Arundel follies, Dwyer's drinking, Ravens on the wrist

Leopold misconduct trial promises interesting start to year

James Pharis, a 16-year military veteran with post traumatic stress syndrome, makes bracelets and watch bands from parachute cords. (Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun video)

All the world's a stage, especially Anne Arundel County. It has produced, far and away, the best shows of the season: a County Council member sent to prison, followed by a long squabble over his replacement; a congenial county executive charged with being a creep; a police chief forced to retire; a gay-bashing delegate involved in a drunken boat crash; a loquacious council member accused of bullying constituents on Election Day.

That's quite a run, and it isn't over.

The curtain rises now for the misconduct trial of John Leopold, the Republican county executive accused of ordering his police security detail to transport him to and from encounters with his girlfriend, to compile dossiers on political rivals and even to empty the catheter bag he used after back surgery.

(My theory holds that the bit about the bag is what got Leopold in trouble. Your staffers had better adore you — I'm emphasizing the word "adore" here — if you are going to ask them to handle your collection bag, and especially if you expect them to cover your indiscretions.)

Some people look forward to the next episode of "Downton Abbey." I'm looking forward to the Leopold trial.

Guess who's to blame

Not to be upstaged by his fellow Republican, Don Dwyer, a state delegate from Anne Arundel County, gave an interview to the Capital Gazette to explain why he got drunk last summer while operating his boat in the Magothy River.

Dwyer, who faces alcohol-related charges in the crash that injured him and six others, said he started drinking hard after he and his wife separated in 2011.

But here's the best part, why I say the hits just keep on comin' in Anne Arundel County:

Dwyer blames the outcome of the gay-marriage vote in the Maryland House of Delegates for his turn to the bottle.

An outspoken opponent of gay rights, Dwyer said, "I felt a tremendous amount of pressure in my family. You take those personal issues [and] add betrayal on the professional side, and it really gets to be overwhelming."

The "betrayal" he felt came when three other delegates, including two Republicans, changed their minds and voted for the same-sex marriage bill that became state law on Jan. 1.

"That betrayal really affected me," Dwyer said. "I was physically ill. You pour your heart into an issue like that and it's devastating."

Advice to the delegate: Find something else to "pour your heart into," something that will actually make a difference in the lives of the people of your district.

Also, blaming others is a way for Dwyer — who has acknowledged completing an alcohol treatment program — to avoid the hard sweat of self-examination. If you attend an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, you'll learn about the need to take "a searching and fearless moral inventory of oneself," and there's no room in that for blaming others for where you are in life. Break a leg.

The Knotty Warrior

During a hard period in his life, James Pharis, a Marine and Army veteran, developed a knack for crafting colorful bracelets, watch bands and necklaces from parachute cord. Ravens fans who feel their game-day ensembles are incomplete might want to consider ordering one of The Knotty Warrior's purple-and-black items.

Pharis joined the Marines out of high school and served four years with the corps, becoming a mechanic in the process. After a traumatic mission in Somalia and his eventual discharge, he took various jobs in construction, but found something missing in civilian life. He enlisted in the Army, where his mechanical skills were in demand.

He served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and saw a lot of death. "Years of madness and sadness and anger," he calls them. In his last deployment, Pharis says, he "froze up and didn't seek cover" when his unit came under small-arms fire near Kirkuk in northern Iraq.

He eventually came home and underwent a long course of therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder. He retired after 16 years and is considered fully disabled. He lives with his wife, Jessica, also an Army veteran, and their daughter, Piper, in Baltimore County.

Pharis has been doing positive things, embracing therapy through the Department of Veterans Affairs, taking classes at the Community College of Baltimore County in Essex — he hopes to one day find a job as a paralegal — and making the bracelets.

He learned how to weave parachute cord from a YouTube video and started selling his items (for under $10 each) through a Facebook page, at veterans events and, recently, through Lakein's Jewelers. The Ravens colors are popular, Pharis says, but, with the Orioles also having made the postseason, Baltimoreans go for his combination purple-orange wrist bands, too.

range wrist bands, too.

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