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City will do Aanything to get business

August 01, 2002|by TIM ROWLAND

What was Neil Simon's interpretation of the inscription on the Statue of Liberty? "Give us your poor, your tired, your sunburned, your toothless ..."

Well, (Deity deleted for fear of getting sued) Bless the City of Hagerstown for it's apparently willingness to take on all comers as well. Last week, the city planning commission rejected a proposal to limit gun shops, tattoo parlors, body piercing salons and pawn shops to strip-shopping centers.

There's a new ad campaign for you. "Come to downtown Hagerstown for all your rifle, tattoo, nose ring and hot stereo needs!"

Do I hear desperation talking? If you've got an inventory and a shingle, the City of Hagerstown will do anything, ANYTHING to bring your business downtown. Next we'll hear that the council will agree to use eminent domain so a businessman can build a brothel. The only business the city doesn't seem to want is the Mulberry Street Tavern.


Frankly, I've had it with the city's pro-tattoo, anti-hooch agenda. The planning commission also discussed another idea, that being to require that tattoo parlors and pawn shops be kept at least 500 feet from each other, for some reason.

I suppose they don't want, say, the 100 block of West Washington Street to become known as "the downtown tattoo district." Neighborhood groups said shady figures that frequent tattoo parlors tend to hang out in the area and frighten the public. Right. There's nothing more scary than bumping into Aerosmith in a dark alley.

n We turn to our new regular feature, "Religious Words In The News," where the Greencastle VFW unveiled a stone monument carved with the Pledge of Allegiance, complete with the words "under (Deity deleted for fear of getting sued)."

Stone might not have been a good idea in this instance, since allegiance was spelled "allegence" and indivisible was spelled "indevisable." If I may, let me offer some tender words of comfort to the Greencastle VFW:

When a reporter showed me the picture and said "see anything wrong?" I got a sinking feeling in my stomach because she wouldn't have asked if something weren't misspelled, and if something was misspelled it was a cinch I wouldn't be able to pick it out. If I'd been carving the rock, I probably would have misspelled "flag."

Somehow, I totally lost out on the spelling gene. If a word gets the meaning across, it's fine with me, and all the trivial, worthless minutia of -inces and -ances and -ibles and -ables can go hang themselves.

And speaking of hanging, perhaps you have been following the constitutional showdown in Frederick, where the ACLU is protesting the erection of a monument bearing the Ten Commandments in a historic, public park. It sounds as if a lawsuit may be avoided, because the ACLU has agreed the Ten Commandments are OK on private property or - get this - in a historic cemetery. The Commandments in a cemetery? Little late for them, you'd think. I can see a ghost sitting on his tombstone slapping himself on the forehead and saying "Do not kill? NOW they tell me."

I don't happen to know right off whether this park actually has some graves already in it, or whether they will have to go out and kill some people. I can supply some names, if they want.

You people. I can use my best and pointiest material on county commissioners, lawmakers, school board members and council members and nobody raises a peep in their defense. But last week after I made fun of eels, my life wasn't worth a plugged nickel.

I even heard from someone who was from the Netherlands and told of a Dutch island where the entire economy used to be eel-based. Several people swore by fried eel, including a gentleman from Brunswick who wrote, "I was disappointed you stooped so low in your characterization of eels as slime. Eels are delicious and fun to catch. Three cheers for Allegheny Energy and their support for eels! Too bad this story has no legs."

To my credit, I was able to count to 10 before I took a long, reflective pull on my Camel, crushed the butt out on the newsroom carpet and wrote him back to ask that he leave the humor to the professionals.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or you can e-mail him at

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