Baltimore cloudgazing and the art of travel

Baltimore, Maryland

It was Monday so the American Visionary Art Museum was out.

I considered the brains and human bodies exhibit at the science center on the harbor but the hundred children running around the lobby turned me crotchety. I wasn't feeling like a kindly spinster; I was the kind who rolls her eyes and wonders why people breed such little hellcats.

"I wish all these KIDS would get out of the children's museum so I could ENJOY MYSELF."

I walked along the waterline, past the sand volleyball court and the trapeze school and up Federal Hill where I settled into the grass at the top. From here I could barely hear the traffic. The red and white striped carousel turned below and the tinkle of carnival music rose and fell, first blotting out the noise of cars then chiming softly, almost inaudibly. The skies were blue with billowy clouds. Past the trees to my left were rows of brick townhouses, the historic district of Baltimore, and to the right downtown and the harbor.


Behind me, on the sidewalk, a woman in an Army shirt followed orders from a guy who made her do sit ups and push ups. "Run down the steps, do fifty jump ropes at the bottom, and run up the hill. Take a breather and do it again."

"I should get a personal trainer," I thought for about five seconds, tops. 

"Or I should not get a personal trainer because I will hate the personal trainer for ordering me around to do more than sit in the grass and stare at clouds."

Having settled the personal trainer issue, I pulled out a book.

I last read The Art of Travel in 2004. That time, I underlined favorite passages. This time I highlighted some of the same words, plus new parts. The first time I read the book, I'd traveled enough to know that trains are my favorite transit and that my brain chemistry alters when a plane takes off.

I know that I won't be a different person just because I'm in a different place, no matter how much I want to be. I've tried that and it doesn't work. There is, however, a a correlation between the expansiveness of thought to the expansiveness of view.

Expansive views can be big: Yosemite's El Capitan, the edge of the Grand Canyon, or Baltimore's Federal Hill. They can be small: a room that's foreign in touch and feel, the sounds leaking under the door from the street outside. The room might be dingy and tiny but it is new and so, therefore, are your thoughts.

Alain de Botton, the author of The Art of Travel, says that large thoughts may require large views and new thoughts, new places.

I thought I connected with the book completely in 2004. This time, though, as I picked through the sections devoted to hotel rooms and airports, I laughed anew. Alain de Botton NAILS IT. From unexpected angles. With pictures! This book was either written for me or I wish I'd written it myself.
Would it be creepy to legally change my name to Alain de Botton? Would I seem like a stalker? Would it be worth it?

Now that I've spent several years touring, living for months in a another hotel room in another city, I want to give this guy a high five more than ever. Or, since he doesn't seem like a high-fiver, just cock my eyebrow and say something extremely witty and dry.

1 comment:

roopa said...

It's too bad I'm not in Bmore anymore, I would've shown you a good time!

I love AVAM. Too bad it was closed the day you wanted to go :(