Thursday, October 21, 2021

New and Improving


I returned to my favorite little block in the “new” Columbia yesterday for a haircut at Floyd’s. Although it was all parked up out front, it was easy enough to park in the garage. I guess Columbians have taken to parallel parking more than I thought they would.

Speaking of new, I noticed that the scaffolding around the Metropolitan building continues to be a part of the scenery. How long has that work been going on, exactly? Isn’t that odd for a relatively new building? I met someone who lived at the Metropolitan a while back and asked her how she liked it. She said it all looked lovely when they moved in but it was soon clear that a lot of it was cheaply made and wouldn’t hold up over time.

I never wrote about it because one anecdote doesn’t make for a balanced story. But, as work on the Metropolitan drags on, I’ve started to be concerned. I wonder how the people who live there feel. People who took a chance on the Metropolitan were, in a way, early adopters in the new wave of downtown development. Has their trust been rewarded? Has “the Met” met expectations?

 I guess the upside is that, whatever is wrong, they’re committed to fixing it.

After my haircut I decided to have my first experience at the Mall's new grocery, Lidl. The time of day meant it wouldn’t be crowded, so, why not? 

I confess that I wasn’t particularly wowed. On the other hand, I have no complaints. Some prices were exceptionally good, but I didn’t find that true across the board. It was clean, well organized and easy to move around throughout the store. If you live downtown it gives you an appealing alternative to Whole Foods. 

Have you been there? What’s your take? If there are particularly specialties worth seeking out I’d love to know. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2021


I’m operating under a post Benadryl haze this morning after a run in with some kind of allergen yesterday. I have a few fragments on my mind but entire paragraphs will have to wait until tomorrow.

  • Congratulations to the Wilde Lake High School Students for Social Justice winning The Colette Roberts Organization Award presented by the Howard County Human Rights Commission.
  • Concerned about ongoing damage to wildlife around Columbia’s lakes documented by local photographer Michael Oberman.
  • Contemplating the messaging involved in picking a location for announcing a run for political office.
  • Can you imagine catching zebras with…more zebras?
  • Columbia will again be the site of the drug take-back event this this Saturday at the Wilde Lake Village Center.
Perhaps tomorrow I’ll move on from the letter C.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021


Today’s news story that’s all over my Twitter feed is this from our local Patch outlets:

Funding has been released for Howard County police officers to begin sporting body-worn cameras before the state's deadline.


Am I alone in thinking that this particular word choice is, well, odd?

My experience with the use of the word “sporting” is not consistent with the implementation of police body cameras. For example,

“All the on-trend teens will be sporting the ripped-denim look this season.”

“The gentlemen were sporting pink carnation boutonnières at this year’s fundraising event.”

“All the best-dressed pooches will be sporting neon reflective collars from Dave’s Dog House.”

Do you get my drift?

So, when I read the news story, all I could envision was something like this:

“Up next on the runway, Officer Smith, sporting the latest in body camera-wear, making him the envy of local police officers statewide.”

I did a quick Google search.

Does Sporting mean wearing?

Sporting has a meaning that is a little more specific than simply wearing. Sporting suggests that the item one is wearing is noteworthy for its handsome appearance, or for its stylishness, or as an indicator of one's own individual fashion sense.

“So what?” you say. 

It’s just a word. It’s not a crime. 

But words actually mean things. And body cameras are not fashion accessories. Their use is intended to increase transparency in police work. Of course, how they are used will make all the difference. That part of the story is as yet unknown. I have some opinions but that’s for another day.

In the meantime: please use words in the way that they were meant to be used. There’s an operations manual if you need assistance. I don’t know about whether there are instructional videos on YouTube, but, why not? Let’s all go out there and make the world a clearer place.

If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant; if what is said is not what is meant, then what ought to be done remains undone. - - Confucius 

Monday, October 18, 2021

Sooner Than You Think


Halloween candy made its first appearance in stores right after the back to school displays, I’m guessing. I’ve been ignoring it. But, as the leaves begin to turn and the weather shifts towards a bit of a chill, my thoughts are turning to trick or treating.

Specifically, I’m wondering if COVID will have left any longer-lasting changes on how we “do” Halloween. If I’m thinking about handing out candy this year, is there any new recommended protocol? My particular neighborhood of (what I call) quadroplexes has never gone out for Halloween with any enthusiasm. We don’t have all that many kids living here. Some years we get trick or treaters, some years we don’t.

When my daughter was younger we were fortunate to have friends who invited us along to trick or treat in their neighborhood: single-family detached homes, spaced not too far apart, great sidewalks. It wasn’t more than a five minute drive from where we live but it was night and day as far as Halloween was concerned.

Your experience of Halloween is probably dependent on where you live in Columbia/HoCo, plus whether you: have kids who are still dressing up or are in the handing out candy phase of your existence. Of course there are people who don’t celebrate Halloween at all due to religious reasons, and those who have long since turned from neighborhood candy solicitation to community events such as Trick or Treating on Main Street or at the Mall. Schools sponsor “Trunk or Treat” events, too.

That’s a whole lot of variables. I’m thinking about how Halloween has its own flavor depending on where you live. Western Howard County? Ellicott City? Columbia? Elkridge? Savage? Old houses, new developments, in-between? How about downright rural? 

Are you planning on handing out candy this year? Are your children excited about dressing up and going out? 

Yes, now that the world is a bit safer for me, health wise, I find myself getting in the mood for Halloween. I may even go get my own pumpkin this year.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Eating Out



That’s what’s on my mind this morning: Columbia’s Village Centers and how they are laid out in 2021. Our Friday night in Wilde Lake got me thinking about whether it would be possible to do the Great Village Center Tour of 2021, eating dinner outside in each one. I’m not entirely sure it would be.

It’s my understanding that, the older the village center, the more likely it was to have been built around a courtyard. But the courtyard model has gone out of style commercially. So some of the older village centers have been reconfigured. I moved to Oakland Mills after the Great Reconfiguration so my experiences are of the new model.

Off the top of my head, I’d say you couldn’t do the eat outside thing in Oakland Mills these days. The late Second Chance Saloon had tables out front and the Cactus Lounge out back. Alas, you can’t have that experience anymore. Oakland Mills has a lovely courtyard but it isn’t particularly conducive to grabbing something from one of the center’s food merchants and dining al fresco. Because the village center is now configured as a “shopping center”,  the courtyard really functions as an additional event space for the Other Barn. The layout makes things different.

I know I’ve had many a summer excursion to Rita’s in Kings Contrivance, where businesses still line the courtyard and there are tables and chairs available for patrons. And there are a few benches in Harpers Choice if you want to enjoy your Rita’s ice over there. (Hmm, I’m sensing a pattern here.)

In the past I would have been looking at this more as a community issue. It still is, to my mind, but now there are folks who are still hoping to eat outdoors for as long as possible due to COVID concerns. That’s how we ended up at the Wilde Lake Village Center on Friday night.

So here’s my question of the day: if you live in Columbia, or patronize the Village Centers, tell me about the one you know best. Is it possible to buy food and eat outside there? If not, why do you think that is? Do you think the configuration makes the difference? Most of all, do you think that being able to do that is a good thing?

Comments are welcome here.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

A Wilde Night


Date night can take many forms. At the moment I’m still celebrating being able to leave the house at all,  so almost any excursion feels like a treat. Last night my husband and I went all out for an evening in Wilde Lake. It was a lot of fun.

We began by picking up some subs at Pizza Boli’s in the Wilde Lake Village Center and eating dinner outside in the courtyard. It was a mild evening and a great setting for some people watching. I was particularly curious about a group of young women having some sort of event centered around a circle of orange Adirondack chairs. They had a table set up with a pot luck snack buffet and they were having a wonderful time. 

It was fascinating to see the new (relatively new, I know) layout of the Village Center on a Friday night and see how people are using the space. Even with the impact of the pandemic over the last year and a half, you can clearly see life and enjoyment and just plain everyday functional use. You will never get me to call it “The Shoppes at Wilde Lake” but, now that I’m getting out more, I’ll definitely be popping over there more often.

As fun as the people-watching was for me, the real vista worth mentioning was this one:

What an amazing tree. And I’m rather delighted by the appearance of the iconic sculpture* in the background, seemingly photo-bombing the picture. If you’re from Wilde Lake this tree is probably an old friend. For me it was a delightful surprise, as beautiful as any of the public art for which Columbia is known. I sure hope that someone is taking good care of that tree.

From dinner we moved on to Wilde Lake High School to experience their Marching Band at a home game. Yes, I understand there was some sort of sportsing prelude leading up to the half time show, but let’s be honest. We’re musicians. We came for the band, and most especially to support the student musicians and their director Saul Green. 

An aside: I haven’t been around that many adolescents in quite a while. I have no idea how my husband works with teens every day. The intensity! Wow. So many teenagers all in one place. If you teach adolescents I salute you. 

The band was, no surprise, the highlight of the evening.

Their director has a lot to be proud of. What a great group of young people, sharing their love of music all while maintaining the determined focus required to perform all that synchronized movement. I would be inclined to call it choreography. I believe that in the band world it is known as “drill.” 

Yes, I’ve seen plenty of high school marching band performances before. It’s not a foreign entity to me. I’ve seen my nephews compete in the Sweet Sixteen band day at the Indiana State Fair, and I enjoyed “Friday Night Live”, the River Hill High School spin on a football game band which included an electrified guitar ensemble. What made this different for me is that this band and these kids have taken so much abuse this Fall just for being who they are. Simply for existing. 

And they are not going to let that stop them. 

It seems like an outrageous question, but I’m going to ask it anyway: what can we, as a community, do to make this county safe for the WLHS Marching Band? And why do we even need to ask this?

You have one more chance to see the Wilde Lake High School Marching Band at home this season: October 30th. Or you could always send an email to the school letting them know you support the kids and their director. Just a thought. 

We had a great Date Night in Wilde Lake last night. Dinner and a show may look different to you, but, for us, it was just right.

*”Family” by Pierre du Fayet

Friday, October 15, 2021

Weekend Excitement, Part 2

At last the weekend is upon us, or, at least close enough that we can taste it. If you read yesterday’s post you know all about the 50th Birthday Celebration in Long Reach. A few extra notes on that:  it’s BYOC for the performances (Bring Your Own Chair) and, to assure there will be enough parking, a shuttle will be running regularly from satellite parking at Long Reach High School. 

Now I’ve got another idea for your Saturday: Oktsobarfest.

Presented by the Ellicott City-Columbia Lions Club in collaboration with Sobar, Oktsobarfest will be on the grounds of St. John's Episcopal Church, 9140 Frederick Road in Ellicott City, this Saturday from noon to 4 pm. From the event page:

This family friendly event features lawn games, samples of alcohol-free beverages and local food trucks. Meet and Greet the Ponies with Safe Haven Equine Warriors and watch Kangaroo Kids performance jump rope team.

You can purchase tickets here and your ticket includes admission, all activities, and drink samples.

I wrote about Sobar in December of 2019: 

You may remember that Sobar and founder Beth Harbinson was one of the winners of the Horizon Foundation’s inaugural Changemaker Challenge in 2017, with a goal to create healthy and appealing non-alcoholic beverages to enhance choices for those who choose not to drink. Since then they have been serving up their creative concoctions at local events. Now they are moving into sponsoring their own alcohol-free events.

I recently bumped into Sobar at HoCo Pride, where they were selling some delicious-sounding mocktails at the event. I see from their Facebook page that they’ve also been having events at Dublin Roasters in Frederick. This group is truly on the move.

Now, about tonight. You have another choice. You can pop in to the Long Reach event or, if you have a hankering for some Friday night lights, Wilde Lake High School has a home game. That would give you an opportunity to support the Wilde Lake High School Band and enjoy their halftime show. 

Have a great Friday, and send me your suggestions for what to do on Sunday. I’m open.