Finding Community in Frederick Maryland

In our world where there are reports that 70% of the nation report they are lonely, I have left the Witch City to find people who still value each other’s time. I had been living in Salem for almost 30 years and made over 5,000 friends and had some great times with all of them. It used to be a great walking city where a 10-minute walk would take an hour due to all of the conversations you had on the way. Within the last ten years, that has all changed. Now, four days out of the week my only conversation is while one of the great staff at Jolie Tea Co. pours me my Lapsang Souchong. So I am on the hunt for a town where Barney and Fred still see each other daily, even if they get on each other nerves…

So what happened? Is it the 5am alarm, the hour each way commute, the 6 day work week, or the ease of social contact through social media? What drove us apart and what has taken its place. Is it Netflix binging or video games. Or are people just working, sleeping, and running errands on the one day off they get. Is it the belief we have to spend money to socialize…

So I’m on the hunt. On my latest journey through the south, I stopped off at Frederick MD. Frederick was the home of Francis Scott Key. The ninth president of the United States, John Hanson, lived here. If you will remember there were 14 presidents prior to the forming of the Constitution. John Hancock was the 4th president when he signed the Declaration of Independence. Yes George Washington was not the first, but he did travel through this town during the French and Indian War. During the Revolutionary War, Hessians were garrisoned here to block the crossroads from the Patriots’ usage.   Roger B. Taney was also found here, he was the 5th Superior Court Justice that became infamous for his Dread Scott decision. Also, It was a crossroads during the Civil War with one day having Union troops marching through with the next Confederates. To prevent Confederate sympathies, President Lincoln suspended Habeas Corpus and arrested local politicians. Also, they had a Civil War hospital museum where they treated troops from both sides of the Civil War. Plus, it had many shops on two long streets, Patrick and Market, filled with good people and even greater items for sale.  The first I entered was The Spice & Tea Exchange where Keith made me a very nice Lapsang Souchong blended tea to start off my journey after he gave me a little history of the town and told me about the big social events they hold down on the river filled with music and people.

Now there were many similarities between Salem MA and Frederick MD; except one has the ocean while the other has the Appalachians. Both had a majority of architecture from the 19th century, but I must say Frederick’s shopping community was larger and much more varied. I believe Frederick did have a psychic, but the most magical place was Smoke Signals. A slight throwback to an old headshop from the 70s. There I met Niko, a fellow Thelemite. We had a good conversation on history, Masons, and magic. 93 and 42 to you Niko! They also had their own Record Exchange. Sam who owned the one in Frederick was probably the friendliest and happiest soul I met in town. He had an eclectic and rare selection of some fine punk and obscure Soul and R&B. Many rare vinyl prints I had seen on his shelf. Now Salem has their own Record Exchange as well with Barrence Whitfield and his large soul and his encyclopedic knowledge of music. Maybe Sam while visiting his son in Boston might just one day step in and meet Barrence when the worlds collide…

 

Another strange coincidence was, tunnels. Now nobody I talked to knew if there were any in town or not, but I had seen many signs. There were many service entrances in the sidewalk. Within Salem, these would be locations where they took the roof off the tunnel and opened up a small section in front of the tunnel entrance to the basement. Why make a second hole in your foundation and why waste a great resource. Very similar to them are basement addresses accessible from the sidewalk. They take the roof off the tunnel once more and utilize a staircase to block the tunnel from going the other direction and use the preexisting door from the tunnel into the basement. Plus they had scores of buildings with exterior chimneys. Exterior chimneys were utilized when central chimneys were more economical because it proved a better way to connect a home to a tunnel. The tunnel would enter through the fireplace arch in the basement allowing the tunnel to exit 3 feet to 6 feet within the basement. This alleviated flashing problems and created a draw system up through the flu to provide fresh air for the tunnel system. Frederick was on a river and was a hub on the railroad. Monocacy River runs into the Potomac and leads to the sea. Within Salem, they were used for smuggling to avoid paying duties, the Underground Railroad, and transportation during inclement weather.  A quick search shows no history of smuggling in Frederick, but most smuggling activities do not show up within public records… Some finds I did come across were that Confederate sympathizers would smuggle goods like quinine and clothing to help out the South.  Also, it would be useful for these sympathizers to meet in private once Lincoln started arresting them.

 

Very much like Salem, walking through Frederick was like walking back in time. A rough estimate I would say there were about 20 square blocks of 19th-century brick homes. A majority of them were attached row houses. Outside of old town was modern communities and the usual cluster of strip malls with major outlets with a very extensive series of bus routes to get back and forth. Their transit center had links to Amtrak and Greyhound.

Good tip. While traveling I have found a black membership at Gold’s Gym for $29.99 a month will get you a locker to store a duffel bag, a shower, and a massage bed to take a nap on.

While I was waiting for that bus to get me to Planet Fitness to drop off my duffel, I stopped in at the Curious Iguana where Elna sold me a book to read while I waited for the bus. The Curious Iguana owners are also the owners of the Dancing Bear where I met Kevin who I kept bumping into as I traveled through town. Now the owners Marlene and Tom England give a portion of the store’s sales each year to international non-profits (more than $51,850 as of December 2018), which is quite impressive! So support them so they can support many others. I also found an old The Darkness comic at Brainstorm Comics and Gaming which Brendan sold me. It was an issue my friend Matt Maguire worked on. Matt’s story also appears in our Winter issue of Arkham: Tales from the Flipside. Hopefully Brendan will be able to buy that house!

Later that night I walked up Market Street and found many street performers. The first I played some flute with was Arthur Harrison from The Cassettes on Theremin, Brady Danger on guitar (Instagram @bradydangermusic), and @eltheviolinist on Instagram. Later I played a little with Myle Voorhees on banjo. We might even get him to write a story for Arkham; Tales from the Flipside

 

Alyssa HardThen  I got to hear Alyssa Hard at Cafe-Nola. She originally sat and listened to me play my flute on the steps of an old bank that closed years ago. I owe her a better performance since my amp was dying…but her performance was top notch. I hope she enjoyed some Robin Ella & the CC String Band, I think it would be up her alley along with the Carolina Chocolate Drops. I sort of like this; I got to listen and play music on the street. I’m used to walking into a bar for 30 years to hear music, but here it was outside. I got into some great conversations with Myle about banjo, community, and friends. I got to talk to a lovely songstress and had Arthur teach me a thing or two. Arthur was kind enough also to give me a ride back to Planet Fitness to get my duffel. We talked about history, electronics, music, and the CIA. He probably gave me the best conversation on my journey.

From my questions, it does seem there is a community in Frederick. Keith informed me about the community that comes out for town events down at the river, Sam says he still is able to see his friends weekly, Myle gets to work and play with his, and Arthur just seems to take out his Theremin out and people just gather to say hello. This might just be a town I might have to return to and find a Couchsurfing host to check it out further. They might of found a way to combat the 70% within a metropolitan area. The houses are said to be in the $350,000 range, with a seedy side coming back into vogue with homes around $150,000.On the other hand, those walking through the bar scenes, did seem younger. It would have been a good indicator if a mix aged population walked by to see if people deep in their careers still have time for each other. So who knows, but it is worth a second look.

Maybe Barney and Fred were just around the corner…

 

 

 

A Viking in Baltimore Finds Fleet of Dragon Ships, Tunnels, and Hill Forts…

Hostels and Fudge

Baltimore was a popular travel location while I was a kid. My family stayed in the Inner Harbor several times throughout the years. We would go to the malls and get to our favorite Jelly Beans (root beer, green apple, and cinnamon) from the wall dispensers before Jelly Belly took over the market, fresh roasted cashews, and fudge. There were great shows at the Maryland Science Center to see and I got to see my first person standing on the soapbox claiming the world was going to end in front of the World Trade Center. We even got to stay in the same hotel as the band Krokus…

So I went back. Instead of staying in the Inner Harbor area I got a room in the Cloudbunk hostel in the Charles Neighborhood for a mere $24 a night. The room I shared with 5 others. One of which just showed up once a day just to step in the room and step back out. One was traveling, one was looking for an apartment, and one was here for work. The last just woke us all up in the middle of the night confused about the process. It was in a row house with three floors with their own bathrooms. On the main floor was a large TV and couch, a communal table, and an eat-in kitchen in which we shared foods donated by local companies. The front door locked after 8pm, but there was a back door with a code open 24hrs. Most of the people who gather in these hostels are out looking to meet new people and experiences. Few of us traveled to one of the many art museums in the city together.

The thing I found interesting was behind the building was an alley that ran parallel to the street. It was the service corridor where the garbage was put out and the garages were kept for each building. I grew up with a similar alley in behind my house, but it was cut out in the 20s and left to become overgrown by the time they started building houses in the neighborhood in the 70s with only deer traveling through it. Joseph Parisi, a mobster who controlled the garbage for NYC, had plans to develop a new city within the NJ Pines at the intersection of three railroad lines. Similar to Baltimore, but he only sold a few houses after cutting out all of the roads. One was to a nudist colony.

So when you return to a strange town, you search out the familiar. So I started out with in the Inner Harbor. Across the harbor, I had seen the old Federal Hill fort that reminded me of Fort Pickering in Salem MA. A fort built on Smith Hill during the Civil War. From where I was standing looking at the fort was the USS Constellation.  She was commissioned during the war to help the British attack slave ships leaving Africa to the Confederate states. Up to the point that Lincoln declared the Emancipation Proclamation the British were hemming and hawing which side to support. Prior Laird’s shipyard was producing screw-sloops for the South, one of which, the CSS Alabama, escaped before George Peabody bribed the English Prime Minister to stop the delivery of the other two to the South. Which is strange since he was profiting from the sales of southern cotton from Baltimore to acquire armaments for the South. The Constellation and Alabama both sailed the waters around Africa.

 

 


Then believe it or not, behind me was this sea monster. Next to it was Bubba Shrimp which pumped out out brine and the smell of fresh fish at all hours of the night. I was looking for Forrest to run by…In the same building up to three years ago was the Fudgery. As a kid I got to see it’s opening year watching these singing and dancing fudge chefs bring joy to large crowds singing ‘time to make the fudge’ and handing out free samples all day. The dancing security guard Terry told me of their demise over a dropped bologna sandwich. I got to meet him and his friend, Manuel, after I got done playing some flute in front of the Constellation. The band Dru Hill started at the Fudgery and I missed out hearing them and all the other staff at the Fudgery.

 

 

Then I walked to my right a little toward the Maryland Science Center. A top-notch science museum where I saw a movie prop show years ago with an animated full-size King Kong head and a Ripley model in a cargo lifting exoskeleton fighting the Alien. That night it was closed so I only got to see this monster in the window. So I ventured on and seen the coolest Barnes and Noble, the World Trade Center (without the doomsday preacher), the Domino Sugar plant lit up, and a beached lighthouse. Probably the coolest thing I found was my own dragon ship fleet. What good is a Viking without his own dragon ship fleet?

 

 

The next day I walked around Fellspoint historic district with its railroad tracks and sets. Cobblestones are round and sets are square… In this neighborhood, I had seen many signs of possible smuggling tunnels. Many service entrances and basement dwellings could of been converted sections of the tunnels in the city. George Peabody from Salem frequented this area and he utilized the tunnels in every city in which he lived in. He was a friend of Alexander Bown of Brown’s Wharf in which I passed.  The Horse You Rode In On, the oldest tavern in the country seemed to have signs of tunnels out front. Its location has been a tavern since 1775 and was the last bar Edgar Allan Poe drank in on the night he died. For something a little more spicy, but safer I headed to the Saffron Grill for a mix of Yemeni and Pakistani food. They had the best lamb shawarma Sandwich with a nan wrap which was head and shoulders above any other traditional wrap I ever had. Plus I found Sound Garden celebrating 25 years filled with some really cool choices of music with new and used vinyl. Many musicians played here including Motorhead!

Then as I walked further along the waterfront I found a statue of Frederick Douglass and realized I had walked through his old neighborhood. Douglass left Baltimore for Lynn MA where he ventured to Salem from and met the Remonds who taught him how to speak on the abolitionist circuit. Sarah, the sister, probably gave him his signature haircut. The brother Charles, she coifed his style as well. I also found some homes with exterior chimneys. Exterior chimneys allow easier access for tunnels to enter the basements without any flashing problems and creates a draw system to bring fresh air into the tunnels. Plus I found some very nice views.

As I headed back to the Inner Harbor I passed the National Aquarium and its dolphins. Continuing on I had seen the harbor’s several attempts to create mini wetlands and other ways to clean the water. One was this snail that picked out the garbage of the river as the tide went out.

Then I headed back to the Cloudbunks for a good night’s sleep and took a picture of the garage behind the shelter. Then I left that morning for Frederick, MD, but I need to come back and enjoy the live music scene, the art museums, Poe’s House, and much more. So I might just be continuing my tradition of visiting this city for years to come.

 

Now here is the video of me playing the flute in front of the USS Constellation:

Black Dan; Daniel Webster

Sam the Eagle you Say…

Daniel Webster a character in Sub Rosa.
Daniel Webster. His son marries Stephen White’s daughter and his brother-in-law marries the other daughter. Webster prosecuted innocent men for Stephen White to get away with murdering his uncle. The two would go on to assassinate President Harrison.

Not only is he the basis for the Muppets Sam the Eagle, he was one of the three most powerful senators in America leading up to the Civil War. He was controlled by Stephen White who was the murderer in the real life murder the game Clue is based on.

These two, along with Henry Clay, planned the assassination of President William Harrison in attempts to restore a new national bank. Stephen White lived on the Salem Common. Here Webster would visit and President Andrew Jackson would be expelled for not renewing the Second Bank of the United States Charter.

To find out more book tickets for the Salem Smugglers’ Tour of the historic Salem Common today! Also read Sub Rosa and Salem Secret Underground:The History of the Tunnels in the City
www.salemtunneltour.com
More Than Witches!!!!