Nobody asked me, but if I was of Italian ancestry — and I am, on my mother’s side — I would see the toppling of the Columbus statue at the Inner Harbor as an opportunity to honor an Italian-American who has lived an honorable life. And a statue of someone from Baltimore who has served the public good would be even more suitable.
Here’s an idea sent my way from Melanie Hood-Wilson, a Baltimore educator: Replace the statue of Columbus with one of Nancy Pelosi — the former Nancy D’Alesandro of Albermarle Street, Little Italy, the daughter and sister of Baltimore mayors and a history-maker as the first woman to serve as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. I’m sure even the Baltimore County Republicans who rushed to the city to defend Columbus would see that as a worthy tribute.
Nobody asked me, but every supermarket or retail store should by now have a mandatory face mask policy because of the coronavirus, and the rule should be made clear in VERY LARGE LETTERING at the front door. This seems to be the case where I travel in Maryland. But, a few weeks back, I happened into a supermarket and a discount retailer in Hanover, Pennylvania, and was surprised — 6 feet from shocked — to see several shoppers meandering through the stores without masks. I realize that store employees probably don’t want to get into confrontations with the self-centered blockheads who defy the rule. But, walking into banks, I’ve been asked by tellers to remove my hat and sunglasses. Sports franchises strictly enforce rules about what fans are allowed to bring into stadiums. In a matter of public health, there’s no reason for stores to accept anything but full mask compliance, even if that means hiring additional security. It’s the cost of doing business during a pandemic. Talk to your accountants; I’m sure you can write off the costs. And I’m sure it will be good for business.
Nobody asked me, but the fact that 40% of Americans in polls continue to approve of President Donald Trump in the midst of the coronavirus calamity — a natural disaster made worse by his denials and lack of leadership — serves as proof that Trump retains “a gift for bamboozling the boobs.” That’s how H.L. Mencken, the Sage of Baltimore, described the qualities of a Democratic presidential candidate 100 years ago this month. In an essay published in The Evening Sun of July 26, 1920, Mencken described the Republican candidate, Sen. Warren G. Harding of Ohio, as a man with “the intelligence of a respectable agricultural implement dealer,” and a “hollow-headed mediocrity.” Mencken dismissed Harding’s Democratic opponent, Gov. James M. Cox of Ohio, as a man of dubious ethics willing to do anything for votes. It is in that same essay that Mencken wrote words hailed as prophetic upon Trump’s election in 2016: “As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”
Nobody asked me, but I think it’s time the state of Maryland deployed some speed cameras on the Baltimore Beltway and Interstate 70, and not just in work zones, but at random locations. If you ask me — and I realize you didn’t — the speeding on both those highways has gone nuts, and I suspect it’s because of reduced traffic due to the coronavirus. That’s a trend across the country, according to the National Safety Council. Eight states saw spikes in traffic deaths during the first months of the pandemic and, the council says, highways might be emptier but they are generally riskier. Maryland and 11 other states saw decreases in traffic deaths through April, and that’s great. But from my recent observations, on I-695 and I-70, it’s common to see cars moving at 90 mph or better (even triple digits), and well above the posted speed limits. State troopers catch a lot of them, but they can’t catch them all. We have speed cameras on county roads and city streets. Why not on the highways?
Nobody asked me — because the only gardening I care about is the kind that results in food — but I think we should declare this the “Summer of the Amazing Hydrangea.” Have you noticed? The blooms are off the charts this year. I’ve never been a fan of hydrangea. You can’t eat it, it takes up a lot of room, gives more green than color, and has a design flaw: The blossoms seem too heavy for the stems. But, starting in June, it’s as if every hydrangea learned that the National Gardening Bureau had named it “flowering shrub of the year,” and they resolved to put on a good show. OK, better stop here. That’s probably enough anthropomorphism for one day.