Sights, sounds of sweet spring weather

THIS JUST IN ...

March 30, 1998|By DAN RODRICKS

Spring, a beautiful thing: New grass, and a guy with a huge belly lying in it, sunny-side up, on Saturday afternoon at a kids' baseball practice in Towson; a woman on a blanket with a little girl in Patterson Park; music drifting from the open windows of the Peabody Conservatory; Jimmie's Chicken Shack blasting from the stereo of a Jeep, its top trimmed, its driver in Ray-Bans, open to the breeze; guys washing cars along Reisterstown Road; people taking drives out to the Valley to see Cal's house; the Bradford pears in blossom along Charles Street; new flowers in the tire-urn planters along the 2100 block of W. Fayette St.; Crystal Moll painting a sidewalk scene in Federal Hill; my neighbor Pat singing, "Happy spring!"; Manfra and Hunter doing play-by-play, Phil Wood with his own talk show again, Orioles back in town, Mike Flanagan back in uniform. Hey, life, it's not so bad here sometimes, eh?

Problem with rats

And then, of course, there's Lillian Rawling's rat problem in Perkins Homes. As sweet as the weather is - June in March in Baltimore - Lillian, who has custody of two of her grandchildren, cannot much enjoy herself. When she steps outside of her home off Caroline Street, just east of Little Italy, her eyes go right to the ratholes in the ground. At daybreak, when Lillian heads off to work, she sees rodents scamper through the yard. She lives in a corner apartment, exposed on two sides, and somehow the rats have been getting into her building. She has photographs and other "evidence." (I got to see both the other day. Lovely.) Says Lillian: "I'm paying $260 a month for the rent, and for the rats, too." She complained to the city, her landlord. She ended up taking the city to court. Her rent goes into an escrow account by judge's order. The judge gave the city until next month to eradicate the rats. But Lillian says they're still there. She's still living with rodents.

Your honor, this is no way to treat a lady.

Protesting pasta prices

I just have to say it: The City Council should pass an ordinance making it illegal for any restaurant in the city of Baltimore to charge more than $15 for any dinner entree that has pasta as its main ingredient. No topping, short of truffles, turns 50 cents' worth of pasta into a $20 dish. There oughta be a law.

12-step computer program

Anyone who has become hooked on the personal computer - and we are hooked, aren't we? - would agree with the National Sleep Foundation's conclusion that many Americans are sleep-deprived because we stay up late surfing the Internet, doing work and stuff we probably wouldn't be doing, minus a PC in the boudoir.

Take away the Net and/or cable television, and we probably would not be as drowsy as we are today.

You agree? I do. I'm thinking of getting into a 12-step program.

A recent NSF study showed nearly two of every three people fail to get the recommended eight hours of sleep each night, and about a third of those in the survey get six hours or less. That's not good for the nation's collective brain. It's turning us into mush.

"Lack of sleep is the single greatest cause of mental impairment in America," said Thomas Roth, NSF health and scientific adviser.

Here's something scary: The NSF study reported that more than half of those surveyed said they had driven while drowsy in the past year, with nearly one in four acknowledging they had actually fallen asleep behind the wheel. (At least 100,000 automobile crashes in the United States are caused each year by drowsy drivers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.)

There's this idea that the personal computer has revolutionized our world, made the execution of our work more efficient, and created more leisure time. Baloney. We're still - as a nation, as a global village - in the early stages of infatuation with this incredible toy. It's keeping us up at night. We are not in control. There, I - yyyaaawwwnnn.

American freedoms

While we're on the subject of personal computers and the Internet, here's an electronic epistle from the People's Republic of China. The writer, Gene Manley, used to live in Baltimore. He's a TJI reader - he gets the column through SunSpot - who teaches English to doctoral candidates in Guangzhou (Canton).

"My students ask about the violence in America," he writes. "I explain it thusly: 'America is the land of the free, but freedom means responsibility. Many Americans cannot handle the responsibility.' They ask, 'How is it an 11-year-old and a 13-year-old can get hold of guns in America, but you must be 21 to buy beer?' I try to answer with something along these lines: 'Some people think violence is a way of life. When our young people see so much of it on TV and in movies perhaps it teaches them that violence is OK. However, fortunately, these cases are rare. If there is any good news about this, it is that we in America also enjoy the freedom of the press and not only our own people know of our tragedies, but the world does.'

"My students then ask, 'With the freedom of the press, why does the news media want the world to know about President Clinton's private life? Does he not do a good job? Is not the American economy growing? What difference does it make what he does in private?' To which I have no answer. What can I say?"

This Just In appears each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Contact Dan Rodricks by voice-mail at 410-332-6166, by post at The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278, or by electronic mail at TJIDAol.com.

Pub Date: 3/30/98

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