WHADDAYA KNOW? Hot dog vendors in Baltimore County are not allowed to serve chili or cheese on hot dogs. (Just the kind of startling revelation you want on a Monday morning, right?) Ken Canterbery, hot dog vendor outside the Dundalk post office -- the man is practically an institution there -- discovered this regulation the hard way.
One day last summer, he was minding his own weenies when a county health inspector issued him a warning. He wasn't supposed to sell chili or cheese as a topping. Ketchup is permitted. Relish is OK. Mustard is fine, brown or yellow. Commercially prepared sauerkraut is allowed. But you're not supposed to be able to buy a cheese dog or chili dog from a mobile, propane-heated cart like the one Canterbery uses. It's against the county regulations. (You could look it up: Baltimore County Food Service Facilities Regulations, Guidelines for Mobile Hot Dog Carts, Section A.)
The county regs are more restrictive than the state's. Chili and cheese are apparently permitted in other jurisdictions -- alas, TJI just hasn't had time to survey Baltimore and the 22 other counties on the matter -- but they're not permitted in Baltimore County.
So Canterbery wants to change the rules. "Commercially prepared chili is available," he says, recognizing the concern for food safety. "It needs to be maintained at 150 degrees. My cart does 185 degrees or better."
At Canterbery's request, state Del. Jake Mohorovic is preparing legislation to allow commercially prepared meat and cheese on hot dogs. Canterbery claims he spoke with the Baltimore County executive, Dutch Ruppersberger, about the matter and secured a formidable ally. "Dutch," he notes, "has no objection to chili or cheese."
A time for justice
Our buddy Bush Hog drove into the city from Reisterstown the other day and parked in the public garage near Baltimore Arena, taking advantage of a $5.75 in-by-9 "early bird" special. "I got back to my car at 5: 45 p.m.," BH says. "The exit line was backed up to the 6th floor. I reached the pay window -- only one was open -- at 6: 25. (That's right -- it took 40 minutes from 6th Floor to cashier.) The attendant took my $10 bill and returned $3. I said, 'That's supposed to be $5.75.' And he said, 'Seven dollars after six,' indicating that one not only had to be in before 9 to be an 'early bird,' but out before 6 as well. It then dawned on me that one of the reasons that it took so long to exit was many 'early birds' arguing with the guy over the fact they'd have been out before 6 if they hadn't been trapped in the garage -- by him! So it cost me $1.25 to relearn the lesson that justice is elusive, if extant at all. I rest my case."
It's still Mfume's race
It was news to a lot of us that Kweisi Mfume, champion of Baltimore and one of its genuine stars, had moved out of the city, and apparently a while ago. This newspaper reported last week that he had lived in Baltimore County "for several years." So, even if his friends were to change the residency rules to allow him to run for mayor, and even if Mfume suddenly dropped his strong denials and parachuted into the campaign, he'd be nagged by reminders that he was among those who'd left. Even giving him credit for all those years he served Baltimoreans in the City Council and Congress, the record shows him among the thousands of Charm City's recent evacuees. But here's the question: Would the residency issue hurt him? Could any political opponent exploit it enough for victory? I doubt it. The election is Mfume's, if he wants it. Too bad he keeps saying no.
Romance at the races
A few months ago, TJI asked readers to finish this phrase: "You know you're from Baltimore if ... ." The exercise made a lot of people nostalgic; few readers offered a phrase that spoke to present-day life here in the Greater Patapsco Drainage Basin. Most seemed to hear the challenge as: "You know you're from Baltimore if [begin ital]you remember[end ital] ... ." For instance, a friend who grew up in the Towson area said: "You know you're from Baltimore if you remember going to watch the submarine races at Loch Raven Reservoir."
When a TJI reader named Bill Ritchie saw that, he sat down at his computer and sent the following e-mail: "I married my wife, who's from Baltimore, six years ago, and she has mentioned several times over that period that she used to watch the submarine races at the reservoir. Not believing that 'real' submarines raced at the reservoir, I asked her what she meant by it. I could only get a good laugh out of her. She recommended that I write to you, and maybe you'd fill me in. Will you?"
From what I understand, Bill -- and, bear in mind, I'm no expert, having lived in Baltimore only half my life -- "watching the submarine races at Loch Raven" is local code -- a parochial euphemism, if you will -- for romantic interludes in the arboreal seclusion of the watershed. And I think the phrase is older than 6 years -- therefore, older than your marriage. Which means, Bill, ... I think I'd better stop here.
TJIDAN@aol.com is the e-mail address for Dan Rodricks. His telephone number is 410-332-6166. Letters should be address to The Sun, 501. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278.
Pub Date: 1/25/99