"I could be fishing, and I could be hunting, and I wish I could be doing a little bit of both," Keith Linthicum sighed, bending over the back of his red pickup and handing his son a car muffler. "But hell, I reckon we can have a little fun around here just as well."
While thousands of local residents yesterday celebrated the Memorial Day weekend by taking highways and waterways to vacation resorts in surrounding hills and seashores, many others, like the Linthicum family of Silver Spring, decided it best to stick around home, fix up the family cars, sip a few ice teas and barbecue a turkey or two out back.
It was that kind of day in Washington. The tempearture was in the 80s, but the overcast skies kept many people close to home. Playgrounds, tennis courts and picnic parks were packed, while a light haze of barbecue smoke wafted up from backyards throughout the District of Columbia and its suburbs.
It was a nice day, but not nice enough to wander away.
The National Weather Service forecast better things for today and tomorrow, with sunny and pleasant temperatures in the high 70s and no chance of rain through tonight.
Crowds yesterday in Ocean City -- Washington's favorite Eastern Shore vacation retreat -- were 20,000 below Memorial Day projections made by that resort area's visitors bureau. Some merchants there blamed the cloudy weather for the smallish crowds, while others lamented the high price of gasoline.
Keith Linthicum blamed his muffler.
"See that baby?" he asked, pointing at a trailer home parked behind a pink rhodedendron bush near his house. "Every chance we get we're out on the road with it -- West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Eastern Shore. . .
"But this," he went on, waving his hand at a clump of rusted mufflers and manifolds on his front lawn, "is why we're going nowhere."
Linthicum and his 35-year old mechanic son Roger spent most of yesterday afternoon under the pickup and Roger's own Oldsmobile. For the better part of two months the exhaust systems of both vehicles were held together by aluminum Coca-Cola cans.
Then Verabelle, the elder Linthincum's wife, said she had enough. She wasn't going to be driving around scared to death of getting a ticket for making too much noise on the road.
So, instead of fishing for flounder off Chincateague Island this Memorial Day weekend, Verabelle was baking beans and barbecung a turkey, grandsons Keith and Roger Jr. were scooting up and down the sidewalk on a mechanic's creeper, Keith and Roger were getting greasy, and Teeny, the 15-year-old poodle, was catching a few rays in the back seat of the Pinto out front.
Sticking close to home, of course, was nothing new to this family. Thirty-two years ago the Linthicums were the first familt to move into the Forest Estates subdivision off Georgia Avenue. Since then, all the other brick ramblers in the subdivision have been bought and sold at least two or three times. Keith and Verabelle are the only original owners left in the quiet, shady middle-income neighborhood.
Linthicum, a truck driver for Montgromery County schools, was reflecting on that when he remembered the maple trees, he said.
"A couple years after we moved in this citizens association came round saying they were gonna put up pin oaks all up and down the street," he recalled. "They wanted some money. I didn't like oaks so I went into the woods, got a few maples and planted them.
"Everybody else got oak here, but I got my maples," he said laughing. "They stayed."
He and his son then crawled beneath the car and went back to work.