Somewhere out there is the $6,000 that Antonina Berest and her husband, Iosif Tsitlik, earned by cleaning floors, washing windows and scrubbing bathrooms. It took them two years, about as long as they have been in the United States, to save that money. They wanted to buy a car with it. But it's gone -- dropped on a sidewalk, lost, probably in someone else's hands by now. Antonina Berest cries when she tells the story.
"Sometimes I work 18-hour days for that money," she says in a heavy Russian accent. "I work as housekeeper for that money. My husband, too. I never turn down a job."
She was a teacher, he was a dentist in Russia. But since their arrival here in January 1993, they've had to take cleaning jobs to get by. For a time they both worked at Woodholme Country Club, and Iosif still works there. Antonina has been training to be a tour guide in Washington. She and her husband take cleaning jobs in private homes whenever they can.
That's what they were doing last Wednesday evening -- cleaning a house in Homeland, near Paddington Road. Antonina had the $6,000 in cash with her. Their 1985 Toyota Tercel was becoming unreliable. They wanted to buy another car. In fact, they had gone to a Mazda dealer in Owings Mills the night before and discussed the purchase of one with salesman Jody Lichtman. Lichtman counted the money -- exactly $6,000, enclosed in the kind of plastic bag one finds in supermarket produce departments. Antonina says she was ready to buy a car from Lichtman, but a young friend persuaded her and her husband to wait and price more cars.
That's what they did. As they finished the house-cleaning job in Homeland, they prepared for another evening of car shopping.
Antonina pulled a sweater over her head and placed the strap of her handbag on her shoulder. "And then I went to the car," she says. Outside, she noticed she had put her sweater on backward. As her husband loaded cleaning supplies in the rear of the car, she took off her sweater to reverse it. That's when, she thinks, the handbag fell to the sidewalk. About seven minutes later, as she and her husband turned onto Northern Parkway, Antonina started screaming. They returned to Homeland, to the same sidewalk, and the handbag was gone. They asked a man on a porch if he or his children had seen it, and he said no.
Antonina returned to the neighborhood with a flier imploring the finder of the money to return it. "From Russia we didn't bring any cent," she says. "Russians are accustomed to carrying cash. We have some money in accounts, but I took the cash to pay for the car. I'm sure I dropped it while changing the sweater. In maybe 12 minutes we return there and it was gone."
Call me if you know anything about this. 332-6166.
Name from the past
John E. "Liddie" Jones -- there's a name from the past. A major heroin dealer in Baltimore in the early 1970s, Jones went away to federal prison for a long time. I haven't heard his name uttered in years. But apparently Jones has been out of prison for a while -- at least long enough to get in hot water again. Today he's sitting in a Maryland jail awaiting a hearing on whether he violated conditions of his federal parole. Jones appeared before Baltimore Circuit Judge Tom Ward in February to face charges of speeding and resisting arrest. He received probation before judgment on the resisting charge, and was found guilty of speeding. It will be up to a federal parole board to decide if Jones will go back to prison. Two decades ago, Jones received a 30-year sentence on federal heroin conspiracy charges. F. Lee Bailey was one of his attorneys.
Easter bunny truckin' on
Palm Sunday, my old pal T.J. Dexterhaven was driving up the interstate with Mrs. Dexterhaven when they passed a tractor-trailer decked out for Easter. "The driver had put that green, plastic indoor-outdoor carpeting on the steps leading to the cab," T.J. reports. "And attached to it were plastic eggs and Easter bunnies, all fluttering in the wind at 60 mph. Beautiful. We gave the driver the thumbs-up."
Those dangerous daffodils
For a couple of decades now, a group called Beautiful Baltimore has planted stands of spring bulbs throughout the city, and there are parks and median strips full of yellow daffodils to show for it. But for two years, the folks at BB have been complaining that the city is too quick with the lawn mowers. The group wants the flowers to die a long, natural death, ensuring healthy blooms for years to come. Instead, city crews give them the ole chop-chop. For more on this, we present an excerpt from the minutes of BB's March 20 meeting: "Marlyn Perritt, the [Department of Recreation and Parks] head, listed reasons why the daffodils were cut prematurely: people hide in them, they obstruct views, their beauty distracts motorists and their pollen is a concern." I am not making this up!
I know a 6-year-old Dalmatian named Spot -- I am not making this up! -- who found a 5-dollar bill on North Charles Street on Friday. The bill was clipped to a torn piece of stationery from John Hopkins University Press. The note said, "Turkey club w/ fries." There were two more words on the lunch order. Identify them, prove affiliation with Johns Hopkins University Press, and I'll put you in touch with Spot.