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Your happy place: Get in on it

A signature event of the “Find Your Happy Place in Baltimore” campaign is the attempt to “set a Guinness World Record by gathering more than 250 members in orange and black ponchos outside the Maryland Science Center in an attempt to create the world's largest human smiley face.”

[A brief pause to permit you to shudder.]

For my part, I would not have picked as a slogan the cant phrase “find your happy place,” already so worn that it is now heard largely in ironic or event sarcastic inflections. And so, it follows that I would not have pocketed half a million dollars for dreaming it up and staging this inane stunt. I wasn’t even aware that the excitement of “Baltimore: Get in on it!” had subsided. That one also, I think, fetched half a million. I went into the wrong trade.

It seems likelier that David Simon’s Homicide and Wire may have embedded in the public mind a more enduring image of the city than any series of advertising agencies’ campaigns can supplant. And it is troubling to imagine, because it raises all manner of unpleasant class issues, what people are going to be lured to the city by the “Happy Place” campaign. (Not that we will be shy about taking their money)

But I take to heart the advice of the ever-revered Warren Gamaliel Harding, “Don’t knock, boost!”

 I am a Baltimorean by choice, not by accident of birth. That choice came about in part because at age eighteen I read H.L. Mencken’s various writings about his beloved city and was intrigued by his claim that Baltimore was a place where a civilized man can live more comfortably than nearly anywhere else.

It still is. I live in a modest house in a neighborhood that has had only one homicide in the past twenty-two years. I’ve eaten Big Bad Wolf’s excellent barbecue and quaffed pints at the Hamilton Tavern. I’ve acted in a musical on a stage constructed in an Episcopal church. My son and I have bought produce at the Waverly farmers’ market. My wife and I have watched War of 1812 re-enactors fire their muskets as the breeze came off the harbor at Fort McHenry on Defenders’ Day. We were a founding family in the cooperative that has grown into the GreenMount School. I borrow books from the Pratt Library and have bought books from the Kelmscott and Ivy bookstores. I’ve dined at the Prime Rib and Dogwood and Woodberry Kitchen. Kathleen and I have attended symphony concerts and plays, gone to films at the Senator, drunk coffee at Donna’s, and strolled through Mount Vernon and Federal Hill and Fells Point. I work for a serious newspaper.*

Yes, it has been a happy place, despite the crime and poverty that nobody needs to gloss over and personal vicissitudes. I expect it to continue to be a happy place beyond the span of any sappy tourism campaign. You could do worse than to get in on it.


*Before you start to complain about The Sun’s currently diminished condition, let me offer some perspective. I learned from the history of the paper’s first hundred and fifty years by the late Harold Williams that Baltimoreans in the 1880s were describing The Sun as “a once-great newspaper.”


Posted by John McIntyre at 10:58 AM | | Comments (11)


I don't think The Sun is dead. But it needs to find a way to make money on the Internet version. That's where everything is going! Everything!

Just to put things into perspective. In the early 90s, there was a boxing match between two of my favorite fighters at the time, Bert Cooper and Michael Moorer. None of the networks covered it. So I had to wait until the 11 o'clock news. None of the stations announced the result. I listened to the radio and read the paper the next morning. None of them had the result. I had to wait a month until the boxing magazines came out and printed that Moorer beat the h-e-double toothpicks out of Cooper, who had probably smoked too much dope to perform.

Today I would have just looked at my Blackberry and probably found the result and a video clip a couple minutes after the fight.

The Sun has to cash in on our need for instant media gratification to thrive in the coming years.

I dunno, John.
Crabcakes Corner already styles itself as "Charm City."
Anything else seems to be harmless. The people who come up with this stuff leave themselves wide-open to be mocked.
Far be it from me to deny myself the opportunity.

The event title sounds like something that would be hosted by Stuart Smaller, the character Al Franken used to play on Saturday Night Live.

I wonder why "Welcome to Baltimore - Duck Mother#%$&@#" never caught on?

I wish they had chosen "Baltimore: get off on it!" That at least is an amusing entendre and would probably have "legs."

Remember "Baltimore: The City That Reads," painted on bus benches everywhere? Someone thought prepending a B to "Reads" would be funny. It works when spoken, but when written is just confusing.

"The City that Breads".

Maybe it was just a graffiti-loving baker.

Bleive, John, bleive!

A couple of suggestions:
"And so, it follows that [ I ] would not have pocketed half a million dollars for dreaming it up and staging this inane stunt."
Additionally, paragraphs.

That is all.


One of my Happy Places begins with your recipe for Empress Chili.

More than likely, the money paid for these "slogans" are kickbacks and payoffs to someone. If the B.S. wants to survive, maybe it should take payoffs for what it publishes. Oh, wait, it already does.

In addition to missing you, personally, McI, I've missed RayRay, LEC and the entire Wordville community. (Tedious Anonymous' nitpicking excepted.)

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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