THE VAST majority of rockfish on this side of the continent were spawned in the Chesapeake Bay, and on a recent visit to Massachusetts I saw some of that progeny on their summer vacation. There's no way to be certain, but scientists tell us there's a 90 percent chance that the fish I saw were from the Chesapeake. So I think I'm safe. All of which provides a premise to describe a scene:
A tidal creek on Cape Cod, a serpentine stream in a wide, lush marsh. The wind has picked up at midmorning, and across the sand dunes you can see whitecaps on the ocean. There's a hard slap of waves at the mouth of the creek, which is pouring back into the ocean with the tide. When the tide is at its peak here, parts of this creek can be 30 feet deep. Now, at most, there's 4 feet of water, and a good current pulling it toward the ocean.
Birds hover two feet off the water. They're following something below them. "Stripers," says the New Englander with us, pronouncing it, of course, "stripe-uhs." Rockfish - that's what we call them - stay in this creek as long as the tide will allow, swimming against the current, gobbling sand eels, then slowly drifting back toward the ocean to wait offshore until the tide comes in again. A fisherman hooks one on an artificial lure. The fish is about 20 inches long. We all take a look, then take a picture, then release the fish.
All along the New England coast this summer, they're raving about the abundance of "stripe-uhs." All because we did the smart thing - a five-year fishing moratorium - to save rockfish. Let's hope we learn how to handle abundance this time.
Gary Huddles, one-time matinee idol councilman from Baltimore County, coulda been somebody. Instead, what's he get? A ticket to the federal penal institution in Goldsboro, N.C. (Do you suppose they have one of those Southern-style wardens down there? The kind of flinty, sardonic fellow who might greet you by saying, "Well, lookie now! What hay-uv we hee-yuh?")
We're not supposed to laugh at another man's misfortune. That's if you call a Maryland attorney and former elected official laundering money from a cocaine dealer a "misfortune." (Reminds me of the time Helen Delich Bentley referred to Spiro Agnew's wrongdoings as "misfortunes that came his way.")
His own attorney might wish to describe what Huddles did as "engaging in monetary transactions with criminally derived property." To which I say: Whatever. Last week, Huddles pleaded guilty to taking $840,000 from a drug dealer and one-time law client named Michael Luria, depositing the cash into his checking account and using it to pay personal expenses and to make investments and loans. Luria, who thought (incorrectly) that Huddles was investing the dirty money for him, turned on his lawyer-pal and blabbed to the feds.
In that it involved other people's money, the scenario has a familiar ring. (A pinky ring.) Hadn't Huddles borrowed money from Jeffrey Levitt, the big-time savings and loan swindler and now Florida cigar salesman? Oh yeah. You could look it up.
Huddles got a $60,000 unsecured loan during a time when, as a county councilman, he approved high-density zoning for land owned by Levitt companies. He didn't disclose the loan from Levitt; it was publicized after the 1985 savings and loan collapse. Huddles immediately repaid the loan and, despite a lengthy federal investigation, no charges were brought against him. But news of the Levitt dealings ended the councilman's political career. (Once upon a time, there had been talk of this guy running for county executive or Congress. He was likable, smart, shiny-bright.)
Then there was that margin-call business during the stock market dive of October 1987. Huddles had to cover investments, so he took $50,000 from his campaign fund. (Supporters had contributed the money just a year or two earlier, when they believed Huddles had a future in politics.) But he was smart enough to replace the money within a couple of years. He didn't steal it; he borrowed it. That's why he managed to beat a charge of theft in 1991. (In fact, he was found innocent without even putting on a defense. Later, Huddles distributed the thousands in the campaign fund to charity or returned it to contributors.)
So, he had a couple of close calls with the law. But as smart as he was, and as good as he was at landing on his feet, apparently Huddles didn't figure on a cocaine dealer turning on him one day. This time he got in too deep.
Now look at him: Two years in prison, followed by three years' probation, and he has to forfeit $586,500 to the federal government. He loses the right to vote and, not that it's an issue any longer, hold elected office. He'll probably be barred from the bar.
There's always cigar sales.
Bandits at the fair
You think the state of Delaware might be getting carried away with slot machines? Not only are they at race tracks in the Wee State, they're on the midway at the state fair in Harrington. (What was that about family values?) As a matter of fact, the slots facility is permanently installed on the fairgrounds now.
That makes Delaware's the only state fair in the nation with slots, though officials haven't exactly been bragging about the fact; they've done little advertising. Said Randy Hooker, publicity director of the fair: "We're somewhat concerned people will feel we're promoting slots." Perish the thought, my good man.
Pub Date: 7/30/97