Getting back to 'normal' not an easy thing to do


I GUESS THIS is a before-and-after column. Some of the items were composed before 9-11 and were held because of the events of that day. Some were written after 9-11 and because of it.

I guess this is a transitional piece, a way of getting back to "normal" business. A lot of Americans have been taking their time getting back to "normal." Since 9-11, it's been difficult to think of much else. It's affected how we feel about a great many aspects of life, in ways too mysterious and difficult to measure. As I picked through old notes and e-mail -- carefree pre-9-11 material -- it struck me that many of us will see things through that before-and-after lens for a long time.

A somber reminder

Sept. 19 would have been John Darda's birthday. He was one of the owners of City Cafe, and everyone knows that awful story by now: Father of three, on his way to make a bank deposit one morning last winter, armed robbery, shot to death, betrayed by one of his employees.

City Cafe reopened, life went on, somehow.

Then came 9-11 and, for the City Cafe community, a familiar feeling of helplessness and sorrow.

In an act that honored John Darda and affirmed the survival of hope after tragedy, the restaurant contributed half the day's receipts from what would have been his 44th birthday to Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York and the United Jewish Appeal Federation in New York City to aid relief efforts there.

A disgusting display

A day or so after 9-11, TJI reader Alyson Harkins wrote from Anne Arundel County: "I was driving down [Veterans Highway in Millersville] and I saw two kids pointing up at something that was dangling from a post ... an effigy of an Arab. It was dressed in white, loose clothing, a turban and sandals. It was held up by a noose. It was holding a sign that said 'Wanted Murderer of Women and Children.'

"I felt immediately sick to my stomach. I also felt ashamed of my fellow citizens who broadcast their ignorance and bigotry for all the world to see. How can people reach conclusions about all members of an ethnic group? Are concentration camps for Arabs next? Should we assume that all Americans of Irish descent would be okay with bombing a British train station? I don't think so. This is not the America that makes me proud. The America that makes me proud are those who stand by all other Americans in hard times, not just those who dress like the rest of us and have the same hue of skin color."

On the same subject, Greg Glessner, one of several former bartenders who contribute to the heart and mind of this columnist, wrote this:

"I understand, but find quite disturbing, the trend to strike out at those in our community who seem to remind us of the perpetrators of these heinous acts. I find it ironic, that when we learned Timothy McVeigh and Co. were identified as the Oklahoma City bombing terrorists, no one roamed our cities looking for thin, skin-head, white guys on which to take out their frustrations. We realized that McVeigh was not the representation of our society. He and his kind were an anomaly in an otherwise good, loving, god-fearing, law-abiding, gentle conglomeration of people who consider themselves one nation.

"Those who have vengeance in their heart should take note: For everyone of us in America who abhor the tragedy of this past week, there are an equal number of good people in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan etc. who view the events of Sept. 11 with equal horror. Our enemies are the anomalies in these societies, not the aggregate."

A charitable spirit

Baltimore County firefighters formed a bucket brigade last weekend to raise money on the suburban streets for the families of their fallen brothers in the 9-11 disaster. The efforts in Fullerton got an eye-popping boost, said Capt. James Berkeridge, when a local businessman -- Ray Green of Green's Feed and Seed in Rosedale -- walked into the station house Tuesday with a check for $5,000 collected from cans he'd placed at his store and others in the community.

A patriotic review

Maybe Home Depot will no longer regard American flags and the cast-aluminum brackets that anchor them to houses as "seasonal items." TJI reader Ray Alcarez says he got that explanation when he went looking for a new bracket for his old flag shortly after 9-11. He wrote the company to complain -- "When did the American flag become a seasonal item?" -- and the company forwarded his complaint to the buyer for the garden department. I have a feeling flag brackets might become part of Home Depot's permanent hardware display.

A pedestrian's discovery

An epistle from Portland, Ore., by a fellow named Peter Livingston, who wanted to give a hearty second to the idea -- mentioned in TJI Aug. 28 -- of long walks through Baltimore:

"I visited last summer and walked from Lexington Market all the way up Eutaw Place to Druid Hill Park, then to Mondawmin Mall, over to the Baltimore Art Museum, down 33rd to Lake Montebello, past Clifton Park, over to Charles and through Mount Vernon before returning to my room at the Paramount Hotel. I don't think people in Baltimore realize what a wonderful, interesting city they have. The architecture is fascinating, there are some good watering holes, and the people are friendly, even in so-called 'bad' neighborhoods. If everyone walked, Baltimore would be a lot safer, and some of the escapees to the suburbs might discover what they have carelessly abandoned."

A banged-up Buick

About that good-condition 1951 Buick roughed up at a Pennsylvania demolition derby (TJI Sept. 3), Bill "Wild Bill" Kautz, a member of the Lost In The 50s Car Club, says:

"Depending on the model -- Special, Super, or Roadmaster -- that car's value is between $25,000 and $32,000, when restored." Kautz looked it up in the Old Cars Price Guide, which indicated that even a '51 Buick in mediocre shape would have a value of up to $5,600. There wasn't a listing for "post-demolition derby value." The story made Kautz a little queasy and feeling some anger toward the Buick's owner. "Would that guy use an original Audubon painting for a dartboard target? Probably!"

A political shindig

A belated political report from TJI correspondent Joey Amalfitano:

"About 1,000 of Baltimore County Councilman Johnny Olszewski's closest friends showed up [Sept. 8] at his annual picnic at Merritt Point Park on Bullneck Creek. I took Blanche, big doings, big dish! There were some politicos pressing the flesh like [Lt. Gov.] Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Rep. Ben Cardin, Del. Cornell Dypski, Del. Sonny Minnick and Del. John Arnick. Don Crockett showed up with Precious, the skateboarding dog. Lots of residents of Dundalk enjoyed the free burgers, hot dogs and beverages. Townsend got up and said she was happy to see all of her old friends from Dundalk." is the e-mail address for Dan Rodricks. He can also be reached at 410-332-6166, or by post at The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278.

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