Crash Cafe has makings of harbor disaster

This Just In...

February 08, 1999|By DAN RODRICKS

Crash Cafe? Oh, why not? A guy wants to invest a couple of million dollars in a restaurant - even one based on a disaster theme - who's to stop him? (Personally, I'm sick of theme restaurants. I prefer food restaurants.) Patrick Turner, the developer who came up with this idea, shows an admirable willingness to dance with irony - his restaurant could be Baltimore's biggest waterfront disaster since the Bicentennial birthday cake - and really bad taste. (His theme fits perfectly with John Waters' suggested pitch to tourists: ``Come to Baltimore and be appalled.'') This is America, ain't it?... About Ruth's Chris Steak House: Yeah, I know. I know how she came up with the name. (I even knew last week when I raised the question about it, in a cranky, rhetorical sort of way.) It has been explained in radio and newspaper ads. Ruth Fertel has had her possessive on the name since the day she bought the original Chris Steak House in New Orleans. That was 30 years ago. Which goes to show: Longevity doesn't make something any less stupid. I'd have called it Fertel's.... ``Failure is not an option!'' Remember Ed Harris' great line from ``Apollo 13''? TJI reader Emily Orth points out that Crown has come up with a curious variation in new signs at its gas stations: ``Quality is not an option.'' Oh? They sold out? Of all the options at Crown stations, quality is not one of them? We must note that the words, ``Expect it,'' follow the not-an-option assertion. But that doesn't make the message clearer. It actually compounds our confusion. It suggests we should expect from Crown that which is not available. Send this one back to the sign committee, Henry!

Biting Tyson commentary

You have to pity the fool who will get to share a Maryland prison cell with Tyson was a passenger in his wife's Mercedes-Benz. Stopped at a light in Gaithersburg, the Mercedes took a bump in the rear. What was Tyson's reaction? He jumped out of the car, slugged a motorist 30 years his senior and kicked - kicked - a 50-year-old guy in the groin. He got a two-year sentence in Montgomery County the other day, and Maryland citizens should be pleased. Judge Stephen Johnson has removed a public menace from our streets. (Good thing Tyson didn't commit his offenses in Baltimore; he might never have had a trial.) Before sentencing, Tyson's manager, Sheldon Finkel, likened prison time for Tyson, who needs to fight to settle millions in debt, to ``a real death sentence.'' Sheldon needs to have his hyperbole gland removed.

Charmed life

A friend writes:

``I was headed for an evening appointment at police headquarters downtown last Tuesday night and I parked my sports car, with some trepidation, on Gay Street, just south of The Block. No fool, I locked on my Club, made sure there was nothing attractive left visible, and flipped the lock switches on the doors. As I stepped out, I gave a tug on the door handle to make sure it was locked, and walked off past the usual assortment of Block characters.

``By the time I came back two hours later, the sidewalk beside my car was crowded with men, presumably homeless, who had gathered at the Grace & Hope Mission. Many were emerging from the mission bearing steaming plastic cups of what looked to be coffee.

``As I approached, I noticed one of the men had set his cup on my car. I had no tangible reason to suspect anything of these men, who differ from me only in an unequal distribution of life's good fortune. And the man who had set his cup on my trunk quickly apologized. 'Excuse me, sir,' he said.

``But I couldn't help fearing for my car. And to my dismay, as I went to open the driver's door, I found it was already open - only an inch or so, but definitely open. Flashes of two break-ins years ago burst like fireworks in my head.

``I quickly surveyed the windows. Nothing broken. Inside, I checked the radio. Still there. The Club was intact. I groped in the dark for the coin cup on the console. A couple of bucks in change untouched. Ignition? Contact. Radio comes on. Lights come on.

``I drive away wondering what planet has replaced my own during my two hours at police headquarters.

``Then I try to retrace my steps. Is it possible I did not flip the lock switch on the driver's door? When I tugged on the handle, could I have opened the door without noticing? Could the car have sat there for two hours with an open door, on The Block, without anyone helping himself to enough change for a Happy Meal?

``When I got home, I told my wife, 'A miracle happened.' Grace and hope happened, on Gay Street.''

TJIDAN@aol.com is the e-mail address for Dan Rodricks. He can also be reached by phone, at 410-332-6100, or by post at The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.

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