So this weekend, I was that guy on the beltway doing 45mph, hazards flashing, with a mattress billowing off the roof like a sail, trying to get it from Point A to Point B. Point B, for us, was IKEA, a full 30 miles or so away from our front porch—Point A. We decided a few weeks ago that the mattress was not for us, and moved it out there for eventual removal. Our 45-day window was rapidly approaching, and Saturday was the first weekend without rain since the beginning of April, so we lashed it to the roof of the Jeep, said a prayer, and set out for the Great Swedish Home Furnishing Wonderland.

Our bondage skills served us well until about halfway, at which point the front of the mattress had lifted six inches off the top of the roof rack and threatened to achieve liftoff. (This was after several hundred cars had passed us, passengers staring with Great Googly-Moogly Eyes at the pterodactyl strapped to our heads.) We pulled over, cinched that mutha down TIGHT, and limped to the IKEA parking lot, holding our breath.

I had been expecting problems trying to return the mattress (they have a no-returns-on-bedding policy, which is code for “no human soil”) as well as the transport problems, but the guy at the counter didn’t blink an eye, counting off the full purchase price in cash and sending me on my way in less than two minutes.

*WHEW*. I don’t know what I’m more relieved about—getting our money back, or simply getting the damn thing there without causing a major traffic accident.

This weekend was also the Maryland Film Festival, a home-brewed Mobtown version of Sundance. Every year they put up flyers and make announcements and we say we’re going to go be Supporters Of The Arts and we never do. Our good friend Sara has been volunteering at the festival for at least the last couple of years, and inviting us to come along with her; this year Jen decided she was actually doing it.

One of this year’s features that caught her eye was a documentary called We Are Arabbers. Arabbers are the fellows who lead a horse-drawn cart around the streets of Baltimore, filled with fresh produce, and sell door to door. At one time there used to be hundreds of them, but in recent years their ranks have dwindled to the single digits. (When I lived on Lakewood Avenue, there was an arabber who would walk our street and yell some kind of unintelligible song about what was on the cart. Because I usually don’t carry cash, I was always unable to buy anything, and I felt bad about that. The visits were infrequent and unpredictable, and apart from one experience, I wasn’t able to take advantage of it.) Aging, a city government that values chain restaurants over its blue-collar history, and pressure from big-box grocery stores have all contributed to the slow demise of the occupation.

The documentary, started sometime seven years ago, is a fascinating look into the history and current state of arabbing (pronounced A-rabbing) through interviews with the remaining men who worked the streets. It’s a fascinating story, and part from some sound and picture quality issues, an excellent film.

After the movie, Sara joined us for some tapas and a cocktail next door. She was leaving to see another film at 7, so we decided to head up the street to the lounge at the Brewer’s Art and have another cocktail on one of the couches. After our first round, when we had put our feet up on the table, smooshed back into the couch, and gotten comfortable by ourselves, we were approached by a well-dressed woman roughly ten years older than us, who asked if we had just begun dating. We held up our wedding rings with puzzled looks. She apologized and asked if she could have the other three people in her group join us on the other empty chairs around the table, explaining that she didn’t want to spoil the quiet mood for us if we were just getting to know one another. We were a little taken aback but also flattered that she bothered to ask, and we offered the extra seats.

It turned out they were two older couples (I’d guess mid-40’s and mid-50’s), well dressed, and obviously looking to unwind a little bit. The six of us easily struck up conversations, and we sat through three more rounds talking about ‘adult’ stuff like favorite restaurants and wine. It turned out they were couples related by marriage, and they were obviously of a social class several floors higher than our own—I would guess either couple could have written a check for our entire net worth without blinking an eye. The fact that we own a house in Catonsville was in our favor, though; luckily, they don’t know how much of a dump it is. Still, they all had a certain Southern graciousness that made the evening interesting and fun—we were invited for cocktails and dessert with them over at the Owl Bar, but had to torpedo that plan when their staff told us the kitchen was closed.

Returning to Catonsville, we realized we were very hungry, so we made a 1AM detour to the Double T Diner, joining the after-prom crowd for breakfast. It reminded me of the days in high school when the Olympic Diner was the only thing in my town to do after midnight; we’d jam six people in a booth and drink coffee until we ran out of money, watching people we knew come and go.

All in all, it was an invigorating, cosmopolitan evening—something Jen and I have been sorely missing in the last six months, and something I’d like to get into the habit of doing more often.

* * *

Yesterday, after dealing with the hangover (you drink vodka tonics for six hours straight and see how your head feels the next morning) I was consumed with yardwork: planting our vegetables and setting up the tables for optimum irrigation (four tomato plants plus three seedlings, two eggplant, two red peppers, two green peppers, and a tray of cucumber I’m hoping to start from seed), nuking the poison ivy, mowing, seeding two bald patches on the lawn, finishing the predrilling in the upstairs bedroom, and starting an illustration for a friend.

Date posted: May 9, 2005 | Filed under general | 2 Comments »

2 Responses to Cosmopolitan Hillbillies.

  1. molly says:

    You drank vodka and tonic at the Brewer’s Art? That’s like drinking Coca-cola in Paris, looking at comic books in Rome and fingering a rosary in Mecca!

  2. I know, I know. But I started out with V-T’s early in the day, and I didn’t want to mix the grape and grain. Besides, Ozzy tends to git me pretty drunk in a hurry.