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Corral Those Zebras
Can the zebra change its stripes? It’s the zebra mussel we’re talking about and for the welfare of the upper Chesapeake Bay as well as freshwaters of Maryland and much of the United States, we’d better hope it does.
This aquatic invader, about the size of a pistachio shell, is currently known more for the myriad of problems it has posed in the Great Lakes since it arrived in the mid-80s, but tidewater scientists along the East Coast are also taking a worried look at what could lie ahead locally.
Brackish and tidal water fishermen, both commercial and sports, who followed reports of Maryland reservoir closings to angling a couple years ago with little more than passing interest, must realize now they have a more vested interest in the tiny shellfish that is running amok in areas connected to our tidewaters.
This zebra mussel isn’t going to go away, at least not for a long time. Before it does, it could change the upper Chesapeake in ways reflected elsewhere in the Bay. We’re talking about a fragile environment, one area dependent on another an ominous domino effect.
Now, we know this highly destructive shellfish could possibly set up shop in the upper Chesapeake and its tributaries, which are, among other things, prime spawning grounds for shell and finfish. The more we learn about it, the more we realize its ugly potential in fresh and many tidal waters across North America.
In the past couple years, we have learned that zebras can tolerate salinity equal or greater than that endured by largemouth bass possibly 10 to 12 parts per thousand, enough to threaten waters above the Bay Bridge, possibly below there if they learn to adapt.
This has been proven by their rapid march down the Hudson River.
Zebras could one day and we’re not suggesting a prolonged wait of decades become a disastrous problem not only for the Chesapeake and its tributaries but also for the Delaware Bay complex.
Tracy Bryant, editor of University of Delaware’s Delaware Sea Grant Reporter, asks: “What risk is the Mid-Atlantic region to a zebra mussel ‘invasion’?” Then she answers herself “Scientists tell us the mussel can tolerate a fairly wide range of conditions, including salinities as high as 8 parts per thousand (the 10 to 12 parts mentioned previously come from Maryland’s DNR), calcium levels from 10 to 125 parts per million and water temperatures from 59 to 80 degrees. Portions of systems like the Delaware estuary could be affected, as well as lakes and reservoirs.
“We’re identifying areas most at risk for the zebra mussel now, and working with industries to set up monitoring programs.”
Consider that our Chesapeake Bay complex is not so much unlike Delaware Bay, and you get an idea of what could happen here. But to fully appreciate the potential, one must know a bit about the zebra mussel, which in less than a decade has run up a bill of billions of dollars not to mention devastating the ecology of waters it has infested.
History of a Marine Hitchhiker
It all began in 1985 or 1986 when one or more transoceanic ships discharged freshwater ballast into one of the Great Lakes, conclude fisheries scientists in Ohio. Conditions were just right at the time, and the marine hitchhiker from Europe got a foothold.
Quickly Lake St. Clair was infested, then Lake Erie, followed by others in the Great Lakes chain, eventually spreading into New York and the St. Lawrence River among many other waters in both southeastern Canada and the northeastern United States.
Since then, zebras have reached the upper reaches of the Susquehanna River in New York. Yes, the same Susquehanna that eventually flows into the Susquehanna Flats and is the major freshwater source for the Chesapeake Bay.
The upper Susquehanna is a long way from the upper Chesapeake complex, but these miniature mussels move fast. And they can get a helping hand from migrating waterfowl, which can carry them in their early stages of life.
Zebras foul waters horribly, create acidic conditions, and can accumulate organic pollutants within their tissues to levels more than 300,000 times greater than in their environment.
At first, the zebra was considered pretty much a threat just to freshwaters, but then scientists noted colonies spreading down the Hudson River into tidal sectors. Thriving.
The black-and-white-striped zebra is a tenacious critter whose colonies clog filtering screens and pipes in water systems. It is capable of reducing pipeline water flow by as much as 90 percent; one Great Lakes facility was temporarily shut down.
This is only the tip of the iceberg. Hardy, stubborn and prolific (one female can deposit up to a million eggs a year), zebra populations do great harm to ecosystems and could ruin fishing and overwhelm most marine life as they cover bottoms, ledges and fish shelters.
Zebras, like gypsy moths and hydrilla, are notorious hitchhikers. In either their veliger or adult stages, they can be transported and “stocked” via boat hulls or live wells something akin to how dreaded hydrilla arrived at the tidal Potomac a decade ago. That story has had a happy ending, for the marine weed actually improved bass fishing, though it did clog many open waters.
Zebra life can survive on or in boats out of water for up to 14 days. Chlorine mixed on a ratio of 1 part to 10 parts of water can kill them, but how thoroughly will boaters clean boats, motors and livewells after visiting a place where an infestation has commenced.
Also, consider the following:
• Within four years after introduction, zebras had colonized the surfaces of every firm object in Lake Erie.
• Any firm surface that is not toxic can be colonized including rocks, metal, wood, vinyl, plants, glass, rubber, fiberglass, paper, even other colonies. The surface need only be firm (though some have been detected on soft muddy bottoms). In some sectors of Lake Erie, counts indicate that from 30,000 to 70,000 of them inhabit a square meter, which is 39.37 by 39.37 inches.
• Though they are most successful at depths of 10 to 23 feet, infestations of 20,000 per square meter have been found at depths of 164 feet in Italy.
• They are filtration feeders; waters are strained through their systems and they eat mostly algae. But they also affect phytoplankton, so crucial to the food chain of marine inhabitants. Some is eaten; more is bound with mucous into pellets unusable by other creatures. Once reaching a density of 7,000 per square meter, zebras are capable of filtering all surrounding waters in a single day.
• The zebra has few natural enemies. Ducks, especially canvasbacks, old squaws and scaup eat them occasionally, but in many areas of infestations the waters are frozen over when diving ducks are present. Virginia Institute of Marine Science is evaluating the effect of hardshell crab appetites on the mussels, but again the two encounter each other infrequently. A few fish do feed on them including yellow perch but apparently not to an appreciable degree.
Aware of the potential of zebra infestations since they first became apparent nearly a decade ago, marine scientists at Ohio State University reported “most authorities consider the spread of zebra mussels across North America to be a certainty.”
Avoiding Havoc in the Chesapeake
Imagine them disrupting the fragile ecosystems of our trout streams and the upper Chesapeake Bay complex, where fish like flounder, shad, white and yellow perch, rockfish, herring spawn.
The Baltimore City Department of Public Works reacted quickly in 1991 some complain it reacted too quickly when the potential threat of the zebra became obvious. But who can argue that precautionary measures were not in order to protect the 1.5 million people who depend on reservoir water systems?
Baltimore simply shut down boat fishing in Liberty, Loch Raven and Prettyboy Reservoirs except for a limited number of boat rented at the Baltimore County livery at Loch Raven, then added a kicker. No live bait fishing by anglers on shore or in the safe rented boats that never left the reservoir.
The resultant furor won’t be forgotten. Thousands of fishermen depended on those reservoirs for their angling. Many had expensive boats and motors designed specifically for man-made lakes and many of those fishermen had developed bass, crappie and landlocked rockfish techniques that depended on live baits such as crawfish, worms and minnows.
Municipal water authorities wanted to be sure that boat hulls, motors and baits from mussel infested areas didn’t carry mussel life. Bait shops and other businesses that served the reservoirs anglers lost as much as half their business. Some went under.
Some fishermen gave up fishing, others turned to reservoirs under the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, which chose not to close its waters to boats and live bait, or they journeyed to Conowingo Reservoir, or nearly 200 miles to the west to fish Deep Creek Lake. Some reservoir bait shops closed, others barely held on hoping regulations would be relaxed.
Last year, thanks to intervention by Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke, the reservoirs reopened to boats on a limited basis, those with boaters required to clean both boats and motors thoroughly. This helped a bit, but continuance of the live bait ban posed hardship for all bait shops and many fishermen, some of whom did not want to fish unless they could use their familiar live-bait techniques.
Mayor Schmoke responded again, and this year live baits will be allowed if they come from areas where there is no infestation of zebra mussels. It’s a complicated procedure, but it beats the alternative.
Wholesalers must be able to prove their bait supplies come from non-contaminated waters, and dealers who buy the baits must also keep a paper trail to prove the same. The angler who goes fishing must also have bait receipts.
Odds Against Us
How fast zebras could come down the Susquehanna is unknown, but Ron Karuda of Maryland’s DNR first expressed concern more than two years ago. Tidal aspects represent the unknown so all eyes are on the Hudson, also a tidal river, where the mussel appears on the rampage.
Our Department of Natural Resources is keeping a close watch, issuing pamphlets and advisories on ways to curtail the spread of mussel life. But many claim, regardless of precautions, that the mussel is headed our way. We can’t stop waterfowl from flying, or close the intricate network of waterways of the East Coast.
Think of the Mississippi River infestations that have introduced the mussel almost to the Gulf of Mexico. The February issue, I believe, of Smithsonian magazine carried a feature on zebra mussel problems and though primarily pertaining to freshwaters it gives an idea of the magnitude of the threat. Read it and weep.
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Easter (and Every Other Kind of) Eggs
Are Yours at Spring Brunches
As the brilliant colors of spring emerge from beneath winter’s heavy blanket, Bay families remember the dockside pleasures of Sunday brunch. Are you ready to revive those memories?
When was the last time you sat on a dock, in the fresh balmy air, or sheltered inside a restaurant with a view as your eyes followed the gentle tide washing in and out of shore?
You filled your empty plate from a buffet spread with a full array of fresh fruits; fluffy omelets, full of flavor; Belgian waffles with whipped cream, their fruit and syrup toppings, like artist’s paints and your plate is the pallette.
Remember sitting on the dock at Steamboat Landing in Galesville? Sipping Bloody Marys with the special touch of Old Bay seasoning and fresh lime. Feeling the warmth of a sunny day. Fresh breeze off the water. Clank of boat shrouds. Chatter and laughter. Mallards making themselves at home. Eggs Maryland English muffins topped with crab cakes, poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. Fruit salad. Biscuits and honey. Hash browns. Heaven.
($16.95, adults; $6.95, children.)
Tradition and bounty with a Bay view are the trademarks at Rod n’ Reel in Chesapeake Beach, where the menu hits every base from fruits to heavy starches. Omelets and Belgian waffles, made to order. Donuts, freshly baked. Sausage, bacon, ham, potatoes finish a devastatingly hearty meal. ($8.50, adults; $4.50, children.)
Though Herrington Harbor in Rose Haven snuggles up to the Bay, your brunch view is the swimming pool coupled with the sweet tastes of star and passion fruit for a fanciful Caribbean flavor. Omelets and the Belgian waffles are made to order. Sausage, bacon and home fries fill out a satisfying menu. ($6.95, adults; $3.95, children.)
In Shady Side, you move indoors, for despite its name you don’t see the Bay from the Bay View Inn. But the dining room is cozy and the menu satisfying with quiche in addition to omelets, fresh waffles and very blueberry muffins, fruit and as many cuts of pork as we used to eat, before breakfast got lean. ($7.95, adults; $3.95, children.)
The maritime history of Annapolis spreads from the downtown dock to the hotel restaurants on its border. Good as brunch may be, you feel the Bay rather than see it. Prices are higher than down south, but in Annapolis brunch is way more than breakfast.
At the Maryland Inn’s Treaty of Paris in the heart of Annapolis, a colonial atmosphere lives on in fine masonry and regional seafood favorites. From the traditional to a fabulous variety of house specialties, the Treaty of Paris almost takes you to an earlier time. But the service is rushed. ($16.95, adults; children, free.)
On the menu at Holiday Inn’s Maryland Way Restaurant, meat ham and roast beef, hand carved. Seafood shrimp included. Omelets and waffles, made to order. Plus many traditional sides. ($15.95, adults; $7.95, children.)
Champagne flows free at the Ramada’s brunch. So do Eggs Benedict. Scalloped potatoes. Fresh seafood and salad. Fish, beef, chicken. Omelets made to order. ($13.95, adults; $10.95, children.)
But for the best brunch we’ve had since we got held over in Seattle and ate for hours at a buffet that’s become mythological, we went to the ocean. The Sunday brunch at the Fenwick Inn, between ocean and bay, in Ocean City, offers more kinds of food and the most spectacular of views. Eggs, scrambled, over easy, sunny side up, made to order. Bacon, sausage and fries. Chicken. Fish, usually salmon. Regional veggies. Cream chipped beef and biscuits. Ham, handcarved. Pasta, in your choice of sauce alfredo, primavera, seafood. Muffins of many kinds; Danishes; desserts. Once discovered, it becomes as indispensable as sun, saltwater taffy and boardwalk fries. ($10.95.)
For all that food, naturally you need an excuse. Have one on us: Spring.
Eating later on Easter? You’ll find other fine Easter meals advertised in New Bay Times’ pages.
Brunch at Home
Plan your own Easter brunch. Make easy. Take it easy. And still amaze, delight and satisfy your guests.
These recipes are courtesy of Sue Carroll, proprietor of the Mainstay Inn, an elegant Victorian bed and breakfast in Cape May, New Jersey. Ms. Carroll serves two sit-down breakfasts for fourteen every morning of the beach season.
Mainstay French Toast
1C brown sugar
2T corn syrup
2 tart apples, peeled and sliced
1 1/2C milk
1 t vanilla
1 loaf French bread
Cook sugar, butter and syrup until syrupy. Pour into a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Spread apple slices over this. Slice bread into 3/4 inch slices and place on top of apples. Whisk together remaining ingredients and pour over bread. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Bake uncovered for 40 minutes at 350°. Serve with spicy apple syrup.
Spicy Apple Syrup
1C apple sauce
1 (10 oz) jar apple jelly
1/2 t cinnamon
1/8 t ground cloves
Combine all ingredients in saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until jelly melts and syrup is hot.
California Egg Puff
1 t baking powder
1 lb shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/2C melted butter
1 can (7 oz) diced green chilies
1 pint cottage cheese
Beat eggs until light. Add other ingredients and stir until well blended. Poured into greased 9 x 13 inch pan. Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes. Cut in squares.
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Waste-to-energy. Sounds good to some garbage experts, but it is ringing a sour note with many environmental advocates.
Because that’s another word for incineration, which releases dangerous chemicals that can harm people and the planet.
And it’s being discussed in Anne Arundel County as part of the ten-year solid waste plan for disposing a half-million tons of garbage and trash every year.
The plan was written by residents and business people “a good cross-section of folks who brought an open mind, free of agendas,” says Newth Morris, who chaired the advisory committee.
Recycling and reduction are included in the plan. Right now Anne Arundel County recycles 22 percent of its waste through yellow bins; the plan calls for 35% recycling by 1996. Apartments, like houses, would get bins, and construction and demolition waste would be reused, too.
But another 400,000 tons of waste must be dealt with annually, Morris reminds. That’s why he looks to incinerators, which have been used in about 130 communities around the country with decidedly mixed success.
James Pittman, Anne Arundel’s garbage guru, says you either burn the remaining waste or bury it. That means an incinerator or a new landfill. An incinerator, Pittman is quick to say, could convert the waste to either electricity or steam, not just burn it.
Environmental advocates rarely are fond of incinerators. They note that incinerators are expensive to build and run some communities are raising taxes because of them and a potential health hazard to residents.
Peter Montague, of the Environmental Research Foundation in Annapolis, advises that incinerators turn garbage into airborne toxic chemicals. What’s more, the bulky ash residue contains dioxin and heavy metals that must be landfilled at a potentially heavy cost to communities.
The “green” solution: recycle, reuse, reduce and compost. Clean Water Action argues you can cut waste by 80 to 90 percent with a public commitment to waste reduction.
The decision to build an incinerator or perhaps a new landfill will be made by the County Council by mid-1995. To take a closer look at the Solid Waste Plan, pick up a copy at the County Council offices in Annapolis. Or ask for a speaker for your group. The people who wrote the plan are traveling around the county, promoting and explaining it to anyone who’ll listen.
Bikers Versus Hikers
It’s a battle between hikers and bikers. All-terrain vehicle bikers, that is. It seems the ATV riders have a different idea about how to enjoy Mother Nature than the folks who take to the trails on foot. Hikers complain ATV-users illegally run the trails intended for gentler soles.
A new bill before the General Assembly agrees that Maryland has an ATV problem. The legislation would put more controls on ATVs and bring them into line with other recreational vehicles boats, campers and trailers among them.
ATVs are self-propelled, three-or four-wheeled minibikes or off-the- road motorcycles. If this bill becomes law, ATVs will be registered and tagged, and owners will be older at least 18 and helmeted and goggled when riding.
The law would also get a handle on riders who are trespassing on public and private properties. Right now, police have no way of tracking down the owners, because there’s nothing to identify the vehicle; no tag number to jot down.
The Maryland Conservation Council applauds the new bill and urges the General Assembly to pass it. Anneke Davis says the ATVs disturb animals and people, by destroying habitat and wrecking trails.
Says she: “It doesn't solve the problem of these beasts, but it’s a step in the direction of dealing with them.”
Among opponents are the American Motorcyclist Association and the Motorcycle Industry Council. They say reluctantly that they’ll register but that they need places to ride. The ATV reps want the state to create off-highway trails and legal areas for more than 40,000 aficionados.
Anneke Davis calls that blackmail: “The ATVs say if you don’t like us in the state forest, build us another place.” The bill says that the state may consider buying and managing special riding lands, but doesn’t require it.
Hang around the State House long enough, and you get to see who’s fighting, arguing and advocating for the environment. There’s Dru and Jane and Neal and Rupert and Nancy. They represent Clean Water Action, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Audubon Society and Sierra Club. You can find them in the halls of the House and Senate office buildings, talking with delegates, testifying at hearings, planning strategy. Lobbying for the environment. That’s their job.
This session has been a busy one, and one of the issues that just keeps on going is wetlands protection. That pesky bill to turn over wetlands protection to the Department of Natural Resources is still being worked out. It’s the one that would give DNR the responsibility for permits, cutting out the feds. Environmental advocates contend that the federal role is a necessary one.
All sides were instructed last week to get together and work out their differences. Compromise. Redraft the bill. Tack on a few amendments. Send it to the Senate and House. They’ll have to move fast, because this session’s almost over.
Al The (Stiff) Pal
Al Gore, the vice president and sometimes environmental advocate, is known for a somewhat wooden demeanor. Good thing he’s got a sense of humor to go with it.
At last weekend’s joshing Gridiron Club dinner in Washington, where politicians and watchdogs from the press convened to slurp and burp, Gore was wheeled to the microphone on a delivery dolly. He lay there stiff as a tree trunk, barely moving his lips as he spoke.
“I’m an inspiration to Americans suffering from Dutch Elm disease,” he joked.
Gore’s so boring, he said, that his Secret Service detail came up with this code name for him: Al Gore.
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The Tomato Rebellion
You’ll Taste More Flavor in Heirloom Tomatoes
by Jon Traunfeld
The year was 1994: winds of change stirred over America’s tomato gardens. “Celebrity” was still hogging the limelight and “Big Beef,” the new tomato on the block, threatened to push the “Boys” (Big and Better) aside. Meanwhile, ignoring all the new hybrid hoopla, scores of Marylanders hell-bent on growing more flavorful tomatoes returned to old varieties with funny names: Tappy’s Finest, Mortgage Lifter, Costoluto Genovese, Yellow Potato Leaf, Pink Brandywine, Delicious, Cherokee Purple and Georgia Streak.
The revolution had begun.
Let’s hope we’ll all look back on history shaking our heads in wonder over how we let our food gardens become so bland and homogeneous. Why did we stop saving the seeds of reliable, open-pollinated varieties? Why did we satisfy ourselves with dozens of vegetable varieties when hundreds could be ours?
Luckily for present times, a groundswell of interest in heirloom and ethnic vegetables promises improved flavor and interesting
new textures and colors to our kitchen tables. Marylanders are in a wonderful position to participate; Southern and Pennsylvania Dutch heirlooms are poised along our borders, and many interesting species and varieties of edible plants are being brought to the area by foreign-born gardeners.
Hybrids: Pros and Cons
Tomatoes seem to be leading the charge in this gardening revolution, so let’s take a closer look at this popular summer obsession. Big Boy, the first tomato hybrid, was introduced by Burpee in 1949. Moreton, Better Boy and Celebrity are other popular hybrids that have become garden mainstays. However, Marglobe and Rutgers (introduced in 1925 and 1937) and dozens of other time-tested, “open-pollinated” varieties continue to be popular.
Hybrid tomatoes result from the cross breeding of two distinct, inbred open-pollinated varieties. The seed of this cross is the “first filial” (for “first child”) or F1 generation. These plants tend to be vigorous, very similar, productive and disease resistant.
However, producing hybrid tomato seed is labor intensive, requiring the emasculation of each flower. This accounts, in part, for its high price. Also, hybrid seed does not “come true”; that is, seed saved and planted the next year will produce dissimilar plants and fruits with a wide range of the original parental characteristics. So hybrid seed must be purchased each year. What’s more, most vegetables are bred for commercial producers. Varietal traits important to large-scale farmers compact plant growth, shortened harvest period, firm skin may not suit the home gardener.
In With The Old
Heirloom varieties owe their existence to gardeners or farmers who save and pass down seed from one generation to the next. Traditional varieties are reliable, open-pollinated cultivars developed before 1940 which are, or were, offered by the commercial seed industry. Most of the tomato varieties whose names you read in the first paragraph were heirlooms until their recent introduction to the gardening public by specialized, small seed companies and the Seed Savers Exchange (see list of resources below.)
Time-tested, open-pollinated tomato varieties are every bit as good as today’s hybrids and offer some unique benefits: better flavor, often more meaty, longer growing season and save-able seeds, so you can gradually improving your favorite varieties by selecting for desirable traits (see the companion seed saving article in a fall edition of New Bay Times).
Area gardeners who joined in an heirloom vegetable demonstration in 1993 noted that old varieties showed fewer insect and disease problems than comparison varieties. It stands to reason that a variety that is grown extensively in an area over several hundred years, like Pink Brandywine in Southeast Pennsylvania, would develop resistance to common and devastating diseases.
By growing and perpetuating these older varieties you’re also helping to preserve a little bit of vital germplasm and gardening history. Up to 1,000 tomato varieties have been lost in the United States since 1850. One-half of all the open-pollinated vegetable varieties available commercially today are offered by a single seed company. We are, indeed, in danger of losing our valuable vegetable heritage.
So this summer don’t limit yourself to conventional fare. The varieties listed above are a good starting point for adding some flavor and excitement to your garden. Go further by requesting a free copy of Seed Sources of Open-Pollinated, Heirloom and Untreated Vegetable Varieties, Urban Gardening Leaflet #1, by sending a SASE to Baltimore City Cooperative Extension Service, 17 S. Gay Street, Baltimore, MD 21202.
Seed Savers Exchange (3076 North Winn Road, Decorah, IA 52101) is dedicated to preserving heirloom and endangered non-hybrid vegetables. Members receive the annual catalog listing more than 10,000 varieties offered by members to members. Send $1 for membership information brochure.
Landis Valley Museum’s Heirloom Seed Project (2451 Kissel Hill Road, Lancaster, PA 17601) grows lovely and interesting display gardens. Also offer vegetable, flower and herb seed from Pennsylvania-Dutch varieties. Catalog $1.
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (P.O. Box 158, North Garden, VA 22959) offers open-pollinated and heirloom vegetable varieties, many grown organically. Catalog $3, refundable.
Jon Traunfeld, for five years Baltimore’s Urban Gardener, now answers fruits and vegetable questions for all Marylanders from University of Maryland’s Cooperative Extension Service. Call free from 8AM-1PM weekdays: 800/342-2507.
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Diversion and Excursion
Maryland Hall in Annapolis: The Place To Be For Creative Arts If You Can Find It
By Kevin Mackessy
Special to New Bay Times
“Didn't we just pass that street?” my wife, Phuong, asked with a bemused look. Probably. But without my glasses, I couldn’t read the signs, especially in the rain. My watch read 7:43PM. Getting close to the 8PM curtain time for Keiko Matsui and Fattburger. I hit the gas. Sliding around the traffic circle for the third time, I felt stuck in a bad episode of the Twilight Zone.
Rumors had reached me in Columbia that the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts was a brick building located somewhere near the Statehouse in Annapolis. Brick decoys strewn about the downtown area thwarted my search at every wrong turn.
Then came the words all men dread: “Why don’t you just ask someone for directions?” Yikes! You can’t mean me.
She did. I gave in, reluctantly, to save the evening and myself, and aimed the car at a phone on a dark corner. Simple, right? Guess again. We had no change. The dashboard clock blinked 7:54PM. Letting panic fight anger, I borrowed logic and thrust my hand under my seat, trapping a quarter, a possible dime and a french fry. I pulled my hand out, suffering a gash but grasping the quarter to call the box office.
I was not optimistic. Keep in mind, an agent at the Hall had given me the wrong directions in the first place.
If you want to get to Maryland Hall with your sanity, call after-hours and get directions from the nice recorded guy, or use the map in the little box.
The bleeding had stopped as we pulled into the parking lot and ran through the mist to the wrong door on the wrong side of the wrong building. We skittered after another late couple who looked like they knew the way, at last finding the will-call table. In the M line, we found our tickets all four of them. The ticket agent regretted the error but encouraged us to scalp the tickets. We got lucky.
Fortunately, federal law prohibits concerts from starting on time. We reached our seats on that chilly, wet February night at 8:16PM, in time to enjoy an evening of high-energy contemporary jazz, as part of Maryland Hall’s New World Jazz Series.
Keiko Matsui, from Tokyo, opened the show sitting demurely behind an array of electronic keyboards tapping out delicate, lilting notes. She closed the show in a flash of sequins, legs and shiny blue-black hair as she strapped on her Yamaha KX5 portable synthesizer and wailed like a rocker from center stage.
Keiko blends traditional eastern influences with contemporary western funk, blues and jazz to achieve her tasty sound, and often weaves a spiritual thread through her music. The wonderful tune from her Under Northern Lights CD, Walls of the Cave, dedicated to a legendary Indian chief, brought a tremendous crowd response.
Keiko, who started playing piano at five, has released five CDs with a sixth, Spring, due out this month. She produced her first album using her honeymoon savings and her father’s American Express Card.
For the last three numbers, Kazu Matsui, Keiko’s husband and producer, joined his wife on stage. Kazu coaxed mournful notes from his shakuhachi, a traditional Japanese bamboo flute. He gently lured images of cherry blossoms and feudal gardens from the instrument and melded it into Keiko’s delicate piano work.
Most of you have heard Kazu play; you just don’t realize it. Ever see Willow, Empire of the Sun, Another 48 Hours, Iceman, Red Heat or Thunderheart? Kazu played his shakuhachi on the scores of these movies and others. As Kazu told the audience, “Every time Schwarzenegger comes out of darkness, there’s that sound phoooosh. That’s me!”
After the show, I shook hands with Keiko as she signed CD inserts and program covers in the tightly stuffed lobby. I wanted to ask her a few questions, maybe even get a memorable quote for this piece, but a mountainous woman wearing some sort of dead animal on her shoulders stuck an elbow in my ribs, sending me clawing for air. I fought to avoid being sucked into a vast sea of baby boomers in sensible shoes.
Fattburger took the stage after intermission. A fixture in jazz clubs in San Diego, my hometown, Fattburger is a trusted, though raucous, old friend. Fattburger mixes funky rhythm, pop melodies and a Latin beat with traditional jazz influences to create an eclectic style in great demand by jazz fans.
Percussionist Tommy Arnos, who gives the band its Latin flavor, stole the show with his cuica, an African drum-like instrument a little bigger than an old round oatmeal box. By rubbing the skin at either end, Arnos made the cuica laugh, cry, sing and fart. Arnos worked out on a number of assorted timbales, conga drums, cymbals, whistles, bells, chimes and bean pods. Yes, bean pods. He had so many objects to play with it looked like a garage sale. Drummer Kevin Koch, on the other hand, labels Fattburger as R&J music rhythm and jazz. All together, they played the signature tune Fattburger, subtitled Double Chili Cheese, to a rousing round of audience clapping.
The show lasted almost three hours a marathon by today’s standard and well worth the $24 ticket price. We even made it home without incident at 11:17PM.
Ramsey Lewis, an upbeat Jazz pianist with a killer trio, concludes the Maryland Hall concert schedule on April 9. Try to get there by 8.
Earlier the same day, Peter and the Wolf is performed for all children who are free at 11AM, concluding this season’s Family Performing Arts series. Or visit the Hall April 16, for Ballet Theater of Annapolis’ performance of Snow White, at 7, following a fine 5:30 dinner at the Treaty of Paris ($20 for dinner plus $15 for ballet; phone 410/263-2909 for reservations.)
By the way, Maryland Hall offers more than jazz concerts. The bill of fare includes non-credit classes for adults and children in music, dance, theater, visual arts and meditative movement. Classes are held during spring, summer and fall sessions. Maryland Hall instructors are professional artists, dancers, musicians, actors and directors who express their love of the arts through teaching.
Classes in photography, drawing and painting, printmaking, sculpture and ceramics form the core of the visual arts offerings. One class really looks like fun: Art for Tots. Kids from two-and-a-half to four explore paint and glitter, shapes and colors. Need to unwind? Try a meditative movement class like Hatha Yoga or Tai Chi Chuan to improve your flexibility, muscle tone and balance while reducing stress.
In theater and dance, Maryland Hall offers many creative classes, including story-building for tots, and clowning and circus techniques for kids from 10-15. An impressive progression of ballet classes should appeal to aspiring dancers from four through adult. Maryland Hall is also home to the School of the Ballet Theatre of Annapolis and is a branch of the Peabody Preparatory of the Johns Hopkins University.
Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts is located in the old Annapolis High School at 801 Chase Street. For ticket information call the box office: 410/263-5019. For information on programs and classes: 410/263-5544.
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In Calvert County, Growing Up Committed
Girl Scout Julie Hanko of Chesapeake Beach wondered how, and why, people make a career of tackling environmental problems. So in working for a badge, she wrote to ask her question of James W. Odgers Jr., president of the Plum Point Environmental Land Trust.
The Trust is made up of people and communities working together to preserve enclaves of distinctive, unspoiled land. Their current effort is cooperating with Calvert County government to acquire the 190-acre Neeld Farm on Plum Point Creek, overlooking the Bay. If they are successful, all of us can enjoy its trails and beach
Here’s what Mr. Odgers wrote back to Julie and sent to New Bay Times to show all our readers what we can do together:
I have thought a lot about your question of how I became interested in environmental problems and must admit that it is a tough one for me to answer. I do not recall ever consciously deciding to become involved in environmental matters as one would decide to be a doctor, firefighter, nurse or teacher.
Instead, my interest seemed to evolve as I observed so many things changing so fast around us. I began to realize that the countryside we see today may not be there tomorrow. We see forests and fields, streams and valleys, birds and wildlife every day in Calvert County and don’t realize how much we enjoy them until we see the land bulldozed and developed with sprawling housing communities or commercial centers. We wonder where the birds and wildlife will live after their habitat is lost.
Change is often good. We have new stores and restaurants, new neighbors and friends, new roads and schools; our economy is healthier and wealthier. But what would it be like if all of the land in Calvert County is developed and nowhere could we see the forests and fields, streams and valleys, birds and wildlife we once enjoyed and took for granted?
Many people I talk to are also concerned. Many complain and some move away in search of a place like Calvert County once was rural and natural. If so many of us share the same concerns, I thought, then why can’t we do something to help save open space?
Do we have to accept the loss of so much land in the interest of economic growth? Shouldn’t government be doing more to protect our environment? As I thought about these things my interest grew, and before long, I was very much involved in these questions and issues.
I realized that there was not much a concerned individual could do, working alone. We needed to work together. The government is doing a lot to encourage the preservation of open space through zoning laws, open -pace acquisition programs, grants and loan programs. But our popular support and contributions are also needed.
If people are serious about finding a solution and helping, then it is necessary to pool our many resources and assume part of the responsibility to preserve land ourselves.
After considerable research, several friends and neighbors decided to organize a not-for-profit membership corporation to carry out our conservation interests. With a $5,000 grant from the Maryland Environmental Trust and with the advice and guidance of the American Chestnut Land Trust and other conservation groups, we were able to organize the Plum Point Environmental Land Trust.
We are able to pool our talents, skills and resources to make a difference and help to preserve land. We have begun to make good progress toward our mission by working with the county to require cluster zoning for new subdivisions. We have encouraged the county to create a loan fund to enable land trusts to borrow money to purchase open space. We support conservation legislation at all levels of government. And we have persuaded landowners to place conservation easements on undeveloped land.
In time, and with much effort from people of all ages and walks of life working together, I believe we will be effective and accomplish a lot more toward preserving open space in Calvert County than we would if we just stood by and continued to watch.
Perhaps through our efforts today, there will be many natural areas available in Calvert County for everyone to enjoy, especially the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and youth groups.
I have enjoyed answering your questions and hope you will continue to be interested in the environmental issues in our community. Keep up the good work and good luck in earning your badges.
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By Sandra Olivetti Martin
When you live on an island, you had better be self-reliant. For self-reliance, you can’t do better than to take a lesson from Smith Islanders, the only Marylanders who live in the Chesapeake Bay.
Don’t get sick. The doctor’s gone back to the mainland.
Don’t get away much … except by boat. Smith Island is a dozen bridgeless miles from Crisfield on the Eastern Shore, farther from Point Lookout, Md. and Smith Point, Va. on the Western Shore.
Don’t get impatient. The mail and supply boat keeps its own schedule, especially in winters like this …
Smith Islanders don’t get much cabin fever, either. “You provide your own entertainment,” says Jennings Evans, the Island’s “poet laureate, letter-to-the-editor writer and perennial emcee.”
Entertainment, like much of life in this island named for John Smith (who chartered it in 1608) and settled in the 1650s, begins at church. In three centuries, the church is about the only organization that’s been willing to put down roots on the island.
That’s the Methodist church, by the way, and has been since the 1800s, when the “pastor of the islands,” Joshua Smith, sailed over to convert the ancestors of today’s islanders. Smith Island, population under 450 and dwindling, has three villages and three Methodist churches, one for Ewell, one for Tylertown and one for Rhodes Point. “Smith Island is the one theocracy in the state of Maryland,” according to cultural life chronicler Elaine Eff of the Maryland Historical Trust.
“There aren’t even police there. The church runs the island,” says New Bay Times advertising manager Kristin Sohr, whose father, Eric Sohr, the town’s last doctor, was recruited and salaried by the church. The island is officially dry, reflecting another Methodist value.
Holy days are holidays as well on Smith Island. Christmas, says Eff, recalls Island men “from distant oyster rocks for a full week at home during their most grueling and lately disappointing season.” In August, Methodist camp meeting revives the spirit and the spirits: timed amid the “labor-intensive” soft crab season, it reunites many folk with island ties.
Like their seventeenth century foremothers and fathers, Smith Islanders are as devoted to secular entertainments as to sacred ones. Witness what’s happened to the Tangier Sound Waterman’s Association Dinner.
Says Eff: “A moment in time stolen from the oyster season, this unique community event associated with no holiday has over the years moved from the serious to the comic, from the informative to the musical, and more recently from the world of men’s exclusive work.” Nowadays, a “mixed-up world of Islanders of both sexes share wigs, dresses, hats and high heels as heartily and naively as children at Halloween.”
“To all the crabs I’ve caught before … I dedicate this song,” sing “Willie” and “Hulo.” The parody is one of dozens of songs and skits performed by a company of 20 or so comical and costumed island players.
The parodies began in Smith Island kitchens and outbuildings, where Island women pick the crabs caught by their husbands and on whom Island economy increasingly depends.
For three centuries, the Bay has supported the Island; other jobs can be counted on your fingers: minister (one covers all three churches), doctor or nurse (the position is presently unfilled), postmistress, wastewater treatment plant manager, school teacher … The Bay’s hard times mean hard times for the island. So few and far north are the Bay’s undiseased oysters that the men who used to work winter weeks away from home on the beds hardly bother to go oystering anymore. Nowadays crabs are the Island’s economy, and their picking yields both premium, much-sought-after crabmeat and a measure of economic independence for the women. Now even that subsistence income is threatened by state processing standards but that’s another story. As is the Island’s erosion into the Bay …
As the women pick, the radio plays oldies that inspire new songs. Mainline culture bends when it reaches Smith Island, like images reflected in a funhouse mirror. In “To all the crabs I’ve caught before,” romantic nostalgia has evolved to rueful economic reality:
“The soft crab market keeps on changing
This is not the best of jobs, you know.
Sometimes you can’t get out of the hole.
If it weren’t for my wife
and her picking knife.
Lord knows where we all would go.”
The lyrics demanded new life, and, says Eff, at “Methodist Womens and Ladies Aid covered-dish parties for Valentine’s Day, Halloween and Christmas (Ladies Only),” the women experimented, costuming themselves and singing their songs against karaoke tapes. From “riotous jabs at island life to the latest fad diets to the governor’s comparison of the Eastern Shore to outhouses, all topics are fair game with the exception of the Methodist Church.”
A few years ago, the ladies’ songs, skits and stories broke the sex barrier. They were invited to spice up the Tangier Sound Waterman’s Association Dinner. Under the direction of impressario Janice Marshall, the production has gotten spicier ever since. Now both men and women perform, taking both sex roles with equal glee. From that springboard they’ve jumped to the mainland, with the Smith Island Players’ biggest audience the statewide Waterman’s Banquet in Ocean City for two years running. “Smith Islanders have discovered a new way to please people and make money that has nothing to do with crabs,” says Eff.
Cross dressing and singing are new, but storytelling is a Smith Island tradition, according to adopted Islander and Baltimore Sun columnist Tom Horton. “Islanders make up stories and the ladies write poems for every event: funerals, 50th anniversaries, the Volunteer Fire Department dedication. The history of modern day Smith Island is alive in oral tradition and closets, though nobody yet has collected it.”
Poet-monologist Jennings Evans represents the male half of that tradition. Now he and Tom Horton are translating the Island idiom for mainlanders. Smith Island Players are coming to Salisbury, where you and I and everybody can see them Saturday April 9 (see below for details).
Hurry, because throughout our land, the real thing is getting scarcer. Distinctive, one-of-a-kind pleasures like very good food have retreated from region to locality, often taking sanctuary only in private homes. On Smith Island, such pleasures flourish, in such small things as accent (hopefully called Elizabethan), hand-picked crabmeat and dozen-layer chocolate cake. Yet they’ve been nourished by the very isolation that’s now a danger.
Now, as the Island culture that spawned the tradition is most threatened, collection and dissemination are beginning. Tom Horton’s upcoming book is about the Island. Governor William Donald Schaefer has given his blessing to a Smith Island Visitor’s Center to be built this year. Maryland Historical Trust is overseeing the state’s part of the effort, which includes a film on Island culture. “We want to save it as much as they do. If it dries up, we’re all poorer,” says Eff.
The Crisfield & Smith Island Cultural Alliance, the citizen partner, welcomes your support. Memberships range from $10 (individual) to $100 (corporate.) Send your check to Crisfield & Smith Island Cultural Alliance; POBox 761; Crisfield, MD 21817.
The April 9 Smith Island benefit begins at 7 pm at Salisbury’s Bennett Auditorium with a silent auction and continues with The Smith Island Players in song and skit. $15 individuals; $25 couples; $5 kids: 410/514-7650.
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