Life in Glen Burnie turns like soap opera on paper

February 17, 1993|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writer

Peter is anemic, Chuck got a promotion, Chuck's sister had a baby boy, Christina wants a pink mermaid lunch box and Maggie wonders about those grease spots on the walls.

These are the tales of Glen Burnieland, a soap opera with real-life characters, a newsletter exaggerating the everyday world of Chuck Jones and his family.

Mr. Chuck, as he is known to his readers, calls it a "sitcom on paper." Indeed, with the family photos that accompany his tales, readers could get to know the Joneses the way TV viewers once knew Ozzie and Harriet and their brood.

The newsletter, 4 1/2 years old, is the family saga of Mr. Jones, 31, a native son of Glen Burnie who would move home if it weren't for his wife, known to readers as Ms. Maggie, who prefers Laurel. But they do visit.

In its pages -- usually 16 in each bimonthly issue -- Mr. Jones writes about a Halloween party, a vacation and overwhelming telephone bills in ways intended to amuse readers, poke fun at himself and universalize the experiences.

"Glen Burnie is like any other town," he says, which is why he named the newsletter Glen Burnieland. "No matter where I go, there's always a little bit of Glen Burnie in me."

That is why he depicts himself as a small-town bumbler who takes jabs at his hometown, as in: "The only things Glen Burnie has more of than bowling alleys are pool halls and body and fender shops."

If you think something like that would appeal only to Mr. Jones' closest friends and relatives, think again. About 300 people, who live everywhere from Harundale to Middlesex, England, subscribe to Glen Burnieland. Mr. Jones says he knows barely one-fourth of them, and estimates a pass-along readership of at least another thousand.

Dan McCleary, 27, of University Park has never met Chuck Jones, but says he can relate to the funny family experiences.

"I think it's amusing. For free, you don't expect too much," he said. "I take it to my office -- a bunch of people always want to take a look at it."

Even Mr. Jones' parents enjoy the newsletter.

"It's humorous for one, and it keeps us abreast of what he and his family are doing," says Charles Jones, the writer's father.

Mark Schatz of Glen Burnie, who has known the Jones family for many years, agrees. And he thinks the newsletter is so funny that he shares it with his friends and relatives -- some who remember "Mr. Chuck" from grade school and some who have no idea who they're reading about but laugh at the tales anyway.

Glen Burnieland is Mr. Jones' desktop publishing avocation. To support his hobby, Mr. Jones is a senior editor of Life Association News, a publication of the National Association of Life Underwriters.

The association allows Mr. Jones to use its word processor and make photocopies. But postage and paper are on him. And, as Mr. Jones will tell his following in the March-April issue, he could use a little money. Maybe a corporate sponsor, or contributions, or he might charge for subscriptions.

Mr. Jones' newsletter has its roots in disparaging remarks he made about Glen Burnie in a humor column in the Towson State University campus newspaper and his efforts to keep up with distant college chums after graduation in 1984.

When two friends compared identical letters he had written on a word processor, they became "real mad at me," Mr. Jones says, and one said, "What did I do to deserve to be on your mailing list?"

That got him to thinking, he recalls. If people knew it was a mailing list, and if he wrote stories in a funny way, readers might be amused instead of angry.

So, when his wife went to visit her family in her native Manila, a lonely Mr. Jones typed up a newsletter, named it for his hometown, and mailed it to 22 friends and relatives. The mailing list started to bloom after a friend said, "Would you mind sending a copy to my aunt in Ohio?" he says.

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