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.

Wild Genealogy

Today's fascinating factoid: I picked up the new issue of Brit music mag Q and learned that The Troggs' "Wild Thing" was written by Jon Voight's brother, Wes, under his performer's name of Chip Taylor. I never knew that!

Wes (l) and Jon Voight (r), 1950s