“Do you find inspiration for your writing when you travel?” a new acquaintance asked me over cocktails at the Rusty Scupper, a restaurant perched on a point in Baltimore’s ‘Charm City’ harbor. He gestured with a flourish and said, “This is a view.”
I paused with a Bloody Mary in hand (you know it’s my favorite adult beverage), and gazed across the water. A lime-green dragon curled around the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not entrance snorted steam, water taxis with blue awnings crisscrossed rippling water, and sunlight glinted off the abstract architecture of the National Aquarium. A pirate gallon circled the harbor with cannons squirting water at passing sailboats. Lightship Chesapeake, a two-mast ship moored to Pier 3 rocked gently, and nearby, the gun-metal grey USS Torsk submarine attracted tourist, both ships part of the Baltimore Maritime Museum.
“Yes, it’s quite a view…but I’m most interested in people.”
It’s been written in many articles that Charleston, SC is ‘The Most Polite City’ in the United States. While I adore Charleston, Baltimore is truly the ‘Charm City.’ Polite, cheerful, and helpful.
And characters everywhere.
A wiry first mate with long, stringy white hair and leathery skin shouted orders at boarding water-taxi travelers. Dressed in a dingy white knit shirt, faded blue jeans and bright red Keds, he paced on the dock. (Think Richard O’Brien as Riff Raff in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.) A French-speaking man asked, “Where?” The sailor’s response was slow and in broken English. He pointed at the map, then at locations in the harbor. I don’t think he intended to show his frustration, though it rang loud and clear. He repeated information several times, each time slower and more fragmented, until the Frenchman shrugged and gave up.
I picked up fruit at the outdoor market and saw a tall, thin woman dressed in red stilettos, navy blue slacks, white blouse with blue vertical stripes and red stars on the shoulders, sashay down the aisle, hips bumping from side to side provocatively. Her silver hair sprayed into a twist, not a strand out of place. (Her sense of style awed me.) I stepped by her and glanced back. Boney hands grasped the shopping cart. Her skin looked translucent, but the blood-red lipstick shocked me.
A young guy, maybe early twenties, chatted me up in a store. He told me how ‘Baltimore products’ like canned crab soup and the perfect-sized mug made special gifts for friends back home. (No, I didn’t buy any.) Very professional in his black suit, white starched shirt, and skinny orange tie. The dreadlocks didn’t quite seem to fit, yet I was hypnotized by his lyrical voice and waited for him to break into song. Never met a store employee more helpful–ever.
The Asian woman. Petite, (no surprise, right) dark straight hair, thin. Colorful, jersey-print dress and blinged-out sandals. When she addressed a group of Asians gathered around her, apparently on a tour, she said, “Hi! Ya’ll,” in the best southern drawl, and I had to look twice.
Charm City gifted me with wonderful memories and a host of folks who may show up as characters in future stories.
Where are you traveling this summer?
(P.S. The photo was taken by my hubby as the moon was rising.)