view counter

Letter from the Editor (All)

It brings us boat shows for one; holds back flooding for another

Over the next two weeks, the U.S. Boat Shows flood the economy of Chesapeake Country with $50 million. In Annapolis, the shows create an autumnal wetland of value, invigorating much of the local economy. From Annapolis, the dollars flow outward in many rivulets to the boating world.
    Chesapeake Bay has brought the shows to Annapolis for four decades.
    The recreational dollars generated by these shows are one small part of the wealth the Bay brings us, which amounts to $107.2 billion annually, according to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Clean up the Bay, and the value will rise to $130 billion every year. That’s the conclusion of The Economic Benefits of Cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, a “first-ever analysis” just released by CBF.
    All six Bay states, plus the District of Columbia, share in the bounty.
    Just how is that figured?
    It’s pretty deep economics. But basically, seven land uses — from forest to open water to agriculture — were first assigned baseline values of ecosystem health and productivity. Baseline figures were calculated and compared according to what we citizens choose — or don’t choose — to do to take care of Chesapeake Country waters and lands.
    The billions in benefits come to us in many forms, including agricultural and seafood production, recreation, property values, air and water filtration and protection from floods and hurricanes.
    Invest the $5 or $6 billion the big cleanup will cost Bay wide, and economic benefits soar to that big $130 billion figure.
    Make excuses for doing little or nothing, and the Bay gives us less in return. Received annual value drops from the 2009 baseline of $107.2 billion down to $101 billion.
    Billions are pretty hard to grasp. What those billions mean for us, our kids and our grandchildren are real economic benefits such as higher housing values and more productive soil and land.
    Drinking water is another real value, especially as water scarcity becomes an issue for the world, from California across the Southwest and on to drying wells in Chesapeake Country. Three-quarters of the 17 million people in the Bay watershed drink surface water, with many straws sucking from the Potomac.
    Short-term thinkers are trying to convince you that Bay restoration is a bottomless pit of spending and regulation.
    It’s true that cleaning up the Bay is a big and expensive job that demands each of us to do and pay our share.
    But it’s a job with big dividends.
    In our neck of the woods, a cleaner Bay translates directly into dollars-and-cents value.
    Take the tourists drawn by the Chesapeake, for example. Tourists — many arriving right now for this month’s boat shows — spent an eye-popping $58 billion in 2009. That money fed the economies of waterfront communities up and down the Bay and is distributed “among diverse industries, individuals and communities” throughout the watershed.
    Take flood control for another. High-tide floods may triple in 15 years and increase ten-fold in 30 years in many coastal towns, according to another report, this one just released by the Union of Concerned Scientists. The study stretched from Texas to Maine. In Atlantic Coast communities, increases in flooding are expected to be “pervasive.”
    In Annapolis, 2030 could bring 180 tidal floods a year. 2045 could bring 360 floods a year, 50 of them extensive. “Without substantial measures to defend against rising seas … parts of Annapolis could never be dry again.”
    The may in the Concerned Scientists’ study depends on what we do — or don’t do.
    That’s one more reason for us to stop complaining and get to work.
    The Bay Foundation study proves for the first time and without a doubt that Chesapeake restoration is far more than a government excuse to take your money and wrap you in red tape. It’s a vital economic issue for all of us in Chesapeake Country.

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

Destinations for sunny as well as rainy days

Here at Bay Weekly we’ve been on a museum kick, so we couldn’t agree more with the assertion of Gracie Brady — herself a museum founder — that “we are fortunate in Maryland to have so many great museums, each with its own strengths.”
    We made museums our destination, and this week, we report to you on our visits.
    Ever eager for news, I was drawn to Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons to see what wonders would appear in the Estuarine Biology Exhibit, closed since January for remodeling.
    Annapolis Maritime Museum in Eastport held novelty for writer Bob Melamud, who’d never visited before writing this story.
    At Bayside History Museum in North Beach, writer Mick ­Blackistone felt right at home. Marylanders since the Arc and the Dove, his family made donations that help stock that decade-old museum.
    As these three just scratch the surface, here follows a list of many other museums to visit on fall outings.

Annmarie Sculpture Garden and Arts Center
    Art is in full bloom here. Stroll through 30 acres of forest, meadows and fields along St. John’s Creek where you see art, including sculpture on loan from the Smithsonian. Solomons: www.annmariegarden.org.

Banneker-Douglass Museum
    From Maryland’s first African American settler Mathias De Sousa to Thurgood Marshall’s challenge to the Supreme Court, investigate the evolving African American story in Maryland’s official museum of African American heritage. Annapolis: www.bdmuseum.com.

Benson Hammond House
    In this historical house decorated with Victorian textiles and furniture, the Anne Arundel Historical Society documents the era when truck farming was a thriving business in Northern Anne Arundel County. Linthicum Heights: www.aachs.org.

Captain Avery Museum
    Explore the culture of late 19th century watermen in the Avery family home. Plus monthly lectures and luncheons. Shady Side: www.captainaverymuseum.org.

Chesapeake Beach Railways Museum
    In Chesapeake Beach’s original railroad station, see the story of the railway that brought city folk to this Bay resort. Chesapeake Beach: www.cbrm.org

Chesapeake Children’s Museum
    Young people learn about Chesapeake ecology in interactive exhibits and programs and outdoor trails. Annapolis: www.theccm.org.

Darnall’s Chance House Museum
    Go back in time in this 18th century house now featuring an exhibit on the War of 1812. Upper Marlboro: 301-952-8010.

Historic Annapolis Museum
    Historic Annapolis began as a grassroots movement to preserve the architectural legacy of buildings in downtown Annapolis. Since 1952, Historic Annapolis has saved and preserved 400 downtown buildings, making Annapolis a “museum without walls.” Annapolis: www.annapolis.org.

Historic London Town and Gardens
    The 23-acre riverside museum and park illustrates history, archaeology and horticulture in Maryland in original and reconstructed buildings, exhibits, gardens, events and activities. Edgewater: www.historiclondontown.com.

Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum
    Visit the country riverside home of the Jefferson Pattersons, now home to the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory. St. Leonard: www.jefpat.org.

U.S. Naval Academy Museum
    See the history of the Navy and the Naval Academy in paintings, ship models, uniforms, medals, swords, silver, important documents and more, including a moon rock. Annapolis: www.usna.edu/Museum.

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

Here’s the help you need to tackle fall’s long must-do list

There is so much to do!    
    That’s the fact that hits me on stepping out of my car at day’s end.
    I’ve just pecked at the landscape transformation plan I began, with professional advice, last spring — though I’ve been at it ever since.
    The Bay Gardener’s prescription for lawn renovation is tacked on my garden bulletin board from our 2013 Fall Home and Garden Guide — still waiting to be followed.
    In the vegetable beds, tomato plants are a shambles with late fruit still ripening. Soon, it will be time to follow Dr. Gouin’s advice in this year’s Guide and plant a cover crop of rye plus some beds of garlic and short-day onions. Among the fading perennials, pansies need planting and sweet William seeding.
    Out in back, those azaleas need digging up, soil replenishing and on their return sparkleberry holly and blueberries for company. Up the hill, another holly — a big one — needs moving.
    Oh and all that brickwork I’m imagining …
    That entire inventory announces itself before I get to the front door, which wants replacing. Just as my wood siding needs painting … my windows washing … and, worst of all, my basement waterproofing from the inside out.
    Inside, I’ll see more walls in need of fresh paint. My kitchen I must enter in sunglasses, lest I see counters that need replacing, which opens the door of desire to new cupboards …
    As night falls, autumn’s chill reminds me of more serious issues than these cosmetics: Chimney sweeping, weather stripping, insulating, heating-system checking.
    So much to do!
    Fall, like spring, is time for taking stock. Once I’ve taken stock, I’m so overwhelmed that my only thought is to head out to Second Wind Consignments for the fainting couch I’ve been admiring.
    What I need even more is expert help — and lots of muscle.
    I know where to get both. In the early copy of this year’s Fall Home & Garden Guide, I’ve met the experts. Now you will, too.
    This year’s annual Guide, like its spring partner, showcases the products and services of the advertisers who bring you Bay Weekly. Most weeks you get to know them through their ads. This week, they also speak to you directly, explaining how their work meshes with your inventory of must-dos.
    If you’re like me, you need their help. To get it, all you have to do is call. And, please, say you found them in Bay Weekly.

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

The Maryland Renaissance Festival has more cars than 16th-century England

Ye olde good times flow in the reimagined 16th-century English village of Revel Grove in the Maryland Renaissance Festival’s 30th season at Crownsville. In the festival’s nine-weekend season from late August to mid-October, itinerate festival craftspeople live at Revel Grove and tens of thousands of visitors drive in to play make believe.
    The popular festival is outgrowing its 25 acres at Revel Grove. After several years of searching, festival owners chose a 238-acre farm about 20 miles south in rural Lothian in Southern Anne Arundel County.
    Whether the move happens hinges on roads. Getting to the new site requires special exceptions to county zoning on two issues:
    1. “Access to a Renaissance Festival shall be provided directly from an arterial road.”
    2. A “Renaissance Festival located in an RA district shall be located on a road other than a scenic or historic rural road.”
    The variances were refused this summer by a county zoning officer. The Festival appealed. This month and next, public hearings are underway, in preparation for a decision by Anne Arundel’s Board of Appeals.
    Just what roads would traffic follow if the Maryland Renaissance Festival rebuilds Revel Grove at the junction of Anne Arundel, Calvert and Prince George’s counties?
    Inspired by the research of Bonnie Sudnick of Churchton, we took a look at the existing and proposed roads.
    Maryland Rt. 4 is the arterial road approaching the new location.
    Maryland Rt. 4, speed limit 55mph, runs as Pennsylvania Avenue from Washington, D.C., to Upper Marlboro. The freeway crosses the Patuxent River at Hills Bridge, where a bridge has existed since 1855. It enters Anne Arundel County at Wayson’s Corner, taking the name Southern Maryland Boulevard. Turning southeast, the road intersects the western terminus of Rt. 258, Bay Front Road, at the village of Bristol. By now, it’s traveling through country.
    Beyond the Rt. 258 intersection, Rt. 4 turns south and downgrades into a four-lane, at-grade, divided highway. At the Calvert County line shortly below, it interchanges with the northwestern terminus of Rt. 260 at Lyons Creek, then continues south.
    Between the interchanges at Rts. 258 and 260 is ground zero.
    Between them are Upper Pindell Road, the Festival’s potential new address, and its southern partner, Lower Pindell Road.
    Both lead to where the Renaissance Festival wants to be. But you can’t get there from either. That’s because both are “scenic and historic roads,” protected from heavy traffic.
    So how do you get there? Sudnick reports from the first two appeal hearings earlier this month:
    The state road witness stated that “traffic would make a right-hand turn onto the access road” that leads from Rt. 4 to Upper Pindell Road — to be followed by an immediate left turn and finally a right turn into the property. This pattern in theory would avoid use of Upper Pindell Road.
    Traffic outbound on Upper Pindell would have to make a left turn onto the access road and travel either to the next stop sign to make a right onto Rt. 4 South … Or cross over at Talbott Road to go left onto Rt. 4 North … Or continue to the Rt. 258 interchange.
    “The proposed exit from the Renaissance Festival will,” Sudnick continues, “have traffic going south toward Calvert County to go north on Rt. 4.” The turnarounds can be made by “sliding left to make a U-turn at Lower Pindell Road or going under the Rt. 260 overpass to make a U-turn.”
    Those are the facts, folks, confounding as they are.

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

Plumbing the depths of change

“Our world changed yesterday,” I wrote on September 12, 2001. “Like you, we’ll be a long time plumbing the depths of this change.”
    Thirteen years later, the blue clarity of September 11, 2001 — before 8:46am — seems a farewell look at innocence. Adam and Eve might have seen just such radiance in the Garden of Eden as its gate shut them out.
    It’s a nice image, and there’s some truth in it. Certainly the new millennium seemed to promise a clean start. Certainly this absolute penetration of our defenses was not within our expectations. Certainly we have never felt the same since. Nowadays optimism is in scarce supply.
    Some truth, only. As a nation and as individuals, we had lost our innocence many times before 9/11 — in wars and faulty peace, in slavery and Indian oppression, at Pearl Harbor and Gettysburg, in depressions and assassinations.
    But still some truth. Before, we Americans started things — or we finished the work others were unable to complete. We took this land and settled it. We put our shoulders to the task. We invented and aspired. We lent our might to ending two world wars. We flew around the world and to the moon.
    Since 9/11, we have become a nation of first responders. Our dearest heroes are the firefighters and police who rose to the unprecedented occasions of that terrible day — and the soldiers who followed in their footsteps.
    Since that day, we have been mopping up mounting woes.
    In the Middle East, where outrage begets outrage, we wage our own wars and try to throw our weight on the side of justice — wherever that may be — in the wars of others. We’ve killed Osama bin Laden, but the sorcerer’s apprentices are rising up, lately the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Two American journalists beheaded is not the World Trade Towers. But it is enough.
    In the East, the ice left over from the Cold War is breaking. Russia’s hungry bear is reawakening. China is threatening us not with communism but with clever frauds and computer hacks.
    Here at home, nearly every aspect of life seems in turmoil: police armed for Homeland Security … the old economy trashed before a new one is created … cities bankrupt … infrastructure crumbling … schools leaving children behind … immigrants crashing the borders … health care in divisive crisis … waste — from nuclear to plastic — engulfing us … climate change threatening to drop the bomb.
    And now our America seems the only world force big enough to take on Ebola in Africa.
    So yes, some truth. For all we’d seen and done before 9/11, we still had innocence to lose and experience to gain.
    I read Hillary Clinton this past Sunday, writing in the Washington Post about the new book by her predecessor as secretary of state, World Order by Henry Kissinger.
    “There really is no viable alternative,” she wrote, speaking of “the indispensability of continued American leadership in service of a just and liberal order.
    “No other nation can bring together the necessary coalitions and provide the necessary capabilities to meet today’s complex global threats.”
    How much that role costs may be a lesson of each generation. Certainly it’s one lesson we’ve learned since September 11, 2001.

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

Policy for success takes more than good luck

Labor Day is just another day off — albeit the one that closes summer — unless we know our history. Our work-free first Monday of September is in fact “a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country,” according the U.S. Department of Labor.
    Dating back to 1882 when labor unions were gaining strength, the holiday was celebrated for many years with parades to demonstrate “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations.” Festivities followed.
    You don’t see many Labor Day parades nowadays, so Bay Weekly stages our own annual Labor Day Parade of Working People.
    Work brings us our livelihood, supports for our families, endows our futures and defines our identities, I write introducing the story.
    That’s what we like to think.
    If you’re among the 3.3 million Americans earning minimum wage, your truth is likely closer to the James Brown line in “Living in America”: Everybody’s working overtime.
    Federal minimum wage is $7.25. Lots of workers earn less. The minimum wage for tipped workers, for example, is $2.13 an hour.
    States can choose to pay more. Washington pays the highest minimum wage: $9.32, with inflation adjustments.
    Starting in the new year, Maryland’s minimum wage of $7.25 rises to $8, with staged increases topping off at $10.10 on July 1, 2018.
    That’s a big deal — except in perspective. At 1968 levels, $10.77 would be 2014’s minimum wage.
    Work a full-time year at today’s minimum wage and you’ll earn just over $15,000.
    At that level, Labor Day is black comedy.
    A bell-shaped curve made the prosperity this day celebrates. People of enormous earnings are one end of the flat base from which the bell rises. People who earn little or nothing are the opposite end of that base. The bell is the middle class — producing, exporting and buying our way to a strong economy.
    “How do we expand the middle class?” Congressman Steny Hoyer asked at a Women’s Equality Day lunch this week honoring the 94th anniversary of women’s suffrage. “A ladder of opportunity from poverty to the middle class.”
    Each of the 13 people you’ll meet in Bay Weekly’s Labor Day Parade climbed an opportunity ladder. Many built their own. Of these fascinating stories, my favorites are the two men whose work in good, stable jobs bring them livelihood and identity, support for their families and their futures. A good company, good luck and good contacts built their ladders.
    We love success stories, but a problem as big as our deflating middle class takes success policies. An almost liveable minimum wage is one part, and it depends on employers.
    Workers have their responsibilities, too, gaining skills that make them employable.
    Schools are also part, filling our minds, training our hands, then showing us how to use what we know and do. Encouraging creativity is another part of the curriculum for success.
    Good luck is a great thing; it helped many — maybe all — of this year’s parade of people find their work. Skilled creativity fueled by ambition is your part.

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

The popular back-to-school cocktail doesn’t suit quite every taste
 


“Cooler evenings with earlier sunsets adjust our biological clocks ever so slightly as we sense newness in the air,” writes educator and student Kathleen Murphy, introducing Bay Weekly’s August 21 album of back-to-school reflections.
    You feel it too, don’t you?
    Our animal senses revive, making us as alert as dogs or rabbits, our ears and noses twitching. As well as earlier sunsets and cool evenings, we smell afternoon’s baked sugar rising from field and flower and hear the cricket chorus.
    Were Rip van Winkle to wake about now, he’d know the month if not the year. Awakening with him, perhaps, would be the sense of possibility linked in so many of our minds to a new school year.
    Or maybe not.
    Maybe Rip was the Huck Finn of his era, as my son Nathaniel was of his.
    My older son — Alex, the one who runs Bay Weekly — was the schoolboy parents and teachers love. He went to school eagerly, did most of his homework, got in only manageable trouble and now and again caught the passion for ideas a good teacher inspired.
    The younger, Nathaniel, was the schoolboy who brought parents to tears and teachers to prayer.
    It was Miss Manders, his kindly first-grade teacher, who prayed every night over the challenge of teaching Nat to read. As a supplement to prayer, she tried masking tape. At least that’s the story told by Alex, who found his little brother taped to his little chair at the end of one school day. Some parents might be put out by Miss Manders’ last-resort strategy. Knowing Nat, I thought masking tape was a pretty good idea.
    Had Nat ever read The Adventures of Huck Finn, he’d have understood Huck’s final words: I reckon I got to light out for the territory … because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can’t stand it.
    Schooling and sivilization went against Nat’s nature. His family learned that lesson long before he arrived in Miss Manders’ classroom at Blackhawk Elementary School in in Springfield, Illinois.
    Nat made his first escape in his second week in daycare, scaling the wall of his crib and up and out the screened window above it. The climb down the outer wall of Cookie Monster Cooperative Day Care must have been a long one for a 22-month-old who stood under 30 inches tall and was still wearing diapers. But he looked none the worse for the experience when I next saw him in the arms of the policeman who’d found him strolling down the sidewalk of the city’s major southbound artery.
    Escape was harder in his next daycare, run by a firm but loving director who set watch and locks on all the doors and windows. Getting him there was harder, too. Most mornings he’d cling like a starfish to bed, toy chest, doorframe, car door. No sooner would I pry his fingers and toes off one hold than he’d attach them to another. He was far too young to stay home alone the morning I left for work without him. Once I was gone, he climbed out of the toy chest, fixed himself a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich, poured a glass of milk and settled down with toys and television. He still remembers that day as bliss.
    Elementary, middle and high school for him were 12 years of resistance. He even got asked to leave a do-your-own-thing free school. Somehow, he learned to spell better than Huck and to write a good story, though not quite as good as Mark Twain’s. He grudgingly made it through high school, then lit out for the territories.
    Lots of us feel hope and nostalgia in this back-to-school season. But not all of us. Here’s to the exceptions: the kids (including, it seems, Alex’s son Jack), their parents and their teachers.
 

While you’re at play, Bay Weekly is minding Chesapeake Country

    Hello out there?    
    With everybody from the president to the financial planner on vacation, I considered printing this week’s paper in invisible ink in hopes of convincing you the stories were right below your eyes if you had the right stuff — lemon juice or infrared light — to see them. That idea fell to our watchful puzzlers, who showed me my ruse would be caught. Since last Thursday, call after note has come in admonishing us for printing clues that — for all the shoehorning in the world — won’t fit into the spaces provided with last week’s crossword puzzle.
    Now that I know you’re reading, I’d better give you the real thing just as we do every week.
    Even in a slow week, there’s plenty to do in Chesapeake Country, as you’ll see in 8 Days a Week. Make haste to buy your tickets for Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre’s Spamalot, reported by reviewer Jim Reiter as the best way to laugh your way out of summer. Mark your calendar for Irish band The ShamRogues on the lawn (weather allowing) at London Town Sunday, August 17 at 5pm. Look forward to Annapolis Art Walk Thursday, August 21, starting at 6pm.
    Just back from vacation, Madeline Hughes guarantees you’ll never go thirsty, reporting to you on her coffee-shop summer tour of Chesapeake Country.
    Fresh from a vacation of a sort nobody wants to take, contributor Elisavietta Ritchie describes how the nasty bug vibrio vulnificus gave her a week in the hospital.
    More attractive bugs return in Creature Feature, where you’ll meet the Silvery Checkerspot, and Your Say, where the Monarch makes a two-stage appearance, as beauty and beast.
    As a retiree, contributor Bob Melamud reports he’s always on vacation. So he’s stepped up this week with another of his occasional series on the environmental and human value we get for our tax dollars. Cleaning up the Bay One Family at a Time explains the Flush Tax at work in the Calvert County home of Navy aviation electrician’s mate Rob Pryke and wife Brandi.
    
Breaking News on Dominion Cove Point
    Tom Hall returns from vacation in Maine just in time to follow up our July 17 story on the controversial Dominion Cove Point Liquefied Natural Gas export plan:
    A Calvert County judge ruled this week that the county’s 2013 waiver of local zoning rules for the export expansion constitutes an unconstitutional “special law” benefitting Dominion Resources.
    AMP Creeks Council, a local environmental group, successfully won a ruling that invalidates the county’s pro-Dominion local zoning amendment. Now county officials will have to regroup, deciding whether to appeal the ruling … or figuring out another way to proceed in accord with county zoning protections. The commissioners next meet August 19.
    Calvert County Attorney John Norris said the exemption granted Cove Point was not designed to expedite the project but to defer to the expertise of federal regulators like the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and Environmental Protection Agency.
    “I really believe the intent of the text amendment was to do no harm, and not to create any overlap or conflict of regulations,” Norris said. “I’m not sure any county in the state has the ability to analyze an extremely unique project like this.”
    Calvert is Maryland’s smallest county.
    Dominion Cove Point spokesman Karl Neddenien said the company is analyzing the ruling and confidently awaiting FERC approval. The company hopes to begin construction on the $3.8 billion export terminal later this year.
    “We don’t see any schedule impact,” Neddenien said.

It takes work to live together in a peaceable interspecies kingdom

Oh the trouble love brings!    
    Just about any time your heart runs away with you, you run up a debt you’ll be paying for day, hours, years. By a certain age, we homo sapiens are supposed to know (but do we ever?) about the birds and the bees. But a dog or cat can slip under the radar, fooling us into believing that all interspecies matches are made in heaven.
    When reality hits, you’d rather have a pie in the face than a foot in some of the messes that await you.
    This week’s Dog Days Pet Spectacular is a reminder of the ransom due to the reckless heart.
    “Dogs do what comes naturally,” Animal Behavior College Dog Trainer Laurie Scible advises in this week’s feature, Good Dog! “Many behaviors we don’t like are things dogs love.”
    Rolling in dead fish, for example. Friend Sue’s dog has never met a dead fish he doesn’t love. My Moe ­doesn’t crave that perfume. But peeing over another dog’s scent? That’s an opportunity he never misses. As a youngster, before we’d persuaded Moe to learn house manners, he made covering some former dog’s scent a housewarming gift to a new neighbor. To everybody’s chagrin, the original dog had left his calling card indoors. It gets worse, of course, because peeing is only one element of housebreaking. There’s pooping, too.
    Why should we be surprised? Housebreaking is a learned behavior among animals of all species, even us.
    Of course we shouldn’t be surprised. Still, Scible’s pointers on housebreaking read as a wake-up call as shocking as a shrill alarm at 4:42am. It’s a serious, life-changing routine she prescribes. It punctures my willful notion that love means living happily ever after.
    I know I should have let that illusion go by now. It’s been ridiculed time and again by creatures of many species, dogs even more so than my first husband. But deep in my heart, implanted by my childhood reading of Albert Payson Terhune’s books about the valiant, empathetic Lad — the dog ideal holds indelible … despite the untellable failure of my dalliance with a collie. I’m still clinging to the notion that being my best friend comes naturally to a dog.
    That’s a popular fallacy. It can happen to you.
    On a weekend visit to St. Louis, I finally made acquaintance with Pal, the white-nosed brown dog adopted by my son Nathaniel’s family after falling under the spell of the mostly virtuous Moe on their visit here last summer. You may remember that I tried to warn them off, writing for that purpose (and all our reading pleasure) the story of the incorrigible Slip Mahoney, our family dog during Nat’s childhood.
    You can guess, by the name they’ve chosen, what Nat, Liz and Ada Knoll hope for in a dog. Indeed, Pal completes their circle. But healing the neuroses heaped upon that yearling in his formative weeks in a junkyard is a job for Dr. Vint Virga, the vet and animal behaviorist who, the New York Times Magazine reported in the July 3 issue, is devoting his life to Zoo Animals and Their Discontents.
    Animal psychology is a far more complex subject than we allowed ourselves to imagine. They have behavioral customs and social systems, even consciousness, just as we do. Living together in a peaceable interspecies kingdom means recognizing that now-obvious reality and adapting to it — just like my cats do when they train me.
    Bottom line: Slip Mahoney wasn’t incorrigible. He was misunderstood.
    Read on in this week’s Dog Days Pet Spectacular to learn the lure and lessons of interspecies company.

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

Here’s to one more summer of reading


     Call me anything but late to the table — unless I’m reading a good book. So I’ve often carried book to table.
    “I’ve spent my life looking over the breakfast table at a book,” my grandmother Florence Martin lamented. “Your grandfather. Your father and his brother. And now you.”
    Or as Florence’s daughter-in-law my mother Elsa would say, “Take your nose out of that book!”
    Both Elsa and Florence were good storytellers, but I couldn’t turn them on as easily as I could open a book. Nor did their stories sweep me away in the flood of sensory details — the color of the light, the rise of the hill, the degree of warmth or chill, the pattern of the dress, the darkness of the well, the despair of the loss. Books drowned me in the flood, tumbling me with thrilling metaphors that made my imagination swim like a fish.
    (I should have prodded more. Now mother and grandmother’s times of life are lost, and to write their books I would have to do a lot of imagining.)
    Out from behind a book, newspaper or racing form, my father told a story as thick with detail as humidity in St. Louis summers. Photographic memories have fallen into the category of improbabilities we’d like to believe. But when Gene Martin’s truculent objections were overcome — “How do you expect me to remember that? It happened 50 years ago,” he’d complain — his eyes looked back into time to report the past as if it were present.
    I’ve always loved the kinds of stories I coaxed from my family and their extended family of friends: How people lived their lives. So the writers I love best immerse me in the unfolding of ordinary lives. Circumstances ordinary or extraordinary; action consequential or trivial — I don’t care, as long as action moves the plot, characters live and sentences sing.
    I’m just as happy to peep in on the domestic dramas wrought by Alexander McCall Smith at 44 Scotland Street as travel exotically with Ann Patchett to the unnamed Latin nation of Bel Canto or the jungles of State of Wonder. I don’t need bombings, murders and the art theft of The Goldfinch to keep me in a book, though I certainly don’t mind page-turning action.
    But I do hate it — don’t you? — when I’m about to close the pages on characters I’ve loved. It’s as if I were closing their coffin, though I know the lives of literary characters last as long readers read.
    So I’m blissed to be spending this summer with the prolific Julia Glass. I discovered her in the New York Times’ Mother’s Day paper, for which she’d written a reflection on how far off her real-life raising of her sons was from her imaginings. She shaped a nice sentence and seemed a nice kind of woman, one who rooted for heart-expanding resolutions while acknowledging the downs, all the way to tragedy. I started with her first, Three Junes, the symmetrical 2002 National Book Award Winner. Then, to my delight, I discovered that some of Junes’ characters lived on in this year’s And the Dark and Sacred Night. Better still, some of these have history I’m now learning in 2006’s The Whole World. And that’s not all …
    This summer, when my husband’s cooking, he announces dinner in an old familiar way: “Are you going to put down that book and come to the table?”


Breaking News: Blue-Eyed Boy
    Julia Glass may have to cool her heels, for breaking news is that Annapolitan Robert Timberg, Naval Academy graduate and former journalist at The Capital and the Baltimore Sun, has just published his long-awaited memoir, Blue-Eyed Boy, about the hard years back to normal life after his grievous wounding as a Marine officer in Vietnam. Bookpage.com calls it “a fascinating look at how a tragedy that would make most men crumble instead drove the author to survive, and on many levels, succeed.”
    I know Timberg slightly, enough to know a bit of his extraordinary story. Now I’ll read more and report back to you — if you haven’t read Blue-Eyed Boy before me.