Sunday, July 15, 2018


My teen daughter and I were driving home on Little Patuxent Parkway yesterday after the dance party at the Chrysalis. As we passed the site of the former Copeland’s Restaurant, she mentioned that she wished they would do something with that space.

“What do you think they should do with it?”

She had two thoughts. One was a restaurant with a creepy, haunted New Orleans vibe. But she reckoned that would only be popular around Halloween. The other was some kind of retro restaurant where you could eat dinner and watch old movies. It was important to to her that the old building be significant to the rebirth of the place.

As for me, I have always assumed that the site would be razed and new owners would start from scratch. Unless someone wants to do a brand new version of Copeland’s I think that the present architecture is too confining for other restaurant “concepts”.

We’ve had such a rush of new restaurant openings recently that I can hardly imagine that we need another one. But if I were to choose something to put in the old Copeland’s space it would be something that would replace the old Tomato Palace. The new Lupa may be Italian food at the Lakefront but it is not the Tomato Palace, nor does it want to be. It is far more sophisticated and upscale.

How lovely it would be to have a restaurant where you could take your entire family for a birthday dinner and you wouldn’t go bankrupt? A place that could feel more celebratory and personal than a chain like Bob Evans? With all the new restaurants going in around town, I haven’t yet seen one like this.

Of course, correct me if I’m wrong.

What would you like to see in the old Copeland’s space? Post your comments here:

Saturday, July 14, 2018

A Maryland Morning

I’ve got a gig at the Chrysalis to prepare for, so I’m sending you over to Mike Harley’s blog this morning for his take on all things Maryland.

A Weekend and a Lifetime in Maryland

What do you love best about Maryland?

Friday, July 13, 2018

Catastrophe al Fresco

Yesterday morning the air was pleasant and cool. I decided to go outside with my breakfast and summer reading and enjoy the weather out on our back patio. As I planted myself in my favorite chair  the canvas fabric suddenly gave way and—boom!—I was on the cold stone patio floor.

Well, my bottom was on the floor. The rest of my body was entangled in the chair. I was covered in rice crispies and blackberries, and I could barely move. I squirmed and wriggled a bit but it was soon apparent that I was stuck. Seriously stuck.

Slowly I found a way to snake one arm out the side and place my cereal bowl and book on a side table. It took another few minutes to figure out which pocket my phone was in and then to actually extract it. I was pretty well hemmed in on all sides. I texted my teenaged daughter who was in the house. She came immediately,

Let me say now that I completely forgive her for her initial reaction, which was laughter, followed by a hasty apology. I’m sure I did look pretty hilarious. She tried to pull me up and out but I was wedged in. So we texted big sister who lives only a few minutes away and soon I had both daughters trying to pull me out and I felt like Winnie the Pooh in Rabbit’s doorway.

It occurred to me that what I should be striving for in old age is the upper body strength to be able to push out of a collapsed lawn chair. If there is an exercise regimen for that, I need to get to work. Now. Visions of having to call the fire department ran through my head.

Finally I suggested that they turn the entire contraption on its side so I could crawl out with the help of a little gravity. It worked. I wrestled myself free from my temporary prison and we all went inside and had coffee and a chat. I had lost nothing but my dignity and any desire to sit outside and eat my breakfast.

Yes, I do have a picture of what this looked like and no, I am not going to share it because we all know that there are some unscrupulous folks in town who enjoy doctoring photographs and that’s not an invitation I want to provide to anyone. You may assume that my “Oh, Hell” expression in this photograph is formidable. You would also be correct in guessing that the first person outside the family that I notified about this calamity was fellow-blogger Mickey Gomez.

If there’s any greater lesson here it is probably that I am so grateful to have two daughters to come to my rescue and that you shouldn’t leave chairs like that out through all four seasons and expect them to stay intact. Also, I sincerely hope it is the only time I will ever need to message anyone and say,

“Help! I have fallen and I can’t get up.”

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Getting Salty in Columbia

Big news, HoCo:

(From an article in Baltimore Business Journal, “Utz leases Columbia warehouse space
 to distribute its salty snacks locally,” by Melody Simmons.)

When I shared this news on social media yesterday it was met with great enthusiasm. So I guess I’m not the only local who is a fan of Utz products. I discovered some time ago that they use substantially less salt than Lay’s, and I prefer that. And I want my family to eat less salt as well.

To be clear, Utz will not be making their products here. This is simply a warehouse for distribution. So, despite the lovely thoughts in my imagination of factory tours and free samples, you still have to go to PA for that

The aforementioned warehouse is on McGaw, which I always mix up with Berger Road. Ah, yes. McGaw is the one that runs by Wegman’s and the restaurant park with Jason’s Deli. (Berger is the site of the now-defunct Daedalus books.)  You would be driving on McGaw away from Snowden River Parkway, through the intersection at Dobbin, all the way to the stub end which is called McGaw Court. That’s where the mother lode of chips will be found.

Fun fact: the significant other of Columbia native “Angie Rockstar” sent her a care package with Utz products while she is appearing on the 20th Season of Big Brother. 

The news overall these days has been so unrelentingly awful that I think we all jumped at the chance to get excited about a little bright spot, if you will. There were no insults flung, no name calling, no contentious arguments. One participant would like to see Snyder’s and their many-flavored pretzels to set up house-keeping here, but that opinion did not cause anyone any distress.

It’s surely not good for our health, but it has been my experience that when times get more stressful, people eat more crunchy, salty snacks. Well, let’s commit to drinking more water, at least, instead of sugary sodas or sports drinks. 

That’ll kind of balance it out, right?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Magic Window

I overslept and missed the ”magic window” this morning. Now, the truth is that I am on summer break and there should be no such thing as over-sleeping, but the blog must go on. And the blog seems to like to get out into the world between 6:15 and 7:15. It doesn’t care if I am on vacation. The rest of the world is still getting up with the kids or getting up and off to work (or both) and has no time for this over-sleeping nonsense.

There will be a recount in the District 1 County Council race today. I don’t have much to say about that except that those who support one side cannot be defined solely as “ladder-kickers” while those of the other side cannot be accurately stamped as purely “conspiring with developers.” Having witnessed a few online discussions since primary day, I am not sure we’re making any progress on this one. Sigh.

I got some good feedback on yesterday’s post about a new liquor store project from Tom Quick of Cindy’s in Elkridge. It all seemed to fall within these three categories:

  • We don’t buy liquor so it doesn’t really matter to us.
  • Yes! This is a no-brainer!
  • Adding a liquor store will add competition which will very likely reduce sales for other area stores.

It will be interesting to see who is more motivated to turn out on July 24th to make their opinions heard.

One last thing before I go today. Here is a quote from a longer thread by @pants_so_short on Twitter. I highly recommend the whole thing. But this has stuck in my head and it won’t go away: a follow up question for the ladies: were you taught to be “nice” when disagreeing with men (or anyone for that matter)? can you recall being taught to coddle men with whom you may disagree from an early age?

i ask the follow up bc we socialize boys and girls differently and i don’t think it is healthy for anyone. clearly men and boys benefit from a patriarchal and misogynistic society, but it’s not healthy.

i think if we spent less time teach girls and women to coddle the feelings of boys and men we could develop men who are not inept and women who don’t have to feel guilty about having a voice and power.

Thoughts? Share them here:

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Needs and Wants

Do you shop at Wegman’s in Columbia?

I do. Well, actually, Instacart brings my orders to me most of the time these days.

Do you purchase wine, beer, or spirits on a regular or semi-regular basis?

I don’t.  I occasionally get a drink when I’m at a party or in a restaurant. But that’s about it.

But enough about me, what about you?

Would you like to be able to have the convenience of doing your grocery shopping at Wegman’s and then being able to pop in a nearby liquor store as a part of your trip? Do you think that our community overall supports being able to take advantage of such an opportunity?

If you have followed the story of Wegman’s and a possible liquor store on their second floor, you know it goes back to the opening of the store. The folks at Wegman’s thought that having an accompanying liquor store would be a welcome service for their customers. But, between the law in the state of Maryland, a perfectly dreadful management choice, plus well-funded opposition from area liquor stores, the first go-round was a disaster. The license was denied with the pronouncement that such a store was “not necessary for the accommodation of the public.”

A lot has changed since then. Tom Quick of Cindy’s Spirits in Elkridge took an interest in the project. As a local and proven liquor store owner he has put in quite some time preparing a plan that meets the legal requirements. On July 24th, at 6:30 pm, in the George Howard Building, the Liquor Board will meet to hear testimony, examine the plan, and move forward in making a decision.

The new plan completely separates the Wegman’s space from the liquor store space, helping to meet the legal requirement for the establishments to be two separate and independent entities. A different manager/operator (Quick) with local roots and plenty of applicable experience solves the problem of competent and believable management. But, that well-funded opposition group still remains. They are wary of competition.

So what do you think? Should the loudest voice at the table on July 24th be that of paid advocates? Or should the voices of community members/consumers have at least an equal share of the conversation?

Do you see this new store as filling a need for consumers? If you do, you’ll have to show up on July 24th to make your opinions known to the Liquor Board. This is definitely a “vote with your feet” event. No phoning it in. If you see this as an issue of offering consumer choice, then you will need to be a consumer that chooses it. Not later, if they open, but now, so they can get approval.

It may be that the community will not turn out in support. Time will tell. If they don’t it will be easy for the powers that be to repeat that this venture is “not necessary for the accommodation of the public.”

Even though I don’t have any particular use for a liquor store near Wegman’s I feel compelled to get the word out so that people can make up their own minds. (Tell your friends.)

For a bit more information, here’s a short slide show (made by me) about the plan for Loft Wine & Spirits:

Monday, July 9, 2018

Not Quite

I’m working on a longer piece. It’s not ready yet. Boy, do I ever hate that feeling on a Monday morning.

Yesterday I took my daughter out for her first behind the wheel driving lesson. I was very grateful for the peace and quiet of the Oakland Mills Middle School parking lot. It would have been perfect except for the rather large man buzzing by on a really tiny motorcycle. What’s up with that?

Also yesterday: was told off on two separate occasions by two different men for having “motives” or an “agenda” when, in fact, they did not know me or my thoughts from a hole in the ground. Twice in one day seems excessive, but perhaps I wish too much from conversations on Facebook.

Close races seem to abound this year, and not just in Howard County. If you’d like to learn more about John Olszewski, who holds a nine vote lead in the Baltimore County Executive Race, you can listen to his interview on the Elevate Maryland podcast.

Community blogger and expert on growing and eating local AnnieRie is back with a new post after several months away. I’m looking forward to more.

Bill Woodcock of The 53 Blog wrote an interesting and balanced piece about the political primary which you can read here, although I lament the fact the Councilwoman (future State Delegate) Jen Terrasa didn’t warrant a mention. Sigh.

Noted local architect and all-around hometown hero Bob Moon had a Birthday over the weekend. He certainly got the best in Columbia weather! I know that his family were, like me, big fans of the now-defunct Tomato Palace at the Lakefront. I hope they found a new perfect spot to celebrate.

Facebook memories reminded me that on this date in 2011 I suggested this for the park that was being planned in Symphony Woods: a musical playground. I still want this! And I’m sure I could have it if I could fund it myself and if it weren’t perceived to be a noise hazard by the folks who, you know, live nearby and don’t like music.

Well, if I win the lottery and install a musical playground I’ll have the money to buy them all headphones too, right?

Have a great Monday doing what you love and look for a more focused piece tomorrow.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Magical Memories

I went to the Chrysalis Kids concert yesterday. It was a joint venture with Howard County Rec and Parks. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect. The featured musicians were a group out of DC called The Grandsons, Jr. I loved hearing the variety of instruments they used. It’s not every day that children’s performers come equipped with a saxophone. 

The concert was set up using the smaller beta stage, which has really been working beautifully for the children’s performances this summer. There’s still plenty of room on the lawn for the audience, but it gives a much more intimate feel to the presentation. There were snacks and drinks available for kids and adults, plus the Kona Ice truck and face painting. And, for the more active concert goers, the ever-popular Imagination Playground was set up on the other side of the lawn. 

Through the years I’ve heard many fascinating stories about what it was like to grow up as a first-generation Columbian. I wish there were a way to go back in time or have a virtual reality experience of those years. It was clearly a magical time in the history of our community. 

When I go to concerts at the Chrysalis I get a sense of sharing a similar magic with my present-day neighbors and friends. The children who toddle in over the grassy hill and dance at the foot of the rounded steps of the Beta stage will carry these experiences with them all of their lives. This is their Columbia, this is their community.

(Photo credit: Karen Bradley Ehler) 

Columbia summers bring us many glimpses of community: neighborhood swim leagues, Lakefront concerts and fireworks, lawn seats at Merriweather, farmer’s markets, block parties. I’m happy to see Saturday mornings with the kids at the Chrysalis joining our other beloved summer traditions.

While I have you here, take a look at some other ways to build community. Remember, these are the good old days. Of course, much depends on how good we make them.

Saturday, July 7, 2018


Of course the big news of the last twenty four hours is the final count in the District One County Council race. (See more here.) I think that there will very likely be a recount, so I don’t think this is quite over yet.

I do have a few questions in my mind about this outcome.

1) Is there any way to show voter results broken down by gender? I would be interested to see that. Based purely on anecdotal evidence, it seems to me that Mr. Weinstein had more difficulty connecting with women in the electorate. I do not mean that I think that women voted for Ms. Walsh purely because of her gender, but rather than she was more successful in responding to/interacting with women during this campaign cycle. While we are on this train of thought, was the turnout for women higher than that for men?

I’m curious.

2) What would a County Council without any incumbents look like? What happens when you lose one hundred percent of your institutional knowledge? Will that have an impact on how much time is spent adjusting to issues of personality and in playing catch-up when basic knowledge is missing?

We may very well find out.

3) In the case of those who voted “against” Mr. Weinstein, how many were motivated by development/school overcrowding issues, and how many were responding to his vote on CB 9? I don’t think there is any way of finding that out definitively, but I’d love to know.

This isn’t my district and while I have thought a lot about the issues at play here I honestly didn’t ever come to a conclusion on who should be the winner. So feel free to disagree with me, but please don’t suggest I’m obviously on one side or the other. I’m not.

Whoever is found to be the winner has my best wishes for success in office as they represent the people of District One.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Can’t Get No Respect

I admit that this is dated June 28th or thereabouts but it’s still bugging me.

Do you see anything wrong here? Councilwoman Jen Terrasa wins her primary race and she can’t even get her photo heading the newspaper article.


It isn’t as though HoCo Times/Balt Sun doesn't have any photos of Ms. Terrasa on file. They most certainly do, from her years on the Council. So why couldn’t she be the focus here?

The headline suggested by the photo above is more likely:

Outgoing State Delegate Frank Turner reflects on a career of public service.

Or, perhaps:

Retiring State Delegate surveys changes to dynamics in Annapolis

In a less serious vein, one might caption this photo:

Retiring Delegate to political newcomers: Get off my lawn!


“Look! My suit matches the wall color perfectly!”

With all due respect to Delegate Turner, his photo should not appear here at all.

Let’s try this, from Ms. Terrasa’s web site.

The ongoing bias which results in the erasure of women from the news is fairly widespread. It is certainly not just a Howard County thing. Conscious or not, it’s just plain unacceptable. 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Unlikely Opponents

I don’t know exactly when it started, but there’s a war going on in my Twitter feed. It’s not a war of words but a war of advertising dominance.

When I go to Twitter I either see this:

Or this:

Notice what is in the second spot of each. An advert. Or promoted content, if you will. For some reason the Popsicle brand and Allan Kittleman are going at it daily in my Twitter feed. It’s kind of funny. This is a political matchup that Howard County was not expecting.

In this heat, Mr. Kittleman is bound to take a drubbing against such a cool, refreshing opponent.

I do not know how social media advertising works and I do not know why someone, somewhere thinks I am a prime target for Popsicle and Kittleman ads. I am assuming that they are tailored to some category I am presumed to fit into, and that not all of you are seeing this unlikely matchup. You may have noticed equally amusing trends on your own Twitter feed.

So far neither ad has influenced my behavior. I feel a bit sorry that advertising dollars are being wasted on me but that’s all in the game, I suppose.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Doing the Work: HoCo Holler

Coffee in, blog out. That’s how it works most days. Not today. I’ve been up for over an hour and I keep falling asleep sitting up.

What I would like to be bringing  you today is a small, hometown story that you couldn’t find anywhere else. What keeps running through my head is this, from NPR reporter Steve Inskeep:

Preserving this miracle of a country is the work of armies abroad and the rule of law at home. It is also the work of free citizens, supported by the free press. I’m grateful to those who made this country and will do all I can to pass it on. Happy Independence Day. 

I’d like to give a HoCo Holler to the free citizens who bring the Food for Tomorrow initiative to the Longfellow Fourth of July parade here in Howard County. Here’s an article from a while back to give you some background on its beginnings. 

Although others are involved, for me the face of Food for Tomorrow is Dylan Goldberg. If you come to the Longfellow Parade today you will see him doing his annual Independence Day thing, pushing a shopping cart full of food donations over a rather grueling parade route. It is a workout where the intensity level increases every few feet until the end. 

It takes determination and just plain physical stamina to make this happen year after year. It takes combining an intellectual desire to feed hungry neighbors one doesn’t even know with the persistence and grit to do the thing that needs to be done. In the heat. And up that killer hill on the parade route.

Frankly it is kind of amazing that this is something that Mr. Goldberg looks forward to every year. And yet I know for a fact that the Fourth of July is his favorite day of the year. Perhaps that is because he is driven by that special kind of joy that knows that patriotism without works of mercy is hollow. 

From Food for Tomorrow:

Can't wait to see you next Wednesday!
If you are away for the holiday, please consider donating to the Community Action Council of Howard County at Monetary donations go towards providing fresh dairy and meat products to those in need.

If you are going to the Longfellow Parade, here’s what they need:


Preserving this miracle of a country is...the work of free citizens...

Happy Independence Day to you and yours. And a special HoCo Holler to this guy:

(Photo from Food for Tomorrow Facebook page)

Tuesday, July 3, 2018


Columbia does parades on the Fourth of July. Take your pick. There’s the Longfellow Parade, the Allview Parade, the River Hill Parade, and, for the first time this year, the Oakland Mills Parade. Standard appearances include people running for office and their supporters, people in patriotic garb, people throwing candy, and so forth.

I can’t remember where I heard this recently, but it really would be nice to have one big parade through the center of town, down Little Patuxent Parkway in Downtown Columbia. But then we’d have to give up our love of our smaller ‘regional’ parades, and I’m  not sure we’d be able to do that. We’re both fiercely territorial and loyal.

While Fourth of July parades are ostensibly about celebrating Independence Day and are meant to have a national, patriotic feel, our local parades seem very much a celebration of our small and beloved communities. Are we really celebrating the ideals our country was founded upon? Do we really think about it? Or do we just go through the seasonal rituals because we have become accustomed to them?

This year’s national mood is one that includes hostility, fear, despair, and a heightened sense of political tribalism. I wonder if that will have any impact on how many people turn out to watch our parades locally. Are we good enough at compartmentalizing our feelings about such things that we will simply do the things we usually do because that is our tradition! Or will some of us get up tomorrow, read the news, and find no reason to go out and celebrate?

What, if anything, will you celebrate tomorrow?

Monday, July 2, 2018

The Unfamiliar

I had an experience this Spring that I tucked away, waiting for the right moment to take it out again and examine it. I had coffee with BOE Candidate Sabina Taj at a little place on Route 40 called Caffe Bene. I arrived before she did, ordered and went to find a seat. It was relatively crowded, so I had to scan the room several times to find a spot.

Slowly I realized that the place was filled largely with students, with laptops, studying. Whether in groups or alone, they were there to study. They were mostly young women, but not entirely. And, except for me, everyone was Asian.

I had an uncomfortable little tingly feeling. Do I belong here? Is this a space for me? And I thought about how my experiences as a white person have prepared me to assume that I will always be in environments where people who look like me are in the majority. No one ever came out and said this overtly; it just was.

Most of us say we want to live in a diverse, integrated world where everyone is equal. But I wonder how often that really means (for white people) that we can live with a largely unchanged white world in which there is a smattering of representation from groups that are “other.” It’s easy to point fingers at people who are over-the-top racist. But how do we feel in situations where we are in the minority?

Does it feel uncomfortable? Dangerous, even? Do we feel conspicuous?

Then how must it feel for people of color when they are thrust into similar situations? It’s far more likely in our culture for that to happen. And we just expect that, or, we don’t think anything about it. It’s invisible to us. And its invisibility to those of us in the dominant culture perpetuates it.

I remembered this piece from 2016:

Where Do We Stand?

“One woman said, and I'm paraphrasing here, that perception of this issue was so different between blacks and whites because:
Black people have to deal with white people all the time, but it's possible in our culture for white people to be almost completely separate from blacks.
That's segregation. It colors the decisions we make.”

Going into unfamiliar places and situations where I don’t necessarily feel in control has been educational for me. And humbling. I’ve realized that there are so many tangled threads of unknown bias within me. It’s not exactly enjoyable. But I think it is valuable.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Sunday Fun Day

It’s been a while since I’ve found anything on Patch worth linking to. This piece caught my eye this morning.

The Mall in Columbia Introduces Pop-Up Selfie Cube Experience, Kate Bowers (Patch Poster)

I want to draw your attention to the fact that this piece was not written by a paid journalist but rather “contributed by a community member”. Kate Bowers appears to be a public relations professional who has generated plenty of free content for Patch. This does not necessarily compromise this piece. I just wanted to highlight the difference. It’s a big difference.

From the article:

"Our primary focus is to offer our guests new, innovative experiences that they can't get anywhere else in the market," stated Barbara Nicklas, Senior General Manager of The Mall in Columbia. "Selfie Cubes certainly offer an experience unlike any other and we can't wait to watch our guests have fun and get creative with them."

So, what do you think? Would you visit the Mall to try this out? Or, if you were there already, would it enhance your experience?

Since I love the off-beat and fanciful, come on over to Facebook and tell me what fun addition you would like to see at the Mall. Something that would enhance your experience. It doesn’t need to be feasible or even likely. Let’s have some fun.

How about bouncy castles for adults?