Short piece written for my professional writing class on literary nonfiction.
Harbor waters lapped at the bronze feet of Roots author Alex Haley, frozen mid-gesture towards intent metal children, submerged at the Annapolis City Dock. Still the sun gleamed against the shining statues and blue skies reflected in the chilly bay. And when you live in central Maryland, a typical response to beautiful weather is to drag someone along with you to downtown Annapolis. And this is what I did to my sister on that particularly sunny and warm Sunday in March. It was typical behavior, on a typical day, but Annapolis proved to be in rare form, just in time for our impromptu visit.
Before I made the left off of the particularly narrow and residential St. Mary’s Street onto Compromise Street, I saw water. At first, it seemed like a puddle, but after a moment it dawned on me that the harbor had flooded. Water pooled around the sunken sides of Compromise reducing the two direction road to a single passable lane. After far too long, a turn was made and we wove our way around to the other side of the harbor, where the Dock Street parking lot was situated. Several inches of water lapped at the wrong side of the dock, and my sister and I sat frozen, staring at the temporary pond in front of us.
“You can make it,” she said with a grin, which I should have seen as a daring smirk. I followed her word and quickly found myself fording the harbor waters, sending miniature waves over the lip of the dock into unsuspecting pedestrians as I inched myself towards a drier part of the parking lot.
My sister and I were ill prepared. Her canvas slippers had twin holes in the big toes and my Top-Siders were new. Beyond the disastrous decisions in footwear, a quick dig through our purses revealed a single quarter to feed to the always hungry meter. Fortune smiled upon us for a glimmering moment with forty-two gloriously free minutes remaining on the timer. We turned around and were faced with a vibrant orange Volkswagen Beetle. With a Mohawk. Which was wrapped in Christmas lights. It was the Shock Top Mobile, promoting the well-known beer in a bundle of orange glory from its perch beside the curb. All while sitting in a puddle of water that could only be passed by a running leap. The Shock Top Mobile was accompanied by the Landshark woodie, a branded Chevy HHR adorned with two surfboards and a large shark fin on top, and trailer adorned with a gleaming gold and red throne. People sitting on outdoor tables at the bars wore green in any way they could, from cheap necklaces to t-shirts and hats. It was enough for me to look at my sister and ask with genuine confusion, “Is it St. Patrick’s Day?”
My sister responded with an eye roll and a sip of her Starbucks, “No.”
Even though it wasn’t St. Patrick’s Day, it was the day of Annapolis’ first ever St. Patrick’s Day Parade. A procession of floats, cars and walkers had worked their way down West Street, around Church Circle and down Main Street to the Harbor. In typical St. Patrick’s Day fashion, sponsored beer cars made an appearance and the after-party started immediately after. Any bar that was open was host. Doors opened wide and patios overflowed with people.
On days like this with lively crowds, it makes sense that four million tourists visit Downtown Annapolis annually. The compact downtown is laced with great food, bars, and shops of all kinds. Beyond the commercial, there are more original structures from the Eighteenth Century than there are anywhere else in the United States, a fact which helps the city stay quaint. When out of view of the State House, it’s easy to forget the complex roads and alleyways, shaded by ancient trees in fenced in yards, are in the capitol of Maryland.
The harbor flood waters didn’t dampen the mood. My sister and I carefully tip-toed through inches of water beside Dock Street Bar and Grille and Armadillo’s where a gaggle of military men sat at a table outside, ankle deep in the grungy water where less than level pavement caused deep pooling around the entrance. They jovially laughed and commended my sister for her bravery in crossing the treacherous puddle.
The military presence is a normal sight in Downtown Annapolis. Midshipmen and officers from the Naval Academy frequent the town during their time off. The dog owners that swarmed the harbor were also typical for a sunny, mild day. Golden retrievers are everywhere, out for socializing and exercise. The shops are more than happy to accommodate, sitting out treats and water dishes for passing dogs. Many stores even have their own mascots, dogs that sit out front or just inside the door to greet guests or beg for ice cream in front of the nearby parlor. Canines of all shapes and sizes will appear for a day out with their owner. And on that warm Sunday, dogs were everywhere.
Despite missing the parade, a distinctly Irish-American feel settled over downtown Annapolis. A fiddler in a newsboy hat played a mix of classical tunes and Irish folk music through a microphone, carrying the lilting notes up and down Main Street. Beer was consumed by the pint, Sunday afternoon be damned. The cultural store, Irish Traditions swarmed with customers desiring blankets woven from real Irish wool and paraphernalia decorated with Celtic Knots. Walking back to our car, my sister and I passed a tall man wearing a kilt and pushing a stroller while his wife walked beside.
While the visiting families and friends blended with locals, my sister and I returned to my car with wet shoes. The boisterous military guys at Armadillo’s were long gone, allowing a young, wheelchair-bound veteran to take their place laughing up a storm with friends while water tickled his wheels.