been separated by an ocean and 200 years, they may have enjoyed sharing a pint or four and agreed on a few things. Most notably: the world is too much with us.

(c) The Wordsworth Trust; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Louis C.K., taken last week. JK! This is William Wordsworth, one of the most aptly named people I have ever been aware of.


William Wordsworth on his couch. JK again! This is Louis C.K.

I remember the following poem from Dr. Hahn’s British Literature course at Towson. Since I first read it a decade ago, its title has popped into my head and out of my mouth innumerable times. Because really, the world is too much with us. I also always come back to Renee Buettner’s phrase: “Beyond the beyond.” I am pretty sure we are beyond the beyond the beyond at this point. But let’s take a deep breath, put Anthony Scaramucci out of our minds, and see what Wordsworth had to say.

The World Is Too Much With Us

by William Wordsworth


The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.
Wordsworth’s point is that we are too busy with our tiny, meaningless minutia that we can’t appreciate nature. Which is there. For us. All of the time.
I mean, the sea is bearing her bosom to the moon! And here we are concerned about our iPhone case’s case’s cleaner spray. (I don’t actually know that’s a thing but, it likely is. I’m sure you can get a 6-pack at Bed Bath and Beyond with a 20% off coupon.) It’s really a sordid boon. The upcoming eclipse might be an exception during which people actually stop what they’re doing and appreciate nature for once. But, when you google the eclipse obviously many of the articles are about how to photograph it. Because taking it in is not enough in 2017. You must capture it on your own camera, or it never happened. Right?
I love Wordsworth’s point that he’d rather be a Pagan because they worship nature rather than ignore it. Maybe we should all convert.
Now that we understand Wordsworth’s perspective, before I give you Louis C.K., you should know this:
KidRock for Senate

Pagan gods, help us.


The following is on Kid Rock’s campaign website:

“One thing is for sure though…The democrats are ‘shattin’ in their pantaloons’ right now…and rightfully so! 

We will be scheduling a press conference in the next 6 weeks or so to address this issue amongst others, and if I decide to throw my hat in the ring for US Senate, believe me… it’s game on mthrfkers.”

— Kid Rock

Oh yes, Kid, you better believe I am shattin’ in my pantaloons. I love your excessive use of ellipses. It really shows how substantive your campaign will be, because you know, English. At this point, I was going to include a Kid Rock quote but there are too many perfect ones to even make a selection.


Onto Louis. He has a bit about God in which he hones God’s perspective. It’s called “If God Came Back.” He talks as God and then as any-human-USA. “The polar bears are brown! What did you do to the polar bears?”

He moves onto talking about oil spills and in response to God saying, “Who spilled this?” and asks why we took it out of the ground. The human says, “I didn’t mean to. I wanted to go faster ’cause I wasn’t fast enough. And I got cold.” And so on.

God says that he left “everything you need.” “I left shit all over the floor. Corn and wheat and shit. Ground it up and make bread.” God asks what a job is and why we need them. The human explains a job as a place where you go and then you answer the phone when somebody needs something. Louis-C.K.-God is flabbergasted.

All of this calls to mind the 2006 film Idiocracy. (Thanks, MJ, for telling me about it and making me see it manifest in our society.) In Idiocracy, the narrator says, “As the 21st century began, human evolution was at a turning point. Natural selection, the process by which the strongest, the smartest, the fastest, reproduced in greater numbers than the rest, a process which had once favored the noblest traits of man, now began to favor different traits. Most science fiction of the day predicted a future that was more civilized and more intelligent. But as time went on, things seemed to be heading in the opposite direction. A dumbing down. How did this happen? Evolution does not necessarily reward intelligence. With no natural predators to thin the herd, it began to simply reward those who reproduced the most, and left the intelligent to become an endangered species.”

Now, I don’t really believe that the intelligent are an endangered species but it sure seems as if the stupid are rising to the top. Does stupidity float?

And, “The years passed, mankind became stupider at a frightening rate. Some had high hopes the genetic engineering would correct this trend in evolution, but sadly the greatest minds and resources were focused on conquering hair loss and prolonging erections.”

Maybe these efforts could help Louis and Billy Words (my new nickname for William Wordsworth).

And, “The number one movie was called: Ass. And that’s all it was for 90 mins. It won eight Oscars that year including Best Screenplay.”

Just watch it and weep. Are we there yet? Again, help us, Pagan gods.

To swing this slightly less negative but certainly not quite positive, I often think the world is too much with us when I am at the beach. Ocean City, Maryland is a “world is too much with us” place. I do love it but, man–it calls to mind Wordsworth in big ways.

Last weekend, I watched a guy with a beach cart attempt to board an elevator with me. As he scooted the cart toward the elevator, the beach chairs crashed to the ground, no less than five balls rolled across the lobby, shovels and buckets tumbled, a towel unfurled, and the cart vomited the rest of its contents. He looked up at me like, “Oops.”

Flushed Emoji

Here’s the 2017 translation of those words.

Then I went outside and walked by a man sitting in the trunk of a massive SUV blowing up several beach floats using some sort of machine plugged into his cigarette lighter (or whatever they call those these days). Is all of this necessary? Is this what we need in order to enjoy the shoreline?

When we got to the beach, our view was blocked by big top circus tents as far as the eye could see. Country music blared as far as the ear could hear. Luckily, you can’t smoke on the beach in Ocean City anymore so the nose didn’t have to worry about as far as it could smell. There’s one point for society. But, if you want to be at the beach, just be at the beach. But no, we’ve got to modify it to our very specific specificities. A massive ocean, a shining sun, and miles of sand–not enough. We need all of the equipment wo/man can invent. The beach is too much with us. “It moves us not,” right, Billy Words?

I’m hardly a simple person and I know this. But man, there’s something to be said for the simplicity of a world where people go to the beach and just watch the waves. There’s something to be said for politicians who don’t use the f-word (even though I have a total sailor’s mouth, hey, I said I was complicated). There’s something to be said for enjoying a rare eclipse with your cardboard eclipse glasses from your father-in-law without a camera glued to your cheekbone. There’s something to be said for looking at nature and thinking, “Wow, Pagan gods, monotheistic God, Buddha, Vishnu, Muhammed, Joseph Smith,” or whoever receives your nighttime thoughts and prayers, “Thanks. This is enough.”


This is enough. That said, it’s hard to take a photo in Ocean City without the effects of “wo/man” at the forefront.

Becoming My Mom and Dad

My grandpop always had trouble with Aubrey’s and my names. Well, maybe not trouble, but he called us Carol and Nancy, respectively. For years, we’d correct him, he’d grumble and then eventually get to Aubrey and Amanda. Toward the end, we just answered to Carol and Nancy. They’re female names. What’s the difference?


Carol 1 and Nancy 1.


Nancy 1 in red, Father Bob 1 in white, Carol 2, in pink. Nancy 2, in blue (same haircut as Nancy 1).


From left to right: Nancy, Carol 2, Nancy 2, Carol

Progressive released commercials in November about Parentamorphosis. They can’t protect you from becoming your parents, but they can protect your home and auto. There’s mommeostatis and daddeostasis. These are hyperbolic, comedic gems. That said, I’m not sure we’re all so eager to be “protected” from parentamorphosis. I looked up some articles online about becoming one’s parents and I found only negative perspectives. An article from Psychology Today says, “Once it was a girl’s dream to be just like her mom. Now it’s more like every woman’s nightmare. Yet it happens to us all.” Them’s fightin’ words. The editors at Psychology Today clearly have not met Nancy Papa Doran.


I started realizing I was becoming my mom when I got addicted to running. As a kid I didn’t understand why she’d choose to leave home for 30 minutes to “run around the lake.” Running was meant for playing tag, chasing toddlers, or escaping our neighbor’s yard where Aub and I got caught hanging out in a bush with our friend Rian, for god knows why. Yet, my mom always seemed so eager to run, and on purpose. How masochistic! Then my mom convinced me to try a 5K with very few entries, I won a bouquet of flowers with a speedy time of 29 minutes, and she’d gotten me hooked. I had inherited that masochistic gene. I cannot do life without exercise now. And when I go running with my mom now, I’m very conscious of this life-long gift–well at least until my patellas break in half–that my mom has given me.


3/4 of TEAM DO RAN.

In my sophomore year of college, I found myself with three jobs, a penchant or a least tolerance for shots of Smirnoff with my friends, and an obsession with my grades. Aside from the Smirnoff, I was continuing to morph into Nance. I had developed a need to fill each waking minute with an activity. In between my activities, I’d nap. That’s how we thrive, Nancy and I: rapid-fire activity bookended by naps.

Chas recently asked me, “What time are you going to take your nap?”

“Well, how do you know I’m going to take a nap today?” I asked.

“It’s a day, Amanda. It’s a day,” he said. I am Nancy.


My mom says that naps are important for putting sleep into your “sleep bank.” Now that I’ve found myself using that term without even mocking my mom but because I believe it like she does, my transformation solidifies.

Another inheritance I think Chas could do without is the need to stock up on sale items. Don’t even let us in a Dollar Tree. Once my friend Mary walked into my parents dining room and immediately exclaimed, “Look at all that glue!” There, lined up on the wooden secretary were two dozen new bottles of Elmer’s. Nancy’s justification: “They were 19 cents each!” Why they were on display in the dining room and not hidden somewhere with less chance to be discovered, I’m not sure. I hide my Dollar Tree tubes of Colgate (I mean really, they’re full-sized and they’re a dollar!). For my mom, this pattern has repeated with extension cords, all types of office supplies, and definitely with yarn. The thing is, unlike most people she’s never searching around for an extension cord. I just hope she never joins Sam’s Club.

My mom’s dedication is where I certainly fall short. She’s worked at the William S. Baer School in West Baltimore for 40 years. Count ’em. 40. She has been visiting the same nursing home for a decade and a half, something that started out with our dog Duffy who was Pets on Wheels certified. Duffy died in 2010, god rest his giant, sweet soul. But, Duffy still receives mail from Congressman Dutch Rupersberger for his service to the veteran’s he visited. When he was alive, my mom put the envelopes under Duffy’s massive paws and took a photo each time of “Duffy with his mail.” Maybe not for her glue-hoarding because if you’ve ever taught children you know that glue hands are a classroom management crisis, but for her service and dedication, I wish the whole world could become Nancy.

Duffy with his mail.

My mom has imparted on me letter writing, memorizing birthdays to the point of creepiness, crocheting with variegated yarn, urban biking, Renaissance Christmas caroling, working throughout the weekend, waking up before the rest of the world, trash ministry, and so much more. Aside from long working Sundays, I know how fortunate I am to become Nancy 2 and I hope it continues.


Just your average modern-day Renaissance Christmas carolers. 

As I continue to become an adult–29 is the new 19–I realize that I am also becoming my father. Chas sees it too. Dick is a big idea guy. He thinks of something magical and then he carries it out. Recently, this has resulted in what my mom calls “the coffin” and my dad calls “a large raised strawberry garden.” My dad and I are both in job transitions now and I feel like without inheriting his intolerance for unhappiness, I’d still be very stuck and very sad. But, I am most grateful for the grandiose visions I get from my dad. I’ve also inherited a desire for adventure, a habit of saying what I think, a green thumb, a need for NPR, and an occasionally cryptic sense of humor.

So when I think about becoming my parents, bring it on. They’re weird but they’re great and I know I am fortunate to be able to say that. Think about your own parents and if you’re becoming them, welcome the great things about that. It’s a form of legacy. And, if you didn’t agree with or in some way believe in that trait, you probably would do the exact opposite (hence, my obsession with a neat home environment). Parentamorphosis? Welcome!


Like mother, like daughters.

Sarah Kay has a TED Talk in the form of a spoken word poem called “If I Should Have a Daughter.” In it she says, “’Baby,’” I’ll tell her “’remember your mama is a worrier but your papa is a warrior and you are the girl with small hands and big eyes who never stops asking for more.’” I love this and every time I watch the video of this poem, I think of my mom speaking it.

Sarah Kay’s poem ends, “Your voice is small but don’t ever stop singing and when they finally hand you heartbreak, slip hatred and war under your doorstep and hand you hand-outs on street corners of cynicism and defeat, you tell them that they really ought to meet your mother.”

And I tell the world that: you really ought to meet my mother. And also my father.



Such a good example of empathic Nancy. Aubrey was sick, so Nancy took that on too.


The Locals’ Guide to Baltimore

When Chas and I were in Belgium, we exclusively used quirky, colorful maps called “The Locals’ Guide to…” Ghent, Bruges, and Brussels, respectively (definitely get a copy if you are traveling to a city that offers these). Before the trip, we didn’t have time to get any guide book or pour over webpages on Trip Advisor so we were pleasantly surprised by these maps, which were also free. By the end of Brussels, we had worn a rip down the middle and had to hold the pieces together to get back to our Airbnb from a brewery. At that brewery, recommended by the Locals’ Guide, we sat next to a normie-couple.

normie (n) A normal person. This is not a compliment. 

They were nice enough, from California and I gave them points because they weren’t staring at their phones so I said hello. They asked what we’d recommend in Brussels since they’d just arrived and didn’t have a plan. And that’s when I realized they were normies. I excitedly pulled out my two map-halves, moved the Lambic ales out of the way, and showed them the location of the flea market we’d thoroughly enjoyed, where we’d eaten really good Syrian food, and where we’d stumbled upon a free WWI exhibit in a park. Then I closed with where our Airbnb was located, the Airbnb, I added, where we had a surprise roommate named Gen we didn’t know about and no toilet paper. They looked at me and did his and hers Dora the Explorer blinks. She clutched their copy of Lonely Planet Belgium and Luxembourg and asked if I thought it was “safe” to walk through the Arab neighborhood (where we’d just devoured a shawarma wrap and gushed to the owners about their culinary skill) to get back to their hotel because she’d heard it was “sketchy.”

“Of course!” I said with the conviction of…well, myself. She turned to her boyfriend and they started discussing the tram routes. There are at least two types of people who travel to Brussels, Belgium and do the English tour of the century’s-old Cantillon Brewery.

I felt inspired by these maps. Also, one of my favorite things to do is to give what I call Balti-Tours to visiting friends, and even people who live here. And so, I give you: The Locals’ Guide to Baltimore. Normies need not apply. #hometowntourist


Maryland’s largest and most maligned city, Baltimore, is the nation’s 29th most populous. It is one of three cities in the US that is not part of a county. It is its own jurisdiction. The other two are St. Louis and I forget, and I don’t think it’s fair to look that up. 

Baltimore was founded in 1729 when it was attractive as a seaport because it was the Westernmost seaport on the East Coast. Ships could deliver goods to Baltimore and get them to the Midwest more quickly than other larger port cities. Baltimore is named for Cecil Calvert, the Second Lord Baltimore. Baltimore’s Irish etymology translates to “town of the big house” but let’s leave out the obvious prison jokes about that. Baltimore’s history includes many of the marks of typical colonial settlements such as a brutal ousting Native Americans who’d been here for…ever. 

We were integral in the War of 1812 and are the birthplace of the National Anthem–just check out our license plates. Francis Scott Key wrote it during the Battle of Baltimore in 1814, which makes one wonder why they call it “The War of 1812.” During the Civil War, Baltimore was a Union stronghold although Maryland as a whole was a slave state. Remember those “border states” in US History class in 11th grade? That’s us!

1904 saw The Great Baltimore Fire which destroyed over 1,500 buildings in 30 hours, partially because firemen didn’t work on Sundays. We learned some lessons from that fire which we shared with the world: standardized sizes for fire hoses and hydrants, wooden basements connected for blocks and blocks aren’t ideal, and if you put bricks in a pattern where they aren’t stacked directly over one another, your house will burn more slowly. Check your bricks. Yep, that’s us! (If you’d like to explore some artifacts from The Great Baltimore Fire, bring a shovel and come to my backyard. See also this post.)

Baltimore was a location of 1968 race riots which plagued the country, for good reason. Redlining in Baltimore and its lasting and disgusting effects are evident to this day throughout the city. In the 1970s, we really tried with William Donald Schaefer, and out of that we got Harborplace, The Maryland Science Center, the Baltimore World Trade Center, The Baltimore Convention Center, and more. In 1980 we added the National Aquarium in Baltimore but lost the Baltimore Colts. 

These days, we’re still doin’ our thang, still plagued by violence and a shameful murder rate. But Baltimore does not give up and I for one, am convinced it WILL get better if we don’t just sit back and hang our Orioles caps on hope and actually take action (feel free to ask me how). This resilient little place has much more than murder to offer. Check out some of the sites that led to the following bumper sticker.

Baltimore Actually

Each category will happen in no particular order. This is a completely incomplete list of things that I personally know about and love. It’s random. Feel free to suggest additions. Omissions are not purposeful, just a result of day 5 of jet lag or lack of knowledge. 


(As locals can attest, “miscellaneous” is probably the best place to start in Baltimore.) 

1. On 89.7 FM on Friday nights from 7-10 p.m. and Saturdays from 12-3, you can catch Weasel’s Wild Weekend. Its tagline: Radio the way it used to be. The intro includes a little diddy called “Pop Goes the Weasel.” Someone yells out something like, “In New York it’s 5 o’clock, in Denver it’s 3 p.m., in Kansas City it’s 4 in the afternoon,” and then a squeaky voice takes over and screams, “In Bawdy-more it’s 6:42!”

2. Like to walk? Run? Bike? Hear the birds in the middle of the city? Check out the Stony Run Path. It connects Remington, Hampden, Evergreen, and Roland Park. This 5-mile stretch will give you your fix of nature and get you through some of our great neighborhoods. (Warning: there is a possibility you could see a Civil War era ghost on Stony Run, as Dot and I did in June 2012.)

3. You know the six degrees of Kevin Bacon? There are about two degrees in Baltimore, earning it the nickname Smalltimore. Try out Smalltimore. Pick two people at random, sit them down together, ask them to share where they went to high school and it’ll go from there.

4. Say “No thanks, hon” to the multiplex in favor of Baltimore’s historic movie theatres–both opened in 1939. The Senator, in Northern Baltimore City, boasts blockbusters and the occasional revival. Look down as you approach the box office and see what stories the sidewalk tells. Go in the lobby and look up and take in some history. Inside the theatre, take in the 1930s design. At The Charles, on Charles Street just north of Penn Station you can catch indie films, foreign flicks, and usually a blockbuster before it’s dubbed one. If you’re not claustrophobic, plan to eat at Tapas Teatro beforehand and take the last of your red sangria in the theatre with you. The Charles does not have previews. 

5. The Water Taxi is a Balti-must. Start in Fells Point. Get a pretzel dog (available well after the bars close too). Then, pull out $7 and hop on. Take it to Fort McHenry, a range of other stops, or just float around all day. The ticket comes with some great coupons. Right, Don? Alternatively, you can take out a paddle boat and see the Harbor from a new view on your own steam. Opt for a dragon boat–go ‘head with your bad self. 

6. Baltimore ghost tours are a hidden gem. I loved the Fells Point tour and learned a lot about places I’d been hanging out for years. Learn and laugh and get shivers. Check out Fells Point Ghost Tour. I know the owner, Amy, and she’s good people.

9. Enoch Pratt Free Library is one of the oldest library systems in the country, dating back to 1882. Baltimore City libraries are great peeks into a given neighborhood. My favorite is Central Library, old majestic, and still a peek into a neighborhood. Visit the Pratt Library website for great programs, speakers, and events.

10. Eastside and Over West are two of Baltimore large infamous areas–one is where “The Wire” was filmed, and the other is the part it depicted–can’t remember which. Both comprise several neighborhoods that vary in amount of vacants, food desertion, crime, and relative danger. I think it is important to visit these neighborhoods to see what Baltimore is dealing with. When you see some of these areas, you may think “Why should they keep trying?” Well, there are children there. And grandparents. And people just trying to do the best they can do with what they know. 


Eats and Bohs

1. You know when you’re in a place like Coos Bay, Oregon or St. Louis and the menu reads “Maryland Crabcake”? Don’t do it. Instead, try Koco’s Pub in Hamilton for a kind, down to earth staff and a whopper of a cake. Or, head to Faidley Seafood in Lexington Market which has been making them since 1886. Alternatively, join my Grammom and her peers at Pappas (in the county!)–maybe avoid the early bird special, as that’s likely to be the most crowded time for this octogenarian hangout. 

2. Feelin’ fancy? Go back in the past and go to the Prime Rib in Mt. Vernon for Happy Hour. If your wallet is Costanza-sized, stay for dinner (it’s amazing). But whether you’re there for a long time or a good time, take in the feel of the supper club. It’s true old school–the carpet, walls, piano player, tuxedoed wait staff. Leave your phone in your pocket and take in what it’s like to be treated well in an old-timey way. Also, keep your eyes peeled–you have a good chance of seeing a Baltimore celebrity.

3. Best place to get a Natty Boh? Easy: Camden Yards but unfortunately they stopped serving it there–preposterous. Second best in my opinion? Hon Bar. They’re $2 and served in refrigerated glasses. Go there on a Friday night and enjoy some fantastic and frightful karaoke singing. You might catch me there. “Goodbye Earl” is my bread and butter.

4. When you’re in Mt. Vernon climbing the first Washington Monument, call ahead to Sammy’s Trattoria and ask for the fireplace table for a romantic evening for two. Or, just have a seat at the bar and ponder life with a guaranteed colorful bartender. What I think is Baltimore’s best Italian food, you may not need to go to “Lil It-lee” (by all means do, though, it’s adorable). Get a Julia House Salad to split and to save money but not room in your stomach, split the lasagna with meat sauce. It’s homemade and huge. Ask if Sam made the tiramisu from scratch this week and if the answer is yes, say yes. Otherwise, ask for Vaccaro’s prideful cannoli.

4. Do you like ice cream? Hit Hampden for The Charmery. Lines can be long but they are worth it. Homemade ice cream in Baltimore-themed flavors is worth the wait. Try Burger Cookies & Cream, Old Bay Caramel, Otterbein Sugar Cookie, or A Day at the Yard.

5. Hamilton Tavern serves my favorite burger. Ever. Say yes to the candied bacon and the fried egg. When you go to the bathroom, test your knowledge and play the matching game with female literary figures from history.

6. For breakfast, Golden West Cafe is the bees knees. Their coffee is strong so be sure to ask for lots of cream. Their diverse menu is bound to leave you full or cure your hangover. Try the Breakfast Polenta while you take in the artwork. My favorite table is the one directly under the moose.

7. The Horse You Came In On Saloon is allegedly the last place Edgar Allan Poe ever took a drink. It is the nation’s oldest continually operated saloon and many believe it is legitimately haunted.  Don’t go late on a weekend night unless you are 21-22, ready to bump and grind, and not easily annoyed. Also, I wouldn’t know first-hand, but I would eat elsewhere.

8. Sticking with the theme of old bars, check out the old Belvedere Hotel in Mt. Vernon. Check out the Owl Bar (pizza, yum). Look up at the owls above the bar and watch their eyes light up. See it? Those were indicators that the cops were coming for prohibition-era drinkers.

Purnts of Intrest (normie/non-Baltimoron translation: Points of Interest)

1. Probably my favorite Balti-tour stop is the George Peabody Library. A mecca for bibliophiles, it does not contain any books published after 1920 (if I am remembering correctly, and if I’m not, then just know that the books are really old). Go on a weekday between 10-5 or on a Saturday between 10-1. If you can find the special collections librarian among the shelves and floors of stacks, ask to go in the special collections room. First editions abound, gold-edged books, giant dictionaries. It’s a bibliophile’s dream. Let me know when you’re going, I can’t get enough.

2. Graffiti Alley in Station North is a living canvas. Inside the corner of Howard St. and North Ave. you will find where vandalism is flipped on its head. Park on North Ave. and walk north on Howard St. and take it in (well, maybe not the fumes). You might come across someone adding to the display or you might find an abandoned spray paint can with a little bit of juice left so you can leave your own mark. That said, respect the talented.

3. Both The Walters Art Museum and The Baltimore Museum of Art are free, what I think of as No-Guilt-Museum-Visits. Go to both, it’s not like you’re paying and need to put in time to make it “worth it.” At The Walters, prioritize the suits of armor, tapestries, and bugs. At the BMA learn about the Cone Sisters, see their key collection, go into the horse room, and marvel at large European pieces. Then, go to the sculpture garden and have a bite at Gertrude’s ($$).

4. Museums that cost money but are worth the trip are in Baltimore too. I will list them and let you decide so I can get back to the weirder sites. The Museum of Industry: old oyster canning factory, Baltimore firsts, and a range of printing presses. The American Visionary Arts Museum: just WOW.

5. Poe’s Grave is absolutely a stop on a quality Balti-tour. You can arrange to see the crypt where for years on Poe’s birthday the “Poe Toaster” left him a half-drunk bottle of cognac. The cognacs are all there in a row like a timeline in Poe’s honor. The entire graveyard, in the shadow of University of Maryland, Baltimore, isn’t far from Camden Yards either. Poe re-enactors will meet you there if you like and recite the raven beside the grave. Definitely nighttime. Definitely October.

6. Guess who else is buried here? Well, you probably won’t guess so I will tell you. John Wilkes Booth (in case US History class has been a while–he assassinated Abraham Lincoln). He hailed from Bel Air, north of Baltimore. His grave is in a pretty dicey area, adding to the effect of the visit for sure. Read Chasing Lincoln’s Killer and I promise you’ll be intrigued enough to go. 

7. I have not yet been (shameful) but the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum is a highly prized Baltimore spot. They’re open everyday in the summer at $15 per ticket. Let’s go! Who wants to join me?

8. Another, who’s coming with me? I heard on NPR about the State Medical Examiner’s Office diorama collection called the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death. They were an early method of forensic science as they are recreations of crime scenes, in miniature. They are still active training tools.

9. Sadly, one of my very favorite Baltimore institutions, The Book Thing, burned in 2016. They’re attempting a rebuild and post when they are accepting and giving out free books. It’s just that–a free book exchange. It’s right across from the Peabody Brewery and worth a stop and/or your support.

10. Visit the Bromo-Seltzer Arts Tower for a view, some art, and a tour. You can’t miss it if you’re downtown, look up, and toward the west. It lights up a nice blue, unless the Ravens are in need of our support, via colored lights, then you’ll see purple.

11. It’s not possible to do in a day but, if you like public art, check out Baltimore’s mural scene. There are over 250 murals throughout the city. Try google-mapping a route to them all and be impressed but not necessarily convinced to do it all. Mainly, as you drive or walk around, appreciate the wide array of murals.

12. Not scared of heights? How about steps? Go to the original Washington Monument (yes, before DC) and climb 227 steps to the top for a $6 donation to the Monument. Enjoy a 360 degree view from the top. Come back down and enjoy learning about the time capsules that were found in the statue’s foundation from 1815 and 1915, respectively. The ticket to the top of the Monument also gets you half off at the Maryland Historical Society down the street where the items from the time capsule (and a ton of other incredible artifacts) are housed.

13. A huge but little-known and under-appreciated Baltimore building is the War Memorial. I don’t know if it’s open to the public but if you have a chance to attend an event there, just do it.

14. Baltimore is for the Birds Breweries. Check out the Yelp list of Baltimore Breweries. I recommend Union Brewery and Waverly Brewery, and they’re right across the street from one another.

15. Baltimore is a city of neighborhoods. Some of the best: Hampden, Remington, Fells Point, Bolton Hill, Mount Vernon, Canton, Charles Village, Station North, Homewood, Ednor Gardens :). There are so many greats. Make yourself a neighborhood tour.


1. Be Free Fridays. If you happen to be in B-more on the last Friday of the month, head to Howard Street. Take in what used to be a bustling shopping mecca. You’ll see that storefronts are again starting to open up but they aren’t the Hecht Company or Hutzler’s of the past. Art galleries, tiny wooden table cafes, and hipster hubs are gradually taking hold. At the Eubie Blake House, learn about jazz musician, Eubie Blake downstairs then take the elevator to the top. Leave your normie-ness and your sensitivity to foul language at home (matter of fact, don’t even bring those things with you to Baltimore). Grab a Red Stripe and a delicious $5 meal. Take in the view from the window near the food counter and see the changing landscape that Eubie Blake once saw. Settle in at a table and enjoy poets, musicians, and unofficial comedians. You can plan something afterward, but I promise you won’t want to leave until the last poet throws down the mic at 11 p.m. [8 p.m., last Friday of every month, $10 or $5 with student ID]

2. Take in Baltimore’s annual cultural displays at Honfest (mid-June) or Hampdenfest (mid-September). Bring your own beehive hairdo or get one done while you’re there. Take in the Most Ironic Mustache Pageant, Oyster Shucking Contest, or Baltimore’s Best Hon. Park is available in the Hopkins Keswick Garage (and not on my street). 

3. Investigate a music show at Pier 6 Pavilion. Check the online box office. Or, just hop on a boat, sail up to the edge and catch the same show with cheaper beer. This is also a good opportunity to visit Mr. Trash Wheel who works tirelessly to try to get the Harbor’s water quality above a D+. Swimmable by 2020? Good luck, Mr. Trash Wheel! At least he’s garnering support. Try a Mr. Trash Wheel Beer from Peabody Heights Brewery. 

4. Baltimore is home to the nation’s largest free arts festival, Artscape. This year it’s July 21-23. Come hungry, thirsty, and open-minded. Enjoy music, the local eats, a slew of visual art displays and art for purchase, and some of the nation’s best people-watching. It’s big enough that it’d be prudent to download the Artscape app before you head into Station North, Mount Vernon, and Bolton Hill, where the fest takes over. Take Lightrail, the Charm City Circulator, a $4 Lyft from my house, or as I was raised, ride your bike down either on Maryland Ave. or via Falls Rd. In years’ past, parking a bike gets you a coupon for a free Chipotle burrito–but I’ll have to teach you how to say Chipotle in a Baltimore accent.

5. October is a fantastic time to visit Charm City. The Baltimore Running Festival is like Christmas Day for some locals (present company included). Sign up for the 5K, grab three friends (or your parents and sister) and do the marathon relay, or really see Baltimore in the half or full marathon. If running’s not your thing, no problem! But do not try to drive the city on BRF. You literally can’t even. So it’s best to pick a spot and cheer on the runners–I recommend Lake Montebello. 

6. If it’s between April and October, don’t leave Baltimore without rooting for the Orioles. Hold out hope with us that “This could be the year!” (It can’t.) The best bleacher seats are under the scoreboard–Lochdawg can help you with that. Ahead of the game, be sure to practice John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” as you will want to sing along with us. And, don’t forget to yell OH during the National Anthem. Camden Yards has been voted the country’s best ballpark several times and many other cities have modeled their own ballparks after ours. So there. 

7. Nothing says Baltimore like the Stoop Storytelling Series.  A themed storytelling series, Stoop can be caught in various Baltimore venues throughout the year. Their main season is Fall through Spring. Prepare to laugh and cry, within 4 minutes. Put your name in the Trohv bag and have your name drawn to tell a three-minute story the night of. When was the last time you tried something for the first time?

8. Jury Duty in Baltimore City is obviously compulsory if you live here. That said, I do not mind it. What an interesting look at the microcosm we are? Want to get out of a case? I recommend an inventive, clashing outfit, more braids than are normal, and carrying your bike helmet into the courtroom. That said, having served on a Baltimore City jury, I do highly recommend it for a learning experience, better understanding of the judicial system, and general amusement. 

As you’d expect, there’s a literal slew of other Baltimore things I am missing and I do plan on making this a live document so, if you have suggestions and/or corrections, please share them–but I have to go to work. I am happy to be your Balti-tour guide whether you live here or not, as long as you’re not a normie.



At the entrance to an abandoned row house on a narrow cobblestone street in Bruges, Belgium there is a sign that reads “Enter at your own risk.” Living within two miles of thousands of houses left like this one, I had actually never been inside before, not even had I felt enticed to do so. This house had no windows or roof and it was clear that several years had passed since someone lived there. So, I went in–at my own risk.

Above the house’s warning is a name: Pottenmakersstraatgarden. Residents of Pottenmakersstraat reacted to a dilapidated house on their block by turning that house into a garden. The remnants of a door marked “18” are propped open by potted plants. Windowpanes have been replaced with hanging plants. The absence of a roof offers the best source of direct sunlight. Vines crawl where frames likely once hung. In a spot that may have housed a stove, a sign reads something similar to the following, and it took me 23 minutes to translate this much from Flemish so it’s the best I can do.

“Later a garden, which leaves, very slow often fall, their last landing earth knows, where write their fall, let my garden sun, where the world…, per hectare and between summer and autumn, by trial and error.”  

And rather than the smells of a home-cooked meal are the scents of mint, citronella, and the leaves of tomato plants. I got an idea. More on that later.

Aside from the fact that I have lived in the same city my entire life with little interruption, I revel in reinventing myself and helping others do the same. When I have decided to run a race, or start a new habit or pattern, I get high on that feeling of joining that effort, that world. I remember in 2010 when I decided to run a marathon, I did my first training run that May for the October race. Though I’d been running for years, I fall in and out of shape. I huffed through two miles and needed to walk up the hills. On that first run, I bumped into a former student who seemed generally concerned about my condition. “You okay, Ms. Doran?” I remember her asking as she leaned her head toward me. Appearing crazy or confused is reinvention STEP ONE.

If appearing insane to others is the first step to reinvention, then STEP TWO is thinking that about yourself. When I decided to move away from teaching, I was pretty scared. For 8 years, I have worn the title of “teacher” quite proudly. When I packed up 8 years of boxes into a closet at my school where I will still work, but in a different role, I wondered if I was/am being crazy. The teacher cloak has been so comforting. When I hung up that cloak about three weeks ago, I couldn’t help but question: who am I? But as they say, today is the first day of the rest of your life. And I do believe that reinvention is a good thing. STEP THREE is steadfast, stubborn, and hardheaded determination.

You know those type of people who say things like “I’m the type of person who…” or “I always…” or “I never…” or “You know me…”? I’m not down with that. What I am cool with “I always…brush my teeth.” Or “I’m the type of person…who recycles.” What I can’t get behind is “I’m the type of person who can’t ride the bus; doesn’t like to read books; can’t be bothered to exercise; doesn’t try new foods; can’t go into the city; won’t attempt yoga; isn’t interested in volunteering.” And so on. That stuck-in-the-mud-ness does not gel with reinvention. Reinvention can make us all better people. And as a teacher, maybe not in profession but in my heart, I love giving advice to other people. I will admit I do this far too often. But I think I am good at it. I may not always be right, but I’m never wrong. Right, Dad? Teachers are skilled at seeing the macro and micro of an issue simultaneously and god knows we can problem-solve. So I’m the type of person who likes to reinvent.

When I think about reinvention, I do not mean changing who I am or who someone else is. I believe who we are comprises our values, our beliefs, our independent thoughts, the people and places we love, and our senses of humor. To me, those are the essence of a human. When I see a kid I’ve taught for months finally buy into the power of actually learning, there’s no greater glee. But she’s not changing who she is. She’s becoming a learner—a better version of herself, she’s been reinvented. That day is the first day of the rest of her life.

So, I am trying my hand at this, putting my (lack of) money where my mouth is. I am currently reinventing myself into a Director of Scholar Development, a tutor, and a yoga teacher. I’m in STEP 3 and I am now at peace with starting over, and in several ways.

When I think about some of the asylum-seekers I’ve met over the past few months, I realize just how pithy my reinventions are. So what I’ve started using essential oils? Or I became a blogger? Or I learned how to make cauliflower mashed potatoes? I’ve met women who flew across oceans with nothing but a little bit of hope. Some reinvention takes immense courage. When these women are willing open up to my friends and me about their stories I am firmly in awe of their steadfast, stubborn, and hardheaded determination. As they work through the unbelievable process of being reinvented as Americans, as they attend English classes, navigate Baltimore’s bus system, as they miss their families and scrounge for basic needs, I hope they can someday feel that same peace and take that inhale-exhale sigh that says: I made it. I’m new. 

If you tell me you have always wanted to learn Spanish or run a race or travel abroad, I will warn you: I will not let it go. (Okay, Hamster?) And I might throw in my own ideas as well. Sorry not sorry.

There’s a very timid man who lives in my neighborhood. He walks his little white dog, seemingly several times per day. He wears black knit gloves year-round. When I first started seeing him, I’d throw out an unrequited hi. After a few months, he started making eye contact and smiling then after a few more months, he started saying hi. Now each time he says, “How are you?” I could cry. Reinvention.

I don’t want to put down or belittle people who are stuck in their ways. I’m sure many people are completely content that way and they’ll live in that space and they will be just fine. But, can’t we do better than fine?

There are plenty of ways that I am stuck but one of my wishes for the world is that everyone knows that she/he has the power to change themselves and/or something outside of themselves. “It is what it is,” is a total cop out.

If “It is what it is” were totally true, why have teachers or cops or grassroots organizers? Why bother why trash collection or recycling or special education? No need for education or exercise or travel or animal rescue. It is what it’s not…yet.

Chas and I were able to visit the Anne Frank House yesterday. It’s an extremely moving place, as you’d guess or maybe already know first-hand. At the end there’s a video featuring various famous and not-famous people speaking on the museum and on Anne’s story. One speaker is the actress Emma Thompson, from the great film Love Actually. In the full speech she talks about what Anne would have done had she lived. Thompson says she would have written books, spoken up for the marginalized, and pushed unquestioned barriers. She says that Anne Frank’s “would-haves are our opportunities.” So recklessly being mushy and motivational-speechy, what are your opportunities? How can you reinvent?

I have one idea–not totally original. I want to find a row house in Baltimore to turn into a garden. I want to find one with some semblance of a floor I won’t fall through. One with some neighbors who want more for their block. I promise to be careful. Who wants to help? Let STEP ONE commence…

Row Houses Baltimore

Opportunities for reinvention. Photo credit: Chuck Robinson found at: