March 2, 2013, Osler Drive, Towson
After 16 games on a half-dozen different pinball machines—including a wooden-rail, Art Deco beauty from 1958—the National Pinball Museum’s “old” pinball machine tournament comes down to the final ball of the last game. Greg Giblin, a 56-year-old Baltimore plumber, jostling the machine for good caroms, and Mike McGann, 37, a Zen-like, software engineer, both lead 48-year-old software analyst Jack Hendricks by a wide margin.
Towson trails Hofstra, but former forward Chuck Lightening isn’t worried. “These guys can play,” he assures an alum. “This is their last game and they’re feeling that.” Lightening’s referring to the mens’ final game this season, but it’s also the last ever at the 37-year-old Tiger Center. Next year, the team moves into a $75 million, multipurpose facility. With two dozen former players, including several from the first team to play here, the 1976-77 squad that went 27-3, and former coach Terry Truax, who led Towson to back-to-back NCAA tournaments, Lightening is among those introduced at halftime.
There are other memories, too. Ray Charles, Styx, and Bill Cosby all played the Towson Center. Sugar Ray Leonard and Marvin Hagler’s 1987 fight was shown here on closed-circuit TV, and President Barack Obama came last season to watch Towson play Oregon State, which is coached by his brother-in-law.
As Towson rallies, ultimately completing the greatest turnaround in NCAA history, going from 1-31 last season to finish 18-13, Truax reminds former guard Quintin Moody—who, of course, doesn’t need reminding—that his three-pointer on this floor sealed Towson’s 1995 upset of Louisville. “The fans stormed the court,” smiles Moody.
Lightening, an explosive, if occasionally inconsistent performer, who once scored 29 points in a near-upset of Syracuse and hung 26 on Ohio State in the NCAA tournament, recalls Truax yelling at him every day in practice. “Some things he said probably would bring charges today,” the Towson Hall of Famer and Ellicott City IT staffing agency owner laughs, “but I’m grateful he did it.”
Did Truax actually yell at his star forward at every practice for three years?
“He needed it,” the retired coach says.
March 14, 2013, North Bruce St.
Stepping from his “wheat paste mobile”—a battered, pale blue compact—the 23-year-old street artist known as Nether unfurls his latest work. It’s a 7-foot-by-5-foot black and white drawing of a fictional character he’s created—the dark, unseen city employee who secretly nails the (real) ubiquitous red “X” marks on vacant row homes and buildings deemed unsafe for firefighters. Nearly every house on this West Baltimore block has a red “X” on its boarded windows.
Sometimes he works by bicycle, with a basket attachment holding his bucket of homemade paste in place—while he straddles his 16-foot pole and brush—riding, he jokes, “like Harry Potter.” Today, he needs his collapsible ladder.
Meanwhile, a girl, maybe 10, in a pink sweater, large black-rimmed glasses, and a big Afro, peers from a door behind him. A few dolls, a ball, and several plastic cars sit on her front stoop, and her younger brother, still in his school khakis and blue shirt, leans out to watch, too. Nether takes just 15 minutes to set his ladder and paste his poster, alternately dipping his brush into the gooey bucket and pushing it across his two-piece poster, placed side-by-side on the boarded window across the street.
Suddenly, the image of a bandana-masked man, hammer in one hand, red “X” in the other, stares down from the vacant brick row house, as if the character had been caught in the act on the near-desolate street. As Nether steps from the ladder, making sure he hasn’t missed flattening any spots, the little girl opens her door. “I like your art,” she says. Her brother agrees. “I like it, too.”
“Thank you,” Nether responds, turning around. “Do you like to draw?” he asks the kids, who nod, affirmatively.
“Well, I’m sure you’d get in trouble if you drew on the walls inside your house,” Nether tells his young audience. “But I bet if you drew outside on the sidewalk or on these walls—no one would mind.”
March 15, 2013, West Lombard st.
Inside Davidge Hall, the country’s oldest, continuously used facility for medical education, 154 University of Maryland graduates squirm in wooden seats. A rite of passage for medical students across the country, this is Match Day, when students learn—via sealed envelope—where they’ll begin their careers. In suits and ties, dresses, skirts and blouses, but raucous as middle schoolers, the young docs clap and holler as each name is called. Each walks—or dances, in a few cases—down the steps to receive his or her destiny from an associate dean to music they’ve chosen for the occasion, from Florence and the Machine’s “Dog Days are Over” to the “Orioles’ Magic” theme song.
Per tradition, each drops $5 into a basket, awarded to the last classmate called. Many hold their envelopes until they meet their parents after the ceremony, but others slice theirs open immediately, shouting out their new homes: “LSU!” “Emory!” “Got into Penn!”
Finally, Paul Goleb hears his name. “This is so appropriate,” he says, holding $675 in one hand, his future in the other. “I’m a worrier.” He’ll be completing his internal medicine and pediatrics residency in Tennessee. And, he promises to buy drinks for all his classmates in Fells Point this evening. “I’m just glad there was an envelope for me. I kept thinking, ‘What if there’s been a mistake?’”