Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Shifting the Balance

Two articles that are on my mind this week:

Parking has eaten American cities by Richard Florida


Is Wheaton Ready for an Arts Center? A Woonerf? by Danielle E. Gaines

Both articles have a common underlying theme even though they address different topics. How do communities which have been built primarily around the needs of automobiles wrest themselves free of the tyranny of said automobiles?  This is definitely worth considering as we move forward in Downtown development and revitalization projects.

Is Columbia forever stuck being a place where you absolutely must have a car to function successfully? Are there meaningful ways to shift the balance and integrate more bicycle and pedestrian use, especially Downtown? Certainly this is on the mind of folks like
Open Steets Howard County and Bike HoCo .

But what about you? Do you wish that you had more opportunities to part once and then enjoy what Columbia has to offer? Do you want to see a better mix of cars, public transit, bikes, and pedestrians?

Do you just want to know what a woonerf is?

And one more question before I go: what might we do with the massive amount of land that we now have tied up in parking spaces if we didn’t have to adhere to that model?

Monday, July 30, 2018

A Bedtime Story

Well, here’s an unusual post this evening. Call it a bedtime story, if you will.

Before we tie up all our loose ends for the day and make that mental transition into letting go of all our mental gyrations, I want to plant a seed. Just one. I’ll be brief.

This little garden we have here—Howard County, Columbia, your own little neighborhood—we are its stewards. We must be. We can’t just turn our heads away and expect that someone else will do it.

Someone else may very well do it, but without care, or thought. Oh, they may be nice enough but not very able. Or forceful but unpleasant. Or incredibly well organized but inflexible. Or maybe no one will make the effort to do those community things at all. And they will languish. And so will we.

So: politics. Local politics.

I’m not a big fan of “political season” because I am not a big fan of politics as sport. Oh, it has its aficionados, to be sure, who have players and scorecards and stats. They analyze, predicts, recap, and then, for dessert, there’s snark and sarcasm. Biting wit that indicts the opposition and delights the cognoscenti.

We all do a bit of that out of frustration perhaps. It’s funny when you know enough to get the jokes and are sure they aren’t on you.

But back to the garden.

I have some pretty strong feelings about what we should be growing in our garden and I’m looking for people who want to get in there and plant, and weed, and share in both the work and the vision. And, if I decide I want to be an advocate for change, I think it’s my responsibility to focus on how we can make things better. What is worth believing in? Who has earned my trust, and why?

Take this bit of my bedtime story with you. I hope that you will engage enough and learn enough about local candidates that you will go to vote in November full of the excitement and enthusiasm of supporting someone who has earned your trust. Not because anyone told you to fear “the other guy”, but because you are a faithful steward of this garden and you have a vested interest in what we reap and what we sow.

Good night, Howard County. Sleep tight, and dream big dreams.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Checking In

I remember when all the cool kids were doing it. Checking in on FourSquare.  It was all the rage. Do you remember? I never quite got the hang of it.

Now most of us would just as soon keep our locations to ourselves unless we have a particular reason to share them. And Facebook and Twitter have adapted to give us the ability to do that. (They also make sure they are utilizing that data for all its worth.)

Where are the places you “check in” the most in Columbia and Howard County? I don’t mean actually checking in on an app, but where do you go/hang out most often?

Shopping area or mall?

Yesterday I realized that if I had been checking in this summer most of them would have been from a comfy chair at home. As the weather gets warmer the lure of the sedentary takes over and air conditioning reigns supreme. My husband nudged me out of my midsummer lethargy and got me out of the house yesterday. I realized how easy it was for me to let my world shrink.

Quite simply: I need to get out more. I need to have some new experiences. Where should I go? I’m talking Columbia/Howard County here. I saw a post yesterday that there’s a new Challenge Course at Blandair Park. Not sure I’m up for that challenge but I certainly could walk over to the park and take a look.

What are some new things around town that you think I should explore? Or perhaps an old favorite of yours that I might not have visited yet?

Send your suggestions over here:


Saturday, July 28, 2018

Open Call

I don’t often resort to outright copy-and-paste but this event looks like a lot of fun and they are trying to get it together on rather short notice. Please share if you know anyone who might be interested.

From the Downtown Columbia Facebook page:

Announcing a special opportunity to participate in a performance workshop THIS SUNDAY with Sophia Brous, one of this year’s Merriweather District Artists In Residence.


No training needed!!

The inaugural Merriweather District Artists in Residence Program is calling out to the community of Columbia and surrounds to be a part of an open-call Performance Workshop this coming weekend July 29th with inaugural MDAir artist in resident artist, Australian/New York-based musician, inter-disciplinary performer, composer and artistic director Sophia Brous.

They need you!!

For her July 2018 artist residence, Brous will create a major, large-scale choral work for hundreds of voices, to-be-performed as a part of the OPUS 1 Merriweather Festival at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in October 2018.

To do so, the Merriweather District is calling out to community participants of all ages and vocal ranges, skills and background to participate in this exciting major new project.

No training needed!! In fact, untrained voices are welcomed! Participants can be untrained and at any level.

The Howard Hughes Corporation and Merriweather District are putting out a quick response call for individuals to take part in an afternoon vocal workshop exploring different techniques, fun exercises and activities.

Please email SOPHIA@BROUS.COM.AU and register for the workshop on 29 July.


Sunday 29 July  - 2 p.m. to around 5 p.m.
We'll have some snacks and drinks available from 1:30 p.m. if folks would like to come early and meet, have a bite etc before we get started. Please join us!

Two Merriweather Building
5th floor Artists in Residence Space
10980 Grantchester Way
Columbia, MD 21044

(Park in the adjacent lot and enter via the building with the green and blue exterior design, then
go to level 5 via the lobby elevator.)

Wear: comfortable clothes.
Bring: water bottle.

IMPORTANT: The more the merrier! We'd love as many people as possible to participate so please spread the word!!! Again this is NOT for specifically trained singers, though you are also very welcome and will be engaged by the workshop, so all people of age, experience and background are welcome!


Learn more about the MDAir program here: https://www.merriweatherdistrict.com/artists-in-residence/artists-in-residence.html

Friday, July 27, 2018

A Fond Farewell

Today marks a momentous occasion in my family. It is the end of summer camp. My daughter has been saying it marks the end of her childhood and I keep trying to tell her that she can keep some of that childhood inside her. But, deep down, I know she is right.

Next summer she will be a high school graduate. She will probably have a job. She will be getting ready to leave for college. Her definition of summer, which has been the same for so many years, will have changed forever.

Columbia and Howard County have many summer camp options, which is a good thing for working parents who need summer child care coverage. For some these camps are essential. For others they are enrichment, which means that somebody, somehow, is able to stay home with the kids. My husband and I are both teachers. We’ve been able to be home during the summers for the most part, and a week or two of summer camp has been a special treat for our daughter, a luxury.

For some of my friends, being able to stay home with their children in the summer would be the luxury. It all depends on your circumstances.

Through the years we’ve had experiences with the HCPSS GT Enrichment Camps (not even sure that’s what they are called) Slayton House Camp of the Arts, Kids on Campus at HCC, and, lastly, the camp program at Roundhouse Theatre in Bethesda. All gave our daughter exposure to new experiences and ideas. For our musical theatre-driven kid, Slayton House and Roundhouse have been the most influential. 

I wrote about her experiences at Slayton House here.

It is in the summer that I see the highest level academic thinking from her. That is where she does her best GT work. By this I mean she wants to stretch herself. She strives to improve from one day to the next. When embedded in the world of musical theatre she wants to be better than just passing. She gives it the extra effort: practicing lines at home, researching the musicals online, sitting down at the piano to go over music and even figuring out her own keyboard parts.

She talks with us about what she is learning. She gets ideas. Creative ideas. She writes about them on the ipad. She gets ideas for other musicals, ideas for short stories based on musicals. The other evening she was excited about what you would need to do to adapt the musical "Bye Bye Birdie" to the present day. It led to a fascinating discussion about changes in our culture and in the popular music scene.

So today is the last day of summer camp. I’m not ready to call it the last day of childhood, but then, I’m not sure one can ever name such a day. I do know that these experiences have been precious  to my daughter and that she will carry them with her always, wherever adulthood may take her.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Unknown Territory

There are plenty of people in Howard County that I don’t know. There are entire communities whose concerns don’t turn up on social media or in the newspaper. There are neighborhoods I have never visited. There are languages I don’t speak, fears and struggles I haven’t experienced.

I was talking with a friend the other evening about how important it is for the under-represented in Howard County to be seen and their concerns acknowledged. We talked about how the same small pool of community-minded folks keeps cycling on and off of local boards and committees while we have a continuing need for more diversity. How can those boards be representative of the community they serve when the same people are pressed into service over and over? What are we doing to bring other voices to the table?

My friend mentioned that he feels drawn to examine the places in life that are uncomfortable. Perhaps that means places where he or his world-view are in the minority. Most of us aren’t that brave. I know I’m not. I want to learn more about experiences that are not my own but when it gets messy or ugly I want to retreat and put them at arm’s length.

Discomfort at a distance isn’t a philosophy that facilitates community-building. If we truly value diversity—racial, ethnic, economic—we are going to have to allow ourselves to let other people speak sometimes. And then really listen to and process what we hear.

That can be uncomfortable. Especially since any pushback against our engrained system of privilege feels like pushback against those of us who benefit from that system, whether we acknowledge it or not. Those uncomfortable situations quickly escalate into:

“They’re saying that I’m a bad person and I’m not a bad person!”

That can easily be the end of the conversation. Once we make it all about ourselves then we go all out to defend ourselves and we forget that it really wasn’t about us to begin with. I say this not with some holier than thou intent. I am that person, too. I have to push back against my own discomfort and own my own squeamishness.

As we move towards the upcoming election in November and evaluate candidates I am looking to see how much they are willing to promote other voices.  Are they willing to go to those unfamiliar places that we don’t normally talk about in Howard County? We need leaders who model the kind of behavior that true democracy demands: We the People.

Not simply:

We the (White) people
We the (Male) people
We the (Affluent) people
We the people (with the right religion)
We the people (with the approved sexuality)

...and so on.

I’ll be looking for examples of candidates for public office who are willing to get out of their comfort zones in order to facilitate fair and inclusive local government. Have some to share? Send them my way.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

At the Hearing

Today is one of those dreaded “I  ain’t got nothin’” mornings. I went to a meeting/hearing of the Liquor Board last night but I don’t have anything definitive to say about it. I also did not stay until the bitter end so I don’t know how it all played out.

I do know that there were a lot of people gathered in that room last night to claim that Columbia/Howard County just does not have room for one more Mom and Pop business. And that makes me sad. (There actually is a liquor license available, mind you. But somehow we have no room.)

It was interesting to note that quite a few Republican candidates for County Council were in attendance, working the crowd in the lobby before the actual hearing began. They also seemed to be there in support of those opposing the approval of the new business.

My personal favorite testimony from the time I was there was the dedicated customer who said she would travel farther to get to the Loft because of their excellent customer service in the same way that she went out of her way to go to the Bird Store. By the time she was done with her testimony I think all of us wanted to go to the Bird Store.

I’m looking forward to meeting a friend today to discuss politics, believe it or not. Surprising, but true.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

New Normal

Last night as it poured for at least the fourth time of the day my Twitter feed was filled with people worried about Old Ellicott City.

This is the tweet that stood out to me:

we should take Ellicott City..... and PUSH IT SOMEWHERE ELSE

In fact it’s the severity of recent storms which has been taking Ellicott City and pushing it somewhere else. But not as a whole. In pieces. In shreds of mayhem and destruction. The force of the rushing water does not care what is in its path.

Look at this photograph from the County Executive’s Facebook page. You may already know what it depicts. But what if you didn’t?

Bringing the clock back after the past two massive floods has been a symbol of the fierce will of the community to rise again. And yet, when I look at this photo I see pall-bearers. 

I feel grief.

I’m literally praying that Ellicott City gets through this rain tonight :/ they cant take a third

I hope Ellicott City withstands!

*worried looks at Old Ellicott City again*

Praying for Ellicott City

What is the situation in Ellicott City ?

its been raining for three days off and on and the skies just opened up.  i'm scared for old ellicott city.  anybody have data?

How’s everyone in downtown Ellicott City doing tonight?  Please be safe! #ecstrong
Does this blog post have a point? Maybe. Am I going to tell you something you did not already know? Maybe not. I am coming to terms with the reality of our “new normal”: a condition characterized by a deep underlying fear every time it rains. Like wives and mothers who scanned the horizon when loved ones were out at sea, we watch the skies and worry.

Monday, July 23, 2018

The Helpers

I awoke to discover that I had slept through a major storm and that the news of the day was not good. A thirteen year veteran of the Howard County Fire Department has died as a result of injuries sustained while fighting a seven alarm fire.

Ever since 9-11 I have been accutely aware of how mind-bogglingly brave firefighters are. They run towards danger and disaster when the rest of us would be running away. They are among the helpers that Mr. Rogers told us to look for.

There was something else my mother did that I’ve always remembered: “Always look for the helpers,” she’d tell me. “There’s always someone who is trying to help.” I did, and I came to see that the world is full of doctors and nurses, police and firemen, volunteers, neighbors and friends who are ready to jump in to help when things go wrong.

(Of course there are more details to this story than one fire and one firefighter. For those details you will need a newspaper. You do subscribe, don’t you?)

But for the Howard County firefighting community it will be the story of one fire and one firefighter. Of anguish and loss. It is the outcome that all must face and somehow, in the back of one’s mind, must dread. There is no way I can possibly know. I know what it feels like in a classroom of three year olds in the dark during a lockdown drill, wondering what it would be like if it were real. I do not know what it means to run towards danger.

I am so grateful for our firefighters, the work they do and the risks they take. I offer condolences as you grieve. I offer you thanks for your devotion in caring for our community.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

The Magic Drawing Board

Recently I received this email from our realtor:

The owner of the property you just checked out on Facebook wants to know what you thought about it. On a scale from 1-10, how close is it to what you're looking to buy?


Which house? Oh....that house. Well, no, maybe this house. Hmm...

I responded:

I just like looking at houses! Sorry.

We read all the time and hear on the news about how our data on social media is used by companies looking to sell us something. We understand that, should we do a Google search on end tables, soon a vast array of end tables for sale will appear in our Facebook feeds. 

But this was one step beyond for me. This was very like the moment I had, long ago, when I realized that the Magic Drawing Board on Captain Kangaroo was not really magic, but that a man named Cosmo Allegretti was behind it, invisible, drawing from the back. 

It didn’t make me run screaming from the room. It didn’t make me sign off of all of my social media accounts in fear or disgust. But it really stopped me in my tracks for a moment. It made me think. When I click on these links to look at these houses, someone is watching. And, in this case, it’s someone I know because I voluntarily liked this real estate firm because it is owned by a trusted acquaintance. 

I chose that. I allowed that. So why did it feel so creepy?

Certainly I use social media as a way of sharing things that I think are important. I look to use my social capital to share my enthusiasm for music education, early childhood education, interesting things happening around Columbia and Howard County. And I don’t find anything creepy about that. But when it came to a moment where I didn’t realize how precisely I was being targeted and observed, it felt different. 

It rather felt like a Truman Show sort of moment, if you know what I mean. 

Anyway, this is the house. It’s huge and funky and delightfully dated and someone should buy it. 

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Paradoxical Primary

I’ve been mulling over the most recent episode of Elevate Maryland. It was essentially a “part two” episode analyzing the results of the primary election. The guest is Roger Caplan. You can find the episode here:

Episode 34 with Roger Caplan

I find Mr. Caplan’s views on the District 1 Council race to be puzzling. On the one hand, he describes the incumbent Jon Weinstein as being the scapegoat for citizen unhappiness over issues that had absolutely nothing to do with him. On the other hand, he paints challenger Liz Walsh as being merely the candidate of change who happened to be in the right place at the right time. “Mickey or Minnie Mouse could have won...”

Amazing. Here we have an election where neither candidate has any agency or responsibility. Mr. Weinstein’s own record, for good or ill, had nothing to do with his loss. Ms. Walsh’s qualifications and platform had nothing to do with her success. And, most of all, voters were completely ignorant and would have voted for anybody.

This makes no sense. While I took no official position on this race, my own observations are at odds with Mr. Caplan’s analysis. Mr. Weinstein cannot truly be depicted as an innocent victim who was walking down Main Street and was inexplicably mowed down by an out of control vehicle. Ms. Walsh is not a random lottery winner whose name was pulled out of a hat. Somebody, somewhere, has to have agency and responsibility here. This particular framing of events simultaneously cushions the Mr. Weinstein’s loss while erasing Ms. Walsh’s win.

While Mr. Caplan is quite knowledgeable and is certainly entitled to his opinion, I think that the reality of the situation doesn’t fit within his framework.

On another topic, I was surprised by his candid lack of enthusiasm about Howard County restaurants and events. After you listen to the episode, let me know what you think. I’d have to say that his unpopular and (perhaps not that) benign opinion is that Howard County is just not a very big deal. Hmm.

And then, right at the end, Mr. Caplan completely redeemed himself by his suggestion as to what we need to do to elevate Maryland. I wish I could copy and paste a quote or two for you here, but podcasts just don’t work that way. In short, he makes a pitch for better education when it comes to civics. We need to place a much higher level of importance in educating citizens to be involved in community affairs, educating themselves about issues, and voting. I agree one hundred per cent.


As a postscript, I see that the folks at Elevate Maryland have invited Liz Walsh to be their next guest. I’m looking forward to learning more about her.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Another Farewell

These are the words of Kate Magill:

When you're in person covering a school mtg & are also streaming a gov't mtg b/c you're the only reporter on staff and are literally trying to be in 2 places at once.

These are also the words of Kate Magill:

My turn for *personal news* 

Tomorrow is my last day at @HoCoTimes. I've loved covering Howard County, but am excited for my next adventure spending a year in Shanghai, China.

Ms. Magill has burned brightly and burned her candle at both ends while covering our community for the Howard County Times. She has done at least the work of two reporters for much of the time she’s been here. 

And now, like the talented journalists before her, she is moving on.

I hesitate to lament this state of affairs because, every time I do, a host of helpful men take to the comments and explain how I just don’t understand journalism today. 

I do understand, really I do, oh helpful and knowledge men. I am grateful for every single journalist who has put in the time going to meetings and tracking down information and getting the quotes. I’m grateful for time and talent and effort and I wish it didn’t have to be too much work for too little pay.

I long for stable journalistic continuity in a world when that is nigh unto impossible.

Yes, I susbscribe. I encourage others to subscribe. Frequently. I am putting my money where my mouth is. 

Thank you, Ms. Magill. You have taken on our issues and our challenges and crises. You have had to deal with our quirks and foibles. You have certainly earned a chance to go and do something different. 

But we will miss you. 

Thursday, July 19, 2018


It started early yesterday morning. Banging, thumping. Our new neighbor must be having some kind of work done. I think when I met her the other day she said something about all new floors.

Bang, bang, bang. Pause. Thump, thump, thump.

We live in a community of quadroplexes: houses built in groups of four. The back wall of our house is connected to our neighbor to the right. It has rarely been an issue, except when I worry that my husband’s guitar playing (with amp, mind you) might be reverberating through the connection. We once shared a mouse. My neighbor finally caught it on her side.

Recently our beloved neighbor moved. I’ve been on the lookout to meet the new one. I want to be the kind of good neighbor that our old neighbor always was for us. And so I did stop to introduce myself and my daughter when I saw her head towards the house next door. She seemed a bit surprised that anyone would do that.

She’s young, confident. Firm handshake. That’s really all I know so far.

Bang, bang, bang. Thump, thump, thump.

It was still going on when we went to bed, and we heard a power saw as well.

There was a time in my neighborhood when residents were concerned that no one wanted to buy these houses anymore. Original owners were leaving, couldn’t find buyers, and so they were renting. The general consensus was that too many renters might mean too many owners not on site caring for their properties.

Also, during the recession, houses were staying on the market for a very long time. Owners wondered if the value of their houses was sinking. Combined with the usual “Oakland Mills is a dangerous place to live” rumours that always seemed to pop up as soon as another was extinguished, it was a worrisome time in my little quadroplex community.

Bang, bang, bang. Thump, thump, thump.

So much has changed since then. People have figured out that ours are among the few affordable starter homes in Columbia. The financial recovery has prompted more home buying. New neighbors are also investing in their homes through home improvements. All new floors, for instance.

We have a rich variety of things to complain about in Columbia. If you don’t believe me, go online or read the newspaper. You won’t find me complaining about a day of banging and thumping, though. I will admit that it had begun to wear on me by the time I went to bed. But it’s a sign of belief in my little neighborhood. A sign of ownership.

Welcome to the neighborhood.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Parks and Privilege

I’m pretty sure they have their hearts in the right place, but I’m going to put this in the category of things that might go horribly wrong:

Howard's parks seeking to enlist alert volunteers for safety watches by Leah Brennan for Howard County Times

From the article:

Howard County is looking to enlist regular visitors to its parks to become additional “eyes and ears” of the Recreation and Parks Department. 
The county on Monday rolled out a Park Watch program, which seeks to bolster safety and deter crime through a system that will use trained volunteers observing park activity to alert rangers, who contact county police for anything that would be pursued criminally.
What could go wrong with that, you ask? Isn’t this just a common sense way to appeal to the community to help keep our parks safe?

I’m afraid I can’t look at this initiative in a vacuum. After reading regular reports from across the country where white people have called the police to report people of color engaged in “suspicious activity”, well, I just wonder how this will play out in Howard County. Is this an invitation to all the “Permit Patty” types to come out of the woodwork and report the “suspicious activity” of those whose race differs from their own?

Might it become NextDoor for Park-goers? 

“That man runs here every morning and he throws his energy bar wrapper on the ground.” 

You know what I mean, right? The world is filled with people of privilege who are just itching for their chance to demand to speak to a manager. 

I have no intention of dismissing this initiative before it even has a chance to take root. I hope it is embraced by the community in the positive spirit with which it has been created. We have beautiful parks in Howard County and, if the public can help support that, well, we certainly should.

That being said, if it should happen that Park Watch unleashes a spate of reports on “park-ing while black”, I’m not sure I’ll be all that surprised.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Staying Local

Yesterday’s feeling of foreboding upon awakening did not get one bit better as the day progressed.

I’m putting in my two weeks commuting daily to Bethesda so my daughter can go to camp. To all of you who regulary do such commutes: I’m sorry. You have my condolences. It is truly a soul-sucking experience.

The drive down yesterday afternoon was made somewhat less dreary by listening to the most recent episode of the Elevate Maryland podcast, with guest Roger Caplan. They continued with the analysis of the primary election begun on the previous episode with Dylan Goldberg. I found what they didn’t discuss almost as fascinating as what they did. More on that later this week, perhaps tomorrow.

A recently-eleminated BOE Candidate popped up on social media last evening making gloom and doom predictions and spreading incendiary rumours. It almost seemed as though her account had been hacked by a previous (ousted) board member. Hmm...One can only wonder how such tactics would have played out had this candidate been elected.

A hair-raising story is making the rounds on social media about how a woman of color was treated in the Wilde Lake CVS. Blogger Jason Booms has more to say on that.

CVS, Columbia, Race, and Justice

I’d love to know who came up with a special tax for people who live in mobile homes. My guess is that it wasn’t anyone who has ever lived in one. I do hope the County can find a way to live without that revenue. Sheesh.

I was thinking a lot yesterday of one particular Howard County candidate who was unabashedly enthusiastic about being “on the Trump train.” I wondered how he was feeling about that yesterday. And I wonder if that will make a difference in local electability in November.

The bad news on the national and international front has been relentless in the last twenty four hours. I’m doing my darndest to stay local.

Monday, July 16, 2018


Five thirty am.

My iPad says I have internet and yet I can’t connect to anything except for Facebook. No Twitter. No Google. No Blogger. Yes, I have tried resetting the home internet connection. As I sit here as the darkness turns into light I am the only person awake at my house. 

I am alone with my fears. I ponder the possibility that I might still be asleep and this is a bad dream.

I wonder if my inability to connect to the Internet is some kind of sabotage. Yes, that may seem paranoid or wacky to you, but, what would be the quickest way to keep citizens from mobilizing? Cut off their ability to get information and to connect.

The current political situation fills me with dread.

Everything that I believe in about this country is being destroyed. I am heartsick. I am soul sick. Each new day brings another betrayal of our democracy and our basic human values. And so it is not too far-fetched to believe that malevolent forces have taken down most, if not all, of the Internet. 

Perhaps when my husband wakes up he will flip some switch, as yet unknown to me, and everything will work again. And then I will feel foolish. 

What would we do if we woke up and discovered that our access to the Internet was gone? Perhaps our telephone service as well? How would we find each other and where would we meet up? As crazy as it sounds, perhaps we should have a plan. I don’t think we can rely on the world to work the way it ought to anymore. I don’t think our basic freedoms are protected. And that scares me. 

Right now I feel alone. And disconnected. And powerless. 


Some time shortly after six-thirty, my internet connection came back. Right now I have no idea what happened. I still wonder if we need to have an emergency plan. 

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:

...so 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.