Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Miracle! Ring Owner Found!

Oh Great Tidings of Comfort and Joy!

Years ago, my mom found somebody's school ring at BWI Airport (pre-Thurgood Marshall) and, being a dingbat, it didn't occur to her to turn it in where she found it. About five years ago she told me about it, and stuck me with the task of finding the owner. I had no luck all this time (only the first name and initials were on the ring) until I found the school's alumni group on Facebook.

Wayne Fusco, the guy who runs the alumni group for Dunedin High School (in Dunedin, Florida) sent all the registered users of his two alumni sites an email about me and my efforts to track down "Donna" from the class of 1983. The ring my Mom found in some airport. He sent me a copy of the email he sent out, which went out on the 21st.

Dunedin High School in Florida

By the 22nd there was already a second email thanking everyone who contacted him who knew our mystery girl!

He spoke with her that day and she was in shock that it was found, and that someone would take the time to track down its owner!

He sent out a copy of the second email to me as well. It made me so happy! He thanked me in it, but I would never had found her if not for him putting out the word in the emails.

On Christmas Eve, Donna called me, and I learned that her mother lives in Essex! Her mother also called me, and we arranged to meet at Eastpoint Mall, so that I could hand the ring over to her. On the 26th, I met Donna's very sweet mother (with my own mom in tow, who was excited about the chain of events) and gave her the ring. She gave my mom a little reward (enough for us to enjoy a nice lunch at a favorite local restaurant!)

Now I'm relieved, and Donna is happy. And I have a New Year's resolution not to accept any more rings from my mother.

What a great Christmas present!

Related Links: - a free site for Dunedin High School alumni
Lost Class Rings Link - Duneding High School
Found Rings Link - Dunedin High School
Dunedin High School - Facebook
Dunedin High School Alumni - MySpace
Dunedin High School Alumni Site (

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Thrift Scores: My 80s Tape Collection

Reelin' in the Years

The world may be digital, but for this Analog Amy, cassette culture still rules. Though I have to scour yard sales, flea markets and thrift shops for them, I've amassed quite an audiocassette library, especially of '80s bands - my favorite era.

The Alicia D. Cassette Collection
One of my best scores was The Alicia D. Collection I picked up at Govans Presbyterian Church. I call it that because the tapes listed below had "Alicia D." written on them, a permanent brand to let the world know these belonged to her - so hands off, would-be interlopers! Until now, after The Great Alicia D. Tape Disapora has spread her coveted cassette collection over who-knows-how-many flea markets.

Alicia D-lights:

The Housemartins - London 0, Hull 4
This one makes me think of The Rutles' tune "Into the Arms of a Scotsman from Hull". My boyfriend likes it because it's a soccer score - especially relevant this year with recently promoted Hull doing so well in the Barclay's English Premiere League!

Echo and the Bunnymen - Echo and the Bunnymen

The Replacements - Pleased To Meet Me

XTC - Skylarking
My best score! My boyfriend approved, because Todd Rundgren produced it, even though Andy Partridge and Der Toddster didn't get on well.

Other Fave Found Tapes

The Feelies - Only Life

Deee-lite - World Clique

Indigo Girls - Indigo Girls
The debut album with their famous song on it that I always forget. The one everybody knows about "I went to the doctor, I went to the mountain, I drank from the fountain..." Um, "Closer to Fine," that's it

Happy Mondays - Pills n Thrills & Bellyaches
Drug-addled Mancunian ravers. My boyfriend advised me to pick it up since they were the focus-point of 24 Hour Party People.

Crowded House - Crowded House

Gang of Four - A Brief History of the 20th Century

Divinyls - Divinyls

Duran Duran - Decade

Nick Lowe - The Rose of England

Voice of the Beehive - Let It Bee
The one girl used to be in another band in the '80s and the drummer in Madness was married to her, I think.

REM - Eponymous
Got this at a Goodwill.

Yaz - Upstairs at Erics
Another Goodwill score.

Go-Go's - Greatest

Squeeze - Hourglass

Squeeze - Cool for Cats

Squeeze - Play

Depeche Mode - Black celebration

Depeche Mode - Speak and Spell

Depeche Mode - Songs of Faith and Devotion

Talking Heads - Little Creatures

Talking Heads - Naked

Van Morrison - Moondance

Van Morrison - Best of

XTC - Nonesuch

XTC - Oranges and Lemons

Grace Jones - Inside Story

Kate Bush - On Stage

Kate Bush - The Sensual World

The Kinks - Lola Vs. Powerman

The Cure - the Top

Madness - Keep Moving

New Order - Power, Corruption and Lies

Fine Young Cannibals - the Raw and the Cooked

MTV's Amp
a mid -90's collection of electronic type bands

The The - Soul Mining

Public Image Ltd.

World Party - Goodbye Jumbo

The Dream Academy - Remembrance Days

Let's Active - Every Dog Has His Day

The Style Council - My Ever-Changing Moods

Enigma - MCMXC A.D.

The Who - Who's Greatest Hits

Never Mind the Mainstream- Best of 120 Minutes

Annie Lennox - Diva

Dead Can Dance - Spiritchaser

Clannad - Anam

The Slickee Boys - Uh-Oh No Breaks

10 CC - How Dare You

The Grass Roots - Temptation Eyes

Trouble Funk - You Got the Right One Baby
They were poised for great success but never made it. They never broke out of the local scene. Which is why you can find their tapes at flea markets, like me.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Whose Responible, Redux

Spotted on the Charles Street Bridge Midway at Artscape 2008:

And, no, I don't think the hipsters were being ironic. Just dumb.

Guess Who's 50?

Me, That's Who (But I Have Lots of Company!)

My parents took me out to celebrate my 50th birthday on June 27, 2008, at my favorite seafood restaurant Mama's on the Half Shell in Canton.

Amy joins her parents in the AARP Set

Me and my dad in front of his childhood home in Canton Square

Elwood Blues also stopped by the Square to congratulate me

Across from the restaurant I spotted my boyfriend, Man About Town Tom Warner, conversing with Jake Blues of the Blues Brothers outside the coffee shop.

Since we were nearby, Tom made me stop by the SouthEast Anchor library, where we borrowed this gentleman's copy of the July AARP Magazine to see what benefits now await me.

Snooze and you lose those AARP benefits!

Later, Tom gave me my big birthday present - a gift certificate at Atelier's to get a haircut and highlights to hide the grays! Nice, huh?

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Jean Genie

Finally, I found jeans that fit my body! My boyfriend will be glad that I can now put my baggy hip-hop style jeans in storage and wear these new high-waist rock star stretch jeans. Thank you Boscov!



...and with a hat!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

My Japanese 45s

Hide & Go Seek

I recently dug out the picture sleeve records I got when I was in Japan. Here are my faves, Hide & Rosanna.

Hide and Rosanna were a husband and wife duo that formed in 1968. They were best known for the hit song "Ai no Kiseki" (Love Miracle). They were a mixed-race couple, with Rosanna being of Italian heritage. Demon Hide (born Kato Hideo in 1942) died in 1990. The folk couple's second son, Raimon Kato, was arrested for possession of marijuana earlier this year. Like his parents, the 29-year-old Kato is a musician, playing in the band Smorgas. The weirdest part of his arrest was the suggestion that his family turned him in.

Covers of Others...

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Ab-Normal Scores

Saturday my wonderful, dreamy boyfriend (can you tell he's writing this?) dragged me to Normal Books in Waverly to kill time before our dinner date with another couple later that night. And while there, I made two major scores - a local music CD by my ex-hubby Mark Harp called Mark Harp's Big Thing - Insane! (what are the chances?) and this incredibly rare book (with an amusingly long-winded title) about my peeps, We Japanese.

We Japanese: Being Descriptions of Many of the Customs, Manners, Ceremonies, Festivals, Arts and Crafts of the Japanese, besides Numerous other Subjects. Volumes 1 and 2.

Publisher: Fujiya Hotel Ltd. 1947.
Japanese binding, title label frontcover, 200 page book with 355 black & white illustrations, index. Printed on India paper. Hand Stiched cloth wraps with Japanese fastener, stitched limp silk with paper label to front, in tri-fold bone-clasp case.

Books 1 and 2 were written for H.S.K. Yamaguchi, managing director, Fujiya Hotel, by Frederic de Garis and Atsuharu Sakai, respectively.

This delightful popular encyclopedia of Japanese culture, history and society is a treasury of exotic facts and useful information, illustrated with line drawings and period photographs. Originally published in 1934, this is a later edition (1947). I picked it up thinking it was something my Dad would enjoy reading, but it's so fascinating that I'm gonna read it first. Sorry Dad, it's gonna be a while!

Mark Harp's Big Thing - Insane!

Mark released this one long after we split up, probably in the late '90s when he was in his heavy sampling phase, though I recognize some of the songs like "Show Me How To Bowl." When my wonderful, dreamy boyfriend asked me if Mark and I used to go bowling a lot, I had to explain that Mark was into the idea of bowling - the aesthetics of balls and pins, if you will - as opposed to bowling as a sport. And, of course, the fashion. As "Corky Neidermayer," Mark also wrote the bowling alley hit "Bowling With You."

My wonderful, dreamy boyfriend really liked the song "Why You Lousy S.O.B." He pointed out that it sampled Louis "Red" Deutsch, owner of Jersey City, NJ's Tube Bar, from the legendary underground phone prank tape, "The Tube Bar Tapes." I pointed out that the other sample in the song was of Ross Perot talking about extra-terrestrials. My wonderful, dreamy boyfriend loves these samples, which Mark looped ad infinitum; he was doing similar stuff with video and rues that he didn't collaborate with Mark. Great minds think alike?

Later that night, we went to dinner at Louis and Lisa Frisino's home in glamorous Glen Burnie. Louis was the original drummer in Null Set, a band my ex Mark Harp was in. How's that for synchronicity? After dinner, we sat around and watched a "Marble Bar Survivors" reunion video that was shot at the 8x10 Club in 1995. There were Louis and Mark onstage playing Null Set songs on the television, just like it was the '80s all over again. As well as another ex-boyfriend, singer Bil Dawson (I went out with him before Mark), all covered in tattoos and looking very much like Judas Priest singer Rob Halford. Weird.

Later, my wonderful, dreamy boyfriend sent me a link to Mark Harp's blog, King of Peru Lies. The last entry was Mark talking about eating meatloaf for dinner. It was posted November 14, 2004. I remember thinking how close that was to the end; Mark passed away on Christmas Eve 2004 (from complications unrelated to the meatloaf). But listening to Insane! made me realize that Mark is never truly gone as long as his music lives on.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Above Average Andy

I love Andy Partridge, so I had to post this article I ran across in The Guardian. As anyone who knows me knows, XTC is one of my musical Big Three (along with Elvis Costello and Queen!).

Above average Andy
Andy Partridge
by Will Hodgkinson
The Guardian (Friday, April 02, 2004)

Swindon is, according to one of its most eloquent sons, "Britain's cheap-joke town". Andy Partridge recently spotted mentions of his home town in four comedy programmes over the space of a single week.

Partridge, who with his band XTC, has made a career out of articulating the parochial essence of English culture, lives in a pocket of the old town that actually has some cobble-stone charm to it, unlike the mass of mini-roundabouts and company car-clogged A-roads that dominate the rest of Swindon. Partridge has lived there for most of his life, and it doesn't look like he's going to escape now.

"Actually, the irony of it is that I was born in Malta and beached up here," says Partridge, whose Thames Valley burr proves his long-term residential status. "To be honest with you, Swindon is a shithole. But it's 'Everywheresville' and that can be influential. They test things here because it is so average - community television in the early 70s and mobile phone technology today - and the average can be endlessly inspiring."

Swindon may be lacking in glamour, but the rolling Wiltshire countryside that surrounds it has a pastoral romance and, on an afternoon spent drinking almond tea and listening to whimsical English pop in Partridge's book-furnished living room, the allure of the former market town begins to unfold.

"XTC were clever and came from Swindon, so therefore we were crap," says Partridge, still bitter about the image he has of being a provincial smartarse. "I was always jealous of bands like Talking Heads, who were doing similar things to us but were from New York, and therefore cool. But the English don't like normal people doing intelligent things. They have the love of the poor penniless lord, but if you're a window-cleaner who makes £5m through your own sweat you're scum."

The house, or rather the shed at the bottom of the garden, has become the epicentre of a self-sufficient cottage industry Partridge has set up in order to escape the wider machinations of the record business. The shed contains a recording studio, and it was here that his latest project, a spoken-word version of the Orpheus myth made in collaboration with Peter Blegved, was made.

In an upstairs room of the house is an office for Ape Records, Partridge's own label, which releases his home recordings and CDs by bands he likes. "I've extricated myself from the evil clutches of the record industry," he says. "So I've started up a company with the explicit intention of not being evil."

XTC have not toured since 1982 because of the panic attacks Partridge developed on stage, but a few Swindon locals were recently treated to his first and only live performance since then. "I got unbelievably out of control on Courvoisier and dragged my son out for a walk around town on Saturday night," he explains.

"I looked through a window of a local pub where a band were playing. They saw me and told me to come on in and get on stage, so I did a version of Hey Joe while staggering around like a drunken bull, accidentally turning off all the effects pedals in the process."

Partridge has spent recent years delving ever deeper into the bottomless well of obscure psychedelic bands that mushroomed over Britain in the second half of the 1960s, and he has so many CD box sets of the non-hits of the era that it would take him about a year to listen to them all.

Bands like Wimple Winch, Jason Crest, Wild Silk and the Penny Peeps created brief, brilliant moments of psychedelic nonsense before dissolving back into the ether, only to be rediscovered decades later by people like Partridge.

"I like the fact that there are so many of them. I think it was Stalin who said that quantity has a quality all of its own," he says, ensuring that the 10 CDs in his Rubbles box set are in the correct order. "I can sit for hours and stare at catalogues of all the different things you can get, whether it be gardening tools, or shoes, or psychedelic music."

Many British bands of the late 1960s sang about a candy-coated world of school blazers, gob-stoppers and teacakes, and their childlike, LSD-induced whimsy was a world away from the dark excesses of American rock. "The British bands were about Alice in Wonderland, and the American ones were about Vietnam," says Partridge, just as Model Village by the Penny Peeps chimes to a happy end.

"The Americans, especially the Doors, were singing about napalm and heroin. I think the Doors are one of the most overrated bands of all time. Did you know that Jim Morrison had the smelliest trousers in rock? He had appalling BO because he refused to wash."

Let us hope the same could not be said of Syd Barrett, the immensely talented but damaged original lead singer of Pink Floyd. Partridge plays Scream Thy Last Scream, the intended third single by Pink Floyd that was never released, written at a time when Barrett's prodigious LSD intake was beginning to take its toll on his mental wellbeing.

"It's got wonderful nonsense lyrics about an old woman with a casket, it can be played at 33 or 45rpm, and it goes into a collegiate, Cambridge style at the end with church bells and choirs," he says. "It's brilliant."

Our afternoon ends with some quiet moments of reflection from Judee Sill, the Californian singer-songwriter from the 1970s whose tough life - her parents died young, she was a heroin addict and sometime prostitute - only added to the poignancy of her beautiful songs.

"She had about every problem going but she made fantastic music," says Partridge of Sill, who died of an overdose in 1979. "Her music sounds like JS Bach with a 12-string guitar, and her talent is up there with Brian Wilson's. My first girlfriend had her album in 1972 and it never left the turntable. My music would have been very different if it hadn't been for Judee Sill."

Useful Andy Partridge Links:
XTC official site
Ape Records
Chalkhills: XTC fan site

Pagan Origins of the Easter Bunny

If, like my boyfriend, you've ever wondered how Easter - the Christian holiday celebrating the resurrection of Christ - somehow became a crass commercial holiday associated with colored eggs, chocolate bunnies and marshmallow'll need to read all about its Pagan origins.

Check out: Ostara's Hare: The Pagan Origins of the Easter Bunny

I've reproduced this article below:

Have you ever wondered where the celebration of the Christian holiday celebrating the resurrection of Christ acquired its unusual name and odd symbols of colored eggs and rabbits?

The answer lies in the ingenious way that the Christian church absorbed Pagan practices. After discovering that people were more reluctant to give up their holidays and festivals than their gods, they simply incorporated Pagan practices into Christian festivals. As recounted by the Venerable Bede, an early Christian writer, clever clerics copied Pagan practices and by doing so, made Christianity more palatable to pagan folk reluctant to give up their festivals for somber Christian practices.

In second century Europe, the predominate spring festival was a raucous Saxon fertility celebration in honor of the Saxon Goddess Eastre, whose sacred animal was a hare. The hare is often associated with moon goddesses; the egg and the hare together represent the god and the goddess, respectively.

Pagan fertility festivals at the time of the Spring equinox were common - it was believed that at this time, male and female energies were balanced.

The colored eggs are of another, even more ancient origin. The eggs associated with this and other Vernal festivals have been symbols of rebirth and fertility for so long the precise roots of the tradition are unknown, and may date to the beginning of human civilization. Ancient Romans and Greeks used eggs as symbols of fertility, rebirth, and abundance- eggs were solar symbols, and figured in the festivals of numerous resurrected gods.

Moving forward fifteen hundred years, we find ourselves in Germany, where children await the arrival of Oschter Haws, a rabbit who will lay colored eggs in nests to the delight of children. It was this German tradition that popularized the 'Easter bunny' in America, when introduced into the American cultural fabric by German settlers in Pennsylvania.

Many modern practitioners of Neo-pagan and earth-based religions have embraced these symbols as part of their religious practice, identifying with the life-affirming aspects of the spring holiday. (The Neopagan holiday of Ostara is descended from the Saxon festival.) Ironically, some Christian groups have used the presence of these symbols to denounce the celebration of the Easter holiday, and many churches have recently abandoned the Pagan moniker with more Christian oriented titles like 'Resurrection Sunday.'

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Vintage Easter Greetings

I love vintage postcards from the Victorian era. On a recent trip to the Baltimore Museum of Art, I picked up a neat set of vintage Easter postcard reproductions. You can't go wrong with Victorian bunnnies!

For example, these futuristic bunnies look like they are turning DEVO!

Here's a German Easter card:

Herr E. Rabbitt

My boyfriend claims this is a vintage card from the 1930s and that it says "Off to the death camps!" I think he lies.

This isn't vintage, but here's a great contempo shot of a scary big bunny at Eastpoint Mall taken by Julie Smith:

That bunny looks like he's been injected with a steady diet of steroids. Check out more of Julie's cool pix at her ultra-nifty website Come on Down to the Clubbasement.

Oh, and Happy Easter everybody!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Banished Words List

The Daedalus Books and Music MySpace blog has a post called "The Banished Words List," where you can share the words or phrases that drive you crazy. Daedalus is following the example of the staff at Lake Superior State University, who have been collecting nominations from people around the world and posting many of them on their website. LSSU's list, known officially as the "List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness," has been around since 1977.

Anyway, since Daedalus Books and Music is now my new MySpace friend (yay!), I thought I'd respond in kind. And, in true democratic spirit, they added my most loathed words and phrases to the nominees for banishment. To wit:

RURAL - I hate that word. Whenever I say it I feel like I've suddenly acquired a speech impediment. I also hate the word "LINGERIE." It sounds pretentious and tawdry.

SEE-MY-SAYIN'? - A quickly spoken contraction of "See what I'm saying," an urban appropriation of "You know what I mean" favored by hip-hop artists and rappers. Plus, I never see what people who ask see-my-sayin' see.

THAT'S WHAT I'M TALKIN' ABOUT! - Used by every jock after scoring and every porn star after climaxing (or so claims my boyfriend who is, unfortunately, the subject expert). Actions speak much louder than unnecessary, self-evident words. Hmmmfffttt!

DISRESPECTING, DISRESPECTED - As in: "He disrespected me" or "She was disrespecting me." Can't we all just be DISSED and be done with it? I hate making a verb out of a noun.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Harvey Pekar

Digging through my pictures, I remembered this one from May 2005, when author Harvey Pekar was in Baltimore to present a screening of The Bicycle Thief at MICA's Falvey Auditorium as part of the Maryland Film Festival's Guest Host program. (Harvey is the good-looking guy in the middle - I don't know who that bottle-blond hippie dude next to him is). Harvey was there with his wife Joyce Brabner and they were both very approachable and gracious. Harvey talked about his health struggles, which were documented in the graphic novel Our Cancer Year that he co-wrote with his wife and illustrator Frank Stack. And Harvey talked about films in general, and his 2003 American Splendor bio-pic in particular. Harvey was also nice enough to autograph my copy of American Splendor.

Turkey Joe

Can you spot the turkey in the picture above?

That would be Turkey Joe Trabert in the middle, flanked by almost-hip guy Tom Warner and me. The occasion was a free screening of Mr. Boh's Brewery - a documentary about Baltimore's legendary National Brewery by filmmakers Alex Castro, Harry Connelly and Lyle Hein - at the Senator Theatre on July 22, 2006. After the film, Elaine Eff of the Maryland Historical Society hosted a panel discussion with Brew Crew old-timers that included a Boh memorabilia show & tell with Turkey Joe Trabert. Turkey Joe remembered my dad, who used to frequent Turkey Joe's bar. And they say celebrities don't care about the common people! I showed this picture to my pop and he was happy to see Joe was doing well.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Whose Responible?


Parking lot at Charles and Lanvale

Baltimore may be "The City That Reads," but it sure doesn't spellcheck! Proofreading is laxly enforced.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

American Craft Show 2008

This year, the American Craft Council (ACC) invited some 300 artists from what it called the "New Wave Craft Movement" to its 32nd annual show at the Baltimore Convention Center during the weeked of February 22-24. No wonder I liked it!

Here are some pix from a stroll through Sunday's showroom.

He's a Pinball Wizard

The Pinball Guy was my favorite.

That's Mike Maxwell of Maxwell Silverball. He makes mirrors and tables out of vintage pinball machines (especially ones from the '70s and specifically 1977, when he got his KISS pinball machine) and lamps out of old vacuum cleaners.

Halvsies Unite!

Ceramic artist Munemitsu Taguchi is half Japanese like me. His father is Japanese and his Mom Caucasian. He said people are usually surprised when they meet him because he looks so Western while his name is all Japanese - "But that's what you get when your Dad is the Japanese half; you take his last name."

Chain in Vain

I complimented the Chainmail Guy on his neckwear.

When I asked if it was hard to tie, he showed me this stylish wraparound:

As a Ren Fester, he must have sensed my attraction to the old ways, but alas chainmail is too expensive for this Law Enforcement Clerk's salary.

A Stained Expression

There was enough stained glass at the show to make me feel like I went to Church on Sunday. I liked the one vendor who used stained glass in a modern context, showing urban scenes like parking garage and traffic signs.

It's Alive!

The craft show is alive and well, as these pix of "New Wave Craftster" Chris Roberts-Antieu's sideshow-looking works attest:

Chris Roberts-Antieu's works can also be seen at Baltimore's American Visionary Art Museum.

Is There a Doctor in the House?

You don't have to be Dr. Sigmund Freud to appreciate the sexual imagery in Kathleen Dustin's work - but it doesn't hurt!

Tea Time

As 4 o'clock rolled around, this piece reminded us that it was time for afternoon tea and soon after we left.

Disparaging Dundalk Dis of the Day

I'm from Dundalk, which is always the butt of jokes in Baltimore. Especially from our rivals in Essex. Thanks Nikki!

Gomez Takes Me

On April 14, 2007 I went to the Book Borrower's Bash at the Enoch Pratt Free Library and met John Astin, the Johns Hopkins grad and teacher who is best known as Gomez on the 1960s sitcom The Addams Family. I brought my "Gomez Takes Morticia" card from the Milton-Bradley Addams Family Game to get autographed and Gomez was kind enough to pose for photo with me, too!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Catharine Schmuck Cemetery

Who Was This Mystery Woman?

At the northeast corner of the VIN Restaurant parking lot off Shealy and Virginia Avenue in Towson sits a lone headstone in what is surely the world's loneliest cemetary. The headstone is for Catharine Schmuck and reads "I waited for the Lord my God and patiently did bear/At length to me He did incline my voice and cry to hear."

It got me wondering just who this Catharine Schmuck was.

Turns out there's an article about Catharine Schmuck in Towson University's student newspaper The Towerlight: Buried among decades of change

Here's the full text of that story:

Buried among decades of change
140-year-old Shealey cemetery sits on possible student housing site near Towson circle, shops
by Brian Stelter, Photo by Derrek Windsor
At the edge of a long flat parking lot east of York Road, behind Burger King, across the street from a high-rise condominium, through a rusty iron fence, there's a cemetery. For 140 years, a tiny, family-owned plot of land along Shealey Avenue has served as the final resting place for at least three -- and possibly as many as 18 -- former residents of Towson. Only one gravestone has survived the decades.

Heritage Properties, which owns the Towson Circle parking lot that surrounds the cemetery, plans to construct housing for 600 students and a large retail complex on top of the parking spaces. But a small green space will be preserved around the edges of the gravesite.

There are no precise records of who is buried in the small square patch of land, but several members of the Shealey family are known to be buried there. The Shealeys were one of the first families to settle in Towson.

The cemetery rests along a narrow street named Shealy Avenue. (When Baltimore County printed a sign for the street, they forgot to include the second "e" in Shealey.) In 1996, after a newspaper article detailed the "poor condition" of the cemetery, Towson's chapter of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity offered to help with the cleanup. But any improvements were temporary. Step inside the fence today, and bottles of Jack Daniels litter the well-worn grass. The ground is littered with fast food wrappers and coffee cups. A Spree wrapper is twisted around a tree limb. The Burger King drive-through speaker can be heard in the distance.

Towson's first archeological dig

In the third drawer of a filing cabinet in Room 406 of the County Courthouse Building, a yellowed folder labeled "Shealey Cemetery" has collected dust for years.
There's a newspaper clipping from 1884 marking the passing of Daniel Shealey, who died at age 83. He was buried in the cemetery, "where the remains of his father and mother repose," the paragraph says.

Documents in the folder explain how the cemetery's position, at the corner of a large, valuable plot of land in downtown Towson, has resulted in occasional skirmishes between preservationists and developers.

In 1987, Baltimore County considered building a $2 million Towson Transit Center along Joppa Road. One of the proposals would have placed the transit center next to the cemetery.

"The MTA said they would build around it, but we think that is just dreadful," Sharon Shealey Lewis told the Towson Times in October of that year.
Over the years, the Shealey family had trouble documenting ownership of the plot. "The graveyard has been in our family since 1837," Shealey told the Baltimore Sun at the time.

In April of 1996, descendants of the Shealey family met with representatives of Heritage Properties, as the company was preparing to build a five-level parking garage next to the cemetery.

The 800-car parking garage would have served patrons of the Towson Circle retail project.

According to records of the meeting, one of the attendees suggested digging up the bodies and burying them in a new location. But the family members weren't in favor of that idea.

In fact, they suggested the cemetery could be bigger than it seemed. Helen Shealey suggested people could be buried outside the fence that encircles the plot.

So one Saturday afternoon, Heritage donated a backhoe and several local citizens started digging. This is how The Sun put it on June 14, 1996: "Downtown Towson is about to have its first archeological dig -- thanks to a tiny family cemetery that is delaying a $25 million redevelopment project."

The dig didn't turn anything up outside the fence, though. The cemetery returned to its quiet existence.

Only one gravestone remains

In 1996, only two gravestones (and one foot marker, inscribed with an "AY") were still poking their heads out of the grass. One of the stones said:
"Sacred to the memory of Joseph Yost, who departed this life April 24, 1836, in the 35th year of his age."

Visit the cemetery today, and Joseph Yost's gravestone is missing. All that remains is one broken stone, half a foot tall, that sits on the edge of the cemetery.

Only one gravestone is completely intact. It reads:
"In memory of Catharine Schmuck, wife of Solomon Schmuck, who was born November the 30th 1767 and died on the 7th of December 1831. Aged 67 years and 22 days." It's impossible to read the rest of the text.

Schmuck rests in the center of the cemetery, under a tall tree. As the community has grown from a crossroads to a county seat and college town, the gravestone seems to have been left untouched.

The streetscape along Shealey Avenue will change once again, but Joseph Yost and Catharine Schmuck will still be there.

Santa Rosa Labyrinth

Labyrinths are all around us, even on York Road adjacent to the Senator Theatre. All the times I went to Daedalus Books and the Senator Theatre I must have missed it, but here's it is: the Santa Rosa Labyrinth at Govans Presbyterian Church. I only found out about it because it was listed in the back pages of my The Amazing Book of Mazes by Adrian Fisher.

There's a vistor's log where you can sign in and post the thoughts you had traversing the labyrinth.