They put away the crayons

2b

May 04, 2008|By LAURA VOZZELLA

No less an authority than Rolling Stone declares that Baltimore has the nation's best "scene." Really. "Hotbed for rap and art rock," it says.

Part of the appeal: Golden West Cafe, "the late-night post-show hangout."

There's also some stuff about "electronic party starters," unlicensed concert venues and "Wire-inspired Hamsterdam mixtapes." But frankly, the only thing I grasped was the restaurant. And even that confused me.

Isn't Golden West a family-friendly, crayons-on-the-table kinda place? It is, managing partner Samantha Juengel assured me. But one with an edgy alter ego.

"Earlier in the evening, you get a lot of families with young kids," she said. "You need a place where your kids can be loud and crazy and it's totally tolerated and welcomed. ... We have crayons. We have little kid menus, kids books in the vestibule."

But the late crowd -- Golden West is open until 2 a.m. -- doesn't dance to Raffi.

Juengel hopes the magazine mention will bring more late-night business. Some Maryland Film Festival hipsters already have found their way to the place.

"Filmmakers have come in and said, `I actually saw you guys in Rolling Stone,'" Juengel said. "It's kinda nice."

Just a bunch of guys kind of touching base

Another bit for anybody out there monitoring the (pick one) promise/ threat of a Bob Ehrlich comeback: the ex-Gov's "Theme Team" is back together.

Since his days in Congress, Ehrlich has had a group of supporters by that name. An ex-Theme Teamer who is not part of the group's latest incarnation tells me they called radio shows and wrote letters to the editor to help push Ehrlich's message.

Ehrlich aides Greg Massoni and Henry Fawell suggested that the theme stuff has flowed in the other direction -- people to pol, not the other way around.

"There's a lot of pent-up anger about record tax increases, rising electricity prices," Fawell said. "It's an opportunity for people to talk about themes."

In any case, about 40 members of the current team gathered at a house in Perry Hall last week with Ehrlich and his former State House communications gang. Massoni and Fawell said the theme that night wasn't really about Ehrlich's possible rematch with Martin O'Malley.

"This is more of a push Andy [Harris], push [John] McCain get-together," said Massoni.

If the Republican candidates for Congress and president were the main theme, it eluded George Rew, a longtime supporter who participated in the meeting.

"The theme is the way Bob ran his administration and tried to deal with things," Rew said. "Just, like, an update of where things are headed, what polls look like ... and how many people seem to be very disgruntled with the tax increase and shenanigans down in Annapolis. ... He's just kind of touching base with everybody."

There was no talk of letter-writing or call-in campaigns, Rew said. In fact, Rew wasn't even sure why they were called the Theme Team.

"I guess they had to call the group something," he said, chuckling.

The retired BGE dispatcher figures Ehrlich might not need grass-roots communications help. After all, he has his own radio show these days.

"My impression is, he wants his people to hear it straight from him."

Just keep quiet and sit up straight

As a member of the University of Maryland's Board of Regents, David Nevins got to go to Tokyo last month to take part in a commencement ceremony for U.S. servicemembers graduating from UM's overseas University College program.

He couldn't say enough about the grads, who'd managed to earn degrees while working day jobs in war zones. He gushed about the ceremony, especially moving because family members had flown in.

Then he got to the really good part, about his close encounter with the Cal Ripken of sumo wrestling.

Hawaiian-born Akebono, the first non-Japanese sumo grand champ, is married to the University College registrar, Christina Rowan. She persuaded her husband, whose American name is Chad Rowan, to give Nevins a behind-the-scenes sumo tour.

Nevins' girlfriend, Susan Schapiro, and his 12-year-old son, Jake, got to tag along. (Hold the scandal; Schapiro and Jake did not travel to Japan on UM's dime.)

Akebono took them to the "stable" where wrestlers practice. Seated on floor pillows with the now-retired champ, they watched about 20 wrestlers practice for a couple of hours. They were the only spectators.

"It was fascinating," Nevins said. "They were huge men slamming their huge bodies together, and he explained to us the whole sport."

Akebono is revered in the country, the "Cal Ripken of Japan," Nevins called him. But the outing was no day at the ballpark.

"There was total silence," Nevins said. "You're advised to sit up straight. One time I leaned a little bit, and he sort of motioned to me -- nicely -- to sit up straight."

There's more money and a bigger boat

Couple of points of clarification on that pirate ship I wrote about the other day.

Urban Pirates will pay the city of Baltimore about $1,400 a month for the right to dock the ship at South Ann Street, where it will offer cruises to tourists. I wrote that the firm would pay that much for the whole season, from May through October.

The Sun and this columnist in particular regret the error.

I described the ship as 48 feet long, but it is 52 feet long. No regrets on that one. I got the 48-foot figure right off the Urban Pirates Web site.

"The ship was originally supposed to be 48 feet long, but the boat builder made it 52 feet instead," said Urban Pirates partner Erin Tschantret. "We will change it [on the site] right away." The overachieving shipbuilder and inattentive Web master regret the error.

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