Farewell to Blob’s Park; A Baltimore Legend and Annapolis Favorite Hang-out

Some "regulars" hanging out at the bar.
Some “regulars” hanging out at the bar.

Blob’s Park is closing in less than one month.   And I for one am going to miss its unique attributes. Where else could you go to get authentic German food, listen to live music, go waltzing across a dance floor and feel as if you’d stepped back in time to the 1960s?

Blobs

 In recent years, probably my husband Peter and I have not gone there nearly enough— but oh the memories!. A trip to Blobs Park, for many  patrons means polka dancing.  But there was so much else.  I remember visiting Blobs for an evening of dinner and dancing in the 1990’s and marveling at the wide variety of patrons. There would be women with beehive hairdo’s, men with rolled up short sleeves and crew cuts and entire wedding parties and anniversary parties set up at the various long banquet tables. Men and women still spry in their 80’s would be doing the jitterbug and the Lindy hop. Often I’d see small children sitting at some tables earlier in the evening, ready to dance along with Mom and Dad or not waiting and making up dances of their own.  On a Sunday afternoon there might be a band with an accordion playing  a variety of German and Polish folk dances and lots of folks out on the dance floor who knew all the patterns and steps.

Friends Doug and Wendy enjoying a dance!
Friends Doug and Wendy enjoying a dance!

Max Blob, opened Blob’s Park in 1928 as a private gathering place (think Speakeasy) It opened to the public in 1933.  He was known affectionately as “Onkle Max. “ In recent years Blobs has hosted Latin Bands, Country Music, and last Friday night it was a 1940s style Swing Band.  Unfortunately, despite the good music, the hall has become increasingly empty.

But that’s not why they are closing.

December 2012  and January 2013, 29 acres of Blobs Park land was sold to the Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore. The plan is for a church and school to be built on the land but the current owner/manager Max Eggerl, who is a grandson of Max Blob, the original founder , thought he had a verbal agreement to keep occupying the Hall for a few more years. Evidently that is not to be. Blob’s Park will be closing at the end of the month. The last event at the hall that has seating for 1000 people, will be  “Our Last Polka and will feature Mike Surratt and The Continentals on March 30th

In the last few remaining weeks that Blob’s Park remains open, make a  pilgrimage and walk around the place. A bit of the spirit of “Onkle Max” still remains.

Blobs Park is located at the Intersection of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and Route 1765 in Jessup, Maryland; just a short drive down the highway from the entrance to Fort Meade.   As the western part of Anne Arundel County continues to grow in density, another little piece of history is lost.Bar Band

Last DInner?
Last Dance at Blobs?
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Annapolis April walking adventures

The tire tracks and the “X” for an eye seem to be appropriate for the chicken now positioned in the former location of “Chicken of the Sea” which has evidently been driven over too many times by negligent motorists to make a comeback. The next time you take a walk in Annapolis’s Arts and Entertainment District, keep your eyes on the lookout for added chickens. This project, sponsored by the Anne Arundel County Arts Council, is designed to raise awareness of the arts and ultimately to help raise more funds to support the arts in our schools.   It is probably not too soon to mark your calendar for the Walk in the Woods, an annual event that is co-sponsored by the Scenic Rivers Land Trust and the Anne Arundel Department of Recreation and Parks. Dogs on leashes are welcome after 10 a.m. and if you are looking for another dog walking opportunity attend the annual Walk for the Animals this weekend at Quiet Waters Park. Finally, if you haven’t visited my new Baltimore Girl Cooks by the Bay blog, check it out and sign up for an RSS feed. I’ll be posting delicious recipes and sharing colorful stories once a week.

The artist decorated chicken now on West Street near Lafayette Avenue
The artist decorated chicken now on West Street near Lafayette Avenue

Meeting filmmakers at Annapolis Film Festival

Angela Gibbs wrote and directed the short film “The Ties That Bind” shown at the Annapolis Film Festival yesterday in at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts. I saw a number of thought provoking films, but what I didn’t anticipate were the opportunities to meet and talk with the film makers, writers, and actors. The presence of phenomenal actress Marla Gibbs  (remember her from the television series The Jeffersons?) took me by surprise. My friend Catherine Davidson texted me afterwards and told me Marla is 81 years old! Hard to believe. Her daughter Angela wrote the script inspired by the true story of her friend Sandra Davis who has an abusive alcoholic mother, but overcame her past and became a successful businesswoman.  Today the festival continues. At noon over at the Bay Theatre. one of the short films showing is a”A Younger Man”. I had the opportunity to interview the screen writer earlier in the year and here is the link to the related article.

Angela Gibbs and Marla Gibbs at Annapolis FIlm Festival
Angela Gibbs and Marla Gibbs at Annapolis FIlm Festival

Dancing for fun and exercise near Annapolis

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It’s a challenge to find places with good music for dancing swing, latin, and ballroom if you happen to live in Annapolis and don’t want to drive all the way to Baltimore or Washington D.C.  The good news is that I just rediscovered that Blob’s Park Bavarian Garden located in Jessup Maryland, has expanded their offerings beyond the polka to include more Swing Dance  and just this past week Salsa/Latin night.  I just happened to check their schedule and discovered that this past Friday (3/15) was the first Salsa/Latin night and went to check it out.  The  Rumba Club Band was playing and they were excellent.  Nine musicians on drums, timbales, keyboard, trombone, flute, bass, and sax. There was plenty of room on the dance floor to try the rumba, cha cha, and merengue along with salsa dancing.  When the band breaks there are free lessons. There were some excellent dancers to watch and there were others just learning (like me).
The cover charge for the night is $12 per person and can vary according to the night. DInner, snacks, plus drinks are available if you want to make a complete evening of it. The music begins at 8:00 p.m. The next two Thursdays will feature swing dancing and on Friday March 29th, playing will be the Bayside Big Band. Looking ahead, their next salsa night will take place on April 19th. The Rumba Club Band will be returning and I look forward to hearing them again. See you there!

Annapolis’s “Chicken of the Sea” trashed again

I was so happy to see the artist decorated chicken, a project of the Anne Arundel County Arts Council  by Charles Lawrence, restored to its post in front of the 7- Eleven store at the corner of Lafayette and West Street last week that I took a photograph for a future blog positing,  The decorated chickens are an ongoing arts council project to raise awareness of the Annapolis Arts and Entertainment District. Eventually they will be auctioned off to raise money for arts and education programs. Previously “Chicken of the Sea”  had been vandalized and knocked down off its perch and evidently damaged to the extent that it took over a month for repairs. Thus I was pleased it had been repaired and could once again join its fellow chickens at various perches in Annapolis commencing  at Westgate Circle.

Chicken of the SeaBy Charles Lawrence
Chicken of the Sea
By Charles Lawrence

Imagine my chagrin, when we returned from our morning walk today and found the chicken lying on the ground with a broken leg. Once again, some drunken driver must have hit it on their way out of the parking lot after stopping by the market for some late night munchies. What a shame!  They really should have put up a fence or barrier to protect that poor defenseless chicken!  At this point, as much as I liked seeing the bird installed at that particular spot,  I think it is time to move it (once it is repaired….again) to a safer spot.!  Suggestions?CHicken of the Sea

Annapolis High student performance highlight Mardi Gras Gala

Yesterday I blogged about what I was wearing at this year’s Anne Arundel County Arts Council Mardi Gras Gala but I didn’t write about the event itself. The highlight for me was listening to and watching two wonderful renditions of song and dance routines from the musical “Working” which will be performed this spring by students in the performing arts magnet program in collaboration with the theater department. Particularly outstanding was the soloist in “Just a Housewife.”  Part of the money raised by the arts council goes to support educational arts programs in our schools, both public and private, so the entertainment was very appropriate.

Too bad some people couldn’t  stop themselves from talking while the kids were performing. This has happened before, at the Annie Awards no less, honoring local artists for their work and support of the arts. I was sitting in the auditorium at St. John’s College, where the event was taking place behind some very noisy people while a string quartet was performing on stage.
Meanwhile, when we wanted to talk to our dinner companions during dinner, the band for dancing was playing too loud. This has happened at a number of events I’ve attended this past year.  So any event organizers out there take note. During the dinner hour, if there is music it should be “background music”, low and subdued.  I love good music and want to give it my full attention when there is a performance, but sometimes social time should take precedence. Just my humble opinion.
At any rate, kudos to the Arts Council for a great evening with good food and dancing. I hope you made lots of money to support the arts.

Remembering My Father Herman Maril

When I was 15 years old, I traveled to Mexico with my parents. It was the first time any of us had visited another country (although my father had served in World War II, he was never shipped overseas).

An artist and head of the studio department at the University of Maryland, College Park, my father, Herman Maril, had been granted a one-semester sabbatical. To simplify our travel arrangements, my parents decided it was best to stay in one central place—Mexico City—for our three-week visit. The plan was to take side trips to neighboring smaller towns that included Taxco, Cuenevaca, and the pyramids of Teotihuacan.

Each time my dad traveled to another part of the country he was freshly inspired by the differences in landscape. The shapes and varieties of trees, flowers, rocks and mountains as well as the colors of foliage, sky, and valleys all made their way on to his canvases. While he was traveling, he sketched on a notepad. Like a writer taking notes on an interview, my father drew notes to himself in his notebooks. Mexico was no different.

Whenever I was with my father, I was always so impressed by the ease with which he could talk to anyone. My father didn’t speak Spanish, but he had no problem communicating with cab drivers, guides, and storekeepers. While I struggled with the words in my Spanish phrasebook, my dad was already laughing and exchanging pleasantries with newfound friends. He did so by pantomiming, and resorting to pen and paper when necessary. The sparkle in his eyes and his warm smile caused most people to take to him immediately.

I wished I could be so confident and relaxed. During our travels I observed that when my dad made eye contact, a firm handshake and a smile was often more important than spoken words. Shared laughter broke across any barriers of age, race, or social strata.

My first years away at college, my greatest challenge was feeling confident and relaxed enough to talk to anyone. It doesn’t come easily. I still work at it. Being a journalist gives me an excuse to ask questions, but it’s when our eyes meet, and we share a smile and a story, that I make a real connection, something I can write about.

My father’s warmth and gregarious nature is something I remember with gratitude. It taught me the importance of the small daily interactions we have with strangers, whether it’s a simple exchange of hellos with a neighbor or taking the time to chat with the checkout clerk at the supermarket.

Father’s Day is June 17. This month, let’s take time to honor the men in our lives.

Enjoy the magazine, visit us online, and let us know what you’ve enjoyed and what you’d like to read in future issues. Also, visit my blog, Annapolis TASTE, at ChesapeakeTASTE.com.

photo by Aaron Levin