On the Road: Baltimore
BALTIMORE – It’s strange the first time that you visit a city that you’ve spent years watching.
I felt that way the first time I went to Northern Ireland, seeing the neighborhoods and murals of Belfast and Derry – two cities central in a conflict that is of personal interest to me.
And that’s the way I felt in Baltimore, the setting of “The Wire”, which is my absolute favorite TV show. In fact, that kind of understates how much I loved the program. I’ve watched the entire five-season series sequentially three different times. I’ve read the two books that David Simon – the show’s creator – wrote about the city, one chronicling the homicide cops and the other its crooks.
And while a fictional TV show doesn’t have the same weight as actual history, I found myself feeling an immediate fondness for the city.
That show provided a cheat sheet for some of the local treats, whether it was crab cakes from Faidley’s or the coddie, which is a piece of fish sandwiched between saltines. Chap’s Pit Beef is also a local spot, though too far out to the east to make the itinerary this time. I’ll save that for my next trip.
Baltimore is one of our country’s truly unique cities. A place with tons of brick architecture, a port, a revitalized inner harbor and a deservedly proud literary legacy that includes Edgar Allen Poe.
There’s even a beer that honors him: The Tell Tale Heart IPA, which is made by a local brewer with the tagline, “It never misses a beat.”
I’d flown into Baltimore, but I’d never spent a night there. I flew to Baltimore when Seattle played Washington in the playoffs three years ago, but this was one of two NFL stadiums that I had never been to in my 11 years covering the league. The only one left for me is Foxborough in New England.
And for the second straight week, Seattle got surprisingly nice weather. It was true in Minnesota, where the hosts were kind enough to keep the thermostat set above freezing with a kickoff temperature of 37 degrees.
Baltimore was downright balmy. It was 60 degrees when I arrived in town on Alaska Airlines flight 748. A guy in the hotel elevator was in shorts and a T-shirt, bringing cocktails up to his room.
And I absolutely love traveling in the holidays. You get to see cities try and become a season. There was an outdoor ice skating rink down from the hotel and a tree in the lobby. Makes it hard to frown when everybody’s dressed up and heading to holiday parties.
In a time when we’ve seen so many cities sprawl, Baltimore is truly built around its downtown. It’s where the baseball stadium is located, with the warehouse looming beyond an outfield wall and Boog Powell’s barbecue out there.
The football stadium is downtown, too. Actually it’s located right off Russell Street. Seriously. The street runs right in front of it, which kind of set the tone for Sunday’s game where Alaska Airlines’ Chief Football Officer ran through Baltimore.