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Articles by Sandra Olivetti Martin

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.
 

Buying local? Try vinegar lulled for five months in a skipjack’s hull

     The taste of place is about the best translation English can give to the French word terroir. The idea comes from the vineyards of France, so it doesn’t have to jump far into the vinegar barrel.
    Still, it’s a bit of a leap into the hold of the skipjack Rosie Parks, a ­vintage Eastern Shore oyster boat.
    Rosie Parks was built in 1955 by legendary boat builder Bronza Parks of Dorchester County for his brother, Captain Orville Parks, and named for their mother. Her hold was framed to contain oysters, not vinegar. But in 1975 she changed careers to sailing ambassador for Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum and the Bay’s dwindling skipjack fleet. In 39 years, she’s taught many a lesson of maritime terroir. But imparting the terroir of boat and Bay to a barrel of Italian vinegar is a brand new assignment.
    “The Rosie Parks has such rich history on the Chesapeake,” says Bill Acosta, owner of Olivins Aged and Infused Fine Olive Oils and Vinegars Tasting Shop in St. Michael’s, home of the museum and its historic skipjack. “We wanted to create a special balsamic vinegar that gives people a real sense of place, with an exceptional taste and to support the museum in a meaningful way.”
    To create a special vinegar with a real sense of place, on July 10 a five-gallon barrel of Balsamic Modena was loaded into the skipjack’s hull. There it will remain for the next five months, its aging accelerated by the gentle motion of the boat at its dock along the Miles River. And, this year, the not-so-gentle motion as Rosie Parks joins her kind for races in Deal Island on Memorial Day and Cambridge in September.

    “Aging barrels aboard boats started out in history as a necessity, as most trade occurred over waterways,” explains museum chief curator Pete Lesher. “A boat’s movement can speed up the process of aging, whether it’s spirits, vinegar, or another liquid. We’re very excited to taste the results of these efforts.”
    The wooden barrel is made of toasted oak, which will flavor the vinegar. “Even the temperature changes aboard Rosie Parks will influence the taste of this special blend,” said Acosta. “The barrel expands and contracts as the temperatures rise and fall, infusing the vinegar with undertones of toasted oak.”
    Rosie Parks Balsamic Vinegar should be ready for sale the day after Thanksgiving. The 60 six-ounce bottles will, Acosta says, “be antique and nautical looking, labeled with local artist Amy Ostrow’s painting of the Rosie Parks sails up at sunset.” Acosta expects each to be priced at $20 to $25 and sold at his St. Michael’s shop. A portion of each sale goes to the museum.

How far are you removed from the necessity — and pleasure — of eating local?

    Is Buy Local Week preaching to the choir?    
    If local foods are already a mainstay of your diet, you don’t need persuasion — though a chance for a basket of local goodies and free ice cream in Western Maryland might lure you to post your locavore photos at www.buy-local-challenge.com.
    If your corn comes out of a can, your potatoes out of a box, your year-round apples from who-knows-where and your burgers from anyplace, then what difference does this little-advertised promotion make to you?
    Fast foods taste good. A whole lot of science, consumer testing and marketing goes into the satisfaction quotient of burgers, sodas and fries.
    Convenience feels good. After shucking a dozen ears of corn — especially if I’m then going to cut off the kernels — I can understand why women welcomed first canned and then frozen corn. Me, I feel shucked out after one meal. They prepared three a day, often for big hungry families who’d been working their bodies for necessity rather than exercise. If they were country women, they had almost certainly planted, nourished, weeded and harvested the garden, with their children working alongside.
    The labor of providing plenty was a Genesis story in my maternal Italian family’s immigrant life. Braided onions and garlic hung in the barn rafters, bread baked for the table, wine and wine vinegar worked in wooden barrels. A few pennies worth of meat was a luxury.
    “We were never hungry after we got a cow,” mother told me. From the milk, her mother made cheese and butter. Born in 1921 weeks after her family’s arrival to Southern Illinois, my mother found life’s meaning in hard work. But standing in for her mother, Catherine Olivetti, during a few days hospitalization reduced the vigorous 20-year-old to tears. “I’ve never worked harder in my life,” she told me.
    How many generations are you removed from the necessity and pleasure of eating local? How far have you reverted?
    Does the taste of place make a difference to you? That’s what we’re hoping to recognize when we make a big deal of where our food comes from. Can you taste the locality of the tomatoes now ripening in our gardens? The eggs laid by chickens down the street? The corn, squash and beans grown in our own counties and brought to market by the farmers who planted and tended them to maturity? The beef and lamb raised on local grass or the pork and chicken fortified on table scraps?
    How do you calculate the balance of convenience versus fresh and local?
    Each one of us has our own scale.
    “Back then we had gardens; now we have Whole Foods,” Annapolitan septuagenarian Elizabeth Smith chided youngster Andrew Wildermuth in this week’s In Their Own Words.
    In July, I harvest tomatoes and cucumbers planted by my husband, often slicing them with onions he’s raised. This year’s crop of garlic will last a whole year, though my grandmother’s braiding skill is a lost art. For most else that rises from earth, I shop farmers markets.
    Mid-winter, I’ll certainly shop at Whole Foods, without so many scruples about what’s local. But I’ll want my oysters from Chesapeake Bay just as my crab was in summer.
    All year long I’ll gladly buy avocado, bananas and lemons, cheese and yogurt and spices, hoping I remember to be grateful for my diet’s world-round reach. We’ll order our coffee from Peets, olive oil from California and grapefruit and oranges from Florida.
    The food we eat tells our human story, the necessity and choices of generations, including our own. Eating local, I like to think, is taking a bite out of history. It’s a bigger lesson than you can manage in a week.

Our flowering gardens are butterfly way-stations

     The butterflies nectaring around your garden took wing from the caterpillars nibbling there a few weeks back.
    Fewer black swallowtails are flashing their wings in my garden. Many summers, all the leaves are eaten down to the stalk by the hungry white, black and yellow-stripped caterpillars that pupate black swallowtails. This summer, I’ve seen only one such caterpillar.
    But I have hopes for other caterpillars, other butterflies.
    My yard is one of many in Chesapeake Country hosting monarch gardens, planted with butterfly weed, black-eyed-Susans, bee balm and boneset plus milkweed, ironweed and Joe Pye weed. Day by day, the plants have grown. The black-eyed-Susans are blooming; and all of us butterfly gardeners are hoping for monarchs.
    The plants will sustain the long-distance flyers with nectar. The caterpillars produced by those butterflies will eat the milkweed. Milkweed is their one and only food. I cheer their rise, for the caterpillars that eat this milkweed are like the generation that will fly all the way to Mexico to begin next year’s repetition of the ancient flight of the monarchs. The annual migration from Mexico to Canada and back takes four generations.
    Monarchs usually reach our latitude in September, when I’m hoping my spring plantings will be ready to welcome them with flowers. Together, we butterfly gardeners are hoping for big returns, a regular irruption.
    Once you see an irruption of monarchs you’ll never forget it. My thrill came in September, 1970, when a swarm — called a kaleidoscope in the colorful language of groupings — crashed a backyard picnic in Springfield, Illinois.
    Since then, lost habitat, less milkweed and climate change have pushed the species toward extinction. The current migrating monarch population is as low as two percent of original levels.
    If you see an irruption, let me know: editor@bayweekly.com.

Not your game if you’re a Bay Weekly reader

     Monopoly, Sorry! and Chutes and Ladders: The games we play are the similes writer Tom Hall uses to explain how the nation’s biggest energy debate is playing out in Chesapeake Country.
    Monopoly, Hall says, is what the game seems like when an energy giant like Dominion Resources plays out its next move in your back yard.
    For the third time in 14 years, the sleeping giant on the Chesapeake at Cove Point in Calvert County is stirring. The first tremors were reopening, as a series of energy companies sought and gained permission to put the Liquefied Natural Gas depot back in business. Next, from 2004 to 2008, came expansion as Dominion Resources doubled the old plant’s capacity to receive natural gas from around the world. Now, in an energy economy turned upside-down, Dominion Cove Point is seeking to switch its impressive machinery to exporting some of America’s suddenly abundant natural gas to India and Japan.
    Such big business makes many citizens of Calvert — and climate change opponents throughout the state — fear they’ll be playing the game of Sorry!
    But, says Hall, a story with so many forces at play may be better explained as the maze of Chutes and Ladders.
    For all 14 years, Bay Weekly has reported this story to keep us from playing another game: Blind Man’s Bluff. We’ve explained the stakes, introduced the players, walked pipeline right of ways through citizens’ yards, watched environmental impact studies and refreshed memories with updated chronologies.
    This chapter of the story — with export approval seeming around the corner — is told by Tom Hall. Hall has the standing, experience and balance it takes to explain a local story with national import. A Navy patrol plane mission commander turned journalist, he’s reported on business for the Pensacola News Journal, San Jose Business Journal and Washington Business Journal and worked as an editor at USA Today, Gannett News Service and McClatchy-Tribune News Service.
    How did we get so lucky to add Hall to our contributors? Wouldn’t you know he loves the water!
 



Still Puzzling
    Sudoku is here to stay. We wouldn’t dare omit it. Voices sounding like The Godfather crammed our answering machine after last week’s accidental interruption of the five-year flow of number puzzles in Bay Weekly’s pages.
    It won’t happen again.
    Word puzzles are not provoking such passion. Not since the retirement of Ben Tausig, which moved Bay Weekly puzzle-solver Katie Sabella to her definitive assessment of the value of crosswords in “any periodical worth its salt.”
    Crosswords bring people great happiness. For me, they are a little daily treat that allow me to escape and keep my mind sharp. Supposedly doing them staves off neurological diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s. … It’s a guilty pleasure, a little slice of bliss, but it’s important to me. I suspect many of your readers feel the same. Why not keep that element of joy as a part of Bay Weekly?
    Kris Kross is “okay,” according to puzzlers like Evelyn Newman and Bill Vance. Others hate it. I kind of like it, though it doesn’t give me the same thrill as wading through clues and puns to a good crossword’s multidirectional solution.
    Anagrams drive me crazy. I ought to be able to rearrange the letters — I claim to be a wordsmith — but I’m stuck in the rut of reading from left to right.
    With repeating letters, cryptograms are easier but not so rewarding if the revealed message is stale. The themed crosswords we’ve been running are frustratingly easy, making me miss my weekly struggles with the demonically minded Ben Tausig.
    What’s your say? Email me at editor@bayweekly.com

Where will summer take you?

School’s out for kids everywhere, including the kid in your heart who still thrills with possibility long after the 12-month work calendar has replaced the nine-month school calendar. What adventures lie ahead for you, your family — and your hosts of summer visitors eager to see the sights?
    By land and water, Chesapeake Country is full of wonders. Whichever way you turn you’ll find plenty to see and do, from ocean to Bay to mountains and lakes, from cities to the countryside, from farms to state parks and national wildlife refuges, from fairs and festivals to fun in your own back yard.
    To help you plan your travels, Bay Weekly writers share their favorite day trips and excursions.
    Starting off the journey are mother-daughter team Heather and Mackenzie Boughey, who’ve written a play to show us that No Place Is Far from Fun. Recalling last summer’s travels to the north and west, from Elk Neck State Park to the Garrett County Fair, they vow to do it all over again, this time on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
    If they — or you — need help in planning what to see after crossing the Bay Bridge, the Stories of the Chesapeake Heritage Area has developed heritage tours in Caroline, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot counties. Find them at www.storiesofthechesapeake.org under the Visit Us tab.
    Wherever you go, writer Leigh Glenn reminds us, the best journeys are planned to the taste of the travelers.
    Photographer-writer Emily Mitchell visits the National Wildlife Center at Patuxent Research Refuge. Blackwater, Eastern Neck and Susquehanna River National Wildlife Refuges give you more Maryland options. My family loves to cross the state line to Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.
    Elisavietta Ritchie takes another approach to Patuxent sightseeing, suggesting ways into the water of Maryland’s all in-state river. Make the most of your water destination, as does Dotty Doherty, paddling quietly, looking and listening.
    Turn up the volume at the ballpark, where baseball groupie Diana Beechener invites you to see dem O’s play major league baseball. For just as much fun at lower prices with easier parking, go out to one of Maryland’s five minor league ballparks to see Cal Ripken’s Aberdeen IronBirds, the Bowie Baysox, the Frederick Keys, Hagerstown Suns or Southern Maryland Bluecrabs, who play in Waldorf.
    Or make a Washington Nationals’ game part of a trip to D.C., where — as intern Madeline Hughes writes — every visitor expects to be taken to see the monumental sights.
    Back home in Chesapeake Country, many pleasures are cut to a smaller scale, as writer Sandy Anderson’s visitors know, for she’s sure to take them treasure hunting at Chesapeake Marketplace in Lusby.
    As you travel, make time fly playing the Bay Game, reviewed by junior reporter Storrie Kulynych-Irvin.
    Me? I want to do it all.
    The stories you’ll find in this issue go beyond splendid sights to amazing adventures and general good times. As wonderful as Chesapeake Country is, place is only part of the story. The other part is what you bring to the places you travel: your eyes, your history, your openness, your willingness to get in the spirit of adventure.
    Where will you find your Chesapeake adventures?

Puzzle Alert!

    For brain-teasing mental vacations, Bay Weekly brings you puzzles. Throughout July, we’re auditioning new word puzzles to tease you in the wake of cruciverbalist Ben Tausig’s retirement. Send me your thoughts to help us choose a replacement: editor@bayweekly.com.

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

June into July is the Bay at its best

“It’s a beautiful day. Don’t let it get away,” my husband emails, quoting Bono.
    So I’m writing with urgency, eager to leave my computer for the Bay, the perfect rhyme to day and away.
    I’ll feel the same tomorrow. What day isn’t beautiful this time of year? Why let any of them get away?
    At the cusp of summer, light is long and weather moderate, mostly. Despite the leonine roars of a changing climate, June’s extremes tend to cool rather than heat. At night, you can still pull on a sweater or tuck under a blanket. Leave your hat on, and you won’t have to take off all your clothes to endure the sun. With luck, that extreme will wait until the sign of the crab yields to the sign of the lion.
    Right now, possibility seems endless.
    School’s finally out throughout Chesapeake Country, the Primary election is won and lost, you can watch baseball every night and many days, vacations are on countdown, calendars are written up with weddings, anniversaries and celebrations. And there’s not yet a jellyfish in sight.
    June, as my grandmother said, “is the month of the roses. The sweetest month and the shortest.” With my birthday falling on June’s last day, there was bittersweetness in that lesson — but not enough bitter to take away the sweetness.
    Anyway, the cup is half-full. We’ve got through Monday before June gets away.
    Then we’ll fling ourselves into the pleasures July brings, starting with Independence Day, which — falling on a Friday this year — gives us a long weekend.
    Bay Weekly is going with the flow. For the next two weeks, I guarantee you a pleasure-filled paper in keeping with the season.
    We’re focusing on fireworks early in this week’s paper, so you can plot a program to double your pleasure. Chesapeake Country fireworks extravaganzas spread over two days.
    On Thursday, July 3, Southern Anne Arundel County is the place to see the show. Anchor out at about 38° 42' or 43' by 76° 30' or 31', and you can see two nearly simultaneous shows, from Herrington Harbour South in the north and Chesapeake Beach in the south. By land, alas, you’ll have to choose one with the other as distant background.
    On Independence Day, Friday, July 4, you’ll find a second helping of fireworks north, south and west, with grand shows in Annapolis, Baltimore, Bowie, Solomons and Washington, D.C. The only pity is you’ll have to choose just one.
    Wherever you choose to see the show, you’ll see it with new insight and knowledge after reading our smart summer intern Madeline Hughes’ description of the choreography that goes into each show and catalogue of the big blasts. Read on to learn the names of the explosions: That one’s a peony … a crysantheum … a willow … a palm, you’ll say, and your friends and family will be impressed.
    There’s lots more to read in this week’s paper to seize this day, for it will never again come your way, from solving mysteries with the Bay Gardener to catching perch with Dennis Doyle to commuting by bicycle with ever-provocative Steve Carr, who returns to our pages this week. The night skies will never be just like this any other week from here to eternity. All of us June babies will read our last birth month horoscope of 2014. And with this week’s crossword puzzle, Bugs in the Program, Ben Tausig retires from weekly puzzling and Bay Weekly’s pages.
    Starting with Independence Day celebrations, you’ll find lots of ways to seize each day, week and month of summer in July 3’s paper, devoted to Travels in Chesapeake County. Bay Weekly writers have combed their memories like beaches in search of favorite day trips and excursions to help you plan many beautiful days ahead for yourself, your family and all your summer visitors.
    Next week, too, some puzzling surprises will come your way.

Your part is to vote

     “How many were wearing aluminum foil hats and Mickey Mouse ears?” my husband, a veteran ­political reporter, wondered.
    “Maybe only a couple,” I joked about the candidates at a forum that had lasted until nearly 11pm.
    Primary election campaigns like the one to be decided in Maryland on June 24 do indeed bring out all kinds. Barriers are low and stakes high. Fees are low; you can run for governor for only $100. You have to run as a Republican or a Democrat to get your name on a Primary ballot. But if you can swallow that, nobody is going to say you can’t. The gatekeepers are off duty. Paperwork is minimal unless you’re raising a lot of money. Outside the big high-office, televised debates, you’ll have your say with plenty of time, place and listeners. Best of all, somebody is sure to win. It might well be you. Stranger things have happened.
    Still, to run for office, you’ve got to have something driving — even obsessing — you. Campaigning is all about putting yourself out in front of people. All but the most reclusive candidates — and there are some — are out among us, knocking on doors, waving signs on busy roads, visiting churches, showing up at festivals, speaking at forums, answering questions, inviting detractors, enduring ridicule. It’s like making your life a YouTube feed.
    At the least, campaigning makes huge demands on a candidate’s time. Most likely it’s going to take money, too, and practicing the odd art of asking people to give you theirs. Certainly it requires inuring yourself to rejection, for many of the people you ask for their money and their vote are sure to say no, during the campaign or on election day.
    To open yourself to all that, you’ve got to want something very much. Or believe something very deeply.
    Richard Ben Cramer, a Chesapeake Bay author who died last year, wrote a political classic called What It Takes that examined motivations of a crop of White House hopefuls. Ego may be the driver, pushing you to believe you’re not just the right person for the job but the only person. Ambition is another driver. Election brings you power. Win and you’re part of a government telling us what we can and cannot do — which has the downside of backlash. But that’s a sting you’re unlikely to feel until it’s time to campaign all over again.
    Meanwhile, you get to enjoy perks. Once politicians get elected, they take themselves pretty seriously, building monumental work environments and giving themselves titles and privileges, often including fancy license plates and convenient parking places. And you can be pretty sure you won’t lose your job until the next election.
    Ego and ambition are very good drivers for candidates, at least in some measure, because campaigning is an act of faith in yourself. Governing requires other skills, including listening to people, knowing how government works, digesting vast quantities of information, remembering what you’ve learned, devoting hours to meetings, working with people, adjusting your balance on the scale of compromise and conviction and many others.
    Most of those forces are driving first-time candidate Matthew Pugh, a Bay Weekly contributor in years past.
    “Maryland is a great state,” he told me, “but sadly, its greatness has been diminished by the irresponsible policies of the current administration; they’ve crippled our economy with more than 40 new taxes, and their spending is out of control — and no one is being held accountable. I’m running for Central Committee because I’d like to help restore responsible Republican leadership in Maryland. I decided I could no longer sit on the sidelines.”
    Pugh is running for a starter office, Anne Arundel County Republican State Central Committeeman in District 33. Only Republicans will see his name on the ballot. The job is unsalaried. But eight candidates are running for three seats. No matter how good a job Pugh does campaigning, loss is a possibility. Driven by conviction, he’s putting himself on the line to make government work.
    Pugh and all the others whose names we find on our ballots — and in this week’s Bay Weekly pages — are citizen heroes. Win or lose, they’re trying to make government work. It would be a shame if we didn’t keep up our end of the bargain by going out to vote.

I am my father’s daughter

My father didn’t come to all my games. I had none, and for the weekly ritual of horseback riding — first ring, then trail — my grandmother Florence, his mother, was my chauffeur and companion. If there had been victories, she and my mother would have been my cheering squad. They, too, were my comfortors and sometime confidants.
    About how to relate to a daughter, Gene Martin, was clueless.
    I was pretty clueless, too, when it came to relating to my father. I seemed to disappoint him every chance I got. He was a sportsman but no athlete. I was neither. He tried to teach me to catch a baseball, and I cringed at stubbed fingers. I told him — and the young pro in attendance — that golf was hot and too much walking. Certain life basics — from telephone books to addressing envelopes — were at least for a time beyond me. I was especially bad at figures, while Dad knew the odds. A gambler and card player, he could crunch and keep numbers in his brain. He must have thought — though never said — he’d sired an alien.
    Indeed, we did live in alien universes. His was the male world of gaming and sports, bars and cigars, business and reckoning, news and facts.
    I was the little girl of a hive of women, mother, grandmother and a swarm of surrogate aunts, the oddly daughterless waitresses at our family’s restaurant, where I did my growing up. Emotions and stories were the language they spoke and I learned.
    I knew men drawn to the hive by these beautiful, competent, hearts-on-their-sleeves women. I fell for those young men — often professional athletes, football players and golfers — with junior crushes they were kind enough to nourish. Romance I could understand, and that’s how the ice between my father and me was broken.
    Do things with her, my mother urged, a confession she made to me years later.
    For Dad, doing things meant going out on dates.
    I’d dress up the way women did, and we’d go see the St. Louis Cardinals play baseball or on his boat on the Mississippi River by day. By night, we’d go to nightclubs or the horseraces. Often, it would be a party of people, and I’d be the only kid in the bunch. I watched the grown-ups as if they were playing parts in a complex play I was learning to understudy.
    The surface lessons also sunk in: Overcoming my clumsiness, I learned to waterski. I learned how baseball was played and scored. I learned the excitement of horseracing and something of the game of numbers, breeding and performance. I read the Sporting News and learned how to interpret a racing form. I heard Nancy Wilson in the flesh and learned the rhythms of jazz.
    Our dates went so well that Dad took me on trips. In Lexington, Kentucky, for the Derby trials at Keeneland, I fell in love with bluegrass, horse farms and champions, memorized the roll of Kentucky Derby winners up till then and met the great Citation. In Chicago, I felt the pulse of the city and saw the landmarks of my father’s growing up.
    Dad was a great date. He dressed for the occasion, drove a Cadillac, booked good seats at exciting places, ordered well, knew everybody, told compelling stories, made you feel like you were somebody going someplace — and never left you by the wayside.
    Years of increasing independence layered new strata of experience over my dates with Dad. My life evolved along other lines, and the things we did together are not things I do now.
    Or are they?
    I still love baseball, and almost every year I pin my hopes on the Cardinals. The former St. Louis Browns, for years now the Orioles, are a hot second. I’m still mate on a motorboat. I still know the lyrics of jazz standards. I’m fascinated with near human history and where people come from. And, as I prepared a lead-up story to the Preakness, I learned I can still interpret a horse race. I also have very picky standards for cars, entertainment and restaurants, and I took a while to find a husband who was as good a date as my father.
    Gene Martin’s photographically sharp memory set the standard I’ve tried to live up to. From him I learned how to watch and listen and to craft a good story, though his art was telling and mine writing. I suspect I learned, by inference, that people like us — at least the four generations I know — do better with our own business than working for somebody else, as long as we have good partners. I learned that love is a willful creature that leads your heart and laughs at your head.
    I learned the truth my mother never doubted: I am my father’s daughter.
    Read on for more fathers, daughters, sons and lessons.

Ouch! That’s uncomfortable!

     There’s more I didn’t tell you about Bernie Fowler in this week’s feature interview leading up the 27th Annual Patuxent River Wade-In.
    A cross and a flag mark the entrance to the Prince Frederick home of the 90-year-old champion of the Patuxent and retired Maryland state senator. “God and country,” he says, are his mottoes.
    In his heart, Bernie Fowler is a conservative — in the old-fashioned meaning of that oft-preempted word.
    Conserving the bounty we’ve been blessed with is that old-fashioned meaning and what Fowler is all about. Even if conservation demands going to extremes of change. Extremes like paying taxes. Extremes like acknowledging our hand in changing ecosystems — from his beloved river to the global climate — and taking responsibility for fixing problems that won’t fix themselves.
    Conserving the bounty we’ve been blessed with takes getting more innovative every day.
    Life is too fast, we complain nowadays, and it’s true. We live in a vortex of speed, twirled by trying to keep up with the speed of our machines. In 1914, people were just hopping into automobiles. In 1814, the fastest thing on wheels was a horse cart; bicycles weren’t invented until 1817.
    In 1714, the typewriter was a far-fetched idea. In 2014, the Internet moves ideas digitally at the speed of thought.
    While we’re hustling to keep up with the future, the past is catching up with us. Yes, we’re the children faced with paying the environmental bills wracked up by at least six generations of our ancestors, back 200 years.
    In that perspective, our pittance of a flush tax or stormwater tax barely pays the interest, and the principal keeps mounting. The edifice towering over us is pretty scary. No wonder we don’t want to acknowledge it.
    Yet unless we want that mountain of environmental debt to come avalanching down on us, we’ll have to be willing to pay our share. And to think — as Fowler
advises — outside the box.
    Much of the problem comes down to cleaning up after ourselves. We pay the flush tax to clean up our toilet water, whether in our septic systems or wastewater treatment plants. The stormwater tax — plus our rain barrels and French gutters, rain gardens and pervious pavements — captures the rain that flows off roofs, parking lots, driveways and roads — not only in our homes but throughout our counties.
    The bigger the problem, the bigger the change and outcry, as every change means loss for people invested in what came before.
    As Bernie asked me, “have you got a magic wand?”
    Realistic solutions are going to cost us all, not only our money but also our cherished beliefs. Natural gas burns 30 percent cleaner than coal — but we’d have to swallow fracking or work fast to find better ways of getting the gas out of shale. Sustainable solutions — solar, wind, water and geothermal — each bring their own problems. Will we have to make peace with nukes, as scientist Burt Drake suggested in our Bay Weekly conversation back in April?
    Conserving the bounty we’ve been blessed with means that one way or another, each of us is going to have to think the unthinkable. I fear that’s what’s meant by thinking outside the box.