Sunday, October 5, 2008

Bawlamer, Hon!

Baltimore walk-don't walk sign
(slightly manipulated, at left) and Blogger Ettlin at festival. photos and manipulation by Bonnie J. Schupp

Taking in a festival
on a day as good as it gets

Saturday, on this first weekend of October, was about as perfect as it gets in Baltimore – mostly sunny, temperatures in the low 70s. It was one of the most perfect days ever for the annual Fells Point Fun Festival, which celebrates the city’s oldest surviving neighborhood. More often, it seems, the occasion can be brutally hot or miserably wet. And when you number the crowd in many thousands, you want low 70s. Maybe a little less sunshine, since I recently lost track of my favorite cheap sunglasses.

It was an easy choice among the day’s events. There was also the Michael Phelps parade north of town, and the Michael Phelps welcome-home ceremony and fireworks at Fort McHenry. The fact that Michael Phelps lives in a million-dollar-plus condo in the Fells Point area and wasn’t going to be home – well, we went to Fells Point.

I wouldn’t want to suggest that this town is suffering a bit too much from Phelpsomania, but it’s been hard to escape his domination of the local news media in the lead-up to the summer Olympics, during the Olympics, and now after the Olympics. It’s his rumored purchased of the swimming facility where he trains (and where I was too chicken to jump off the high board back around 1960), or it’s his mother’s return from Beijing to her job as a suburban middle school principal, or it's their endorsement deals (yup, even mom got an endorsement deal – because of the outfits she favored while watching her boy win eight gold medals), and it’s his reunion with his dog, it’s gossipmonger speculation on girlfriends. It just never ends.

Now I admit he’s a big deal, more famous right now than, maybe, Cal Ripken, who as far as I know never performed before a crowd in a skin-tight Speedo. So of course, young teen girls scream for Michael like they used to for Brit rock stars.

My brother was a swimmer in high school, and on the track team, and played JV basketball and football. By the time I got to high school, I had a note excusing me from gym – which was a good thing, since by then my brother was one of the gym teachers there.

But I digress, and return to the fun at Fells Point, where my wife Bonnie Schupp (her photos above) and I managed to find a free parking spot three blocks away and took in the sights, like half a dozen young couples dancing to swing music on an elevated stage in the middle of a street, old Polish ladies selling sausage and potato pancakes outside their even older church, little children squealing with delight on carnival rides like the spinning Dizzy Dragons, vendors selling all manner of clothing, jewelry and artwork, and the flow of legs and feet in the waves of people along the waterfront. (And some of the legs were attached to some very lovely young women, I might add.)

Couldn’t escape politics, of course. There were booths for Obama, Barr, and McCain – the latter scrunched up next to that of an international Buddhist organization whose chapter in a rural prefecture once invited us to speak during a trip across Japan. Republicans, bless their hearts, have never invited me to speak anywhere, and it’s just as well. The important thing to report is that Obama regalia outnumbered McCain regalia; in fact, the Obama booth ran out of buttons and yard signs, although there were plenty of stickers to hand out in lieu of buttons. Of course, Baltimore is about 90 percent Democrat in voter registration.

There was an old lady manning the McCain display, and she was very nice when I said I wished she had a McCain button so I could add it to my collection of losers’ buttons. “Nobody told me he was going to lose,” she retorted.

But McCain was already a loser – in 2000 when, in an inept bid for the Republican nomination, he failed to save the nation from George W. Bush. And that’s a fact. You can look it up.

Obama can’t lose in Maryland – not only because of its notable Democratic majority, but because if he goes down here, his campaign is doomed.

Oh, fudge!

On a lighter note, here’s to good fudge. There was a booth offering free samples, and it was excellent – but we didn’t want to carry chocolate fudge around for two hours, so we didn’t buy a larger quantity. But I found out it's a family business in the Pittsburgh area, which offers online sales. The link: If you’re in the market for some really good stuff, you can look that up, too.


Old friend Rosemary Armao, a journalism professor at Albany, N.Y., whose stops as an editor have included The Baltimore Sun, Sarasota Herald-Trib and South Florida Sun Sentinel, commented on my ‘Great Debate’ entry that my spelling of Hillary Clinton’s name was an L short. Oh L! So I fixed it. Nobody’s poifickt.

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