A new compendium from the notebooks of Sun reporters.

From reel to real

The Ladder 49 movie production has caused a stir since John Travolta, Joaquin Phoenix and company hit town. And Baltimore has not disappointed in showing the Hollywood arrivals a bit of true grit.

While scouting a vacant apartment building in Reservoir Hill where they planned to shoot scenes, a movie crew discovered a body March 5 in an alley. Police are investigating.

The production crew will be in town through spring. Who knows what else they'll find.

- Jamie Stiehm

In the wake of defeat

Republican Douglas B. Riley lost the Baltimore County executive race last fall, but not his sense of humor.

In lieu of his annual St. Patrick's Day fund-raiser, Riley held "a good old- fashioned Irish wake" for himself recently at Towson's American Legion Post 22.

Promising food "so delicious it'll make you forget all about Nov. 5th," he sent supporters invitations with a drawing of a leafless tree, a tombstone with "RIP" and the Riley 2002 logo.

"The truth is, I got out of the campaign with about $5,000 in debt, and this is principally to get that paid off, but the other purpose was to send out the word to my supporters that I'm OK, I survived, and my sense of humor is intact," he said.

- Andrew A. Green

Hazy smoke signals

Tobacco smoking was condemned during a recent Baltimore City Council meeting. The praises of marijuana, however, were sung to the chandeliers.

Councilman Robert W. Curran introduced a resolution in support of a state Senate bill that would prohibit smoking tobacco in bars, restaurants and other indoor areas. Immediately afterward, Councilman Kwame Osayaba Abayomi introduced one endorsing a state bill that would establish a program for the study of "medical marijuana."

"The list of ailments that this substance can help grows exponentially," said Abayomi. He said that his mother found comfort smoking the drug as part of a National Institutes of Health trial at Georgetown University Medical Center, where she was treated for breast cancer.

Councilwoman Rochelle "Rikki" Spector worried that the city might send mixed smoke signals. "What if we pass a medical marijuana bill, but you can't smoke a pack of Lucky Strikes in a bar? What are we doing? People will be smoking marijuana in the bars," she said.

--- Tom Pelton

Ka-ching for the swing

Baltimore County school officials were smiling at Tuesday night's school board meeting when a representative of the U.S. Golf Association hoisted an oversized check for $24,800.

The money will establish girls-only golf programs in high schools. Cameras flashed and videotape whirred as school board President Donald L. Arnold and Superintendent Joe A. Hairston observed.

"I spent this much on golf lessons," said Hairston.

"I bet you think he's kidding," Arnold said, as laughter filled the room.

- Jonathan D. Rockoff

And furthermore ...

Mayor Martin O'Malley admits he has a hard time expressing himself succinctly. Recently, as if to prove his point, he spun this doozy on the spot:

"After all the years that all of us were told there was nothing you could do about drugs, drug addiction or drug violence until you legalize narcotics, it's not surprising that that residual cynicism and pessimism about progress is still in the air in the body politic here, and exorcising that is something that we'll do only over time through the accomplishment of greater and greater success."

He said with a smile: "That was a good sentence. I came up with it right now."

- Doug Donovan

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