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The Seasonal Ghosts of Chesapeake Country
Why does Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol appeal to young and old alike, season after season? Community theater correspondent makes the rounds to find out.
by Carol Glover
"Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that
Old Marley was as dead as a doornail."
A Christmas Carol, being A Ghost Story of Christmas
So Charles Dickens began his Christmas Carol in 1843. Now, 154 years later, his dialogue reverberates throughout the English speaking world from high school stage to glittery Broadway. Acted by the Muppets, Shakespearean thespians and local Chesapeake Country players, this classic has become one of the most enduring traditions of Christmas.
Why does A Christmas Carol appeal to young and old alike, season after season? Why do Annapolitans stand in line for blocks to get tickets for Colonial Players' A Christmas Carol?
To find out, New Bay Times investigated three Chesapeake Country productions: Chesapeake Music Hall, Colonial Players and the new kid on the block, the Twin Beach Players.
Maybe its enduring popularity is because, as Chesapeake Music Hall co-owner Doug Yetter suggests, its a tale of redemption, a ghost story that happens to take place at Christmas, with a universal message of the generosity of the human spirit." Yetter, who is a student of Dickens, reminds me that "Dickens was a crusader for the better treatment of London's lower classes. He wanted the upper classes to help make their life better."
Or maybe A Christmas Carol endures because "There is something to love in all the plays characters." That theory comes from Rick Wade, writer of Colonial Players' adaptation.
"I love to watch the small roles, people in the streets, living the story. A Christmas Carol is a cornucopia, nothing material, but filled with everything in emotion. Scrooge has everything but has nothing. It's a story about renewal, living your life in a different way," Wade explains.
Or maybe its because we want to believe we dogs can learn new tricks, according to Joyce Halley, director of the Twin Beaches Players. She sees Dickens as "good theater.
Good theater, she explains, involves change. Scrooge has made his life, but the situation forces him to change. Scrooge is changed from Bah Humbug! to believing that simple things count."
"I have endeavored in this Ghostly little book to raise a Ghost of an Idea
Chesapeake Music Hall and Colonial Players present annual musical versions of A Christmas Carol. New this year in the Twin Beaches, Joyce Halley directs a progressive dinner production. Each sees the play differently, so take your pick or see them all. Heres what I saw:
Chesapeake Music Hall
Doug Yetter, director of the Music Hall's production and a collector of all versions of A Christmas Carol, started in 1977 adapting to the stage A Cricket on the Hearth, Dickens lesser known Christmas story. In 1992, Yetter composed the music for The Music Hall's traditional show; Michael Hulett wrote the lyrics. Yetter wanted to stay as true to the original words as possible, so much of the dialogue was drawn from Dickens. This year the Yetter/Hulett adaptation is playing in 11 theaters across the country.
This season in a Sunday matinee, the Music Hall audience is filled with young people dressed up, excitement in their voices, slurping their drinks and jiggling their legs. Organ music crescendos as carolers harmonize. The traditional Chesapeake Music Hall's Christmas Carol is about to begin.
With compartments and doors opening to reveal each new scene and Scrooge in a mobile bed, staging is anything but tradition. Billowing smoke, strobe lights and all sorts of special effects add to the drama.
Alive with humor edged with fright, Thomas Quimby plays a forceful, physical Scrooge, not the decrepit man you see in most versions. His very health makes him all the more scary.
Marley, acted superbly by David Reynolds who has appeared in all the Music Hall's Christmas Carols and also assists in directing this year is another combination of fright and fun. His entrance brought gales of laughter, but he glides across the stage to be joined by the dark spirits descending through the audience.
Of the Ghosts who come to show Scrooge his past, present and future, Cynthia Lasner is a joy to watch as the Ghost of Christmas Past. Her lovely face glows and her toes tap; she's having a great time as Scrooge joins in the Fezziwig Christmas party. With this ghost, we see Scrooge as he was before gold became his god. The beautiful "Take My Heart," sung by Susan Bell as Scrooge's fiancee Belle, takes us past the days of joy onto Scrooge's path of greed.
The Ghost of Christmas Present, played by David Reynolds, is lush and abundant. This scene introduces the Cratchit Family:
- Bob Cratchit, played with great emotion, by David Wm. Leisure
- Tiny Tim, played softly but surely by David Phillips
- Mrs. Cratchit (Pamela Phillips) and the children (Nicole Yetter yes, its in the family; Mark Baldwin and Ashley Adkins) performed with energy and enthusiasm.
The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come gave us all the chills. Wonderful costuming made this ghost of Scrooge's future unbending and unyielding.
This years production, the Music Halls sixth, is the best I've seen here. Its good because of the engaging musical score, Thomas Quimbys portrayal of Scrooge and the special effects. But maybe whats best is the redemption we see in very real terms as Scrooge buys the biggest turkey in the butcher shop and has it delivered to the Cratchits. His renewed generosity of spirit is reflected in faces at every table in the theater.
A Christmas Carol continues Friday and Saturday evenings and Wednesday matinees at Chesapeake Music Hall through December 28. Tickets start at $26.95: 800/406-0306.
"I'd been fiddling around with a stage adaptation of A Christmas Carol ," remembers Rick Wade. Dean Johnson, then President of Colonial Players [now mayor of Annapolis] suggested I make it into a musical, maybe with Dick Gessner who'd written children's musicals.
"I'm sure Dick's too busy, I said.
If you get it written, we'll produce it, Johnson said."
Those casual words on a summer in 1980 began a Christmas tradition at Colonial Players in Annapolis.
Even though he no longer directs his Christmas brainchild, Wade still holds it dear. I love to drive by and see people waiting in line at the box office for tickets, Wade says.
Many of the actors who are appearing in this year's performance have grown up in the Players theater. J.B. McLendon, this year's director, has been involved since he joined the stage crew in 1982.
"Many members of the cast have been together so long that they are like family, he explains. I see kids I grew up with bringing their kids to the show. Once you're involved it becomes part of your life."
You can see why if youre one of the lucky ticket holders for Colonial Players holiday production. Line are long and tickets, at only $5, cheap. This is the theater's Christmas gift to the community, McLendon explains. Actors and staff donate their time.
On opening night people of all ages were as full of anticipation as the young girls dressed in Christmas finery, huge eyes watching the stage and hands holding on to the chair arms.
The intimacy of the theater makes the audience part of this ensemble. The simple but effective set makes us feel as if were there in Scrooges bedroom or at the Fezziwig Christmas dance. The costumes take us back to 1890s London.
The talented cast fills the room with harmonizing voices introducing Rick Wades very singable tunes. Theres no weak link in this productions Christmas chain
- David Harper, a memorable Scrooge who hisses Bah Humbug and changes from wretched to generous in gestures and speech as well as spirit.
- Roger Compton, in his 14th Christmas Carol, is musical director and Bob Cratchit. His strong performance is enhanced by his expressive face as he moves from subservience when on stage with Scrooge to lord of the household in the bosom of his family.
- James Gallaghers Ghost of Jacob Marley is big in size and gesture. His tortured voice and mannerisms had the youngsters in the audience sitting on Moms lap.
- Bob Metzlers Mr. Fezziwig is full of joy. His body dances across the stage, while his face shows us a man who loves life and the people around him.
- The chemistry between Genny Wilbur (as Belle) and Brock Ballard (as the young Scrooge) makes the song In Your Own World heartbreaking.
- The Cratchit family Jill Sharpe-Compton, Lindsey Harper, Tim Grieb and Marjorie Stevens present family life with all its warmth and togetherness as they sing Bless Us All.
- This years Tiny Tim is picture perfect for his role, with his acting and singing adding icing on the cake.
The finale brings Scrooge into the audience as he sings his way into another lifestyle. When he plucks a youngster from the audience to join him, you want to dance too.
To show how this annual production brings families together, Rick Wade relates this story.
"I met a woman in the grocery store. She told me that every year her family goes to see Christmas Carol. The children have grown and they still want to get tickets. When they come back, all still go to Colonial Players as a family."
The finishing touch to this wonderful night of theater is exiting through the receiving line of actors, being able to touch Scrooge and pat Tiny Tim on the head and to say thank you for a wonderful Christmas present. As the audience moves through the Colonial Players lobby, each handshake and greeting brings the chance to interract with a neighbor in a heart-warmed extended family.
Put this one on your calendar for 1998 with a notation to wear cold weather gear as you stand in line for tickets.
Christmas Carol at Colonial Players is sold out. Stand-by tickets at $5 are sold one hour before performances: 800/406-0306.
Twin Beach Players
The new production on the block comes from the new non-profit (and non-professional) Twin Beach Players. Ann and John Remy, owners of Lagoons, in Chesapeake Beach, have wanted to try out the play since they saw it 10 years ago in Rehobeth.
"Were starting a tradition involving the community, bringing theater to the Beaches and providing the audience with a great time fun, caroling and a hayride, says Ann, the efforts producer.
This production is definitely a community enterprise, with actors recruited through word of mouth and open auditions. Three local attorneys have parts; the Remy family and employees are so involved that even Ann Remy's mother has been drafted as costumiere, shopping the neighborhood thrift shops for suitable clothing. Fifteen beach area businesses are supporting the performance by donating money, advertising, props, printing and providing the hay wagon.
The professional in the production is director Joyce Halley, a former music teacher with 20 years of community theater experience in Iowa. Shes been wanted to bring theater to the beaches since moving there three years ago.
"Most of the cast are inexperienced, first-time performers, she tells me. For example, the dockmaster at Fishing Creek is playing Mr. Fezziwig and he's great. The audience will be surprised to see people they know on stage, but it's a believable production with 30 committed locals taking part."
The Twin Beach Players one-act Christmas Carol , performed in vignettes, is not a musical. Halley has added dialogue from Dickens, a narrator and carolers to a short one-act adaptation.
The first vignette starts out at Neptune's Pub with carolers and appetizers. The audience then hops aboard a hay wagon with the carolers to ride to Lagoons for the entree and part two. Finally, the audience again travels by haywagon to Italia by the Bay for coffee or cider, dessert and the final vignette.
The players, all community folk, have found costumes, rehearsed around their family and work times and have had lots of fun doing it. Each one adds strength to the production.
- Hans Green, who narrates the tale with great expression and clarity;
- Marc Goodman, whose Scrooge squints, squeaks and whines across the stage;
- Frank Antonio, a convincing forceful Marley, whose body is weighted down with terrible sins and chains;
- Tom Coyle as Fezziwig, has a face full of joy and frivolity.
The Twin Beach Players succeed in carrying out the intentions of Remy and Halley. Its a true community effort all the way to you as you join in song with the carolers. Add this delightful show to your seasonal traditions for the fun of it.
A Christmas Carol by the Twin Beach Players: Lagoons Sat. Dec. 13 & Sun. Dec. 14for children (prices vary). Evening shows Dec. 14-Dec. 17: for $26: 410/257-7091.
"Bless us every one"
Why does A Christmas Carol appeal to young and old alike, season after season?
A Christmas Carol has something for us all.
For those of us who have seen many seasons come and go, the image of a second chance gives hope. As we consider our own lives, our past, present and the paths we are laying to our future, we believe for the moment that we can rededicate ourselves to a more generous and kindly nature.
For our youngsters? We dress them up and bring them to the theater so they can experience live actors, listen to music, and see an old stingy man turn into a prancing, laughing uncle. We hope these early images will, in the words of Chespeake Music Halls Scrooge, Thomas Quimby, become mesmerized. Alive, with no remote controls, the kids can see a nasty man turn good. Its magic.
For such hopes, standing in a long line in the cold is a small price to pay.
The Three Scrooges
"Scrooge! A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint..."
Scrooge is as irresistible as Hamlet to actors. Dickens redeemed villain has been portrayed by actors from Albert Finney to Mr. Magoo. Just how does an actor step from his street clothes into the miserly, drab personality of a Scrooge?
Thomas Quimby, whose marvelous Scrooge appears at the Chesapeake Music Hall, is a veteran actor. With bachelors and masters degrees in acting, he teaches acting at Ann Arundel Community College.
"This is a role I've always wanted to do. Scrooge is a lost soul without hope, a tragic Shakespearean character. Marley is his fairy godmother. I want the audience to be moved by his redemption," Quimby says. When my costume is on and I look in the mirror, Scrooge is there."
David Harper, who has been Scrooge at Colonial Players for eight years, has many other acting roles under his belt. A delightful character on stage, hes a bit of a Scrooge in person, stingy with words about his character.
This isnt about Scrooge or about directors, he says. Its a celebration. This production is unlike anything. Its an event in Annapolis that has taken on a life of its own. The other evening at dress rehearsal we had some people come by to watch. My Scrooge usually wears red underwear, this year I decided to be different and wear white. They were ticked off, so I guess Ill keep wearing red.
Mark Goodman, Twin Beaches Scrooge, has not acted in 30 years. Ive been practicing for this all my life. Scrooge goes to show that theres a little good in everyone.
A consultant in real life, Goodman likes to tell people what to do.
Arent you going to ask me who my favorite Scrooge is? he insists. The true Scrooge is Mr. Magoo.
The Story of A Christmas Carol
The miserly Scrooge is visited by the spirit of his dead partner, Marley. Marley warns Scrooge to change his ways, to become more generous in his dealings with his fellowman, and prepares Scrooge for the visit of three ghosts: Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet to Come.
As Scrooge takes these journeys he sees:
- his old mentor Fezziwig
- his ex-fiancee Belle
- the family of his clerk Bob Cratchit
- Tiny Tim, the frail crippled youngest Cratchit
- his nephew Fred
Frightened by his fate, Scrooge begins to repent his ways and emerges a changed and better man.
Locals Earn Halos for Holiday Outreach
Its that time of the year again. No, not the time of frazzled holiday hoopla that threatens health, wealth and sanity. This same time of year brings out the giving nature in Scrooges, heralding charity, compassion and generosity in us all.
Around the Bay, outreach and opportunity comes in many forms and reaches as far as Bosnia. A few days before Thanksgiving, the globally minded members of Grace Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Edgewater reached out to crisis areas of the world, including Bosnia according to church secretary June Shay. In Operation Christmas Child, congregation members filled a hundred shoeboxes with toys, school supplies, English books, flashlights and toiletries. The boxes should be arriving at their destination as we go to press. A lot of children participated, which made it extra special, said Shay.
Also helping people from other countries are the employees of Allen Apartments in Annapolis. On December 15, Central American children who live in the apartments and surrounding neighborhoods will again make decorations for Christmas trees and cards for their parents. Then on Dec. 22, theyll enjoy a Christmas party complete we with snacks, drinks, carols, and a visit from Santa. Organizer Ruth Jones tells us there will also be a Christmas turkeys Dec. 20 for the apartment residents and the community, which, she adds, is probably 99 percent Spanish-speaking.
Farther south, First Baptist Church of Edgewater has celebrated an early annual community Christmas Dinner. Besides laying out turkey and trimmings for 400 to 450 people, the church took around 300 dinners for those in need to Anne Arundel Medical Center, fire departments and police stations. First Baptist member John Williams, one of may volunteers, cheered a lonely man whose wife was in the hospital.
In Solomons, SMILE Inc., an ecumenical community outreach ministry, is throwing a Christmas dinner at Bowens Inn. Those without a dinner, alone or with health problems, are invited to the restaurant on Dec. 25 from noon to 3 to share in holiday dinner. SMILE also takes nearly 100 baskets of food and toys to the community. We never know what will show up, says director Gladys Bowers. Last year someone showed up with a basket full of wooden toys. Were always looking for volunteers. Information? 410/326-3848.
Toys are as popular as food for Christmas giving, with many groups around the region conducting toy drives, along with clothing and food drives.
The granddaddy of all toy drives is the U.S. Marines well-known Toys for Tots program. Begun in 1947 by Major Bill Hendricks, this campaign has since attracted a slew of celebrity spokespersons including John Wayne, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Charlton Heston and Johnny Carson. Hendricks noticed that no charity distributed toys to disadvantaged children in Los Angeles; he remedied that lack, handing out more than 7,000 toys. Nationwide, the Marines have organized 210 million toys for countless tots in 50 years. Among local donors are ARINC, OConor Piper & Flynn, New Annapolitans, Annapolis Yachting Club, the Navy Officers Club and Alumni House, Boy Scouts and Central Middle School. Collection Agencies include Holiday Sharing, Christian Assistance Program, Love and Action Ministries, Eastern Point Shelter and Second Chance Ministries. Also, Long and Foster Realty is a convenient drop off point for new, unwrapped toys. Dec. 22 is the deadline. Information? Corporal Rebecca Rotter @ 410/293-4112.
U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen also got into the act, holding their annual Christmas Giving Tree in conjunction with the Salvation Army through Dec. 9. The Annapolis Area Complex Chief Petty Officer Association conducts a food drive for delivery Dec. 12. For Sailors and Marines who cant go home or are on active duty, the Annapolis Navy Family Center coordinates Christmas cookie deliveries for Dec. 23. Information? 410/293-2641.
Larry Griffins We Care and Friends open their hearts at Christmas as well as Thanksgiving, collecting new toys at the Eastport Clipper, Wild Orchid Cafe and Apple Sign Company. According to Griffin, his annual drive, now in its fourth year, brings 3,000 toys to 500 families in Anne Arundel County. I know when I was a kid, when I opened up a toy and broke the cellophane, it was something special, says Griffin. Deadline is 10 am Dec. 24. Information? 410/295-5223.
The North Beach Childrens Fund has provided food, clothing, and toys to kids in the Twin Beaches area since 1989. Around 75 children benefit each year, and President Barbara Callis says shes still receiving names. Which means the group could use your help. Information? 301/855-8748.
Also in the Beaches, the Twin Beaches and Northeast Community Centers are holding a winter coat drive that continues through February, and a canned food drive for holiday dinner baskets. Information? 410/257-2554.
Besides Salvation Armys familiar bells outside shopping malls for which Captain Walter Strong says they always need more people this familiar goodwill group is behind several other outreach programs this winter. If you act quickly you can find an angel tree, with items to purchase for the needy at Nordsrom, Annapolis Bank and Trust, Calvary UMC, and a host of other places. Santa-helpers should ask for their child or family by Dec. 15; gifts should be delivered by Dec. 22. If you hurry, again this year you can take home Army teddy bears to dress them in pajamas, school or sports wear, or as nursery rhyme characters. This years deadline is Dec. 19. Shopping at Giant provides another opportunity, with the Project Care and Share food drive through Dec. 24. Captain Strong also says theres a need for volunteers to help sort and give out goods. Information? 410/263-4091 .
Still looking for your Christmas tree? Masque Farms on Spa Road, near Forest Drive is open weekends for you to cut your own tree. Your purchase here benefits Maryland Therapeutic Riding, a non-profit organization that uses horseback riding as a treatment for individuals with physical and mental disorders. Information? 410/268-0474
Even small needs arent overlooked this season. The holidays spell baking for many, and it also can spell disappointment when cookies crumble and cakes flop. Land OLakes, the butter people, is reaching out to help bakers with a Holiday Bakeline active through Dec. 24. From 8am to 6pm seven days a week, you can re-ask the questions a record-breaking 55,000 baffled bakers called in last year. Hotline: 800/782-9606.
On the thinner end of the scale, the American Institute for Cancer Research answers questions ranging from which foods fight cancer to the nutrition value of moose meat. The diet, nutrition and food safety hotline, promoted for the holidays is open year round: 800/843-8114.
Last but not least, many motorists fail to ask for assistance when they had one too many because they dont want to leave their vehicles. The American Automobile Associations Operation Tipsy Tow, starting in Maryland this year, makes short work of that excuse, carrying drivers and their vehicles 15 miles for free, with extra miles $2.50 per (the AAA member rate) through New Years Day. Service line: 800/AAA-HELP.
With so goodwill, the days of bah-humbuging may be disappearing.
Help New Bay Times Celebrate the Season in 1998
New Bay Times needs your help to prepare next years holiday feature. Do you have seasonal traditions that emphasize family, friends or good deeds that help others?
Please share them with us. Write to NBT, P.O. Box 358, Deale, MD 20751 Fax to 410/867-0307 or E-mail to email@example.com.
Please include your name, address and phone number.
Bring a Live One Home For Christmas
If you grew up in the 1950s, the fond nostalgia with which you remember Christmas in the good old days may stop short of the tree.
Since ancient times, Christmas trees have represented life, renewal and prosperity for the coming year. But in the middle of the 20th century, enduring values were briefly redefined, and new species of trees flourished. Aluminum betokened prosperity. Plastic, lasting nearly forever, made renewal obsolete. Fake, flocked snow on your tree meant you were really living.
Now as the 20th century fades, many Christmas tree shoppers are reverting to deeper roots, choosing live trees the ways their grandparents and great-grandparents did back when the century was brand new.
Except that while grandma and grandpa were likely to find their tree for free in the woods, todays shoppers are far more likely to pay cash, at the rate of about $4 to $8 per tree-foot, at tree lots or farm-forests.
Each have their advantages. Lots are not only easy to find but also let you support a favorite cause, boy scouts, volunteer fire department or disadvantaged children.
Christmas tree forests, on the other hand, let you recapture the American tradition of revisiting the winter woods in hopes that youll agree on a tree to cut rather than taking the ax to one another.
Such farm-forested have mushroomed all over the state since the early 1970s, according to Dr. Francis Gouins, a Deale horticulturist now retired from the University of Maryland. As advisor for 33 years to Marylands Christmas tree growers, he gave the choose-and-cut industry its start.
Farms also assure you that youre buying a Maryland-grown tree. That choice gives you more than a patriotic advantage.
The freshest Christmas trees are available at choose-and-cut farms, according to Department of Natural Resources forest ranger Will Williams, for whom freshness means lowering the risk of fire.
Trees purchased at local Christmas tree lots may be nearly as fresh, but they are often cut weeks or months in advance, refrigerated and shipped long distances before they reach your community, the ranger adds.
If you buy from a lot, test your tree for freshness. A fresh tree will have a pungent, evergreen smell. Then, bend several needles. If, says Ranger Williams, theyre resilient and spring back into shape, the tree is fresh. You can also tap the base of the tree. If lots of needles fall off, the tree has already dried out. While youre down there, make sure the base of the trunk is narrow enough to fit in your tree stand.
About 40,000 American families will buy live trees this year, according to the Maryland Christmas Tree Association. Thats the trade association of farmers who, instead of corn or mums, beans or tobacco, raise pines, firs and spruce as their cash crop. Lining six- to 12-inch seedlings up in corn-like rows, tree farmers tend and spray and shear their crop for as long as a dozen years.
Long-needled white pines and short, bristly needled Norway spruces, both fast-growers, add about 10 inches each year. A white pine may be ready for Christmas in seven or eight years, while a soft, short-needled Douglas fir may take 10 years. The blue spruce, a Rocky Mountain native, grows more slowly.
All make handsome Christmas trees, tractable to being sheared to triangular perfection. But dont, a nationally respected expert says, choose a Norway spruce. It dries out too quickly, according to Gouin, who continues his study of trees at his Upakrik Farm in Deale.
Youre safe enough with any of the other three. Fire marshals allow blue spruce, Douglas fir and Scotch pine trees to be used in public building, says Gouin, who did the research on which the fire marshals based their decision. We cut and stored trees from two to four weeks, and then took to the Prince Georges County burn building to ignite. Fire marshals from the different counties videotaped the fires and, based on the heat and smoke emitted, selected species they would allow.
A well-chosen live trees do far more for the world than give your family several weeks of mid-winter pleasure.
Christmas trees contribute to Bay ecology, explains DNR forest ranger Mark Muir, of St. Marys County. Planting trees helps clean the air and water. When theyre cut, they are mostly replanted. Its a never-ending cycle.
Muir has already selected and cut his spruce from his parents Christmas tree farm in Hartford County.
The National Christmas Tree Association has more to say on the benefits of a green Christmas:
- Releasing more oxygen as they grow, young trees like Christmas trees may benefit the environment more than slower-growing older trees.
- Christmas trees creating scenic green belts, stablizing soil, protecting water supplies and providing refuge for wildlife.
- Christmas trees grows in soils that might otherwise be barren
- For every Christmas tree harvested, two or three new trees are planted.
- Christmas trees live on when the season is over, providing soil-enriching mulch for gardens and parks. Or, decorated with popcorn, cranberries and seed, they can brighten the New Year for the birds.
So if cutting a living tree pricks your conscience, consider these words of wisdom from Andy Cashman, secretary of the Maryland Christmas Tree Association. If consumers didnt buy real trees, farmers wouldnt grow them and there would be about a million fewer acres of trees growing in the U.S.
Alternately, at many farms you can dig a living tree instead of cutting it.
Potted living trees can also be purchased at most nurseries. Whether you dig a balled-and-burlapped tree from the ground or lift it off a nursery floor, youll have to give it special attention once you get it home. Dont keep it indoors over a week, or it may succumb to temperature shock when you return it outdoors. Dig your hole now, before the ground freezes, and plant it before the new year.
Cut trees also need attention. They should be transported inside your car or wrapped to prevent drying out. At home, they should be warmed in a garage or basement before coming into full heat. Saw a diagonal inch off the base to open the trees water channels, and set it in a bucket of water until youre ready to set it up.
Water cut or balled trees daily, and keep them away from radiators, fireplaces and other heat sources.
Finally, believe your evergreen trees promise that life continues even through winters cold, dark days.
In Montana, Nebraska and New Mexico, billionaire and media mogul Ted Turner has 15,000 bison the largest herd in the United States. Now he and his son, Teddy, are looking into turning their hobby into a business, reports the Associated Press. The Turners think that putting profit into the game will help to preserve the species
In Wisconsin, people are profiting from that cranberry sauce snuggled up to your turkey. The state also is paying a price. The Chicago Tribune reported this week that land devoted to cranberry bogs in Wisconsin the nation's leading producer has increased by 25 percent in five years to more than 15,000 acres. The U.S. EPA has four cases against growers allegedly for expanding into sensitive areas
Sister Bay Update: In Washington's Puget Sound, a late and unusually potent red-tide bloom has contaminated shellfish and shut down fishing along the coast. The red tide caused by oxygen depletion and excess nutrients is wrecking the region's oyster fishery for the holidays
In Washington, President Bill Clinton gave Chelsea a pretty weird gift before she left for Stanford, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. It was a carbon credit bond issued by the Costa Rican government, a document that prevents polluters from emitting 1,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide. Of course, if Chelsea turns out not to be green, she could sell it
Our Creature Feature this week comes to us from Florida, where a biologist has developed a natural pesticide that amounts to a diet pill for mosquitoes.
The pill's inventor, Dov Borovsky, mixes hormones from the insect's ovaries with pond scum, according to the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. The mix prevents them from digesting food. "The more they eat, the more they can not digest and eventually they starve to death," said Borovsky, of the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory.
The only problem we see is talking a mosquito into taking a pill.
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Guess Who Knows if Youve Been Good or Bad
P.S. Its Not Only Santa
You may not need to write Santa this year. He already knows what you want from information shared by the catalogue industry.
As far as your driving, Santa knows if you've been naughty or nice if he, or anyone else, has paid the state of Maryland $5 or $10 to get your MVA records.
The fact is, privacy is getting harder to come by in the computer era. Only by fighting do you stand a chance of holding back the tide.
If living in a fishbowl makes you nervous, then you'd better stop reading right now. Because snoopers and profiteers may be putting together your dossier at this moment. How's this for an e-mail advertisement we read the other day:
"Learn EVERYTHING about your friends, neighbors, enemies, employees or anyone else. Even your boss. Even yourself."
There are web sites out there that we won't name where you can buy someone's unlisted phone numbers, their bank account numbers, a list of their stocks and even their salary.
From data bases like MVA records, people can learn details about your family, your real estate records, your credit history, your bills, your minor brushes with the law and your product preferences. On the latter score, a Washington Post story on Sunday described the cross-checking that takes place to determine what catalogues pile up in your mailbox.
We'll skip the details, but let's just say that if you order a large-sized bra by mail-order, soon you may be getting a catalogue from another company for big women's attire.
And if you live by the Internet, you'd better beware: Sending e-mail is like sending a postcard. Its readable by a string of hackers and digital peepers along the way.
Of course, all of this will sound like peanuts when they finish the mapping the human genome. When we understand all of our genes and what turns them on, employers will know not just your medical history but also the risks in your medical future.
We've probably gotten you and us entirely too paranoid here today. But all of this is true, and we think you need to know it and be careful. Here's a start: To keep people from snooping in your MVA records, dial the department's automated, business-hours only "Request for Privacy of Records" line at 888/682-3772.
And when you see Santa, don't tell him too many secrets.
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Yes, Virginia, Even Today Love, Generosity and Devotion Exist
Dear New Bay Times~Weekly:
Exactly 100 years ago in 1897, a little girl by the name of Virginia wrote to the Sun newspaper in New York asking if there was a Santa Claus. Papa says, if you see it in the Sun, it's so, she wrote. Some of her friends had said there was no Santa and Virginia was looking for the truth.
I was reminded of that famous story when I read New Bay Times heart-warming stories about six area volunteers who devote their time and their lives to helping others, and who find thanks in their giving (Nov. 26 - Dec. 3).
In a hundred years, everything has changed, and some things not at all. Back then, the Sun answered Virginia, saying that some are affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. The paper went on to say, yes, Virginia, Santa Claus exists, as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.
The stories of these Bay area volunteers was a true inspiration in this holiday season. How can we be sure it's the truth? If you see it in New Bay Times, it's so!
Thanks to NBT for all of its good works.
F.L. Collins, Churchton
Thanks to All Who Pitched In
Dear New Bay Times~Weekly:
Every year, Chesapeake Christian School, located at 250 W. Bayfront Road in Lothian, coordinates the Fall Fun-Fest, a safe alternative to trick-or-treating. This is a night filled with games, prizes, rides and family fellowship for our community.
The PTA at Chesapeake Christian School would like to thank you for allowing our notice for this event to be placed in a paper that is focused on community and family news and activities. This is the first time we advertised using this medium, and we found it to be highly effective in reaching our community.
In addition, we would like to thank the following sponsors who mad this years Fest a great time for all who came: The Rev. Charles and Winnie Elliott; the staff and families of the school; Faith Assembly of God congregation; Calvert Bowling Lanes; Chesapeake Spas; Cove Point Marine Transport; CVS Pharmacy; David Van Hoy Century 21 Real Estate; Deale IGA; Dominoes Pizza; Freestate Construction; Giant; K-Mart; McDonalds; Maryland A/C; Ponderosa; Roy Rogers, Safeway; Son Shine Books; Subway; Taurus Ent.. (general contractor); The Flower Station; Tri-Me Market; Wal-Mart; Wendys; Wheelers Tru-Value.
We apologize if we have inadvertently omitted anyone from this list. We do appreciate everyones efforts and time to make this night possible for the children in our community.
Rich Purvis, Chesapeake Christian School PTF President
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In Memoriam: Annapolis Symphony Orchestras Sara Watkins
by Barbara Miller
The tributes paid to Sara Watkins Shirley-Quirk at her funeral Monday, December 8 were reflective of the words of William Wordsworth:
But yet I know, where'er I go,
That there hath passed away a glory from the earth.
Sara Watkins, as she was known professionally, had an irreverent passion for life equal to her passion for music. She desired to pass her love of music onto her listeners, especially children, who were her audience as she conducted this falls Annapolis Symphony Orchestra concerts for second graders in Anne Arundel County.
A world-class musician, Sara had been appointed principal oboist of the National Symphony by Antal Dorati in 1973, when it was rare for any woman to be the principal of any section of any major orchestra anywhere in the world. When Mstislav Rostropovich came to conduct the orchestra, he spoke very little English and, wanting to communicate well with him, she immediately took up the study of Russian.
In 1981 she left the National Symphony because she wanted to further a solo career as well as pursue conducting. She went back to school, at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, and was awarded the Artist Diploma, the highest degree in conducting given by Peabody. Hers is, at this writing, the only such degree ever granted.
Since 1981, Sara had been married to John Shirley-Quirk, internationally renowned bass-baritone. The couple had three children.
On Tuesday, December 2, Sara Watkins, 52, collapsed on stage during a rehearsal in Bethesda and died of a coronary embolism. She was to have been featured as oboe soloist in a Bach cantata in a concert at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater.
Because I can no longer look ahead, I am looking back.
I first met Sara after she came to Annapolis to conduct the youth concerts and to lead the Annapolis Chamber Orchestra in its first season at the Maryland Hall for the Arts.
Before I met her, I heard her voice narrating a tape that would introduce all the second graders in this county to the music they would hear at a concert just for them in September. I knew absolutely knew from the vitality and energy in that voice that it was going to be a marvelous concert.
Sara threw herself into everything she took on. She didn't just agree; she asked if she could help plan the materials that would go out for elementary school music teachers to share with their students. When her offer was gratefully accepted, she worked with a cheerful enthusiasm to design a program to captivate young children. She delved into her creativity for ideas to hold the attention of seven-year-olds and took the time and effort to reach out to others for suggestions.
I was a docent for this concert, and on the morning of the program I helped to usher into Maryland Hall almost a thousand students, teachers and chaperones for each of two performances. I stood at the back of the auditorium as Sara began the program, talking to the audience and conducting the orchestra. In the darkened auditorium, I could see the silhouettes of the backs of all those small heads, erect and tall, all those seven-year-olds calm and quiet. She had them in the palm of her hand.
Earlier in September, I had been thrilled with the Chamber Music concert Sara had conducted. I said to her at the reception afterwards something like, "I can't remember ever hearing a concert in this hall that I enjoyed more." An instant later, I had become one of the legions of friends and colleagues who were on hug-basis with Sara Watkins.
Now I am one of the legion who will greatly miss her.
Cellist Barbara Miller, of Fairhaven, covers classic music for New Bay Times.
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Reflections on December 7
From Meadowlands to the Patapsco to Pearl Harbor with the U.S. Navy
This past Sunday the day after Navy walloped Army was Dec. 7, which obviously among many is no longer considered a day that will live in infamy. FDR, you overestimated both the memory and indignation of Americans.
On that day, which thankfully remains memorable to some, a few miles upstream on the Patapsco River from the Burton home at the mouth of Stoney Creek, a salvage operation continued to dismantle the aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea in a torturously slow manner while also prompting environmental concerns for one of the upper Chesapeake's major tributaries.
For four years, workers have been on the job converting the once mighty carrier to scrap metal, and there's still much to be done. In minutes on Dec. 7, 1941, carrier-based Japanese pilots almost scrapped the 624-foot carrier West Virginia and her sister ship Maryland, sunk the Oklahoma, and sent the legendary cruiser of 608 feet Arizona to the bottom at Pearl Harbor with nearly 1,000 crewmen aboard her then. Still aboard now.
Another Disaster Waiting to Happen
Though I did spend some time in a Navy hospital in Hawaii in December of '45, I didn't get the opportunity to visit the graveyard of the Oklahoma, Arizona and so many other vessels of the ravaged Pacific Fleet. But I have several times taken a run up the Patapsco to look over the Coral Sea or what's left of this once-proud ship.
She's ugly, rusting, deprived of her flight deck, guns and just about everything else above deck, but she's still frightening though in a different sort of way. She's an environmental disaster waiting to happen. One that to some degree has already happened.
Old ships of war are something akin to the guts of a nuclear power generating plant. What do you do with them when they're worn out? The ocean is big, the earth much bigger, yet we're running out of space to bury all the stuff from oil and asbestos to radioactive materials and lots more contaminants.
There is always the danger of spills, and the old Coral Sea has already done some worrisome dirty work to the Patapsco when oil and debris was jettisoned into its waters only several miles from its confluence to the Chesapeake. Hey, that's upstream from the home port of this newspaper. What happens hereabouts can have repercussions down your way.
The disposal of ships old and new with their oil and other contaminates pose ominous questions. To this day some 56 years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, oil still seeps from the Arizona.
The waters around the Coral Sea appear grubby; one wonders what's in them in addition to the visible debris. Certainly oil, asbestos and unknown quantities of toxins. There have been onboard fires, accidents, a death, citations issued and fines levied for pollution, but the work continues at the Fairfield yard within view of Fort McHenry. It has been going on since 1993, and we wonder whether the scrapping originally intended to be finished within a year will be completed before a major spill or other environmental problem develops.
Oil and Waterfowl Dont Mix
Oil and water don't mix. Nor does oily water mix with marine and bird life. White perch and rockfish and for the first time in decades, sea trout were plentiful in the lower Patapsco the past fishing season. I harbor concerns for them.
Then there's waterfowl. Oil does its dirty work in a slow and agonizing way with ducks and geese. The potential damage goes far beyond the resident waterfront mallards some welcome and others detest on the Patapsco. Periodically, from late February through much of March, waters like the mouth of Stoney Creek are busy staging areas for diving ducks, mostly canvasbacks, preparing to head back to nest in prairie regions of Midwest USA and Canada.
Twenty-five years ago, Department of Natural Resource's then-chief waterfowl biologist Vern Stotts expressed concerns about ducks and geese of the Chesapeake mixing with oil that could spill in a tanker mishap on the Bay. For that matter, any other appreciable introduction of oil into Bay waters would be just as bad.
Scaup, lesser and greater, redheads and canvasbacks raft up in tremendous numbers prior to heading north. A major Bay oil spill at a critical time, Stotts warned, could wipe out much of the Atlantic Flyway's population of canvasbacks, a magnificent duck that has been in serious trouble for nearly 50 years.
It's bad enough already. The beleaguered canvasback has to cope with foxes, raccoons and other predators on its nesting grounds of prairie sloughs in summertime. Potential hostile wintering grounds complicate their comeback.
At this time, the Coral Sea is the only obsolete vessel of significant size currently being scrapped in the Baltimore Harbor area. But there could be more, each one posing the same environmental problems.
Most old surplus super ships are scrapped in South Asia, but salvage entrepreneurs in this country are trying to get their share of the work, which means we could get our share of the woes. Thats perversely fitting. Wherever a giant warship has to be salvaged, some place on our earth will be contaminated, and bird and marine life threatened. Thats in addition to the woes that must be faced by the humans who have to do the dirty and dangerous work.
Remembering Famous Men on an Infamous Day
An example of all of this is the USS Coral Sea. Once the pride of the Navy, she was named in honor of the Battle of the Coral Sea, the historic battle in the early days of World War II when the U.S. took the offensive against the Japanese fleet for the first time and the first sea battle ever involving only carrier aircraft. Yet the big warships didn't get close enough to shoot at each other; instead their planes did.
To some the big naval battle was a draw: We lost the aircraft carrier Lexington, and the Yorktown was badly damaged in that early May of 1942. But we slowed the Japanese fleet, later turning the tide and demolishing it because we could build more awesome carriers, battleships, cruisers, destroyers and other craft faster than they could. And we had a better Navy to crew them.
We had sailors like Jean W. Showe of Annapolis, who was aboard the light cruiser Raleigh sunk at Pearl Harbor and lived to tell about it, which he did last Sunday when asked by those who attended observances of Dec. 7, 1941 at the Naval Academy. He is a link with the past, an 81-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor who spent a couple hours in oily and burning waters before being picked up by a destroyer.
People gathered around him, wanting to know what Pearl Harbor was like. Many wanted their kids to see and hear him; they don't cover much about World War II in schools today. Showe pointed out another member of the Pearl Harbor Survivors, Joseph K. Taussig, an officer who left a leg on the 583-foot battleship Nevada when she was practically sunk in the surprise attack.
Meanwhile, a wreath was tossed into the Severn in memory of those at Pearl, as was done at many other locales this day, the day after Navy crushed Army 39 to 7 at the New Jersey Meadowlands. As I watched the wild celebration on TV, like many others I'm sure, I thought behind moist eyes how we enjoy this day featuring future sailors, soldiers and marines. There aren't many occasions when servicemen are cheered in our anti-military society. How soon we forget.
Recently a Churchton reader wrote this newspaper suggesting this writer was an overreacting old warrior, probably from Pluto, the planet often in the dark. Maybe so, but I'd rather be old and banished to Pluto than be young and heading to Canada to avoid service with the likes of Showe, Taussig and the more than 3,000 who didn't return from Pearl.
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The Christmas Chill
Lady D's starboard rubrail gently kissed the piling, and once I secured the lines, we both let out a sigh of relief, knowing that the fall season was finally over. Signs of winter's approach were everywhere: occasional skim ice in the early morning, scores of mallards, bufflehead and black ducks resting and feeding on Meredith Creek.
By early afternoon, the waning daylight foretold of shortened days and long night. Before Thanksgiving, the Chesapeake's chill is generally a minor annoyance. Afterward the holiday, it can be downright bitter save for the occasional blue bird day but even thats an illusion because the air is cold.
Those who earn a living outdoors often gauge the passing of time by the seasons and what each reveals. Autumn holds its own magic: the young ospreys preparing to venture towards South America, the sooks following the currents to the Bay's mouth, the massive tundra swans returning from their summer breeding grounds on the Canadian tundra.
Unfortunately, most of us aren't made like the visitors from the Great White North. Our skin and blood too thin. Our time outside during the depths of winter is limited, and that fact dawns slowly on some, while others accepted it. I think I fit in the category of the latter. After all, duck season opens again on Monday, and there are still pickerel to chase.
Chesapeake Outdoor News
Borrowing a page from News of the Weird, Leon Jude of Laurel took a six-legged whitetail at the Agricultural Research Center in Beltsville. Apparently, the deer is an incomplete twin, a phenomenon not completely uncommon among species that produce twins. What is odd, biologists say, is that the deer survived past birth and apparently wasn't at all hindered by the third set of wheels.
Interested in tagging black bear cubs denned up with their mother next spring? Then purchase one of the Department of Natural Resources black bear conservation stamp products, which range from a $5 stamp to a $25 matte print, before Dec. 31 to be eligible for the bear-hunt drawing. In addition to tagging along with DNR biologists, winners receive a one-night stay in a cabin at New Germany State park.
Or enter with no purchase by sending a letter with name, address, and telephone number to DNR Wildlife and Heritage Division, Black Bear Conservation Promotion, 580 Taylor Ave., Annapolis, MD. 21401. Entries and purchases must be made by Dec. 31 for the Jan. 15 drawing.
Jan. 2-4: Chesapeake Sportfishing Show w/seminars, vendors and guides. Opening 6pm Fri., 10am Sat. and Sun. @ Broadneck Sports Complex and National Guard Armory, Annapolis: 410/841-6974.
To make your freshwater or saltwater fishing report, news of outdoor club/organization event, outing or function to Chesapeake Outdoors Phone 410/757-0130, then press # 3 Email at OspreyExpeditions@compuserv.com.
Please include detailed information including times, date, place, phone and contact.
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