As it happens, I am sitting between Lois Garey, the East Baltimore city councilwoman, and a fellow named Pete, no last name, the night after John Cain allegedly throws a right hand into the lower stomach of Nick D'Adamo.
Being council members themselves, both Cain and D'Adamo are widely known as genteel sorts. It's just that, in East Baltimore, the politicians pull no punches.
Take Councilwoman Garey. She and this fellow, Pete, and I are sitting in a crowd at Tiffany East, on Lombard Street. Cain and D'Adamo are there, too, avoiding all eye contact. It's the night of a big meeting to discuss troubles in Highlandtown, though not the trouble witnessed by Garey the day before, involving Cain's fist and D'Adamo's stomach.
And, as we wait for this meeting to commence, some of the neighborhood ladies bring out various cakes they've baked, which we are eating and making editorial comment upon.
"A little dry," says this Pete fellow, referring to a piece of vanilla cake with chocolate icing which I find delightful and am so surprised by his remark that I jot it into my notebook, along with the rest of the ensuing conversation:
"If it's too dry," says Lois Garey, "do what my husband does."
"What's that?" inquires Pete.
"Dunks it in his beer," says Councilwoman Garey.
Now I love this assertion of East Baltimore originality, and I will stand up to any man who does not. Except maybe if the man is Councilman Cain, who we now learn is a little too quick with the fists, according to a police report I hold in my hand.
The report was filed last Wednesday, the morning after Councilman D'Adamo showed up for a meeting at Jimmy's Restaurant, 801 S. Broadway, about 25 minutes late.
The report notes:
"As he entered their meeting place, [D'Adamo] greeted Mr. Cain by tapping him on the shoulder. At that point Mr. Cain stood up and punched Mr. D'Adamo in the lower stomach. Mr. Cain was heard by the victim and witnesses to say something to the effect:
" 'Don't you touch me. I don't like the way you touch me.' "
The report goes on to say that Lois Garvey "did observe Mr. Cain strike Mr. D'Adamo in the stomach. The motive for the attack is unclear. Mr. D'Adamo and Ms. Garey believe it was due to the fact Mr. D'Adamo was late to the meeting."
Yesterday, Councilwoman Garey was only admitting to certain critical facts: Yes, she reasserted, her husband, an employee with the state police, does like his cake with his beer, though the dunking part she seemed to be hedging on.
And, yes, she was there for the Cain punch, though she actually added this remark: "I've got issues to work on. I didn't spend years working in the community so I could get to City Hall and worry about this stuff. It makes the council look like a bunch of clowns."
Not to everybody, it doesn't. In Little Italy, as word of the punch spread, Albert Isella and John Pica Sr., each with distinction in such matters, saw boxers in front of them.
"We gotta promote a fight," said Isella, who is widely known around here as a sporting aficionado. "An outdoor match at Camden Yards."
"I'm taking odds right now," said Pica, the former state delegate. "I gotta go with D'Adamo, 'cause Cain's way outa shape. And let me say this: Nicky D'Adamo's old man could beat the bleep out of either one of them."
Naturally, Nicholas D'Adamo Sr. was pleased to hear this, but also becomingly modest. "Maybe when I was younger," he said.
Then he issued a warning. "Tell them to forget promoting any fight, because I already got calls from people saying they want to promote it, and I said forget it. I'm the promoter, and we want the Civic Center for it."
When this news was passed to his son, Councilman D'Adamo, in the full wisdom of his 37 years, declared, "When's it gonna be? Let's do it. I did the right thing, not hitting him back, but I've had people calling me all day saying I should have beat the bleep out of him."
D'Adamo said he works out every day. Cain's in his mid-50s and carries considerable bulk. He has not returned phone calls about the fight.
"All I know," said D'Adamo, "is he hit me. Lois Garey said, 'Did you hurt your hand, John?' You know, sarcastic. And then she said, 'John, what's the matter with you?' "
Lois Garey says we should forget it now. She's working on serious problems. And, presumably, watching her husband dunk chocolate cake in his beer.