In the Key of Irony

30 x 24″
acrylic on canvas
Sawtooth School of Art, Winston Salem, NC

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From K’s journal…
While searching for a hotel, we long for turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and apple pie. It is the week of Thanksgiving, and we can’t find a hotel in Maryland that will give us a decent rate, so we cross back into Pennsylvania. We spend the night and expect to have to leave the next day, because hotels never honor their coupons on a holiday. To our surprise, we are about to check out when the manager offers the same rate for the next night. It is a Thanksgiving Day miracle! Once settled back in, we focus our mission on food. All year, we had planned on volunteering today at a local shelter. Little did we know that being a volunteer on Thanksgiving is a coveted position! People have to reserve their spot months, sometimes years, in advance and since we had no idea which shelter we would be close to that wasn’t an option for us! So now we search for food, and I had imagined that a restaurant of some sort would be open during this holiday, but we aren’t even able to find a grocery store that hasn’t locked their doors already. Finally, after rummaging through a small gas station freezer, we find some turkey and stuffing TV dinners.

Back in the room at our very humble hotel, I pull the nightstand out from the wall and drape the flowery bed cover over it. We make each other’s name places and microwave our dinners. While dipping our rubbery meat into stiff potatoes, we talk about how thankful we are to be able to experience this amazing journey, and wonder about what lies ahead. Soon enough, we discover that Baltimore’s Shot Tower, Federal Hill, and Fort McHenry are in our future.

At Fort McHenry, I learn of some irony surrounding the camp. I love life’s little ironies, so I take time to look deeper into the story. Most remember Fort McHenry for the historic battle that took place during the war of 1812, inspiring Francis Scott Key to write the Star Spangled Banner. However, this is far from where the story ends. It is true that on the morning of September 14th, 1814, Francis Scott Key scribbled down the initial lines of a poem that would forever be known as our country’s National Anthem. Less than fifty years later, the blood of this infamous man returned.

In 1861, President Abraham Lincoln recognized that Maryland’s sympathy for the South might result in losing Baltimore’s strategic fort, so he suspended the writ of Habeas Corpus (the constitutional right to have one’s case heard). Then, in May of that same year, Abraham Lincoln held important Maryland legislators and civilians imprisoned within Fort McHenry.  One of the detained men was Francis Scott Key’s grandson. While it remains debatable whether or not President Lincoln took advantage of his power, in order to retain control over Maryland, it is clear that Fort McHenry has an interesting past. Today, the violent base is blanketed with a fresh layer of grass and the shadow of fifty stars.

As fate would have it, our visit ends with one final encounter with death in this violent city. We visit a Panera Bread Company to go online, only to find that the parking lot has been turned into a crime scene. People swarm around a blue car, and all we can see are two legs under the steering wheel. A woman is photographing what we presume is a corpse, while we watch the activity from a distance. After venturing into Washington DC for the day, we check the news and read that the body was found in the car this morning, but no one knows what caused the death.