On flavors, smells, Madonna and Mrs. Key

Comments on this and that, and remembering a Baltimore mom who never stopped grieving

February 06, 2012|Dan Rodricks

Nobody asked me but . . . .

Few things are worse than having the aromas and flavors of a warm, brick-oven, wood-fired pizza (with rapini and soppressata) wiped away by a waitress who sprays Windex-type disinfectant on the table next to you while you're still dining.

The Super Bowl has come and gone — time to protest the new puppy store in Columbia!

Scientists who track these things believe last September's big storms may have drowned much of the region's stink bug population. Plans for a memorial service are incomplete.

The Washington County sheriff had to evacuate and close the mall in Hagerstown Saturday after a fight broke out among customers waiting for the Foot Locker to open so they could spend $200 on new Nike Foams. In December, the same happened at malls across the country when police broke up crowds waiting to buy Air Jordan Concords. What I want to know is: When and how is Under Armour going to top this? UA's Micro G Bloodline is a fine basketball shoe, but no one appears to be fighting over it. What's up with that?

Nobody asked me but . . .

Madonna's Super Bowl half time show got me channeling the late Hunter S. Thompson and something he once said of Circus Circus in Las Vegas: "It's what Saturday night would have been like had the Nazis won."

Don't get me wrong, Madonna was great as the Valkyrie sex goddess; she had me channeling Teutonic myths and imagining a hip-hop Gotterdammerung, with Cee Lo as Siegfried. But impressions varied in the Tweet-o-sphere. Some thought this was Norse-inspired, some thought Roman. A Tweet from Philip Michaels said: "I found Madonna's tribute to the First Peloponnesian War to be sorely lacking in historical accuracy."

Nobody asked me but . . .

Politicians who file "English only" bills are mean-spirited, grandstanding demagogues. The latest is Jerry Walker, a councilman in Anne Arundel, who wants English to be declared the county's official language. The idea is to make people from other countries — undocumented or documented — feel as unwelcome as possible. Mr. Walker's fellow Republican, Councilman John Grasso, says: "You come to America, you learn the language. Anybody who's a real American will agree." And don't expect us to help you in the meantime ... Great.

Some guys apparently never got the memo about the United States striving to be not only the richest and most powerful nation on Earth, but also its most humane.

•••

A note about Lula Key . . .

I met her 30 years ago, after her son, Seth Key, had been murdered. In this business, I have met and interviewed many people who suffered such a tragedy. The interloping nature of news reporting means we parachute into someone's life for a day, or an hour, and then the work is done. Not so with Lula Key; we kept in touch for more than two decades.

I would sometimes sigh quietly when I heard her distraught voice on the phone, knowing there was nothing I could say to console her. But I always listened, even when I had no time, because Mrs. Key commanded attention and she seemed to embody all the older, lifelong Baltimoreans, shocked and forlorn, who grieved for sons and daughters lost in the city's epoch of drug-related violence.

In July 1980, Seth was a Towson State student who worked at a gas station in East Baltimore. Someone robbed him of $257 and shot him in the cashier's booth. He was only 21.

Five years went by before police arrested a suspect. There was a trial, and a conviction of second-degree murder, followed by a sentence of 65 years in prison. Seth Key's killer served 20 years before a judge found an error in the way his trial had been handled and suspended the balance of the sentence.

Of course, Mrs. Key was distressed about that, but I tried to console her that 20 years was better than nothing. Of course, there was no convincing her of that, and we again spent a lot of time on the phone, and she wept again for Seth.

Now her daughter, Gloria Vinson, reported over the weekend the death of Lula Key on Jan. 25. "She is now with the Lord and is being reunited with my brother," Ms. Vinson said.

Rest in Peace, at last, Lula Key.

Dan Rodricks' column appears each Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. Find him on Twitter at DanRodricks and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/dan.rodricks

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