It's funny to someone

Considering what a joke Maryland's slots debate has become, it seems only fitting that the pre-eminent Web site for satirical news, The Onion, featured a faux Baltimore resident in its spoof of people who leave state to play the one-armed bandits.

The Web site's current edition features a story with a dateline from Interstate 95 in New Jersey. The headline reads: "Six-Hour Bus Ride Endured For Slots."

The story begins: "Baltimore resident Gary Drake, 53, endured a six-hour bus ride from Baltimore to Atlantic City Tuesday, drawn by the prospect of feeding coins into a slot machine at a dimly lit casino.

"'Man, my back is killing me,' Drake said, shifting in his window seat near the back of an eastbound Coastal Tours bus. 'Maybe I'm getting a little old for this. Well, just a few more hours, and I'll be sitting in front of the slots in a nice cool casino. When I get there, no one better be in my favorite spot, right next to the cashiers.'

" ... 'I got the casino figured out,' Drake said. 'If I don't win at a machine in the first 15 minutes, I know that slot is cold, so I move to another one. But if I do hit, I know that one's hot, so I'll sit there for eight, nine hours, until I need to get back to the bus again. Or until I run out of money. Oh, and I always use a warm coin.'"

-Doug Donovan

Alma mater mutters

Brandon Bradford, who recently entered Morgan State University as a freshman, can't seem to leave the troubled Baltimore school system behind.

In July, school officials informed him that his diploma from Walbrook High Uniform Services Academy - along with about 100 others - was invalid because there was no record he had ever taken algebra.

The mistake was corrected, but only after he and his parents descended upon the school, armed with an old report card.

Now, two weeks into the academic year at Morgan, Brandon is still waiting for a $300 scholarship that he received from Walbrook's then-principal, Andrey Bundley. The school system has frozen all scholarship payments while it investigates allegations that Bundley allowed hundreds of students to graduate or move to the next grade without meeting requirements.

The family, who also are plaintiffs in a longstanding class action court battle over the quality of city schools, Bradford vs. Maryland, say it's just one final insult.

"We were highly counting on the money," said Brandon's father, Keith. "For 12 years, we fought Baltimore City trying to get him educated. Here we are, he's out of the Baltimore schools and we're still fighting to get what he's earned."

-Laura Loh

And how he dresses!

Public information officers for government agencies are paid to push positive spins on the performance of their colleagues and bosses.

But Matt Jablow, the Baltimore Police Department's spokesman, took his duties a bit further while publicly introducing his boss, Commissioner Kevin P. Clark, at a charity fund-raiser Thursday at the War Memorial.

Jablow took to the podium and eagerly recited a litany of accolades to describe Clark's hard work and tireless devotion to Baltimore.

Then, he added that Clark was also the "best-looking" commissioner he had ever worked for. He paused, seemingly for the smattering of laughter, and added that Clark was also the only commissioner he had ever worked for.

- Doug Donovan

Just the naked truth?

What's a conventioneer to do? A search for "gentlemen's clubs" on the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association Web site returns eight choices, and they all sound so, well, upscale. To wit:

Larry Flynt's Hustler Club: "Baltimore's #1 upscale gentlemen's club located in downtown Baltimore."

Night Shift: "Baltimore's premier source for upscale adult entertainment."

Gentlemen's Gold Club: "Baltimore's only upscale gentlemen's club!"

And so on.

Turns out, the eight clubs on the list are all BACVA members, entitling them - unlike the region's many other strip joints - to advertise on the Web site. BACVA says it screens the club-supplied, words-only listings for taste, but not, alas, for modesty.

"I'd be No. 1, too," said BACVA's Nancy Hinds, "if I was writing my own description."

- Scott Calvert

Wily scheme, next right

On the winding roads through Baltimore County's Ruxton neighborhood, someone apparently thinks you need to watch out for more than tree-covered driveways and cars lurking around the next curve.

A yellow "Hidden entrance" warning sign on Bellona Avenue has been spray-painted to read "Hidden Agenda."


- Laura Barnhardt

That's Col. Your Honor

Mayor Martin O'Malley was running late last week for a ribbon-cutting at Stadium Place, a complex with senior housing and a YMCA on the site of the former Memorial Stadium.

So late, in fact, that he didn't have time to change out of the 1814 Maryland militia costume he'd put on for his previous engagement, a Defenders' Day event at Fort McHenry.

And maybe that's why the Rev. John R. Sharp, who is overseeing the Stadium Place development for the nonprofit Govans Ecumenical Development Corp., didn't recognize the man who slipped onto the stage as the ceremony was beginning.

"We're expected Mayor O'Malley any minute," Sharp said.

That's when the colonel in the blue woolen military coat, riding pants and boots tapped Sharp on the shoulder and introduced himself.

- Laura Vozzella

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