July in the city is a time when languor sets in


The streets grow far less crowded, even a little deserted. The telephone doesn't ring as much. The Baltimore vacation recess is in full flower.

It seems like everybody is away, not around, gone. Your family and friends are trying to escape bed sheets that feel like seaweed. Or they are attempting to avoid the humid conditions that make you feel like you are about grow gills.

The vacation interval isn't really too bad if you are stuck in Baltimore. The slackened pace is welcome. There are so many fewer people you have to contend with.

There is appreciably less rush-hour auto traffic on city streets during the vacation pause. How do I know this? My bedroom window faces St. Paul Street and there is just less noise in the morning. This situation would be reversed, however, if I had a house facing I-95 near White Marsh.

You experience the vacation evacuation on Mass Transit Administration buses. All of a sudden, there are extra empty seats. And the people who should be in their regular spots are not there. They've dropped out for two weeks with pay.

August creeps in a week from tomorrow. The switch to the eighth month sends out a gentle little signal.

If you are going to take a vacation, better do it soon. The days are growing a little shorter. It won't be too long before it's downright shadowy by 8 o'clock in the evening.

Soon we'll be soaked by that inevitable week of August rain that spells the end of the high summer season and all its tortured peaks of damnable weather. (I pity the hapless vacationers whose weekly rental coincides with our East Coast monsoon.)

And before it seems proper, there will be back-to-school ads in the papers. But this is still a few weeks away. Even summer school is letting out for the July time out.

The vacation interval includes some noises all its own. Could there be a proper Baltimore late July without the grind of the motor on a snowball ice crusher? And just the other night I heard that first loud nocturnal hum of a garden insect.

And though it's getting to be rare, there is the an especially evocative July sound -- the jingle of the bells as an a-rab and his pony work a street.

This period of weary languor also brings its own local foods. These are the days of tomato, salt and pepper sandwiches, huge soft crabs and peach cakes from an old-fashioned bakery.

Nature also provides other reminders of the summer breather. For months now I've been treating my back lawn with the reverence reserved for a rare plant that will grow only in the National Aquarium's rain forest.

Well, the joke was on me. I watered carefully. I set the lawn mower on the proper level so as not to crewcut the blades of grass. I used expensive fertilizers.

Now it's the end of July and that agonized patch looks like an emery board.

It's also hard not to day dream about summer vacations of years ago, happy time spent outside of Baltimore.

I grow especially nostalgic for these passages of time when I'm grounded in Baltimore and there happens to be a perfect, low-humidity weather day.

I want to be anywhere but home when this golden summer mood strikes.

The hush that has settled over Baltimore these days kindles feelings for a place away, removed from asphalt, the drone of air conditioners and smoky cookouts on splintery decks.

The smell of lighter fluid-doused charcoal will never be a substitute for mountain air, salt water or a farm garden ringed with black-eyed susans.

It is hard not to think of those summer days along the side of Route 50, somewhere east of the Bay Bridge, when my uncle halted his 1955 Chevvy and said, "Everybody out for lunch."

The old Thermos jug full of lemonade, the fried chicken cooked at home and wrapped in wax paper and cream cheese and

date-nut bread sandwiches materialized from the trunk by the hamperload.

So what if this formerly sacred roadside spot is now an outlet mall?

The days are still long and lazy and just about perfect for thinking about the perfect beach chair.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad