Sunday 16th November. Pasadena, Maryland, USA

What a relief the last couple of weeks have been! Finally, it's been possible to slow the pace a little and spend a few days in one place from time to time. I think this is more like how the project should be running, but of course with visa restrictions, and so much ground to cover, it's just not always possible. Tomorrow I'm back on the road, staring down the barrel of seven one-night-stays in a row, and also after tomorrow I'm back to hitchhiking. *weather permitting* Over the last two weeks, I've had the pleasure of meeting and sharing in the lives of some wonderful human beings. Amy and her friends in Pittsburgh, Sangeeta and her international-flavoured family in Cleveland, Sergeant Joe and his two families - his two girls at home at home and his partners at work, David and Jeanne and their rapidly growing family in Indianapolis, Tony and his friends in Cincinnatti, and Bonnie and David here in Pasadena, Maryland. Not taking anything away from the great hosts I've had before now, but if you put all the above people in one room... well, you'd have a room full of terrific people. Of course if it was a big room, it would only be half full. And if it was a giant ballroom, it'd seem almost empty. hmmm... where was I?

Bonnie and David horsing around in the gardens of the Visionary Art Museum. We found these strange purple berries growing in the woods. I wanted to eat some and see what happened, but Bonnie wouldn't let me.

This will be my fifth night here at Bonnie and David's. Bonnie and I have been on a couple of walks while David was working, and have managed to empty a few bottles from her stash of Aussie shiraz. I've spent many an hour on the computer, organizing the next stage of travel, and yes, making a very positive start on the 'bestseller'. In spite of this, the three of us have found a lot of time for conversation. I've done a little bit of work and a whole lot of eating. David is an excellent cook, and Bonnie's happy to let him 'wear the apron' *not to mention the pink bathrobe* Bonnie is also accommodating enough to let David watch the boxing on television...as long as he gives her a foot rub at the same time. Last night, she was very fortunate that the light heavyweight fight went the full twelve rounds!

Now Hiring- signwriter! Tug Boats, Baltimore harbour.

Yesterday, we went for a sightseeing drive around Baltimore. We parked by the wharf and wandered around the cobblestoned streets of Fells Point. It was a very charming part of town, but obviously very tourist oriented. Without exaggeration, every second store was a bar, restaurant, or cafe. Those that weren't, were gift stores. David wanted me to get a balanced view of the city, so first we drove through Guilford's leafy avenues, where the average household counts their bedrooms into the double digits. Then we drove to the other part of town. This was something I really didn't expect; Baltimore's Oliver district was row after row of terrace houses with the windows boarded shut. Most had been vandalized to some extent, some appeared to have been broken into. Every here and there, you could see one that was occupied. Cars cruised the littered streets far too slowly. Onlookers stared at us too closely, and the atmosphere was too tense for my liking. This scene went on block after desolate block. David said this is Baltimore's 'excess housing stock', a legacy from the social and economic changes after WWII. The situation has been exacerbated by bum landlords reaping rent from a property without spending anything on maintenance, until finally the place is so grim that the city condemns it. Then the landlord just walks away. While we were stopped at an intersection, a drug deal panned out right in front of our eyes. This area was rotten from the inside out, you could feel it. Sergeant Joe and his crew need to come and sort this shit out. I don't scare too easily, but I wouldn't walk two blocks through that neighbourhood, challenge or no challenge!

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