Noah continues blogging his trip across the USA and hangs out with Mark Jenkins.
In my last road trip blog
I left you with stories of hanging out with my buddy Mark Jenkins
, at his basement apartment/studio in Washington D.C. So far we had covered the Nation's Capitol
, the Hirshhorn Museum
, tape humpers
, the subway, and only the beggining of eating out at the Adams-Morgan District. Since then we decided to take a short break from the ol' D.C. though, and to take a day trip over to the neighboring city of Baltimore, Maryland.
Michelle sittin' pretty.
I had never heard of a rowhouse until this point of the trip, which if you didn't know is a large apartment building occupying a full city block, and they're everywhere here. The style of housing has been in use since the late 17th century, although a lot of Baltimore's old ones just stand vacant now. The one's pictured above were deffinetly nicer then some. They had porches and the nice window seats upstairs, but other rowhouses I saw were just giant flat sided cubes with a doorway every 15' or so.
Baltimore was interesting to drive around, but I have to say that I'm not totally convinced that it lives up to the allure of it's self-title of "The Greatest City in America". Baltimore was kind of in a state of despair, and actually kind of "ghetto" seeming. Half of the buildings I saw were boarded up, and for the most part the only places for it's residents to purchase food in the small neighborhoods are at crappy corner convenience stores. No one seemed to be working, and there were a lot of people just hanging out on their stoops eating chips and drinking cola all day. I don't actually want to offend anyone from Baltimore (since I hear it's full of violent criminals), so maybe it was just my dumb luck that these were the only areas of the city I was able to see while there ...
Also, everything is made of brick here. Mark's girlfriend Sandra was the one driving and she led us to believe that we'd be safer from the inside of her moving car. To understand why, here's a couple stats for ya. City Crime Rankings (12th Edition) ranks Baltimore second only to Detroit among the most dangerous American cities over 500,000 in population. According to crime statistics there were 269 murders in Baltimore in 2005. Though this is significantly lower than the record-high 353 murders in 1993, the murder rate in Baltimore is nearly seven times the national rate, six times the rate of New York City, and three times the rate of Los Angeles. Impressive ...
From the safety of Sandra's car we could see this peeling mural at some day care while moving 30 mph. I can only imagine little kids picking up the chips of paint during recess and putting them in their mouths as a pre-nap snack. Delicious.
A mini-person on a mini-bike.
One of the main highlights of the day trip to Baltimore was that we visited an abandoned house Mark and Sandra had discovered about a year earlier. The house is filled about four feet deep with municipal garbage, and then in the middle of it is a huge tree, happily providing shade to whoever wanders in. Almost a year ago, Mark put a tape sculpture of a baby on a branch of the tree and it was still there, just stretched to accommodate the tree's growth.
Inside the house.
The garbage-covered floor. Mark and I were fascinated by the shape this old phonebook had taken on.
There's that tape baby I mentioned. It's kinda hard to tell, but because Mark tacked it's hands together to keep it from coming loose, the tree actually grew over the last year and is starting to stretch the baby apart with it's girth. (Did I really just say "stetch the baby apart with it's girth?")
After touring the rowhouses and the abandoned apartment we headed towards Baltimore's waterfront, where I saw this passed out bum on a bench, mouth completely agape. It's hard to tell from the picture, but the dood totally had a donkey face.
The Inner Harbor is where most of the tourists are supposed to come when they want a positive impression of the city. From what I can remember, it's about a six-block section along the waterfront where they actually maintain the sidewalks and have stores and tourist attractions, like an aquarium and old Navy ships. It was quite the facade, and nothing like the neighborhoods we visited earlier.
Here's the National Aquarium in Baltimore. I was told that it was merely decent, especially compared to the Monterey Bay Aquarium which I had visited earlier in the cross country road trip.
I think this was called the USS TORSK. Pretty awesome.
Sadly, this is one of the photos taken on our trip that is the most accurate in representing the type of people we saw while driving across America. Bunch a funny looking fat asses around here ...
Ironically, after we cruised the Inner Harbor looking at old ships and fat people, we went to eat over at some pizzaria called Uno's to get our own grub on.
The service was pretty bad there (although I liked my pizza) and it literally took over an hour before we recieved our food. It did allow Mark and I to have lots of play time with our cameras and with the restaurant's crayon supply though.
This picture was taken before I added a "grill" and gold chain to the King of the Jews, but there you have it. I actually managed to hold onto this thing for the entire trip and as soon as I get a chance I think I might frame this bad boy. By the way Mark, it supposed to be INRI, not INRY. It stands for "Iron Nails Rammed In."
Red rocket in 3D!
Sandra likes to play with her food and made this Crayon Confetti Cake Crust.
After we ate it was time to take off and head back to D.C. for a couple more days. Here we wait for the elavator.
On our way out we saw our last reminder of how bitchin' Baltimore was. Sweet visor!
Like I said before, I wasn't totally impressed with Baltimore, but I was glad to visit for the day, and that Sandra and Mark drove us up to give the grand tour. They made things fun. I've been having a really hard time making myself return to the computer to write somthing up about the place though, so since then I've turned to my old friend Jenn Witte to see if she could offer any advice as to what I could write about. All she had to offer was this, "You could write about tea-bagging in Baltimore, as the great John Waters once did. Tea-bagging, beavers, sugar and laundromats." Although I'm familiar with each of those subjects, sadly, none of them came up during the day trip :(
Baltimore left me pretty winded, so the next day Michelle and I slept in a bit before heading out to see some more tourist attractions. We checked out a lot of museums around there, most notably the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
The Holocaust Museum was freaky. I didn't really learn much more than I already knew, but it was still interesting in a depressing, watching-bulldozers-move-dead-bodies-around kind of way. It's worth checking out if you're ever there. The building has a really neat design (especially the inside), and it's quite educational if you've got the time to hang around and watch all the videos and read all the exhibit's explanations. When you get there they even hook you up with a little identification card that tells the story of a real person who lived during the Holocaust. I got Robert Oelbermann, a man who co-founded the Nerother Bund youth group with his brother in 1919. Like other youth groups, it was aimed at getting young people closer to nature through camping and hiking. Appearently homosexual relationships were somtimes formed within the groups between it's members, and were commonly accepted. In 1936 though, the Hitler Youth movment tried to dissolve all independent youth groups, and then urged the members to join their own. Robert refused and was convicted under the Nazi-revised criminal code which outlawed homosexuality. He spent the next 5 years wearing a pink triangle on his concentration camp uniform, where he later died of unknown causes in 1941.
There's no cameras allowed, but I can also tell you that there's some really interesting exhibits inside that have some pretty crazy footage of the famous Nazi doctor, Fritz Klein. Pretty disturbing, I'll tell you what ... He's the dood who when asked how he could reconcile his actions with his ethical obligations as a physician, responded, "My Hippocratic oath tells me to cut a gangrenous appendix out of the human body. The Jews are the gangrenous appendix of mankind. That's why I cut them out." Ouch.
Almost equally as creepy, near Mark's house is the 33rd Degree Temple of The Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. The building is massive and very regal-looking and one day we noticed that they were offering tours. Never missing an opportunity to learn more about the world's largest fraternity/secret society/cult, we of course had to check it out. As it turns out, that particular temple ceased formal operation in the 1950's, and now it is mostly used as a visitor's center, except for special ceremonies and meetings that seldom happen. They even allow women to go inside!
Outside of the building is a set of old Sphinx statues, one with it's eyes wide open, one with it's eyes half closed. Somthing to do with wisdom and power, I think.
The tour was really weird. The 33rd degree is pretty much the highest honor in Freemasonry, so this temple was super-fancy and loaded with all of the Masonry symbolism ... two-headed eagles, squares and compasses, snakes, crosses, etc. etc. on every chair, curtain, lamp, slab of marble, and ceiling. There were even symbols in the architecture: pillars 33 feet high, ceilings 99 feet high, a huge dome that weighed 3,333 pounds, steps in increments of 3, 5, 7, and 9, etc.
The place was pretty over the top. There were two of these sculptures on either side of one of the inner doorways leading up to some temple meeting room, and appearently it took many many years before they could have them installed, because they were waiting until they could get 2 identical pieces of stone to carve. I guess if I were to have 2 huge, mega-heavy statues of an Egyptian person pulling their knees to their chest, I'd be picky too.
Here's some more of the weirdo imagery they use to decorate Everything.
The two-headed eagle carved into one of many many chairs, all made from wood that can only come from one certain specific forest.
I forgot what they said this room was used for, but as you can probably guess, it's gotta be for somthing strange and secretive.
Also, they had this freaky stained glass crypt that houses the remains of two Grand Master Freemasons, and inside of the crypt you can get a plaque with your name on it if you give over a million dollars to the Freemasons.
At one point of the tour our guide brought us into the library and just sort of let us loose for a while. I could tell no one taking the tour was expecting this, and there was deffinetly a few minutes of awkward wondering about going on. Their library was impressive though, open to the public, and even boasted miniature pewter sculptures of every Freemason who became a U.S. President, which is a lot of pewter.
This was also the point of the tour where you could load up on all the free Masonic propaganda pamphlets your heart could ever desire. I took the 3 coolest looking ones, plus one issue of the Scottish Rite Journal, featuring a cover shot of I11. Walter Ernest Webber, 33 Degree Sovereign Grand Commander, N.M.J.
Some fine reading ...
Here's another room in the Temple we visited, though it seemed to be under some sort of renovation. The place was huge, covered in Masonic and royal imagery, with tons of Bibles around.
Our tour guide mentioned that these huge purple curtins are more expensive to wash than to replace, so they just toss 'em when they're dirty. Throughout the tour, they never tell you what they actually do in Freemasonry. They do tell you that you don't have to be Scottish and don't have to be an actual bricklayer mason to be in the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. They show you a short video that didn't answer any real questions about Freemasonry, and all of the books that they advertise for in the library are books that just speak well of Freemasonry. There is a lot of talk about how they are dedicated to God and public service though. Oh, and they love children. Creepy.
Anyway, we also made our way through the National Gallery of Art's Sculpture Garden over at the National Mall. I took a few picture's for the hell of it. This one's of the "Four Sided Pyramid," made in 1997 by Sol LeWitt.
Here we have Tony Smith's "Moondog."
Alexander Calder's "Cheval Rouge (Red Horse)"
And Roy Lichenstein's "House I". That should give you an idea of what the big wigs are diggin' in D.C. ...
Moving on, we finally made it to the National Museum of Natural History.
The place is so awesome! And free! The museum's collections total over 125 million specimens of plants, animals, fossils, minerals, rocks, meteorites, and human cultural artifacts. It's also home to about 185 professional natural history scientists the largest group of scientists dedicated to the study of the natural and cultural history in the world. Nerds!
The museum was fascinating. They had a huge gems and minerals section complete with the Hope Diamond, dinosaur bones, a zillion fossils, animal skeletons, and the extensive work of the best taxidermist in the country. I could have spent all day nerding out with Michelle. For some reason all the lighting in the place is super dim though, so most of my pictures came out kinda crumby. Hopefully these ones will do the trick.
I thought this diorama was pretty funny, the way all the different dinosaur species were placed right next to each other.
This mural was HUGE, and only served as a backround for a single small display case.
Here Michelle stands next to a bunch of petrified wood.
My favorite parts of the museum were the areas full of all the different types of animal skeletons collected by the museum.
Man and the Manlike Apes.
This area was called the Kenneth E. Behring Family Hall of Mammals, which displays preserved pelts of mammals throughout the world, some of which were collected by former president Theodore Roosevelt. Lots of deadness.
"Check your blood sugar, and check it often." hah!
This display was kinda weird ... From the other side you could see the antelope's tongue hanging out of it's mouth.
All the little kid's at the museum really liked this one.
There was also an area dedicated to the art produced by people who practice Sikhism. Sikhism being a monotheistic religion founded in northern India in the 16th century by the guru Nanak. Can you spot Ronald McDonald in this one? There's also some batman and power ranger action in there if you look hard enough.
Sikhism rejects caste distinctions, idolatry, and asceticism and is characterized by belief in a cycle of reincarnation from which humans can free themselves by living righteous lives as active members of society.
I think I liked this one the most.
Eventually our meter ran out of time and we had to take off and head back to Mark and Sandra's place. It's been a while since this part of the trip (2 months?) but I can assure you that a stop was most likely made to the Adams-Morgan District for either a giant slice of pizza, or falafal from some place with an Amsterdam theme. We had to have eaten down there atleast 5 or 6 times within the 4 days that we were there.
Later that night Mark and I decided to make a tape cast of my legs. The plan was to document the whole thing and post it on the FF, but I think we may of had a little too much to drink for that.
Meesh took care of my crotch.
Too much to drink, and too many bad pictures of me in Michelle's gym shorts ... As soon as they had me all taped up, they cut me right back out using scissors, bandage cutters, and some cutting sheers. That was actually a bit nerve racking, with people jamming sharp objects inbetween the tape and my skin, all at the same time in different places. We didn't do a very good job of documenting the process, but for a better tutorial of how this all works, check out Mark's other website, tapesculpture.org, or this video he recently made called "How Babies Are Made."
Drinks were consumed and Michelle practiced her retard faces.
The next day we went out for some more site seeing, and stumbled upon this huge place. I don't think we ever figured out what it was, but it sure looked awesome from the outside. Anyone?
The Washington Monument, and the National X-mas Tree.
Another thing I figured you had to do in Washington, D.C. is tour the White House. Sadly, I guess President Bush has become so paranoid of getting whacked that you now have to schedule tours over a month in advance with your local congressman.
We walked past the White House so that I could throw rocks at it in frustration, but they didn't even have any rocks in the Presidential yard to throw, and you'd have to have a pretty good arm to reach it anyway. What gives?
For our last night in D.C. Mark took us out to visit the infamous Lincoln Memorial.
The dood is totally massive, standing 19 feet tall and 19 feet wide, made from 28 blocks of white Georgia marble. Some interesting trivia about the memorial is that it's creator, Daniel Chester French, purposely carved one hand clenched, and the other hand open. It is said that he had a hearing-impaired daughter, so he carved Lincoln's hands to sign the letters "A" and "L" in American Sign Language. Another weird fact is that on the north wall, Lincoln's second inaugural address is inscribed with the word "Future" misspelled as "Euture."
On our last day in D.C., the folks over at news media giant Reuters came to interview Mark about his sculptures and setting them up in the city. We were actually planning on taking off the day before, but once we found out we had the opportunity to see how a news interview goes down starring Mark, we couldn't pass it up.
Mark did did really well during the interview, and the cameraman Peter Fox was a total hoot. He was an older Irish[?] guy, who was wearing cowboy boots, had some hoop earings, and had a holster on his belt for his pack of cigarettes. He also had a big sweat mark on the ass-crack of jeans, which was quite amusing. You can also see the tape cast of my crotch in the background behind Peter.
Peter was obsessed with getting the perfect shots.
A few times he even tried to get Mark to fake setting up a sculpture, but Mark didn't want anything to seem contrived.
Peter on all four, propping his camera on a baby.
And here's the final product. Turned out slightly less cheesy than I was expecting. Nice job guys.
Anyway, after all that was taken care of we said our farewells to Mark and Sandra, and that afternoon we made a short drive over to the City of Brotherly Love ... Philadelphia. They have everything that is good there - water ice, Wawa iced tea, the Italian Market, pretzels, fake cheesesteaks, the Mütter Museum, etc ... You'll hear all about it once I get back to the computer and type somthing up for ya, which is hopefully a lot sooner than it took for me to put this trip update out (sorry for lagging in a major way) ...
Thanks again to Mark and Sandra for putting us up while we visited you in D.C., and thanks for taking us up to Baltimore for the day too. You guys were rad, and are totally welcome to visit us over here in Seattle if you ever do some traveling yourselves. I'd love to put you guys up and to show you around. Oh, and thanks for the rad tape sculpture of the longhorn's skull, Mark. It looks rad hanging from our bedroom door, and we've gotten lots of compliments on it too.
Again, all you readers can see a lot of Mark's stuff at xmarkjenkinsx.com, and occasionally here on FecalFace.com. Lemme leave you with a few images of Mark's stuff, and stay tuned for another blog about our summer USA road trip soon.