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Can your happy place be found in Charm City?

May 12, 2010|By TIM ROWLAND

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The ash cloud that has been hovering over my brain for the past couple of weeks and preventing international flights of thought from landing thereon, was almost blown out to space when I saw this headline in the Baltimore Sun:

"Find your happy place in Baltimore."

And the subhead: "Smile-themed marketing campaign to be launched."

Tom Riford, call your service.

How to describe this tourism marketing campaign? I'm not sure I can. The Sun puts it this way:

"Find Your Happy Place in Baltimore" is the slogan of a $500,000 marketing campaign that the city's tourism agency, Visit Baltimore, is launching this month. It's intended to play off the recessionary blues, with one early Web spot asking, "Has the economy got you in a slump?"

That should work. I know that nothing gives me more of a belly laugh than reflecting on the economic slump, which has wiped out about two-thirds of my net worth.

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So we go to Baltimore, where we can find our "happy place." Fair enough, except that some wag said he couldn't tell whether finding your happy place was a tourism promotion or a pain-management program.

Point of order: Is this "happy place" actually somewhere IN Baltimore, or is it somewhere in and/or on us and we are supposed to discover it while VISITING Baltimore? The former? OK, got it. Now on with our show.

And some show it is. The campaign is to begin today and, according to the Sun, "As part of the unveiling, the agency will seek 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. If the record is achieved, Visit Baltimore plans to release 19 dozen butterflies into the air."

Whoa. Are we sure that Baltimore's "Happy Place" is legal? Sounds a bit drug-induced to me.

The "world's largest human smiley face" I get it. Um, sort of. But the release of the 19 dozen butterflies? Like, who's in charge of the tourism department, James Redfield?

I suppose the 19 could be symbolic of Johnny Unitas -- but 19 dozen? You just hope they don't find their way into the engine of a passing jet. Or worse, that Baltimore fails to set the record, so the butterflies have to stay in captivity. Sixty-thousand years from now, archaeologists will be wondering what we were doing with 400,000 cocoons in a warehouse in Dundalk.

One print ad for the campaign says "No matter what makes you happy, you'll find it in Baltimore ... Only Baltimore has this many unexpected things to see and do all in one place."

Key word, "unexpected." At least from my experience. You cross into the wrong neighborhood and you're likely to take a cap right in your happy place.

I don't know anything about promotions, so the City of Baltimore should not worry about this, but "happy place" has always sounded kind of creepy to me. I had a friend in second grade who had a "happy place." It was under his desk with 15 of his imaginary friends. He would come out for math tests.

Of course, Baltimore is indeed a wonderful city and we are encouraged to learn more at bmorehappy.com. I went to the site and tried to get in, apparently without filling in the requisite information on an information form.

I got this note that said: "Error: Oops, it appears you left a field blank in the form on the previous screen. Please press the back button in your browser and try again."

Oh, Baltimore, that doesn't sound very happy to me.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or via e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com">timr@herald-mail.com. Tune in to the Rowland Rant video under opinion@herald-mail.com">opinion@herald-mail.com, on antpod.com or on Antietam Cable's WCL-TV Channel 30 evenings at 6:30. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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