Lounging lawmaker turns to booze to solve fiendish problem


Which state senator is so desperate for a smoke he contrived a "bar" in the men's restroom of the Maryland Senate to take advantage of the "hospitality industry exemption" to the state's workplace smoking ban? In this case, the "bar" was a bottle of J&B; and a bottle of Jack Daniels on a chair with a sign: "This is the new Senate bar. We have our new liquor license. Therefore, this is the smoking lounge." By the time our investigators arrived, the mystery butt fiend was gone. He'd left the bathroom window open. One burned match floated in a toilet. The bottle of Jack was empty; there was about an inch of J&B; left. What gives? Who's the butt nut?

Never rob a police officer

Please join me in high-fiving Howard Smith, a city police officer who helped his Baltimore County brethren nail the guy who broke into a house near Gunpowder State Park in November. Smith took a special interest in the case because the burglarized house was his own -- and not because he was impatient with the county police. "I have no complaint with the county; they responded just fine," Smith says. "I knew the process [of investigating] these kinds of crimes and decided to do some of my own legwork."

Smith's legwork took him to a couple of park employees. He asked if, while on the job the day before, they had noticed any strange activity near Gunpowder or an adjoining subdivision. They had. In fact, they had written down the tag number of a car spotted at the edge of the park because they suspected the two guys inside the vehicle were casing nearby homes.

"Finding those [park workers], who had written down the tag number, was very lucky," Smith says. The number led him to a name; the name showed up in a couple of pawnshops. So did some of the Smith family jewelry.

"The suspect had used a photo ID, his driver's license, to pawn some of the items taken from my house," Smith says. He believes the burglar went directly from the house to a pawnshop with the stolen loot.

A 21-year-old Perry Hall man, Kevin Carter, was arrested two days later, sent to the Baltimore County Detention Center and stayed there until one day last month. In Baltimore County Circuit Court, he pleaded guilty to breaking and entering, malicious destruction of property and theft. He was given a three-year sentence, with all suspended but the four months he already had served in jail. The Smith family recovered its jewelry and other valuables from the pawnshops, but several electronic items never were recovered. Nor has Carter's accomplice been arrested. "He never gave his partner up," Smith says. But the officer hints that he still might be pursuing the one that got away.

Farmer hangs on

Later this month, the portrait of Spiro T. Agnew will grace, or haunt, the Reception Room of the State House in Annapolis. To make room on the wall for the former Maryland governor and crook-of-a-vice-president -- there's only so much room -- the portrait of another governor had to come down. The late Frank "Farmer" Brown, who served one term 100 years ago, was headed for storage when Maryland's present governor, Parris N. Glendening, ordered that a new spot be found for him. Brown, as noted in this space Feb. 10, served from 1892 to 1896 and, among other things, intervened in an Eastern Shore murder case to save the lives of four young black men falsely accused of the crime. Brown won't get the attic, after all. His portrait has been moved to the hearing room of the House Judiciary Committee, on which the honorable Carroll County farmer once served.

Older than any chicken

Check out the fossilized dinosaur egg on display in an illuminated glass case at Alonso's on West Cold Spring Lane. It's the real thing, recovered from a dig in China, and estimated to be about 97 million years old. The egg is from the collection of Leroy Alonso, the restaurant/bar's owner. It's just the decorative touch the bar needed for Easter, too.

She'll be there

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, who wrote the book, "On Death And Dying," 25 years ago, has made few public appearances during the past year. She suffered a stroke last May in Paris, lost her Shenandoah Valley retreat to fire and moved to Arizona to live near her son, Ken. Kubler-Ross' speech at Towson State University April 30 will be her first since last August. The world-famous death-and-dying pioneer will appear at an all-day conference titled, "The Meaning of Life and the Meaning of Death," sponsored, in part, by Towson State's Department of Psychology. The conference coordinator, Laurie Koller Schwartz, says the program includes a telephone hookup to another psychiatry legend, Viktor Frankl, author of "Man's Search for Meaning," at his home in Austria.

Well, he watches the Yankees

Robert Lipsyte, writing in the "New York Times Magazine," just as the Major League baseball strike ended: "As a mirror of our culture, sports now show us spoiled fools as role models, cities and colleges held hostage and games that exist only to hawk products. The pathetic posturing of in-your-face macho has replaced a once self-confident masculinity. And the truth and beauty of sport itself -- a pleasure of the flesh to the participant, an ennobling inspiration to the spectator -- seem to have been wiped off the looking glass."

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