I know I don’t always write fondly about how I grew up in Glen Burnie, Maryland. For years I only went back to that town to visit my parents. But then my father died and my mother’s MS overwhelmed her so much physically that she couldn’t live in my old childhood home so she moved in with other family members in Odenton so my visits there basically stopped. Last summer I discovered that Crabtowne USA had a collection of vintage arcade games and pinball machines from the late 1970’s-circa 1995. Stepping in that particular room was literally like a step back to my teen years when I used to spend plenty of quarters at the arcade. (At that time, nearly every mall and most of the larger shopping centers had a video arcade.)

Lately I’ve been feeling a desire to make a return to Crabtowne USA for the first time in 2015. (I would’ve gone earlier in the year except there were frequently snowstorms and ice storms and generally nasty cold weather.) The day before Memorial Day fell on a Sunday and I was going to go to worship service at my Unitarian Universalist congregation then help teach the local immigrants how to speak English through my congregation’s social action program to help the local immigrant community. That day was the last day of the spring class so I wanted to be there for that occasion. (That class was originally supposed to end earlier than Memorial Day Weekend but we had to cancel two classes in January because there were ice storms that happened two Sundays in a row.)

Usually I bring a bag lunch with me to eat between the end of the Coffee Hour (the socialization time that immediately follows the end of the worship service) and the beginning of the English class because it’s cheaper than eating at one of the nearby restaurants and fast food places. (These days even many of the fast food places charge at least $10 for a full meal.) Normally I would try to find available space in one of the buildings where Sunday school is held to eat lunch (which is easier said than done some weeks because there is always people using the classrooms for things like a book discussion group or a spirituality circle and there are times when I have to go back to the main building where Sunday service was held so I could sit down and eat my lunch). That last Sunday of class the weather was really lovely. It was warm but not too hot and the humidity was low. I decided to go down into the glen to eat my lunch for a change. There were a couple of other people who were also hanging out there so I managed to talk to them. Here’s a photo I took of the glen.

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About half the students showed up (because it was a holiday weekend) but the session went pretty well. When class finally ended at 3:30 p.m., I was ready to go on a trip to Glen Burnie. Not only did I decide to check out Crabtowne USA but there were a few other things I wanted to check out mainly because they were mentioned on Roadside America.

First I want to mention a few things about Glen Burnie. That town is the kind of town that other people tend to sneer mainly because it’s historically a working class town. The two parallel main roads through that town (Ritchie Highway and Crain Highway) are loaded with car dealerships, shopping malls, and shopping centers. If a developer decides to plop yet another shopping center in a previous open wooded area, you won’t get any protests from the locals or any petition drives calling for slow growth because the people there tend to be a bit apathetic compared to—let’s say—Takoma Park.

There is one area in the town’s northeastern part that’s upscale compared to the rest of Glen Burnie. This area is located along Marley Creek and there are all kinds of nice looking bungalows that look quite cozy. If you have enough money, you could even buy a house whose backyard faces Marley Creek so each day you’ll get picturesque views like this next photograph.

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Unfortunately for me I was among the majority of Glen Burnians who lived in a neighborhood that wasn’t located anywhere near a major body of water. (Most of Glen Burnie is like that, with the exception of that one neighborhood.)

This house I wanted to check out wasn’t among the ones that were directly on the banks of Marley Creek (although the creek is located just a few feet away) but it stands out in other ways that led to it being mentioned on Roadside America. When you first arrive at the house, it looks like a normal cozy neighborhood home until you get a look at the front yard.

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Everywhere you look there are mirrored sculptures. When you look on the ground, you see circle reflections similar to what you’d see in a dark nightclub with a disco ball dangling in the middle of the dance floor. (I tried to photograph the effect but, sadly, it didn’t show up on my camera.)

Since all this mirror looking glass sculptural goodness was on someone’s private property, I initially started taking a few photos with the telephoto function “on.” A next door neighbor saw what I was doing and he told me that it’s okay if I enter the person’s yard and take pictures because the owner doesn’t mind. I saw that the front gate was open so I took the neighbor’s advice and let myself in. The homeowner didn’t emerge. (In fact, I don’t even know if the person was even home at the time.) I quickly saw what the neighbor meant when he encouraged me to let myself in the front yard. The yard is an eclectic mix of mirrors, embedded colored lights in the bushes, and some gorgeous landscaping. Everywhere I went was a total burst of reflection and color.

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It’s definitely worth the trip if you’re ever in Glen Burnie. The neighbor was right about his advice—you need to actually be in the yard in order to get a full sense of what this yard is like. My only advice would be to enter the yard only if the front gate is open because it is still private property. (For the address and directions, visit the Roadside America site.)

After that first visit, I continued on to another place that’s also mentioned on the Roadside America site. It’s known as the Tiny Church for Geese and, like the mirror yard, this one is also located on private property. It’s literally one of those “blink and you’ll miss it” kind of attractions.

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It’s mostly hidden behind a hedge. Since this one is on private property and there were no indications that it’s opened to the general public, I basically used the telephoto feature on my smartphone.

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It looks like the church is in the middle of this island with a moat surrounding it. There is a covered bridge leading to and from the island although if you were a goose or some other bird, you would probably just use your wings instead.

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While I wasn’t able to get a closer look at the structures, the church looked like it would come up to my waist while the covered bridge is a bit shorter.

The only warning I would give about this place is that it’s located on a street that has a very narrow shoulder that barely fits a regular sized four-door passenger car. Also, Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard tends to be traffic-heavy at times so be careful when exiting out the driver’s side of the car. For the address and directions, visit the Roadside America site.

I went on to Crabtowne USA.

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I noticed that the outside of the building has been painted in a different color since my last visit last year. (It used to have a white exterior but it’s now light gray.)

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And there are also a few new promotional posters in the windows.

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There was also a crab statue at the front of the building that I hadn’t seen before.

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I sat at the front counter while taking a close look at the interiors.

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At one point I had to use the bathroom that was near the counter. I was impressed with the bathroom’s decor.

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I especially liked the fact that someone took an old wooden door and reused it as a countertop. Great example of recycling in action.

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I ordered a soft shell crab sandwich and a side order of french fries for dinner. It was very delicious!

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After dinner I made my way over to the arcade. It was still the same as before.

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After I played for a while, I was running low on quarters so I decided to treat myself to dessert. I headed over to Ann’s Dari-Creme, which has been a Glen Burnie institution for decades. The family-owned restaurant specializes in just two things: foot-long hot dogs and ice cream.

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The interior of the place is very small. While there are a few stools where customers can eat, they can frequently get crowded by people waiting for their orders behind them. This is why I have never eaten inside and I only consider eating there if the weather is nice.

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I ordered a chocolate milk shake and it is just as good as my previous trips there.

I finished my trip to Glen Burnie with one final visit to a place that’s also mentioned on Roadside America. This place is located near the neighborhood where I grew up in but this building wasn’t built until long after I left Glen Burnie for good. It’s a dental office with a twist.

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There’s a giant sculpture on the rooftop.

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Roadside America calls it the Giant Rotted Molar Sculpture but, to me, it looks more like a volcano with flowing lava. I can remember when this building first opened it also included an ice cream parlor called Dino-Bites (or something like it) so I assumed that it was a volcano since many dinosaurs were buried under lava thousands of years ago. Even back then there was a dentist office, which I thought was an odd pairing. (Mainly getting some ice cream followed by getting your teeth cleaned and examined.) I’ve driven past this building numerous times over the years and I finally got around to taking a picture of it.

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That’s it for my trip to Glen Burnie! I have to say that even though I enjoyed driving around and checking out the sights, I have zero inclination to move back there. But I will probably continue to visit from time to time as long as Crabtowne USA still has those vintage video arcade games and pinball machines. (LOL!)

http://www.nablopomo.com

UPDATE (December 23, 2015): Here’s some potentially devastating news regarding the church and bridge that were built big enough for geese.

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