|Maritime Republic of Eastport Sacks City Dock
photos by Mark Burns
Phil Dumenil pulls for the victorious Eastport Maritime Republic, above. As a result of an MRE loss, team captain Ivan Paulin, below, walks the plank into the chill waters of City Dock.
The line pulls taut with a jolt and Lezlee Coulter, 30, leans back with all her weight on the rope. It isn't much weight, however, and soon her petite frame is uprooted from the pavement by the northern aggressors. One of her legs flails a bit in midair, the other stays barely grounded by the tiptoes as she and some 24 teammates struggle against an opposing will.
What began as a see-sawing battle has gone unbalanced. The mighty Annapolitans are now muscling Maritime Republic of Eastport frontperson Coulter dangerously close to that strip of duct tape near the end of Second Street. Moments later, despite their hardiest protests, the Eastportoricans are forced to concede. Annapolis has this heat wrapped up, and the fire of a cannon punctuates their victory.
So ends Beer vs. Brawn, a battle of the bars and the first of seven heats at Slaughter Across the Water III.
Begun as a bet between Republic founder Jeff Collins and Annapolis Mayor Dean Johnson, Slaughter Across the Water has become the definitive annual power struggle between the Maritime Republic of Eastport and Annapolis Jaycees. The pull remains the world's longest tug of war over a body of water, using a custom-made 1,700-foot rope stretched between City Dock and Second Street.
The line is run through two buoys at the harbor's center, and its center is marked by a small tethered blimp. Winners are decided by who first pulls the center of the rope to the buoy nearest them. Victors choose which charities are visited by the spoils of conflict; losers walk a lone "designated dunkee" off the plank and into the drink.
The past two years Eastport has claimed victory - though Annapolis disputes the first as a draw - and both times Eastport has claimed bragging rights: First by renaming Second Street to The Avenue of Our Glorious Victory; next by "annexing" Annapolis Harbor as the Gulf of Eastport. A victory this year would leave Eastport to claim City Dock as Westport. Unofficially, of course.
To meet that end - or defend against it - as many as 420 tuggers have shown up this day. First-year Eastport tugger Phil Dumenil, 39, tugs for "the importance of establishing our independence over here." He speaks between deep breaths just after struggling in Eastport Yacht Club's loss to Annapolis Yacht Club in the second heat.
Mere minutes later, the Chart House team is watching its luckless manager Kevin Gersonde slip into the drink after a loss to Annapolis' Phillips crew. Eastport Yacht Club team captain Ivan Paulin follows with his belated dip from the docks. "I hate to sound like the Jaycees," says a soggy Paulin, "but wait till next year."
This does not bode well for the Republic.
But, just when it seems Annapolis is about to rebound from two years of frustration, fortunes change as the sailors womp the powerboaters. Reenergized, the crowd bunched along Second Street lifts a rhythmic "M - R - EEEEEE!" chant to the Republic's undefeated men's team, who wrench the day's second win from Annapolis' lesser men. Rookie tugger Bill Dolan, 46, steps away from the rope, a bit winded after helping win two back-to-back heats. "I'm too old to be doing this stuff," he claims.
Eastport's women pick up the line and score their first win ever, tying the score at three apiece. Marilyn Henderson, Eastport's Minister of Glamour Trash, stands proud while waving the Eastport flag above a sea of pumping fists. The clown on stilts walks taller.
The crowd soars. All that remains is The Final Showdown: coed Eastportoricans vs. coed Jaycees. Objectivity spoiled, I line up with Eastport in the second position for the tiebreaker. I posture, put on my game face, but there's no point in it: City Dock is obscured by the Chart House restaurant. In an instant, the battle is on. A stalemate. We start losing ground and the crowd's cheers grow deafening. We shift the momentum, start lunging backwards for the win. Our 1-2-3 rhythm is right on. One fan leans across the "crime scene do not cross" tape and bellows encouraging words into my ear. A leg cramps, then goes. Inches more done.
A raucous cheer explodes from the crowd. Just as quickly as they gathered, they dissipate. Rick Kennedy, the Maritime Republic of Eastport's Minister of War, wears a satisfied grin. Was he worried that the Jaycees nearly won bragging rights over Eastport? Perhaps not. "They've never won, so it's not an issue," he says. Then he issues a foreboding pledge to Annapolis loyalists. "We're going to change all the parking meters," he says, motioning toward City Dock in the distance. "You thought 25 cents an hour was expensive "
With yet another win in the bag, Eastport has now expanded its territory to City Dock and saved alderwoman Ellen Moyer from taking a dunk for the team in the final heat. Naturally, eyes are already on next year's prize.
Today, City Dock. Tomorrow the Naval Academy?
Do Clothes Make the Opera?
You treat yourself to a night at the opera, prepared for a powerful experience. The overture begins and the curtains open. But the tenor appears in a T-shirt, the soprano in sweats. What's wrong with this scenario?
Costumes ignite an opera. How can a duke be dashing in denim? Yet according to Doris Dunker, who has volunteered as a seamstress for the Annapolis Opera for more than 20 years, "costumes are often taken for granted."
There was no taking for granted Gilda's gown in Act I of the Annapolis Opera's production of Rigoletto Nov. 3 and 5. It was a striking concoction with a full floral skirt, an underskirt of lavender chiffon, puffy two-layered sleeves and a fitted bodice - not to mention an assortment of ribbons and trims.
This is a "fairly complex" costume explains its creator, Lorraine vom Saal, costume designer and coordinator for the Annapolis Opera. "It is boned under the bust and over the tummy, but has a smooth look and is not as restrictive as a corset." After all Gilda, the daughter of Rigoletto in Verdi's tragedy, must be able to breathe deeply and sing to the balcony.
Gilda's gorgeous confection is just one of nearly 50 costumes assembled for Rigoletto, including ball gowns, peasant dresses and a large number of male outfits. A few are rented and some are pulled from the Opera's permanent collection, but most are lovingly hand-stitched by Lorraine and her dedicated crew of four or five seamstresses. The nimble-fingered crew spend countless hours transforming bolts of cloth into elaborate costumes, usually working without patterns. The sewing goes on and on, right up to the last minute, sandwiched between fittings and major and minor alterations.
photo by Shirley Brewer
Annapolis Operas costume designer and coordinator Lorraine vom Saal.
"Can't talk now," said Dunker the afternoon of the dress rehearsal. "The lighting washes out the gown Countess Ceprano wears in the ball scene. She's supposed to stand out, and her dusty rose inset doesn't even show. I need to redo the top of the costume today."
During the two performances of the opera, seamstresses remained alert backstage, clutching needles and thread instead of programs, ready to repair a split sleeve or a torn hem during intermissions. The on-stage effect of this sewing frenzy appeared magical. The opera was a seamless blend of exquisite music and rich fabric. Gilda exuded charm in her purple gown. The countess captured the audience's attention, her bold low-cut bodice draped with shiny gold beads, more than a match for any set of lights.
Only when it was all over could Lorraine vom Saal afford a long, slow, well-deserved exhale, her first in nearly a year. Like a detective assigned to a high-priority case, vom Saal initiates her costume sleuthing months before a production. First she thoroughly researches the opera and consults with the director. Then she focuses her artistic intuition, making sketches and buying fabrics to create the mood of the opera. It's a huge task with a myriad of details: measure the cast (measurements that may change, sometimes significantly, before opening night); match costumes to seamstresses; sew costumes for the leads; distribute schedules of rehearsals and performances to her committee; supervise costume changes during rehearsals and opera performances.
When the opera is finally performed, the costumers' hard work is rewarded. "It's a very creative experience to see it all come together," said vom Saal backstage during Rigoletto's first intermission, her casual clothes a contrast to the elegant wrappings of the cast, her tape measure worn like a necklace. "It's like having a baby with 35 or 40 other people - cast and crew, our opera family."
Have a needle and a yen to volunteer? The Annapolis Opera would welcome your involvement and sewing skills. Call the opera office, 410/267-8135, and ask for the costumer.
Update: Deale Marketplace Marches On
"Bring on the bulldozers," crowed Deale Marketplace supporter Claire Mallicote as word spread through the deep south of Anne Arundel County that Safeway Inc.'s project had jumped another - perhaps its final - county hurdle.
That hurdle was consulting engineer Carl Gutschick's approving review of the plan's legality. His Montgomery County firm - Gutschick, Little & Weber - was called in by Anne Arundel County Executive Janet Owens in response to what she called "several controversial turns" in the project and the "toll taken on public confidence."
"I know this will not satisfy everyone, but it should allay any reasonable concerns that anyone may have had about the regulatory process," says Owens. "I am satisfied."
The runners in this race are slowly rounding the last turn, approaching the home stretch. Gutschick found no major discrepancies with the county code compliance. Owens is "satisfied" with the review. Now, Denis Canavan, county planning and zoning officer, says he will approve the site plan - possibly by the end of the week - conditional upon its reduction in size.
With the winter chill in the air, it might take time for the bulldozers Mallicote welcomes to warm up. Especially if Ron Wolfe of the Deale-Shady Side Small Area Planning Committee has his hand on the switch. "The county is still not dealing with the issues at hand," he said. "They can be sure that all interested parties will take this to court."
Gutschick, for his part, is "relieved" that the project is done. "There are already allegations that my work was merely an agreement with the county, when indeed it was an independent, level-headed review of what was legally required," he said. For 35 hours of work, he will earn about $5,250.
Safeway, meanwhile, is moving ahead, applying for grading and building permits from the county Department of Permits and Inspections.
Update: Pumpkins Fall Out of Delaware Skies
photo by Christopher Heagy
Punkin Chunkers, clockwise from left, Larry Webber, Sherry Booth, Mike Baldwin, Katrina Baldwin, Chris Shainoff and, in front, Jimmy Hyde.
The competitors came from all around: Illinois, Maine, Florida and even Annapolis. They came to the land of big machines, pumpkins, long heaves, canned beer and a man named Broaddog. They reached the crossroads of Hollyville and Harmony Cemetery roads in southern Delaware, stood on the line and tossed their pumpkins in the 2000 World Punkin Chunkin Championship.
On the weekend of November 3 to 5, 78 teams of chunkers were joined by 25,000 spectators for two days of launches and tailgates. In the end, the Big Ass Trophy, the world championship and the new world's record chunk went to Joe 'Wolfman' Thomas of Milton, Delaware. With his air cannon Old Glory, Wolfman sent his pumpkin flying 4,085 feet, breaking the record of 4,026 feet set in 1998.
Two area teams - Del's Destroyer and Feat's Don't Fail Me Now - chunked in this year's competition.
With a toss of 396.96 feet, Del's Destroyer took third place in the trebuchet - a wooden catapult powered by swinging weight - division.
"I only got one official toss this year, but I got about 20 practice tosses on Saturday," said Larry Webber of Del's Destroyer. "I learned a lot about my machine, but I could have gone farther. I only used four bars of lead. I still had two bars to use."
Feat's Don't Fail Me Now ran into some problems. On the team's first toss, the top third of their mast snapped off. Talking about his machine in this year's event, Jim Hyde said with chagrin, "We had some mechanical difficulties."
Most of their weekend was spent trying to hold things together and repair damage. Still, Hyde and Shainoff's official toss of 970.02 feet was the fifth longest in the 12-team catapult division.
Both teams plan on returning next year. As Jim Hyde says, "It was a learning experience. We just have to tweak a few things. Next year we're going down there to scare them boys. We know what we have to do to kick some butt."
Update: Living Outnumbered Ghosts at Point Lookout
Beginning as a pre-Halloween storytelling tour for a handful of campers the Point Lookout State Park Annual Ghost Walk has taken on a life of its own. As word spread, hundreds and eventually thousands flocked to the park seeking its ghostly stories.
"We're overwhelmed with the interest in this event," said Assistant Park Manager Ranger April Havens. as over 2,000 of the living descended on the spot long known for its human tragedies and unexplained sightings. [See "The Legends of Point Lookout," Vol. VIII. No. 42: Oct. 19-25.]
For this year's 10th Annual Ghost Walk, the park was up to the challenge. Tickets were sold in advance - and sold out - and tours scheduled every 30 minutes. Ghosts, too, cooperated, appearing in timely fashion.
Priming for the 45-minute Ghost Walk began at the main tent with documented stories and a slide show to set the mood. Civil War storytelling tours began near the edge of the Potomac. A blazing fire cast shadows of the Union gunboat USS Tulip that exploded in 1862 and claimed 57 lives. The blood-curdling screams of re-enactors' filled the night air.
At Fort Lincoln, Union Guards formed a firing squad - not to shoot a Confederate soldier, but one of their own. He was too sympathetic to the Southern prisoners, said the decree.
Along the path to the Civil War prison camp site, Camp Hoffman, ladies with white-hooped dresses and veils moved sobbing among the walkers. Young barefoot Confederate soldiers begged for food and shoes. Gravediggers asked for help as they prepared a hole for a huge pile of bones.
At the site of the Hammond Hospital, a soldier with a dangling arm crawled from the nearby tree-line. "Don't let them find me," he cried, "they'll cut off my hand." Inside the hospital, he screamed for mercy as his hand was indeed severed.
As the walking-tour ended, hot cider and games soothed some ghost walkers fresh from the haunts of Point Lookout. Others wanting more hopped aboard the Hay Ride, which took them on a 30-minute ride past the infamous Point Lookout, haunted lighthouse.
What with death, shipwrecks, torture, famine, disease, war and agony, ghost seekers had plenty of horrors to ponder on the long ride home from the point known as Lookout.
Way Downstream ...
In Japan, there's a run on a new energy booster: hornet saliva. The Japanese are flocking to health food stores to stock up since marathoner Naoko Takahashi said it was a key to her gold medal victory in the Summer Olympics in Sydney ...
In Woodland Park, Colo., the shooting death of a "friendly" elk named Squeak has stirred up the community. After the young elk charged some campers, authorities declared it a menace and ordered it destroyed. But locals who had rescued the elk when its mother was killed on a highway say Squeak was so gentle that it posed with kids for photos ...
In Wisconsin, folks in the town of New Haven are waging an anti-development fight against Perrier, the bottled water company. Over bratwursts at the town hall, about 50 people turned out last week to organize against Perrier's drive to sink two deep wells that pump 500 gallons of water from the earth every minute. Said bed-and-breakfast owner Anita Nelson: "Perrier has money power, but we have people power" ...
Our Creature Feature comes from Philadelphia, where an incident last month shows not only that pigs can fly, they go first class. The FAA is investigating how two women were able to get a 300-pound pig into the front of a US Airways plane for a flight to Seattle last month. The pet pig did fine for 3,000 miles, sleeping on the floor of the first-class cabin. But on landing, it began squealing loudly, charging the cockpit and then fouling the jetway.
Perhaps the porker ought to be penalized his frequent-flyer miles for such boorish behavior.