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This weekend: it’s POE FOREVERMORE! We’re off to Baltimore!

Poe’s Memorial at the 200th Birthday Event in 2009.

It’s been a tradition in our house for several years: we head to Baltimore, usually in January, for the annual Poe Birthday Celebration at Westminster Hall. We started going in 2004, and truth be told, we haven’t been every year, but we’ve been at least five times since then.

Me, the Saturday afternoon of the 2004 event.

This year, the celebration is being held this weekend, Saturday, March 3, at 7 p.m….and we’re there. The program will feature John Astin reading Poe, greetings from the usual gang of baddies (the drunken Fortunado, freaky Madeline Usher and a few more, I’m sure), performances by the Baltimore Men’s Chorus, and of course by a few others familiar to the Poe Celebration-goers, John Spitzer, Tony Tsendeas, and Mark Redfield. All kinds of great Poe stuff, including Gaia’s Raven prints, will be available for sale, and a display of rare Poe artifacts – including Poe and Virginia’s locks of hair – will be on display (I’ve seen them, wow, they’re creepy in a great way). And even though the Poe Toaster didn’t show up…there will be a toast. There always is!

Me and Mark Redfield, Producer/Director/Writer of the film The Death of Poe, at the 2007 event.

Poe’s birthday cake at the 2007 event.

Originally, the program was a séance, and since we purchased our tickets the day they went on sale, we were guaranteed seats despite the program change. Tickets are now only available at the door beginning at 6 p.m. March 3 (the day of the performance) and are $30.

We also plan to visit the Poe House, which will be open from noon to 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 3, and hit the awesome Annabel Lee Tavern for dinner before the show. That’ll be special for me, because a pivotal scene in my short story “Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole”—yes, the book’s title piece—takes place in the tarvern, and it was my meal there in 2009 which inspired that whole story.

We’re very excited!

Me and John Astin at the 2009 event.

If you’re in the Baltimore area this weekend, please consider joining us. I’ve had many a magical weekend in my life, and all of the ones I’ve spent at the Baltimore Poe Celebration rank high. There’s just nothing like being in a concert hall full of Poe fans when you’re one yourself. It’s like…well, it’s like being in a very special club.

For complete details on the event, visit here: http://www.poebicentennial.com/events.html

I’ll be posting plenty of photos when I return. We are not allowed to flash photograph or videotape the performance, but as always, there are many interesting things to see before and after the show.

Annabel Lee Tavern owner Kurt Bragunier, left, me, and Nathan at the tavern in 2009.

The following videos (thirty-five seconds each; they were on a very old digital camera and that was its limit) were shot at the Annabel Lee Tavern in 2009 – it was a treat to find these; I’d forgotten they even existed, because I’m pretty sure I filmed them and then never watched them. They’re not the greatest visually, but you can get a sense of the vibrancy of the place and the energy we had the night we ate there. The owner, Kurt Bragunier, and patrons at other tables all joined in some great Poe-related conversation. We already can’t wait for dinner Saturday night!

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BALTIMORE POE HOUSE THREATENED

I’m a member of the Poe Studies Association, and so I’m on their L-SPAMEN list. I just about went into shock when I got an e-mail earlier this week with the Subject Line Imminent Threat to the Baltimore Poe House and Museum.

From the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore’s website:

“Since December 18, 1977, the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum at 203 Amity Street, in West Baltimore, has been run by the Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP), a division of the Department of Planning with the City of Baltimore. Unfortunately, the city, suffering under intense and continuing budgetary problems — and perhaps hoping that hardly anyone will notice — has decided that the Poe Museum must become self-sufficient or it must be closed. With no practical way of raising sufficient money on its own to cover the annual budget of about $85,000, closure is almost certain at the end of 2011 or early in 2012 — unless the city of Baltimore can be convinced to reconsider its position.”

I just don’t understand this. Yes, I know, the economy’s bad and all of that, but this is part of the city’s history. Baltimore is proud of its favorite son—there are Poe bars and restaurants, there is the Poe celebration each January, there is the team The Ravens. There is probably more down there I don’t even know about.

There is more information on possible self-sufficiency (which doesn’t look good) and what we can do to try to change the city’s mind. Please check out this link, and tell your friends: http://www.eapoe.org/threat.htm

There is also a petition you can sign. I did, but for some reason my signature/comment isn’t showing up on the page (here’s a screen shot):

Want to sign the petition and keep up to date on what’s happening? Visit the Poe Bicentennial Blog here: http://www.poebicentennial.com/blog.html Here’s the article, also, from the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/04/AR2011020405000.html?referrer=emailarticleThere’s also the annual CASK OF AMONTILLADO WINE TASTING on Saturday, March 12. I’m trying to con somebody into going with me. Any takers? COME ON, YOU WRITERS, LET’S DO A WICKED ROAD TRIP!! You can watch that site for more info on that event—tickets and details aren’t quite available yet.

If you’ve never been there, you probably have no idea what kind of treasures this place holds. Photographs I took on my 2009 visit are below.

The Poe House in Baltimore.

The door to the Poe House.

The house is usually closed during the winter. In 2009, it was open to accommodate the masses of people who came to Poe's 200th Birthday Bash.

The plaque designating the house as a landmark. Yes, a national historic landmark.

This is in the fireplace in the front room.

Nathan clowns around with Poe's likeness.

Charles in one of the rooms that has some portraits, but mostly artifacts. I think this was the kitchen originally.

The stairs between the first and second floors.

The stairs between the first and second floors, looking down.

This display has all sorts of interesting articles -- some original clippings from Poe's time.

Video: a sweep around of the second floor

Stairs going up to Poe's writing room on the third floor.

A close-up of the stairs to Poe's writing room. These stairs are so narrow and tiny there can only be one person on the staircase at a time.

Poe's writing room. No one is allowed in, but seriously, it's so tiny I can't even imagine standing up in it.

I think this wasn't only his writing room but also his bedroom.

I was always amazed when I'd read old ghost stories and they'd always talk about women falling down the stairs and miscarrying or people falling down the stairs to their deaths. Now that I understand that probably most of the staircases at that time were like this? I GET IT.

Charles and Nathan watch news clips and films on Poe's life. There is a similar set up at the Poe House in the Bronx.

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