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City's awash in arena visions

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I need to ask the people who've been writing letters to the editor expressing nostalgic affection for the 1st Mariner Arena - and horror at the prospect of that outdated box being torn down and replaced - the following question: When was the last time you were there? When the Beatles played, or was it Herman's Hermits?

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By the way, a Baltimore home boy with an incredible memory - and a scrapbook full of posters and ticket stubs - tells me that, when Herman's Hermits played here, in what was then called the Civic Center, the rocker who opened for them was a pretty good guitar player named Jimi Hendrix.

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Note to Mayor Dixon: You can have my idea for an architecturally stunning, solar-powered state-of-the-art "green" arena in downtown Baltimore. Take it. It's yours. Just make it happen. Get a lunch with eco-architect William McDonough, a world-renown leader in green-think and sustainability in design. He's in Charlottesville, Va.

Vanity Fair profiled him in May (the "green issue," with Madonna on the cover), and quoted him thus: "The things we make must not only rise from the ground but return to it, soil to soil, water to water, so everything that is received from the earth can be freely given back without causing harm to any living system. This is ecology. This is good design. It is of this we must now speak."

I'm telling you, Mayor: Invite the guy up for a walk around the block.

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Chris Stoner, a civic-minded fellow who works at T. Rowe Price, has this idea: Build an 18,000- to 20,000-seat stadium out at Canton Crossing, by the interstate in Southeast Baltimore, for professional soccer and lacrosse teams. Stoner points out that Major League Soccer recently announced an intention to expand by 2011. So let's get a soccer-specific stadium and expand Ed Hale's Baltimore Blast into two teams - one for outdoors, one for indoors.

"While the MLS is anxious to expand west, a team in Baltimore would only add to a regional rivalry with Washington, Philly and New York," Stoner says. "Games against those teams mean shorter travel at less costs and the ability for fans to travel."

A stadium of this size could draw Major League Lacrosse back here, too. It could handle events too small for M&T Bank Stadium: ethnic festivals, revivals, an all-new Baltimore City Fair, some concerts, and high school and collegiate athletics.

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You tell me: $8.95 for a thin shrimp-salad sandwich with lettuce and tomato on rye, with a bag of Utz? This was last Friday's lunch special at a restaurant-lounge in Towson.

I'm not going to name the place because the people there seemed nice and, for all I know, a strike by the Amalgamated Shrimp Deveiners might have caused a sudden spike in price.

But, for $8.95, I think the kitchen staff at least could have opened the bag of chips.

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Here's another thing, based on a recent Baltimore restaurant experience: If a customer says, 'I'll just have a glass of red," without being more specific than that, the waitress or waiter should advise said customer that the glass of wine he/she intends to bring to the table will cost $15.

Some things go without saying, but not $15 for four ounces of fermented grape juice.

I know things are tough in the restaurant business these days - some places aren't paying their bills - but "hidden charges" aren't going to stave off bankruptcy. They're just going to stave off customers.

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Maybe the best couple of hours in sports television: Jim Palmer doing color commentary with Gary Thorne on MASN when Daniel Cabrera pitches for the O's. It's like listening to a retired Hopkins professor commenting from the upper gallery of a surgical amphitheater while one of his students, now a doctor himself, performs below - we hear all about his protege's limited diagnostic skills, his sophomoric understanding of human physiology, his poor choice of surgical instruments, and his unwillingness to use the change-up.

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At a recent Orioles-Angels game at The Yard, I sat in front of four schmoozers, including one woman with a shriek-like laugh, who never talked baseball the entire evening and were oblivious to the game going on about 100 yards away. They stopped talking only when a foul ball off a Toronto bat beaned a boy nearby. Once that drama ended, they went back to yakking

Over two hours, they spoke about the following: How nice the Baltimore-Washington Parkway is; the best way to get to the airport; life in Linthicum back in the day; cars in the era before seat belts, and what it was like sleeping in the back seat of dad's big sedan; their favorite wines; a wine shop in Baltimore and how helpful they are there, especially with the cabernets; shopping for antiques, the hotel one of them stayed in the last time he was in Baltimore.

If the Orioles established No Schmoozing sections, they'd sell them out every game.

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All you guys in the 'burbs with the sprawling, treeless lawns and the gas-burning John Deere tractor-mowers: Maybe next year you'd consider buying a tiller attachment and planting a garden?

Faux-baronial lawns would be much more productive if converted to family gardens. (Instead of a "victory garden," it could be a "mission accomplished garden.")

Your carbon footprint would be smaller, and you'd probably reduce the family food bill. Hell, you could even start selling cukes and 'lopes curbside, and pay the mortgage on time. That wouldn't be a bad thing, would it?

dan.rodricks@baltsun.com

Dan Rodricks can be heard on "Midday," Mondays through Thursdays, noon to 2 p.m. on 88.1 WYPR-FM.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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