Breakfast etiquette offers food for thought about living on canal

October 07, 1997

I was thumbing through Maryland Theatre director Pat Wolford's book on etiquette (one newsroom wag said Pat Wolford writing a book on etiquette was like Steve Sager writing a book on how to get a job, but then the ex-mayor for life spoiled the joke by actually getting a job) and it really cleared up some issues for me.

Particularly the passage that says, no lie, breakfast is served in the morning, lunch in the middle of the day and dinner at night.

This is vindication for me, because when I worked at the sand plant I was driven nuts by workers who called their lunch boxes "dinner buckets."


"But dinner is served at night," I would rail. "And that isn't anything like a bucket."

But the breakfast part got me thinking again about a news story I saw last week stating the federal Park Service was looking to lease some historic properties and isolated cabins in the woods along the historic waterway to interested renters.

The Park Service is suggesting some of the two-story houses would be suitable for bed and breakfasts. As for the remote cabins, I don't know. It sounds a little like a Unabomber relocation project and figured I might be just the guy to fit the bill.

Isn't this my logical conclusion? A stubbled, graying beard, haunted, bloodshot eyes, sitting with shotgun on my lap and roughly 49 dogs at my side muttering (me, not the dogs) "Top this, Hunter Thompson. No writer is going to out-seclusion me."

But no.

I'd be there geezing away at my riverfront bastille and some granola-chewing Montgomery County mountain biker would ride up and say "Gee fellow, you look a little thirsty, can I offer you an exotic-juice, carbonated sports drink?"

I'll shake my fist. I will grumble to myself incomprehensibly. I will stare into the distance. I will try to recall a passage of the novel "Cold Mountain" but fail. So, giving up I will simply say "Sure. Thanks."


So anyway, I trucked on down to the canal Monday and started out hiking to some of these potential rental properties. When you see one of these proud, historic houses on the bluffs above the canal you are instantly struck with the thought, "Do I really want the federal government for a landlord?"

You miss a rent payment and all of a sudden a bunch of feds come down your throat asking for your W-2s, your IOUs and your neighborhood flooze. "Why yes officer, I knew Paula Corbin Jones, but she contributed no money toward my campaign to get a new house."

Face it, the government can do a lot more than set your couch out on Locust Street on the first of the month. I'm always forgetting to pay the rent. Two months into the deal my cabin would look like Ruby Ridge, crawling with men in those black ATF jackets blasting tear gas and Aerosmith at the front door while I frantically look for my checkbook.

Besides, I'm not certain I'm a bed and breakfast kind of guy. The bed concept I can grasp, but the breakfast part lacks cohesion. I don't even fix breakfast for myself.

I can just see some hapless hiker asking me for toast at four o'clock in the morning. You thought they had mules back then? Humph.

I can be a real donkey in the morning. The last B&B I attended was in Nova Scotia and they had a carafe of coffee waiting outside your door in the morning "dressed" in some cutesy looking goose costume.

If I live on the canal do not expect anything like this. I don't do cute. The only breakfast you're liable to get is Carnation Instant - and only then if you bring your own milk.

Mean? Yes. But if you're into jogging on the canal before the sun rises you deserve it. Even if it does cost me a starring role in Pat Wolford's sequel, "Towpath Etiquette."

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