State by State

Apparently there is an entire country between Boston and San Francisco.

wire

by Natalia

At one point in our lives we have been diligently watching The Wire for entire five seasons. We followed police tracking a gang of drug dealers turned real estate investors. We watched unionized stevedores of Polish descent dabble in smuggling to make ends meet. We cheered a rogue police commander attempts to emulate Amsterdam drug policies. We were drawn into struggle to improve failed and debt ridden school system. All that exciting activities took place in Baltimore. In run down neighborhoods. In underfunded police stations. In local newspaper offices. In a corrupt City Hall.

Needless to say, when traveling along eastern seaboard we couldn't pass the opportunity to glimpse at Baltimore of crime-ridden fame. To add to the potential excitement we picked late evening to arrive on the scene.

As usual the reality looks nothing like what you see on TV. Probably because we only walked along the newly renovated waterfront. We thought we spotted suspiciously looking individuals, but they turned out to be bouncers in a club - possibly a gentleman club given scarcity of posters or patrons.

But we didn't completely miss a brush with illegal activities. The motel I picked turned out to be renting by the hour. The manager was pretty casual about that: complimentary breakfast in the morning, fridge and microwave in the room, hookers next door. He didn't phrase it quite that way but if we had any doubts the noises transmitted across the thin walls were quite unambiguous. Surprisingly we stayed despite the warning signs: victims of our liberal principles, no doubt. It wasn't some seedy place but a popular chain. Looks like franchise agreements do not preclude a profitable, if shadowy, sideline.

capital

Two points about Washington, DC: the best building on the Mall is the Canadian Embassy, and the best thing about the Newseum is its name. The Newseum and the Canadian Embassy are side-by-side neighbors on Pennsylvania Avenue. Canadians manage to poke fun at their American hosts with a building that is fully modern, bold and uplifting with a nod towards a rampant classicism of nearly all the other mall buildings: a small pseudo-Roman rotunda. They show that while not an empire, they can do the colonnades with the best of them. It's not unlike what our younger siblings do as soon as they realize we stopped being cool.

beast

Snowstorm dumps a foot or two of white goodness. You are getting ready to snowboard the next morning when overnight warm wind turns powder to slush. Then the temperature drops converting the man-made snow to ice. As soon as you give up on riding in the near future, it starts snowing again. You cross your fingers and hope it'll last this time. But you know it won't. Vermont winter is a big tease. And it rarely grants the holy grail of snowstorm followed by a perfect sunny day coinciding with your ability to hit the slopes. Last season I was adamant not to miss it. I moved us to Killington and I was ready to ride everyday. And I had gotten lucky precisely once. The monster snowstorm came, brought so much snow that for a day I forgot what ice is and rode calmly in the eerie silence offered by powder. Sun was glorious and I was in bliss. And then it was over. Back to ice - hard-packed powder in marketing speak - for the rest of the winter.