One way to spruce up the front yard

2b

December 11, 2005|By LAURA VOZZELLA

His kids were young. The yard kinda bare. So Joseph Simon shelled out for a little Colorado blue spruce, planted it smack in front of his Hamilton Cape Cod and dolled it up with lights at Christmas.

The kids grew. The tree grew. The kids had kids. The tree grew some more, so much that Simon started using a long stick to hang the lights, then a ladder. It soared to 25 feet.

And then, the other day, the city hacked it down.

No, this is not a tale of municipal tree trimming gone awry. Simon invited the city to take down his spruce so it could serve as Baltimore's official Christmas tree.

Can you think of a more selfless act of holiday giving?

Well, to be honest, yes. Because Simon was glad to be rid of the thing.

Sure, he thought it was pretty. And yes, it evoked priceless memories of Christmases past.

But the doggone tree was getting to be a nuisance, what with its branches stretching across his front walk and all.

"A spruce doesn't have the nice, fine needles that a fir does," said Simon, 78, a retired Defense Department broadcast engineer. "A spruce, when you walk into it, you know it."

He considered sawing off the lower limbs to clear the walkway, but figured it would be a shame to ruin the tree's perfect shape.

"Hey, if the city wants it," he figured, "they can have it."

(You can see Simon's tree in front of City Hall and other holiday decorations inside when Mayor Martin O'Malley hosts an open house todaySun from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.)

They love chicken in Laurel

Is there nothing to eat in all of Laurel? I ask because 115 people lined up overnight - overnight! In December! - for the opening of a new Chick-fil-A.

Doors opened at 13600 Baltimore Avenue about 6 a.m. Thursday, and the first 100 people in line had their frostbite rewarded with a year's supply of sandwich coupons. That's 52 coupons, each good for a "combo meal" consisting of a medium sandwich, medium fries and medium drink.

If they had to buy those meals, each one would set them back $5.03 with tax.

People love free as much as they love fried, so the Atlanta-based chain has had a hit with the "First 100 Fans" promotion it launched two years ago to draw attention to new store openings. Crowds camped out in Westminster, too, when the "chikin" landed there in August.

No word if Maryland's most famous lover of freebies and fast food - Comptroller William Donald Schaefer - was in the queue.

The other side of the tracks

Choppers and gunfire - the sounds of nighttime in too many Baltimore neighborhoods.

But in Harbor East? The area is billed as "the city's most prestigious waterfront community" (albeit by the company peddling pricey apartments there).

The security director for the Promenade and Spinnaker Bay apartments warned residents the other day to brace for "the sound of gunfire" and "takeoffs and landings by a military-looking Blackhawk helicopter."

Of course, there was a perfectly reasonable, even glamorous explanation: A movie (The Visiting, starring Nicole Kidman) was going to be shooting nearby.

As it turned out, the weather Thursday and Friday put the kibosh on the anticipated commotion. But eventually, that part of town will get a taste of the other Baltimore after dark.

No, not that - anything on Lifetime?

Maybe the come-on works in winning NFL cities, but Comcast might want to rethink its billboard promoting on-demand TV near the Ravens' stadium.

"Relive today's NFL glory," it says, "whenever you want."

Hard enough watching the first time.

One election at a time, please

The next municipal election in Baltimore is November 2007. So why is there already a storefront in Highlandtown - Conkling Street, between Eastern Avenue and Fleet Street - plastered with posters for some guy running for mayor?

Don't worry. It's just The Wire. The "candidate" is character Thomas Carcetti.

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