Philly horns in on our turf -- again

The Baltimore Sun

Bad enough that Philly has been trying to claim Edgar Allan Poe. Now The City of Brotherly Love seems to be making a play for The Wire.

David Simon, producer of the celebrated HBO series, appears at Princeton University Thursday to discuss "Policy and Politics in America's Urban Crisis."

At his side will be Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia.

Hmmph! Why not Sheila Dixon?

She knows policy, politics, urban crises. And she happens to be mayor of the city where the series was actually set. How come Dixon won't be there?

I asked at Princeton and at the offices of Dixon and Nutter. I heard back only from Dixon spokesman Sterling Clifford. He said Dixon was not invited as far as he knew.

"I assume Mayor Dixon wasn't included because her knowledge of and experience with urban issues is so broad and deep that Mr. Simon's participation would have been unnecessary," he said. "After all, she's been dealing with real issues in Baltimore for 20 years and he had a pretend show about the city for five."

The one that got away

Nothing says family dysfunction like a 4- by 6-foot slab of drywall bearing this handwritten message: "The White Marlin sold in Palisades on 9/20 was sold by mistake. I will pay you three times what you paid for it."

Timothy Johnson posted the sign at the intersection of Herald Harbor and River roads, near the home of his father, who died three months ago.

Dad left the house to Johnson, but the contents - including a 6-foot stuffed, mounted fish - to Johnson's sister. A fixture in the family's basement den, the marlin represented a happy memory for Johnson.

"My father caught that fish when I was 14 years old in 1982," he said. "I was with him."

Johnson, a construction worker who lives in Davidsonville, wanted the fish. Without getting into the particulars of a difficult family situation, let's just say his sister had a yard sale, one that didn't put a premium on sentimental value.

"Sold my fish for $50 in a yard sale," he said, still in disbelief.

He put the sign up soon afterward but hasn't heard from anybody but me and one other busybody, who also called to ask what was up with the missing marlin.

Johnson said he's willing to do more than triple the $50 price tag.

"I'd pay even more," he said. "I'd like to have it back."

Forethought-free speech

Speaking of drywall, the Parkville contractor who says he was just spouting off about the loss of drywall work to illegal immigrants, not threatening bodily harm to Martin O'Malley, goes on trial in Baltimore County Circuit Court on Oct. 20.

"O'Malley, getting ready to lose my wife after 24 years of marrige. 3rd construction co. & 2nd house I am going to lose because of no good [BLEEP] government like you and [BLEEP] like you," Walter Abbott e-mailed the governor in March. "If I ever get close enough to you, I will rap my hands around your throat and strangle the life from you."

"Of course, our defense is that it was nothing more than a political statement and that such speech is protected by the First Amendment," said Abbott's attorney, Arthur Frank. "Strangely coincidental, October 20th begins the 3rd annual 'National Freedom of Speech Week.' "

Frank plans to note that in his opening statement.

Everyone has a list

Former Maryland State police Superintendent Tim Hutchins made MSNBC's Keith Olbermann's list of worst people in the world the other day.

"His successor admitted to the state legislature that Mr. Hutchins took the names of 53 nonviolent activists and classified them as terrorists and added them to state and federal terrorism tracking databases and then sent undercover troopers in to infiltrate their organizations," Olbermann said. "Hutchins still insists he was right to do so. He called these activists 'fringe people.' Among the terrorist organizations: the Baltimore Coalition Against the Death Penalty."

(I don't want to cut Hutchins any slack, but he actually said "fringe people" sometimes "try to tag on to legitimate advocacy groups," which is a little different than labeling all anti-death penalty folks "fringe.")

Olbermann continued: "Hutchins says he doesn't believe - quote - 'the First Amendment is any guarantee to those who wish to disrupt the government.' I - quote - don't believe Mr. Hutchins realizes he was not working for the government of Russia."

An actor in training

The actor who was Michael J. Fox's dad on the '80s hit Family Ties, and who these days plays River Baldwin on The Young and the Restless, has a new role: spokesman for the B&O; Railroad Museum.

The part will not be a big stretch for Michael Gross.

Gross "is the grandson and great-grandson of railroaders, part owner of the Santa Fe Southern Railway, a lifelong railroad enthusiast as well as an historian, photographer, and award-winning railroad modeler," the museum says in its announcement. "He and his wife, Elza, also collect dining car china, silver, and other memorabilia of the Santa Fe railroad. Gross has also been a spokesperson for Operation Lifesaver, a national safety organization devoted to railroad crossing safety."

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