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Articles by Sandra Olivetti Martin

What’s new in Bay Weekly and beyond

If you were as lucky as I was, the days between Christmas and January 4 belonged to a different time zone. In that week, it’s possible to pretend everything’s done that needs to be done.
    Not now! 2016 has come out of the gate like a horse on a fast track with a big purse at its end. It’s already run through its first week and speeding through its second. Things are moving.
    The biggest is the Maryland General Assembly, which turns Annapolis from a sleepy town to a working capital for 90 days. One hundred eighty-eight citizen-lawmakers from every corner of the state gather, surrounded by a pack of influence-peddlers all devoted to shaping the law in their favor.
    Decisions that shape your life are being made there — and now. Find out how to follow that action in this week’s feature, Your Primer to the Maryland General Assembly.
    Everybody working at the State House will be too busy to catch the last season of Downton Abbey, started this month on PBS. But the rest of us manage the realities of our lives better with regular submersion in the plot lines of drama.
    Chesapeake Country’s many theater companies are beginning new seasons of live drama. Venus in Fur — a play to make you reconsider what you think you know about relationships, sex and power — is Colonial Players’ January eye-opening offering. Get stimulated at The Player’s theater in the round off State Circle on East Street Thursday to Sunday through January 23.
    The drama turns to our inner lives and family relationships at Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s Studio 111 Theater on Chinquapin Round Road. In 19th century Russian master Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters, “as their lives seem to spill over into ours, we witness life happen as it happens, unscripted and untidy,” says artistic director Sally Boyett.
    Stimulate your heart to beat faster in a third drama opening this week for two performances only, January 15 and 22, An Evening with Poe at Hammond Harwood House, where you’ll meet the master of suspense, drink port and hear dramatic readings from The Cask of Amontillado.
    Art galleries are hanging their first new shows after the holidays. To open your eyes wider to the world, see what’s on the walls and in the works at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, St. John’s College’s Mitchell Gallery and Annmarie Garden.
    Classes to stimulate your mind and tune up your body are soon starting, as well, at colleges, art centers, senior centers and wellness centers. Meadow Hill Wellness’s Empowerment — an eight-week, life-changing, mind-body course — promises to do double duty.
    Bay Weekly is up to new things as well, with new page of short news, Dock of the Bay (a section faithful readers will remember) and new features in the works. My question of the year is how we can keep you reading. Who knows that better than you? Please stop in during my “Editor Is In” hours Thursdays in January to tell me.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

And you open up your world

Reading puts ideas in your head.     
    There are so many places I’ll never visit. So many times, both past and future, out of my reach. So many people so close and far whose lives are stories unto themselves. So many thoughts I’d never imagine.
    Except for stories.
    Stories are my magic carpet, my time traveling machine, my introduction, my education.
    “A novel of the life of the city,” a Chicago Daily News editor called his paper, which in its day could be thick as a middle-size city’s telephone book.
    For Chesapeake Country, Bay Weekly is a weekly chapter of our ongoing story, featuring people whose lives run on tracks parallel to your own but each on its own path. They’re your neighbors. But what it is that moves them, how would you ever know — without these pages?
    Among them this week are the railway enthusiasts introduced by Bob Melamud in All Aboard.
    Chesapeake Country is not railway country. Our trains typically run down memory lane, as in the Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum, the B&O Railway Museum and the B&A Trail, a 13.3-mile rail trail on a former rail line.
    I’ve lived in places where the train ran as close to home as it does in the idealized villages created by enthusiasts like Tom Crockett of Tans Cycles Shop in North Beach and the volunteers of Marley Station, who you’ll meet in this story. So I can understand their appreciation for these arteries so near to ours but with beginnings and endings far beyond our reach.
    The scope of their affection, however, goes way further than appreciation. Their love is encompassing, expansionary. These are people who build cities and landscapes around their trains, adding more tracks until they’re so big they have to go public.
    Or they might move up the line in size, to miniature trains so big that children, and even full-sized adults, can ride them.
    Those are the sorts you’ll meet in Melamud’s story, which culminates in instructions for riding the closest we can conveniently get (without paying Amtrak prices) to a real train.
    I tested his instructions, and they work. My teenage train-loving grandkids and I rode to Baltimore on the Light Rail. We could have made a shorter trip by car, but as our destination was the National Aquarium, I’d have had to find Inner Harbor parking, so any adventure we might have had would have been less pleasant — and more expensive — than the light rail adventure we had. I recommend it.
    You’ll meet still more folks enamored of big vehicles in this week’s paper. Fire trucks come after trains, as staff writer Kathy Knotts follows the annual second Sunday of December Santa Run through many Annapolis-area neighborhoods. Collecting toys for kids in need is the reason for the run, but Santa’s rides by fire truck are much of the fun. Says organizer (and antique fire truck owner) John Muhitch, Santa Run happens because of “little boys who didn’t get a fire truck for Christmas.”
    Open up Bay Weekly, and you open up your world.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

Without them, Christmas would be a lot less colorful

In equatorial zones, poinsettias grow like weeds. But a touch of our winter is killing. How these tropical natives have become the flower of Christmas is a story of careful science in the greenhouse and ingenuity in marketing.
    “Most mother plants are grown offshore, in Nicaragua, Costa Rica or Kenya,” says Ray Greenstreet, whose Greenstreet Gardens is a major grower for our homes and for wholesalers.
    In June and July, Greenstreet and other growers bring in cuttings and root them in greenhouses. By late July and early August, plants are transplanted into display pots.
    The length of day light controls the plant’s growth and coloring. Flower buds form only when daylight is less than 12 hours.
    “In the long days of summer, we want to keep them vegetative as they grow to a certain size,” Greenstreet explains. “Then about September 23, days get shorter than nights, which naturally initiates blooming.”
    Traditionally, light and shade were controlled in greenhouses so plants bloomed sequentially. In the last quarter century, plants have been bred for seasonal blooming.
    “Early-season poinsettias bloom around November 15,” Greenstreet says, “and others bloom as late as mid-December. We grow a number of different bloom-response times, so we have nice fresh plants through the season.”
    For shipping around the country, Greenstreet roots about 185 varieties, in colors ranging from whites to mauves and lots of reds.
    “Right before 9/11,” Greenstreet says, “mauve or pink were selling well.” After the terrorist attacks, he continued, “people went back to tradition, and all they wanted for a couple seasons was red or white.”
    Now, variety is back. At Greenstreet you can choose from some 80 varieties, differing in leaf form as well as color.
    Buy your poinsettia when the temperature is above 36 degrees, packaged in a sleeve. Keep it warm in the car and bringing it in. At home, keep it away from drafts at a temperature between 60 and 70 degrees, in average light and evenly moist. Don’t let it sit in water. Carry it to a sink for watering, and let it drain before you put it back on display.
    Finally, don’t worry if your baby or cat has a bite. Poinsettias don’t taste good but are not toxic, both Greenstreet and Bay Gardener Frank Gouin confirm.

Take abundantly!

I used to dream of begin a doctor, though that dream faded as I fainted at the thought of blood. I’m better suited for prescribing help for the spirit. From my fully annotated Seasons Bounty, I offer my prescriptions for boosting your holiday spirit.

Light up the Darkness
    By day, deck your house and grounds in light. By night, tour Chesapeake Country to enjoy the brilliance of our neighbors and neighborhoods, from Solomons to Baltimore’s 34th Street, including Illuminated Historic London Town every Friday from 6 to 8pm. You’ve got all month to see the grand illuminations at Sandy Point State Park, Watkins Nature Center and Annmarie Gardens. But for parades of illuminated boats you’ve got to seize the night. In Solomons, that’s this Saturday, December 5, at 6:15pm. In Annapolis, see the Eastport Yacht Club Parade of Lights Saturday, December 12 from 6 to 8pm.

Walk or Run in Winter’s Wonderland
    Run the Jingle Bell 5K for Arthritis and Kids Rudolf Romp this Saturday at Holiday Inn, Solomons, with registration starting at 7am: jbr.org.
    Balmy weather will be better for the Santa Speedo Run & Salvation Army Toy Drive Saturday, December 19 in Annapolis: SantaSpeedoRunAnnapolis.com.

Rock Around the Christmas Tree
    Make choosing — even cutting — and decorating your tree a family affair. Visit festive trees far and wide, from forests of decorated trees at Homestead and Greenstreet Gardens to the Annapolis Tree at City Dock, the Bayfront North Beach Tree to Washington’s sparkling giants, the National Christmas Tree and the Capitol Christmas Tree.

Or Gather Round the Menorah
    Chanukah begins December 6, when you can help light the Menorah at Westfield Annapolis Mall. On Thursday, December 10, cruise with a menorah on your car to Annapolis City Dock and celebrate with the Chabad of Anne Arundel County: 443-321-9859, chabadannearundel.org.
Hear the Ancient Yuletide Carol
    Music raises the spirits and enchants the season. You can hear it in many forms, from grand to Celtic to carols to rock. This weekend is your chance to hear the Naval Academy’s grand Messiah and Maggie Sansone’s Celtic Christmas Concert at Christ Church, West River. Check Seasons Bounty and 8 Days a Week for many other musical choices, including ones where you can raise your voice in song.

See a Christmas Show
    Why do we love A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life? Read this week’s story The Spirit of Christmas to find out why — and where you can see them. The Nutcracker sets a different mood, involving us in a dream of fantastical extravagance. See it danced by the Ballet Theater of Maryland this weekend in Bowie and the next two weekends in Annapolis. Also this weekend see a comic Nutcracker at Chesapeake Arts Center, and hear Duke Ellington’s wonderful jazz Nutcracker suite at Anne Arundel Community College.
    Be in North Beach at noon this Saturday to see another kind of Christmas show: the Pat Carpenter Beaches Holiday Parade, led by Santa and Mrs. Claus. Gather for refreshments at a yule log bonfire on the beach.

Make Shopping a Pleasure
    With decorations, entertainment, refreshments and illuminations, local holiday shopping can feel like going to a party. Thursdays December 3 and 10 bring Midnight Madness to Annapolis, with 11th Hour December 17. Solomons is decked out for its 31st annual Christmas Walk this weekend. Calvert County Antique Festival has dealers from Solomons to the Beaches opening their doors. And the shops of Southern Anne Arundel County, from Friendship to Galesville, make shopping an adventure (see page 33 in Seasons Bounty).

Do Good Works
    Sharing is the best medicine for inducing the holiday spirit. Find your ways to share in Kathy Knotts’ feature story ’Tis the Season to Give.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

On the hunt in November

The antlered buck posed statue-like in full-focused attention in a valley surrounded, at a fair distance, by the houses of Fairhaven Cliffs. Perhaps he’d seen me seeing him from my perch well above him, but not assuring him safety were I a bow hunter. That hunting season lasts most of November, the month — this odd sighting reminded me — when Maryland’s 227,000 deer are at their most visible.
    November is rutting season, when bucks go in search of mates, and here one was, where deer, especially bucks, are not everyday sightings. The does and their families, our usual visitors, prefer Kudzu Valley, across the village, where groundhogs are the only neighbors. This was not the only buck I’d seen this month, when deer in Chesapeake Country are about as common as squirrels, and just about as oft seen dead along the roadsides.
    Not only are deer out and about in November, they are single-minded, both males and females hormonally driven to mate — as well as driven to distraction. Thus deer-vehicle crashes peak in November as well, bringing death to over 10,000 deer — and often injury to people as well as to their vehicles.
    The end of mating season coincides with the opening of the modern deer firearms season on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. That’s when most of the deer harvested in a year are taken. Last year 95,863 deer were harvested.
    From November 28 through December 12, hunters will be out in search of deer. So maybe for that time you should leave the woods to them.

In every faith, we look ahead in hope

On American’s feast day, Thanksgiving, we look back at “the great and various favors” of our year. I hope you were inspired in your recollection and naming of your blessings this Thanksgiving Day by George Washington’s apt words, quoted in last week’s Letter.
    Now we rush full of anticipation into the winter holidays.
    These great holidays rise from separate faiths, but all share a common theme. Each turns us toward the future.
    Advent — marked on special calendars in many a family — begins November 29 with anticipation building in the day-by-day countdown to Christmas.
    The Jewish eight-day festival of Chanukah, beginning December 6 this year, celebrates a victory of the faith and the surprising longevity of the light, which burned in the restored temple in Jerusalem for eight days when there was only oil enough for one.
    The Winter Solstice, December 22, marks the victory of the sun, which strikes a balance with darkness, then climbs again to ascendancy after six waning months.
    Christmas, December 25, celebrates the birth of a baby who was both man and God, bringing the light of hope to humankind. Even secular Christmas, presided over by Santa Claus, promises the magical fulfillment of all our hopes in a shower of gifts.
    New Year’s, which belongs to us all, tells us we get another chance.
    No wonder we love these holidays!
    Each of our seasonal rituals brings us back to the wellspring of hope, a visitation as old as human memory can stretch. Shopping for gifts, which begins in earnest Black Friday, we’re following the example of Saint Nicholas … of the Magi who followed the Star of Bethlehem to bring gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus … and even deeper in history, the sacrifices made to sun gods to reverse the dying of the light.
    Cutting the Christmas tree and gathering greens, we dip deep into many other ancient cultures, bringing evergreen life into our homes at the nadir of the cycle of cold and darkness. Holly’s red berries not only brighten the season; to Christians they recall the blood of the dying Jesus staining his crown of thorns. Mistletoe is magical in many cultures and gives permission for love.
    Stringing the lights, lighting menorahs, decking our halls with lights, green and glitter: All defy the darkness.
    Our hopes spill out onto our lawns in Christmas cribs, Santa, elves and flocking reindeer.
    Baking warms our homes and sweetens the season.
    Arguments about whether our greetings should be Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays do wrong to this season of celebration. So intermingled are our traditions and united our hope that we are all in this together.
    Menorahs, bonfires or Christmas stars, our lights shine on our neighbors and theirs on us. Together, we of many faiths transform the dead of winter into a winter wonderland.
    I hope you’ll nurture the spirit of the season in your heart, home and community.

  1. Sandra Olivetti Martin

Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

Thanksgiving is coming, with Christmas right behind

Perfect Thanksgiving weather, don’t you think?    
Propelled by the gusty winds of autumn, fallen leaves dance the season. But not all have fallen, and trees glow with color, green and yellow yielding to scarlet, mahogany and umber, further gilded by long rays of the low sun. Cattails and reeds sway, and pine cones drop, all spreading their seed.
    Above us, Vs of honking geese and ducks fly, pulling our eyes skyward to dramatic vistas of cloud and color.
    In the fields, farmers are harvesting the last soybeans and bedding down the land for winter. Green still sprouts brilliantly in cover crops, winter wheat and rye, holding the earth this year and promise for next year’s harvest.
    The harvest is in, the scene set and Thanksgiving stirring in our minds and kitchens. Time to order the turkey, plan the feast, transform Halloween’s pumpkins into bread and pies. Farmers markets will be open this Saturday to bring the last of the year’s local harvests to your table. There are pie sales to shop, if easy as pie is not so easy for you.
    Most important on this national holiday of gratitude is recalling our blessings, in the spirit of George Washington, who on October 3, 1789 said:
    Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be — That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks—
    for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation—
    for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war—
    for the great degree of tranquility, union and plenty which we have since enjoyed—
    for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted—
    for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.
    That’s a fine list of good bestowed upon us, don’t you think? Add them to your own list of personal blessings for which we give thanks once again this year on ­Thursday the 26th day of November.
    
The Christmas Holidays are Another Story
    We’ll still be eating Thanksgiving leftovers when the Christmas season begins in earnest the day after Thanksgiving.
    How shall we get into the spirit of that season?
    Bay Weekly has the answer. Tucked inside this week’s issue you’ll find Seasons Bounty, our annual guide to celebrations of Christmas and all our winter holidays.
    Peruse its pages and the spirit of the season will leap into your heart, as it has into mine. Make a list of your favorites and mark your calendar.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

They’re home to big thinkers, big ideas and new technologies

As an early reader of each issue of Bay Weekly, I’ve been thinking about Then & Now, staff writer Kathy Knotts’ story commemorating Annapolis Public Library’s half century on West Street.
    1410 West Street will be home to our capital city’s library for, perhaps, as many years to come. For that’s the spot where our Anne Arundel County Public Library system will build a new Annapolis library. Starting in 2017, the construction will cause a break in service at the library that’s always been the trunk of the county system, now spread wide to 15 branches. When construction finishes, the 2019 or 2020 Annapolis Library will be 55 percent larger and equipped for a fast-changing future.
    Technology is sure to be one great force driving a future far beyond my imagining.
    In researching her story, Kathy’s kids gave her some help. At the West Street Library anniversary event, seven-year-old Jordan headed for the Library Tech Then & Now exhibit. “Some objects, desktop computers and iPads, he immediately recognized,” Knotts writes.
    Jordan was only two years old when the iPad came into our lives, and his ease with the machine seems intuitive. Revolutionary as it is now, iPad technology is constantly changing; before long, some yet-to-be-named machine even more amazing will surpass it.
    How many cutting-edge-in-their-day computers we’ve used and junked at Bay Weekly, I can’t count. After our first wonderful Apple Macintosh 128K, I quickly took them — and the wonders they enabled — for granted. From 1993, when we bought those little Macs, I’d guess that a new computer — desktop, laptop, iMac or phone — entered my life roughly every three years. Each one in its time gave me so many powers I’d never had that I couldn’t imagine wanting or needing more. Now, when even my smallest computer connects me to the whole world and much of its accumulated knowledge, I load it up with multiple simultaneous commands and begrudge each second their realization takes.
    Older objects in the Tech Then & Now exhibit that “were foreign to” Jordan — like typewriters — had longer lives.
    For their first century in common use — 1860 to 1960 — typewriters’ core technology barely changed. Portables, as opposed to desk models, were a big innovation. And oh boy, when typewriters went electric even an average typist’s fingers could race. In 1961, the self-correcting IBM Selectric revolutionized typewriting. Buying my own was a life milestone. It cost about as much as our first Mac (the Macintosh 128K was originally priced at $2,495).
    All those technological wonders were, each in its day, instruments of my survival. I took each of them as mine, never stopping to think that someone had made them.
    Were it not for the bright ideas of big thinkers, I’d still be living in a cave — if I had the wits and luck to stay alive — telling my stories by firelight and using the embers to draw pictures on the cave walls.
    Libraries have guided me out of the cave — as they do each new generation — by bringing us the big thinkers, the big thoughts and the new technologies on which we all depend for the quality of our lives.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

Know where your oyster comes from — and howOysters in Season

Oysters are Maryland’s catch of the season. Oystermen and women are tonging, diving and dredging for Crassostrea virginica in a season that runs October 1 through March 31.
    Last year saw 393,588 bushels harvested with a dockside value of $17.3 million. “The second highest total in at least 15 years due to healthy oyster reproduction in 2010 and 2012,” according to DNR Secretary Mark Belton.
    Nowadays, however, the oysters we eat are increasingly coming from farms rather than wild harvest. Oyster aquaculturists lease sections of water and bottom, plant their own seed and, a couple of years later, harvest their own crop.
    Those oysters keep oyster eaters happy while wild oysters are nurturing a healthy Bay, filtering gallons of water and — given a chance — raising reefs where countless other creatures dwell.
    Ask where your oysters come from, and you’ll be doing good for the Bay.

Letters home from a new soldier, drafted to fight World War I

November 11 brings us once more to Veterans Day, our nation’s day of remembrance of all our veterans, living and dead. The 96-year-old commemoration began as Armistice Day, celebrating the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, when soldiers of the Allied Forces and of Germany, the enemy, laid down their weapons.
    The war to end all wars began in Europe on July 28, 1914. The United States joined the conflict as an Associated Power on April 6, 1917, promptly drafting 2.8 million men. By the summer of 1918, 10,000 American soldiers a day were shipped to France to fight.
    One of those drafted was A.L. Dixon, an Illinois country man who described his experiences in regular letters to a schoolteacher in a tiny Illinois village. The teacher was Miss Cora Smith, my first cousin twice removed, whose papers have descended to me.
    Inspired by the Maryland archivists who I interviewed in anticipation of Saturday’s Family History Festival, I opened and read his long-forgotten letters, transcribing (as exactly as I could) one for you to read here.
    I suspect Dix, a sergeant in the Quartermaster Department, never reached France, for his letters continue from Louisville through April 17, 1919. What became of him I don’t know but shall have to discover.

December 13, 1917
Dear Friend:
    When you want to know how good homemade candy tastes, just join the army for the candy was sure good, a sergt” here stoled some of it and when I bawled him for it he said that I should be satisfied to know a girl that could make good candy.
    I know you have a hard time making out my writing and you know how hard I worked in school, gee — but we never thot them days that all of this war would spring up and get some of us shot.
    When anyone trys to tell you that Ky is a warm state you tell em that its all wrong for we have about one foot of snow here and some cold.
    Miss Cora I am making good here nowdays and I am acting Sergt” seems with good luck I will have my stripe some day but don’t tell this for one is never sure of a thing here and I may get fooled.
    I have had charge of the QMC wagon train for over three weeks am boss of 22 mules, 30 men & 25 wagons and you should see my head swell when I line these men up and yell ‘tention’ squadron right boys march, am such a bear on that & they can hear me all over the camp.
    Who is your best ever now days? and does ‘ma’ let him stay late on Sun night? The girls swarm this camp on Sundays but I stay clear of em some of them are kids and I sure would like to spank the ­little fools.
    We had a fine thanksgiving dinner here and I was invited to a home in Lville but I was on duty & missed out.
    Come down and I will take you to a show at our new theater its some play house and will seat 4,000 of us boys and we have the best of shows here, in this barracks we have lawyers – Drs – artist – school supts – and most any kind of trade but all are soldiers now, and we hear better singing here than at a show.
    Me thinks we will soon see France and I hope so, just to get this over with.
    I have taken out $500 insurance and Mother may find herself rich some day soon, sure was pleased the way old Calhoun [County] helpt us boys she is a good old Co that’s sure.
    Some how I have been afraid of you ever since you called me a 2 face and laughed at me when I took that hard fall at the barn gate remember how you laughed at me?
    Must go to work so please write until you get all the news to Camp T — and many thanks for the candy and good letter.

Friend Dix [A.L. Dixon]
Utilities Branch
QMC Dept.
Camp T, Ky

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com