Raw Baltimore January opens ideas of otherwise

JACQUES KELLY

January 13, 1993|By JACQUES KELLY

It's hard not to dream of better times on a raw and uncompromising January afternoon when the air reeks of auto exhaust and the harbor looks like an acid bath. Baltimore is not at her best during the first month of the year.

This is the high season of winter dreams, when the mind drifts to the land of endless possibility, to what might be, to what was, to what could be. . . .

Hoping (in secret) that Baltimore will be lambasted with a real snow storm (more than 12 inches downtown) in the next three weeks, so that conditions will be so bad you'll be excused and paid for work for three days.

Filling a fireplace with two sections of the Sunday paper, some odds and ends of the Christmas tree and three good oak logs. Ignite same, draw up an easy chair, obtain a bottle of good sherry and unplug the telephone.

Envisioning all the Bradford pear trees planted around Baltimore sprouting into billowy whiteness.

Hearing the birds (not the ever-present crows) start vocalizing just before the sun pops up.

Driving up York Road -- or Harford, Belair or Reisterstown roads -- and never once getting stopped by a red light.

Itching to get out the lawn mower.

Dashing out to a travel agency and taking up one of those offers to fly to England or Ireland for $299.

Recalling an episode of "Suspense," a radio drama that WCBM broadcast in the early 1960s.

Roller blading along the Baltimore and Annapolis Bike Path at Severna Park or Round Bay.

Returning to the days when you didn't have to lock a car door and be suspicious of anyone else walking in a parking garage.

Getting the news that an oppressive boss will be out for a month for a gall bladder operation.

Slipping away at lunchtime for some great oysters at the Lexington Market raw bar.

Smelling the marsh grasses alongside the road while on a trip home from the Eastern Shore.

Watching a giant fire that police built to burn and melt down all the automatic weapons that are killing people at the rate of one a day.

Calling in sick (Doesn't half the world have a cold anyway?) and then going to bed with a good book and package of Oreos.

Mustering the courage (without enrolling in an advanced physics class at a university) to program a VCR and have it record the show properly.

Remembering a light snowfall on a winter night 30 years ago.

You've been to a Clippers ice hockey game at the old Baltimore Civic Center.

The No. 8 streetcar is waiting on Fayette Street to take you home again to Ilchester Avenue or Briarwood Road.

Discovering a place in Baltimore where the pizza is as good as Grotto's in Rehoboth Beach, Del.

Getting dressed in the morning by natural sunlight, instead of stumbling around in this wretched winter darkness.

Reading a mystery novel every bit as good as the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew.

Opening a BG&E bill for heating, cooking and lighting and finding the total cost is less than three digits.

Indulging in no less than half a pound of Berger's chocolate cookies.

Learning that an alternative take of Warner Brothers' "Casablanca" actually does exist -- and that it's every bit as good as the original.

Finding a liquor store where good scotch does not cost half a week's salary.

Settling in to a late-July supper of fresh Maryland tomatoes, corn pudding and lima beans.

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