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Cable TV has 'plahnted' new life in my life

March 23, 1997

I know I should never have gotten cable. Life was peaceful before. I felt free to roam the apartment unburdered by extraneous noise and demands for my time and attention, except for the cats, of course.

(I admit that while I was without cable, and therefore TV, I did occasionally miss the Bud commercials, but I figured that was a small price to pay for solitude.)

Before cable, the only demands on me where those I placed on myself. The only noise I heard was what I made myself ... well, there was the roar of boom boxes in the alley, and cats meowing for Kluckers and other such distractions, but they were familiar.

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I was at peace.

Cable TV changed all that. Now I'm chained to the likes of Penelope Hobhouse.

Who's Hobhouse, you ask? FOR SHAME! Anyone who's anyone knows she is the creme de la creme of gourmet gardeners - the pencil-nosed Brit who hobnobs with the world's finest flower aficionados.

She's got a stiff upper lip. She's unflappable, commanding and incredibly calm, even in the face of fireblight infestations.

She's the straight-backed perennial perfectionist on HGTV.

What's HGTV? FOR SHAME!! Anyone who's anyone knows it's the Home and Garden channel.

As far as I'm concerned, HGTV is the world's only TV channel. Of course there are some people - such as NASCAR fans - who disagree. But what do they know? I mean, these people spend their weekend afternoons watching cars go `round and `round. `Round and `round. `Round and `round...

But where was I before I started talking in circles? Oh, HGTV. Well, first there are Hobhouse's unequalled guided garden tours.

She's absolutely captivating. I learned that the first night I watched her show. She was taking in a British garden.

As she walked with the master gardener there, she pointed to a white flower, stepped back and gasped. "How absolutely adorable," she said, without so much as a hint of a smile. (Hobhouse never smiles.) "And whatis this plahnt's culture?" she asked, raising one rigid eyebrow.

"It's obviously Irish," I said. (This is one of the dangers of watching TV when you live alone. The fine line between between reality and fantasy dissolves and all of a sudden you think you're in the garden with a Hobhouse.)

All that aside, from Hobhouse I've learned many things, among them how to raise a ranunculae. Exciting, isn't it?

But gardening isn't all you learn when you watch HGTV.

There are shows for the do-it-yourselfer and the hobbyist. There are shows that offer you handy-dandy money-saving home decorating tips.

The other day I learned you can use toilet ballcocks to make your drapes poof out at the sides. Just drape the drapes, and plop in one or two. Easy and cheap.

The finished product is decorative, and a useful conversation piece. For example, if your party starts to drag, you can always take your drapes apart and show your guests your ballcocks.

Got 50-year-old oil on your garage floor? Want to clean it up? You can use...Coke, no less. Just pour it on, let it carbonate, and wipe it up.

Yup, I learned that on HGTV.

One night I actually found myself sitting on the couch (yeah, I got one of those when I got cable). I found myself just sitting there eating pistachios. Hobhouse walked stiffly out of the picture, and before I knew it I was watching Willard Scott.

I checked to make sure one of the cats hadn't changed the channels on me (neither one of them likes gardening). Nope. Channel 59 it was.

I tossed another pistachio in my mouth and watched in rapt attention as Scott and a couple of buddies built a putting green in his backyard. Fascinating.

It was almost as interesting as the show on the 73-year-old man who grew a zillion cacti from seed. He pointed to one of his many plants. It was about 2-feet tall. It looked like a cucumber with gout.

"Saguaro," he said. "Just a baby. I started it from seed in 1967. When will it bloom? Oh, about 50 years from now," he said.

I thought maybe I'd try to grow a cactus from scratch, just for the heck of it. The only problem is, I'd have to tear myself away from HGTV long enough to go to the store and buy some seed.

I doubt I'll get around to it.

Terry Talbert is a Herald-Mail staff writer.

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