Monday, November 11, 2019

A Cure for Monday

UPDATE: tonight’s show has been canceled. Phooey. - - jam

Friday evening I had the chance to experience Elevate Maryland in their new space and, tonight, you can too. They’ve set up shop in their new digs, 10960 Grantchester Way in Downtown Columbia. It’s in the building directly across from Cured.

The space belongs to Howard Hughes and I expect we will be seeing it used for a variety of public events in the future.

The show ended up being different than I expected due to a last minute emergency on the part of guest Dr. Richard Warren. Howard Hughes’ own Greg Fitchitt stepped in at the last minute and answered questions on Downtown development, affordable housing, equity in our schools, and more. I found his presentation to be relaxed and engaging. (As compared to the last time I saw him speak.) I suspect it’s because  he knew he was among friends and also that the stakes of the event were far lower.  He acquitted himself well. It was a lively and entertaining discussion.

Tonight the show features Montgomery County Council member Will Jawando. From his bio:

...Will has worked with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senator Sherrod Brown, and then-Senator Barack Obama. During the 8-year Obama Administration, Will had the honor of serving as Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, followed by a position as an advisor to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in the U.S. Department of Education.

Since Montgomery County is working on some of the very same issues that Columbia/HoCo is grappling with, I am interested to hear Mr, Jawando’s take on equity in school redistricting, affordable housing, and confronting issues of race as a public servant. Last year I followed along as he live tweeted his experiences in trying to get to work using public transit. I wonder if he will have anything to say on Howard County’s Complete Streets initiative?

Come on out. It’s centrally located. Parking is nearby and free. And you'll get to see a cool new space.

Sunday, November 10, 2019


It was a very long time ago that I saw a promo for the television show The Simpson’s which repelled me. The family was gathered around a Thanksgiving table laden with food. Bart, I think, perhaps, Homer, was saying the grace.

“Dear God, everything that's on this table we put here ourselves, so: thanks for nothing.”

My objection to this was not on religious grounds but rather the complete lack of gratitude for life’s blessings.

I was reminded of this quote as I drove home last night and was listening to a public radio show called Live Wire. The guest was Dina Nayeri, speaking on her experience as an Iranian refugee. She was asked how America has changed since she came here thirty years ago. Ms. Nayeri spoke to the growing anti-refugee climate as follows (and I’m paraphrasing):

The difference is that people have come to believe the blessings and advantages they were born with are something that they innately deserve. 

This week I read an online conversation about how privilege plays into the ability of some parents to take a greater role in the redistricting process than others. The compete denial of privilege by some was rather stunning. The line of thinking went like this:

Anyone could do this if they made it a priority. I just work harder. It’s not my fault that those people don’t care enough.

Howard County is home to so many educated people. I find it both heartbreaking and infuriating that our education did not include the truth about how laws and systems have been made and perpetuated  to protect wealth, rights, and privilege for whites. We do not feel the trip wires which take down non-whites as they do all the things we do to create better lives. They do not exist for us.

Similar or even more concerted efforts than our own are sabotaged by a culture that centers White success and fears a world where that success might be shared with people different than ourselves. We don’t see the sabotage. We don’t navigate those minefields. We continue, year after year, to benefit from a system that allows our striving to have meaning and to bear fruit.

And then we have the gall to say that we deserve it. That we worked for it and it belongs to us.

It is not that we have not worked. It is that our culture allows our work to move us forward. Our good intentions are greeted with admiration and not suspicion. Our ideas carry weight in public meetings and our children are welcome without inquiry or interrogation. We move through the waters of systemic racism and do not even know we are swimming. It’s just us being us. Isn't that the way it is for everyone?

No. No, it isn’t.

And the sooner we make learning these bitter truths a priority, the better our community will be.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Merriweather Memories

Merriweather is running a contest right now and the deadline is soon. No, let me correct that. It looks like Howard Hughes is running the contest, which has a Merriweather theme. From the contest page:

We’re calling all concert goers to share your favorite memories from the Merriweather Post Pavilion. For over 50 years, the world’s finest musicians have performed at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Downtown Columbia.

What was the song that changed your life, or the show where you saw your favorite artist live for the first time? What is the moment that you will never forget?

Share your favorite song lyric and memory of the best show at Merriweather Post Pavilion for a chance to win tickets to the 2020 season!

50 winners will be selected and will receive 2 tickets to a concert of their choice during the 2020 season. Each winner will also have their lyrics engraved on bricks located in the plaza as part of an art installation within the Merriweather District. 

I am tempted to enter but my most precious Merriweather memories don’t fit neatly inside the box.

At a memorial service for beloved local blogger Dennis Lane, his grieving partner and her daughter stood on the stage together, arms around each other, while a song they had chosen for that moment played in the pavilion. It was a moment of shared grief that I will never forget and the music was just as much a part of it as the visuals and words of the event. 

At the 50th Birthday Concert for Columbia my daughter’s school performed “Viva La Vida” by Coldplay. Different facets of their musical performing arts groups were represented: choir, band, guitar ensemble. Dancers joined in as well. The lyrics of the song are rather disheartening but the experience of those young people joining forces to create something bigger than themselves will stay with me forever.

So I suppose I won’t enter the contest. You should, though. How cool would it be to have the lyrics you chose memorialized on a brick around the Azlon art installation in the Merriweather District? Winning Merriweather tickets would be sweet, too.

To be fair, I’ve already got a brick.

And I’ve already got greats seats to some of the best shows in town.

I’m pretty sure I’m already a winner.

Friday, November 8, 2019


Trying to think straight at five am is just madness. At least it certainly seems so of late. Almost every idea that pops into my head is followed by the thought that I should put it off until the weekend when I have had more time. And more sleep.

A few tidbits for your Friday:

The Howard County Schools will begin before Labor Day next year, which is what happens when you let local jurisdictions make their own choices. Home rule—I’m in favor of it.

There’s a going to be a free magic show at Christ Church Episcopal on Monday November 14th at 7 pm. It is free and open to the public. I’ll bet there was a time when churches and magic shows were deemed incompatible, but times change. UPDATE: a helpful reader points out that the date should read November 11th.

There’s a new reporter on the Howard County government beat: Ana Faguy. So that means the clock is ticking until the workload and low pay take their toll and she moves on. Of course I welcome her presence on the local scene and I am grateful for any local coverage at all. But I’m going to try not to get too attached.

Local podcast Elevate Maryland kicks off their 73rd episode tonight in a new home in Downtown Columbia. Featuring Maryland Teacher of the Year Dr. Richard Warren, the program begins at six pm. Learn more here.

As you begin to fill up your December calendar, be sure to check out the offerings from the Inner Arbor Trust. Ice and Fire (actually begins November 30th) will feature: lighted holiday displays,fire pits & fire arts, performances, greetings with characters (the Snow Queen, elves, and more),Santa photos, and ice sculptors.

Best of all, it benefits the Community Action Council and will support other area nonprofits as well.

Have a great Friday and a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, November 7, 2019

If Not Now, When?

One year ago, in my Facebook memories:

Just pure joy for Calvin Ball . My heart is full. Thank you, Howard County.

One of my favorite photographs of myself is a candid that was taken at a party at the Chrysalis. I was deep in conversation with Dr. Ball. This was before he had declared his candidacy for County Executive, but it was widely assumed that he was considering it.

The gist of what I said was that I had complete faith in his ability to to the job itself, but that I wasn’t convinced he should run because of all the hatefulness he would have to endure. I dreaded the possibility of more local racism coming out of the woodwork and of partisan smears whose only goal was to try to cut him down so that he looked small compared to their candidate.

Dr. Ball’s response was to acknowledge that those things would most likely occur, but that he couldn’t make a decision based on avoiding that. To paraphrase, he said that if he believed that the time was right for him to offer his service as County Executive, then he had to be willing to face that. “If not now, when?”  Waiting until the perfect time was not an option. And with that was the suggestion that there would never be a perfect time.

For some, nothing this County Executive does will ever be right because he is not Their Guy. And for others, everything he does will be right because he is Their Guy. The truth of the matter is that Dr. Ball will do good, work hard, make some mistakes, and learn from them. His election was historic. That does not require him to be perfect. Anyone who attempts to hold him to that standard and call anything else a failure is showing their own bias, nothing more.

And now, a year in, everything we both said is true. More local racism has continued to come out of the woodwork. Partisan operatives seize every opportunity to cut him down. Yet it is equally true that Dr. Ball made the choice to continue his public service to Howard County and continues to make that choice every day. There is no perfect time. There is only the choice to do one’s best.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019


Another post from the I Am Cranky files.

Are there any neighborhoods in Columbia/HoCo where the house numbers are clearly visible after dark? I was reminded of this when I was wandering around in Owen Brown looking for a particular address at around six pm yesterday, Also: curse you, oh demon time change of doom. Why is it so dark at six pm?

This is always the time of year when I wonder if humankind was meant to be out of the house at all after dark. The early sunset times make my usually familiar world unfriendly and laced with a sense of foreboding. Stay home and light a candle, I think. Why go out and curse the darkness?

Back to addresses. Are there no laws about house numbers being clearly visible at night? How do emergency vehicles find anybody? I was using GPS but it told me I had arrived when I was still four or five houses away from my destination. And, in a suburban neighborhood without sidewalks, someone wandering around in the dark looks sketchy at best. 

Let’s make house numbers easier to see at night. Or let’s all stay home until Spring.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Wish List

I’m not ready. I’m not ready. I’m not ready.

That being said, what are your recommendations for shopping local during this upcoming holiday season? Where do you go to get the best gifts for family and friends?

Every year I seem to be fighting the urge to sit in my comfy chair and order everything online. And yet I also have nightmares about Amazon becoming the BuynLarge of WALL-E fame. I know I can do better.

Tell me your favorite local businesses for holiday shopping. I’ll gather them together for a future post.

Monday, November 4, 2019


And now, a question.

What is up with that inexplicable hallway in Oakland Mills High School?

If you’ve even been in the school, you know what I mean. The hallway that goes past the cafeteria and down towards the auditorium is unlike any school hallway I have ever experienced. It is at a slant, but not an even slant. It is a gently rolling hill, with little ups and downs along the way, like gentle waves.

How did this come into existence? Is there a reason? Was it a mistake?

I know that some of the Howard County schools are built along the same model, so are there any other high schools with similar hallways?

Every time I go to OMHS I wonder if they ever let kids loose on skateboards on that hallway. It would be great for wagon rides or movers’ dollies, too. Perhaps a fundraising idea?

Or far too much liability for an administrator to risk it? Who knows.

I’d just love to know how on earth this upsy, downsy hallway got there in the first place.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Hearing Voices

My husband and I were out for dinner the other evening and I noticed a new business had opened near the restaurant. The window was filled with photographic displays of Black women—beautiful, confident, radiant. I noticed that something inside me felt unsettled. As we went into the restaurant it stayed with me.

I realized I was hearing a voice.

“Oh, that’s too bad. I always liked that shopping center. But now it’s going to go downhill. It’s too bad when that happens.”

What was that voice?

It was my mother. My liberal, Unitarian mother, a lifelong Democrat, making observations here and there throughout my childhood.

I felt sick. And angry. And ashamed.

Why was this voice inside me? How had I not known it was there? It told me that any signs of Black-owned business, or those catering to people of color, was a sign of decay, of danger. That the presence of such businesses marked the beginning of the end for a commercial area.

Let me make it completely clear that in my conscious mind I do NOT believe this. But this moment underscored for me how, even though we may think of ourselves as well-meaning allies we still carry these voices inside us in one way or another. They are often completely unknown to us and we would swear they are not there but then, at the oddest times, they break through.

This is implicit bias. This is the long, long arm of systemic racism and the curse of white supremacy. We believe that because we have a few black friends and do not belong to the KKK that we are untouched and unaffected. But then we see a display in a store window. Or young people at a village center. Or test scores at a school. And something inside us feels uncomfortable.

It may not even rise to the level of conscious thought but it influences our attitudes and decisions. That is why it is so damaging. It is the poison we pass on by not addressing it. It is what is meant when you see a sentence that begins, “I’m not a racist, but” and continues on with the words, “those people.”

I wish this were not the truth of where we are in our country, and in our county. But it cannot be wished away. It must be worked away. And I’m calling myself out today because I want my readers to know that I don’t hold myself above that work. I keep struggling.

I want to be better.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Breathing Free

Every once in a while there’s one of those NPR stories that just rock you to your core. This week, this  was the one:

New Hope For Patients Living With Cystic Fibrosis After Scientists Unveil Therapy, an interview with Dr. Francis Collins by Mary Louise Kelly

Dr. Collins, the director of the NIH, is one of the team of doctors who discovered the gene defect that causes cyclic fibrosis thirty years ago. This week a promising therapy was announced that can help ninety percent of patients living with CF. It is truly a major medical breakthrough.

This was the moment in the interview where I almost had to pull the car off of the road.

KELLY: Yeah. I am told that after you first identified the cystic fibrosis gene, you wrote a song.
COLLINS: I did. We sang it this morning, actually.
KELLY: Would you share a tiny bit with us?

COLLINS: Sure. So the song is called "Dare To Dream." And I wrote it at a
time where, yes, we understood what the DNA misspelling was, but we were
a long way from knowing how that could help people therapeutically. And
the chorus is dare to dream, all our brothers and sisters breathing free.

COLLINS: (Singing) All our brothers and sisters breathing free. Unafraid,
our hope's unswayed (ph) until the story of CF is history. Do that one more
So here we have a doctor, a scientist, who has been working on a problem that leads to major human suffering and early death. And what is the first thing he does when a breakthrough occurs?

He writes a song.

What an incredible affirmation of how much music is an innate part of the human spirit. The scientist who is the investigator of complex enigmas, the doctor who is the shaper of innovative healing protocols, is also the artist who is the creator of song.

You cannot convince me that music is not every bit as much a part of what goes into Dr. Collins as his science, math, and medical training. Music and creative expression and the arts education that students receive throughout their school years become interwoven with the other disciplines and are an integral part of learning and human growth.

And we sang that this morning here in Nashville at the major cystic fibrosis meeting. And I had a borrowed guitar and stood up in front of 5,000 people and put the chorus up on the screen. And they stood up, and they sang their hearts out. And it was hard to keep going and not just get choked up. It was a moment.

The arts are not the sprinkles on top on the cake. They are the leavening that allows it to rise.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Play Along

I can’t remember where I saw it, but I chanced upon an online conversation about creating a Howard County Monopoly game. I think it was a purely hypothetical proposition. One of the participants recalled there being an actual Columbia Monopoly game, back in the day.

Was there really such a thing? Do any of my readers have one? I’d love to see it.

If there were a Columbia/HoCo Monopoly game, what would you want it to contain? What streets/neighborhoods would be essential? Would you want to add in local parks? Merriweather? The Chrysalis? What about the Mall? Would the Fairgrounds be on your game board? Perhaps some of the major local farms?

Draw a card:

  • Stuck in traffic due to downed tree on Route 32. Lose one turn.
  • No parking at the Mall on a Friday night. Lose one turn.
  • Your home project is immediate approved by your local RAC. Skip ahead three spaces.
  • Columbia Flier/HoCo Times prints your letter to the editor. Take an additional turn.
  • Unexpected goats are blocking your driveway. Go back three spaces.
As always, what do you think? What would make for the quintessential Columbia/HoCo Monopoly game? What tweaks to the original would add to the fun of game play, personalizing it to our local experiences? 

Things have been so heavy around here lately that a bit of play might be just what we need.


UPDATE: I have been informed by a reader that there is a perfectly vile version of this concept circulating in some social media circles. I just want to make it clear that is not where I saw it. I think it is safe to say that I don’t hang out in that part of the Internet. So please take this post in the spirit in which it was intended: that of innocent, light-hearted fun.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Busy Busy

Looking ahead to the weekend:

Oakland Mills High School is having their annual Craft Fair on Saturday from 10-3.

This is always a great event with a wide variety of vendors, items in many price ranges, and refreshments available for purchase as well. And while I’m not ready to think of the holidays yet, I’d highly recommend you snap up some tickets to the WBAL Concert for Kids, hosted every year by OMHS. 

After all the crafty goodness make sure to head over the the Columbia Association’s Party in the Park.

What’s a “Party in the Park”?

Enjoy good food, drinks, and live music alongside your friends and neighbors, warmed by fire pits and surrounded by scenic Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods. 
Columbia Association’s Party in the Park will take place at the Chrysalis on Saturday, November 2 from 3-7pm. Join us for some of our region’s favorite food trucks, plus both alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages available for purchase, fire pits, lawn games, and music from Jah Works and DJ TreStylz.

It’s a free event but you’ll need to register here for parking.

One more thing before I go: Happy Halloween! I’m looking forward to handing out candy tonight.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

On the Road Again

One of the earliest posts, from way back in 2011, was about a challenge I set for myself. In
Walking the Walk I revealed that, although I had advocated for the building of the Oakland Mills Walgreen’s by touting its easy availability on foot, I hadn’t actually ever walked there.

So, I did.

On a crisp, clear morning on the 31st of October I laced up my shoes, zipped up my jacket, and put down my fear.

(Starting Time)
Home:  9:36
Sohap: 9:43
Walgreen's:  9:49
Walgreen's 10:04
Sohap:  10:10
Home:  10:16

I realized yesterday that I have another challenge looming. During the time that the Oakland Mills Dunkin’ Donuts business was in the works (and that was a really long time) I told people that I had decided that I would only get a donut there if I walked both ways. You know, as a way to “justify” the extra calories. Well, I’ve been to the new Dunkin’ about four times so far. The number of times I have walked?


It’s time for a little public accountability, methinks. 

Are there some walks you’ve been vowing to take that you just keep putting off? Do you find it easier to hop in the car when a little voice in your head is telling you it wouldn’t be that far on foot? Or are you good at that “leave the car at home” thing? Share your tips.

I know I have friends who have hiked the Appalachian Trail and climbed mountains. That’s cool, admirable even, but I’m not talking about that here. I’m coming at this from someone who has to be persuaded not to move their car when shopping at retail center with a large parking lot. Everyone has to start somewhere.

If you can walk to work in Columbia/HoCo that would be a blog post unto itself.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

A Very Small Venture

My life took a little detour recently when I unaccountably got into the T-shirt business.

This shirt:

It’s a message I believe in. And it’s timeless. Long after this season of acrimony is over in Columba/HoCo, this shirt and its sentiment will still be relevant. I will never be embarrassed to wear this shirt. I will never look at it, languishing in a dresser drawer, and feel embarrassed.

After I broke the news that I was going to have the shirts made, I was approached by two locals with offers to assist with the financial outlay. In both cases I refused. I was lucky I was able to front the money myself. (Well, it was only 27 shirts.) It was very important to me that I not be beholden to anyone for putting these shirts out into the world.

And with all the crazy controversies out there, I didn’t want this to turn into one of them. This was a simple transaction. I ordered the shirts. People paid me back, no profit was made.

Twenty-seven t-shirts in a sea of hundreds will not make a dent when photos are being taken or when news outlets are sizing up the state of things. And perhaps the battle is won by the group with the most matching t-shirts. But it’s my opinion that none of us will truly “win” until we get behind the sentiment on this shirt.

All school are “our schools”. All children are “our children”.

And now, I think I’ll go back to the blog business.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Will the Real Ellicott City Please Stand Up

When I think of Ellicott City, two competing images come to mind. One is of Main Street, Old Ellicott City. The other is of Route 40, a thoroughfare of a gazillion shopping centers. It seems an odd composition to me. How did Ellicott City come to have such a split personality?

If you live in Ellicott City, what do you see as the “center of town”? Is it Main Street, or is it a spot on Route 40 where you frequently shop or eat out? Or is it someplace else entirely?

Since much of Columbia was built in a particular time period, it’s pretty easy to see what the Center of Town was meant to be. We’re a very young place. We’re only now experiencing a significant second wave of growth, of the sort that may shift how we see ourselves.

In comparison, Ellicott City has years and years of history behind it. Sifting through the layers of growth, of generational changes and suburban sprawl is a task worthy of county planners, I guess. Or the historical society.

Here’s my question: does it all make sense to you? Is Ellicott City a cohesive community/city/town/suburb? Does it all hang together, somehow, despite its many contrasts? I realize that this question reveals plenty about my lack of knowledge, but, hey: isn’t that what questions are for?

Clue me in.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Light and Dark

It’s raining and raining and the sky is dark. I try to keep my eyes open but sleep is far more enticing. It doesn’t feel like the day has begun. I keep waiting for more light.

A few light-filled moments this week:

Lunch with a dear friend at Indigo.
A chance meeting at Röggenart that produced some great conversation.
A neighborhood Halloween party that was welcoming and fun for kids and adults.
Cupcakes and champagne and a bit of splurge shopping at a friend’s house.
Folks who were quick to offer kind words when I was at a low ebb.

It hasn’t exactly been a light-filled week here in Columbia/HoCo. I won’t spell it out but you probably know what I mean. And today marks the one year anniversary of the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. That’s a lot of darkness for one day to bear.

Light a candle today. Either a real one or by shedding some light for someone else. I wouldn’t have gotten through the week without people who did that for me.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

On the Road

For sale in Columbia, Maryland, a 1982 Airstream.

From the advert:

Truly a joy to drive. It turns lots of heads and is definitely an attention getter. People everywhere, from gas stations to campgrounds, stop and want to learn about it.

My parents had a fascination with what they called “mobile homes” and what are now called RVs. Many a Sunday afternoon drive ended at some lot, touring Winnebagos. It was a dream of theirs that was never fulfilled, like my father’s goal to own a home with a sunken bathtub, or their joint desire to retire to one of those little red popcorn wagons.

Airstreams are known as having a sleek and stylish presence in the world of RVs. This particular one looks to have been around the block quite a bit. Is there a Fixer Upper show for RVs? What kind of mileage does a 1982 vehicle get? What kind of mileage can any RV get? Not too great, I would think.

An aside: did you know that Columbia has a designated RV storage facility? They do. It’s located near Lifetime Fitness.

True confession: I adore watching those extreme RV shows on tv and I do harbor a wish to take at least one trip to enjoy the RV experience. I’d also like a luxury treehouse, so it’s hard to say if and when these dreams will come true.

How about you? Are you interested in a 1982 Airsteam, to life on the road, free from hotels or pitching tents? Can you imagine yourself bringing new life to a 35 year old classic?

Friday, October 25, 2019

Mailbox Musings

In our family it is generally my husband who gets the mail. It’s an activity he is highly motivated to do. When my daughter was younger she enjoyed going through the mail and sorting it: this is for Mom, this is for Dad, this goes in the recycling, and so on. Every so often she would get something herself. But usually she just kept the fun catalogues to browse through.

We live in Columbia, so we have those shared mailboxes. I’ve read that they were done this way to encourage interactions between neighbors. Alternatively, I’ve read that’s just a coverup, that it was just easier/cheaper to do it that way. Here’s the thing: I’ve now lived here twenty years and I’m not sure I’ve ever even bumped into a neighbor while getting the mail. Have you?

Of course, as I have already said, it’s my husband who does most of the mail getting, so perhaps I should really ask him. I just wonder how useful the shared mailbox concept is in fostering conversation. Probably the most interaction between neighbors I have ever seen was after a big snow when folks were digging their cars out.

And then there’s this: how much mail do you actually get these days? I imagine a sample “haul” from the 1970’s would look very different than one from today. Birthday cards, personal letters, business letter, bills, postcards, the Sears Christmas catalogue “Wish Book”...(sorry, couldn’t resist.) Rouse foresaw quite a bit and was clearly a forward thinker but was the possibility of the Internet on his mind? I’m guessing no.

In a hundred years will they remain, like monuments to forgotten wars, largely ignored and completely unused?

I would love to hear your stories of the Columbia shared mailbox experience. Love them? Hate them? Meet someone special while picking up your mail? Forge valuable friendships?

Consider this an official call for submissions. If I get enough I’ll share them in a follow-up post.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

A Rip in the Fabric

I stop on the way to work every day to pick up a large iced coffee. Just cream. No sugar. The gentlemen at the Dunkin Donuts often see me coming before I’m completely in the door and start making it for me. Early morning Dunkin is a mix of adults getting breakfast sandwiches and high school students getting beverages enhanced by caramel.

On Fridays there appears to be some kind of student meeting in the back; maybe it is a study group. Occasionally you will see a few people sitting in the booths up front. But mostly it is a quick in-and-out trade at that hour.

About the booths. I remember when they were installed and how nice they looked. Then I watched over time how they were vandalized by customers. It made me sad to see slits in the vinyl, stuffing pulled out.  Those things don’t happen by themselves. Why do that? Would you go in someone’s home and rip up their furniture?

So I was excited when they were replaced recently. All is shiny and new again. But how long will it last?

You see, these booths aren’t top of the line, heavy-duty, expensive pieces of furniture. They are, I suspect, what these particular business owners can afford. And they will stand up to normal wear and tear but they are no match for deliberate vandalism.

For Heaven’s sake, Columbia/HoCo, don’t patronize a business, accept their service and kind hospitality, and then rip up their furniture. And don’t make excuses for kids who do it, either. It matters.

Just think. We are walking around every day in this town and among us are people who think nothing of destroying What someone else has worked for and walking away. Making a space that is meant to be shared by all less welcoming.  No apologies, no acceptance of responsibility, no restitution. “It just happened.”

When you hurt people and the things the work for it doesn’t “just happen”. When you can slink away without your identity being known you are at best a coward. At worst you are showing a profound disrespect for members of your community who are nothing more to you than purveyors of a product. Not people. Not fellow human beings. Invisible save for an exchange of cash.

We’ve got a second chance now. New booths, new vinyl. I wonder how long it will last?

Wednesday, October 23, 2019


I stumbled upon this tweet the other day. I’m always excited when I find anyone on Twitter talking about Columbia. There not a lot of that kind of conversation. We may think we’re a really big deal but searches on Twitter say otherwise. Of course there are daily job postings and real estate listings but - - actual conversations about Columbia? - - not so much.

So, here goes:

I’m fine with the upgrade to merriweather, expanding the mall over time. Maybe some more stuff by the lake. But all the high density housing is insane. They want to create a utopia where ppl live work and play in downtown Columbia.  Nobody does that.


Wasn’t Columbia always supposed to be some kind of utopia where you could live, work, and play? Is the difference now that the focus is on a “downtown”? Or is the objection to the concept that anyone would live, work, and play in the same location? Not sure.

I’m pretty sure that upgrades to Merriweather, expanding the Mall, more stuff by the lake can only supported by increasing the density housing-wise. I don’t see how the one can be successful without the other. Of course, if you liked everything the way it was before, then none of this is worth discussing. You just wish they had had the sense to leave well enough alone.

My recollection from school days is that utopias never quite work out the way their creators intended. Certainly Columbia didn’t, although I’d argue that Rouse foresaw that. He knew it would keep growing beyond his original concepts. Would he like what is going on now?

Feel free to go over his writing with a fine-tooth comb, or get a Ouija Board. I don’t think we will ever know for sure. 

Do you believe in a utopia where you can live, work, and play? Do people “do that”? 

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Fired Up

I showed up a bit after 5:30. I hadn’t been expecting the traffic situation on Route 32. The main room at Jailbreak Brewery was already well more than half-filled and abuzz with conversation. I was there for Ignite HoCo 5, an event sponsored by the local Chapter of Conscious Capitalism.

Conscious Capitalism of Central Maryland describes itself: 

C3MD is a purpose-driven business community that promotes the power of capitalism to create positive change, do good, and elevate humanity.
We inspire and equip individuals and organizations to embrace and implement conscious business principles through educational programs, practical tools, and strategic partnerships.

Ignite is a particular sort of public speaking concept. Each speaker is allotted five minutes and must use twenty slides to convey a topic about which they are passionate. They seem to be quite successful locally, since this is the fifth one and they already have a date for next year’s event on the books.

Jailbreak is a great venue for these events. For a ten dollar ticket price, those in a attendance get two drink tickets and access to an ample buffet which sampled from Jailbreak’s regular menu. An interesting aside: the last time I was  at Jailbreak they didn't have in house food service and relied on visiting food trucks. Clearly I haven’t been there for quite awhile.

In addition to providing a venue, food, and drinks, included in the ticket price was a drawing at the conclusion of the event to present a donation of 500.00 to the winner’s non-profit organization of choice. Pretty cool, I’d say. I had to duck out before the end so I don’t know who won. I’ll update 
when I find out.

As to the speeches themselves, they weren’t quite what I was expecting. I guess I was thinking something more like performance art or a poetry slam. What I saw was personal, confessional, even intimate. It doesn’t seem likely that speaking to a room full of people with a clock ticking could be intimate, but, it was. These were not political speeches, or sales speeches. The speakers each found their way to hold up one thing to the light and focus on it.

Standouts in the first half for me were Matt Gresick who spoke on standardized assessments vs hands-on experiences in education, and Lisa Schlossnagle who told the story of her daughter’s alopecia areata diagnosis and why she, as a mother, was choosing baldness. While these two in particular spoke to me, all of the speakers I heard provided valuable insights and perspectives.

It was the first event I had been to in quite a while that was neither a concert nor a political function. While I saw a few people I knew, it was good to be in a room of largely unknown faces who were drawn together by this organization. 

Wendy Baird of Insight180 did an excellent job as MC, and C3MD President Wendy Moomaw kicked off the evening with a brief speech about practicing Capitalism with a goal of doing good and bringing good through one’s interactions. It really made me think.

IgniteHoCo5 was fun and informative. I can’t imagine having the courage to stand up and be heard in the way. A tip of the hat to all the participants who took that risk last night. 

Monday, October 21, 2019


I’ve been listening to Council member Opel Jones on the most recent episode of Elevate Maryland, and his discussion of certain council bills raised a question in my mind.

What happens when a meeting is over?

Do they all go out to a nearby all night restaurant to debrief? (I doubt it.) Do they each go off separately to their own individual homes and speak no more until their next meeting? (I doubt that, too.)  So how do they communicate with one another about what went right and went wrong?

If you are amongst the cognoscenti, bear with me here. Not all of us understand the inner workings of the County Council. And I often see people making uncharitable remarks about how the Council operates that make me suspect they don’t really understand, either.

What happens after all the testimony is heard, the agenda is followed, and the votes are taken? I would imagine that it’s just as important as what we see in the meetings. And I guess I’ll have to do some research and get back to you.

Sunday, October 20, 2019


This one is not so local but it’s definitely personal. I just spied a familiar face peering out from the Baltimore Sun. And then I winced, because I realized it was an obituary.

Joseph Libercci: Longtime owner of Park Avenue Pharmacy known as ‘Dr. Joe’ and for kindnesses to Bolton Hill Community

I lived in Bolton Hill when I first came to Baltimore in the mid-80’s, first as a young married person and then as a newly divorced mother of a very young child. The Park Avenue Pharmacy was the center of Bolton Hill, and Joe was the brain and the heart that kept it going. He knew everyone. He would sometimes allow you to put much needed medications “on account” when you were waiting for payday to roll around. The tiny store had everything from medicine to snacks, greeting cards, school supplies, art supplies, beer and wine, magazines, even a bit of hardware supplies.

I never had a cross word from anyone who worked in that store. And I got plenty of good advice from Joe over the years when it came to medicines for my daughter and me. It was a time in my life that I struggled both emotionally and financially. Joe treated me (and everyone) with kindness and respect.

Baltimore Sun writer Fred Rasmussen does an excellent job at portraying Mr. Libercci. Even if you have a limited number of free articles, this one is worth the read. It’s a reminder of how just one person can do great work, can make their world a far better place.

So let’s make this one local. Share someone in Columbia/HoCo who has been this kind of heart and soul of a community. It doesn’t have to be someone in the spotlight, just someone who has brightened  their corner of the world.

I bet there’s more of their light out there than we realize.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Saturday Stories

The past few nights have been skimpy in the sleep department. It caught up with me this morning. My apologies. I used to set my clock by HoCoRising so I try to maintain a general consistency in posting times.

The sky is a beautiful fall blue, it is sunny, and, however low the temperature got last night, it did not kill our late-planted wildflowers. I’m in my favorite chair eating left over Indian food from the House of India for a late breakfast/early lunch.

A few things on my mind:

This article by Jess Nocera for the Columbia Flier:

Columbia political cartoonist’s book ‘JUST US!’ Showcases a black perspective on current events.

It is a wonderful look at a fascinating local resident, Walt Carr, and his life's work as a political cartoonist focused on the American black experience. St. John Baptist Church, on 9055 Tamar Drive in Columbia, is hosting a book signing at 10 am on October 23rd if you are interested in purchasing a copy and meeting the man himself.

The other evening I went down to Oakland Mills’ PizzaMan Restaurant for dinner to support the Oakland Mills Middle School fundraiser. PizzaMan is a relatively new local spot in our Village. They had a setback when a fire caused them to close for a while for repairs, but now they are up and running not only their popular takeout service but also dine in as well. 

It’s a sweet little place with excellent service and I enjoyed my meal of chicken Parmesan. I took home a slice of chocolate cake for my husband. Yes, they have pizza, which Oakland Mills has plenty of already but their menu encompasses plenty of additional fast casual favorites to try. And they have a liquor license in case you want a glass of wine with your dinner.

I was seated next to a table of moms from the PTA who were greeting folks as they came in. As I entered a group of their children were getting up to go. Later I overheard one of the women explaining that, since they were done eating, they walked over to the (new) Dunkin Donuts to get dessert. Something about this gave me a little thrill.

Yes, you and your family can eat dinner in a mom and pop restaurant in Oakland Mills and your kids can walk over to the Dunkin Donuts to get dessert and return, safe and sound. Unaccompanied. I hasten to add that this would be equally possible with any of the other fining establishments in the Oakland Mills Village Center. Call me crazy, but I’ll take these little slices of neighborhood walkability wherever I can find them.

One last thing: Conscious Capitalism of  Central Maryland is holding “Ignite Howard 5” Monday evening at Jailbreak Brewery at 5:30 pm. You can learn more here. Tickets are just ten dollars. A friend of mine is one of the speakers and I hope to be there. If you want some background on the Conscious Capitalism philosophy you can visit their website.

Enjoy this beautiful Fall day!

Friday, October 18, 2019

Parenting 2.0

I belong to an online parents group for the college my daughter attends. It has been very helpful as we lived through the beginning of the year jitters. It’s been a godsend for sharing information and getting advice. And yet.

Yesterday a parent bemoaned: I don’t understand the grading system!

The school maintains a system whereby parents may have access to the students’
academic work if the student allows them to. I can’t even remember if we asked our daughter to do this, and we certainly haven’t felt the desire to follow along from home. We hope she does well, and sometimes I worry how she will handle academics along with all the other enormous changes in her life.

But check up on her work? No.

Isn’t this the part where they fly the nest? Isn’t this the time when we let them?

Parenting in 2019 is clearly different than back when I went to college. I don’t know whether to feel confident in our choice to allow our daughter to be independent or feel guilty that I’m an irresponsible slacker. It’s a challenge I was not expecting.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Heart and Soul

Elijah Cummings has died and the world will bend a little less towards justice without him.

He was a warrior for justice. He didn’t merely push back against what was wrong, he proclaimed the truth boldly. There aren’t a lot of people who can do that with such authority. Representative Cummings walked the walk. He was more than entitled to talk the talk.

I’m too stunned to say much this morning. Even though I knew he had not been well, I still feel such a sense of loss.

Elijah Cummings spoke at the kickoff to the Columbia 50th Birthday celebration at the Mall. His speech about Rouse’s revolutionary vision was a keen contrast to the prepared remarks of other local dignitaries. I soon found out why.

I contacted his office to get a copy of his speech. After some back and forth, a staff member admitted that, although his office prepared speeches for him, he never followed them. He spoke from his heart, from his own life experiences, and he spoke to the issues he knew people needed to hear.

Rest easy, Mr. Cummings. Thank you for all the battles that you fought to make our country better and stronger in the face of injustice.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

New Noms

It wasn’t that long ago that my husband refused to go out to dinner on Friday nights in Columbia. It didn’t matter where you went, there would be a wait. And no one took reservations. In recent years the number of restaurants entering the local scene has exploded. My husband has stopped begging off Friday night meals out.

And the restaurants keep coming. Howard Hughes recently announced a future Busboys and Poets, followed by word of GrillMarx and three other new establishments. I have moved from celebrating a decent choice on a Friday night to worrying whether Columbia can support this many restaurants. Columbia had one French restaurant, Petit Louis opened and basically put it out of business. And then even Petit Louis didn’t make it. Margin of profit in the restaurant industry is very thin.

One addition to the local food scene I’m not worried about is HoCoNomNom, a blog about local restaurants.

... this is not a review site. What I mean by that is that my goal is to provide information, announcements, impressions, and rumors of restaurants but I am not here to criticize or complain about a certain experience. There are plenty of sites that you can go to if you would like to hear about that. So I ask that if you are commenting, please stay positive and if you don’t have anything good to say, take it somewhere else.

The writer gives a tip of the hat to the much missed HowChow blog in his introduction, and his identification of his child as Little Nom is reminiscent of the “Little Chow” of his predecessor in food blogging. He is to be commended for his efforts in protecting the gender of said child. Take a look and you’ll see what I mean.

I’ve been pretty blunt recently about writers who aren’t willing to put their own names on their work. Traditionally an exception has been made for those in food writing, who wish to visit restaurants and give candid opinions. I can understand a desire to fly under the radar under the circumstances. It’s particularly understandable since it is clear that the writer has a young child whose identity he wishes to protect.

I also get the feeling from what I have read so far that HoCoNomNom is going to use his platform responsibly. Take a look for yourself. I think it’s a welcome addition to the blogging scene.

What newly announced restaurant are you looking forward to the most?

Tuesday, October 15, 2019


About a month ago a lowly cricket made news at the George Howard building for making its presence known in a very vocal way during a legislative hearing. Coincidentally, I had cricket on my mind at the very same time, having recently heard a piece on WAMU about the opening of a new cricket ground in Montgomery County.

Not the same kind of cricket, I know. But bear with me.

Cricket Is Growing In Popularity In Montgomery County. Now, There’s A New Field For People To Play - - Dominique Maria Bonessi, WAMU

Ms. Bonessi interviews Bijal Shah, the co-founder of the Maryland Premier Cricket League.

Shah says he remembers going to a Rockville permit office and asking to file a permit for a field to play cricket. He says the woman at the office thought he was talking about an insect.

Cricket - - the sport - - is not very high on the radar of most Americans. It’s generally assumed to be something “very British” and impossibly esoteric, You might be surprised to learn that it actually comes in third in international popularity.

Montgomery Parks Director Mike Riley says as the county’s population mix changes, so does the demand for different types of sports.
“The sport of cricket has been around a long time,” Riley said. “We have residents increasingly coming from countries who play the sport of cricket and have played it for decades.”
The sport began in the late 16th century in Great Britain and spread to other parts of the British Empire. It’s especially popular in India, Pakistan, Australia and many other countries.
“[The] British left obviously, but the game stayed,” Shah said. “There are about 30 to 40 countries playing international cricket on a regular basis.”
Today, it’s estimated that millions of people watch the World Cup of Cricket every year. 

As I did more research on the new cricket pitch in Montgomery County, I suddenly had a vague recollection of Howard County doing something similar. That’s when the fun began.

We have Ken Ulman and cricket:


Allan Kittleman and cricket:


And Calvin Ball and cricket:


 It looks like Howard County was ahead of the game on this.

Cricket in  Howard County goes back to at least 2010 when Guy Guzzone and Jen Terrasa worked with the beginnings of the local cricket community to set up a cricket pitch at Murray Hill Middle School.  In 2012  a partnership with Howard County Rec and Parks  eventually led to the construction of the county’s first cricket pitch at Schooley Mill Park.  Today Rec and Parks even offers cricket instruction .

My husband, who grew up and went to college in the U.K., says that cricket is best learned from an early age, over time. It’s pretty hard to take up as an adult. So starting them off young is probably a good idea. Just because we didn’t grow up with cricket doesn’t mean our kids can’t have a go at it.

I’ll never forget seeing my husband’s face light up when we walked into Flavors of India in Gateway and discovered they were showing “the cricket” on their big screen tv. Cricket and “the footy” both give him that feeling of home. I imagine the reason that cricket is growing in popularity in Maryland is that our region has welcomed many new residents who have enjoyed watching and playing so much in their countries of origin.

Love of sport, full of team loyalty and rivalry, is a recognizable facet of the human condition, no matter where you are from. The joy of talking about the sport that you love reaches across national boundaries. And, just as we enjoy and learn about new cuisines as new residents come to our area, so can we enjoy and learn about sports that are new to us. Like cricket.

Our worlds expand. Our experiences ares broadened. Our communities are enriched. 

The building of a cricket pitch is more than adding an ordinary municipal amenity. It is a response to new residents and an affirmation that they and their cultures are seen and valued within the larger community.

A cricket pitch may have no personal value to me but I can value it as something we as a County do for the common good. I don’t have to get a direct benefit to know that it makes for a better community. 

The lesson for me here is more than the game itself. Communities that welcome and value differences, people who are willing to adjust to change and to try new things - - that’s the kind of community I want to be a part of. It’s what I believe Howard County can be. 

Some days we get it right.