Year when the incredible seemed almost ordinary

1993: A

December 31, 1993|By Arthur Hirsch | Arthur Hirsch,Staff Writer

Hours remain, but most of 1993 is history. All right, some of it is history. Much of it was merely tasteless.

But that's getting ahead of the story.

Time already for the Year in Review, another probing look at the last 52 weeks in which Baltimore did not get the ball, Michele McCloud did not get City Hall Employee of the Month and Del. John Arnick learned that the Andrew Dice Clay routine plays poorly in a mixed crowd.

It seems only yesterday we were saying: "Zoe Baird? A Peruvian baby sitter? Kimba Wood? Another troublesome baby sitter? You must be joking."

Yes, a pretty good year for incredulity.

After weeks of anticipation, excitement, disillusion and new hope, perhaps you found yourself saying: "Jacksonville? They gave the ball to Jacksonville?"

Or did you hear some news from Manassas, Va., and say: "She threw what out the car window?" Perhaps you found that even in this age of fraying moral fabric the story of Anne Arundel County High School teacher Ronald W. Price pushed things way over the edge. "He did it where? With how many students?"

Good news, of course, seemed especially unreal.

It was hard to believe that picture of Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin on the White House lawn. The whole thing had all the verve and spontaneity of a shotgun wedding, but at least they were talking about peace.

"Enough of blood and tears. Enough," said Mr. Rabin.

And then Mr. Arafat and Mr. Rabin shook hands. Remarkable, even if you took into account that Mr. Rabin at that moment looked as if he had just eaten a bad herring.

It had to be The Moment of the new Clinton administration. It was just a start, but this and the agreement to end white rule in South Africa provided some break from the prevailing gloom on the foreign front: upheaval in Russia, mass murder and systematic rape in Bosnia, our troops killed and a soldier dragged through the street amid the mercy mission to Somalia.

At home, it was hard to believe those pictures of the Midwest vanishing under a flood of biblical proportion. Homes, farms, livestock and enough good topsoil to grow food for a small nation, all washed away. Forty people died. The Mississippi overflowed its banks, and the rains kept coming, and the water rose again, covering an area twice the size of New Jersey.

All the while, farmers on the East Coast watched their crops wither in drought. Amid Baltimore's record summer heat and weeks without rain, the so-called "Blizzard of '93" of March seemed like something we only imagined.

It was at least unsettling to realize that international terrorism had struck in a big way on home turf. Suddenly it was not Harrods department store in London or a terminal at Athens airport, but the World Trade Center in New York. The terrorists were in our midst, walking our streets.

And when television stations broke away from afternoon soaps to show the firestorm consuming Ranch Apocalypse in Waco, one might have thought: "Is that . . .? Are all those people, all those children, really in there?"

A year of surprises

Incredible events. There were many in 1993. Yes, someone really did let convicted killer Dontay Carter jump out of a Baltimore courthouse bathroom window. Yes, someone did figure the All-Star Game was worth a week of Super Bowl-style hype.

Yes, a man with hair like Lyle Lovett really can wind up with Julia Roberts. What's up for 1994? Don King and Sharon Stone?

And Joey Buttafuoco, who went to jail for his affair with 16-year-old Amy Fisher, actually released a music video in 1993. And speaking of tastelessness, Donald Trump rose from the ashes of the 1980s, dusted himself off, ordered enough caviar to fill Camden Yards and married Marla Maples.

Say it ain't so, Michael Jordan. Say it ain't so, Michael Jackson. Say it ain't so, Boogie, Malcolm, Alfred, somebody.

A new president

It seemed a joke when somebody said our president is now younger than Mick Jagger. And Paul McCartney.

But true. William Jefferson Clinton, at 47, took office in January and spent his first few months being held hostage by baby sitters. Or so it seemed. That was about the time Mr. Clinton was trying to keep down a rebellion on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who apparently were panicked at the president's new policy on homosexuals.

What is that policy, anyway? Last time we looked it was "Don't ask, don't tell, don't pursue," a compromise that left nobody particularly happy.

But then, Mr. Clinton was figuring on making almost nobody happy with the biggest piece of work he envisioned for his administration: health care reform, which opponents say will have us getting X-rays at Jiffy Lube and proponents say will save us from choosing between a new car and a CAT scan.

Mr. Clinton rode a see-saw all year. In the first months, pollsters issued approval ratings roughly every 11 minutes. After 100 days, his Republican opponents declared his administration a flop, seeing as how Mr. Clinton had failed to reform health care, reduce the budget deficit, restore manufacturing jobs and reunite the Beatles.

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