Volume 3 Issue 40 1995

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).

On Our Cover:
What better marks the changing of the season than the turning of the leaves? We celebrate autumn with the Diane Knaus Diamond.

Dock of the Bay
'70-'95-HIKE: Patient Redskins Fans Rewarded • Maryland's Top Poet Roland Flint Named to Serve a Three-Year Stint • Yachts Parade for Academy’s 150th • Satellite Sharing: St. Mary's Plugs In • Guzzle-Fest: Gas Hogs Ratted Out • Will Radio Fee Become Radio-Free? • plus, Way Downstream, Fighting over fish • Keeping China’s tigers out of drug stores • Shopping savings on Fort Worth’s bad air days • and Winning Ig Noble Prizes.

New Bay Times Interview
Sailor's Log: Author Anne M. Hays Is Living Her Dreams
In her latest book, this racer-turned-cruiser teaches how to reach yours

Editorial | Letters to the Editor | Green Consumer | Bay Reflections

Who's Here | News of the Weird | Real Will Astrology

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New Bay Times Interview
Sailor's Log: Author Anne M. Hays Is Living Her Dreams
In her latest book, this racer-turned-cruiser teaches how to reach yours
by Sandra Martin

With October, the year’s best winds come to the Chesapeake, filling even earthbound minds with dreams of being blown off course. Annapolitian Anne M. Hays has followed those dreams — and more.

From weekend racing sailors with a crew of small boys, she and her husband slowed their pace and stretched their time, spending a year and more setting their course as freely as the wind.

From a homemaker who spend her time doing “all the things that the rest of the family didn’t really have time to do,” Hays has earned that most envied of all titles, “author,” with hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles and three well-read books to her credit.

What’s more, Hays has managed to combine those dreams, which is more than a little like having your cake and eating it too.

Now, just in time for her 63rd birthday — and, not coincidentally, the 26th Annual United States Sailboat Show in Annapolis — comes her latest book, "Through the Spyglass, A Sailor Looks at Cruising and Tells What and Why."

We visited Hays’ Eastport home to learn the secret of living your dreams.

Q How did you get started as a writer?

A I married Jim Hays [described by Hays in the dedication to Through the Spyglass as “my partner in cruising and the love of my life”] the day after I graduated from Syracuse University, and I became an Air Force wife. Then I began to have children, so I never have had a full-time job outside the home.

We moved about every three years and at one of our stops, I got a second degree in journalism, at the University of North Dakota.

When we came to Washington, for the very first time since I’d been married, nobody came home for lunch and I had a little more time. In fact, everybody in the family decided it was time mom got some kind of a job. I thought I better do something, or somebody’s going to find me a job I don’t like.

My mother, Alice McKenzie, had always written as a hobby and we’d always been encouraged to write, so it wasn’t something foreign to me. I found a YWCA class and the woman who taught the class was just wonderful. She taught like a cheerleader. She kept saying, you can do it. All you have to do is work hard at it and sit there and write and try hard and send out your stuff, and she told us a great deal about marketing. I would be driving home around the Beltway thinking, I really can do this!

Q When you began, what did you write about?

A I really only did two kinds of writing. I wrote about cooking for a family, which I knew about with my degree in foods and nutrition and the fact that I fed four hungry children

But mostly I wrote about boats, and the reason I did that was that our life was so filled with boats.

Q Do you remember the first piece you sold?

A I wrote a little thing about christening our boat in France when we were stationed in Germany for a little magazine called Yachtsman’s Wife, from Fawcett Publications. They don’t have it anymore. It published “condensed seagoing articles of lasting interest.”

Q How did you come to live on the Chesapeake?

A When my husband worked at the Pentagon and we lived in Alexandria, we were avid racing sailors and we would drive over to race every weekend. We had four children of an age to go with us, so we had a family crew. That was enough years ago that things were not quite as dead earnest as they are now. You could leave cruising gear on the boat and still win a race.

When he retired, we moved over to a big house on a creek in Chestertown and lived there for nine years. But we kept coming back to Annapolis for the racing functions, so when boys graduated from high school and we didn’t need a big house anymore, we thought we’d come back here.

Q How did a racing family turn to cruising?

A When the kids grew up and went away to college we didn’t have as much crew anymore — nor it was it as much fun — we turned to cruising. We then had the freedom to go and look for adventure in different places.
When we were about to set off for a year, one of my racing friends asked me what was the longest time I’d every been aboard. When I said “10 days or a week,” he said “you’ll never make it.” To the contrary, we found it very easy to adapt.

QYou’ve become quite an expert on the Chesapeake.

A When you’ve come here from somewhere else, you want to know everything about it, things that to people who live here already are not a big deal.

My friend Harriet Hazleton, who I met through that first writing class, also came to the Bay from the Washington area to boat. We did our first book together. Chesapeake Kaleidoscope, published by Tidewater Press in 1975, is all sorts of odds and ends about the Chesapeake Bay, past present and future, in, over and around. We have caveated a lot of things by saying “It is said,” or “History tells us.” We kept quite good notes about what our sources were, because we always thought someone would call us some day and say “that’s not right.”

You can’t get a copy right now. It’s out of print. I think redoing it is my next project.

Later, I came to Chesapeake Bay Magazine, as an interim editor, which led me to become editor of their Guide to Cruising the Chesapeake Bay. Then I worked with William T. Stone on updating his two books, A Cruising Guide to the Chesapeake and A Cruising Guide to the Caribbean. On each of those, I checked all the facts to see that they were still accurate.

Q Your luck must be extraordinary or you must be very good indeed. You were, for example, sailing writer for the Baltimore Sun for five or six years, until 1984.

A The Baltimore Sun thing just fell into my lap. We were living in Chestertown at the time and I had been writing a lot about sailboat racing and of course doing a lot of it. Somebody from the Sun who knew my work called and asked me to do a particular event. They apparently were looking for somebody who could do a weekly Sunday column. So I did it all from the Eastern Shore by mail and telephone. It would have been much easier now with E-mail and fax.

During those same years I worked at the Naval Academy doing public relations for their sailing program. It was a program I really believed in, so I found it very easy to promote it.

Q It seems that you went at writing with a great confidence, certainty and purpose.

A I think that would be an exaggeration. I think all writers have moments when they are discouraged, when they submit articles and they come back and you are just in despair. But apparently I was able to sell enough and enjoyed it enough that I continued at it.

Q How did Through the Spyglass come to be?

A I wrote the first of the essays for the viewpoint column in Sail, and two or three were published as viewpoint articles. One was written for Cruising World.

I found I really enjoyed writing in that form and that I had a lot of ideas I wanted to put down on paper. At the same time, for a number of years, I had been interested in writing short stories.

The winter before last, I decided it would be fun to have a Christmas job, so I got one. I asked my husband what he thought, and he said if I was going to get a job, he’d get one too. His lasted months longer than mine, and in those months when he was working I started writing.

Q How do you write?

A I go into my study after breakfast, and, breaking for lunch, work about six hours a day.

I have a computer at home, of course, but when we went cruising the first time I took an old typewriter. Later on board, I had a laptop and then a notebook computer.

When we are cruising, I keep a daily log. When I read back through that log, I find that I’ve forgotten a lot of that stuff, so I’m so glad I’ve kept it.

Q I’ve enjoyed the rhythm of work, pieces shorter and longer, reflections and stories. How did you choose the structure?

A I wanted to publish both essays and fiction together because I thought the fiction has a point to it like the essays do, just a different way of saying it sometimes.

I thought about putting the stories in the back, but then I through it was good to vary the length of pieces. If you write essays all of a length, even if they were very good, if you read several of them in a row, it would not be very good. So I thought that’s perfect, I can mix them up.

Q I particularly like the story you call “The Trip.” about the cruises of a 91-year old man. About it you say: “When the mind is still active, even the body’s infirmities can’t stop it from going cruising.” Where did that come from?

A I felt very strongly about that and got a lot of insight when my father, Henry McKenzie, was living here with us.

People often say, is this about someone? Short stories are often about someone in the sense that someone gives you an idea and you want to write a story about that idea. But a sure way to kill your story is to try to follow the truth. You have to say, this is my idea and what if something happens.

Q You’ve published Through the Spyglass yourself. Why is that?

A I did try to find a publisher, but they all wrote back and said “this is a nice book and we think it will sell to a certain number of people, but not enough.”

I’ve found two things good about not having a publisher. For one, I can do whatever I want to. My experience with large publishers is that they’re not at all responsive about what you want to do. They’re sorry about it, but it’s going to be this way. If you as the author don’t like it the way it’s going to be tough.

In the end, I was reading one of the short stories and decided it wasn’t up to the standard of the rest of the book, so I took it out. I had a lot of freedom, so that the book is going to come out more like I want it to be.

The other advantage is in the promotion. In this last month between after I sent the book off to be printed, I’ve spent all of my time sending out releases. Really it will be up to me how well the book sells.

Q Have you had much help along the way?

A I did basically all the proofreading myself. One friend read a version through carefully, but that was not quite what’s on the pages. I’m pretty fussy and do a lot of rewriting. A lot. I was really getting to the point of getting bored with it.

Our son Peter, who does a lot of newsletters and things, encouraged me to do the page layout. I really hadn’t started out planning to do that, but he showed me how.

Jim and I think that when we get to be this old, it’s a good thing to try something new. Otherwise you get into a rut, which can be comfortable but sort of deadening.

Q Lured as you are by the Great Lakes, Caribbean islands and Venezuela, you return to the Chesapeake Bay. What’s a favorite Chesapeake memory?

A I remember a particular night about this time of year or a little later, spent in Emory Creek on the Corsica River, a tributary of the Chester. It turned out to be one of those very bright moonlit nights where there were rafts of geese all round us, and they were restless because of the moon. We were sitting on deck after dark, wrapped up in our sleeping bags watching the geese and listening to them as they moved around. It seems to me the days were clear and sunny, but you needed a jacket and hat, perhaps even gloves, late in the evening and early in the morning.

This is a good time on the Chesapeake, when the wind begins to blow again after the doldrums of summer.

“What Is Cruising Really Like?”
A Through the Spyglass Sample
“What’s it really like?” people ask, trying to get at the essential substance of our year-long trip on our 40-foot sailboat, mentally putting themselves in our deck shoes, trying to give long-term cruising a vicarious try before making the commitment themselves.

“Cruising,” I usually reply, “ is kaleidoscopic.” …

For me it was a time when new experiences — good and bad — brought highs and lows back to a life which had settled into mediums. My learning curve, nearly flattened into a straight line by repetitious days, weeks and years, once again achieved at least a modest incline. …

I felt a terrific natural high in that one moment of leavetaking, with its rush of exhilaration and anticipation. The interminable and uncompleted lists were left behind in the trash; we began to break free from the nagging concern we felt about those things we had filled our lives with which would now be left undone, at least by us. …


Eight stories and 23 essays comprise the 160 pages of Through the Spyglass. Get your copy from the author any day of the Annapolis Sail Boat Show (Fri. Oct. 6 thru Mon. Oct. 9 ) when she joins the all-woman panel at the 10:30am workshop moderated by Doris Colgate, founder of the National Women’s Sailing Association, at Annapolis Waterfront Marriott.

Or order by mail: POB 3577, Annapolis, MD 21403.

The price is $14.95 plus $2.50 postage and handling. Maryland residents add 5% tax (75 cents) for each copy.

'70-'95-HIKE: Redskins Fans Rewarded
She didn't give a hoot about football but was mighty sweet on a guy who had played guard for Southern High.

She wanted to give him something nice. To him, nothing was finer than Sundays — the day the Washington Redskins play.

So Heidi Griffith decided to give Ray Mudd something special indeed: Washington Redskins season tickets. The year was 1970, and she sent in his name. Then she waited. And waited. And waited some.

Finally, 25 years, five presidents, three kids and two or three moves later, something very special arrived in the mail. And Heidi Griffith — whoops, make that Heidi Mudd — knows special deliveries since she's post-mistress at Tracys Landing Post Office in Anne Arundel County.

You've figured out by now that you wouldn't be reading this story unless those doggone season tickets had finally showed up. You're right.

"I knew there would be a little wait , but I didn't think it would be 25 years," said Heidi, who, along with Ray, have been to two home games this year in the exalted status of Redskins season-ticket holders.

Everybody knows that Redskins long have been a sizzlingly hot ticket — even the past couple of years, when they were so pathetic that Ray's old Southern High squad might have convened and given them a game. But isn't a quarter-century wait a little ridiculous?

Well, yes. But maybe not, considering that the Redskins have a backlog in season ticket requests that is approaching 50,000 names, a spokeswoman for the team said.

For Ray Mudd, the tickets couldn't have come at a better time — just when his team is exciting and, finally, a winner. Mudd didn't even mind a requirement that he ante up $35 each for 16 tickets, at least five times the going rate back in the 1970s. Nor is he troubled that the seats are in the end zone.

"I never thought we'd get them until they built a new stadium," said Mudd, 43, a real estate agent and former fire chief.

The tickets are, to say the least, a testament to Heidi Mudd's determination. She kept on the Redskins, replying to correspondence and telephoning to check on the status of her long-ago request.

You'd think that Sunday afternoons would be smooth sailing now at the Mudd residence as Ray and Heidi, former high school sweethearts, grab their sweaters and cushions and head toward Robert F. Kennedy Stadium.

Wrong. As they prepare to enjoy the fruits of uncommon patience, they hear plaintive noises coming from their two sons, Ray Jr., 20, and Albert, 16.

Says Heidi: They're claiming that they're the ones who should be going, not us."


Maryland's Top Poet Named
Roland Flint, Maryland's new poet laureate, is a man with worker's hands, a teacher's soul and a mandate to reach audiences across the state during the next three years.

He has taught for 36 years, worked as executive editor of Poet Lore magazine for 10 years and had six books and three chapbooks published. This unassuming braw of a man became the new laureate in the State House reception room last week in front of dozens of friends, students and admirers — among them Gov. Parris Glendening.

Kathy Magan, poet and head of the selection committee, observed that poetry has been called "useless but indispensable."

Linda Pastan then presented her successor in the unpaid laureate position with a laurel branch snagged from her yard in Potomac. He promptly stuck it in his suit jacket's handkerchief pocket. The audience laughed and clapped.

The word laureate, Pastan noted, comes from laurel wreath, with which leading poets once were crowned.

Glendening, a long-time teacher, said that poetry and literature helped him to frame public policy. In 1708, the governor noted, Ebenezer Cook declared himself Maryland's first poet laureate and then satirized the state in verse. Glendening said he hoped his state would be treated better under Flint.

Maryland's first "official" laureate, Vincent Godfrey Burns, was chosen by the Maryland Poetry Society in the 1950s but "overturned" in the 1950s in what one historian described as a political brouhaha.

Few states have poet laureates. Glendening said that Maryland is also a rarity in increasing funds each year for the arts.

Flint is scheduled to join the governor soon in marking the annual "You Are Beautiful Day" for top community volunteers from around the state.

"I take the place of a reverend," he remarked later.

Flint confirmed plans to retire from teaching at George Washington University next year. He'll read, write and as laureate take poetry to prisons, hospitals, senior centers and schools.

Flint, 61, of , grew up on a bare-bones, hardtack farm in North Dakota that his father, now 91, lost during the Great Depression. He has know tragedy in his life, losing a son in an accident nearly 25 years ago.

Life's sad times show through in "Follow," among the works of Maryland's new poet laureate:

Now here is this man mending his nets
After a long day, his fingers
Nicked, here and there, by ropes and hooks
Pain like tomorrow in the small of his back,
His feet blue with his name, stinking of baits
His mind on a pint and supper -- nothing else
A man who describes the settled shape
Of his life every time his hands
Make and snug a perfect knot.

I want to understand, if only for the story
How a man like this...
Could just be called away.

—Eli Flam

Yachts on Parade for Academy’s 150th
Have you asked what yachts with names like Blue Guitar and Jazz Fish are doing in Annapolis lately?

Ships from ports of call as far flung as London, Toronto, and Rhode Island have come to Annapolis to celebrate the Naval Academy's 150th Anniversary with a week-long series of power- and sailboat races co-sponsored by the Naval Academy and the New York Yacht Club.

"David Dixon Porter, a Civil War hero and Navy member of the New York Yacht Club, was superintendent of the Academy in 1870, the year it participated in the first America's Cup, then called Yacht America. So began the relationship between the two institutions," said Richard Von Doenhoff of the New York Yacht Club.

That relationship continues to this day. Although their last Chesapeake race was sailed 25 years ago, the New York Yacht Club donates vessels to the Academy in wartime and for peacetime programs. This year’s the club’s committee came to Annapolis in the elegant 82-foot, Black Knight, which sailed in the 1983 America's Cup.

Before the final race of the series, all 110 competing and cruising vessels looped around the Severn at the bridge and crossed back toward the sea wall at Robert Crown Sailing Center, parading for spectators.

Following the parade was the final race to St. Michael's. A return leg was planned for Sunday was scratched due to lack of wind.

Taking first place in the International Measurement System race was Nicole, a Cal 40' piloted by P. Coleman Dupont of Easton. Jazz Fish, a Freedom 35' from East Greenwich, R.I. and Gannet, a J 42, piloted by its builders, Robert and Rodney Johnstone of Boothbay Harbor, Me. in the cruising race.

Now you know it's the Naval Academy's 150th Anniversary that brings us yachts of the like of Blue Guitar, Jazz Fish and Black Knight.

— Liz Zylwitis

Satellite Sharing: St. Mary's Plugs In
Anne Arundel and Calvert countians aren't the only ones who want a say in future development. A national push for wise development is encouraging communities from around the country to go high-tech.

Last month, communities swapped ideas with help from a satellite and the U.S. Department of Commerce. Locally, the National Teleconference on Sustainable Communities was down-linked by satellite to St. Mary's College of Maryland.

"We will use your experiences to help us define what the future federal role should be in support of these efforts," said Commerce Secretary Ronald Brown of the teleconference.

The session featured segments offering advice and success stories in building communities that are economically strong as well as healthy and safe.

  • Chattanooga, Tenn. cleaned up its environment after being named the most polluted city in the country 25 years ago.
  • Santa Monica, Calif. created an electronic bulletin board where citizens can voice concerns about government.

Communities searching to redefine themselves with the aid of technology may find the concept of community shifting from local to national as they share success and failures with their new, high-tech tools.

— Jenny Wierschem

Guzzle-Fest: Gas Hogs Ratted Out
The message from the EPA this week was simple: Your Lamborghini, your Rolls, your Jaguar XJ12 or your Mercedes S600 are slurping up fuel as swiftly as you can say, 'Fill 'er up."

Of course you probably never say that, because you pump your own gas while standing alongside something decidedly more austere. So you don't have to worry that the Lamborghini Diablo gets just 9 miles per gallon in the city or that no Rolls Royce gives you more than 17 on the road.

More likely, you're concerned about your truck or the compact you hope to have paid off next Easter. If so, here's some of the results of the 1996 EPA fuel economy estimates that may have a bearing on you:

Highest Mileage Cars by class:
Subcompact Geo Metro—44 city, 49 hwy.
Compact Mazda Protege—32 city, 39 hwy.
Mid-sized: Mazda 626 —26 city, 34 hwy.
Full-sized: Toyota Avalon—20 city; 29 hwy.
Small station wagons: Ford Escort and Mercury Tracer—31 city, 38 hwy.
Mid-sized wagons: Eagle Summit—24 city, 29 hwy.
Large Wagons: Chevy Caprice, Buick Roadmaster—17 city, 26 hwy; Honda Del Sol—34 city, 39 hwy.

Highest Mileage Trucks:
Toyota RAV4—24 city, 30 hwy.
Geo Tracker Convert (2WD or 4x4)—24 city, 26 hwy.
Izuzu Hombre Pickup—23 city, 30 hwy
GMC Sonoma—23 city, 30 hwy.
Chevrolet S10 Pickup—23 city, 30 hwy.

Lowest Mileage Trucks:
Dodge Ram—city, 4 hwy.
Ford E250 Econoline—12 city, 14 hwy.

Will Radio Fee Become Radio-Free?
Boaters don't often get good news when it comes to their checkbooks. But in case the Federal Communications Commission forgot to remind you, here's a sliver of positive information.

Starting two weeks ago, the FCC fee for VHF marine radios dropped to $75 from $115. That cost had soared from $35 just two years ago to cover the cost of the FCC's regulatory activity.

Few boaters had paid this tax happily. For one thing, $115 is about the cost of the radio. Next, VHF radios are primarily for safety. Faced with this affront, some boaters decided to simply do without a VHF.

Richard Schwartz, president of Boat/U.S., called the fee reduction "a small step in the right direction." Schwartz added: "This is still a substantial amount to pay for advice which recreational boaters use primarily to call for help, listen to weather forecasts or hear another's call for assistance."

Wording that would repeal the license feels altogether have been tacked on to legislation in Congress.

Way Downstream ...
In the Sakhalin Islands near Russia, you don't want to get in a ruckus over fishing. A Russian coast guard vessel last week opened fire on two Japanese fishing boats, injuring one crew member. The Russians then impounded the boats.

The incident is one among many as countries collide over the world's dwindling fish stocks ...

China could be a beneficiary of Exxon's new Save the Tiger Fund, which will donate $5 million over the next five years to protect the world's five remaining tiger species from extinction. Some preservationists were skeptical, observing that the program was aimed at politically safe measures rather than a main cause of the tiger's extinction — the medicinal trade.

An Exxon spokesman replied that the company needed to be "sensitive to the culture" of Asian countries where tiger parts are used for medicines ...

If you're in Ft. Worth, you might want to shop at the Kasal boutique — but only if the air is bad. Owner Kathryn Bryan is offering a quite unusual sale, but only on the days of an ozone alert. What's more, the savings is tied to how you arrive at her shop.

If you come with a friend, that means you've carpooled. So you get a 20 percent discount. If you show up with a friend and a bus transfer, it means you didn't drive. So your discount goes up to 25 percent.

Said Bryan: "The day we have an ozone day, we're going to be swamped."

Our Creature Feature this week comes to us from Cambridge, Mass., where, on Oct. 6, they'll be dispensing the unique and cherished Ig Nobel Prizes. Each year, this unusual gathering of scientists and strange human creatures who know how to laugh is presented the Annals of Improbable Research (AIR), which bills itself as the journal of record for inflated research and personalities.

The subject this year? DNA. Speakers this year include Sally Yeh, president of Bijan Fragrances, Inc., the creators of DNA Fragrances for men and women; and Tom and Ray Magliozzi of NPR's Car Talk.

We won't give away this year's Ig Nobel prize-winners, but we'll tell you about some in the past:

  • Ivette Bassa, inventor of bright blue Jello (Chemistry);
  • Former Los Angeles Police Chief Darryl Gates (Peace Prize)

Our favorite luminary from the past is Dr. Robert Lopez, who won an Ig Nobel in 1994 for an experiment in which he placed cat ear mites in his own ear. The topic of his speech? "Dare To Be Bold."

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Life in an O.J. Daze
It's been more than a year now since gremlins hijacked our brains. A year since the trial of now acquitted football hero O.J. Simpson commandeered channel changers, occupied every talk-show babbler's tiny brain and devoured untold tons of newsprint.

A lot can happen in a year, and it did. Unfortunately, many people haven't noticed. They've been too busy hitching a ride with Marcia Clark from Bundy to Rockingham. Too focused on blood samples, gloves that fit tightly and Judge Ito's scraggly beard. Too slapped in the face by race.

Whatever its allure, the Trial of the Century has diverted our attention from Big Stuff over the past year. Along the Chesapeake and beyond. With the trial finally over, let's hope brains will be returned.

Here are a few of things those brains missed in the year since the O.J. Trial began:

  • In the Chesapeake, you have trouble if you live in a shell. Yet another crummy crab harvest has propelled us into a new era of stiff regulations, an era from which we may never escape. Meanwhile, drought let the diseases Dermo and MSX slip back in the Bay like killers in the night, devastating fragile oyster stocks.

  • While many sat hypnotized, extremists hijacked the Republican Party on issues from environmental protection to abortion. The second-to-last moderate-with-a-chance — California Gov. Pete Wilson — was drummed out of the sweepstakes a few days ago. Republicans may have one more moderate in the wings. Can you guess who it is?

  • Back in the Bay, rockfish remain abundant and fishing has been tremendous, a boost for our recreation industry and our psyches. The rockfish recovery is a true success that can help planners withstand Congress’ assault on the environment.

  • Republicans fell off the deep end because Democrats aren't there to stop them. Why's that? They’re suffering from BL disease. That's right, Brain-Lock — the condition exhibited by a mule that never knows why he was whacked upside the head with a two-by-eight.

  • While the country's brain was in cold storage, more and more people grew weary of Republicans' greed and Democrats' failure to tell people what they stand for. As a result, third-party and independent politics has a new jolt of energy that is leading us in directions hard to figure.

  • Verdict aside, the O.J. trial demonstrated some deep frictions in race relations in this country. (There's our obligatory O.J. coverage for the year.)

Good thing you've got your brain back so you can try.

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Shop Where Your Business Is Appreciated

Dear New Bay Times~Weekly:
Your editorial “Death at the Local Level” (August 24-30) was right on target and pitifully true in so many ways.

The discount or department stories ususally carry a larger selection of merchandise at sometimes lower prices. Where do you go for a peculiar item that you need, or something that just is a bit unique or is a one-of-a-kind item? To a smaller, local hardware store or bakery.

The sales staff in these larger stores don’t have the knowledge to help out someone in need of information or instruction for their particular project. (Sometimes one may shop for guidance or instruction as well as the gadget that is needed.) A person can get lost in the aisles of gadgets and thing-a-jibs and especially in the paint aisles, looking for one small washer or a particular type of nail or tack. It can take hours to get in and out of the larger stores. You go into a store for one particular item and come out with things that you don’t really need. There’s generally no one to help carry out your larger purchases, and parking is never just outside the entrance to the store.

You may find it comfortable to go into a smaller store, see the same clerk or proprietor, know their name as they know yours. Occasionally, words may be exchanged regarding the status of each other’s family or how a child is doing in school.

There’s a lot to be said for the old time stores, where periodically shopping was really a pretense and in reality you went there for the local news and especially the gossip of the neighborhood — for the neighborly socialization. Nowadays, about the only place you can go for this type of information is the local beauty shop or local pub. These stores can’t compete financially with the chain stores, but the conglomerate chain stores can’t compete with the personal service you receive at Mom and Pop’s Local Market.

Shop places where your business is appreciated, and your hard-earned dollars are valued. Don’t let the small business owner become a victim of this disposable world.

I realize this editorial was written a few weeks back, and this letter is late. Even if you don’t print it, I just wanted to let you know it was appreciated. All of your articles are great, but his particular one struck home with me.

— Barbi Shields, Fair Haven, Md.

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Clip and Save
First, let’s put things in perceptive: Yard waste, like grass clippings and raked leaves, constitutes about 16 percent of what goes into landfills.

In contrast, plastic waste is about 9 percent and glass about 7 percent. During peak seasons, such as in the fall, yard trimmings can create up to half of all waste.

So forget about those bottles and jars for a moment. Let’s talk about grass.

The very idea of removing from the earth of your yard as rich and vital a source of organic material as grass clippings — then choking a landfill with them — makes me mad.

The solution: Grasscycling. Or simply put, leaving the clippings on the lawn where they’ll recycle themselves.

It wasn’t that long ago that such a practice was frowned upon. Leaving clippings on the lawn would lead to dreaded thatch buildup, warned gardening pros.

But now those pros recognize that as long as the clippings are less than an inch long, they will make their way through live blades of grass and own into the soil. The clippings will soon decompose and add organic material to the soil, including nitrogen, a critical element that encourages growth. In fact, lawn clippings can provide between 20 and 30 percent of a lawn’s fertilizer needs.

Not to mention the fact that avoiding bagging all that grass saves energy — yours.

Grasscycling may mean cutting grass higher, resulting in shorter clippings. That’s better for grass anyway. experts say to foster healthy standing grass, don’t cut more than a third of the blade off, and no more than one inch total at any one time.

While were on the subject of mowing, take care not to spill fuel when filling your mower’s gas tank. It can cause more damage than you thing to the ground, water and air.

A little spilled gas can go a long way. It kills grass, poisons the soil, contaminates groundwater and releases toxic fumes that mix with sunlight to produce smog. Nationwide, Americans spill about 17 million gallons each year.

Some safe pouring tips:

  • Use a small gas container and pour slowly.
  • Avoid overfilling. Gas expands in the heat.
  • Store gasoline in a cool place.
  • Refuel on a flat, nonporous surface, like a driveway, never on the lawn.
  • Refuel in the morning or evening, when it is cooler and less gas will escape into the air.

An even better solution: Switch to an electric-powered mower. They pollute almost nothing. In contrast, the exhaust from mowing just one hour with a typical gas-powered motor is equivalent to driving a late-model car 50 miles.

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Growing the Soul: In Praise of Dirt
by Pat Piper

I still remember where I herd the words. All three of us were in the front seat as the pickup rolled along Rt. 261, just past the apple tree on the right but before Boyds Turn Road appears on the left.

We were talking about gardens, specifically why the horseradish was doing so well while the tomatoes, after a grand entrance in July, just weren’t showing up for work anymore. See, this is what happens with gardens: you question why things are so good and you question why things are so bad, all the time being grateful for the sun as well as the rain.

As a matter of fact, if you ask three gardeners advice on how to grow something, my experience is you can expect to receive close to seven answers. That’s why there are as many gardening books as philosophy books in the library. Nobody has a clue why dirt and seeds do (or don’t do) what somebody says they are supposed to do.

So when Ronnie said gardens show the state of a person’s soul, I remarked how Louis XIV built the Palace of Versailles and he sure wasn’t any walk in the park. That’s when both Ronnie and Ed replied that Louis XIV had about as much to do with those gardens as the three of us did, a point on which I had no rejoinder. But it got me thinking.

A few hours later, I’m standing over the barren plants drinking a beer and still trying to find the missing link between bounty and desolation. They may have been Better Boys once, but now I’m seeing only Dead Boys.

I though back 20 years to one of the three meaningful classes I took out of four years in college. Then, I had presented a paper to Professor Eckert (who later shot himself on Christmas Day — no connection here, it happened a few years after I graduated) for a class he taught called “Walden Pond” (yeah, I know). A line from Thoreau had stayed with me and I built an entire essay on the premise. In talking about water, he said, lying between heaven and earth, it partakes the colors of both.” Water, I concluded, has no color so it reflects what it, excuse the word here, “sees.”

Looking at the dying tomato plants, I began wondering if Ronnie was right and my garden was a mirror, in this case, of negatives. It’s enough to make a guy mad. But the sun had dropped below Fairhaven, so I figured this was something upon which to sleep.

And that’s what I did for a few hours, but by 4am I was back out there next to the raised bed, talking to the Dead Boys and offering encouragement even though the sun, still a few hours away, promised to continue overstaying its welcome. I told the plants about a number of mistakes I’d made and as I spoke, the anger that attached itself every time the topic came up seemed to walk away in the darkness. On and on I went about fears and jealousies, about my problem in getting a client to pay without being insulting or, worse yet, losing the whole account. I went on for at least an hour, the tomatoes and green peppers quietly taking it all in and, as vegetables tend to do, not making any judgments.

It was Ronnie who found me sound asleep next to the raised bed later that morning, the sun in full bloom throughout the yard, the purple martins making every possible noise from their 12 room house above and higher still, the silent loblollies swaying obediently in the wind. I stood, saying something about being up at sunrise and coming out to look at the garden and then falling asleep when Ronnie pointed to one of the Dead Boys.

There, on the end of a brown vine wired to a stake, was a blossom. And after what seemed an eternity, I knew I was feeling the same somewhere inside.

— Pat Piper, of Rosehaven, promises more reflections and reporting.

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Burton Changes His Mind
Maybe rebuilding Poplar Island’s not such a bad idea — if profit’s not the only guiding light.

So they're going to recreate Poplar Island on what little is left of the island across the Chesapeake Bay just north of Tilghman Island on the Eastern Shore. I wish them well.

But after checking around, I harbor this haunting uneasiness that the main purpose of the agenda is to find a suitable, less costly area to dump 38 million cubic yards of sludge dredged from the southern approaches to Baltimore Harbor. Hopefully there is no basis for my concern — but I know about those fellows at Port of Baltimore and their bedfellows in commerce, industry and in city and state government who will do anything, simply anything, to keep the ships coming and going.

It's said the Port of Baltimore built the city. Now they want to remain in the competition, and probably at any cost. The Port of Baltimore might have built a city — and kept it in the forefront — but are we to believe that all the shipping and the industry it attracted has been beneficial to the Chesapeake Bay, the upper Bay and its tributaries, especially the Patapsco?

I'm reminded of this daily since I live at the mouth of Stoney Creek, which affords me a view across the Patapsco River where the mills of Bethlehem Steel rise. I see industry, shipyards and huge vessels going to and from the Port of Baltimore.

I've watched the Queen Elizabeth II go by a couple of times; on the first occasion, visitors and neighbors sat in land chairs all along the northwest side of irregular peninsula where I live to observe the Queen's visit, an impressive parade indeed as she was escorted by many scores of official port craft, DNR police boats, and sail and powerboats of the recreational fleet. It was spectacular.

But after that big show and a tinge of pride in the city and its port, back came some old lingering concerns. I've been around long enough to remember incidents involving ships that dumped bilge waters indiscriminately or otherwise fouled the waters.

That big steel plant across the creek has been involved in some incidents also, though certainly not as many as it is accused of. Many years back, a Bethlehem Steel strike closed the facility for a stretch in the summer — and whether by coincidence or not, the fishing for rock suddenly became great.

Most everyone claimed the bounty of rock could be attributed to Bethlehem's shutdown, and since then more fingers than ever have been pointed at the steel plan and its shipbuilding facility, which of course not only depend on the Port of Baltimore but are also big players in the business of the City of Baltimore and its environs.

Possibly there is some justification to such accusations, but I don't point all my fingers at Bethlehem — maybe just one at times. I've not witnessed any of the ominous discharges described to me by some who work there or others who fish or boat thereabouts. When fish aren't biting, it's easy to gripe about an industrial giant.

Earlier Dredge-Island Wars
But I was around when toxic and otherwise contaminated spoils from farther up the Patapsco and the port itself were dumped at the Hart and Miller Island complex. The controversy was a bloodbath.

I don't recall how many millions of cubic yards of dredged materials created that spectacular island complex at the mouth of Middle River, but I remember the fight environmentalists and preservationists fought to keep the islands in their natural state.

From the beginning, it was a losing battle. The state, the city, leaders of business, industry, the port and others had the power. The channels had to be dredged to accommodate bigger vessels, and the Hart and Miller Island complex was the only cost effective and "practical" solution.

If not, Baltimore and the state would lose out in commerce. You know the rest — blah, blah, blah. Discounted were fears that an unusually severe storm could damage the dikes holding the contaminated spoils that had accumulated on the river and port bottoms for a couple of centuries. If that happened, they would wash or leech into the Bay, protesters cried.

That's history. The battle was lost, the harbor dredged, the mountain of gunk created at Miller Island, and the big ships come and go with a better channel than ever.

Thankfully, the dikes have held; no problems are evident and I must admit I have enjoyed some of my best upper Bay fishing practically in the shadows of that mountain of spoils at the mouth of Middle River. Maybe they were right after all, but it's not easy to forget how intimidated we of the opposition felt at the time — or to forget the power of the powers that be.

This year, we've got some dandy fishing for rock and blues at the mouth of the Patapsco, with maybe a few caught at the port itself. The Francis Scott Key Bridge has been one of the most popular spots for white perch, sometimes rock, for years. Possibly under recent environmental guidelines, dredging, commerce, industry, business and even huge mounds of spoils can be combined without threat to marine life. I certainly hope so, because realistically there is no other choice.

Poplar Island Cautions
So Poplar Island, which is gradually vanishing as Bay storms accelerate erosion, is planned for "restoration," with the target of 1,110 acres, the approximate size it was 150 years ago. The island would be half wetlands, half uplands.

Of the wetlands, 80 percent — that’s 444 acres — would be low marsh, which we're told has the highest habitat value for living marine resources. We're also told that fish reefs will be created on the western shore side of the island — which is now eroded to only about four acres — to replace fish habitat lost to the island renewal.

All of this is figured over a 20-year period, which prompts one little concern within me. What happens to the fish and wildlife thereabouts as all of this eventual $120 million project proceeds? I'm too old to figure on attending the ceremonies when restoration is completed, but I have an interest in this island, around which I have for years enjoyed great fishing.

There is more than one island in this little complex, the bigger Jefferson Island that many confuse as Poplar Island because it’s treed and much bigger, though is being cut in two by storms. Coaches Island is still a couple of acres. Another has vanished.

Black drum, blues and rock come to those waters. Some of the best drum fishing can be enjoyed near the complex once the fish move up from the Stone Rock. Poplar Island Hook is noted for rock and blues, and between the islands and the mainland, in more shoal waters, anglers find protected waters to fish when the open Bay turns wild.

After thinking all of this over, perhaps this project isn't so bad if ... If all those promised to-be-clean dredged spoils actually are, and if the project’s boosters show more concern for what they're building than for enhancing commerce at the Port of Baltimore.

Incidentally, I can’t help but wonder what all the dredging will mean at the approaches to the Port of Baltimore. More silt to threaten aquatic life practically in my back yard?

We won't dwell on that. Hopefully "sponsors" will, through either good will or force, uphold environmental integrity. There's a long list of those sponsors, including my favorite watchdog, the EPA. But the way congress treats EPA these days — again I get a bit antsy. Other boosters include Maryland Port Administration, Baltimore District Court of Engineers, Maryland Environmental Service, DNR, Maryland Department of the Environment, National Marine Fisheries Service, Chesapeake Bay Program, US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Biological Service.

As they approach this project, may they consider the heron rookery at what's left of Poplar Island, the eagle nesting nearby, and whatever wild and marine life is thereabouts.

Old Times on Poplar
Now let me remind you of what Poplar Island was when many years ago I drove down Lowe's Wharf Road to its end at a thriving commercial crab operation (which has long been closed) to park my car and go by boat that wooded paradise.

In the late '50s, one of the best crow rookeries anywhere was at Poplar Island. Hunters came from hundreds of miles to take part in some of the fastest shooting anywhere. Long ago, I gave up crow shooting — why kill anything that isn't suitable for the table? But then we thought we were doing farmers on the Tilghman Peninsula a favor while enjoying a day afield. Probably we were.

Talbot countian Dan Hodgman Sr., a retired big city businessman, for years operated a gun club that offered some of the best waterfowl shooting, lodge accommodations, food and camaraderie anywhere in the Mid-Atlantic region. How the fowl flew, with sometimes a few geese and always some diving ducks and dabblers.

The lodge was warm and cozy, thanks to a big fireplace where many a hunting experience was re-lived. No phones, no interruptions, just a place among trees — none of which are left, at least left alive.

I won't be around to enjoy Poplar Island again, but many will. If that consortium can bring just part of that back — without creating environmental woes there or elsewhere in the Bay — more power to them. In the meantime, from my back yard I'll monitor the dredging and watch the barges move down the Patapsco loaded with spoils I'm told can undo what the powers of nature have done to Poplar Island for many decades.

Enough said...

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Season of Seeds
The harvest has come home to watchers of the season. Seeds of all sorts, shapes and sizes burst their casings, ready to begin the cycle again.

Like Newton’s apple, massy walnuts fall to earth, many having bounced along the way off already naked walnut branches, tin roofs and anyone foolish enough to walk beneath a walnut tree this time of year. Lying among leaves, their pungent green husks break to reveal yet another strong black hull, locking the sweet seed like a treasure inside.

Horse chestnuts, too, are falling. Sometimes their spiny, prickly case parts its three lips on the tree; other times, it falls with its treasure, a glossy brown buckeye good to see and touch and roll along the palm of the hand.

Right up there writing the definition of spiny is the gum tree, whose balls are perfect globes of prickles. Those pretty things are such nuisances underfoot that I’ve known a woman who ordered her backyard sweet gum sawed down for reason of its seeds. Homeowners in cities where stately sycamores line the curbs can be just as irate when sycamore balls begin to fall this time of year. Look close before you curse sycamore’s seeds: the brown ball disintegrates into a flurry of winged seeds.

The softer seeds of summer are long gone to earth and earthly appetites — with a couple of exceptions. The tiny, round fruit of the sturdy black cherry ripens in the fall, the better to feed the birds in winter.

Still firmly held to twig and branch are ever-tempting persimmons, just now gaining their glorious pumpkin color. Remember not to shake those trees till after the first frost, or on first taste your mouth will fill with cotton. (Sad to say, the sweet native persimmon is rarely sampled without that risk.)

Paw-paw stretches nature’s globe into the shape of homemade sausages. That’s how you’ll recognize this North American papaya, now turning from green to gold amid the tree’s giant, pendant leaves. Snatch one of these fruits before it goes black, and you’ll find a nice bite of sweet among big seeds.

Acorns stretch the circle into an oval, pointed with a nipple at one end and flat at the cleverly capped opposite end. The seed of the oak in all its varieties is well formed and, mellowing from green to brown, ready to fall. This year brings neither acorn feast nor acorn famine. You and the squirrels will find plenty to play with.

Nature has yet more shapes at her command. The seeds of locusts are contained in twisty pods and the seeds of catalpa are long beans, now ready to smoke if you have a taste for “ladyfinger cigars.”

Brush and grass are other rich showcases of nature’s ingenuity. Who could imagine — if nature had not — soft, furry cattails … or stickery burrs … heavy-headed grasses, each myriad seed encased in its own tiny “vase” … or the dozens of great and small “catapults” from which seeds explode … or seeds ranked and filed in pairs or triplets or clusters, all ready to open like sesame.

All that all of nature’s seeds have in common is their inbred urgency to burst, casting the dried seeds of new life onto fertile eager earth.

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Couldn't Possibly Be True
Rick Quessenberry of Springfield, Mo., was named as one of the six people on America's World Championship of Hairstyling team scheduled to compete next summer in Washington, D.C. (In all, 200,000 hairstylists will attend the Hair World convention.) The teams compete in categories such as "business hair," nighttime social hair," "progressive hair," and a technical hairstyling event. The hairdressers march in an Olympics-style opening ceremony, and after each event, the winner's flag is raised and its national anthem played.

A Reuters News Service dispatch from the Netherlands in July quoted Rotterdam police as lauding a new crime-detection technique. A police spokesman said criminals sometimes leave their earprints on windows and doors. "Earprinting," he said, "is going to become almost as common as fingerprinting soon."

In June in a 40-minute operation, Russian army surgeons removed a live, rifle-launched grenade from the jaw of a soldier injured in the Chechnyan fighting.

In April, the 1,000-ton riverboat, Showboat Branson Belle, which was built on the shore of landlocked Table Rock Lake near Branson, Mo., was launched on 160-foot-long rails connecting the construction site with the lake. To lubricate the rails without using environmentally unfriendly industrials grease, the shipbuilders used 40 crates' worth of unpeeled bananas.

A list of most-popular nursing home and retirement home songs (published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch), according to St. Louis disk jockey Michael Laurance, who entertains at about 80 such places in the area, included "YMCA" (the Village People), "Paradises by the Dashboard Light" (Meat Loaf), and "1999" (Prince).

During June and July, West Liberty, Ky., prison inmate Lou Torok, serving time for child-molesting, managed to persuade the governors of six states to proclaim Oct. 7 as "Love Day."

In August, Alvin Waff, apparently confusing the brake and gas pedals, drove his car through the front window of the Hanger Restaurant & Lounge in Hampton, Va., sped across the floor, and smashed against the bar, doing about $5,000 in damage. According to a Hanger employee, Waff then got out of the car and calmly asked for a beer. He was later arrested and charged with reckless driving.

John Bennett Jr., the president of a Pennsylvania charitable foundation, was accused earlier this year by the Securities and Exchange Commission of converting about $4 million in foundation money to his own use. Furthermore in May, the foundation filed for bankruptcy protection in Philadelphia. Shortly afterward, Bennett complained about the judge's decision to limit him to $5,000 monthly for living expenses — from foundation funds — during the proceeding, claiming that he needed almost twice that amount.

Several days after the Oklahoma City bombing in April, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi predicted that "thousands of militias" would soon wage revolution in America and urged President and Mrs. Clinton to seek political asylum in Libya, "the only safe country in the world."

Army recruiter Sgt. Ernest A. Hubble, 29, was arrested in June and charged with burglary in La Junta, Colo. Allegedly, Hubble was failing to meet his monthly quota and broke into the next-door Navy recruiting station to steal files of its prospects.

In Toronto in June, thieves broke into boat dealer John Karadimas’ warehouse and made off with 600,000 dew worms in foam boxes destined for anglers in the U.S. and Europe.

Paragon Cable in New York recently began a new approach to customers with delinquent accounts. Instead of cutting off service altogether, which would create additional expense to restart when the customer paid up, Paragon merely fills those customers' entire 77-channel lineup with C-SPAN. Paragon said the project has been successful.

In August, the New York Post, reported on the thriving market in the theft of old newspapers at curbside, destined for recycling. Thieves' turning the newspapers in before the city gets to sell them will cost New York City more than $2 million this year. The Boston Herald even reported that "mob-connected" garbage collectors in New York City were stealing and recycling fresh daily newspapers dropped in bundles at newsstands.

Thinning the Herd
Mr. Joe Buddy Caine, 35, passed away in Anniston, Ala., in September, of rattlesnake bites. He was bitten while tossing the snake around in a game of catch with his friend Junior Bright, who himself was hospitalized with bites.

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ARIES (MAR. 21-APR. 19): Aries of the Week is Grandma Betty, a 66-year old fireball from Philadelphia. Betty retired from her job at the phone company last year in order to launch a full-time career as a prayer warrior (non-fundamentalist variety, thank you). Now, for four hours a day, six days a week, she solicits God's assistance for the needy souls on her prayer list. Trying to kick a bad habit? Hoping to find success on a risky mission? Grandma Betty may be the ally you're looking for. Like a true Aries, she's never satisfied with the good work she's doing, but always wants to up the ante. She's asked me to invite my Aries readers to make special requests. If you want her to seek a divine intervention in your behalf, mail details to me. Box 150247, San Rafael, CA 94915. It's free! Send no money!

TAURUS (APR. 20-MAY 20): The trials of being a horoscope writer! This week, a nine-year-old boy writes to me saying he will not change his socks until I mention him by name in this column. (Jason Tipley.) A 23-year-old performance artist blames me for the fact that her girlfriend refuses to perform nude sex acts in her shows. Worst of all, I whisper sweet nothings to you Taurus folks 50 weeks out of the year, and the two weeks I get heavy, half of you write in to complain, "Why do you hate Tauruses?!" Please, people: Cut me some slack. While you're at it, go easier on your frends and loved ones. This period of adjustment you're rumbling through ain't my fault. In fact, it's nobody's fault. It's simply nature's way of making you mad enough to rise up and defeat your pain.

GEMINI (MAY 21-JUNE 20): "Beginner's mind" is a Zen practice. Because it's so simple and innocent, it's one of the hardest things you could ever try to do. When you're in beginner's mind, you set aside all your wisdom and expectations. You act as if you're an anthropologist from Mars, or a country rube seeing the big city for the first time. When you're in beginner's mind, you can't possibly imitate what you've ever done before. There are no maps, no security, and no impossibilities. Ready to try it?

CANCER (JUNE 21-JULY 22): Seeing as this is the homiest time of the year for the homiest sign of the zodiac, I've got to believe you're in the midst of a flurry of home improvements. Redecorating the walls would be a good idea. Moving the furniture. Tuning up the vibes between you and your housemates. But your most important assignment is to create an altar. Doesn't have to be religious in the traditional sense. Include a picture of the person who inspires you most, even if it's Roseanne. Incorporate a treasured object from childhood, or a symbol of your highest goal, or the best love letter you ever got.

LEO (JULY 23-AUG. 22): I would never try to talk you Leos out of your suspicion that you are the most important thing on earth. I've come to believe that your ability to dispense all your beauty and blessings cannot function properly without your regal fantasies. And besides, for all I know, you are the crown of creation.

Having said all that, though, I would humbly like to request that you try to live without your megalomania for a few days. As long as you can stand it, place the needs of your friends and loved ones before your own. If you've ever wanted to find out what it's like to be a love slave, now's the perfect time.

VIRGO (AUG. 23-SEPT. 22): In the 16th century, rumors arose in Europe of a fabled land in the New World called El Dorado, where gold was so plentiful that even children's toys were made of it. Beginning in 1532, adventurers launched a long series of expeditions in search of the lost city. One hundred years later the last quest ended as all others had: in failure. And yet in the process, explorers discovered scores of other valuable resources. Most notable among these was the potato, which rapidly became the number one hedge against famine back in Europe. I'm telling you this little story, Virgo, because something similar's unfolding in your own life. Though you won't find the gold you're looking for, you will stumble on the equivalent of the potato.

LIBRA (SEPT. 23-OCT. 22): I'm not worried at all about the monkey wrenches, trick questions, and time bombs fate has been testing you with. Call me overconfident, but I truly believe you'll triumph over every last one of those bugaboos. What I am nervous about, though, are the oh-so-subtle perils of the gifts coming your way. As sheik Cajit Goskin says, "The Bear has 40 obstacles and all of them involve pears — because the Bear loves pears."

SCORPIO (OCT. 23-NOV. 21): Forest fires aren't all bad. The seeds of certain trees like the loblolly pine cannot germinate without the extreme heat of a conflagration. They may lie dormant for years waiting to be liberated. Keep this all in mind as you fight and finesse your way through the ordeal of your own trial by fire. Potentials that have been sleeping in you forever may finally pop open and start to bloom.

SAGITTARIUS (NOV. 22-DEC. 21): This week you will not have a decadent folie a deux with an aging alpha primate who'll play you like a tuba. And you will not be tempted to rendezvous in a seedy bar after midnight to find a new solution to the half-empty/half-full problem. No, Sagittarius. Your fate is far less weird than that — although just as interesting. In fact, you will have a delightful folie a deux with a quick-change artist who will play you like a harmonica. And you will be called to a righteous sanctuary at midday to find a new solution to the half-empty/half-full problem.

CAPRICORN (DEC. 22-JAN. 19): Don't tell me there's still a difference between your career and your job! What are you waiting for, some "benevolent" authority figure to come along and heal that split? Hallucinate on, sweetheart. There's only one way you'll end up doing the work that lets you express your deepest calling. And that's to swear a sacred vow that you'll do everything you can — tap every resource, draw on every connection, eliminate every trivial goal — to make it happen. Now, please. The moment is ripe.

AQUARIUS (JAN. 20-FEB. 18): You Water-Bearers seem to be going through an extra-naughty phase right now. One four- year-old Aquarius I know recently took a garden hose and filled up the inside of his mother's grand piano. A 20-year-old Aquarius of my acquaintance "borrowed" his father's credit card (without permission) to finance a workshop on shamanic trance states. A 45-year-old Aquarius left her college professor husband to start an affair with her 25-year-old aromatherapist. I would bet that you, too, are involved in smashing a few rules. Let's hope they're more of the "shamanic trance" kind and less of the "water in the piano" brand.

PISCES (FEB. 19-MAR. 20): You'll have no one to blame but yo' mama if you haven't scammed enough fresh cash by Halloween to buy your most expensive costume ever. The planets are massaging your dormant financial genius. Your biorhythms are fermenting in such a way as to transform some of your erotic energy into a lust for more money. And all this week, to top it off, I will personally be supplementing your already-rich luck by casting spells to turn your wallet into a money magnet.

Brezsny's Blurb: Tell me what disguise you're going to wear and what taboo you're going to break for Halloween. Box 150247, San Rafael, CA 94915.

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