Answering call for volunteers despite red-tape roadblock

THE BALTIMORE SUN

THE SPIRIT of voluntarism abounds this week in the frothy wake of the presidential summit in Philadelphia. So, in that spirit -- and in the interest of encouraging governmental support of private citizens who answer the call to community service -- I offer the story of brothers Bobby and Jim Sturgell, their sister Sharon and all others who volunteered for a day of roadside trash pickup in Anne Arundel County. It was a beautiful thing while it lasted.

The Sturgell family owns Happy Harbor, a restaurant and tavern in Deale, south of Annapolis. They had a bright idea to clean up some roads in the southern part of the county. They even advertised a plea for help. About 10 people took part in the cleanup along a 2-mile stretch of Old Solomons Island Road, and at certain intersections on Route 260 and Route 2. By midafternoon, the volunteers had filled numerous plastic trash bags and loaded them onto an 18-foot lawn mower trailer. Driving a GMC Jimmy, Bobby Sturgell towed the trailer to the nearby Sudley Convenience Center.

But when he tried to dump the load there, he was denied entry.

Some officious county employee told him: "You can't bring that in here! That's a double-axle trailer."

And double-axles aren't allowed in Sudley. Sturgell was directed to the landfill in Millersville, about 25 miles away.

Sturgell explained about the highway cleanup, the daylong good deed that had just been carried out by his family and other volunteers. Could he get a break?

No way. No how.

So Sturgell turned his Jimmy around, drove out the Sudley gates and detached the trailer. Then -- here's the good part, friends -- Sturgell, his wife, Lynn, and his brother Jim unloaded the trash bags from the trailer and piled them inside the Jimmy. "We put them on the roof, too," Bob Sturgell says. "And we did that four times. To dump everything, we had to make four trips into Sudley with the trash bags stuffed in the Jimmy."

On Monday, President Clinton asked citizens to "fill in the gaps" between what is provided by government and the marketplace through community service. Maybe we should fill in the gaps between some ears, too.

Monster of a band

You gotta love Hula Monsters. They've established one of the most novel sounds in the city while developing a market for used Hawaiian shirts. That's ingenuity. That's genius. You gotta see these boys -- every other Tuesday night at the Cat's Eye -- and you gotta hear them.

The Hula Monsters are five guys in loud luau blouses playing something you might call Hawaiian-western-swing music. It's a fantasy of cowboys, tikis dangling from their string ties, doing the boogie in boots with barefoot island girls. It's like the Texas Playboys engaged in some weird gene-splicing experiment with Don Ho.

And it's good, happy music. These are good, happy musicians -- Dave Giegerich, steel guitar; Minnesota Moe Nelson, bass; Tom Mitchell and Mark Noon on acoustic guitar (and ukulele); Ben Holmes on drums (though Dean Dalfonso sat in the other night).

The walls around them are festooned with used Hawaiian shirts, picked up by band members at flea markets and thrift shops for resale in the clubs they play.

"The other night I made twice as much from selling shirts as I did for playing," laughs Giegerich, who founded the band eight years ago with Mitchell. The two of them had played a Hawaiian theme night aboard the Lady Baltimore. Afterward, they brainstormed and -- Aloha hula monsters! Yee-haw! -- a band was born.

Honest Abe

M. Hirsh Goldberg, Baltimore public relations man, author of "The Book of Lies" and founder of National Honesty Day, has announced the grand prize winner in his 1997 Honest Abe Awards: Frederic Whitehurst. He's the FBI scientist-agent who triggered an investigation of bureau lab mistakes in the handling of evidence in possibly scores of cases. Whitehurst, says Goldberg, proved "that the FBI needs a good Hoover cleaning." Runner-up was Liggett Group, for finally admitting addictive qualities of tobacco.

The big picture

With hundreds of billions of dollars at stake in the proposed settlement of civil suits against the nation's tobacco industry, and with Peter Angelos' law firm representing the state of Maryland (in return for a percentage of any award), I've reached this conclusion: Da Boss finally could stop this piecemeal approach -- a baseball team here, an office building there, a shipyard -- and just buy the whole city. What a way to celebrate the bicentennial. Also, with the Convention Center presumably part of the sale, Da Boss could have the whole thing raised from its foundation and moved to Inner Harbor East, next to John Paterakis' proposed hotel, ending the flap about where a convention-hotel should go once and for all.

A real company man

It's an increasingly rare bird who works most of his life for one company. So high-fives to Ed Russell, who just passed the 45-year mark in his employment at WBAL, up on TV Hill. Ed works in the mail room/print shop/shipping depot at 3800 Hooper Ave., and he just might be the nicest guy who ever wore shoes. May you have the good fortune of his company -- but watch out when he's wearing Rollerblades! ... Aren't you glad someone in the Police Department leaked word of Ron Shapiro's key involvement in the Top Cop peacemaking? I mean, otherwise, we probably never would have heard a word about it. ... Suggested campaign credo for Ellen Sauerbrey: "There's No Way I Should Lose To This Guy Twice." ... Mark this on your calendar: May 15 is Straw Hat Day in Baltimore. Remind me to get outta town.

Pub Date: 5/02/97

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