Once-mellow September will never be the same

This Just In...

October 01, 2001|By Dan Rodricks

GOODBYE TO September, a month with new meaning it didn't deserve. Until the 11th day of September, what was September? It was fresh-start, back-to-work, back-to-school, summer-into-autumn September. Lengthening shadows, cooling air, softening sunlight. "Try to remember the kind of September, when life was slow and oh, so mellow ... when no one wept except the willow." What was September before this September? I have in mind several family weddings, brides and grooms ringed in yellow and gold, the birthdays of loved ones, the holy days of Jewish friends. And somewhere in September was the hard-sweat start of football, the last month of baseball, a pennant chase if we were lucky. Not much more than that. Nothing dark about September. Nothing painful. Not the way we came to think of November, seared with Dallas and a riderless horse. September was simple once. September is different now.

A show of pride

Observed, on Conkling Street in Highlandtown: a red shopping cart filled with someone's belongings, and an American flag attached to it. "Even the homeless people are flying flags," says nouveau Higlandtowner Kari Beims. "Kind of makes you proud to be an American. Or a Baltimorean."

Time is of the essence

Mayor Martin O'Malley wants to make Baltimore the "poster child for civic preparedness." To this end, he's hired a former New York City police official as a consultant to work up a plan. That's all good. Maybe this consultant, being an outsider, will be able to persuade O'Mayor to hire a new chief for the Fire Department - Herman Williams retired in February - and show as much respect for the firefighters of the city as he does its police officers. Happy firefighters led by a new, dynamic chief - that would seem an essential to "civic preparedness."

The New York consultant said in this newspaper last week: "Time is a luxury. ... It's one thing you really can't afford. You have to try to get everyone to the highest level of readiness as quickly as they can."

I think that means you should not take eight months to hire a new fire chief.

Shopping a few ideas

With the closing of the "Wells SuperFresh" - we used to call it that because it was near Wells Discount Liquors - and the Food King in Govans, the York Road corridor is suffering from lack of grocery-shopping opportunities. As expected, the Giant in the York Road Plaza has become busier than a Moroccan bazaar.

Something less obvious but worthy of note: A lot of customers - elderly men and women, and mothers with kids - were used to taking a bus to Gittings and York, then making the short walk to SuperFresh for their shopping. It was a convenient store for bag-carryin', kid-totin' bus riders. Now, they have a much longer walk across a broad, busy parking lot to get to the Giant from York Road.

So I'm thinking ...

I'm thinking about a Neil Diamond tune, "Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show," the part that goes: "Pack up the babies, grab the old ladies, everyone goes ... ." I'm thinking a couple of golf carts, running as a courtesy between York Road and the Giant front door, might be nice. (We can call it Brother Love's Shuttle and have it play Neil Diamond songs on an endless loop.) Do I hear a second?

Meanwhile, in Govans ...

A Save-A-Lot store is scheduled to take over the old Food King location, offering a limited assortment of items. That's semi-good news in the 'hood. But I'm thinking maybe Save-A-Lot could throw an extra bouquet to Govans by getting the Curran clock tower working again.

That's the metal tree of chimes in front of the store, at York Road and Woodbourne Avenue. It used to chime each quarter-hour and played seasonal songs, but it hasn't worked in years. The clock was dedicated a couple of decades ago to the late city Councilman J. Joseph Curran Sr., father of the Maryland attorney general and grandfather of Mr. O'Mayor's wife. There's been a Curran family effort to raise money to fix the clock; maybe Save-A-Lot should consider making a sizable contribution to it.

"The clock added a very uplifting air to an urban landscape that has seen several downturns over the past 30 years," says Govans home boy Jerry Egan. "If Save-A-Lot could help get the bell tower restored it would be a great boost to the community!"

A lone voice of dissent

The comments of that sneering British critic (he can't help it, he was born that way) who dissed the Baltimore Museum of Art-Walters Art Gallery joint exhibition of French paintings in London over the summer should be considered - if they must be considered at all, darlings - in context, say representatives of both of the museums.

Anne Mannix of the BMA and Catherine Pierre of the Walters say other British critics praised "The Triumph of French Painting," leaving Brian Sewell of The Evening Standard in the minority. So there.

Mannix, meanwhile, reports that a far more famous Englishman, actor Michael Palin, visited the BMA last month and was so taken with the Cone Collection he's proposed a documentary on the subject. One can only hope that the new production updates a Palin classic from his Monty Python days, and that we see him dancing on the steps of the museum, singing, "Every Matisse Is Sacred."

A sporting comparison

In case you needed it, once-in-a-goldfish-life TJI contributor "Baltimore Joe" offers parochial perspective on that controversy in College Park over the new lacrosse coach. The new man at UM is an old rival - Dave Cottle, longtime men's coach at Loyola. Here's how Joe brings it home, so that a Baltimorean can understand it: "What if, when Augie Miceli retired as head coach of the varsity football team, Calvert Hall hired Joe Brune, head coach of Loyola High, to take over?"

Get it now?

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