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Doleful TV news darkens the glow from a lovely day


Friends came for a spring visit. They wanted to see Baltimore in bloom, and a bit of Maryland countryside, too. So we drove around a lot -- from Hereford to Annapolis, from White Marsh to the Eastern Shore.

We saw a lot of beautiful and interesting things over three days, and each day ended with the 11 o'clock news. The news was ugly -- maybe even uglier than usual. And though it might have served to provide my guests with a "complete picture" of life in the Land of Pleasant Living, it also made everyone feel weird, as if a few minutes of TV canceled out all the good feelings about the day about to end.

Is such a thing possible?

I guess it depends on where you stand in the personality spectrum between cynic and Pollyanna. Depends on your emotional defenses, too.

Some people take the sum of all good things, subtract the sum of all bad things, and end up feeling intellectually and spiritually neutralized, or numb.

Others can't deal with anything depressing, so they tune out -- even as they tune in -- the news.

Others just avoid bad news altogether. "Kill Your Television" was the bumper sticker on a car spotted in Baltimore last week.

I saw it as I conducted my tour.

First, we went to Camden Yards. The out-of-towners loved it, thought the new ballpark grand. They thought downtown Baltimore looked pretty good, too. They were amused by the Bromo Seltzer tower.

We drove to the pretty city of Annapolis, a zip trip on 97. "Great road," one of my chums declared.

We had lunch at Chick & Ruth's. One of our companions ordered the luncheon special -- Chick's meatloaf with cole slaw, french fries and gravy for $4.95. This was declared a great deal, partly because my friend had never had gravy on fries -- said to be

TC distinctly Maryland culinary trick.

We drove back to Baltimore. The sun came out, and I drove through Guilford, figuring the tulips of Sherwood Gardens were in bloom. Our friends from out of state were awed by the Guilford houses, not to mention the baronial landscaping. The gardens were splendid, as usual, and people were out, sitting under trees, strolling through lush grass. Two women bowed over cameras on tripods, taking close-ups of flowers.

On certain days, certain times of the year, in certain neighborhoods, Baltimore looks absolutely stunning.

That night we had crab cakes, made with Crisfield lump. I didn't dare mention how much the crab meat cost, or the forecasts for record prices by Memorial Day. (Would you believe $100 a bushel?)

A few hours after dinner came the local news:

Police investigate death of man accidentally shot by state trooper; grand jury probes death of teen-age boy shot by city cop; stabbing suspect killed by cop; Baltimore County judge criticized for giving light sentence to man convicted of second-degree rape; report says more than 21,000 jobs lost in Maryland last year. Orioles lose to White Sox.

Next day, in the sunshine, we drove through Hereford and Upperco, stopped for a big family-style lunch at Friendly Farm. Flowers were in bloom everywhere. Canada geese adorned the edges of farm ponds. We went through horse country, Hunt Valley and Monkton, over to My Lady's Manor.

"Gorgeous," said one of my tourist-friends.

"Beautiful," said another.

"Can we go to Ikea now?" asked one more.

At Ikea, the toddler in our entourage needed a diaper change, but his parents were not packing one. Inside Ikea, however, there was a child-changing station, complete with wipes and diapers in an assortment of sizes -- offered at no charge.

"Incredible," said one of the visitors.

That night, our weary friends turned to the TV once again.

Jay Bias murder convictions reversed; rape reported at suburban high school; funeral held for five children killed in rowhouse fire; mother of defendant decries guilty verdict in Basu murder case.

"What's the Basu murder case?" one of my guests asked, and then I had to explain.

More news: Cop indicted in shooting of teen; man shot by cop in Howard County; high school teacher admits having sex with students, goes on "Geraldo!"

Good night, everybody. Pleasant dreams.

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