Bee-you-tiful Downtown Balmer

December 24, 2007 at 2:25 am (The Easy Chair)

I have a new TV addiction. When cops and crackheads collide and I can watch without the usual front-row seat, (i.e. work) of course I must pay attention.

When the backdrop is Baltimore? Bonus!

I’ve been a John Waters fan since early teenhood. Mother Hubbard’s, the head shop where I hung out as a kid, was Gresham’s gateway to the counterculture. Besides records, they sold posters, comics and a variety of smoking devices, most of which did nothing for the tobacco experience. (My friend Dean once took a bong hit of tobacco on a dare. It’s like swallowing chewing tebacky; just don’t do it.) The guys behind the counter would offer up the occasional shot of brown bag booze as well as underground movie reviews.

When counterman John heard that Desperate Living was coming to the Fifth Avenue Cinema, he insisted I go. He’d seen Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble and Mondo Trasho. “You… will… love… it.” (After conversing for several months, he had me pretty well pegged.) I went, I saw, and a fan was born.

A side effect of watching these films was falling in love with the quirkiness of Baltimore. Mister Waters’ films were always shot on location, using a rag-tag ensemble of local folk. He was doing what I wanted to do, making his own films in his own way, and having a ball doing it. There are worse ways to make a living.

Over time, I’ve found out Baltimore isn’t the fun-loving town it appears to be. Mizelle spent some time at the bus station, and said it made Jerry Springer look upscale. Her take on the locals? Mulleted paint huffers would be a close description.

So we never made the trip back. But I still show my support for the city I’ve never visited. I hate the Indianapolis Colts, although Johnny Unitas and Earl Morrall were faves back in the day, before the team left town in the middle of the night.

Cal Ripken Jr’s Iron Man streak? It started on my 21st birthday, and ended on my friend’s 50th birthday. I watched it, fifth in hand. I videotaped it for him, and it still makes me misty thinking about it.

The Ravens? Back when they were the worst team in the NFL, I bought one of their caps, throwing my support behind the underdog. Despite going 20 quarters without scoring a touchdown, they won the Super Bowl. It seemed a lucky omen, so I still wear the cap on occasion. It’s sitting across the room, the Raven’s eye watching me.

And now, I have a new reason to visit Baltimore. After hearing about it for years from a co-worker, I’ve started watching The Wire. He suggested it when The Sopranos run came to an end. “You need a new TV show to obsess over!”

I think I’ve found it.

While it seems like being at work sometimes, downtown Portland is nothing like the projects of Baltimore. I’m learning how The Game is played. It’s quite fascinating.

I’m getting my money’s worth with Netflix. I’ve got about 15 discs to go. The hour-long bites are perfect for my short attention span viewing habits, the show compelling enough that I’ve watched eight episodes since Friday. The earliest I will see fresh stuff is Wednesday, and it has me climbing the walls like a junkie with no scratch.

Funny thing, I recognized a couple of the names on the credits. Pat Moran? Was that little Joanie Cunningham from Happy Days? Nope. That was Erin.

Then I saw the name Vince Periano, and it all came back to me. He was Lobstra from John Waters early film Multiple Maniacs! For those of you who haven’t seen it, legendary transvestite Divine is raped to death by a giant lobster, played by Vincent Periano.

After watching Cecil B. Demented, I wanted one of those ballcaps with the lobsters on it that said Baltimore Film Commission. I searched the internet for weeks, scoured eBay, but never saw one. If they are not hidden in John Waters’ closet, they are lost forever. (And even if I did find one? The odds of it fitting my giant head are slim to none.)

Vince also worked on Homicide: Life on the Street and The Corner, another grim depiction of life in the grip of white powder and rock.

It’s nice to know Vince could get a decent job after that nasty lobster business.

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