The quiet enjoyments of a snowy February week

February 13, 2010|By Jacques Kelly

For the past week or so, I've functioned in a city with no car, with little more to worry about than shoveling a sidewalk and getting to work. My home's 1873 snow-covered roof is holding and not making any disturbing noises.

From the first flakes, it seemed that people were in a cooperative, neighborly mood. At the height of the first storm, I stepped into St. Paul Street and raised my hitchhiker's thumb.

I must have looked vulnerable and worthy of pity. The first driver who came along, a man from Argonne Drive, stopped, opened his door and gave me a lift downtown.

By this, I could tell that a cooperative, neighborly mood was in the works. Another day, a police officer stopped and brought me downtown.

I don't think I saw three moving cars that night as I considered a way home. But there is always the power of positive thinking and a run of luck.

I made my way up the Centre Street hill toward Charles and was fast abandoning hope of finding wheels home on that Saturday night when Baltimore seemed permanently stalled.

Mount Vernon people were out, more than a few in what seemed like little more than sweaters and pajama bottoms, in search of a bag of chips at the 7-Eleven.

And there, in splendid, gorgeous isolation, was an empty Jimmy's Cab, far from its usual home in Baltimore County's Towson. The cab was stopped. Snow always delivers a set of traveling companions. I was soon chattering away with a McCormick executive out on the town.

We shared the vehicle, and I arrived home in less time than it might have taken by bus or walking.

The sticky snow had glued itself to the walls and steeple of Mount Vernon Place Methodist Church as if it were being frosted with marshmallows.

The next morning, about 50 feet of shoveling loomed. The first snow was wetter than the second, and it's the kind of work I like to duck. But the lucky streak that brought the cab along brought a loud doorbell ring.

There stood a volunteer shoveler. OK, he was a bit of a con artist who wanted 70 bucks. (I later learned that $75 seemed to be the going rate for plowing small driveways in the suburbs). I drew the line on his wanting to be fed. We settled on three cans of Yuengling, which he drained and tossed in my rose bed.

The next snow also brought a ring at the door. We settled on $22, all that was left in my wallet.

The storm afforded me two quiet evenings at local restaurants. I am a fan of subdued dining, which is another way of saying I like having the place to myself. This is selfish; but all too often I find myself behind a party of 16, all celebrating a birthday or some other merry occasion. By the time the exhausted kitchen staff looks at my table's order, they will be ready for two weeks in Cape May.

A restaurant doesn't have to be hopping to make my night. A restaurant whose mood resembles an Edward Hopper painting isn't a bad thing.

The snow that began Feb. 5 cut into the normal Friday night crowd at the Prime Rib, where I could hear the piano player hit every note of "Make Someone Happy." The crowd was a bit lighter and the room became more intimate. On a cold, snowy night, I blessed the waiter who kept bringing bowls of mashed potatoes and creamed spinach.

I got through the weekend fortified by that menu's offerings.

The same was true at the old Ambassador dining room in Tuscany- Canterbury.

There was no street parking to be had anywhere in North Baltimore, but the Ambassador offers valet parking. We pulled under the classic porte-cochere, and a fellow came up to take the car. We were soon nestled into that dining room's dreamy 1931 interior. Blazing gas logs didn't hurt.

Over the years, I've toasted brides and mourned the dead in this room. On a cold February night, I put all these thoughts away and just settled into a platter of chicken and apricots. On this cold snowy night, there was but one way to end it: cardamom ice cream.

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