Between The Lines


March 08, 2004

Funny money talk

Secret Service agents usually seem way too straight-laced for stand-up. But not Special Agent John T. Pessia. Last week, he turned a tutorial on counterfeit prevention into a comedy act.

Pessia, who looks a bit like actor Ben Affleck, dropped a series of one-liners into his sober cautions to downtown merchants about spotting fake money.

Early on, he gave a brief primer on the Secret Service's history. The agency was created, he said, by Abraham Lincoln in one of his last official acts before being assassinated in April 1865.

Pessia was quick to note that, at the time, the agency's duties did not include protecting the president.

"Good thing," he said, "considering the circumstances."

- Scott Calvert

A mystery solved

The white streaks on the rectangular brick Mattin Center, the most modern building on the Johns Hopkins University Homewood campus, have nothing to do with winter snow or salt. Nor are the markings the handiwork of a would-be abstract artist.

To the Hopkins students milling around the arts center and people who pass by the building that faces North Charles Street, that will come as news. Most polled in an impromptu survey chalked up the mysterious streaks to the end of the cold season.

"Maybe the bricks are getting used to the weather, " said Julie Gallup, a senior history major.

University spokesman Dennis O'Shea set the record straight. The strange white streaks are the result of a "natural process" that new brick joints go through. And, O'Shea added, they can be seen on the building exterior all year round.

- Jamie Stiehm

A break with tradition

Many developers, politicians and government workers in Towson know William Jones for his friendly personality and steady work on the ambitious revitalization of Baltimore County's east side.

But as each spring arrives, Jones, waterfront development coordinator for the Baltimore County Office of Economic Development, reveals another face. He quietly slips away to Florida's sunshine to be with his beloved Baltimore Orioles, needing the crack of the bat and the explosion of a fastball into a catcher's mitt to reaffirm that all is good with life.

This year is no different. It's his 25th anniversary of attending spring training. A native Baltimorean, Jones is a lifelong Orioles fan. Years ago, when Fells Point was a touch more bohemian than today, he was known along Broadway as a baseball trivia expert of note. The thirst continues.

"I will be departing Baltimore-Washington International Airport early on March 25," Jones said. "I arrive in Fort Lauderdale at 11 a.m., go to my motel to change into appropriate attire - which, in this case, is my Hawaiian shirt - and be in the ball park at 1 p.m. with an appropriate cold beverage in hand."

- Joe Nawrozki

Lines are open, very open

City Councilman Nicholas C. D'Adamo Jr. spent the spring-like afternoon of Feb. 28 in his City Hall office, waiting for calls from municipal employees with information on wasteful spending at city agencies.

But, D'Adamo said last week, only nine people called during his four-hour "Tell It Straight to the Chairman Telethon."

He speculated that the fine weather many folks were enjoying outdoors might have put a damper on his indoor effort.

D'Adamo, chairman of the council's budget and appropriations committee, held the call-in session to find ways to alleviate the city's impending $21 million deficit for the current fiscal year. Initially, he allowed callers only five minutes to talk. But so few people called, D'Adamo said, that "I gave one guy 15 minutes."

D'Adamo said last week he would not discuss callers' concerns until he issued a report on his findings.

- Doug Donovan

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