Monday, November 11, 2019

A Cure for Monday

UPDATE: tonight’s show has been canceled. Phooey. - - jam

Friday evening I had the chance to experience Elevate Maryland in their new space and, tonight, you can too. They’ve set up shop in their new digs, 10960 Grantchester Way in Downtown Columbia. It’s in the building directly across from Cured.

The space belongs to Howard Hughes and I expect we will be seeing it used for a variety of public events in the future.

The show ended up being different than I expected due to a last minute emergency on the part of guest Dr. Richard Warren. Howard Hughes’ own Greg Fitchitt stepped in at the last minute and answered questions on Downtown development, affordable housing, equity in our schools, and more. I found his presentation to be relaxed and engaging. (As compared to the last time I saw him speak.) I suspect it’s because  he knew he was among friends and also that the stakes of the event were far lower.  He acquitted himself well. It was a lively and entertaining discussion.

Tonight the show features Montgomery County Council member Will Jawando. From his bio:

...Will has worked with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senator Sherrod Brown, and then-Senator Barack Obama. During the 8-year Obama Administration, Will had the honor of serving as Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, followed by a position as an advisor to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in the U.S. Department of Education.

Since Montgomery County is working on some of the very same issues that Columbia/HoCo is grappling with, I am interested to hear Mr, Jawando’s take on equity in school redistricting, affordable housing, and confronting issues of race as a public servant. Last year I followed along as he live tweeted his experiences in trying to get to work using public transit. I wonder if he will have anything to say on Howard County’s Complete Streets initiative?

Come on out. It’s centrally located. Parking is nearby and free. And you'll get to see a cool new space.

Sunday, November 10, 2019


It was a very long time ago that I saw a promo for the television show The Simpson’s which repelled me. The family was gathered around a Thanksgiving table laden with food. Bart, I think, perhaps, Homer, was saying the grace.

“Dear God, everything that's on this table we put here ourselves, so: thanks for nothing.”

My objection to this was not on religious grounds but rather the complete lack of gratitude for life’s blessings.

I was reminded of this quote as I drove home last night and was listening to a public radio show called Live Wire. The guest was Dina Nayeri, speaking on her experience as an Iranian refugee. She was asked how America has changed since she came here thirty years ago. Ms. Nayeri spoke to the growing anti-refugee climate as follows (and I’m paraphrasing):

The difference is that people have come to believe the blessings and advantages they were born with are something that they innately deserve. 

This week I read an online conversation about how privilege plays into the ability of some parents to take a greater role in the redistricting process than others. The compete denial of privilege by some was rather stunning. The line of thinking went like this:

Anyone could do this if they made it a priority. I just work harder. It’s not my fault that those people don’t care enough.

Howard County is home to so many educated people. I find it both heartbreaking and infuriating that our education did not include the truth about how laws and systems have been made and perpetuated  to protect wealth, rights, and privilege for whites. We do not feel the trip wires which take down non-whites as they do all the things we do to create better lives. They do not exist for us.

Similar or even more concerted efforts than our own are sabotaged by a culture that centers White success and fears a world where that success might be shared with people different than ourselves. We don’t see the sabotage. We don’t navigate those minefields. We continue, year after year, to benefit from a system that allows our striving to have meaning and to bear fruit.

And then we have the gall to say that we deserve it. That we worked for it and it belongs to us.

It is not that we have not worked. It is that our culture allows our work to move us forward. Our good intentions are greeted with admiration and not suspicion. Our ideas carry weight in public meetings and our children are welcome without inquiry or interrogation. We move through the waters of systemic racism and do not even know we are swimming. It’s just us being us. Isn't that the way it is for everyone?

No. No, it isn’t.

And the sooner we make learning these bitter truths a priority, the better our community will be.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Merriweather Memories

Merriweather is running a contest right now and the deadline is soon. No, let me correct that. It looks like Howard Hughes is running the contest, which has a Merriweather theme. From the contest page:

We’re calling all concert goers to share your favorite memories from the Merriweather Post Pavilion. For over 50 years, the world’s finest musicians have performed at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Downtown Columbia.

What was the song that changed your life, or the show where you saw your favorite artist live for the first time? What is the moment that you will never forget?

Share your favorite song lyric and memory of the best show at Merriweather Post Pavilion for a chance to win tickets to the 2020 season!

50 winners will be selected and will receive 2 tickets to a concert of their choice during the 2020 season. Each winner will also have their lyrics engraved on bricks located in the plaza as part of an art installation within the Merriweather District. 

I am tempted to enter but my most precious Merriweather memories don’t fit neatly inside the box.

At a memorial service for beloved local blogger Dennis Lane, his grieving partner and her daughter stood on the stage together, arms around each other, while a song they had chosen for that moment played in the pavilion. It was a moment of shared grief that I will never forget and the music was just as much a part of it as the visuals and words of the event. 

At the 50th Birthday Concert for Columbia my daughter’s school performed “Viva La Vida” by Coldplay. Different facets of their musical performing arts groups were represented: choir, band, guitar ensemble. Dancers joined in as well. The lyrics of the song are rather disheartening but the experience of those young people joining forces to create something bigger than themselves will stay with me forever.

So I suppose I won’t enter the contest. You should, though. How cool would it be to have the lyrics you chose memorialized on a brick around the Azlon art installation in the Merriweather District? Winning Merriweather tickets would be sweet, too.

To be fair, I’ve already got a brick.

And I’ve already got greats seats to some of the best shows in town.

I’m pretty sure I’m already a winner.

Friday, November 8, 2019


Trying to think straight at five am is just madness. At least it certainly seems so of late. Almost every idea that pops into my head is followed by the thought that I should put it off until the weekend when I have had more time. And more sleep.

A few tidbits for your Friday:

The Howard County Schools will begin before Labor Day next year, which is what happens when you let local jurisdictions make their own choices. Home rule—I’m in favor of it.

There’s a going to be a free magic show at Christ Church Episcopal on Monday November 14th at 7 pm. It is free and open to the public. I’ll bet there was a time when churches and magic shows were deemed incompatible, but times change. UPDATE: a helpful reader points out that the date should read November 11th.

There’s a new reporter on the Howard County government beat: Ana Faguy. So that means the clock is ticking until the workload and low pay take their toll and she moves on. Of course I welcome her presence on the local scene and I am grateful for any local coverage at all. But I’m going to try not to get too attached.

Local podcast Elevate Maryland kicks off their 73rd episode tonight in a new home in Downtown Columbia. Featuring Maryland Teacher of the Year Dr. Richard Warren, the program begins at six pm. Learn more here.

As you begin to fill up your December calendar, be sure to check out the offerings from the Inner Arbor Trust. Ice and Fire (actually begins November 30th) will feature: lighted holiday displays,fire pits & fire arts, performances, greetings with characters (the Snow Queen, elves, and more),Santa photos, and ice sculptors.

Best of all, it benefits the Community Action Council and will support other area nonprofits as well.

Have a great Friday and a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, November 7, 2019

If Not Now, When?

One year ago, in my Facebook memories:

Just pure joy for Calvin Ball . My heart is full. Thank you, Howard County.

One of my favorite photographs of myself is a candid that was taken at a party at the Chrysalis. I was deep in conversation with Dr. Ball. This was before he had declared his candidacy for County Executive, but it was widely assumed that he was considering it.

The gist of what I said was that I had complete faith in his ability to to the job itself, but that I wasn’t convinced he should run because of all the hatefulness he would have to endure. I dreaded the possibility of more local racism coming out of the woodwork and of partisan smears whose only goal was to try to cut him down so that he looked small compared to their candidate.

Dr. Ball’s response was to acknowledge that those things would most likely occur, but that he couldn’t make a decision based on avoiding that. To paraphrase, he said that if he believed that the time was right for him to offer his service as County Executive, then he had to be willing to face that. “If not now, when?”  Waiting until the perfect time was not an option. And with that was the suggestion that there would never be a perfect time.

For some, nothing this County Executive does will ever be right because he is not Their Guy. And for others, everything he does will be right because he is Their Guy. The truth of the matter is that Dr. Ball will do good, work hard, make some mistakes, and learn from them. His election was historic. That does not require him to be perfect. Anyone who attempts to hold him to that standard and call anything else a failure is showing their own bias, nothing more.

And now, a year in, everything we both said is true. More local racism has continued to come out of the woodwork. Partisan operatives seize every opportunity to cut him down. Yet it is equally true that Dr. Ball made the choice to continue his public service to Howard County and continues to make that choice every day. There is no perfect time. There is only the choice to do one’s best.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019


Another post from the I Am Cranky files.

Are there any neighborhoods in Columbia/HoCo where the house numbers are clearly visible after dark? I was reminded of this when I was wandering around in Owen Brown looking for a particular address at around six pm yesterday, Also: curse you, oh demon time change of doom. Why is it so dark at six pm?

This is always the time of year when I wonder if humankind was meant to be out of the house at all after dark. The early sunset times make my usually familiar world unfriendly and laced with a sense of foreboding. Stay home and light a candle, I think. Why go out and curse the darkness?

Back to addresses. Are there no laws about house numbers being clearly visible at night? How do emergency vehicles find anybody? I was using GPS but it told me I had arrived when I was still four or five houses away from my destination. And, in a suburban neighborhood without sidewalks, someone wandering around in the dark looks sketchy at best. 

Let’s make house numbers easier to see at night. Or let’s all stay home until Spring.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Wish List

I’m not ready. I’m not ready. I’m not ready.

That being said, what are your recommendations for shopping local during this upcoming holiday season? Where do you go to get the best gifts for family and friends?

Every year I seem to be fighting the urge to sit in my comfy chair and order everything online. And yet I also have nightmares about Amazon becoming the BuynLarge of WALL-E fame. I know I can do better.

Tell me your favorite local businesses for holiday shopping. I’ll gather them together for a future post.