With a trek across the Maryland border we said goodbye to the South and hello to the Northeast. Baltimore was a reasonable first stop due to its relationship to Edgar Allan Poe, a champion of the letters. It is here that he is buried, in the graveyard of Westminster Hall. We had no preconceived notions of the town. Neither of us had been there but I was thinking Hey, it’s Baltimore. It’s a good sized city so it’s got to have something going for it, right? Captain Kiwi chugged through the outskirts, row housing passing by, barred windows of auto shops and liquor stores blurring together with small patches of dead lawns and littered sidewalks. Alright, we’re going through the bad part of town. It’ll pick up if we just keep going. On we drove, straight into the city, closer and closer to the university and downtown. Graffiti, litter, dead and dying foliage, boarded windows, none of these things in themselves create an atmosphere but it’s something else. A certain fear or discomfort arises, a disappointment that falls on you despite no particular expectations. There….should be more, right?
I drove by the university and pulled into a spot around the corner from Westminster. Alright, I thought, a little shady, but it’s Baltimore and this is the university and it’s broad daylight after all. The tall steeple of the church led us toward the gate, beyond which the graveyard lay. Just inside was the monument.
It was the one highlight that day, feeling the wave of thoughts and feelings flood over me. This was the man who wrote the Raven, the Tell Tale Heart, the Cask of Amontillado, the Gold Bug. I thought of his sad and mysterious death, his even sadder life. And there was the old visitor who had come for years on Poe’s birthday to drop a bottle of Cognac and three roses on his grave. This was that spot. As lonely and unappreciated as he was in his life it adds a bit of irony to think that in his death, at least in Baltimore, he serves as a tourist attraction and the inspiration for a football team mascot.
Jamie left me to find a restroom while I pushed Eli around the graveyard. She met me back at the gate with “We should probably get going.”
“You find the bathroom alright?”
“No, I walked all over. I had to cross the street over there and go into that old market. This lady came up and helped me.”
“Oh that’s nice of her.”
“She just came up to me and said ‘You be careful, this place isn’t safe to walk around by yourself.’”
“Ha ha, why?”
“I don’t know, just said I shouldn’t be alone. I was going to go into the main market but she told me not to and pointed me upstairs. I guess that one’s pretty sketchy.”
“It’s broad daylight, though.”
And so we left. Goodbye to Poe, goodbye to Baltimore.
(And in case you ever wondered what Christopher Walken reading the Raven sounds like…)