Come be Entertained by Baltimore's Divine Waters

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Left Brain Versus Right Brain: An E2 Minimeet to Salute Arts and Engineering



When was it?

April 13, 2002 -- For most of the day, depending on who you were.

What happened?

We attended the annual East Coast National Championship Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race, a project overseen by the American Visionary Art Museum. It's an annual hodgepodge of DIY engineering projects decorated with garish art -- Or is it a hodgepodge of DIY art projects enhanced with garish engineering? We never quite decided.

Gorgonzola's WU below covers the race itself rather well.

Who was witness to this debauchery?

But alas, our communication was weak and we failed to all rendezvous at the same time/place. I guess we'll have to remedy that next year by building our own race vehicle!

Where can I go to see pictures and stuff?

For starters, try the AVAM's website for the event (http://www.avam.org/kinetic/index.html). Baltimore's City Paper (http://www.citypaper.com, search for "kinetic sculpture") may have pictures, eventually. Or, if you just want to see the smiling faces of noders, check out Brian's spiffy photos at http://green.bikeshed.org/~green/photos/E2%20Gatherings/4-13-2002%20in%20Baltimore/ .

But this didn't have anything to do with Divine or John Waters!

Wow, you're observant.

Dude, Baltimore was really a weird place!

We get that a lot, hon. Have yourself some Berger Cookies, take a gander at Haussner's, see the site where until recently Memorial Stadium stood, drink some National Bohemian, take in a talkie at the Senator Theater and we'll get back to you on it.

It was really cool meeting more E2 people! I've put up some photos, so far without captions (I'm lazy.): see http://green.bikeshed.org/~green/photos/E2%20Gatherings/4-13-2002%20in%20Baltimore/ (and bug the gods to give us ability to do real links :-P.

Patterson Park is a particularly pleasant place, which made me wish I had brought my bike along to use there. The competitions I was able to make it in time to witness were largely quite entertaining and quite worth marvelling at the creativity of those competitors! I'm a person of quite bad memory, so the best way to see what it is like is to take a look at the photographs; I'll make sure to caption them soon, and see if any of them jog my memory explicitly, but it is quite unfortunate that I wasn't able to show up in the morning and had more of a chance to experience the day.

Biggest highlights for the short time I was there: the pink shirt/yellow and black shorts, scrubs, justice team, and of course, the star of the show, mud!

Next noder meet I'll make sure to arrive some time near the BEGINNING, too! Since I wasn't there the whole day, would anyone like to post a complete list of all the noders who showed up at different times?

I was there, where were you?

I suppose that trying to meet up with people I'd never met before at the event was a bad idea, but it seemed perfectly reasonable at the time. Although I never actually met or was recognized by any noders, I surely bumped into one or more of them, or at least was subject to an inspection by one of their dogs.

Baltimore's Korean War Memorial was deserted when I arrived there around 10:40 AM. Although cones were blocking off lanes of Boston Street to allow passage of the kinetinauts, those same cones had remained on Boston Street for several hours after a triathalon had wrought its havoc on the city's traffic the previous year. "Damn, I've missed everything", I thought.

I briefly considered going to the boat show up the street, but then I turned around and saw several walking chickens over by the Memorial itself. So this had to be the right place. I tried writing "NODERS" in sticks on a concrete curb but this turned out to be a place that the spectators would not visit.

Eventually a crowd gathered over by the park's boat ramp, waiting for the kinetinauts to arrive. It seemed there were almost as many dogs as people. I was sniffed and barked at while one of the chickens insisted I take a cardboard smile on a popsicle stick. All the while I wondered where the mysterious noder gathering was in the crowd. I probably creeped several people out looking at them in the vain hope of impossible recognition.

Before long, someone spotted something moving back up on the street. It was a sort of tandem bicycle with lowerable pontoons and a blue metal drum attatched to the back. These guys were obviousliy in it more for the engineering challenge than artistic expression; they were always the first contestant at every stage of the race I saw. After fifteen minutes, several other entrants had gathered, waiting to enter the Harbor. Eventually, this first bunch was allowed into the water.

  • The leaders were less suited the water than they were to land. Bicycle spokes do not provide suffucient motive power in water, even Baltimore Harbor, and the difference in strength between the cyclists made the craft spin in the water. Eventually they had to pull out their paddles and row around the end of hte wpier and back the hard way. Come to think about it, pretty muich everyone had to resort to paddles.
  • Some Sort of Space-themed thing was next, pontoons and bicycles with a tall boom sporting several spherical Sputniks. Driving was a youngihs man with his fsix-year-old-or-so son.
  • After them came the Philadelphia Dumspter Divers, in a contraption of two wooden pontoons with three bicycles attatched.
  • An entry from Towson State University, sporting a large dragonfly made from a cut-up tent.
  • The Justice Team, a pontoon/bicycle combination driven by ex-Marines, and sporting several American flags, obviously well suited to amphibious activity.
  • "Fifi", a 12-foot pink poodle, a grizzled veteran of previous races.
  • I nearly missed the Stinky Cheese mobile; it was coming out of the water by the time I saw it.

At this point, I heard someone nearby wnder aloud whether someone was going to show up or not. Perhaps this was czeano, the impresario of the nodermeet? Alas, it was not to be. When I explained that I was trying to find people I'd nevert net, I received a curt "No I'm not waiting for anyone." Oh well. I walked across to the other side of the ramp and watched the other contestants:

  • The Hilbilly Ark from North Carolina, several wheelchairs bolted together with brightlyinflatable whiskey barrels for bouyancy. Colorful gewgaws were attatched everywhere. they had to compete for attention with the Baltimore Go-Getters, a marching drum corps that arrived on the scene then.
  • A guy toting a rickshaw carrying a radio-controlled paddlewheel robot that was probably an illegal entry. The rickshaw puller stayed on dry land as he attemtped to maneuver the robot around the end of the pier.
  • A wheeled frog made the only pass in the water, working its way around the struggling robot.
  • "Di-Vine", a bicycle-powered hot tub with a purple trellis canopy sporting bunches of grapes.

The whole venture resembled last year's final of Junkyard Wars. It was at this time that I was recognized by someone! Well, not quite. A conversation with a fairly nice-looking woman (attending with her husband, unfortunately) led us to the astounding conclusion that she had been in the same Catholic grade school class as my brother, nearly 20 years ago. One more entry attempted the water:

  • Oakland Mills High School's entry, a large scorpion on wheels. I remarked aloud that it might not have enough bouyancy but it floated well enough.
  • A large cycling cow on wheels brought up the rear but dared not enter the water. Back up by the street, afraid to even negotiate the embankment, was a sort of wheeled haystack which I saw in several places, but never in motion.

I had enough time invested in the venture to go up to Patterson Park to watch. Meanwhile, I made a detour to print off a copy of my homenode picture, and glue that to the back of my carboard smile. Back up to the park, where I miraculously found a parking spot on Eastern Avenue.

Trouble is, Patterson Park is fairly big, and I had parked near two ongoing Little League games, and nowhere near any kinetic sculpture race. A pvavilion on a hill loked promising, and I headed of fin that direction. About halfway there, I heard screams and cheers coming from across the park. By the time I reached the pavilion (which was clearly a waypoint in the race, as the walking chickens were there, I realized that all of the action was down by the canopy covering the park's ice rink.

After a two-hundred-yard odwnhill walk I was nearing the rink when I heard someone calling "GORGONZOLA! GORGONZOLA!"1 from behind me (Not "Gorgonzola, mind you, my real first name. Still...) A small child ran past and I realized that some sadistic parent had also inflicted the name "Gorgonzola" on their child, who was therefore naturally rebellious and difficult to control. Nothing I could do about that; on to the rink it was.

I went in the gate towards the rink, and was almost at rinkside (I got a brief glance of frogs and poodles gliding around the ice) when chickens began to shoo everyone away from the door, as the kinetinauts had finished that leg of the race and were coming out! At risk of being crushed by the Hillbilly Ark, I managed to find a niche to hide in beside the Justice Team's craft, stowed outside (they must have considered cyciling around and ice rink un-American; who knows?).

When the headless poodle emerged from the rink entrance, I was frightened enough to hightail it back up the hill to the pavilion, where there were refreshments for sale. This part of the course featured a pile of sand that each kinetinaut had to negotiate. The simple, pontoon on wheels was the first to attempt it. Just like everyone, they tried to gather enough momentum to carry them all the way across the sand. Like everyone else (I think; see below), they failed, getting stuck about halfway through and having to push themselves out. At this point I was crowded out from any view of the sand pit. So I headed a little further up the hill towards the Patterson Mansion to see fif altutide would help. This was to no avail, the crowd was too thick. The only view I got of the Marines hittingthe beaches was the tops of their flags. At this point, there was a group onthe hill that was a good candidate for the missing noders. After my first unsuccessful experience. No-one recognized the big J'FERMENTE sticking out of my pocket.

Then came the highlight (at least for me) of the entire event: The mud pit. Not wanting to be crowded out this time, I stationed myself right at the entrance to the mud pit created especially for the race in the semicircular driveway behind the mansion. The Mud Crew had made a large expanse of rather convincing mud: The kinetinauts were sure to have a messy experience.

One by one, the contestants wound their way up the hill to the mud pit. Again, getting a good running start was the most common strategy. It worked for some, like the Frog and Fifi (now sporting a dainty plastic raincoat), but not for others: Sadly, the Hillbilly Ark nearly disintegrated while trying to plow its way through the mud. Lost gewgaws were everywhere, but more vitally, the craft lost a wheel, probably a fatal blow to them. An exception to this strategy was the rickshaw puller, who simply plodded through the mess dragging his robot behind him. Also, the Scorpions tried to simply roll their way through on their wider tires, but got caught against the tarp.

Between attempts at the mud pit, the Mud Crew were busy entertaining us all. Supposedly there to smooth the mud over, they spend more time making it lumpier. One fellow belly-flopped into the must so many times it became tiresome. Things became more entertaining, however, when he lost one of his Birkenstocks in the mud somewhere, delaying the race for a search. The Mud Crew also indulged in several mud fights. This was fine for them, as they had Tyvek suits to protect them. Several mud missles went awry and hit spectators, including yours truly (My homenode picture will show evidence of this briefly).

At this point, the race was supposed to move on to the Museum of Industry for another water segment, but I had run out of time, and also despaired of being spotted by the gathered noders. Someone else willahve to describe the rest of the race to you.

I hope y'all had fun. It was certainly interesting for me.

Update: You can see my left shoulder in Brian Feldman's Image 0309.

I woke up at 7:40 AM on a Saturday morning, for what? Oh, yes, an e2 noder gathering. It was worth it.

Took a taxicab to czeano's building. The building manager made me sit in the lobby which was covered in "no loitering in the lobby" signs. I felt a bit out of place in my straw hat and corduroy jacket, but what they hey? I knew a fun day was ahead. Eventually czeano came in and took me out to the park benches by the pool. Maybe I should've read the directions? :) While waiting, we discussed the cast party of the previous night and his subsequent hangover.

Nearly simultaneously, cerulean and DrummerGrrl showed up. I knew Cerulean from my real life, but we hadn't met DrummerGrrl before. We knew hers was a nodercar, because it was, well, an artcar fit (and designed?) for Burning Man. Now convened, we headed to downtown Baltimore but got highly, well, circuitous. Once we saw the chicken people, it had to be the right place. The right place, if not a little early. We had ample time to discuss czeano's bionic eyes which saw all sorts of things across the harbor. Pshaw. A goodly number of people and dogs were around, but we weren't sure if they were there for the race, as well. We were all pretty hungry, and czeano spied a restaurant, which he described as "The last time I went there, MC Hammer was popular." Of course, we didn't want to go there, becuase then we'd miss the racing enjoyment. Finally, the vehicles arrived for the water test which was really simple: float/row/paddle around the dock and don't crash on the rocks. But after we'd had enough of them, it was restaurant time!

The Bay Cafe is overpriced. Don't bother. Bad service, too. Good things to come out of lunch: the knowledge that some people drink ketchup through a straw--straight from the bottle, DrummerGrrl asking me "How good are you in bed?", brian feldman's call, and leaving. But after lunch, DrummerGrrl had to run off to a Playa del Fuego meeting. Sniffle.

Cerulean, czeano, and I drove up to Patterson State Park where we knew a lot more fun was to be had! We nearly crashed a wedding at the St. Teresa of Hungary church. Instead, we found our way into the ice rink, where they had a high school jazz band playing some standards. That didn't make sense. Behind the boards were hundreds of people, and on the ice... murphy in a Tyvek jumpsuit, ice skates, and chicken feet!!! We hadn't seen him in a while, so we made our way over to his side of the rink, and he promptly changed sides before seeing us. About this time, we figured "Hey, maybe we should make some effort to find other noders..." Using a 3 by 5 piece of cerulean's notebook paper, we had a makeshift sign that read: C!. I had been confused, thinking they were just talking about a C on the paper, wondering "copyleft? C to mean a speed limit?' Not until the ! was affixed did I figure it out. Cut me some slack, I was tired;) Though the jazz band played in the ice rink lobby, somebody had put together a nice mix of Queen, Beastie Boys, and other crowd-inspiring tunes. The giant frog, giant pink poodle, giant cow (with moving legs!), and giant dragonfly followed murphy around the ice and he gave us a big wave and grin when he saw us, which put us in a happy mood. The crowd pushed towards the door and we figured it'd be best to follow suit. In the process I slipped and fell on the ice. In the middle of April. Surreal, whaaat?

We made our way up to the mud pit event. The balcony of the mini-castle held little promise for viewing, so we headed down to the masses. Several minutes and one amusing cell phone call later, we had brian feldman (and his camera:) with us. Hooray! Check out his pix to see my hat and cheek, as well as the mud. Oh, the mud. Children in mud, vehicles stuck in mud, murphy attacking us with mud. The fun didn't stop. Er, wait, it did. And so we got back in our cars, and returned to...

The water! In a different place this time, and with no dock for the boats to hold on to. We had to wait a helluva time, though, so we passed the time by eating, discussing Aftermath nodes, the doctor in his scrubs on the docks, the Coast Guard auxiliary patrol boat, and the rubber motorized dinghy. To keep our attention, a martial arts academy danced in Chinese dragon costumes. Dancers ranged from the age of very young to young-20s. What was cool is that they traded places in the costume via a sort of tag team system. This is also how they switched instruments with each other. We felt a few raindrops but stayed on to see a few vehicles enter the water. murphy had reappeared, much cleaner than we'd previously seen him, and we all hung out on the rocks right next to the entrance ramp. This soon grew boring, as we'd seen the same thing many hours previous. So a group picture was taken. And we parted ways.

Celebrities we thought we saw that fateful day: Jerry Garcia, John Lennon(oops, just Murphy), Bono(oops, just a guy on the dingy), Josef Stalin (oops, just a bust of a police officer), and qeyser(oops, just a guy in the Chinese dragon group). Mistaken identity is a fun game to play in a city.

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