I have long been a practitioner of what I call “business tourism”. I love to work, but I also have other passions, like art, poetry, cities, and photography. I have been lucky enough in my technology career to have taken lots of trips to lots of cities for lots of reasons.
I disdain daytrips— I think it’s deeply disrespectful to a city to present oneself at the local airport, hire a chariot to take you directly to a conference room, and scoot out of town before the late night news is over. Moreover, much of my work is on the Internet, so I can conceivably do it anywhere. Lastly, I hate being late or stressing out about missing a commitment.
All of this has lead, over the years, to a particular mode of business travel. Here’s my day in Baltimore, to see it in practice.
Morning flights win
A 9:20AM flight out of O’Hare— not too early to lead to an insane wakeup time, and not too late to have the day escape me on the other side.
I arrived circa noon, and headed straight to the hotel. First step is to snap a shot of the room— I have a vast collection of hotel interiors.
Plan not to plan, but have broad criteria that matters to you
Next is to search for where to go. I never plan ahead— it was 1PM, I had the rest of the day for a mix of work and hanging out, and I had no idea where I’d go.
My first step is to search, “used book store Baltimore” and / or “used poetry books Baltimore”. This always leads to good stuff. A corollary step is “art museum Baltimore“. I viewed the results on a map and discovered that there were two places I wanted to go that were over in Federal Hill, within less than a mile of where I was in that moment. The system works!
Two birds: walk, pics
I walked out of my hotel and across Light Street to the harbor. I know that Baltimore is home of The Wire, but all I could think about was Tony Soprano and “the Esplanade”. Don’t know why— makes no sense, but that’s what I had.
One of my things is walk + shoot. I walk to get Fitbit steps and I shoot shots with my camera. I tend to focus on architecture (especially Brutalism) and generic shots that I think will work for my burgeoning revenue-free stock photo service.
I also always shoot plaques and explanatory signs— great primary content that you nearly never see on the Internet; only IRL.
I also just try to snap the classic tourist shots— everyone has them, why shouldn’t I?
Art and experience
I love the uncontrollable nature of art museums. They spend years planning and executing their exhibits, all without my knowledge. Then one random day I show up and soak with they have.
This was the wonder-place I found in my Internet search: American Visionary Art Museum, right off of the harbor at the bottom of Federal Hill. I never knew this place existed. It is a house of masterpieces. Amazing permanent collection, a great attitude of social justice, and a serious, non-condescending take on visionary artists, which can often be a problem in this world.
On the third floor I turned a corner and was presented with a big display of work by Mr. Imagination, an amazing person who I knew in Chicago in the 1990s. He passed away two years ago, and I really couldn’t stop sobbing, there in the museum.
He was a great man, and a good friend, but I can’t say that we were immensely close or that I deserved to be so overwhelmed with grief. I think that it was all tied up with my own desire to make art, the recent death of my mother, and a general sense of mortality.
Books for the collection
Just a few blocks away (granted, up a couple-century-old hill) was the best type of bookstore I could ever hope for in a new city: The Book Escape on Light Street in Federal Hill. The visit satisfied a number of my poetry collection needs: I always want to get at least one book from a local author ( “Working Vocabulary“, by Sid Gold).
I also collect personally published/ interestingly designed/ idiosyncratic/ self-published volumes from the 70s and 80s. I got a great one today: “That’s Life: Poems by Max Hankin“, from 1979. The introduction is by Perry Como. Pure gold.
Comics are for closers
I’ve learned that in western culture, if you are near art and poetry, comics are not far behind. The local comic store is one of the best places to go. They are all the same— populated by the same characters, using the same plastic sheathing in the same oblong boxes, but they are all independent and ragtag. Love it. I went to Alliance Comics, a great place with a huge selection of stuff.
I bought this portrait of Robert Crumb by a local artist (can’t make out the signature— Don is the first name).
You gotta eat
I walked for a while and ran into Cross Street Market. Had a Lean Pastrami on Rye at Big Jim’s. Excellent.
I go where I’m told
Another lazy strategy I have is to just go where cab drivers tell me to go. My guy today said to walk up to the Washington Monument, so I went back to the hotel, dropped off stuff, did some work, and headed back out that way. I took a bunch more pics along the way, had an amazing coffee and apple turnover at Cafe Poupon, dinner at the B & O Brasserie (inside the Monaco Hotel in the restored / ornate B&O Railroad Headquarters Building), then back for more work.
It was a good day.