September 4 marked the start of the annual Labor Day holiday weekend. I was feeling kind of stressed out worrying about the future (not only my future but the future of this country as well but that’s a topic for another rant). That day I decided to take it easy and check out a few things that I’ve always wanted to check out.

For many years, whenever I made one of my infrequent visits to Lexington Market in Baltimore, I would make sure to hit two stalls. One was Berger, which makes the famous Berger Cookies. The other was Rheb’s Candies. Both are Baltimore institutions and their products are all made locally. About a couple of years ago I happened to show up at Lexington Market. I found Berger as usual but when I tried looking for Rheb’s Candies, I looked and I looked but I couldn’t find the stall. At first I thought Rheb’s had switched stalls so I proceeded to look around at nearly every single stall in Lexington Market. I didn’t find Rheb’s. I later looked online and I learned that Rheb’s decided to close the Lexington Market stall and, instead, just stick with doing business in its main location in southwestern Baltimore.

I had never visited the other Rheb’s location because I usually tended to make my purchases at Lexington Market. I especially became interested in visiting that location when I looked it up on the map and I made this discovery: Rheb’s is located near my old Baltimore neighborhood. That’s the one I lived in from the time I was born until I was five, when my family moved to Glen Burnie and my life really changed (and not always for the better—see this entry, this entry, and this entry).

So I became more interested in visiting the area where Rheb’s is located for many months but I kept on putting it off and putting it off. In the meantime I recently found something else in Baltimore that I wanted to check out (that had nothing to do with Rheb’s or my old neighborhood). Finally I decided that the Friday before Labor Day would be the perfect opportunity for me to check out all of the Baltimore locations that I wanted to check out since things would be slow anyway.

So I first drove to Rheb’s Candies, which is literally located in the shadow of St. Agnes Hospital. I can understand why Rheb’s is in that location—they can easily capture those who are looking for gifts for their hospitalized friends and loved ones. It’s located in a cute cottage-like structure.

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The next photo shows the main reason why Rheb’s is such a popular institution in Baltimore. And, yes, their candies taste just as good as they look.

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I basically purchased a quarter pound of coconut kisses (which you can see in the above photo) and a small bag of dark chocolate covered pretzels.

Afterwards I got back in my car so I can check out my old neighborhood. When I was born my family lived in an apartment on Yale Avenue.

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All I remember is that the apartment building we lived in seemed to be folded in half from the outside. I found two apartment buildings that came the closest to my memories. Unfortunately I don’t remember the exact address where we lived so I’m going to post both photos here.

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Given all the horrible news I’ve read about Baltimore over the last several months, I half-expected something that looked like a bombed-out wreck similar to the times I looked up Johnny Eck’s childhood home and walked down Pennsylvania Avenue from Mondawmin Mall to the intersection with North Avenue just one week after the riots that broke out in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death. But, as I drove up and down Yale Avenue, I was pleasantly surprised. The neighborhood is clean and tidy. I didn’t see any boarded up houses or broken beer bottles in the curb. In fact, my old neighborhood looks more suburban than the other parts of Baltimore I’ve been to. Here are a few photos that show how clean and tidy Yale Avenue really is.

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And those photos are just the tips of the iceberg. Most of the homes are just like the ones in the above two photos. Just visiting Yale Avenue for the first time in literally decades brought back all kinds of memories. Like the times when my grandmother who lived with us would watch me during the weekday while both my parents worked. She would frequently take me to a nearby playground. On special occasions she would walk further to this pharmacy that had a sit-down lunch counter with a soda fountain and she would buy me a soda.

I remember after we moved to Glen Burnie and it was quite a shock that the developers had built houses with no playgrounds. (My parents had to install a swing set with a sliding board in the backyard to make up for it. There would eventually be public playgrounds but from where I lived I had to walk at least 15 minutes in order to reach it. Or sneak over to a nearby apartment complex that had a playground set but, technically, that was limited to children of the apartment residents but that rule was never enforced.) It was also a shock that there was no nearby place to walk to where one could buy a soda. I remember my grandmother expressing how down she felt about the new home for many years after the move whenever my parents were at work (she had previously spent her entire life in Baltimore where she never needed to learn how to drive a car because she was always able to either walk or take the bus). A now-defunct High’s convenience store was opened in our neighborhood a few years later but there were no sit-down lunch counters like that pharmacy in Baltimore (like all convenience stores, this one was basically “grab and go”) so my grandmother never walked there. She basically stayed home while venturing out only when my mother was driving her to the local mall or to a doctor’s appointment or to a local restaurant.

Well, anyway, I was starting to feel hungry for lunch so I decided to drive off to my next destination in Baltimore. This time I drove up to the Station North Arts District (which I’m well familiar with having gone to a few Artscapes as well as being a semi-regular at the Baltimore chapter of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School that’s held at The Wind-Up Space). As I parked my car and walked around the neighborhood I noticed a few things that I hadn’t noticed before on previous trips.

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I didn’t do much walking because the weather was very hot and humid (the temperature reached the early 90’s). Instead I walked to the air conditioned comfort of the Station North Arts Cafe Gallery. I hadn’t eaten there in a year mainly because that place is only opened for breakfast and lunch and I usually reach the area at a time when the place is closed. It’s a really nice and homey place with wonderful home-cooked meals and funky decor. Here are just a few samples of the funky decor.

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After lunch I walked around the area a little bit more on my way to the place that I really wanted to visit. I discovered this really cool window display for a place called BAMF Cafe. The outside signs makes it look like that it’s more than just a cafe—the signs listed books, action figures, and movies among the offerings. With that cool window (featuring a Dalek, Batman, and Star Wars among others), I really wanted to check it out. Sadly I discovered that the door was locked. There were no hours posted. I also don’t recall seeing a place like this before and there’s a reason for this, according to this article: It’s a brand new place that has just recently opened. I’m going to make a note of trying this place at a later date in the hopes that I can get inside and see it because it looks potentially wonderful.

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I finally reached the place that I wanted to check out called Made in Baltimore. I first discovered this place the last time I went to Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School at The Wind-Up Space next door but it was closed that time because I was there on a Monday night and it’s only opened on the weekends.

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I found that it’s a pop-up shop that specializes in selling items handmade by local artisans. That store was full of really nice stuff.

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But there were some items that weren’t for sale but were simply there for display. I saw this 3D printed bust of Edgar Allan Poe and I suddenly remembered a few months ago when I saw a notice on Facebook about a crowdsourced project where the organizers were looking for people who own 3D printers to help print the Poe bust. I remember writing about that project in this blog back in May. I was amazed that it was finished that quickly.

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This project was done by We The Builders, the same people who did similar crowdsourced busts of George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. I was really glad that I made the effort to visit that shop because I got a chance to see the Poe bust in all of its glory.

After my visit to that store, I decided to drive south on St. Paul Avenue (Route 2) all the way to Brooklyn and the northern area of Glen Burnie. I had hoped to get a glimpse of Madonna Girl Dale (previously known as Britney Girl Dale and Ke$ha Girl Dale) walking down Ritchie Highway just like I did last summer when I found out that someone like her existed for the first time. Unlike last summer, I wasn’t lucky on this trip. (I later learned via Facebook that she had decided to take a trip down to North Carolina for the holiday weekend.)

So I continued to drive down Ritchie Highway until I was in Glen Burnie. I knew I was in Glen Burnie when I saw the overdeveloped areas complete with shopping centers (filled with chain stores), shopping malls, and automotive dealerships.  This next photo exemplifies the tackiness of Glen Burnie with a giant inflatable balloon shaped like a purple gorilla (!) wearing yellow sunglasses (!!) and yellow swimming trunks (!!!).

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So my effort to find Madonna Girl Dale was a bust but, fortunately, I packed something else just so I can achieve something that I’ve always wanted to do. Here’s some background. Near the development where I lived (from ages 5-19 then again from the time I graduated college at 22 until I got married the following year at 23) there is the Doll Motel. It’s a pretty small motel with perfectly manicured hedges. It was there when my family first moved to the area, it’s still there now, and I’m sure that it’ll probably be still around long after I’m dead and buried. It was the place where my future ex-husband’s father and step-mother stayed the weekend of our wedding because it was the one place that was within walking distance of my parents’ home (where the wedding took place). We scheduled the wedding late Saturday afternoon but my husband’s step-mother was an Orthodox Jew while his father converted to the faith in order to marry her and traditional Orthodox Jewish law forbids driving cars on the Sabbath. (All of the other wedding guests from out of town stayed at the Red Roof Inn near Baltimore-Washington International Airport because it was a short driving distance to my parents’ home.) They basically walked to my parents’ home for the wedding then hitched a ride back to the motel from another wedding guest with a car after sunset.

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I took some closeup shots of some of the motel including the lawn decorations on the property. (Some of them are classical-style artistic nudes so they are sort of NSFW-ish if you have a boss who gets uncomfortable at the sight of bare breasts and buttocks.)

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The outside of this place looks practically unchanged from the years when I lived in Glen Burnie. But the area surrounding it has undergone this change and it’s not for the better. When I lived in the area I can recall that there was a wide amount of open space to the sides and back of the Doll Motel. It was all grass. Granted it wasn’t much of a view but it provided some open space that was restful on the eyes. All that has changed. The left side of the motel has this brand-new housing development that was mainly townhouses (or apartments—I can’t remember off-hand). The right side of the motel has a 7-Eleven/gas station combination. But here’s the kicker: There is a carwash that literally abuts the motel’s back property.

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Just look through one of the car wash bays and you can see the manicured bushes that border what little of the backyard that the motel has left. Anyone who has those rooms with windows facing the back can look outside and see the carwash close by.

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Well, anyway, I decided to do the one thing that I had wanted to try for years—bring one of my dolls and pose it next to the Doll Motel sign. That’s right, a doll next to the Doll Motel. I brought my new interactive My Friend Cayla Doll to this photoshoot. Here are a few shots of the doll at the Doll Motel.

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The family who owns the Doll Motel (yes, it is a locally family-owned business) also runs another establishment just down the street known as the Doll Furnished Apartments. These apartments are fully furnished but they are meant for people who are going to stay in the area longer than a week or two (such as those who have recently moved to the area) but want something with an actual functioning kitchen and other amenities that a tiny apartment might have. It’s similar in concept to the Residence at Mariott hotels where it’s meant for people who are going to be there for a while but will eventually move into something more permanent or return home. I can remember my family used to frequently drive past the Doll Furnished Apartments but this is the first time I’ve actually stopped there. The outside looks really nice and classy.

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Just because the name of the place is the Doll Furnished Apartments, I decided to pose a shot of My Friend Cayla doll next to that sign as well.

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I finally arrived at Crabtowne USA. It’s the seafood restaurant that has a huge collection of vintage pinball and arcade games spanning from circa 1978-1995. Ever since I discovered that fact last summer (on the same trip as where I found out that there was such a person as Madonna Girl Dale), I’ve been going back to my old hometown periodically just so I can play the games. Sure, I have a bunch of the classic arcade games on collections for both the Playstation 2 and Nintendo Wii but it’s still not quite the same. At Crabtowne USA I can play the arcade games in an actual vintage arcade cabinet with the original joysticks and buttons. On top of it, while the modern consoles can do a decent job of replicating the old arcade games, there have been numerous attempts to try to replicate an average pinball game as a computer video game. I’ve tried the digital versions of pinball machines and I find them sorely lacking. You don’t get to press the buttons that results in hearing the flippers flipping. You also don’t get the feeling of the ball sliding down the hole (that ends a round) like you would in a real pinball machine. To be blunt, I’d rather go without playing pinball for the rest of my life than play those digital travesties. That’s why I’m totally in my glory whenever I see real pinball machines because they aren’t as common as they were back in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

So whenever I’m in Crabtowne USA, I’m basically reliving my youth. I also like their seafood menu. With crab season coming to an end soon, I decided to eat one more crab meal at Crabtowne USA. I picked the soft shell crab sandwich and it was good. I also love their fries. I may make one more trip to Crabtowne sometime before 2015 ends but it’ll probably to play the arcade games only.

Among the vintage machines I played was a pinball machine called Cyclone. This one just screams 1980’s for just one reason.

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The clue is on the back art where one learns the name of the game and the scores are tallied.

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There riding the front of that scary looking rollercoaster are none other than President Ronald Reagan (who has managed to keep his cowlick hairstyle mostly in place) seated next to First Lady Nancy Reagan wearing a “SAY NO TO DRUGS” t-shirt.

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My last visit was to the Southgate Shopping Center. In my time that was one of the few places I could walk to on foot (which I didn’t do too often because it was at least a 30-minute walk). There was once a Carvel’s Ice Cream Parlor (which was the only Kosher certified restaurant in Glen Burnie—I still remember seeing that certificate on display when I was kid and I thought it was a novelty since I hadn’t seen anything like that anywhere else in that town). A barber shop now occupies the space where Carvel’s used to be.

I was intrigued when, between the roof signs that read “BARBER” and “LIQUOR” there was one that was spelled “COMIX.” I thought that it meant that there was a comic book store in the corner space that’s between the barbershop and the liquor store.

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But, no, in the space where a comic book store should be (according to the roof sign), there was a sign that denoted a place where you can purchase insurance.

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I looked elsewhere throughout the same shopping center and there was no comic book store located anywhere. It looks like someone forgot to update the shopping center’s rooftop signs. As a consolation I decided to briefly check out the liquor store. It was one where my family used to go to whenever they wanted to purchase alcohol—especially if it was something for a special occasion (like Thanksgiving). Sometimes I used to tag along with them (especially if they were planning on stopping at Carvel’s for some ice cream immediately afterwards).

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Every time I went to that store with my parents, I would sneak over to the novelty aisle while they were busy picking out what booze they wanted to purchase just so I can laugh at the latest items on sale. I remember that this liquor store used to have a novelty aisle that was full of, shall we say, novelties that weren’t for kids. Some of them were raunchy. I remember there was one plastic squirting device shaped like an outhouse where you were supposed to to fill with water in a special hidden compartment. Once filled, you would encourage someone to open the outhouse door, which reveals a boy who’s naked from the waist down. The boy turns around and water squirts out of his exposed penis at the practical joke victim. I used to open the outhouse door in the store to see the naked boy without having to get wet (since you weren’t supposed to fill it with water until after you buy it).

Others used ethnic humor, which is something that is now about as popular as cancer or terrorism. One I remember was a box was marked “Polish Hand Gun.” You open the box and you’d see a gun (which was a fake) with the barrel twisted backwards so it looked like anyone who shot any bullet out of that gun ultimately shot him/herself. (Yeah, “Dumb Pollock” jokes were the rage in Glen Burnie when I was growing up.)

When I looked up at the liquor store window I saw this sign that said “GLEN BURNIE PARTY H.Q.”

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I was curious to see whether the liquor store still had that area full of naughty novelty items. I entered it. I hadn’t been inside for so many years but the interior still looked the same as my childhood memories. I started to look on the shelves for the novelties only to find that there weren’t any. I looked all over the store and all I saw were various types of alcoholic bottles. It looked like the liquor store had done away with its novelties. I can understand why they would get rid of the ones that were ethnic jokes since they have pretty much fallen out of favor with most people these days because, to be honest, most of them were pretty demeaning to the ethnic group that was targeted. But it’s too bad they didn’t keep the ones that were simply raunchy but didn’t make fun of any ethnic groups (like the squirting half-naked boy in the outhouse). Oh well. Times change and that’s that.

After my visit to that liquor store, I basically headed home where I rested and prepared for the upcoming Labor Day holiday weekend.

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