KATHLEEN K. Townsend is a Kennedy and there's nothing she can do about that. But she could have skipped that $2,000-a-head Hyannis Port party last month - the $4,000-a-plate one two summers ago, with chocolate mousse boats and white-chocolate sails bearing KKT's initials, was bad enough - and maybe she could chill on the out-of-state fund raising and the cocktail parties at Uncle Teddy's house. If I were advising this woman - and who isn't these days? - I'd tell her to lay off the lobster-and-Chablis fetes because those events come with a pretty high gag factor among the Great Unwashed.
Among the things that can make a Maryland Democrat cranky is this idea that, despite KKT's protests to the contrary, she's on some kind of six-year plan to gain national office. Her campaign for governor is in danger of looking like a campaign for the White House. The candidate might be served by the $1,000 donation she received from a Hollywood producer named Loreen Arbus - who, I suspect, has never been to Arbutus - but Townsend is not served by Arbus' published statement that she "flew [to a Washington campaign event] to be able to say, 'From early on, I have supported the person who will become the first woman president of the United States.'"
Gee, who knew our Kathleen was so dynamic?
Fact is, we've never had a gubernatorial candidate like Townsend. Not Harry Who. Not Don Donaldo. Not The Goob. KKT has star power, despite her lack of charisma, that carries beyond Maryland. There's that talk of her being the Democrats' vice presidential candidate in 2004. There's a television movie this month about her father. Recent reports had 40 percent of her $6.6 million in campaign contributions coming from out of state.
Whatever is going on among voters at this still-early stage in the gubernatorial election, I guarantee part of it is a quiet backlash against all the national fawning over KKT. She needs fawners in Westport, not Hyannis Port.
The Boss delivers
I'd heard good things about Bruce Springsteen's The Rising, but mostly from longtime fans and others favorably biased. Then I listened, and listened and listened, and soon reached a state of awe. I'd been there before, but not in a while.
I have friends who are gifted rock and pop musicians; they struggle as independents, hustling jobs and trying to get up the scratch to produce CDs. They're grumpy about the Boss. They call him commercial and boring and so-yesterday. I've heard this elsewhere, recently from cranks on talk radio who say the Boss has cashed in on tragedy. I don't get it.
Springsteen's new songs, with maybe two exceptions, have guts, the Guthrie-like folk-singer depth that has sustained this musician through a couple of decades of popularity. His arrangements have some shiny new urban and "world music" edges, as well as some of the old, straight-up, blue-collar rock touches that go back to "Born to Run."
Springsteen is one of our generation's leading poets, and his genius is the ability to empathize. Listen to "You're Missing" a couple of times and you'd think Springsteen himself had lost his spouse in the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. "Into the Fire" will become an anthem of emergency workers. "The Rising" and "My City of Ruins" come screaming out of that emotional chasm between bitterness and hope, echoing in the empty sky over Ground Zero. This CD could stand up as Springsteen's greatest.
Bound by the buck
I mentioned in this space Monday that I'd spent $12.99 for The Rising at the Record & Tape Traders store in Catonsville. A reader bragged that the joke's on me because he got his for $9.99 at Best Buy. Hey, to each his own, pal. That's three bucks I chose to spend at a small, local chain - same two owners since 1977 - on one of our grand Main Streets that will only stay grand if we continue to patronize the shops there. Call me crazy, but that's how I see it, friend. You probably spent the three bucks you saved at Starbucks instead of Daily Grind, right?
I'll extend the guilt trip by reporting that another good and reliable Baltimore CD shop, Recordmasters, has closed. "Another sad story," says Maggie Kirk, marketing director for Record & Tape. "Being a member of NARM [National Association of Recording Merchandisers], we have heard many similar stories in the past year. It's tough out there for the little guy."
Saying no to self-service
Those automated, self-service checkouts have reached my neighborhood Giant. But I'm boycotting them. Where there's a machine, there's no worker. If you shop at one store long enough you get to know a lot of the workers, and the last thing you want to do is undercut their livelihood by doing the ole bar-code stroke across a talking computer. Not me.
I hear Ed Norris, the Baltimore Police Commish, uttered a four-letter word the other night on his second appearance on HBO's The Wire. And I bet he invoked a few choice expletives a couple days later when a certain major metropolitan newspaper outed his slush fund, too. I think the Commish needs to go to time-out.