There goes the neighborhood

2b

October 23, 2005|By LAURA VOZZELLA

One of the many charms of living in historic Annapolis is the tradition of old-timers giving newcomers the heads-up about holiday decorations.

Before the moving van pulls away, many a new Annapolitan learns that at Christmas, only white lights will do.

On May Day, the flowers must be fresh - and in a basket.

And at this time of year, it's mums, real pumpkins, Indian corn and maybe, if somebody's feeling really puckish, some ornamental cabbages.

Well, the neighbors forgot to clue in Bob and Kendel Ehrlich. It's Halloween at Government House in a really big way.

How big?

A giant inflatable pumpkin. A giant blow-up man (Dracula?) with a pumpkin head. Orange lights (surely the low-energy bulbs the first couple has been touting in radio ads) on the shrubs. A plastic skeleton and witch clawing up through the dirt. Softball-sized eyeballs and little ghosts dotting the lawn. And a bunch of tombstones.

It's a little, well, Arbutus.

It sure ain't old Annapolis.

"Everyone kind of honors that kind of Williamsburg effect here in Annapolis," says Peg Bednarsky, innkeeper at three historic lodges near Government House. "We try to live by that."

Bednarsky's inns boast views of the 1870 Georgian-style mansion and - these days - some very orange inflatables. She isn't complaining, even though she has heard a few people say, "Oh my lord. Look what the governor's got."

It reminds Bednarsky of when JFK had a snowman built at the White House to greet Caroline and newborn John when they first moved in. The Ehrlichs have two young sons.

Might the over-the-top display embolden others to start decking their historic halls with outlandish trimmings? There are signs that Annapolis is already sliding down the slippery slope that ends at Hampden's West 34th St. at Christmas.

This year, Bednarsky has noticed a daring addition to the traditional gourds on many 18th-century stoops: white pumpkins.

What on earth could Steele be up to?

Wonder what Lt. Gov. Michael Steele will say when he makes his "very special announcement" Tuesday?

That he's going back to seminary? That he has been admitted to the Elkridge Country Club? That he's not going to run for Senate, so he's got a whole lot of campaign cash to blow?

The invitation to his announcement did say there'd be live music and refreshments. Imagine the band Steele could book for the $349,774 in cash he has on hand.

And what on earth will Steele's spokesman be up to?

Whatever Steele says, he'll have an old Bush administration hand to help him say it.

Steele's new spokesman is Leonardo Alcivar, 33, of Washington.

Alcivar has served the president as spokesman for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, on the campaign trail in South Florida (where Alcivar's Cuban heritage and ability to speak Spanish were helpful), as Bush's deputy communications director for his second inauguration, and as deputy communications director for the U.S. Department of Transportation. He was also spokesman for the Republican National Convention in New York.

In his latest gig, Alcivar's official job title is spokesman for Steele's Senate exploratory committee.

Any chance he might find himself in another job come Tuesday - say, for instance, as campaign spokesman? Might he be a shoo-in for that job, on the off-chance that Steele runs for Senate?

Alcivar isn't saying much - yet.

"All the decisions are up to the lieutenant governor, should he decide he wants to run on behalf of the people of Maryland."

WIDE LOAD

Maybe this is what they mean by "Think Bigger."

A 38-foot Overland recreational vehicle that generates its own electricity, has a fridge, freezer and convection microwave, comes with couch and upholstered chairs, and sleeps six.

Oh, yes, one more feature: It's plastered with giant yellow Doug Duncan banners.

Duncan is on six-day statewide tour in the RV, having set off Thursday after announcing his run for governor.

If it sounds like luxury travel, guess again.

Good luck squeezing into that shower if you're 6-foot-4, as Duncan is. The 10-year-old RV sleeps six, but probably not comfortably. The nine people on board will head for hotels at night.

The RV belongs to Ken Reichard, a campaign volunteer who was assistant secretary of labor and industry under Gov. Parris Glendening. Reichard will be at the wheel for the 1,396-mile trip.

Expect gas money to show up as a big expense on Duncan's next campaign finance report.

The thing gets just 6 miles to the gallon.

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