A warm but not too warm look at summer

September 21, 1997|By Jacques Kelly

MY CALENDAR SAYS WE'RE ready to slide into the autumnal equinox, but I'd like to hang on to the summer a little longer. Baltimore can be so livable when the humidity stays on its side of the misery line.

The summer of 1997 was so dry -- and often cool -- that I could work for more than an hour in my cellar without gagging. It took a couple of weekends, but I finally got that stubborn cavern cleaned. Down among the pipes and furnace, I vacuumed, repacked and reorganized. I called in a hauler and pitched out an old woodpile I didn't care about.

It was a good summer because I filled one plastic garbage bag with stuff I thought would be in my possession forever. It turns out the contents of that bag were so precious that I can't remember what they were. But deciding what should be saved and what would be tossed took the better part of a July Saturday afternoon.

It was a successful summer because I also transported a couple of tables' worth of cellar finds to a local flea market. I managed to sell a lot of stuff, but I also managed to reel in a 1930s metal toy bus and a poster for a "Prosperity Sale" of the same vintage from the old Stewart's department store. Someone had framed this choice relic in a picture frame that once held a City College diploma. The sheepskin was missing, but former Mayor Howard Jackson's signature was clearly visible on the glass. How's that for a successful summer of flea-market disposing and flea-market finding?

Speaking of diplomas, it was a terrific summer because I found my own from the eighth grade. I lost it two years ago and presumed it went out with the trash. But it turned up on a bookshelf on the first floor. Maybe I'll get it framed one day so it will be more difficult to mislay.

It was a telling summer because the novelty of Oriole Park wore off a little, and tickets lost their value as a precious status symbol. Normal, non-expense-account types were enjoying games more often than they did in previous seasons.

It was a banner gardening year. I haven't gotten a new water bill to complain about yet, but the lack of rain also brought a lack of humidity. Flowers don't like heat and humidity any more than Baltimoreans do. The weather was so forgiving I had a Technicolor show of blooms. A cool spring and mild winter didn't hurt, either.

Speaking of rain, I had a run of good luck. That August drencher was concentrated on one single day, the 20th. Fortunately for me, I was at the ocean, and one day missed at the beach wasn't a problem.

This summer's extreme heat seemed to be concentrated into a couple of spells. During one of those scorchers I went to Laurel to a see a friend's horse leave the starting gate full of energy but then drop back and finish out of the money. The horse -- Notaro -- disappointed that day. But later, in August, when the weather was good, he took off at Timonium and nothing could stop him. Notaro's win was another reason for a winning summer.

I know the Maryland farmers had a rough time, but the produce I bought at the Waverly and downtown farmers' markets was blue-ribbon stuff. From the earliest lettuce, rhubarb and strawberries through the tomato and peach season, I feasted. The corn was late, but it was worth the wait.

It was a summer in which the Woman's Industrial Exchange rallied and came back to life in good form. Dorothea Wilson's chicken salad, tomato aspic, yeast rolls, lemon tarts and lemon meringue pies were never better. One Thursday (the day she bakes lemon meringue pies) when I was there, the pie was as good as the ones my Aunt Cora made on the marble counter of the kitchen dresser on Guilford Avenue.

It was also a great summer to see all those crowds from New York and New Jersey pouring out of buses, lining up at the Power Plant's Hard Rock Cafe and other attractions. A few tourists even made it to the new Civil War Museum or Columbus Center. And in the evenings, Baltimoreans arrived with lawn chairs to listen to the acts at the Pier Six concert tent. Their admission didn't cost them anything because they sat across Jones Falls and listened for free.

I'd like to listen to the summer of 1997 a little longer, but now it's time to start thinking about long-sleeved shirts. Beside, all that new-found space in the cellar will hold my window air-conditioning units.

Pub Date: 9/21/97

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