Like Italy, the boot of Europe, Itchy Ankle, the foot of South County, is a defiant outcrop stretching into southern waters, but there the similarities end. Sure, Itchy Ankle boasts a fair proportion of moustachioed women but here the trains do not run on time, for there are no trains. Pasta here is served with cheese whizz, wine comes by the box and the Romans would despair at the state of the roads.
There is one road in, and the same road out. At the top, by the one traffic light, is a disused garage. Once, about 4 years ago, there was rumor that a local retailer would expand his grocery business there. There was talk of a gourmet shelf and Itchy Ankle’s weekend blow-ins all got very excited, but still the building stands empty and we remain a gorgonzola-free zone.
Things to look out for along the road include: a bald eagle nesting in a high tree, Heavenly Ice-Cream, where the ability to answer bible questions will secure you a hefty discount, and the deep ditches which have been the downfall of many trucks driven by texting teenagers. People not to be missed include Grover at Renno’s market, the unofficial Mayor of Itchy Ankle
and Grace at the garage. Both of them know everyone and everything and Grace especially likes to chat.
In the Crone’s neighborhood, most of the houses right on the water are empty all week. Owned by Washingtonians, at the weekends they fill up with Young Kennedy lookalikes who bring their friends down to sail. Behind them, where the Crone lives, there are the genteel poor–teachers, social workers and the like. We are all very proud of our water views and tsk loudly when the weekenders once again outsmart the planning laws and add still more stories on to their waterfront palaces. Behind us there are rows and rows of the dispossessed.
These waterside communities were built in the 1930s, before air-conditioning: Sears bungalows mushroomed as families sought a place for wives and children to escape to in the searing, muggy, heat of a Washington DC summer. The oystermen and crabbers who had worked the bay for generations never lived here, preferring to make their homes along the main road, further away from any risk of flooding.
By the 70s, nobody wanted the houses and the squatters and druggies and bikers moved in. In the last twenty years, the area has enjoyed small bursts of fashionability and so first time home owners, young families, commuters to Baltimore and Washington and the newly divorced buy up affordable homes and try not to notice when their neighbors skin deer in the back yard, grow pot in their lean-tos, or set up a mini scrapyard where most people keep their trash cans.
Excitement in Itchy Ankle is a trip to the dump, chicken wings at the Snug Harbor Inn, rockfish at the Brick House and a mojito at Skippers Pier. On Saturdays, there will be yard sales, and perhaps a fish fry at a local church.
At night, you can see the stars, enjoy the sunsets, hear the crickets and smell the leaves. There is no better place to live.