As past runs into future, much to look forward to

January 02, 2000|By MICHAEL OLESKER

I MISS the good old days already. The hundred-year dash went by in a whiz. For all their violence and venality, their selfishness and stupidity, the 1900s were all most of us ever knew. We wrapped them around us like a security blanket that's now been taken away.

Brand-new years -- not to mention, brand-new eras -- are scary. It's all uncharted territory out there. Couldn't somebody scout ahead and come back to tell us how to get past the rough spots? Meanwhile, before our next anxiety attack arrives, here are:

Reasons to Go On Living in the 21st Century:

We can still buy roses for $7 a dozen at Cross Street Market. We can turn on the TV news now and keep calling Rod Daniels and Ron Daniel by each other's names. We can rejoice in the Hubble Telescope, which is searching for signs of intelligent life in the vast expanses of outer space. Who knows? If they can find it out there, maybe they can find it in the Baltimore City Council.

We still have 34th Street in Hampden to set the holiday nights aglow. We can still rent bowling shoes at the Patterson Lanes on Eastern Avenue for a buck. We can look forward to the General Assembly gathering and wonder which we are more likely to see first: great statesmanship, or the return from the grave of Theodore R. McKeldin.

We can go to Towson University and sometimes find a parking space in less than an hour. We can navigate the Jones Falls Expressway in the morning rush hour and sometimes reach work in under an hour. We can listen to 30 seconds of Ron Smith pontificate about guns on the radio, and sometimes it can seem like less than an eternity. But not often.

We can listen to Parris Glendening at his oratorical best. In two weeks, he will deliver another in a series of State of the State addresses, the emotional high points of which traditionally induce narcolepsy in all within hearing distance. We can wait for Ellen Sauerbrey to demand another recount. We can watch Bruce Bereano reach into his back pocket -- just checking to see which legislators are still there.

We can listen to Hunky Sauerhoff extol the virtues of life in Pigtown, and watch Bea Gaddy bring a sense of heart to City Hall. We can hit Kathleen Kennedy Townsend for a loan, if she ever gets a free moment between fund-raising gigs. Can't anybody around her spell "overkill"?

We can feel relief that Bill Clinton will be leaving office soon. Maybe Pat Buchanan can get himself elected president after giving the country one more of his rationalizations about the life of Adolf Hitler. Then, in his first official act from the White House, Buchanan can invade Poland.

We can delight in the quirky, offbeat charms of the American Visionary Art Museum on Light Street. Maybe tourists can discover there is more to be seen on Light Street than the Harborplace pavilions. We can delight in Freeman Hrabowski's good works at UMBC. Maybe one day, more of the scholars in the Baltimore public schools will be able to spell UMBC.

We can go to Jimmy's Restaurant in Fells Point because there's no more convivial dining area outside your own kitchen table. We can wait for somebody in Annapolis to take full responsibility for the boot camp brutalities. (How long can you hold your breath?) We can marvel at Strom Thurmond, who may decide this century to finally retire from the U.S. Senate. At 96, Thurmond's more unwelcome proof that the good die young.

We can sit on the back porch of the Bay Cafe, glorious shrimp salad sandwich in hand, and watch the sun set over Fort McHenry. We can go to one of those downtown hotels that tried to gouge everybody on New Year's Eve and tell them, "Yeah, you'll be getting my business again -- when the next millennium arrives."

We can take comfort that we're down to just one Henson lurking around City Hall. We can continue enjoying those great Baltimore traditions: Artscape, the Fells Point Festival, and the first scattering of winter snowflakes, followed by the first scattering of TV reporters asking frenzied shoppers, "So, how many rolls of toilet paper did you buy?"

We can watch them tear down Memorial Stadium this year, and know they can't take away our memories. We can listen to Marc Steiner's radio program on WJHU-FM, which is the sound of civility and smarts. Or we can listen to AM talk radio, most of which is the sound of the bully, the sound of the snarl for its own sake.

We can listen to Mary Lou and the Untouchables belt out their music. We can still go to the Enoch Pratt branch in Canton and remember how cozy libraries used to feel. We can thank the Ladies Auxiliary for taking us so graciously through the last century of Flower Marts, and know the tradition will continue.

We can brace ourselves for the next Parris Glendening explanation for not allowing slot machines at state racetracks. Gambling is bad, the governor will say -- while raising the advertising budget for the state lottery in hopes of sucking in new players.

We can rest easy knowing we won't have to hear the word "millennium" for another thousand years.

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