When I landed in Baltimore this past Friday night, I was excited for a number of reasons. First, I was thrilled to actually get a weekend of real autumn weather, which doesn’t arrive in central Texas until about December and only lasts three weeks. For me, that is by far the worst part about living in Austin. I’m not made for the scorching Texas climate. I’m frail, white, and descended from Irishmen who clearly spent a lot of time in pubs darker than their livers. I’m pretty sure a stranger once took a picture of me swimming at the old Barton Springs swimming hole and submitted it to a “Ghosts of Texas” website. What I am built for, however, is 50-degree weather and sweaters. My sweater game is downright sexual. My wool makes bitches drool. My knit gets ‘em wet. They see my cashmere and they need a pap smear. Or wait, no. That means I have HPV. Scratch that last one. The point is that autumn is my shit.
I was also excited because I was going to be spending Friday and Saturday night at the University of Maryland, which meant not only a weekend at a major state school I had never visited before, but on Halloween weekend, no less. “Fuck and yes please,” thought Thursday Rob, with his adorably eager Maryland naiveté and his simple Midwestern assumptions about a man’s pizza being sacred property.
Two days later I was on my way back to Baltimore to fly from BMI to Syracuse, wondering, “Who the fuck were those people?” They were Terps. They were Marylanders. They were really fun, but they were also kind of assholes.
I’d be remiss if I did not explain that most of the Maryland kids I met were cool in and of themselves. My conflicted impression of Maryland is spawned in large part from four individual, shitty, and wildly unnecessary occurrences throughout the weekend. I wouldn’t normally hold a few weird, off-putting instances against an entire school or region, though. The thing is, when talking to the locals about what had happened, they all basically (or literally) responded with, “That’s par for the course.” This was all pretty standard stuff to them, apparently, and furthermore, they were complacent about it. With a shrug and a laugh they were telling me, “Yeah sometimes your pizza gets shamelessly stolen, sometimes you’ve gotta stop two dudes with tat sleeves and no high school diploma from sexually assaulting a crippled girl. Welcome to Maryland. Try the crab cakes.”
It all began on Friday night, after the bars had emptied out. TFM’s video director and I were looking to grab drunk food after an evening of gin and tonics, shots, limited mobility, and rampant personal space violation at Bentley’s. To be fair, that happens at most college bars, so we didn’t exactly mind. It was a warm (human) blanket of nostalgia. We had a good time. After we left Bentley’s, we saw a (we’d soon find out aptly named) pizza place called Ratsie’s, and since the place was packed with people we figured it had to be at least okay, and by “okay” I mean “acceptable food for two drunks who had spent the flight in and entire evening aggressively dulling their senses.”
At this point, we were both pretty far gone, which probably made us ideal targets for the pizza thieves lurking in the shadows. I ordered a pizza and we sat down at a table to wait. My name was called and my partner in being the victim of a crime headed to the counter to grab it. The only problem was, it was gone. We hadn’t disregarded it. We hadn’t forgotten about it. It was just gone before we could even get to the counter. Apparently we had about as much right to our pizza as a crowd member at a sporting event does to a t-shirt fired out of a cannon. It’s only yours if you position, jump, and elbow your way to it first.
We told the Ratsie’s employees what happened and asked for a new pizza. While I can’t remember the exact words exchanged, they pretty much told us, “Tough shit! Go fuck yourselves! MARYLAND MOTHERFUCKERS!”
The next day we proceeded to tell a few people about this ridiculous story. I wasn’t hoping for any particular type of reaction – I personally thought it was annoying but funny. I most certainly wasn’t expecting everyone to tell me that this was normal, though. Apparently you have to watch your pizza in College Park like you have to watch your ass in prison. Keep it locked up, or someone else is going to get all up in it.
Saturday, after a long day of filming and interviewing for the upcoming movie “The Wedding Ringer” (more on that in a later piece) the TFM director and I stopped by some dive liquor store on the way to a pregame before hitting the town again. I grabbed two twelve packs of Yuengling because when I’m on the east coast I make it a mission of mine to fill my body with as much of this glorious but depressingly distributed beer (it’s not available in Texas) as possible. I could be heading east to participate in a friend’s intervention and I’d still use all the waking moments not spent telling he or she that they have a drinking problem guzzling America’s oldest beer at intervention worthy levels.
These weren’t regular 12 packs, mind you. They were two halves of a 24-pack cut in half, with the open ends duct taped to keep the beer from falling out. Normal, I guess, if you were born in an Old Line State trailer park, don’t see what the big deal about Ray Rice is, and have used a broken beer bottle as a weapon in a fight in the parking lot during prom. Not normal, though, if you’re used to fancy things like cardboard boxes with six intact sides. So I asked the cashier, out of pure curiosity, what the deal with the “12 packs” was. The cashier responded in a tone that I’m pretty sure meant he wished he could have given the answer by cutting my throat open, writing it in my own blood, and forcing me to read the reply as I slipped into blackness.
The question had clearly annoyed him. My bad, guy. My bad for thinking that selling your beer like a fucking hobo hawking stolen booze to junior high kids in an alley is odd. Clearly this is normal where you come from, because you came from a wet garbage pile washed up on a Chesapeake Bay shore that your dad jizzed into.
Then there was Maryland’s Delta Gamma president, who I randomly talked to for a minute at the downstairs bar of Bentley’s (there are like three bars total in College Park, four if you count Applebee’s) on Saturday before heading back upstairs, and who then proceeded to put drinks on my tab until I came back downstairs. The only reason I wasn’t pissed is because the drinks were too cheap to run up a real tab. Hell, I even bought her a shot for her boldness. Nice girl, kind of. For Maryland she was, anyway. Still, this was, again, apparently standard procedure, because the Maryland kids I told this story to were like, “Yeah, that happens all the time.” By now I was convinced that if someone had stabbed me, the paramedics would have shown up and said, “Deal with it, faggot.”
On the subject of getting stabbed, my last interaction in College Park was between myself, a girl and two guys from UMD I had met that night (who were all cool), and two mid-30s gentleman whose appearance (tat sleeves, flat bills), eloquence (sounded illiterate), and insistence that they could fuck us up and take our girl if they wanted to (open threats of assault and rape) made me understand why a ripped open box wrapped up with duct tape was an acceptable vessel for alcohol to be sold in in the state of Maryland. The girl, by the way, was in a cast and on crutches, and had to crutch her way over to us for protection after being cornered by these two Maryland gems. She was cute, but I’m guessing it was her lack of an ability to escape that really attracted these guys to her.
Finally, only after telling the mouth breathers I was the girl’s boyfriend, did they relent, but not before telling me I had “done good” and insisting they could still steal her from me if they wanted. I’m not really sure her consent was an issue in his mind. Once again, just some good old normal Maryland stuff, according to the locals. “Maryland stuff,” by the way, is what I’m going to start calling felonies.
None of what happened to me that weekend in Maryland was a first. I have had food stolen from me before (and I’ve stolen food before). I have purchased oddly packaged beer and have encountered a rude cashier before. I have had girls put drinks on my tab before. I have protected a girl from dangerous creepers before. I have not had all of that happen within a 36-hour window and then been told it’s all pretty standard.
I liked most of the people I met from UMD. The campus was gorgeous. The bars were few, but fun. Still though, what the fuck is wrong with your state?.