A DAY AT THE RACES: Yesterday the Kinetic Sculpture Race breezed through Baltimore. This is a complicated sport and I doubt any quick summary of it could do it justice, especially since I don't completely comprehend the rules myself. Basically, the competitors have to build manually powered vehicles that run on both land and water. They're rewarded not merely for outpacing the other teams but for making a vehicle that looks especially cool or weird, for wearing the best costumes, and -- if they can't finish first -- for finishing exactly in the middle, thus earning the coveted mediocrity prize. Oh: and you're encouraged to cheat, but you're punished if you get caught.
The race was born in the hippie hinterlands of northern California but soon spread to other locales -- including Port Townsend, Washington, where I lived a few years in the mid-'90s and first became a fan of the sport. Baltimore's annual meet is the only one on the east coast. It was brought here by the American Visionary Art Museum: the second-best museum in the country, the site of my upcoming wedding, and generally a center of all that is enjoyably deranged. Among this year's kinetic sculptures: an enormous rat, an enormous frog, an enormous duck, a big black dog, a psychedelic teacup, and an elephant bearing a life-size Gandhi doll.