Shore town `gunk story' may just be for the birds

This Just In...

October 24, 2001|By Dan Rodricks

REMEMBER the "gunk story" out of Trappe, the alarming report of some white, wet substance falling from the sky over the Eastern Shore? Men building a house in La Trappe Heights - who knew one of the flattest towns in Maryland had "heights"? - reported plops of gunk falling on them, and it wasn't long before state police were closing off the area with crime scene tape.

The Talbot County Fire Department arrived, followed by hazmat crews from Cambridge, Salisbury and the state Department of the Environment. Television crews raced across the bay in microwave trucks to cover the event.

The gunk turned out to be a benign substance - Channel 13's report left me with the impression it was Elmer's Glue - but the story was presented as a measure of how anxious and frightened people are in the wake of 9-11, those rumors about crop dusters and chemical weapons, and the anthrax attacks.

Two weeks later, officials are not certain what the gunk was, but they have their suspicions, and "avian feces" is prominent on the list, according to Richard J. McIntire, speaking for the Maryland Department of the Environment. The same thing - specifically, vulture feces - was the suspected cause of a panic on the outskirts of Cambridge a few days later, according to a report in the Easton Star Democrat. A woman who'd discovered a strange gray substance on the windshield of her car and the roof of her house called police.

McIntire couldn't confirm the vulture-droppings report, but mentioned that this time of year Canada geese are moving in large flocks over the Eastern Shore and they, at any time, could ... well, I think you get the idea about now.

I understand why people are edgy. (I work for a newspaper that gets lots of mail.) But you'd think folks on the Eastern Shore, which is Club Med to ducks and geese, would by now have had some familiarity with unappealing substances falling from the sky.

Kate Gallagher, who lives in Trappe, says things are slowly crawling back to normal there. "We are all back to our usual business - used books, antiques and pre-owned furniture and other goods, frozen food, tractors and golf carts, country furniture and reupholstery, home-renovating, auction-going, church-going, the occasional barbecue, bingo night or pancake breakfast."

Change of addresses

If you haven't been paying attention to things in downtown Baltimore, you might have missed the evacuation of stores from a certain block of East Baltimore Street. The thing is, they're not leaving town - only moving around the corner and down the street, and I guess that's good news.

It's also good news if these relocations indicate, as I suspect they do, some serious movement toward the heralded redevelopment of that huge chunk of real estate - between Baltimore and Redwood, and between Light and Calvert - where the Southern Hotel once stood.

There have been more movements in the 100 block of E. Baltimore St. than in a Mahler symphony.

Bertram's Ink Well moved to Light Street about three years ago, and Fader's cigar shop followed, ending up on South Calvert. Shelly's Blossom Shop closed up and posted a sign saying it was moving to South Calvert as well. Cypriana, a terrific Greek-Mediterranean restaurant, moved a block to 231 E. Baltimore, and more recently the Peking House moved out of 115 E. Baltimore and reopened at 11 E. Baltimore, west of Light Street and next to a Roy Rogers. The Roy Rogers closed and posted a sign: "Visit McDonald's, 101 E. Baltimore St."

I know. Sounds strange: Roy's going out of business, telling its customers to walk a block to McDonald's.

But in case you missed it: Hardee's sold the 184 remaining company-owned Roy Rogers restaurants in the Baltimore-Washington area to McDonald's five years ago, leaving only some independent operators. Which supports what I keep saying: One day everything will be McDonald's. Big Mac is going to end up owning Bill Gates, Disney and continental North America, just you wait and see.

Nasty or tasty?

Speaking of the world's most ubiquitous restaurant ...

TJI reader George Meredith stopped at the McDonald's on Security Boulevard to get a cup of coffee. While waiting for it to arrive, he heard the next customer - a "grandmotherly lady" - simultaneously order and give an impromptu review of the fare.

"I'll have the big nasty meal," she said.

This got Meredith's attention, and the front-counter clerk's.

"You mean the No. 6, ma'am?" the clerk asked.

Meredith looked up at the menu board: No. 6 was listed as "Big 'N'tasty Meal." Someone taking a quick glance could have been forgiven for reading it as "Big Nasty Meal."

"That would be the `Big and Tasty Meal,'" the clerk corrected his customer. But she ordered it anyway.

Wildlife in the city

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