Sometimes truth stranger than fiction

From politics to sports to Baltimore streets, antics leave us bemused

December 27, 2009|By Jill Rosen

In this decade, Frankenfish lurked in waterways, candidates told tall tales about cookies raining from the heavens, people lost their minds over a golden fence.

A 38-year-old socialite became a Ravens cheerleader. An 80-something politician told a young aide to "walk again" so he could see her backside.

In a few days, we'll end a decade that has, at turns, given us the willies, cracked us up and disgusted us. Let's walk again through some of its greatest, or at least oddest, hits:

Like a scene from a budget sci-fi film, fishermen discovered a half-fish, half-serpent thing that could swim, walk on land and eat us out of house and home. The snakehead! We screamed and screamed and then forgot about it.

And then, with a deafening buzz, winged invaders moved in, by the bazillion, for their once-every-17-year visit. Cicadas crawled from their subterranean dens, took flight and gave us the heebie-jeebies for the better part of the summer of 2004.

Speaking of things flying through the air, Michael S. Steele drew sympathy and then hard questions in 2002 when his campaign, implying racism, said he was pelted by Oreos at an event. "It was raining Oreos," an official said - though attendees later said there were no thrown cookies.

In Annapolis, there was no shortage of eyebrow-raisers, particularly around a certain comptroller. In this decade, as in most, William Donald Schaefer could fill a column all by himself, and one incident stands apart. The 84-year-old Schaefer, at a public meeting, watched a young aide walk away after setting tea down for him. He called her back, ordered her to "walk again," and stared at her as she did.

Newly elected Gov. Martin O'Malley, who in his mayoral years had fancied himself a rocker with a penchant for going sleeveless, called the band quits. Some apparently thought getting jiggy with a Celtic band would diminish his stateliness. But this year, O'Malley's March returned with a new album, stateliness be damned.

Olympian Michael Phelps was caught, too - at a party taking a hit of marijuana from a bong.

Debauchery hit new lows at the Preakness - so much cheap beer, public urination and exposing of young selves that it became known among partyers as "The Freakness." That is, until The Running of the Urinals. Images of the porta-potty race went global, much shame was had by all, and it was buh-bye beer on the infield.

Constellation Energy got yet another reason to buy a box at Ravens Stadium when the boss' wife, Molly Shattuck, became the oldest cheerleader in team history.

One spring day in 2008, a golden fence mysteriously appeared around Mount Vernon Place, shutting people off from the rare swatch of green in the city. Though it was an art student's project, and temporary, historians and dog-walkers went ballistic, complaining until the student, in tears, dismantled it early. The artist's original intent: to remind people to value the space.

The crime rate has never been one of Baltimore's bragging points, but quite a few unusual things went missing. Maybe the economy had folks feeling needy. Maybe the global insecurity provoked closet kleptos to seek comfort. But something caused thieves to start swiping light poles. Hundreds of them.

Someone cribbed a crab - one of the 75-pound fiberglass art crabs that decorated Baltimore in 2005. Others took the metal sculpture of Cal Ripken Jr.'s famous No. 8 from its perch at Camden Yards.

Gift cards at City Hall went missing. As did $3,000 in jewelry and other personal items from the car of the city's top prosecutor, Patricia C. Jessamy.

No wonder that a Johns Hopkins student, faced with a break-in this year, defended his hearth and home with a samurai sword.

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