Baltimore shows jeweled joys, punctured pretense

JACQUES KELLY

April 26, 1993|By JACQUES KELLY

Baltimore can be a tough town if you're into a lifestyle high on glamour or pretension. But it remains a great place if you can appreciate its little joys and giggles, those smiles around every block. Here are a few spotted in the last few days:

* The woman who stands on Lexington Street, outside the old Hecht Company, who courteously offers a sample of perfumed body oil.

* Those indignant Baltimoreans who have been lashing out at the attempts to make Washingtonians believe the Orioles are their team. By the way, isn't it about time to reinsert the name Baltimore into the Oriole name?

Washingtonians wouldn't care. Despite our local fear of outsiders, those Connecticut Avenue-Montgomery County-Falls Church people really do like visiting Baltimore.

* The waitresses at many a neighborhood restaurant who just assume you'll take brown gravy on your french fries.

* The sight of Ritchie Highway inside the Beltway. It's still an urban planner's nightmare. Totally unreformed, and proud of it, this is unglamorous suburban Baltimore.

* The line of lake trout patrons outside the Roost carryout on Reisterstown Road.

* The fact that most MTA bus patrons are polite and hold open the back doors for passengers weighed down with shopping bags.

* All the former U.S.S.R. citizens who immigrated here, got jobs as cab drivers and learned easily understood English in no time. They are also amazingly adept in learning local geography.

* The female train announcer at Pennsylvania Station with the clear voice who pronounces all the names of the destinations perfectly, even the tricky New England and Carolina towns. She concludes one of her celebrated arias stridently, "Back Bay and South Station, all aboard!!!!!"

* The requirement to beg a Baltimore submarine sandwich maker to hold the mayonnaise.

* The fact there is never any shame here in admitting the clothes on your back are hand-me-downs or came from a thrift store.

* The all-volunteer crew of gardeners in Mount Washington who keep their neighborhood's medians and street intersection flower plots blooming from March through November.

* The characteristic of local language that refuses to drop the article "the" before certain thoroughfares -- THE York Road, THE Harford Road and THE Belair Road.

* The people who stand around and try to figure out the mechanics of the Rube Goldberg-like clock/sculpture/contraption in the middle of Westview Mall.

* The fact that Baltimoreans cannot pronounce the names of French wines and some from California, too.

* Whatever those snowy white, spring-flowering trees are around the north side of Druid Lake.

* The way downtown Towson has become so tacky and overgrown. Its appearance is a potent contrast to the superior tones and lofty attitudes often encountered in this overgrown crossroads.

* The golden pineapples, or whatever they are, at the Back River water treatment plant.

* The fact that Baltimoreans have been seeing through the hype surrounding the Walters Art Gallery's surcharge-admission show of painter Alfred Sisley's works.

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