Friday, January 20, 2012

Hot Crabs and Cold Cows

Thought for the day:  You can't go back home to your family, back home to your childhood ... back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time --- back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.    [Thomas Wolfe]

Nope, I can't go back home to Maryland, but I was born and raised there, married and had my first child there, so a bazillion memories will always keep it close to my heart.

A handful of quick historical facts: Maryland's King William's School, which opened in 1696, was the country's first public school. The first dental school in the world, St. Francis Academy, also opened in Maryland. Founded  in 1828, it later became the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, and one of its graduates? Notorious gunslinger Doc Holliday.

Since I have so many cool pictures to share, I'll move on to them, and tell you a little about them as we go along.

Uh, yeah, you could say that. In case you didn't know, Maryland IS for crabs. And oysters. By the way, didja know a single adult Chesapeake Bay oyster can clean and filter fifty gallons of water per day?? (Just imagine if he got married and raised a family!) Ahem. Like I was saying, crabs and oysters. And all kinds of fish. But mostly crabs. Steamed, soft-shelled, fried, and of course, let's not forget crab cakes and crab soup. Lovely, wonderful crabs ... and Old Bay is a standard must-have staple in every Maryland kitchen. One funny thing I read recently is that in 2004, Maryland declared its state drink to be milk. Don't let 'em fool you. They're just trying to put on the dog. The REAL state drink of Maryland is beer. (Who ever heard of drinking milk with crabs?)

some big uns

Okay, now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's proceed, shall we?

America's bloodiest one-day battle took place at Antietam during the Civil War. That historical fact hits home in a gut-wrenching way every September 17, when the flames from an astounding 23,100 luminaries flicker all across the battleground in honor of those who lost their lives there.

The Maryland State House, built from 1772-79, is the oldest state Capitol still in continuous legislative use. Located in Annapolis, it is also the only statehouse that once served as the nation's Capitol. By the way, did you know Maryland gave up some of its land to form Washington, D.C.? 

While we're talking about Annapolis, we've gotta mention the Naval Academy, which was founded in 1845. Ever since I was a young girl, the Academy has always been one of my favorite places to visit. The buildings are impressive, and the setting, even more so. A multitude of midshipmen were almost always honing their skills in a multitude of small sailboats, and between the azure sky, the azure water, and all those sails and bobbing boats, it was quite a sight to behold. As for the midshipmen? I'm not sure what happened, but the last time we visited, I noticed that the middies have gotten considerably younger than they used to be. Anyway, the picture shows the chapel altar, but it doesn't even begin to do the place justice. The chapel is cavernous, with a soaring domed ceiling, and gorgeous statues, paintings, and stained glass windows throughout. In the basement of is the crypt of John Paul Jones, America's first naval hero. (Don't give up the ship!)

Also located at the Academy is a museum containing all manner of historic Naval relics, uniforms, etc. However, the items most fascinating to me are the ship models. Many are warship replicas, extremely intricate, and built to a 1:48 scale simultaneously with the building of the actual ships. That means, when a battleship was built in 1650, a replica model of that ship, based on the same plans as the actual ship, was also built in 1650. Pretty amazing, huh? The actual warships are long gone, but these elaborate models remain,  providing an accurate and valuable vision of the ships from long ago. The craftsmanship in them is amazing, but the ship in the picture above is slightly different. It wasn't built to exact dimensions, and it wasn't built by a master craftsman, either, which makes it all that much more amazing. It was built by a French POW during the Napoleonic conflicts. (1756-1815) And it is built of bone. When their British captors gave them beef, some of the French prisoners kept the bones so they could carve these models, which they then sold to the Brits. The Academy's collection of bone models is the largest in the world. And it offers tangible proof of the incredible spirit of the men who made them.

This is a semi-aerial shot of Baltimore's Inner Harbor. We took it from an observatory located on an upper floor of one of the surrounding buildings. The ship you see is the U.S.S Constellation, the world's oldest commissioned Naval vessel afloat, and the last all-sail warship built by the U.S. Navy. Commissioned in 1797, she had an illustrious career until she was decommissioned for the last time in 1955. Berthed in Baltimore since then, she's undergone extensive restoration over the years, and made her first trip outside the harbor in 2004, when she sailed to the Naval Academy. She is now part of the Historic Ships in Baltimore group, which includes the Coast Guard cutter Taney, WWII nuclear sub Torsk, lightship Chesapeake, and an 1855 screw-pile lighthouse, Seven Foot Knoll Light.

Another semi-aerial view, this time of the Baltimore Aquarium, AKA the National Aquarium.  When you walk through it, the path spirals right up through the center of the aquarium tank, so the critters appear all around you as you make the ascent. And at the top is a mini rain forest.

The Thrasher Carriage Museum, located in Frostburg, contains a large collection of early 19th and 20th century horse-drawn conveyances, including FDR's inaugural carriage.

Edgar Allan Poe was one of Baltimore's favorite sons, and the macabre man of mystery would've loved the ongoing mystery involving his own grave. Since 1949, some unknown person (or persons) has been entering Westminster Cemetery every year on Poe's birthday, and leaving a partial bottle of cognac and some roses next to Poe's gravestone.

While observing the British bombardment of Baltimore's Fort McHenry, Francis Scott Key wrote the words to The Star Spangled Banner, our national anthem. Touring this fort is like walking back into history. The cannons and cannon balls are still there, suspended in time, as though still poised and prepared to protect the port from attack. The barracks, the offices, and the stockades, etc, are still there, too. After you watch a short film about the history behind our national anthem, the window drapes open very slowly and regally to reveal an enormous flag fluttering in the breeze.  A goose-bump kinda experience.

The Babe Ruth Museum is located in the Baltimore row home where he was born. Pictured here is the statue of Bambino in that museum, along with MY bambinos. Since this picture was taken nearly thirty years ago, the museum has expanded to include the history of various Baltimore sports teams and figures. (Gee, I wonder if they include the Colts.)

When our kids were growing up, we always let each of them select a place to visit when we went to Maryland. One son always picked this place, the U.S. Army Ordnance Museum, in Aberdeen. Outside, there are a bazillion tanks, and inside, there are a bazillions weapons and various displays about the history of the American soldier. It was actually very interesting. The first hundred times. The son who loved this place so much ended up going into the Special Forces. Go figure.

In 1813, residents of St. Michael's, forewarned of a British attack, hoisted lanterns to the tops of trees and ship masts, thus tricking the British into aiming high, and overshooting the town. Mostly. One house was hit. Shown at left, that house, which took a hit in its roof, is now known as the Cannonball House, and the town is known as The Town That Fooled The British. 

Chesapeake Bay Skipjack
Tilghman's Island, located on the Eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay, is the home of the Skipjacks, the only commercial sailing fleet in North America. This traditional fishing boat is the primary vessel used by fishermen  to dredge for oysters. 

One last comment about the Eastern Shore before we go on to look at the state's antiquated laws. These smallish towns nestled on the banks of the Chesapeake tend to be extremely tight-knit, and many families have lived there for many generations. Even so, the following story tickles my funny bone. Allegedly, a young couple and their newborn baby left the big city of Baltimore many years ago to settle on the Eastern Shore. The baby grew up there, married and had a family there, and became a well-respected member of the community. However, when she died at the ripe old age of ninety-three, the local newspaper's obituary notice headline said it all: "Baltimore Woman Dies."

Okay, time to check out those laws.

  • It is illegal to grow thistles in one's yard. (Guess you'll have to grow 'em in somebody else's yard.)
  • Boys under the age of ten are forbidden from wearing lipstick. (But after ten, it's okay?)
  • Citizens who live past the age of ninety are legally required to apologize for being alive every year they survive another birthday. The apology has to be made in public, too. (I'm speechless. But that's okay; I'm not ninety yet.)
  • It's a violation of state law for a kiss to last more than a second. (A second WHAT?)
  • It's illegal to mistreat oysters. (You can pry their shells open with a sharp knife, sever their flesh from the shell, and then eat 'em alive, but you may NOT ...  mistreat them?)
  • In Baltimore, it's against the law to throw bales of hay from a second story window. (I keep telling ya. Go UP a floor.)
  • It's also illegal to take a lion to the movies. (Not even to see Jungle Book?)
  • You aren't allowed to wear a sleeveless shirt in any public park. (Go topless.)
  • It's against the law to sell chicks or ducklings to a minor within one week of Easter.
  • You may spit on the roadways, but it's illegal to spit on the sidewalks.
  • It's illegal to curse within city limits. 
  • In Cumberland, it's against the law to use profanity on a playground. (Gonna have to get on the other side of the fence and yell loud enough for that jerk in there to hear you.)
  • It's also illegal to knock stones into a public park. (Carry 'em in.)
  • Rockville laws make it illegal to swear while on the highway. (One-fingered salutes will have to do.)

Okay, it's that time. Time for (ta-DA!)

The Weirdest News Stories of the Week

*** Udderly ridiculous! Russian cows are now wearing ... underwear. To be more specific, cows in the republic of Yakutia are being fitted with bunny fur brassieres. Not that the locals are having second thoughts about the propriety of their cows going ... er... topless. No, you see, it's mighty c-c-cold in them thar parts. In fact, with temperatures sometimes plunging as low as minus 55 degrees Celsius, Yakutia is considered to be the coldest place in the entire northern hemisphere. Come to think of it, with temperatures that low, maybe this idea isn't udderly ridiculous at all. Maybe the only thing strange about this story is why no one thought to protect those poor tender tatas before now. Think maybe the market for ice milk recently went cold?

*** Hmm, I wonder how Vanna White would've handled something like this. On British TV game show Countdown, where the object is to form a word from a random mix of nine letters, a recent contestant proudly announced his six-letter word choice, to the delight of the tittering studio audience. The network bleeped out the the spoken vulgarity, but since the word appears in the British dictionary, the show had little choice but to accept it. The word isn't in MY dictionary, but there are plenty of other words in there I hope to never see on the Wheel of Fortune board.

*** An Australian company introduced a new snack this week called Nuckin Futs. There was a bit of concern about the obvious spoonerism, but authorities gave the product a tentative green light after declaring the F-bomb part of the universal discourse of the ordinary Australian. How could they do otherwise, after their Communications Minister, who oversees the country's broadcasting standards, accidentally dropped the bomb himself during a recent live speech? (At least American politicos have the decency to only get caught uttering vulgarities when they don't realize the mike is hot.)

*** New Zealand farmers are calling for sheep shearing to become an Olympic sport, calling it a bona fide sport warranting international recognition. Evidently, competitive shearers can clip up to 700 sheep during an eight-hour period, a grueling exercise some compare to running two marathons back-to-back. Sheep shearing, huh? Interesting. What next? Cow milking? (Not in Yakutia.)

                               Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.


  1. Thanks for another view on the States!

  2. Willy W*nker and the not so chocko factory.

  3. I love Yammy Fridays! Who new Maryland was so quirky?

  4. Those model ships made from bones are quite impressive. I'd like to see those.

    Also, you have no idea how foreign Maryland sounds to a landlocked mountain girl like me.

  5. I hope those frigid Yakutians warm their hands before milking.

  6. I live right next door to Maryland, so this all looks very familiar. Love the Inner Harbor area!

    But, seriously, the law about apologizing publicly for being alive after you hit ninety? Too bizarre!

  7. I'd like to know the answer to the Poe mystery... and I used to love Countdown. How funny would that be! Hhaaha. (Roz loves Mrs Potato Head, btw.)

  8. Al- You're welcome, dear sir. (I notice you didn't comment on your country's new snack!)

    Cro- You're too funny. I knew you'd figure out that word. (I wonder how many Americans will.)

    Austan- Glad you're still enjoying them. Maryland quirky, huh? Could be. I know folks from B'more have a reputation for being up-your-nose opinionated. (Not ME, of course!)

    L.G.- The ships are amazing. When you look at them, it's hard to believe how old they are, and that they're actually made of bone. As far as MD seeming foreign to you, I'm sure I'd probably feel the same about visiting some of our more mountainous states.

    Delores- Yeah, me too. 'Course, it'd be much nicer if they all took a nice trip to Miami for the winter.

    Linda- Believe me, that isn't the way the Inner Harbor looked when we were growing up there! But it sure is a great place to visit now.

    Carrie- If you look, you can find a video clip of that contestant. You can't hear the word, but you can sure hear the audience's response to it. And you tell Roz this Mrs. Potato Head loves her, too.

    Y'all take care. I hope you have a super weekend.

  9. The lipstick and lion law is hilarious!
    I love visitng Annapolis and St Michaels. There is such a charm about those two cities.

  10. We live about 20 minutes from the VA/MD border. My Dad was a MD native and I spent every.single.weekend. of my childhood at my grandparents' farm. [Not a bad childhood, let me tell ya'] I grew up on the history, lore and the CRABS of MD. Too bad they have been over harvested back in the late 90's to the point that demand still outstrips supply and the are expensive as hell. They can be so scarce that some crab houses in MD will import their crabs from other places. And the oysters have been decimated. There isn't even an industry left for the oystermen anymore. It is so, so sad.

    It won't stop me from dreaming about either tho'. Just wish we could afford them. :)

  11. Delightful and informative post! Wolfe quote not quite universal. One can go home again in my state but it's impossible to find parking there.

  12. Jennifer-Absolutely. And every one of the town we ever visited on the Eastern shore are the same way.

    Skippy- The last time we were in MD, we were surprised to find the cost of crabs at many places was higher than what we pay for them here in GA. But we could still find some bargain prices, too. (Not having crabs when we visit is NOT an option!)

    Geo- HA! Good one. We can still find parking in MD, but so much has changed, we can barely recognize our old stomping grounds.

  13. Oh, I love the Wolfe quote!!

    Wonderful pictures, and all so interesting. I've never been to Maryland, so this was a fun virtual tour. Also love Edgar Allen Poe and the mystery visitor to his grave is so interesting. And a bit creepy!

    Have a great weekend, Susan! :)

  14. Julie- Glad you enjoyed the virtual tour. Hardest part was deciding which items to include. You have a wonderful weekend, too.

  15. Alas, the Poe toasting tradition has come to an end. It has been three years since the stranger with the roses and cognac has shown up. It just might be that he has joined Poe in the afterlife.

    "Quoth the Raven, Nevermore"

  16. I lived in Maryland for 15 years. It became home and I'm sorry I left. But Thomas Wolfe is right. I can't go back. As for Australia and the F bomb, I heard that it is a common part of speech there that they use all the time, even children. Words have the significance we attribute to them, I guess.

    Janie Junebug

  17. I used to live in Columbia, MD. We were back for a wedding two years ago, and I scrambled around trying to show my kids all the neat things from my childhood. I had hoped to get crab when we visited Annapolis, but we ran out of time. So sad.

    And how did I not know Poe had a grave there?! Good thing another friend is getting married soon...

  18. Arleen _ Thanks for the update! That was always a story that fascinated me while we were still living in MD, and I hadn't heard about it stopping. Darn. Guess we'll never know who was behind it now.

    Mr. C- I know. Disgusting, isn't it?

    Janie- We haven't lived in MD for more than 40 years, but in some ways, it will always be "home." As for the "bomb", that's one of those words I always used to find offensive, but it's kinda lost its sting. When our kids were in their late twenties or so, they used it often enough that I kept a bell nearby when they came home to play cards or whatever. Drop the bomb... ring the bell. Got so when my daughter got fired up, she'd hit that bell half a dozen times, and we'd all laugh. In the end, it's just a word. Just not one I care to use.

    Shannon- I'm glad the things from your childhood were still there for you to show your children. And major bummer on the crabs. You can grab some on the way home from visiting Poe's grave net time.

  19. Maryland is one of two other states that I would choose to live in if I couldn't go back to RI. I like the small town feel of it. And thanks to your virtual tour I think I now have a spot to go for vacation.

  20. Ahhh I don't like crabs much, but there are a bunch of cold cows out there on the other side of the fence. Starved for human company I think. They moo every time I park.
    I think I've learned a lot about Maryland today, and yet I've never been there.
    The law about lipstick.. heh. And the public apology?!?!!

  21. YEARS ago, in MY youth, I read Thomas Wolfe: You Can't Go Home Again. But in some ways you can. Always those wonderful memories. Your photographs are particularly meaningful to me since my daughter and I "adopted" Virginia as our home, our favorite place; and of course Maryland is right nextdoor. But my vivid memories, like yours, are of the place where I grew up, my "actual" hometown of Salt Lake City, Utah.

    Thanks for taking the time to share this wonderful history. And have a wonderful Sunday!
    Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror & Other Memoirs

  22. Anne- Great! If you do go there for vacation, I hope you have a super time.

    GL- Guess you'll just have to make friends with those poor cows. Maybe just a friendly "MOO" their way, anyhow. Thank you so much for stopping by, dear lady.

    Ann- Maybe we can "go home" again, but at least for me, things have changed so much from the "home" I remember I can hardly recognize it anymore ... and all that's left of most of my MD family and friends are haunting memories.

  23. I love oysters and crabs, so me and Maryland would get along just fine.

  24. Tina- Kinda like Florida, huh? Only it gets colder in the winter.

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