Archives for December 2016

Looking Back at the Russians on Pioneer Point: Pizza In Our Time by Douglass Cater

Editor’s Note: Given the closing of Russia’s retreat outside of Centreville a few days ago, we have elected to republish this piece from the Spy in November of 2010. 
Ed. Note: Douglass Cater, who served as President of Washington College from 1982 to 1990, had this originally published this essay in the New York Times in December of 1984.  It is printed here with permission by his wife, Libby Cater Halaby. At the time of writing, The State Department had decided to limit the range of travel of the Soviets from their Centreville-based retreat center on Pioneer Point which denied access to Chestertown’s Pizza Hut, a favorite of the then current Russian Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin. 

Having tried privately and failed to persuade Secretary Shultz to take a small step in the new negotiations with the Soviets, my friend and I have decided to go public. My friend is James Symington, former ambassador, Congressmen and lately a Washington lawyer not unskilled in diplomatic maneuver. I am a former journalist, assistant in the LBJ White House, and, more recently, head of a small liberal arts college on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. My involvement in this episode arises from a keen desire to educate my students in world affairs. Alas, I little reckoned the difficulties.

It began nearly two years ago at a dinner in Symington’s home attended by the venerable Soviet ambassador to Washington, Anatoly Dobrynin. During a quiet moment, I informed the ambassador that I was now living and working not far from the Soviet weekend dacha. I live in Kent County; the Soviet estate, formerly belonging to tycoon Jacob Raskob, is in Queen Anne’s, across the Chester River.

Anatoly Dobrynin

Anatoly Dobrynin

“I know Washington College well,” Dobrynin replied with his customary ebullience.”  “My granddaughter and I pass the campus almost every Sunday night on our way to the Pizza Hut. She has a great passion for pizza.” Though chastened that my school now entering its third century should have served as landmark for an eatery, I invited the ambassador to drop by and sample our culinary offerings. Students and faculty, I urged, would love to engage him on the issues of war and peace. He replied somewhat noncommittally. Soon afterward, the Korean airliner was shot down by Soviet MIG’s and Dobrynin returned to Moscow for a spell.

Then, during the autumn of 1983, the US State Department posted a revised listing of localities in America where Soviet emissaries would be denied travel. Kent County, home to both Washington College and the Pizza Hut, was added to the forbidden territory. I was confounded. We are the smallest, and probably least populated part of the Delmarva Peninsula.Our largest commercial enterprise is a branch plant of the Campbell Soup Company, where chicken parts are boiled down. An old SAM site, relic of earlier strategies, is now available for sale or rental.

Why were we thus singled out? The College is exclusively devoted to undergraduate education. One of our chemistry professors, currently on leave, is expert in pyrotechnics but conducts his research elsewhere. No, I concluded, not Washington College but the Pizza Hut had provoked the embargo. In the Machiavellian game of tit for tat that engages U.S./Soviet relationships, the Sunday night forays of the Ambassador and his granddaughter must have caught the attention of a Foggy Bottom bureaucrat. Someone had moved with vengeance to cut off the Dobrynins’ pizza.

Douglass Cater (Center) with LBJ and guest.

Douglass Cater (Center) with LBJ and guest.

What was to be done? There was idle talk of establishing a half-way house in Queen Anne’s County to which Sunday night nourishment could be ferried. But our real objective was to nourish our students and, perhaps, to convince our government that an open society gains little by aping Iron Curtain behavior.

These were the arguments my friend Symington included in a letter to Secretary Schultz. Time passed and a routine reply came from someone bearing a long subsidiary title. Making no mention of Kent County, the letter merely reiterated that the United States engages in travel reciprocity with the Soviet Union. No hint that the loosening of travel bans might offer a topic for fresh beginnings.

I do not wish to grow obsessive. Even if Kent Count should be reopened to Soviet traffic, Dobrynin has made no promises to Washington College. And the Pizza Hut is doing quite nicely without him or his granddaughter.

Yet the thought lurks that when Schultz and Andrei A. Gromyko meet in Geneva this January, they will be hard pressed to find the tiny steps for tiny feet that can lead out of the current impasse. What can anyone propose that has not been haggled and rehaggled? Just suppose Mr. Schultz were to announce as Mr. Gromyko’s habitual gloom begins to darken that we have an offer to lay on the table. Unilaterally, without ifs, buts, or maybes. Henceforth, in Kent County on Maryland’s lovely Eastern Shore, we will forsake all claims or reciprocity or weekly visual verification. Let the pundits proclaim that this constitute a bold new policy of pizza in our time.

Derelict Crab Pots Killing 3.3 million Crabs Annually in the Bay

When Virginia closed its winter dredge fishery in 2008, waterman Clay Justis turned his attention from catching crabs that season to collecting the gear that captures them.

He was one of several watermen hired under a program that taught them to use sonar to find and remove lost and abandoned fishing gear, primarily crab pots, littering the bottom of the Bay.

“As a waterman, I knew there was stuff on the bottom, but when I turned the machine on, I was like, ‘Wow!’” said Justis, who fishes out of Accomack on the Eastern Shore.

The sonar showed that out of sight in the Bay’s often murky water, crab pots lay scattered all over the bottom, along with other fishing gear such as gill nets, and all manner of trash, even a laundry machine.

But the so-called “ghost pots” are a special concern because the wire mesh cages with openings to draw crabs in but not let them out can continue to catch — and kill — crabs and fish for years. They are taking a bite out of both the crab populations and the wallets of watermen. More often than not, Justis noted, the derelict pots he pulled up had something in them. “You’ve got fish, you’ve got crabs, and you’ve got ducks. All kinds of things,” he said. But, he added, “most of the time, they are dead.”

Concern about derelict crab pots in the Bay has been growing for a decade, and a new report attempts to estimate their Baywide impact. It estimates that more than 145,000 pots litter the bottom of the Bay — a number the report authors consider to be conservative.

Each year, the report estimated that those pots kill about 3.3 million crabs, 3.5 million white perch, 3.6 million Atlantic croaker, and smaller numbers of other species, including ducks, diamondback terrapins and striped bass.

The number of crabs killed amounts to 4.5 percent of the 2014 Baywide harvest, the report said. Nor is the problem limited to the Bay. Studies have found similar problems with fisheries that use “trap” devices to catch crabs and lobsters globally.

“It’s an issue that, around the country, folks may not be aware of unless you live close to an area where commercial fishing is a way of life,” said Amy Uhrin, senior scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Debris Program, which funded the study. “It is one of those ‘out-of-sight, out-of-mind’ issues.”

Financial impacts of lost pots

The report said impacts from lost pots could be reduced through collection programs and by requiring panels in pots that would degrade and create an escape hatch for crabs if the pot is left in the water. It also suggested trying to reduce conflicts between crabbers and boats, which is a major source of pot loss.

Justis said the lost pots are an ongoing problem. “Each year, even if you go back to the same spot, a lot of times you find new stuff.”

Nor is it just crabs and fish that suffer from lost pots. Watermen take a financial hit, too. Baywide, 12–20 percent of the 600,000 to 800,000 pots they fish annually are lost and never come out of the water, the report estimated. Fishermen collectively have to shell out $3.6 million to $5 million a year to replace the lost gear, it said.

But lost pots have an even bigger economic impact by reducing catches in nearby pots. Crabs are attracted to structures, including derelict pots, even if they’re so damaged or broken they no longer trap crabs. Crabs hanging around the abandoned gear don’t make it to the pots being actively fished.

“The derelict pots are essentially competition for the active pots,” said Donna Marie Bilkovic, a researcher at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, and lead author of the new report. “The crabs are definitely attracted to the structure.”

In “hot spots” with lots of derelict pots, the fishery becomes measurably less efficient, said Andrew Scheld, a VIMS fisheries economist who worked on the report. “It requires more people and pots to catch the same amount that they could if the derelict gear just wasn’t out there.”

The study was not able to directly estimate the economic impact of the lost pots on catches. But conversely, it found that crab catches increased in areas of Maryland and Virginia where derelict pots were removed by watermen like Justis, when compared with areas where pots were not removed.

Based on that, scientists estimated that removal programs increased cumulative crab catches in those areas by slightly more than 38 million pounds from 2008 to 2014. That was worth about $33.5 million over that six-year period.

Scientists from the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office discovered the derelict pot problem when they began detecting large numbers of pots as they were using side-scan sonar to map bottom habitats during the winter — long after crab season had ended.

While other types of fishing gear, such as gill nets, are also lost, crab pots are the main derelict fishing gear in the Bay because so many are deployed — and lost.

When a severe decline in the blue crab population prompted NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service to declare the Bay’s fishery a failure in 2008 — spurring new catch restrictions and the closure of Virginia’s winter dredge harvest — it provided $30 million to Virginia and Maryland for conservation projects.

Both states used some of that money to hire watermen hard-hit by the new regulations to pull thousands of abandoned pots out of the Bay.

Crab pots are typically baited with dead fish to lure crabs inside, then placed in the water, where they are typically checked every day or so. They have “cull rings” that allow small crabs to escape, but large crabs are trapped.

Watermen mark their pots with small buoys that float on the water’s surface. But if the lines linking the pots to the buoys are severed, they often cannot find the gear. Sometimes the lines break. Frequently, the lines get snagged and tangled in the propellers of recreational or commercial boats, prompting boaters to cut them. Some are lost in the violent winds and waves of storms. More than 100,000 pots disappeared during hurricanes Dennis and Floyd in 1999. And, sometimes, old pots are simply discarded in the Bay.

The report estimated that Virginia had 87,048 derelict pots and Maryland 58,185. More are lost in Virginia, researchers say, because the state permits pots to be placed in Bay tributaries, where they are more likely to run afoul of boats.

Maryland does not allow crab pots in tributaries, though pots are densely deployed near their mouths, where heavy boat traffic accounts for derelict pot “hot spots” in those areas, the report suggests.

Lost pots ‘ghost fish for years’

However they are lost, pots that remain in the water can keep “ghost fishing” for crabs and fish, sometimes for years, until they begin to fall apart. Once the original bait is gone, traps often “self-bait” by trapping fish or crabs inside, and the cycle continues. On average, a derelict pot in the Bay catches 23 crabs a year, the report said.

Besides crabs, more than 40 species have been found in pots where they can perish from starvation, predation, low dissolved oxygen or disease. Unlike actively fished pots — they’re not checked so turtles and other species are never set free. In some Virginia tributaries, crab pots have been suspected of depleting local populations of diamond backed terrapins.

“One year, I pulled a pot that had 20-some turtles in there,” Justis said. “They were all dead.”

Scientists working on the study said that derelict crab pots are likely even deadlier than they reported.

In part, that’s because for the study, they assumed that lost pots only function for two years before they fall apart from corrosion. But many stay intact much longer, especially more expensive pots where the wire mesh is coated with vinyl.

Ward Slacum, a co-author of the report who has studied derelict crab pots in Maryland for nearly a decade, said he once placed pots in the Bay for 14 months to see what they would catch.

“When we took them out and cleaned them off, they had not degraded very much at all,” Slacum said. They were “trapping crabs and other organisms just as efficiently as something that was a month old.”

Also, the study did not examine the impact of ghost pots in habitats where crabs are particularly abundant, such as underwater grass beds and marsh edges. “We think we’ve underestimated that potential impact with those habitats,” Bilkovic said.

Solutions won’t be easy
The report offers a number of possible actions, but finding solutions won’t be easy.

Because many pots are lost due to impacts from boats or ships, it suggested actions to help reduce those conflicts. That could include using reflective tape on buoys so they are easier for boaters to see, educating recreational boaters about the impact of pot losses, restricting commercial traffic to channels and keeping crab pots out of busy channels.

But restricting those areas from crabbers wouldn’t be popular.

High traffic areas “happen to be some of the better places to crab,” said Robert T. Brown, president of the Maryland Watermen’s Association.

The report encouraged reviving pot retrieval efforts, and said that targeting areas with high densities of lost pots could be particularly effective to increase catches. Removing just 10 percent of the derelict pots from the five most heavily fished sites in each state could increase harvest by about 14 percent, the study estimated. Brown said he would like to see the derelict pot removal program resumed. “It got rid of a whole lot of them,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with doing that again. We’d be in favor of that.”

“A removal program wouldn’t necessarily have to target the entire Bay,” Uhrin said. “It would be more efficient to target these hot spots.”

But with the federal money used to pay for the pot removal programs gone, that means cash-strapped agencies would have to come up with a way to fund pot removal programs.

“It’s a resource thing,” said David Blazer, fisheries director for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. “It takes a lot of time and money and effort and resources.”

Also, while removal programs could reduce the economic impact of lost pots, they would have less of an impact on reducing the Baywide toll on crabs and other species. While targeting certain areas for retrieval might help watermen’s catches there, most derelicts pots would remain in the water, continuing to kill.

Biodegradable panel

One way to reduce the biological toll of derelict pots, the report said, would be to require that each has a biodegradable panel, instead of cull rings. The panels would still have holes big enough to let small crabs escape, but they would break down in a matter of weeks if the pots were left in the water, creating a large enough opening for fish and crabs to get out.

The report said biodegradable escape panels would reduce crab mortality in derelict pots from more than 3.3 million per year to less than 440,000.

While biodegradable panels would reduce the number of crabs killed, the derelict pots would remain on the bottom and still lure crabs away from actively fished pots.

“The big economic benefits we saw for the removal program were for taking the entire structure out of the water,” Scheld said.

That means, scientists said, that managers may need to use different strategies depending on whether they are more concerned about the economic or biological impacts of derelict pots — or, they may need multiple strategies.

“It could be there is not a one-size-fits-all solution in the Bay,” Slacum said.

Rob O’Reilly, chief of fisheries management with the Virginia Marine Resource Commission, said interest seems to be growing in that state in biodegradable panels. The idea is slated for discussion by the commission’s crab management advisory committee, and some watermen have expressed interest in testing the panels.

“I think we want to encourage, as we go on, these biodegradable panels,” O’Reilly said, but added, “It will take a little coaxing, I’m sure.”

Some people are already using them. One is Dan Knott, who joined the ranks of Virginia watermen this year after 23 years in the Army.

“I’m kind of a geek when it comes to cleaning up things and looking out for the environmental side of the house,” Knott said.

He grew up in Virginia and spent his summers on the Bay fishing with his grandfather, who was a waterman. But when Knott researched getting into the business, he grew concerned about the derelict pot problem and decided to voluntarily incorporate biodegradable panels.

“At least I’m doing my little bit in helping them out,” he said. Of the first 50 pots he put out this summer, 25 were either lost or stolen, he said.

While Knott said biodegradable panels might be a good idea, he said if watermen were required to use the panels, they should be allowed to offset the cost, perhaps by increasing catch limits. The panels cost between $1 and $2, and have to be replaced annually — which can add up for someone fishing hundreds of pots.

“Not everybody feels the way I do,” Knott said. “There has to be something to make these guys want to do it.

“They are not like me where I have a retirement coming in from the military,” he added. “And I tell you, it’s a hard living to make. You’ve got to put a lot into it to make anything.”

By Karl Blankenship

Adam Hollis Named Director of Easton Family YMCA Take the Helm Program

The YMCA of the Chesapeake (YMCA) in Easton, MD has announced Adam Hollis of Easton, MD will serve as the Director for the new Easton Family YMCA outreach program, Take the Helm. Take the Helm is a new boat building program for high school students in Talbot County that focuses on building row boats teaching job, and social skills. 

adam-hollisHollis joined the YMCA of the Chesapeake in June of 2011 as a camp counselor for the Y summer camps, after graduating from the University of Maryland- College Park. Shortly after Adam took over as the Sports Coordinator for the 2011-12 sports season and was quickly hired as a Program Director in March of 2012. As a Program Director, Adam oversaw the YMCA summer camps, sports, childcare, and outdoor programs from March of 2012 to October of 2014. After a brief move to Savannah, Georgia, Hollis came back to the YMCA in July of 2016 to head the innagural season of FC Tred Avon; a new year round soccer program at the YMCA.   

Since joining the YMCA of the Chesapeake, Adam has lead multiple new programs, including the Summer Learning Program with Talbot County Public Schools, and FC Tred Avon. He has also served on the Martin Luther King Jr. Basketball Tournament committee, and has also volunteered as a coached with Special Olympics Maryland.  

“Having Adam join the Easton Family YMCA in this position is great for our team,” said YMCA Executive Director Derek White. “The vision for this program was cast by some key volunteers for our organization and Adam is a natural fit to connect kids to a program that not only builds boats, but also confidence, self-esteem, and passion for something greater than themselves.” 

The Take the Helm program will continue to work with several key partners in the community including the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, Talbot Mentors, and others.  Natalie Costanzo, Executive Director of Talbot Mentors shared “There are so many incredible youth programs that the YMCA offers, with Take the Helm fitting right in.  The YMCA always works closely with Talbot Mentors to make their programs available to our youth.  This not only strengthens the day to day experiences for these youth, but also the community as a whole.” 

“I am honored to be joining the YMCA of the Chesapeake and happy to be in the position of offering leadership to Talbot County as we seek to develop quality, mission driven programs. There is a huge need in the community for meaningful after school programming for high school students and I plan to use Take the Helm as a program that can help fill this need. I will continue to work hard to create strong connections within the community to create a solid foundation for our members and program participants” commented Hollis.

The Y is one of the nation’s leading nonprofits and the largest Human Service organization on the Eastern Shore of Maryland strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Across the U.S., 2,700 Ys engage 21 million men, women and children – regardless of age, income or background – to nurture the potential of children and teens, improve the nation’s health and well-being, and provide opportunities to give back and support neighbors.  In 2016, the YMCA of the Chesapeake provided over $1,000,000 in assistance in our communities, turning no one away due to inability to pay. Form more information about the YMCA of the Chesapeake, visit or call 410.822.0566.

Pssst… The Concours d’Elegance Is Coming back to St. Michaels

Elegance canvassed the grounds of Inn at Perry Cabin by Belmond Thursday night as St. Michaels Concours d’Elegance Chairman Luke L. Phipps announced that the Concours, presented by August Classics, will once again be held on this famously idyllic waterfront property on September 22-24, 2017.

Now in its 11th year, the internationally acclaimed St. Michaels Concours d’Elegance in fact opened on the grounds of the Inn at Perry Cabin back in 2007 in partnership with Concours Founding Chairman George Walish. It took place there through 2009, but as residents of the mid-shore will no doubt recall, the classic car competition has moved around over subsequent years.

Inn at Perry Cabin interim General Manager Klaus Kabelitz and team couldn’t be happier to welcome back the St. Michaels Concours d’Elegance. “We look forward to hosting classic car enthusiasts from near and far,” says Kabelitz. “St. Michaels is truly the gem of the Chesapeake Bay, and we hope that people find the Inn to be a gem within St. Michaels. Hosting the Concours is just one way we’d like to help position and promote this town as a premier destination in the Mid-Atlantic region.”

The St. Michaels Concours d’Elegance showcases some of the finest automobiles from around the world every year. Last year’s Best in Show winner was a 1928 Auburn 8-115 Speedster that took owners Albert and Barbara Mason 15 years to personally restore. Collectors compete on an invitation-only basis and to qualify, their luxury cars must meet strict standards, such as having won similarly prestigious awards previously. The St. Michaels Concours has been dubbed by some as one of the top 10 such events in the United States, and Walish has called it the “Pro-Bowl” to Pebble Beach’s “Super Bowl” of classic motorcar competitions.

Local volunteers of the St. Michaels Concours d’Elegance celebrated an historic return home to St. Michaels in 2016 through a partnership with the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum and are delighted by their recent partnership with the newly founded Classic Motor Museum of St. Michaels.

“But in order for the Concours to reach its full potential,” says Phipps, “it has to be back at Inn at Perry Cabin by Belmond. The Inn’s historic nature, its beautiful 200-year-old gardens and its grandeur are the perfect backdrop for an event that has style at its core.” Phipps adds, “With Chef MacDonald’s culinary expertise and commitment to local ingredients, we’ll be able to debut in 2017 an enhanced VIP and entrants gallery, which will feature a gourmet garden party with live music, flowing champagne and passed hors d’oeuvres.”

The Concours will continue its partnership with the Maritime Museum in 2017, too, with plans to continue to host the classic and antique boat showings at the Museum’s Fogg’s Cove Landing, as well as additional activities including, for the first time, classic automobiles for sale.

“That partnership remains particularly important to us,” adds Phipps, “as the beneficiary of the 2017 Concours will be the Classic Motor Museum of St. Michaels, and both the Motor Museum and Maritime Museum prioritize education for local kids and young adults. The lack of vocation-technical education in our tri-county area is a real concern of ours, and when the Motor Museum opens in March, we look forward to launching an automotive educational program much like the Maritime Museum’s boatbuilding one.”

Tickets for the 2017 St. Michaels Concours d’Elegance will go on sale in July and be available on the event’s website at

Food Friday: Happy 2017!

I hope you have a very happy new year! Actually, I am still in Christmas recovery mode and can’t even begin to think about the New Year. I am going to lay low and read books this weekend. After I pick up the detritus and flotsam and jetsam that the Christmas revelers have abandoned or used for festooning. Then I can think about the end of the year, And what a year it has been! We should all take a page from Scotland, and consider celebrating Hogmany.

Hogmany is how the Scots celebrate the end of the old year, and the beginning of the New Year. They take to the streets and stretch the celebration over a couple of days, which may only be for the most hardy. There are outdoor concerts, fireworks, bonfires, street parties and lots of traditional food and drink. A Winter Festival sounds like a lot of good old-fashioned pagan fun.

Traditional Hogmanay foods include haggis (of course), shortbread and Tipsy Laird Trifle made with Scotch Whisky instead of the usual sherry. I like a holiday that isn’t shy about its sweets. On Christmas Eve our neighbor made her annual Sticky Toffee Pudding for us. I am a complete convert. I cannot imagine Christmas Eve without it! What a delight! For Christmas dinner we had a family fave – flourless chocolate cake. And on New Year’s Day we will be celebrating a friend’s birthday by baking a Brooklyn Blackout Cake. Obviously we are not thinking about any diets yet.

I just read Nigel Slater’s book “Eating for England”. It is a frothy little book of short essays that describes some fascinating English food eccentricities. He dwells with some affection over desserts and sweets. It must be the time of the year – I am longing for sweets. Read it when you want to blow your diet (or your New Year’s resolutions):{A69E1743-399C-48E2-AA16-848E724D9A77}

We love Scottish shortbread any time of the year. Luckily we made a plethora of it for Christmas, so should have a good supply of it left if you want to stop by and wish us a “Guid New Year” on your way during the Torchlight Processional. We will all be dressed up in our new Christmas finery and daring one another to dive into the River Forth during the Queensferry Loony Dook. (Actually, I will probably be in my jimjams and ready for bed around 10:00, but I wish you all the best!)

3/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 350°F

Mix the butter and 1 cup of sugar together until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. In a another bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add to the butter and sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Roll the dough out on a surface dusted with flour, and shape into a flat disk. Cool in the fridge for about half an hour.

Roll the dough 1/2-inch thick and cut with a pizza cutter or a knife. Prick the dough with a fork to make lovely little pointillistic designs. Place the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Allow them to cool before gobbling.

Prosecco or Champagne for New Year’s Eve? Such a dilemma!

Here is the recipe for Tipsy Laid Trifle. Yumsters!

Auld Lang Syne
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!

Chorus.For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

Talbot Historical Society Project Rewind: Tracking Down the Russian Retreat in Queen Anne’s County


This Talbot Historical Society H. Robins Hollyday Collection photo is a beautiful shot of the Corsica River Yacht Club Regatta which was held at Pioneer Point Farm , outside of Centreville, Md. in Queen Anne’s County for many years. The two mansions , Mostly Hall and Hartfeld were built by John Jacob Raskob who bought Pioneer Point in 1925. Mostly Hall, is visible in this photo. Mr. Rascob died in 1950 and the two mansions and farm were bought by R.J. Funkhouser in 1952 and later owned by Richard Bokum. The Russian embassy purchased it as a retreat in 1972. Facts: websites and memories.

Contact: Cathy Hill to share your old photos. Comment, Like our page and join THS!

A Spy Visit to the Chesapeake Bay Russian Embassy Estate

Editor’s Note:  In light of the United States government’s actions to prohibit Russians access to their retreat in Queen Anne’s County yesterday, The Spy would like to share a previous story we did on the property in August of 2013.

For more that twenty years, through international crisis and diplomatic tensions, Washington’s Russian Embassy has used their country retreat, known locally as Pioneer Point, a few miles outside of Centreville to quietly host the Sailing Club of The Chesapeake’s annual Labor Day Cruise. And the tradition was started by none other than long serving Russian Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin, apparently a  friend of sailors and Pizza Hut.

It’s also one of the few times that the estate, on land once owned by the Tilghman Family, is open to Americans. The Spy tagged along for the last holiday bash this past weekend and was welcomed to take some photographs of this remarkable property.img_0844 img_0847 img_0853 img_0839 img_0848 img_0860 img_0864 img_0841 img_0846 img_0849 img_0856 img_0858 img_0865 img_0857 img_0854 img_0840 img_0850 img_0852 img_0859 img_0861 img_0842 img_0845 img_0851 img_0855 img_0863

John Jorgenson Quintet at The Mainstay January 13

Guitarist John Jorgenson, who has won Grammies for best country instrumental, the rock guitarist known as a founder of the Desert Rose Band and the Hellecasters, the sideman who spent 6 years in Elton John’s band and who is one of the main movers in the worldwide resurrection of gypsy jazz, returns with his brilliant gypsy jazz/acoustic string fusion quintet to the Mainstay in Rock Hall, Maryland on Friday, January 13, 2017 at 8:00 p.m. Admission is $20. Information and advance ticket sales are available at the Mainstay’s website and reservations can also be made by calling 410-639-9133.

The John Jorgenson Quintet, formed in 2004 for the release of “Franco-American Swing,” is unique – no other band led by a “guitar god” works as this tight an ensemble mixing Django-inspired originals with so many other influences. They enthrall both the most discerning guitar aficionado and the casual music fan.

john-jorgensonThe group’s style has been called “Gypsy Jazz” after the dynamic string-driven swing created by Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli in 1930s Paris, but Jorgenson’s compositions draw in elements from Latin, Romanian, Classical, Rock and Greek music, so “21st Century World Music” might be a more apt description.

The John Jorgenson Quintet is the only American act to ever headline the prestigious Django Reinhardt Memorial Festival in France, and has been featured at other “Djangofests” in the US, UK, Germany and Canada. For the films “Gattica” and “Head in the Clouds” Jorgenson was tapped to recreate Django’s music, and in the latter he even appeared onscreen as Django with stars Charlize Theron and Penelope Cruz.

John Jorgenson is known for his blistering guitar and mandolin licks, his delightful clarinet solos and his mastery of a broad musical palette. In addition to guitar, he shines on mandolin, mandocello, Dobro, pedal steel, piano, upright bass, clarinet, bassoon, and saxophone. He has earned a reputation as a world-class musician, as evidenced by his collaborations with Earl Scruggs, Bonnie Raitt, Elton John, Luciano Pavarotti, Bob Dylan and as a founding member of the Desert Rose Band and The Hellecasters.

Current band members playing alongside Jorgenson are: jazz violinist Jason Anick, one of the youngest instructors at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. Downbeat Magazine called Anick “a rising star in the world of jazz violin and mandolin,”

Max O’Rourke is a composer, arranger, and jazz guitarist and  the winner of the 2015 Saga Djangofest Award for outstanding young musicianship in the genre of gypsy jazz.

Simon Planting is a Dutch bassist well-known and respected in the gypsy-jazz community, joined John Jorgenson Quintet in 2009 and has performed in concerts and festivals around the world.

Rick Reed is a veteran percussionist, renowned for his intricate brushwork and swinging drive, who caught the attention of Grammy winner Shelby Lynne, who chose him for her “Tears, Lies and Alibis” album. He has also performed and recorded with award-winning banjo player Alison Brown, blues/slide guitar master Rick Vito, Ray Davies of the Kinks, and, UK singer-songwriter Clive Gregson.

Musical legends like Elton John, Earl Scruggs and Duane Eddy along with fellow guitarists such as Tommy Emmanuel, Peter Frampton and Brad Paisley all sing Jorgenson’s praises, newspapers from Maui to DC call him things like “international guitar sensation” and even the New York Times gushes ” … perhaps the best jazz guitarist alive.”

Jorgenson himself would rather talk about the music. A prodigy who was playing piano at 5, and guitar at 12 found himself at Disneyland in the 1970s, performing on the pavement, honing his skills as an instrumentalist, playing in three Disneyland house bands by day and moonlighting in a new wave band. As he sought to learn more about the bluegrass and jazz styles he was playing at Disneyland, he discovered the music of Django Reinhardt and a lifelong passion for Gypsy Jazz.

In an interview with the Boston Globe Jorgenson said, “I heard it and I went crazy. I call it getting bitten. I’ve seen it happen to a number of people, very often guitarists who are already skilled. In my mind, Django was the first guitar hero. He was leading his own band, doing flashy single-note solos right out there in front. You can see his influence everywhere.”

Jorgenson went on to becoming a founding member with Chris Hillman of the Desert Rose Band and while with them he racked up three Academy of  Country Music (ACM) awards as “Guitarist of the Year”. He then joined forces with Will Ray and Jerry Donahue in the early ’90s to form a trio called The Hellecasters and out of the box, their debut album, Return of the Hellecasters (1993), won Guitar Player Magazine’s “Album of the Year” and “Country Album of the Year” awards. He toured with Elton John’s band for 6 years but he never lost his fascination for the fiery gypsy swing music that came out of Paris in the 1930s.

“I discovered Gypsy jazz in 1979 and played it a bit in the early to mid-’80s,” Jorgenson said. “At the time, there really wasn’t really any kind of scene for the music, so I couldn’t see playing it as a career. But then there was a shift. While I was working with Elton John and doing a lot of session work, a shift came from the Internet that allowed people with specific musical interests to connect with each other. Then people realized they weren’t the only ones who were fond of this music. They banded together and started having festivals while guitar companies started building instruments that were affordable replicas of the old French guitars. So that became a sort of sign to me… I started doing my own compositions to fill out the concert programs, and audiences responded as much to them as they did to the traditional Gypsy jazz tunes.”

“I never expected to be able to make this my career,” Jorgenson stresses. “But what’s happened with the advent of the Internet, is that it’s become very easy for people to get hold of each other or to get information—and there are a lot more Django fans than anyone thought.”

The Mainstay (Home of Musical Magic) is the friendly informal storefront performing arts center on Rock Hall’s old time Main Street. It is a 501(c)(3), nonprofit dedicated to the arts, serving Rock Hall, MD and the surrounding region. It is committed to presenting local, regional and national level talent, at a reasonable price, in an almost perfect acoustic setting. Wine, beer, sodas and snacks are available at the bar.

The Mainstay is supported by ticket sales, fundraising including donations from friends and audience members and an operating grant from the Maryland State Arts Council.

For information and reservations call the Mainstay at 410-639-9133. More information is also available at the Mainstay’s website

Upcoming Mainstay performances include:
Jan. 13 The John Jorgenson Quintet
Jan. 16 Mainstay Monday: Sam Guthridge on banjo substitutes as host
Jan. 23 Mainstay Monday: Host Joe Holt on piano welcomes Chuck Redd on vibes
Jan. 28 Mainstay Monday on Saturday Night
Jan. 30 Mainstay Monday: Host Joe Holt on piano welcomes The Washington College Jazz Ensemble

A Talbot Mentors Bilingual Match

tm-lizardo-and-jeremyYou just might see them sitting across from each other in the popular back space of Rise Up on Dover Street. Chances are, given the cold weather, they’re sipping hot chocolate. Here we have a boy and his mentor, Lizardo Santos (age 12) and Jeremy Hillyard (age 30). Listen. They are speaking English, though they could just as easily be speaking Spanish. Jeremy has taught Spanish at Easton High School for seven years. Named Easton High School Teacher of the Year in Spring 2016, he teaches all levels of Spanish, including AP. (He also coaches the school’s It’s Academic quiz-competition team.) Seventh-grader Lizardo, born in the United States, speaks Spanish at home with his mom and sister, Azuceli. The family hails from Guatemala.

Lizardo is a very gentle, polite, and attentive boy; Jeremy, as befits a teacher, is patient, kind, encouraging, and quick with humor. Jeremy and Lizardo were “matched” by Talbot Mentors in March. Their banter and ease—in English, in Spanish—would suggest that they’ve been in each other’s lives far longer.

“I want to use my language skills to be productive,” Jeremy says, adding, “in a meaningful way. There’s a real need for bilingual support in our community.”

Jeremy and Lizardo generally see each other once a week. “I took him to the first movie ever in his life: Zootopia,” says Jeremy. “Since then we’ve seen Angry Birds, Finding Dory, Secret Life of Pets (‘that was really fun,” says Lizardo), and Storks.” (Indeed, mentors who mentor children under the age of 14 often can tell you all about the latest kids’ movies.)

Another favorite mentor/mentee haunt is Kiln Born (everybody still calls it Clay Bakers). On a visit in the summer, Lizardo chose a shark to glaze. He painted the body blue and the tail black. “The teeth were red,” Jeremy says. “That was the really scary part.”

A special treat for Lizardo—and Jeremy—was the Pitbull concert in Washington, DC, at the Verizon Center. “It was at night,” says Lizardo, who was familiar with the artist’s Latin American–style hip hop. “It was my first concert. Seeing him sing was really cool,” Lizardo says, eyes wide.

Jeremy’s fluency in Spanish makes it easy for him to communicate with Lizardo’s mom. In a twist of linguistics, she said to Jeremy, the first time she met him, that she hoped he could teach Lizardo more Spanish!

“Recently she told me she wanted to get Internet,” Jeremy recalls,” but didn’t know how to go about it. I called Easton Utilities and got the information she needed.” (Pre-Internet in the Santos household, Lizardo and Jeremy would use Rise Up’s free wi-fi.)

“We got Internet on November 11th,” Lizardo pipes in. He uses it primarily for doing homework. His cell phone is more for play. “We love Pokémon GO,” Jeremy says.

Back to Rise Up. One afternoon, Jeremy and Lizardo got a behind-the-scenes look at the coffee-bean-roasting area. “Whatever we do, I like to have there be an educational link,” says Jeremy. “That’s the teacher in me—or something.” At Rise Up, the two learned about harvesting the beans, the concept of fair trade, how the beans are roasted, and, most pertinent of all, where the coffee comes from—places like Nicaragua, Costs Rica, and Guatemala.

jeremy-lizardoCome June, Lizardo, his sister, and their mom will be heading to Guatemala to be with family. It will be Lizardo’s first time on a plane. Given his thoughts of possibly becoming a pilot when he grows up, this should be quite an experience. In the meanwhile, the seventh-grader’s favorite subject in school is social studies. He loves learning about the world. To be sure, Jeremy is making Lizardo’s world a little wider with each encounter.

How do Jeremy and Lizardo land on activities? “Jeremy asks me what I’d like to do,” says Lizardo. “One time he told me he wanted to go fishing,” Jeremy recalls. “I’m not a fisherman, but I have a friend who is. He used to teach outdoor education to kids,” Jeremy continues, “so I asked if he would take us fishing, and he did.”

“It was awesome,” says Lizardo. Catching a fish was another first for him. He brought the catfish home. “My mom made fish soup,” says Lizardo, pride seasoning his words.

“Lizardo told me he wanted to learn about cooking. We talked about what we should try and decided to go with a three-milk cake—very popular in Central America.” The two went shopping for ingredients and did their baking at the Talbot Mentors office, which has had a full kitchen since the spring. The cake turned out great.

Jeremy and Lizardo, who love sports, recently went on a Talbot Mentors outing to see the Wizards play in Washington, DC. While most mentor/mentee time is spent one-on-one, Talbot Mentors offers special programs, from following a corn maze in the fall to Wednesday after-school yoga, crafts, and martial arts sessions.

Jeremy’s enthusiasm for being a mentor is clear—and contagious. “It’s really neat. I’ve grown as a person. . .being able to be there for somebody and being helpful,” he offers. “That’s what makes mentoring so gratifying. It’s what drives me.”

To be sure, most mentors you talk to will tell you that they could well be getting more out of the experience than the kids are. But one look at Lizardo as he looks at Jeremy tells a story of mutual respect and happiness. It is a fine, fine match.

When asked to describe Jeremy, Lizardo says, “Cool. Nice. Awesome.

As their time at Rise Up winds down on a wintry Sunday, Jeremy turns to Lizardo and says, “I really like hanging out with you.”

Sometimes it’s that simple.

For more information, to make a contribution, or to volunteer as a mentor, call Talbot Mentors at 410-770-5999 or visit

Silver Linings’ Limited Edition Jewelry Benefits PWEC

Silver Linings, a sterling silver and gemstone jewelry store with two locations in Talbot County, presented a check for $500 to Kelley Phillips Cox, Executive Director of Phillips Wharf Environmental Center (PWEC). The donation represented a portion of the proceeds from the sale of a custom designed sterling silver jewelry collection.


Silver Linings of St. Michaels store manager Ellie Mickey presents a $500 donation to Kelley Phillips Cox, Executive Director of PWEC.

Every Fall, to coincide with Easton, Maryland’s Waterfowl Festival, Silver Linings introduces an exclusive sterling silver collector’s bead and charm. This year’s design commemorated the northern diamondback terrapin, Maryland’s state reptile.

Aida Leisure, owner of Silver Linings and DBS Fine Jewelers, selected Phillips Wharf Environmental Center to receive the donation because they provide valuable education and hands-on experience with animals and plants that
inhabit the Chesapeake Bay region.