Sunday, December 4, 2022

Season Finale in Elkridge


There’s women’s pool tournament in Elkridge this weekend and I wouldn’t have known that without Twitter. Here’s the tweet:

@Ada_Lio: It's a great turnout! 26 killer ladies showed up to play 9-ball at the JPNEWT season finale at Triple Nine's Bar & Billiards, Elkridge, MD and guess who is in the house? The Irish Invader, Karen Corr! I'm going to have fun and play my best. #ironmaidenpool

I had never heard of Triple Nine’s Bar & Billiards, so I looked them up first. It’s in the shopping center on Washington Boulvevard where the Sysco Discount Food Center is located, if that helps you place it. 

Image taken from Triple Nine’s website

There’s a brief video on their website that gives you a feel for the overall atmosphere. Granted, it’s from eight years ago, but, it’s a good place to start. You can also follow them on Facebook and Instagram

Honestly, this is not a local establishment I would ever have known about if it weren’t for this one tweet. Have you ever been there? Do you play pool? I learned how to play bumper pool at the local Y when I was in the third grade and even I know that doesn’t count when it comes to legitimate pool playing.

So, what’s the “JPNEWT season finale” that the poster above mentioned? 

Image from JPNEWT website

JPNEWT is the oldest, continuously-operating women’s pool tour on the East Coast. 

Though it’s difficult to trace the tour’s origins precisely, according to Dawn Hopkins it began as a women’s tour she founded in the early 90s, an adjunct to her All About Pool Magazine and its All About Pool Men’s Tour in Massachusetts. The All About Pool Ladies Tour (and Hopkins) shifted from a New England base to New Jersey, where it would become the Northeast Women’s Tour, operating at first, under the leadership of Colleen Shoop and Candy Rego, and later, Barbara Stock and Micaela Games. It was under their leadership that the tour began its association with and eventual name change to the J. Pechauer Northeast Women’s Tour at the end of 2001 season. - -

I wanted to know more about J.Pechauer, the company that sponsors the Northeast Women’s Tour, which culminates in two days of play right here in Elkridge. You won’t be surprised that J. Pechauer is in the business of making pool cues. Custom pool cues.

Image from J.Pechauer website 

Located in Green Bay, Wisconsin, J. Pechauer was founded in 1963 and they are might proud of their history in the pool cue business. If you have an interest in pool or pool cues, you’ll probably enjoy their loving pictorial history of Joe Pechauer and the company he founded. Apparently it helps if you start young.

Image from J.Pechauer website

I had no idea that pool cues could be works of art until I went to their website. Live and learn.

If you are a woman who plays competitive pool, you probably already know about the JPNEWT Ladies Pool - player group on Facebook.

If you are a woman playing competition-level pool, I’d love to hear about it. It’s a world I know nothing about. And it’s one that I’m more curious about since I’ve learned that Elkridge is a stop on the competition circuit. 

Village Green/Town² Comments 

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Seeing Things


Yesterday’s blog post had an unexpected consequence. This advert turned up in my Facebook feed.

Oh, my. 

I enjoyed the conversation around the topic of proliferating Santa events that followed yesterday’s blog post. Hats off to the reader who pointed out that more such events mean shorter lines to wait in for squirmy kids. I hadn’t thought of that. Another kind reader reminded me that these seasonal gigs mean that Santa is earning a paycheck. Yet again, I hadn’t thought about all those Santas trying to make a living. It’s definitely food for thought.

One more thing. What does this Santa frenzy feel like to people who don’t celebrate Christmas at all? Does it feel like an annual expression of the power of the dominant (Christian) culture? Does it reinforce a feeling of “otherness”? If there’s a reader out there in Columbia/HoCo who’d like to write a post addressing this from a non-Christian perspective, reach out to me through the blog. I’d love to make room for other points of view.

Continuing in the vein of seeing unexpected things, I want to know more about this rock. 

What is that massive thing behind the tree?

It’s located by the Johns Hopkins Community Physicians in Stevens Forest Green. This is not an ordinary, run of the mill rock. Someone had to cut it for it to have that shape. And what do those three circular marks mean?

I have an inkling but I’d rather hear from you all first. Any ideas? Also, do you know where Stevens Forest Green is? I didn’t until I had to take my daughter to a doctor’s appoint there. 

And, finally, one of those oddball things you are more likely to find here than anywhere else.

There is clearly something happening in this picture. To my mind, it depicts someone running, possibly accompanied by dogs. They’re headed down one of Columbia’s famous pathways. Or perhaps you see something else.

Truth in advertising:

It’s a service door I spied while waiting in a drive-through line. Starbucks, maybe? No, I don’t recommend taking photos while driving but I was at a full stop at this point. And those scratch marks on the door grabbed my attention.

Seen anything interesting around town lately?

Village Green/Town² Comments

Friday, December 2, 2022

F ³: Too Much, Too Many


Last night found my husband and I eating food from McDonald’s after his bell choir rehearsal. I am not a fan of food from McDonald’s, but, I will occasionally be convinced to make do with it if nothing else is available. 

I suspect I suffer from too much exposure. My family went to McDonald's every Saturday for lunch for years. Add to that my eye opening experiences working for McDonald’s and it’s understandable that my view of the Golden Arches isn't exactly rosy.

My husband, on the other hand, has happy childhood memories of McDonald’s. He was trying to explain the mystique of the colors and the lights and even the flavor of the pickles to a young person growing up in Northern Ireland. (American exoticism, perhaps?) He remembered how exciting it was to go to London because there were two McDonald’s there.

Just imagine. Two whole McDonald’s.

It occurred to me that part of what made it appealing to him was its rarity. Partaking of McDonald’s was a special occasion. Here in the United States the ubiquity of McDonald’s is almost overwhelming. 

Is that an American thing? If having a McDonald’s in your town meets with success, well, let's have more. Five, ten, twenty…a sit-down, a drive-through, and one at the mall, too. The theory seems to be that success means replicating at an alarming pace. 

Now we arrive at the point of all this: Santa Claus. (Cool points will be awarded to anyone who saw this plot twist coming.)

Columbia/HoCo has exploded with occasions to see Santa. My social media feed is awash with all things red, white, and furry. This is not a rant about how Santa cheapens the Christian message of Christmas. It’s really very simple: too many Santas. 

Does the proliferation of Santa events take on the same frenzied onward march of McDonald’s, Starbucks, Dunkin, and so on? At what point does a magical holiday moment - - that we hope will feel magical to a child - - feel more like an annual invasion? 

Is it an American trait to be inclined to overdo things? Have we completely killed the appreciation of something as a special occasion?

If one Santa in your town parade meets with success, well, let’s have more. Five, ten, twenty…a sit-down breakfast with Santa, a drive-through Santa chat, and Santa at the Mall with prepaid picture packages, too. 

It has certainly passed the tipping point for me. I recognized a feeling of growing anxiety when I noticed signs sprouting up on street corners. “Santa is coming to your neighborhood!” Part of me wanted to go home, lock the doors and pull down the shades.

I appreciate arguments for access. Seeing Santa shouldn’t be only for the rich kids. But, honestly, haven’t we expanded this Santa thing beyond all reason?

If it is an American thing to overdo things, I wish we applied that energy to basic needs like food, health care, paid sick leave, decent housing and working conditions. You can put those on every corner and in every mall and I promise I won’t complain.

Why, you’d be more popular than Santa. 

Thursday, December 1, 2022

A Great Cathedral


Yesterday morning, while I was listening to a talk by the late Thich Nhat Hanh on the art of mindful living, these words leapt out:

A tree to me is as beautiful as a cathedral, even more beautiful. 

My first response was a smile. At my house it’s well known that my husband loves cathedrals. He grew up singing in Belfast Cathedral. Any trip he makes to England and Ireland includes visits to cathedrals. Every year I give him a cathedrals calendar for Christmas. Did you know you can attend Evensong at Lincoln Cathedral online?

As for me: I have a fascination with treehouses. I’ve always wanted one since the neighborhood kids got together and helped a friend and his dad build a very simple one when I was seven. I’ve watched every episode of Treehouse Masters. I’ve bookmarked the website of a treehouse hotel near Deep Creek Lake. Someday…

At the root of all this is the fact that I love trees. Especially old trees. 

A tree to me is as beautiful as a cathedral, even more beautiful. 

Here in Howard County trees have become a sort of symbol in the ongoing war about housing and development. If people express environmental concerns for trees coming down in a proposed project, they are either dismissed as loony tree-huggers or accused of using the tree issue to hide their real intent. They don’t really care about trees, we are told. They’re against affordable housing. Or they want to keep Columbia/HoCo all to themselves.

And, on the other hand, those who are pro-housing and development are accused of being anti-tree, anti-environment. Profit at all costs. Subsequent quality of life? Not their problem.

The war rages on and trees are in the middle. Trees are almost a code word in the ongoing battle. To some, it evokes a passionate defense of the local ecosystem. To others? An eyeroll, at best.

I have a confession to make. I’ve written here numerous times about the need for more affordable housing in Columbia/HoCo. And I understand why increased density can be a wiser environmental choice for a number of reasons. But…

I still love trees. Yes, I know that new trees are planted when the old ones are cut down. I have made that argument myself. And I know that plenty of trees were cut down in the making of Columbia, where I have a home that I love. I have been down all those intellectual roads many times.

But there is not just a physical beauty to mature trees. Their value is not purely cosmetic. Even if we must argue about decisions pertaining to housing and development, couldn’t we agree on a responsibility for good stewardship of our natural environment? This does not mean that no tree anywhere will ever be cut down. It could mean that both sides commit to accepting mature trees as a common good. Not a hostage in negotiations. Or an eyeroll.

I don’t know. I honestly do not know and I do not have the answer.

I do know that I hate the labels we give one another and the accusations of ill intent. You have to take a side in order to be identified as friend or foe. And here I am - - some of one and some of the other. Not very useful in the grand scheme of things, I guess. I envy those who find the answers to all this quite simple. For me it’s complicated.

Look at the tree. It is a wonderful thing, a tree. A tree is very beautiful. A tree to me is as beautiful as a cathedral, even more beautiful. I looked into the tree and I saw the whole cosmos in it. I saw the sunshine in the tree. Can you see the sunshine in the tree? Yes, because without the sunshine, no tree can grow.

I see a cloud in the tree. Can you see? Without a cloud, there can be no rain, no tree.I see the earth in the tree. I see everything in the tree. So the tree is where everything in the cosmos comes into, and the cosmos reveals itself to me through a tree. Therefore, a tree to me is a cathedral, and I can take refuge in the tree and I can get nourished by the tree…

I can get in touch with the tree only if I go back to the present moment, because the tree can only be found in the present moment. - Thich Nhat Hanh.

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Only Living for the Nightlife


This tweet from Fox Baltimore brings up a topic I know nothing about: being single in Columbia. I was single in Columbia for about five months. During that time I was mostly planning my wedding, so, that doesn’t count. 

With Columbia being named the 'safest city' for the 5th year in a row, it comes as no surprise that the city ranks third to last in nightlife options per capita.

Despite my lack of experience in this area, I found something odd about the assertion here. Basically, you can either be “safe” or have a thriving nightlife. 


Even better is the title of the article itself. “Sucks to be single in these U.S. cities, study finds” Nia Fitzhugh, Fox Baltimore  

Oh, brother. 

BALTIMORE (WBFF) — With nearly 50% of all U.S. adults being single and the average date costing over $90, WalletHub released its report on 2022’s Best & Worst Cities for Singles, Monday.

The study compared 182 cities across the country, utilizing 36 key indicators of dating-friendliness to determine where singles have the highest chance of finding love. The data set ranges from the share of the population that is single to the number of online dating opportunities to the average price for a two-person meal.

Ah, WalletHub, our old friend. The almighty survey mechanism giveth it and taketh away, it seems. Out of 182 cities examined, Columbia came in at 174. Baltimore did better, at 138. But not by all that much. 

I don’t dispute that Columbia may be lacking in the kind of nightlife that the WalletHub study was looking for. I do take a dim view of this:

With Columbia being named the 'safest city' for the 5th year in a row, it comes as no surprise that the city ranks third to last in nightlife options per capita.

If you follow that argument to its logical conclusion, you would expect to find that the top-ranked cities in the nightlife study are high-crime areas.

Best Cities for Singles:

  • Seattle, WA
  • Madison, WI
  • Denver, CO
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Portland, OR
  • Minneapolis, MN
  • Austin, TX
  • Honolulu, HI
  • San Diego, CA
  • Atlanta, GA

Well, they very likely do have more crime than Columbia on account of being substantially larger. More crime per capita - - who knows? My point is that this is a specious argument in the first place. And something feels a bit smug about it, too.

“Well, you can’t expect to be a magnet for singles if you’ve been named the safest city for the fifth year in a row…”

I pity the poor Howard Hughes Corporation executives who must live with this dichotomy. Like the old-school cartoons, on one shoulder is an angel with a halo saying, “Safest City in America!” and on the other shoulder is a Devil with a pitchfork, intoning, “It sucks to be single in Columbia!” 

None of this matters if you don’t place much significance in the pronouncements of WalletHub. If you’re in the business of marketing it’s a bit more difficult. If you live by the WalletHub you shall die by the WalletHub, I suppose.

I guess what bugs me the most about this reporter’s take on the facts is that it reinforces a point of view I’ve heard invoked locally time and time again. 

We didn’t come here for the nightlife. If you want nightlife, go somewhere else. Don’t turn Columbia into Baltimore. 

There’s always the unspoken suggestion that having a more vibrant nightlife brings crime. And, you know, “those people.” 

In my opinion we don’t need reinforcement of that attitude from Fox News Baltimore. We have more than enough here already.

What do you think? Is the reporter justified in linking the two studies for the purposes of the article? Does it suck to be single in Columbia, Maryland? What does “nightlife” mean to you?

Village Green/Town² Comments

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Giving Tuesday: The Faces of the Future


Once upon a time I wrote these words and made an internal commitment to get back to them.

One thing that came up in our conversation was that we were in complete agreement that all the people who are doing outstanding, transformative community work right now in Columbia/HoCo are women. I’d go into more detail but I think that’s a blog post unto itself. - - “Reunions” 7/14/2021

I was reminded of that internal commitment when I saw this article from The Business Monthly. 

The Future of Downtown Columbia”, Mark R. Smith, November 2021

When I saw the title - - The Future of Downtown Columbia - - topped by a photograph of three white men, it was hard not to see an unspoken message: “What’s the future of Columbia? We asked three white men to find out.”

I thought about that conversation with my friend. 

… all the people who are doing outstanding, transformative community work right now in Columbia/HoCo are women. (And not just white women, I might add.) 

Here’s what I will call a sampling, because I can’t possibly know or remember* them all:

Laura Bacon - - The 3rd

Nina Basu - - Inner Arbor Trust

Bonnie Bricker - - Talk With Me Howard County, now a part of HCPSS

Amy Brooks and Jessica Mahajan - - OMO, formerly Oakland Mills Online

Chiara D’Amore - - Community Ecology Institute

Candace Dodson-Reed - - African American Community Round Table, Elevate Maryland

Beth Harbinson - - Sobar

Marlena Jareaux - - Howard County Lynching Truth and Reconciliation 

Ying Matties - - CARY, Community Allies of Rainbow Youth

Erika Strauss-Chavarria - - Columbia Community Care

All of these women have been engaged in creating and building new ventures which make Columbia/HoCo a better place. Their vision and determination are breathtaking. They deserve more 
than a cursory listing and I promise I will make that happen. Soon.

But today is a special day. Giving Tuesday.

GivingTuesday was created in 2012 as a simple idea: a day that encourages people to do good. - - Giving Tuesday website 

All of the women mentioned above are involved in doing good and encouraging others to do good. With the exception of Talk With Me and Elevate Maryland, all of these organizations have 501 (c) (3) status and could benefit from your donations today.

GivingTuesday reimagines a world built upon shared humanity and generosity. GivingTuesday is a Movement that Unleashes the Power of Radical Generosity Around the World.

And right here in Columbia/HoCo, too. With women leading the way.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Analysis of the Analysis


A few post-election dribs and drabs surfaced over the weekend. This piece in the Maryland Reporter by Len Lazarick caught my eye.


This paragraph got me thinking.

Del. Trent Kittleman, widow of Bob Kittleman, the first Republican ever elected to the legislature from Howard 40 years ago, narrowly lost in her reelection to a third four-term. “I’ve been in politics 55 years, and this is a sad thing we’re going through in this country,” Trent Kittleman told me 10 days after the election as her election night victory slipped away.

“…and this is a sad thing we’re going through in this country.” I wish I knew what Ms. Kittleman meant by that. It’s certainly a safe thing to say. It conveys disappointment and doesn’t place blame in any particular place. Maybe that’s all it was meant to do. After 55 years in politics it’s probably not too difficult to give that kind of response.

But what kind of “sad thing” are we going through in this country, Ms. Kittleman? Virulent racism, anti-semitism and anti-immigrant sentiment? Mass shootings becoming so common that we can’t even keep up with the details? Citizens forced to wait hours to vote because of organized voter suppression tactics? LGBTQ+ students fearful that they won’t be safe in school? Social media campaigns weaponized to attack sound medical knowledge about a worldwide pandemic?

I have a feeling that those aren’t on Ms. Kittleman’s list of sad things. I can’t be sure, of course, I haven’t asked her. Maybe I should.

And another thing: who is this “we” she speaks of? All Americans? Republicans? What do you think?

The other thing that struck me about the Maryland Reporter piece was the accompanying photograph.

No, that’s not true. What bugged me was the caption.

Former Howard County Executive speaks to crowd at his family's farm in West Friendship, along with, from right, Gov. Larry Hogan, Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford and former Lt. Gov. Michael Steele. Hogan's endorsement and help had little effect on the outcome. Maryland photo by Len Lazarick

Notice anything?

Count the people in the photo. Now count the number of people identified by Lazarick. Something doesn’t add up. There are four men and two women in this picture but only the men are identified.

“Well, they aren’t important to the story,” you might say. Or, “for the purposes of this piece they don’t matter.” That may be strictly accurate but I do get rather tired of women not being important to the story. Not being identified. Perhaps if this had been an article specifically about Allan Kittleman’s campaign event at his family’s farm, they might have been named.

Here’s the same photo in an October piece about Kittleman. Still not identified.

Using context clues I’d have to say that the woman on the right is an ASL interpreter and the woman on the left is The Democrat for Allan Kittleman. But that’s not truly a fair and accurate description. As insignificant as these two may be in this reporter’s analysis of the election, they are still the only two women on the dais at this particular event. They’re human beings. 

What can I say, these things bug me.