Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sympathy for the Pioneers

The house where I live belonged to my husband before we met.  When I moved in, we went through an awkward period of adjustment, since both of us were adults with complete sets of furniture, dishes, and the like. It’s not a big house, and it took a lot of shedding of personal belongings before we even came close to feeling like everything fit.

I decided that, although the house was small, it would feel big to me if I just pretended that it was a house at the beach.  My husband has indulged me in my fantasy, and when we did some work on the first floor and kitchen, we gave everything a beach-y feel.  I set up the living room furniture to face into a corner of windows that look out on our neighborhood.  In my mind’s eye you could sit on the couch and look out at the ocean. In fact, it was more a nook, of sorts, centered around the television.  I tucked my big comfy chair right where I could get away from it all.  It was my quiet place, and I loved it.

Recently my husband made noises about rearranging the living room furniture.  I knew it was time to let him have a chance to do things his way, but I tried to stall.  “Where would you put the television?” I asked.  And, at least for a while, that would stop him as he looked at tables, outlets, wiring, and so on. But one day, he was ready.

“We could put the television on the wall,” he announced. Then we went to Best Buy and bought a rather large, flat-screen tv. 

That was Saturday. Delivery was scheduled for Wednesday. On Monday I came home from work and my entire family was moving furniture. My nook was gone.  The entire area had been opened up into an enormous L-shape, and my comfy chair, MY chair, had become the prime television-watching chair.

I didn’t react well.  I cried. I went and sat out front and pretended to check my email. I didn’t know which was worse—that my beloved beach nook was gone, or that absolutely no one in my family understood how I felt.

“I knew things were going to change,” I sniffled. “I just thought I was going to get to be a part of it. I thought I was going to have a voice.”

And then it hit me. 

Is this how people feel who came to Columbia at the beginning? Village Center courtyards ripped open to provide views to the street, buildings that have nostalgic significance re-purposed into grocery stores: why don’t I get to have a voice?

It made me think. 

In the meantime, my chair has been converted into everyone’s favorite tv chair, but if I tuck myself into the far corner of the couch, it almost feels the same. And when I come home for lunch, I have my chair all to myself and I pretend I am looking out at the ocean.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

The "What If?" Game

One of my favorite family activities is the "What If?" game. What if we were going to cast all of our friends as characters in the Muppet Show? Who would they be?What if you could design any house you wanted--what would it be like? What if you could pick your favorite stores for the Mall? This game has helped to pass the time on many a car ride or restaurant table wait.

I admit that I have occasionally played, "What if you could re-make the Wilde Lake Village Center?" on several occasions. (Remember, this is a game. For one's own amusement.) For a long time I was stuck on the idea of making it a kid's birthday party center. A bouncy castle/inflatables place in a village center? Wow! I was pretty excited about adding all all the shops to surround it--a place to buy birthday presents, and a coffee shop for parents to hang out when kids were at parties...There are a lot of kids' parties happening each year, and I could imagine Wilde Lake being the dream hub of a lot of the action. Perhaps some of these same businesses would make parties at the Swim Center more appealing, as well.

None of this changes the fact that I do not own this location, I know virtually nothing about the development of retail centers, and I do not speak for anyone--as far as I know--in Wilde Lake or Columbia. It's just fun. Fun to brainstorm. Fun to imagine.

So, for your amusement, I present my latest "What If?" concept: what if they turned the Wilde Lake Village Center into an Historical Theme Park? This would make it possible to keep the original layout, maintain the courtyard, and so on. Can't you imagine it as a tribute to the Golden Age Of Columbia? Of course, David's Market could remain, but their employees would dress in the height of 70's fashion--leaning a little hippie-ish, I would think.
There would be a recreation of the original Welcome Center,showing the original film, plus a new home for the Columbia Archives. This would also serve as another venue for local charity events, as the Rouse Building once was.
Businesses would be the sort that the original Columbia Pioneers treasured and long for still--chosen both for them, and to appeal to a new generation wanting to get the Old School experience. An ice cream parlor?Cheese shop? Arcade? Maybe a retro themed candy/toy shop to purchase the sweets and treats of the by-gone era. And perhaps The Wilde Lake Historical Theme Park could be the center of the resurrected City Fair that so many people miss. I'm thinking we'll need a place for 70's themed cover-bands to play, too.

I'm stuck on rides, though. Theme parks generally have rides.Any suggestions? What would be the ideal Golden Age of Columbia Theme Park? And would we pay to go there?

I know I would, because I never got to be there the first time around.There's a lot that I want to know, and it sounds like it would be fun.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Looking for Mr. GoodRouse

The room grew quiet. It was a depressed kind of silence, as if no one could think of anything to say that would help or make things better.  Finally, someone spoke. "The problem is that we keep hoping for the Great Good Developer who will be to us what we think that Rouse was--and it ain't gonna happen."

He went on, "The County is our Government, and that's where we need to be going if we want things to change.  This kind of magical thinking isn't going to do anything."

We were talking about the Bridge Columbia Project, an idea which would benefit Columbia and Howard County alike.  But we could have been talking about any significant challenge that Columbia faces today.  Insomuch as we have to work with HHC or GGP to get something accomplished, we cannot make them into something that they are not.   They are not like the God-like force protecting the Edo on Star-Trek Generations, looking out for our every need, protecting us.

That's not what developers do.  Consider this.  What does it mean to you?  Now consider this.

The People Tree may have come to represent something inspirational about Columbia, but that doesn't change what it is. In his blog post, "Identity Crisis", WordBones tells us, "In the early years of Columbia’s development, the People Tree image was used as a branding symbol for the new town."

A branding symbol.  It's Columbia's Golden Arches, and it doesn't belong to us. It belongs to the owners of the brand--who, at the moment, happen to be HHC.  To attach such beautiful, lofty ideals to a branding symbol, and then expect the owners of the branding symbol to take part in the "Great Good" relationship with us--that is Magical Thinking.

We need to make the magic. And we need to forge the relationships that will make that possible. Sitting around waiting for the "Great Good" someone to make things right with Columbia leaves us vulnerable to anyone who knows the real rules of the game and can operate past us in our love affair with Magical Thinking.

We can keep our lofty ideals, and we can fight for the philosophy upon which Columbia was created.  But we need to go where the magic is made, and be willing to make it for ourselves.  And maybe it's time for a new symbol that Columbia and Howard County can share.


Monday, February 6, 2012

Wanted: Blogtail Buddy

Alas, my favorite blogger, @sommeilbienivre, who can be read over at http://househoney.blogspot.com/, won't be joining me for the upcoming Hocoblogs party at The Corner Stable in Kings Contrivance.( http://hocoblogs-corner-stable.eventbrite.com/)  Unbelievably, she has a prior commitment.

I've already signed up for two spots, and I'd love to know I'm going in there with an instant friend to hang out with from the get-go.  

My qualifications:  I promise to be a good listener, I am occasionally witty, and I am "relentlessly cheerful."  I will also buy your first drink. Transportation to and from provided upon request.

 Drop me a note in the comments if you are interested.