|Update: The West Nile Buzz
Knocking like Edgar Allen Poe's "Raven" at Maryland's door are three crows infected with West Nile virus. One turned up in Baltimore, not far from Poe's old stomping grounds. The other two infected crows were found farther south in Relay and Columbia.
Still more cheerful news: The possible threat to Marylanders has grown in recent weeks because of the lengthening list of mosquito species found to carry the virus. At least six species of mosquitoes have now tested positive for the virus. One is the Asian tiger mosquito, which has found marshy Calvert and Anne Arundel Counties much to its liking.
So, said Wilson Freeland, Calvert County's mosquito control program coordinator, "Maryland residents should have some concern now that this mosquito may also become a vector for the virus." Translation: With so many tiger mosquitoes, it may be easier for West Nile virus to pop up around here than elsewhere.
"Now that we have confirmed West Nile Virus in the state," Freeland cautioned, "residents should be even more vigilant in keeping containers that collect and hold water emptied out." All the more, with heaven's spigots turned back on full force this week.
Of course, it's no good if you're careful about water in your empty flower pots but your neighbors aren't. This is the time to get a group patrol together to make sure mosquitoes don't take up residence in your neighborhood. The Maryland Department of Agriculture says one of the best ways is to start a SWARM patrol. For help in starting one: 410/841-5870 (Annapolis area) or 301/373-4263 (Southern Maryland).
If we all do our part, further findings of West Nile virus on the Western Shore might be, in the words of Poe's famous raven, "Nevermore."
Look on the Web to learn about local mosquito programs, West Nile virus and equine encephalitis: www.mda.state.md.us/geninfo/genera9.htm
In Annapolis, John McCain Meets 300 Disciples
Maybe it was the rain or maybe it was the fact that Navy was not playing a home football game, but on Saturday, September 23, over 300 people showed up at the Annapolis Barnes & Noble to spend a moment with Sen. John McCain. McCain, who until decisive primaries in March was a candidate for president, was there to sign copies of his family memoir, Faith of my Fathers. I was one of those hundreds willing to wait two, two and a half hours, while back and leg muscles complained.
I'd known little about McCain before late 1999, but when he started his run for president, I learned more about him, and I liked everything I saw and heard. Right away, I respected the sincerity of his beliefs - even though I didn't agree with every one of them. Each time I saw or heard him, I waited for him to sound like a run-of-the-mill politician, changing positions every week. He never did, and my appreciation grew.
For the three presidential elections in which I've been eligible to vote, I've been pretty cynical. This primary, I'd wanted to give my vote to McCain. But, when I tried to register as an independent, Maryland's 30-day lead-time would not let me.
As we stood in a line that meandered through aisle after aisle, people told one another why they'd come. Next to me, a man from Baltimore County said he felt that McCain's defeat showed there is still a chasm that separates the individual voter from the electoral process.
The senator arrived late from Congressman Wayne Gilchrest's bull roast on the Eastern Shore. But we waited, mostly willingly, because Barnes & Noble staffers relayed messages keeping us abreast of his progress. He was delivered not by limousine but by a city bus, to applause following him through the store.
As he signed book after book, McCain took the time to listen, even posing for pictures with those who remembered their cameras. He wrote personal greetings for people who asked for them. The one thing he did not do was keep his head down as he signed.
As I shook his hand, he smiled and said "Hi," I told him I was sorry I didn't get to vote for him, and then I stammered as I thanked him for the excitement - the feeling that I could make a difference - he brought to a cynical voter.
I'm sure I'll forget the exact words we exchanged, but I'll never forget his smile. That smile that seemed to say, 'People like you are why I'm still doing what I do.'
This is regular reader Kevin Litkowski's first story for Bay Weekly
Move Over M.E. Warren: New St. Loo Shooter Comes to Town
You might think competition in the 27th annual Governor's Cup regatta is thoroughly finished, what with some nine weeks since the last keel crossed the finish line in St. Mary's River.
Chesapeake Bay's esteemed sailing race from Annapolis to St. Mary's City has only now yielded its final honors. Collecting kudos this time are the photographers, many of whom sailed aboard racing boats for a prime view of the sailing action. Among the winners is Bay Weekly contributor and sailing enthusiast Scott Dine, whose photo "Slow Start" (right) earned him third place in the open photography contest organized by St. Mary's College.
Dine scored the prize-winning shot aboard Sea Devil, a 38-foot Freedom sailboat skippered by Edgewater's C. Westbrook Murphy.
"It was a very nicely composed photo of the start of the race with a couple of boats out in the great beyond," says Dine. "Wind was almost non-existent. That's why the boats were packed so tightly together."
Dine may return next year seeking to up his bronze with gold in the photo contest. He might even race his own boat, a C&C 25. But he, says, "I'll cross the Bay when I get to it." A newcomer drawn to Chesapeake Country by sailing and family, Dine retired last year from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where he was photo editor. St. Louis, you'll remember, is the hometown of Chesapeake Country signature photographer, Marion Warren.
John Bildahl, freelance photographer on assignment for the Associated Press, won first place with "Governor's Cup 2000," a colorful shot of two large yachts at the start with crews scrambling on deck. Columbia's Nellie Doneva, photographer for the Howard County Times, placed second with "Map," a photo of sailors studying charts under red light in their cabin.
Find Scott Dine's photo essay on the race in our on-line archives at www.bayweekly.com/year00/issue8_32/life8_32.html.
At Lyle Simmons House, Bed and Bathe in History
If you're tracking down history, Calvert County has more historic places than you can shake a stick at: over 1,200 by Maryland's state inventory. But if you want to settle into history, your choices are fewer.
You can sit a spell or a service at one of the county's many historic churches, including All Saints' in Sunderland and Middleham in Lusby, but you can't stay the night. You can make a visit to Calvert Marine Museum's lighthouse, oyster house or bugeye, but you can't take a bath. You can ride the rails of imagination at Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum, but you can't book a berth.
Now, at the Historic Lyle Simmons House, you can book, bed and bathe in history.
The county's newest "historic district" - the stretched name includes multiple properties on a single site - is also its newest retreat. Earlier this month, the Calvert County Board of Appeals enthusiastically approved the special exception allowing Barbara Burnett to open her historic property to the public.
"The county will be a better place with Lyle Simmons House," said board chairman Mike Reber.
For Burnett, the routine September meeting of the county Board of Appeals was the culmination of a crusade and the beginning of a new reason for living.
In the 1970s, Burnett and her husband Rob bought the 52-acre farm that the home surveyor Lyle Simmons had ordered built for his family half a century earlier. There the Burnetts created their own Calvert Homestead, a farm of flowers and herbs which became not only their home but also their livelihood. Robbie restored the old house, and they lived happily with "earth and water, among trees and woods and every living thing" until September 1998, when Robbie was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
A bone-marrow transplant meant the Burnetts had to leave their home of a quarter century for a modern house speedily erected on their land so Rob could be safe from dust and germs and mites. Even so, the cancer claimed his life February 18.
Since then, Barbara dreamed - and labored - to turn the home where two families had lived and prospered, each in their own time, over three quarters of a century, into a retreat for cancer patients and caregivers and all in need of spiritual replenishment. The Board of Appeals decision opens the way to that dream. While it takes form and a foundation is established, the old farm house and its meandering gardens will host visitors and special events including, Burnett hopes, weddings.
Lyle Simmons House is the county's first special exception to allow an historic building to be used for overnight accommodations, according to Jenny Plummer Walker, the county's rural and historic planner.
The former Central School, a segregated school for African Americans, became the county's Abused Persons Shelter. Other historic properties recycled for modern times are the Old Field Inn in Prince Frederick, which is a restaurant; and the Cozy Spot in St. Leonard, the first African American theater in the county, an apartment building, which - now modernized - is noted for its for cultural rather than architectural significance. With historic designation come state and federal tax credits for restoration.
But nowhere except Lyle Simmons can you settle into the life of an earlier time as if it were your own. True to the times, bedrooms are small but cozy and, through Barbara Burnett's artistry, quaintly fitted out with flowers and an array of accouterments from the 20th century. One of the two baths includes a whirlpool tub. Other 21st-century comforts include air conditioning, full heating and a thoroughly modern kitchen. For a pleasure of older times, there is also a wrap-around screened-in porch.
"It's wonderful that they've preserved it, and Barbara is making sure it's protected for future visitors to enjoy," said Plummer Walker.
Visit Calvert Homestead, on Sixes Road, to shop for fall flowers and to see the Lyle Simmons House: 800/879-6674.
At Annmarie Garden, Art Outshone Nature
Local artists must pray powerful prayers, as the eighth annual Annmarie Garden Artsfest took place despite dreary skies and threatening rain along the St. Johns Creek just north of Solomons Island.
"It has never rained on us," said Jennifer Draxton, executive director of the garden, who expressed pleasure with the turnout despite the weather.
"The numbers are not in yet, but there were many, many art lovers here, true appreciators and buyers would have come no matter what the weather," said Draxton. Sales, she said, were brisk. The volunteer-organized two-day art fair brings 150 artist and artisans - and their abstracts, photography, watercolors, sculptures, raku, stained glass and folk art - into the tranquil sculpture garden, often drawing crowds of over 25,000. Such performing arts as the Chamber Orchestra of Southern Maryland, jazz and blues performer Kevin R. Cofod, gospel singers and mid-Eastern folk dancers in full costume also pleased the crowds.
"Visitors were able to experience art in the making, including many forms they may never see in everyday life," said Draxton.
You didn't have to be a kid to enjoy the Kids' Discovery tent. There, in keeping with this year's theme - The Magic Wind and Movement - people of many ages made windsocks, fans, nature walkers and kites.
More Fulminations Over Deale Development
Picket signs leaned against Southern Senior High School walls and sat on auditorium seats. "Don't Stomp Our Swamp" "AACo. Math: 48 inches = 50,000 feet" "It's a Dirty Deale." "Save it - Don't Pave it."
Claire Malicote, of Mali Discount, distributed "Say Yes to Safeway" stickers. Pam Barry, of SACReD, offered flyers inviting residents to yet another community meeting.
Tension hovered in the hallways at September 27's public information meeting organized by Anne Arundel County's Office of Planning and Zoning. And the meeting hadn't even started.
Tension turned to harsh words, interruptions and fulminations. More people apparently came to talk than to listen.
Denis Canavan, director of the county Office of Planning and Zoning, began the meeting with his list of ground rules and pleaded for them to be followed: Listen to county staff, be aware of those around you and have consideration.
No one paid him or his rules any heed.
Vivian Marsh, a planner for the Southern Anne Arundel small area committee, began with the good news: "Here we will build a park, rec center, senior center and housing and sidewalks." He was met by a roar of moans and chuckles.
Merril Plait, chief engineer, fared no better. His explanations of wetlands, floodplains, traffic and sulphidic soils so confused the audience that they asked the same questions over and over.
Inquisitive residents bombarded Plait with questions. "Why doesn't Food Rite get their own road improvements?" was shouted down by "Let Food Rite pay for their own improvements." Applause and hisses followed.
Community speakers were just as polarized.
"I would like to say that the process has been equitable to the residents of Anne Arundel County and to Safeway," said area resident Phyllis Taylor. "Safeway has even improved their plans to a degree better than what was asked."
Tom Abercrombie, of Shady Side, followed for the other side. "It's an evening of C3 zoning, 48-inch pipes, and I now know more about floodplains than anyone. I'd like to thank the people that came from all over Maryland to tell us what's good for us. I guess they don't think we know."
Still more will be said. Stall the Sprawl Round II comes to Deale Elementary School, Tuesday, October 3, at 7pm. As well as another evening of stimulating arguments, this one promises a mystery guest, free professional child care and a concert by the Osborne Duo and Good Deale Pickers.
Way Downstream ...
In Colorado, more than 50,000 fish died in a way some guys would like to go one day: from beer. More than 2,000 barrels of Coors spilled into Clear Creek last month, poisoning the water and killing aquatic life. The brewery may face either a big fine for violating its wastewater discharge permit or a costly plan to restore fish habitat at the site of the spill ...
In Annapolis, officials said that Maryland is closing in on its goal of a 40 percent reduction in trash by 2005. Marylanders recycled 36 percent in 1999, or more than 2.1 million tons. Charles Reighart, president of the Maryland Recyclers Coalition, said that there is the most room for improvement in paper and food waste ...
In Beijing, one of the most polluted cities on earth, the government has begun cleaning up the city in anticipation of winning the 2008 Summer Olympics. The government is spending a whopping $18 billion to clean up its foul air by replacing coal with natural gas in homes and factories ...
Our Creature Feature comes from Virginia, where travelers along I-95 near the town of Jarratt south of Richmond recounted quite a scene: monkeys heaving apples and bananas at their vehicles.
You can imagine what State Trooper Mike Scott thought when he was flagged down by a motorist with this bizarre story and banana smeared on his car. He probably began fishing for his breathalyzer machine. Nonetheless, Scott went back to the alleged scene of the attack and, splat, something hit the car.
Said the police officer: "Lo and behold there were three brown monkeys in an oak tree throwing crab apples," the Associated Press reported. The monkeys fled, and were still on the loose. Authorities believe that they escaped from a traveling show.