Apparently, no great writers come from Baltimore either


February 25, 2007|By LAURA VOZZELLA

Frank Deford wrote about his hometown in last month's Smithsonian magazine, under a headline that picked up on an imperiled civic slogan: "Bleeve it, hon."

The gist of the piece: A city whose glory days are behind her has regained some "swagger" thanks to professional sports, a remade Inner Harbor and somebody named "Donald Schaefer." (Any relation to William Donald Schaefer?)

Deford describes the Baltimore of his youth this way:

"The harbor was a Stygian tributary leading to a humdrum skyline that was dominated by a bizarre faux-Florentine building that was topped by a rendering of an antacid fizz bottle. (And wouldn't you just know: it was Bromo-Seltzer, the runner-up heartburn remedy, after Alka-Seltzer.)"

It's a wonder the whole city hasn't come down with agita, given Deford's take on local luminaries - or lack thereof.

"It is both ironic and instructive that in the first half of the 20th century, the two most illustrious Americans to come from Baltimore were Thurgood Marshall and Billie Holiday - African-Americans who rose up out of a segregated society; so representative of Baltimore's decline was it that no distinctive white citzens emerged upon the national scene."

What in the name of Babe Ruth and H. L. Mencken is Deford saying? That only a couple Baltimoreans made good from 1900 to 1950, and they didn't count because they were black?

At least Deford concludes Baltimore turned things around a bit, thanks to the Colts, the Orioles and The (William) Donald.

The Colts?

The SI writer and NPR commentator makes no mention of the Ravens, or that unfortunate Mayflower matter.

A political game offering no record to run on

Turns out the "CrackBerry" is just a gateway drug. BlackBerry addicts are getting hooked on the video game BrickBreaker, The Wall Street Journal reported last week.

The game's main appeal seems to be stealth. Players can click away in meetings, smashing images of bricks on the screen of the wireless e-mail gizmo, and appear to be multitasking instead of goofing off. High-powered lawyers, executives and others tethered to the devices play to relieve stress - and one up each other, the paper reports.

So, the question had to be asked of Maryland's most famous BlackBerry-er: What's Martin O'Malley's high score?

A spokesman would neither confirm nor deny whether the governor is now, or ever has been, a BrickBreaker. But the spokesman did note a recent report that found surgeons who played video games had sharper skills. Good news for when O'Malley starts wielding the budget knife.

Two of O'Malley's top aides were a little more forthcoming. Just a little.

Chief of Staff Michael Enright would admit only to being in the company of a BrickBreaker. Not on the second floor of the State House, but in a barbershop on Presidents Day.

"I was at barber yesterday and she had her 8-year-old son with her because of holiday," Enright e-mailed me Tuesday. "So I let him play with it, and I think he got to 4th level. He seemed bored by it."

Asked his high score, Deputy Chief of Staff Matthew Gallagher replied: "That's a great trick question for Cabinet secretaries. ... I might have to use that during StateStat meetings."

Connect the dots ...

Marylanders want to be grossed out. Indeed, they're willing to pay for the privilege - $20 for adults, $14 for kids. And that explains the wild success of Grossology, the Maryland Science Center exhibit that explores the human body through the likes of boogers and toots. About 10,000 people flocked to the museum from Friday through Monday of Presidents Day weekend, up 32 percent from the same period last year, says Christopher Cropper, the Science Center's marketing director. "I think it's the appeal of the gross," he said. "We're going to follow it up with animal Grossology." ... Plans are in the works for a big dinner and roast for Joe Curran on March 8 at the Hyatt in the Inner Harbor. The invite says they're "honoring the Conscience of Maryland" - and purposely avoids the word "retirement," I'm told, because the ex-AG wants a job of some sort. ... A Style magazine feature on Keiffer Mitchell quotes a friend who calls the mayoral hopeful "a great big gummy bear." With friends like that ...

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