An unlikely kingdom

Baltimore of the same

Blazed by a fantasmatic sunset, we landed in Baltimore with eyes full of sleeplessness. A grumpy cab-driver apparently untouched by the all-around Christmas excitement dropped us off at the Sidebar Tavern, famous for being the “punk bar that refuses uptown”, remaining the only place for live music downtown (which in the US, is commonly synonym for “cultural wasteland of commercial high-rises, maze of grey bank buildings and large deserted sidewalks”. All the cool venues are now uptown, which is understandable, because people actually live there. Sandwiched between an extra-weird strip of shady strip clubs and other video-mega-porn-pizza hubs and closed, empty and ugly towers blocking the last rays of sunset, the Sidebar Tavern was an unlikely sight indeed. Not much to mention about the show, except for some mild heckling and a good size crowd, alas going thinner as it was getting late: it was finals week for a lot of students apparently, but also people came to listen to their local friends’s set and few bothered to stick around and listen to this unknown Frenchman, understandable but unforgivable! We stayed in the pleasant hood of Hampden, swarming with antique stores. One stale burrito and an altercation between a public bus driver and a coked-up passenger further down the road, we were off to the unlikely tiniest state of Delaware.

Wilmington, Delawhere?

Dreary doom of Delaware…Funny that the lowest point of the tour should happen right in the middle of it, as if predicted by a classic arc of natural progression. Before laying down the crapola, I should warn that there’s a happy end: it all went uphill from here, as it could have been foreseen as well. First of all, we knew we were in for a trip when until the day of, none of all the Couchsurfing hosts had answered our requests, first time the otherwise-amazing community failed me! To spice up this initial state of stress, we naïvely followed the ridiculous Googlemaps “Public Transit” directions to the venue, taking a train from the Greyhound station and stopping in the most middle of the most nowhere I had ever encountered. Picture this: we’re the only ones coming down the already-poorly packed train, a thick mist is flying off a few inches from the grass, a few cars are scattered in a gloomy parking lot, a silhouette is yelling in the distance (at us? at itself?), sirens go off blaring in the near dark resembling wolves’ howling their welcome at us, it’s pitch black, there is no sign whatsoever to tell us where what is, the backpack straps are painfully digging in our shoulder blades. This country is definitely not optimized for people who don’t own cars and who have never been there before. We then walked through a semi-forest/semi-suburb (there was no sidewalk of course, who would ever walk there?) in order to get to a big road consisting of a classic line-up of junk food chains, grim supermarkets, somber walk-in clinics…

We had an hour walk in front of us, and ô miracle, we randomly came across a shopping cart that was chilling across a high school wall on our day down the wretched commercial road, which fit most of our burden and offered much-appreciated relief for our suffering backs and exhausted minds. There was something quite eerie about pushing a squeaky cart full of luggage through this endless queue of burger joints. When the firefighters’ christmas parade popped out of nowhere, with their unrehearsed and cacophonic symphony of strident sounds and elaborate light show, it was the peak of total random, our point of entrance into the kingdom of extreme unlikeliness. Santa Claus waved at us from the top of a truck and I was hit with one of those strong and bold “What am I doing here?” moments.

The beaten-down and spooky rock/heavy metal club was finally reached after tricky parts of handling the cart down steep hills through crazy cracked-sidewalks. The combination of untrained cart-pushers in a pedestrian-hostile environment was a dangerous cocktail for sure, but after buckets of back-sweat and cheerful driving, we saw the Mojo 13 sign in the distance and exhaled a sigh of extreme body relief. But that was just the end of the first stage of bad surprises… The creepy decoration involved badly drawn sort-of-sexy women, scary-as-hell clowns and circus monkeys, all in all doing a great job at making you feel uneasy the whole time you’re surrounded by them. The booker/bartender was no less than a jerkface and thought that giving me free coke was a fair compensation to my show instead of the money talked about beforehand. The sound guy saved my weary soul that night by being dedicated to giving me the best sound. The rather irritating night in this gross dive bar in disgusting suburbia-land ended well when we went from stranded to saved, thanks to Tim’s (awesome bass player) kind invitation to put his up in his Newark home. I have to state the the headlining band was the worst band I had ever heard in my short life, cumulating musical bad-taste and assholeness in a highly dangerous and inflaming mix, grinding my gears for good after all these troubled trips. A trip to Wawa to get a sandwich wrap wrapped up this sore night out, and we had fun chosing our toppings for our sandwich using a digital screen at 3 am.

Indianapolis is calling for more adventures now, but you shall soon here about our Midwest joys with stories from our stays in Pittsburgh, Columbus and Cincinnati very soon! Stay tuned. Stay hydrated. Don’t drink and drive.

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