Hey, let's just enjoy our walk on the mild side

THE BALTIMORE SUN

LET THE skiers and the snowboarders whine as they gaze up at the sky, waiting for the white stuff that feeds their sick habits.

Let the yuppies in their 4-wheel-drive SUVs grumble because they can't go roaring down snowy highways and make the rest of us feel we're driving like 80-year-old nuns.

Let your next-door neighbor who just dropped a grand on a Sears Craftsman 9.0 hp gas snow thrower sulk because his driveway is clear and he can't use his new toy.

Then let the rest of us - the sane, the clear-headed, the practical - celebrate.

Let us lift an adult beverage or two to the great confluence of events that finds us actually enjoying January in Baltimore. (Say, there's a sentence you won't read too many times.)

But what's not to like?

It's mild here in Crabtown.

There's no snow on the ground.

There's no snow in the immediate forecast.

Why, if you close your eyes and don't think about the murder rate, you could even imagine you're in Boca Raton.

And the beautiful thing is, it's supposed to get even nicer.

All this week, high temperatures are expected to range from the low 50s to nearly 70 degrees.

Which will make us, in effect, the Barbados of the Mid-Atlantic.

In a day or two, we'll be breaking out the walking shorts and Coppertone.

Lovers will stroll arm-in-arm at the sun-splashed Inner Harbor. Outdoor cafes will throw open their shutters and clean off their tables and chairs for business.

A large man named Sidney Ponson might even jump off his Ski-Doo, put down his mai tai, stub out his Macanudo and report for off-season workouts at Camden Yards, where he'll prepare to win 20 games for the 2005 World Champion Baltimore Orioles.

OK, maybe not.

Lost my head there for a sec.

But let us admit that winter has been a breeze - a soft breeze - so far.

Look at all the cold-weather hassles we've avoided.

No boots and mittens to pull on, no slush on the sidewalks to slip on.

No breathless segments kicking off the 11 o'clock news about highway salt trucks standing by, ready to mobilize like winterized Panzer divisions the moment the first flakes fall from the sky.

No frenzied blabbering from the local TV weather people - excluding the great Tom Tasselmyer, who, it goes without saying, does not blabber - about another horrible blizzard sweeping down from Canada and being monitored by Doppler radar, or Insta-Weather Storm-Tracker, or whatever.

(Note: Long-time readers know of my family's allegiance to the great Tasselmyer, WBAL's crack chief meteorologist, who has helped us survive many winter storms - even predating The Sun's association with the station.

(These readers also know my wife and I have gone so far as to build a small devotional area to Tom off the family room, complete with velvet kneelers, votive candles and a poster of Tom gesturing toward the 5-Day Forecast Chart.

(Unfortunately, the Tom Tasselmyer Room is closed for the winter, due to the installation of a new Foosball table and Ab-Roller. But we plan to reopen it in the spring. Watch this space for updates.)

OK, fine, I know what you're thinking now.

You're thinking: Whoa, slow down, big fella.

A little premature to be gloating about a mild winter, isn't it?

After all, it's only the second week of January. There's plenty of bad weather coming down the pike.

Killer snowstorms. Howling, utility-pole-snapping winds. Sleet so heavy it'll dent the side of your head. Just wait. We'll all be stampeding to the supermarkets for bread, milk and toilet paper any day now.

Maybe.

But that doesn't mean we can't live for today, Mr. or Ms. Killjoy.

It doesn't mean we can't enjoy a little balmy weather before Old Man Winter goes off his meds and starts shrieking at us again.

So take advantage of it while you can, people.

Leave the wool scarf at home this week.

Throw that heavy winter parka - the one you always say makes you look so fat - in the trunk of your car and roll up your shirt-sleeves.

Clear off the back deck. Pull out the chaise longue.

Light the tiki-torches.

It's January in Baltimore, hon.

They'll be opening the sno-ball stands any day now.

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