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Naturalist's meditation on Soldiers Delight is quietly brilliant


What I'm reading this week (and greatly enjoying): "Soldiers Delight Journal," fresh from University of Pittsburgh Press, by Randallstown free-lance writer and naturalist Jack Wennerstrom. This is a reflective, descriptive and fact-filled account of one year (1991) in the life of the Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area, a globally rare, 2,000-acre prairie remnant in northwest Baltimore County near Liberty Reservoir.

Soldiers Delight provides "a natural door to solitude," Wennerstrom writes. While he might have sought out the place for personal reasons, he ends up serving a greater good: This book celebrates the significance of preserving open spaces that offer us the next best thing to true wilderness. Hiking through different sections of Soldiers Delight, Wennerstrom spots new flora and fauna (including copperheads and beaver) each day. And new seasons bring further discoveries, sometimes on the same ground and in the same streambeds he had earlier explored. (Wait til you read the story about the black rat snake that fell from a tree.) He's an artful writer who gracefully mixes science with wonder. "There is a luster and resonance in wildness that is beyond form, beyond function," Wennerstrom writes. "Each time one goes afield it is revealed that much more and stored up in the soul. It mostly defies translation, so few even bother to try. For a long time I didn't try either. But, if you're a writer, the need to attempt such translations gets under your skin. I finally got a notebook and jotted a few things down." I'm glad he did.

Any Grey Poupon?

Against my better judgment and the advice of counsel (sorry, I've been watching too much Court TV), I stopped for lunch at a roadside hot dog stand near Falls Road and the Beltway. I ordered two kosher dogs with spicy mustard -- your basic high fat, high cholesterol, on-the-run chow-down. The guy at the weiner wagon wrapped the dogs and put them in a bag. A few minutes later I emptied the bag, and what did I find? The two kosher dogs and an after-dinner mint. And wasn't that special?

Chew on this

Beef jerky. Sooner or later, it comes into everyone's life. Second-graders in Anne Arundel County got an early taste of it when the Canopy Restaurant in Pasadena donated some of its good stuff for a school "pioneer festival." The kids wrote back thank-you notes and gave their impressions. Here's one from a girl named Tiffani:

"I wish I could eat billions of the beef jerky that you made. My mommy and daddy thought it was salty but they still liked it. Can you send some more to our school? I hope you can. My baby sitter liked it but she didn't have any teeth to chew it so she sucked it. . . . My dogs roffed and my cats meoooeed for it but I liked it so much I could not give it to them it was so good! And when it was bedtime I had some beef jerky. Thanks."

News dude duds

I complimented a dude yesterday on the great shoulders on his sport coat. I recognized the look as Hugo Boss. "Yeah, but I can't afford Hugo Boss at the full price," dude tells me. So I asked where he got the wrap and, swear-ta-gahd, he leaned over and whispered: "C-Mart." . . . Speaking of clothes: Evelyn Bauernschub, a TJI reader from ZIP Code 21236, thinks WMAR-TV weather guru Norm Lewis is the best-dressed man on local TV. I give Norm an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10. Scoring a point higher on my chart are Rod Daniels and The Virg, both from the NBC affiliate, the Kai Guy from 13, and the Barnd boy over at the Fox station. But who's the 10? What do you think? I'd love to hear from some of the fashion slaves out there. Who's the best-dressed news dude? . . . And speaking of news dudes: The other night, one of them actually referred to the "anti-semantic" lyrics in a new Michael Jackson song. You can dress 'em up, but . . .

The price is misery

I'm amused by the horror stories grown men tell of buying concert tickets -- especially when the guy hasn't been in the market for tickets since, say, Keith Richards had his own blood. A few weeks ago, a Howard County pal-o-mine went to Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia to buy a couple of tickets to Carly Simon's Aug. 5 performance. My pal figured he'd avoid paying a service charge by showing up in person at Merriweather. Makes sense, right? "No one was there," pal says. "No tickets were on sale. Finally, an employee appeared and told me tickets are only sold at Merriweather on show days. I was told to go to Woodies at the mall nearby. So I get there, and the clerks, who seemed annoyed at any questions, asked how many tickets I wanted, and produced them -- at $55 each! That includes a $5 per ticket service charge! So I said I wasn't going to pay $55 for Carly Simon, and asked what else they had. I was offered seats off to the far right and left for $40, including the $5 per ticket service charge. So this, in a nutshell, is the modern concept of ticket service: Shut up, pay big bucks, and get out of here. Next!!"

What they did for ducks

Guy on a car phone tells me that dozens of motorists spread across several lanes of rush-hour traffic stopped to let a mother duck and her ducklings cross busy Route 152 in Fallston Monday nTC night. (Which makes up for the story I heard a couple of months ago about the idiot in a van swerving around a line of humane drivers to intentionally crunch a duck and her flock on West Cold Spring Lane.)

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