Corks Follow Up


I was right about New Years Eve, we did drink champagne. I saved the cork. And I went to two parties on New Years Day. More corks. But I did finally find time to dump them out and go through them. I collected 380 over the years. The oldest cork was from June of 1999. It sealed a bottle of Rioja that I bought on my honeymoon, and carried back from Spain. We drank it on our first anniversary. There wasn’t a cork from the actual wedding, because we drank Rolling Rock beer all day. That’s how the cork saving thing started. When the year 2000 became 2001 it seemed significant enough to hold onto the cork. Same with travel – I saved one from a boozy trip to Paris with another couple in 2004. Birthdays were big: Erin Compton turned 40, Tom Waldron turned 50, Dan Rodricks turned 60, Mike Bowler turned 70. Apparently I didn’t go to anyone’s 80th birthday, but I was there when Mrs. Lynch turned 90. Some birthdays were noteworthy not for the year, but the place – Gina Caruso’s cork says we celebrated at the Creative Alliance, and Vic Romita takes the prize…we drank that bottle in the Round Robin Bar at the Willard Hotel in DC. Some birthdays weren’t for people, but rather for institutions. The Baltimore Museum of Art turned 100 on November 15, 2014, and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra turned 100 on February 11, 2016. There were lots of New Years Eve corks, but the best was when 2010 became 2011. My date and I crashed a New Years Eve party in Homeland – one of those big houses off Saint Paul Street. To this day I don’t know who lived there. Sports were represented. I have the champagne cork from when the Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII, on February 3, 2013. Also when the Terps won the NCAA Lacrosse Championship. And May 8, 2017 was the anniversary of Frank Robinson’s homerun over the wall at Memorial Stadium. Mrs. Burger and I drank a lot of champagne…corks from the day we got engaged on the steps of the Maryland Institute, the day we walked downtown to get our marriage license, and the day we returned to the Maryland Institute to get married. There were lots of marriages: Betty and Dan on October 20, 2007. Lauren and Justin on July 19, 2008. I got to meet car salesman Jack Antwerpen at the ceremony. “YES!” Chris DiPietro married Tom Burkhart on May 17, 2013 after Maryland voters affirmed Question 6, made same-sex marriages legal, and somehow the world has managed to keep spinning. Many corks came from tastings at my favorite wine bar in Baltimore, a little place called “Amedeo’s” at the corner of Exeter and Fawn Streets in Little Italy. Seek it out. Also annual events such as MICA’s AlumniScape, and the BARCS fundraiser, Tour De Dundalk. Others, a bit more esoteric: On October 23, 2015 Kevin Lynch hooked up my printer. We drank a bottle of wine. WJZ reporter Mike Schuh’s daughter graduated from Towson High School. More wine. Bruce Goldfarb gave a lecture, “Tales from the Medical Examiner’s Office.” Break out the champagne. I shot the Fassero/Simmons Family Photo…trust me, I earned that cork. Connections to The Baltimore Sun were unavoidable. A farewell party for National Correspondent Gail Gibson in 2006, Rob Kasper’s retirement in 2012. Bittersweet reminders of those who are now gone – memorial services for Don Hoffman, Rich O’Mara, Jim Keat. And one absolutely tragic, Rob Hiaasen. Life is indeed fragile. A cork from the 10th anniversary of the Grand Cru in November 2013 came via owner Nelson Carey. He was slicing the tops off champagne bottles with a saber. But by the time I collected a cork from the Grand Cru’s 15th anniversary, Nelson was long deceased. Other corks reminded me of Richard Kirstel, his memorial service was March 24, 2007. And Elizabeth Randolph, hers was April 26, 2015. Last October my friend Dana Dunn and I spread his mother’s ashes back in our hometown of Uniontown, PA. We drank champagne along the way – Dana kept the bottle, I took the cork. One of my favorites was from October 27, 2002. It’s just a regular looking wine cork like all the others. I was living in Alonsoville back then, and this cork came from a “welcome to the neighborhood” party for Jacob Agris, and his wife Julie. He was a neurologist over at Johns Hopkins Hospital. A couple years later, my mother had had a stroke, but she wasn’t recovering. I brought her to Baltimore to stay with us. She continued to deteriorate, and eventually couldn’t walk across the room. Out of desperation I called Jake. That night, New Years Eve, (he and Julie’s wedding anniversary), Jake made a house call. He examined my mother for hours, called the Uniontown Hospital, and had them send her medical records to my fax machine. When he was through, he said, “I’m taking her to Hopkins tomorrow to see the stroke neurologist. I think I know what the problem is.” And he did, and he was right. He added years of comfort to her life. Years. That’s some cork.

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