Checking out footwear for the real sign of spring

This Just In . . .

April 05, 1996|By DAN RODRICKS

First time I see white go-go boots on the streets of the city they call Baltimore, I am declaring spring to be official. I haven't seen them yet, and I've cruised the right places -- Fells Point, 36th Street in Hampden, even on West Baltimore Street, directly in front of the night club that features dancing "college girls." And?

Nothing.

So it's not officially spring yet, at least in my mind, which might explain why I'm still a little groggy.

I know, I know: Spring arrived two weeks ago. It's Passover. It's Easter weekend. The forsythia are in bloom, the Orioles are back in town, and the smell of noxious crab grass killer is in the air. But, for me, it just isn't spring without the go-go boots. First impressions die hard.

See, in my first Baltimore spring, I saw them, on the feet of a skinny woman with bruised knees, as she crossed Pratt Street near the rows of daffodils and -- I don't know -- the image just stuck. I took it as a sign of the city's uninhibited nature, its eccentric culture, its liberation from the boundaries of conventional taste. Mostly, I took it as a sign of spring.

Truth is, I haven't seen white go-go boots on the sidewalks of the city they call Baltimore since the last time Billy Ripken played for the Orioles. (And no, Billy wasn't wearing them.)

But I'm looking for them again because: 1. I kinda miss them; 2. I'm worried the fashion police finally have intimidated the last of Baltimore's go-go boot wearers into submission; 3. I need assurance the yuppies haven't completely overtaken Fells Point; and 4. I need a sure sign of the season.

Indeed, we need all the signs we can get because, in 1996, the line between winter and spring is as murky as the middle branch of the Patapsco.

If you're among the fuzzy, still with a lot of winter in your head, and you've lost your bearings, let me help you.

You know it's spring in central Maryland when:

1. Somebody hangs a sign on Danny's Restaurant that says, "The Run Is On." (Of course, this is not only a sign the shad are back, but that someone has reopened the restaurant.)

2. The windows in the neighborhood are open. You can once again hear the old lady next door yelling at her cat to stop licking the margarine and get off the damn table.

3. You get a hankering to drive out to The Valley to "go look at Cal's house."

4. You go fishing for trout on Little Falls or the lower Gunpowder and some hairy guy in camouflage coveralls steps right in front of you, casts his line right over yours, and asks: "Caught anything yet?"

5. Tube socks appear on the legs of men, from Eastpoint to Randallstown. Some might think this a summertime thing, and it is. But the first appearance of crisp new tube socks means spring. In Baltimore, you get 10 new pair of tube socks for Christmas -- you save them for the first good weather.

6. You hear lawn mowers on Sunday. It doesn't matter that your community association encourages people to cut their grass during the week or on Saturdays. You know it's spring when a tranquil Sunday morning is destroyed by the noisy tag team of Briggs & Stratton.

7. Mr. Mugs opens the door of his corner sandwich shop in Little Italy, and you can see right into the place and whether the wooden phone booth is occupied.

8. The voice of the current Orioles manager can be heard on radio, blandly touting a car dealership or dinette store.

9. Bags of mulch start appearing in front of supermarkets.

10. You hear the word "rhubarb" spoken in earnest.

11. Your spouse buys several bags of mulch.

12. Pallid Hopkins students, after a long winter in front of computer terminals, start sunning themselves on the main campus lawn. It's not a pretty picture.

13. Your spouse mulches everything, even your feet.

14. Garden implements, used to move snow and crack ice over the long winter, start to pop out of the mud in your lawn.

15. You find your kid's snow sled -- the one you thought was stolen and so reported to police.

16. You find a sock in the rain gutter -- on your second floor, right below the window by the clothes hamper.

17. People whose entire wardrobes consist of Orioles giveaways start appearing in public places again.

18. People who bought new houses near farms in Carroll County start grumbling again about the smell of manure.

19. The windows are open in Peabody Conservatory and you can hear half a dozen students practicing at once. And it's free.

20. You feel tempted to take long, evening strolls around the neighborhood and do a little reconnaissance before Bulk Trash Removal Day.

21. Men with heavy fishing poles designed for catching marlin show up in big numbers to catch 10-inch trout in the Jones Falls below Lake Roland.

22. You see leafless trees adorned with red, green, blue and yellow plastic Easter eggs.

23. You see leafless trees adorned with red, green, blue and yellow plastic shopping bags.

24. You hear it again and realize once more that you know all the words to the "Mary Sue Easter Eggs" jingle.

Pub Date: 4/05/96

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