Heroes who cry, carry on, give us hope


September 17, 1997|By DAN RODRICKS

I heard his voice on the telephone, a nervous sigh that became a whimper that became a full-fledged, gasping sob. I had never heard my good friend Louie cry before. Honest. I thought back to the weddings and funerals we'd attended together - prime time for even male tears - and could not recall Louie crying. Not like that. It frightened me. "Cancer," he said in a quivering, almost breathless whisper because his wife was in the next room and she did not know yet.

That was two years ago. Louie is still with us. He's been tough about the cancer, following doctor's orders with an Olympian's discipline. I have never seen him disappear into a room to avoid contact with friends or family. If he drops into depression, he neither shows it nor talks about it. In fact, he's still the life of the party. He smiles as he pours the wine. His hugs and handshakes are more passionate than ever.

If there were an occasion for it, we would accord Louie the same standing ovation Baltimore gave Eric Davis at Oriole Park.

I think that's what all the applause is for - not just for Davis, who reached a state of grace when he trotted into sun-splashed right field Monday afternoon, but for Louie and all those people we know, and don't know, who face and defy a killer. That applause was thanks for hope. All of us can connect to this baseball player now in a way that probably would be otherwise impossible.

We think of professional athletes as bigger-than-life celebrities, untouchables, millionaire brats isolated from the real world. We don't think of them as mere men, susceptible to all the things that afflict the rest of us - the fears, frustrations and pains that stem from family problems, personal and emotional conflict, even illness.

With their superb-looking bodies, male athletes, in particular, appear immune from the things that get the rest of us.

But here's Eric Davis, back to earth, down to earth, leading by being.

I say Baltimore is blessed to have his example. These days, I frequently decide what's important based on how it sounds to my kids. Eric Davis is a true hero, I tell them, because he's a man who defies a disease that we all fear, and he runs out to play baseball and to give us hope. Our good friend Louie has done the same thing. Hats off to both of them. Hats off to all who cry and go on.

Albino slug census: 2

Ken Freeland, the man who discovered Ollie the Albino Slug on his front walk in Lansdowne a few weeks ago, says he found another one last week. Amazing, considering how rare albinism is said to be among invertebrates.

Freeland did with Ollie II what he had done with Original Ollie this summer: He put the white gastropod into a container and called Randy Morgan, associate curator of entomology at the Cincinnati Zoo.

(If you recall, the Cincy Zoo is where Ollie died - he might have been murdered by other slugs - while awaiting a big rollout news conference announcing the zoo's new exhibit of Freeland's discovery. See TJI, Aug. 29.)

Morgan was on vacation, due back in two weeks. So Freeland decided to release Ollie II in his front yard.

What if Morgan calls to express interest in having the slug in Cincinnati? No problem. Freeland says he'll conduct a slug hunt. The white ones aren't hard to find.

You want fries with that?

Tommy Shanks, our friend from Melonville, was in the #F Baltimore area recently and came upon a female panhandler while waiting in line at a fast-food drive-through on York Road.

"It's a rare occasion that I give in," Tommy reports. "But I thought she 'deserved a break today.'"

Tommy rolled down his car window and handed the woman $1.50. "That should be enough to get a burger and a Coke," he said, then drove ahead.

Seconds later, he noticed that the woman was still hitting on drivers for money. He suspected she was accumulating cash for a bottle of fire water.

"Hey!" he yelled out the car window, "I thought you were going to buy something to eat!"

And the woman looked and snapped: "I need to get more money for a Value Meal."

Tommy Shanks shook his head and rolled the window up. "It was high time to leave Baltimore," he says, "a place where beggars can be choosers."

An inmate looks out

An inmate describes his view from a fifth-floor window at the Maryland Reception, Diagnostic & Classification Center, Madison Street:

"To my left stretches Greenmount Avenue in the pre-dawn darkness. I count four intersections that I can see before the street veers from sight. Four red lights, then four green lights. They turn from red to green simultaneously. I watch this for several cycles, awed by it. I sit, rapt, for half an hour, hypnotized by the meager elegance of this dance of red, yellow and green.

"Then, a faint glow arises on the eastern horizon, and the city rTC begins to have shape and form again, a gray mass becomes a living thing. The sky behind the Johns Hopkins complex burns orange, then gold and blue. My breath stops as the first edge of sun appears, and its rays strike the gray walls of the penitentiary. 'My God,' I say to myself, 'is this the first sunrise I've ever seen?'"

Pub Date: 9/17/97

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