Dock of the Bay

Vol. 8, No. 32
Aug. 10-16, 2000
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Eastport Escalates Hostilities Against Annapolis

How does a young, independent republic maintain its revolutionary fervor? By declaring war on its former oppressor.

“We will annex City Dock and claim it as our Northern Territory,” announced MRE Premier Cindy Fletcher-Holden at the Maritime Republic of Eastport’s first-ever state dinner last week. Shocked by the surprise announcement were guests of honor mayor and first lady of Annapolis Dean and Sally Johnson.

Now entering its third year of independence, the MRE began as a humorous way to make the best of a poor situation. In November of 1997, the State Highway Administration announced it would close the Spa Creek Bridge — a vital link between Eastport and downtown Annapolis — for three weeks of repairs. For residents, the bridge closing would be a transportation headache. But for restaurants and other businesses, the closing posed financial disaster.

“When handed a lemon, they made lemonade,” said Mayor Johnson. Calling themselves the Eastport Secessionist Committee, 40 locals met at neighborhood watering holes to plan their break from “the mainland.” Their goal was to organize activities and generate publicity to attract paying outsiders into Eastport, despite the inconvenience of the closed bridge.

On Super Bowl Sunday 1998, one day before the scheduled closing, the insurgents burned the 1950 papers that had annexed Eastport to Annapolis, and — tongue planted firmly in cheek — declared themselves the sovereign Maritime Republic of Eastport.

The impromptu revolt succeeded. When the bridge re-opened, restaurants found revenues up from the same period the year before. The three weeks of independence were filled with activities that have since become local traditions: The Dog Day Afternoon and Paw Crawl, the 0.05k Eastport Bridge Run and the popular Reunification Ball. MRE’s gold-and-black flag now flies throughout Eastport.

Buoyed by success, the secessionists teamed up with the Annapolis Jaycees for “the world’s first Tug of War across a body of water.” Squaring off on opposing shores of Spa Creek, 100 Eastporters and Annapolitans pulled with all their might on the 1,400-foot rope. The Eastport side emerged victorious, and claimed as its spoils the creek itself, renaming it the Gulf of Eastport.

Beneath all the hoopla, the real winner was the community: Each tugger had to secure pledges, and all proceeds went to local charities. The Tug of War has since become another annual event for the MRE. The second annual Tug, last year’s Slaughter Across the Water, far outpaced the first, raising $20,000.

Now, the tug is on for City Dock, with last week’s state dinner presenting the last opportunity for a diplomatic solution.

Discussion at the head table bore a striking similarity to the recent Middle East talks at Camp David. According to MRE Revolutionary Council Member Laura Townsend, the mayor offered a last-ditch proposal in which “MRE and Annapolis would share sovereignty in part of the Old City Dock, and MRE would have sovereignty in some areas outside the 1950 city limits.” But the mayor’s proposal was met with silence, and MRE’s Minister of War Rick Kennedy presented him with the official Declaration of Annexation.

With the third Tug of War looming on November 4, officials from both sides remained publicly optimistic. “We made great progress,” said Minister Kennedy.

Said the mayor: “I hold great hope that a peaceful resolution can be found.”

But a close associate was less confident. “Pshaw,” exclaimed Sally Johnson to the hope that more talks could produce a lasting peace.

Admitted Kennedy, “We will probably have to take up arms.”

–Josh Cohen

Cohen is Bay Weekly’s frankly biased correspondent in The Maritime Republic of Eastport.

Manhattan Transfers to Sotterley to Keep up a Classy Tradition

When it comes to tradition, Sotterley Plantation has plenty. Sotterley is Maryland’s only surviving Tidewater plantation open to the public. The St. Mary’s County mansion is a National Historic Landmark home to three centuries of history.

But when it comes to dollars, Sotterley comes up short.

Its place in the White House Millennium Council’s Save American’s Treasures Project brings the Plantation over $400,000 for capital expenses. But that’s still not enough, says the Plantation’s Carol Wilson. “We are rolling at intense speed with our renovations, and each day we are finding more hidden treasures, such as the original roof that dates back to the 1700s. The moneys that we have are already allocated and spent on the preservation. We are in desperate need of funding just to keep our doors open and pay the electric bills.”

So five years ago, Sotterley began another tradition: bringing classy music makers to its classic lawns. For the first three years, Chesapeake Chamber Orchestra made the music. Last year, Sotterley went for renown, and generation-spanning folk artist Judy Collins helped the historic Plantation raise $30,000. The Manhattan Transfer follows in Collins’ big footprints, making a one-day trip into Southern Maryland on Sunday, August 13.

That’s a long transfer from the vocal ensemble’s usual route. The Manhattan Transfer introduced their very unvocal sounds in the hip clubs of New York City. Since then, award-winning albums have spread their fame. In 1981, their Boy from New York City won Grammy awards in both jazz and pop categories. Their 1985 release of Vocalese received 12 Grammy nominations, making it the second-most nominated single album ever. Youngsters have gotten to know them through The Manhattan Transfer Meets Tubby the Tuba. The cocooning generation has met them on television’s Home Improvement. They’ve even performed for the pope.

These are no ordinary singers. The two men and two women who make up The Transfer sing with the voices of horns and reeds, blending the bops and do-waps in scales that have been compared to the sounds of the great Scatman Caruthers. Their harmonious vocals, backed by their band’s swinging sounds, make toes tap and bodies sway.

The Manhattan Transfer has collaborated on recordings with such diverse musicians as Phil Collins, Smokey Robinson, and James Taylor.

“Bringing a group like The Manhattan Transfer to Sotterley is very exciting.” says Wilson. “There are many groups and performers that we have to put through a process of elimination. It is important that they fit the idea of what we are doing, along with being able to reach such a wide variety of people.”

The Manhattan Transfer does both.

Gates open at 5:30pm, so there’ll be plenty of time to enjoy regional cuisine and spirits before the 7:30 concert. Premier tickets sell for $38, and lawn seats for $28 in advance or at the gate. Follow Route 4 to Route 235 southwest to Route 245, following the signs to Sotterley Plantantion on the Patuxent River: 800/681-0850.

— Lori L. Sikorski

Blacks of the Chesapeake Tour Stops at Arundel Center

For 15 years, Vincent O. Leggett has traveled back roads and byways, Bay towns and backwaters recording oral history, taking photographs and collecting artifacts of African Americans who worked the waters of the Chesapeake. “I have sat on docks along the Bay talking to people whose lives have and are being shaped by the Chesapeake Bay,” says Leggett, president of the Blacks of the Chesapeake Foundation. Lest no one be forgotten, he’s filled warehouses with collected items that give substance to memory and story.

Through September 30 at the Arundel Center, you can see about a quarter of those artifacts — the “most comprehensive collection ever displayed,” says Leggett — of the memorabilia of African American workers of the waters.

In black and white photographs frozen in time, women shuck mussels and men tong for oysters. A framed poem, “Song of the Tongs” tells in dialect a story of “Masteh Oyster.”

On display, too, are tools of all sorts of work traditional on the Bay. Ancient wire crabs pots, weathered bushel baskets, oyster tins and carved decoys greet visitors. Many of the objects, says Leggett, “capture the contributions African Americans have made, and are making, in the maritime trades and seafood processing industry throughout Chesapeake Country.”

The exhibit also presents a time tunnel to the Chesapeake Underground, when such heroes as Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass secreted slaves north to freedom. Also honored are Black Patriots who served their country in military service as well as Admiral of the Chesapeake Earl White, named so by Gov. Parris Glendening.

The collected research, writings and artifacts from which this exhibit is drawn are now part of the Local Legacy collection at the American Folk Life Center, part of the Library of Congress Bicentennial celebration, having been nominated by Congressman Wayne Gilchrest.

The collection, lectures and book signings form Blacks of the Chesapeake Millennium Tour. Whistle stops for the tour include Maryland towns and events. The Annapolis exhibit is set to coincide with the upcoming Kunta Kinte Festival, August 12 and 13, when African heritage is celebrated with music and dance on the grounds of St. John’s College in Annapolis.

—M.L. Faunce

Chesapeake Country’s Other Dinner Theater

Against a backdrop of blue sky splashed with pink and the rolling waves of Chesapeake Bay, a group of kids come out to play. Their playground is an empty, grassy lot on Third Street and Bayfront in North Beach. The kids are the Twin Beach Players impersonating the Peanuts Gang.

Celebrating the 50th year of Charles Schultz’s creation and catering to the younger generation at the same time, the Twin Beach Players are having fun and receiving lots of attention as they work on another community theater show.

At the dress rehearsal, kids with cold sodas sat on nearby walls to watch play practice. Cars with radios blaring slowed down to check out the action. Observers might have wondered what Snoopy (Cathy Diggle) was doing supine on the roof of a big, bright-red doghouse, apparently waiting to pounce. Lucy’s (Sherry Hall) psychiatric booth was open to dispense advice for only a nickel, and a lovely white grand piano welcomed the light touch of Schroeder (Luke Woods) fingering Beethoven.
Brightly painted blocks provide the props for the climbing, singing and posturing of the rest of the gang: Linus (Corey Welling), hugging his ever-present security blanket; Patty (Sara Coleman) smoothing her red hair; and Charlie Brown (Chuck Eaton) wearing his distinctive yellow shirt and hangdog look.

Egging them rapidly on, Director Edward Ormond suggests, cajoles and hints as he cues his cast. Ormond, whose real job is at Tracey’s Elementary School, comes from a theater family and has directed off-Broadway. He has just as much fun from the Peanuts antics as the cast.

In keeping with the spirit of community theater, all the players and technicians live locally and desert the gang, at times, for real-life pursuits: Charlie Brown relinquishes his yellow shirt for bartender’s garb at Italia by the Bay. Lucy turns into wife and mother. Schroeder gets ready for 10th grade at Calvert High School. Snoopy travels to D.C. to teach drama at St. Anselms. Light man Sid Curl (Sara Hall’s dad) turns into technician for Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, and 17-year-old pianist Stephanie Watson (who wasn’t there for dress rehearsal) counts the days till school.

On opening night this Thursday, August 10, the Peanuts crew will be sheltered under a spreading tent surrounded on three sides by the audience. Space on the grassy theater floor is limited to 125. Lucky ticket holders, fed and watered by local organizations to raise funds, will be eye level with the crew.

They’ll spend an evening in a picture-perfect setting, watching Charlie Brown fly his kite, listening to Beethoven, admiring the way Lucy slinks along the top of the white piano while Linus philosophizes and the red-haired girl ignores Charlie’s sign of love. If you’re sitting in a certain section, you may even get to scratch Snoopy’s big black floppy ears. Just don’t forget to bring the bug spray.

Playing at 7:30pm Aug. 10-13. $12; $10 kids: 301/855-6755.

—Carol Glover

Way Downstream …

In Western Maryland, state Sen. John Hafer has a mischievous plan for the 400 bears that he says are eating crops and, occasionally, pets. Because the state won’t let hunters shoot them, Hafer proposes relocating them in Anne Arundel and other more populous counties. “If all those animal-lovers love bears, put them in their back yards. That way, everyone in the state can enjoy them,” Hafer told The Sun

In New Jersey, scientists last week argued that overharvesting of horseshoe crabs for bait and medicine threatens shore birds that eat the horseshoe’s eggs. “If the crabs decline, then we expect the effect would be either the birds don’t make it or they fail to breed,” said one researcher. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission wants to create a horseshoe crab sanctuary at the mouth of Delaware Bay

Our Creature Feature comes to us from the Netherlands, where last week hundreds of people descended on the University of Leiden to observe the rare bloom of the world’s largest and smelliest flower. The so-called Penis Plant has a six-foot pod that resembles a, well, you know what.

If that isn’t weird enough, the malodorous plant, which can take 30 years to flower, smells like a combination of rotten fish and putrid meat. The plant is also known as the Corpse Flower.

“We’re overjoyed,” beamed greenhouse manager Art Vogel. “This is one of the 10 rarest species in the world.”

Copyright 2000
Bay Weekly