Beer, thefts and luck of the Irish

DAN RODRICKS

January 20, 1992|By Dan Rodricks

Three men, three stories . . .

Skip Kolaja, the talented Baltimore filmmaker, was on assignment in Dayton, Ohio, when he stopped for dinner at a cheap restaurant in a cheap hotel near the airport. "It was one of those restaurants with laminated, fully-washable menus," Kolaja said.

"What kind of beers do you have?" he asked the waitress.

"You mean all of them?" she snapped.

"Well, why don't you just list a few and when I hear something I like, I'll let you know."

"Oh, great," the waitress said, throwing her hands on her hips. "I can't think of anything I'd rather do. . . . Bud, Bud Lite, Bud Dry, Miller, Miller Lite . . . "

"Wait a minute," Kolaja said. "Do you have anything besides the usual dreck?"

"No," said the waitress. "We ain't got no Dreck Beer."

Some relatives gave Dave McElroy, artist and graphic designercoin from the Republic of Ireland. He put it in his pocket and, after a few days, he started to become superstitious about it. Business picked up nicely at his studio on Charles Street, and while rational men would have been inclined to attribute this to the normal ebb and flow of commerce, Dave McElroy was inclined to attribute it to the piece of Ireland in his pocket.

Last week, however, the presumedly lucky coin disappeared. "I'd been downtown the day before and parked at a meter," McElroy said. "When I discovered the coin missing, I figured I must have used it in the meter."

As superstitious as he'd felt when the coin brought him luck, McElroy now felt doomed -- as if losing the charm would bring nothing but trouble.

Next day, his secretary returned from her daily run to the corner coffee shop. She handed McElroy change for his soda and there, in the middle of his palm, was the shiny Irish coin.

Apparently, he'd given it to his secretary the day before when she went to the coffee shop. Remarkably, it came back -- without, mind you, a single prayer to St. Anthony -- and that made a true-believer of our Mr. McElroy. Born of Scottish blood, he's apt never to admit that again. Sons of Hibernia have themselves a potential convert.

Bob Kessler, Baltimore attorney and resident of Pikesville, awokthe day after Christmas to find his family van gone. Someone had stolen it. This had been a potential problem -- albeit a remote one -- for more than a month.

Several weeks earlier, Kessler's son had inadvertently left the keys in the van while he was visiting Pikesville Senior High. When he returned to the van, the keys were gone.

Now, it was the day after Christmas and the van was gone, too. Kessler called police.

Last week, Kessler took a call at his office from a client, a juvenile offender he had effectively represented several months

earlier.

"Mr. Kessler," the boy said, "I didn't know it was your van."

Unbelievable. One of his own clients had ripped Kessler off, though the boy apparently didn't know whose van it was at the time he stole it. Somehow, he put two and two together. In his call to Kessler, the boy was contrite and nervous.

"I wanted my van back," Kessler said. He picked the boy up at his home and followed his directions. The van was parked near Northwestern High School.

"I told him I was going to tell the police, and I thanked him for calling me up. I said that was a positive thing," Kessler recalled his conversation with the boy.

"I didn't get into a lot of moralizing. I just said that I hoped it would hit him that what he was doing was wrong, that, in this case of random theft, he had victimized someone who had once helped him. I don't know if it sank in."

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