Monday, May 20, 2024

Maryland Again? How About a Top Ten!


It’s Monday. You may not be feeling too cheery about that. Why don’t we keep going with yesterday’s “all things Maryland theme” today? That was a lot of fun! So, in response to a reader request:

We need a top 10 places to visit in MD blog now after this one.

My top ten would be pretty simple. I’m not, as you know, a Maryland expert but I can tell you my favorite Maryland locations I’ve visited since moving here in 1985. Many of these are tied up with memories and experiences. So my list won’t help you pack you bags for a vacation, alas.

I’m a blogger, not a travel agent. Think of this more as a top ten Maryland memories list.

  1. The Walters Art Gallery,  Baltimore Museum of Industry,  Art Museum sculpture garden
  2. Summer concerts in the Towson Courthouse plaza (come for the jazz, stay for the wild bunnies)
  3. The Meyerhoff Symphony Hall
  4. Sykesville, The Inn at Norwood, shops and restaurants in the main street 
  5. Oregon Ridge (concerts, fireworks, the honey festival, quiet walks in the woods)
  6. A quiet Thanksgiving in St. Michaels
  7. Ella’s Treehouse hotel in Western Maryland 
  8. The Inn at Mitchell House near Chestertown (honeymoon stay)
  9. Noodling around in Annapolis, looking at shops, lunching, etc.
  10. Chrysalis, Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods (a little bit of hometown love.)

To keep your mind off of your Monday, send me your suggestions for Top 10 Places to Visit in Maryland.

Village Green/Town² Comments

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Maryland, My Maryland


I was thinking yesterday about how I’m not so interested in the Preakness. Or Wine in the Woods. I don’t consider myself superior to them in any way; they just don’t speak to me. That got me thinking about how I’m a transplant to Maryland and whether any of the typical Maryland things have found their way into my heart after all these years.

First off, how about some fairs? I don’t have anything against the Howard County Fair or the Maryland State Fair except the HEAT. I have been to both. Will I go again? Probably not. I’m not anticipating that summers will get any cooler.

Artscape is a fun and fascinating Baltimore event but the heat renders it impossible for me.

Howard County Pride is high on my list because it takes place in the Fall. Not too hot! The Flower Mart in Baltimore is an old favorite. I’m glad it’s still a happening thing, and: it’s in the Spring.

How about some Maryland-centric food items?

  • Berger cookies? Nope, too sweet.
  • Otterbein cookies? Yes! Those thin, crispy cut-out coookies are habit-forming.
  • Lemon sticks? Nope. Not a mint fan.
  • Snowballs? Absolutely! I was born for those things. My first child is probably made of snowballs.
  • Maryland crab soup? Tasty!
  • Picking crabs? Nah. Give me a whole lobster with drawn butter and lemon.
  • Old Bay? WHY??? Too salty.
  • Crab cakes. Not for me: too rich, and often too salty.
  • Scrapple? Uhhhh…undecided.
Please don’t run me out of town. I didn’t grow up here and my food tastes were developed elsewhere.

See also: I have no particular fondness for the Maryland state flag, at least, not in the way true locals seem to be enamored of it. I grew up with the state flag of Ohio, which is weird in its own quirky way, but, I don’t think people put it on clothing or assorted merch. At least they didn’t when I lived there.

I’ve been to Ocean City, prefer Rehoboth or Lewes. Ocean City is too peopley for me.

Wow, I’m a complete Maryland failure, aren’t I?

Wait. I love the Orioles and OPACY. That must count for something. I support local journalism and I stay informed about local government and community events. 

I love where I live and I’d stick up for Maryland in a heartbeat. I love being close enough to water that I can easily get to a beach or lake or Harbor views. I visited Western Maryland for the first time last summer and I really enjoyed it. 

Honestly, I love hearing the rest of you go on about how you love all things Maryland. It’s kind of like feeling that everyone in your family loves one another and that most things will eventually turn out all right. It’s a homey feeling.

Go ahead and enjoy Wine in the Woods or the Preakness if you want. Need a sober driver to pick you up? That might be a Maryland thing I could get into.

What’s your favorite Maryland thing?

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Wine, Weird, and Woops!


It’s Saturday. 

It’s that Saturday. 

In Columbia, it’s Wine in the Woods. In Baltimore, it’s the Preakness.

The Banner ran a listing of HoCoLocal things to do this week:

7 Things to Do in Howard County, Jess Nocera, Baltimore Banner

Still looking? Try old reliable Facebook events.

You’ll find a Pickle Ball tournament, a beginner bungee workshop, and a theatrical fundraiser, among other things.

You know I won’t forget to mention the plant sale at Freetown Farm and the market at Clarksville Commons.

UPDATE: today’s rain has prompted the cancellation of today’s Market in Clarksville. 

Many thanks to a long time friend of the blog for suggesting the Gaithersburg Book Festival:

If I’m going to reach outside of HoCo for the Preakness I certainly can include this event in MoCo.

In other local news, Ranazul is getting close to opening at the Hickory Ridge Village Center.

The week in typos: supporters of former Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby are hosting a cookout in “Clarkville, Maryland” and an entity which calls itself the Bitcoin Transformation Community paid a visit to the Howard County Detention Center “in Jesus, Maryland.” (Yes, I have proof.)

In other news, a fascinating conversation ensued on Baltimore Twitter in response the following question: 

Is Columbia, MD a strange place to anyone else or am I weird?

I was surprised to see anyone sticking up for the New American City, but, there definitely were some Columbia-fans in the mix. It seems to me that we’ve missed the boat on local bumper stickers. Surely we need something like this: 

Have a great Saturday. Stay hydrated. Don’t drink and drive. Always choose a designated sober driver.

Stay weird.

Village Green/Town² Comments

Friday, May 17, 2024

F ³: The Graduation Speech

The following is a graduation speech that was not given, that will not be given, that would probably not be acceptable at most Christian institutions. As you probably know, it is a response to a commencement address given by a football player in Kansas. (I have framed it within an assumption of religious beliefs in order to more closely align with the original.)

This is the speech I’d love to see someone brave enough to give. Although, addressing just the men does seem sexist. - - jam


For the young men present today, congratulations on an amazing accomplishment. You should be proud of all that you have achieved to this point in your young lives. I want to speak directly to you briefly because I think it is you, the men, who have had the most diabolical lies told to you. How many of you are sitting here now about to cross this stage and are thinking about all the promotions and titles you are going to get in your career? Some of you may be excited about your marriage and the children you will bring into this world, but I would venture to guess that your heads are filled with dreams of leading successful careers in the world.

All of this is a diabolical lie. All of these dreams are false dreams. God asks of you but one thing, for which you will receive no extra comfort, compensation, nor praise.

We must make the world safer for women who are walking in the woods

If women fear us and do not trust us we must look within ourselves to find the reason. Not only must we prove ourselves trustworthy but we must also dedicate ourselves to bringing along the other men in our lives to live that higher calling. We cannot look the other way. We must reach out and be the way that others can see and hear clearly.

Above all we must listen. For, no matter what path we wish our lives to take, it will be but dust and ashes if we do not choose to listen to women whose presence on Earth is every bit as precious and powerful as our own. 

We must listen and we must allow ourselves to be changed and be willing to experience that transformation because God calls us to the task. It is simple and yet so few choose it. But our broken world cries out for workers to respond to the call.

I see a light dawning in your eyes that you know this may not be enough. You are right.

We must make the world safer for our LGBTQ friends and neighbors as they walk in places that ought to feel familiar and yet feel strange and they do not know who to trust.

We must make the world safer for Black men, women, children and elders who seek justice in a nation that claims to be founded on justice but provides it so rarely to them.

Brothers, it is humbling to realize that the most basic thing we can do to make the world safer is to not do. To not be the cause of harm. Or fear. Or injustice. We must, in the end, lay down our glittering dreams of being at the center of great things.

The diabolical lie is that we are meant to be heroes. The truth is that we, like everyone sitting around you today, and everyone you will ever meet in your life, were made for love.

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, is not pompous,

it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.

It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.*

Love listens, love liberates, love lifts up. Love does not put us in first place but rather beckons us to find our true place, sharing our gifts, and learning from others. I hope that your college years have given you a glimpse of that. If they have, you have learned the greatest lesson of all.

My fellow men, the time has come to put away childish dreams. Take up the mantle of adulthood. Accept with joy the mission that God has given us.


Heard any good graduation speeches lately?

Village Green/Town² Comments

*I Corinthians, 13:4-8

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Throwback Thursday: Lost Sounds


This is the time of year when I really notice its absence. - - jam


Lost Sounds, Village Green/Town², May 7th, 2013

NPR has been doing a series on sounds we miss from the past. These are sounds that don't exist anymore, but that some of us still remember. Yesterday they did a story of the sound of the needle dropping on a phonograph record. One of the contributors focused on the sound as a moment of anticipation to the delights to come. His recollections were like a hymn to the world that record albums opened up to us “back in the day.”

It is amazing to me to hear that sound today because, before the advent of compact discs and digital downloads, we didn't realize how loud it actually was. The hiss, crackles and pops jump out at us now. Then they were a normal part of the listening experience. We tuned them out, I suppose.

This piece brought to mind other sounds which are no more. The over excited static of a transistor radio. The reassuring, repetitive voices at the end of the line when you called the time or the weather. Real school bells that really and truly rang. The sound as you twisted the wind-up key for a special toy. The sound of old metal roller skates on the sidewalk. The grumbling and clanking of an old furnace on a Winter's morning, steam radiators.

Like the sound of the needle on a vinyl record, one sound I never thought about much was the sound of children playing.  It was, more often than not, the steady accompaniment to most of my childhood. But not today.  Although there are children in my neighborhood, I rarely see them outdoors. And the sound of children playing is so rare that we usually stop what we are doing and look outside to see if everything is okay.

Today our lives are filled with the results of product innovation and technological improvements. Life goes on without the hisses, crackles, ticks, thumps and bangs of years gone by.  But what of the children playing? The absence of that sound is as dangerous to the health of the human condition as the loss of bees or the contamination of groundwater.

I can't bring back Chatty Cathy, Vroom Motors, playing 45's on my record player. I don't want or need to relive my own childhood. But I think I want to do what I can to make the world more welcoming for children to play in their own neighborhoods.  I can start right here where I live.


I wrote this post over ten years ago. I’m still thinking about about it. How can we make the world more welcoming for children to play in their own neighborhoods.?

Village Green/Town² Comments

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Changing Hands

Let’s see now…I’ve got a whole pile of business and restaurant stuff here somewhere…

I’m going to lead off with this one because I just saw it this morning. 

The Dish: You Won’t Believe Which Ellicott City Dive Bar Has Opened a Rooftop Speakeasy, Matti Gelman, Baltimore Banner

This one caught me by surprise because I did not know that Ellicott City harbored any dive bars. I have been to the Judge’s Bench exactly once; should I have instinctively known it was a dive bar? My only previous dive bar experience was the Mount Royal Tavern in Baltimore, so, I’m no expert.

Also, my brain read that as “rooftop” meaning open air and an open-air rooftop speakeasy seems counterintuitive. It’s not open to the air but, really, don’t speakeasy establishments need to be downstairs somewhere? Hidden in a basement, even?

By now you probably know that both TGI Fridays and Red Lobster have closed their Columbia locations. The Fridays in the Lark Brown restaurant park was closed in January along with 35 other underperforming locations. The Red Lobster on Snowden River Parkway was a part of a larger system-wide string of closures which - - a Google search tells me - - impacted:

  • More than a dozen
  • Nearly fifty 
  • At least ninety-nine
This story is ongoing, I guess. Actual numbers may vary. Columbia’s location closed over this past weekend.

In business news, the Clark family is getting out of the hardware business and has sold their two Ace Hardware locations to Westlake Ace Hardware who have 160 stores in 12 states. Both stores, in Ellicott City and Columbia, are slated to remain open. The official changeover will take place on June 24th. To my knowledge, that will leave Kendall’s in Clarksville as our last Mom and Pop hardware establishment.

The owners of Mother Natures, Columbia’s only indie bird store, are retiring.  Their store, in Snowden Center, will become a Wild Birds Unlimited franchise. Mother Natures earned a place at the very top of Columbia’s most beloved Mom and Pop stores. I hope the new owners will earn similar high esteem from the local avian aficionados.

Lastly, a long overdue apology. When I wrote about what I thought was to be the demise of the Inn at Peralynna, I was wildly incorrect. It was not the end. It clearly was sold and became the Columbia Inn at Peralynna. 

The Inn is Out, Village Green/Town² December 22, 2020

The auction announcement suggests suitability for assisted living. I’m imagining any chunk of land in this town that has not heretofore been available is going to stir up a variety of potential uses, but, of course it does matter what it is zoned for, so, we shall see. After reading the Lifestyle piece the idea of spending my golden years immersed in a setting of guilty indulgences seems all too tempting.

It appears to be just as fancy as ever with plenty of add-on “extras” but a pop-up notice on their website says that they are not serving breakfast at this time. Certainly I am not in their target audience as I am far more interested in my morning coffee and some nourishment than in a romantic display of silk rose petals on the bed. (Cost: 40 dollars)

The Columbia Inn at Peralynna looks to be located in Ellicott City. At least, I think it is. The Iron Bridge Wine Company, located not too far away on Route 108, has an Ellicott City address. So why affix “Columbia” to Peralynna Manor? I’m curious.

A question for your Wednesday: do you think we will ever see nostalgic “pop-up restaurant experiences” paying homage to TGI Fridays and Red Lobster? If so, my fantasies of reliving the Howard Johnson’s of my childhood don’t feel so out-of-reach.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Be Kind to Poll Workers

A worthy sentiment:

Be kind to Maryland’s primary election workers today - - Staff Commentary, Baltimore Sun

I can’t tell you if the piece itself is any good, because it is behind a paywall and I’m no longer a subscriber. I’ve been a strong advocate for subscribing to local journalism and I understand why newspapers are asking us to pay for it. Still it’s a choice to put this particular piece behind a paywall. If I wanted to encourage people to exercise their right to vote, I’d make a piece like this easily accessible.

UPDATE: I have since found some election coverage by the Sun available without a paywall today. The piece above is not one of them. 

That’s the thing about voting. In our country there’s a huge divide between the party who believes that The People’s participation in the democratic process is so important that we have a responsibility to remove as many obstacles to participation as we possibly can. Then there’s the party that believes that The Vote is so important that not just everyone should get one.

To summarize, we have two schools of thought:

  • We, the people
  • The vetted, the approved, the worthy
Here in Howard County, it is very easy to vote in today’s primary election. You can vote by mail/use any of ten drop boxes. You can vote during Early Voting at five different locations. You can vote in Election Day at your designated polling place. (I don’t know how many of those there are. Help me out.)

If you want to know why voting is so easy and convenient in Howard County, you need only look at my statements above. 

Of course there’s another reason. Howard County is just white enough and just affluent enough (and just small enough) that there’s an over-arching sentiment that voting should be easy and convenient. I know this sounds cynical, but, hear me out.

The white and affluent want voting to be easy and convenient for them because “of course it should” and they have never experienced anything else.

Voting policies and procedures put in place and maintained by Democrats protect not only them, but everyone else, too.

We are never going to have to take time off from work, lose pay, and risk losing a job to vote here in HoCo. We won’t have to stand in line eight hours or more to vote. We’re not going to wake up and discover that our polling place has been closed and the new one is inaccessible to us. Or that we have been mysteriously purged from the voter rolls. Well, at least right now we won’t.

Never say never. 

In some ways, every single election is an election for the freedom to vote. And in every single election you will see people actively trying to take that right away from people they don’t like. There’s a variety of ways that can be done, and they’re all happening across the United States right now. One of the tactics is threatening and harassing poll workers so that fewer will come forward to participate in a free and fair election process.

So, be kind to Maryland’s Primary election workers today. Think about volunteering, if you are able, in the next election. Teach and show your children how vital voting is to our democracy and that it should be easily accessible to all who may legally vote. 

You can vote in U.S. federal, state, and local elections if you:

Are a U.S. citizen (some areas allow non-citizens to vote in local elections only)
Meet your state’s residency requirements
  You can be experiencing homelessness and still meet these requirements.
Are 18 years old on or before Election Day
  In almost every state, you can register to vote before you turn 18 if you will be 18 by Election Day. 
  Some states allow 17-year-olds who will be 18 by Election Day to vote in primaries.
Are registered to vote by your state's voter registration deadline. North Dakota does not require voter registration. - -

I think we sometimes forget how fortunate we are in Howard County when it comes to voting. In Baltimore, people who’d like to control who votes and who gets elected aren’t making the laws just yet. But they do own a television station and they just bought the newspaper

There’s a lot to be angry and disappointed and disheartened about right now in local and national politics. Do not let that keep you from voting. Please, please, please take your angry and disappointed and disheartened self to the polls and use your vote to support the kind of government you believe in and want to see more of.