Anyone can enjoy a good specialty coffee

August 12, 2004|By DAN RODRICKS

A FELLOW NAMED Dave Holmes stopped at a Dunkin' Donuts on Belair Road, the one just north of the Beltway, and stepped into line behind what he called "two real bruisers," men who might have been voted Most Likely to Serve (Time) by their classmates. "One guy's neck was as wide as I was," Holmes said. "Both of his arms were completely tattooed, and he had a buzz cut and a big nasty scar on his back. His buddy wasn't quite as large and had one or two fewer tattoos. All in all they were a pretty intimidating duo."

But when the big one got to the counter, Holmes said, he ordered a "caramel swirl latte."

It's a wonderful world.

Odd choice of venue

Irony doesn't get much thicker: First lady Laura Bush criticized the media for polarizing America by sensationalizing the news and concentrating on opinion-mongering rather than factual reporting. Her platform for this admonition? An interview on The O'Reilly Factor.

The hot list

I'd rather eat worms than listen to the likes of Rush Limbaugh pick apart John Kerry's military service record.

I prefer the old Manchurian Candidate to the new one, though not by much.

I'd rather take the Garden State Parkway -- and the Hutch and Merritt parkways -- than drive north through Jersey, New York and Connecticut on Interstate 95 ever again. Several trips on 95 over the past three years had been nightmares, especially at the George Washington Bridge, so I switched to the parkway system and it's been a breeze, with much nicer scenery along the way.

I'd prefer broiled crab cakes to fried -- that is, assuming I ever ended my personal, eco-centric boycott of Maryland crab meat.

I'd rather sit in the bleachers at Oriole Park than anywhere else. Because of your location, you aren't trapped into watching and listening to those massively annoying videos between innings and you can actually have a conversation with the person sitting next to you.

I prefer the Winter Olympics to the Summer Games, but this one is in Athens, and it is bound to inspire a run to Samos on Oldham Street for the souvlaki special, so it can't be all bad.

`Decal detour' reaction

Harford and Cecil countians weren't too thrilled with it, but a lot of intermittent Interstate 95 commuters were pleased with a recent column in which I gave away one of the state's better-kept "public secrets," the $5 annual pass over the Hatem Bridge on Route 40 in Havre de Grace. Folks who, like me, had been paying $5 every time they used Interstate 95 at the northeastern edge of Maryland were pleased to learn that they could bypass it by making a relatively brief detour off the highway and, for a one-time fee of $5, make the run across the Susquehanna River as many times as they liked. All you need is a decal on a driver's-side window, good for one year.

Some readers were angry that I encouraged drivers to get off the highway and detour through Havre de Grace and Perryville. But many others, including some from out of state, who run up Interstate 95 into Delaware several times a year, appreciated the tip. One Maryland woman said she had been making weekly trips to New Jersey to visit an institutionalized sister and opted for the decal detour and the $5 savings.

Hey, this is a full-service newspaper column. We inform because we love.

A reader in Essex, one B. Lockwood, used my advice, got the $5 decal and in the process discovered things on Route 40, including a fine German restaurant, otherwise never seen during zip trips up 95. So yokels shouldn't be grumping about my modest exposM-i; it's probably good for the local economy.

Making a living

Tom Hucker, executive director of Progressive Maryland, still hopes to see a legislative override of Gov. Robert Ehrlich's veto of the living wage law -- a minimum $10.50-per-hour wage for private-sector employees participating in state contracts -- that was approved in the last session of the General Assembly. Hucker says June polling by Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies found support for the measure growing, and in surprising ways.

On the Eastern Shore and in Western Maryland, generally conservative areas where you might find Ehrlich to be popular, the living wage pulled 65 percent support. Hucker says that 78 percent of women in suburban Baltimore County supported the measure and that statewide, 51 percent of Republicans and 63 percent of independent voters supported the living wage.

"Most Americans," Hucker said, "still believe if you're working full time you ought to be able to feed your family."

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