A strange, anonymous letter has arrived here, offering "top 12 things Dan Rodricks does when no one is watching." It must be from some curmudgeon who thinks I can't possibly practice what I preach. (Life must be great when you don't have to attach your name to your opinions.) Anyway, I'll quote what's quotable and, if you don't mind the personal indulgence today, I'd like to provide a brief rebuttal -- just to set the record straight out there.
"Rides his dirt bike on the Appalachian trail."
Wrong. I don't own a dirt bike. I own a nice mountain bike but never use it because, by the time I dig it out of my cluttered garage, I'm too pooped to pedal.
"Uses Velveeta cheese for bait when trout fishing in pristine waters of the Gunpowder River."
First of all, Velveeta is not cheese, it's a "cheese product." I can honestly say I have never used it to catch trout in the Gunpowder. However, several years ago, Bush Hog James and I used a leftover pirogi from St. Michael's Ukrainian Catholic Church in East Baltimore to make fish bait. We picked off a little piece, rolled it into a ball, stuck it on a hook and cast the whole thing into some pond near Frederick. We caught crappie.
"Actually prefers national chain restaurants such as Boston Market to local establishments with so-called 'character.' "
Not on your life. Haven't been to Boston Market. Don't do the chains unless the kids insist. The smell of McDonald's actually makes me squeamish. I prefer the smell of the Sip & Bite.
"Shoots blue jays with BB gun in Cylburn Arboretum."
I like blue jays, the bullies of the bird feeder. The problem is, there aren't enough of them around. I like the way they pick on starlings and sparrows. Reminds me of the way things broke down anthropologically in the old neighborhood.
"Actually agrees with everything H. L. Mencken ever wrote."
OK, I like cigars and beer, and I like "The American Language." But I don't go out of my way to engage the Mencken ghost, as so many do. Frankly, I don't see how you can agree with Mencken (unless you believe the United States picked the wrong side to be on in two world wars). There isn't really opinion there; it's more like brilliantly cranky criticism, sardonic observation and literate wit. I don't agree or disagree with Menckenese; I just eat it, like a big plate of sour beef.
"Believes Jacques Kelly was an orphan who made up all those wacky family members."
Wrong. I've met some of my Sun colleague's wacky family members and can attest to their authenticity.
"Thinks Fort McHenry should be razed so luxury waterfront condos could be put in its place."
No way. Alan Walden of WBAL Radio would have my head.
"Still thinks Harborplace was a bad idea."
Never thought it was a bad idea, just an overly hyped one.
"Deep down knows that Dorothy Day was a commie deluded by Stalin's agents in the U.S. and that it is possible to help the poor without resorting to such bankrupt philosophy."
I wasn't going to harp on the anonymous nature of this letter, but here's where I think someone with guts would be willing to attach his (or her) name. Call Dorothy Day a commie and you might as well give the same label to Mother Teresa or St. Vincent de Paul. What did Dorothy Day, a founder of the Catholic Worker movement, believe in? The same things Christ believed in -- what we now call "social activism" on behalf of the poor and powerless -- and the same things people of many faiths believe in: charity, justice, freedom, peace. Of course, it was not communism that made America the richest and most powerful nation in the world, nor was it communism that made it the most decent and humane. For most of this century, America kept faith with those dual (or is it dueling?) ideals. Lately, the hard-liners have dismissed our social welfare policy -- not really the "business of government" -- with its roots in the New Deal orchestrated by Franklin Roosevelt, whom earlier cowards also labeled a commie. I wonder what they'd be calling Jesus these days.
Listen, I don't know who wrote the letter that got this whole column started. But, thanks. You got a few things off your chest and so did I. It was good for me. Was it good for you?
A valley ruined
Something that will take your breath away -- the excavation for the new Nicklaus-signature golf course at Rocky Gap State Park in Western Maryland. It's a mess. In fact, it's a disgusting mess. And no matter what comes of it -- no matter how green the fairways in that mountain valley -- this thing in that place ruins a wonderfully simple natural setting. You can have it.
TJI reader Signe Lauren has a question about a sign: "There is a black-on-white sign near the intersections of Fayette and Wolfe in East Baltimore -- on the right side of Wolfe as you travel south -- and it says, 'LIFT YOUR HEAD.' What is this about?" My guess, Signe? That sign is near Hopkins Hospital. They must be having a problem with flying bedpans again. Or maybe some Hopkins doc is trying to improve posture.
Confronting the law
Nomiki Bouloubassis Weitzel of the law firm Mignini, Raab & Lidinsky -- God, I love this country! -- conducts seminars on aspects of law of interest to senior citizens. She then offers follow-up with a free one-hour consultation. All of which is well-received and good for business, though one woman called back, left her phone number and said she "would like the one-hour confrontation." No word yet on how it went.
Pub Date: 12/16/96