Chain-owned franchises are becoming integral part of...


Chain-owned franchises are becoming integral part of our 0) lives

God, I love coffee.

Every morning I grind my own beans and sniff the aroma as I pour the water slowly through a paper filter and into a thermos.

It's a daily experience that borders on religion.

The problem is it's turned me into a coffee snob. I can't drink just any old cup of coffee. Even if I want a cup, I have trouble drinking it when offered because it means variables that can ruin the taste. Using milk instead of cream, for instance, or drinking it out of Styrofoam cups. Styrofoam cups should be illegal.

But there is one place that I can get a cup of coffee close to what I brew at home: Dunkin' Donuts.

Many times I find myself in mid-morning at the Dunkin' Donuts Shop on state Route 2 in Severna Park. I said "This is very good coffee." They smile, thinking I'm psychotic, and nod and walk away. They don't know they are talking to a true coffee connoisseur.

One recent afternoon, after such a conversation, I sat in the parking lot of the shop looking north along Ritchie Highway and began thinking about how Dunkin' Donuts and other chain-owned franchises have become such integral parts of our lives.

Almost everything is a chain in this country. We live in a land of Burger Kings, 7-Elevens and Rite Aids. So its inevitable that many of our primary experiences occur in impersonal, chain-owned franchises. Kids have their first dates at McDonald's. Lonely insomniacs who seek out clean well-lighted places at 2 a.m. are likely to wind up at Dunkin' Donuts.

I remember this experience at a chain. When my wife told me she was pregnant with our first child. I was 24 and a bit shaken by the news. With nothing better to do, we went to a Baskin-Robbins, a chain, and there I delivered a line that my oldest child, my daughter, has yet to forgive me for.

I walked up to the counter, looked at the menu without seeing it and was asked what I wanted.

"Uh, I uh . . . I'd like a boy."

Could Luke Perry be coming to Annapolis?

(Warning to adoring teen fans, who may otherwise camp out in dTC Maryland's capital for the next year: This news blurb is based strictly on gossip and speculation through the grapevine, with a few interesting facts thrown in.)

While "Patriot Games" is still a hot ticket at movie theaters, the city is already abuzz with rumors that another movie may be shot at the Naval Academy. Word on the street is the next film, tentatively titled "Annapolis," is a "coming of age" story about a midshipman.

He must be cute because he's an athletic star, possibly a football hero. (And he will score the final touchdown at the Army-Navy game.) Also, he falls in love with a girl at a nearby college. But the plot is a bit deeper than the old boy-meets-girl movie. He questions his desire to become an aviator just as his brother gets killed in the Persian Gulf war.

"It's a story about young people, along the lines of [the popular television show] Beverly Hills 90210," said Cmdr. Mike John, a spokesman for the Naval Academy, who seems to know a fair amount about the project.

Naval intelligence has once again bested the people at Paramount Pictures Corp., who appear less informed.

That must be a rumor or a mistake," said one spokesman, Don Levy, director of production publicity. "I'm not aware of anything like that."

But Commander John said that David Kirkpatrick, a producer and former president of Paramount Pictures Corp., and screen writer Maggie Kleinman took a three-day tour of the academy in early April. Both asked hundreds of detailed questions about the brigade's daily routine at the academy.

"It was a lot like having the GAO [General Accounting Office] visit us," Commander John said. "They wanted to know all about life as a midshipman."

Harrison Ford generated little fan frenzy when he arrived to film "Patriot Games" last year. In fact, the project was kept so secret that most residents knew little about it until the film crews rolled past the academy gates.

But who knows what might happen if word leaks out that Tom Cruise is coming? Not to mention Luke.

JoAnna Daemmrich

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