425 E. 31st St., (410) 243-6888, normals.com
Poet, painter, storyteller, mail artist, book seller, corn smoker, and prankster Blaster Al Ackerman made us laugh harder at a reading than anyone else had. At 70-something years old, he was reciting prank calls he had done while working at Normals Books and Records on 31st Street. The whole room was roaring. Then Al slowly stood, sipped corn kernels from an open can, and blew cigarette smoke and wet niblets at us. We couldn’t get enough. Al died in 2013, but his loving and antagonistic spirit undoubtedly lives on at Normals. When you visit there, make sure you walk to the corner of Greenmount and 31st to see the BLASTER AL WAY street sign, all official, for the legend who sold paperbacks and harassed unsuspecting callers. In a tumultuous year in Baltimore, it was sweet to see the city take time to honor one of its fringe creators.