Our reasons to cheer as we welcome new year

January 01, 2002|By Michael Olesker

CHEER UP! Brand-new years may bring brand-new anxieties, but this year's gotta be better than the clunker we left behind. In fact, as we welcome 2002, here's our annual list of Reasons to Go On Living:

Only 10 more months until 34th Street in Hampden lights up the night for Halloween. Only two more weeks until Parris Glendening stirs us senseless with his final State of the State address. (The address is 100 State Circle, actually. The stirring part comes when Glendening vacates the premises.)

The annual Dropping of the Duck in Havre de Grace -- Decoy Capital of the World! -- to bring in the new year. The annual Big Hair contests at Cafe Hon, to hark back to ol' Bawlamer. The annual hoagie-eating contest at Tony D's Giulianova Groceria, on Westminster's Main Street, to celebrate our endless devotion to good-natured gluttony.

The way the sun comes up over the National Aquarium. The way the sun goes down over the Sewage Pumping Station off President Street. The way people don't worry about their Christmas trees in Baltimore. If the needles fall off, big deal -- the city has its famous needle exchange program.

The grand rebirth of the Charles Theatre, where they show movies of such wit and style and charm that even timid suburbanites are flocking there every weekend. If this isn't the spark that sets off new life in the city's midtown area, then Baltimore's real estate geniuses just aren't paying attention.

The way the raw clams are served dockside in Annapolis: big, juicy bivalves with a side order of convivial conversation. The return of movies to the Rotunda -- soon, they tell us, soon.

The baked Alaska at Tio Pepe. The appetizers at Arizona Sports Bar and Grille on Broadway above Fells Point. The sushi at the Orient on York Road in Towson. The homemade pies at Baugher's just past Western Maryland College. The steak Diane at Pazza Luna in Locust Point. The good-time eats at Pizza John's on Back River Neck Road in Essex. The great new year's self-delusion everybody has about dieting in the face of all of this.

Hunky Sauerhoff, forever issuing his love songs of the good life in Pigtown. Earl Byrd's gritty tales in The Afro-American. Nick Filipides presiding over the homey ambience of Jimmy's Restaurant in Fells Point. Catherine Pugh, taking time off from City Council duties to help give birth to the Baltimore Marathon.

Balmy Friday nights under the summer stars, watching outdoor movies in the parking lot in Little Italy. Frosty Saturday afternoons noodling along the shops of Ellicott City's Main Street. Frigid December Sundays watching Ravens games -- from the sanctity of a cozy living room.

Hearing Ethel Ennis embrace a lyric like a long-lost love. Watching Jay Gibbons muscle a pop-up into the left field bleachers at Oriole Park. Feeling the breeze as you jog along the track outside Fort McHenry with sailboats drifting lazily by. Watching Gary Williams perspire through an entire wardrobe.

The rental price of bowling shoes at Patterson Lanes -- still only a buck. The price of a dozen roses at Cross Street Market -- still only $6 or $7. The ease with which anybody can turn off the AM radio talk shows and hear the most remarkable thing: civilized discussion among adults, with informed analysis of all sides of issues on Marc Steiner's midday shows on 88.1 FM.

The throngs that visit Artscape each summer and renew the city's belief in itself. The summer concerts around Lake Kittamaqundi in Columbia, renewing Jim Rouse's belief in the American mix. The hot air balloon floating over the Port Discovery complex -- and the crowds of young people who gather in the square below, thus extending downtown nightlife beyond the Inner Harbor.

Mack Lewis, who gives the brutal sport of boxing his special dignity. Jackie Watts, who gives The Guide her special editorial credo: include everybody. Hasim Rahman, who's a likable guy even if he isn't heavyweight champion anymore. The pickup basketball games across the street from the old streetcar barn on Druid Hill Avenue just below Fulton.

The blossoming of so many Latino establishments in East Baltimore. The way you can find parking at Towson Town Center -- if you don't mind circling until next spring. The rebirth that has already begun on downtown's west side, where the old Stewart's and Hecht's have been reborn as marvelous new apartments.

The sense that the Ravens might yet be a Super Bowl team if they had the right quarterback. Anybody know if Trent Dilfer's available? The happy realization that there's still 105 days until income taxes are due.

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