WHEN THE throaty-voiced lady calls and asks, "Sweetie, can you do something for me?" what's a Neighborly Correspondent to do?
The voice was that of Peg Wallace, Queen Mum of the Barge House Museum, and she wants the word out that because today is May Day, it's time for the Eastport May Basket Competition.
There will be two categories, residential and commercial, subdivided into Most Beautiful and Most Eastport. Residential will include a category for age 12 and younger. There will be 20 judges who will start their work at 11 a.m.
"Judges will be required to wear some kind of a wonderful flowered hat," she said.
What about guy judges? "Regardless. They will have to have a flower in their hat as well."
The rules are maybe deliberately vague. "Any material or container may be used," she said, "even silk flowers. Any medium is acceptable."
The competition for Most Eastport can get interesting. One household a couple of years ago put together an exhibit of paint cans, tools and bits of construction wreckage with several flowers idly tossed in. They were rehabbing their house at the time, an Eastport passion. A prizewinner.
Another wise guy produced a small vase of asparagus grown in his back yard, both veggie and fern parts. He asked a neighbor to fashion a little ribbon, because he is incompetent at that sort of thing. (Neighborly Correspondent will not reveal why he knows this, but asparagus, unpicked, grows into a fern that can reach a height of 6 feet or more.) Another prizewinner.
Anyway, Neighborly Correspondent said, "Yes, Peg, I'll think about spreading the word, but can you do something for me?"
An explanation is in order: Neighborly Correspondent is responsible for the upkeep of Memorial Park at Sixth and Severn, the gateway to Eastport. On GreenScape Day, April 15, Bonnie Urban and Todd Bruner joined him in a steady drizzle for an extensive cleanup. With help from city employees and Scott Daniels' crew at Eastport Shell, the happy band removed and chopped up a 30-foot flagpole blown over by Hurricane Floyd and an abandoned 20-foot electric pole.
Their labor greatly enhanced the centerpiece of the park, a display of daffodils and tulips that almost glowed in the gloom.
A week later, returning from St. Mary's Church on Easter morning, Neighborly Correspondent sensed that something wasn't right with the flowers. A closer look revealed that tulips had been swiped, and he counted the stumps, 24 of them.
"Squirrels," said Alderman Ellen O. Moyer, who added that her tulips had been ravaged over the weekend. Yeah, a two-legged squirrel, one that made clean cuts at a uniform height with no wreckage in evidence.
So, the arrangement is this: If the judges today come across a display of two dozen red tulips, maybe slightly wilted at this stage, they are to report it to Neighborly Correspondent, who in his rage thought of dragging in the Annapolis Police Department.
"Deal," said Wallace.
Flowers don't bloom just in Eastport.
The Garden Club of Old Annapolis Towne will judge flower baskets today in the Historic District, starting at 9 a.m. Fresh-cut flowers only, please.
The Naval Academy Garden Club will decorate the academy yard today.
With all the rain we've had lately, one wonders whether any baskets might display plants from swamps or bogs.
You'd have to steal them, of course.