The other morning, when Hank Albarelli mentioned how he found washing machine parts inside the old Superba Theater, a Baltimore street scene flashed back from memory: Two keg-bellied guys in T-shirts, forearms raised and pressed against the door frames, smoking cigarettes, looking tired and bloated, waiting in the sunshine of a Pigtown day for business to roll in. There were a couple of skinny guys who worked for the heavy guys, and the skinny guys, in tank tops, were pushing reconditioned washers and dryers on hand trucks. It was a busy place, a purgatory for major appliances, right there on Washington Boulevard. That's how I remember it, anyway.
Never in all that time spent in Pigtown -- I refuse to call that neighborhood Washington Village -- did I look up to see the word, "Superba" in the facade of the pale-yellow brick front. The Superba was one of those neighborhood "motion picture parlors" that once flourished. It opened in 1910, closed in 1935.
Since then, it had other uses but the one I remember, through the 1980s, was the washing machine repair shop. Hank Albarelli got into the act only within the last year or so, after his wife's development company, IDS Group Inc., bought the place. In fact, IDS took a big chunk of the block, five buildings altogether along Washington Boulevard. "We found washing machine parts all over the place," Albarelli tells me, with the smell of new carpet in the air around him. The Superba is office space now -- clean, well-lighted office space on two floors. Next door, where an institutional laundry used to be, is an appealing new theater that will seat 150 -- the Playwrights Theatre of Baltimore, which Albarelli describes as a "professional, community-based theater."
He and his associates want to present new works by emerging and established playwrights, and charge $45 total for the inaugural season of four plays. The PTB opens March 23 with the premier of "Life Go Boom!" by a local playwright, Alonzo D. Lamont Jr., whose earlier works have never been produced in Baltimore.
Hank Albarelli and his wife, Kathleen McDonald, are the kind of people Baltimore is lucky to have -- urban recyclers, interested in community, interested in kids. They talk of opening a children's theater in the future. There's room for that, after all -- either in the two old buildings at the west end of the development or, at the east end, in an empty building that once was a library that once was a firehouse.
One other thing: The paintings in the PTB lobby are worth a look. They are the work of an artist named Michael Garcia and remind me of some of the memorable faces of Pigtown. I like the one
called, "Bruno Loves Danger," and the one showing an old man with a goldfish. I don't know if the paintings are for sale, but they ought to be.
Time again for malaprops
Co-workers of Frank Barranco, a longtime WJZ-TV videographer, and Matt Gurczynski, a general supervisor with the Gladwynne Construction Co., have been collecting their slips-of-the-tongue, and the time has come to share the treasure.
When Gurczynski, a popular guy in South Baltimore, fractures the language, it's known as a "Gurczoot." His boss, Tom Behrle, and Behrle's wife, Colleen Barrett, passed some of their favorite Gurczoots along.
Why he doesn't use sun-block: "I don't peel, I just flake."
On hunger pangs: "I've got an anchorin' for crabs."
On the inevitability of certain consequences: "What comes back goes around."
Advice to co-worker: "Do it immediately, not when your convenience is up."
On his contemplative side: "Just call me Mr. Noggin."
"It's not the size of the lie, it's the thought of it. . .. I'm just talking out loud. . . . Just like a word in the dark. . . . People's mouths are like houses' smokestacks."
"Indeed," adds Colleen Barrett. "Can you forgive us for wondering what's been burning in Matt's fireplace?"
Now, Frank Barranco; he's the man. Great guy. Funny guy. Always with the video camera and the TV squad car and the fast-breaking news stories. According to Judy Aleksalza, video editor at Channel 13, she and George Bauman, the veteran reporter, have been listening for and chronicling Barranco's malaprops for many years. They call them Barrancoisms:
On why Italian men eat figs: "It makes them viral."
On his desires: "I'd give a thousand dollars to be a millionaire."
Advice to the young: "Two birds in a bush are worth a stone."
On a prospective reporter: "He'd make a welcome added addition."
Barrancoism for Group W: "The mother company."
Pointing to farmers: "Look at those country pumpkins."
On running out of videotape: "We're down to the very last end."
Advice to the young: "You only die once."
After working a story: "We covered it from start to scratch."
Preparing to videotape the funeral of a celebrity: "I'll stand down here in case I see some notorieties."
Getting out of the car: "I'm gonna stop here for a second; I'll be back in a minute."
Barroom observations: "He looks like death hung over" and "He was so drunk, he was three sails in the sunset."
Reading an astrological journal: "This book has me down to a pat."
After a tiff: "I was so mad I was vivid."
On Beverly Burke: "She always dresses so nice, she looks so eloquent."