Baltimore, MD --August 24 & 25, 2007

I left Washington at four-thirty in the afternoon, passing through forests of leafy green trees.

It was my intention to arrive in downtown Baltimore during commute time, which would make it easy to find people reading at bus stops before they headed off to the suburbs, but Greyhound was running late and by the time we pulled into the station it was already getting dusky. Searching a deserted downtown--it was a Friday--seemed like a dismal prospect.

So, I got a lift from a Ghanian taxi driver who sung the praises of the city (better than New York, he said) and dropped me off at the Baltimore Orioles game. My philosophy: follow the people. Where there are people, there will be readers. And, I was right. I did find a couple.

The hostel where I stayed was in an old house filled with international students on a budget, cooking Ramen in the kitchen. I'd already filled up on ballpark hot dogs.

I was the last one to bed--writing to catch up on blog entries--and the first one to rise, so that I could catch a bus onwards to Wilmington the next morning.

It was difficult to leave without making a commotion. I was on the top bunk and, because the room was dark, I kept running into things. The mattresses and pillows on the beds were covered in loose plastic and rustled noisily while I followed protocol and stripped my bed.

I tiptoed through the rooms, pausing in this one, where they hosted piano recitals.

My throat had that yucky coughy deep acidy feeling to it, my head and shoulders ached. I was exhausted and determined not to get sick. What got me on the road was the prospect of a fatty breakfast when I hit Wilmington. I fantasized about grits and eggs.

I also fantasized about interviewing readers in San Francisco, roaming the city by day and returning to my own home every night to write, to eat food that had simmered in my crockpot all day, to have dinner parties with my friends. But, for now, I was on the road.

I waited for the city bus to take me to the Greyhound station, but my comrades, who drank beer from paper bags, told me the bus wasn't coming so I got in a cab. If I missed the bus, it'd put me in Wilmington too late and I would be able to make it to Philadelphia until the next day which would ruin my plan to visit 48 states--I only had 52 days.

The driver was a stout black man with curly gray hair and was dressed, it looked like, for church in his sweater vest and bright white shirt. The radio was blaring. He sang along with the lyrics in between asking me about my trip.

Charlie don’t eat the meat so we save the bones for him

So you're traveling around the world?

Don’t need no napkins 'cause he don’t eat anything that drips

The meter was broken and he had no change for my twenty, so I gave him a few ones and all the change I had and we called it even.

You've got to save your money if you're going all round the world, he told me.

On the bus, I pulled on the stocking cap I got from my aunt to ward off the air conditioning and slept until I got to Wilmington at ten in the morning, feeling better and better, singing to myself about Charlie's dietary restrictions and dreaming about my grits and eggs....which turned out to be bacon and eggs, and, when I was done with that, kimchee, steamed chard and more kimchee. I love kimchee.

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