Like I wrote in my previous post, I did other things in Baltimore besides take pictures of cosplayers next to a fountain that has since been closed down. I took a little walk around the downtown area, starting with these police motorcycles parked outside the Baltimore Convention Center.
These street drummers outside the PNC Bank building could be heard throughout the surrounding blocks.
This marker shows where a series of riots took place in Baltimore during the Civil War. Maryland was one of those border states that nearly seceded to the Confederacy until Abraham Lincoln offered a compromise where Maryland could still keep slavery legal in exchange for the state remaining in the U.S. Had Lincoln not done that and Maryland became a Confederate state, Washington, DC would’ve ended up being in the geographically awkward position of being the U.S. capital located inside of the Confederate States of America.
I briefly stepped inside Harborplace but there are so many empty storefronts in both pavilions that I no longer make a special shopping trip there. These days I only go to Harborplace if I’m in the Inner Harbor area for a different reason and I feel the need for some food, drink, or to use the restroom. There are just a few stores left that I felt was worth photographing, such as McCormick World of Flavors.
I also stopped briefly at the giant candy store It’s Sugar, which sold sexy underwear for both men and women made from candy.
It’s Sugar also sold some election-themed stuff like party masks and toilet paper featuring Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. I had sticker shock when I saw that each roll of toilet paper costs $6. (I could buy a 12-pack of toilet paper at Aldi for $1 less than that.)
Like I wrote before, there are a lot of empty store spaces in both Harborplace pavilions. Someone tried to cover one of the spaces with this nice looking ceramic art.
Across the street from Harborplace is The Gallery, which is yet another shopping mall. The Gallery has more stores than Harborplace but most of the stores are chains (such as Game Stop) which already have stores located closer to my home so I don’t really need to drive all the way to Baltimore to shop. The Gallery had this interesting vending machine that I’ve never seen before—it sells rollable flats. That’s right, it’s a vending machine that sells shoes. I thought it was pretty interesting but I don’t know if it’s the sort of thing that will catch on in other shopping malls in the Baltimore-Washington, DC area.
There are a couple of interesting sculptures at the fountain that’s located near the entrance to The Gallery.
Walking north of the Inner Harbor one can find some interesting things to photograph.
I walked along East Baltimore Street until I hit The Block. Historically that area was a place where burlesque performers did their striptease act while comedians performed there as well. By the 1950’s The Block became a full-fledged red light district with strippers who took all of their clothes off replacing the more demure burlesque performers and X-rated movies replacing the comedians. It was and still is the epitome of sleaze. As a child I can remember my father once loaded up the car when some relatives from Ohio came to visit and he gave a driving tour around Baltimore. He drove through The Block, which was lit up at dusk, while my Ohio relatives just oohed and ahhhed. He didn’t stop the car in The Block because even then it was way too sleazy for families to walk around in.
I had a misadventure at The Block when I was 19. I was attending Anne Arundel Community College as a freshman at the time and things between my then-boyfriend and I weren’t going too well. My boyfriend’s best friend, whom I’ll just call “John,” who was also a student at the same college, suggested that the three of us check out The Block. So we all loaded into his car and drove down East Baltimore until we hit that area.
John took us around to a couple of strip bars. The strippers weren’t all that attractive and I remember one of them looking like she weighed at least 250 pounds. We also checked out some peep shows, which were porn movies that were shown in individual booths. Basically you dropped a quarter into this slot and you saw the movie for about a minute or two then it would stop. If you wanted to see more of that same movie, you dropped another quarter, then another quarter, then another until you reached the end of that movie or you’ve had your fill of it (whichever came first).
At the time the legal drinking age was 18 so I drank a few beers and got drunk in the process. I remember the last thing we did was to go into these individual rooms that had a glass partition that was covered with a curtain. There was a phone next to this pay box that asked for a quarter. I picked up the phone receiver, dropped a quarter into the box, and the curtain was drawn to reveal this scantily-clad woman on the other side. I was totally blasted by then and all I could do was laugh hysterically. The woman was pretty patient about seeing this drunken teenage girl just laughing her ass off like a hyena and I think she asked if I was okay and having a good time. The curtain abruptly closed after a couple of minutes and I staggered out of that room.
I was totally hung over the next day. My boyfriend and I went our separate ways, I transferred to the University of Maryland at College Park the following year, and I basically focused more on my studies and campus life in general and less on visiting red light districts. When I was married I think my then-husband may have driven briefly through The Block once or twice on the way to someplace else in Baltimore but I don’t remember.
My devout Roman Catholic grandmother used to tell me that good girls don’t go to The Block. My grandmother is now deceased along with most of my older relatives, with the exception of my mother (who’s currently struggling with multiple sclerosis), so there’s no one around to warn me to not to venture near The Block because I’m a good girl. Heck, I’m divorced so I don’t have to worry about protecting my virtue and innocence anymore since it’s all gone, baby, gone.
I haven’t really explored The Block since my brief misadventure when I was 19 and seeing it now just looks sad. The X-rated movie theaters and peep shows are now gone (thanks in large part to the advent of home video and the Internet). There’s strictly an emphasis on live performances by strippers and selling sex toys. The Block is also way smaller than I recall. (The Wikipedia says that at its height The Block stretched several blocks long. I think I remember The Block being around two or three blocks long when I was there at 19. Nowadays The Block is literally one block long.)
These buildings on the edge of The Block are being renovated into office buildings although, to be honest, I can’t imagine any corporation or medical practice or any kind of straight-laced businesses (like insurance companies or travel agencies) wanting to put its offices next to strip clubs and sex shops. But, then again, Disney did take a risk in New York City when it decided to pour money into renovating the historic New Amsterdam Theater in Times Square, which led to other companies following suit and ultimately pushing out the strip clubs, peep shows, porn theaters, and sex shops. Maybe that’s what Baltimore is hoping: Disney or some other straight-laced company decide to invest in that area while leading other straight-laced businesses to relocate to The Block and ultimately purge the area of its burlesque and porn past. Maybe it’ll happen once the ugly memories of Freddie Gray and the Baltimore Uprising recedes further into the past but that’s going to take a very long time. (LOL!)
Around the corner from The Block is The Grace and Hope Mission. That’s right, it’s a Christian church and/or mission that probably caters to the people who work there. If one considers the fact that Jesus reached out to the prostitutes and other societal outcasts in his day, one can say that The Grace & Hope Mission is really being very Christian by emulating Jesus. If one were to look at the upper left corner of the photograph below, one would see what looks like apartments or condominiums. (The balconies are a definitely giveaway.) I’m not sure if I would even want to live so close to The Block given the fact that it’s a very high crime area. I would be especially afraid to go to or from my apartment/condo at night.
The crown jewel of The Block is the historic Gayety Theater. Not only did burlesque performers like Blaze Starr performed there but comedians like Jackie Gleason and Red Skelton used to have shows there whenever they came to Baltimore. It has a lovely facade that was restored not too long ago.
Today the Gayety houses Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club, which features entertainment that’s a far cry from Jackie Gleason’s comedy routines of yore.
The Hustler Club also has a sex shop that not only features all kinds of sex toys but there are even signs advertising something called “the official pleasure collection” that’s inspired by the controversial Fifty Shades of Grey book trilogy and movie.
I came across something that I didn’t expect to see at The Block. Apparently the Hustler Club had something called “WTF Weekend” that featured Mama June from that controversial TV reality show Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, which was abruptly cancelled by TLC despite its high ratings a few years ago after Mama June left the father of her youngest daughter, Honey Boo Boo, for an old flame. Except it was revealed that this old flame had just finished serving time in prison for child molestation involving a young girl. Worse, before he was arrested and convicted for that molestation, he was accused of sexually abusing Mama June’s oldest daughter, who was a child at the time. Basically Mama June threw away her well-paying job as a reality TV star for hooking up with a convicted child molester despite having minor daughters still living at home (including Honey Boo Boo) while alienating her now-adult oldest daughter in the process. So now Mama June is reduced to making a living by doing live appearances in sleazy places like The Block with Little Sassee Cassee, a two-foot tall woman who’s billed as The World’s Smallest Entertainer. That event had just passed a week before I showed up yet that poster was still up.
The whole area of The Block just looked like a sad shadow of its past self. Unlike my last extended visit at 19, I didn’t even bother going inside any of the buildings because I had a feeling that the interiors would look even sleazier and more depressing than what I saw on the outside. Plus the people who were going inside and outside these buildings just looked like the kind of people I just don’t want to make even small talk with. Some of these people just oozed sleazy vibes on first sight. You’re definitely not going to find anyone like Richard Gere’s suave wealthy character in Pretty Woman. (Hell, I can’t imagine anyone from the 1% venturing anywhere near The Block, especially when they have the money to pay for a high-priced escort service to make house calls.) It was just as well that I didn’t go indoors because I was spared what goes on in these establishments, as described in this article.
Not only did I not bother with entering any of the nightclubs on The Block, I didn’t even bother with entering the few non-sexually oriented businesses either, such as Subway. (Shoot, I don’t even remember any corporate chain fast food places on The Block when I went there at 19.)
The 2 O’Clock Club is one of the few original businesses left on The Block. Blaze Starr got her start as a burlesque performer there and she even owned the place at one point. She sold it and retired from her burlesque career when The Block went from being an area that featured burlesque shows to showing porn movies and peep shows. That place was the site of a brutal murder not too long ago.
I can remember when the neon signs on The Block would especially stand out at night. Given the crime that frequently goes on these days, there is no way in hell I would ever walk in that area at night to see the lights in their full glory, even if I was with other people.
Right where The Block ends is a carry-out place called Mandi Kitchen that serves Halal dishes.
Right next to The Block is a police station. Seriously! Anyone who becomes a crime victim on The Block would only have to walk a few feet to get a police officer for help. It’s been said that the police station is there so the cops can keep a close eye on The Block, although given the crime that still goes on, I can’t say that they are watching that area too closely.
Across the street from the police station is a building that probably had a business that was once a part of The Block. The side edge of this building still says “KS Film Game Room,” even though that business has long since closed.
The building now houses offices of a business that specializes in retirement savings plans.
I have to admire The Block for still tenaciously hanging on when red light districts in other U.S. cities (such as the intersection of 14th & U Streets, N.W. in Washington, DC and Times Square in New York City) have long since fallen to gentrification, home videos, and Internet streaming. But The Block seems like a cancer or AIDS patient who is still alive but the body has dwindled to skin and bones and the patient is mostly bedridden. Only time will tell whether The Block will still be around for the turn of the 22nd century or if it will ultimately be something that one only reads about on the Wikipedia.
I got away from The Block and I walked past the historic Shot Tower. This particular photograph has some very subtle delicate cloud formation in the sky.
I briefly walked into Little Italy but I only walked about a half a block in the area when I felt my feet getting really tired. I managed to stay long enough to admire some of the building facades but I decided that I’m going to have to explore Little Italy another day.
I walked back to the Shot Tower Metro Station and took the subway to Lexington Market. I thought about going inside to get a soda but I arrived 20 minutes late because the building had already closed for the day by then. I ended up taking a photo of the outside before walking to the Lexington Market light rail stop. I took the light rail train out of the city and to North Linthicum, where my car was parked.