The story goes back maybe three weeks now, when there was a party going on and music playing and, as these things happen, somebody turned on a television set.
It was painful to watch. The thing on the screen was a football team once known as the Baltimore Colts. They play elsewhere now and, in case you missed it, they were 1-15 this year. And there were several at the party who stopped for a moment to watch them play, and one of them was named Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass.
"It still hurts," he said.
He meant the sight of athletic malfeasance being committed in Colt uniforms and these uniforms being worn by people representing the city of Indianapolis, which should be ashamed of itself even now for stealing another community's property and a portion of its heart.
And now, at year's end, the memory of Boogie Weinglass wincing at the sights on the television screen comes back, because he is one who would return pro football to Baltimore, which now goes from the conclusion of baseball's World Series to the commencing of baseball's spring training without a truly major league team to care about.
"Look at that," somebody said to Weinglass, while pointing toward the television screen. "One victory for the whole year. Even the cheerleaders are awful."
"Yeah," said another voice, "when you get a team back in Baltimore, Boog, you gotta get a dozen of the best-looking cheerleaders in the world."
And Boogie Weinglass stood there for a moment, and with the wisdom of his 50 years he solemnly shook his head no.
"No cheerleaders?" somebody said.
"Not a dozen," said Weinglass, and now he swept his hand across the big party room. "We're gonna have three hundred cheerleaders, and they're gonna ring that whooole field."
I like the way Boogie Weinglass thinks, and I wish to commence the year 1992 with his frame of mind, which can be summed up in two entire words: Enjoy yourself.
We have just survived a slum of a year around here, in which people have lost jobs or fear they will; in which the value of life on certain city streets diminished to virtually nothing; in which the state of Maryland, once awash in money, found itself broke and the city of Baltimore, accustomed to being broke, found itself with nowhere to turn for help; in which the geniuses in Washington, finding themselves at the end of a draining half-century Cold War, haven't a clue to converting all of that brilliant military brain power into the restoration of America and its cities.
At a small downtown gathering several weeks back, the mayor of Baltimore, Kurt L. Schmoke, found someone inexplicably chuckling over the cutting of city jobs.
"Finally gonna get rid of some of that excess meat," the chuckler said.
"We're past meat," the mayor said softly. "We're cutting into bone now."
And so it becomes the duty of this mayor, as it befell William Donald Schaefer for 15 years before him, to sneak us past some of the rough spots. Schaefer told us things were terrific even when they weren't, and he said it loudly enough and long enough that we started to believe him in spite of the evidence.
For a while, it worked. The city began to believe in itself, and there was money coming from Washington and some from Annapolis, and we had around here what came to be known as the great renaissance.
Nobody talks much about the renaissance these days, but maybe we should. The beginning of any new year is a place to start clean, to fill our heads with some fresh hope.
The Baltimore City Fair, once the psychological rallying point of the city's rebirth, is only a shell of its former self, but the same good will now flows instead from the Fells Point Festival and Artscape.
The next baseball season opens in a new stadium that gladdens the downtown landscape. The schools are still in trouble, but the new superintendent, Dr. Walter Amprey, is a stronger leader than they've had in years.
With all of the money troubles,there is still a sense of life and energy downtown that once seemed beyond hope. Here and there are positive blips in the national economy. When we come out of this bruising time, someone will get to the president of this country and explain to him that attention must be paid to the cities, or else his administration will be synonymous with shame.
Soon the city kids will return to a school system where people are frantic to make things better. A few days later comes a big pitch to bring pro football back to Baltimore. Legislators will be gathering in Annapolis, and we have to assume that, even in a difficult season, even among politicians who have few emotional ties to Baltimore, they will recognize that the city's troubles can only be ignored at the expense of the counties' own future peril.
So let's enjoy ourselves. This year's gotta be better than last.