Scourge and Transparency

The Rise and Fall of Advanced Social Journalism during the Early Twenty-First Century

Posts Tagged ‘baltimore

The Winds Of Shit

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Some summers ago I decided to take a short trip to some coastal cities I hadn’t visited before. I had scheduled to see Philadelphia first, with a layover in Baltimore, followed by a couple nights in Boston and maybe one night in Portland or somewhere. Most likely I would have a few days leftover to make it back to my cousin’s wedding in Southern Ontario. I also needed to reach Ottawa to pick up my only reasonable suit, bring it the 6-hour plus trip to Hamilton and have it dry-cleaned as well as make myself presentable in other regards. I had two weeks to do this all, which was plenty of time – most things considered. What I hadn’t considered was eventually not giving a shit about anything except the most basic responsibilities, coming into contact with some very interesting folks and a hurricane.

My first nights in Philadelphia were stereotypical. I did the regular tourist site-seeing: Ben Franklin’s grave, Constitutional Museum and the Philadelphia Museum of Art (basically everything one would do on a vacation to that city except the Old City Hall and the Liberty Bell).  My first of two nights in town there was a movie night in the hostel and I enjoyed some wine and watched an entertaining contemporary sci-fi of which the name escapes me. It should also be noted that I had a black 500 ml reusable water bottle that I filled with whiskey to sip that evening and continuously throughout my journeys.

I had learned some tricks of the trade on a voyage the summer previous. From going coast-to-coast I knew I only needed to take with me the absolute essentials and everything had to be as light as possible. The backpack was crucial as well as a flask to hide booze, a single pair of pants and little regards for socks or soap for they were easily left behind. My dollar store water bottle would prove to be a security blanket I would carry with me to various corners of the continent despite haphazardly misplacing it on several occasions.

The morning after a pub-crawl in Philadelphia I couldn’t find my flask but it turned up in the lost-and-found of the hostel with a few sips of whisky left in it. My second day there took me to the museum and outside its famous doors looking at the cityscape I got that sense of euphoria one gets when they’ve realized the distance they’ve travelled, where they’ve been and where they are. However no one can ever predict where they’ll be.

After some serious drinking and a disappointing cheese steak sandwich I moved on to Baltimore. I had heard many things about the city many of which turned out to be true from simply walking from the bus station underneath bridges to get to the hostel. On the other hand much of place was quite elegant. Like many US towns it’s just the wrong corner or the wrong area that is the real cesspool. I had booked one night here but when I saw that travel to an Orioles game had been organized by the hostel for the next evening I decided to cancel my bookings in Boston, stay two nights in Baltimore and go on to one or two nights somewhere else before moving back Up North. This change of planning made all the difference.

Little did I knew that Hurricane Irene was making her way up the coast in the coming days and would cause transportation between metropolitan areas to be halted indefinitely. For the next four mornings I would wake up partially still drunk quickly bathe, pack and run down stairs seconds before checkout to find out that no buses were leaving the area. I would then immediately re-check in to a different bed, rest and then drink again.

The evening that the storm hit the city had everyone hauled up in the hostel. Many Europeans hoped to spend their holiday in cities more glamorous than Baltimore and were morose do be stuck inside because of the weather. I had, however, filled my flask with brandy even though this hostel had a strict no alcohol policy.  I noticed in the crowded common room another young fellow pouring a bottle covered in a bag into a coffee mug. He offered me some of his wine but I informed I had my own and suggested before the weather got really bad we go out to grab some liquor to sneak back and drink the storm away. With the incredibly low prices of US booze we could easily get ourselves drunk and cheer up the other travellers with offerings of rye and coke. In spite of our generosity we were the only ones to really hit the bottle and were eventually blackout wasted.

The next morning I awoke in bed fully clothed with shoes on and completely soaking wet. When I came down stairs to find my partner in crime he explained that after getting busted with the forbidden liquor we took to the streets to try and find a bar open during the hurricane. While we were lucky enough to find such an establishment we were much too drunk on our return home to find our place of lodging despite being within a block of it. The umbrellas were blown away, the clothes completely drenched and the only person we found to come out with us for a drink turned out to be completely off his cracker. This dude, whom we left at the bar because of his queerness, came back wildly drunk and threatened to kill all non-American lodgers by waking them up with a flashlight in the wee hours. He was eventually asked to leave the hostel the next morning over-shadowing my friend and mine’s disregard for the rules. When we finally returned from getting lost in the hurricane him and me broke into the storage room the staff had put our confiscated substance in. We were then caught red-handed drinking from the bottle in a locked closet. This is all very much a blur. My fellow alcoholic with the wine in a mug remembers it better than I. He turned out to be from Philadelphia of all places and was in Baltimore on business.

The next day my new buddy and I went to another Orioles game and up in the nosebleed seats we discussed drug use. He informed me that he knew where to meet Charlie back in Philly and asked if I wanted to crash on his couch for a few nights. By this time I was long over due to race to Ottawa and pick up my formal clothing, get back to Hamilton, have the clothes dry-cleaned and get myself a haircut with barely enough time to make it to the wedding. But looking down at the baseball diamond after a few tallboys of Miller Lite and a hurricane behind me it seemed like the absolute right thing to do: go back to Philly, sleep on a stranger’s couch and do some drugs.

In the end the couch turned out to be a floor, doing drugs turned out to be a serious binge, and my second stay in Philly acquainted me with the city of brotherly love that I came to know in the many trips back to that fine town in the months to come. On top of all this I spent my final night of this epic journey in a shady hostel in Harlem NYC smoking a lot weed with some middle-aged women. Finally I barely made it to the wedding with a Zeller’s suit on, a large beard and not really a hangover but in constant state of alcohol abuse. 

 

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Written by shanedantimo

February 15, 2013 at 11:37 pm