Finally got a chance to win the Best of Baltimore issue of City Paper. Well-written, funny, exhaustive, exhausting, and a little bit predictable, as usual. Here are my favorites:
Best Gym Locker Room for Naked Confabs: Men's Locker Room at the Stadium Place YMCA: Gym locker rooms are a bit strange, always have been, ever since seventh grade. But at the Stadium Place YMCA things are a little stranger than at other gyms. Any given morning or afternoon, you may hear political conversations, heart-to-heart talks about sexuality and aging, or even on one occasion four men talking about a kid who snuck into the men's locker room and urinated on the sauna heater. It's common enough small talk to pass the time--the kind you'd hear on a porch or at a café, but when everyone is bare-ass naked and spread out over the vast locker room, shouting the conversations to one another, things get a little weird. And unlike other locker rooms where the occasional glance at someone naked is met with both parties calmly clearing their throats and going about their business, at Stadium Place, it's more like nudity is a calling card that admits membership in the locker room banter. We usually stick to our stodgy ways and merely listen to the conversation, our eyes staying focused on the inside of our locker.
I witness this every morning here. It's a much less busy gym than I'm used to working out in, with a lot steadier of a crowd. Often, people say "Hi" to me when I walk in at 5:45 am, or when I step in for my shower at 7:30, and I don't kow them at all. Sometimes, a whole conversation is directed at me - it's someone I know from my professional life (a kid's father, for example) - and they strike up a conversation, and I can't look at them because, well, they're naked.
Best Local Production: The Boys of SyracuseFreelance New York director David Schweizer returned to his native Baltimore last winter and brought with him a bawdy, shtick-rich musical called The Boys From Syracuse, written by George Abbott, scored by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, and choreographed by George Balanchine--names that mean something if you pay attention to Broadway. If not, imagine Baz Luhrmann, Carter Burwell, and Martha Graham getting together to make Cheech and Chong's Nice Dreams and you'll start to understand what's going on. Schweizer amped up the meta, casting a Sesame Street-diverse group of stupidly talented and beautiful men and women, calibrated their brains to be in on the joke but not wink at the audience the whole way through, and mounted one of the most cheeky and entertaining nights of musical theater to hit Baltimore in years.
It takes a lot for me to like a musical, but this one did it for me; it was a lot of fun. I'm not sure if it was any better than Trouble In Mind at the aforementioned Center Stage, but it was still pretty damn good.
Best Restaurant Makeover, Essential: Joe Squared: When it opened, customers had to pretend that its ugliness was cool. Taking over from the last in a succession of unwholesome dive bars, Joe Squared did its best to clean things up, but the central joke--hey, this is a dump!--can only be funny for so long. Now it's nice. Not adorable or anything but finished-looking, intentional, and much brighter and better organized. It's much clearer that Joe Squared is a bona fide restaurant and not just a bar that incidentally has a kitchen. Fortunately for its founding patrons, the changes haven't detracted from the laid-back vibe.
I've enjoyed the Friday Happy Hours here more than ones at Brewer's Art this year. See, I just much prefer the upstairs at Brewer's Art, and that always gets so crowded that we're forced downstairs, and downstairs just isn't the same. And I'm often given free drinks at Joe's place. More advertising for him on my blog won't hurt matters in that regard. It's a great place. Try the mushroom reuben. Tell them I sent you.
In closing, I would have preferred a different winner for Best Blog. I love Baltimore Crime - it's the only blog I read every day at this point, and I love the commentary - but I prefer ones where I can get wrapped in the stories of the life of the writer. Perhaps a Best Personal Blog would have been a good category. I would have voted for Anger Hangover, who has had some really interesting dialogue on her site lately. I'm also really rooting for the Baltimore Sun's Education Blog, Classroom Connections, will start to become a force in this city, despite its dull name (which I believe they are changing). It's good stuff, so far. The more eyes on the head honchoes of North Avenue, as well as what is going on in the classrooms of Baltiomre, the better.
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