For a lot of years, a lot of people have looked up to Millie Jones -- community activist, pioneer in integration in Northeast Baltimore, and a persistently positive force in the city.
Now there's one more Millie Jones admirer. He's Matthew Golden, an 8-year-old boy from Rodgers Forge. (I like this story because it spans generations and races; it's a plank in a bridge that needs building.)
Eighteen months ago, Millie Jones passed through this column with a story -- not a big one, but a good one. While shopping in a Giant on York Road, just north of the city line, she had dropped a folded $10 bill. Later, when she noticed it was missing, she inquired at the manager's office. The bill was there. Matthew Golden had found it and turned it in. He'd done the right thing.
Millie Jones made a fuss; she sent Matthew small gifts in appreciation. Now Matthew is invoking Millie's name as inspiration.
Get this: Walking down Stanmore Road recently, he found a wallet with about $60, credit cards and a driver's license. Matthew marched down the street and returned it to the elderly man who'd dropped it. And he put up with the razzing of a group of workers in the street who thought Matthew was some kind of dumb for not keeping the cash -- and only getting $1 from the old man as a reward.
When he got home and told the story to his mother, Matthew said: "I just thought about Millie Jones and how proud she would be of me if I returned it." She's not the only one, kid.
Longtime Evening Sun outdoors editor Bill Burton tells me that, over 40 years of keeping a journal, he only noted a squirrel on the Bay Bridge three times. "It was highly unusual, that's why I noted it," Burton says. "But it happens. Squirrels migrate, depending on the food supply."
The subject came up because of a recent squirrel sighting -- it was actually road kill -- on the eastbound side of the bridge by an Owings Mills couple, Marcia and Robert Herr. We've a long list of explanations now. The latest comes from a TJI reader in Anne Arundel County, Hugh Stimson.
"Squirrelous aquaticus," Stimson writes. "It is actually an amphibian and survives by feeding on the bay's bountiful crab population instead of the more mundane nut. [During cool weather] Squirrelous aquaticus and its life mate must climb the bridge stanchions to reach the blood-warming roadway and life-giving sunshine. Once topside, they find a convenient abandoned falcon nest on the bridge trusses and settle in for the winter.
"This is a very amorous squirrel. Occasionally, in the throes of passion, the male may forget where he is and slip and fall out of the nest to his death on the roadway. So our unfortunate Squirrelous Aquaticus simply and tragically fell out of bed." There you go.
'Duende,' as in TV star
Regarding Andre Braugher -- Detective Frank Pembleton on NBC's "Homicide" -- admirers of this dramatic force wonder what that certain something is. Star power? Charisma? Look up "duende." That's the it in "Brau has it."
By the way, for duende to come through a television screen, one must possess it by the ton. The only other person who gives it up on the small screen is Eriq LaSalle, Dr. Benton on "ER."
All abuzz at opera
Baltimore Opera conductor Alfredo Silipigni raised his baton to start "La Traviata" at the opening Saturday night, but ended up shaking his head, rolling his eyes and dropping his hands. The Lyric audience was buzzing too loudly to start.
A few seconds later, Silipigni raised the baton again, and this time the music started. But the buzzing still hadn't ceased, and Verdi's very soft opening notes were never heard. Which reminds me of an old opera house axiom: "It ain't started till the fat lady in the back shuts up!"
Iggy, with a miter
Can't resist one more post-papal note: Musical Express, the CD/record store at Charles and Franklin, altered its front door poster of Iggy Pop by adding an "e" to his last name and a miter to his noggin.
Buster the bully
In his column Saturday in the New York Times, Russell Baker mentioned the neighborhood bully from his South Baltimore days: Buster O'Hara. Anybody know this guy?
Kids supplant cash
Sticker seen in the window of a beat-up station wagon with four kiddies in the back, spotted on the Beltway: "Driver carries no cash." And in smaller letters: "He has children." The car had New York tags.
Can they dance the baklava?
Overheard in a Towson restaurant, on Greek night, as musicians walk in with instruments:
"Look, it's the Greek band."
"Oh, yeah? Which one plays the souvlaki?"
The one wearing the ouzo, of course.
Dan Rodricks' column appears each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Observations may be sent to This Just In, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278. The telephone number is 332-6166.