Dock of the Bay

Volume VII Number 47
November 24-December 1, 1999

Early Birds Victorious; Colonial's Christmas Carol Sells Out

photos by Christy Grimes

Players sang and served cider, top right, as crowds waited for tickets to Colonial Players' much-in-demand A Christmas Carol. Bob Connerton and Charlotte Raysel brought dogs Cumba and Thunder. At the front of the line again this year, the Kemp and Edwards crews camped out, bottom right.

You'd think Elvis was back in town. Folks started lining up East Street from the doors of Annapolis' Colonial Theater late Friday night, and by 7am Saturday morning the line wrapped around a sector of State Circle and down Maryland Avenue almost as far as Prince George Street. If you don't know the area, know this: Prince George is a long walk from the box office.

People didn't actually line up so much as settle like refugees. Entire families sprawled across the wide sidewalks in deck chairs and sleeping bags or just perched on the curb. A few even brought their dogs. But by 10am, after an hour of sales, it was all over. The jamboree had broken camp and trundled off, leaving no clue to their thorough entrenchment of just moments ago.

Rest assured Elvis is still dead (they claim). But the Colonial Players continue to perform A Christmas Carol each December as they have for 19 years. And for almost as many years, devoted fans of this particular production have gathered from as far away as Baltimore and D.C. outside the Colonial Theater in late November to get their tickets. These go fast, so fast the theater opens its box office just one Saturday morning a year and sells out their entire production schedule.

All this to see A Christmas Carol? Are there no other productions in the state?

"Colonial Players does a terrific job," says Bob Connerton, who brought two big dogs who sit patiently curbside. "And it's actually fun being in line." Adds Charlotte Raysel, who shares Cumba and Thunder with Bob, "It's like a camp-out. Some people have been doing it for years. This is our second."

Colonial allows Charlotte and Bob six tickets each. They're debating whether to just get the eight they need for themselves and their kids or to spring for the max and share the surplus with friends. Placing about fourth in line, they'll get their quarry.

"We've been here since about 4am," says Charlotte. Last year we were all the way around the block by the men's clothing store. This year we decided to get here early." Pointing to the box office doors Bob advises, "Talk to the experts up there who get here early. They really put on a show."

A group of Christmas Carol cast members in costume serenades the campers, applying skilled harmonies to "O Little Town of Bethlehem" as they pass out hot cider to everyone. Chairwoman of Tickets Fran Marchand, who dispatched the carolers, explains: "I just needed cast characters to pass out refreshments to the ticket buyers. But so many of them came, they decided to carol."

This is Marchand's first year on Christmas Carol detail, but she knew the drill and arrived at 5:45am. "Well, I knew people camped out here," she says. "You've got to talk to the people in front. They are really something special."

Near the corner of East and the Circle stand three generations of Coughlins: Chris, with daughter Jillian on his shoulders, and 'Dad' holding up the wall behind them. "My daughter sent me," he explained. "I've been coming about five years," says Chris. "It's a family tradition. Talk to those guys in front. They've been here forever."

Out on State Circle since 5am, Joel and Karen Shapiro are 10-year veterans. "This is a really good show, and they change it a little bit each year," says Joel. Today Carol fans are lucky: it's about 60 degrees. "Some years it's been really cold," says Karen. "You gotta have your face covered and everything." Joel adds, "Check out those guys in front. They've been coming even longer than us. They're outrageous."

"Those guys" are Bob Kemp of Baltimore, the Elsa Maxwell of East Street, and his gang, who have been first in line for 15 years. "Some of us 15, some of us seven. It varies," says Kemp.

One thing certain: this group is a non-stop wisecracking machine that knows how to throw a party. Kemp's merry band includes his wife Norene; brother Jim; Brian Edwards and his daughter Erin; and a host of others from as far as Bowie. They've been comfortably ensconced by the theater doors since 11:30 Friday night, with sleeping bags, a boombox with Christmas tunes for sing-alongs and a barbecue for what Bob declares: "the first annual cookout. We had chili, home fries and kielbasa."

Norene adds, "but no cornbread. At least we remembered the eggs." Next year's menu features barbecued beef. "Come by next year at 1am and have dinner with us," says genial host Bob.

Though he didn't need them this year, the bed of Bob's nearby pickup is full of propane heaters from his construction job to ward off wintry chill. "The kind you don't want to get too close to wearing polyester," Edwards advises.

The Kemps, Edwards, and the others in their group met in line years ago. "It's been a rotating cast of characters," Bob explains. They see each other once a year this time: First to buy tickets, then to enjoy the show together. "Some of the earlier people dropped off over the years," Edwards adds. "They wised up and finally figured out how the play ends."

Kemp and his crew are at least partly responsible for making this event what it has become for everyone waiting in line: A fun holiday tradition. When all secure their tickets ("No one was turned away this year," chairwoman Marchand reports) they'll also take home fond memories of a shared good time and look ahead to another: the play itself.

-Christy Grimes

The Feast After the Feast: One Family's Way with Leftover Turkey

Before every Thanksgiving, chefs are heard boasting about the poundage of their "bird." Eighteen pounds of turkey for five people leaves two- or three-pound shares to be consumed over the next few days. Some of those people save their thanks for when the leftover turkey is finally gone. Others can't wait for the creative culinary challenges of leftover turkey.

The annual Thanksgiving dinner is over. It was a success. Everyone offered praises to the chef. It is now Friday. You open the refrigerator. What's to eat?

Turkey. How about turkey sandwiches with stuffing and cranberries, turkey tetrazinne or turkey and dumplings?

Thanksgiving isn't finished until our family has a repast of King Ranch Chicken made from our leftover turkey. King Ranch Chicken should be subtitled the state dish of Texas. Most everyone there has their own method for making this dish, which is almost as personal as a good chili recipe.

Here are some of my favorite ways to use leftover turkey -

King Ranch Chicken Casserole

Sauté the onion and mushrooms in a bit of olive oil. Make a sauce by mixing together the chilies (do not drain), soups, broth or water. Add the sautéed onions and mushrooms to this sauce.

Grease an 11 X 14 glass baking dish. Line bottom and sides of casserole with corn chips.

Layer the ingredients in this order: turkey, cheese, chips, sauce. Repeat until all ingredients are used. Hold back about 12 cup of cheese for topping.

Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. The last 15 minutes, add crushed chips and the 12 cup cheese as a topping.

Remove from oven and let stand for at least 20 minutes before serving.

This casserole freezes well before it is baked. I always make two, baking one and freezing one for an easy dinner later.


Soft Turkey Tacos

Optional toppings: grated Monterey Jack cheese, guacamole or diced avocado, sour cream, salsa, grilled onions

Tear leftover turkey into strips, place in skillet with package of taco seasoning and 12 cup water. Cover and let simmer about 10 minutes. More water may be needed to keep meat moist. After meat is well heated, set aside in its serving dish.

Arrange cheese, tomatoes, lettuce and other toppings on a platter or in individual bowls. Warm tortillas in the microwave (follow instructions on package). Let everyone assemble their own taco at the table.

Butter the tortilla prior to building the taco. Begin with turkey, following with lettuce, tomato, and choice of toppings.


Fast and Easy Turkey Salad

This can be made for one sandwich or six. Proportion your ingredients to your taste and the number of persons eating. Mix together and serve on lettuce or bread.

-Bebe Murry

Murry, who breaks into NBT with two stories this week, is a public relations consultant and single parent who puts her faith in humor and knowledge.

In "Stall the Sprawl," Army Corps on Hot Seat

Hundreds of South Arundel citizens hope to "Stall the Sprawl" in a public meeting next week aimed at blocking the proposed Safeway strip mall development in Deale.

After months of pressure, the Army Corps of Engineers - which already has granted Safeway a wetlands permit - will take part in a public forum designed by critics to call attention to the 85,000-square foot development proposed at the interection of Rts. 256 and 258.

The public forum, organized by South Arundel Citizens for Responsible Development, SACReD, meets Dec. 1 at 7:00 PM at the Deale Elementary School auditorum on Masons Beach Road.

The event will mark the first time that local citizens have heard first-hand about the largest commercial development to be proposed in the rural community.

"The character of our community and our way of life is at stake," said Michael Shay, SACReD vice president. "It's not often that we ask people to turn out, but we've identified this as a very important date."

The Alliance for Rural Business also is opposing the project.

In panel discussions, people will talk about traffic, water and their feelings about the Safeway project. Organizers also promise surprises that will prevent the evening from growing dull.

The Corps of Engineers agreed to take part after being urged to do so by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and other members of the General Assembly. The Corps has declined to rescind Safeway's nontidal wetlands permit, which was issued after a survey of the property in the 1980s.

-Bill Lambrecht

One Item More for Your Winterizing List: Sweep the Chimney

photo by Bebe Murry 'When was the last time you had your chimney swept?' asks Dana Winter of Ye Olde Chimney Sweeps.

Question: In the midst of winterizing wardrobes, the house, the yard, the car and the boat, who's got time to think about the chimney? As long as the fireplace is working, why clean a place that's sure to get nasty and dirty again?

Answer: To avoid a chimney fire that could devour your house.

The moisture from burning wood combines with combustible gases escaping unburned up the flue to create creosote. When layers of this messy, tarry substance build up on the flue lining, the chimney's draft, or air flow, becomes less efficient, and creosote bakes on the flue. When not removed regularly, this highly flammable deposit causes chimney fires.

"You are a fire just waiting to happen! Look at all the creosote here," exclaimed Dana Winter, owner of Ye Olde Chimney Sweeps, visiting our house for a long overdue sweep.

Winter first covered the surrounding floor with a drop cloth. He set out an assortment of brushes and tools on the tarp. He started a high-powered shop-vac that would run throughout the sweep to eliminate what otherwise could have been a real mess. Then ye olde chimney sweep pulled our fireplace insert from its surrounding brick, revealing a conglomeration sticky like tar: Creosote.

"When was the last time you had a chimney sweep?" Winter demanded. Donning goggles and an alien-style dust mask, he resembled something from a World War II movie as he brushed chimney, fireplace and smoke chamber.

Creosote must be brushed. Vacuuming only removes soot and debris after it is brushed loose.

Winter does most of his work inside the house. But he does go up top, and there he found, not to our surprise, that we needed a new chimney cap. Chimney sweeps not only sweep but also make sure no foreign objects have taken up residence in the chimney. Here the best prevention is a chimney cap that does its job by keeping out varmints and debris.

Winter recommended avoiding a galvanized cap because of eventual rust that could stain the chimney's exterior. We took his advice and approved a stainless steel cap. Such caps costs as little as $30, but copper caps, the kind you'd want on historic restorations, can run up to $600.

Now our questions were flowing like smoke up a well-swept chimney. From Jack Gray, owner of Ye Olde Chimney Sweeps for eight years before selling out to Winter, we learned that cleaning schedules vary for each fireplace. If you light as many as four fires a week during a season, you should have a chimney sweep annually.

Schedule your cleaning near the end of the burning season to remove the creosote acids as soon as possible. Owners of wood-burning stoves also need to sweep their chimneys regularly.

We also learned that the creosote you get depends on the kind of fire you build. "You need to have a lot of air flow in a fire. The hotter the fire, the faster the gasses and moisture rise and the less creosote build-up you will have. Cooler fires create more creosote build-up," Gray explained.

Okay expert, what's the best way to start a fire?

"Dry sticks and some wadded up newspaper are okay for kindling," Gray said. "Do not burn coated colored newspaper, magazines or catalogs. Begin with a small fire, usually just a couple of logs for most fireplaces, and always use dry wood."

The condition of your fireplace as well as its size determine what you'll pay when the chimney sweep comes to visit. Expect to spend at least $100 for a thorough job by an experienced sweep.

By the time the sweep was finished, the cost seemed fair. The room and all family members were soot free. It was comforting to know we'd enjoy our fires in safety. As the door closed behind Winter, I understood why there are so few do-it-yourself chimney sweeps.

-Bebe Murry

Way Downstream ...

In Virginia, new state fishery regulations approved last week aim to reduce harvest of she crabs by reducing the number of peeler pots watermen can use and requiring them to install a second escape hatch in their pots for undersized crabs ...

San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown last week canceled plans for a New Year's Eve fireworks and laser show on the Golden Gate Bridge after environmental advocates argued that crowds would trample the newly planted shrubs and flowers in the adjacent park ...

In Libby, Montana, at least 192 people have died from asbestos poisoning from an old vermiculite mine and the government has done nothing to prevent more deaths, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Andrew Schneider, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, reported this week in one of the blockbuster investigative stories of 1999 ...

In Britain, pre-James Bond secret agents disguised grenades as sugar beets and even rats trying to fool the Germans, newly released World War II documents show. They skinned the rats and filled the skin with explosives, the documents show. There's no evidence that any Germans were fooled ...

Our Creature Feature is a news update from California where, as we reported earlier, a man angered at the screeching of a barn owl during Monday Night Football shot it out of a tree with his slingshot. The man, who got in some serious trouble, has received donations for his defense.

And the owl? The Contra Costa Times reports that it is recovering from surgery to remove its right eye.

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Volume VII Number 47
November 24-December 1, 1999
New Bay Times

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