Hint to thief: Don't try to palm off a stolen plant on its owner


Only in Baltimore could a guy try to sell a woman a potted plant she already owns. That's just a hunch. I suppose it could happen in other cities -- Cleveland comes to mind, for some reason -- but I have this feeling that what happened in Fells Point the other day was, shall we say, unique. After all, Fells Point is where police once arrested a man with 21 stolen pigeons in his pants, and where else on earth has such a thing ever happened? So, call me crazy, but I'm sure it will be the next century before a guy shows up at lunch with a stolen palm.

Barbara Pearce is director of the Joseph Center, operated by Associated Catholic Charities. The center has a South Broadway lobby with lots of windows. It's a good place for plants. There was a beauty there, too -- a 3-foot-tall palm-like plant in a pot Barbara had brought from home.

Monday, Barbara walked down to Funk's Democratic Coffee Spot on Eastern Avenue. She sat down to lunch with her friend, Jo Fisher. That's when this short guy walked in. He sported a large, palm-like potted plant.

"Anybody wanna buy a plant? Five dollars," the guy told customers.

Right away Barbara recognized her plant and her pot. Shorty must have boosted the thing from the Joseph Center, then walked down the street trying to sell it.

When Barbara confronted the guy, he mumbled something lame, then relinquished the plant and vamoosed. Barbara and Jo dined under the palm.

City dwellers pay a price

For years, one of the givens of inner-city life has been that food prices are higher; consumer surveys have confirmed it. If you're stuck -- limited income, no car, inadequate public transportation -- then you don't have a lot of shopping choices. Supermarkets still aren't as common in the city as they are in the suburbs, and this fact of life is often reflected in the higher prices. To test this assumption again, Loyola College students, under the supervision of Sister Catherine Gugerty, surveyed two supermarkets -- one in southeast Baltimore, one in Essex -- and compared prices on more than 50 items, from frozen vegetables to diapers. With rare exceptions, the prices in the city market were higher than those in the Baltimore County store. In some instances, they were a lot higher -- a package of 50 Luvs diapers being $2.89 less in Essex than in Baltimore. Other examples (city price, followed by county price): A jar of Gerber peaches -- 79 cents, 53 cents; two pounds of Kraft Velveeta -- $6.59, $5.44; a half-gallon of Cloverland skim milk -- $1.65, $1.35; a pound of Hanover frozen baby lima beans -- $2.09, $1.77; a three-pack of Coronet paper towels -- $2.69, $2.34. Only two items showed up as less expensive in the city supermarket -- Lysol deodorizing cleanser and Kraft cream cheese. City food stores might have operating costs their counterparts in the suburbs don't. But some stores might be doing what they've done for years -- gouging people who have little choice.

A boss behind the times

There was a long line at Duke's All Cloth Car Wash on Route 140, Westminster, yesterday afternoon, with lots of folks slipping away from work to get the last of winter washed off their wheels and to take advantage of the dry forecast. (Even if the weather cruds up, you can't go wrong at Duke's. "If it rains today," says the rain check, "we will wash the exterior of your vehicle tomorrow, weather permitting.) Duke's is an old-fashioned wash, where the staff takes your car and you walk down a hall, watching the bath through a window. A young guy wipes your car dry, too. As this happened yesterday, a woman started crowing about the great weather and the fresh shine on her car. But the woman standing next to her just sighed. "My car's still sitting in the parking lot where I work," she said. "This is my boss' car." Old-fashioned car wash. Old-fashioned boss, too.

Just wondering

A Baltimore County middle school student recently filled out a green "discipline report form." When he came to the line that said, "I WAS SENT TO THE OFFICE BECAUSE," he wrote: "I was just wondering around the hall having a good old time just chewing my gum and walking around -- until I had to do this."

Dogs: dressed up and dancing

Coming up this Saturday in Columbia: the annual Statewide Enrichment Seminar of Pets on Wheels, featuring Dr. Karen Overall, who will discuss "how to deal with fear a pet might be experiencing," and, during lunch break, Joan Tennille on "canine freestyle dancing." There will also be a pet fashion show. I am not making this up!

Up to the minute

From a letter sent to participants in forthcoming seminars sponsored by the Association of Community Services of Howard County: "We are scheduling each seminar to begin 15 minutes earlier than the planned starting time to deal with lateness problems."

Mural might be saved

We soon could have some good news about that old Natty Boh mural uncovered on a brick wall on North Charles Street during demolition of the Monumental Life parking garage (featured in This Just In, Feb. 22). Malcolm Mason of the architectural review board of the Mount Vernon/Belvedere Improvement Association says there's a chance the mural will be preserved. Good thing, too. It appears to be a one-of-a-kind find. Watch this space.

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