Online Archives

Volume 2 Issue 7 1994

Previously inaccessible archives from 1993-1997 now coming on-line, with more each week!

Note that this is working copy (uncorrected text, no photos, including covers).

Burton on the Bay | Commentary | Editorial | Letters to the Editor | Dock of the Bay

Diversionary And Excursion | Sky Talk - Who is there | Reflection

Lead Stories

Recycling A to Z

Everything You Need to Know: What Trashes the Earth, What Brings in Dough

by Donna Reifsnider

Our recent ice storm halted garbage pick-up along the East Coast. When New York City thawed out, the city was inundated with 47,000 tons of stinking garbage.

            New Yorkers, sorry to say, are no trashier than you or I.

            Each of us Americans generates about four pounds of garbage a day, or about 1,400 pounds of trash a year.

            Estimates vary, but according to the EPA, we Americans will throw out a conservative 196 million tons of garbage in 1994. Marylanders alone toss out 400,000 tons. Luckily, the trash collector eventually cometh.

            But where will the trash man goeth?

            One landfill closes about every four or five days; out of 20,000 landfills operating in the U.S. in the late l970s, only about 3,600 are open now. Because of tight new regulations at every level of government and neighbors’ objections, the opening of new landfills is complex and costly — as is hauling all that trash around and “tipping” it into dumps.

            Some states — Nevada and Utah among them — have room for new landfills. Others, like Maryland, are close to capacity and have little space for new ones. Two Maryland landfills closed last year — Barstow and Sudley. Two more will close soon — one in Charles County and one in Garrett County.

            To encourage alternatives to landfilling, Maryland has ordered counties to reduce solid waste by l5 percent by this spring or lose certain building permits. Incineration is the most common alternative, and lots of Marylanders are tempted by its “trash-to-energy” promise. But experience elsewhere is showing that incineration may create more problems that it solves.

            The best alternative of all is to keep out of the trash stream: recycle. But for recycling to work, you, I, and every other American has to pay attention to our own garbage.


Turning Trash to Cash

            Technically, anything I throw away — from ragged jeans to worn-out mattresses — can be recycled. But from can be to is is a long story whose success depends on technological invention, capitalist enterprise, government investment and consumer willingness.

             Governments are hopping on the recycling bandwagon. About half the states have recycling mandates and almost all have some kind of recycling program, according to Allen Blakey of the National Solid Wastes Management Association in Washington, D.C. More than 5,000 communities across the country sponsor curbside recycling. In Maryland, 23 counties have recycling programs, covering about one million households, says Linda Harris of Maryland’s Department of the Environment.

            In consequence, it’s easier to recycle than ever before. Like me, most Marylanders simply have to save their discarded plastic, cans,

bottles, newspaper, and corrugated cardboard for a week, then tote it to the curb in a bin delivered courtesy of their county. Recycling oil, old paint, pesticides, antifreeze, batteries, and old tires takes a drive to a collection site and perhaps a longer wait till a hazardous waste recycling day rolls around.

             Office paper takes more invention, because Southern Maryland sites where it may be recycled are scarce and little publicized. That’s odd, because just commuting distance away, in northern Virginia, “white paper” collected from offices is the “mainstay which drives” a thriving business, says Michael Poland, president of  Environmental Recycling, Inc., of Alexandria.

            New Bay Times’ office paper (including Post-It notes) goes to Aid to Retarded Citizens’ recycling site on Spa Road in Annapolis. But much more can be recycled at Charles County Community College, in LaPlata, which is now collecting a wide spectrum of throwaways, including posters, magazines, paperback books (as well as hardcover books under an inch thick), fax paper and greeting cards.

             Why then can’t some things — like aluminum foil, bottle caps, yogurt and cottage cheese containers and polystyrene —  be recycled for love or money?

            Value is one answer. Successful recyclables all have some market value as raw material.

            Most recyclables markets are in their infancy, so supply exceeds demand. Manufacturers have not yet found enough ways to use the paper, glass, aluminum, steel,  plastics and tires recycled by ever more eager recyclers like you and me. We’re glutting the market with feedstocks, says Resa Dimino, of Environmental Action in Takoma Park. But it won’t always be that way.

            Even now,  plenty of markets can be found for recycled materials — if you look hard enough, says Beverly Salas, of the Institute for Self-Reliance in  D.C., a non-profit, solid waste management consultant that helps communities set up recycling programs. About 250 such companies are already at work in Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

            North Beach, Calvert County’s newest curbside recycling community, sells its recyclables to Laidlaw Inc. of Landover. There they are cleaned, separated and baled. Glass and cans are crushed. Steel cans go to AMG in Dundalk and aluminum goes to Alcoa in Tennessee. Paper and cardboard go to Virginia and Canada, and plastics go to New Jersey.

            That’s good, but even better, says Salas, is to lure a recycling manufacturer to your community. Then your garbage pays for itself in jobs and economic development.

            For recycling to succeed, it’s got to work at the bottom line: it’s got to make a profit. Government needs to be a partner in that success, insists Salas. Needed are both special “procurement” legislation to encourage businesses to purchase recycled products and “materials-use” laws to require government agencies to use products that have, say, a l0 or 20 percent recycled content. Recycled content laws are still scarce; they’re on the books in only about eight states — including Maryland for newsprint and telephone books.

            Recycling is already a $l.8 billion a year business, according to the Solid Wastes Management Association’s newest estimates. There’s profit to be made. 

            Today, recycling’s biggest profits are savings.

            Communities, especially those topping l00,000 in population, can save up 20 percent or more on collection and tipping fees by recycling. Those figures are supported by both Calvert County Recycling Coordinator Steve Kullen and Anne Arundel Recycling Project Manager Susan Combs. Anne Arundel, which offers curbside recycling and special pickups, has set a goal of 23 percent savings.

            Recycling’s greatest savings are our natural resources. From coal to forests, we’re emptying our treasure house. To continue to make products from virgin materials pretty soon will simply not be economical — perhaps not even plausible. Here’s another bonus: reforming recycled feedstocks often consumes less energy than beginning anew with virgin materials.


Most Plastic Ends up as Trash

            Plastic has the least value in the recycling market. If you buy plastics in the hope that somebody, somewhere will reuse what you throw away, you better rethink your shopping strategy.

             “From l991 to l992, recycling of all plastic rose from 2.3 percent to 2.9 percent ... and more virgin plastic products and packaging are being made and more — not fewer — are being thrown away,” says Richard Denison, a biochemist with the Environmental Defense Fund. In fact, the increase in production of virgin plastic outpaced the increase in recycling by almost l0 to l.

            The plastics industry — both makers and users — are not cooperating in designing for recyclability, Denison charges. Environmental Action’s Resa Dimino agrees that the plastic manufacturing industry has little interest in recycled materials, even viewing it as competition.

            Plastic looks more recyclable than it actually is. That’s what I found when I surveyed my personal plastics collection.

            My bathroom, kitchen, laundry room, garage, and tool shed

turned up about 50 assorted plastic containers. Thirty-two of them

are marked with the triangular symbol made of following arrows  that was devised by the plastics industry to identify types of plastic. Usually that symbol contains a number from 1 to 7. Number 1s and 2s constitute 50 percent of all plastics

            The symbol, however, does not mean a product is recyclable or made of recyclable materials. Only containers marked 1  or 2  are recycled in most areas. Even caps on these bottles may be made of an entirely different plastic that cannot be recycled with 1s and 2s; that’s why a recycler asks that you remove them first. Caps and most other plastics are trash, destined for landfill, incinerator or roadside.

            Of the plastic containers in my house, the dozen containers that held my baby oil, mineral oil, Caladryl, rubbing alcohol, spray bathroom cleaner, pesticides, and glue — mostly 3s and 5s — will   end up in the landfill, as will most plastics marked 3 through 7.

             Number 1 plastic is PET or polyethylene terephthalate, the resin from which soft drink bottles and containers for foods like peanut butter and salad dressing are made. This most recyclable plastic is reused to make plastic down or “polyfill” for sleeping bags and winter jackets, some polyester clothes, industrial strapping, and carpet. The fiber used in carpet, called polyolefin, ranks only behind wool in durability and popularity.

            But only about 21 percent of PET is recycled; the rest ends up in landfills, where it does not degrade. You and I each use about five pounds per year of PET.

            Number 2 plastic is HDPE, or high-density polyethylene. Usually opaque, it’s used to make milk, water, and juice bottles.

Add color and in it goes shampoo, detergent, or motor oil. Because non-biodegradable HDPE is not easily recycled, only about 10 percent is reused for  plastic lumber, recycling bins, grocery bags, mud flaps, flower pots, toys, and parts for new bottles. We each use about l2 pounds of HDPE each year.           

            There is virtually no market for plastics numbered 3 to 7. That’s a pity, because these plastics can be made into plastic lumber, which doesn’t rot and doesn’t have to be treated with arsenate to be used outdoors. Plastic lumber turns up in park benches, landscape

timbers, and piers. A few local companies make such things, including the Hitchler Corporation in Denton, on the Eastern Shore, and Victor Stanley Company in Dunkirk.


Rags to Riches           

            Textile trash fills up about three percent of our landfills. There’s a better alternative: Give your old clothes to charities such as

Good Will, Salvation Army or to thrift stores. What isn’t recycled to new wearers is sold to rag companies like Cloth Tech in Prince George’s County. Clean, old clothes are then either sold to Third World countries for a $l a ton or stripped of useful zippers, buttons and other fasteners and resold to make paper, new cloth or carpet padding in automobiles.


Even Toxics Recycle

            All counties in Maryland have drop-off recycling centers where you and I can leave hazardous trash, including pesticides

and paint. Burying them in the landfill or pouring them down the

drain — both illegal in Maryland — contaminates the ground water and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay.  “One gallon of oil can contaminate 250,000 gallons of drinking water,” says Steve Kullen, Calvert County’s recycling coordinator.

            Calvert County recently collected 28,000 gallons of used oil, which can be remade into commercial fuel. The acid and lead in batteries can be reprocessed for new ones, and paint is donated to charities.


The Precycling Solution

            The best thing you and I can do to save our resources,

save our pocketbooks, and save the landfills is “precycle”:  don’t buy products your can’t recycle.

            Buy fruits and vegetables in bulk or by the bag rather than wrapped in plastic wrap and polystyrene. Avoid buying

pre-packaged lunches and snacks, and fruit drinks in plastic and

tin foil, or throwaway microwave containers, which are totally unrecyclable.

            Avoid Styrofoam anything. Very little (about 1.5 percent ) is recycled, but it lasts up to 400 years in the landfill.

If you have to buy something in a plastic container, save the container and use it around the house.            

            Before you buy, think not only of what you’ll keep but also what you’ll have to throw away. Find creative re-uses for packaging and cooperative re-users for your throwaways. The Loading Dock in Baltimore, for example, will accept donated home-building materials — paint, plumbing fixtures, doors and windows, which will be given to non-profit organizations to provide low-cost housing.

            When I multiply my four pounds of garbage a day times 365, the size of my 1,460-pound trash heap scares me. What scares me worse is this: 260 million of us are making piles that big each year. When I look at those figures, I think we’ll soon be stewing in our own garbage year round, not just when the weather’s bad.

The Future of Trash

            What happens once you’ve thrown out the garbage?

             Here’s how our national yearly trash heap of l96 million tons of garbage breaks down: 6.7 percent is glass • 7 percent is paper • 8.3 percent is plastic • another 8.3 percent is metal • 14.7 is food, wood, textiles, rubber, leather, and miscellaneous • 17.9 percent is yard waste.

            Seventeen percent — about 32.4 million tons — will be recycled or recovered. Some of that will sit in a warehouse until it can be used. About 10 to 15 percent will be sold to foreign countries. Paper, cardboard, and aluminum are the most immediately reusable.

            Aluminum, which has the best resale value of all recyclables, has been reprocessed almost since the first aluminum can

appeared in 1953. Unlike plastic containers, cans are easily made

back into cans. In l991, about 63 percent of aluminum cans used in the States were recycled: that’s 57 billion cans or nearly one hundred tons of aluminum.  Resale prices range from l8 to 34 cents per can. Recently, however, the recycled aluminum market has been depressed by Russia’s export of large quantities of bauxite ore, the raw material from which aluminum is made.

            Paper makes up a higher percentage of municipal wastes than most estimates allow: 41 percent, according to Maryland Department of the Environment. In areas with lots of offices, like northern Virginia, that figure can go as high as 90 percent.  Paper has an average recycling rate of about 50 percent. Clean, dry, and baled newspaper can bring up to $35 a ton in a good market.

            Speaking of saving resources: every ton of recycled paper

saves l7 trees, 7,000 gallons of water, 42,000 kilowatt hours of

energy, and keeps 60 pounds of pollutants out of the air.             Corrugated cardboard, another old recyclable, is easily made back into packaging, cereal boxes and wallboard. About 51 percent of cardboard containers are recycled.

            You, I, and every other American throws away about l76 glass containers each year, for a national yearly total of about l3 million tons of glass. Fortunately, glass is highly recyclable: bottles

can be made back into bottles with relative ease. Most of the market

is for refillable beer bottles, returned from bars and restaurants. Returnable bottles haven’t regained popularity with consumers. Otherwise, pulverized glass can be used to make roads (“glassphalt”), storm drains,  fiberglass, abrasives and glass beads.

            Clear glass has the most value, $40 to $55 per ton. Green glass, most of which is imported to this country as wine bottles, has the least — though a local recycler’s bright idea could change that.

            Calvert County Recycling Coordinator Steve Kullen suggested to Budweiser and Brockaway that they pulverize green glass, which compacts like sand, then use it as green sand to reconstitute eroded beaches.

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Pride of Baltimore II: Longing for a Wanderer

by Alyson Layne

Through the window, across green fields, miles of ocean stretch away from me, and for a moment I see the sails of Pride II appearing over the misty horizon. I blink and the boat vanishes, a wishful, elusive dream, leaving only an empty sea.

            I know the Pride of Baltimore II is somewhere out there, but sailing through the broad Pacific on her way to Hawaii she is far from my adopted northern California home.

            My feeling of incompleteness is, I know, shared with many Marylanders, who agree that the Chesapeake Bay is not the same when Pride II is away. We would not deny her freedom nor the importance of her mission: to sail the world as an ambassador of goodwill and promoter of economic development for the State of Maryland and the Port of Baltimore. Perhaps, on the other hand, we should be with her.

            Having spent a year on board as crew, and now being on the verge of forsaking graduate school and a steady life on land to pack up and go again, I wonder what it is about Pride II  that makes her so irresistible.

            Currently on a tour of the Americas, the world’s newest Baltimore Clipper — she was built in 1988 — spent last summer touring the Great Lakes. Home for a brief visit, she was off again this fall, heading south for Florida, the Virgin Islands (February), Puerto Rico and Venezuela (early March). Then through the Panama Canal and toward Hawaii, for a May 14 memorial commemorating the loss of the U.S.S. Maryland, at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and the loss of her namesake May 14, 1986 to a freak of weather.

            From Hawaii, Pride II  will sail to Alaska and down the western coast of the States this summer, putting some serious mileage behind her and her crew.

            Yet more than the thought of visiting exotic places lures me away. Perhaps the way this ship touches the lives of others is what makes her so captivating. The sight of the dramatically raked masts and majestic sails are stirring. Her mission is compelling, for Pride II  is both cultural and commercial emissary to every port she visits. As a Marylander with strong interest in foreign affairs, I find almost irresistible the combination of sailing on one of the most beautiful ships in the world as a goodwill ambassador.

            Both Prides are built along the lines of the 19th century Baltimore Clipper, a prototype distinguished by “speed and audacious sailing performance” that flourished from 1805 to 1815, often privateering the waters between the new world and the old. One of this class, the Chasseur, actualy blockaded the English coast during the war of 1812. These slim clippers boast two masts but lack a masthead.

            The “Old Boat,” as the first Pride is wistfully called, sailed for more than 150,000 miles in nine years. When I joined the crew of Pride II on a leg of the world tour that had been traveled by the “Old Pride,” I was regularly amazed and moved by the number of people who, often speaking in English, revisited the dock with inquiries, photos and stories of the lasting impression the Pride of Baltimore had made on their lives.

            When we were docked in Olso, one such visitor, a young woman, told us she had been a radio operator on a Norwegian tanker when one of the crew spotted distress signals on the horizon. The captain was awakened and the ship’s course changed to investigate the signals. What they found was a life raft filled with the survivors of Pride of Baltimore.

            Pride II has proved a worthy successor as she visits city after city around the world. I think of Pride in her absence, her crew of 12  supported by her office staff back home, working around the clock to keep the Pride in the water, looking beautiful as she represents us before the hundreds and often thousands of people who visit us in every port.

            I remember sailing into the harbor of Copenhagen, Denmark (under full sail, of course, as Jan Miles was captain then as now). Our reflection caught in the windows of a large glass office building, Maersk Shipping, only a few hundred feet away. At first we were awed by the sight of our own impressive reflection. However, upon second look, behind the reflection we saw hundreds of faces pressed against the other side of the glass, gazing out at us. Picture “Hollywood Squares” multiplied by a hundred, with at least five people looking out each square to come close to what we saw. The work day, at least at this company, had come to a halt. I felt privileged to be on our side of the glass.

            After living the life of a schooner bum on the Pride, feeling the invigoration that comes with spending days and nights in the elements, pushing yourself physically and mentally, overcoming discomfort, it is difficult to move onto other things. Where do you go after such an experience as this? Work in a bank? So diverse is the crew that some one of us might well work in a bank. We are a Harvard MBA, a senator’s aide, a truck driver, bartender, pastry chef, writer (yours truly), and regular boat habitués — all united by this Pride.

            As Captain Don Nicholson, of Clipper City, another Baltimore schooner, said as he surveyed the eclectic group around him “we are all brought together by a common love, love of the sea and love of ships.” This bond is strong, transcending age, economic, social and educational background, making lifelong friends of many who might otherwise have little to say to each other.

            Yet there is a side to these voyages not so wonderful. As I remember some of the long, cold nights on watch from midnight till 4am, my small apartment grows cozy. The physical demand of going aloft in the middle of the night, in the rain, or queasiness that comes only from sucking burnt diesel fumes as we bash into a headwind — memories such as these make solid ground seem pretty nice.            

            I remember sharing a bathroom, as well as sleeping quarters, with six other men and women. Under those conditions, there’s no such thing as a private life (including love life) because everyone knows what everyone else is up to, and if there are any doubts, another crew member can almost always fill in the holes. On the other hand, these conditions shape an unmatched camaraderie. At any hour of the night or day, you have someone with whom to share a joke, a song, a navigation problem or a spell of homesickness.

            Living on the land, it is this interplay that I think I miss the most. Telephoning a friend at midnight to share a dirty limerick, sing a sea chanty, or recall a particularly raucous event from the last port isn’t as friendly as a visit standing up on deck at the change of the watch. That, and the payoff: a perfect wind, coupled with a sunny afternoon, a beautiful twilight, a starry night.


            The rain begins to pelt my window. I hug my sweater around my shoulders and think about how happy I am to be here … maybe … I miss the exhilaration of life at sea. I think I would rather be cozy while chatting with a shipmate over a cup of tea following my watch … I am picking up the phone, calling the Pride office.

            Maybe I’ll see you in port.


Message from Captain Jan Miles on board Pride of Baltimore II:

Date: Saturday, April 2

Position: 09o 44.5oN, 087o 35.8oW

Speed: +/-10 knots

Course: 280o true

            It would seem that we have hit wind of the desirable variety. While this current experience is only 4 four hours old, it has a slightly different feeling of consistency that is new to us so far on this voyage. At the risk of jinxing the situation, I have hopes that we are at the edge of the trades and should be able to sail well for some time. Trades are known to fade, and I expect we will have that experience too, but not to the extent of the last four and a half days.

            Caught a big (40 pounds) Mahi Mahi yesterday afternoon! We had shishimi cocktails and cooked Mahi Mahi for supper and I hear more Mahi Mahi is for breakfast today. Meanwhile as I write this message the wind has dropped a bit and we are sailing a little less than 9 knots. Have I jinxed us already?

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Dock of the Bay

Indian Remains: A Troubling Issue Seeking Rest

In Talking God, Tony Hillerman’s best-selling novel, an Anglo administrator at the Museum of Natural History in Washington is mortified when she opens a parcel to find the bones of her grandparents — dug up and sent to her.

Emotions run high on the subject of our loved ones and their graves, and here in Maryland these emotions are on the verge of roiling over.

In drawers on the third floor of the state Hall of Records in Annapolis lay a macabre collection that has sparked a battle between researchers and Maryland’s American Indian community.

These compartments hold human remains — assorted bones and skulls of dozens of native people who lived as long as 3,000 years ago in what is now Maryland. Their location has sparked a fundamental dispute that is growing more contentious by the day.

•Should the bones be preserved for the archaelogists and the anthropologists who piece together the past, a time-honored pursuit that may yield lessons for the future?

•Or, as Indians demand, should these remains be buried with no further delay, restoring the integrity of their ancestors and completing the circle of life?

What Maryland officials viewed as a compromise agreement covering both sides has exploded, and no one is quite sure where things are headed.

“The Indian people of Maryland will not compromise,” asserts Sewell Fitzhugh of Cambridge, chief of the Nause-Waiwash band of Indians. His ancestors were among the Indians who fled into the marshes in the early 1800s with European settlers in pursuit.

“With Indian people, all of our life comes from Mother Earth. To disturb our ancestors is to disturb our journey,” says Fitzhugh, who was chairman of an Indian burial task force.

State archaeologist Richard B. Hughes asserts that the rejected rules were drawn fairly in an effort to implement a two year-old state law permitting the return of remains to descendants.

One of the provisions objectionable to Indians would allow some remains to be kept by the state in a mausoleum-like structure where they could be, in effect, checked out for study.

“To an archaeologist, learning about the past is of value to mankind,” says Hughes.

He contends that besides uncovering lessons about the Indians’ evolution, research could yield clues about family and tribal connections. Unlike counterparts in the West, the Piscataways and Maryland Indians lack tribal status in the eyes of the government. Conceivably, research could aid those who seek that status, Hughes says.

Despite the objections, Hughes promises that the state will publish the rules with some tinkering after a comment period closes April 15.

“It is an issue that is emotional on both sides,” he conceeds.

Indeed, across the country, Indians have been fighting — and winning — battles over their dead. A year ago after an epic struggle, they won the right to cover an opened burial site on view to the public at Dixon Mounds in Illinois.

In northwest Missouri, Indians blocked a trash incinerator that was to be built adjacent to a burial ground. They carted disrupted remains from Florida to South Dakota and buried them near the Wounded Knee slaughter ground. They preserved sites in Kentucky and Georgia and passed a slew of bills in state legislatures for more protection.

To many Indians, the outrage of their unburied has deep and troubling roots. Michael Haney, a Seminole-Sioux from Oklahoma and a leader in what is called the repatriation movement, says he obtained 130 year-old memorandums in which the army was ordered to plunder Indian graves for study material. This coincided with an effort during this era to eradicate tribes.

Haney contends that scrapings are sufficient for the DNA-studies researchers tout.

“Five-hundred years after that lost Italian wound up on our shores, we’re having to demand freedom from his sentence so that we can rest in peace,” Haney says.

Getting Square With Mr. Cable

If you’re like us, you get steamed at not getting what you pay for. Like when cable television disappears before the big game or that movie you’re craving.

So it was when cable vanished for over a week in February during The Ice Storm From Hell. How could this happen at the opening of the Winter Olympics with the Tonya-Nancy soap opera sizzling, we whined.

We don’t blame Jones Intercable for the weather or the loss of our creature comforts. But when the monthly bill arrived, we started thinking. What happens if, for a week or so, you and I don’t give our employers or our customers what they pay for.

Is there a chance here that folks could be getting shoved around by Big Cable, which is accumulating more and more power over our lives?

We decided to write a letter or two to find out -- and have a little fun along the way.

Dear Jones Persons:

Enclosed is a smaller payment because the cable was out in the area from Feb. 8 until Feb. 16, over seven days, apparently because of the storm. So I pro-rated the bill, subtracting seven days, or $10.10, to account for the service we did not receive from you.

Any questions about computations, please feel free to call.

We awaited their reply. Here’s what they said:


Whoa, are we grumpy today, or what? Next, we sent another letter with a slightly different tone.

Dear Jones Folks:

When we received our bill this month, we saw that you must have forgotten to deduct the $10.10 portion for the week in February when we had no cable service due to the ice storm. This must have been an oversight, along with not one but four references to us being “past due” and in danger of disconnection because of this $10.10.

Here’s our monthly payment, on time, minus the $10.10 that is erroneously billed. Thanks.

By the way, I was wondering why, if Jones Intercable is in Prince Frederick, Md., that I send my money to Pittsburgh every month.

(P.S. We rented the movie “Dave” about the goofy guy who wound up being president and it sure was good. Do you all get to watch movies all day when you’re not answering mail?)

Well, whaddya know, Big Cable listened. (Maybe they thought they had a wacko on their hands from whom they desired no further letters.) A spokeswoman said later that the company had made no blanket adjustments to make up for the outage but was responding to customers’ complaints.

So, if you could use a ten-dollar bill or don’t like rip-offs, write a letter of your own and your next bill might say what ours did:


Smith Island: Twixt A Marsh And A Soft Place

Hard times on Smith Island are getting harder. As well as attrition and erosion, as reported last issue in New Bay Times, Islanders are assaulted by regulation.

You’ll remember that sales of home-picked crabmeat are sustaining not only Island women — the traditional pickers — but also whole families once dependent on the manly work of harvesting the Bay for crabs and oysters. The crab-picking economy is celebrated in Island song:

“The soft crab market keeps on changing,

This is not the best of jobs, you know.

If it weren’t for my wife and her picking knife,

Lord knows where we all would go.”

Now, Smith Islanders are a step nearer that uncertain destination.

As spring was breaking the hold of the harsh winter that had intensified the island’s isolation, the mail boat brought despairing news. Stop picking crabmeat by April 1, 22 Islanders read. Not only was livelihood threatened, fines were promised.

The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s March warning letters were not the first. Threats to put Smith Island crabbers out of business had been hanging over their heads since last year, when they were ordered to meet the state’s food-handling laws.

As if requirements for licenses and expensive steel tables and equipment weren’t enough, Maryland’s Department of the Environment fired a second blast: crab waste on this remote and sparsely populated island is to be treated like food wastes in any other part of the state — landfilled, burned or composted.

Problem is, regulations that make sense for high-tech commercial operations can destroy kitchen businesses. As Bay lorist and adopted Smith Islander Tom Horton notes, Smith Islanders don’t earn the kind of money to live by such rules.

With kitchen businesses go livelihoods as well as a way of life in which many delight. And suddenly, one more distinctive slice of the Chesapeake will have vanished into homogeneity. This prospect worries many.

“I don’t think you could find better, more savory crab meat,” observes Dr. Eric Sohr, Smith Island’s last physician. “What’s more, you won’t find any shell. A lot of the better restaurants on the Eastern Shore have been serving that crab meat for years because they know it’s the highest quality.”

Sohr adds this fact: Food poisoning was not among the problems he treated on the island.

“Smith Island crabmeat is reasonably fresh, having been caught by husbands or local fishermen, steamed in reasonable quantities that can be picked in five or six hours, put in a cool place and picked as soon as possible.

“Would you trust anything your grandmother cooked for you? I would trust Smith Islanders’ crabmeat equally,” says he.

The April 1 deadline has been lifted until the beginning of summer. One picker, so far, has managed to comply with regulations.

Meanwhile, the island’s April 9 fund-raiser in Salisbury of which we wrote last week has been canceled, perhaps victim to what Elaine Eff, the state of Maryland’s cultural liaison to Smith Island, calls “the immense sense of fear and loss on the Island” from threats by the state.

“They’ve got 90 days to do something and not a clue to what it’s going to be. They’re between a marsh and a soft place,” says Eff.

New Rules, Bring On The Crabs

As expected, DNR’s new crabbing regulations pretty much follow those proposed months ago and criticized during hearings in Tidewater Maryland. Sports crabbers will bear the brunt of the crackdown, although some changes are yet possible by legislative action (or inaction) before the session closes April 11.

The controversial proposal to require sports crabbers to possess a tidewater fishing license was beaten in the General Assembly; still alive in the legislature is a proposal to allow recreational crabbing by boat in Chesapeake Bay proper from 5:30AM – 5PM, and in tributaries from 5:30AM to sunset. Shoresiders and those crabbing from bridges have no time limits.

While that proposal remains tentative; commercial trotliners crabbers would get a 21/2-hour head start; potters, a 1-hour earlier start.

For sports crabbers, the limit is now one bushel a person, two to the boat. There is no limit for commercial crabbers. Also implemented was a 10-trap limit for sports crabbers unless crabbing from a boat, when the limit is 25 to a boat. Landowners in many jurisdictions (especially the Western Shore) will be limited to two recreational pots from their property, or within 100 yards of it. Previously, the limit was 4 in many counties.

Sports crabbers can use 1,000 feet of trotline to the boat with no allowances for extra hands aboard. Also implemented but subject to legislative veto is a restriction of 300 pots for each commercial crabber, and 900 per boat. Other than when fishing for peeler crabs, commercial rigs must have a 25/16-inch cull ring to allow smaller crabs and other marine life to escape.

Sports crabbers have been cut back to 100 feet for the distance a trap of any kind can be set from a trotline, commercial or otherwise

— Bill Burton

For Fishin’ Fools Only

•This year’s 12th annual Pro-Am Fishing Tournament fished out of Rod ‘n Reel Docks, Chesapeake Beach has been moved to May14 –15. Up to $20,500 in prizes for bluefish and trout catches. Call 800/233-2080. Meanwhile, the 11th annual $200,000 plus MSSA Bluefishing Tournament, fished out of ports on both Eastern and Western Shore ports, is scheduled June 4 and 5. Call 410/768-8666 for more ...

•Maryland’s spring trophy rockfish season opens May 1 and closes May 31. You can prepare for it at Chesapeake College, in Wye Mills, when Bill Burton, retired Baltimore Sun outdoor editor and now a columnist for New Bay Times, and Keith Walters, author of Striper, offer an 8:30AM – 3PM one-day seminar on catching large rock. Bill Perry, former head of DNR sportsfishing programs, will also participate. For reservations, call Faye Lister, Continuing Education, Chesapeake College, at 410/822-5400 ...

•Perry Hall Chapter of Maryland Saltwater Sportfisherman’s Association warns boaters the FCC seeks to raise the user fee on marine VHF radios from $35 to $110 — and give nothing in return other than another opportunity to gripe.

Way Downstream...

•Would you want Goat’s Breath? You may soon — Goat’s Breath Bock Micro Beer, that is. Signature Beer Co., which is selling Goat’s Breath in hometown St. Louis, is negotiating with distributors in Maryland to enter markets here. In St. Louis, it goes for $4.99 a six-pack ...

•Finally, the U.S. Depart of Agriculture is writing standards for organic food, about the hottest and healthiest thing going these days. As a business, organic food is expected to double to $2.8 billion yearly, one fed said ...

•Some diehards argue to this day that news about earth’s pollution-thinned protective layer is a hoax. Yet in England, they’ve begun issuing warnings for “sunburn danger days” to combat skin cancer from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Skin cancer in Great Britain has doubled in a decade, to 40,000 new cases yearly ...

Has the Chernobyl nuclear disaster driven Russians mad? After radioactive money was found in Moscow, a local newspaper reported that police marked it with radiation to thwart bankrobbers. Now, banks are warning tellers to eat vitamins, wash frequently and never lick their fingers while counting out cash ...

Our Creature Feature this week comes to us from the mighty Mississippi River, where there’s a beast about that would have scared the bloomers off of Huck Finn. The headline in the Bloomington, Ill. Pantagraph says it all:


This is no cute little Bucky building harmless dams in the back woods. This critter is estimated to top 80 pounds and be nearly five feet in length, which would place him in the Book of World Records. Lately, he’s been busy around marinas, gnawing through pilings and downing birch trees along the bank.

At the Marquis Harbor Yacht Club, Big Chomper did $1,000 worth of damage. Nobody can catch him, and only one photographer, Polaroid-wielding Jim Sweet, has been able to snap a picture.

“He’s huge,” said Sweet . “Looked like a bear.”

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Getting News Or Being Gotten?

We’ve been listening in on the debate about the role newspapers play in our lives. That debate is important to us who live along the Chesapeake Bay.

Nowadays, debaters are raging over the press and Whitewater, that ball of confusion that has many Washington knickers in twists. Is the press walloping Bill and Hillary over minor stuff that has nothing to do with improving today’s world?

Or might those nosy reporters and solemn commentators be preserving our system of justice, under which no slickster or scofflaw should escape? Were the Clintons money-grubbing yupsters back in the Seventies or regular folks trying to score a buck?

You decide.

Our mission today is to talk a bit about what newspapers can do for you. Then we’ll go do it.

The news business is changing. A poll last week showed that 70 percent of us get our “news” from television. Out here on the Bay, we also have every kind of big and medium daily paper telling us what’s what.

And we have the weeklies, including some whose main mission is trumpeting who got clubbed, trashed or who tickled somebody in the wrong place. Is that all that’s worth reading about in your world?

You can tune into a half-dozen real-life crime shows on television, but lock your door first. (Did you know that the newest FBI statistics show that crime is actually down? It’s the randomness and violence that makes it seem worse.)

What’s left out, we think, is someone on your side: a newspaper that tries to look out for your interests and makes good sense.

That’s New Bay Times.

In our full year on the Bay, we have brought you essential news about the Chesapeake while going to bat for you against governments that would snatch your rights and companies that would foul your water, air and food.

If you hear talk of advocacy journalism, remember: we’re your advocates.

That’s what we do in “Dock of the Bay” this week. When we challenge Cable Television for charging us unfairly during the ice Storm. We show you how; the rest is up to you.

That’s what we did last issue when we brought a world expert in organic gardening and an exclusive report from an adventurous Bay fellow who landed in the eye of the Mexican revolution.

Each issue, we’re your family’s advocate when we assemble our children’s page and an array of stories and commentary about boating, fishing and business. About Bay sports and adventure. About good gardening, healthy food and our right to clean surroundings.

Today’s Whitewater debate reminds us of the mid-1980s, when the press cackled endlessly about the Iran-Contra affair and the ‘‘War on Drugs.”

Meanwhile, swindlers were stealing $500 billion from savings-and-loans. Government debt was taking us toward recession. And toxics were being dumped in the Bay and anywhere no watchdog was stationed.

So if someone tries to tell you they know what news is fit to print, chuckle.

And pick up New Bay Times.

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Letters to the Editor

Power of Advertising

Dear New Bay Times:

On behalf of the Shady Side Rural Heritage Society, I though your readers should be made aware of how effective your classified ads are. Twice I have placed ads in New Bay Times and each time the item sold on the first day the ad ran.

Thank you for your timely and interesting paper — a welcome addition to the community.

—LaVerne Papian

Shady Side, Md.

Dear New Bay Times:

I am one of the owners of Wild Birds Etc. in Prince Frederick and now in Dunkirk, Maryland. When my mother and I decided to open a second location for our store, we decided upon Dunkirk. We then thought about where we would advertise to let people know about BOTH stores.

We decided to run a few times in New Bay Times since its circulation includes Southern Anne Arundel County up through the Annapolis area. We placed a small ad (probably the smallest we could considering our expenses) and more or less forgot about the ad.

The second or third day we were open in Dunkirk, a woman came in from Anne Arundel County looking for binoculars to purchase as a gift for her mother. She had seen the ad in New Bay Times and noticed that binoculars were listed in the corner of the ad along with other items we specialize in. I was delighted when she purchased a quality pair of binoculars at a moderate price.

She was genuinely delighted to have found our store, and thanks to New Bay Times she did. When she returned no less than a week later and made another purchase, I remembered her from the first time, so I know I now have a repeat customer!

Another new customer arrived in our store over the weekend and spent a great deal of time selecting a new feeder and pole, purchased seed and so other incidentals, and she too had seen our ad in New Bay Times ! Even though we did not offer any specials or discounts in the ad, she had cut it out and carried it with her. We expect to see her again and again, also!

We are delighted with how our advertising in New Bay Times has helped so quickly. It really is a nice paper, widely read and appreciated, and now we have proof that people also read the advertisements.

Keep up the quality of your paper, and I’m sure we will see more and more readers in both our stores.

—Linda C. Fadely

Wild Birds etc.

In Love with Tomatoes

Dear New Bay Times:

When I read your letter on heirloom tomatoes, I had to write. Did you know that one of the tomatoes you mentioned, Mortgage Lifter, is also called Radiator Charley? I love the names of these old tomatoes.

I’ve raised heirloom tomatoes for a couple of years at Lock Less Farms, though I’ve always raised the old favorites Rutgers and Delicious without considering them “heirloom,” which means to me something 150 years or so old, something the pioneers had. Delicious is a great big tomato; it has to be caged or staked to keep it off the ground or it rots. I am told that the taste is really good.

I’m raising 32 varieties this year. Eight of them are heirlooms, including Rutgers, Delicious, Goldie, Great White Beefsteak, Mortgage Lifter, Old Brooks, Yellow Pear and Red Brandywine — which my husband fell in love with.

I raise oddities as well as heirlooms — and some are really odd. Mr. Stripey is red and yellow striped; Ruffle Yellow is accordion pleated; Sausage is a six-inch-long tube. Pineapple? I don’t have the foggiest. I’ve got red, yellow, white, and striped tomatoes.

Of course I’ve got all the regular tomatoes, like Big Beef, the “new guy on block” you wrote about, plus 10 different hot peppers, Little Fingers eggplant, Crenshaw melons and a full selection of herbs, including eight basils.

At Loch Less Farms, we don’t spray our tomatoes, and you can buy as few plants or as many as you like.

When? As soon as the weather settles down. Tomato seedlings are usually ready to be transplanted very close to the first of May

Or choose from an even wider variety of seeds in R. H. Shumway’s catalog Totally Tomatoes, which offers 279 varieties of tomatoes plus peppers: POB 1626 Augusta GA 30903. 803/663-0016.

—Betty Knapp

Owings, Maryland

From Chesapeake Waters to Longview, Texas

Dear New Bay Times:

When my sister was in the District of Columbia not long ago, she found New Bay Times and brought it home with her. It then found its way to me. It was more refreshing to read than a regular newspaper. I guess because there is no mention of problems areas like Bosnia, South Africa, Colombia, or North Korea.

Also I have an interest in your location because my nephew is an Annapolis Navy graduate and just finished his hitch with the rank of lieutenant.

—J.R. Kingston

Longview, Texas

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Because of the NRA, A Backlash Is Brewing

“The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”


            Those 14 words sound like they were hatched by the National Rifle Association. They weren’t — though NRA never misses an opportunity to repeat them.

            They are the last 14 words of the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Unfortunately and for obvious reasons, the multi-million dollar “right-to-bear-arms” campaigns of NRA don’t tell the whole story.

            There are 26 words in our Second Amendment, 12 of which are not mentioned. Only the last 14 have been relentlessly drummed into us for decades.

            Let’s take a look at the oft-overlooked first 12 words, which I have yet to be informed of by the NRA or its bedfellows.

            “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state …”

             Now add the battle cry of the NRA, and you have a different slant on the Second Amendment.


Whose Arms, Who’s Target?

            Across the nation, gun control issues are among our most controversial subjects. In the mostly rural Chesapeake Bay Country, the debate is carefully followed by hunters of waterfowl, deer, railbirds, quail and other game.

            An hour’s drive away are people who fear they — not wildlife — will be the next target of a different type of hunter.

            On gun control issues, never the twain shall meet.

            The NRA’s version is one of the biggest half-truths ever foisted on the American public. Too bad that that organization doesn’t see fit to promote all 26 words, then let the public decide what the Second Amendment is all about.

            Some, including the NRA, vigorously contend that what the founding fathers meant by the very “militia” was an armed citizenry, not a formal military. In the Militia Act of 1792, the Second Congress defined militia as inclusive of every free male between 18 and 45. (Guess those of us past 45 weren’t considered of much value in defending our homeland)

            However, in 1939 the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously upheld a federal ban on sawed-off shotguns and other gangster-type weapons with the words “It is not within judicial notice that this weapon is any part of ordinary military equipment, or that its use could contribute to the common defense.”

            A dozen years ago the Supreme Court upheld a local Illinois handgun ban thusly: “The right to bear arms is inextricably connected to the preservation of a militia … the right to bear arms  extends only to those arms necessary to maintain a well regulated militia.”

            Later asked to review and overturn that decision, the High Court refused.


            Gradually but surely, gun control is creeping across Maryland and the nation. The Brady Bill KO’d NRA’s national dominance on the right to bear arms issues.

            Now, we have the General Assembly passing legislation to ban assault weapons, which is expected to be signed into law next month by Gov. William Donald Schaefer. It’s a weak bill, gutted in the General Assembly, but its passage is yet another signal that government — prompted by the people — is eventually going to get into more restrictive gun control.

            This worries me. I have handguns for the protection of my home and family; rifles and shotguns for hunting. I want to keep both, use the latter where and when I want — and I hope never be forced to use the handguns.


A Gloveless Truth

            Before taking the gloves off, allow me to make one thing very clear. I was raised a hunter with a loaded sidearm on my belt, a .22 caliber rifle or a shotgun for small game hunting and something bigger when rifle-hunting for big game.

            During midday breaks, the rifle or shotgun was unloaded and left at camp or carried in the trunk of the vehicle. The holstered handgun remained on the belt in town.

            I didn’t think anything of it; apparently no one else did. It was accepted practice in Vermont, and legal if the weapon was not concealed. There were no restrictions about its being loaded.

            This was no macho thing, just the way of the countryside. I cannot recall one accidental or intentional incident involving sidearms carried by hunters, though contemporary laws didn’t restrict the carrying of such weapons to hunters alone. Times and circumstances were different. We were educated in the use of sidearms and the responsibilities of their possession.

            Now let’s take the gloves off.

            It’s high time the National Rifle Association, and the many non-affiliated organizations and individuals of their ilk, acknowledge that times have changed. Today, we live in a different world.

            It’s also time to shed the paranoia that legislators are trying to take our guns away from us. But, unless we modify our attitude, that day can come.


The Wise Know When to Cut Their Losses

            While a young reporter, columnist and radio broadcaster covering politics in Vermont almost 50 years ago, I had a good and  wise friends, Reid Lefevre, a ranking member of the State House of Representatives. He was a practical man, who, when not tending to legislative matters, owned and operated a traveling carnival, King Reid Shows, in much of the Northeast and in some cities of Canada.

            A bill whose contents I can’t remember — though it might well have involved the fight to allow oleomargarine to be colored like butter in a state that protected its farmers — had been successfully opposed many times previously by the influential Lefevre.

            He took me to lunch; told me he was adding a few not-too-significant amendments, then would urge passage.

            I expressed shock. Hey, this guy was a fighter, a man of principle, a legislator who wouldn’t yield when he thought he was right. How could this be?

            I learned a great lesson that day as his usual light chatter grew serious. He said something to the effect that fighting for what you believe in rates first, but when it becomes obvious that eventually you are going to be beaten, you compromise and save what you can.

            You have to  know when that time comes, he carefully explained.

            This wasn’t sinking- ship politics he stressed. It was a matter of a half a loaf being better than none. It was a lesson in the practicality of politics. And of life.

            Today on gun control we are facing the almost certain future of losing all or compromising and saving what we can from a losing battle.


Diehard Losers           

            If we eventually lose our handguns, maybe even our legitimate sporting arms, and if we face strict, cumbersome, unrealistic prohibitions, we can blame the multi-million member NRA, whose slick PR people have convinced most of us we have a constitutional right to bear whatever firearms — and ammunition — we like. Balderdash.

            The nine justices of the Supreme Court are above the PR campaigns of the NRA. Too bad more legislators aren’t at this point  — though at each session they become more aware of the demands of their constituents.

            Lawmakers like their jobs, influence, pay and amenities. With polls showing 80 percent or more of their constituents want strict gun control laws, what are they going to do?

            I am very concerned about the possible (probable?) day when I can no longer legally keep sidearms in my home for protection; even more so when I would find it more trouble than it’s worth to transport and use a longarm for hunting or target shooting. Surely, many others in sports shooting fields share these fears.

            I also have compassion for those who live in areas where crime with guns prevails. These people have a right — a more important one than mine — to live without fear in their homes and communities.

            I also feel I have a responsibility to the police who offer us protection and who each day work in an increasingly dangerous environment. (In recent months, I have noted that more police officers than ever are abandoning their support for NRA goals. They’re in the trenches, they know what’s going on, especially the dangers posed by the super consumer firepower available today.)

            I think of guns in schools, recurrences of Waco, fast food shootouts, cop-killer weaponry and ammo, stray hot-lead victims. carjackings, or maiming the innocent. I think of society.

            I cannot help but feel that we must give up something to end all of this.

            If we don’t, it is still going to come. The opposition is gaining in numbers and in influence.

            My friend Reid Lefevre would tell me the time has come to face reality, to compromise, say yes, we will give up some things, but let us keep much of what we have. Let’s work together to solve the ills of inadequate gun control.

            If we don't, we are at high risk — and soon — of being steamrolled; we’ll have no say in the decision. The NRA, big and popular among some as it is, cannot continue to finance the brush fires of gun control issues that break out daily on local, state and national fronts.

            I have a friend whose recommendation for reasonable gun control is for gun control extremists to promote more and more anti-gun legislation. The NRA couldn’t keep shelling out its millions very long, he reasons.

            But the object shouldn’t be to bankrupt the NRA. While its pigheadedness about everybody’s right to bear just any arms they choose is creating a horrendous backlash, it has a commendable history in promoting gun training and safety programs.


A Future We Can Live With 

            Maryland’s gutted assault-weapons bill won’t do much to solve that problems in today's gun-toting society, but its passage has provided a pretty good idea of what’s ahead. The pressure is building, and when average constituents realizes that their senators or representatives are offering little more than lip service in this election year, they going to demand more. And get more.

            There is no place in our society for assault weapons; they are not practical for hunting, just for macho images and childish games. Clips that hold 20 or more shells also have no place among us, nor do cop-killer bullets or sophisticated, high-powered sidearms designed only to blow another human away. And, who needs to buy more than a handgun or two a month?

            As some states reluctantly act while other fret that they might as well not act while guns and ammo are available in nearby states,  legislators are going to get the bright idea that the time has come to act together, regionally or nationally.


            If we don’t get off the NRA bandwagon, somewhere down the road, will come the time when I will be denied any consideration in ultimate decisions.

             I want to continue hunting, target shooting and protecting my home legally, and I want the same for others. I also want to protect innocent bystanders and law enforcement officers.

            To gain that, I am willing to make reasonable concessions.

            Enough said...

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Laughing Gourmet

Rites of Spring

As we revel in the year’s First Green, don’t forget your green grocery. There you’ll find spring’s favorite vegetable, asparagus, at prices that demand eating.

            Leave the paunchy, pallid white spears you’ll find in some gourmet stores to the Europeans, who are fanatic about them. Go for those slender, delectable green spears, those pencils of delicacy tender enough to eat raw.

            Here are some irresistible recipes to match the season’s irresistible prices.


Easy Cream of Asparagus Soup

1 lb. asparagus, washed briefly

11/2 C water

1 T butter

1 shot Tabasco

1/2 t salt

2/3 C low-fat sour cream

1/4 C good quality croutons

            Trim tough ends from asparagus; cut in 1-inch pieces. Combine first five ingredients in saucepan and bring to boil; simmer 10 minutes. Let cool. Transfer to processor and, with steel blade, pulse until chopped but not pureed. Return to pan. Stir in sour cream. Heat and serve, topped with croutons if you like. Serves two generously.


Pasta Primavera

1 lb. your favorite long pasta

11/2 t salt, divided

3 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed

1/4 C olive oil

1/2 lb. asparagus, trimmed and cut in one-inch pieces

1/2 box frozen green peas, or 6 oz fresh

1 C one-inch broccoli florets

1/2 red pepper, cored and trimmed, in thin silvers

1/2 C chopped parsley

            In a six-quart pot, bring 5 quarts water to a boil; add 1 t salt or to your taste. Meanwhile,

            If your favorite vegetable is missing here, just blanch it and toss it in.


Pan “Fried” Asparagus

            Tall asparagus steamers seem to have been invented for fat spears; the tiny one fall through. The frying pan is a good substitute. This recipe serves two … or maybe, depending on your devotion, just one.

1 lb. thin asparagus

2 T butter

1/4 C white wine

1/4 C water

            Wash and trim asparagus. Bring other ingredients to simmer in a large frying pan. Add asparagus and cook gently, covered, five minutes. Uncover and cook to your taste in doneness. Remove to serving dish, reduce cooking liquid to a few  Ts, then pour over the stalks. Top with shaved Parmiggiano-Reggiano.


Four-Alarm Peanut Dip for Asparagus or Pea Pods

1/4 C chicken broth

1 C peanut butter

2 T or more soy sauce

2 T Oriental chili/garlic paste

1 t sesame oil

sliced green onion

            In a glass bowl, warm peanut butter with chicken broth in microwave until easy to stir; combine well and add next three ingredients. Re-season or thin (with more broth) to taste. Top; with sliced onion. Serve surrounded by trimmed asparagus or pea pods.

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Sky Talk - Who Is Here

Who’s Here

With spring bursting, there’s so much happening, so many arrivals, so many sights and sounds and smells, where on the Bay should we begin ...

In the Air

Daylight! How have you used Spring’s gift of long evenings? Picking up sticks? Raking away leaves to expose white-green stalks as hungry as you for sunlight? Playing in the dirt, feeling worms, planting seeds, imagining sprout-rise? Sipping a cocktail as light fades into sunset’s color show?

If James Brown is the hardest workin’ man in show business, then the osprey is the hardest workin’ creature on the Chesapeake just now.

Watching an osprey pair nest-building off our beach nearly tuckered us out. After circling over head, Mr. Osprey skimmed down the beach to choose the gnarled hard branch of a cherry tree felled by the ice storm. So heavy was the branch that osprey lifted it no more than a meter off the surface of the water for the half-mile flight to the nest. There, around the nesting platform newly replaced by human neighbors, Mrs. Osprey circled encouragingly.

Osprey no more than dropped his cargo on the emerging nest than off he was again. By now we had climbed the hill on our way home, but we couldn’t take our eyes off osprey. This time he took his stick from the spot we’d just left. It was lighter and his return to the nest easier.

No busier creature exists along the Chesapeake than osprey, busy building their nest.

In Leaf, Bud and Flower

Green screams spring from every field and limb, and has been since the morning of March 24, when overnight it sprang forth from bleak winter. In that fortnight, the leaves have grown from just a showing of green to tiny, opening hands on most every tree but slow sycamore. Bramble, on the other hand, may be winning the race.

Yellow is just as insistent. Forsythia has exploded like a time bomb, even on the shamed bushes mauled into square submission by human pruners. Daffodils yell, “me, too!” and the song in the back of my mind is Wordsworth:

“My heart leaps up when I behold a daffodil in spring …”

Not to be outdone, showy hyacinth are overwhelming every flower bed with their flagrant colors and perfumes, arousing the bees.

Magnolia is almost too beautiful to be borne, recalling out of three decades’ depth my Japanese friend’s sadness at hibiscus’ brief beauty.

Good God, nature is profligate!

Life in the woods is quieter: mayapples have opened their umbrellas and, my neighbor insists, mushrooms will too, but only when the sun breaks through after a rainy day.

On the Water

Was that a crabber on the horizon veiled this morning’s haze? Surely not … perhaps a clammer? By noon comes word that crabbers are indeed out — but not crabs.

In the Water

Though April showers may come your way, with them come vernal ponds to last till May …

Vernal — or spring — ponds take life from the rain, collecting in every hollow and lasting long enough to resurrect life. The spring peepers that sing this season’s background song come to life in vernal ponds.

You may also be hearing the calls of American and Fowler’s toads.

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Baysider — Spare That Forest!

by Vern Gingell

Maryland and its counties are trying to find ways to reduce the nutrient content of the Bay by 40 percent by the year 2000. Forested buffers can help us attain that goal — if we can stop ourselves from cutting them down.

Wide forested buffers reduce the nutrients that escape into the Bay from stormwater runoff. They also preserve natural habitat for wildlife, assuring normal propagation of species. But effective buffers must be deep: no less than 100 feet deep, beginning from mean high water landward on properties fronting the Bay or any of the Bay’s contributing waters.

What are the benefits of retaining such buffers?

Forests are made up of trees and undergrowth of many species and sizes. Maryland natives growing along most of the Bay and its estuaries include brambles, dogwood, grape vine, marsh grasses, mountain laurel, rhododendron, thorn bushes and, of course, poison oak and ivy.

Trees have tremendous ability to absorb nitrogen from sub-surface run-off during rainy periods through their extensive root mat and deep root systems. In addition, nutrients carried by silt in surface run-off are entrapped by heavy matted forest vegetation. Depending on the depth of the buffer and the percent of the slope, the absorbed nitrogen can rise as high as 90 percent. Buffers left in their natural state do an excellent job of reducing harmful nutrients going into the Bay.

When large, mature trees are removed, on the other hand, the nitrogen once used for growth in the remaining root system reverts back into the soil, thus back into subterranean water courses and on into the Bay. It will take a long time before average nursery stock (generally 11/2 inch at breast height) grows a root system to match the nutrient uptake capability of large, mature trees. Such “trades” materially reduce the ability of the buffer to cleanse the stormwater run-off.

Also lost when mature trees are felled is shade, which in turn aids in controlling water temperature. Since cooler water contains more oxygen than warmer water, oxygen diminishes when trees are lost. Nor does the trouble end there. Sunlight encourages algae, which further reduces the oxygen content of the water so that finfish, crabs, oysters and clams weaken, becoming susceptible to such diseases as the Dermo plaguing the Bay’s remaining oysters.

One more important thing to understand is that the litter from stream-side trees, twigs and leaves, nourish water dwelling creatures, the invertebrates and aquatic insects that form a vital part of the Bay’s food chain.

What can we do with what we’ve learned?

Here is my suggestion. In lieu of cutting trees and destroying under-story vegetation landward 100 feet from mean high water in these sensitive buffer areas, leave the buffer in tact and build only a six-foot path to the water’s edge. Make a soft path paved with wood chips and let it meander around large trees. Trim up large trees along the water’s edge to allow enough sunlight to encourage the growth of marsh grasses.

The Bay with all of its bounty will thank you, as will all manner of forest animals and water-edge creatures.

What benefits one, benefits all!

Having served on the Critical Area 1993 Up-Date Committee for Anne Arundel County, Vern Gingell— who is the current chairman of the South County Environmental Commission— is painfully aware of how much nitrogen flows into the Bay because forested buffers have been destroyed .

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Tarek Sirry Dived Deep Our Hearts

By Janey H. Foster

The little gray house on Cathedral Street will never be the same.

Oddly, the cute one-room flat over the big garage and work area hasn’t changed visibly. Walking down the street, you might notice its charm, seeing the smiling clay sun above the garage door, perhaps puzzling over the horseshoe crab light fixture.

But you will never know Tarek Sirry.

I remember a beautiful June evening, warm and clear. My six-year-old son, David, and I walked down Cathedral Street, toward the Loews Hotel to see my future in-laws, just arrived for my wedding.

I had chosen that route in hope of seeing Tarek. Seeing him filled me an overwhelming feeling: not just the happiness of seeing a friend, but a sensation that warmed my heart and soul, like the radiant sun on a beautiful spring day after too many days of damp, cold rain.

As we turned onto Cathedral Street, I saw his big white cube-van with its black Bay Diving Company emblem. As we came closer, David said “There he is!” And sure enough, in the shadows of the open rear door, I could see Tarek’s muscular, tanned arms lifting and moving the heavy awkward scuba tanks, then hanging up his glistening black wet suit, still dripping from a days work. As he stepped back, his back slightly arched, arms crossed in front, he paused as if to survey the arrangement of items in his truck.

Turning, Tarek saw David and me — and smiled. A wide, happy grin spread across his deeply tanned face, exposing bright white teeth that shone out from beneath the perpetual two-day-old beard. His deep brown eyes sparkled with life, the edges crinkling with lines that defined his enjoyment of living. Looking down from the inside of the truck he said, “Hi, darlin’. You sure look beautiful today!”

Sure, what a line, but Tarek delivered it with such charm and deep, honest feeling, that it always made me feel good and beautiful.

That was what was so different about Tarek: he didn’t only ask how you were, he made sure you knew he cared that you were happy, safe and secure.

On the outside, Tarek was the epitome of a rugged waterman, with his dark, brooding features handed down from his Egyptian ancestors. He would stomp up and down the dock, his wetsuit peeled halfway down and a cigarette gripped tightly in his hand. Growling and rumbling, he would debate an issue until he was confident all parties had reached an equitable understanding. He was fair and realistic, but because of his unselfish nature, he would go to unbelievable depths to satisfy his customers. Even if it meant compromising, slightly, on his own demands.

Tarek had a unique gift. His soul was so full of passion and caring for others that he did not search for his happiness through the materialistic goals so many of us believe will bring peace to our lives. The world around him brought him deep satisfaction and spiritual rewards.

This gift set Tarek apart from my other friends and acquaintances. He didn’t give the people he knew and loved material things; he never had a lot of material things. What he had was much greater.

It was the way his excitement bubbled over as he told us about the little, fragile seahorse returning to the Bay and how important the survival of such tiny creatures was to him.

It was the way he would rush his girlfriend home when it rained so they could lie on his waterbed in the little gray house in the soft light of a rainy afternoon, listening to the rhythm of the raindrops beating against the aluminum awning over the window.

It was his pride in being a diver. Not just any diver, but a 20-year diver and owner and operator of Bay Diving Company, provider of complete underwater services.

It was his love of the Chesapeake Bay — “my Bay,” he called it — and his enjoyment of the silent world beneath her surface. He even turned down a highly paid bridge inspector’s job in Pennsylvania because of his love for the Chesapeake Bay and Annapolis.

It was the way he said “Mom” with such deep, devoted love that it warmed your heart.

Tarek’s friends now realize the power he had over their souls. All of us changed under his influence. The metamorphosis was not so apparent when we were with him. Now that we have him no longer, we know how much we have evolved through his love.


Janey Foster’s tribute to her friend, Tarek Sirry, is her first piece for New Bay Times. She writes from Eastport.

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Diversionary And Excursion

Cape May: A Proper Reward for Victorian Virtue

by Sonia Linebaugh

Twenty-five years of marriage gets relatives excited. At a party hosted by our children, our many sisters and brothers and our parents rewarded our staying power with two nights at Mainstay Inn, Cape May’s exquisite bed and breakfast.

Tom and Sue Carroll arrived at Cape May 23 years before us. The Coast Guard brought them; Victorian houses kept them. While keeping their hearts set on a place known as the Jackson Clubhouse, the Carrolls bought and renovated another Cape May Victorian, opening it as the first Mainstay Inn and the first bed and breakfast in town. By 1976, the Clubhouse they so admired became theirs.

With the Clubhouse, a former gentlemen’s gambling establishment, came the original heavy furniture that meant opulence to Victorians, a coal-burning stove still in the small parlor and a houseful of grand chandeliers. These luxuries had cost the original owner — who had paid only $9,400 for the lot and $7,600 to build the house — the princely sun of $13,000.

What the Mainstay lacked in 1976 were fresh paint, bathrooms, and a furnace. Furnaces were superfluous to many19th century visitors to Cape May, who came to their elegant houses only for the six weeks of the summer season. Bathrooms … but that’s another story.

Nowadays, the Mainstay is open almost ten months a year. Each gracious guest room — both in the inn and in the Mainstay Cottage next door — has a private bath. The coal-burning stove no longer flings cinders onto curtains and furniture. The paint has lately given way to ornate wallpaper so ornate that it’s generating a legend.

The Carrolls are friendly, gracious hosts to guests incongruous in jeans and sweatshirts. Conversation is lively, and tea is elegantly served in brass pots that dip forward on their own pivoting stands. The toffee squares are delicious.

“We started the teas,” says Sue, “because we read that, although ladies were not allowed into the clubhouse, they were invited to afternoon tea on the verandah.”

Tom can’t resist adding, “People always speculate that a gentlemen's club with bedrooms upstairs must also have had other business, but we think there were merely rooms available for bachelors. You’ll hear others in town say it was a whore house but we don’t agree.” The only place we actually heard this rumor was from Tom, who told it and denied it with equal glee.

Wonderful rooms, the gracious teas are not all you get at the Mainstay. The Carrolls also serve satisfying sit-down breakfasts for 24 guests. [See NBT Vol. II: 6 for some of Sue’s recipes.]

What’s Doing in Cape May

Off-season guests in Cape May generally take it easy. Victorian house walking tours or trolley tours are appropriately unstrenuous. The historic district covers some 600 buildings, mostly Victorian, including 63 bed and breakfasts — but the Mainstay sets the standard.

Straddling the southern edge of New Jersey, the beaches are surprisingly generous. Then you learn that three years ago, after three years of severe storms, the beaches had so eroded that they were unusable at high tide. Now the Army Corps of Engineers is literally stemming the tide, with its promise to bring in thousands of tons of sand every few years for the next half century.

The season is harsher here, where the smell, the light and the evidence of sea life are different from our mild Bayside beach. The sea-salt smell tosses fragrantly about on the constant rolling waves. The light dazzles equally on water and on sand. The sand itself is tan and more evenly textured. Shells are different too — knobby whelks, quahogs, jingle shells (the ones wind chimes are made from), bay scallops, jack knife clams, and beautiful gray and cream conch shells.

A few miles down to the western end of the beach, at the state park where the Delaware Canal begins, stands the Cape May Point lighthouse. The renovated lighthouse will reopen for walk-up tours on Memorial weekend.

Soon the skies over the Cape will be lively with migrating birds. In the fall as many as 400 species have been sighted in a day. Spring is not bad, either. Bird “passes” increase in April and peak May 20 – 22. The Cape May Bird Observatory offers special field trips, lectures and classes that weekend.

All this walking and looking with attention to historical detail and marine environment leads, of course, to food. Eating is the other preoccupation of Cape May. Breakfast and tea are not enough.

You can dress for finely served dinner at the Washington Inn. Make reservations so you don’t eat at 9:30 as we did. Still, the glassed-in verandah and the bar had their charms. We don’t remember the food, but the bill says we ought to.

Louisa’s food was another matter. We can’t recommend it highly enough, but Louisa would rather we not recommend it at all. The tiny restaurant run by Louisa Hull and Doug Dietsch for 15 years isn’t about to get any bigger. About 20 people at a time can squeeze into the whimsically painted place to eat wonderful dishes like sea trout with avocado-lime sauce and swordfish with tamari and ginger, carrot soup with ginger, flat bread with home-made humus, and home-made desserts.

If you insist on being among the 20, make your reservation because regulars will be there first. Bring a bottle of wine because Louisa doesn’t serve alcohol. Bring cash because Louisa won’t take your credit card. Don’t expect the same dishes we enjoyed. Louisa and Doug serve what they please from their garden plus the freshest catch of fish and an occasional chicken. Don’t expect red meat. Don’t tell Louisa you read about her restaurant here.

Victorian Cape May is altogether a proper place for such a 1990s’ anachronism as a happily long-married couple.

Mainstay Inn and Cottage

635 Columbia Avenue

Cape May, NJ 08204


Proprietors: Tom and Sue Carroll

The main house has 6 generous rooms. The cottage has 6 more. Two rooms will house three or four. As Tom and Sue say: “Small children find us tedious.”

Prices are up from the year 1976 when rooms ranged from $26-35 per night. Now you’ll pay $95-190 and consider your money well-spent.

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