"How serious were you?" squeaked a fuzzy-cheeked young reporter during the mayor's press conference Monday.
"I was serious," answered Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, "I was as serious as a heart attack!"
The press conference dealt with serious matters, I am sure, but it was the magic phrase "serious as a heart attack" that resonated.
If you're a knock-kneed old fogey (anyone over 50) that phrase probably passed right by you.
If you're a callow young squirt (anyone under 35) it probably struck you as archaic.
But to those of us from the mayor's generation -- Schmoke is 42 -- "serious as a heart attack" is a golden oldie, a blast from the past.
It calls to mind all-night bid whist parties, bush haircuts, bell bottoms and dancing the Cool Jerk.
It hearkens back to the days when we'd greet each other on the street like this:
"What's happening?" (translation: How are you?)
"You are, my man!" (I am fine, thank you. And you?)
"T'ain't nothin' to it." (I am doing very well. Thank you for asking.)
This is the way cool cats like me and the mayor talked back in the 1970s, the golden age of self-expression, when "rap" meant to engage in a meaningful dialogue and when attractive young ladies were "fine, fat, and foxy" and attractive men were . . . well, women never did come up with anything complimentary to say about men.
Those were the days, my friends, we thought they'd never end.
Octogenarians, I suppose, experience similar pangs when they hear one of their contemporaries exclaim, "Twenty-three skiddoo." If you have to ask what it means, you probably wouldn't understand.
So, don't bother to read any further if you're an old fogey or a young squirt -- what follows will be too deep for you.
But if you spent your formative years during the Age of Aquarius, you'll know where I'm coming from, you'll be able to dig where my mind is at.
Here, before time passes us by, are as many fabulous phrases from the good old days as my aging brain can recall. My only question is, "Can you dig it?":
Greetings and salutations: "What's happening?" "What it is?" "What you know good?"
Answers: "Everything is everything." "Ain't nothin' but a thang." "Same old, same old."
Ways of expressing agreement: "I'm hip." "Cool." "Solid." "Bet." "That's real." "For real." "Right on." "Right on, with your right on!"
Ways of expressing disagreement: "Get real!" "Be for real!" "You're full of it!" "Oh, please!"
Friends: "bro" or "sista" (depending on gender) or "bloods" "homeys" and "dudes".
Enemies: "chumps", "squares", or "jive suckas".
Ways of expressing approval or applause: "Get down!" "Alright!" "Have mercy!" "Have mercy, Percy!" "Don't be so mean!"
Places to live: "crib", "pad", "rack", "dump".
Things to drive: "hog", "wheels", "short" "ride".
Congratulations: "Give me five." "Give me some skin." "Way to go."
Phrases and expressions contributed by soul singer James Brown: "Eow!" "Hit me!" "Get on the good foot!" "Say it loud!" "Jump back!" "Jump back, Cadillac!" "Makes me wanna jump back and kiss myself!"
Somebody (like James Brown) who is thought-provoking or wise: "Deep." "Heavy." "Weird."
What to chant at a sporting event: "Bang, bang! Beep, beep! Ungowa! Soul Power!"
What not to chant: "Hip, hip, hooray!"
The way we were supposed to gain sustenance: "Let's grease."
What the local disk jockey used to say (over and over and over again): "This song'll make your eyes rise, your knees squeeze, your nose pose and your liver quiver like a running river."
What to do when you want to say, "goodbye": You make a fist. You cross your arm across your chest.
And then you say solemnly and sincerely, "Peace."