Sunday, February 15, 2009


Originally uploaded by 3Birds
My children love to go 'downtown' especially when we're heading toward the Inner Harbor or Ft. McHenry. There is an intersection that provides a sort of visual portal between ordinary city and downtown, and whenever we pass this spot, we get a little silly.

I'm not sure we'd be as enthusiastic if we didn't have the baby inspiring us to new heights of awe and dorkitude. As soon as he sees a crane, a ride-the-ducks, the U.S.S Constellation or the American Visionary Art Museum, he commands us all to 'LOOK! LOOK!' until we not only look but admire, out loud, whatever it is he's talking about.

Even worse, he usually demands that we sing 'Downtown' when we get to the light at Saratoga and St. Paul Place, just when the glorious vista of tall buildings, traffic cops, taxis, tourists, suits, and vagrants appears before him. We comply, mostly because he's such a tyrant when crossed, but also because we kinda like that song and we also enjoy the grand spectacle.

Lately, Ft. McHenry has been our favorite downtown destination. I enjoy seeing some waterfowl I don't often see: American Black Ducks, American Wigeons, Double-Crested Cormorants, Gadwalls, and Canvasbacks. The boys are mostly interested in watching the cargo ships and tugboats, sailboats, kayaks, and barges. They enjoy watching the cranes load and unload huge containers very much and Robin thinks he would like to be a stevedore or a tugboat captain. When the ships head out toward the Bay, they always look like they're far too tall to go under the Key Bridge, and it's only at the last moment that it becomes clear that they actually can. I think Robin secretly hopes a ship will get stuck one day.

After we've done a few laps around the Fort, we often play soccer. I'd like to fly the frisbee, but Justin thinks that a) someone's apt to throw it into the harbor and b) frisbee is more conspicuous than soccer and, therefore, inadvisable. No trip to the Fort is complete without a visit to Orpheus, father of song (built to honor Francis Scott Key) and a quiz about the War of 1812 for the kids. Well, really just the Battle of Baltimore. IWe're unschooling(ish) but sometimes, I just can't help myself.

Incidentally, there is (so I've read) a pylon marking the spot where HMS Tonnant was anchored while F.S.K. wrote his poem. I don't know exactly where it is and I always forget to look for it while we're there. It's supposed to be painted red, white, and blue and I'm guessing it's one of the supports for the bridge. I don't suppose I could even see it with my binoculars (they're only 10x40) from there. We've also never attended any of the fireworks displays or special celebrations, nor have the children ever been inside the actual fort. Which is shameful. But we often enjoy the martial melodies of the fife and drum corps as we walk and watch the birds and ships and people, and 'one of these days' we fully intend to do a proper tour.

dinner tonight: chicken noodle soup, buttery dinner rolls, and peanut butter cookies (I almost made dumplings, but chickened out. The rolls were heavenly though -- I made them cloverleaf-style, and poured about a tablespoon of butter over each one before baking!)

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