Just Another Day at the Beach
photo by Bill Lambrecht
Sunscreen might have been appropriate as a record 1,860 people turned up at Sandy Point State Park Sunday, January 27, on a very un-January-like day. With clear, sunny skies and temperatures in the upper 50s, the atmosphere at the Sixth Annual Polar Bear Plunge was more like a summer festival or a day at the beach.
And for many it was a day at the beach, as shirtless men and women in bikinis joined in what began as a stunt for the Maryland State Police to raise money for Special Olympics Maryland. Law enforcement agencies and fire fighters from around Maryland joined the troopers, and celebrities like Baltimore Ravens defensive end Michael McCrary, a long-time Plunger, helped bring in more participants each year. This year, perhaps drawn by the weather, the Polar Plunge was a family affair, attracting a record crowd of fathers and sons, mothers and daughters holding hands as they tip-toed or ran into the Bays winter waters.
It didnt seem as cold this year, said Bay Weekly writer Christopher Heagy, who joined me in the Plunge for the third year running. I even stayed in a little longer.
True, of the four Plunges Ive joined, this was by far the warmest day. Peaking at 58 degrees, the air made it feel like Indian summer, especially compared to January 2000, when Heagy and I plunged on a day when snow covered the beach and the mercury hit a high of 25 degrees. That same day, the water temperature hovered around 32 degrees; this year, the water was a balmy 38 degrees. Above water, six degrees can make the difference between rain and snow, a pleasant picnic or a chilly, rushed meal. Six degrees in Chesapeake Bay which because of its salinity doesnt freeze until around 29 degrees is still cold.
In years past, the cold air worked to anesthetize the skin; the 30 minutes or so Plunge organizers took corralling us all onto the beach for a group picture numbed our bodies against the shock about to come. There was none of that this year, and for me the warm air added a false sense of security.
First step in isnt so bad, as bony feet have fewer nerves to register pain. But Im not a thin person, and the farther I wade into the Bay, the more skin there is to absorb the waters cold, icy chill. By the time I reach waist-deep, my breath comes in short, focused bursts as if I were bench-pressing a heavy weight. Ahead of me, closer it seems this year than in years past, are the wet-suited rescue personnel. Also I see a few hardy or foolish men bobbing with the waves as though they were cooling off under the summer sun.
Not so for me. Its time for me to earn the I pledges Ive collected from friends and colleagues, and like many plungers, I ignore the warning against diving under water.
As the not-freezing water tops my skull, I feel brain freeze akin to too quickly slurping a slushy drink. From there, my body kicks in, running on auto-pilot, carrying me forward out of the winter waters.
For six years straight, the Polar Plunge has raised a little more money than the year before. This years Plunge raised $401,000, beating last years record of $315,000 and bringing the total raised for Special Olympics Maryland to more than $1 million.
Thats another record we set, crowed first-time plunger Chris Foran, an Anne Arundel County corrections officer.
Special Olympics uses the money to help with its ongoing training of 8,000-plus mentally challenged athletes as well as with the states Special Olympics competitions.
J. Alex Knoll
New Dining Cove in Chesapeake Beach
When Shakespeare wanted to make a poem about how quickly we come and go, his metaphor was waves making toward the pebbled shore. A Shakespeare descendant to the 22nd power might make restaurants the metaphor.
Gone in Chesapeake Beach is Lagoons, where John and Ann Remy invited a younger crowd to spice up their lives with Caribbean cuisine and drown their cares in margaritas and loud music.
Come, into Lagoons old space at 8416 Bayside Road, is Beach Cove. Starting Friday, February 1, owners Theresa King and Glenn James invite a 30-plus crowd to relax in cozy comfort over dinners of fresh fish or prime steak cut to order. Weekend music, King promises, wont drown out conversation.
Painted over is Lagoons mural of bikini-clad bathers on a tropical beach. Covering it is Beachs Coves own mural of local lighthouses, as well as fishes in an aquarium and sharks teeth in sand boxes.
Like as the waves make toward the pebbled shore
Were quite different from Lagoons, says King, a Chesapeake Country native and first-time restaurateur. I think there is a niche here for people to come and be comfortable.
Both partners are new to the business. King, a developer of computer software and networks, commuted to New York until September 11. After losing our office, travel became burdensome, so I decided to stay home and do something fun, she says.
But she can rely on partner Glenn James to tell if the fish is fresh, as he runs the charter boat Bounty Hunter out of Rod n Reel.
As the pair counts down the hours to opening night, theyre sweating in fear, King says, of being slammed with too much positive response.
We should all have such fears.
Eek! Thats Eel Youre Eating
|Chef Anna Maria DeGennaro demonstrates her techniques for cooking Chesapeake eel and Bay oysters.
photo by Sandra Martin
Not all diners cleaned their plates at Chesapeake Biological Labs inaugural Savor the Bay dinner at DiGiovannis in Solomons this week. While 40 of the 42 happily, indeed greedily, supped, one young couple watched in horror.
What put the chill on their appetite was not the winter lights on Solomons harbor; not the skillet-flipping artistry of Venetian-born Chef Anna Maria DeGennaro; not even the elven pop quiz posed by marine biologist David Secor. The problem was the creatures on their plates.
If youre not an oyster lover, even the cream in Chef Anna Marias velvety oyster artichoke soup wont disguise the fact that there are mollusks lurking at the bottom of your bowl. Worse, in the next course the bivalves some living, some dead were looking back at you.
Worst, the main course was slippery, slimy eel. No matter how savory and sweet DeGennaro made it, there were two sets of lips eel never touched.
Which reunited the two to the 42. For citizenship in Chesapeake Country requires an eel story. For all of us who live alongside a Bay thats the nations biggest producer of eels where a million are caught annually encountering an eel is a rite of passage. Now the couple had their eel story: Theyd seen 40 people actually eating the things!
Thus for all present, the inaugural dinner scored. So does the new series. The second dinner, at Lighthouse Inn on February 27, is sold out. Reservations are going fast for the final dinner in the first years series, March 27, at Maryland Way Restaurant. $35: 410/326-7356.
Way Downstream ...
In Baltimore, residents received the dry sort of news that more Marylanders may be getting soon if it doesnt rain buckets. Officials said that with water stores depleted, they were preparing to tap the Susquehanna River and warned that strict water-use restrictions might be issued
In Delaware, it takes a state permit to have a Nile monitor lizard as a pet. An incident last week suggested why: Several of the lizards, which can grow to six feet long, were found gnawing on the corpse of their owner in his Dover apartment, according to the Associated Press. The cause of death of the man, 42, was not determined, but there are suspicions
In Washington state, lawmakers have exempted the new Segway scooter from many motor-vehicle laws. In other words, people can ride the gyroscope-stabilized, two-wheel scooters up to 25 mph on sidewalks and streets without fear of getting speeding tickets
In Bath, England, a 1632 book published by Capt. John Smith, who explored Chesapeake Bay, was sold at auction last week for $48,800. Pocahontas would have been pleased
Our Creature Feature comes from Australia, where commuters riding a train near Sydney were 40 minutes late for work last week after a crash with a kangaroo. It was another kangaroo tale that is trying the patience of Australia toward the leaping marsupials.
Remember that full-grown kangaroos stand seven feet tall and weigh 150 pounds. Like deer in Maryland, they pose a constant hazard to motorists. Thats why so many vehicles down under have roo bars reinforcing their bumpers. So angry are Australians that the government authorized a 6.9 million kangaroo cull meaning kill by hunters this year. Animal rights advocates even those who were late to work are upset.