It was one of those typically hectic times in the whirlwind General Assembly.

The governor's gasoline tax, usually described as a "major cornerstone" of Harry Hughes' supplemental spending and revenue-raising package, was in deep trouble. So was his race track consolidation bill. In an evening session, the House was approving a watered-down version of Hughes' proposed levy on trucks.

A joint House-Senate committee, meanwhile, was performing further surgery on Hughes' already mangled budget. At the same time, outraged reporters tried to convince their editors to seek a court order opening the closed-door conference committee to the press. The public interest, after all, was at stake, or so it seemed.

If can be all-consuming, this often insular world of statehouse shennanigans. After a while life appears to encompass an enclave bounded roughly by the capitol building and Fran O'Brien's, the politicians' favorite watering hole down on Main Street.

In fact, what seems to matter most to the reporters and politicians who follow daily developments with the intensity of avid sports fans or Kremlinologists may matter least to many citizens.

What's worse, in following the goings-on here, one could get a jaundiced view of this otherwise lovely city on Chesapeake Bay. There is another side to Annapolis, where the affairs of state are seen from a different perspective.

"Harry who?" asked Suzanne the bookkeeper at Marmaduke's, a bar in the Eastport end of town -- across Spa Creek, which the unknowing have been known to mistake for the Severn River -- where sailboat skippers outrank politicians.

Once the exclusive domain of blacks and watermen, Eastport in recent years has come to include the condominium crowd and the boat people who work in yacht yards, chartering companies and brokerage firms. After the October boat show, the Topsider set migrates south for winter work. Then, as the General Assembly is winding up its work, the boating crowd returns.

"With the warm weather we get rid of these creeps," said Suzanne, referring to the statehouse gang, "and the people will venture back into Annapolis asking, 'Are they gone yet?' Right now, it's a very odd time of year. It's not the summer crowd yet. It's sort of the winter leftovers."

Be that as it may, a visitor inquired, what did Marmaduke's patrons think about the sunset law?

"What's that?" replied Bobby Leonard, who moved here from Bethesda to be near his boats.

Well, what about racing consolidation?

"Are you talking about jogging?" asked Bob.

"I'm sorry. About what?" asked Suzanne.

"I lost enough money at Pimlico, I wish I could consolidate my losses," interjected another customer.

Well, surely they must know about Harry Hughes' gasoline tax and his budget problems.

"When did this happen?" said Suzanne, shocked to hear the news.

"I don't know anything about it," said her friend Linda, who had joined the conversation.

Well, then, had they ever been to Fran O'Brien's?

"Not if I can help it," said Suzanne. "My God, I'm not safe there! My girlfriend and I went in there. It took us maybe two seconds: we sat down, we were hit on. My God, it's terrible. They have no shame at all. Legislators, they're terrible -- no class whatsoever. One of 'em said, 'What are you doing for the next 15 minutes?' I said. 'Whatever it is, it won't be with you.' My God, they have no shame!"

The talk down the bar was of sailing towns on the California coast. "I've Got the Crabs," read one of many tee-shirts in evidence.

Legislative anarchy may rule the statehouse and Harry Hughes may be beyond political salvation, but in Eastport, life sails on.