Does the thought of owning a franchise ever slip into mind? Nothing greedy and powerful, like possessing a professional football team, but merely the rights for something ordinary, something commonplace, something you see every day around Baltimore?
Say, for example, if I only had a nickel for every. . .
* Gallon of the shades of Arizona White and Shell White that Duron Paint sells. Is there a house from Sparks to Solomon's Island that doesn't have at least one room covered in these colors?
* The X-Men comic books (Marvel) bought by 11-year-olds at ABC Comics in Overlea. These pulp mags sell out every week.
* The tomato aspic served at the Woman's Industrial Exchange at Charles and Pleasant streets. Usually accompanied by chicken salad.
* Upmann or Macanudo cigars -- a fuming Baltimorean favorite.
* Chowder bowl haircuts. Popular all over the Baltimore County private-school belt.
* Video tapes of director Pasolini's "Canterbury Tales" or Preston Sturges' "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek" at the Video Americain on Cold Spring Lane. These choices say lots about taste in the north Baltimore world Anne Tyler writes about. And that people still like Eddie Bracken, Betty Hutton and Brian Donlevy.
* Coco Crimson nail-polish color sold at Field's Pharmacy in Pikesville. Clerks also have trouble keeping Elysium and Il Bacio perfume on the counter as well.
* Full-length, black leather coats. The Ritchie Highway Value City sells out of them all the time.
* Chocolate-topped cookies at Henry & Jeff's delicatessen on Charles Street. Crab cakes sell well, too. (Wouldn't you expect that?) But the chocolate-dipped cookies consistently disappear every day.
* Metal chain license-plate frames. They come in stainless steel or gold tone. Both very popular.
* Blue blazers made by Jos. A. Banks. Is there any way to count how many Baltimore closets hold one? No. Ditto a Joe Banks' tie. They are everywhere.
* Lamp-shades with dogwood blossoms or tiger lilies sold at the Wilson Electric Co. in Towson. It may be old-fashioned lamp-wear, but Baltimore housekeepers remain blissfully unaware of and unconcerned about trends.
* Athletic shoes from Charley Rudo's. Stand on Metro's Mondawmin station platform. It seems like every subway passenger is carrying a shopping bag named Rudo.
* A chilled manhattan at the Valley Inn on Falls Road. This is the cocktail that most people have forgotten about. No so, there.
* The burgundy Chevy Astro van made at Broening Highway. Popular all over Highlandtown, Essex and Dundalk, this car fits the bill for made in U.S.A. and made in Baltimore. The solid union label does not hurt sales, either.
* Volvos in north Baltimore (Homeland, Ruxton, Guilford, Roland Park). It is the official car. Must have multiple decals on the back window tracing the educational careers of children from grammar school to college. No exceptions to the decal rule if it's a Volvo wagon. The silvery green tone is preferred.
* Joint compound. Why is it that every third customer at a Baltimore hardware store is buying a huge bucket of this stuff? Do people serve it as dips and on baked potatoes?
* Semi-waterproof rain coats from 1972 that Maryland Institute College of Art students wear. The more the garments look like galvanized metal, the more the collegiate status.
* Plastic Halloween tombstones in front yards. Remember when all you needed for Oct. 31 was a couple bags of cheap candy? Now you have to outfit your house to resemble 1313 Mockingbird Lane.
* Potthast Brothers furniture. These German cabinetmakers had a showroom in the 900 block of N. Charles Street from World War I until the 1970s. Today, the Potthast-made dining room sets are highly collected and bragged about even more. That's a testament to the craftsmen who made these tables and sideboards.
* Asian food in Waverly. A cloud of stir-fry vapors permanently hangs over 33rd and Greenmount.
* Old Bay seasoning. Used to be used on hard crabs, but now it's working its way into salads, dressing, potato chips and meat. The next stop is desserts.