A Visit to the African American Museum


National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. The building design was based on a traditional West African hat style.

Saturday, Feb. 17, 55 local residents traveled by bus to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, on a trip organized by Sumner Hall. It was a striking and memorable experience – a powerful reminder of the stark history of African Americans and of the enormous contributions they have made to our nation.

The bus pulled out of the parking lot in Chestertown a little after 8:30 a.m. The weather was good — cold but sunny with a blue sky– and we were at the museum in less than an hour and a half, arriving in Washington in plenty of time for our 11 a.m. appointment.  That gave the group  over five hours to explore the exhibits – and eat lunch – before the 4 p.m. return trip. While that may seem plenty of time, it was barely time to scratch the surface of this incredible rich institution.

The museum was packed – like all Smithsonian museums, admission is free, and the African American museum has been enormously popular ever since it opened not quite a year and a half ago in Sept, 2016. Going to the museum will give you a clear indication just how rich and complex the African-American contribution to our society has been. To draw on an area I happen to know a fair bit about, my first reaction in walking around the musical exhibit that occupies much of the top floor was astonishment at just how much the museum has packed in. Here’s Chuck Berry’s bright red Cadillac convertible, as well as one of his guitars; here’s footage of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie playing “Hot House” on a 1952 TV show; here’s the gown Marian Anderson wore at her historic concert at the Lincoln Memorial; here’s the Mothership that the funk bands Parliament and Funkadelic used in stage shows; here’s Leadbelly’s 12-string guitar; here’s a photo of Robert Johnson I didn’t know existed – and that’s just scratching the surface. The mind boggles!

Dizzy’s horn

Then I began to notice what wasn’t there – or at least what I didn’t find in the hour or so I walked through the musical exhibits. Was there anything about Lester Young or the Mills Brothers or James P. Johnson or Nina Simone – or did I miss it? And then I realized there just isn’t room for all that – they’d need a building bigger than the one they have, just dedicated to the music, and they’d still have to pick and choose to get in a representative sample of the subject matter – and there’d still be gaps in the coverage. That brought home even more powerfully the impact of black Americans on music. And if that’s true of one area, what does it say about the museum as a whole? The same has to be true of its coverage of writers, athletes, painters and sculptors, and all the other areas where African Americans have made an impact on our national culture. Ultimately, I came away even more impressed with what the museum has done.

That was especially true of the historical displays, which make up the bottom three floors of the museum, covering a range from the earliest days of slavery through the modern era. The exhibits present detailed, often intense, documentation of the African American experience in the New World – full of historical maps, documents, archaeological artifacts from Africa, Europe, and the Americas, with ample audio-visual material to put them all in context. An entire slave cabin from the Carolina coast sits in the middle of one floor; one of the Tuskegee Airmen’s planes hangs from the ceiling as you go up the ramps between floors; life-sized statues of historical figures are spread around the exhibit. Seeing it all in a single visit is literally impossible – even if you take in only the surface aspects. A good idea on your first visit – an opportunity we missed, but will probably take up next time we go – is to follow around one of the docents guiding tour groups. But again, to really appreciate it, you need to plan more than one visit. It’s well worth it.  There’s even a section on African Americans and the Chesapeake Bay with a display about the Eastern Shore of Maryland including black watermen and the seafood industry.

Upon our arrival at the museum, the group split up into smaller groups, each exploring on their own, at their own pace. A few who had been to the museum before were helpful with their recommendations of things to seek out. Many groups met up again around lunchtime in the museum cafe, where the menu features dishes from the various African American communities — catfish, fried chicken, grits, gumbo, the whole range of American soul food –an important aspect of the culture the museum documents. (Also note — outside food can’t be brought into the museum, so you might as well enjoy the cafe.)

Even in our five-hour visit, we saw far more than one article can possibly include (we plan to do several follow-up stories in the Spy to try to do the museum justice). But a few vignettes stuck out, A young man stood by the statue the  of the 1968 Black Power protest at the Mexico City Olympics, raising his fist in emulation; a group of Naval Academy cadets in uniform toured the museum, solemnly taking in the history; teenagers took in the exhibits, for once looking at something other than their cell phones. And at almost every turn people could be heard responding to what they were seeing.  It wasn’t a loud crowd. People were speaking quietly, respectfully.  And they were polite and considerate, moving aside for people, offering to take pictures for each other.  Neither was it a completely somber atmosphere.  The history exhibits were unflinching in their stark and honest portrayal of slavery, segregation, and oppression but they also showed how enslaved peoples managed to find love and joy in their lives, despite the constant hardships. The culture sections on music, arts, and sports literally had people dancing around, excited and laughing as they came across artists they remembered from their youth or saw some new, beautiful work of art.  Displays on African Americans in the military and as entrepreneurs were inspiring and enlightening.   A truly involving experience for everyone!

Airplane flown by the famous Tuskegee pilots in World War II

We noted above that the museum is crowded. This is good, in that people are making an effort to learn about and understand this vital element of our history and culture. But it makes for a challenging experience at times. For some displays, standing in front of the exhibit long enough to absorb all the information felt awkward when there were lots of other people waiting to get a look. When that happened, we just walked ahead or dropped back to find an uncrowded exhibit. Be aware that there’s a lot of walking to see everything but there were also frequent benches where you could take a quick break as well as escalators and an elevator. You’ll definitely want to go back several times to really get all this museum has to offer. Several people on our tour had been before and still were eager to go this time and commented on how much they enjoyed a repeat visit, seeing things they hadn’t before. The next time we go, we’ll try for a week day, when crowds are likely to be a bit smaller.

The weather had been very good in the morning when we left, but snow and sleet had been  predicted and it showed up right on time for the trip home.   Joe, our Jor-Lin bus driver, was an excellent driver and guide.  The trip back took over two hours and we saw several cars in the ditch on 301 on this side of the Bay Bridge.  But we made it back to Sumner Hall without incident – thank you, Joe! – where most of us trooped inside to feast off a sumptuous spread of hors d’ouvres, desserts, and some fabulous chicken salad with  wine and other drinks on  hand.   All this in honor not of the bus trip but for the reception before author and Patrick Henry Fellow Will Haygood’s speech at 7 p.m., which some of the more indefatigable members of the bus trip stayed to attend. (More to come on Haygood in future Spy articles.)

All in all, it was a wonderful day at the museum.

Tickets for the National Museum of African American History and Culture, though free, must be ordered in advance — go to the museum’s website. The museum is sold out until June, so plan ahead — and try for a weekday, if you can, to reduce the crowd pressure. It’s well worth waiting for.

Photo Gallery by Peter Heck and Jane Jewell

Chuck Berry’s Cadillac Eldorado – a favorite place to get your picture taken

The P-Funk Mothership AKA The Holy Mothership – a key feature of the stage act of the Funkadelic and Parliament bands’ concerts.

Statue of 1968 Olympic Protest

   Henry Highland Garnet – born in Kent County – escaped slave, civil rights activist, and first Black minister to preach in congress


















Food Friday: Presidential Foods


President’s Day is giving some of us a nice three-day weekend. Another day to linger over the papers, to make breakfast and enjoy ruminating about having a little unusual leisure time. And if you have young ‘uns at home, you can have an educational moment and make some of George Washington’s favorite Hoe Cakes for breakfast. Isn’t it nice to know that he didn’t subsist on that mythical cherry pie?

Hoe Cakes were cooked like pancakes on the back of a garden hoe, or on a griddle. Use whatever you have at hand.

1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups white cornmeal, divided
3 to 4 cups lukewarm water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Melted butter for drizzling and serving
Honey or maple syrup for serving

Mix the yeast and 1 1/4 cups of the cornmeal in a large bowl. Add 1 cup of the lukewarm water, stirring to combine thoroughly. Mix in 1/2 cup more of the water, if needed, to give the mixture the consistency of pancake batter. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 200°F.

When ready to finish the hoecakes, begin by adding 1/2 to 1 cup of the remaining water to the batter. Stir in the salt and the egg, blending thoroughly.

Gradually add the remaining 1 1/4 cups of cornmeal, alternating with enough additional lukewarm water to make a mixture that is the consistency of waffle batter. Cover with a towel, and set aside at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes.

Heat a griddle on medium-high heat, and lightly grease it with lard or vegetable shortening. Preparing 1 hoecake at a time, drop a scant 1/4 cup of the batter onto the griddle and cook on one side for about 5 minutes, or until lightly browned. With a spatula, turn the hoecake over and continue cooking another 4 to 5 minutes, until browned.

Place the hoecake on a platter, and set it in the oven to keep warm while making the rest of the batch. Drizzle each batch with melted butter.

Serve the hoecakes warm, drizzled with melted butter and honey or maple syrup.


As long as you are entertaining President Washington for breakfast, you should invite President Lincoln to come along, too, since one of his favorite foods was bacon. I can’t imagine a tastier companion to hoe cakes than a few sizzling rashers of bacon. http://mentalfloss.com/article/61607/5-abraham-lincolns-favorite-foods

We’ll ask President Jefferson to bring a covered dish of mac and cheese to the cookout we are going to have later this afternoon. He made macaroni and cheese a popular dish, but he also championed Champagne. http://mentalfloss.com/article/62565/5-foods-thomas-jefferson-introduced-or-made-popular-america Also coming with his own Crock Pot is President Obama, who is bringing his world famous chili. http://www.pbs.org/parents/kitchenexplorers/2013/02/21/president-obamas-chili-recipe/

President Franklin Roosevelt, who once served hot dogs to the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth when they toured the United States, has offered to be grill master. https://food52.com/recipes/12425-yum-dogs

President Theodore Roosevelt is ready to shuck a couple of bushels of oysters. President Van Buren is getting ready to help; he’s making a pile of ice chips. https://www.thespruce.com/how-to-shuck-oysters-2217269

President Lyndon Johnson is going to flip the steaks, since he had the first White House cookout and knows the ropes. They are a presidential favorite; also eager for a steak are Presidents Grant, Truman, Eisenhower and Reagan:https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/broiled-steaks-with-parmesan-sage-potatoes

Dessert is going to be easy. Ice cream for everyone. Thank you, President Washington who spent an extraordinary $200 for ice cream during the summer of 1790 (http://www.idfa.org/news-views/media-kits/ice-cream/the-history-of-ice-cream/). President Jefferson built an ice house on the White House grounds to be sure he had easy access to ice cream all year long. We should also thank Dolley Madison, who was married to the fourth president. She had festive White House parties that featured elaborate ice creams. I don’t think TR is going to donate any oysters to her favorite Oyster Ice Cream, but he’ll be happy for a dish of vanilla. http://www.pbs.org/food/features/ice-cream-founding-fathers/


Many of the livelier American presidents have enjoyed their cocktails. Jefferson, Madison, Tyler, and Grant were all very fond of Champagne. Which seems like a suitable way to toast President’s Day. https://www.alcoholprofessor.com/blog/2017/02/20/drinking-with-the-presidents/

“If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”
– Harry S. Truman

Standing for Peace


Women in Black, a local chapter of an international women’s peace group who keep a weekly silent peace vigil in Chestertown

Noon, Friday at Chestertown’s Memorial Park — a group of women stand silent, holding signs: “Peace,” “No War,” “Give Peace a Chance.”

The group represents an international network for peace and justice, the Women in Black. They began holding their vigils at the intersection of High and Cross Streets on Feb. 2. On Feb. 9, the group numbered ten. While the vigil is predominantly silent, the members speak to and answer questions from anyone who engages them A number of cars honked their horns as they drove by the group. Also, the women in the group distributed cards bearing the word for “peace” in a number of languages, English, German, Japanese. The back of the cards reads, “Join us for a silent Vigil for peace. WIB an International Network for Peace and Justice. Help put an end to war and violence in our world. Womeninblack.org”

The website contains the following explanation of the group’s purpose: “Women in Black is a world-wide network of women committed to peace with justice and actively opposed to injustice, war, militarism and other forms of violence. As women experiencing these things in different ways in different regions of the world, we support each other’s movements. An important focus is challenging the militarist policies of our own governments. We are not an organisation, but a means of communicating and a formula for action.”

The movement originated in Jerusalem in 1988, when a group of women held a Friday vigil in response to violations of human rights they believed were being committed in Palestinian areas occupied by Israeli troops. Vigils were eventually held throughout Israel, and groups in other countries held vigils in sympathy. Each group was autonomous, without a common political agenda beyond a concern for human rights and opposition to war. Because the members wore black clothing during the vigils, the name “Women in Black” naturally became attached to the movement.

Women in Black – Silent Peace Vigil – each Friday at noon

The movement’s concerns spread beyond the Israeli/Palestinian conflict to other countries where peace and justice were perceived to be at risk. Women in Black became especially visible during the civil wars that tore apart former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Protesting violent nationalism and sectarian bloodshed, the women themselves often became the targets of attacks by fanatical nationalists. In a number of countries, the focus of the vigils has been violence against women.

In 2001, the international Women in Black movement was awarded the Millennium Peace Prize for Women given by the United Nations Development Fund for Women, and the groups in Serbia and Israel were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

The local group will be in Monument Plaza across from Fountain Park and Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Chestertown again this Friday at noon.  They plan to be there each Friday for the foreseeable future.

Come and join the Women in Black and Stand for Peace.

Women in Black – Silent Peace Vigil



Oops by George Merrill


There was an incident years ago, when my son was ten. I handled a situation with him poorly in a way that I have been not been able to completely forgive myself. When I think of it, I feel the sharp pain of remorse. He was needy and confused then and as we had recently moved, was trying to figure out his relationship with two of his new friends. When I look back, I can see that I didn’t get it – all the more ironic since I am a clergyman and psychotherapist. I treated his concerns casually. Rather than taking the matter more seriously and encouraging him to talk about it I didn’t hear what he was trying to tell me. It was a lost opportunity. Simply put, I blew it.

He has not forgotten it nor have I. Time and a frank discussion years later have alleviated much of the pain of that time for both of us. And even though I know that blaming myself is not helpful either for him or for myself, when I think about it I’ll still instinctively castigate myself for not getting it right.

I’ve often wondered why it is so difficult even though I may know God will forgive me, and for the most part my son has, that I find it so difficult to forgive myself. It’s as if I hold myself to impossible standards of perfection. I should never make mistakes. I’m supposed to get it right all the time. Even as I write that sentence it sounds absurd. As I think about it, there’s a perverse pride in such thinking. Taken to its logical conclusion, I’m actually saying I’m perfect, or if not, I should be.

Getting it wrong, making mistakes of all kinds is so fundamental to the human experience that rites of forgiveness have been central to religious practices for centuries. For Catholics, there is the sacrament of confession and in Judaism, the observance of Yom Kippur. Both rites help penitents to own their failings, express their contrition with others, and to put things right with self, with God and our fellow man. Each of these rites has an implied assumption; not only am I never going to get it right every time, but my efforts are probably better spent in managing my mistakes with a combination of contrition and a gentle spirit.

I characterize my routine mistakes simply as ‘oops.’ These are the annoying glitches that insinuate themselves into daily life; the lost key, the grocery bag left at the market, missing receipts, forgetting to lock the door, stepping in dog doo and the like. I shrug, get irritated, mutter under my breath and feel relieved that no one else has noticed. After making the appropriate corrections, I go about my business as usual. To make case in point when I wrote about stepping in dog manure, I wrote it first as ‘dog dew.’ My wife said I was mistaken, that it was ‘dog doo’ that I stepped in. For a moment, I wasn’t sure I had it right and I felt slightly intimidated. I googled it. In fact, I had stepped in both.

Strangely, inadvertent mistakes (the one’s committed in total innocence, with not a hint of guile and even with good intentions) can go badly and cause pain to others as well as to one’s self.

Not getting it right can be a mortifying experience. People often remark that when they suddenly realize they’ve really gotten it wrong they wish they had died on the spot or that the ground would have opened up and swallowed them. That’s one powerful emotion.

Kathryn Schulz, in her thoughtful book, Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error, tells a story of a mortifying incident suffered by a journalist friend of hers. He was a seasoned writer on environmental issues and attended a lecture by a prominent environmentalist.

She made a brilliant presentation although pessimistic in content. He noticed how although her prognostications for the future of the planet were grim, that she was also pregnant. In his write up he commented that she was pregnant indicating that what he saw was her affirmation of life despite the gloomy picture she painted of the future. His article was published, made first page news and was widely circulated. Great, except the presenter wasn’t pregnant. Forty years later and he was quoted as saying “Truth is, I’m still mortified when I talk about it.” It turned out the woman was gracious about it but the journalist could never quite forgive himself for an innocent mistake, kindly disposed as it was.

I suspect that deep down many of us are aware of our failings, but try hard to disown them because we ourselves are not easy with them. The result can be that we’re intimidated by people who come across to us as on top of their game, competent, all together. It’s as if their togetherness were a judgement on us. The word ‘loser’ that has become such a popular insult today I guess underscores the contemporary obsession that in order to be of any account, you have to always get it and be winners no matter what.

Regarding mistakes, a look at how scientists behave may be instructive for getting along with our mistakes more skillfully. Many scientific researchers will routinely publish results making them accessible to other scientists knowing full well that what they’ve put out there may be flawed. That’s part of the strategy. If flaws can be identified so much the better. In the long haul, they’ll stand better chances of getting their project right.

So, since we are never always going to get it all right, what do we do? Ask for help if our mistakes have been harmful to ourselves or others, if we can. If not, accept, shrug, forgive, and keep a sense of humor.

Remember, to air is human, to forgive, divine.


Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist.  A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.

Mid-Shore Gardening: Ruth Clausen’s Campaign for Pollinators


In yet another example of how the Mid-Shore seems to attract some of the very best in their chosen fields for their retirement homes, horticulturist Ruth Rogers Clausen has found her way to the Delmarva after a long and distinguished career as a gardening writer, lecturer, and the horticultural editor for the highly regarded Country Living Gardener in New York City.

Raised with a love of gardening while growing up in Wales and England, Ruth has spent her entire professional life educating thousands of inspiring gardeners of the important elements of a successful garden, or, as she says, “a garden must be something beyond looking beautiful.”

And one of her primary passions is for gardeners to do everything they can to design their projects with pollinators in mind. With 35 percent of the world’s crop production requiring pollination, gardeners can do their bit by planting flowers that are specifically designed to help such pollen transporters as bees successfully complete their work.

The Spy spent a few minutes with Ruth at the Bullitt House last week in preparation of her lecture at the Talbot County Free Library in Easton on February 14 sponsored by the Adkins Arboretum to talk about this mission.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information about Ruth’s lecture please go here



Food Friday: Getting Organized


Last year we moved into a one-story brick house that we helped to renovate and remodel. It is a tiny place, just right for the two of us, the 70-pound dog, several linear miles of books and the odd visitor or two. We are enjoying the newness of it. New bathrooms, new appliances, clean expanses of walls without anyone else’s children’s footprints or schmears of snot. I am still running around with touch up paint whenever we ding a wall. I still can’t remember where the light switch is in the powder room. I wipe down the range every night, because even boiling water splatters and is unsightly. And my children can’t believe that I am paring down and organizing and enjoying the novelty of tidiness.

We cook most nights, as you know. Mr. Friday takes over on the weekends and is the Grill Master during the summer. I test Spy dishes often during the week. We have a white china dish next to the range that holds the bare essentials for cooking: a bottle of fancy olive oil, a tiny blue bowl of Maldon salt, a pepper grinder, some matches and a couple of cloves of garlic. (We can’t agree where the garlic should live – Food52 says in the fridge, Mr. Friday says next to the range…)

We keep cooking utensils in a nearby drawer instead of in a container on the counter. We are trying to avoid countertop clutter. Except when we are both cooking though, when the place looks like an explosion in a shingle factory. I wash up as I go along. Mr. Friday abandons his spent utensils and sticky bowls in the sink, waiting for that magic kitchen fairy to come along. Or exasperated me, who might just need that tomato-crusted slotted spoon or the colander.

This week we have both gotten the cold that seems to be sweeping the country. Which is better than falling victim to the flu. I cannot complain too much, but since I do have the Food Friday podium, I will. Mr. Friday had big plans for cooking a pork roast last weekend. He hunted and gathered the ingredients, which were numerous and expensive, and then he started running a fever. And then he started coughing and sneezing. Well. Our Sunday dinner turned into a chicken noodle soup event, and I volunteered that I would cook the pork roast for Monday dinner.

On Monday morning I found I had been mistakenly led to believe that this was a slow cooker recipe. I even located the slow cooker at the bottom of the pantry, where it was propping up a bag of dog kibble. The ingredient list promised an irresistible aroma: 4 cloves of garlic, black pepper, ground cumin, dried oregano, ground coriander, lime juice, orange juice and white white vinegar.

Further steps had me scoring the fatty side of the pork shoulder, rubbing the spices into the grooves, marinating the meat in a plastic bag in the fridge, turning “occasionally” from eight hours to overnight. Eight hours? It was noon! And then there was the small matter of the half hour that the meat needed to rest, while coming up to room temp, and another two and a half hours in the oven. Not a word about an easy peasy slow cooker meal!

It was going to have to be Tuesday night’s meal now. And it was just as well, because Mr. Friday came home from work early Monday afternoon, and needed another evening of chicken soup, Saltines and warm flannel sheets.

After I read the recipe through again I started to gather up all the aromatics that would fill the house with Cuban-style cooking smells. There is a little corner lazy-Susan corner cabinet next to the range, where we keep the spices. The ones used most often (Slap Ya Mama, Lawry’s Seasoning Salt, kosher salt, basil, dried parsley and dried red pepper flakes, oregano) tend to be in large, Costco-sized containers and are easy to find amid the welter of tiny spice jars. The others that I needed were scattered chaotically and uncategorically on that shelf. Cinnamon was next to nutmeg which was adjacent to tarragon which was butting up against the green sprinkles.

In disgust, and because I am trying to be a better person this year, I pulled everything out of the cabinet, and lined up the jars and boxes and tubes in alphabetical order on the counter. I know, Martha would have had a minion with a top-of-her-line label maker organizing in a flash. I stuck with a black Sharpie and a silver Sharpie, and put the names on top of all the lids. And then I alphabetized. I hope. (I also tossed out a few that were well past their sell-by dates. I once found a 10-year old tin of Old Bay tucked away among my spices. Which I am sure would still be delicious…)

All the baking products went in one clear plastic container: baking soda, baking powder, vanilla, almond extract, peppermint extract, sprinkles, dragées and birthday candles, and cupcake papers…

And then I put the alphabetized and newly-labeled jars into three other clear plastic containers, starting on the left with Allspice, and winding my way down to Thyme and Tumeric on the right.

I hope Mr. Friday is ready for leftover pork roast tonight, because I have the cold now, and I am sticking to chicken soup.


You could go out and buy a matchy-matchy set of spice containers, but where would the fun be? Don’t you need a nice, calming, time-wasting exercise in organization that won’t cost you any money? It is very therapeutic. https://www.marthastewart.com/1502464/kitchen-storage-organization

“A family is a unit composed not only of children but of men, women, an occasional animal, and the common cold.”
– Ogden Nash

Chestertown Marina: Full Speed Ahead!


The first roof truss swings over into position on the new Chestertown Marina store and interpretive center.

Have you looked at the Chestertown Marina lately?

There’s a lot of activity going on, and it promises to make the town-owned marina a far more attractive — and functional — facility than it has been for a number of years. The new marina store and interpretive center is taking shape along the Front Street side of the marina, with roof beams and siding installed in just the last few days. Along the riverfront, the old marina building has been demolished, and the former fuel pier has been removed. On Tuesday, workers from High Tide Marine Construction of Ocean City were removing the last pilings from the old dock to prepare the marina basin for dredging.

Worker nails cross bars onto trusses during Chestertown Marina construction

The new marina store, originally planned as a two-story building, was redesigned as a single-story building when bids for its construction came in at $1.9 million, nearly double the town’s budget. The low bidder, Yerkes Construction, agreed to take on the project and renegotiated the contract at a price of about $1 million less than the original bid. Mayor Chris Cerino said at a council meeting in November that the town had about $480,000 on hand for the marina building. He said plans were to complete the foundation and shell and raise some $500.000 to finish the project. The store replaces an older building which was purchased and moved to Iowa by a Kent County resident who owns farmland in the midwestern state.

The upgrade to the marina, which the town purchased in 2012 for just over $2 million, is being funded almost entirely by state and federal grants. The town council decided to purchase the property to avoid its being acquired by private owners who could convert it to condominiums and restrict public access to the river. The property had come on the market because the previous owner was facing financial difficulties following the Great Recession of 2008.

One of the reasons the town decided to move ahead with building the shell of the marina store is that the issuers of the grants are reluctant to extend more funds until the town has used up the funds it has already received. So getting the building started is a necessary step to getting the funds to complete it, Cerino said.

Cinder blocks on the site of the demolished marina office.

Workers from High Tide Marine Construction remove debris after old dock and pilings are removed – Chestertown Marina construction










At the Feb. 5 town council meeting, Councilman Marty Stetson said he was impressed by the new store building. He said the one-story design was better in scale with the existing buildings in the area. He also said he was pleased that the town was saving $ 1 million on the project.

Removal of the old marina store creates an open space that can be used for concerts or other public events. The space will be named “Grassymeade Plaza” in honor of  Michael Lawrence of Grassymeade Farm near Comegys’ Bight on Quaker Neck, who donated $100,000 toward the marina upgrades. Also, some $200,000 the town received from Washington College as part of the agreement by which the college obtained the Chestertown Armory, was used to repair the bulkheads.

Removal of the old fuel pier is a preliminary to dredging the basin to a depth a six feet, which will allow larger boats to use the slips along it. The basin has silted up over the years to a depth of no more than two feet in some areas. The ability to dock larger boats in one of the keys to making the marina more attractive to visitors and bringing more tourist trade into Chestertown. Also, the replacement pier will extend an additional 75 feet into the river, compensating for the fact that the current three piers will be replaced by two and providing deeper slips for large boats. The Cannon Street pier, where schooner Sultana and the Echo Hill boats regularly dock, is also scheduled for extension.

The Fish Whistle restaurant is next door to the Chestertown Marina. The two share the parking lot.

Fish Whistle

In addition to the work currently under way, the town plans to replace bulkheads and walkways along the river side of the property, and to raise the level of the parking lot some two feet to mitigate flooding of the property during high tides and storms. That project will also benefit the Fish Whistle restaurant, which shares the parking lot with the town. The Fish Whistle has announced plans to extend its waterfront porch, including installing a new crab deck, in conjunction with the marina work — adding another attraction for both locals and out-of-town visitors.

Already completed are an upgrade to the boat ramp — now doubled in width — and replacement of the walkways and bulkheads on the downriver side of the marina. The boat basin on the south side of the marina was also dredged early in 2017. New floating finger piers are to be installed along that side of the marina, as well.

Much of the current work is expected to be completed or the start of this year’s boating season.

Photo Gallery – Photography by Peter Heck and Jane Jewell

Chestertown Marina construction – removing old pier and pilings

Chestertown Marina construction – old pilings from piers

Chestertown Marina construction equipment – with waterfront condos in background

Workers from High Tide Marine Construction remove debris after old dock and pilings are removed – Chestertown Marina construction

The new interpretive center under construction – Chestertown Marina

Over to its place on the roof – Chestertown Marina construction

Up goes the roof truss – Chestertown Marina construction

Down comes the truss into place on the roof of the new marina building – Chestertown Marina construction











Kenny Award Honors Landskroeners!


Everyone loves a winner — and Kent County’s arts community proved it Friday night, as they gathered at the Garfield Center to applaud and show their love to Jim and Diane Landskroener, winners of the 2017 Kenny Award.

The Kenny Award, created by the Hedgelawn Foundation and the Kent County Arts Council in 2006, recognizes leadership and contributions to the arts in Kent County. This year’s recipients have been appearing onstage in Kent and Queen Anne’s counties for 30-plus years, as well as directing, teaching, designing — pretty much everything to do with theater in their community.

John Schratwieser, Executive Director of the Arts Council, served as Master of Ceremonies. And he was at his prime as he introduced guests, told anectdotes about Jim and Diane, and generally got the crowd in the mood.  He opened by relating how he, former KCAC Director Leslie Raimond, and Judy Kohl of the Hedgelawn Foundation developed the Kenny Awards to honor those in the community who “help us live better, happier and healthier” through their work in the arts.

John Schratwieser, Master of Ceremonies, yes he was!

The Chestertown Ukulele Club opened the entertainment portion of the evening with two lively songs, including “Better Together.” Melissa McGlynn followed with a humorous skit from Parallel Lives, in which she portrayed a peasant farm wife doing a tampon commercial. Then, in what Schratwieser said was a key element of any awards ceremony, the crowd was treated to a video message from Jen Friedman, in which she portrayed a space alien trying to explain “goosebumps.” And Schratwieser, with Stephanie King on piano, sang Stephen Sondheim’s “Being Alive,” from the musical Company.

The ceremonies then moved to a recreation of the old TV show, “This Is Your Life,” with Kate Schroeder Moskowitz and a series of guests recalling the Landskroeners’ impact on the local arts community. They promised that, unlike the original “This is Your Life,” people such as your elementary school teacher would not jump out from behind the stage to relate every detail of your life.  Instead, they came from the audience, with wonderful tales of how much Jim and Diane had meant to them over the years.

“I can’t recall a time there wasn’t a Landskroener in my life,” Moskowitz said. The reminiscences began with a production of “Alice in Wonderland” at the 1976 Tea Party festival, went through Jim and Diane performing at Washington College and their participation in innumerable theater groups — most notably Actors Community Theater, created in collaboration with Leslie and Vince Raimond, and the Garfield Center, of which Jim currently serves as Chairman of the Board.

Kate Schroeder Moskowitz rememebrs it all!

Joining Schroeder onstage were Leslie Raimond, Bonnie Hill, Kate Bennett, and Steve Mumford, along with McGlynn — and, of course, the guests of honor. The group spun tales of theatrical productions including Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, directed by Hill, for which Butch Clark recreated his Worton store onstage. Raimond showed an amazing slide show of the Landskroeners — and others — in scenes from shows over the years. Mumford recalled meeting Diane during dance classes at Washington College. And the Landskroeners added their own memories of plays and actors from years past.

Melissa McGlynn, Steve Mumford, Jim Landskroener, Diane Landskroener, Leslie Raimond, Kate Bennett, Kate Schroeder Moskowitz, Bonnie Hill

Finally, Judy Kohl of Hedgelawn Foundaiton joined Raimond and Schratwieser to present the award, a sculpture by local artist Merilee Schumann. The award ceremony was followed by champagne and sweets in the theater lobby.

Judy Kohl, Leslie Raimond, Diane Landskroener (holding the Kenny), Jim Landskroener

The Landskroeners join an elite group of Kenny Award winners, including Senator Barbara Mikulski, Leslie and Vince Raimond, Carla Massoni, Tom McHugh, Andy Goddard, Butch Clark, Judy and Ben Kohl, Keith Wharton, RiverArts, Lester Barrett Jr., The Chestertown Jazz Festival, Mel Rapelyea, Marc Castelli, John Wilson, Lani Seikaly, and Pam Ortiz, Robert Earl Price and the cast of Red Devil Moon.

Photo Gallery Photography by Jane Jewell


Butch Clark, Leslie Raimond, both previous year Kenny winners

Melissa McGlynn performing sketch from “Parallel Lives”

Melissa McGlynn performing sketch from “Parallel Lives”






Ukulele Club

Ukulele Club




















Julie Lawrence displays the Garfield’s “Golden Ticket” raffle to win a theater weekend in Philadelphia

Melissa McGlynn, Jim Landskroener, Karen Smith

Carol Neimand, Lolli Sherry

















The Yellow Brontosaurus by George Merrill


I’ve had the blahs for a couple of days. It’s a disagreeable feeling. It comes on suddenly like a runny nose or a cough. The cause of the blahs is unknown.

When I have the blahs nothing I can think of energizes me. And then, if something does, it feels like a lot of work to follow up on it for the little return I imagine I’ll get. The other part of this is that a million things go through my mind, but I don’t land on any one. I’m all over the place.

Routine things for which I’d normally given little thought, now seem onerous. I don’t feel much like engaging with people, but the thought of being alone is not appealing either. There is one thing that I instinctively do when coming down with the blahs, and that is to figure out why I have the blahs at all and particularly, at this time. Normally that’s good self-psychotherapy, but when dealing with the blahs I’ve found it useless. It’s a little like sitting around and trying to figure out why the fire started, but that really doesn’t help to put it out. In fact, the inaction may just feed the lethargy making things worse.

The blahs are common. Most everyone suffers the blahs. I guess it’s mostly in the western world, a society while obsessed with money, power and politics, doesn’t ’t really know how to just have fun. For a person like me who has fun writing personal essays and leans heavily on energy that ideas generate, with the blahs I feel like a runner with an ailing foot. What he wholly depends on is suddenly malfunctioning. I want to fix it, but the blahs have a life of their own. They’ve developed considerable resistance to “giving myself a good talking to” and other common-sense remedies.

For addressing the malady, psychologists suggest the equivalent of ‘take two aspirin and call me in the morning.” Get yourself going, they advise, get off your butt, walk the dog, call a friend, fix the flower bed, polish the silver and the like but, see, that’s the thing about the blahs; you don’t feel like doing any of those things. People with the blahs will frequently make others impatient and it’s common to hear someone tell them, “Get over it.” It’s a rather insensitive comment and I don’t know that it works, certainly not for me.

Do a kind deed for someone you know or may not know at all. This bromide is frequently offered as a sure cure. Promising, perhaps, but it usually goes full circle; you still have to mobilize the energy to think of what would be something kind and to whom you’d direct it. You’re back to zero.

When I’m seized by the blahs, I’ve noticed this much: I do a lot of “yeah, but” thinking. That’s the kind where you have an interesting thought and then knock it down, like playing whack-a-mole or swatting a mosquito. So, is there any way, if not to cure the blahs, at least to limit their duration?

I listened to a talk once given by a seasoned writer, an essayist, who offered this thought: The essayist can write about the things he knows best, or he can write about something he knows nothing about but wants to learn more. I wondered if by writing about the blahs with no clinical understanding of the condition, I might stumble upon something significant that could mitigate some of its effects and even contribute to the well-being of others.

With that slight spark of energy my thought inspired, I decided to go for it.

One thing occurred to me immediately. Having the blahs is a little like being a child for whom we can do nothing to please. Children in that kind of mood can drive parents nuts; adults having the blahs can drive themselves nuts. I recall several instances of that with my own children. I once made up a trick to head it off. It worked most of the time.

Imagine a petulant little boy, my son, half in tears and fussing, disagreeable for no apparent reason. Immediately my instinct was to offer him possible options.

“Would you like to play with Eddie?”

“No!” he’d reply emphatically shaking his arms and legs in protest, his lower lip prominently protruding to underscore his point.

“How about Sally?”

“No,” again.

“Would you like a cookie?”

“Nooo, I don’t want a cookie,” and so it would go. This was a dead end and I knew it.

Then it came to me out of the blue, an epiphany, and it turned out to be a decidedly inspired idea.

I suddenly held my hand up, palm forward, opened my eyes just short of popping them from their sockets as if I were alerting my son to something terribly urgent, and looking beyond him into the distance I said in a hushed voice, “Did you see that?”

His petulant look vanished. He turned around to look, and turning back to me asked quizzically, “What.”

“The Brontosaurus, only this one is yellow, not green like Freddy, the one in your book.”

“Well, where is he?”

“I think you may have scared him off when you turned around. He can’t be far. Let’s go find him. We must be very quiet, come on, follow me.”

And off we went, hunting. It was the day of the yellow Brontosaurus.

I know just what you’re thinking. This guy is full of guile, a deceitful father, disseminating fake news to this vulnerable and innocent child.

I’ll tell you this; of course, we didn’t find the yellow Brontosaurus. He was nowhere to be seen. We called off the hunt. However, by then not only did the cookie begin sounding great to my son, but so did the idea of having Eddie over to play. The search alone began to give meaning to his day.

A strong case can be made that the means justifies the end.

What has any of this to do with the blahs? This much. I think the blahs are exacerbated by the way the condition can keep us unfocused. I know with the blahs I go from thought to thought dismissing them all, straightaway.

I don’t want to give credence to the school that advises “get off your butt and do something.” I find that solution questionable. But, instead, I’d advise focus, stay with just one idea of the many orbiting around in my mind. Soon it would lead to some kind of action like hunting the yellow dinosaur with my son. You don’t have to find the dinosaur; just looking for him is enough. The search is more energizing than the finding or as the saying goes, the journey is more important than the destination.

Nothing is quite like finding a purpose; it’ll make your day and beat the blahs.

Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist.  A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.