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Mother Teresa's disciples keep din out


I arrived at Ashland and Collington avenues at exactly the same time the police helicopter did, which gave the moment an old familiar feel. The propellers beat against the gray sky. The helicopter stopped, circled sharply, then stopped again, as if dangling by a string, about 100 feet above the rowhouse rooftops. There were several other people on the street at the moment. I was the only one who looked up.

I'm just a voyeur here. Over the years, I'd been in this East Baltimore neighborhood to cover homicides -- teen-age boys caught up in a drug war, an old woman who'd been murdered during a rowhouse burglary -- and for a few other stories far less disturbing. But it's not where I live. Where I live, people still look up when they hear the police helicopter.

At 9 a.m. yesterday, a surprisingly strong wind stirred the trash along Collington, near the old and glorious St. Wenceslaus Roman Catholic Church. Big trucks bounced along Ashland Avenue. A dog barked. The sound of the helicopter was almost deafening.

Then the little sister, a disciple of Mother Teresa's in a white sari with blue stripes, opened the heavy wooden doors of the old convent next to St. Wenceslaus, and I stepped in out of the noise. This is the mission established five years ago to bring some comfort to the poor and the sick. Mother Teresa came here in 1992 and again in 1996. Her missionaries provide a hospice for poor men with AIDS.

One of them came into the vestibule of the convent and sat with me for a few minutes. He sat beneath a framed color photograph of Mother Teresa with Cardinal William H. Keeler.

The man was tall and thin and walked haltingly. There were no laces in his shoes. He seemed to be about 50 years old and a had a gentle, almost fragile way about him. He spoke in a gravelly whisper, coughing and clearing his throat several times. He told me he'd been diagnosed with the AIDS virus 10 years ago; his condition had worsened during the past two.

The man had spent the past few nights in the hospice.

"You like it here?" I asked.

"It's a home," he said. "It's good. No television. It's quiet."

He said that word -- "quiet" -- as if it were the most important amenity of the hospice, as if it were the most peaceful place he had known in a long, hard time.

Now the little sister in the sari handed the man a white bundle. "Gotta catch the bus to University" [of Maryland Medical Center], he said. He opened the door and stepped lamely through it. You could hear the old familiar roar of the city again.

Baltimore, not Dallas

Pat and Don Burke of Rochester, N.Y., wanted to work a pro football game into their French guests' itinerary. And a 325-mile detour to Baltimore on Sunday made it possible.

The Burkes' guest, Eric Toupry, is an avid football fan who watches televised National Football League games at his home near Paris. (Now there's something that should please the French cultural ministry!) Toupry mentioned seeing the Cowboys, but the Burkes explained that Dallas was a little too far to drive. A trip from Rochester to Orchard Park, N.Y., for a Buffalo Bills game made a lot more sense.

But the Bills were on the road.

The Jets were sold out (against the Bills) at the Meadowlands.

The Eagles were sold out in Philadelphia.

The Giants were playing at Jacksonville.

But Pat Burke managed to find four tickets for the Ravens against the Bengals and drove her guests to Baltimore.

"Baltimore was as far south as I was going," Burke said. "Even though Eric wanted me to try Dallas."

Toupry and his companion, Estelle Pointeaux, declared their seats in the lower stands on the 20-yard line great and cheered the Ravens to victory, though not with the same amount of animation or enthusiasm exhibited by the hometowners.

Seeing the thing live was much better than by television, les Francaises added, particularly when it came to crowd-watching. Said Pointeaux: "I understand the game a little, but the people not at all."

Milk cameo

Anybody out there happen to notice milk from one of Baltimore's oldest dairies in one of the summer's hottest movies? Sharp-eyed TJI reader Ed Zamarin did. He spotted the Green Spring Dairy label throughout Harrison Ford's presidential refrigerator aboard "Air Force One." Noticing such a detail in an action film that features the president battling Russian terrorists who've hijacked his plane might seem impossible, but the Green Spring label is instantly recognizable to longtime Baltimoreans. Zamarin's eye went right to it. "There's a lot of screen time given to the plane's storage and provisions areas, down below," Ed says. "The president is in front of the fridge a lot, battling the bad guys. The fridge is loaded with Green Spring products and GSD gets a lot of screen time as a result. I think Budweiser does too, but seeing national brands in movies is typical."

Green Spring, which merged with Cloverland a couple of years ago, didn't pay a dime to have its product show up in a movie that, to date, has grossed $154 million worldwide. More than two years ago, producers of the film asked to use Green Spring products because the dairy supplies the food service at all airports in the Washington, D.C., area. Bonnie Schaefer, executive secretary, shipped some cartons to California and that was the last she heard of it -- till this summer.

Is Green Spring in the fridge on the real Air Force One?

A certain reporter we know promises to snoop around the presidential pantry and get back to us.

Pub Date: 9/10/97

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