Today's the day for Baltimore Zappatistas

December 21, 2008|By LAURA VOZZELLA

F rank Zappa has a friend in high places, which is why today is Frank Zappa Day in Baltimore.

The late musician was born in Baltimore on Dec. 21, 1940, but never rated a government proclamation in his hometown until August 2007.

The official reason for Baltimore's first Frank Zappa Day: his eldest son, Dweezil, was performing Dad's music in town.

The real reason: Jeanette Garcia Polasky works in City Hall.

She is Mayor Sheila Dixon's deputy director of correspondence and constituent services. She is also a rabid Zappa fan who doesn't even have to think about it when asked to name her favorite song: "Dog Breath Variations."

She doesn't consider herself a Zappa expert but says she's married to one, composer Jacob Polasky.

This year Frank Zappa Day was rescheduled to fall on his birthday.

"And we're going to continue it every year, at least as long as I'm around," Jeanette Polasky said.

Is Dixon a fan?

Spokesman Ian Brennan said he wasn't sure if there was any Zappa on the mayoral iPod.

"I think she had said when talking about it last year, this was good for Baltimore like anything else. Like we celebrate Cab Calloway."

Guys in the water

Here's one way to take the break out of Christmas break: swim a grueling 100-mile relay race that goes on for more than a day.

More than 20 members of Loyola Blakefield's swim and water polo teams will do just that in a race that begins at the Towson high school tomorrow at 10 a.m. and will last for 28 to 32 hours.

The event is an annual fundraiser, which this year will benefit breast cancer research at the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center in Baltimore. The students are swimming in honor of Suzanne Vinyard of Baltimore County, a 45-year-old mother of two who died of the disease in August.

Her son Ken, 16, a Loyola junior and swim team member, will participate. So will her younger son, Scott, 13, a Dumbarton Middle School eighth-grader who hopes to attend Loyola next year.

Last year the event raised $10,000 to start a scholarship fund in the name of Joe Curreri, a Loyola grad and former swim team captain who became a Green Beret in the Army's Special Forces and drowned in October 2007 while serving in the Philippines. He'd first come up with the idea for the 100-mile relay in 1996, as a way to raise money to establish a water polo team.

Curt Vinyard said he was surprised and touched that the team, which picks a different charity every year, chose to honor his late wife this time.

"Loyola has a motto, 'Men for others,' " he said. "They very much live it. ... The fact that they want to spend two days of their Christmas break collectively swimming 100 miles - these are kids that spend 20-plus hours a week in the pool as it is."

Among those who will be watching the swimmers is Ken Jackson, the genial host of WYPR's Big Band show In the Mood, and Suzanne Vinyard's father.

"These kids just swim and swim," he said.

Connect the dots

A spy reports seeing Michael Phelps working out at the Maryland Athletic Club in Harbor East the other day. Accompanied by a bodyguard, he was overheard saying that his $1.7 million Fells Point townhouse was too big for him and that he was thinking of moving to someplace in Locust Point where there also was better security. ... No telling if they'll be cranking Zappa tunes at City Hall, but there's an open house there from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. today. Mayor Dixon will pose for pictures with visitors. Her staff expects to draw more people than usual this year because they handed out postcard invites at community meetings. Donations of nonperishable food items or winter accessories - hats, scarves, gloves, socks - will be accepted. ... In a show of solidarity with furloughed state workers, Martin O'Malley wrote a $1,956.38 check to the state last week, representing five days of his $150,000-a-year salary. (The state Constitution actually forbids him from docking his own pay.) O'Malley told The Baltimore Sun's Gadi Dechter and other reporters that he made the check out to State of Maryland because he "couldn't bring myself to write it to the comptroller." ... A $10 million renovation project is wrapping up at the State House. Doors open for employees tomorrow, for the public after New Year's. O'Malley apologized to Examiner reporter Len Lazarick that the state was unable to turn his basement press room to a "sports lounge" with Jacuzzi, Dechter also reports. To the amusement of the assembled press corps, Lazarick replied: "My shoes are still tied" - a reference to the shoe-throwing Iraqi reporter. ... Writing Wednesday about Dennis Bolen, a laid-off homebuilder who was appearing on The Tyra Banks Show, I noted that Bolen was on his way to a job interview when I'd spoken with him. A reader wanted to know: How'd it go? So I called him back. "It went all right, but they're not actually looking to hire anybody until spring," Bolen said

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