Forget Sailing The Bay: It's A Schmoozer's Life For Me


Why Catch The Breeze When You Can Shoot It

September 23, 1990|By Phil Greenfield

Is life here in "Camelot-on-the-Bay" getting to you? Is excessive gridlock causing your milk of human kindness to curdle? You say you want to experience life in the fast lane,but the Route 50 construction has it blocked off.

Are you weary of local politicians who seem to talk nothing but trash --literally.

Have you started to feel that land--use decisions are being made by planners who should be begging for Parole,not designing it.

My friend,you need to relax a bit.A breather is in order,it's high time you cultivated the art of "schmoozing."

Schmooze: to shoot the breeze; to pass the time of day; to hang around and chat pleasantly in the desire to avoid additional aggravation.

Annapolis, you see, is a Newtonian kind of town. For every hair-tearing action, there is an equal and opposite place to schmooze.

This town's schmoozing headquarters may be found at the Annapolis Gourmet, a small bakery-sandwich shop in West Annapolis presided over by restaurateur/philosopher Gus Leanos, a charter member of the Schmoozer's Hall of Fame.

Anyone can toss a bagel into a toaster and count change, but Gus does much more. An amiable, hard-working fella who's seen it all, Gus is always happy to share his opinions on a variety of topics ranging from American automobiles (he's for them) to the ever-increasing volume of garbage (he's against it).

To Gus, you see, there are no strangers, only those with whom he's not yet shared his thoughts.

The schmoozing atmosphere extends to his customers as well.

On weekend mornings, several regulars congregate to drink coffee and talk over the pressing affairs of the day. Three distinguished old gentlemen sat on Gus's high-back chairs during one of my recent visits.

"All right," said one, "Pete Rose has been found guilty of tax evasion, but should his conviction keep him out of the Hall of Fame?" He continues, "I myself believe that I would vote him in. His baseball achievements are terrific and he belongs in Cooperstown. What do you fellas think?" One agrees.

Another expresses doubts. "Baseball is part character," he says. "I don't think I want him in there. Morality counts too."

Reasoned discourse. Rational men pondering the great questions in a rational way. The spirit of Jefferson is alive in West Annapolis. Tom McMillen seems like a decent guy, but some of the congressional yahoos he works with should come to Gus's and see how it's done. The country could only be the better for it.

Thankfully, there are other pockets of enlightened schmoozing in Annapolis.

The immortal Chick & Ruth's Deli is one. The corned beef is good, don't get me wrong, but it's the congenial schmoozing that really packs them in. Small talk, the personal touch and a bit of relaxed conversation go better with pastrami than Kosher dills and pumpernickel bread.

The Annapolis Record Exchange over in Bay Ridge is another schmoozing oasis; musically knowledgeable people who are happy to spend the time (when they have it) with an interested customer.

For younger kids and their parents, the Be Beep toy store at the City Dock is one of the great schmooze stops. Manager Barbara Smith is on hand to discuss children's books and demonstrate the latest merchandise. Such a pleasure.

The declining schmooze rate is, of course, the most alarming thing about the homogenization of downtown Annapolis into a sterile row of bland, overpriced chain stores. Are Banana Republic clerks really the sort of people whose opinions you'd want to seek out? I mean, once you've asked, "Err. . .What is there about these faded jeans that makes them worth 50 bucks," do you really want to stick around and hear the answer? I think the ultimate solution for our stressed-out little peninsula is a reform of our zoning policy. Only businesses that expressly cultivate relaxed, in-depth conversations should be allowed to locate here.

This may sound harsh, but I've always felt that extremism in the pursuit of schmoozing is no vice.

Phil Greenfield, who reviews classical music for the Anne Arundel County Sun when not out schmoozing, is ambivalent toward American automobiles and foursquare against garbage. He's also not too crazy about Pete Rose.

Phil Greenfield, who reviews classical music for the Anne Arundel County Sun when not out schmoozing, is ambivalent toward American automobiles and foursquare against garbage. He's also not too crazy about Pete Rose.

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