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Live-line a spot

     We started our drift with just a touch of worry. The tide was falling faster and the wind, in the same direction at about 12 knots, was pushing up some uncomfortable waves. Hooking one of our few bait spot just in front of its dorsal fin and dropping it over the side, I was not confident.
    “I’m not sure this is going to work out,” I said to my buddy Moe. “That’s one of the joys of no Plan B,” he answered. “Keeps things simple. If it doesn’t, we go home.”
    By dropping the motor into reverse from time to time, we slowed the drift and kept our baits reasonably close to the boat. Monitoring our fish finder, I called out the occasional marks as they passed under us. We stuck with this routine for an hour with no success.
    “Looks like they stopped eating, ” I said.
    We had gotten two fish in the mid-20s earlier in the day. Then nothing. Until the fish finder screen lit up with a solid mass of hard arches from five feet down all the way to the bottom, some 20 feet below.
    “Get ready,” I warned. “If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen now.”
    At once, something took my bait and moved off.
    “Got a run,” I said.
    “Me too,” Moe replied.
    A few seconds later, I put my reel into gear. When the line came tight, I set the hook. My rod bent over down to the corks, and line peeled out. I heard my friend grunt up in the bow and out of the corner of my eye I saw him struggling with a hard-pulling fish.

Live-Lining: August’s Best Bet
    Right now, live-lining spot is one of the deadliest methods on the Chesapeake to seduce big rockfish onto your hook. The better fish are still mostly holding in small schools in open water cruising for baitfish, making conditions ideal for dropping a live spot down into their midst.
    Getting the bait is the biggest problem. The most desirable Norfolk spot — from three to five inches — are scarce. Perhaps last year’s fingerlings, which would be the proper size right now, were victims of our hard winter. Or perhaps it was just a disastrous spawn in 2013. For whatever reason, right-sized baits have been hard to catch this season.
    Lucky for me, the sports store where I work part-time has a consistent supply, and I have taken full advantage. But this morning when we swung by on the way to Sandy Point at 7am, they were almost all gone. We only managed to score a few.

Don’t Count Your Fish until It’s Boated
    It took five long and intense minutes until I had one big beautiful striper showing on the surface some 10 feet away. I reached for the net. The fish, however, took one last hard run — and the hook pulled. I watched that heavyweight vanish back into the depths.
    Soon Moe’s fish was alongside, and I did get that one in the net. It measured over 34 inches, fat and healthy, the virtual twin of the fish I had just lost. We ran back up current and dropped again over the school, managing a 32-inch prize into the boat. That limited us out for the day, and just in time. We were out of spot.
 

While you’re at play, Bay Weekly is minding Chesapeake Country

    Hello out there?    
    With everybody from the president to the financial planner on vacation, I considered printing this week’s paper in invisible ink in hopes of convincing you the stories were right below your eyes if you had the right stuff — lemon juice or infrared light — to see them. That idea fell to our watchful puzzlers, who showed me my ruse would be caught. Since last Thursday, call after note has come in admonishing us for printing clues that — for all the shoehorning in the world — won’t fit into the spaces provided with last week’s crossword puzzle.
    Now that I know you’re reading, I’d better give you the real thing just as we do every week.
    Even in a slow week, there’s plenty to do in Chesapeake Country, as you’ll see in 8 Days a Week. Make haste to buy your tickets for Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre’s Spamalot, reported by reviewer Jim Reiter as the best way to laugh your way out of summer. Mark your calendar for Irish band The ShamRogues on the lawn (weather allowing) at London Town Sunday, August 17 at 5pm. Look forward to Annapolis Art Walk Thursday, August 21, starting at 6pm.
    Just back from vacation, Madeline Hughes guarantees you’ll never go thirsty, reporting to you on her coffee-shop summer tour of Chesapeake Country.
    Fresh from a vacation of a sort nobody wants to take, contributor Elisavietta Ritchie describes how the nasty bug vibrio vulnificus gave her a week in the hospital.
    More attractive bugs return in Creature Feature, where you’ll meet the Silvery Checkerspot, and Your Say, where the Monarch makes a two-stage appearance, as beauty and beast.
    As a retiree, contributor Bob Melamud reports he’s always on vacation. So he’s stepped up this week with another of his occasional series on the environmental and human value we get for our tax dollars. Cleaning up the Bay One Family at a Time explains the Flush Tax at work in the Calvert County home of Navy aviation electrician’s mate Rob Pryke and wife Brandi.
    
Breaking News on Dominion Cove Point
    Tom Hall returns from vacation in Maine just in time to follow up our July 17 story on the controversial Dominion Cove Point Liquefied Natural Gas export plan:
    A Calvert County judge ruled this week that the county’s 2013 waiver of local zoning rules for the export expansion constitutes an unconstitutional “special law” benefitting Dominion Resources.
    AMP Creeks Council, a local environmental group, successfully won a ruling that invalidates the county’s pro-Dominion local zoning amendment. Now county officials will have to regroup, deciding whether to appeal the ruling … or figuring out another way to proceed in accord with county zoning protections. The commissioners next meet August 19.
    Calvert County Attorney John Norris said the exemption granted Cove Point was not designed to expedite the project but to defer to the expertise of federal regulators like the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and Environmental Protection Agency.
    “I really believe the intent of the text amendment was to do no harm, and not to create any overlap or conflict of regulations,” Norris said. “I’m not sure any county in the state has the ability to analyze an extremely unique project like this.”
    Calvert is Maryland’s smallest county.
    Dominion Cove Point spokesman Karl Neddenien said the company is analyzing the ruling and confidently awaiting FERC approval. The company hopes to begin construction on the $3.8 billion export terminal later this year.
    “We don’t see any schedule impact,” Neddenien said.

How many losers does it take to save the universe?

The night Peter Quill’s mother died, he was abducted by aliens. Twenty years later, Peter (Chris Pratt: The LEGO Movie) remembers Earth by a troll doll and his mother’s Walkman. He travels the galaxy scavenging rare treasures from abandoned planets, listening to a mix tape of his mother’s favorite tunes.
    On a treasure run, he steals an orb from an abandoned building. Suddenly, he’s the target of a galaxy-wide manhunt. Turns out the orb will help the evil Ronan (Lee Pace: The Hobbit) exact revenge on the galaxy he blames for killing his warlord father.
    Quill is soon accosted by Gamora (Zoe Saldana: Rosemary’s Baby), an assassin working for Ronan. Gamora is in turn thwarted by two bounty hunters, a genetically modified raccoon named Rocket (Bradley Cooper: American Hustle) and a sentient tree creature Groot (Vin Diesel: Riddick), both also after the price on Quill’s head. This team of sworn enemies, petty thieves, disinterested third parties and psychotics are all that stand between Ronan and the galaxy’s destruction.
    Guardians of the Galaxy is a silly action movie with ridiculous characters, big budget explosions and a machine gun-shooting raccoon. It’s also the best time I’ve had at a movie all summer. Director James Gunn (Super), who co-wrote the script, creates a universe filled with witty heroes, slapstick humor, thrilling action and awe-inspiring visuals. In other words, he understands how to make a film based on a comic book.
    In his big-budget debut, Gunn isn’t overwhelmed. He manages to orchestrate high-paced action that packs emotional punch. But Gunn’s real accomplishment is the script, which imbues a jumble of clichés — like the bad-boy thief with a heart of gold — with credible personalities.
    Script and direction make a good framework for the actors to vitalize. Pratt has long supplied comic relief in film and television; Guardians of the Galaxy is the star turn he deserves. With granite-jawed good looks and a devilish smile, Pratt turns Quill into a Han Solo for the modern era. He’ll shoot first and betray comrades for a quick buck. But when the fate of the universe is on the line, Quill will do the right thing.
    As a tortured assassin looking for vengeance, Saldana is a tough, smart heroine with a tremendous sense of right and wrong. Think of her as the Black Widow — if Marvel gave her an independent storyline.
    Supporting the two leads are a crew of oddballs. It’s not surprising that a tree with eyes, a tattooed and stupid tough and a smart-mouthed raccoon provide comic relief. It is surprising that Gunn allows each character a moment of dignity that makes them emotionally powerful.
    Unlike The Avengers — a movie about special people learning to set their egos aside and work together to be even more fantastic as a unit — Guardians of the Galaxy is a film about what losers can do if given half a chance. Quill’s crew isn’t the brightest, the strongest or the fastest; in fact, we watch each of the members fail spectacularly a few times. But they figure it out in the end. It’s a powerful message for those of us who haven’t discovered how to craft an Iron Man suit.

Great Comic Movie • PG-13 • 121 mins.

This tempest is a summer storm you won’t want to miss.

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale of an eerie desert isle where a band of royal castaways is marooned in style. No, it’s not a new sitcom or reality show. It’s William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, a supernatural classic of haunting beauty playing for the next two weekends at the Bowie Playhouse. It’s also the Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s last production in that space before moving to new space on Chinquapin Round Road in the fall.
    The story begins before the action with Prospero (Brian Keith MacDonald), the deposed Duke of Milan, living in exile for 12 years with his teenage daughter Miranda (Jenny Donovan). All that time he has been plotting his retribution. Toward that end, he has become a powerful sorcerer by studying books provided for him by his confederate Gonzalo (Joe Palka), who spirited the father and daughter to safety along with basic comforts like a vast library complete with ornate shelving and a leather armchair. In Prospero’s service are a vile semi-human, Caliban (Alex Zavistovich), rightful heir to the island and son of a now-deceased witch, and three sprites: Ariel (Raven Bonniwell), Ceres (Emily Samuelson) and Juno (Micaela Mannix). All help Prospero exact his revenge on his traitorous brother, Antonio (Grant Cloyd). Thus the eponymous tempest, a supernatural storm conjured by Ariel, which is so ferocious you would swear you were caught in a real microburst if only the theater sprinklers were employed.
    The villainous Duke Antonio is shipwrecked along with his co-conspirator Sebastian (Elliott Kashner) and a royal entourage including King Alonso (Brian McDermott), Prince Ferdinand (David Mavricos), Prospero’s old friend Gonzalo, the jester Trinculo (Charlie Retzlaff), the drunken steward Stephano (Kiernan McGowan) and the noblewoman Adrian (Amie Cazel).
    Prince Ferdinand, separated from his shipmates, is delivered to Prospero and Miranda by Ariel so the youngsters may fall in love and marry, as is Miranda’s birthright. What follows is a series of trials involving frustrated lovers, treasonous assassins who play upon Caliban’s resentment, comical inebriates and generally clueless witnesses to supernatural intervention in the natural order of things. Finally, Prospero is returned to power, Ariel is freed from his service and Caliban is presumably left in peace at his master’s imminent departure.
    As with many of Shakespeare’s works, the plot can be overwhelming, so don’t try to follow it too closely. Just bear in mind that this play is more about witchcraft than story, and enjoy the ride.
    This production is technically a more impressive show than Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s typical fare. The simple set features a sheer curtain of oceanic scrim enhanced by dramatic special effects such as strobes, thunder and wind that either comes from a machine or supreme acting. A disorienting sonic décor of shifting chordal suspensions composed for this show by Gregg Martin keeps the magic alive throughout. The sprites cavort in bodysuits of a rich aquatic palette, while the aristocrats glory in resplendent crimson and gold.
    Major performers behind the mystery are Bonniwell and her sprites, Samuelson and Mannix, who gambol and tease and seethe and flit around the auditorium in a dreamy suspension between sea and sky from the moment the doors open until closing curtain, their every move a nuanced ballet. Zavistovich’s man-monster, with his dreadlocks, crazed eyes and rabid smile, menaces and cowers in extremes of animalistic power and vanquished powerlessness. Yet he is an eloquent beast. MacDonald commands the stage as if it truly were his home, and Retzlaff’s physical comedy makes him the king of fools.
    This tempest is a summer storm you won’t want to miss, but you can’t watch it from your porch. Get your tickets now, before they vanish.

Director: Jay D. Brock. Scenic designer: Andrew Cohen. Choreographer: Sally Boyett. Lighting designer: Catharine Girardi. Costume designer: Maggie Cason. Composer/sound designer: Gregg Martin.
Playing thru Aug 17, F at 8pm; Sa at 2pm & 8pm; Su at 3pm at Annapolis Shakespeare Company, Bowie Playhouse, White Marsh Park. $30 with discounts; rsvp: 410-415-3513; www.annapolisshakespeare.org.

Organic matter adds ­hidden benefits to soil

Addition of organic matter does great things for soil. It works as a slow-release fertilizer and source of essential nutrients. It reduces the density of heavy silt and clay loam soils. It improves soil’s nutrient retention and increases water retention. All of these benefits redound to plant growth.

Retention of nutrients
    Adding organic matter to soils increases the retention of nutrients and makes them available to the roots of plants. This process is known as increasing the cation-exchange capacity of soils. You learned in the July 24 column how organic matter releases nutrients slowly through mineralization. In addition to supplying the major elements, compost supplies trace elements such as boron (B), iron (Fe), zinc (Zn), manganese (Mn), sulfur (S) and copper (Cu). These essential trace elements are important to the growth of healthy plants and to the quality of the crops they produce. But they’re not part of commercial fertilizer mixes.
    Increasing the cation exchange is especially important in sandy loams or loamy sands. Nutrients leach through these sandy soils quickly. Because sandy soils are well aerated, they do not retain organic matter. So to maintain productivity on sandy soils requires frequent applications compost or animal manure and the use of cover crops.
    On sandy loams or loamy sands, use no more compost or manure than six cubic yards per 1,000 square feet for the initial application. On silt or clay loam soils, make that four cubic yards as these soils are better able to retain nutrients than sandy loams or loamy sands. Repeated applications should be one-half or one-quarter.
Water-holding Capacity
    The addition of organic matter to sandy soils increases water-holding capacity.
    The addition of organic matter to heavy silt or clay loam soils increases water infiltration, thus increasing their ability to retain water while at the same time allowing excess water to drain.

Soil Density Reduction
    It won’t work to use sand to improve the drainage of heavy silt or clay loam soils. Short of 55 to 60 percent, the addition of sand will only result in making the soil like concrete.
    Adding 10 percent compost will increase both the organic matter concentration and the productivity of heavy silt or clay loam. Pine fines are one of the better organic materials to use to lighten heavy soils. Pine fines are a waste product from the manufacturing of pine bark mulches. Because pine fines contain high levels of lignins — a source of organic matter that resists decomposition — pine fines will persist in the soil for a long time.

Disease Control
    Another hidden benefit of amending soils with compost is its ability to control soil-borne diseases. Quality compost contains three naturally occurring fungicides and numerous beneficial microorganisms known to control common soil-borne diseases as fusarium, pythium and rhizoctinia. To get this bonus, use recently made compost. As the compost ages, these benefits are gradually lost as the biological activity of the compost decreases.

It takes work to live together in a peaceable interspecies kingdom

Oh the trouble love brings!    
    Just about any time your heart runs away with you, you run up a debt you’ll be paying for day, hours, years. By a certain age, we homo sapiens are supposed to know (but do we ever?) about the birds and the bees. But a dog or cat can slip under the radar, fooling us into believing that all interspecies matches are made in heaven.
    When reality hits, you’d rather have a pie in the face than a foot in some of the messes that await you.
    This week’s Dog Days Pet Spectacular is a reminder of the ransom due to the reckless heart.
    “Dogs do what comes naturally,” Animal Behavior College Dog Trainer Laurie Scible advises in this week’s feature, Good Dog! “Many behaviors we don’t like are things dogs love.”
    Rolling in dead fish, for example. Friend Sue’s dog has never met a dead fish he doesn’t love. My Moe ­doesn’t crave that perfume. But peeing over another dog’s scent? That’s an opportunity he never misses. As a youngster, before we’d persuaded Moe to learn house manners, he made covering some former dog’s scent a housewarming gift to a new neighbor. To everybody’s chagrin, the original dog had left his calling card indoors. It gets worse, of course, because peeing is only one element of housebreaking. There’s pooping, too.
    Why should we be surprised? Housebreaking is a learned behavior among animals of all species, even us.
    Of course we shouldn’t be surprised. Still, Scible’s pointers on housebreaking read as a wake-up call as shocking as a shrill alarm at 4:42am. It’s a serious, life-changing routine she prescribes. It punctures my willful notion that love means living happily ever after.
    I know I should have let that illusion go by now. It’s been ridiculed time and again by creatures of many species, dogs even more so than my first husband. But deep in my heart, implanted by my childhood reading of Albert Payson Terhune’s books about the valiant, empathetic Lad — the dog ideal holds indelible … despite the untellable failure of my dalliance with a collie. I’m still clinging to the notion that being my best friend comes naturally to a dog.
    That’s a popular fallacy. It can happen to you.
    On a weekend visit to St. Louis, I finally made acquaintance with Pal, the white-nosed brown dog adopted by my son Nathaniel’s family after falling under the spell of the mostly virtuous Moe on their visit here last summer. You may remember that I tried to warn them off, writing for that purpose (and all our reading pleasure) the story of the incorrigible Slip Mahoney, our family dog during Nat’s childhood.
    You can guess, by the name they’ve chosen, what Nat, Liz and Ada Knoll hope for in a dog. Indeed, Pal completes their circle. But healing the neuroses heaped upon that yearling in his formative weeks in a junkyard is a job for Dr. Vint Virga, the vet and animal behaviorist who, the New York Times Magazine reported in the July 3 issue, is devoting his life to Zoo Animals and Their Discontents.
    Animal psychology is a far more complex subject than we allowed ourselves to imagine. They have behavioral customs and social systems, even consciousness, just as we do. Living together in a peaceable interspecies kingdom means recognizing that now-obvious reality and adapting to it — just like my cats do when they train me.
    Bottom line: Slip Mahoney wasn’t incorrigible. He was misunderstood.
    Read on in this week’s Dog Days Pet Spectacular to learn the lure and lessons of interspecies company.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

Lesson 3: Jumpstart your garden with compost tea

     Your organic garden will need a jumpstart. Organic gardening relies entirely on the release of nutrients from the decomposition of organic matter and the bodies of the microorganisms that digest the organic matter in the soil. In cold soils, nutrients are not readily available.
    Room temperature — a consistent 72 degrees — is the starting point for analyzing the situation. With 72-degree soil temperature, the rate of the mineralization of organic matter is approximately eight to 10 percent. If the soil contains three percent organic matter, it releases 24 to 30 pounds of nitrogen per acre per year. Producing a respectable crop takes between 80 and 100 pounds of nitrogen per acre.
    In summer, when soils are at room temperature and above, it takes a soil with five to 10 percent organic matter to produce a respectable crop. Even if soil temperatures increase above 72 degrees, the mineralization rate increases only a few percentage points. To grow a crop in soils containing less than five percent organic matter, you’ve got to add organic fertilizers, including compost. As the microorganisms that digest the carbon of the organic matter die, the minerals in their bodies and in the cells of the organic matter are released.
    The cooler the soil, the slower the process. Mineralization of nutrients from organic matter stops when the ground freezes. In spring, the mineralization rate of organic matter is not nearly up to summer’s eight percent. Even if the soil contained five to 10 percent organic matter, it would not supply sufficient nutrients to grow early spring crops such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, celery and lettuce.
    Traditional agriculture uses starter fertilizers with early spring transplants. Starter fertilizers are made of water-soluble minerals that are instantly available to the roots of plants, regardless of soil temperature. Applying these fertilizers near the roots of new transplants helps establish them quickly in the soil and resume normal growth. 
    Compost tea can be used as starter fertilizer. Brew the compost tea at room temperature three or four days prior to transplanting. Partially fill a five-gallon pail up to half capacity with mature compost. To assure maturity, I strongly recommend using commercial compost. Top with water and stir vigorously. Stir the compost three or four times daily to provide adequate aeration for nutrient release from the compost. Or you can aerate the compost using an aquarium air filer as a substitute.
    When you transplant three or four days later, irrigate each plant with one to two cups of compost tea.
    A second batch of tea can be made using the same compost by filling the pail again with water and repeating the process. The second batch will not be as concentrated as the first unless you allow a week or more for it to release its nutrients into the water.

The everyday banalities of saving the world

     Günter Bachmann (Philip Seymour Hoffman: Catching Fire) isn’t a man who stands out in a crowd. His shoulders hunch, pulling awkwardly at his ill-fitting jacket. His softening middle hangs over his pants, the product of poor diet and long days at a desk. His weary, weathered face reveals bright blue eyes often peering over the rim of a whiskey glass.
    Bachmann looks like hundreds of dissatisfied office workers who flood the bars of Hamburg. But he’s not. He’s the head of a small intelligence agency tasked with rooting out terror cells. Bachmann’s unremarkable appearance is exactly what makes him so good at his job.
    Bachmann’s current obsession is Dr. Faisal Abdullah (Homayoun Ershadi: Inja Iran), a wealthy Islamic philanthropist who may be funneling money to terrorists.
    When illegal Chechen immigrant Issa (Grigoriy Dobrygin: 4 Days in May), washes up on the shores of Hamburg, Bachmann sees his opportunity to break open a terror cell. Issa claims to be the heir to a Russian warlord’s massive fortune and a refugee from a Russian torture camp. He was also part of an extremist Islamic group. Bachmann is eager to see if Issa will use his new inheritance to help Abdullah fund a terror cell.
    Can Bachmann prove Abdullah is a dubious character? Is Issa a threat to Germany? What is the human cost of keeping a country safe?
    Based on a novel by John le Carré, A Most Wanted Man is much like the character of Bachmann: unremarkable, unless you’re paying attention. Director Anton Corbijn (The American) takes time to build the Hamburg environment. The offices are dingy, filled with papers and outdated technology. Dirty streets spill over from a heavily industrialized waterfront. Corbijn takes his time making the life of Hamburg teem in the streets.
    Because Corbijn spends so much time setting the scenes and developing his characters, he tears through plot at a breakneck speed. Like 2011’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, the movie is more rewarding to viewers familiar with the novel. If you don’t know the broad strokes of the plot and characters before buying a ticket, you’ll need to focus intently.
    As Bachmann, Hoffman is the quintessential le Carré hero. He’s cynical, drab and fiercely devoted to a country that allows him to do terrible things to save it.
    Hoffman is the center of a powerful cast that includes Willem Dafoe, Robin Wright and Daniel Brühl. The one weak spot in this impressive spy thriller is Rachel McAdams’ Annabel, whose German accent quakes when she has more than a few lines of dialog and who isn’t quite believable as a tough human rights attorney.
    If you’re looking for a classic spy drama with a feeling of realism, A Most Wanted Man won’t disappoint. See it to say goodbye to one of America’s finest actors in a performance that is worthy of his legacy.

Great Drama • R • 121 mins.

Sweet fish swim in sweetwater

     Rockfish, bluefish, perch, spot and croaker dominate the summertime fishing news when it comes to recreational species in Maryland. But almost half of all the fishing licenses sold by Maryland Department of Natural Resources are purchased by sweet-water anglers.
    We have at least as many largemouth bass anglers as any other group of devotees. They have a considerable number of bass-specific waters to choose from. The lakes, ponds and impoundments harboring bucketmouths in Maryland number over 100. Most host good populations of sizable bass plus their numerous cousins: the bluegill, crappie, perch and pickerel.
    The headwaters of the Chesapeake and up into the Susquehanna River also provide great bass fishing, as do the higher reaches of the notable big tribs such as the Choptank, the Monocacy, the Potomac and the Pocomoke among at least 25 others listed in DNR inventories. All are prime, non-tidal, large-mouth destinations.
    Trout fishers also swell the ranks of freshwater habitués. Their opportunities are considerable as well. The upper Gunpowder is a blue-ribbon tailwater trout stream. The low temperatures from the regulated water flow of the Prettyboy Dam have resulted in a self-sustaining native trout stream that provides excellent fishing.
    Other trout waters, such as the Savage River (excellent), the Youghiogheny River (almost as good) and the well-rated Casselman as well as another 50 recognized trout streams provide considerable stretches of fishable streamside.
    Jabez Branch off Severn Run is the only self-sustaining native brook-trout fishery in the state, though these gorgeous fish are also released in the Gunpowder and Savage.
    Surprisingly, Baltimore’s Patapsco River births two great trout fishing locations, a three-mile stretch below the Daniels Dam and the Avalon area in Elkridge.
    Over 200 publicly accessible sweet-water environs provide excellent habitat for a multitude of species including brown trout, brook trout and rainbows as well as largemouth, smallmouth and rock bass, walleye pike, chain pickerel, muskellunge, northern pike, yellow perch, black crappie, white crappie, warmouth, bluegill and red-ear sunfish plus flathead and channel catfish.
    Now we can add to that considerable list the infamous and storied snakehead. This invasive reputedly has an excellent table quality. It fights, too, taking top-water lures (especially frog imitations fished among the lily pads) with an extreme violence that has to be experienced to be appreciated. The Potomac River offers the best chances of tangling with these guys.
    Another introduced species — long available just about everywhere there is a body of water — is the common carp. A food staple of Asia, this fish has an established fan base including, most recently, fly anglers. Maryland has also recently added the blue catfish to their list of piscatorial interlopers. Both the carp and the blue cat can approach 100 pounds, which translates into some epic battles. Those who know how to prepare them for the table harvest quantities of excellent eating.
    So if saltwater fishing on the Chesapeake is becoming discouraging there are other options. To loosely paraphrase Bill Waterson’s Calvin character in his memorable last installment, “It’s a wonderful sweetwater world out there. Maybe it’s time to go exploring.”

Here’s to one more summer of reading


     Call me anything but late to the table — unless I’m reading a good book. So I’ve often carried book to table.
    “I’ve spent my life looking over the breakfast table at a book,” my grandmother Florence Martin lamented. “Your grandfather. Your father and his brother. And now you.”
    Or as Florence’s daughter-in-law my mother Elsa would say, “Take your nose out of that book!”
    Both Elsa and Florence were good storytellers, but I couldn’t turn them on as easily as I could open a book. Nor did their stories sweep me away in the flood of sensory details — the color of the light, the rise of the hill, the degree of warmth or chill, the pattern of the dress, the darkness of the well, the despair of the loss. Books drowned me in the flood, tumbling me with thrilling metaphors that made my imagination swim like a fish.
    (I should have prodded more. Now mother and grandmother’s times of life are lost, and to write their books I would have to do a lot of imagining.)
    Out from behind a book, newspaper or racing form, my father told a story as thick with detail as humidity in St. Louis summers. Photographic memories have fallen into the category of improbabilities we’d like to believe. But when Gene Martin’s truculent objections were overcome — “How do you expect me to remember that? It happened 50 years ago,” he’d complain — his eyes looked back into time to report the past as if it were present.
    I’ve always loved the kinds of stories I coaxed from my family and their extended family of friends: How people lived their lives. So the writers I love best immerse me in the unfolding of ordinary lives. Circumstances ordinary or extraordinary; action consequential or trivial — I don’t care, as long as action moves the plot, characters live and sentences sing.
    I’m just as happy to peep in on the domestic dramas wrought by Alexander McCall Smith at 44 Scotland Street as travel exotically with Ann Patchett to the unnamed Latin nation of Bel Canto or the jungles of State of Wonder. I don’t need bombings, murders and the art theft of The Goldfinch to keep me in a book, though I certainly don’t mind page-turning action.
    But I do hate it — don’t you? — when I’m about to close the pages on characters I’ve loved. It’s as if I were closing their coffin, though I know the lives of literary characters last as long readers read.
    So I’m blissed to be spending this summer with the prolific Julia Glass. I discovered her in the New York Times’ Mother’s Day paper, for which she’d written a reflection on how far off her real-life raising of her sons was from her imaginings. She shaped a nice sentence and seemed a nice kind of woman, one who rooted for heart-expanding resolutions while acknowledging the downs, all the way to tragedy. I started with her first, Three Junes, the symmetrical 2002 National Book Award Winner. Then, to my delight, I discovered that some of Junes’ characters lived on in this year’s And the Dark and Sacred Night. Better still, some of these have history I’m now learning in 2006’s The Whole World. And that’s not all …
    This summer, when my husband’s cooking, he announces dinner in an old familiar way: “Are you going to put down that book and come to the table?”


Breaking News: Blue-Eyed Boy
    Julia Glass may have to cool her heels, for breaking news is that Annapolitan Robert Timberg, Naval Academy graduate and former journalist at The Capital and the Baltimore Sun, has just published his long-awaited memoir, Blue-Eyed Boy, about the hard years back to normal life after his grievous wounding as a Marine officer in Vietnam. Bookpage.com calls it “a fascinating look at how a tragedy that would make most men crumble instead drove the author to survive, and on many levels, succeed.”
    I know Timberg slightly, enough to know a bit of his extraordinary story. Now I’ll read more and report back to you — if you haven’t read Blue-Eyed Boy before me.