Notoriously, I swoop into a place with only an hour or two to enjoy the scenery, the historic site, or, in the case of downtown Baltimore, the snippet of literary history. Except on this occasion, I allowed myself a lengthy twenty minutes to track down an extra added bonus to the weekend’s Civil War / War of 1812 excursion. After a drive through Harper’s Ferry and around the Antietam Battlefield, then an entire day combing Gettysburg’s historic sites, and a full scale tourist assault around Fort McHenry, why not squeeze in one more site in the whirlwind view of the nineteenth century mid-Atlantic states? Into the heart of the city I am ushered.
Upon dropping coins into the meter, a well-meaning, yet somewhat verbally irritated Baltimorean, pointed out to us, repeatedly, that at four o’clock the tow trucks begin sweeping the one-way corridors of the Charm City and our little rental would disappear. I smiled, thanked her, and proceeded on to my destination somewhere in general vicinity where I had parked. She may not have realized I possessed a knack for historic fly-bys; what I did not realize was that my parallel parking prowess on the corner of Fayette Street and Greene Street placed my exactly where I wanted to be. She need worry nevermore.
Edgar Allen Poe, one of the quirkiest and most peculiar American authors (thus my interest in the site revealed), lies in repose on the grounds of Westminster Cemetery and in the short span of time between the quarters clanging in the metal meter and the tow truck hoisting its cables, I scurry about the grounds in search of the marker, and around the first corner, I poetically stumble into the author’s sanctum. The literary fates, as well as the travel fates, shine their eyes upon my excursion. Within fifteen minutes I return to my automobile before the regional wreckers have a chance to even glance in my tell-tale direction.
While not the first time I have visited a gravesite for the express opportunity to snap a photo and muse about the cultural curiosity the spot holds for me (see “Moonlight in Minnesota” from September 2013), the master of macabre seems appropriately placed here in the center of a city. His contributions to American literature continue to reach the masses and almost all high school students find his name on their required reading lists. Much like A Visit from Saint Nicholas has become a staple on Christmas Eve, Poe’s nearly one-and-three-quarter-century-year-old poem should be worth at least as much time on an equitable holiday as the brief window I spend descending on downtown Baltimore in quest of his memorial. If you’ve never read The Raven, please do so this Hallow’s Eve for the love of God, Montresor.