Billboards remind us why we live in Charm City

This Just In...

March 15, 2000|By Dan Rodricks

WHO SAYS there isn't enough civic pride in this town? What was that about Baltimore being cursed with high humility and low self-esteem? Turns out a lot of people can muster an upbeat answer to the question: "So why do you live here?" Those words were posted on billboards this winter by the Greater Baltimore Alliance (GBA),the regional economic development agency, which answered its own question with tired-but-true answers: "Two words: Steamed Crabs. ...It's the Neighborhoods. ...Big city/small town."

OK, predictable stuff. But apparently provocative.

Inspired by the advertising campaign, Baltimoreans came up with their own replies -- in the thousands -- and here are a few, culled from the GBA's yesbaltimore.org web site:

"Bar-hopping in Fells Point. ...Old Bay. ...Duckpin bowling. ...The 15-minute drive from the suburbs to the Inner Harbor. ...Blows D.C. out of the water. ...I pay affordable rent and live in a prime location. ...Snowballs. ...Friendly folks. ...It's not a city, it's home, hon! ...I rarely have to move my car all weekend; I can walk everywhere! ...The Bookmaker Salad at Sab's ...Fries and gravy. ...Mary Sue Easter Eggs. ...Berger Cookies. ...The living legend, Arthur J. Donovan. ...Sunsets at the Bay Cafe. ...Happy hour on Water Street. ...Artscape, you fool! ...The view from Federal Hill."

Some people mentioned amenities well beyond the city limits: "Fly-fishing the Gunpowder. ...Biking on the NCR. ...Antiquing in old Ellicott City. ...Hiking on the Appalachian Trail."

Someone answered the question with a question: "Where else would John Waters come from?"

I like the big-picture aspect of this response: "Because there is a good and bad, dangerous and peaceful side to everything, so why not live on the wild side? You get a little of each here."

One person gave a political reason for living here: "Because Hillary doesn't."

Another seemed a little confused about the city's political dynamics: "The Republican Party rules!" The same person also mentioned "pork fat" as another reason he lives here. I love stream-of-consciousness thinking like that.

Lopez cancels radio show

After an impressive 20-year run on 98 Rock, Lopez has pulled the plug on one of the last unabashedly liberal talk shows in American radio. (There's an oxymoron for ya: "Unabashedly liberal talk show.") Sunday's broadcast was the last of a weekly show that went on the air on Saturdays in 1980 as "The Spanish Inquisition." The day and name later changed to "The Sunday Lopez."

Lopez, one of the best-informed, wittiest and most underrated commentators in our midst, kept the show crisp, with acerbic takes on current events and cultural trends. His was never a sleepy Sunday morning show. He had plenty of callers, some of them regulars -- remember curmudgeonly "Bob from Northeast Baltimore"? -- and the banter always had humor and sting. (Lopez probably interviewed Sting, come to think of it.)

"My sentimental favorite caller was Bob from Northeast Baltimore," Lopez says. "He had a full command of the facts, and he was a very good debater, my most worthy opponent, and he somehow managed to be the first caller almost all the time. I liked him so much that on my last day, I invited Bob to come to the studio, and he did. He sat in a while, and we went back and forth a little bit."

Another Lopez favorite was a caller named Mike, who described himself as "a black conservative Republican Christian creationist."

Lopez, who will remain part of the 98 Rock weekday morning team of Kirk, Mark and Lopez, seemed to have a somebody's-gotta-do-it attitude about his radio show, a tiny liberal vortex within the hurricane of conservative hot air. Lopez described his show as "your antidote to right-wing radio." Good that it aired but once a week because, he says, "liberals need time to think.

"I did it, willingly, all these years because I was fighting for a cause," he says. "Well, it's the year 2000, and we liberals have pretty much won. When I started, Ronald Reagan was running for president by appealing to America's prejudices and promising to turn back the clock. Now, the Republican candidate for president is said to be in trouble because he is too conservative. That's progress. That's a victory."

Having declared the Big V, Lopez is taking some time off to spend more of it with his wife and daughter, plot some weekend trips and sleep in on Sunday mornings.

I heard that.

And we have a winner ...

From TJI correspondent Joey Amalfitano: "Hey, everybody, I just won a Publisher's Clearinghouse sweepstakes. I didn't even have to buy a magazine. Just mailed back a card. Later, buried in another sweepstakes package that was headed for the trash, I found my check: 'Pay to the order of the bearer of this check, one dollar and 00/100.' Not much, but hey, I'm a winner. I just wish Ed and the prize patrol would have delivered it personally."

Small speaker upstages Mom

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