Volume XI, Issue 36 ~ September 4-10, 2003

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Dock of the Bay

Vacation’s over for Annapolis City Council
First fall session full of high-profile issues

Annapolis Alderman Michael Fox swears he’s not re-igniting the city’s infamous bar wars. It only looks that way.

“Most people think I’m out there wheeling and dealing,” Fox said about his efforts to pass an ordinance that amends the Ward One Sector Study to allow downtown brewpubs to apply for 2am liquor licenses. “But I’m not.”

Still, there’s little doubt Fox’s actions have instigated a political barroom brawl that’s sure to be a highlight of the city council’s fall agenda. Back in session on September 8 after a month-long recess, the council is staring down a full session of high-profile issues.

Fox, the Ward Seven representative, insists his labors on behalf of brewpubs have been misunderstood, and he has no intent to reopen the 1994 sector study or the hard-won compromise in it that restricted new downtown bars and restaurants to a midnight closing.

“None of this gives anybody anything. [Brewpub and bar owners] still need to go through another process” to get a 2am license, he said.

photo by Michael Kelley
But Greg Stiverson, president of Historic Annapolis Foundation, isn’t so sure. He thinks the bill’s passage could knock over the first domino in downtown Annapolis. “No doubt if [the city council] makes an exception, everyone and their brother will do something to try to get a 2am closing,” he said. “We don’t want downtown Annapolis to become another Georgetown.”

Fox has submitted the brewpub resolution three times since March, only to table it at the last minute each time. The council’s September 8 meeting will be his last opportunity to put the proposal forward.

“Let’s just vote on it up or down and move on,” he says.

Ward Six alderwoman Cynthia Carter’s bill to restrict the possession and sale of toy guns within city limits, meanwhile, seems to have avoided the local ire aimed at Fox’s efforts, but it did earn national attention from conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh. Not that Limbaugh dissuaded Carter, who sees it as both a public-safety and a moral issue.

“It’s unreal to think people would go out and buy a realistic-looking toy gun and tell their kids not to point it at people,” she explained.

Interestingly, Carter has pursued her bill without support from the Annapolis Police Department. That’s because the agency shuns taking official positions on legislation. But agency spokesman Harold Dalton said it’s a very rare occurrence when an officer is confronted by a kid wielding a toy gun.

Still, it’s a risk Carter says can’t be underestimated. “We can’t allow our officers, or our children, to be placed in situations where a misunderstanding could result in tragedy,” she says.

Council members will also learn in the coming weeks how much becoming owners of Thomas Point Lighthouse will cost. The council decided at its July 30 meeting to bid for the property, which is being sold by the federal government.

Under the proposal’s terms, the city would own the lighthouse but would lease it back to the U.S. Lighthouse Society, an organization that has many years experience renovating and maintaining aging lighthouses. Annapolis City Administrator Bob Agee says chances are good the city’s offer will be accepted. The lighthouse society says it plans to exploit the building’s value as a destination through boat tours, events and meetings.

Lighthouse ownership enjoyed broad support with the council. However, some members still stand against the action. Ward One Alderwoman Louise Hammond has questions about access and maintenance costs.

“Liability is a big concern for me,” she said. “There are just too many unknowns and the city has been unable to provide the answers.”

Agee expects to present a detailed lease agreement to the council by late September or early October. He said the lighthouse is in very good condition and that no major renovations are needed. Annual maintenance costs are around $5,000, Agee estimates, and the city has already received gifts totaling $15,000 to contribute to the cause.

At 43 feet high, Thomas Point Lighthouse is the tallest issue waiting for the Annapolis City Council on its fall return to business.

— Gary Starikoff

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If There’s Thunder, There’s Lightning
Watch out, or Thor’s magic might get you

Thor the thunderer tossed lightning bolts at his enemies, according to Scandinavian mythology. Not a nice guy. In earlier Greek times lightning was believed to be the sword of Zeus. Lightning has also been seen as the magic fire in the sky that kept the savage animals away.

It took Benjamin Franklin — inspired by a Dr. Spence’s traveling “electric magic” show — to conclude that lightning was electricity.

In recent weeks, Chesapeake Country has been under bombardment by thunderbolts.

photo by Eric Smith
Lightning struck this walnut tree and spiraled down to the ground, splintering bark and wood.
We’re in the midst of the prime season for thunderstorms, which runs from April through October according to NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. There can be up to 1,800 thunderstorms around the world at any given moment. This adds up to approximately 16 million storms each year. And where there’s a thunderstorm, there is lightning.

A thunderstorm forms when air has three main elements: moisture, instability and a cold front to cause the air to rise. As the storm builds and the cloud moves six to 10 miles above sea level, ice forms in the higher end of the cloud. To have lightning, you must have ice.

As the cloud builds, large and small ice particles form as the storm rises and falls in the atmosphere. The larger ice particles are known as hail. As they build and bump around within the cloud, they come in contact with each other, sparking an electrical charge. The positive ice particles rise to the top of the cloud, and the hail, or negatively charged ice particles, fall to the middle and bottom. Electrical charges start to develop between the two.

The negatively charged ice particles at the bottom of the cloud send to the ground a signal that is invisible to the naked eye. This signal is called a “stepped leader.” As the stepped leader moves along, it’s attracted to the positive-charged objects on the ground like you and me, a house or a tree. To reach one of those objects, a channel develops. The electrical transfer in this channel is called lightning. It strikes fast and quick with little if any warning — and no apparent logic.

In a storm last week, lightning found its way to a tree in the Chesapeake Country neighborhood of Fairhaven. “It struck my walnut tree at the top and spiraled down to the ground, sending off monster splinters that flew hundreds of feet from the tree,” said Scott Smith. “A much larger sycamore tree that towers above it was not touched.”

Not all lightning develops at the bottom of the cloud through the negative current. Cirrus anvil lightning can form at the top of the cloud.

“Lightning from the anvil can be very dangerous,” says NOAA’s Steve Zubrick. “Because the top of the cloud can be wider and larger than the rain core, lightning from this part of the cloud can strike as far away as five to 10 miles. When you hear thunder and you see lightning, but it seems in the distance, this is the anvil. It is actually closer than people think,” says Zubrick.

Lightning is most common in storms but it has also been detected in large hurricanes, extreme forest fires, volcanic activity and surface nuclear detonation.

To avoid the fate of Smith’s walnut tree, remember that where there is thunder, there is lightning. Seek shelter immediately. Dark clouds and increasing winds should also set you seeking shelter. But even blue skies can bring lightning, for lightning can travel as far as 10 miles away from the rain core and strike in clear skies. Again, thunder is the warning.

Lightning seeks the highest point. If you cannot find shelter, get flat on the ground lest Thor strike you down with his electric magic.

— Kimberly Goode

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Statues Grow at Solomons’ Annmarie Garden
Exotic abstractions from the Hirshhorn join native favorites

City-cousin Hirshhorn, a Smithsonian indoor and outdoor museum, is paying a visit to county-cousin Annmarie Garden. Sculpture, big sculpture, is the family tie that unites Washington’s premiere collection of abstract art and Calvert County’s garden of sculpture. Having discovered their kinship, the two are getting together. This month and last, seven Hirshhorns have come to stay. Over the next two years, six more will join the family in Solomons.

“Some folks will come to Annmarie and suddenly think ‘I’ve got to get up to see more at the Hirshhorn,’” says garden director Stacey Hann-Ruff. “Others may be coming down from D.C. or Baltimore to see art that’s only viewable here.”

In mid-August, the three thin red arms of the first sculpture loaned by the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum picked up the breeze in an Annmarie field. Literally. The 30-foot arms pivot from a point close to the ground, moving across the sky as the wind strikes them. At one point the lines resemble a skipjack sail and at another up-stretched needles while at still another they seem to be reaching out to pick up space sounds.

George Rickey, the sculptor, discovered his fascination with the movement of objects through air as he worked on weapon ballistics during World War II. The result, in Three Red Lines, is an artwork that can speak to all sorts of people and ages. It weighs 3,500 pounds, but its movement is delicate, its appearance from a distance almost fragile. That’s a paradox that Rickey intended.

Outdoors is where it belongs. Falling October leaves will float through its arms; winter winds will whirl snow through the arms.

On August 26, two more sculptures traveled into the Annmarie field. Circular Reflection, by Yehiel Shemi, is due for some sand-blasting with walnut shells to clean off its rust. Clean or dirty, the metal is pierced by a hole that draws the eye as it frames the changing lines of trees beyond.

Shifting the way you see the world is one power of art, explains Hann-Ruff.

The third sculpture, titled only Six, #2, is a silver work of “tensegrity,” a word made up by its maker, Kenneth Snelson. It’s about the tension that holds this object — and all life — together. As you look at it you might ask what exactly keeps the lines of its shape in place? Provoked a step further, you might ask yourself what, given all the forces interacting in your life, keeps you together? The subject is integrity in tension. Abstract, yes. But as real as you.

Four more sculptures are on their way from Washington in early September. Then in 2004, six more will join the first seven. Some will settle near Annmarie’s wooded walkway that already leads to odd statues in garden alcoves. Others will join the first three in the field. Still others will settle in newly cleared woods.

The result is a most unlikely Calvert County destination. Indeed, it’s unlike anything you’ve likely seen before. On the one hand, it’s woods and fields where you’re invited to go walking or biking. On the other, it’s a world-class museum where art lives outdoors. Some of the art you’ll recognize, like The Oyster Tonger, an oversized representation of a Bay oysterman at work. Sure, that’s a statue, you’ll say. Other art will make you laugh, like the inspired mosaics in the men’s and women’s restrooms.

Another oddity: Now the sculpture of internationally known artists shares the same 30 acres with sculpture by local artists and school children. Expect to see Girl with Braids as well as abstract art. Learn about local plants as you look at the mosaics on cement benches, sit in the Council Circle and walk up the wood sculpture that takes you into the treetops.

See for yourself at Annmarie Garden, 13480 Dowell Road (just north of Solomons) 10am to 4pm daily and free: 410/326-4640 • www.annmariegarden.org.

— Sara Ebenreck

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Air Force One Took Flight in Shady Side
White House correspondent Ken Walsh brings his new book back home

Pennsylvania Avenue is a tributary running down from its source in Washington, D.C. Like any tributary, the mighty avenue shifts its weight downriver.

Which is how journalism heavy-hitter Ken Walsh turned up in Shady Side, riding the jet stream of Air Force One.

How as well many of the company who crowded into the Captain Salem Avery House Museum to hear his stories of the flying White House had stories of their own to add.

Walsh, chief White House correspondent for U.S. News and World Report, is flying high this summer on the success of his new book, Air Force One: a History of the Presidents and Their Planes.

Reading to Shady Siders is a homecoming for Walsh, so much so that his 78-year-old mother, Gloria, has flown in from South Carolina. The 56-year-old reporter and his wife, Barclay, own a weekend home in the old vacation community, and the book lifted off over brunch with Dealite Marlin Fitzwater, who presided over many presidential press briefings Walsh covered.

It’s a warm reception on a hot night. Walsh’s tales of how a dozen presidents have staged history against the backdrop of Air Force One keep the sell-out audience rapt. They stir the thick air with old-fashioned paper fans as slides brighten the dark.

Franklin Roosevelt was the first president to fly. In January of 1943, the first Air Force One, a Pan-Am Dixie Clipper flying boat, flew him by stealth to meet Winston Churchill in Casablanca to plan the long-range Allied campaign in Europe. The historic trip took 42 hours each way.

For the 60 years since, Walsh says, “Air Force One has expanded the reach and power of the presidency.”

Air Force One, by the way, is many planes. The designation shifts from plane to plane with the president.

Walsh’s own career on Air Force One has spanned more than 200 trips. In writing the book, he interviewed five presidents and scores of officials and crew. The result is an insider’s story, rich with tales and written in the same chatty, factual style that Walsh uses to charm his audience.

For all the presidents, Air Force One was a powerful prop for, Walsh says, “bringing the American message and vision around the world.”

None used it more dramatically than John Kennedy. His redesign — under the direction of Jacqueline Kennedy, who chose the blue and white color scheme we know today — added the bold legend United States of America across the fuselage. “The aircraft told everyone we’re a world power,” U.S. Air Force Museum historian Jeffery Underwood told Walsh.

But the indelible image of Air Force One reminds us of Kennedy’s death, not his life.

On the same Air Force One flight that returned the assassinated president’s body from Dallas to Washington, Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as president. We’ve all seen the photo: Johnson with one hand raised and one on the Bible, flanked by two stunned women, his wife and Jacqueline Kennedy.

Among Walsh’s audience four decades later are those who remember other chapters of the Kennedy-Johnson story.

One is Peg Burroughs of West River. In the hum after Walsh has spoken, she recounts how her late husband, Associated Press photographer Hank Burroughs, was on hand outside Air Force One to catch, literally, the roll of film tossed out by his United Press International counterpart. That spontaneous collaboration transmitted to the world the first image of the transfer of power.

Another is Dean Hall, tonight’s projectionist and an American Airlines flight engineer retired to West River. Back in the Kennedy-Johnson days, Hall says, Air Force One’s crew was contracted from American Airlines.

“We’d been flying Kennedy, who always took pains to keep us briefed,” Hall recalls. “On the first flight under Johnson, he left us sitting all day on the tarmac. I quit under Johnson. The whole crew refused to fly with him again, and American lost the contract.”

Yes, Chesapeake Country is downstream of Washington, and a rich silt of stories gathers here.


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Way Downstream…

In Chestertown, authorities thought they had a massive fish kill when they discovered over 2,000 dead menhaden in Langford Creek off of the Chester River recently. Turns out something was fishy about the prognosis: two unidentified men, unable to sell the fish as bait, had dumped them overboard. Because of the mass, the men may be charged with polluting the waters, the Star Democrat reported…

In Virginia, folks in Eastville seem to be welcoming a wind farm off the Eastern Shore judging by reports from a public hearing last week. Some 150 400-foot-high turbines would be planted in the ocean. In Massachusetts, however, local communities are fighting a similar plan by the same company, New York-based Winergy

Our Creature Feature comes from Australia, where a British family experienced a frightening end to their sailing vacation after a close encounter with nature. But they’ve got a dandy of a tale.

Trevor Johnson and his family were enjoying a blissful cruise 10 miles offshore when a 30-foot humpback whale leapt out of the water and landed on top of the boat.

The 10-ton creature destroyed the mast, the rigging and a lot more — but the boat didn’t sink and Johnson was able to use his cell phone to arrange a tow. “I was below deck when there was a hell of a crash from port as it leapt out of nowhere,” Johnson told The Daily Telegraph of London. “It was a terrifying experience.”

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Last updated September 4, 2003 @ 2:17am