Between The Lines

BETWEEN THE LINES

April 26, 2004

Not her style

She was one of the first new residents on downtown's west side. Now that the revival is starting to take root, Brenda Meier has left her Howard Street apartment for quieter Catonsville.

"It's a little ironic," said Meier, who moved to the Atrium apartments from a one-stoplight town in Nebraska in September 2001.

This was before the Hippodrome Theatre opened, before Bank of America began overhauling an entire block.

To Meier, whose job at Lutheran World Relief includes advocating for small farmers in developing countries, the creeping gentrification turned into a big turnoff.

"By continuing to buy into the `luxury downtown apartment' lifestyle," she says, "I was contributing to something that I really don't believe in."

-- Scott Calvert

Waiting urgently

What could be worse than getting stuck alone in a malfunctioning elevator in a city office building? How about picking up the emergency phone, being transferred automatically to the City Hall operator -- and having to hold.

"We're sorry for the delay," a recorded voice said. "Your call is important to us. Please stay on the line and wait for the next available representative."

Talk about being left hanging -- just above the eighth floor of the Charles L. Benton Building on East Fayette Street. The minutes ticked by. Four to be exact. Then an operator came on the line and promised to alert someone right away.

Five minutes later, James Greene, the building manager, pried open the door. "You know machines," he said.

All too well.

-- Scott Calvert

Missed that memo

In a classic bit of mayoral showmanship, Martin O'Malley donned hardhat and work vest, hopped aboard a piece of heavy equipment and paved a stretch of roadway in Canton last week.

Only one problem.

Minutes after O'Malley put down that fresh asphalt, somebody wanted to drive across the street. And not just anybody. It was a bunch of guys in a big hurry. In a big red truck. A firetruck.

Sirens blaring, the truck approached the corner of Dillon and South Clinton streets, where the mayor was still addressing reporters and the asphalt was still steaming.

"Do we notify them when we're doing construction?" O'Malley asked, turning to city staff assembled behind him. The staffers assured O'Malley that they do.

But the firefighters, who quickly backed up the truck and headed down another street, apparently didn't get the message that time.

-- Laura Vozzella

Atwitter over cicadas

The cicada came early to Towson Gardens Day.

In perhaps one of the street fair's most successful marketing tactics, Vicki Chalmers invited strolling mothers and fathers to buy Twitterbug, a cicada Beanie Baby, to gently prepare their children for the imminent invasion.

"I thought it would be a good idea for the little ones before they see thousands of them before their eyes," said Chalmers, owner of Bean Babies & Friends. "Then, they'd say, `Oh, it's like the Beanie Baby.'"

The $5 stuffed bugs -- complete with yellow-orange wings, a mottled body and blue bugged-out eyes (not the anatomically correct red ones) -- sparked much commentary and quite a few sales. By the end of Thursday's festival, Chalmers had sold nine of the dozen cicada she brought with her, ranking sales of the bug third behind only the newly released brown fox named Slick and the 2004 graduation owl.

If anyone wants to know, Chalmers added, she'll be back with her little bugs at this weekend's Towson Spring Festival, at Pennsylvania and Washington avenues.

-- Jennifer McMenamin

A racy campaign

Is Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse trying to attract more men to its Munsey apartment building at Calvert and Fayette streets?

Sure looks that way from the racy fliers advertising a new Wednesday happy hour. The fliers show a woman holding a martini, but you can't see her face -- just her, um, cleavage. The tag line: "Straight up, tell your boss you've got a better offer."

If they're meant to be man magnets, they're not working. About 50 people showed up at the debut, and only half the crowd was male.

-- Scott Calvert

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