Haunting encounter with a desperate, grateful panhandler


January 25, 1995|By DAN RODRICKS

All the way home, and through the night, and into the next day, Steve Tancredi thought about his encounter with the homeless guy in the red hat, the one from Pratt Street; he was different from the other panhandlers around the Inner Harbor. The red hat had approached as Tancredi, in a coat and tie, stepped out of his office, around 8 o'clock at night.

"He seemed a little more desperate, a little more needy than the other guys you see on the street, but not threatening," Tancredi says. The homeless man looked to be in his 40s. He wore a dirty topcoat and pants. He'd filled two plastic bags with clothes, tied them together and slung them over his shoulder. He leaned on a wooden cane and walked with a limp. "I guess I talked with him for 20 minutes, I don't know why," Tancredi says. "There was something about him. He said he had lost everything, that he had a couple of daughters somewhere. He told me about his religious beliefs and how they had helped him. I don't consider myself a particularly religious person, but I find people's faith an interesting thing, so I listened. He spoke of God, and how, whenever he had needed something on the street, he got it. He believed God works through people. At one point he asked me why I was showing him kindness; I guess he wasn't used to it. I gave him some money, but he thanked me even before that. It was as if, just by listening, I had validated him as a person. You know? He said we should keep each other in our prayers. I'd like to do more for him, would like to know where to find him. He said his name was Milton."

Their favorite alum

In "My Favorite Year," a funny 1982 film directed by Richard Benjamin, Joseph Bologna plays a big-time, cigar-chomping, hot-headed Sid Caesar-ish TV star with a live comedy show. He's all the time telling secretaries and stage hands: "Here, write down your address. I'm gonna send ya some steaks." Or some shirts. Or some whitewalls. It's a fabulous role -- the sugar daddy who shares his sugar.

It appears that three such men and one woman -- a sugar mama? -- did Annapolis Friday night. They bought $3,500 worth of clothing at Britches Great Outdoors, went next door to ZTC Riordan's Saloon and gave away 17 rugby shirts with patriotic pattern to midshipmen there. The shirts cost $60 each. Britches manager Reed Holt went around the saloon taking Mids' sizes and handing out shirts accordingly. After Holt got off work, the big-spenders treated him to some Stoli at the bar. They also bought a $100 ski jacket for their waitress.

It turns out the head sugar daddy was a graduate of the Naval Academy, Class of '54 (the year, coincidentally, in which "My Favorite Year" was set). He came to Annapolis from Houston with three top executives of his metals distribution company. They were in town for the Army-Navy basketball game. This was the group's sixth annual Annapolis trip; each time they've given gifts of some sort to midshipmen they've never met. The head of the metals company, who financed the adventure, prefers to remain anonymous. "You know the thing about it all?" says Holt. "They didn't even care what the prices were." Hey, if you gotta ask. . .

767 jobs, Mr. Mayor

So what was the mayor of Baltimore supposed to do to keep USF&G from moving 767 jobs out of its downtown tower when he found out about the possibility two -- two -- years ago? I'm not exactly sure, but I know one thing: Throwing up your hands and calling the move inevitable was a sorry option. Unfortunately, it's the one the mayor chose. Nice man, that Kurt Schmoke, but here's another example of his unwillingness -- or inability -- to fight the fight. William Donald Schaefer would not have let this happen without one.

Ouch, Mr. Councilman

The mayor didn't even ask the Baltimore Development Corp. to get involved in lobbying USF&G to stay put. That figures, according to City Councilman Martin O'Malley, who Monday night referred to the BDC as a "quasi-private, quasi-public, quasi-independent, quasi-ineffective" agency.

To the tower, again

I think I know why two different plaques give two different heights for the Shot Tower, on Fayette Street. One measurement (215 feet) is the height from the sidewalk to the crown. The other (234 feet) includes the depth of the tower's foundation. In other words: Outside measure and inside measure. Dean Krimmel, curator of local history for the City Life Museums, also says that, since the tower's construction in 1828, six different heights have shown up in various news stories, books and travel guides. But, he says, a survey in 1979 by the city made the best case for 215/234. Thanks to TJI reader Brian Sokolow for bringing this matter to our attention. I hope he can get some sleep now.

Judgment days

So now I know why I'm having such a negative reaction to the prospect of serving on a jury for a month in Baltimore Circuit Court. I wouldn't get to watch the O.J. trial.

Shamed at last

"Dear Dan,

"Now that Governor Schaefer is out of office who are you going to pick on? God knows you picked that man to pieces. You better go to church and ask the Lord to forgive you your own faults."

Yes, mother.

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