A Day in the Life ~ Annapolis
Here's what we were doing as the 20th century ran away
by Christopher Heagy
What are you doing today?
6am: McNasby's Seafood Market
The sun is sneaking up over Chesapeake Bay. The morning air is still cool, slowly warming from the midnight chill. Standing on the back dock outside McNasby's Seafood Market, Jennifer Hollidge takes the last drag from her cigarette, drops it on the dock and stomps it with her foot. The morning sky is lightening. You can almost see forever.
Today will be busy for Hollidge. The holidays are upon us, and this is the season for oysters. There will be phone calls to make to other markets and watermen. Last year's sales are checked, and many customers order their oysters ahead. All these things will settle the price and the amount of shellfish McNasby's needs.
The rest of the day goes to cleaning, shucking, packing and selling oysters. But right now, Hollidge is taking a minute to savor the morning calm.
"I've just moved back to town after a few years away," Hollidge says. "When people ask about Annapolis, this is my answer. It's beautiful and peaceful. Down here when the sun is coming up, this is my favorite spot in Annapolis."
A Moment in Time
"That's why I did Friends and Neighbors," photographer Marion Warren told me in September. "To give these people a place in history."
And that planted an idea in my head, a story about nothing and a story about anything.
A look at Annapolis at this moment. What was happening, who was doing what and what did they think? I wanted to turn any day into everyday.
So, I tried to think about what defines Annapolis. The Naval Academy, state government, the Chesapeake Bay, the historical district, tourism. All these go into defining Annapolis. These are the institutions that have been built over time into the city's fabric.
But I decided what really defines the city is its people.
To snap this shot, I did what lured many reporters before me: I took a corner, any corner. I looked around and paid attention to what interested me. So in some ways, this snapshot is flawed. It is not a day about me, but it is a day as seen through my eyes.
There were some places I planned to take a look at, but at the same time, I tried to keep the day as spontaneous as possible. I wanted the day to carry me, not the other way around.
Finally, I had to decide what to ask to find out what's happening. I had to figure out how to research a story when I wasn't sure what it was about. I had to consider who to talk to when I was not sure who I was looking for. I had to make peace with what happens when the story changes with everyone I talked to.
I had to learn to not look for anything, instead taking the story the people gave me.
And so I ventured out one day in late November, 1999, with one starting question on my mind. What are you doing today?
These are the stories.
7:15am: Cleaning up the Mess
Willie Cribb backs his large blue truck up to the curb outside O'Brien's Oyster Bar. He takes the truck out of gear and helps Andre Broadnax, who is already pulling the large gray trash cans toward the truck.
The men work quickly, lifting and dumping the cans into the maw of the garbage truck. The morning is still chilly and a subtle smell rises from the trash. Neither chill nor odor fazes the two men.
"You get used to the cold and the smell after awhile," says Broadnax. "You have to get used to the elements."
Broadnax stops for a minute to push the button that compresses the garbage tightly in the truck.
The two men will make about 100 stops in Annapolis before they head to the greener pastures of Severna Park and Glen Burnie. Many of their stops will be restaurants throughout the city.
"Annapolis isn't dirty," says Cribb. "They do a lot of work to keep it clean.
"It's just that there is a lot of trash."
8:20am: Checking Parking Meters
Wayne Rowland is breaking into all the parking meters in Annapolis. But when you have the key, it's really not breaking in.
As the end of the year approaches, it's time to clean up the city's parking meters before they begin another year of swallowing our spare change.
Rowland opens the dome covers, pulls out the meter mechanism, locks the cover back up and drops the mechanism into a green plastic bucket. Annapolis has 550 parking meters. Rowland and his partner John Campbell will take each one out and then put them all back.
"The meters don't really have anything wrong with them, but they have to be maintained," Rowland says. "We'll clean the gears and wash the glass of the dome covers, and they'll be ready for another year."
9:10am: Breakfast on the Fly
Vicki Ward and Ginny Hudson are doing a dance in a tight space. Chick & Ruth's Delly is long and narrow. Photos and clippings fill the walls. The menu is a textbook. One wall is filled with lunches named after some of the better know customers of the Delly.
The "Mike Miller" is a six-ounce steak with cheese and fried onions on a Kaiser roll. The "Parris N. Glendening," a baked potato stuffed with broccoli and cheese, is the "healthy choice."
As breakfast winds down, Ward and Hudson are hopping around the narrow divide. The kitchen, just steps from the dining room, is only a few feet wide. The counter window for food is a step and a half from the flat tops, deep fryers and stove.
"We work in a small kitchen," says Ward. "Sometimes when it is busy, it's tough to stay out of each other's way. We bounce off each other, but we manage."
Ward cuts potatoes into a large black cast iron pan that sits on top of one stove. Hudson cracks an egg and tosses yolk between each half of the shell, dropping the whites on the grill for an egg-white omelet.
Three ladles full of batter spread across the grill's flat top turn into huge pancakes. Eggs are cooking, bread is toasting, bacon is frying and potatoes are simmering. Ward and Hudson dodge each other, plating food and sending it to table and counter. The two cooks also wait on the small counter at Chick & Ruth's. Ward drops off food and refills coffee.
"This place can be a nut house, but it is fun," Ward says. "I enjoy dealing with the people here. The most important thing in this job is to keep it organized. As long as we're organized, the food comes out pretty quick. But when we lose it, things slow down."
10am: Rebuilding Eastport
On Second Street in Easport, John Doyle is playing with dirt and waiting for the phone to ring.
Doyle is in the middle of restoring this house. He left his apartment off West Street at 8am and will stay here at 604 Second Street until after dark. Doyle, who bought the house in June, hopes to have the restoration done and the house on the market early next year.
This is Doyle's third restoration. He's done one in Key West, one outside Miami and this one in Annapolis. This is how he lives his life.
"I search for these rehab projects. I restore them and get them back on the market. When the house is resold, I take a couple of months off and go sailing."
Right now, Doyle is backfilling the foundation of an addition he's putting on the house. He's dug the hole and laid the cinder block and now he's surrounding the cinder block with dirt. When he finishes, he'll continue to work around the house and wait to hear on a loan.
"I'm supposed to hear on a refinance today. I'm trying to refinance for more than we bought the property for so that I can pull some money out to help pay for the reconstruction. I'm a little nervous waiting for the broker to call," he says with a shrug.
11:30am: Saving a Boat, Finding a Friend
It's sitting in the back corner of Bert Jabin's Yacht Yard, laid up on metal braces. The boat is 25 years old and hasn't been sailing in 10 years. Today, no matter how strong a wind, the boat is going nowhere.
Perry Henderson and his new friend Lee Gardner are sanding the boat, trying to get it ready to be painted.
"This boat was given to me," Henderson says. "I neglected it like I neglected a few things in my life. So many times, I just looked at that boat and thought about it costing me money, but I fell in love with the lines of the boat. Finally, I made the time to work on it."
With two power sanders and small white masks, the two men attack, hoping the boat will be painted by the end of November.
Henderson and Gardner met at the marina talking about boats. Gardner decided to join the cause.
"Lee's one of those guys that always underestimates his skills," says Henderson. "But on this he's, like, my mentor. When he suggests something, I do it. It's funny. We talk as much about the boat as we do about our lives. I guess it's what we have in common."
Lunch Time: Mt. Zion United Methodist Church, Eastport
The smell hits you right when you walk into the Fellowship Hall. In a small kitchen, past the long wooden tables with white plastic tablecloths and the metallic gray folding chairs is a small kitchen. The smell of lightly battered fried fish and chicken is flowing out of the black metal frying pan on the stove.
The Mt. Zion United Methodist Church's Woman's League is serving fish and chicken dinners to raise funds for Woman's Day 2000 in April. Fellowship Hall has all the trimmings laid out: potato salad, string beans, lettuce, tomato and pound cake in white Styrofoam containers.
In the kitchen, Patience Hunter and Edward Pinkney Jr. are busy cooking fish and chicken.
"We started cooking food last night," Hunter says. "We got here at 8 this morning, and we'll go until the food's gone. The food from Mt. Zion is always in demand. We've had orders from the Naval Academy and Easport Elementary. Orders come in, we set up an assembly line and push the dinners out.
"The food is good, and we're working hard to try and help pay off this mortgage as soon as we can."
12:30pm: The Woman Who Stops Traffic
Irene Marine is a short, solid woman in a dark blue uniform. She has a bright orange and yellow vest and a hand-held stop sign. Between 11:30am and 1pm, she's in front of City Dock, controlling the flow of traffic during the downtown lunch hour.
Marine spends the hour and a half trying to keep the walkers and the cars out of each other's way.
"People don't always pay attention," says Marine. "Sometimes they'll just walk out, no matter where the cars are. Sometimes they don't think to wait until the cars clear. I just try to keep it all under control."
1:15pm: Remembering the Dead
It hides in the open, on the corner of Taylor Avenue and West Street, where it's been since long before either street was built. When the first soldiers were laid to rest, there was no new traffic circle. The dry cleaners across the street was still a hundred years away.
During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln signed an executive order establishing the Annapolis National Cemetery. The cemetery is now maintained by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The Annapolis National Cemetery is surrounded by a rolling stone wall; its entrance is blocked by black cast-iron gates. An American flag flaps high above the markers. The cemetery holds veterans, their spouses and children who died before maturity. There are still one or two funerals a year at the Annapolis Cemetery.
Row after row after row of slate headstones mark the graves of the 2,481 people who rest in this ground. Between the headstones are thick patches of browning grass. The trees have a few leaves hanging on into fall. Most of the graves have identities.
Two hundred eleven do not.
Marked or unmarked, the headstones break a life down to the barest of facts.
2pm: Working with Feet
The lunch time rush is ending. A few customers still stroll through the door to drop off shoes at the Royal Valet on West Street. For the most part, owner Zack Kyriacou is free to do the work that has strolled through the door over the last few hours.
Kyriacou is busy shining a pair of wing tips. Every few minutes, he has to stop to answer the phone or to chat with a customer dropping off shoes.
After each conversation, Kyriacou returns to shoes. He's back at work for a few minutes when he sees a customer crossing the street. He looks around the shop. Like a bartender who knows what the regulars drink, Kyriacou has the customer's shoes in hand when she reaches the counter.
"It's funny, everyone has tricks to remember people," Kyriacou chuckles. "I know what shoes a person wears before I know their name."
Growing up, Kyriacou never thought about taking over his father's store. He spent eight years in the Merchant Marine. But at 26, he had enough moving around. He came back to Annapolis to take over the store and settle down. The craft has become part of him.
"Lately there's been some interest to buy my store. This is a growing block. I've been made some offers, but where am I going to go? I have thought about getting out, but this is me. I plan on doing this until I die. I'll probably take my last breath in this store."
3pm: Looking Back in Annapolis
Just after 3pm, Jean Gardner leads the day's final tour group from the small gift shop to the front door of the Hammond-Harwood House.
Gardner leads five people through the 18th-century home, pointing out the architecture, interior design, furnishings and painting and explaining the need for a door that opens into a brick wall.
Most of the visitors are not local.
"We get a lot of visitors from out of the country," explains Gardner. "A lot of English come through. Usually visitors from Anne Arundel County bring guests from out of town. The guests can never believe their hosts haven't been here before."
Gardner's husband was in the Navy. Moving from place to place got her interested in historical houses. She thought it was a good way to get her and her children involved in the new community.
Her children are now grown, but Gardner still enjoys giving the tours and working at the museum.
"Now we [docents] each only work one or two days a week here," says Gardner. "You need enthusiasm to give tours of the house. If you're here too often, you get in a rut and it shows in the tours."
5pm: Hechinger's Last Stand
The signs are all there.
"Total Sell Off." "Nothing Held Back." "All Sales are Final."
"40% to 70% Off."
"Going out of Business."
The huge greenhouse once full of plants and garden supplies is empty. Throughout the warehouse, aisles have been ransacked. The shelves are empty. Yellow caution tape blocks the aisles where hardware has already disappeared.
Outdoor lights that once filled a wall now sit on a shelf, some broken, some missing bulbs, all marked for a quick sale. Right next to the lights are artificial Christmas trees and winter village landscapes. Hope for a reprieve that won't come or merchandise ordered before the official word of the closing came down?
Long a fixture in the area, Hechinger home and hardware stores are closing their doors.
In the back of the Annapolis store, Richard Caviness is mixing paint.
"I'm trying to straighten up the paint department after the weekend onslaughts," Caviness says. "This has been one of the slowest days since the closing of the stores was announced. Everybody is coming in looking for a deal, but for the most part the customers have been patient with the limited staff that we have."
Caviness has worked for Hechinger for 10 years. The closing is sad for him as well as for many of the customers who still walk through the doors.
"I've seen tears in some eyes when customers speak of the history of the store," Caviness says. "They're sad and going to miss the place, but they'll get over it. What bothers me is that the company is going out because of the decision of upper management. There was a failure to see competition, a thinking that because you are the biggest store, you can't be knocked off your perch."
The closing date has not yet been set, but the day is coming. Soon.
5:45pm: Johnson's on the Avenue
It's a small store on a crowded corner on a brick-lined street across from the State House. The men's haberdashery and uniform store has been part of Annapolis since the 1920s.
"My father designed a Navy officer's cap that is still worn by graduating mids," says owner Jean Johnson Held. "Other officers buy the hat from all over the world. The television show Jag uses the same hat. A lot of our store is men's clothing, but we still sell Navy and yachting uniforms."
Late in the afternoon, the store is quiet. The walls are filled with racks of designer suits and leather jackets. Shelves are stacked with bulky sweaters, soft shirts and bold ties.
A few customers meander around the store, and Bill Hahn shows a customer a sweater. Behind a glass-topped counter, Jean Johnson Held is looking over sales invoices. Even though the store might be quiet these few days before the Christmas shopping season, there are always things to be done.
"There's clothes coming in and going out of the store all the time," explains Johnson Held. "There are orders to make, alterations to schedule and the window dressing to take care of."
7pm: Alumni Hall, U.S. Naval Academy
The November night was unseasonably warm, but the campus of the U.S. Naval Academy was eerily empty. Inside Alumni Hall, tearing tickets in front of the south entrance are Dick Peret and Ron Wolfe.
Every fan gets a big smile and a loud "How ya doin'?" Wolfe and Peret chat with the fans as they tear tickets.
Both men are retired school teachers who returned to teach at Annapolis High School, where they'd graduated. They've been in Annapolis for a long time, and each night people they know - former students, friends and neighbors - flow by, up the stairs and to their seats.
"We do it for food and money," Peret says jokingly.
"We're both ex-coaches and we like to follow sports. Somehow it keeps us young."
One of Wolfe's former students and his teenage daughter stop for a minute to catch up on their way to the seats.
"That's what it's all about, seeing old students, with their children, coming back," says Wolfe. "Seeing that they turned out all right. We enjoy it, we really do."
· · ·
There's a sparse crowd at Alumni Hall tonight. The mids are on break and many of the seats are empty. There is no charged atmosphere tonight. The voices of single hecklers carry across the gym. The atmosphere is relaxed.
It feels like you're watching the basketball game in your living room, except every seat in Alumni Hall has a name plate on it. You are always in someone else's seat, but you're close enough that you can feel the ball thudding on the floor and hear the sneakers squeak as the players go up and down the court.
· · ·
Court Side at Alumni Hall, Joe Duff is keeping track of time.
Joe Duff has been in Annapolis since 1952. He came to the Academy after graduating from West Virginia as an assistant baseball and basketball coach. Duff was head baseball coach until 1993. He has been working the clock at Navy basketball games since 1985.
"I still enjoy being near the game. I've coached basketball and played in college. You can't fall asleep, you have to stay in the game. This is really important to the players and the coaches. Usually, everything runs smoothly. Sometimes someone gets in the way, but I look for the official's hand to drop."
"I'm going to keep doing it. Hopefully I won't flake out and blow a game."
· · ·
Kurt Brooks is capturing the game on film.
The game has just ended, and Brooks is packing his gear up and getting ready to take the film back to the WJZ-13 newsroom.
"This is a break for me. I'm usually filming crime and grime. It's nice to come down here and take a little break. It sure beats the shooting du jour in Baltimore."
Brooks caught the second half. He was driving down, flying through traffic until the evening fog forced him to slow down.
He has the entire half on film, but that will be cut down to about 30 seconds for the 11pm sports. On his way home, Brooks is hoping he doesn't get a phone call.
"I work for the station full time and I have a company car. I'm one of the two regulars the station calls at 3am. I'm obligated to answer the phone. I have the option of going, but I have to answer the phone."
10:30pm: Serving Beers
Kevin Colbeck has tended bar 12 years.
He's been at Davis's Pub in Eastport for the last four years.
Tonight he's only been behind the bar five hours - so far.
"When I first started doing this I was 20, 21 years old. I'd come home half jacked up from working all night. Next thing I know, I'd be watching the America's Cup races at 6 in the morning. I don't do that too much anymore. Now I go home and go to sleep."
Davis's Pub is a neighborhood bar. It's the type of bar that after the third or fourth time in, your drink hits the bar as you walk through the door. With canned beer and a bar-style menu, Davis's has the feeling of home. Some customers have been going there so long the bar is "like an extension of their living room."
This time of night things slow down. The dinner rush is over and the bar starts to empty out. The rush from restaurant workers looking for a drink is still an hour away.
"It's a good time," Colbeck says. "Now I get a little time to chit-chat with regulars instead of just throwing drinks out. That's the best part, dealing with the good people."
During slower times, with the winter months bearing down, Colbeck sometimes thinks he might get an early night. But early nights rarely happen. Something always comes up.
"The thing about Davis's is that you get everything under the sun," Colbeck explains. "Lawyers, businessmen, construction workers, plumbers, we get all kinds. But for the most part, everybody gets along and has a good time."
11:30pm: Talking on the Radio
Bill Bevans has a head cold. Tonight his 7pm-to-midnight shift is a struggle. His nose is runny, his head is cloudy, but when he has to, Bevans turns on his smooth radio voice.
"You're listening to 1430 WNAV, your hometown station. If you're driving tonight, be careful. You might run into a little fog. It's 45 degrees here at Radio Park, and there's lots of great music coming up."
Bevans is in a room with carpet on the walls, a shelf full of compact disks behind him and a panel of controls a step away.
He has been falling in and out of the dee jay booth most of his adult life. He's been at WNAV on and off since 1993. When the night-time shift opened full-time a few months ago, Bevans slid right in. But he's spent time on the air every hour of the WNAV day.
"This job isn't physically demanding," Bevans explains. "The hardest part of this job is that you have to focus and concentrate. It takes an intensity, but it's not like selling ladies shoes or unloading boxes. Tonight it's tough to do a great show, when you're not feeling well. But no matter what, you always need to be on top of things."
Bevans' shift is winding down, but there is still work to do. He is pulling commercials, discs and tapes for the morning disc jockey. That's a courtesy the jocks do for each other.
The nighttime hours fit into Bevans' schedule. "I've been a night person all my life," he says. "I've had day jobs. I didn't like them."
On nights like tonight, Bevans tries his best to think about the people who are listening and to give them a good show.
"I imagine talking to a person at an office trying to do a job. I feel like I can give a little escape with some music or a piece of information. I enjoy thinking that."
1:45am: Finishing the Song
It's last call at Acme Bar and Grill. The narrow barroom is still dark and bouncing with customers in search of the night's final beer. In the front corner, on what's more a raised platform than a stage, sits Doug Segree, playing his last song of the night.
The lights come up and Segree starts to break down his equipment and load his minivan. It's another night in the almost five years Segree has played at the downtown bar.
"It's kind of like having your own party every night," Segree explains. "Sometimes it's routine. The scene is very comfortable and familiar, I've been playing there every week for so long. But you try new things to keep it fresh."
Segree blends his original songs with classic covers and a few surprises.
"You can't just play to the audience, but you can't just play for yourself, either," Segree says. "You have to balance both. I try to make people have a good time and be glad they got off the couch and went out that night."
After he gets home, Segree heads down to the small studio he has in his basement. He has started work on his second album, which he hopes to release sometime next summer.
Often working late into the night, Segree listens to tracks over and over and plays with the arrangements. He hopes to work most of the songs out before he heads into the recording studio next year.
Right now, he's trying to balance all the sides of being a professional musician.
"When you're playing all the time, that really takes away from your song writing and your recording. They each are dependent on each other, but you have to take time and do them independently sometimes. You have to balance everything."
3:30am: A House Outside Annapolis
I'm tired, I'm dazed. My deadline is still five days away, but I'm staring at a blank computer screen. My head's spinning. I don't know how many people I've talked to. I don't know how many stories there are to tell.
I keep looking at my notes, illegible scratches that will be difficult to transcribe tomorrow. So I work on, trying to remember the highlights of the day.
How do I write about a day when nothing happened? How do I tell a story that was never there?
| Issue 48 |
Volume VII Number 48
December 2-8, 1999
New Bay Times
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