Idiosyncrasies that make a Baltimorean a Baltimorean

Jacques Kelly

January 02, 1992|By Jacques Kelly

You know you're a Baltimorean when...

*You regard red traffic lights as mere nuisances. Baltimore's penchant for red-light running is legendary. In Baltimore, red is green.

Pedestrians and bicyclists also act as if they have a universal right of way. Our "Don't Walk" signals are installed merely to edify the occasional convention of visiting traffic engineers.

* You'll double-park when half the street is free of parked cars. A friend from Kansas City pointed this out to me. "People here would rather double-park than [make love]," he said.

*You have violent arguments about crab cakes.

*You judge a restaurant by its cole slaw.

*You bypass Haagen Dazs ice cream for a frozen custard with dip-top on Ritchie Highway.

*You'll kill for real peach cake, cinnamon cake, or sour beef and dumplings.

*You serve macaroni and cheese with Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. Ditto, the famous sauerkraut.

*You have a box of ribbon hard candy open over the holidays.

*You ask for mayonnaise on a submarine sandwich (and everything else).

*You like gravy on your french fries.

*You drink iced tea year-round and exhibit a similar passion for Royal Crown (ArCee) Cola.

*You think of Hendler's egg nog ice cream at this time of year.

*You usher all guests into the damp basement (euphemistically known as the club cellar) for a party, even though there is a warm and dry living room with comfortable chairs. The offered club-cellar seat is invariably a rusty folding chair.

*You prefer chain-link fences. No fussy New England pickets here. Also, you like tomato plants secured to chain-link fences with old nylon stockings.

*Your wardrobe still contains garments with labels from Hutzler's, Stewart's, Hochschild's and Epstein's. You regard clothing from failed department stores as heirlooms.

*You still tease your hair, even if it isn't as high as it used to be.

*Your trouser cuffs are above the ankle.

*You announce with pride that your best topcoat was bought at a church bazaar or used-clothing shop for $3. Or better yet, you reveal the coat once belonged to a deceased uncle. For sporty events, you wear a three-quarter-length coat. You love sportcoats that resemble auto upholstery.

* You still wear black to funerals and have a healthy fear of cemeteries.

*You carry a shopping bag.

*You never park your car in the garage. Garages are made for storage of household articles. Streets and curbs are made for cars.

*You embellish your license plate with gold chains.

*You still use the term "carfare" for MTA tariffs.

*You park with the knowledge that meter ordinances are more vigorously enforced than the laws against mugging and house-breaking.

*You secretly believe in dream books.

*You keep a jar of Dr. Gordshell's salve (made with rosin and beeswax) in the medicine cabinet.

*You regard the marigold and cockscomb (celosia) as the loveliest flowers in the garden.

*You insert "the" in front of York, Belair, Harford and Reisterstown roads.

*You get butterflies in your stomach when driving over the Bay Bridge.

*You regard Coca-Cola syrup as an excellent cure for what ails you.

*You display a geographic ignorance of the city when someone asks for directions. And, when you give directions, two or three of the landmarks you mention will have been torn down years ago.

*You feel that neat school uniforms are preferable to high SAT scores.

*You honestly regard the Inner Harbor as a foreign part of Baltimore that has nothing to do with the rest of the city and has been created to extract money from visiting busloads from Trenton.

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